Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Let's Celebrate Salim Khan!

Featured post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers


By Jaideep Sen

November was a month of celebrations. Salim Saab’s birthday fell on the 24th 
It’s only in the fitness of things that such a wonderful human being should also be acknowledged for his contributions to the world of scriptwriting by the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) 2018 with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his outstanding contribution to Indian cinema in the same month. 

Arbaaz accepting the IFFI Lifetime Achievement Award on behalf of Salim Khan
Salim Saab’s innate humanity was evident through his acceptance speech which was read out by his son who received the award in Goa on his behalf. Salim Saab, also later tweeted about it, and dedicated the award to his janmabhoomi, Indore, his karmabhoomi Mumbai and the film industry and his erstwhile writing partner Mr. Javed Akhtar. He mentioned that without Javed Saab’s contribution in his career, this achievement would not have been possible.

On hearing these words at the event, a lot of present dignitaries were completely overwhelmed with Salim Saab’s gracious gesture, as were countless people in Indore who were touched that he had chosen to credit the city for his success. Indeed, this gesture is special because most do not even feel the need to share their moment in the spotlight with another human, never mind their birthplace. And that’s exactly what makes Salim Saab so special.

While there is no denying that Javed Saab’s participation has been crucial not just in the making of team Salim-Javed but also in the historic chapter of contemporary Indian cinema, only a person as magnanimous as Salim Saab would include another individual in his moment of glory.

Uncannily, Javed Saab used the same adjective -- “magnanimous” – to describe Salim Saab in their first joint interview after their unfortunate parting which in my unflinching opinion is the biggest blow and loss to the Indian film fraternity. Marvels such as Sholay and Deewar have transcended the boundaries of states and languages to represent Indian cinema and after the Salim-Javed era, only a handful of powerful scripts have been able to achieve similar status.

When the duo was asked about their split Salim Saab very graciously took the complete blame for it, which left Javed Saab embarrassed and he said that only a very magnanimous man like Salim Saab could speak and conduct himself in such a graceful manner.

This is the essence of the persona and commitment of the legend called Salim Khan Saab. Talking about his commitment reminds me of an anecdote where on receiving the bound script of Dostana with “The End” written on its last page, the film’s renowned director, late Mr. Raj Khosla had remarked that he’d been directing films for the last 25 years and this was the first time he was seeing a script with “The End” written on it before commencement of filming.

There is no doubt in my mind that Indian cinema has been blessed with a personality of Salim Saab’s stature. So, let’s celebrate Salim Khan!

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

Previous Episodes in the Series…

 

Saturday, 24 November 2018

4 Star Review for Bombay Heights from Pink Heart Society

Top post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers
Reviews are a lifeline for authors. It's validation for the hours, days, weeks and months an author spends writing a book. They also help an author to figure what readers like or don't like about the book. Sure, there will always be those who just hate your book and won't tell you what about it they hated so much! Believe me, there can be nothing more soul-crushing than that. But you learn to ignore them as far as possible. And then there are those reviewers who tell you why they enjoyed your book! That's a review to die for!

Recently, I got one such review. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, Sue, for your 4 Pink Hearts for Bombay Heights! It's just what I needed to give my sagging motivation a mighty boost!

Review: 

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what I found so charming about Adite Banerjie’s Mumbai-based romance Bombay Heights. The plot seems entirely predictable; Sanjana, the heroine is conventionally independent and strong-minded, yet melts like a chocolate teacup at the brush of a fingertip from Ash, the male love interest, who oozes sexuality with a hint of little boy lost. Honestly, he’s the sort of bloke – so attractive between the pages, and doesn’t he know it! – any sensible woman would want to slap if they met in real life. Sanjana, of course, is much more tolerant – she doesn’t actually smack him – but she does make it clear she’s no pushover. Inevitably, they become friends and eventually something more…

And, it’s the slightly unexpected way their relationship develops and the changing dynamics within Sanjana’s close-knit family, that makes Bombay Heights an above average romance: because it’s not just a love story but also a window into an India – modern, professional, forward-looking – that challenges western stereotypes of an over-crowded, poverty-stricken, male-centric country.

This new India is epitomised by Sanjana’s father, who, initially wanted Meghna, his middle daughter, to return to her abusive husband, because of his worry ‘about what people would say if her marriage broke up’. But, by the end of the novel he apologises. ‘I should never have insisted you return.’ Instead, he says, he must step back and let his daughters learn from their own mistakes. While Banerjie’s writing was sometimes a little over-lyrical for my taste, I doubt this would be a problem for most readers. A lovely book: an entertaining and thought-provoking read.

---

If you have read my book, please don't forget to leave a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. It really does help!

Thursday, 22 November 2018

Vijay - The Eternal Winner

By Jaideep Sen



Vijay Khanna – Zanjeer
Vijay Verma – Deewar
Vijay Kumar – Trishul and Shakti
 
The name has been permanently embedded in the mind of the Indian cinegoer by writer Salim Khan Saab. The character of Vijay, symbolising victory, came into being in Zanjeer. Salim Khan Saab created Vijay before his historic collaboration with Javed Akhtar Saab. And, what a victory march it was for the terrific trio of Salim Saab-Javed Saab and Mr. Amitabh Bachchan who played the character to such perfection from Zanjeer to Shakti.

The Terrific Trio: Salim Khan, Amitabh Bachchan, Javed Akhtar
The name was coined for a reason: the socio-political climate in the country was quite volatile at the time. The common man was looking for an uprising in the form of a fearless rebel who could take on injustice head on and break its jaw with the fist of revolt. By giving centrestage to the common man in the triumph of good over evil, there could have been no better name to baptise this rebel with a cause. 

During my recent meeting with Salim Saab, he had mentioned that it’s always your own personality that is reflected in your work. And I have no doubt that the ‘rebels’ within Salim Saab and Javed Saab emerged and revolted against the disrespect meted out to writers. They made sure they got their pound of flesh in terms of respect as well as remuneration.

One common thread that ran through the most remarkable Vijays created by them in Deewar and Trishul was the characters’ attachment to their Mother. It seemed that metaphorically the umbilical chord still existed between the adult Vijay and his Mother. The emotional depth of this relationship is evident in this dialogue in Trishul:  “Jisne pacchis baras apni maa ko har din thoda thoda marte hue dekha ho woh maut se kya darega?”. The sheer power of that dialogue still gives one goosebumps and will forever remain the benchmark for setting up a daredevil Hero who bears emotional scars. 

Amitabh Bachchan as Vijay Kumar (right) in Shakti
In Shakti, you have Vijay’s conflict with his righteous police officer Father. The relationship is fraught with misunderstanding and emotional conflict which leads Vijay astray into the world of crime. When Father-Son come face to face and the Father tries to explain to Vijay that he’s taking the wrong path, you have Vijay spouting these loaded lines: “Aur aaj bhi aapki baton se ek police officer ke lehje ki boo aa rahi hain”.

On viewing these sequences, it’s evident that these dialogues have been delivered by Mr. Bachchan with hardly any display of histrionics. That’s because the lines are so powerful. Combined with his persona and deep baritone, those lines of dialogue have become some of the most memorable ones ever written and delivered. 

That is the steel with which Salim Saab-Javed Saab moulded their Angry Young Man, his mission, and his language and gave Indian moviegoers Vijay, the Eternal Winner.

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

Previous Episodes in this Series: 


 

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

A Special Film - Behind the Scenes of 7 Lives

A couple of years ago filmmaker Runjiv Kapur told me about a heartbreaking incident in north India. A young girl had been shot and brought into a reputed hospital 'brain dead'. The girl's parents, as can be imagined, were overwhelmed and devastated. The hospital authorities were aware of the sensitive situation and yet they could not let go of the opportunity to help people who were desperately in need of organ transplants.

They approached the grief-stricken parents and requested them to consider donating her organs. That one decision could help give a new lease of life to seven people. The window of opportunity was short -- as the transplants needed to happen within a few hours of brain death.

The parents found it in their hearts to overcome their personal loss and willingly agreed to donate their child's organs. The processes were put in place. The hospital went ahead with the procedures but at the eleventh hour some community leaders came to know of this and raised objections on the grounds of religion and tradition.

This is the heartbreaking reality of India, ostensibly modern, and yet caught up with medieval values.  While researching the story, I talked to a heart surgeon who specializes in transplants and he sadly pointed out that organ donations, even in the big metros, is rare. 7 Lives, a short film based on this true story, is an effort to create awareness about the important subject of organ donation.

It's a very special film for me also for the fact that it is my first produced screenplay. I'm so grateful for the opportunity to bring this issue to light. The film is being screened at the Kolkata International Film Festival, 2018 today and has been honored with a Special Jury Award at the 7th Delhi Shorts International Film Festival, 2018.

Here's hoping that the film will touch more lives and bring about a change in mindsets.

Sunday, 4 November 2018

D is for Deus Ex Machina

Featured post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers
Welcome to Week D of the A to Z Writing Series. My post for the week is 'Deus Ex Machina'. 

Did you say, what the heck is that? So, here's a little definition. Deus ex Machina is a Latin term which actually means 'God from the Machine'. The term originated in Roman and Greek Drama where at a certain point in the climax of the story God would drop down from the sky (via a crane, and hence the reference to machine) to provide a resolution to the story. 

In modern story telling using the Deus Ex Machina - or divine intervention - is considered to be poor writing. While it may be argued that in life, coincidences and random events do happen, when you're telling a story, use of such a device to resolve the protagonist's dilemma or crisis can often leave your reader dissatisfied.

Whether your story is a romance or a thriller, your protagonist is the one who drives the story with his/her choices. To keep the reader engaged and turning the pages, the writer needs to make life difficult for the Main Character.

Source: https://tvtropes.org
As the stakes are raised for the Character, the reader feels invested in the story and wants to know how things will turn out. So using a random/sudden event to resolve the crisis is not advisable as the reader will end up feeling cheated.

Notwithstanding such writing wisdom, one of the most popular movies of all time (Raiders of the Lost Ark) has used the 'Deus Ex Machina' to resolve the crisis that its lead character Indiana Jones (played by Harrison Ford) faces at the end of the movie. Watch this short video by screenwriting guru Robert McKee who explains why despite using "divine intervention" the writers scored big with this movie.

Enjoy the clip and let me know if you can think of films/books where they used the Deus Ex Machina without completely destroying the plot.

Happy Writing!


For more articles in the A to Z series check out the following...

E - Exposition by Ruchi Singh
E - Epilogue by Devika Fernando

D - Dialogue Tags by Reet Singh
D - Dialogues, Drafts, Development and Dictionaries by Preethi Venugopala

C - Crafting Stories by Adite Banerjie
C - Community by Saiswaroopa Iyer
C - Cliches by Reet Singh
C - Cover Design by Sudesna Ghosh
C - Co-authoring by Devika Fernando
C - Conflict, Characters, Climax by Preethi Venugopala















Tuesday, 30 October 2018

First Link in the Zanjeer

Featured post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers





By Jaideep Sen

As an avid viewer of Kaun Banega Crorepati, I’m struck by the fact that every time a contestant praises Amitji’s (Amitabh Bachchan) glorious body of work, the reference point is always one of the two milestone films of Indian Cinema: Deewaar or Sholay.

In one of my previous posts I have already mentioned that my personal all-time favourite is Sholay. Not just for its epic writing but also the sheer scale of the film: for once the powerful writing was more than backed up by an audio-visual extravaganza that had never before been seen by the Indian cinegoer. I would not be wrong in saying that it would have come as a surprise for even the veteran writing duo of Salim Saab and Javed Saab. And for this the Indian viewer will forever be grateful to the father-son combine of G.P. Sippy Saab (producer) and  director Ramesh Sippy Ji. 

The tsunami effect of Sholay and the reverence that the writing of Deewaar has achieved draws me to that one game-changer of a film which has somewhere got a bit relegated to the periphery – Zanjeer. This is the film where it all started and  is the origin of the everlasting  phenomenon  of the “Angry Young Man”. Zanjeer, the brainchild of the Father of Film Writing in India, Salim Khan which was later nurtured by him and his writing partner, Javed Akhtar, was brought to life thanks to the relentless pursuit of its compelling story teller director, Late Prakash Mehra Ji. Despite the many roadblocks and rejections the film initially faced, Prakash Ji’s doggedness made it possible for viewers to enjoy one of the classics of Hindi cinema. 
Amitabh Bachchan with Prakash Mehra: one from the archives

A lesser known fact about this blockbuster is that the idea of Zanjeer was conceptualised solely by Salim Saab. This little nugget of information was revealed by legendary actor Dharmendra Ji in a recent TV show  when he mentioned that he was so impressed with the story of Zanjeer that he’d bought it from Salim Saab and intended to produce it as well as act in the film. However, due to some circumstances this did not happen and the rest as they say is history. 

Javed Saab in an interview had once analysed his and Salim Saab’s signature traits as writers. According to him, Salim Saab had the “courage” while he had the “intricacy” and that history repeatedly proved that revolt has always been fuelled by courage. In cinematic terms, the outburst against injustice resulted in the volcanic and iconic Zanjeer

I don’t think any other name has left as permanent an impact on the psyche of the Indian filmgoer as Vijay. Much thought had gone into the name of the protagonist as Vijay would come to symbolise victory over evil. Salim Saab firmly believed that the audience had had enough of a “passive” central character who would tolerate all kinds of injustice meted out to him. There was a need to revolutionise the Hero – and the fiery Vijay was thus born. 

He is a cop who is a no-nonsense man from the word go, completely duty bound and self-less and till the very end he is unaware that the antagonist Dharamdayal Teja who he has locked horns with is the same bracelet-clad murderer who’d killed his parents which he had been witness to. That one event has permanently scarred him and when the revelation happens in the finale, it is cathartic. The shift from anger to hatred is hair raising and is encapsulated with the searing dialogue: “Barson tak yeh zanjeer ek saap banke mujhe dastaa raha”.

The tonality of the film – edgy and simmering – had a huge impact on the audience. Never before had such emotionally aggressive language been used and the audience lapped it up wholeheartedly.

Salim Saab very recently shared with me how at times what initially is considered a handicap, in retrospect unintentionally becomes a terrific asset. The limited financial resources available to produce Zanjeer forced the crew to film in some very claustrophobic, minimalistic and stark locations. This, in the final analysis, added a raw and gritty dimension to the film.

For me, the trendsetting blockbuster Zanjeer birthed Hindi Cinema’s two most remarkable sons, Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar. The latter has often declared that Salim Saab’s body of work is a treasure trove for generations to come. He has put his creative footprint on the sands of time with his sensational talent and unwavering dedication.


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

Previous Episodes in this Series: