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Posts Tagged ‘Indian Writing’

For an author I get a woefully little amount of reading done. And that’s because I’m usually in the middle of writing a book. And when I’m writing I don’t read (not fiction anyway) for fear of getting influenced.

That means that the only time I get for reading is when I’m in-between novels or plotting one. Which happens to be now. Accordingly, I went out day before yesterday and picked up 5000 bucks worth of books. So now I’ve got 21 titles to be read within a month, preferably less. I’m proud to declare that I made a good start yesterday and finished 2 whole novels!

Paths of Glory by Jeffrey Archer – the dude is good! A little formulaic, but he’s the only one you can get you to compulsively turn the page on merely the promise of an intriguing question being asked by an unlikely figure at a public lecture – and the other one by Mary Higgins Clark. I hope to finish an Amy Tan today (I’ve never read her before) and a Wilbur Smith (or did I get a Ken Follett?).

When you read contemporary works from your genre, you always run the risk of getting influenced or, as Bollywood types love to say, ‘inspired.’ But that doesn’t mean that one stops reading altogether. What one can do, however, is following:

1. Try to plagiarise ideas instead of whole chunks of passages (remember how Opal Mehta got kissed…by wazzername?).

2. On the other hand, after the scandal broke, Opal got publicity like you woulnd’t believe. She actually ended up selling more. You can’t pay for that kind of publicity. Moreover, stealing just the idea cannot guarantee immunity. Just look at Stephanie Meyer. So to hell with that idea.

3. Carefully weigh the pros and cons of stealing. How much do I make in royalties vis-a-vis how much do I fork out in settling the claim? If the scales tilt in favour of royalties, go for it.

4. While you’re at it, try and steal it from bestsellers to make it easier to spot instances of plagiarism.

5. If you do happen to be a poor sod and lift from an unknown and obscure book, get a friend to blow the whistle on you.

6. If however, you must steal but the ensuing lawsuit could leave you shirtless, do it smartly and from many sources. As they say, steal from one place, it’s plagiarism, steal from many, it’s research.

7. If you must steal and rather obviously, go one up on potentially litigious authors and give them credit. You only have to look at the many ‘management’ and ‘self-help’ books on the shelves to know that this works.

8. Lastly, for God’s sake, don’t get caught with your hand in the cookie jar! Remember, it’s only stealing if you get caught.

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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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I had a most frustrating day yesterday. I typed about a 1000 words three times, only to delete each draft. I couldn’t figure out if chance had a role to play in a detective novel. It’s relatively earlier on in the novel and it’s not as though the protagonist is solving anything major with the help of chance.

Even so, normally I steer clear of the trap of stumbling onto something by sheer luck. (Where are your dicking skills if that’s the case?) But then, given that it is a funny detective story, like its predecessor, Kkrishnaa’s Konfessions, couldn’t one take some liberties? After all we do have a Jacques Clouseau whom people devour with amusement.

Anyway, couldn’t make up my mind so I typed out both scenarios, where the protagonist stumbles upon a clue by chance and where it’s logically thought out. And a third scenario. Wasn’t happy with any so I did what I do in these situations.

I set is aside and put on my running shoes.  The rain had lightened into a light drizzle and running in such weather is always fun, if you overlook squishy shoes.

In any case, I figured a 10K run would clear the mind somewhat.Alas, it wasn’t to be. All I could think about was Kkrishnaa. My baby, all grown up, refuses to let go. Rather, I refuse to let go of my baby.

On a different note and taking up from where I left off yesterday, film is more glamorous than it is lucrative. As a struggling writer, without a ‘produced’ film to your name, you cannot hope to make more than Rs. 2-2.5 lakhs per film script. Rs. 5 lakhs if you’re wildly lucky. And a film script will take at least 2 months (It should take more but we’ll discuss that later) to write.

Why I call it unprofitable is because you may never get to write more than one film. Or you may never get paid anything beyond the initial signing amount. There’s nothing you can do about it. Having said that, there are celebrity writers – Anurag Kashyap, Neeraj Vora, Jaideep Sahni, Abbas Tyrewala who can pretty much command their price. But it takes years of struggle and genuine talent. 

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As I mentioned in my profile, people often ask me all sorts of questions related to writing. How did I get the courage to give it all up? I just did. It all happened with the frightful realization that half my life was over (figuratively speaking, not literally, I hope) and I hadn’t done any of the things that I had planned on doing.

Has it been worthwhile? The simple answer is yes, yes, oh yes! I have a decent bank balance, so that’s the financial consideration taken care of; and I have a film script under production and a book, Kkrishnaa’s Konfessions that’s getting published so that’s creative satisfaction taken care of.

I would like to say that it has been a piece of cake but the reality is that it was tough going initially. I didn’t get many writing assignments. Just the odd pilot here and there with no guarantee that it would ever be produced or that I would ever get paid. Nonetheless, I persevered. I wrote and wrote and wrote.  I didn’t restrict myself just to screenwriting. I wrote for anything that paid – newspapers, magazines, in-house magazines, corporate brochures. But then I am lucky that I’m equally fluent in both English and Hindi. Many of you may not have that option.

The bottomline is only do it you are very sure that that is that you want to do. No matter how much writers say otherwise, that self – doubt, financial constraints, frustration are the constant companions of every novice writer.

But there are upside as well. You get to work on your own time, you get to take a vacation whenever you want and the money, well, if you are a little bit smart, the light monetary drizzle (or the drought, as the case may be) soon turns into a downpour. And even if you don’t actually put a pen to paper or boot your laptop, you’re always working.  Whether you goof off to the movies, get drunk, go shopping, it’s all work, or if you prefer, research. You never know what you may get out of watching Aap ka Suroor.

Plus writers, especially screenwriters get to say cool things like I’m a film and TV writer. This is invariably followed by oohs and aahs and the inevitable ‘do you write for Kyunki?’  If I’m feeling mischievous, I answer in the affirmative and embellish my hellish working experience with Ekta Kapoor. I tell them how she works only at night and sleeps through the day, how she has an uncontrollable itch in her hand and can’t desist from slapping people.  

Is it true? If I were in America I would plead the Fifth Amendment here! But true or not, you have to agree it is entertaining. As the doctor tells Billy Crudup in Big Fish: “You were born a week early, but there were no complications. It was a perfect delivery. Not very exciting, is it? And I suppose if I had to choose between the true version and an elaborate one involving a fish and a wedding ring, I might choose the fancy version. But, then that’s just me.” (see now, watching Big Fish was research, wasn’t it?)

 

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