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Stories from a MUMBAIKAR…

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Once he completed his graduation, Alber had caught hold of one verity he was not guilty of – His dreams were too big to be detained within the one-room workshop of Kareem Tailors; the epiphanic sounds within his self-proclaimed insane mind were meretriciously louder than the continuous paddling rhythm of his Abbuu’s sewing machine…

“A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other” asserts Charles Dickens in his novel A Tale of Two Cities. How could he possibly know that?

It was a dusky compendious evening in the laggard town of Latur (eastern Maharashtra) when I first came face-to-face with a mystery. The dust-cloaked greasy face of ALBER MASHAYAK was surprisingly and unassumingly glittering with delight. Mystery Man.

I had never seen a man, 6 feet tall, an unsubtle physique, a pedestal nose, in his early fledgling twenties and in my acquaintance, to be wondrously excited about selling movie tickets outside a single screen theatre, infamously named Sapna. I would refrain the readers from getting into the legal sense of Alber’s act. For he, an enduring movie buff, was in divine happiness over the Friday release of the movie Hum at Sapna.

Jumma chumma de de (read “Jumma, give me a kiss”)” he hymned as he passed dexterously across the thick crowd of youth brigade, presumptuously dressed in an unbuttoned black shirt knotted at the ends to mimic a film star from the movie.

And Yes, it was a hymn for Alber. An ardent passion can turn a flimsy movie song into a hymn. For the Man. Mystery. Again.

“You are a commerce graduate. Second class passed! How could you resort to selling movie tickets illegally? Have you no sense?” Alber’s father – his non-condescending Abbuu, confronted him as he arrived home for dinner.

“Hmmm,” Alber’s sonorous voice could only come up with this. His efforts were mostly concentrated gulping the rice he was served by his mother, his Ammi.

Alber finished his swigging act and rushed back to his room, a small under-the-staircase arrangement that hosted a charpoy and a small lamp; emblazoned posters of film stars surrounding him all along the cracked walls of his personal den. –  Dreams. Uncanny.

Alber had been a good son for his parents. Mostly. His academics were pertinent. Not in a way that his parents boasted his achievements aloud, but they weren’t ashamed of their underachieving son either. His Abbuu, usually dressed in stark white pyjamas and a befitting white kurta, intermittently recalled his son’s, young Alber’s hullaballo whenever a new movie released in the town.

“He used to drag me from my tailor shop, holding my kurta with his tight grip, pleading me to take him to the movie theatre,” Abbuu’s words had a sense of fatherhood when he narrated Alber’s stories as a kid to his friends at his tailor shop. Kareem Tailors.

“May Allah show him the right path. Once my son gets a government job, I will be free from my worries.” Abbuu’s usual ending remarks of a conversation were more an appeal than an asseveration to the Almighty.

The maniacal euphoria the city of Mumbai breathes is veritable and does not exude any scientific or psychological validation in the regard for that matter. ALBER MASHAYAK could not agree more.

Once he completed his graduation, Alber had caught hold of one verity he was not guilty of – His dreams were too big to be detained within the one-room workshop of Kareem Tailors; the epiphanic sounds within his self-proclaimed insane mind were meretriciously louder than the continuous paddling rhythm of his Abbuu’s sewing machine.

MUMBAI was the destination. Alber’s elusion was orchestrated with the inclusions of robbery – Ammi’s Dabba savings, as she referred it; and a late night eloping with one’s beloved dreams. His train travel among the vegetable vendors seated near the toilet door of a passenger train was eventless. The stink around was an ironic signal of the impediments to come.

The journey of ALBER MASHAYAK within Mumbai was multi-folded and jolty – being a spot boy (helper) on the sets of films, television soaps; being an official ticket-window employee at Galaxy Cinema, Bandra; then gradually moving to the role of production assistant on T.V advertising engagements; to leapfrogging to second campaign manager for Parag Sarees – He was unstoppable as the wind. AND RAMBUNCTIOUS TOO JUST LIKE A TWISTER.

Finally at the end of the 6th year of his exile, Alber made that one call he was planning for years – “Hello, Abbuu, Salam Alekum! Alber bol raha hoon. (Read – “Hello, papa, this is Alber”)

The next day the Mashayak family received an invitation to the opening of a company Kareem Film Distributors Pvt. Ltd. Accompanied with it were 2 AC-Tier train tickets to Mumbai.

Alber had proved himself instrumental in the generational metamorphosis of Kareem Tailors to Kareem Film Distributors Pvt. Ltd. Today the distribution company handles most of the distribution business in Mumbai and North India territory for the most prominent film producers in the Indian film industry.

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‘UDAAN’ of Parallel Cinema, and Parallel Careers

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“O memories mine, pieces of reminiscence that art gone,

A touch, thy sense still prevails,

On the timeless grounds from life to death I walk,

That I feel not for the barefoot me, for I ail.”

….my translation of a verse from the 2010 film ‘Udaan’, written and directed by Vikramaditya Motwani.

Why Udaan? I asked myself. Why not? I replied. I have watched it 47 times already and the 47th instance being a recent one, 10th Feb, 2013 post-midterm.

The film has been an integral part of my movie-studying experience since its release in 2010. Though it was a flop show at the box office, grabbing a meager 3 crore in its lifetime, it did include itself into the lives of a handful of those that value the script part of a film more than the industry numbers.

A young, rebellious Rohan amidst his desire for creative possibilities and his nettlesome choler for the one person in his life, he comes across as his ‘father’, forms the crux of this artistic workmanship from Vikram Motwani.

A countable number of filmmakers in India have tried to weave a story around a strained ‘father-son’ relationship. The Elizabeth fame crossed-over director Shekhar Kapur and his Masoom is worthy of a mention.

What is it that makes Udaan strike differently than others? Whilst I was digging for an answer since 2010 – read the script and watch the movie; read the script, watch the movie again – repeating this exercise 47 times to this day, I found myself attending a talk by the ad filmmaker Prahlad Kakkar during MANFEST 2013.

Risks or risk-averse MBAs, nose-browning or individualism, creativity or run of the mill – could form the list of keywords plucked from his talk. It hardly took any time for me to correlate Mr. Kakkar’s dysphemistic conveyance to Udaan’s standout appeal.

Vikram Motwani’s attempt at a simplistic play of scenes – be it the father-son jogging schedule to portray their mental rift; be it Rohan’s puerile yet assuasive poetry narration to his benumbed school friend or the innocence in Arjun’s (stepbrother) day-to-day actions – is rarely epitomized in Indian film arena. A Risk. Individualistic? Yes, and without any nose-browning to adhere to the precedents. Left a mark? Ofcourse.

So, is “run-of-the-mill” (in cinema or in careers) now an overrated cliché??? Or is it still your way of life?? Hasn’t individualism hit you yet??

The answers and the interpretation to this abstract write-up are left to the readers.

TALAASH 2 – Pilot Script

“TALAASH 2 – The Answer lies in the City”

(Pilot Script)

By – Rahul Nilangekar

 

ANUJ BAJPAI

“The best way to predict the future is to create it!”

He smirked, glorifying himself aloud for his wife in the SUV.

Roads of South Mumbai, past 2am, are a nefarious tale stitched up by the soothing lonely silence around; accompanied only by a crimp of breeze, subtly cooled by the sea.

Anuj Bajpai was aware. He wheeled the Hummer zipping past the Bademiyan corner (a famous South Mumbai spot for nocturnals) on the Colaba Causeway at a breakneck pace.

Happiness had hit him after a long stretch of clamber – A career strike that he had always dreamt of right from the hellbound days at the Premier Institute of Management to his stint at McKinsey & Co. He was, finally, made a partner in the firm.

Unvanquishable. He felt it. Perfectly.

 

CUT TO (INT.): Colaba Police Station, Mumbai

V.O

Tambey, tii Red-Light waali file

gheun ya zara

(read – Tambey, bring the Red-Light file)”

Devrath Kulkarni was queasy.

The recent streak of raids and sting operations under his supervision, unearthing prostitution rackets veiled under business conferences and commercial events in and around the city, had parented an unending stir everywhere – much to the dismay of the top brass of Maharashtra Police, the politicians and a few corporate gaffers alike.

Atmaram Tambey, with his belt barely gibing his corrupt paunch, arrived at Kulkarni’s table.

DEVRATH KULKARNI

“Imagine someone sitting on a pile of

grenades waiting to be exploded.

That’s how I am feeling right now!”

Kulkarni was on the verge of a breakdown.

Tambey was not expected to respond. He did not. Though his thoughts ran unrestrained relating the situation with that of an ex-policeman from the past. Tambey was a knavish man.

DEVRATH KULKARNI

“I am wondering what

Shekhawat sir would have done.”

Kulkarni had always considered himself a protégé of Surjan Singh Shekhawat (a.k.a Suri), a voluntarily-retired ex-cop. The last case they had worked together had turned out a mishap for Suri, juddering his mental state. Post the closure of this presumably “A Final” case, the superiors in the department had questioned Suri’s ability to discern reality from fabrication. Suri had remained silent and had tacitly accepted to retire immediately. On his own accord.

Kulkarni was ambitious and agile but lacked his mentor’s righteousness. His nimbleness, though, had earned him the control of Colaba police station after Shekhawat’s departure.

TAMBEY

Sahib, Shekhawat sir hotey toh ye case bhi

aatmao se hi solve karwatey!

(read – Shekhawat sir would have come up with

some supernatural angle to this case as well!)”

Tambey giggled and left the room.

 

CUT TO (EXT.): Lamington Road, Mumbai

The dreary night bosomed the river of dark seedy smoke as KHANGRA puffed a chillum, resting himself against the steel-rimmed frigid bus-stop bench. No work nor intentions of doing any.

Khangra was one of the many unwitting outcomes of the Dongri Remand Home in Mumbai (police-run minor/children remand home). Born in Saikhul, in Churachanpur district of Manipur and parented by two jhum field workers, he found his way to Mumbai and then to Dongri Remand Home at an early age. An incisive larcenist in the books of Mumbai Police, he had an uncanny ability to be thoroughly shrewd in most of his off-colour jobs. Yet, like every other crook, he was foolishly impatient with his dream of that ‘one last big-score’ in Mumbai.

Khangra’s dreamless slumber turned a short-lived one interrupted by his gaudily loud mobile ringtone.

“Hello” he answered.

“Chillar…”

“Hmmm” he answered again, aptly recognizing his informant Chillar – a 12 year old waiter at a tea stall in the area.

“There’s a Hummer. MH-02-MC-1111. Abandoned. Check it out! ”

As hastily as he could, Khangra covered his distance canvassing the Lamington Road and each and every alleyway leading to it. He had walked for a couple of miles when his eyes rolled over a black Hummer parked just beside the NO-PARKING zone. He went for the door. Unlocked. He started searching the interiors and found a blue Nike bag full of mid-sized packets.

“Coke..its coke!” he assured himself as he sniffed a pinch of the substance packeted in the bag.

FADE IN (INT.): Morning. Bajpai residence, Juhu

“I don’t remember anything from last night. Do you? How did we get back home?” Anuj was trying hard to make sense of things. His wife was numb.

“I think…” she paused. Her eyes were grievous. “They molested me! All of them.” Her numbness cracked open with a drop of tear casting over her bruised cheek.

 

 

 

 

Categories: Uncategorized

Mumbai believes… (Excerpts from ‘Mumbai dreams…’)

December 17, 2012 Leave a comment

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Religious sensibilities are often imbibed in Mumbaikars. The precarious truce between the two predominant  religions (H&M) dwelling in the nooks and corners of Mumbai has always been a subject for politically moulded views and equally sensationalising media.

Growing up in the Mumbai (then known as ‘Bombay’) of early 90s, witnessing the cannibalising riots and bombings of 1992-93, gains a prominence in my childhood memories. Flashes of crude impertinence taking the form of inhumane insanity was visible even to the naked eye of an 8 year old. The fresh-fruits stall of a Rahimchacha beside the community hall was not safe for someone named Rahul. Not anymore. The notable Haribhai  samosewalla  was not safe for Rahul’s friend Iqbal either.

“Rahul, don’t ever go to Rahimchacha’s stall. It’s dangerous. Woh bure log hai! (read – Those are the bad guys!)”  The same was supposedly fed to Iqbal by his kin about Haribhai’s stall.

During the riots, the playful Mumbai evenings were replaced by a stern schedule of bread and vegetable purchases, adhering to the curfew timings. My father’s advertent walks in the marketplace, with one hand engaged to a red-ribboned white cloth-bag and other firmly gripping my wrist, were fast; his eyes intermittently exchanging glances, once at his wrist watch, once at my mother’s to-buy list. Uncluttered.

But, sensibilities do change as you become an adult walking your own walk.

……

Saddam Hussein, Iqbal’s father, supported his thirteen member family by selling books in the Fort area of Mumbai.

“I sell books of Barbara Cartland to Baudelaire. Which one would you like to read son?” He smirked as I paved my way in through the heaps of books kept on the road pavement that stretched from Marine Drive to Flora Fountain.

Iqbal, seemingly benumbed, never really sensed the depth of books. His father’s wayward ardour about his business as a bookseller far exceeded the vivid intensity of the illiterate character he, so effortlessly, conceled.

……

“Revenge is known to every young and old, every man and woman. We will avenge the innocent blood that has been shed no matter what it takes.” It was far from a cry. It was an unheralded furore on the part of Saddam Hussein.

The transition from a pavement bookseller of Flora Fountain to an opportunistic leader of a small clan of aggravated beings was queer. His concealed frustration as he followed the TV news at my house in Lalbaug was not beyond my juvenile senses. His visits to my house in the evening for watching news and an elderly talk with my father had stopped. Eventually.

……

15 March 1993 Bombay Bombings

“It seems Saddam Hussein was the one who parked the explosive filled vehicle at Plaza cinema. People are talking. It’s not hard to believe!” I still remember the exact words from my father as he returned from office and conveyed the rumor to my mother.

…..

Long-distance Relationship, from Lucknow

‘All the characters, incidents and places in this article are fictitious. Resemblance to any person living or dead or any incident or place is purely coincidental.’ 

——————————————————————————————————————————————–

“What are Adjustment Entries? Anyone?” The professor pricked the aura of silence in the class.

A class filled with vacuous stares of poor engineers, with an exception of a delighted, bright soul.

Shilpa answered the question in a sharpest possible way and right at that moment, a single thought punched the entire class –“a FRA lecture from Shilpa!”

But, one not-so-bright soul, seated right behind Shilpa, was delighted too. For reasons unknown.

FLASHBACK

“Hello.”

“Hi. It’s me.” It was Piya.

“Hey, I am busy with something. Can I call you back?”

“Sure.” The response from Piya was timid and the ‘sure’ did taste a bit acrid. But, it was definitely better than a war cry.

[For all those who cannot make out a story without the ‘character introduction’ part, let me do the honours.

Piya is a girl. And Rahul is a boy. (That forms the shrewdest introduction that I have ever

written :P)  Sarcasm apart, let me rephrase it.

Piya, from the story, is a blood-sucking vampire. And Rahul, from the story, as she feels, is her prey for life. (Ah!  Writers should avoid being extremely histrionic. That’s a sign of bad writing)]

The war had just been delayed for better or worse.

Amidst the CV submissions and MM-I project group discussions, it turned 3 am in the morning. ‘Devil’s hour’ as they call it. And, the devil did call.

“Hello” I answered the call.

“What are you doing?” Piya whipped the question directly from Mumbai.

“FRA. There’s a quiz tomorrow.” I replied miserably.

“You know whenever I talk to you these days, I feel as if I am reading Economic Times. You, with all your FRAs and MMs and BIOs and ITCs and hell…It all sounds like reading some GDP forecast!”

For all the ignorant minds, let me make it clear – this is how a ‘Phd in Psychology’ girlfriend sounds like. She always thinks of herself as being the master of all trades.

“Can I call you back, Piya? I am in the middle of something.” I turned insipid.

I had other important things to deal with.

“Can I call you back???” Piya repeated annoyingly. “You broken piece of record. Don’t call me back.” And she cut the call.

Without giving it a second thought, I got back to the GDP forecasting (:P how foolish was that!!) – I mean I divulged myself into FRA.

A few days and nights passed by. It was a time when weekend din’t seem like one. Not that I was into the pain of longing for Piya. The CV iterations were my first priority.  Piya was last. How could I violate the typical shrewd-boyfriend protocol! (The protocol is prevalent in most parts of Mumbai.)

However, during this period, I did research about LDR (read Long-distance Relationships).

And as the MM-I effect would have it, I came across the 3Cs of managing a LDR – Communication, Commitment and Clear preference. I just had to start with a CP sheet and come up with a working strategy. : )

But before that, during one night at the Devil’s hour (how could she miss that time! It suited her), I picked up her call.

“Hello.” I muttered, half asleep.

“What are you wearing?”

What in God’s name was that? Din’t seem like a conversation-starter question at all.

“It’s been just an hour since I slept. I have a BIO presentation tomorrow.” I muttered again.

“What are you wearing?” The voice, now sensual, repeated.

I had to reply. Though in the form of a mutter.

“I am wearing a black business suit. It’s the most comforting thing to wear in bed. You should try it sometimes…hmmm” And the phone fell off my hand as I dived deep in dreamless slumber.

And, the next day, one more not-so-bright soul, was delighted too. It was his Independence Day, for he was sure that the devil won’t return again!

<DO WATCH THE VIDEO BELOW>

Categories: Story, Uncategorized

The Amazing Spiderman, from Lucknow

“With great power, comes great responsibility!” The byword has become a bit of a cliché with the sequential release of triplet Spiderman films from Columbia pictures.

And now THE AMAZING SPIDERMAN has returned. Not in the form of a sequel but in the form of a REBOOT!

Being crazy is not something Columbia Pictures is good at. But, then who would reboot the same old spidy-story and bring out a product in the market (MM-I is having its language effect! J)  that has already eaten up consumer speculation and lacks an element of surprise for the film-goers.

We all would agree to one fact that the Marketing team at Columbia pictures would have definitely prepared their CP sheets (no pun intended!) and brainstormed on this case study – “The Amazing Spiderman : A product repackaging”

And after getting through the ISSUES, ORGANIZATION, PRODUCT, PRICING, SALES, PROMOTIONS, (Am I sounding too MM-I or is it the headache tablet I just had that s dizzying my thoughts??? ) they must have narrowed down the main issue, tried for alternative solutions, made a decision..blah blah blah.

But, on a serious note, if I really come to a self-evaluation as to why I would want to travel 10kms to the city, amidst all the Nirdosh and Biocorp and Haaris’ outstanding address to the class in CFM (I wanted to put that somewhere 😛 a PLUG!) and quizzes and committee interviews,  and watch the new flick, I would come down to saying – “Its Cool..The Amazing Spiderman is cool..”

What the Marketing team at Columbia Pictures ingeniously figured out is – The new product would sell if we make it look Cool!! (This may or may not fit any concept in Kotler.)

Casting Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone is cool.

Garfield has turned into a female eyecandy (read female fantasy) post ‘The Social Network’ and is catching up with the so-called female heartthrob Robert Pattinson.

And Emma Stone is hitting the scene hard these days. (I loved her in ‘Easy A’)

The 3D magic too works in favour of this new spidy-avatar viz-a-viz the old Tobey Maguire flick in action. All in all, the ‘COOL’ factor might actually sell!!!!!!!!!

So, would I be able to make it this weekend for a SPIDY show? Only time will tell.

Coz, with an admission to a great college, comes great responsibilities (read ‘activities that eat the hell outa your time!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!’)

Categories: MovieTalk, Story

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.