Friday, 26 July 2019

New Release: The Lost Princess by Preethi Venugopala

Romance lovers have a treat coming their way. Preethi Venugopala's third book in the Sravanapura Royals series is out now. If you love romance, a royal Indian setting and loads of drama, this is one novel you need to check out right away.

The Lost Princess 

HOW FAR WOULD YOU GO TO PROTECT THE ONE YOU LOVE?


Ishaani, the newly crowned nightingale of the Indian music industry has it all: a dream career, a loving family and loyal friends. Yet, the man she has loved all her life will not warm up to her. Rajeev, a hotshot movie director, has feelings for Ishaani. But she is his sister's best friend and has been like another sibling to him. Yet, what can he do if he feels compelled to make her his own?

Then, Ishaani's life changes overnight. She is no longer a lowly commoner but a princess. She has to make some tough decisions to protect the man she loves. Her choices lead them both down a path filled with shocking revelations and devastating consequences.

Will true love prevail? Or will the many twists of fate tear them apart?



Excerpt:

Talking to your best friend can be excellent therapy. But it can be a headache if you’re in love with your best friend’s brother. Ishaani was realizing it the hard way.

"I saw the screenshot you sent. I can’t believe that idiot replied with a ‘thank you’ to your WhatsApp-essay! Why are you wasting your time on that slob? I’m ashamed to call him my brother."

Ishaani moved her mobile phone away from her ears as Rashi’s voice began to grow shriller and louder by the minute.

"Girl, don't shout. I can hear you alright. I didn’t write an essay, okay? And he might be busy." Ishaani rolled her eyes and cursed herself mentally. In her eagerness to get over her frustration, how
did she forget that Rashi loved to troll her brother?

"It qualifies as an essay. It might not get an A if you submitted to Mrs Ellen. But it would definitely win a prize for the longest and cutest WhatsApp message till date."

Ishaani chuckled. After putting the phone on speaker, she placed it on her bed. Picking up a scrunchy from her dresser-drawer, she rolled up her long hair into a top bun. Their high school English teacher Mrs Ellen would have called it purple prose. But a girl had to say what she had to say. Who texted perfect literary pieces to crushes? Long winding flowery sentences with a lot of smilies and ellipses were her style. Before writing to him, she had watched Rajeev’s ZBC television interview twice. And she could be eloquent when she wanted. No wonder Rashi had called it an essay.

"You know your brother's word quota per day. I’m happy he replied this time. Usually, I have to be content with the blue tick." Her silly heart raced when blue ticks appeared on the WhatsApp- messages she sent him. How pathetic!

Ishaani lived by only one rule. She welcomed anything that put her in the vicinity of her long-time crush, Rajeev Ratnam. The elusive movie director who owned her heart. It didn’t bother her that he either ignored her or treated her like a mere acquaintance when they met in public. And when she happened to meet him at his home, he treated her like he treated Rashi. Like a kid who needed guidance at every point in her life. Yet she always rallied her spirits by focusing on what was important. She loved him. Nothing else mattered.

"Keep munching the crumbs he throws at you and he would never treat you to a proper meal."

"No worries. I will cook him a lavish dinner instead. One day soon," Ishaani said, sounding
more confident than she actually felt.

"Don't waste your culinary expertise on him. Cook Mughlai biriyani this Sunday. I’m coming."

"Done. What will I get in exchange?"

"What do you want?"

"Full details about his shooting schedule." That way, she could accidentally bump into him without appearing too clingy.

"Say whaat? Not interested in the list of the handsome actors he roped in?"

"Nope." Why the heck would she need a list of handsome men when she had lost her heart to ‘the most handsome one’ among the lot.

“Aren’t you interested in the list of the actresses who might throw themselves at him?"

“Not at all.”

"You know what? You’re a tragedy waiting to happen."

Ishaani snorted and bid her friend goodbye before disconnecting the call.

To know more about Preethi and her books do visit her website 




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Friday, 19 July 2019

#MovieReview - Stree: More Glib than Ghoulish

Bollywood's track record of horror films is not much to write about. The Ramsay Brothers' body of work in this genre is the most popular and also extremely cringe worthy - the ghouls are more likely to make you laugh than cower in fear. However, to be fair, the filmmakers worked with shoestring budgets and the VFX age had not dawned yet. The Ramsays have their die-hard fans till date, if only for their campy style and absurd plotlines.

So when Stree (released in 2019) was billed as a horror-comedy, I was a little skeptical about it. Soon critics and fans alike were raving about it and it became one of those 'sleeper hits'. Recently, thanks to streaming channels, I had the opportunity to watch it and here is my review.

Stree (Woman) has an interesting premise. A small town is haunted by a female ghost who only kidnaps men during the three nights of a festival that is celebrated annually. All the men avoid going out at night and to counter the evil powers of the ghost have the words "O Stree, please come tomorrow" painted on the outside walls of their houses. The words are painted with a "ghost-repelling" mixture. The invitation to 'come tomorrow' is a quirky take on Indian behaviour of welcoming even unwanted guests to their homes. These quirky touches do add an element of refreshing humour. The lead actor (played by Rajkumar Rao) essays the role of a small-town ladies tailor with tremendous panache. In fact, the role seems to be an extension of another character he played in Bareilly Ki Barfi where he was a shop-assistant in a saree shop.

The most interesting thing about this film is how it up-ends the stereotypical associations -- instead of damsels in distress you have men at the mercy of a woman ghost. This instantly cues in humour and there is a situation when the men have to dress up as women to avoid the clutches of this blood thirsty spirit. However, the humour is inconsistent and relies mostly on some snappy dialogue and great acting by the immensely talented cast of characters.

But where the film flounders is the plot development and the loose screenplay. References to patriarchy, status of women in society, all of which find play in the story, could have been more satirical and spoof-ish but end up serving the plot in a convenient and superficial manner. The entire backstory of how the lead character's mother was a fallen woman and hence not acceptable to society is dealt with in a couple of scenes in a most lackadaisical manner. Perhaps the biggest flaw is the lame ending. The story ends on a pretty bizarre note -- the ghost ends up exorcising itself. Seems like the filmmakers were bent on fulfilling their promise of  a story "based on a ridiculously true phenomenon".



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Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Understanding the Business of Writing

Top post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers
Welcome to Week U of Authors' Tips - A to Z of Writing. 

If this is the first time you're visiting this series, here's a quick recap:

Authors share their tips on writing fiction and each week we talk about various aspects of writing. This week, I focus on Understanding the Business of Writing.

Read on... and don't forget to share your thoughts in the comment box.


Get this straight all you aspiring writers. Writing is a business. For those who think it's your passion that fuels your writing and will do so for the next 5,10 or 15 years... here's a little reality check. Two years after you have poured your blood, sweat and tears into your debut fiction novel and found no publisher wanting to publish it, the passion will shrivel up and die very soon.

Sure, you might be the one-in-a-million breakthrough writer to find a publisher who is willing to sign you up for a three-series book deal and a six figure advance. A second scenario, and a more likely one: you are signed on for a book deal but the advance is a pittance and after the initial euphoria, you find that your wonderful book is just one of many other books in your publisher's 'schedule'. Your book is neither awarded the prominent display in book stores nor the marketing support. Before long you're just another mid-list author with a title to your name. By the time you get down to writing your next book, your passion has dimmed and only sheer willpower and grit keeps you going. And the hope that the next time around, your publisher will give your title a little more attention. Maybe. Maybe not.

So here are a few things to keep in mind if you are really serious about your fiction writing and don't want to end up with only a single published title to your name and many dashed hopes of a brilliant (money-making) writing career.

Treat Writing Like a Business Enterprise

Chart out a Business Plan for your writing career. Keep in mind that no matter how brilliant your writing is, your debut book is only an entry into the world of publishing. You need to build your body of work over a period of time and there is only way to do it - by writing consistently.You may choose to work on one big writing project (a novel for instance) at a time or a combination of one big and a couple of smaller projects (short stories). But having a plan ready and working on it without burning yourself out is the smart way to do it.

Create a Digital Footprint for your Work

It's important to have an author platform - be it a website or social media channels (like Facebook/Twitter/Instagram) where you can showcase your writing and build your reader base. Again consistency is the key. Choose the channels that you're most comfortable with and that help you connect with your target audience. A little bit of research will help you figure out where the readers who like to read your kind of books hang out -- and engage with them.

Making Connections

While writing is lonely work, there is a also a more 'social' aspect to it. Connect with like minded authors. Make sure to check out their work and offer support. And you'll be surprised by how much support and encouragement you'll receive in return.

Emerging Writing-Related Opportunities

There are scores of opportunities out there for the enterprising writer -- from doing writing workshops, ghostwriting, writing short scripts for filmmakers and more. Keeping yourself updated on emerging writing related opportunities is part of growing your writing business. It's definitely a good idea to attend a literary festival or two in a year to identify potential opportunities and network with potential collaborators.

Writing is a career like any other and approaching it with the right mindset will help you become a more successful writer. Good luck!

Here are some useful resources on the business of writing:

The Creative Penn

Jane Friedman

David Gaughran


Happy Writing! And do share your thoughts in the comment box below. :)

Don't forget to check out the other U posts in this series:

Devika Fernando on Using the Senses

Preethi Venugopala on Unique Selling Proposition



Sunday, 30 June 2019

Relevance Etched in Stone

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By Jaideep Sen

It’s often said that good writing can stand the test of time. Its power and relevance can shine through decades later. This thought struck me like a double whammy in the context of the masterful works of Salim Saab and his erstwhile writing partner Javed Akhtar Saab. 


Amitabh Bachchan in Zanjeer
Recently I watched a TV show, where a boy has a nightmare and gets up with a start, in a scene that is reminiscent of the introduction of the adult Vijay in Zanjeer, the film that set off Mr.Amitabh Bachchan on his unending journey of super stardom. It struck me that almost all of Salim Saab and Javed Saab’s writing have helped to create the ‘immortal’ persona for Mr. Bachchan and set him up for till now unseen success.  


Dharmendra in Sholay
The second instance was when later, on the same day,  I watched and heard the hook-line lyrics of a song from the soon to be released Super 30“Basanti, No dance in front of these dogs” – which has been interpreted from the epic Sholay’s memorable dialogue:  Basanti, in kutton ke samne mat nachna.


Two examples in one day have only reinforced my firm belief that the most memorable creative work that has happened in not just Hindi but Indian Cinema has flowed not only from the nib of Salim Saab-Javed Saab’s pen but also from Salim Saab’s individual and independent fertile imagination. 

Sunjay Dutt in Naam
In the recently released super hit,  Simmba,  there is a scene which harks back to one of the most powerful sequences from Naam, filmed on Sanjay Dutt, to underline the brave qualities of a Hero. In Simmba, the same has been reinterpreted to establish the daredevil attitude of the teenager Simmba.


Am still wonder struck that Salim Saab’s Naam which was released in 1986 continues to inspire after all these years. Salim Saab’s Writing has left such permanent footprints on Indian Cinema’s psyche that at a time when we forget entire films within 30 minutes of viewing – and sometimes even 30 seconds – his writing finds resonance  after  32 years (Naam) as in the case of Simmba and his work with Javed Saab (Sholay) after 44 years in the case of Super 30!

Such is the relevance of the Maestros of Writing – one that is forever etched in stone.

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


Read some of his earlier pieces in this series here...






Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Book Review of A Man from Mandu by Manoj V Jain

Spiritual messages flood our social media timelines. Gurus promoting their brand of spiritual wisdom have become a common feature on TV channels. Author Manoj Jain picks up on this trend to spin an intriguing tale about a 'sadhu of stories' in his latest novel titled A Man from Mandu.

The story is told through the perspective of Tarini who needs a 'project' to resuscitate her flagging corporate career. A wager with her best friend provides her with the challenge she needs. She uses her marketing skills to create Brand Avishkar Baba and justifies it to herself thus, "Film-makers call themselves Peddlers of dreams, she thought, and Writers claim poetic license. Then what is so wrong with what we are doing? We are, in reality, providing a service to the people. I have given them someone who will make their lives better."

But who exactly is Avishkar Baba and what is his game? Is he a conman, a storyteller or the real deal - a true spiritual leader? And what will happen to Tarini?

The author reveals the story through the Baba's sermons - which are told in the form of short stories. Each of these stories are engaging and have a 'magical realism' quality about them. Even though the book is a light and entertaining read, it does give you pause for thought. It's a book that captures the dilemmas of the times we live in.

You can buy your copy here.

*Disclaimer: This book was provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Saturday, 22 June 2019

Thinking Through Your Story

Top post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers
Welcome to Week T of Authors' Tips A - Z of Writing. 

If this is the first time you are visiting this series, here's a quick recap. 

Authors share their tips on writing fiction and each week we talk about various aspects of writing. This week, I discuss a very vital part of the writing process: The Thinking Through Stage. What comes before you have written a single word of your manuscript. 

Read on... and don't forget to share your thoughts in the comment box. 


How do you get your ideas? What comes first? The characters or the plot or the theme? This question is perhaps on every aspiring writer's mind and is among the most discussed topic on writing discussion forums.Well, the quick answer to that is, there is no structured way of getting ideas. Rarely, does a story idea hit you on the head with a neatly defined beginning, middle and end, a plotline, theme and fully developed characters. No, that doesn't happen! And if someone tells you it has happened to them, well, he/she is pulling a fast one! 😅

The fun -- and also most annoying -- part of writing is the pre-writing process. Fun because you have a clean slate. Annoying because you are only being given glimpses of the story. And that too in a higgledy piggledy fashion. I call this the Thinking Through Your Story Process.

You may have a wonderful idea that excites you and you are eager to get to your computer and start bashing it out. Wait! Don't do that.

Let the Idea Breathe. Every story idea needs some breathing space. That one little germ of an idea could be anything - a piece of a plotline, a scene between two unknown (yet) characters, a specific or broad theme that you feel you could take further (examples: dilemma of an assassin who has lost his killing mojo or how racism takes a toll on people). Yes, do think about how it can be progressed but don't start writing yet.

Plot/Character Progression. If you have the nub of a plotline or a vague idea of how the story will end or begin, you can start jotting down these points in one or two lines, never more than that, so that you don't lose the thought. If your idea has come to you in the form of a character, make notes about  the person/s, again notes in a couple of lines. A few broad strokes is all you need at this stage.

Building the Theme. If  you have a vague idea about the theme of your story, you are on more solid ground. Any story needs a theme that will play out -- provide your story and characters with differing points of view and hence conflict. Even a simple boy meets girl story can work only if there is a theme. If you don't know the theme yet, you can reach out to your still developing characters for help. Why is a character a certain way? What's his/her backstory or family background? How has that shaped the person that he/she is. This mental workout will help you find a theme that resonates with the characters.

Growing your Story. Before long you will find that the germ of an idea has transformed into a living, breathing organism. The Thinking Through Process is already giving you ideas for scenes, snippets of dialogue, turning points, key plot points and more. Keep notes (shorter and more precise, the better) till you have a rough idea about the beginning, middle and end. And now you're ready to work out an outline.

Taking it Slowly. If this feels a little 'too much' or overwhelming, relax. Give it a break. Don't think about your story for a couple of days. Do something totally different before you get back to it. Chances are that you'd have found a few new angles to your story. How do you know that the Thinking Through Process is done? Well, the process continues all through the writing of your story. But once you have a beginning, middle and end (or a rough idea of what these will be), you're  now ready to move on to outlining the scenes or if you prefer straight on to writing your first draft.

Keeping track of your Story. Keeping a document or a beat sheet of scenes (described in as few words as possible) will help you to keep track of your story. Add/delete scenes as your story shifts and changes. This sheet will help you to keep in mind the original development of the story and the theme/plot/characters that you were so fascinated with. If you lose your way in the middle, looking at this sheet will help you find your way back.

But most importantly, enjoy the process! Happy Writing!


Do check out T posts in this series by these authors: 

Devika Fernando writes about Titles

Sudesna Ghosh gives the low down on Time Management

Preethi Venugopala discusses Themes in Fiction Writing





Saturday, 15 June 2019

The Definition of a Love Story


On the occasion of Father’s Day Jaideep Sen pens a heartfelt piece for Salim Saab who is more than a father figure to him. Read on…  


I don’t remember the context in which I made this particular call to Salim Saab one evening during the interval of a Film that I was watching at PVR Citi Mall, Mumbai. But as usual it was enriching because in the course of the conversation when I mentioned to him that in my understanding, a Love Story comprises of the relationship between a boy and girl, he stopped me and said that it’s a misconception that a Love Story is only between a boy and girl. Now that was a first for me and I immediately felt that some life altering knowledge was going to be imparted by the gifted Salim Saab.


He said that a love story can be between a master and servant, between an animal and his master and mentioned Haathi Mere Saathi in that context.  In that very moment my already immense respect for Salim Saab shot up uncountable folds and went through the roof. Such indepth understanding of the emotion of Love, beyond the expected boy-girl dynamic is completely unheard of, but then that’s what separates a man from the boys and a genius from the good. 


It is purely because of this understanding that Salim Saab along with his erstwhile partner Javed Akhtar Saab has written the greatest Love Story between two friends in Sholay, a mother and sons in Deewar and between two brothers in Naam, his first film as a solo writer.


These three films had an uninterrupted flow of Love from both parties towards each other but the one complex Love Story riddled with roadblocks was the one between father and son in Shakti, which brought together for the first and last time two of the greatest actors of Indian cinema, Mr. Dilip Kumar and Mr. Amitabh Bachchan in one of Salim Saab-Javed saab’s greatest scripts ever for which they got the Filmfare Award for Best Screenplay.  


There is only one word to describe the simmering equation between  Ashwini Kumar and his son, Vijay – Volatile.


The misunderstanding that lodges itself in Vijay’s head as a child takes such life threatening proportions as he grows into a young man that he is perpetually doubting the stand and intent of his righteous father. This keeps widening the gap between them to such an extent that the only bridge that finally connects them is death, when the cop father has no choice but to shoot his fugitive son.


That particular moment between the shattered Ashwini and a dying Vijay brings a lump in my throat even as I punch the keys of my laptop and revisit the unforgettable death scene. A dying Vijay tells his father: “Bahot koshish ki ki apne dil se aapki mohabbat nikaal doon lekin main hamesha aapse pyaar karta raha.” (I have tried very hard to remove all traces of love for you from my heart, but I've always loved you.)


I feel these are the most emotionally powerful words ever said to elevate the emotion of love over hatred and genuinely heighten the definition of a Love Story.  

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


Read some of his earlier pieces in this series here...