Saturday, December 26, 2009

Interview: Shane Black

How do you generally write?  Do you use outlines or notecards or just start cranking it out from page one?

I don't really use notecards.  What I do is I try to figure out what the piece is about and link that to the story arc or the character arc.  I always think there's two things going on in any script -- there's the story and then there's the plot.  The plot is the events.  If it's a heist film, it's how they get in and out.  But the story is why we're there, why we're watching the events. 

It's what's going on with the characters.  And theme above that. 
Once I get those things, once I know what the theme is and what it's about, I can start trying on story beats and plot beats to see if they feel like they're moving, but they have to relate to the overall theme. 
If you look at The Dark Knight, you'll find before those guys wrote a word of script, they knew exactly what their movie was about.  All the themes were in place.  Sometimes they had to bend the scenes in The Dark Knight to fit the theme they were trying to get across.  It's clear they didn't write the scenes and then look for what they were about, they clearly knew where they were headed. 

Did you actually study screenwriting?

Nah.  I took theater classes at UCLA.  I was studying stagecraft and acting.  It was a Mickey Mouse major.  My finals often were painting sets, y'know?  It was kind of a cakewalk though college.  I liked theater, I liked movies, but I'd never seen a screenplay, and I thought they were impossibly difficult.  Coming from back East, I just assumed  movies were something that floated through the ether and appeared on your TV screen and some magician wrote them, but there was certainly no way I could.  Then I read a script and it was so easy.  I read another one and said, "I can do this.  This is really rather simple."  So I never took classes, I just read scripts I loved.
My style, such as it is, that sometime people comment on, is really cribbed from two sources.  One is William Goldman, who has a kind of chummy, folksy storytelling style.  It's almost as though a guy in a bar is talking to you from his bar stool.  And then Walter Hill, who is just completely terse and sparing and has this real Spartan prose that has this wonderful effect of just gut-punching you.  I took those two and I slammed them together, and that's what I use.  People say it's interesting.  Mostly it's a rip-off.  It's Goldman meets Walter Hill.


Did you always write like this or are there some older, clumsier Shane Black scripts that will never see the light
of day?

No, the first scripts I wrote were written after I decided to go out and see what they look like.  So I picked up William Goldman,  I picked up Walter Hill, and then I wrote Shadow Company, which even on the page, the '84 version, looks exactly like a Goldman script.  Lethal Weapon, it's pretty much in the style of those two writers.  Material is different, I'm talking solely about the style on the page and learning the logistics of how to do it.  Those two were my mentors.  Later mentors were people like James L. Brooks, who taught me an amazing amount, and Joel Silver, of all people, qualifies as a mentor.

Now, you took some time off and came back with Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang.  Did planning to direct it change how you approached writing it?

No, I thought about that.  That was when I was dealing with Jim Brooks.  He basically said, "You don't need to worry because you direct on paper.  You don't call shots, but you call mood and you call progression and pace and emphasis and just about everything else."  So, I may have even done a little more of that on Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang.

Now that you've sat in the director's chair, has it changed how you approach a script?

No, except I'm even more conscious of what will later be shoe leather.  The greatest shoemakers in the world supposedly can make a pair of shoes and leave no [extra] leather.  They don't waste any.  I'm very conscious now as a director. 

If you've got two scenes, like a newscaster and a scene before that of a conversation, can't you have the conversation with the newscaster in the background and do it in one?  It's just shoe leather.  No shoe leather.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Interview: Siddharth Roy Kapur, UTV


For some time people have been dealing with films like a project rather than as an artistic form. Budgets have therefore outstripped growth and revenues. Today, a Rs40 crore film will make little financial sense once you have added the costs of marketing and publicity to it. It will be hard to recover that kind of money.

A lot of potential revenue comes from a wider flow of releases. You have to maximize revenue along the time when the promotion of a film is at its fever pitch, before another movie comes out and takes over. Nearly 90% of the revenue comes from the first four weeks of a film's release.

Any industry that does its share of films based on concept, franchises, animation, etc., does not need to bank on stars all the time.

No cost can justify a bad film but, in their defence, multiplexes have given the choice to a section of society that did not think it was cool to see movies out of the comfort of their homes.

We get one or two scripts every day, which go through our development team. We make about 12-14 films a year, so you can do the math. We want to be able to develop stories in-house for which we have a team of six or seven people. There are original scripts and talented writers, but there has been a lack of focused attention in developing that talent

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Script Supervisor's Role

Keep track of:

scenes, pages, setups and minutes shot

which scenes are shot (including partially shot), which are deleted and which ones are left to be shot

setups filmed by all cameras

deviations from scripted dialogues

set times: crew call, first shot, meal times (in and out), first shot after lunch, last shot and wrap

"matching" for purposes of continuity - making sure the appearance of the set and the actors, the movements (and eyelines) of the actors and the delivery of dialogue within each take matches its original master scene, and that the progression of wardrobe, makeup, props and set dressing during any specific scene is accurate

whether the picture is running long or short

Keeps a set of notes each day (usually in the form of a daily log) recording each take of each scene shot, including a description detailing the action and camera movements. Also recorded is the camera roll, scene number, take number, the timing of each take, the camera lens used, and the page count credited to each take. The director will call for specific takes to be printed, and those are circled, thus the term "circled takes".

furnishes Camera and Sound with slate numbers

prepares a list of pick-up shots and wild sound tracks

assists during the blocking of scenes

runs lines and cues actors prior to and during rehearsals (not a required duty but very often done

reads offstage lines for actors not present on the set

supplies the editor with a complete log, continuity notes and lined script pages (actual lines made through the specific scenes being shot indicating the exact action and dialogue captured in each take)

PRODUCTION TWO - Notebook Checklist










Script Breakdown (Nevelyn's Format)

Call Sheet

Location Agreement

Certificate of Insurance

Location Release

Student Shoot Request / Notification

Questions to Ask when scouting a location:

1. Where is the closest access to bathrooms?
2. Where can you see stage equipment, sound, camera, grip?
3. Where can the actors have a private space?
4. Where does the garbage go?
5. Where can you park?
6. What are the dimensions of the area?
7. Where is the access to electricity, and how much do you have?
8. Do you need extension cords?
9. Do you need to get a permit?
10. Do you need a location contract?
11. When is the area open / closed?
12. Do you need a key?
13. What is the name and number of the contact person?
14. Where can you set up craft services?
15. Where can people go to get warm?
16. Where can you change film rolls?
17. Where can you stage costumes and makeup?
18. What are the best driving directions?
19. Where is the nearest telephone?
20. Do you need to alert the neighbors/neighborhood about the shoot?

Scene#; Shot#; Description/Notes; Title: Director: Camera:; Date:; Page:

Student Evaluation of Producer

Producer Evaluation of Student

Prop List

Notice of Filming

Cast List

Crew List

Group Release

Talent Release

Wardrobe List
Character; Article; Day Needed; Designed; Secured
                              1  2  3  4  5

Script Breakdown

Article: How to Obtain a Film Print

Graph Paper (for schematics)

Monday, November 30, 2009


Better watch this video for great examples who are making money online and offline, and a big reason - by offering the film for free!

This also refers to the fundamental - piracy can help in increasing sales! Some folks are trying interesting things by utilizing the Internet. interesting (simple) formula: Connect with Audience + Give a Reason to Buy = Make Money

Watch the Video

The Internet is a super-distribution machine that allows copies of digital media to flow in an almost frictionless way. As the wealth and survival of traditional media businesses are built on selling precious copies, the free flow of free copies is undermining the established order. If reproductions of media are free, how can we keep on financing films and how can we find value in the media we create and sell? BRIAN NEWMAN (former CEO Tribeca Film Institute).

For more about Brian visit

Watch the Video

Article: Internet-based movie reaches 4 million views

I recall what Scott VanO (cinematography instructor, CFS) would ask us to do at times:

" of you go online and find the Top Video on the Internet."

"Sooo....what did you find?!"

"Does it look like a job of an amateur? Or a home-made video? What do you find?!"

"You always, ALWAYS find that it's a professionally done video. (Amateur works don't make it.)"

I came across this article, which reinforces the same fundamental. This "unusual amateur film" has taken the (online) world by storm; of course, it's been made in the professional way. Goes to show you never know where you may reach with a story well told!

And...they took on which film of all? Lord of the Rings Trilogy! On $5000/-! Unbelievable.

Check out if you haven't...

Excerpts from the Article:

Since release in May The Hunt For Gollum has been seen by over 4 million people all over the world. Made on a tiny budget of £3000 and distributed via the Internet, the film is an astonishingly high quality 40 minute movie made in England by unknown director Chris Bouchard.

Viewers have said the high quality visual effects, solid acting, camera and spectacular choreographed fight sequences make for a film that pleases fans of books and films alike. Having been marketed purely through word of mouth, it became one of the most viral videos on the net.

With a score of 7.2/10 on IMDB and favourable reviews on social networking sites, the filmmakers appear to have crafted a very unusual amateur film that has satisfied the hardest to please fans, including several Tolkien societies.

Several of the crew have now been picked up by professional films and BBC productions. And yet others are working on another Rings prequel due this December called Born of Hope. Director Chris Bouchard has since had offers of funding for his next project.

Article: Internet-based movie reaches 4 million views

Film: Hunt for Gollum (39-min)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Blog: Meet the Reader: Feedback

Feedback is a vitally important element of the screenwriting process -- without it, you will never know if your work is connecting with readers and audiences the way you want it to. For this reason, you should incorporate the obtaining of feedback into your writing process from the very beginning.

Meet the Reader: Feedback

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Viewed: FOOD INC.

An extremely refined film, Food Inc. brings a lot of attention to certain areas of the food industry. Showcasing the ills of the system, and like ever the villains are always the same - big conglomerates and the government working hand-in-glove.

Food Inc. chiefly focuses on the meat industry, though also takes a good look at the usage of Corn and Soybean and the companies behind them. It depicts touching stories of a mother who lost her son and who is now an advocate fighting to bring-in more checks into the system and some stories of farmers. 

One is managing to hold his own by producing the meat in a natural way, another was fighting a battle with a world's leading corporate and eventually had to settle since he couldn't pay off the legal fees. There are other stories too of people who believe that things are not right, who do their own thing and yet find the going tough against the powers-that-be.

The film successfully showcases the might of the corporate and how difficult it is for individuals to take on them. Through extensive use of different footage including hidden camera, the film puts various points into play - the changing food industry, consumption of people, corporate growth, politics and a strong focus into manufacturing.

The food industry is compared to the auto plants and footage from such factories do highlight the reality - it's a belt system and every is automated. One ominous inference is that it's very difficult to control what you are eating. The film rides on the shoulders of two experts and they do make insightful comments and explain the complexity of this industry.

It does not help when corporate decline to interview, but then that comments on the state of affairs. The film paints different shades and does a decent job of creating that something's wrong.

Though the film dabbles into Organic as the positive deal, it doesn't delve into the negative arguments against it. The film does end on an upbeat note - if once giant tobacco industry can be brought down, then why not the food inc. However the ending does seem hurried. The last 15-minutes seem to rush too soon taking away the impact with which it builds in the beginning and middle.

Yet it's an important film. As it says in the end, take note of what you eat, take onus of finding things, you have a 'right to know'. Be responsible.

Rating ***1/2
[Max Rating ****]

[Viewed on Mac at Langford Town, Bangalore on 25th Nov, 2009] 

Viewed: ALCHEMIST (Play)

Mahesh Dattani adapts the famous novel by Paulo Cohelo, which is about following one's dreams. It tries hard to be earnest and creative, but fails to provide momentum and does not elicit emotions as it could have.

Even otherwise, this may not be an easy play to adapt considering how the protagonist isn't so active. Yet...there seems enough areas of conflict; though he deals with many people on his journey to find treasure the conflict is more of internal. The lad has to find his way and he goes on a journey meeting various people, angels and villains. Eventually discovering that his love is what is chief treasure.

Apart from some good bits of lighting, the overall production was weak; acting wasn't too polished, except for a few performances by some of the leads. The key area that failed to govern he show is directing - in trying to be creative by playing with the set albeit lighting and playing with backdrops, the 'story' failed to get going - not enough momentum courtesy lack of rising tension.

On a personal note, it was good to see a pal, Moorthy's old room-mate, Abhimanyu playing some parts in the play.

Rating **
[Max Rating ****]

[Viewed in Bangalore at Christ University auditorium on 22nd Nov, 2009 with Mota, Lull, Krishnan and Radhika]

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Documentaries: American Boy + ItalianAmerican - Martin Scorsese

Discovered this, a 52-min film. Old documentary by Scorsese on his friend, Steven Prince. It is also supposed to be the inspiration for Tarantino's famous Pulp Fiction scene - Uma Thurman with a syringe in her heart, jabbed-in by Tarantino.

American Boy

Here's another one: ItalianAmerican

[The films may look raw being quite old but check out the credit list - not just 2-3 guys making the film!]

A review:
Two Early Scorsese Profiles, of His Parents and of an Actor

Must-Reads: 'The Sky is Falling' + HYBRID DISTRIBUTION

Old articles ( a year old,) but extremely insightful.

(A very, very long one:)
Mark Gill: "Yes, The Sky Really Is Falling."


I know I don't have to repeat all the ways that the independent film business is in trouble. But I'm going to do it anyway—because the accumulation of bad news is kind of awe- inspiring.

The marginally good news is it won't hit the ground everywhere. The strongest of the strong will survive and in fact prosper. But it will feel like we just survived a medieval plague. The carnage and the stench will be overwhelming.

But it's not so easy for the big boys anymore either. The average cost of a major studio production is $70.8million, and the average marketing budget in North America alone is $35.9 million. In other words, there's an average of more than $100 million at risk every time they get up to bat. And if they're going to lose $75 million or more, they know it by 2 p.m. Los Angeles time on opening day.

Hollywood has spent a lot of time and money making films that are at best mediocre and then hoping for marketing to save the day. We can blame a good movie for this very bad habit. "Jaws" ushered in the era of wide-release marketing-driven movies. It lasted for more than 30 years. A lot of bad films got made under the theory that quality didn't matter. But it's not working like it used to.

Here's why: fooling the audience is getting harder for the major studios in the age of blackberries, instant messaging and cell phone texting. Good buzz spreads quickly, bad buzz even faster.

Clearly, only the better films will succeed in the theaters of the future. Certainly the number of releases will drop—by half or more. Probably everyone other than the folks who work on tentpoles will be paid less. The words "theatrical necessity" will take on greater and greater meaning. Probably a lot of theaters will close. But I think the best theaters showing the best films will always have an audience. And the rest of the films will have their premiere in Walmart, or on your cell phone.

The result of all these changes—especially the catalyzing effect of lower costs and high technology—is very good news for people who care about the quality of cinema, singularity of voice, resonant themes, and all the other things that today can rarely be found outside independent film.

It all comes down to what a former glove merchant named Schmuel Gelbfisz said more than 50 years ago: "Make Fewer Better."

The single biggest change should be to only make movies that we absolutely love. Not ones we like. Not ones we need to do as a favor. Not the ones we do because they seem like a good "piece of business." Not ones we do because we think, hope or wish that "the kids" will like them.  Not the knock-offs of the ones that worked at the box office last year. In a word, we should only pick the films we're passionate about—and that have an audience.

If you want to survive in this brutal climate, you're going to have to work a lot harder, be a lot smarter, know a lot more, move a lot faster, sell a lot better, pay attention to the data, be a little nicer (ok, a lot nicer), trust your gut, read everything and never, ever give up.

If you're looking for a cool lifestyle, you're in the wrong business. If you want work-life balance, go get a government job.


Hybrid distribution is the state-of-the-art model more and more filmmakers are using to succeed. It enables them to have unprecedented access to audiences, to maintain overall control of their distribution, and to receive a significantly larger share of revenues.


Welcome to the New World of Distribution. Many filmmakers are emigrating from the Old World, where they have little chance of succeeding. They are attracted by unprecedented opportunities and the freedom to shape their own destiny. Life in the New World requires them to work harder, be more tenacious, and take more risks. There are daunting challenges and no guarantees of success. But this hasn't stopped more and more intrepid filmmakers from exploring uncharted territory and staking claims.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Quotes (on Writing)

"It is defeat that turns bone to flint; it is defeat that turns gristle to muscle; it is defeat that makes men invincible. Do not then be afraid of defeat. You are never so near to victory as when defeated in a good cause."
- Henry Ward Beecher

"Writing makes a map, and there is something about a journey that begs to have its passage marked."
- Christina Baldwin

"Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self."
- Cyril Connolly

"Writing gives you the illusion of control, and then you realize it's just an illusion, that people are going to bring their own stuff into it."
- David Sedaris

"In Hollywood, defining the content of a movie is like sex-- everyone thinks they can do it and do it well.  And they're not inclined to give up the chance to do it just so someone else can do it."
- Terry Rossio

"Writing is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him to the public."
- Winston Churchill

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Blog: Integrity in the making of films

Creativity, Integrity and commercialism – are there conflicts?
Magnus Dennison

I am going to write about film producers who have made creative choices to ensure their films are commercial successes. My question is whether these films lose their integrity when the motivation for making them becomes financial.

Read the complete blog...

Monday, November 16, 2009


Michael Moore brings life to this topic in the times of recession / meltdown with his characteristic humor and conveys the hassles within the American system quite successfully.

If one has followed the happenings then it perhaps won't provide a new insight. Corporate bungling, lower-income group folks losing homes, greed of the politicians and top finance companies.

What it does is provide an interesting telling. Delves into some history and Moore as always digs-in and gets archival footage of news, films, tv and uses them as great pieces of humor. He frames Regan as the guy from whose era the fall started and makes most fun of his favorite target, Bush.

Perhaps this film could get pretty academic and Moore being more of an entertainer doesn't provide too much depth. However by going after the 'villains' - the corporate people, it does provide an interesting view.

His main theme is capitalism up against democracy. And he votes for democracy. There are not too much arguments for capitalism and not too much about regulation.

It's more of a dramatic film than a serious-study one, which aims to re-visit the glaring goof-ups - irresponsible spending, zero accountability, people losing homes...and it does a decent, entertaining job.

Rating ***
[Max Rating ****]

[Viewed on Mac at Ravi's house, Sun City on 16th Nov, 2009]

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Articles: Lying Mirrors + I am Hindu, you are Muslim

Why TV (serials) can be such a dangerous medium for children - the onslaught on the mind can be very damaging. Watch it out especially for your kids and well...even for you!

I feel like adding - be careful of the cinema too :-)

Read on...

Lying Mirrors
(Hindu) - Latika Gupta

Television, in glorifying outlawed customs and practices, sows the seeds of stereotype in children who blindly imitate in life what they see on screen.


Many current serials revolve around glamorisation of social evils. The colour and gloss of television images distract us away from the misery of the victims of child marriage and bigamy. Rather, the colorful screen makes the sufferers look attractive.

The fact that children imbibe values and attitudes through exposure to media is a major daily event unfolding in our life. Our media are pushing young girls into becoming submissive, coy and servile. The media pretend to enhance their capacity to take on the challenges of modernity whereas in fact, it is training young girls to accept oppression as a way of life.

Lying Mirrors

I am Hindu, you are Muslim

A study conducted in Daryaganj reveals that children develop an exclusionary awareness of religious differences quite early. How can this be countered in the educational system?

The study points out that early socialisation, which takes place in the family, creates prejudices which are in conflict with the stated goals of educational policy.

The Article:
I am Hindu, you are Muslim

Article: Hosting Short Movies on the Web

Hosting Short Movies on the Web

"Do you love scripting and shooting movies? Do you have a movie that has a spellbinding storyline but not quite sure how to market it? Well, you have probably heard about and their phenomenal success hosting virals on their web site. It started out very small, on a shoestring budget, and grew over just a few years into a business worth millions.

Shooting video for fun has been a commonplace global pastime for years. Even back in the 80s there was 'Candid Camera', and a host of video clip shows on TV. The clips shown on TV like UK's 'People do the Funniest things' are no more than 1 minute in length. Soon, broadband speeds allowed for the hosting and transmission of these clips on the web. No advertising costs, just a web site with a video clip embedded."

Read this article from Screenwriting Basics.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Article: The Anguish of War for Today’s Soldiers, Explored by Sophocles

The Anguish of War for Today's Soldiers, Explored by Sophocles

The ancient Greeks had a shorthand for the mental anguish of war, for post-traumatic stress disorder and even for outbursts of fratricidal bloodshed like last week's shootings at Fort Hood.

They would invoke the names of mythological military heroes who battled inner demons: Achilles, consumed by the deaths of his men; Philoctetes, hollowed out from betrayals by fellow officers; Ajax, warped with so much rage that he wanted to kill his comrades.

Now officials at the Defense Department are turning to the Greeks to explore the psychic impact of war.

The Anguish of War for Today's Soldiers, Explored by Sophocles

Article, Bollywood: The Big Crash

Hindu: The Big Crash

Looking at full-page advertisements in leading newspapers, you'd think every movie released this year was a winner. Misleading claims of several big-ticket movies getting 'the highest opening' and 'the largest box-office collection' aside, it goes without saying that Bollywood has had the worst year in recent times.

Trade analyst Amod Mehra says: "It has been a very bad year with over a Rs. 1,000-crore loss. Normally, in a year, we have 15 per cent success rate, inclusive of hits, super hits and blockbusters. But this year, we can barely reach the five per cent mark. The biggest problem I see is that, with corporates coming in, all the budgeting has gone haywire. They are overpaying each artist.

Hindu: The Big Crash

Interview, WGA: Technically Speaking - Nurse Susie

Technically Speaking - Nurse Susie

Schelling still graces the operating theater for the occasional open heart surgery, so it was a miracle that she found time to talk to Technically Speaking about the ways the nursing profession is represented on the screen. Here's the big take away: That cliché where the doctor screams, "Get me a (important medical term here), STAT!" doesn't happen in the real world. Who knew?

What does Hollywood get right about the nursing profession?

What they do seem to portray really well is that nurses are professionals, that they know what they're doing, that they're the patients' advocates. They show that very well.

And what do they get wrong?

Sometimes, it's the doctor-nurse relationship. Sometimes, on TV, it's common that doctors yell, "Get me this, now!" and nurses say, "Yes doctor!" That is a miscommunication to the world at large because we're more collaborative with our physicians. We work as a team. It's not necessarily them saying, "Do this" and we do that. We have conversations about things. We don't have people yell at us, and we run away and go get something. I think that's a common TV trick and that's bothersome.

Technically Speaking - Nurse Susie

Psy Blog: Is humor ever not funny?

Is humor ever not funny?
"The Office" takes on suicide

"The Office" has gotten a lot of attention over the past week or so for its Halloween episode, which showed boss Michael Scott in a noose, sharing a particularly poorly worded suicide prevention message. I was struck by how a similar image, also in the public sphere this past week, generated a different kind of response. Ireland's "Sunday World" newspaper published an image of a man in a noose as a way of drawing public attention to police delay in removing the man's body.

I wonder if because "The Office" is a comedy, we are prepared to laugh at whatever comes across the screen. But, in the case of the photo published in the newspaper in Ireland, the image of a man hanging was not at all humorous. Similar image, very different contexts.

Is humor ever not funny?
"The Office" takes on suicide

Psy Blog: What the lips say about how we feel and think - even deception

What the lips say about how we feel and think - even deception
What our lips reveal about us - even when lying!

When it comes to feelings and emotions, the lips can be invaluable; they can even help us to detect deception. Ever notice when people are stressed, their lips disappear or get smaller.j

Lips convey a lot of information that is often ignored or not even observed. Rich with nerves and highly vascular, the lips react in real time to the world around us. So when people receive bad news or witness a horrific event their lips begin to disappear, becoming very thin as vaso constriction takes place. Under extreme stress they disappear completely or are compressed together.

In a forensic setting you quickly realize that not all words we hear have the same weight.  If you killed someone with an ice pick, you will not react to the question, "Did you kill her with a machete?" as you would if you were asked, "Did you kill her with an ice pick?" In polygraphy, this is called the "hidden key."  By asking specific questions you can elicit very precise information as to what bothers an individual or, in some cases, that they have specific guilty knowledge.

What the lips say about how we feel and think - even deception
What our lips reveal about us - even when lying!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Viewed: GULAL

One thing about watching Anurag Kashyap film is that you are curious to know what he has done and how. Kashyap typically walks a line that is not the norm - be it the content he dabbles in or the way he portrays the life of his characters.

Gulal was the only film, whose rushes I had seen years ago, before he had made Dev-D, when he had come to pitch it to E-City Films. The movie was 70% complete as per the director and he wanted money to complete the film.

There was no color correction. We had seen some scenes (not the entire 70%) and one thing which always comes out of his films - strong performances. Piyush Mishra with his song and antics looked a captivating figure and one could see that though kind of raw it seemed quite unique.

Some friends had raved about it, some pals weren't so impressed. From what I recall the reviews were either at top or...bottom. Personally I have never been blown by his friends, though I have looked forward to his flicks. Black Friday was a good one, so was Dev-D and I even found No Smoking interesting.

I was also fortunate to see his first, Paanch, which was effective in its own way. A very niche film that was fueling with violence.

The same things hold to an extent in Gulal. It's about politics, about power, also about love and violence is a chief part of it. It is a niche film too, though it had the potential to transcend. It would be an interesting question - why it is not?

The film is a story of a timid, naive student who comes to a town in Rajasthan and gets sucked into the politics of a group of Rajputs who seek independence. The ambition for power also ensnares him in love, which eventually wrecks every thing for almost every one.

It is an interesting topic, a brave terrain to walk into, which Kashyap regularly gets into. He does a good job of representing the environment, and even completing an effective journey in terms of being with the story.

However, as he does that, he tends to spread himself thin by dabbling into too many point of views. With fast-paced editing and with lot of other 'angles', it seems there is an opportunity lost to build this into a great tale.

The 'angle' of the mad brother of the Senapati, played by Piyush Mishra, commenting on the side courtesy his rants and songs is a nice thing, and is a great window to watch the events. The other angle of people wearing masks that you keep encountering throughout the film is a stylistic device that though not intrusive doesn't seem to do much.

The bane of the film tends to be what is considered Kashyap's strength - his dialogues. At times they seem too cute for effect, which takes the effect out of the telling.

However, it has to be said, even in trying to tell a complex story, there are a lot of silent moments that tend to grip you. Over-all the film holds you but somehow one fails to care for the characters. It walks into areas where you can be empathetic but somehow it falls short - be it Dilip Singh (the protagonist,) Banaa (Kay Kay) or Kiran (Dilip's lover.)

Yet...there are enough moments when you like the guys and there are many like Ransa or Baati (Deepak Dobriyal) since their caring sides have been revealed.

Kashyap also portrays a very interesting feminine side - a woman (teacher) who is raped and lives her existence, Kiran who is an illegitimate Rajput, whose brother (Aditya Srivastava) aspires to be the Senapati / Banaa; Kiran is a power-seeker, who can sleep around for her benefit, yet..she is governed by her brother. Then there is Madhuri (Mahi Gill) the parlor girl, who is the mistress of Banaa and...Banna's wife (Jyoti Dogra.)

The acting as expected from a Kashyap film is extremely good over-all. But in attempting to tell too much, despite an editing that is on the quick-side (which is not necessarily a strength), and decent camerwork plus lighting, the story involves you but...somehow fails too connect greatly with the characters.

Though's a solid line walked by Kashyap, where he colors himself in the milieu of a unique place and tries to tell a unique tale.

Writers: Raj Singh Chaudhary, Anurag Kashyap
Director: Anurag Kashyap

Rating ***
[Max Rating ****]

[Viewed on Mac courtesy a dvd on 12th Nov, 2009 at Langford Town, Bangalore]

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Blog: Breaking In: Zen and the Art of Guerrilla Script Marketing

Staton Rabin: Breaking In: Zen and the Art of Guerrilla Script Marketing

"If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you; …
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same …"
--"If," by Rudyard Kipling

Maybe, when he wasn't writing classic short stories and novels like The Jungle Book, Kipling was secretly writing movie scripts. That might explain why his immortal poem, "If," is such useful advice for screenwriters. Trying to "keep your head" in this business is a never-ending challenge. But staying sane is critical to success. If you're a movie star, producer, director, even an agent -- "crazy" might even be considered part of your job description. But if you're a writer, it's a luxury you can't afford. If you want to succeed in this business, you need to be able to "keep your head when all about you are losing theirs …"

Staton Rabin: Breaking In: Zen and the Art of Guerrilla Script Marketing

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Sites: Hindi Film Songs Lyrics

This site has extensive amount of content, including lyrics in Devnagari. If you are confused about the lyrics or how it's spelled then just select 'Song stats' and put information.

Like 'Kaminey Vishal', reveals this (after I have clicked on 'nagari' in devnagari on left):

Another site:
Smriti - Hindi Song Lyrics

Sunday, November 1, 2009


I finally caught up with this Oscar winner (Best Foreign Film) and was blown away by its story-telling.

The Austrian film directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky depicts what it claims to be the biggest ever counterfeiting activity - led by Nazis counterfeiting British Pounds and Dollars. By the end of the operation, they had produced more Pounds than the actual mint/s of United Kingdom.

The story is about the man, Salomon Sorowitsch who is the best at this game. He was a student of art but took the easy way out, or rather worked to become master at this art.

During the Nazi occupation, as he struggles to survive in his camp, he is picked by the man who had arrested him to head the 'printing press' for money.

The film starts with Sorowitsch at a casino, post Nazi-era and establishes him as a cold,  seemingly selfish person interested in blowing money and attracted to women. It then goes into a flashback to reveal the entire story on how Sorowitsch works with his team to counterfeit money and deals with the challenges and resistance within the camp.

The story is about a selfish person whose focus is on surviving but under the circumstance he risks every thing to save his people. He wants to survive and get through but his need is to help other people make it.

With a tight and gripping telling, with excellent acting the film creates a truly memorable experience. It's so much visual and with Sorowitsch being a loner, a 'no-talker', it's a flick that captivates you and takes you on a unique journey.

Based on a book by Adolf Burger
Writer: Stefan Ruzowitzky
Director: Stefan Ruzowitzky

Rating ****
[Max Rating ****]

[Viewed on UTV World Movies at Manish's in Bangalore on 30th Oct, 2009 @ 9.30 am]


By Writers' Program Instructor Barney Lichtenstein

In terms of content, it is almost impossible to say, as what one reader passes on as too "small" or character driven, his colleague down the road may eagerly recommend.  What another thinks is too high concept or violent, her counterpart may relish as a fresh take on a standard action vehicle.  These various reactions have nothing to do with story analysts being capricious – on the contrary, good readers are extensions of the eyes of development executives, producers, and agents for whom they work.

One thing however that distinguishes professional story analysts from non-professional readers is the number of screenplays read.  Through the hundreds, perhaps thousands of scripts covered, a story analyst becomes fluent in the language of film.  He or she recognizes and appreciates professional methods of screenwriting – what I call "in-between details".

- Layout and pacing – Lean descriptions (doesn't describe every turn of the hand and movement of the head).

- Dialogue – generally short lines, not speeches, unless the script is a showcase for dialogue.

- Opening shots should ideally touch on theme.

- Look for predominant tone established quickly and kept consistent, balanced. "Seeds" should be planted if it is going to change significantly.

- Does the screenplay grab you by bottom of the first page, ideally the first sentence?

- Writing should make the most of a lead's entrance.

- Do secondary characters and even minor ones speak with their own distinct voices? 

- Look for strong set ups, or what I call "planted seeds", and their payoffs. 

- Is length appropriate for genre?



Friday, October 30, 2009


It's interesting to catch up a film quite late in the day, when almost everyone you know has seen the flick. The expectations tend to be on the higher side if everyone has liked it. Though one also learns to keep them to almost zero especially when there are either new guys on the play or old folks whose works you have not been too fond of.

Wake Up Sid was recommended by many and liked by almost everyone I know. Though...I came out disappointed, which reflects the fact that there was some sort of expectation! However, when you step-back to analyze what you felt as you watched, you realize, which I did even while watching, that the film isn't so fresh, which it has been reviewed as courtesy the way setting pans out.

It tried to play cute for most of the part, which is a big sin in my book, and it follows the most standard technique - use 'cute' dialogues and play scenes that are trying to be deliberately funny.

The story is simple - a boy from a rich family enjoys life with zero vision / focus about his life ahead. He meets a girl who has come to Bombay to become 'independent' and they strike a warm friendship. The nice, harmless but irresponsible guy ends up being kicked by his father. He moves in with his friend and over the days discovers what life is about as he becomes responsible. He goes back to his loving folks and of course, discovers that he has found love in his platonic-friend.

It's a predictable story, which needs or needed a fresh, insightful telling so even if one knows how it would go, you enjoy - what happens next.

The fact that the story focuses primarily on the protagonist, Sid is a good thing; the story's p.o.v (point of view) is his and it doesn't go astray. But the problem is - what happens next. The tricky part in such a flick is that the character tends to be passive. What works in the film is that as one stays with Sid, you see him in action all the time - reacting to things and then taking decisions.

What does not work is how things build up slowly. It establishes the change in his life and doesn't move quickly playing the same thing again and again. The other sub-stories or plots are almost zilch, but what ever are present haven't been exploited much.

One wishes that Sid is thrown more deeply in a ditch so that the struggle is more challenging. The good part tends to be that the change in character isn't melodramatic, however the bane remains - playing it cute.

The scenes seem set-up to create laughs by the 'witty' dialogues, which are not necessarily up to the mark. The friends scene typically delve into that domain and so are the scenes with the mother (Supriya Pathak) that tend to be contrived. At times things even resolve too conveniently and when it comes to big moments like the discovery by Aisha (Konkona) about her love for Sid, the set-up is found wanting and as such you don't care much for the character.

But...what makes it work for the audience - showing the story of just these two people. Putting them in contrasting positions. Making them interact with cuteness flowing. Of course, all sets et al are Karan Johar style; this is a new thing in cinema - try to create 'real' people but still give them plush homes and sweetness-personified situations, which doesn't affect as long as one goes with the characters.

That's what makes it a hit, and of course, with peppy music playing along. However, with deliberate cute telling, with exposition that says what one feels, with simplistic resolutions, it fails to shine (for me.)

Writers: Ayan Mukerji, Niranjan Iyengar
Director: Ayan Mukerji

Rating **
[Max Rating ****]

[Viewed at PVR Cinemas, Forum, Bangalore with Tripathi, Mota and Lull on 28th Oct, 2009, 7pm show]


I had been wanting to catch up Won Kar-wai's flicks for long. He is a legend with many 'classics' to this name. So when I got the opportunity to watch ChungKing Express at Fun Cinemas, Andheri, there was no way I was going to miss it.

I had no idea what the story was about or what's the 'deal' with Won Kar-wai's films. So going with an open head made it a very interesting viewing.

ChungKing Express tells different stories. From what I recall (it's been a while since I watched it) the first one starts with a cop being ditched by his girl and falling for another woman who is going through her own issues and ends up drunk at his place; the second, unrelated story tells about a girl falling in love with another policeman.

The fact that two stories are part of one film, which are unrelated make it a not so normal viewing. The film production values are on the raw side but you are aware that an accomplished film-maker is at work courtesy the way the depiction happens.

The seemingly meaningless stories reveal about romance, betrayal & attachment. The stories, especially the second story seems to drag a bit but since the characters keep moving on, keep progressing the telling is pretty effective.

The film despite having no direct connection between the two stories manage to grip you courtesy the interesting characters who engage you and that's where Won Kar-wai scores including the clever way of using the songs and music.

The film or stories are not standard flowing. Highly likely that Kar-wai worked with an extreme low budget and courtesy his skills portrayed an effective portrait of the life of common people through his random-like action. He is like a painter who seems to free-flow with gay abandon and yet...conveying emotions through the characters.

Normal audience looking for entertainment may not have a great time watching this but cinema-loving folks, students of cinema should check this one out.

Writer: Won Kar-wai
Director: Won Kar-wai

Rating ***

[Max Rating ****]

[Viewed at Fun Cinemas with Bhumika on 15th Oct, 2009, 7pm show]

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Interview: Coen Brothers

Interesting insight into the way these guys think / work. On 'A Serious Man' and other stuff.

It varies so much from actor to actor. With John Malkovich, you couldn't possibly say less to make him happy.

I think, the way we imagine characters and scenes, and also stories in general, that would prohibit us—and this is a real backward way of approaching your question—from doing a movie like, in a weird kind of a way, Michael Clayton. You know? There's something about that completely naturalistic style within the current understanding of naturalism in Hollywood, you know what I mean, that we just don't truck with for some reason, and I don't fucking know why.

JC: And it goes to, I think, just the way we think about stories and actors, characters, and just scenes. You know?

EC: Right. If an actor tried to, you'd shake the actor and go, "No, you don't understand. It's a story." [Laughs.]

JC: But I say that it's naturalistic only, I think, within Hollywood's current idea of what naturalism is, because there isn't really that. That doesn't exist in the abstract as a pure thing.

Interview: Joel and Ethan Coen

Article: Winning funding strategies for content producers

How to raise $5,000,000+ for film production without committing neither crime nor suicide? Finance your film or TV show in 6 months. Winning funding strategies for content producers.

Weather you are an accomplished producer or a founder of an emerging production company, in the current economy you will be solving the same challenges – how to get your project funded without selling your birth marks.

You might already have a commitment for worldwide distribution, interest from the major stars, but… no money in the pocket… Well, at least not enough to produce a decent content.

I would never claim to be an expert in the film industry, but I will put my marketing hat on and share some ideas that are not necessarily new, nevertheless few of them that might give you some hints on new ways of looking at the whole approach to financing.

Here are some items of your action plan.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Blog: Contenders for Phalke award

On Phalke awards, I must share what a Hindi films fan shared with me. He had once asked me if I could recall one single situation in a movie where five of the Dada Saheb Phalke award winners figure. I tried but could not think. The answer was in K Asif's magnus opus, Mughal-e-Azam during the song, Pyar kiya to Darna Kya. The song features Prithviraj Kapoor, Durga Khote, Dilip Kumar. It was sung by Lata Mangeshkar and the music was composed by Naushad. All have won the award.

By Pankaj Vohra:
Blog: Contenders for Phalke award

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Re: Site: Screenwriter Tips

Ooooohhh...This is really a goldmine

A goldmine of dope that I discovered on the site: Life Tips, in the section Screenplay Tips. Pretty solid stuff and covers extensive topics.

Screenplay Newsletter Archive

Screenplay Links

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Site: Screenwriter Tips

A goldmine of dope that I discovered on the site: Life Tips, in the section Screenplay Tips. Pretty solid stuff and covers extensive topics.

Screenplay Newsletter Archive

Screenplay Links

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Linda Cowgill's book was our text book at CFS for writing shorts and script-coverage. Here's some stuff from her to consider:

Ten rules for a successful short script:

  1. Know who you're making your film for. If it's for yourself, that's who you have to satisfy. If you're making it as an entry into the industry, your film needs to work dramatically as well as technically. Competition is stiff.

  2. The longer the story, the better the film has to be. Length comes down to what the story dictates. But if a film is over 15 minutes it really has to be great to keep people watching.

  3. Write the script you can produce. Don't write a script with production values you can't effectively achieve.

  4. The best ideas are simple. Focus on one main conflict, develop and explore it in surprising ways.

  5. Set your film up in the first 60 seconds. If you're writing a ten minute (10 page) movie, you can't take the first 5 pages to introduce your characters before getting to your conflict. Establish your conflict as soon as possible.

  6. Make sure conflict escalates. Know what your character wants (the goal) and what's preventing him from getting it (the obstacle), and make sure your audience understands it, too.

  7. Try to develop the conflict in one main incident as the set piece of your project. Many great short films develop the conflict in one incident to great effect, exploring character in ways feature films rarely do because they rely more heavily on plot.

  8. If your film is less than 5 minutes, one type of conflict might be sufficient to satisfy your audience. But if your film is over 5 minutes, you're going to need to various obstacles or complications for your hero to face.

  9. Just because your film is short doesn't mean you can't have an effective mid-point and reversal. Anything that keeps your audience from guessing your ending is an asset.

  10. Make sure your ending is the best thing about your great film. Your pay off is what you're leaving the audience with and it's how they're going to remember you.

Here is the link to above article and also to some great dope by her on plotting, emotions, conflict et al (check the right-side column):
Linda Cowgill

Blog: Asha ‘disowns’ OP Nayyar

By Pankaj Vohra

....There is no doubt that Asha Bhonsle and her elder sister Lata Mangeshkar have been amongst the greatest singers in this country but music history should be a little more objective and not necessarily from their point of view or from the view point of people they have been close to. The two sisters have outlived most of their contemporaries and God should give them many more years to enrich our music. But over the years, they have apparently developed some biases and prejudices and this should not come in the way of giving an accurate account of things.

The programme on Asha was extremely good but she was hesitant throughout in naming OP Nayyar, the composer who actually was her real mentor. Many in the music world still say that had there been no OP Nayyar, Asha's talent may have remained latent and undiscovered for many more years. This composer, who died a few years ago was the original rhythm king of the industry and helped in shaping Asha's career more than RD Burman, also a great composer who later married her....

Full article:
Blog: Asha 'disowns' OP Nayyar

Monday, September 14, 2009

Blog: I Will Not Read Your Fucking Script

We know you've been working very hard on your screenplay, but before you go looking for some professional feedback, you might keep in mind the following piece by A History of Violence screenwriter Josh Olson.


....Which brings us to an ugly truth about many aspiring screenwriters: They think that screenwriting doesn't actually require the ability to write, just the ability to come up with a cool story that would make a cool movie. Screenwriting is widely regarded as the easiest way to break into the movie business, because it doesn't require any kind of training, skill or equipment.

Everybody can write, right? And because they believe that, they don't regard working screenwriters with any kind of real respect. They will hand you a piece of inept writing without a second thought, because you do not have to be a writer to be a screenwriter.

SciFi Writer David Gerrold Reacts to Olson's "I Will Not Read Your Fucking Script"

Monday, September 7, 2009

Short - Signs

Signs (12 mins)

Now...what's stopping any one to execute such a flick?!

Made for Schweppes. Schweppes branding was weaved within the film as was the Schweppes mnemonic device "schhhhhhh'. In 4 weeks The 12 minute long branded film is fast approaching a million views on Youtube and is the 57th top rated film on Youtube, ever.


Friday, August 28, 2009

Interview: Vishal Bhardwaj

In conversation with Vishal Bhardwaj

Extensive interview with reference to Kaminey; solid dope on VB's method of working with actors and his opinion on other stuff like music and editing...

(Long!) Excerpts:

I was really inspired by Tarantino's films, Guy Ritchie. That was the space. In that I had to hunt up something original, do something that hasn't been done before.

"And also it must be said that the boys and girls of this generation are indeed a lot more intelligent, a lot more aware. And awareness comes from exposure, and they have so much more exposure now"

Our audience itself is so star-struck that they need references, it takes them time to place a star in a different context. And a combination like this unnerves them.

If you're in the moment and listening for your co-actor, instead of waiting for your own line… as a director, that is the false note that you have to try and capture. Sometimes things don't look internal enough, the crying looks too surfacial. So you have to keep bringing actors back to the moment, the truth, the reality."

Vishal shuns rehearsals entirely, feeling they decapitate all notions of spontaneity. "You become so rehearsed there's nothing left. So we read the script, and we go deeply into character study."

What is not seen on the screen should be explored, and we should all try to live those unseen moments. So that when we arrive at this moment, the moment that is in the script, we'll bring some sense of that backstory, feel some invisible energy. Then the actor is not just coming and performing those lines."

Borrowing from reality is something that fascinates the filmmaker, and he describes how it was awkward to meet the stammering men, but amazing to hear their life experiences.

The current film, he says, has had a lot of improvisation, largely because all of Kaminey has been shot using handheld cameras. "Nothing was fixed. None of the actors knew exactly which angles we were using so they all had to do the entire scenes all the way through. And we would do axis jumps! Right from the first scene! Paagalon ki tarah shoot kiya hai," he beams wide.

Bhardwaj is almost embarrassingly effusive in his praise for Hussain. "I think we have a really great rapport. As professionals, we have such an identical gelling when it comes to cinema.

What happens is that always before shooting, I make a mix of the song in my own voice, picturise it and then come back and dub. I don't use the original artists till much later, unless it's a sync song. This saves a lot of time and the song is still being made, and because it's my composition I can sing it quicker.

We talk of dynamic editing and cutting scenes to music, and Bhardwaj cuts in, strongly disagreeing. "When you're shooting it, the shot was not conceived to the music, so it starts going wrong. I hate to cut to music. I cut separately. You should not have the music to stimulate you to cut. You cut it the way it should be, emotionally. And then put the music.

Music should follow the edit, edit shouldn't follow the music.

"A film is only made on two tables, yaar. The writing table and the editing table. Everything else is chaos."

Current Indian filmmakers he is impressed by include Anurag Kashyap — the man is all praise for most of Dev D — and Dibakar Banerjee, the man behind Khosla Ka Ghosla and Oye Lucky Lucky Oye, going as far as to mimic the young-Sardar scenes from the latter.

Consciously I never tried to say anything, but interestingly enough a message is born. A philosophical message.

In conversation with Vishal Bhardwaj

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Vishal Bhardwaj walks a somewhat different territory this time. Though he again dabbles into the dark side of humans, he takes the interesting route of humor in his attempt to tell a tale of a thriller which is set in the city that is the capital of amalgamation – Bombay. With so much of skill and talent, in evidence for long, Bhardwaj pulls off another successful story.

Playing on the story of twins, with one walking on the good side, another on the evil, he showcases a world that is full of corrupted folks with everyone trying to gain as much money and power as they can.

In a world full of deceitful men – drugs landlord, betting mafia, corrupt policemen and an amoral politician, this is chiefly the story of Charlie a small-time crook who dreams of owning his own booking window at the race course, and his (twin) brother, Guddu, his opposite, a nice and nervous bloke.

As Charlie gets lucky with a big haul of cocaine, the drug-landlord is after him. And As Guddu who has impregnated the aggressive Sweety is in a mess courtesy her brother, who is a bhai cum politician after his life. With them being caught by opposite gangs, it makes for interesting viewing.

For a thriller to work, the plot has to carefully intertwine and Kaminey works pretty solid. Bhardwaj plays on the narrative by breaking it in parts interspersed with flashbacks. It's technically not non-linear; the film keeps logically moving ahead but since it's edited in small-small units, for once it works good, especially as the various threads of the story are unfolded over the time, not at one-shot.

This is an interesting move – breaking the whole into many parts and managing to make it gripping. What really helps strongly in keeping the momentum going is the background music. But the key remains – the ability of Bhardwaj's team to create humor. It is by far the biggest binding factor, which makes the film quite entertaining.

Expectedly, and admirably as ever, Bhardwaj proves his high mettle as director in eliciting top-notch performances from everyone. Shahid Kapoor is not Shahid but Charlie and Guddu, and Priyanka is very effective. All character actors are spot-on.

Another great technique used to showcase the various elements of Bombay is to throw in different languages. There is the Bengali booking mafia who talk in Bengali and then the politician who is a Marathi, and with no sub-titling it makes it interesting and also challenging for the audience, who are not used to the fare.

This is where Bhardwaj deserves a salute – in attempting to change the accepted norms of film-making in India. It is a huge risk, but such films where the narrative is not expository where the understanding is in watching the film in patience without getting judgmental help in maturing the audience.

Another cool thing of the film is doing a good amount of shoot outdoors – trains and rails are the key motifs within the film. Considering the film is about the dark side of human nature the film is mostly shot in dark, and the element of rains plays a strong part too.

This is another of Bhardwaj's strengths – cinematography and art direction playing a critical role. This film is as slick as it gets in Indian cinema. Bhardwaj is a master of scenes construction and Kaminey shines in this regard. Not to forget – dialogues. He shows that he is likely to be India's finest dialogue-writer. Hardly any thing is superfluous and every bit adds to the meaning of the characters and story.

The issues in the film at times tend to be periods where the film slows down, where it almost feels that the film is getting too cute for itself, though it does seem to be a direct intent at times, which in itself is fine; this aspect is also exploited well by the playing R.D. Burman's songs and paying a tribute to him.

The film does seem to be doing too much at times – there are too many characters flowing and at times you almost feel short-changed; perhaps Guddu should have had more screen-time. There is also an excess of hand-held camera, which becomes jarring at times.

It's no doubt a challenging film to make, not because of the tale but because of the way Bhardwaj wants to depict the story visually. And he does pretty well once again. With an ability to score with such creativity and direct with so much of freshness, he once again highlights his talent as one of India's finest in films, who is head and shoulders above others.

Kaminey is about Charlie, a young ambitious kid, (youth of our times?), who is not morally bound, but eventually he has to face his dark side and choose what path he needs to take. But…don't bet on that!

Based on an idea by Cajetan Boy
Writers: Vishal Bhardwaj, Abhishek Chaubey, Sabrina Dhawan, Supratik Sen
Director: Vishal Bhardwaj

Rating ***

[Max Rating ****]

[Viewed in Delhi. At Sangam on 22nd Aug with Rajeev and on 23rd Aug at Fun, Moti Nagar with folks and Bunty + family]

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


The film is supposed to tell the story of our times - of how romance works today compared with the past. As it attempts to play it cute all the way it comes out too cute for good.

A boy and a girl quickly meet in London. Then decide to split since the girl is moving to Delhi to pursue her career. They close their relationship by celebrating with a break-up party. And as the boy (Saif) is alone, he meets up an old Sikh gentleman, a restaurant owner (Rishi Kapoor) who piles on him to reveal about the break-up with his girl (Deepika.)

They build a friendship where the Sikh person tells him about his own love story as he continues to push the boy to meet his girl. In the process, the film goes into flash-backs with the young Sikh being played by Saif and his own progress of friendship wherein he finds another girlfriend and the girl finds a boyfriend in Delhi.

The story per se may be alright, if not too original; the key is in the treatment and that's where the film falters. The boy is set-up to be a smart-alec, meant for Saif all the way, since perhaps he can sleep-walk through such Dil Chahta Hai or Hum Tum roles. He is supposed to be funny, whereas the girl is supposed to be cool. Independent, yet loving the boy, yet being on her own. This is where it perhaps is supposed to reflect the reality of our times.

Which is - boy and girl today meet to sleep with not much emotions at play. Unlike the past that was based on the romance. But works today too - the couple are soulmates and when the misguided boy is pushed by a wise-man, then...he discovers his true love and the confused girl also comes back.

The depiction is all the way cute, which means deliver 'hep' dialogues, which not only is supposed to create humor but also move the story forward. This is a strategy which a lot of successful masala flicks follow and like many it never works - when conflict is all verbal, when there are no strong 'action' events, when reliance on cute-dialogues is key you walk on thin ice. What it does and very successfully in the film - messes up characters. Technically, there is an 'arc', are never with the characters.

Being a film of today, it also tries to move too quickly - quick change of phases of period, which in itself isn't bad but..quick editing is never a solution for creating conflict. The story is told from the boy's perspective who is a smart-alec but with no wisdom. He is supposed to be a confused bloke. And the attempt to showcase that is through dialogues, which never let you sink-in with the character.

In the end the story of the Sikh tends to be more interesting - it is more visual, but...what's the story about? The boy is supposed to discover love and he is a passive player. It's an interesting trick to showcase the young Sikh as Saif but there is a big difference in the mindset of the two, plus there are no scenes to build up their connect.

The big problem in the flick is the lack of emotional journey one needs to take with the hero/heroine. It's almost missing with the latter since the story is not told from her point of view. It's the boy and the Sikh's. The only reason one may believe that there is decent chemistry between the two is simply because of the lack of other characters, which is good. need to let the emotions release so the audience can relate.

Nope, it's meant to be the opposite. Quick movement as if it denotes the quick pace of our times. But it's a myth that when you 'slow' a film it loses its pace. Since it keeps shifting back and forth without helping in any identification, the characters seem very much contrived. And the Sikh character is very much cliched and so is his interaction with the boy.

When transitions become quick, when the characters are too flat, when the story doesn't have too much of tension, it does not work. Interestingly, it does for many, and as such does good business and then more such cute films are spurned. Well...that IS the harsh reality of our times.

Writer: Imtiaz Ali
Director: Imtiaz Ali

Rating *1/2

(Max Rating ****)

{Watched the 9.50 pm show at Cinema 130 in New Jersey on 2nd Aug, 2009 with Guru and Sachin}

Monday, July 6, 2009


This is an entertainer with a great cast all in full form. A film about killings & murder with love blossoming, with issues of guilt and integrity, but it flows as a comedy all the way.

Two hitmen, Ray and Ken go to Bruges on the order of their boss, Harry. They wait there to be intimated about their target.

Ray hates being in Bruges unlike Ken who loves historic sites. Ray carries a huge burden of his last killing, which was also his first - he accidentally kills a young boy and is tormented by this all the time. He also meets a girl on the streets and they fall in love.

It's when Ken receives a call from Harry that the target is Ray since he killed a child the conflict gets completely pronounced. He shares a special, mentor-kind relationship with the young man and is unable to bring himself to kill Ray.

The tension is built well as he proceeds with all the steps to execute Ray but as he reaches close he sees Ray trying to kill himself. He stops Ray and sends him away. Only...Ray is arrested on the train and brought back to Bruges since he had hit a person who had earlier bothered him.

The film gets more interesting as Harry comes to Bruges in order to honor his own words and kill Ken. Only...he can't kill him since Ken refuses to get in a fight of draw, which is against the principles of Harry. But...when they come to know that Ray is back, things change.

The comedy works well on many quarters since it dabbles into interesting themes. Helped by great performance (Farrell as Ray is a complete delight) the film takes you on pretty entertaining ride.

Writer: Martin McDonagh
Director: Martin McDonagh

Rating ***1/2

[Max Rating ****]

[Viewed on 4th July at Hampden courtesy NetFlix]


The Austrian film nominated for Oscars 2009 is a great thriller which plays along with other genres of romance and drama.

An ex-conman, Alex works in a prostitution place and is passionately in love with a Ukrainian prostitute, Tamara. Tired of living in such a place Alex thinks of robbing a bank and when the boss of the joint takes extra interest in Tamara, they decide to run away.

Alex's best bet is to rob the bank and leave the country. And when he does that, things change in the manner he never expected. He ends up staying with his grandfather in the same town

There is parallel story of a cop and his wife who live in the town where the bank is robbed. The wife who is friendly with the old man, visits them regularly and gets involved with the robber.

There are many a twists in this tale. It is suspenseful. It deals with secrets and lies. Deals with the harsh realities. Deals with desire and integrity and...acceptance.

Writer: Gotz Spielmann
Director: Gotz Spielmann

Rating ***1/2

[Max Rating ****]

[Viewed on 2nd July at Starz Theatre, 5pm show]


The film that not many were rooting for to win the Oscar 2009 for Best Foreign Film and which it did, is a great piece of work about social stigma attached to certain professions but mostly it's due to the human emotions at play with regards to a man coming to accept the reality and forgiving the past hurt.

This is the story of a Cello player, Daigo in Tokyo who moves back with his wife to his native town as the symphony he works for goes under. He reads an advertisement for a job thinking that it's a travel agency, however when he lands he realizes the job is to assist the departed - dress-up the dead and put them in a coffin.

With no jobs on offer and being desperate Daigo decides to give a shot on insistence of the owner. He hides the true nature of his job from his wife since he knows she shall not accept such a job. Initially he has a hard time getting used to the strange rituals of this job but gradually he becomes aware on how much the last rites means to the family.

He becomes great at his work and has to deal with the hassles of the society, the biggest of all with his loving wife who leaves him. Amidst all this, the young man is always bitter and hurting about his father who left him and his mother when he was a child.

The story captures the life in the small silent town pretty well. There are stories within stories and each works to add more emotions. At times, the film seems a wee-bit extra sentimental but as you are always close to Diago, going along with his journey, with his internal struggle getting heightened, the film becomes more moving.

One of the big highlights besides the super performance by Mashiro Motoki is the stunning soundtrack. The music plays an incredible role and is also inherently connected to the character.

Writer: Kundo Koyama
Director: Yojiro Takita

Rating ****

[Max Rating ****]

[Viewed on 30th June at ChezArtiste, 3.45pm show]


Based on the memoir of wife of Daniel Pearle, the Wall Street Journal reporter kidnapped and killed by extremists, the film does an effective job of portraying the saga - the days in Pakistan that Mariane Pearle spent from his kidnapping till he was eventually assassinated.

The film begins with the events that unfold leading to the kidnapping and then the efforts of the Pakistan government and Americans to deal with this scenario. The film is told from Mariane's perspective and Jolie does an effective job. She is also perpetually supported by her room-mate, her husband's colleague, an Indian journalist played by Archie Punjabi.

The film has many Indian actors, the most prominent being Irrfan Khan, who is as solid as ever in an important role of the Pakistan CID Head who is in-charge of the investigation.

The tricky part in such a film is - how to unravel the conflict from the protagonist's perspective, when she is in a passive position. The men of action are the investigators. Mariane can't do much except when she has to react to the situations unfolding.

Yet being with Mariane's character, going through her emotions, the actions she takes within the limitations does the story work to a good extent.

Based on the memoir by Mariane Pearle
Writer: Sara Crichton and John Orloff
Director: Micahel Winterbottom

Rating ***

[Max Rating ****]

[Viewed on 27th June at Hampden courtesy NetFlix]


The French film is a story of a woman who believes in Kant's philosophy of not straying to physical pleasures eventually falls in love and can't resist being intimate. However with religious and family angles at play life doesn't turn out as desired.

The film dabbles in many areas - a woman trying to find her individuality in a society that makes it hard through religious beliefs, family stigma and explores sexuality from a woman's perspective.

It does an extremely effective job by telling the story of a Jewish lady living in Paris with her family.

Writer: Karin Albou
Director: Karin Albou

Rating ***1/2

[Max ****]

[Viewed at Hampden on 17th June, 2009 courtesy NetFlix]


What a disappointment...

Sam Mendes who made American Beauty and Road to Perdition, works with two bright talents - his wife, Kate Winslet and Leonardo di Caprio and creates a complete contrived picture.

Once the story starts to flow of a couple who get into domestic rift, the film reeks more and more of pretentiousness in terms of philosophising and easy resolutions.

It gets to an interesting level where they need decide to leave everything behind to move to Paris. However even then the lady's character's unpredictability creates a suspicion about the logic, but then it continues to spiral downward; the woman IS supposed to be unpredictable but the story doesn't hold.

It only ends in the two fighting with each other all throughout the film hoping or maybe believeing that the acting of Winslet and Caprio does a marvelous job. does but only to create a mockery of the film.

As such the self-indulgent film gets more and more boring, especially as many situations look so much inspired by American Beauty, trying to tell a story of another dysfunctional story.

Based on the novel by Richard Yates
Writer: Justin Haythe
Director: Sam Mendes

Rating **

[Max Rating ****]

[Viewed on 13th June at Hampden courtesy NetFlix]


An amazing story of a man being kidnapped by some dwellers in sand dunes who force him to stay with a single lady in a house within the dune.

There is no escape for him except to give in and live his existence. It's a world within a world that takes a stance at existence of man.

The 1964 Black-&-White film was penned by legendary writer Kobo Abe, and Teshigahara leaves his indelible stamp by shooting the film in sand. Every thing revolves around the sand - there is no escaping for the protagonist or the audience.

The film is a proof of how conflict can be created even with the supposed limited means of a story and a gripping story be conveyed in a feature. The man of science goes on a journey of adventure and learning, only to be caught, to struggle and from which there's no escape when and if you are caught amidst circumstances that you can't control.

Based on a novel by Kobo Abe
Writer: Kobo Abe
Director: Hirosha Teshigahara

Rating ***1/2

[Max ****]

[Viewed at Thornton & Hampden on 5th/6th June courtesy NetFlix]

Saturday, June 20, 2009


The much-acclaimed film in its attempt to provide 'drama' turns around some incidents and the characters, especially, Frost. And if you have watched the real interviews, then...something seems amiss.

Sheen does a great job at times in impersonating Frost and Langella is pretty effective in bringing Nixon, but if you love the underplay more than over-drama then...this one doesn't impress as much as it's supposed to!

Writer: Peter Morgan
Director: Ron Howard

Rating ***

[Max ****]

[Watched in mid-May @ Hampden courtesy NetFlix]


Passion shines. The filming became the movie became the life. A stunning insight into the making of Apocalypse Now.

The master filmmaker of Godfather went berserk, budget shot up like mad, actors went crazy and the shoot never got over! Coppola had no idea what he was doing. He met the President of Phillipines, took help of their army and was at their mercy, not to mention the literal hurricanes that knocked off the sets.

The film that was set to bury the filmmaker and yet...he came out. Watch Coppola lost on what to do. Watch what filmmaking is all about :-)

Writers: Fax Bahr & George Hickenlooper
Directors: Fax Bahr & George Hickenlooper

Rating ****

[Max ****]

[Viewed on 20th May @ Hampden on NetFlix dvd]

Viewed: FROST / NIXON (Documentary)

The facade of Nixon eventually shows as he flights from and arrives to the critical moments when he has to face the question of doing something 'wrong'.

It is interesting to see how he 'rights'  the 'wrong' by being the President of USA. And yet there are moments when he is caught perhaps in his guilt or in his desire to ask for forgiveness.

However no matter how David Frost tries to penetrate a direct apology is till missing. Frost does comes across as a serious contender taking taking on Nixon. As a film unless one is aware of the dynamics, it will not be found too gripping.

Perhaps more interesting than the Nixon interview are the thoughts and views of David Frost on this whole affair.

Director: Jorn Winther

Rating ***

[Max ****]

[Viewed on 29th April on Netflix DVD @ Hampden]


No doubt a stunning performance. Marion Cotillard won the Oscar for portraying a character that is based on the life of 'Edith Paif', who rose from the streets and became France's most celebrated singer during her times but lived a very fractured life.

Rating ***1/2

[Max Rating ****]

[Viewed on 10th May, 2009 @ Hampden courtesy NetFlix]


A great insight into the habitual act of Penguins dealing with perhaps the toughest place to live on earth - Antartica.

The documentary made under monstrous conditions takes us into the lives of these special creatures.

It is amazing to watch how the male and female go to pains to give birth and bring new life into the world, showing once again that affection and caring is just not the domain of humans.

In fact it is inspiring to watch the stead-fastness, the commitment, the effort of these animals to go about doing their 'jobs'.

Writers: Luc Jacquet & Michel Fressler
Director: Luc Jacquet

Rating ***1/2

[Max ****]

[Viewed at Hampden on 10th May, 2009 courtesy NetFlix]


Ozu delves into the affairs of a middle class by highlighting the struggles of a family amidst social customs and beliefs.

He depicts the life of a single father who wants his two daughters to settle down - one who is married and has come to live with him with her young kid; the other, younger daughter in love with a man who isn't too committed to her.

Famous for his low-camera shots, the black-&-white film gets inside these characters and effectively builds tension over a long period of time which works at seemingly slow-pace.

Writers: Kogo Noda & Yasujiro Ozu
Director: Yasujiro Ozu

Rating ***1/2

[Max ****]

[Viewed at Hampden on 4th May courtest NetFlix]


'Without Name' depicts the underworld of Mexico, and it's a messy, disturbing one considering how teenagers and young adults run the show. Based on reality that exists it highlights the deadly gang wars where the boys try to be men and die even before they become men.

This is a story of a young boy of one of the gangs who goes on a run as he ends up killing his boss when he saves a girl from him. Knowing that with not much to live, he decides to help the girl complete her journey - go to the other side of the world for a better life - to America.

It's a stark, dirty world out there and in the world of drugs & death, young kids get caught up and lose their lives.

Writer: Cary Joji Fukunaga
Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga

Rating ***

[Max ****]

[Viewed on 1st May, 7.15 pm show on a cloudy day with showers at Esquire Theater, 6th Avenue, Denver; dinner at 5 pm at BeayJoy's Pizza at Colorado Ave]


A 'real' animation film makes you forget that you are watching 'non-living' characters. You go along with their journey as captivated as any of a living one. Persepolis does the same.

A story of a woman trying to find her identity and meaning in life. Based on the backdrop of Iranian revolution this is a story of a girl who is an expatriate in France, covering many years, a film that ought to be watched.

Based on the comic book by Marjane Satrapi
Writers: Marjane Satrapi & Vincent Paronnaud
Directors: Marjane Satrapi & Vincent Paronnaud

Rating ***1/2

Max [****]

[Viewed on 28th April on Netflix DVD @ Hampden]


Majid Majidi is a film-maker with a heart. Each film he makes is rooted deeply into humanity. He uses the medium to tell us stories about individuals who work within certain boundaries, who are caught up in an imperfect world, but...whatever domain they belong to, they come out shining in love and affection.

In Song of Sparrows, Majidi takes us on a journey of a man struggling to make a living. Existing within the constraints of society, trying his best to provide for his family, he lives an ordinary life. But under the sacrifices that man can make, with the innocence of children at display, Majidi scores another poignant film.

Writers: Majid Majidi & Mehran Kashani
Director: Majid Majidi

Rating ****

[Max ****]

[Viewed at Starz Theatres, Tivoli on 26th April]


Mike Leigh walks a 'lighter' territory by telling a story of a carefree, happy-go-lucky lady; he follows her life and looks at life closely unfolding against the nature of this effervescent lady with a heart.

Leigh, famous for his 'serious' films, does delve into that domain, but...with a character who is full of life, almost crazy, however showing the humanity in as moving manner as ever.

Writer: Mike Leigh
Director: Mike Leigh

Rating ***1/2

Max {****}

[Viewed on 24th April at Hampden, NetFlix]