Retribution

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She couldn’t believe her luck. He hadn’t gone far. She found him lying face down in the drain. Blood from his vomit formed dark stains on his shirt.
She looked around. The drizzling rain had coerced everyone into their houses. In the darkness, even if someone saw them, none acknowledged. They turned him around. She grabbed his hands and started dragging him back to the house. Her daughter followed the small canal in the dirt plowed by his heels. It didn’t escape her mind. Her daughter was following a rhythm of 3 to 2 steps. She loved doing everything in 3. Even now.
Inside the house, she removed his shirt. Wiped him clean. Put him on the mat. She found the sickle on the floor. She tucked it away, with other knives and sharp things. Then she poured some ink on the scald on her daughter’s cheek. Never mind.  It was too late now. She will have to live with that ugly scar.
After putting her daughter to bed, she took out the bottle from inside the flush tank. She poured out more than half of the liquor into the toilet. Poured water to compensate. Replaced the bottle. And then she waited.

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The Lunchbox

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What is that makes The Lunchbox special? The restrain; the control over the medium. There are no characters here retching out their deepest emotions in a verbal diarrhoea. The background score doesn’t hit you with a hammer in case you miss what is happening on screen. The actors don’t go into convulsions trying to act. Every scene has a certain effortless charm. Indeed this is a director’s film.

In terms of the basic premise, the movie reminded me of the National award winning Malayalam film ‘Mathilukal’ (The Walls) by Adoor Gopalakrishnan. Instead of a lunchbox, the story device there is a prison wall separating male and female sections. And we never see the female character.

The Lunchbox is perfect except for its last 10 minutes. I personally feel that the movie should have ended with that beautiful voiceover in the coffee shop. After that, it appeared that the writer director is trying hard to be unpredictable (or ‘artsy’ if that is what you would like to call it). But sometimes predictability is better than clumsiness.

Scriptwriting redux

Redux 012/365 by ☆   Tabrel
 

This is an interesting phase in terms of writing for me. Probably the most productive phase I have ever been through. I mean in a strict output-time efficiency sense. There have been periods where I spent more time per day on writing. But it was more in a ‘savour the process and the page count be damned’ mode. Really what it amounted to was more obsessive detailing mostly an hindrance and distraction to the stories that I was trying to write. Now I can tolerate more the imperfections of what I have put down on page. I am much more ruthless in pulling the plug when a project does not appear viable from a practical sense.

So what has changed? Probably what helped are some deadlines looming over the horizon. Planned meetings, scheduled narrations, other commitments heading my way. Until this point, these meetings were a abstract possibility far far away.

My eyes were opened because despite all these years of writing, I am still not in a perfect situation where I am all prepared for a meeting. So I guess, I will have to learn on the fly and move on.

Photo by ☆ Tabrel

Shudh Desi Romance

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Last minute jitters and runaway bride (grooms) have been preoccupations of Hollywood romantic comedies for a while. Now Jaideep Sahni gives an authentic Indian spin to the much idealised ‘commitment phobitis.’ The movie has sparkling dialogue, quirky characters, circumvented cliches, great performances. But eventually you get exasperated because of the forced cleverness- the characters never feel really real because they all are hell bend on not reacting genuinely to the situations they are in. After every heart break, the characters picks up the pieces and move on so easily that you really doubt whether there was any ‘romance’ in the first place, let alone ‘Shudh.’ These characters are too smart, and also too phony. When second half steers into familiar triangle territory, I couldn’t help imagining Jaideep Sahni in golden shackles with a Yash Chopra stamp on a heart shaped padlock.

A letter to the 18 year old myself

My dear son, let me tell you... by Funny Fish
 

Hi there,

While looking for something, I happened to stumble upon those diaries that you are so religiously writing right now. Quotations, long handwritten book extracts, poems, fears, joy and frustrations spanning around 7 years- man, I think I am not half that methodical after all these years. It made me a bit sad to know how miserable I was those days.

Nostalgia plays strange illusions. Human memory has the ability to strip off all the unpleasantness from our past and embellish it in a beauty that really never existed. While reading your diaries I realised that probably I am much more self assured and socially confidant and happy now than you, my 18 year old self.

I am glad that you are writing those diaries. They gave me some perspective. And I am sorry to inform you that I stopped regular diary writing in around 2006 just before starting my post graduation. Interestingly I started a blog in 2007. But it never comes close to those diaries. Because the honesty when you write something for just yourself cannot be surpassed by anything else. I think that the biggest challenge as a writer is, how much you are willing to reveal about yourself as a person. Honesty is king. A reader can palpate the courage of the writer in his words.

I am glad that you are holding on to writing despite all the rejection slips, peer pressure and your own insecurities about the rationality of what you are doing. Probably writing is the only thing that you are doing right. But that will do. Everyone needs something to hold on to, in the storm of chance events that is coming his way. A narrative that will color every random event in life with a meaning.

You seem to be asking me, would I have done anything differently then if I had known what would happen 15 years from now? Probably not. I don’t think so. Like my post graduate career choice. Like not giving up on the dream of being a writer. Of course I would have written more. Would have knocked on all those doors much more furiously. And I would have reached out to my friends more. Would not have allowed them to drift away in the currents of life. I realise their emotional worth much more now. And I would have allowed myself to make more mistakes.

You want to know whether you would be successful after 15 years? Would you regret your actions and decisions? I just want to tell you- Don’t worry about the future. It is not going to do you any good. Because no matter what, your success depends on your definition of success. So it doesn’t matter. 15 years down the line, you may look with disdain at the greed or shallowness of many of your peers which is only surpassed by their contempt for your choices. So everything depends on the perspective. And you are making enough money to live decently. And you still love your day job.

And I saved the biggest news for you till the end. Despite all your indecisions and flip flops and jitteriness about ‘what you want,’ and ‘what you are going to do,’ ‘Regretting foolish fantasies,’ I am proud about you. You know why? You are the among the rare few among your peers (I can count them in my fingers), who would take some bold choices in future. You ignored what others did when it mattered. It was tougher for you because you took a detour while others were just following a long procession. I never expected that much courage from you. Would those choices pay off? Or would you regret them? I can tell you only this much. I am still standing here. And I am not banging my head on the wall. In fact the only regrets I am having right now is that I didn’t follow through those decisions with enough conviction later on. And I am having this nagging feeling that another 15 years from now, if I am going to regret anything, that is going to be that lack of conviction rather than those bold choices.

So don’t worry. Just continue what you are trying to do. Only thing is- be a little more happy and relaxed. Don’t read too much into everything. Do what you like and enjoy what you do. Love life. Rest of it is just useless interpretation.

With lots of empathy,

Your senior self.

Photo by Funny Fish

Deadlines and scriptwriting

scissors by danielgrenell
photo by danielgrenell

The question is- should one really self impose deadlines in creative writing? Can it harm the quality of the writing?

Often great ideas come when you are least expecting it. If you are mechanical about the various stages (‘After 10 hours of outlining, I am just going to write it’), you may often miss on some great breakthroughs. Writing in itself is a process that cannot be fitted into boxes and flowcharts. Often the associations you make are bizarre and counterintuitive.

But the issue that adds counterweight is the problem of productivity. Writing is not the kind of job where at the end of the day, you can count the number of words and decide whether you have worked well or not. And when it is compounded by writers’ eternal problem of procrastination, it becomes very difficult not to fool yourself. I can just daydream for months lying on the sofa and pretend to myself that ‘I am outlining.’ And if that ‘brilliant idea that burst out of nowhere’ is the criteria of good work, it may also turn out to be damp squib the next day.

So is it a good idea to restrict the time you use for outlining or writing a treatment? Probably not. But what if your outlining goes on for months? How do you know for sure that just because you have spent 2 months for developing something, it is going to be better than spending 2 weeks on initial development and then taking more time on rewriting?

Advantage of spending more time on outlining is that you save a lot of time while actually writing the script. Also most of my unfinished scripts happened because I didn’t outline. On the flip side, often you realise what you really want with the story after you write a complete draft. If you have spent too much time on outlining initially, you lose some of the mental flexibility to revamp the theme and plot of your first draft if it is required. Anyway I have decided to try out the second option- jump into the first drafts after a fixed amount of time in outlining. I need to try all methods to see which one really works.

Writing strategies for 2013


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What is the point of putting down your strategies for the year after 7 months have gone by?

-First of all, it was a conscious decision to delay this post. In the beginning of the year, I was in the middle of a relocation and change in job. So any planning without any idea about the new environment was not going to be useful. Second, I realise now that this post on strategies in the beginning of every year has been really helping me to set my priorities. Making a complete ass of yourself by declaring your goals in public definitely helps.

Now that I have eased into my current job and location, I realise that certain things have changed. Certain advantages have been irretrievably lost. The most precious one is the stability of routine. It is difficult to say before hand how many hours I would be free to write on a particular day. Writing in the weekdays is now a little bit more difficult. At the same time,  now weekend means two free days compared to one last year. The load of academic work has decreased. But being with family brings in its own set of distractions. So overall I feel the amount of time available for writing would be the same. But, the instability of routine prevents me from pursuing daily targets. So I have decided to shift to weekly targets.

The next one year is going to be very crucial in terms of meetings. My biggest weakness is that my writing occurs in a vacuum mostly divorced from external environment except for 2-3 writer friends/co-writers. I need to see where I stand and how others in film field respond to my ideas. I have realised that cultivating relationships is more important than going ‘hit and miss’ with celebrity film makers. Also I have decided to concentrate on my pitching and narration skills.

As it often crops up in my yearly assessments, my problem is not most often not working, but working too much on too little. I need to put up completed work. Despite all the writing, the amount of time I have put into writing does not reflect in the number of completed works. Instead I have half boiled treatments and concepts stuck in mid birth. So I need to improve my time management skills in writing.

I am glad that in the last few months, I have made giant strides in this aspect. I realise now that after a point, the amount of time put into outlining or treatment does not correlate with the quality of the script. Instead, more time need to be put into rewriting after the first draft of the script. You realise what you are trying to write after the first draft. So, I have decided to keep a tabs of sort regarding how much time I am spending for various stages of development on a particular script. Also I need to see how much the reality tally with my initial assessment regarding the time it is going to take.

So the targets are going are going to be-

-18 hours of writing every week. Every day, minimum of one hour of writing needs to be completed. A tally of what kind of work is being done is to be maintained.

-6 hours to be spent on networking activities per week.

-An actual meeting has to take place at least every month.

Photo by martin.trolle