Shaitan is more like a Ferrari that tries to run on water. After seeing the originality in narration and the visual flair, couldn’t help wondering what some ingenuity in the plot couldn’t have added to the mix. And it made me think about the usual pitfalls that  thrillers usually fall into.

Major spoilers ahead-

1)It is a no-brainer that once the kidnap plot goes awry, they are going to turn against each other. The crux of the writing is about how this is going to unwind. There are numerous permutations and combinations that could be used in any multi-character piece but the trick is to make it appear that whatever happened is somehow inevitable. Now instead of Tanya getting almost killed in the hands of KC and KC getting killed by Dash, would it have really mattered if it was otherwise? Would something be amiss if instead of Zubi, KC finally falls into the hands of the cop? What I am trying to say is that all the plot choices appear to be arbitrary and doesn’t fulfill any poetic justice (and it doesn’t mean that they couldn’t be absolute random events). For that, characters and events need to be set up to make it appear that everyone succumb to their own eccentricities, strengths and flaws.  In ‘No country for old men’, murder of Josh Brolin’s character and his wife’s character may appear random meaningless events but we cant say it doesn’t make sense from the frame work and perspective of that film. At the same time, those events surprise us as plot twists.

2)Coming up with back stories for characters is easy. But it is difficult to resist the temptation to add them. Amy’s mother angle and the cop’s marital woes didn’t add anything to the story but did cut down the pace. Especially Amy’s back story needed tighter editing.

3)To make the characters appear real, there is something extra required in writing. Okay, you are writing about upper-class youth of today. Okay, so you need to put in some dysfunctional families, some uninhibited sex talk, some cocaine snorting, some goofiness, expensive houses and automobiles- but until this point, the writing is autopilot. Now there is something extra that needs to go in to make these characters real. Some quirky details, usually ignored personal tidbits, mundane personally relevant conundrums- that is what would make this characters really real. And that is tough to write, even if you are aware that they need to be written.


Short film script ‘The search’ sold

To all those friends and acquaintances out there who were asking about the status of ‘The search,’- it has been sold. The rights were bought by a film maker friend from Canada whose previous short film was screened at short film corner in Cannes 2011. We have worked on ‘The search’ together to develop it further. I think the current version is much better.

 Photo by Jeremy Brooks

Alcohol, age limit and Imran Khan’s PIL: Are we overdoing ‘freedom?’

Maharashtra has raised the legal drinking age to 25. Reactions have ranged from ‘strange’ and ‘absurd’ to downright ‘challenge to individual freedom’. Are these things so black and white? Most countries have used a cut off for legal drinking at around 21. And the advantages and disadvantages of raising it from 21 to 25 needs to be studied and debated. But the current insistence of the critics to lower it to 18 does not have much basis from a public health perspective.

First of all, raising age limit to control alcohol use and the related hazards is a strategy that has strong ‘evidence basis’ to support it. I am not talking ‘what I feel strongly…’ or ‘probably we can infer’ kind of facts seen in columns but hard evidence from methodologically robust studies. What is the nature of hazards  we are talking about?

Alcohol use is the third leading risk factor for poor health globally. It has been estimated in India that while the gains in terms of revenue from alcohol sales are Rs 216 billion every year, losses from adverse effects of alcohol  are estimated to be Rs 244 billion, apart from the immeasurable losses due to multiple and rollover effects of alcohol use. Needless to say, the available estimates are merely the tip of the iceberg. Now coming to youngsters, it has been shown that some one initiating alcohol use after first two decades of life have much lesser chances of developing adverse consequences or pathological patterns of drinking than who starts before. In countries where it has been debated whether drinking age should be lowered from 21, considerable amount of evidence shows that it may not be a good idea (1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8). Continue reading

3 lessons television taught me about scriptwriting

Quentin Tarantino once said- ‘Movies are not about the weekend that they’re released, and in the grand scheme of things, that’s probably the most unimportant time of a film’s life.’ I wonder- In that grand scheme of things, where do broadcasting movies in cable networks figure? Is it the old age or is it premature death? Anyway, watching films on tv do give you certain insights about movie scriptwriting.

1-There are no ‘unimportant’ scenes.

Here is a test for every scene of your script. Suppose your movie is playing on tv. Some one clicks on the channel. This particular scene that you are writing comes on screen. The viewer doesn’t know the story, there are no recognisable faces- will he continue watching the movie? That is the test for the robustness of every scene that you have created.

We all tend to write some scenes on autopilot. How many times have we seen the portion where a police officer is introduced as tough and rough and how many of these introductions are really different? How many times have we seen a heroine being established as bubbly and carefree? Do all those scenes really stand out from each other? How many times have a psycho/ghost stalked our girl in a dark  room? Can’t that scene be banned for now?

Just a final example. How would you write opening and ending scenes of a movie about the rise and fall of a great boxer whose career finally gave way to animalistic rage, jealousy and sadomasochism? Think. And then watch Raging Bull. Continue reading