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Iron man released this Friday and I had no idea it was releasing. For some strange reason that upset me. A closer inspection of my feelings revealed it had to do with being robbed of anticipation. You see I like the anticipation of watching a film almost as much as (and in some cases even more than) watching it. It’s a bit like the anticipation of a meal après a fast. Much more fun than the actual act of eating.

Anyway to get back to story, I figured out why they launched the film with such little publicity. That’s because they figured they’d spend the money in bribing the reviewer instead. Four stars the-fucker-who-shall-remain-unnamed gave it.

As soon as I read the review, I dropped everything I was doing (including an expensive china dish) hopped into an auto and sped to Cinemax to catch the cheap morning show (I’m only a poor writer and can’t afford regular shows) although at 140 a ticket the only thing cheap about it is the management’s disgraceful attempt to pass it off as a cut price ticket. AND IT WASN’T EVEN FOR THE RECLINING LOUNGE! AND I MISSED THE FIRST FEW MINUTES PRIOR TO THE OPENING CREDITS.

The plot, for the lack of a better word, is closer to home now that the evil Paki terrorist horse has been flogged to death. And the enemy this time around is the US Army that wants to obtain the Iron Man technology. Impervious to Tony Stark’s trademark braggadocio assertion, the suit is not Iron Man, I am, the Army appoints Stark’s friend ‘Rhodie’ Rhodes to acquire it. To add to Stark’s woes, the thingie he wears in the centre of his chest, the motor that keeps the shrapnel away from his heart is giving him Palladium poisoning.

Then there are Tony’s other nemeses, Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) and Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke). Justin Hammer’s got a real hard on for a lucrative Army contract. The only problem is whatever his company, Hammer Tech manufactures has as much sizzle as a damp Diwali cracker. Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), an evil Russian genius hates Tony Stark because Tony’s father, Howard Stark was responsible for getting his father deported to Russia. “Well that makes two of us,” Tony should’ve said to him, at least according to the back story they’ve given him about how (sob) his father never loved him.

That’s the plot. The rest of the film is a lot of mumbling on Robert Downey Jr.’s part, blowing up a lot of cars in Monte Carlo, him giving grief to Pepper Potts, him flirting with Agent Romanov (Scarlett Johansson), him bullying Jarvis.

A whole lot of talk and not much action. You know, I’m thinking the new trend they’ve started on TV, subtitling? Excellent idea. Especially when you got to watch someone like Robert Downey Jr. who has a tendency to mumble. Far funnier? Sam Rockwell. At least I could understand what he was saying. And what was that whole thign about Sam Rockwell oozing malevolence? Does malevolence means ineptidue in your lexicon, Mr Reviewer?

Mickey Rourke, neither good, nor bad. Indifferent is the word that comes to mind. Gwyneth Paltrow is efficient as the long suffering Pepper Potts. Scarlett Johansson is sexy as Agent Romanov. On an aside though, why did they make her a brunette when everyone knows blonde = sexy. And isn’t Romanov a male name? Shouldn’t it have been Romanova? What are they trying to do, rewrite sexy and gender equality?

My verdict, go watch the Hindi version. At least, it will be coherent and hilarious. Sample:

“Tony Stark, lauh purush ki tukneek amrikan thal sena ke havale kar do.”

“Kabhi nahin. Lauh purush purush se banta hai, tukneek se nahin.”

Doesn’t make sense? Neither does the movie.

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Okay folks, we have decided on the cover. Almost. I spoke with my editor yesterday and it is going to be one of four designs from the last post. We may tinker with a bit, experiment with different colours, try out different fonts, but it’s going to be one of them.

In light of this I have taken the liberty of removing the other, earlier cover options from the site. Given that we are not using them, they are not my property (since becoming an author I have discovered a new found respect for IP *pats oneself on the back*).

While we were on the subject of Li’l Piggies, I also asked her if there was any chance of the book coming out in Jan 2010, in time for the Jaipur festival. It seems there isn’t. The earliest target was, and remains Feb 2010 *Sighs*.

Meanwhile, the proofs have been proof read and finaled. So I should be able to publish some extracts very soon. There is still the small matter of the blurb, which my editor and I are working on. Other than that, my work on the book is finished. Finally!  

I have also started on my third (Kkrishnaa sequel, tentatively titled Kkrishnaa’s Kandid Konfessions) and fourth (a new genre for me) books simultaneously. Which is a bad idea unless you can multitask and my multitasking extends to eating and drinking at the same time. I suspect I will have to take it sequentially only after all.

I am also meeting my producer today for a discussion on the second draft of the Kkrishnaa’s Konfessions screenplay. Will have more to report after the meeting. Ciao until tomorrow.

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I know promised to write this yesterday but then Man proposes and God disposes. Yesterday was a terribly hectic day and I got no time at all. Anyhow, here it is. Enjoy!

My next story is going to be about a vampire who’s in love with girl who’s human. The antagonist is going to be a Marathi Manoos werewolf who wants to kill the vampire because he’s a Bhayya. He wants to kill the girl because she called Mumbai Bombay to express solidarity with her lover.

How this helps:

Raj Thackeray takes affront and decides to express his outrage by vandalising bookstores and burning copies of your book in illustrative / intimidatory bonfires. Of course, this results in loss of revenue but it also guarantees publicity. Publicity that you can’t otherwise buy. Your book starts getting talked about and people who otherwise wouldn’t have bought it queue up to buy. It all works out.

Now, the flip side:

What if Raj Thackeray isn’t interested? What if the issue is not worth his time?

Enter the failsafe:

The vampire-girl duo are on the run and take shelter with some friendlies. Did I say friendlies? Not quite. You see, those friendlies are actually Jehadi Lychans who have an agenda of their own.  And their plan is to drill a hole all the way into the Earth’s core and plant a zillion megaton nuclear bomb there. Of course, you can’t drill a hole all the way to the Earth’s core but figure out a revolutionary new technology that does it anyway. For ideas, look up the film The Core.

Now, why would the Lychans shelter our protagonists? There can be two reasons. One, well, the werewolves with their heretic ideology are their enemies and any enemy of an enemy is a friend. Two, the journey to the centre of the Earth is fraught with peril and they need stooges to do it for them.

Meanwhile the Sun is flaring up out of control, and shooting tiny neutrinos into the Earth which is heating up the crust intolerably.

While our protagonists are with the Lychans, introduce a brilliant, sensitive Lychan painter who paints nude werewolf goddesses. 

Meanwhile, the werewolves catch up with the protagonists. While they are in Lychan territory, they stumble upon the painter’s works. Of course, once that happens, they do what comes naturally to them. They destroy the paintings. In the midst of the destruction, however, in a fit of petulance, the werewolf leader, an accomplished cartoonist, stops to draw some offensive sketches of the Lychan god.

How does it all end? How do I know? I haven’t thought of everything yet.

All I know is your book gets released. All castes and communities unite in calling for a universal ban on the book. Now join hands with a pirate on a revenue share basis. Now sit back and watch your bank balance grow.

Sigh. If only I could get someone to publish it. Sigh, maybe I’ll go to the Danish cartoon guys.

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After I wrote my post yesterday, it occurred to me that I was being a tad unfair to producers. When you’re making a film, there are multiple risks at different stages involved.

The first is at the story level. Writing a story/screenplay is quite an art. Just because someone has a good idea doesn’t necessarily mean they will be able to translate it into a good story. A good story is driven by characters and conflict. There are ebbs and flows of emotion in the narrative and a good story paces them out well. An intensely emotional or suspenseful sequence needs a comic relief or downer immediately afterwards. You cannot pile an emotionally charged sequence on top of another.

Then there’s the direction. Just because you have a good script doesn’t mean it will translate into a good film. The director’s vision can either lift the script to a subliminal level (Lucky # Slevin) or reduce it to trash (Richard Kelly’s Domino). It has to be said here, though, that the chances of a good script turning out to be a bad film are rare, no matter how bad the director. As a caveat, I have to add that judging something like this is highly subjective. What I may consider a good script badly executed may well be someone else’s bad script made better.

Assuming the director’s vision translates the screenplay into a gem of a film, the marketing and promotion of the film may fail. The communication may leave the audience cold or target the wrong consumer group altogether.

Assuming everything turns out well – the script is good, the direction exceptional and the publicity succeeds in tweaking the viewers’ interest – the film may still turn out to be a box office dud.

You see, a film is a commercial venture involving millions of rupees. So, perhaps, the producers are not wrong to back winning horses against untested ones.

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I have acquired a minor celebrity status in the film circles and, I must say, it is extremely agreeable. Right after I optioned Kkrishnaa’s Konfessions for film rights, at least two other producers/directors have expressed interest in the book. And since Kkrishnaa’s Konfessions has already been optioned, they are now they are now offering to buy the rights to the soon-to-be-released Piggies on the Railway, A Kasthuri Kumar Mystery.

Why am I talking about it? Aside from blowing my own trumpet, of course, it is an interesting Bollywood case study.

Dearth of ideas: Bollywood is suffering from a lack of good, original stories. It is a veritable drought. Producers demand and writers keep coming up with the same old same old. The result? All the best, Golmaal, Hungama etc.

Risk aversion: The second point springs, in part, from the first. You see, producers aren’t willing to back risky ideas. So even if writers do come up with interesting and unconventional ideas, producers will give it a miss. They would much rather someone else undertook the risk. And with a best-selling fiction title out in the market, they reckon it’s worth a shot.

Validation: Now, I mentioned that they are willing to buy rights for my second book, based solely on a sneak peek of the manuscript. They figure that a writer has scored with the first one, so chances are that she will with the second one as well. They would much rather keep working with someone who has already proved themselves rather than give a new comer a chance.

Conclusion: For all you Bollywood aspirants out there, write a book.

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I guess I can let the cat out of the bag now. Kkrishnaa’s Konfessions is being made into a film. The producer is iRock India Pvt. Ltd. and we just signed the deed yesterday.

I’m very happy it’s them ‘cos they’re really nice people and as excited about the development as I am. Besides, our visions and amibitions for the project match.

We have already shortlisted potential directors and screenwriters. Before you ask, it’s not me, although I was offered the chance to pen the screenplay. I firmly belive that authors should never attempt to adapt their books into screenplays as they are too close to the source material to be objective. Having said that, I will, obviously provide all the assistance I can.

Wish us luck!

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I was reading about the Cannes in the papers today. The reporter made a point that the jury was unapologetic in rewarding divisive films. In response to this, the British writer Hanif Qureishi commented, “Great art is hard.”

This got me thinking. Why is it that great art is hard? Why is that these days people are ready to take offence? Why have we become so intolerant of other’s views if they don’t agree with ours? People will no doubt argue that we have always been intolerant. Hell, wars have been fought over differences of opinion. These days we adopt a more civilised attitude (not in India , of course) and take the battle to court. But the idea is that we are supposed to become more evolved with time, not regress. It’s the same reason we avoid fight wars these days (not in the USA, of course).

More importantly, it got me thinking about the intrepid auteurs who dared to make such startling statements. Thinking and lauding, because, not so very long ago, I’d written a comedy on the issue of migration. But then I lost my nerve and didn’t market it. The last thing I wanted was Raj Thackeray/Muthalik and their goons picketing outside my house. Or burning copies of my books.

It’s not that I’m attached to what I write. The problem is they don’t pay for the damage. As long as you pay for it, you can do what you like with my book. Hell, you can wipe your ass with it. And tell me about it. How’s that for VFM? Move aside Michael O’Leary, Smita Jain is here!!!!

This whole political correctness movement has got artists so defensive that we’re afraid of saying anything creative anymore. I don’t know about others but speaking for myself, I’m always anxious whenever creating controversial characters. I’m always thinking, will people actually read this in the spirit in which it’s written? Or will people think the character is a flimsy cover for own bigoted ideas? Will this character involve me in a lawsuit? More often than not I opt for the safer option.

I’m no Van Gogh. I’m not willing to suffer for my art, especially when the suffering involves muchos dineros.

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