Sunday, December 16, 2007

Now, a Movie Maker...

Two movies which I submitted for the PFCOne competition.



Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Kids Nowadays

Are too smart for their own good. There I was sitting, well, not peacefully, maybe a little pensive, inside the American Consulate in Chennai where I had gone to get my H1-B Visa. A little earlier, I had got drenched outside when it had rained for a bit. Then there had been a narrow escape at the prescreening on some technicality which I won’t try and explain. So there I was sitting and calming my nerves, trying to figure out what to do next.

He would have been not more than 5 years old. A dark chubby fellow with mischievous and intelligent eyes, he had trundled to the chair beside me.

“What’s your name?”

Against my better judgment, I replied honestly.




“What kind of a stupid name is that?”

Pause. Now I was asking for it.

“What’s your name?”



“James Bond”.

I am getting married next week, to the day in fact, to a girl called Meera. Those vaadiyars will be asking my name every alternate minute.

I am going to be tempted.

By the way, if you are reading this, and I haven’t yet invited you, you are invited now.

Which means you can congratulate me.

Monday, September 10, 2007

My First Screenplay

I wrote ‘The End’ on it a couple of days back and heaved a huge sigh of relief. I couldn’t write the last few pages fast enough. I mean, writing an action sequence is no fun, in my opinion. But I am getting ahead of myself. Let me start from the beginning, flashback and all that you know- Imagine the page dissolving right in front of your eyes…

There I was, in one of the small bookstores in Banjara Hills out here in Hyderabad when I chanced upon the book titled ‘The Screen-writer’s Workbook’ by Syd Field. Now, I am your regular cinema junkie who can only dream about an alternate career in cinemascope while his immediate reality is dealing with day-to-day issues in his 2 to 10 IT job (9 to 5 in UK). But here was a chance. I don’t know why it hadn’t occurred to me earlier. I mean, instead of procrastinating against my family who nudged me into a mainstream Engg+MBA rather than a liberal arts education, I could have so easily done this so much sooner. Looking at the scripts that Bollywood churns out as regularly as Ajit Agarkar does length balls which go for a six, I didn’t think I could do much worse. By the time I reached home I was already visualizing a couple of scenes and licking my lips.

The book is an interesting read by itself, even if one is not trying to write a screenplay. It’s a step by step procedure and about how even a novice like me can take a good shot at writing a screenplay. Each chapter ends with an exercise which I think if faithfully done does help a lot. Anyway, I read the whole book (200 pages of it) in a couple of sittings and then sat down to actually ‘do it’.

The first thing which the author asks you to do seems pretty simple. Condense the story into three or four sentences focusing on the subject, action and character. I did that except that what I wrote seemed pretty lame. Lets move on now, next chapter.

Next couple of chapters focused on the structure and what Syd Field calls the ‘Paradigm’. He is really big on that word and keeps harping on it time and again. Essentially he asks you to split your story into three acts and two plot points. This was a very useful exercise as it helps you to keep track and not lose your way when you get into the meaty part of actually writing the damn stuff. ‘When you are in the in the paradigm, you can’t see the paradigm.’

Four pages- that’s the next chapter. Write the story in four pages. This took some time. It turned out that I was really clear about Act 1 and Plot point 1 in my head but was pretty vague about the rest. It took some effort, but I managed it. Though now I was already beginning to see why this was not going to be the cakewalk that I had initially imagined this to be.

The next three chapters talk about creating characters and you end up writing character biographies for your main characters up to the point their role begins in the movie. I wrote the biographies for the three main characters in my story. This took close to a week or even more I think and I ended up with about 15 pages of their collective life stories till the time my story begins. I didn’t really understand why I had to write about the character’s parents when they didn’t even figure in the main story but I was going with blind faith. By the time I finished those biographies, I was starting to ‘live’ with those characters in my head and later whenever I seemed to get stuck with my writing, they did all the writing for me.

That’s Part 1 of the book called Introduction, by the way. Now we move into Part 2, called Execution.

Sorry, this has already become a longer write-up than I imagined it would be, somewhat like my Act 1, so I think I will stop here. Anyway, it’s not important. What is important is that 45 days and 122 pages later, I have finished the first draft. It’s been a wonderful adventure and an extremely satisfying one. A couple of friends have told me that I am completely wasting my time but I disagree. Writing is its own reward. I am never gonna be a rockstar but it’s not going to stop me from strumming my acoustic guitar, I tell them. Same difference.

The last couple of chapters of the book deal with the rewrites. But I can no longer bear to even give a complete reading to my screenplay anymore. I don’t know why it’s like that at all. I am completely sapped of all energy; almost as if I regret that the whole project has almost ended. Not sure what the future holds for this story of mine, will it ever see the light of day or will it for ever be confined within the depths of my hard disk?

Hey, but I will always have Dazed and Confused.

Saturday, July 14, 2007


I wrote this post a few months back and somehow managed to forget all about it.

T was leaving his company where he had worked for the past 10 years.

We had taken away his job.

That is, my company, not moi per se. His job was the last one to be off shored to a techie now sitting in Hyderabad. For the past six months, my team and I had worked closely with him on all aspects of support and development of the IT systems that he was a crucial part of.

I understand a little better now, the expression ‘a stiff upper lip’ that the British are famous for. I had anticipated a certain degree of hostility when I, along with my team, first landed up in their office in Bristol on a cold Monday morning in December. Fortunately, we found T and others to be courteous and cooperative, which was frankly more than we had expected. I had been forewarned from at least a couple of people back home who had executed similar transition projects in the US that it might not be a pleasant experience.

Actually, pleasant, it was not. But we were pleasantly surprised with what we got, so I guess I’ll go with pleasant as the adjective. They were polite, courteous and cooperative, yes, but friendly, no. I found that out pretty early as T and others politely declined our offers to join us during our coffee breaks. They never invited us as well and we let it go at that. The rules of engagement were well defined and we worked satisfactorily, if not happily, within those. A few months later, I had a feeling that if a similar offer were renewed, it would not be declined, but I did not take the trouble to find out.

We have superior techno-functional skills. When it became apparent, I saw first disbelief, irritation, consternation and finally grudging respect as we delivered better service levels consistently. But our delivery would not have been possible without his help and cooperation for which I am grateful. I like to think that in the last few months we helped him to improve his skills as well. We involved him in the enhancements that we performed on the applications and he thus broadened his technical skill sets. On the last day, he asked me for a configuration document that I had prepared. I knew he would probably pass it off as his own in his future job applications. But I didn’t have to think twice before I sent it across. He sent back some code he had written which he said were some special shortcuts to specific problems we might face in future.

We were even.

On his last evening, he invited me for some drinks along with the couple of managers whose jobs were safe and a couple of others who had already left the company, their jobs already off shored. I knew by then that T was a kind of a beer connoisseur and he took all of us to three pubs where he declared one could find quality authentic English bitters. All three were small, old taverns with a great old worldly ambience. I enjoyed the beers too; they were quite different from the usual lagers that I would usually choose. As for the conversation, it was jovial and spirited. I asked T what his most memorable day was working with the company.

“Today!” he said and asked for another pint.

All of us trooped over, a little drunk, to an Indian restaurant for a ‘Curry’ dinner. I answered the usual questions about India. They all seemed to be a little surprised that I was a bit eager to go back home in a few months time.

T doesn’t have a job yet. He mentioned that he will take the opportunity to get his garden in shape before searching for his next vocation.

I wish him well.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Behind the Blogging Vacuum

It’s 4.01 AM on my computer toolbar and I have been unsuccessfully trying to convince sleep for the past two hours, shifting and rolling uncomfortably on another strange bed. I don’t know if it’s the jet lag or whether it’s the indulgently long afternoon nap which is to blame.

I am back in Chennai by the way, taking a short holiday at home before resuming work in Hyderabad. Bristol already seems like a distant memory in a different world, if not a different life. It will all come back, am sure when I open my official email a few days from now, cluttered with users asking for this and that.

The blog has been neglected recently, I am aware of that. For a long time -it’s almost 18 months since I started- I blogged in a routine, trying to put up at least a post a week. I was trying to put my life in order again, trying to chop it off into smaller manageable bits over which I had control. Somewhere along the way, I thought the answers lay within me and the more I put out, the better I would be able to make sense of what was happening around and inside me. The blog’s not a hideout. It’s public knowledge, even my mom knows about it now. But it has my secrets in it; I like to think, hidden behind ordinary phrases and inconsequential incidents.

And slowly and steadily, it has happened, this change, without my noticing it. I have been looking outward a little more now, reading, listening and thinking of things which no longer involve me. To the extent that writing about stuff which concerns me seems quite, you know, pathetic almost. I lack the confidence and really the false assurance required to write about topics which I am only beginning to discover for myself and so I find myself in a limbo, between disinterest at one end and lack of confidence at the other resulting in a blogging vacuum.

Anyway, it’s time to set up routines again. Soon, a new address in Hyderabad, a new flat mate, a still new relationship (?) a search for a new job maybe, who knows.

Things are changing again. But this time, the answers will be easier to find.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

For the tiger...

Hope on to this link below and do what you can...

The Case of the Incidental Rat

Like any other weekday, I came in by around 7 PM, changed and logged on. I checked out my usual websites, fiddled around with my guitar till I couldn’t ignore the rumblings in my stomach any longer. Of course, to cook you need clean dishes and so I proceeded with the ones in the basin and switched on to the news channels in the telly. You ignore Paris Hilton at your own risk.

Soon after, when I was eating and trying to figure out why my sambhar tasted sweet, I suddenly saw the rat. I had heard some noises before in its general direction but had learnt to ignore such sounds. A lot of wood is used in the construction here which is not really conducive to sound proofing and odd noises from neighbor’s filters through often. But this wasn’t a neighbor I was looking at eight feet away from me. This was a huge rat which had made its way from my bathroom into my living room and was now considering future course of action.

I acted first. I closed my mouth which was agape with a mixture of astonishment, confusion and puzzlement, put my spoon filled with my sweet sambhar rice back on the plate and blinked. Fortunately, before I could put my feet up on the couch and say ‘uhudhfgu’, the creature decided that it had had enough of a foreign realm and retreated back into the darkness of the bathroom.

I think that I pride myself on being prepared for any eventuality. For example, I know that if I were mugged, it will take me only 2.4 seconds to take off my wallet, watch, mobile and ring in one smooth movement. Or for that matter, not to use a deodorant when I am journeying in the forest so that I don’t have to lie down and play dead when I encounter a bear. But this, I wasn’t prepared for. It’s not that I hadn’t encountered a rodent in my house before. I remember a small mouse looking trapped, trapped as it was in a mousetrap when I was six. I remember mom not being very keen about me adopting it as a pet. And for good measure, it was decided that the mouse should be released to terrorize other families in a colony a few miles from my house, so that it couldn’t find it’s way back. There was nothing I could do except give it some company before I saw it disappear for ever from my life.

Then of course, was the unforgettable experience at the Rat temple, I think, somewhere in Bikaner, Rajasthan, where the whole place is infested with the lot of them. If ever there was a Rat Heaven that would be it. Being a temple, you couldn’t wear your shoes in the place (a logic somewhat lost on me as the place couldn’t have been more disease prone than already) and I remember me and my college friends tying plastic paper bags around our legs with rubber bands before venturing in.

Cut to the present though and it was pretty clear to me quite immediately that my past experiences were not going to teach me anything of any significance on how to deal with the current predicament. Anyway, self defense and fortification being my first thought, I immediately closed the door between the bathroom and the living room and considered the gap between the floor and the door. It didn’t look very big but a determined rat could squeeze through, was what my grey cells were telling me. As I considered further moves to safeguard myself, I unwisely decided to calm my nerves by drinking gallons of water. Soon enough, I had to take a leak. It is amazing how a man can gather his courage where taking a leak is concerned. Armed with a broom, I gingerly made my way into enemy territory and placed my ass on the usual place. Those twenty seconds when I was at my most vulnerable passed away uneventfully even though I had morbid thoughts about what happened to Saif Ali Khan’s character in ‘Ek Hasina Thi’.

Further investigation of the bathroom revealed no presence of the rodent any longer. Wherever it had come from, it had gone back and hopefully was at peace with itself. There were a couple of crevices in the bathroom which seemed to lead into some dark depths but never for a moment did I consider making a closer investigation. The next day, when I encountered this experience to my unflappable letting agent, he did express some sympathy.

“It’s rare for them to show up at a first floor flat. Let me know if it shows up again, otherwise we will just forget it as an isolated incident.”

I told him that I was having visions of rats partying away in my house while I was away at work but he just nodded and attended to another customer. But, to his credit, I must say that he might have been right. I haven’t seen any more signs of the rat two weeks hence and have stopped carrying a broom with me every time I want to pee.

Wait a minute, what was that sound now?

Sunday, June 03, 2007

‘Upper Castes’ should Convert to Buddhism

So by now, 30 people have died in that needless violence which has followed the Gujjar’s demand to be given the ST status. Is it just me or do you think as well that today’s India is being torn apart by the overwhelming presence of the caste system and its dynamics now then ever before in our coherent lifetimes?

As much as many of us are impatient to embrace the India which is growing at 9 plus percent, we cannot ignore the fact that there are weighty questions to resolve. And only when the questions affecting the multitude of masses which are out of our vision and earshot are answered, that we can hope our country to have a future we want for it.

A few days earlier, I had read news articles about one lakh people converting to Buddhism in Mumbai. One lakh! Most people who were part of the mass conversion were nomadic tribals and Dalits.

What a contrast! At one end you have a set of people who want to be given the ST status and are willing to hold a state to ransom to achieve that end. And then you have a whole bunch of people (One lakh, remember) who one would think are mostly ‘STs’ wanting to escape the clutches of a religion which they believe can do them no good.

Dalits and lower castes converting to Buddhism has stopped being a big story unless the numbers are big enough. The reason is that most mass conversions are perceived as being less of a matter of choice and more of an easy escape route from a desperate existence. A sort of a short cut, perhaps. There is nothing noble in that. Let’s go to Page Three.

So I think its time for us so called ‘upper caste’ intelligentsia to step up and do something for a change rather than expend our arm chair expertise on the ills of our country.

Give up our ‘Upper Caste’ status, Convert to Buddhism, what say?

Why, you ask? If you are from an ‘upper caste’, give me reasons why you should be proud of that fact which are of any relevance in today’s age.

If you say that you couldn’t care less about being an ‘upper caste’ but also see no reason to take the trouble of doing something as obscure as a conversion of faith then I give you a couple of reasons. They are full of noble-idealistic bullshit.

-You will express your solidarity with the lowest of the low in our caste system.
-It will be a slap on the face to all those people who are earning their living by cutting up our country on the basis of caste.

But why Buddhism?

Now that’s a good question. Well, there’s no point in joining the Gujjar’s and clamor for an ST status for yourselves as well, even though your reasons (mentioned above) maybe noble and all that. Nobody will believe you or take you seriously.

There are other options as well. There’s the ‘Arya Samaj’ organization which is the watered down version of Hinduism without all of its caste trappings, idolatry etc. I will leave it to you to explore them if you want to. But Buddhism has a clear modern history as a vehicle to deliver the lower castes from their unwanted religion. It is a natural choice if you want to join hands.

Of course, you should know what Buddhism’s all about and only take the plunge if you are convinced. Here’s a link. Click.

Am I convinced? Am I going to convert? I don’t know. I know, it’s very unlike me to take the trouble and do something about anything. Maybe I’ll just forget pretty soon how I am feeling right now and go back to eating my curd rice and worrying about my career.

Or maybe I’ll just dwell on it for some time (I’m sure the Buddha would have liked that)