Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Writer Protagonists make for Entertaining Movies! -- #Review

It's been a while since I posted movie reviews on my blog. Heck, it's been a while since I watched movies! How does a movie buff who is also a screenwriter not watch movies? That's sheer sacrilege. Well, life (and deadlines) have a way of getting in the way. But let's not dwell on that.

The good thing is that Netflix and Amazon Prime are just what the doctor prescribed for a screenwriter deprived of her fix of movies. Binge-watching movies is good for the soul too! Try it some time. ;)

The other Big Plus about watching movies via streaming channels is that you can simply watch the first 10-15 minutes of a film and decide whether it grabs you enough to see the rest of it.

So, here are the top two movies that grabbed my attention...interestingly, both are adaptations.


Ittefaq (directed by Abhay Chopra) is a taut thriller that is an adaptation of a 1969 film of the same name starring Rajesh Khanna-Nanda. I call it an 'adaptation', rather than a remake, because there are many differences in the storyline and the new version with Siddharth Malhotra and Sonakshi in the lead roles is a much more taut and well-told story.

A famous novelist Vikram Sethi (Siddharth) is on the run from the police. After he is grabbed by the cops it turns out that Vikram's wife has been found dead. Moreover, he is also a prime suspect in the murder of a man in an apartment where he had taken refuge.  Two murders involving the same man in one night? Too much of a coincidence thinks the investigating police officer Dev (brilliantly played by Akshaye Khanna). The drama piles up as new revelations come to light and each one has a twist to it. Saying anything more would be a spoiler and detract from the enjoyment of the film.

A wonderfully adapted film that keeps building on the suspense and keeps you watching till the very last frame. This surely ranks on the top of my list among Bollywood crime thrillers -- second only to another well told mystery/crime story, Reema Kagti's Talaash.

Bareilly Ki Barfi

I'm a sucker for romance movies, especially the Bollywood kind. Sadly though, enjoyable, feel good romances have become a rarity in today's Bollywood. So, Bareilly ki Barfi (director: Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari) was just what my romance-starved movie buff soul needed! It has the right amount of sweetness and tartness. The story is an adaptation of Nicholas Barreau's book 'The Ingredients of Love'.

Amazingly enough, the original story which is set in Paris has been relocated to small town Bareilly with all its local colour, lingo and quirky characters. Bitti (Kirti Sanon) is a small town girl with loads of attitude. She works in the customer service department of the local electricity utility company, occasionally smokes and hates the fact that as a girl she is constantly under pressure to "get married". Her father is more indulgent (the right mix of traditional and yet unconventional dad) while her mother keeps a sharp look out for potential grooms for her daughter. The moment she spots one, she plies him with juice!

Enter, Chirag Dubey (Ayushmann Khurana) owner of a printing press, a broken heart and author of a self-published book about the love of his life Babli. When Bitti reads the book, she wonders if Babli is based on her and if so, how did the author (Pritam Vidrohi) know so much about her? Bitti is directed by the bookseller to Chirag who has published the book under his friend Pritam's (Rajkummar Rao) name much against the latter's wishes. Now, Bitti wishes to meet the author of the book and Chirag coaxes -- rather bullies -- the reluctant Pritam to meet Bitti. What follows is an entertaining, comedic romantic drama. It's a well told tale with just the right amount of comedy, drama and romance to spice up the story. Don't miss it!

After watching both movies, it occurred to me that both had writers as their protagonists. What an 'ittefaq' (coincidence)!!

Have you seen any great movies lately? Do share so that I can put it on  my "watch list"!

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

The Strength of Characterisation

By Jaideep Sen

Salim Saab was once asked in an interview what he considered to be his biggest strength in writing and he instantly said, “characterisation”.

Characterisation is at the heart of the story which is evident in every film that Salim and Javed Saab have written. In Zanjeer, a child who has witnessed - and is subsequently haunted by - the killing of his parents grows up to be in Salim Saab’s own words a “high strung” character who’s extremely combustible. Having been a victim of injustice, he cannot tolerate it, especially when it happens to others. The outrage of Inspector Vijay Khanna in the hospital when Mala, the knife sharpener, refuses to identify the truck driver is testimony to the hero’s characterisation.

In their latter work, Vijay became a representation of the no-nonsense crusader of justice, whether against the system in Zanjeer, or against society for the ill-treatment of his parents in Deewaar or even against his biological father for abandoning his mother in Trishul.

Coming to Trishul, Salim Saab had once mentioned how a very respected film maker after seeing the first half of the film had told him that the film wouldn’t work because a son bringing down his father would be rejected by the audience. Salim Saab had told him to watch the second half and that his opinion would change after seeing the scene where Balwant Rai unaware that RK Gupta is Vijay’s father abuses RK Gupta. Vijay slaps him for this and Geeta questions him about it when at every step he has worked towards destroying Gupta. That’s the moment when the strength of Vijay’s characterisation comes to the forefront. The strong value system is embedded into the character so much so that even in enmity, there needs to be dignity. What’s between RK Gupta and him is between them and nobody else has the right to trespass into that territory.

Another master stroke that the Masters of the Pen, Salim Saab & Javed Saab created was the flip side of the coin in the form of a lighter character epitomised and immortalised by the legendary actor Shashi Kapoor whose take away of the situation was a little more forgiving which is why he did not see life through the same intense binoculars that Vijay did. This provides the buoyancy and humour that a film also needs to engage with the audience.

Not that ShashiJi’s Shekhar in Trishul or Ravi in Deewaar are by any means weak characters as compared to that of Vijay. For, when the time comes, Shekhar stages a walk out from his father’s house and in Deewaar, Ravi on knowing the truth of his brother’s illegal activities takes Vijay head on, thus giving Indian cinema two of its most memorable clash of ideals scenes between two brothers and the greatest dialogue ever in ‘Mere paas Maa hain’ which got its thrust purely from the strength of characterisation. 

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

Saturday, 25 August 2018

Author Reet Singh Spies on her Characters Tanay and Mita (#CharacterInterview)

As an author you create characters and give them unique traits -- both good and bad -- and then throw them into all kinds of situations -- including some really tough ones. Yeah, basically you're playing God! I asked my author friend Reet Singh, if she ever wondered what her characters thought about her and ummm... shall we say, her 'meddlesome ways'?

Reet chose to answer my question in a very unique way. She decided that the next time the lead characters from her new upcoming book -- Take One Fake Fiance -- met she would spy on them! But before we get into what emerged from her 'spying' activities, here's a little info about TOFF...along with the first look at the cover! 

 About the book

Mita Ramphul is single and fancy-free – and she wants to stay that way for the foreseeable future. Living and working on the idyllic island of Mauritius is the stuff dreams are made of – until she bumps into a man who threatens to destroy it all.

Tanay Devkumar is cynical and shuttered – events in his past have cast a long and deep shadow. Convinced that Mita Ramphul represents a threat to his sister’s happiness, he seeks her out, determined to block her nefarious plans.

They meet in circumstances that can only be described as hostile – suspicions abound and resentments flare on both sides, even as attraction simmers beneath the surface. A series of disastrous events follow and they are compelled to pretend that they are in love and wish to marry.

It is meant to be a temporary engagement – but will Mita be able to resist her fake fiancĂ© or will his scorching kisses make her yearn for something more permanent?

Originally published as “Scorched by His Fire” by Harlequin India, 2014

Take One Fake Fiancé is a refurbished, revamped, remodelled, updated version of Scorched and is NOW AVAILABLE on Kindle.

Amazon.com   Amazon.in  Amazon.ca   Amazon.com.au

Tanay Devkumar and Mita Ramphul's conversation caught on spycam... 

Setting: A suite in a posh hotel in Delhi, India.

Tanay has just finished pouring out the drinks and is now frowning at Mita who stands nearby chewing her lip in a distracted way.

Tanay: Mita, you’re acting a bit aloof of late. You’re not still blaming me for my idiotic behavior of last week, are you?

Mita: I really can’t tell...

Tanay: What is that supposed to mean? How can you not know? You’ve been avoiding me and you can’t tell me why you’re doing it?

Mita: It’s not me – it’s Reet.

Tanay: Reet? Who the hell is Reet?

Mita: She’s the author who’s writing our story. Surely you know?

Tanay: You’ve sold our story to some author?

Mita: No, Tanay, I wouldn’t do that. You do know that we are a figment of Reet’s imagination?

Tanay: What? That’s not true, Mita. We’re real. When I touch you, what I feel is real. This is real…

(He reaches for her and pulls her in for a kiss that lasts a passionate while)

Mita (breathless): I know. She’s good. She’s got you fooled, for one.

Tanay: That’s rubbish.

Mita: Tell me, Tanay, if we are real and Reet Singh isn’t, then every time we’re in an amorous situation, why does some crazy scene shift happen, or a crisis suddenly looms and we’re torn apart? How do you explain that?

Tanay: Things happen, Mita. That’s life. It’s not some quirky author sitting in a musty room and...unless you mean god...

Mita (sighs): I don’t. Okay, explain Dubai. We were in bed, halfway to heaven and...

Tanay (groans): Don’t remind me – unless you want to make up for that lost opportunity now? That couch looks like just the thing…

(He reaches for the buttons on Mita’s blouse)  

Mita: Tanay, look around you.

Tanay (impatiently turns his head to where Mita is pointing): Bloody hell! Bangla graffiti? Are we in a Kolkata subway?

Mita: I rest my case.

Tanay (moves away and scratches his beard in shocked wonder): Bloody hell!

Mita: Yeah.

Tanay: Does that mean we can’t ever make love unless the high and mighty Reet Singh decides we may?

Mita: Well, she's not always watching - she sleeps sometimes. And she has to go brew her own coffee every few hours - because her husband is away these days – that takes her a while. The best is when she runs out of wine and chocolates, because then she procrastinates for hours...

Tanay: That’s music to my ears.

Mita: That’s not music – that’s Reet snoring in her own inimitable style.

Tanay (thickly): Come here, Mita…
Reet Singh

(Mita flies into Tanay's arms.)

Reet wakens a good six hours later and gropes for her coffee, her reading glasses and her spycam footage -- in that order. As she examines the footage, a sly smile creases her face.

Reet Singh: And this, ladies and gentlemen, is how you let your characters take over and practically write your scenes for you

Look up Reet Singh – she usually hangs out on her website, on twitter, or on facebook.

For more fun snippets from Reet's book check out these blogposts:

Head over to Devika's blog where you will get to meet Mita -- she is really mad about something...so, be warned!

Visit Paromita's blog where Tanay is at his sexy best! 

If you're curious about Tanay and Mita's first meeting, you gotta go to Ruchi's blog

For a sneak peek at Tanay and Mita's first kiss, check out Preethi's post.

At Sue's blog, Reet talks about character development - and the man under discussion is -- who else but -- Tanay Devkumar of TOFF