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Posts Tagged ‘screenwriting’

There comes a time in everyone’s life when one has to go back to the basics. Nowhere is it seen more plainly than in sport where peaks and troughs are regularly hit and are painfully evident to see. It is amazing how a sportsperson who is, as sports commentators are fond of saying, ‘timing the ball sweetly’ or in  ‘fine nick’ the week before can struggle to get a racket/bat on the ball in the very next week.

Sometimes the lean patch can last a long time and while it persists, can slowly erode the player’s confidence till she doesn’t believe she can compete with the, again as sports commentators are fond of saying, ‘the best in the field.’ To break this vicious cycle they are advised to go back to the basics. Focus on your rhythm, footwork and hitting through the ball cleanly. Focus on winning just the very next point. Then the next. If you do that, your confidence will slowly return and soon you’ll be able to strategise ahead for a clutch of points and then the whole match.

I hope you can see where I’m going with this. (And no, I haven’t turned into a motivational speaker or a sports psychologist).

As you know, it’s been slow going for me for some days now on the writing front. Much as I tried, I just couldn’t figure out why. And then I realised I was thinking about writing the whole novel, that is 100,000 words. And to make matters worse I’ve started two. So that’s at least 250,000 words.

Think of it like that and the task seems daunting. The trick is to focus on writing one scene well. Then the next. Soon, as you get a grip on the language and the characters you’ll be able to write more than a scene at a time and before you know it, the novel is finished. Voila! Simple, isn’t it?

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You know, it occurred to me that I’ve been waxing about writing for so long – what one needs to do to get published or produced or whatever – and I left out the most important thing. Luck.

You can have talent by the oodles, dedication and determination but if you haven’t got luck you’re pretty much toast. On the other hand, you can average to zilch talent but if you have the lady on your side you have nothing to worry about. Perhaps my placing too much on mere chance stems from the industry I come from.

While luck plays a role in any field in life, its importance is exaggerated in mine. Every day I see talented people struggling away, unable to make a mark. On the other hand you have a music director (I shall refrain from using names), whose sole talent in life is creative stealing. *Gasp* you guessed???!!! And here I was soooo careful.

Of course what I’m saying could be pure baloney. As one erstwhile leading tennis player, talking about the favourable percentage of close net and line calls that regularly went his way, said, “The harder I practice the luckier I get.” Perhaps in sport. I mean, that is one area you need to have some skill. And hone it. You just can’t wake up one day and bend it like Beckham. *Sorry* I couldn’t think of a more original one.

Elsewhere, I think, luck is a necessary and sufficient condition for success. So all you aspiring writers, singers, musicians, you too can get lucky. It’s really a question of practice. *You too can win* Do I sound sufficiently like Shiv Khera? God, where did that name come from? It’s been ages since we heard it! There was a time where he was everywhere. And then he just disappeared. Guess who the lady deserted.

BTW, what do you think of the title of this post? I dithered between luck by chance and oye luck luck oye and chose the latter. I am a Dilliwali at heart. What to do, I’m like this only.

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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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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 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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I’m restive these days. Unable to concentrate to outlining my third book. And that’s because my second book hasn’t been laid to bed as yet. The thing is it is very difficult to focus on two different books at the same time, especially when they are both intricate murder mysteries.

The second book in its current form is about 1, 14, 000 words which, I’m sure, is giving the production staff palpitations. I’m sure they’ll try and get me to trim the word count to under 1, 00, 000 post editing. That means that I can’t let it go just yet.

I apologize for harping incessantly on the phrase ‘the second book,’ although it does have a nice ring to it. Makes it sound like a definitive religious text, n’est pas? The name is not a closely guarded secret, deliberately shrouded in mystery. We just haven’t been able to agree on a suitably snappy title as yet.

The story is about a female PI with a cringe-worthy name like Kalavati or Bisheshwari or Thirumala. And it’s a series. At least we’re hoping it will be a franchise. I was going with a generalised title for the series, suffixed by specific story title.  Like And then there were noneAn Hercule Poirot mystery.

I was keen on Krime Kronicles as the general series title but it prompted too many eye rolls from my publishers (in my defense, I’m a TV person!). And so, the search continues.

Meanwhile, for all you aspiring screenwriters out there, Kamal Hassan, along with some Hollywood biggies, is launching a screenwriting contest. A friend of mine who works at the Hindu in Chennai sent me this. Check it out.

Chennai International Screenwriting WorkshopDo you want to be one of the chosen 250 to attend a week-long masterclass by some of the best screenwriting teachers in the country?

 

Kamal Haasan, in association with Indian Institute of Technology, Madras presents a first-of-its-kind international workshop and seminar on screenwriting in South India. “It’s a strictly instructional event. Basic education is compulsory and candidates need to demonstrate their seriousness to get selected,” says the writer-filmmaker-actor.

The Chennai International Screenwriting Workshop to be held at the IIT-M campus between May 29 to June 3, 2009 will feature few of the best screenwriters and filmmakers from around the world.

Veteran writer Jean Claude Carriere has confirmed his participation via video conference. 

Mr. Kamal Haasan himself will join the discussions and don the role of faculty during the workshop and seminar. “Students will be able to pick up copies of my scripts and get their doubts clarified,” he adds. 

The screenwriting workshop will be conducted by K.Hariharan, Director of the L.V. Prasad Film and TV Academy, Anjum Rajabali, Professional screenwriter and head of departments of screenwriting at Film and TV Institute, Pune and Whistling Woods, Mumbai and Atul Tiwari, Professional screenwriter and well known playwright.

“We will be approaching screenwriting from two angles”, says Mr.Hariharan. “How to turn words into images that you see on screen and also how to do the opposite – putting in words what you see as images in your mind. Every day, we will have two sessions of guest lectures by reputed writer-filmmakers from the industry.”

For long, screenwriting has been a neglected discipline even in film schools. “While all good writing is essentially intuitive, it is essential to understand the basic principles of storytelling and the form of the screenplay to be a competent screenwriter”, says Mr. Anjum Rajabali, who founded the screenwriting department at FTII and at Whistling Woods.

“We all agree that it is impossible to make even a half decent film with a bad script and that a good script is the first and foremost requisite to make a good film. But even then we have seen that pedagogy of the screenwriting has not taken roots in India,” adds Mr. Atul Tiwari, who has who has conducted similar workshops in New Delhi, Mumbai, Lucknow, Manipal and Pune.

The workshop will culminate with a seminar, which will be open to industry professionals. The event is an initiative of Raajkamal Films International to bring screenwriting to the forefront. 

To apply, students must send a copy of their resume, a passport-size photograph along with a 200-word synopsis on their favourite film and a list of their five favourite films to admissions@screenwritingindia.com before May 5, 2009.

More details are available on http://screenwritingindia.com. For further queries, email helpdesk@screenwritingindia.com

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Someone sent this to me. Apparently these wise ass answers are the actual responses by the website officials . I don’t know if this is true. The reason I’m posting this (besides the fact that they are funny) is to show that an idea for an interesting character can come from random places. Yes, even irritating friends who insist on bulk mailing stupid jokes.

Q :      Does it ever get windy in India? I have never seen it  rain on TV, how do the plants grow? (UK).
A:      We import all plants fully grown and then just sit around watching them die.

Q :      Will I be able to see elephants in the street? (USA)
A:      Depends how much you’ve been drinking.

Q:      I want to walk from Delhi to Goa- can I follow the railroad tracks? (Sweden)
A:      Sure, it’s only three thousand kms, take lots of water.

Q:       Is it safe to run around in the bushes in India?   (Sweden)  
A:      So it’s true what they say about Swedes.

Q:       Are there any ATMs (cash machines) in India? Can you send me a list of them in Delhi, Chennai, Calcutta and Bangalore? (UK)
A:      What did your last slave die of?

Q:       Can you give me some information about hippo racing in India?  (USA)
A:      A-fri-ca is the big triangle shaped continent south of Europe. In-di-a is that big triangle in  the middle of the Pacific & Indian Ocean  which does not.. oh forget it. …… Sure, the hippo racing is every Tuesday night in Goa.  Come naked.

Q:       Which direction is North in India? (USA)
A:      Face south and then turn 180 degrees. Contact us when you get here and we’ll send the rest of the directions.
 

Q:       Can I bring cutlery into India? (  UK)
A:      Why? Just use your fingers like we do.

Q:       Can you send me the Indiana Pacers matches schedule? (France)
A:       Indiana is a state in the Unites States of…oh forget it.  Sure, the Indiana Pacers matches are played every Tuesday  night in Goa, straight after the hippo races.  Come naked.
 
Q:      Can I wear high heels in India? ( UK )
A:      You’re a British politician, right?

Q:     Are there supermarkets in Bangalore, and is milk available all year round? (Germany)
A:      No, we are a peaceful civilization of vegan hunter/gatherers. Milk is illegal.

Q:    Please send a list of all doctors in India who can dispense rattlesnake serum. (USA)
A:      Rattlesnakes live in A-meri-ca which is where YOU come from.  All Indian snakes are perfectly harmless, can be safely handled and make  good pets.
 

Q:       Do you have perfume in India? ( France)
A:      No, WE don’t stink.

Q:       I have developed a new product that is the fountain of youth.  Can you tell me where I can sell it in India?  (USA) 

A:      Anywhere significant numbers of Americans gather.

Q:       Do you celebrate Christmas in India? (France)
A:      Only at Christmas.
 

Q:       Will I be able to speak English most places I go? (USA)
A:      Yes, but you’ll have to learn it first

Q:       Can I see Taj Mahal anytime? (Italy)
A:      As long as you are not blind, you can see it anytime.
 
Q:       Do you have Toilet paper? (USA)
A:      No, we use sand paper. (we have different grades)

Even as I post this, a smart ass character is already forming in my head.

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