Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Fuelled by Rejection

By Jaideep Sen


For a while I wasn’t being able to identify what to base my next piece of SALAAM SALIM SAAB on till the Legend himself cleared my dilemma.  During a recent conversation he mentioned that when they had narrated the biggest game changer film in contemporary Indian Cinema, Zanjeer, to a renowned film director of that era, he had told Salim Saab that they had wasted two and a half hours of his precious time. 

Now that was a statement that grabbed my immediate attention for two reasons. One, the audience has proved time and again that it is far sharper and smarter than filmmakers while it is difficult for good content to get made into films due to the lack of understanding of filmmakers. Two, don’t get affected and shaken by  ‘rejection’. 

When I brought this up with Salim Saab, the humble cinematic giant took the onus on himself for the initial rejections by saying that it was the nature of the story and not the lack of understanding on part of filmmakers that the film had to go through a harrowing time till it finally got made. He said that at a time when frothy breezy romantic entertainers, peppered with a generous sprinkling of songs, were the order of the day this volatile story of a no-nonsense cop haunted by the nightmare of seeing his parents being shot was too new for most people to relate to.

Amitabh Bachchan with Prakash Mehra (centre) during the making of Zanjeer
A funny anecdote he shared was that someone who’d heard the story and perhaps even liked it had expressed his concern that making this film could be a big risk because something like this had never been made before. I cracked up on hearing this because I always thought that producers, directors and actors normally look for a story that’s not been done before.

Another truth about Zanjeer also is that the film actually got completed more out of compulsion than choice because while the film was being made Amit Ji’s films were failing at the box office. As a result, Prakash Mehraji was finding it increasingly difficult to generate funding for his next schedule to the extent that he would blame Salim Saab & Javed Saab for putting him in this tight spot by suggesting Amit Ji’s name for the  lead role. Another interesting tidbit was that Amit Ji, on hearing the narration, wasn’t sure whether he would be able to portray Vijay’s angst. However, the writers had  implicit faith on his ability to pull it off as they had seen some of his earlier performances.  

Ironically, Prakash Ji would hesitatingly proceed with each schedule of his film. After all, he’d invested a certain amount of money in the earlier schedules and all of that would be a waste if he shelved the film. So to save himself from repaying borrowed money on an aborted project and further increasing his losses, he completed the film.  

Salim-Javed
But his troubles didn’t end there. A release agent, with great difficulty, got a potential distributor to see the final product by almost falling at his feet and not revealing the name of the lead actor lest the distributor refused to see the film of this actor with a long line of flops behind him. The agent actually held the distributor by his arm and cajoled him into the preview theatre. On arriving at the theatre, the distributor said: ‘Now that you’ve managed to get me to the auditorium, obviously I can’t leave without watching the film. So at least now, tell me who’s playing the hero in the film.’ And when finally the agent with trembling lips revealed the truth, the distributor fled without seeing the film!
Of course, the reaction of the audience after it watched the film is now stuff of film folklore! 

It’s important to share these gems with readers who should allow this information to seep into their system, absorb it, doff their hats to the brilliance of Salim Saab-Javed Saab. Very recently, Javed Saab said at an event that not only did the writing maestro Salim Saab teach him the art of screenplay writing but also is the sole creator of the idea and structure of Zanjeer, which existed even before he began his partnership with Salim Saab.  

The idea behind writing this piece is that writers should also firmly believe in their own stories, keep their chins up through perhaps a spate of  No’s and never abandon their own baby—their own scripts—because success more often than not is a joyride propelled by the fuel of rejection.

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

Read his earlier posts in this series here....


Sunday, 13 October 2019

#NewRelease - Just The Way You Are

There's something exciting about releasing a new book. Especially one which you hadn't really planned on writing -- but kind of happened on the fly. But more about that story later.

First, let me tell you about the spanking new ebook that I have released. It's a romance novella and the first book in the Soulmates Series. The first title - Just The Way You Are - is Yash and Shikha's story. 



Blurb: 

Single mom and bridal makeup artiste Shikha Verma is finally in a good place – both professionally and on the personal front. A chance encounter with a charming musician, who is much younger than her, has her throwing caution to the winds and breaking vows she’s made to herself. Walking away is the right thing to do. After all, she can't risk another heartbreak when she has only just recovered from one.

Yash Kulsreshtha has never been more attracted to a woman and the lady definitely is into him. Why then is Shikha hell bent on pushing him away? Surely their age difference is not such a big deal? But before he can convince her, she storms out of his life. Are Yash and Shikha destined to stay apart or will life hand them a chance at happily-ever-after?

This novella is a feel-good, emotional romance and the first book of the Soulmates Series. 


So, now to get back to the story of how it all happened. Cut to: July 2019 when I was plodding away on my Work in Progress - a contemporary romance novel with a bit of an historical angle to it.  I was drowning under all the information that I had unearthed and it seemed like I would be in for a long haul. Given my other deadlines on my non-fiction projects, there was no way I could finish the book any time soon.

Besides, I had been looking forward to putting out a new release on Amazon. And the only way I could achieve that was if I wrote a short story or novella. I already had a theme that I wanted to explore -- about a relationship between an older woman and a younger man -- and I practically cranked out the outline in an hour. As I wrote the story, I also developed side stories for two other characters. These stories will be part of the Soulmates Series.

This is my very first novella and I hope you enjoy Yash and Shikha's story. If you do, please don't forget to leave a review on Amazon or here on my blog.

Before I sign off, here's the song that inspired the title of the book... it's one of my favourites. Enjoy!




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

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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.