Friday, December 23, 2005

'hic'ory dickory doc

What is the correct remedy for a hiccup? Drink water, inhale deep, scare the person shitless so that the hiccup is dispelled like a bubble..or some such thing. Right? Well, so I tried that method with my daughter the other day. She went 'hic, hic, hic' for more than half an hour. So I and wifey waited for the right moment and then I went 'bow!' on my unsuspecting tot. And lo and behold. She was cured. But then I heard my wife from behind me - "hic". I guess I was a wee bit loud. Talk about blowing out fire with fire. Or starting it. Or..whatever.

Moving on to TV shows, the one show that really tickles my funnybone is this one on Pogo - Takeshi's castle. And it's not the weird antics of the gamers that get me; it's Javed Jaffrey's commentary, in his inimitable style. And the game itself is a non-stop nonsense for a half hour, offering full timepass. It's one helluva stress-buster. Go watch it.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

No comments

Finally did it. Made Anu read all my stories. And this is what she had to say - "hmmm, nice...but your stories are like somebody wearing the trousers first, then underwear, then shoes, then the shirt, and then finally...the socks." She also compared my shorties to a college student hurriedly making notes in class to be elaborated at home (which the student rarely does). Interesting analogies, but given the fact that she doesn't much prefer spooky stuff, and she's not a frequent browser; doesnt have a blog, doesn't want to have one; she was patient enough to go through every single one of 'em and critique 'em. You know, she's been my worst critic, and I say this at the cost of sounding cliched, but that's how it's always been. Her critiques pack more punch than my stories and every once a while, I lug them to her. Helps for some creative defragmentation.

Her parting shot? "I like the comments on your blog better than your stories".

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

"Gale mein khich khich..."

He thought he heard someone cough in the adjacent room. It startled him, because he was alone and his brother wasn't due till morning. But you never knew with him, sneaked in like a cat most times.

"Nikhil?"

No answer. He went and checked the room. Nobody. But he was 100% sure he wasn't hearing things. He had distinctly heard a cough. He scanned the room. It was silly. How could someone be here? It was plain as daylight. The windows were closed, so it couldn't be the neighbors. He switched the lights off and went back to his room.

There was a lot of talk about thefts in the area lately, but he knew a thief would be much smarter than to be just coughing around the house he intended to burgle. He smiled to himself, shaking his head. He got back to his novel.

And somebody coughed, again.

He didn't want to admit, but his heart skipped a beat as he sat up.

He looked around for something to hold, something he could use as a weapon. He tiptoed to the door, his hands a little shaky. He didn't want to forewarn the intruder, whoever it was. He just sneaked to the door and looked out of the room. Suddenly the silence screamed at his ears. For a minute, he again felt silly doing this. He couldn't afford to be seen dead in this position, not in the least by Nikhil. Five minutes. No sound. He stepped out of the room, moving to the adjacent room again. The glow from the street light outside spread vaguely on the bed. Did he see something move? His hand slid on the wall to the switch board. Click. Nothing.

******

He groggily opened the door to his brother who walked in, shaking his head. Should he tell him about the weird incident last night? He silently closed the door behind him and followed his brother to his room.

"Drats, I left my cell here last night. I must've got a hundred messages." He grabbed the little instrument and started checking.

"That's funny; only two messages." Nikhil said, pushing his hair back.

Just then a new message came in.

A cough.

"Cool tone, huh?" He smiled at his brother, who looked as if he'd swallowed a lot of tooth paste.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Lights, camera, action replay...

Had written this article on Sulekha a few years ago. Conversing with Pre, I suddenly chanced upon it and thought, 'hey, why not lug it to my blog?" So, here it is. A word of caution tho'. From the time I wrote it until now, a few of my own opinions about the article's content have...well, not changed, but let's just say I've grown up to accepting, and I realized later that I did in fact falter here and there writing it...so please if you feel strongly about something I wrote in here, hold that thought a moment. The article's 4 years old and a lot has changed since then.


Making Films in India. It's Different!

Snippets from a typical Indian movie promo on TV:
Director: “Yeh film hat ke hai. It's different. Achchi story hai” (This film is different. Good story).We see a boy and girl dancing and singing in Switzerland. Great. What a different story!

Actor: “Uh, jab maine script pada, to mujhe laga ki yeh role bada hi challenging hoga” (When I read the script, I realised the role must be very challenging).We see some shots from song no. 2. True. Those steps are indeed challenging.

Actress: “Uh, mera role bahut hi bold hai. Do achche gaane hain”(I play a bold character. There are a couple of good songs).A wet number follows. It does take courage to prance in the rain with your saree clinging to you and of course, more than two dozen folks watching.

I've been watching movies ever since I was a little boy. Having grown up in a very culturally inclined family, dining table (heck, just about any table) conversations always began and ended with the arts.

“Which raga did Bhimsen Joshi render on television last night?”

“No, Shyam Benegal has not directed any regional language film.”

“Ma, stop making fun of my favourite actor!”

“I'm not gonna miss that Steve Martin movie tonight.”

Now I know for a fact that movies told stories and entertained. Then came music. Background score. Dubbing. The rest, as the clich├ęd phrase goes, is history. As technology advanced, so did the other aspects of filmmaking -- from the traditional 'drama' form of just mouthing written dialogue and emoting, we graduated to the more realistic portrayal of life around us. Real life locations, gripping dialogue in 'life-like' clipped tones, advanced cinematography, etc.

When movies came to life on the American screens, musicals were the in thing. The song and drama format captured the essence of life in a more surrealistic atmosphere. That was another era. Movies back here too started out pretty much the same way. A basic story. A love angle. Studio settings. Songs, dances, emotion, drama. The works. Good time pass.

Cut to present day India. People are more exposed to the outer world, thanks to cable TV. But in terms of our movies, I don't think we have made much progress. Oh yes, technically we have improved. Production values have gone up. But then the very foundation of a good movie has got buried in the process of churning out movie after movie, ensuring that the Indian film industry is the largest in the world, thank you, but in terms of quality -- uh huh, needs work.

Two things. Why only love stories? And why so many songs? Come to think of it, can't movies be made without songs? Why are we so stuck up on them? Doesn't it sort of make stories so very artificial? And kill the continuity of a good story? This song and dance routine in some movies goes to ridiculous lengths. Things were different back then when the only medium of entertainment was the movies. But now, after TV, do we still need to see those countless songs thrown into song-like commercial breaks? We have music video channels. We could watch them there. Why show them in well-made movies at all?

Suffering mother -- sing a song to cure her. Dying brother -- sing a song to make his dying easier. Boy falls in love with girl -- sing a song to show his feelings. Any eventful scene in an Indian film -- sing a song.

Just watch a movie of the 70s and then watch a present day one. How different is the treatment? How much has the basic premise changed? I'll bet my last penny -- not much. Why? “Because the people want that.” “Because we're Indians, we love songs and emotions. Loud dialogues.” “Because we are a country of villages, of the masses. And they can't appreciate quality stuff.” Bull. And more bull. We all know that these reasons are illogical and childish. We have the capacity to digest more themes and topics in movies than any other country in the world. And why not? We are such a diverse culture. Each family, each house has a story to tell. Our country's history has so much to tell. Then why this cheap fixation for 'boy meets girl, boy fights baddies, boy gets girl' theme that has been done to death? “Hey, that's not true! We have changed themes nowadays,” you may counter. Well, yeah, ok. It might have. But ultimately that's what forms the very core of the film. How many movies have you seen in the last few years and come out confidently telling, “Hey, this one was different.”

Bottom line: A good story doesn't need songs and heaving cleavages to set the box office on fire. What it needs is a good story line and a sharp script. Remember, it's how you put it across what sells a good story. Yeah, yeah, commercial interests, popularity charts and all that. The producer has to make money. Ditto the entire crew. But tell me something, isn't it high time we invested in quality projects rather than making this another 'assembly line' profession? Let the intensity show in the dialogue itself rather than the 'loud' way in which it is delivered. Silent anger can be more effective than shouting your lungs off. And love, well do you really think romance is only possible when a dozen nymphets shake a leg behind you? Doesn't it touch your heart when eyes speak? Cannot a gesture touch your heart? And most of all, do you think a dramatic situation really needs loud background score to chill your spine? If you ask me, deafening silence makes it more realistic.

Ok, a few guys from the movie industry could rough me up and say – “Lay off, pal. You don't know a thing about entertainment. That's what people want. So we give it to them.” Oh, really? Why, have they taken a door to door consensus on what people want? Or have directors held press conferences and invited people to ask questions on how they want films made? If you bring up a tiger on grass, it doesn't know the taste of anything else. We have been brought up on songs and dances from Alam Ara, so it's obvious we don't know how to make any other kind of film. A formula is a formula is a formula.

The truth is, directors and producers have never really bothered with what people want. Aren't the recent debacles in the box office proof enough that this song and dance formula doesn't work anymore? People want to see substance. They want to see good stories being told. Considering India's cultural diversity, imagine her potential to provide stories. The topics that could be generated are immense. Not just urban, even rural stories that have substance can click. Why stick to the same old story of boy meets girl? Do humans have these feelings only for one another?

And please, stop blaming people for your inefficiency as a director or a screenplay writer (that's another article altogether, what say Abbas?). Ok, so you want to have a song in your movie, without which you will suffocate to death? Fine. Just have a background number when something important happens in a movie. Won't it work? Of course it will. We've never tried it. Never taken the risk. Remember, unless you show people what good films are, how will they know?

Stop feeding the tiger grass. Let us have some meat please. Bon appetit!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

game for it..

Do kids play as much as we did in our times? I doubt it. Well, I do see kids running around in family-dos and other social gatherings, but they seem to be doing only that - run around. But do these guys play the games we used to? 'ice-pice', 'laal pathar', 'satkhopdi', 'kith-kiththa'(essentially a girls' game) and there are so many others. I know most of these games by their hindi/bihari names, but am sure they are the same for kids all over the country. Oh, what fun. And we used to enjoy playing these games in summer and especially on a moonlit night. 'Satkhopdi' was a favorite with us guys. Also marbles. And oh yes, tops.. we used to call these crazy li'l things lattu. I remember once my father had made one such top for me. He'd taken great pains to make me one and boy, were the other guys envious of me. See, as kids the novelty or pride was not in the sleekness of such toys but the crude, home-made kinda feel. They'd gun me for my top, borrowing every now and then...made me feel really special. And then there was this neighboring kid who had a real 'clint-eastwood'ish toy pistol. It had this really long barrel and was metallic black. *sigh*, I don't mind owning one like that even at this age (only the cops and anti-terrorist squad would be on my trail now). And those kite flying sessions. Sheer pleasure. Having lived in a colony, we kids were a real close-knit gang and always upto something or the other. We'd climb trees, walls and steal fruits and we'd wait eagerly for festivals when we could really test our limits as mischief-mongers. We had a great time with all these games. I for one, wouldn't have imagined a childhood without these. We had so much to look forward to.

And then came the TV.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Short story long...

Drat, I don't seem to be able to post anything aside from stories. Or maybe I'm just getting plain old and have nothing to contribute to the effervescent blogworld. I remember I started blogging at the behest of a friend/colleague two and a half years ago. It's funny 'cause I remember being very reluctant to enter this world.

"An online diary? Whatever for?"

"Well, it's a great way to vent your thoughts, feelings etc. And you may try penning down those weird stories of yours there instead of feeding on my brains" was the answer my friend had for me.

"And how do I get into this...weblog, or blog, or whatever it is that you call it?"

"Simple. I'll give you a link. Just go there, sign up and that's it."

"That's it?"

"Yeah. You just open your diary each day and type away."

"And..."

"There's nothing much to it actually. Well, there are other ways to customize it the way you want it to look. But that's a long way. Start by just writing something."

So there it was. Got an account with blurty and started 'typing away'. I found it a little odd initially. A diary is something very private, something very close to one's heart. But here, it was diferent. Here it was like, you enter a stage, do your mono act and then wait for the audience to critique you on the spot. Or you don't, if you didn't want others to read it. I said to myself - awww, what's the fun if others can't read what you have to say. And hey, it'll be good fun to exchange thoughts and ideas, read other writers. So there I went, not looking back since then.
In between, I even shifted to rediffblogs once...but eventually returned to Blurty. And stayed there until recently when I shifted once again to blogspot. It's like you change drama companies on the move.

Going by most of my co-bloggers, I felt I was a tad old to be in the crowd. And then slowly I blended in. And it's been great fun. And I get to flick some of my own posts from blurty and paste 'em here whenever I want to repeat myself. Cool, huh?

Drat, I just posted something other than a story. :)