I have often observed that Indian movies have a habit of skipping over various aspects of a character’s development in a rush to tell the entire story in the allotted time. Story telling is a noble pursuit, in that the audience is nowadays impatient and quick to judge. It takes a lot of combined work by everyone involved, from the script writer to the editor, to release a product that is worthy of people’s time and money. Consequently, if the end product is a confused, winding tale, it is a failure of every single person involved in the storytelling process.
Note: Spoilers Ahead. I encourage you to read them before you go waste your money on the movie.
Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s recent movie ‘Ram Leela’ has failed me in this aspect. The movie has been called everything from an Epic to a piece of beautiful cinema, and it is all of that. The story is fantastic and the sets were something straight out of Saawariya. But the characters left something lacking. Here are my main complaints -
1. When did they fall in love? This is the first questions my friends asked as we exited the movie. A Holi scene with the firing of a gun does not constitute the beginning of a love affair. The Storyteller (since Bhansali is the Writer, Director, Producer, Songwriter and Editor of this movie, I’m going to call him the overarching Storyteller and place the entirety of the blame on him) seems to believe in love at first sight in a world that is increasingly practical. This does not fly. The characters do not seem to have ever had any interaction before that scene and yet, they do not waste a moment in falling in love.
2. Why is the second half bereft of Ram’s emotions? The first half of the movie seems fairly balanced, with each character’s perspective being explored. Suddenly, in the second half, the focus shifts on Leela’s actions (not thoughts, the director forgot inner-monologue) and completely ignores Ram’s actions. The reasons for Ram’s apparent indifference towards Leela, his unwillingness to call or contact her even after he is declared Don and has his mobile phone with him, his new-found hatred towards Leela’s family are all unwarranted and unexplained. The Storyteller could have easily forsaken a song here or there to allow for such story arcs to be explored. Instead, while making what is obviously an Art film, Bhansali chose to walk the confusing middle path of raunchy numbers and long cinematic scenes which left someone like me, who goes to watch a movie for its story and not its cinematography, in total anguish.
3. Why is Leela not angry at Ram in the second half and then suddenly all rage? Leela, upon discovering Ram’s apparent disloyalty, doesn’t show a speck of anger, instead sends her sister-in-law to pass along a message to Ram, leading to a rape scene that though beautifully shot, makes no sense at that point. I do acknowledge that such scenarios happen, where, in India, a woman of one family is raped as revenge for some act against a woman of the other family. This, it seems, is a reality that the Storyteller successfully captured. But the story does not naturally flow towards this. Specially because when Leela suddenly becomes Don, she unveils anger which has suddenly appeared out of nowhere. By the way, the actions leading to her becoming Don were fantastic, but the next point will show you that they were not at all well executed.
4. The ‘Nagada Sang Dol’ song has one Leela too many. Baa despises Ram and wants to end him. Thus, the song and dance sequence as a time to accomplish an execution is excellent. Except that Baa would not allow Leela to even step in front of Ram in this sequence, let alone allow her to dance in the assembly, knowing full well that Leela still harbors positive emotions towards Ram. Everything else about that sequence makes perfect sense, but Leela’s presence there literally destroyed it for me.
5. The ending sequence makes little to no sense. No, I do not mean what happened in the end. I’ve not read Romeo & Juliet but I know that the fate of the two stories can be no better than that of Soni Mehiwal. The fact of the matter is that the absolutely last scene was useless and stretched well beyond the requirement. The point where Baa fires the gun should have been the end all. The bodies could have been discovered by the sister-in-law upon her joyous arrival. But instead, the Storyteller went all mushy on us by adding romantic dialogue over dialogue, taking away the essence and brevity of the scene with every word.
That’s all I remember from the movie and will add my complaints as I remember them. At first I thought that maybe in the US there was a shorter print of the movie based on people’s taste for shorter movie times. But that is not the case. The Storyteller was exceptionally incapable of executing such an interesting story because of the pitfalls of commercial cinema and blindly assuming that people enjoy a half-baked story. I am not asking for Twilight-styled inner monologues, but the least I hope from Indian Storytellers is that they will consider the full development of a character while they go about writing, directing and editing the stories that they present to us.
Samsung is talking about 800,000 shipped Smartwatch units. Yeah, whatever. No one’s buying them, no one’s talking about them. At least not in my part of the Internet. Here’s the thing. People call Samsung an Apple competitor. Really? Android fans jump to the HTC One now. The Fitbit Force looks more like a smartwatch than the Samsung Smartgear.
I saw “The Italian Job” yesterday. Samsung is the Steve to Apple’s Charlie in the movie. Samsung barely has enough imagination to last it a few years before stealing someone else’s idea.
When you’re trying to break into a new market, an important part of that process is innovation. The ‘thing’ Samsung is dangling in front of us looks like something Casio put out in the 90s. When Tesla came out with an electric car (which is essentially what it is), did they say, let’s make another boring iteration of an electric car that drones like a bee and doesn’t go over 60 mph? No. When Nest made a thermostat, did they make it look like every other thermostat in the market. Not at all.
Why does it seem so hard to innovate? Why does it seem like Samsung cannot look at a device and dream up something different? Maybe because Corporations don’t dream.
come to me slowly
and stand besides me
like a friend
for I will have lived fully
by the time you come.
stand in attention
like an enemy
and let us fight
till the end of eternity
before you take my soul.
do not creep up suddenly
and take me with
a treacherous knife in my back
like a wretched, unwary man.
fight me like an enemy
or greet me as a friend
but be not a stranger
when you take me in the end.
(Rahul goes home to his wife. Setting: Home, with a few chairs. The IT office is in the background, covered by only a thin veil, as if to depict that life always revolves around the office.)
Rahul: Rajjo darling, kaisi ho? Din kaesa tha?
Rajjo: Hai! Pucho mat! Kitna kaam tha aaj! Tang ho gayi main to!
Rahul (to the audience, as though talking to himself): Lagta hai aaj hi Shanky ka paintra lagane ka mauka mil gaya.
Rahul (to Rajjo): Oho! Darling maine to aaj tumhe bahar le ke jaane ka plan banaya tha. Chalo, ab cancel karna padega.
Rajjo (looking tired): Accha? Haan, rehne do. Main sachmuch mein bahut tired hun.
Rahul (to audience): Abey, ye to maani nahi. Lagta hai full force attack karna padega!
Rahul (to Rajjo): Accha Darling? Chalo koi baat nahi. Main Shanky aur Preeto ko phone kar deta hun ki hum nahi aa rahe.
Rajjo (getting angry): Arey tumne mere se bina puche plan kaise bna liya? Tumhe pta nahi chalta kya ki ghar pe kitna kaam hota hai? Kam se kam ek phone hi kar lete ki mera mood hai ki nahi! Ab nahi jaenge to bura lagega. Main taiyaar ho ke aati hun. (exit Stage Left)
Rahul (to audience): Abey shit! Ab to ye ready bhi ho rahi hai aur gussa bhi ho gayi! Agar ab bola ki plan cancel to main to (enacting a noose around his neck). Lagta hai Shanky ke saath plan banana hi padega (exit Stage Right, taking out phone and calling Shanky)
Setting: A typical IT company office in India. 3 cubicles (cutouts) can be seen, Stage center back. Three men are sitting with backs facing the audience. They appear to be working. They are – Sumit in the Stage Right cubicle, Shanky in the Stage center and Rahul/Ashutosh on Stage Left. Loud sighs can be heard coming from Shanky when the curtain opens.
After about 30 seconds of listening to the loud sighs.
Sumit (turning to Shanky): Abey yaar Shanky, itna udaas kyun hai?
Shanky (turns to Audience and rolls his chair to Stage Center): Ama yaar kya btaun, kimkartavyavimoodh ho rakha hun.
Rahul (turns and rolls his chair to Center Left): Kim Kardashian? Abey tu itna udaas hai ki khud ke words bnane lag gaya hai?
Shanky: Abey ghonchu, hindi ka shabdkosh khol liya kar kabhi, authentic word hai.
(Rahul is still scratching his head)
Sumit (rolling chair to Center Right): Shanky, itne bhaari words mat use kar, usse samajh nahi aate, (turning to Rahul) dude, vo keh raha hai ki vo confused hai ki kya kare! Shanky, tu ye to bta ki tujhe hua kya?
Shanky (showing disappointment with ‘shucks’): Kya btaun yaar, jab se shaadi hui hai, meri pyaari preeto ne Anarkali ko chodd ke Kali ka roop dharan kar liya hai. Life jhand ho gayi hai…
Rahul: Accha, teri bhi yehi halat hai?
Sumit: Yaar sabki yehi halat hoti hai, ismein naya kya hai?
Shanky: Naya hai yaar! Pehle to main preeto ko compliment karta tha, to has ke kehti thi, ki tum to bade romantic ho!
Sumit: Aur ab?
Shanky: Yaar ab agar usse kehta hun ki sabji acchi bani hai, to usse sunta hai ki sabji KACCHI bani hai! Bekar mein har subah jagdha ho jaata hai.
Rahul: Yaar, ye to mere saath bhi bda hota hai, tang ho gaya hun!
Sumit: Yaar same here. Life ne bda hi ajeeb mod liya hai, Socha tha shaadi kar ke life mein shaanti aegi.
Shanky: Dude shaanti to aayi, par sukuun waali nahi, DD ki Mandira Bedi waali Shanti, aur uske rehte kisi ke life mein shaanti nahi ho sakti!
“The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.”
Excellent words. Perhaps this is why I write. When daily life becomes too much, it is an amazing feeling to escape into a world where you have total control over the actions of people and can create a place where you can be at peace.
I was talking to my friend Rahul[ADN|Twitter|Facebook] about an idea I had about ‘ideas’ and how I would represent visually the need to protect our precious idea from all the negative people around us who would rather see that idea die than to help or even support us. He captured it quite brilliantly in this sketch he made -
Rahul does some pretty creative work on his Tumblr – LicenseToDraw
I have tried, many, many times, to read books on self-help, management, zen and “How to Keep on Writing” topics. But except for the wisdom I found in the stories in books like Shiv Khera’s ‘You Can Win’ or in ‘The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey’ and the one immensely powerful book – ‘The War of Art’ by Steven Pressfield – which was more of a conversation with a fellow writer than the inept preachings of a management ‘guru’, I have never been able to finish one of these so-called ‘life altering’ guides.
This fact should be corroborated by the one where I threw out Robin Sharma’s ‘The Monk Who sold his Ferrari’ after reading exactly three pages of the book. I cannot tolerate a dreary manual about how to fix a hypothetical situation. But here’s what I realized after recently trying to read through ‘The Mindful Writer’ by Dinty Moore (of which, I have read exactly one page) – that all of these books are not essentially nonsense. There is a fundamental truth in them which is true. Of course, it is the author’s own inability to express themselves well in writing or to find enough examples to support and explain their hypotheses which leads to dreadfully boring tomes about their beloved topic. But the fact remains – in their own situations, the concepts that these authors extol, do in fact, apply and work very well.
But then, why do we have so many of these books? Why not just one method, one single, simple solution? That reminds of the Standards joke by XKCD, as displayed here -
The fact is, there’s one simple formula – “Just do the right thing” (or something like that). But it has to be explained in a way that fits both the needs of the audience and the abilities and the experience of the author. A room full of Aviation experts might not be the best people to talk to about Winnie the Pooh and a Grade 5 assignment cannot truthfully involve Sun Tzu’s preachings. Incidentally, how they fitted The Art of War into management lessons is anyone’s guess, since I’m sure never going to pick up that book to read.
What do I mean by the Author’s abilities and experience? I mean that when the author is writing down her own teachings, it will all be in first hand. The author will not generalize in any way, for fear or straying off the topic or not being able to explain it correctly, since a single person’s field of view can only go so far as their understanding takes them. Those who try to generalize such ideas either get into long discussions with their co-authors or do a lot of back and forth with their editors, or simply fail in evoking any emotion in their readers. All others stick to the thing they know best. Therefore, what is the one single truth in these books, that teach you efficiency, better management, better writing, better weight loss, or better self-realization? The one single truth is that they’re all going to tell you their own single truth, in their own way. One may talk about motorcycle maintenance to teach you about meditation, or meditation to talk about working harder, or working harder to help you finish that manuscript or painting you’ve got hidden somewhere, but no one is going to give you a gem that will cover everything, because we’re humans, we cannot generalize beyond our perceptions when working alone.
Then how does one go about writing such things or becoming a guru? One goes about by looking into oneself. Look at your own journey, look at your own achievements and think about how you’ve gotten to this state. Think about what you did right or wrong and what drove you? If you’re old enough, or simply experienced enough (MBA grads and High School Students need not apply), you’ll have some nuggets of your own, from your personal archive of “Good and Bad things that happened to Me and How I reacted to them”, which you can form into a good story to tell the world how you reacted in that specific situation using your specific learning. That is all. That is the way to write about such things. Oh and remember, write a story, don’t bore us with a lecture. We got out of college just to avoid those. Plus, everyone likes a good story.
On a quiet night, in a quiet neighborhood, twenty quiet police officers quietly broke into a quiet man’s quiet house, arrested him and quietly took him away.
When he woke up, he was alone in a large, dark room with a bright light shining on him. He called out, for someone must be listening, but no one replied. He called out again, then shouted, but no one came. He got angry and shouted, cursed and rocked his chair. His hands were tied to the back and his feet were tied to the legs of the metal chair and did not budge. He tried hard and long, but he could not move an inch. At long last, he noticed a small red light switch on, right next to the bright light glaring in his face. A voice spoke from somewhere behind that light, booming into the room, “Please state your name, age and occupation. Also state your reason for betraying your country.”