I just spent 1.2 lakh on some new camera gear

So there are times when you are sipping coffee (often black in my case), late at night, and want to write something and yet not sure what to write about! Tonight, that. Ah but I do have something to write about. I just spent 1.2 lakh on some new camera gear. To explain what I ordered for and why I ordered them would get too technical (which only cinematographers might like to read / enjoy). So I will skip that. By the way, I recently wrote a blog on my wedding site for those who plan to upgrade from simple point and shoot to DSLR systems. Some of you might find it useful (as long as you have the patience to read – it’s pretty long, yes).

Don’t want to write anything more. I don’t even know who reads this shit anymore.

Some year end pictures from Mumbai (2014)

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I took this yesterday. As we were on our shuttle from 1D to board the Jet flight to Goa. We were in Mumbai for Christmas. Because it’s so cliched to be in Goa for Christmas. Especially if like us, you live in Goa! :P We were flying together after a long time. I guess the last time we had flown together was when we had returned from New Zealand. Anyway, so yesterday evening, as we were in this shuttle for few minutes, I saw her glowing in the rays from the setting sun. And so I grabbed my camera which just had the right lens (35mm f1.4) attached, for the kind of picture I wanted. And I clicked. That’s about it. Just wanted to share! :) And on that line of thought, here’s sharing two more, clicked few hours earlier when we were still hanging out with Diesel – the adopted child of Subbu & Subbi. Who looks cuter btw? Wait, was that a even a ‘correct’ question to ask? :P

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The year that was – 2014

The last two nights have been weird. I fell asleep early (between 8 to 10 PM) and then randomly got up at around 0130 AM. And just could not go back to sleep. So worked on getting some deliverable done. Till morning 7 or 8.  Finished creating this wedding documentary trailer from a sweet wedding that Subbu and I shot in Delhi about two weeks ago. You like it?

It’s around 4 in the morning now and I know I am going to feel very very sleepy at around 07ish. But then, I will not be able to go back to sleep like I could do yesterday. Got a wedding shoot (part of a four day wedding I am doing in Hyderabad) in the first half. Will have to manage with few cans of RedBull I suppose.

The year is coming to an end. This is that time where one feels like summarizing the key episodes over the last 12 months. So let me go ahead and do that!

  • Spent fortunes (read 1.5 lakh) buying a quadcopter
  • Lost the above quadcopter within 10 days of buying it, while flying
  • Subbu, the last of the three siblings got married to the beautiful Subbi
  • Biwi and I did a 10 days road trip in the southern islands of New Zealand and a made a funny holioke video
  • Bought a new quadcopter :D
  • Did scuba diving for the first time
  • Shot two dozen weddings (three more to go before the year ends) across the length and breadth of India (Srinagar, Udaipur, Kochi, Goa, Chennai, Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Kumbakonam, Jhansi, Ranikhet, Nagpur and Hyderabad)
  • Started 3 Minute Stories in April and created and shared a dozen stories (hopefully shall be able to add one or two more before the year ends). The most viral stories of all, got played over 900 thousand times!
  • Sweety moved to US

Blah, that’s about it!

But fuck, who cares!

And after exhibiting a lot of energy over the past one week, I am back to being lazy. Couldn’t sleep all night yesterday, so watched Impractical Jokers on Youtube till 5 or may be 6 in the morning. And then fell asleep and got up only after noon. And have done nothing productive all day. And it’s 8 pm already. Fuck, who cares!

At least a lazy day like this makes me feel like writing something. Because I have a blog. Which my brother uses more than I do to spam my subscribers with paid blogs about the cool gifts his site Dezains offers. Just deleted all the dozen odd posts. I wonder if I have any subscriber left any more. LOL!

Whenever I come here to write, I have the same recurring feeling – where will this experimentation with my life take me? How long would I really be making money by clicking pictures in weddings! The whole idea of getting paid to click pictures in weddings as a means of livelihood surprises me as much today as it did about two and half years back, when I was first introduced to the idea. For some reason, I always believe this is not a long term sustainable business model. What makes me think so? I don’t know – just plain intuition. Something feels wrong about this being a way of life till the time you are say 50 or 60. I mean the world would have fucking changed so drastically by the time I turn 50. And I simply can’t imagine myself doing the same thing then that I am doing now. Sounds stupid. At least today.

Amongst other things that might evolve into something bigger and more sustainable, are my short documentary movies. I have been making them over the last several months. At present, I’ve more than a dozen on my 3MS site – and I even got paid for making some of them. Now how cool is that? But every time I finish making one, I get this feeling it is way off my threshold of something that I can be truly proud of. I find them just about ok. They are not great. And I am getting impatient to get there. Because just about ok is simply not good enough. I was in McLeodganj in October for few days attending the Dharmashala Film Fest. Got to see some pretty impressive full lengthy documentary movies and interact with some good indie movie directors (like Rajat Kapoor). Though that didn’t have any direct tangible impact in the direction in which my movie-making life is moving, I do think it was a slight push towards a different life that’s shaping up. I don’t know what that is, and I can’t predict it, but I can feel it.

Biwi has been asking where next should we plan our vacation. It was in Feb that we visited New Zealand and it’s December now. So it’s been 10 months. So we should plan the next big vacation soon. But this time around, unlike earlier times, I just don’t feel too kicked up about packing my bags and going to a place as a tourist. I am doing more interesting things already to need a break to act like a tourist. I can understand going to a place to meet someone or to attend something or to experience something specific. But to just go to a place and visit as a tourist sounds more depressing than it has ever done, earlier in my life.

Fuck, I have been writing and writing. And I don’t even know what for. I am in Hyderabad and will be here for about a week. There are three days of shoot – a wedding documentary movie work, that is paying me well. But fuck, who cares!

Haider – a story review

When I went to watch Haider with Tota yesterday, I was clear that I wanted to view it from a story telling perspective. Any story, fiction or non fiction has one basic plot structure. You raise one big question, through or by a character (or few characters) and then try answering the question. For example the big question in Sholay was, would Thakur and his team be able to defeat Gabbar? The big question in DDLJ (by first half) was, how would Shahrukh get Kajol? Everything else that you show after the question has been raised, is a journey towards the answer. The importance of the question getting answered is also typically clarified. In other words, the audience should be clear about what is at stake. What will happen if the question is not answered? If Gabbar is not defeated, the village will suffer. Why should you care about the village? Because you start liking the nice people that live in the village. Also because you have been told how bad Gabbar is. And so you relate to Thakur’s cause. You want Thakur to succeed. Just like Jai & Veeru. If you remember, when they first came, they were just planning to loot and run away. But there is a scene where the ‘stake’ of Gabbar not being defeated is made clear by Jaya (at an emotional level). In DDLJ, it is clear that if SRK does not get Kajol, he is going to be unhappy for the rest of his life. His happiness is at stake. Why does the audience care about his happiness. Because the audience spent the entire first half loving SRK as a person. He is nice, romantic, funny and respects women. See how the story was built up to make sure you do care about the big question getting answered. Unless the importance of the question is highlighted, no one would care about the answer in the first place.

Another thing – the answer should not be obvious. The journey to find the answer should have challenges, confusions, fights, anything. I don’t have to give examples. Just think of the journey in both Sholay and DDLJ and you would see that for yourself. In some stories, you also might have one big question getting answered mid-way and another big question popping up right then, and then the second half of the story focuses on this second question. Ever remember seeing a movie where you thought only the first half was good (or only the second half)? Those would be good examples of movies where two different questions were raised, with stakes clearly highlighted, and then two journeys were portrayed. But for several reasons, you only liked one of those.

The above theory explains the plot for any story. But let me also share this – another element that differentiates good story-telling from a poor one, is the pace at which the story is told. If pacing gets fucked up, the audience will get bored and will simply doze off (even if it’s  good story). It is extremely difficult to get the pacing right and in my opinion, the amazing movie-makers and book writers are absolutely brilliant at that. Bottomline – it’s not just the story that matters – it’s also the story-telling.

Coming back to Haider, it raised two questions, one in each half. The first half asked – will Haider be able to find his dad? Is his dad even alive? This question was resolved around intermission. And then the movie asked, ok, so now that Haider knows the fate of his father, what would he do about it? The answer to this second question was resolved only in the last scene of the movie. Sounds like a fairly well though out plot. But I didn’t like the movie on several story / story-telling counts.

Let me begin with what I liked. I liked the DOP’s work (very similar to my own) and the music and sound (brilliant I would say). I also loved the Salmans. And the entire Salman Khan reference. Also, the acting may be (not the best, but fair enough). And now the two main things which didn’t work for me:

  1. The stake for the first question (will Haider be able to find his dad) was not too high. As an audience, I did not care about this question very badly. May be a little more time to establish a dad son relationship could have evoked me to genuinely wish and hope that Haider gets an answer to his question? The journey itself was fair enough. There was struggle, few emotional moments and some comedy as well. The unnecessary element of the journey, IMHO, was the time given to establish the nuances of the son-mother relationship. Or the boyfriend-girlfriend relationship. Those parts simply never added any motive to the journey. Nor were great sub-plots. I don’t know why those scenes where there. Just because Vishal wanted to adapt Hamlet?
  2. The journey to answer the second question (now that Haider knows the fate of his father, what would he do about it) was very nautanki types. It was neither clever or smart. It almost felt like Haider became a theatre artist in the second half. And for some reasons, the end, were the question was finally resolved, was unnecessarily dramatic. Though I must say, in this second journey, the stake was really high because after having seen Haider for over an hour, the curiosity to wait and watch what he finally does, did exist. But at several places, the pacing was screwed. When you raise a question that everyone wants an answer to, you can’t afford to bore your audience. This movie did not do a great job at this! It wasn’t bad either. Or may be I should have had more sleep before I went to watch Haider!

So that’s my technical review of Haider as a story and story-telling, more than as a cinematic movie. I know I did not much write about the mother-son sub-plot or the mother-uncle relationship plot, because though they existed and were shown, they simply never were part of, or effectively supported, the main story.