Saturday, September 30, 2006

Englishiana, Anyone? asks Pramita Bose of Asian Age

English is changing with the times. Writers today are giving it a twist and tweak to make the queen’s language speak a modern tongue.

With simplicity and flexibility defining the current-day writing style, young writers are increasingly resorting to the more elastic and contemporary expressions. Some even play around with words to induce colloquialism, thus enabling the target readers identify with the plot as well as the characters.

Consider Gautam Malkani’s much talked about debut title Londonstani. Dealing with the diaspora of multi-religious South Asian immigrants, Malkani’s use of the rich slang tongue of indigenous culture smoothly blends with the US influences and other foreign languages.

Also, Nandita C. Puri’s maiden fictional collective piece Nine on Nine, which has gone into its third edition and has lodged a decent sales figure, has dollops of Hindi, Marathi and Bengali utterances such as aai, ladla, khichdi, phukat mein khana-paani, dais, kabirajes, hakims etc. Even tales woven around leading technological institutes and B-school campuses have generous doses of theek bola, babus, addas, Dadu’s dhaba, dhobi incorporated in bits and pieces.

Abhijit Bhaduri’s Mediocre But Arrogant and Chetan Bhagat’s Five Point Someone or the bestseller One Night @ The Call Center are just a few more cases in point. Not to lag behind, Neelum Saran Gour’s fourth novel, Sikandar Chowk Park is a striking example of Urdu-English jugglery.

Opines Puri, "Indian writers have now confidently broken free of the chaste British mould where one was expected to maintain the purity of Victorian English."

Echoing in the same vein, Bhaduri comments, "It’s but natural that every writer has to keep his target audience in mind while addressing certain issues in a narrative format. If the setting is Indian and the readers are youngsters or belong to middle-class households, then it’s wiser to adapt some traces of the vernacular dialect to retain onto the readers’ attention." We couldn’t agree more as all these books are selling like hot cakes.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Meeting with Saif Ali Khan

It was Friday evening in New York and it seemed that the sky had just been ripped open to pour rain on the cabs scurrying around Manhattan. It is good to be able to spend a weekend in the city. The sights were familiar. I was trying to refresh my memories and was going against the check list in my brain.

That's Port Authority between 8th and 42nd. I used to spend three and a half hours a day commuting to work. I used to dread the long commute. And then my life changed. I got a mp3 player for my birthday. I would board the New Jersey Transit bus and then insulate myself from the world through the headphones. Now I am back again for two weeks for a business meeting

After two previous attempts at turning my book into a movie fizzled out I have decided to take this up as an ongoing project ! If you really have a dream, the world will pool its resources to make it happen. It is so true. So everyone I meet and all friends, colleagues and relatives have been told that I am looking for people I could talk to who could possibly produce/ finance/ direct/ act/ edit/ in short, do anything to turn my book into a silver screen version. What is that bit about reaching anyone through six degrees of separation? The day before I left a friend told me, "I could set up a meeting between you and Saif Ali Khan in New York on Friday evening. Would that help?" Sure.

" I am shooting at the Brooklyn College Library at 2900 Bedford Avenue. Come over."said Saif.

Saif and Rani Mukherjee were shooting for the Tara Rum Pum Pum at the lovely Brooklyn College Library. This red brick building has a very romantic feel. The film due for release in Jan 2007 is directed by Siddharth Anand of Salaam Namaste fame.

In between the shots I pitched the plot of Mediocre But Arrogant to him. Saif read through random pages and seemed to like the feel of the story. He read through the letter from Haathi and said, "Will this have the potential to be a commercially viable film?" Sure. That depends on how skilfully the film is made, I say.

Sounds like a Dil Chahta Hai set in the campus is what he summarized the book as. That's a reasonable description, don't you think so? OK, we now have Saif who has expressed interest. Who do you think should play Rascal Rusty? Or Ayesha for that matter. Let me know. I will pitch to them too.

The photo with Saif was clicked by my friend Pradip Tripathy who works for MTV in US. This blog entry was written on their dinner table over hazaar food and adda with Pradip and his wife Anu.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

From the sets of Qatra Qatra Jeene Do

It was an amazing experience to say the least. To act in the film Qatra Qatra Jeene Do. The first shot was at Film City. The shot was supposed to be a 'dream sequence' in the film. My co-actor was Abeer Goswami who quit his corporate career to pursue his dreams of being an actor. Abeer is a regular in the TV serials. Good luck to you Abeer - more power to people who chase their dreams.

Films is all about precision. There is a Costume Coordinator whose job is to ensure that the clothes follow the chronological continuity in the film. So if the shot is about the character coming in to the office in the morning, the shirt should look appropriately crisp and ironed. If the
shot shows the character wearing the same shirt in the evening it should be creased and "fatigued". Hmmm...

I was very impressed with Irrfan's no nonsense approach to acting. When he comes to the set, he knows the lines for the entire shot. I would see him getting into elaborate discussions with Kaushik about the character and what was the key aspect of the character a particular scene was supposed to convey while the shot was being composed. All what one heard about temperamental movie stars certainly did not apply to Irrfan (why does he spell his name with RR?). Must be some numerologist's suggestion. Film folks are superstitious to say the least.

Kaushik has been agonizing over the title of the film. For a long time the title was "Buddhi" (the word for brain in Hindi) . Then someone put a spanner in the wheel by saying when written in English it could be mistaken as the word meaning old woman. So the suggestion was to change the spelling to "Budhdhi " or even "Budhhi Mera Naam" or "Mera Naam Budhhi". Someone suggested a one word title
"Sunoh" (meaning Listen). Another suggestion was "Laxman Rekha". That sounded too much like the name of a popular brand of pest repellants. Naah. So finally the name that appeared least controversial and "numerologically appropriate" was Qatra Qatra Jeene Do. That's Barun-da (Barun Mukherjee who had done the photography for the film Baghbaan. He gets a special lunch box from home with all kinds of Bengali delicacies packed in. I sampled some so I know.

After shooting the scenes one has to go back to the sound studio to dub the lines so that the soundtrack
is "clean" and does not have the sounds of the location where it was shot. Shobana (Full name Shobana Chandrakumaran Pillai) - a veteran of 150 films in five languages, was also dubbing her lines the day I had time booked at the studio. She plays the lead in this film and she was in the studio trying to read Hindi dialogues of the film written in Roman script. That is tough work. To be able to hear the track that has been recorded on the set and to lip sync the same dialogue while keeping the emotion consistent with the film's story and say the words within the same duration as they appear in the film is a challenge. Then for someone who does not speak the language it becomes a bigger hurdle. If I had to dub in Malayalam (or Tamil/ Telugu/ Kannada for that matter) I would have failed miserably for sure.
Qatra Qatra Jeene Do

Recently got a chance to act in a movie called "Qatra Qatra Jeene Do" - Qatra literally means a single drop of any liquid.

So the title describes the theme of the film - about living life one breath at a time.

The film is a story about Buddhi a special child whose parents played by Irrfan (of Maqbool fame) and Shobhana (of Mitr fame). The film is the debut film of Director Kaushik Roy (that's Kaushik the perfectionist trying to straighten the tie before shoot) and stars Anupam Kher, Rajat Kapoor among others. The costumes have been designed by Kaushik's wife Nina. Kaushik recently held a joint exhibition of paintings with his son Orko that was a runaway success. Besides being an artist, a film director and an accomplished photographer, Kaushik is a well known face in the advertising circles of India. The film is due for release in October 2006. Here are a few moments from the sets of Qatra Qatra Jeene Do.

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Monday, September 11, 2006

Pramita Bose of ASIAN AGE Writes about Mediocre But Arrogant

Modern Classics Spur Bollywood Filmmakers
9/9/2006 9:30:00 PM
- By Pramita Bose

As they say, literature is a reflection of life, so is cinema — the reel mirror of reality. It’s no surprise then that there have been back-to-back screen adaptations of good old literary classics plus period pieces in the past couple of years. But what about those films that project the contemporary world and its socio-economic scenario? Well, the present-day young writers are wholeheartedly considering their options to join the filmi fray and chip in their penned sagas on the silver screen.

Of late, the launch of noted author Vikram Chandra’s much-talked about title Sacred Games has prompted the industrywallahs to go gaga over its compelling storyline as a potential screenplay for the movie marquee. Confirming the offers already pouring in, Chandra says, "It’s true that the book has a cinematic feel to it but considering that it’s a magnum opus, one can only pluck out a few strands as a suspense thriller."
Also in the run is writer Abhijit Bhaduri’s famous B-school campus story Mediocre But Arrogant. "Discussions are on with eminent filmmakers. And Shyamji (Benegal) is impressed with the material, but suggested that somebody young can do justice to its onscreen portraiture. If you ask my personal choice, I’d definitely vote for Nagesh Kukunoor and Farhan Akhtar," he reveals. When quizzed about the lead pair, he adds, "Well, I can think of a cerebral actor like Aamir Khan and for the heroine’s role, Perizaad Zorabian would surely fit the bill. The characters are layered with multiple shades and make for an entertaining viewing."

Veteran author Neelum Saran Gour feels that her fourth novel Sikandar Chowk Park — set against the backdrop of brutal terrorist attacks is apt for filming. "It first came to my mind in a cinematic mode. The scenes are like sequences in films and so is the episodic movement. I think the filmed product would be rather close to the written version," she comments.
Finally, scribe- turned-sensitive writer Nandita Puri’s foray into screenwriting happened with Poonam Sinha’s Mera Dil Leke Dekho. An out-and-out situational comedy, it’s her maiden Bollywood project. Talking about resurgence of author-backed scripts amidst masala potboilers? Here you go.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Mediocre But Arrogant on the Deccan Herald's Bestseller List

Sunday, September 3, 2006



1. The Afghan; Frederick Forsyth (Rs 264)

2. The Kite Runner; Khaled Hosseini (Rs 318)

3. Mediocre But Arrogant; Abhijit Bhaduri (Rs 195)

4. Sacred Games; Vikram Chandra (Rs 650)

5. Seven Ancient Wonders; Mathew Reilly (Rs 295)

6. A Million Little Pieces; James Frey (Rs 331)

Courtesy Crossword Book Store

Recipe for a Bestseller by Anandita Gupta of The Tribune

Saturday 8th July 2006
Recipe for a bestseller

A number of first-time authors have come up with hit formulas by delving into their alma mater days, says Anandita Gupta

Hours of scribbling away furiously for those terrible term papers. Some endearing moments — playing guitar in starlit nights, lazy sessions for rum and debate at the local dhaba, singing Bob Dylan numbers, eyeing pretty girls….

Perfect stuff that college memories are made of. And stuff that seems to spell a surefire formula for writing a bestseller. For, more and more alumni of India’s premier professional institutes are turning first-time authors, writing about their first-hand experiences at their alma mater.
Harvard, IITs, IIMs, XLRI — the Holy Grail that a student would give his right arm to get hold of and rarefied environs that coveted companies frequent, hunting for their future CEOs. But, interestingly, these institutes have recently inspired a slew of stories based on them, written by their ex-students.

Chetan Bhagat, Abhijit Bhaduri and Tushar Raheja—the list seems predictable. For, this motley crew of young authors have all undergone the rigours of being in premier professional institutes and have ended up writing about them.

While Investment-banker and IIT alumni Chetan Bhagat explored the sensitivities of human bonding amidst the pressure of IIT’s grading system in his Five Point Someone, XLRI, Jamshedpur’s alumni Abhijit Bhaduri shatters the myth about MBAs being super brainy by dubbing them as ‘mediocre’ in his novel Mediocre but Arrogant.

Then, there’s Tushar Raheja, fourth-year student of the IIT, Delhi, who talks about an IITian’s quest for love in his breezy novel, Anything for you Ma’am. And not to miss the 19-year-old Kaavya Viswanathan’s depiction of the stressful times and stiff competition among high-schoolers for getting into universities like Harvard.

And look at Kaavya Vishwanathan. Despite the controversy surrounding her work, it is in demand. “Maybe, it’s the controversy that’s aroused people’s interest. But it’s also the theme of a high-school girl’s struggle to get into Harvard that has made this book attract youngsters,” says Ajay Arora from Capital Book Depot, Chandigarh.

These books neither boast of a well-knit plot, in-depth characters nor a linear edit. Still, these books have been bestsellers and the authors have been flooded with e-mails from students, demanding more. Beams HR professional-turned author Abhijit Bhaduri, “My inbox is flooded with mails asking me when is the sequel to Mediocre but Arrogant due.

Adds Chetan Bhagat, “My manuscript was rejected 12 times but I was determined and made my work reach out to people. But I’m surprised at the overwhelming response that’s come, despite my not being a professional writer.”

What, after all, is making these books sell like hot cakes? Explains Vipin Kinger from Asia Book House, Chandigarh, “The huge hullabaloo about premier professional institutes in India has inspired a lot of awe and curiosity among students, who read these books to get a slice of action from these institutes.”

Arora puts forth another perspective, “The professionals who’ve experienced studying in these reputed institutes wanna flip through the pages of these books out of sheer curiosity, to see how authentically are they written.”

Little wonder, such books are hogging the ‘bestseller shelves’ at bookstores occupying a few thousand square feet of expensive retail space. Fusing facts with fiction, they perfectly capture the fancy of Indian readers, who are craving for much more of this stuff. So, all you collegiates out there, keep making mental notes of all you are going through. Who knows, you’ll end up writing a bestseller some day.