What keeps Ishqiya above the schlock is a good screenplay and mature direction. The story in a single sentence pitch is not something very original. Two friends fleeing from their crime boss are pitted against each other when they both fall for a widow. But she may be having other plans for them… We have seen similar stories about ‘the mysterious woman’ before.

Of course there is a twist in the end but the saving grace of the film is the way in which the screenplay has kept everything precise and intelligent. Here characters don’t spell every thing out on screen just because writer fears that otherwise audience wont understand what is going on. You don’t see every event unfolding from beginning to end  but often you cut away to another scene once you realise what is going to be obvious conclusion of the current one. One example is where the two guys steal an auto rickshaw full of gas cylinders. They are arguing whether to go back or escape. We see them both looking at the auto rickshaw in confusion. They don’t talk or argue about stealing it. Finally Arshad Warsi shoots into the air. End of scene.

That kind of subtlety is what Hindi cinema desperately need. Another issue is that for a country where more than 70% live in villages, it’s absurd that 90% of Hindi movies are love stories of millionaires living in USA and Europe. In that perspective, Ishqiya is a breath of fresh air. Also for the realisation that sometimes casting actors rather than good looking faces will be simply enough to save your film from appearing plastic.


The clock is ticking


I am gradually settling into the job. There is more free time now. Main advantage is that I don’t have to study any more. Except writing some academic papers, its just about finishing the work and coming back. Naturally I ought to write more. That is what I thought.
But I am gradually realising that it is not that simple as it sounds. When I had to study, I had a fixed structure. I had more motivation to stick to that structure too. I used to get up early in the morning, do some academic work and then write for an hour. It was easy to continue with that flow in the evening too. Now the problem is getting up in the morning itself. It’s tough to make myself sit in front of the computer. The challenge is to shake off this complacency and fire all cylinders. So I have to work out stricter deadlines for the different projects I am doing. I have started doing some heavy duty networking too. Requests have come up for some outlines. So that will also help to push the button. Some where… a clock is ticking.

Photo by Real Rider

Il Divo

Il Divo gave me this revelation that we cast away certain ideas as ‘cinematically nonviable’  because we don’t have the ingenuity to come around our own creative limitations. Il Divo is a biopic based on former Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti. It was awarded the Prix du Jury at Cannes in 2008.

 Normally this is the kind of he-story which makes my eyes glaze over. What makes Il Divo tick? Apart from the gripping screenplay about a corrupt politician who is so complex that you can’t label him that easily? I would say the quirky eccentric direction. You like what you see on the screen. In terms of images. Every thing has an eye grabbing assymetry about it. The novelty of even depicting the most routine proceedings made me realise that you can make an engaging movie about a stone lying on the side walk too, if you have the talent.

And also the ability to get you into the skin of the character helps. Small small details through which the character is etched out (The way Andreotti keeps his hands and how it reveals his thoughts, His rather operatic evening walk, the slump, his ability to let not his face betray any kind of emotion, the saintliness of life style) is what keeps this movie engaging. Gradually you start liking this Faustian character who has sold his soul to the devil to ‘maintain order.’ He is conservative and religious. He does not drink or chase women. He has links to the mafia. He orchestrated murders of many, including journalists… He does remind you that truth can be muddy.



Writing screenplay treatments


This is for all those guys out there who have been asking to write something about treatments-
If the whole scriptwriting business is a game of chess, treatments are your foot soldiers. Most of the (meaningful) interactions which you do in the film industry will be with the help of treatments. Well, earlier you swallow this bitter pill, the better for you- No one has the time or inclination to read a 120 page screenplay to find out whether you have got it. Basically no one here is into reading anything except their own twitters.
So, what is a treatment? One doesn’t have to be dogmatic about what it is or what it should be. But basically for me, it includes the basic story of the whole movie. The premise, important beats, twists and turns. What treatment tries to do is to impart the experience of what it would be like reading your script or hearing your story- with much less time and effort. I don’t use dialogue usually, but at certain places it helps. My treatments doesn’t cover all the scenes, but all sequences will be there. Usually my treatments are around 3-5 pages long. Continue reading

J. D. Salinger (1919-2010)


…When the weather’s nice, my parents go out quite frequently and stick a bunch of flowers on old Allie’s grave. I went with them a couple of times, but I cut it out. In the first place, I certainly don’t enjoy seeing him in that crazy cemetery. Surrounded by dead guys and tombstones and all. It wasn’t too bad when the sun was out, but twice–twice–we were there when it started to rain. It was awful.  It rained on his lousy tombstone, and it rained on the grass on his stomach. It rained all over the place. All the visitors that were visiting the cemetery started running like hell over to their cars. That’s what nearly drove me crazy.  All the visitors could get in their cars and turn on their radios and all
and then go someplace nice for dinner–everybody except Allie. I couldn’t stand it. I know it’s only his body and all that’s in the cemetery, and his soul’s in Heaven and all that crap, but I couldn’t stand it anyway. I just wish he wasn’t there. You didn’t know him. If you’d known him, you’d know what I mean. It’s not too bad when the sun’s out, but the sun only comes out when it feels like coming out.

Catcher in the rye

“It’s everybody, I mean. Everything everybody does is so – I don’t know – not wrong, or even mean, or even stupid necessarily. But just so tiny and meaningless and – sad-making. And the worst part is, if you go bohemian or something crazy like that, you’re conforming just as much only in a different way.”                                                                                

 “I’m just interested in finding out what the hell goes. I mean do you have to be a goddam bohemian type, or dead, for Chrissake, to be a real poet? What do you want – some bastard with wavy hair?”

Frannie and Zooey

…But I’m crazy. I swear to God I am. About halfway to the bathroom, I sort of started pretending I had a bullet in my guts. Old ‘Maurice had plugged me. Now I was on the way to the bathroom to get a good shot of bourbon or something to steady my nerves and help me really go into action. I pictured myself coming out of the goddam bathroom, dressed and
all, with my automatic in my pocket, and staggering around a little bit. Then I’d walk downstairs, instead of using the elevator. I’d hold onto the banister and all, with this blood trickling out of the side of my mouth a little at a time. What I’d do, I’d walk down a few floors–holding onto my guts, blood leaking all over the place– and then I’d ring the elevator
bell. As soon as old Maurice opened the doors, he’d see me with the automatic in my hand and he’d start screaming at me, in this very high-pitched, yellow-belly voice, to leave him alone.  But I’d plug him anyway. Six shots right through his fat hairy belly. Then I’d throw my automatic down the elevator shaft–after I’d wiped off all the finger prints and all. Then I’d crawl back to my room and call up Jane and have her come over and bandage up my guts. I pictured her holding a cigarette for me to smoke while I was bleeding and all.         

 The goddam movies. They can ruin you. I’m not kidding…

Catcher in the rye