The Problem With Us Filmmakers Today


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We filmmakers, today, in India, are in a soup, to put it mildly. Out of every ten films that are made, maybe, and just maybe, one film is a good film. Those are not very good odds.

Look at the dichotomy here. Filmmaking has never been easier. Hey, nowadays, you can even shoot a film on your iPhone and win Sundance with it! You don’t even have to pay for film! And editing, no more scissors cutting through film. No more complicated conversion machinery. All you need is a laptop, and a decent enough editing software, which , surprisingly enough, are extremely affordable.

Today, the ease of filmmaking is such that you can make a film, while sitting at home.

And yet, we are making some of the worst films that we have ever made in this country.

Yes, there is a problem with us filmmakers today. And that problem…is that we fail to connect with our audience.

The thing is, each generation of filmmakers come with their own set of intrinsic problems. For most of the earlier generations, it was technology and money. Coming from a poor country, they had a plethora of stories to tell but no means to tell them. Resources were limited. But the stories that they had to tell were stories that people wanted to hear. The stories they told struck a chord.

Us, not so much. We don’t suffer from a lack of resources. On the other hand, we have to resources handed out to us. But the stories we have to tell, those are not the stories people want to hear.

And it is important to understand why this is so. A storyteller is only as good as the audience s/he attracts. Why do our stories not attract an audience? Why do we resort to making a Dabanng or a Hate Story to make a profit? Why do the films that we think are good, like Tamasha, fail to achieve what a Prem Ratan Dhan Payo does? Why do even films like Tamasha not cross the line between ‘good film’ and ‘very good film’? Why are our films no longer internationally acclaimed? Filmmakers blame producers, producers blame the audience and the audience? Well, the poor audience has no say in all this. The audience has no say in the kind of films that are dished out to him.

After all, we the better educated, the better travelled, who are equally at ease with both Sushi and Butter Chicken, know better, don’t we?

Don’t we?

Or do we?

Once upon a time, there wasn’t much of a difference between the urban Indian and the rural Indian. The only difference was money. But today, that’s not the case.

Today’s urban India is no different from say, a Europe or North America. We urban Indians today are global citizens! And that’s great!

But somewhere in this race, rural Indian has gotten left behind. Stuck in a time loop fifty years ago. And we say they don’t understand our films?

Of course they don’t! How can we even expect them to?

The problem here is not they don’t understand our films. The problem here is that we don’t understand them. The problem here, is that we fail them, day after day, insulting their intelligence with sub-par movies saying, but this is what they want!

When did we even ask them?

It’s not their responsibility to make an effort to understand our stories. No. We are the storytellers. It is our responsibility to go amongst them and tell their stories, in the best way that we can.

And maybe it is time we did so. And then, maybe, just maybe, we will start telling stories they actually want to hear.

The Supermen of Malegaon

Supermen of Malegaon is a 2012 documentary directed by Faiza Ahmed Khan. It is a unique story. The 65 minutes long movie chronicles the adventures of Nasir, Farogh and Akram as they make a parody of Superman in their own native town, Malegaon.

That sounds very simplistic, doesn’t it? Patronising, even. But its not as simple as that.

Malegaon is a small town in Maharasthra, in the district of Nashik, located on the Mumbai- Agra Highway. It has a population of 471,006, according to the 2012 census. At first glance, it sounds like your stereotypical sleepy little town, that no one has heard of, tucked away in the middle of nowhere. But Malegaon is far from that. What Malegaon is known for is its power-loom industry. But that industry is breathing its last breaths, faced with fluctuating government policies, frequent electricity outage, lack of political will and a reluctance to change over to more modern techniques. But at the same time, another industry is breathing its first breaths over here. A film industry.

Yes, Malegaon has a film industry and it is called Mollywood. And they have made three films so far, Malegaon ka Sholay, Malegaon ka Shaan and Malegaon ka Superman. All three are parodies. In fact, the Superman of Malegaon is like none other. He slips, he falls, he tumbles over. He’s out to rescue small children from drowning but ends up needing rescuing himself. He’s up there, flying in the sky and oh no, there that was crash landing. Director Nasir Shaikh maintains that he wants to make comedies because laughter, in this world, is so rare and precious. Truer words were never uttered.

Through this documentary, Faiza Ahmed Khan gives us a glimpse into a world that we often belittle, that we often take for granted. It it is not so simple. Humankind is a much more complex organism. And Malegaon is no exception to that. Malegaon is a land of contradictions, a land of surprises, and yet not exactly so.

A film industry; what is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear that phrase? Glamour? Liberal? Maseratis? Mollywood has none of that. Yet there is another side to every film industry. One that is gritty, down to earth, overworked and is a kindgdom of dreams. Malegaon embodies that. Malegaon shows us the true side of every film industry on earth.

Film industries, all over the world, are hypocritical. We only see the world of the stars, their spats, their fights, their flamboyant lifestyles and their three day parties. But the people who truly make up the film industry are not stars. They are the worker bees. They are dreamers, yes, but they may or may not ever achieve that dream, but they will work day and night for it. They are the strugglers. They are the ones on a daily wage. They are the unsung heroes. Mollywood embodies this face of the industry without any veneer on top.

The star of the movie does not arrive in a Merc. He is a poor loom worker. The Director owns a garment store and constantly belittles his own profession. He maintains that this is a hobby, only a hobby. Any more, and you are inviting disappointment. The Star is excited to be part of this production, yet does not hesitate in helping the crew set up the set. In fact, come down to the gritty of it, and you see that these are people struggling to earn a daily bread. They can barely make ends meet. So why? Why are they doing this? That is one question that constantly haunts the audience throughout the documentary. What power does cinema have that it can generate a ‘cottage industry’, as critics have called it, in a society that can barely feed itself? Why are they doing this?

Maybe the answer to this lies deeper in the social make-up of their society.

Malegaon has had quite an interesting history. Malegaon was not always Malegaon. Once upon a time, it was little more than tiny hamlet known as Maliwadi. It was only in 1740, when a local Jahagirdar called Naro Shankar Raje Bahadur started building a fort in the area (which was a source of employment for both manual labourers and artisans) that Maliwadi started to grow in size. Since then, it has been both a shelter and a source of employment for the Muslim community whenever they have faced upheavals or reversals anywhere else. During the 1857 revolt, many Muslims from the North relocated to Malegaon. A famine in 1962, forced Muslim weavers from Varanasi to seek shelter in Malegaon. Similarly, political upheavals in the 1940s and the 1950s, communal riots in the 1960s have seen similar Muslim Migration to Malegaon from elsewhere. For the Muslim community, Malegaon has been their refuge.

But in recent times, things are changing. Malegaon is not a refuge anymore. It is the cause of their troubles. Originally a handloom weaving center, in 1935, Malegaon became the hub of power loom weaving. No doubt, in 1935, this was a cause of rejoicing for Malegaon. No doubt it increased their prosperity for then. But lately, a reluctance to move on to better technology added with frequent power cuts has pushed this industry to the brink of starvation. Most of India in the last century has seen an increase in prosperity with each coming generation. Malegaon has seen the opposite. The adults today, have seen prosperity as children, but despite the best of their efforts are unable to replicate it in their own lives. And with a lack of exposure to the outside world, it is hard for them to conduce why this is happening.

Movies are an extremely new form or art, just above a hundred years old. And largely, we have seen, especially in India, that whenever society has gone through a depressive phase, whenever unemployment has soared, whenever per capita income has dipped, the movie industry has boomed. It is not hard to understand why.

Movies provide us with an avenue to a fantastical world. To a world where anything can happen, a world where the demons are vanquished and the bravehearted wins. To a world where dreams come true. The world of movies is indeed a beautiful one. And in times of trouble, we have often turned to them for comfort. Keeping this in mind, it should be of no surprise that the citizens of Malegaon also turned to movies in times of distress. But what is surprising is that they didn’t just stick with watching movies, but also decided to pick up the camera and make some on their own.

Why? To answer that question is hard. But undoubtedly, this signifies an acceptance of responsibility towards one’s circumstances and the will to put things right. However, fear gets in the way.

The Director, Nasir Shaikh is constant in discouraging others from going down this route. There is no future here in filmmaking, he says. It is fine as a hobby but as a career can only lead to disappointment. He himself holds on to filmmaking as a simple part time hobby, nothing more, nothing less. This brings in a very interesting dichotomy in their manner of thinking. They dare to dream, but only so much. Beyond that, no more.

Not only do they dare to dream, but they lend us the hope to dream to. A community which, despite all odds can go ahead and make movies (no unremarkable feat) must be a truly utopic community, we feel, as they viewer. A community that shows us that nothing is impossible must be balanced and liberal, far from the borders of gender, race, religion and ethnicity. But in that, their reality is truly limited. In Mollywood, women do not work, neither as actresses, nor as crew members. Women are expected to stay at home because as one interviewee said, what can be greater than maintaining a household? The city, sadly is also very divided among communal lines. Sitting on the confluence of Mausam and the Girna rivers, on one side of the river live the Muslims, while on the other side of the river live the Hindus. The Hindus do not cross over to the Muslim side, nor do the Muslims cross over to the Hindu side.

In that, it really is not very different from the rest of the country. It is just as misogynistic and communal. But despite all its fallacies, Mollywood still lends a ray of hope. It shows a changing society. It shows a generation that wants to go further, much further than their forefathers did. And that can only be a good thing.

The Simple Truth About Bajrangi Bhaijaan


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Once upon a time, there was a young man. His name was Rajesh Khanna. But that wasn’t all that he was known as. He was also ‘The Phenomenon’ or ‘India’s First Superstar’. It all just depended on whom you asked. The merest mention of him had girls swooning, slitting their own wrists, writing him letters in blood. Then, just as suddenly as it came, the star died, leaving behind a shell of a man. Never again, thought most. Never again will we see such mass hysteria again.

Then came Salman Khan.

17th July 2015, a movie was released. The name of the movie was Bajrangi Bhaijaan. Written by Vijayendra Prasad. Directed by Kabir Khan. Starring Salman Khan. Today, Bajrangi Bhaijaan will have completed six promising weeks on the big screen.

The premise was promising. The story was that of a little six year old mute Pakistani girl, Shahida (played by Harshaali Malhotra) who gets lost in India. Confused, lost and hungry, she comes across a simple minded devotee of Lord Ganesh, Pawan, fondly known to everyone as Bajrangi who now makes it his life’s mission to take Shahida, or Munni, as he calls her, back to her village in Pakistan.

Truth be told, that is a beautiful premise. But the movie itself was something else.

Anurag Kashyap (of Dev.D and Gangs of Wasseypur fame) once said that the Indian Film Industry is steeped in mediocrity. Through this essay, what I’d like to explore the co-relation between this mediocrity and a mega-star movie. And this I’d like to do by studying one movie in particular; Bajrangi Bhaijaan.

When I went to watch Bajrangi Bhaijaan recently, the one thing that really struck out to me was the obvious enjoyment of the family sitting beside me. We hadn’t gotten the best seats, but maybe that was for the best, because that way, we got to watch it with the masses, the real audience towards whom the film is aimed. We were seated beside a very large family. And boy, did they enjoy the movie or what. They laughed at all the right places. They cried at all the right places. Even though I couldn’t feel any sort of a connection or relation with the movie, I couldn’t deny one simple fact; the movie had worked. And that is the dichotomy that thoroughly puzzles me. Because cinematically, the movie is below mediocre. So how can a movie that is so terribly made touch so many hearts?

And here I thought that Bajrangi Bhaijaan was all about a lost little girl

And here I thought that Bajrangi Bhaijaan was all about a lost little girl

Similar to Mad Max: Fury Road, Bajrangi Bhaijaan completely ignores its protagonist, focusing instead at a supporting character masquerading as a protagonist. If you went to watch a movie about a little lost girl’s tumultuous journey through a strange land and how she makes her way back home, helped by a kind soul, you would be very disappointed. Because, that, is not what Bajrangi Bhaijaan is. Bajrangi Bhaijaan is no Ramchand Pakistani (a 2008 movie about a 7 year old Pakistani boy who accidentally crosses the border into India). Bajrangi Bhaijaan is a through and through Salman Khan movie.

To clarify, the movie might be about Shahida, or it might be about Pawan(Salman Khan’s character), but none of them are the true protagonist (or ‘hero’, in layman terms) of the movie. The movie has only one hero, Salman Khan. Take the first song, for example, Selfie Lele Re. Shahida has just gotten lost, boarded the wrong train and has landed in the middle of a very crowded Kurukshetra. From a storytelling point of view, this would have been the perfect opportunity to showcase the little girl’s bewilderment and despair. One little girl lost in a sea of people. That’s perfect! But no, how could they? This is also our hero, Salman Khan’s entrance! And how can a hero enter without any pomp and splendor? Thus, Shahida is ignored and Mr. Khan goes around taking selfies with every one.

Cut to the journey back home with Shahida. Pawan still doesn’t know where Shahida is from, so he’s going to take her back to his home in Delhi. During this bus journey, we learn about Pawan’s backstory through a flashback describing how he met his fiancée (played by Kareena Kapoor). Structurally, this is classic. It is very remnant of the way our epics are structured. But for a three hour movie, this is inefficient. It comes down to that one cardinal rule; when you have limited resources, you do not waste any. Had it been any other film, this inefficiency would not have been missed by the audience. But here, not only is it overlooked, it is forgiven and even enjoyed.

Frankly speaking, the audience is not stupid, just starstruck. They are willing to forgive almost anything just to watch their hero achieve the impossible. The level of incredulity in a movie, in fact, seems to be directly proportional to the loyalty of the star’s fan following.

I emphasise on the loyalty of the fan following here because just being a star does not provide you with immunity against the viewer’s ire. You must be a certain kind of a star. Shahrukh Khan and Aamir Khan are also stars of equal caliber with similar numbers in their fan following. Arguably, Shahrukh Khan rakes in more, financially than Salman Khan. He has been the richest actor in the world. And Aamir Khan definitely rakes more respect, especially among the educated middle and upper middle classes. But had either of them done this film the way it was done, the audience would not have accepted it. It takes a certain kind of star to do that. It takes a deified star to do that.

One of the main reasons the other Khans are not so deified is because they cater to a completely different audience group, namely the educated middle and the upper classes. Salman Khan is the common man’s hero. The only common man’s hero. He has built himself on that. Therefore, to understand the dynamics of how such films work, we must look at the aspirations and social conditions of the non-educated middle and the lower classes(or, the masses, as we will call them through the rest of the article, for the sake of convenience). We must realize that these people occupy a completely different world to ours. And they simply make up the largest demographic in the country. Catering to them is an obvious and brilliant marketing tool.

Fact is, while the rest of the country has forged ahead, these masses seem to have been left behind, both figuratively and literally. Economically, the country might be at an all time high. We have one of the highest GDPs in the world. We are part of the G20. But we are also one of the most populated countries in the world. With a population of over 1.2 billion people, the country’s resources and earnings are just not enough for everyone to move ahead together. As it is, capitalism forces us to depend on trickle down (which is one of the slowest and most inefficient ways of distributing resources). But an unlimited number of people competing for a limited amount of resources forces an already slow trickle down effect even further, therefore pushing the masses to remain stuck in a post-colonial rut, both financially and mentally.

Tired after a whole day’s vigor, they come to watch movies not just to be entertained, but also to escape. They want to escape to a world where anything is possible, and for that, they are willing to forgive any storytelling faux pas. A fact that Shakespeare made use of back in the 16th century, Salman Khan is making use of in the 21st century. History does indeed repeat itself. It’s no magic that Salman Khan is so well loved (that we are even willing to forgive him murder) or that his seemingly mindless movies do so well. It is just brilliant marketing. It’s pure business. You give the audience what they want. And the majority does not want elitist art. They don’t want flawless storytelling. In fact, it is not even entertainment that they are looking for. They want hope. They want to live in a world where even a simple common idiot like Pawan (in Bajrangi Bhaijaan) can achieve the impossible. And in that, Bajrangi Bhaijaan is definitely successful. In fact, it is idiots like us who go around looking for art.

Financials can change. As India rises further, the financial aspect will change. The masses will be pulled out of this post-colonial rut, at least financially. But that need to escape from reality is innate. That is not likely to go anytime soon. We’ll be watching Dabangg and Bajrangi Bhaijaan for a long time indeed.

Have a great Sunday!

Have a great Sunday

No More Private Schools for the Babus!


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As of yesterday, Allahabad HC passed what I feel is a landmark ruling. Allahabad HC ruled that all government officials from the state of Uttar Pradesh must send their children to the local government primary school. No more private school for the Babus!

When I first read this, I had a mixed reaction. On one hand, this is great! It is a landmark ruling. This is exactly the kind of thing that will encourage the betterment of the government schools in the country. But on the other hand, what about the Babus’ constitutional right to choose the education that they would want their children to have?

But as soon as I asked that question, the answer to that was apparent to me. Even though they are being compelled to send their children to government schools, they still have the right to choose the education that they would like their kids to have. These guys are the ones in charge of the government schools. It is in their power to make it as terrible or as wonderful as they want it. Thus, the education of their children is still in their own hands, the by-product of this being that many other children will also benefit from this.

Government schools have been the object of ridicule since their inception. And in most cases, deservingly so. My parents went to government schools as kids, and later, as a kid in an elite private school, I would listen to the stories that my parents told me about their schooling in rapt wonder. Could any schools really be like that? Could it really be possible that a teacher would come into a classroom, and instead of teaching, would promptly fall asleep at his desk? How could any school be like that? My brain, back then, just could not comprehend this.

Two children at a ramshackle government school in Bihar. Picture Courtesy: New York Times

Two children at a ramshackle government school in Bihar. Picture Courtesy: New York Times

As I grew up, however, I saw the country change in front of my own eyes. The middle class became more affluent. Rather than a luxury, cars became a necessity. Roads improved (although they still need to). Feminism gained more traction and age old misogyny showed signs of potentially dying one day. Multiplexes came up. The 90s and early 00s were a time of major change for India.

But if it is one thing that did not change, it was the state of government provided education.

According to a recent survey, one fifth of elementary school teachers in the country do not have the requisite qualifications!

This is shocking, no doubt. But what is even more shocking is that I was neither shocked, nor surprised. My reaction simply was, “of course!”

If a child in his/her most formative years is provided with a teacher who has no idea what s/he is doing there, can we really be surprised at the quality of education in such schools?

On August 1st 2015, a student from a government run school in Hapur district, Uttar Pradesh, lost consciousness after getting an electric shock from a hand pump he was using to wash the mid-day meal utensils.

On July 16 2013, in a village called Dharmashati Gandaman in Saran District, Bihar, 23 students lost their lives due to the midday meal provided by the school being poisoned.

These, unfortunately, are not isolated events. These events are, over time, turning into the norm.

According to our constitution, we are all equally accorded the right to education. No matter who you are, where you’re from, what you do, you have to right to education. In order to implement this, the government provides basic education to every citizen. But, being a free service, devoid of the usual seller/buyer, relationship, it has been prone to mismanagement. Government provided education is not a commodity, thus arises the false notion that the consumer’s concerns and wellbeing do not matter. Consumers are mistreated, while the providers accord themselves with a divine status. Part of this is sheer laziness. Most of it is sheer greed. Over time, this mismanagement of a well-meaning service has gone way beyond plain old inefficiency.

It is high time the entire system went through a complete overhaul. But in the absence of capitalistic profit making, what motivation do the officials have to do better? The wellbeing of school going children obviously is not motivation enough!

In light of this, the Allahabad HC has provided the officials with the best motivation ever. The wellbeing of their own children. If not for the other kids, these Babus would definitely set about increasing the standard of government provided education for their own kids, at least. The HC has relied upon one infallible human instinct. The instinct of parental love. If implemented properly, there is no way this can fail. And maybe, just maybe, future generations of children may get the education that they deserve.

Well done, Allahabad High Court!

Finding Freedom – After 68 Years of Independence


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It is the 69th Independence Day! We have now been an independent country for 68 whole years! 68 years since the Tryst With Destiny!

PM Nehru addresses the nation from the Red Fort, 15h August 1947

PM Nehru addresses the nation from the Red Fort, 15h August 1947

But sometimes, I wonder, in these 68 years, have we forgotten the very meaning of freedom? I know I sound cliched. But this morning, when I woke up, I woke up to a loudspeaker loudly playing patriotic sounds. I woke up to a loud rambling of ‘Mere Desh Ki Dharti’, playing well above the allowed decibel limit. I went and closed my windows, trying to block the noise. But no. The noise was so loud that it just wouldn’t be blocked. Soon enough, I developed a headache and couldn’t help but feel extremely sorry for all the babies and elderly in the area. Celebrating at the cost of someone else’s convenience, that is not independence.

I remember the Independence Days of my childhood. I would go to school, there would be a flag hoisting, well meant speeches that we would inevitably sleep through, sweets and candies distributed and the rest of the day off. The only reason I looked forward to Independence Day was because I would have half a day off from school. That is not independence.

Skip to midday, my maid came. She went about her daily routine, sweeping, mopping, washing the dishes, dusting. It was just another day for her. She is a working mother, she has three kids in high school. Making ends meet itself is a struggle for her. Grumble about her as I might, she probably works harder than I ever have. She doesn’t even get weekends off. And struggle as she might, things probably will not change much for her, not in this lifetime. That is not independence.

But then, flip the coin over and you can see a whole new picture. All those things that I just said are not independence, that is exactly what is independence.

Confused, aren’t you? So am I.

Google describes independence as ‘The fact or state of being independent, self governance, autonomy, freedom, liberty’. But that is such a relative thing.

Waking up to a loud rambling of ‘Mere Desh ki Dharti’ was something that curbed my freedom. But getting that shut (if that was possible) would curb their freedom too, because celebrating with loud music is their way of expressing their independence.

Going to school for a flag hoisting, boring speeches and yummy candies might not have taught me anything about what independence is. But having the rest of the day off and having to juggle that between leftover homework and playing with friends sure did. Running around, playing with the other kids was our way of expressing our independence.

Working to her bones without a day off might not be freedom for my domestic help. But watching her kids go through high school and seeing them having a better future, living her life vicariously through theirs, that is an expression of independence. We are not always born with a silver spoon, but aspiring for bigger and better things is an expression of independence.

And any act of expressing independence is independence in itself.

So are we truly free? Well, that completely depends on the lens that you are looking at the world through.

On that note, here is some food for thought, a video from last year, asking Indians where they can find freedom. Enjoy!

Tark And Mara Rail Against “Freshly Pressed” Injustice

Tara Sparling, the author of a blog that I follow closely, recently had a post featured on Freshly Pressed! How she reacts to it is just epic (How I hate that word…but it is the only word that comes close to describing the post’s well..epicness!) I just could not resist sharing the post. So here it is!

Tara Sparling writes

Tark and Mara Rail at Freshly Pressed Injustice See that tower? There on the left? Tark and Mara don’t live there. It’s full of socialists. All was not well in Tark and Mara Towers. Mara’s shrieks could be heard on Dublin’s Northside, unbeknownst to Mara, who would neverknowingly have sent herself to thatpart of the city on purpose. The ironywaslost on both her and her husband, however. They were too incensed. They were madder than Jean Galliano and the UKIP party leadership on holidays in Calais during a mass European visa amnesty.

Mara folded her arms, ignoring the slight clank of diamond against bone. “What do you mean, she’s been ‘Freshly Pressed’?”

“It’s a sort of blogging showcase,” said Tark,his calm veneer betrayed by the flash ofa black onyx signet ring ashis handscraped overthe shiniest ofbald pates. “One ofthatdreadful Sparkling woman’sposts has been selected by the Powers That Be over in WordPress HQ as an editor’s pick.”


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The Misunderstood Genius


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Someone said to me recently, “You have to be crazy to be in this industry”

Let me add the context.

I had just started work as an AD for a production. It was lunch time. Time to sit back and relax. A TV actor was visiting. We got into a conversation. He asked me where I was from etc, I told him about NYFA, MIWW etc. Just a nice boring conversation.

Then he asked me how work was over here, at this production.

Laughing, I answered, “Hectic, Crazy!”

He laughed and answered back, “ Well, you have to be crazy to be in this industry!”

That rang a bell. That’s not the first time I’ve heard that.

You have to be crazy to be in this industry.

That’s practically a mantra!


Why do I have to be crazy to join this industry? I don’t want to be crazy. I’m not crazy. I’m just normal. And I want a normal life. All those things that you aspire that your software engineering job at Google will get you? That’s exactly what I want as well. No craziness, thank you very much. Just a simple life.

Then why on earth do I have to be crazy to join this industry?

It has always been said that the greatest artists have been crazy. In other words, you have to be crazy to be an artist. Take a stock of those names, Van Gogh obviously tops that list, followed closely by Sylvia Plath. Looking at more recent names, there’s Marilyn Monroe, Lars Von Trier, Michael Jackson, Rajesh Khanna and Stanley Kubrick among others.

Success, in any field, comes after a lot struggle. The arts are no different. However, in popular culture, success also means immediate overnight stardom, in a lot of cases. Whether you’re a writer, artist, singer, actor, whatever! Success is extreme. Overnight, you have kids lining up in front of your front door just waiting for one glimpse of you. Overnight, you have papparazi stalking you, dishing out parts of your life that even you didn’t know about. Everyone looks up to you. Suddenly, you’re everyone’s role model! Everyone worships you!

It’s hard, really hard, to not let that go to your head. It’s hard, after all this, to stay humble and grounded. It is only natural, after all this, to even grow extra critical of yourself in an attempt to keep yourself grounded, to just maintain that balance. With time, you just start punishing yourself and your self esteem is at an all time low.

Or you take the other route and you let it go to your head. Within no time, you’re directionless, lost and stuck in a world where your word is the law, for the moment at least.

Either way, craziness.

But there is also another side to the whole argument.

In a country like India, where engineering and medicine seem to be the only acceptable career choices, no one wants their child to grow up to be an artist. While I have been extremely lucky with this acceptance, not many people are. When I first moved to Mumbai, usually, the first question I would be asked was, ‘And how does your family feel about you joining this profession?” And they would be very surprised when my answer was positive. But I am the minority! Following your dream usually means going against every societal norm. And I cannot imagine that’s easy. Not only does that take a lot of courage and strength, it also takes a strong conviction that this is it for you. This is what you need your life to be. The operative word there, being need, not ‘want’. That ‘need’ can even border on obsession.

With that, it is extremely easy to get into the whole mindset of , ‘its you against the world’. It just feels so much better if you romanticize it. The ‘misunderstood genius’ is a phenomenon that is just way too common. I find them at every street corner. Sometimes, fighting so hard to do just what you enjoy doing comes with a sense of entitlement, “Why am I not getting the break that I deserve?”.  We hear so many stories of overnight success that we start expecting them too, “If it can happen to someone else, why can’t it happen to me? Why is the world against me?”

The ‘misunderstood genius’ phenomenon is just way too common. You can find them, literally, at every street corner. This is not to say, however, that they are not talented. It is just that they expect so much more in such a short amount of time.

In layman terms, that’s just crazy.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. You shouldn’t have to be crazy just to try making your living doing what you enjoy. You have a right to your sanity!

But that’s only going to happen if we, as a society, start accepting non-traditional careers also. That’s only going to happen when the stigma of being a non-science student disappears. That’s only going to happen if we accept alternate career options as equally valid. You don’t have to be a misunderstood genius. Just being a genius will do.

Being the Bad Guy



I happened to watch a video today, on Youtube. An old video. From 2011. But nevertheless relevant even today. It is called “Kids React to Osama Bin Laden’s Death”. And it is just what the title says it is. A bunch of kids reacting to the news of Bin Laden’s death.

Most commonly, the reaction is that of elation and joy. The kids were happy that evil had been wiped out, that justice had been served. But then they were asked how they felt about the fact that the entire country was out on the streets celebrating his death. That gave the kids something to think about. But still, the most common reaction was elation and joy. Evil, after all, is dead!

But one boy had a different outlook. He said, “I was happy that our nation felt pride. That’s…good, but I’m…um..not cheery because it’s still a man’s life. A bad man’s life, but it’s still life”.

From time immemorial, we are taught about how the world is divided into good and evil. Good always wins. Bad loses. Bad deserves to be killed. And when that happens, we must rejoice. Isn’t that the whole idea behind some of our most important festivals? Holi, for example, rejoices over the death of Hiranyakashipu, never mind that Narasimha killed him in such an inhumane manner. Diwali rejoices over the death of Ravana, never mind that whatever he did, however misguided and unethical it was, he was only driven by his love for his baby sister. Not that it justifies his actions, but it does help us understand him better. And in that light, how was what Rama did any better or worse?

Or lets go further back in time; the Devas and the Asuras. We learn from our mythology that the Devas were the good guys and the Asuras were evil. Thus the Devas won. But do we know that in the older forms of the Avesta, the Asuras were the good guys and the Devas are the bad guys?

Fact is, history is written by the victors. No one else. However unlikely it might seem now, if Al Qaida had won, they would have painted themselves as the good guys. And anyone opposing them would have been evil. And that would have been ‘factual history’. After all, one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.

But that doesn’t feel right. It feels almost blasphemous to think that way. To imagine that Hitler would have been ‘The good guy’ if had won the war. No, that just feels wrong.

But what’s wrong is our definition of good and evil. What’s wrong is that we teach our kids about the good guys and the bad guys. There are no good guys. And there are no bad guys! There are only actions! Perhaps we ought to remember that. Actions! Good actions. Bad actions. Grey actions.

And then maybe, just maybe, we will enable our kids to create a better world for themselves than what we have been able to create for ourselves.

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“She should be in prison for wearing a hijab”, says Ann Coulter


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“I don’t care if she knew about this,” Ann Coulter said on Fox news earlier this week. “She ought to be in prison for wearing a hijab. This immigration policy of us, you know, assimilating immigrants into our culture isn’t really working. They’re assimilating us into their culture. Did she get a clitorectomy too?”

Umm…excuse me…but what??

In case you’re confused, let me summarize the whole thing for you. Ann Coulter is a right-wing  political commentator and she is commenting on Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s wife wearing a hijab (Tsarnaev and his brother are charged  with the Boston Bombings). The US authorities are currently questioning the Tsarnaev brothers’ parents and Tamerlan’s widow to see if they knew of anything about this plot.

Now coming back to the point, I have absolutely no idea what Ann Coulter is talking about?! Granted, being Tamerlan’s widow does by default put a lot of suspicion on Katherine Russel Tsarnaev. That is but natural, whether or not she is innocent. But where does the fact that she wears a hijab come into this? Last time I checked, religious freedom was still pretty much a reality in the USA. Maybe Coulter needs to be reminded of that. Maybe she needs to be reminded that wanting a person to be arrested because of their cultural or religious preferences is not just wrong but is discriminatory.

Fine, Katherine wears a hijab. And Ann Coulter wears a dress. Big deal! Who cares? How does that even matter in the long run?

You might not understand why a woman would want to wear a hijab, but you’ve got to respect it. It’s a personal choice. Would Ann Coulter put a nun in prison for wearing a habit? Somehow, I think not. But what exactly is the difference? The nun is wearing a habit because her religion tells her to and so is Katherine Russell. Because, at the end of the day ,its about personal choice. Nothing more, nothing less.

Ok, maybe in this case, it wasn’t a personal choice. Taking into consideration the fact that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was obviously an extremist, it might be safe to assume that Katherine was forced into it. But even if that is true, how does it justify criminalizing a dress code? If that was indeed the case, then this would be a classic case of victim blaming.

The facts here is that Tamerlam Tsarnaev and his brother are extremists and were responsible for the Boston Bombings. Additionally, it is plausible (but plausible suggests a possibility, not a fact) that their families might have known something about this. But on the other hand, it is equally plausible that they didn’t. Now these are the facts. Anything beyond that, how they dress, how they eat, what time they woke up, what time they decided to have lunch on April 11th 2009, whatever, is completely irrelevant! And it is completely moronic and idiotic to even suggest the criminalizing of such aspects of anyone’s life.

The world is a diverse place. We come from all kinds of different cultures and backgrounds. And because of this diversity, the only way we can coexist is by understanding others. And if you can’t understand, well the least you can do then is tolerate. Anything below that is unacceptable. Because anything below that can lead to radicalism and extremism. And that is what eventually culminates in a 9/11 or a Boston Bombing.

So maybe, just maybe, Ann Coulter should be careful about what she says.

Think before you speak. You’ve heard of that proverb, haven’t you?

Well, there’s a reason it exists!

Writing, for me…


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Writing is something that I have done for the majority of my life. I wrote my first story when I was six years old. “The Mystery of the Missing Vase”, I believe it was called. I started working on a novel when I was 12. I called it, “Revenge of the Ants”. Never got around to finishing it. The drafts are still lying about somewhere in my old notebooks.

I am, what I would call, a born writer. Whether I am good at it or bad is for you to decide, but it is something that I always fall back on. It is just something I do. I eat, I drink, I sleep and I write. It’s as simple as that. But it is only now that I have started to accept that, to enjoy it even. I didn’t always like writing.

When I was in school, I had a brilliant English teacher. She is the one who taught me to enjoy literature. I did hated that attention at times, because she would single me out sometimes and ask me to read a certain book or an anthology of poems. I used to resent that. I used to resent the fact that it was only me who was asked to do this. I never understood the value of that extra attention. She also encouraged me to write, and to write more, as did my parents. I never understood the value of that. It is only today that I do. It is only today that I thank her for her seemingly thankless task.

Well, I was a teenager. I was a rebel. I didn’t want to be told what to do. I just wanted to do what I wanted to do at that moment. Even if it meant watching Hum Aapke Hai Kaun one day before my Maths board exam. Oh yes, I did that. And don’t think that I had studied for it beforehand and was just trying to relax before an exam. I hadn’t. It’s a miracle I even passed!

Writing went the same way. I resented people telling me that I should be a writer. I just didn’t want anyone to say anything to me. I just wanted to be left alone. Ah well! Teenage!

But, even then, sometimes, I would find myself writing in my diary or working on a new idea for a story or an article. It was dichotomous, always. I wanted it, but I didn’t want it. All at the same time.

Here, in film school, we are expected to do a fair share of writing, all screenplays mainly.  And I have spent a lot of time observing my friends write. They write a draft, then write a second draft, then a third, then a fourth and so on and so forth. By the time they reach their final draft, the story, the structure, everything will have completely changed. But for me, it has never been like that. My first or second draft is usually my final draft that I am happy with.

I used to question why? I used question whether it is just that I am lazy? Am I just trying to escape from work? So, this time, for my year one thesis film, I decided to work harder on my script. I tried doing multiple drafts. But I couldn’t go beyond the third draft. As soon as I reached my third draft, that was it. I didn’t want to change it anymore. I was perfectly happy with it.

That set me thinking…why? Finally, today, I reached an answer. I finally know why. I realized that unlike my classmates, I don’t get to work with a pen and paper. Writing is something that I’m doing constantly in my head. I keep thinking about it. I keep revising it. I keep re-writing it in my head. By the time I actually get to putting it down on paper, I’ll have gone through several drafts in my head. That is why my first or second draft is usually my last draft. Finally, mystery solved.

Today, writing is just something I do. No, actually, its not just something I do. It is something that I enjoy doing as well. When I’m writing, I forget everything around me, I lose track of what’s happening. I just immerse myself in what I typing out on my laptop. For me, it’s like meditation. You know how you’re never supposed to let anything divert you when you are meditating. I could never do that. I struggle to do that when I try to meditate in the traditional form of meditation. But when I write, it just happens. All my thoughts focus on just one thing.

And that is what, I guess, writing is to me!

Modern, is it?


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Aren’t you glad you live in the enlightened 21st century? You have telephones, internet, Facebook, Twitter, and best of all, enlightened knowledge! We know now that the world is composed of matter. That everything, but everything is made of atoms. We have progressive modern medicine, although we don’t yet have a cure for common cold, but hey, we do have antibiotics! We know that the earth is round and that it is the earth that revolves around the sun, not the other way round. We know why things fall to the earth and why people in Australia don’t fall off the face of earth entirely ( Thank you, Sir Isaac Newton). Seriously, what all don’t we know? We even know how to create weapons that will wipe out an entire portion of the human population. Hell, we did that already in the Second World War!

Don’t you look back to the far past and pity them for not knowing all this? Don’t you look back to the Greeks and laugh at them for thinking that the earth is flat? Don’t you look back to Chanakya and wonder how he managed to walk 2000 km, even though it took him six months to do so? Don’t you look back to the middle ages and shake your heads at their primitive medicine unable to handle plague?

I think we all do, at some point or the other. Seriously, how many times have you said, “Wow, I’m glad I live in the 21st century”.

But, is all that knowledge that we have really all that modern? Let’s analyze it. Let’s start with gravity.

We’ve all learnt in school that it was Sir Isaac Newton who discovered Gravity. So, he was just sitting about one day and Bam! An apple falls on his head and as he’s munching on it(I’m presuming he was, i know I would if an apple fell on my head), eureka! Inspiration! And Gravity is born.

Umm…not quite so! Textbooks need to revise their knowledge. Newton didn’t discover gravity, he only rediscovered it.

In the 3rd Century BC, Archimedes first said that there is a certain force that holds things together not only on earth, but throughout the universe. We are all subject to that force, and that force is nothing but Gravity. Archimedes showed that the torque exerted on a lever by weights resting at various points along the lever is the same as what it would be if all of the weights were moved to a single point — their center of mass.

Nearly a thousand years later, in 597 AD, Brahmagupta was born in what is today the state of Rajasthan, India. Well into his adulthood in the 7th century AD, he had a bit to say about the same subject too, “All things fall to the Earth by law of nature; for it is the nature of the Earth to attract and keep things”. Whether or not Brahmagupta was aware of Archimides’s theory is something that I have no idea about. Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t. I don’t know.

Then came along Newton in the 17th century, basically saying the exact same thing that these two guys had been saying all along! Yet he is credited for ‘discovering’ Gravity. No doubt he discovered it, on a personal level. And his further research on the subject is invaluable for modern physicists. But on a larger scale, he didn’t discover it. He rediscovered it and refined it further.

When it comes to Vedic knowledge or the epics, people are always eager to go overboard. Brahmasthra is translated into a nuclear weapon, Ravana’s Pushpaka Vimana is translated by the tamest as forerunner to the modern airplane and by the wildest as a UFO(a UFO, really?). We forget that these, especially the Ramayana and Mahabharata are works of literature rather than a physics or history textbook. I mean, you don’t watch Star Wars and come out believing in an intergalactic battle, do you? You don’t read Life of Pi and believe that Pi found a carnivorous island near Madagascar that had never been seen before and was never seen since. You don’t start believing in Richard Parker as a God in an avatar who came down just to save Pi, do you?

It’s exactly the same thing here. But yet there is no denying that the vedas (rather than the epics) contain a lot of knowledge which I’m not sure we have exploited to the fullest, and nor have we given credit.

When Robert Oppenheimer developed the atomic bomb and it was successfully tested in New Mexico, he was asked, “Was the bomb exploded at Alamogordo during the Manhattan project the first one to be detonated?”, he replied, “Well – yes, in modern times of course”.

Conspiracy theorists take this along with his interest in Vedic literature and his first words as the first bomb was detonated, “If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the mighty one. Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds” which is a phrase from the Bhagvad Gita, and jump to the conclusion that the Brahmasthra was an atomic bomb.

Was it really? Somehow, I highly doubt it.

But there is absolutely no doubt that our ancestors knew much more that we give them credit for. The atom, for instance, we credit to the Greeks. But what about the “Anu”? Anu is nothing but the Sanskrit name for an atom. So who discovered it? The Ancient Greeks or the Ancient Indians? Well, its not exactly a race, so I’m going to say both, since both these discoveries happened around approximately the same time period. A few thousands of years later came leptons and quarks and what nots. But all that wouldn’t have been possible without the first basic discovery of the atom, or the anu.

Oppenheimer knew that. That is why he buried himself in Greek and Indian literature. And that probably expains his quotation from the Bhagvad Gita, rather than the Brahmasthra being an atomic weapon.

So how modern is our knowledge, really? Whatever we call modern is drawn upon knowledge that is ancient. Without ancient knowledge, modern knowledge would be impossible. It is a collective work. It isn’t one person’s work or even one lifetime’s. It is a collective and continuous work that has been going on for thousands of years and will be continued on for thousands of years. So do we really have the right to call it “modern” knowledge, to call it “modern” technology? Are we robbing our ancestors of their contribution by calling it modern? Because “modern” implies that it is all ours, not theirs.

It is just a matter of careful wording, rather like chairperson vs chairman or police officer vs policeman. But maybe it is high time we thought carefully about the words we use. Maybe it is high time we gave our ancestors credit for their invaluable research without which our present research would have been non-existent.



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Paranoia, according to wikipedia, is a thought process believed to be heavily influenced by anxiety or fear, often to the point of irrationality and delusion. Paranoid thinking typically includes persecutory beliefs, or beliefs of conspiracy concerning a perceived threat towards oneself. (e.g. “Everyone is out to get me.“) Making false accusations and the general distrust of others also frequently accompany paranoia. For example, an incident most people would view as an accident or coincidence, a paranoid person might believe was intentional.”

For my third week project at NYFA, I was required to make a music film, which is basically a silent film with musical scoring. I chose to do it on Paranoia. This film is silent,  with musical scoring and shot on 16mm reversal black and white film. The song is ‘Dua’ from No One Killed Jessica.

Please do watch it and let me know your feedback.

Staging a Show


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As you all know, I’m in film school now. And here, we are required to direct and shoot eight films in a year. I just got done with two. I’m shooting the next one tomorrow. And I thought I would put up both the script and the video over here for all you to read and watch. Feedback would be really helpful.

The first project is a mise-en-scene. It is silent, black and white and shot on 16 mm film. As the requirement went, it is only about thirty seconds long and comprises of only one shot.


(I had to make few changes and rewrite parts of it in the last minute because of technical difficulties, so the film isn’t exactly the same as the script)


A double edged razor blade is lying in a corner near the wall. The wall is completely bare. We can’t see much of the apartment, but it is obvious that it is quite bare. A perfectly manicured hand reaches for the blade and delicately picks it up. The hand belongs to a beautiful girl (18-22 years old) with dark, thick wavy hair. She is wearing a sequinned dress that screams bling and heels to match. Her makeup is smudged. She has obviously been crying. She picks up the blade and stares at it for a second, curiously. She raises the hand holding the blade and leans her head in towards her wrist in quite frustration, the blade pointing away. Immediately, almost as though interrupted, she puts her hand down and looks away, taking a deep shuddering breath. She gently presses the blade against the skin of her wrist. Her eyes close simultaneously. She presses the blade against her wrist harder and at the same time, squeezes her eyes shut tighter. Suddenly, after a few seconds, she unexpectedly throws the blade down, towards the wall, gets up and walks away decisively. As she walks away, we see that it is actually a shoot going on. After a few steps, the girl relaxes visibly and approaches a make up artist standing nearby for a touch up. To her right, there is a boy fiddling with the lights while another on the left is checking something on a clipboard.

New York


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I’ve been away a long time, I know! As I mentioned in one of my last posts, I’ve just recently moved to New York and started Film School. And god! Is the schedule hectic or what?! In the last one week, there has been not a single day that I’ve been home earlier than midnight (um..I’ve also kinda started seeing this guy, so that might have a bit to do with that too ;)) but anyway…yesterday I was shooting till 2 am, I got a small break this morning and now I’m off to another shoot and yes, I’m shooting the whole day tomorrow as well, and yes, I’m well aware that tomorrow is a Sunday! So that’s how it’s going lately. A few weeks ago, an overambitious me decided that I would be part of the Post A Day Challenge. Well…I don’t know what to say about that. I want to give that a try…So I’m going to try and put in a post a day right before I head to school, but if that doesn’t happen…well then it’s post a week for me then. And that I’m going to stick to. I do get one day off per week..they’re not such slave drivers :P.

Right now I’m headed to a shoot so ciao! But I’ll come back and put in a proper post today. I promise! I swear!!


While on my flight to here


New York as I see it from my apartment building.

There are a few more pictures coming up as soon as I transfer them onto my laptop.