Saturday, 13 October 2018

The 'Sangam' of a Genius and His Admirer




 Jaideep Sen highlights a memorable incident between Salim Saab and the iconic filmmaker Raj Kapoor...

It’s been a few days since Mrs. Krishna Raj Kapoor left for her heavenly abode. I thought this piece could be the right tribute to her since I truly believe that she was the strength behind the greatest cinema made in India by Raj Kapoor Ji which I even conveyed to their youngest son, Rajiv Kapoor at her prayer ceremony.

This piece also gives me an opportunity to bring to the attention of readers the implicit, immense and unadulterated respect that Mr. Salim Khan has for the iconic Mr. Raj Kapoor whom he addressed as Raj Saab. His admiration for the legendary filmmaker was expressed through an audio tribute. Another celebrated filmmaker Manoj Kumar Ji endorsed it as one of the greatest tributes to be made by one artiste for another.  On hearing it, India’s Pride Lata Mangeshkar Ji’s eyes welled up with emotion.   

Krishna Raj Kapoor Ji on hearing it marvelled at how Salim Saab had encompassed her husband Raj Saab’s life in a few minutes. The only answer to that is, devotion.
Devotion is a form of great strength which is what Salim Saab has for Raj Saab whom he considered an elder to the extent that after Prithviraj Ji’s passing away whose feet Salim Saab used to touch, he continued this tradition by touching Raj Saab’s feet as long as he lived. 

In this audio tribute Salim Saab said that Lord Krishna had mentioned in the epic Mahabharat that whenever and wherever there shall be a drought of virtue He shall make his presence felt in whichever sphere of life. Salim Saab firmly believes that on 14th December 1924 Lord Krishna was himself born in the form of Raj Kapoor Saab to take the arts to its pinnacle.

According to Salim Saab, Raj Saab was the “man of the match” of every film that he made and a complete filmmaker who was far superior to any other because of his understanding of each and every aspect of emotion and film-making, especially romance and music.

They shared a special rapport and whenever Salim Saab was a guest at Raj Saab’s get-togethers Raj Saab would always ask him to stay back. After the other guests departed Raj Saab would bond with Salim Saab and share with him experiences of his life which enriched Salim Saab both as a human being and a writer.

One such memorable and enriching moment that Salim Saab experienced happened during the premiere of Deewaar where on the completion of the film Raj Saab called him over. Raj Saab felt that they had made a mistake in the characterisation of Vijay and that even after literally striking gold and amassing money, after going illegal, Vijay should have still been unkempt and attired in his porter’s uniform amidst the high society that he was now a part of. Raj Saab explained to him that whatever Vijay had done was not for himself but for his Mother which is why he shouldn’t have been interested in an appearance overhaul and the presence of a dishevelled man in a neat and clean surrounding would have taken the emotional impact of the character to another level altogether. To date, Salim Saab doffs his hat to this in-depth observation of Raj Saab which underlined the minutest details that only Raj Saab’s cinematic genius could pick up.

And then life gave Salim Saab the opportunity to receive the ultimate compliment he could ever get from the ultimate filmmaker Raj Saab. It took place when the latter watched Salim Saab’s first film as an independent writer, Naam.  How uncanny it is that Naam shared the same grain of Deewaar, which Raj Saab had made an observation on. But this time, Raj Saab felt Naam was a flawless film and went on to tell Director Mahesh Bhatt that.  Without taking anything away from his remarkable directorial talent Raj Saab felt that Naam was a film first directed by a “pen”. 

He turned to Salim Saab and told him that he always believed in his talent and in spite of the rough times that Salim Saab experienced after his separation with his partner, and hearing uncomplimentary theories about Salim Saab’s writing abilities or rather the lack of it, Raj Saab always knew that Salim Saab would rise like a phoenix from the ashes.

Salim Saab has the highest respects for Krishna Ji whom he also credits for being the strength in her husband’s celebrated life and journey as India’s greatest fimmaker whose eternal “Raj” of brilliance shall always shine the brightest.

Jaideep Sen is a filmmaker and a connoisseur of the art of storytelling. 

Previous Episodes in this Series: 



 





Thursday, 11 October 2018

B - Doing the Background Work

Featured post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers
Continuing with the Series of A to Z tips, here is my Week #2 post which focuses on Alphabet B....

B is for Background.

Writing stories is more than just creating characters, developing the plot and writing scenes. To be able to do all that you have to first do the 'background' work.

And it begins with brainstorming. Often times, the seed of a story just pops into your head. It might be inspired by something you read in the newspapers, a snatch of conversation you might hear, a photograph or even a long lost memory that randomly floats into your consciousness.

Whatever the inspiration, stories rarely come into existence all fully developed with a beginning, middle and end. Before it turns into a full-fledged story, you need to brainstorm the idea. To me, this is the most exciting phase of creating a new story. The possibilities are endless. You can take the idea in any direction and let your imagination go wild. You don't need to set any boundaries such as genre. Not yet. There is just one rule: not letting yourself get too attached to any of the possibilities.

At this stage I make a lot of notes. Sometimes I'm excited about a character or two. At other times the setting. There are times when I can hear snatches of dialogue in my head or have scenes coming forth.

Photo Credit: Dariusz Sankowski on Unsplash
A notebook and pen are the most handy tools to have at this stage. After a few days (or weeks) of this brainstorming, you begin to realize that you like a certain train of thought more than the others. Now's the time to pin down the idea that fascinates you the most. What about this particular idea or train of thought excites you? Why do you want to tell this story in this particular way and not another? Sometimes the answers will pop up immediately. It's important to jot those down. Because when you get down to writing the story, you often  lose track of that excitement. When you are deep in the trenches of your story and you're bogged down in the details, it's a good idea to revisit your notes in order to grasp that early excitement that started you on the journey.

Writing it down also helps you evaluate the idea...whether it has legs to run through a novella, short story  or novel. Often it enables you to identify the themes that you want to work on while telling this story.

Writing an initial synopsis of the story (not more than 100-150 words) is also extremely vital. It keeps the focus on the big picture without getting lost in the details; before you get to work on filling out that picture with colour, texture and the finer elements.

So, it's always good to take your time on doing the background work before you dive into the writing. The more spadework you do, the easier it gets to plot your story.

Last, but not the least, a disclaimer. Every writer has his/her own process and the process that I have described here is the one that works for me. Feel free to give it a test-drive and tweak it to suit your story/writing process. Happy Writing!

Don't forget to check out these posts in the A to Z Series....

B is For Balancing Work, Life and Writing by Saiswaroopa Iyer

Building a Routine, Backstories, Beta-Readers and Backup by Preethi Venugopala

B is for Blogging as an Author by Sudesna Ghosh

B is for Backstory by Ruchi Singh 

B is for Burnout by Reet Singh





Monday, 1 October 2018

A - Authenticity in Writing

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Welcome to a new series of blog posts titled "Authors' Tips - A to Z of Writing". Eight  authors -- Devika Fernando, Preethi Venugopala, Paromita Goswami, Reet Singh, Ruchi Singh, Sudesna Ghosh, Saiswaroopa Iyer and I -- will be posting on a multitude of subjects  related to writing. 

Topics will be chosen alphabetically and each week we propose to cover at least one or more subject characterized by the Alphabet of the Week. 

So, let's get started....

I've chosen to go with the topic of Authenticity in Writing. 

Authenticity in Writing can mean different things to different writers. For some, it may be the concept of writing something from the heart. If as a reader I enjoy reading mysteries or romances, or as a viewer I pick horror films or supernatural thrillers, this preference will also be reflected in the genre that I choose to write in. It's highly unlikely that someone who does not enjoy reading sci-fi novels will be able to write a believable story in that genre. So, it all comes down to translating your love for the genre, understanding its tropes and making your writing "authentic" to readers.

Authenticity could also be related to story elements. For instance, if you are working on a crime story where a police investigation is in progress, it makes sense to write scenes that are plausible in a real life situation. For that you need to do your research well and get a basic understanding of police work and how a crime investigation would work. Authors are known to conduct interviews with experts to make their scenes as authentic as possible. This is an important aspect because even though stories emerge from our imagination, they have to appear to be plausible. Or else your reader will not go along for the ride.

Stories are made up of a number of characters but are driven by a few (including the protagonist and the antagonist and perhaps a couple more). Being true to your characters is another way of imparting 'authenticity' to your writing. Knowing your characters inside out and understanding their goals and motivations, their behaviour traits, likes and dislikes is critical. If you know what makes them tick, the actions of the characters will be true to the personas that you have created for them. Often readers lose interest in a story when they perceive a character behaving in a manner that is not 'true to his/her character'.

Perhaps the best advice comes from screenwriting guru Robert McKee. He exhorts writers to "Write the Truth". Truth, as distinguished from mere facts. Writers, he says, who don't believe in what they write are just propagating lies and half-truths. "Story," says McKee, "is not a dramatised lecture but a meaningful insight into life." So, as a writer and storyteller, you owe it to yourself and to your readers to be authentic.

Would love to hear your thoughts. Do check out these posts in the series...

Here's the A-List: 

A is for Anti-Heroes by Reet Singh

Authorpreneur by Devika Fernando 

ABDCE Plotting Formula by Preethi Venugopala








Friday, 28 September 2018

#Review Adazing is an Amazing Book Marketing Tool for Indie Authors

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If you're an Indie author you probably can't get away from the fact that marketing plays a huge role in the success of any book. Even if you have written the most awesome books since JK Rowling's Harry Potter series!

Before you work yourself up into a tizzy imagining doomsday scenarios of the thousands of bucks you're likely to spend to promote your book in order to give it a modicum of visibility in a hugely cluttered digital marketplace, here's some good news. There are enough tools out there to create stunning images for advertising your books. And these are known as Cover Mock-Ups.

A cover mock-up is basically a digital presentation of your book cover. Don't you love those pretty Instagram like images? And don't you wish you could create great looking advertising quality images for your books? With Adazing.com's mock-up generator, you can create these for your books in a jiffy.

There are plenty of options to choose from and the website also offers a couple of free templates. Best part is the ease of use. All you do is choose the template, upload your book cover and voila...you have a nifty little mock-up that you can share all over social media.
Take a look at these lovely mock-ups  that I created with the Adazing mock-up generator for my books. Unless you're a graphic designer and have some heavy duty photography skills to boot, creating these images would cost you a neat pile of bucks.

So, what are you waiting for? Check it out today and do come back and let me know what you think of this book marketing tool.

Click here to find out more about Adazing.com

Thursday, 27 September 2018

#Review of an Evergreen Bestseller - A Stone for Danny Fisher

A Stone for Danny Fisher is one of those evergreen bestsellers that has wowed readers across several generations. 

Why did I pick this book? For one, I remembered reading it way back when I was in college and being consumed by it! It had made a huge impact on me and I particularly recalled one scene that has remained with me all through the years -- an emotional, gut-wrenching scene involving Danny and his beloved dog, Rexie.

Second, it was one of the first books that introduced me to the genre of "pulp fiction". Harold Robbins was notorious for writing 'trashy books with a lot of sex' but this is not one of them! This is one of his early books -- the depth of emotion and the motivations of Danny Fisher who lived in the times of the Great Depression could rival those of any literary fiction novel.

Third, A Stone... has tremendous nostalgic value for me. I remember discussing this book with my Dad. Somehow, reading it again was like reconnecting with him and reliving those moments.

Here goes my review:

Forty-plus years after I'd first read A Stone..., I found it as compelling a story as I had when I first read it. I could not put the book down until I finished the last page. I was tearing up once more when Danny loses his beloved dog Rexie. I found myself experiencing anguish all over again at the blows that life deals this talented boxer. Danny could have gone on to become a celebrated boxer but instead has to constantly fight poverty. The angsty relationship between Danny and his father is one of the best fictional accounts of father-son relationships. Sarah/Ronnie the prostitute with a golden heart is probably a role model for all those yesteryear movies with similar characters that have graced the celluloid screens of Hollywood as well as Bollywood. The relationship between Danny and Nellie and the ups and down they face is sweet and emotional, heart-wrenching and realistic. And then there is Danny's brother-in-law, Sam - a character with shades of grey who plays a huge role in Danny's life. Set in the age of the Great Depression, the story delivers an emotional punch in the gut after all these years! 

It would make a great movie and strangely enough there has been only one adaptation of the book -- the 1958 movie starring Elvis Presley, King Creole.

If you have read the book, do read it again and if you haven't, don't miss it!

Monday, 24 September 2018

Bingeing on Movies -- #Review of Qarib Qarib Singlle

My movie bingeing on Netflix continues. And inspired by the rush of blogging that is happening everywhere I have decided to kill two birds with one stone.

So, here is my review for an offbeat Bollywood romantic comedy by the name of Qarib Qarib Singlle directed by Tanuja Chandra. 

I say 'offbeat' only because it does not conform to the escapist, fantasy fare that Bollywood romances usually are. In fact, the strength of QQS is that it is rooted in reality and its characters are the average everyday people you would meet. The protagonist Jaya is a single career woman whose soldier husband is no more. She is constantly being egged on by friends to start dating and shed her single status.

She finally puts up her profile on an online dating site and is inundated with lewd messages from weirdos. But one message catches her eye. From a poet named Yogi. Jaya is amused and slightly bewildered by a man who insists on telling her about his ex-girlfriends on their first date. Yogi turns out to be a charming and eccentric character and she finds herself going on a road trip with him, ostensibly to meet his exes. Charming, quirky incidents follow and through it all the poles-apart Jaya and Yogi fall in love with each other. 

While it was watchable -- thanks mainly to stellar performances by Irrfan Khan and Parvathy -- I'm confused as to why exactly Jaya would agree to go on a road trip with a man she has just met and that too to meet his ex girlfriends! There is a lame effort to explain this, in the third act of the film, but it comes too late and doesn't quite work.

Have you seen the film?  Do share your thoughts in the comment box below.








Sunday, 23 September 2018

Bond of Brotherhood



By Jaideep Sen


Undoubtedly two of the most significant films in Salim Saab’s glorious career both as a writing duo and as a solo writer are Deewaar and Naam. The common thread that runs between both films is the Bond of Brotherhood.

As I sat down to write this piece, two interviews came to my mind very vividly. The first was an interview with Salim Saab’s eldest son, Salman Khan, who had mentioned that during the days of his father’s collaboration with Javed Saab, “Dad was never the front-man, he was always behind, much like an older brother to Javed Saab”. The second was a recent interview in which Javed Saab mentioned that their partnership was not of equals as Salim Saab was an elder whom he looked up to almost as a parent.

I guess the pure and unadulterated love that emitted from Salim Saab as an elder stemmed from his deep understanding of human relationships.

A still from Deewaar
In Deewaar a young Vijay telling his Mother that you don’t earn enough to educate the two of us but the two of us can earn enough to educate Ravi laid the foundations of a selfless elder brother who gives up on his dreams to support his Mother.  This brilliantly played out in the latter part of the film when the relationship between the two brothers is tested as they find themselves on opposite sides of the law.  

The dilemma that Ravi faces on discovering that his elder brother has gone illegal is so palpable when he says that his brother had played a huge role in his life and  taking him down in the name of duty is an impossible task for him.

How the impossible becomes possible is perhaps one of the most emotionally impactful scenes ever written featuring Shashi Ji and A.K Hangal Saab which culminates with Shashi Ji saying one of the most enlightening dialogues I’ve ever heard in Indian cinema: “Itni badi shiksha kisi teacher ke ghar se hi mil sakti thi”.

A still from Naam
How uncanny it is that Naam, the first film Salim Saab wrote as a solo writer was also a story of two brothers. And, how fitting that it should also be about a relationship and emotion that he was so aware of. Salim Saab struck gold with this tale of two half-brothers who have tremendous love for each other which only gains strength even after they come to know that they are not real brothers.

The scene in which Vicky reveals to Ravi that they are not real brothers has a huge impact on him. For till then, whatever Ravi had done for him, he had accepted as his “right” but now it all feels like a favour. This is such an emotionally overwhelming scene that even today on watching it your eyes well up.

Later when Vicky goes astray Ravi leaves no stone unturned to get his brother out of trouble, and that too in a foreign land, but alas…

Both the films leave a lump in your throat but they also leave you with reverence for Salim Saab’s soul-stirring writing in creating such wonderful characters of both the Ravis – one for not compromising on his ideals even if it means firing that fatal shot and the other for going all out to take the real son back to their mother against all odds.  Even in their loss there is a sense of victory since they give their all to sanctify the Bond of Brotherhood.


Jaideep Sen is a filmmaker and a connoisseur of the art of storytelling.
Read his previous posts in this series: