Let’s listen to some music!

It’s a Sunday morning and what better way to start the day than with some music? Here’s what I’m listening to:

1. Are You There – Mono

2. Things I’d Do For You – Astronomyy

3. Box You Up – Natania Lalwani

4. Let Me In – Grouplove

5. Side – Travis

6. Sugar Town – Zooey Deschanel

7. The Weakness In Me – Joan Armatrading

8. Brighter Than Sunshine – Aqualung

9. In Your Eyes – Peter Gabriel

Listen to the full playlist here:

To be Indian in a West inclined world.

Republic Day

Republic Day

For many years, Republic Day has meant a holiday from school, college and/or work. Of course, some of us, my sister included wake up and attend a flag hoisting ceremony at the institution we’re attached to at the time. The rest of the day is spent doing pretty much what we would on a regular day. And this year, as I imagine, would be the case, city folk might have taken off for a holiday to enjoy the ‘long weekend’.

AirTravelprocedure

As I type this blog, from my desk in my apartment in LA, listening to a Western artist’s music after my failed attempt at cooking pasta, I’m thinking about what makes me Indian in 2015. For sure, my accent is a give away in this American city. And that most foreigners find it difficult to pronounce my name. Interestingly, a Sidecar driver mistook me for a doctor. I definitely look Indian. I mean, I’m darker in complexion, shorter in height, have a strange nose and big hips. LOL

18indians-travelling-abroad1

Sridevi in English Vinglish

It’s surprising when I feel most Indian. While writing my screenplay. I imagine song and dance sequences at crucial intervals. I still expect an intermission when I watch a film. I need to get that samosa. But that’s just one aspect of it. Because I actually think in English and write in English because funnily enough, it is my native language. Let me correct that, it is my first language and the language and culture of my thoughts. I say culture, because I probably enjoy a burger more than vada pav. Okay, that’s a bad example. But in all honesty, just like the protagonist of my script, I watch American television shows, eat Italian food, spend way too much time on Facebook and can’t wrap my head around ‘arranged marriage’.

Kajol & SRK in DDLJ

Kajol & SRK in DDLJ

I struggle with the idea of freedom in the independent India of my residence. I have only lived in the financial capital, Mumbai and the city lights haven’t dimmed but the city’s sparkle sure has. I have to impose a censor on my thoughts, on my writing, for worry of what my family, peers, authorities might have to say or do. I still have to go on arranged marriage dates and deal with obnoxious men. I still have to wear ‘traditional’ clothes when and if I go to the temple. And a film like PK does get caught in a controversy. I can sing along to Hindi music and enjoy Bollywood movies but i can’t write in the language. Like my favourite author Vikram Seth, English is the instrument of my choice.

Indian wedding

Indian wedding

I know we’ve come a long way in these 66 years. And I also know we still have many a issues at hand to deal with.

But as someone who belongs to the youth of the nation, I find myself struggling with the idea of equality and independence. I find us becoming slaves to Western ideologies, individualistic in our approach, enamoured by American influence. We speak a foreign language in our homes. We celebrate ‘English’ festivals with more gusto than we do national holidays. And I’m not complaining. This is my observation. I don’t know who to identify with. I can’t find my way through Google Maps for this route.

Logo-Oct-2

I don’t know how you feel about being a young Indian. On most days, I’m happy with the opportunities available to me. But I don’t usually think about giving back to my nation. Some of us don’t even know our political leaders. Our prime minister had to take to social media campaigning to reach out to us!

So, basically, do my words resonate with you? Do you ever think about what makes you Indian?

Of small talk and random subjects of conversation…

I don’t like to walk. I’d rather take the bus or call a cab. That’s just how it is.

The other day, I found myself in the midst of a free day and decided to go to Glendale Galleria, a 20mins ride from where I live.

Now, the thing about LA taxi drivers is that they love to talk.
They almost compulsively make small talk, which I don’t mind. Some might see it as an opportunity to weave different stories each time. But I stick to the routine.

“Where are you from?”
‘India’
“How long have you been in LA?”
‘4 weeks’
“What are you doing here?”
‘Studying”
“Where are you studying?”
‘New York Film Academy’
“Do you want to work in Hollywood?”
‘I haven’t thought about it yet’

And it goes on.

Then there are old men who drink alcohol on the bus and insist on telling everybody in their close radius their life story. This one was particularly entertaining.

“You having a good day, Miss?”
‘Yeah’
“I’m always having a good day. You know why?”
(He points to the inside pocket of his jacket and shows a bottle of alcohol. He almost immediately brings his finger to his lips and pretends it’s a secret)
“I’m just happy to be alive.”
‘Mmm hmmm’
“I’m 57, just 3 short of 60. Ooooh and this (points to his hip) is my third artificial hip. I’m in pain and I used to take (names some medicine I can’t remember) but now I just (makes a drinking gesture)… ssshhh.
‘Mmm hmmm’

He goes on to claim having lost 101 cellphones or something and quotes an arbitrary figure on how much it cost him. So much so that now the store owners are fed up of taking his money and gave him an ordinary cellphone for free. As far-fetched as all his stories possibly were, he was just looking to make small talk with anyone who paid attention and responded enthusiastically. Unfortunately, I had nothing but monosyllables to offer.

There was also this really long conversation I had, on everything ranging from screenwriting and religion to the purpose of everyday life, that still takes me back to the night of sometimes.

But the common thread of it all has been this:

We inhabit the same planet and none of us know the length of our time here. We might as well exchange some words and learn about each other while we can. Isn’t that what conversation is for?

Feel free to leave your comments below.

Writing | Making words on paper come to life

Part of what we have to do for the screenwriting course is read, a lot, including scripts. Of course, we have to understand all the elements that go into the writing of a script and yet, what fascinates me each time is the nuance that a writer brings to the table. In class, we talk about the sophistication of writing and the importance of words. It’s all in the choices! I logged on to imsdb and skimmed through the script of one of my favourite novels adapted for a movie: The Fault In Our Stars. Here’s an excerpt from the screenplay:

53.

                         

                          GUS
           You do realize... trying to keep
           your distance from me will in no
           way lessen my affection for you.
          Hazel says nothing.

                          GUS
           All efforts to save me from you
           will fail.
          Hazel looks at him. He's sure not making this easy.

                          GUS
           Is this about Amsterdam? Cause we

                          DON'T --

                          HAZEL
           It's not about Amsterdam. It's
           about me. It's about...

                          GUS
           Grenades.
          Hazel nods.

                          GUS
           I get it. One day you're going to
           explode in a huge ball of fire and
           everyone close to you will die in
           your wake.

                          HAZEL
           Exactly.

                          GUS
           There's already two people in your
           life you're going to destroy. Why
           add a third to that list. Am I
           right?

                          HAZEL

                          (NODS)
           That's why I don't have a hamster.
          Gus is silent. He can't argue. They stand there quietly a few
          more beats, looking out at the swing set. Until:

                          GUS
           We have got to do something about
           this frigging swing set.

                         

          INT HAZEL'S BEDROOM - MOMENTS LATER
          Hazel sits at the computer screen writing a Craigslist post.
          Gus stands next to her.

           54.

                         

                          HAZEL

                          (TYPING)
           "Swing Set Needs Home."

                          GUS
           "Desperately Lonely Swing Set Needs
           Loving Home."

                          HAZEL
           "Lonely, Vaguely Pedophilic Swing
           Set Seeks Butts of Children."
          Gus laughs.

                          HAZEL
           No?
          Gus laughs harder. Hazel laughs with him.

                          GUS
           That's why.
          Hazel looks at him, not understanding.

                          GUS
           In case you were wondering...
           that's why I like you.
           (beat, off her look)
           You're so busy being you that you
           have no idea how utterly
           unprecedented you are.
          Hazel absorbs that. Her feelings for this boy in a tangle.

I chuckled while reading this sequence. Did you enjoy it too?

In our orientation, we were told ‘writing is a sickness’. But ‘it is also a craft’. Those words stayed with me. I use writing at several different levels. I use it as catharsis, to share my experiences, to weave stories. And now I’m learning and attempting to use writing to create visuals, to bring a story to screen.

It’s tough, I gotta tell you that. At this point, nothing is more intimidating than a blank page staring at you while you build a story from scratch, with nothing but words. Having said that, every page that is filled out with scene and dialogue creates a previously unprecedented satisfaction.

Cheers to those of us who thrive on this sickness. May we get better at the art as time passes.

#Boyhood

Boyhood Movie Still

Boyhood Movie Still

Some time towards the end of last year, I went to the Mumbai Film Festival solo and missed the only film I really wanted to watch: Boyhood. A little while after that, at my cousin’s house party, this boy and I were having a conversation about how I’m a writer and want to study screenplay writing next. Of course, he pointed out how well Boyhood worked with emotion as an example. And I knew then I just had to watch the film. Soon enough, the film was playing in a nearby theatre in Mumbai and I watched it with my mom.

I remember watching Before Sunset and falling in love. And the narrative structure and pacing is what I came to associate with Richard Linklater. One of my favourite critics describes aptly in a review how I also felt about Boyhood.

Yesterday, as I returned home at night and went through my Twitter feed, all anyone was talking about was Boyhood. The Golden Globes (that were held in LA) had deemed Boyhood the Best Motion Picture, Drama.

Boyhood

Boyhood

So, I figured, what better time than now to reflect on #Boyhood. I read a comment on my Facebook News Feed that this girl didn’t care that much for the film because she couldn’t get past the gimmick. On the contrary, I thought it was an experiment that was poetic and paid off because the dramatised reality was so well captured. It wasn’t the kind of film that had as much of an impact on me while I was watching it as much as it made me think afterwards.

What are your thoughts on the film? And just for fun, here’s an NYFA activity I participated in, #MyBoyhood:

#MyBoyhood

#MyBoyhood