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Archive for May, 2011

Mumbai Dreams – Part I



The abnormalities of Mumbai beseem this unduly congested city, thought the man sitting on a bench at the Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus (formerly known as Victoria Terminus). The usually blatant railway station in Mumbai had chosen to remain silent for the past ten minutes.

    For the man.
    No clanking of trains. No timely announcements. No buzzing of the daily commuters. No creaky chaiwallas (kids carrying kettleful of tea, with tiny hands holding a balancing tower of paper-cups, short flaccid steps paving their way through coarse men and numb women). SILENCE.

The searing heat of Mumbai summers, blatantly known for drenching the ambitious dwellers in sudor, and the exploiting trait of Mumbai television industry, represented by a handful of superstitious and mine run production ventures, had exacerbated his woes. For he, a fledgling scriptwriter in his early twenties, had been at work for the entire summer day battling for opportunities to earn his share of write up in a screenplay for a television sitcom.

“You better be good this time with your write up. Ektaji wants a perforating episode to be telecasted tonight. It will be shown to viewers with the title suggested by Ektaji – ‘Pavitra Rishta Mahaepisode’ (‘Virtuous Relations Grand Episode’).” 
The director had conveyed emphasizing the title, with his hands mimicking a hoarding in space. Typical gestures of a motion picture director.

“Do put some extra rancour amidst the lead pair. Also, we can have a few scenes by killing the protagonist’s brother. We need some heavily emotional glycerine scenes” The director had added in a holistic tone.

“Rahul, you better be good this time.”

The director’s warning cry before disappearing for his lunch had sounded  more restraining than encouraging.

The offstage grimace of this neophyte writer in the television scripting arena had been appalling lately. The Mumbai television industry churns out a superfluity of sitcoms that straddle the limited creative content written on the foundations of romance and the household spurts of epithets between monster-in-laws. A winning formula followed by most of the industry pundits. For a writer, it was callously implied to adhere to these norms and avoid traversing any untouched aspect of story-telling. By the book.

The writer’s afternoon had been weary. Plot Designing. Character Segregation. First Draft. And no time for lunch.

The first draft had turned into an exact portray of his director’s plain unembellished suggestions. Although a smearing touch of finesse to the characters, their behavioral convention was a much needed ingredient to the story, the writer had been reluctant towards it. He was fearful of taking this stride that could annoy Ekta and her accomplices and cost him his chance of writing for this sitcom.

“Better to be a regular writer with a job, money than trying to be an Artificer, a Craftsman and be a cast away.”  He had considered.

Eventually, the draft script had moved up the ladder.

It is presumptively inconceivable to decrypt the pattern in which scripts are reviewed in this television industry. A task that can let down even a gallant writer.

“This is not the way I wanted it to be. It lacks the emotional punch. Raw. It has the elements I had told to include. But its not commercial.You don’t understand what I’m saying!”  The director turned into a confounded philosopher with the first-draft script in his hands.

The lead character being sad about his brother’s demise resorts to cursing people around him, delivers over-the-top dialogues. Squalling.

“This blizzard display of perceptible emotional chaos is commercial. This is what you mean a**” The writer had not been able to put forth his understanding of the situation and his paradoxical opinion on it.

Second draft was assigned to another writer with traditional writing sensibilities.

Disdain.

The writer had perceived this doom as an opportunity to search for work that is originative and doesn’t bind his liberal want for contentment. He’d called a few of his busy ghost-writer friends and inquired about any need of an adjunct to share their burden of work. No Respite.

He’d received a call from one of his acquaintance and, with no halcyon choice at hand, had consented the offer to work as a second-level production assistant for the finale episode of the Indian counterpart of American Idol. The shoot was scheduled to commence at 2:00 am at a nearby film studio.

With two barren hours on his hands, he had taken shelter on a bench at the Terminus.