Posts Tagged ‘Indian television’

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Please check the Piggies on the Railway – A Kasthuri Kumar Mystery page (tab on the blog header)  for updates, excerpts, press coverage and other opinion.

Tribune India, March 28, 2010 –  ALAS! Lady-detectives, Indian lady-detectives are elusive literary creatures. Enter Kasthuri Kumar aka Katie, detective with a buzz and two bumbling feet. And ‘seasoned’ chick-lit writer Smita Jain pulls her off with elan. So apart from the mysteries the book holds (the title being one of them) what works is the plot. Ludicrous in parts, hilarious in others and mad-hatterish for good measure…you will feel the author’s relish as she takes on one preposterous situation after another playing out a rather cheeky plot.

The writing is breezy, racy. The language is colloquial and fun, irreverent too. And it is not just her characters, even the sub-plots are funny, eliciting that smile while you sit there unbelieving that someone could actually write all this down!

Tehelka, April 2, 2010 – WITH JAIN’S first novel, the bestselling Kkrishnaa’s Konfessions, being spun into a film, her second effort heralds a new mystery series. This chicklit-detective romp follows sassy investigator Kasthuri Kumar as she tracks a missing Bollywood starlet…entertaining.

The Statesman, New Delhi, April 4, 2010 – There’s a new type of detective hitting the Mumbai beat, Kasthuri Kumar, a.k.a. Katie. Smita Jain is a script writer for TV serials and knows what makes a popular page turner with a frothy mix of sex, humour and twists and turns of the plot…Enough to keep chick lit readers entertained with her crisscrosses for a pleasant while.



“Since I had had the misfortune of laying my hands on the cursed telescope my life had gone berserk, I thought miserably. I had witnessed a murder, been shot at (by a supari killer, no less), spent a night in the slammer and seen a man killed right in front of me. But having my story and screenplays stolen — that really took the cake.”    

How far would you go to get what you want?    

a) Steal b) Scam c) Seduce    

For Kkrishnaa, the 20-something, impulsive, gutsy and unapologetically ambitious scriptwriter of television soap operas, the answer would be d) all of the above.    

And what she wants most right now is to retain her long-running, hugely successful primetime show Kkangan Souten Ke. Unfortunately for her, she has writer’s block and knows it. What is worse, her Creative Director knows it, and is threatening to hand over the pen to Kkrishnaa’s erstwhile love and current adversary, Dev Trivedi.    

Kkrishnaa must find inspiration if she wants to keep the show. So she decides to spy on her neighbours, a decision that unfortunately leads to her witnessing a murder. And thence ensues a rambunctious, rollercoaster ride as Kkrishnaa desperately attempts to keep her job, resist Dev Trivedi’s charms – and oh yes – avoid getting killed….    

A wickedly funny, rip-roaring read.    


A Whodunit with a little bit of high level office politics, good dose of humour and romance…. author Smita Jain knows her job….makes the narrative pacy…     

Time Out    

A toothsome devil’s food cupcake of a novel…. has the right blend of wit, sex and twists to keep this reader interested.     

Deccan Chronicle     

Move over Bridget Jones, We now have our own Kkrishnaa, writer of TV soaps, young, attractive, single, and living alone in the big bad city of Mumbai… just what the urban English-speaking professional young woman was waiting for. The style is clever, irreverent and witty. It is an action filled page turner… an unpretentious, rollicking romp through the lanes and by lanes of Mumbai.     

Financial Express     

Wow, when someone pulls off a clever mix of two popular genres and indigenises them to boot, that’s quite a coup.     

Indian Express    

You don’t have to like Kkrishnaa but you sure can’t ignore her… hilarious, rip-roaring.    

Mail Today     

Healthy dose of what goes behind making melodramas with a lot of dhang dhnag schvoom schvoom moments…effortless pace and stylish prose has the ability to hook her readers.    


Action packed…entertaining read…never a quiet moment…suitable for a Bollywood action flick.    

The Pioneer    

Pacy read for the monsoon…light, fun writing is still a good bet.    


Refreshingly young, wickedly humourous.      


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Okay, it’s official. This is the second X – Files movie that has bombed. Chris Carter has effectively killed the franchise.

I can’t believe how people who managed such a hugely successful TV series for so long have consistently come up with movie ideas that have laid such eggs at the box office. And to think I dragged my friends to this film. They wanted to watch that Jesse James film. I argued fiercely against the plethora of good reviews it garnered, saying it was in the running for Oscars last year and that it was dud. Thankfully the same disregard for reviews held me in good stead while convincing them to go for the X-phillum. ’Cos that certainly didn’t get good reviews.

To put it in perspective, Chris Carter has tried to draw in X philistines with this movie. As a result he’s toned down the spooky stuff and also given the Mulder-Scully relationship extra dimensions. Ironically that’s what put me off the most. Come on guys, the reason I went to watch an X Files movie is I want to see more of the inexplicable paranormal stuff, not some tame organ transplant plot. And the Scully-Mulder exchanges just get mind numbing after a while. And the climax was such a damp squib.

I was sorely disappointed (The scathing looks my friends keep shooting me throughout the film didn’t help). I am a huge fan of the TV series. For years, I set aside everything else on Sundays just so I could watch an episode of my favourite show. I even lit candles on the day they aired the last episode. For many Sundays after that, I faithfully switched on the telly at the appointed time in the hope that Ten Thirteen productions had changed their minds, and was left with a feeling of emptiness when they perversely didn’t.

Anyway, to address another issue, I know I haven’t been writing regularly. I expect that will continue for some more time. The reason is that Diwali is coming up and everyone (most of all my creative director) is keen to take off during the holidays. Now I don’t want to spoil her plans because I really like her (she makes sure I get paid on time). But mostly I want her to have this holiday because she is stressed out and is making my life hell. As a result we have to finish a month’s work in less than half the time.

On yet another separate note, Kkrishnaa’s Konfessions is # 2 on the bestseller list, trailing only Sea of Poppies. At least that is the case in Landmark stores (and elsewhere, I like to think). Life is good.

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Some time ago, the Hindutan Times had carried a story, Bubble Trouble, on how the great Indian Soap Factory works. For all of you who are interetsed in writing for television, or are even remotely curious about it, do check it out.

The story gives various POVs – the channel’s, the producer’s, the writer’s. For the latter bit, they contacted me for my inputs, which in itself is reason enough to read it. Kidding. 🙂

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First the good news. Kkrishnaa’s Konfessions is sold out. And we’re going into the second print run. In the second lot we’re tweaking the cover design a bit to accommodate the spate of *ahem* the good reviews.

I’ve always dreamed of having stuff like Brilliant!…Jain sets the pace from the word go and doesn’t let it flag…Simply unputdownable! embellish the cover.

Soon you’ll see refurbished Kkrishnaa’s Konfessions adorning the shelves. And hopefully (and where I really want to see it) the pages of the Amazon catalogue.

The bad news is that my photograph may have to knocked off. Ah, well.

On the scripting front, I have queries for at least two more new shows. And the producers won’t take no for an answer. So I figured that with the amount of time I spend in saying no, I might as well write the damn episode. And get paid for it.

You see, I can’t say no so I spend a lot of time beating around the bush bitching about various TV personalities who also happen to be good friends, TRPs, movers and shakers tec. The average talk time on each of these ‘no’ calls is about two hours. Which is about how long it takes to write the screenplay of an episode. Get it?

But the only way I can do this on an ongoing basis is by hiring an assistant, which also I have managed to do. Tentatively. Which means we are on on a trial basis.

My plans for becoming a one-woman screenwriting industry seem to be coming true. Eyah-ha-ha-ha! (evil laughter).

Plus the second novel is a work-in-progress. So that should hit the shelves sometime end of this year.

Maybe I will dominate the whole writing space. More evil laughter.

As you can see there’s a lot happening. Speaking of which, there was something else I had to do. Which I can’t seem to remember.  I do know there was something.  Wait I remember! There are people coming home today and I forgot to order Biryani!

As the subtitles on badly transcribed movies would read – Excrement! Excrement! Excrement!

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All aspiring screenwriters out there, interested in writing a comedy on television, I’m looking for an assistant.

Essential Qualifications:

  • You must be a resident of Bombay, preferably, living within a one hour periphery of say, Seven Bungalows, Andheri west. As you all know, given the traffic, you could be in Lokhandwala and it can still be challenge to travel two kilometres in that time. So go figure.
  • You must be willing to set your personal life aside. Birthdays, anniversaries, deaths. No exceptions. If you commit to writing an episode and then leave me hanging at the last minute, remember, I’ll do the same with your moneies.

And now, the not so essential qualifications:

  • You must love writing.
  • You must have a knack for storytelling.
  • You must have a basic understanding of screenwriting. And by that I don’t mean you need to have experience.

If you think you meet the requirements, please drop me a line at my email address given on the sidebar. Give your name, background and phone number.

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No time for a long post today as I am off to two meetings shortly. The first one is to discuss the money and the creatives (in that order) for a new detective show and the second one is to discuss the money and the creatives (again in that order).

I don’t know why I’m going to these meetings. God knows I don’t have the time to take on a new show.

If my creative director on my current show read this she would have an apoplexy. After killing me, of course. M, if you’re reading this, remember that I love you. More importantly, remember that you love me.

Actually I do know why I’m going to these meetings. And that’s because the respective creative directors guilt-tripped me heavily. Did you know creative directors are more proficient at guilt-tripping than the ’60s celluloid mother?

As if all entreaties of, “I was there for you at such and such time…you have to help me,” weren’t enough, they threw in promises of untold riches as the final clincher. Now I’ve heard all this before and asked them to talk figures, just in case a difference of opinion about what constituted riches between us.

But the fish had been hooked and they prepared to reel the catch in. “Come to the meeting,” they said enticingly.

Sigh! I prepare to go for my meetings.

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It’s always a good idea to develop related skills. People who’ve been following my blog know that I’ve done my fair share of bouncing around, from Investment banking to publishing to adventure sports to multimedia to writing, I’ve done it all (you can read all about it here).

Okay, so you don’t have to be all that adventurous but if you want to be in the fiercely competitive media industry, it is essential to experiment a little, at least with other media. So photographers might want to fool around with a DV Cam; singers might want to have a crack at composing; writers may want to experiment with print media and if you’re a production person, it may be a good idea to have a look at the creative side as well.

I’ve known singers who struggled for years, unsuccessfully I might add, to make a mark for themselves as singers only to get a stray break composing for the title track of a show. And now there’s no looking back for them. They are not known names (they are certainly not Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy’s of the world), nevertheless, they make a very comfortable living.

You never know when a door may shut in your face and another one opens. You have to be nimble and have to have the necessary skill to be able to capitalise.

Now, I’m not an expert on all the aspects of TV production/film-making so I’ll just stick to what I know best – writing. For instance, did you know that regional pulp fiction is huge business? I certainly didn’t, till read this article. I mean I knew it was big but not big. The point I’m making is, if you’re a screenwriter – fluent in a regional language and struggling to find work, you might want to contact those publications.

On a separate note, I watched the Incredible Hulk over the weekend. It’s just another superhero story. Edward Norton is good, Liv Tyler is soporific and the visual FX good. Total timepass stuff.

On a yet more different note, had an interview with the Pioneer and the Indian Express, Delhi. These articles have some more tips on writing for TV. You can read them here and here. They are there on the Kkrishnaa’s Konfessions website as well.

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An average half hour TV show has a budget of around 5 lakh (Rs. 5,00,000) per episode. Out of which writing (story, screenplay and dialogue) budget is about Rs 15,000. In rare cases, very rare cases, maybe Rs. 30,000, if they’re really desperate. Thrilling, right?

It gets better in a film. In an average small budget production (Rs. 3 crores/Rs. 30 million), writers are lucky if they get paid Rs. 5 lakh while actors, the director, even the cameraman get paid several times that amount. Come to think of it, almost every technician, except the writer does. The only people who are paid less than the writer are assistant directors but then they are paid even lesser than spot boys, so go figure.

I mean they go on and on about how important a good script is but when it comes to putting money where their mouth is, and it’s not that important.

And everyone knows you can’t really begin a production without a script.

Earlier this used to rankle me, till I realised one thing. A script is not a literary document. It is at best a functional document committed to putting ideas (descriptions, action) across in a succinct and a verbally economical manner. You have to since you cannot run the risk of your script exceeding 100-110 pages. The only place where you can really show off your literary genius is in the dialogue.

It is only a blueprint, a take off point. It’s a plan which the engineers, contractors, electricians and plumbers use to construct a building. Film is a collaborative project which begins with a script. Based upon the script, your team – the director, the production designer, the cameraman, the executive producer, the line producer, actors etc. gets together. All of them work damn hard, if not harder, than you the writer, to make the project a success.

Still, I believe writers deserve to be paid more than they are currently. But I’ve learned to live with it. And it wasn’t exactly hard reconciling to it. Rs. 15,000 may be less than 5 per cent of the overall production budget but it is still damn good money.

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The difference between a screenplay and a short story/novel is that in a novel most of the action takes place in the protagonist’s head whereas in a screenplay most of the action is physical. Only what the character does gives us a glimpse into his character.


Also it is a very tight document that leaves absolutely no scope for any flab. If a scene has no bearing on the story but is there for the express purpose of illuminating a character trait, it has no place in the screenplay.


Also, another ploy that is used to trim the fat and keep the tension going is the scene structure. Just like a story/screenplay, a scene has a legitimate beginning, middle and end. But we DON’T always have to begin at the beginning and take it all the way through to the end. When writing a scene a good theory to employ is, ‘enter as late as possible and exit as early as you can.’


For example,






Seven potted plants lined up against a wall.



                                     Number seven suits me.


Reveal BAASI, sitting on two chairs. He wears two watches, two necklaces, two shirts etc. OMI sits respectfully in front of him. Seeing Omi’s quizzical gaze, Baasi explains,



                                    I do everything in twos. As you can see I wear two

shirts, two watches, I even eat from two plates.



And sleep with two wives?




How dare you? And so loudly? What if my first wife

heard it?



                                           (EMBARASSED LAUGH)

You’d have to die twice?




Let’s get on with it, shall we? What’s your name?





Baasi looks pleased.



                                     It’s a good name. It will lead to good things like

                                     celibacy and nirvana.



                                     Good God!



                                     Yes, he definitely is.



                                    No what I meant is I don’t want all that. In fact, the

very reason I came to you was so that..that…


Omi leans closer and whispers into Baasi’s ear. Baasi smiles widely.



Why didn’t you say so?


Baasi throws a pair of dice, shuffles some cards, makes some calculations.



I’ve got it. What you need is the letter K.






RADHIKA, MANOJ and PIDDI looking bewildered.



       (CRACKS UP)

KOMI?! You are going to call yourself Komi?




What other choice did I have? The other options

were Omik, which sounds like a milk brand, and

Okmi, which sounds like a Japanese geisha.


We go into scene 1 late, dispense with the introductions and enter scene 2 late, thereby avaoiding duplication of infomation. 


In fact, these days, with more and more emphasis on keeping manuscripts tight, even novelists are taking screenwriting classes to learn tips on how to hook their readers from the word go.


Excuse the formatting errors. I’m still not getting it!


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