The year is about to end. 2018. Bad year for this blog. Didn’t do much here. And yet, can’t let go of Vatsap.com. Can’t let go off this blog. There is something about writing that even when I don’t write at all for months, I know there is a space for it in my life.
These days when I am shooting a wedding, I wonder what I am doing there. There has to be better use of my time, than trying to do photography. The scope of this photography is very limited. Yes, it’s art, but why is it necessary? And more importantly, why do I need to spend time on dong it again and again. If this sounds like I am bored, that’s not necessarily true. I am always charged up in every wedding that I shoot. I am never in a ‘comfort zone’ as such. I just think, there are better things I should be dong – from a ‘scope’ point of view. But the thing is, I already do that too. Except that, the ‘bigger scope’ things are not necessarily money making. And thus, wedding photography has essentially become a need to sustain the other things that definitely bring me more joy. Telling stories. Powerful stories. Impactful stories. And yet, I didn’t do a great job at telling powerful stories this year. I made a few, and shot a few. But majority of my short documentary work was commissioned assignments, where I was paid and hired to create work.
Do I sound like complaining? I didn’t intend to, when I started writing. I just intended to note down my thoughts which are what they are. What else is the use of this blog now, other than to note down my thoughts. And thoughts are not so much in our control. Sometimes, they might sound complaining. But rationally speaking, I have already been working on plans to make my life align more to what brings me more joy. My joy is linked to working on stuff that has a bigger outreach, a bigger scope.
I invested considerable time and money for second half of this year, to churn up more content for my Youtube channel, primarily with the objective of gaining more subscribers. The subscription count stands at 14,000 today. It was around 300 just two years ago. I had wanted to achieve 1 lakh this year, but it is what it is. Let’s see how the year ends. Lot of wedding work this month (that will carry on for most of December) and the remaining time filled with commissioned 3MSes, little time left to do anything else. But there is always time, if I think about it. I can’t say I have been the most efficient. Over work often takes a toll, and then follows several days of inefficiency. I have always been a victim of that mode of working. That’s just me.
Anyway, what’s up with you guys! Or Vatsap? rather! 🙂
It’s kind of hot and humid and sweaty at five thirty in the morning. Got up early just like that, mainly because I slept off early. I am sitting here at the Dona Paula house in Goa. The fan is making a tak tak sound. Actually, let me go put the AC on, and come back to write.
** Goes and switches the AC on **
The financial scene got so bad last month that I started looking for jobs. But then I got some work eventually and had enough to pay for rent and eat. Times like these one must go through, I guess. I was lucky to never face a situation like this before. But surviving such tough days is probably the only way to go ahead! I hope so! If it were easy to be on your own and chase what you truly wanted to do, and succeed at it, everyone would be doing it! 🙂 You have to be crazy enough to take risks that can kill you. And it’s okay to die in the process. To me, what’s not okay is to give up. But all it takes is “no money” to almost give up. The mind goes crazy. Some nights, you want to just go drown in the sea and let it all end. On other nights, you tell yourself “all is well”. Talking about your problem with other entrepreneurs / freelancers helps. When you do that, they tell you they went through that “no money” phase at one point or another. They survived. And that kind of conversation makes you feel normal.
Someone from insti looped me in few conversations that revolved around donating money to insti. And suddenly you notice all these guys from your very own college, doing high profile jobs across the globe, making money and all that – thinking about donating! Millions of dollars! You on the other side, are figuring out how to make just enough to pay your bloody rent! It makes you wonder if what you have put yourself through by chucking a set career, is even worth it! I want to make more money than any of these guys. But I don’t want to do that by doing things that one does just to make money. I want to get super rich by doing things that I truly care about! And I know I will get there. It’s the journey that’s frustrating and stressful and sometimes tests your inner grit. As long as the journey doesn’t kill me, it’s fine though.
When was the last time you saw an Indian (non-vulgar) movie where a young dude says this to a lady in her mid fifties, and you absolutely relate to the scene? I never had, and for that reason, yes Lipstick under my burkha (LIMB) must be applauded. In fact, it had the potential to be an amazing movie. Unfortunately, it is not.
I could see how someone had a great idea for great characters – the kind that we hardly see in Bollywood movies. And then someone wrote stories around these characters. But, that’s where the problem occurred. The writing remained mediocre. Most stories for most part, were boring.
LUMB is about the journey of four protagonists.
You see all of them together in the beginning of the movie when one of them (waxingvali) is getting engaged. And then you see them together again in the end, when another protagonist (Buaji) is being thrown out of her house.
SPOILER ALERT from this point onward.
Buaji’s story was great. It was the only good and interesting story out of all four. Ratna Pathak is a good actor in general (and she was good in this movie too), but she looked too posh to be an old Bhopali aunty. I totally loved the swimming trainer though. That dude did an amazing job and fit the role 100%.
The second oldest protagonist – Shireen – was played by Konkona and her story was pretty boring.
I like the intention of showing that there are these assholish men who remain asshole always – even when they clearly are losers. But where’s the story? What is the beginning and what is the end? Nothing. Throughout the movie, Shireen just kept trying to ‘adjust’ to accommodate her husband’s assholishness. That’s a very very flat storyline for a 2 hour movie. With the same characters in the same scenario, a good writer could have written scenes that were engaging too.
In fact, this lack of engaging storyline applies not just to Shireen but to all the three protagonists, save Buaji.
The guy who plays the photographer is a great actor in general, but in this movie, he just didn’t fit the role. He always seemed to be overacting. Or may be I know exactly how a small town studio photographer walks and talks, so that’s why I found the acting very fake. 🙂 The ‘better guy’ was really really fun to watch though. In fact, it was his presence that added some spark to this otherwise very ordinary, nothing exciting about it story-line.
And last but not the least, the most boring of all the stories was that of a college-girl (acted brilliantly though).
The college girl’s journey
Overall, other than lack of great storytelling, I think the use of four protagonists was a little too much! For the first 15 to 20 mintues, it looked like there were ten different stories unfolding and that kind of gave me a headache. And became very boring to watch, because there was not enough time to feel for any character. Yes, there have been movies made with even more protagonists (‘Love Actually’ for example, that also inspired a similar template Bollywood movie – Life in a Metro) each having their own stories. But something worked for those movies that doesn’t work for LUMB. They could have probably chosen two, like Masaan and spent more time developing a great story for those two.
So yeah, that’s about it. Should you go and watch this movie? Sure, watch it. Especially, if you are woman. Watch it for the intention behind making this movie. And try to ignore the lack of effort in writing engaging stories. On that note, want to share what a friend thought about the movie! That might explain why this movie still works, in spite of poor stories.
My grandfather passed away in December last year. Few days ago his youngest brother passed away too. He had one more brother who had died when I was in school. So all three brothers are gone now. I revisited the footage that I had shot during the post cremation rituals. This is that film. It shows you what a family does after a member dies. And the kind of conversations they have. And for some reason, it’s not as sad as one would expect a film about death to be! You let me know what you think about it! I prepare myself for another family reunion.
Few days ago, an Amsterdam based online company approached me and said that they have found a sponsor to fund Football and Cricket related positive stories from India and if I would be interested in finding and shooting it for them.
Of course I would be interested. My latest 3 Minute Story (below) is a fair enough example of what a sports based positive story could be like. This one is about cycling – but you get the idea!
In the last two years, I could make around twenty stories. And that’s because there is only so much of free work that one can do. Paid documentary projects happen only few times. And I shoot a lot of weddings to make money – which effectively cross-subsidizes my documentary work. So you can imagine how cool it is for me to get paid directly by someone to bring out meaningful real life stories – something that I care so much about!
I have very limited leads at the moment.
So can you please help me reach out to potential subjects / organizations who might be using football / cricket to send out positivity in this world?
By helping me,
you will be directly contributing in helping this world have something nice and positive to cheer about (amidst the sea of negative news and stories that we live in);
you would also be helping those doing something nice and beautiful and positive to share their stories with the world in a way that is only possible through nicely made films;
and last but not the least, you would help me, as a documentary film-maker to continue doing what I love doing in a sector that is not the most money-making sector out there (I was a business consultant for four years before I quit my job in 2012 to pursue film-making / photography).
If you know of something / someone directly, please do write to me at amrit@3MinuteStories.com with links / contacts. My no. is 95525 89252 (that works on Whatsapp too).
If you know of someone else who might be of help to me in finding cricket / football related positive / inspiring stories from India – please share this post with her / him? Sending love and positive energy your way!
If you don’t want to waste your money by going to a theatre and watching Ae Dil Hai Mushkil – you can watch the movie right here, in less than 8 minutes. Compiled from public Youtube footage of trailer and songs.
PS 1 – full of spoilers
PS 2 – I loved Lisa Haydon’s performance the most (she played Ranbir’s girlfriend for a while – unfortunately she is absent from trailers / songs – so no footage of hers)
PS 3 – this is an entertaining (though dumb) story for an 8 minute narration – when you see the same thing being shown for 2 and a half hours, it sucks. Big time. We don’t need a movie to understand that when a girl who you love doesn’t want to love you more than a great friend, you just live with it.
PS 4 – they show Aishwarya Rai get up in the morning in her house, and sport the kind of makeup and hair-do that typically takes brides 4 hours to achieve. disgusting.
PS 5 – the takla prosthetic head of Ranbir and Anushka is so bad it makes them look like aliens.
PS 6 – the last scene (the non-movie scene shot with mobile phone) is from Goa (last night) where Narkasur statues with loud music are spread all over the place.
PS 7- by the way, Karan Johar has basically made a movie to give tribute to his own movies (and those by Yash / Aditya Chopra). He even played Kal ho na ho music when the cancer scenes were on screen. And of course there were tonnes of ‘famous’ lines from ‘ek ladka aur ladki kabhi dost nahi ho sakte’ to ‘Rahul, naam to suna hi hoga’.
PS 8 – to be fair, there are few good scenes too that make you laugh and all that – but for most part, there is absolute lack of chemistry between Anushka and Ranbir in the first 20 minute to justify or care about them later on. And major lack of creative scenes. All that the characters do is talk (when not singing and dancing) – in houses, on streets and in parties! Can’t believe someone with so much of money like KJo can’t get few good writers to write good scenes that tell us / show us something interesting!! KKHH was so much better and had so many new things to offer when it was released! Should probably watch it again.
I will be frank. I posted this status only because I assumed there would be few idiots on my FB friend list who might think it’s OK / right for a ban like this, and once they come out in the open, I would just go ahead and get rid of them from Facebook. I was absolutely wrong! What an idiot I am.
…I assumed there would be few idiots on my FB friend list who might think it’s OK / right for a ban like this…
While the majority of my FB friends did say no, a LOT of them said yes, they supported the ban. And they were not all idiots. They were people very dear to me (and are very dear to me), people who have seen enough of the world to generally distinguish between right and wrong, are logical and rational and intellectual and the kind of people I am proud to know of and be friends with, on or off Facebook. In other words, my hypothesis that only an idiot can support a ban on artists based on their nationality, was thrown out of the window. I needed to understand what these ban supporters were thinking, that I was not. Why did this feel outright idiotic to me but not to them? And so I started conversations with some of them to get into the depth of their thinking and their logic. I couldn’t go too deep unfortunately. But I did scratch a few surfaces. And I am writing this piece to share what I learnt.
A quick list of justifications
that was given to me:
India and Pakistan can’t be fighting and be having good relations at the same time. Would you play cricket (or make movie) with someone who bombed your house?
Our country comes first. Period. Banning artists from Pakistan shows solidarity to our soldiers – who are being killed by that country.
Banning artists from Pakistan is a way of ‘isolating’ that country, that will encourage the common Pakistani citizens to take matters in their own hands ultimately leading to tighter control over their army that funds and supports terrorism in India.
The last justification was obviously not a direct answer to my question. I wanted to know what my FB friends thought about the ban – not what those who are banning, think about it. I grilled the person who gave that 4th justification. He kept going round and round around the “commercial” logic of the ban.
Me: I am asking ‘you’ if you think it’s okay for a ban like this. I am not asking the business owners. They clearly think it’s okay. And you have answered that. I don’t know how to ask the question then. Thanks anyway. He: Are you asking if I were a businessman in that industry, would I ban them?
Me: Yeah, if you put it that way. What is your personal view about the logic of banning? He: That depends on what is profitable. I’m agnostic about where the actors come from.
Me: And what do you think of the public that supports it? He: Public is stupid.
After chatting up with different people, it became obvious to me that not everyone who was in favour of a ban, had the same logic.
“India and Pakistan can’t be fighting and be having good relations at the same time”,
was one of the justifications offered to me. But this makes it sound almost as if Pakistan is one person and India is another person. They are not. A country is a piece of land with generally a well defined border (which clearly is disputed in case of both India and Pakistan). A country is not one person. A country has its citizens, its local governments, its central government and most of the times, its army. And therefore, I think, a group from a country might be fighting with another group from another country and at the same time, two other groups / individuals could be making love. Sania Mirza did India proud and married a person who she fell in love with. How the fuck does her husband’s nationality matter here? She is like literally making love to a Pakistani and making India proud at the same time. Like literally. Think about that.
I can say whatever I want to, but after speaking to my friends who had said yes, it became obvious that most of them (not all) found it hard to not view Pakistan as one single entity. Try following the below conversation that I had with another friend.
She: Imagine I’m your best friend and you are going through this really terrible break up. You are hurting. Of course there is no right and wrong and it takes two to tango. But I will choose you. You will matter to me no matter who is right or wrong. And if I may say I will show you, what is called unconditional support or solidarity or whatever, just to get you through this phase. Because I believe loyalty does wonders. It takes off a little of the bitterness and maybe slowly you will see some reason and a different, better perspective. So in my country’s case if film stars not working for a brief time in India is a kind of solidarity I can show from my end, then be it. None of this lasts in any case (economic and trade sanctions, such banning etc.). Me: So banning individual artists from a country (that they never chose in the first place) helps us show solidarity to our govt/army?
She: Nobody chooses a country to be born in. Me: Exactly!
Her: It is showing solidarity to the country I am born in. Me: So how does banning a citizen show solidarity? Ban Pak Govt. / Pak army.
She: How does showing loyalty to you of any consequence? I might as well be inviting your girl-friend home and hanging out with her no? It’s not her fault right? Me: Girl-friend is ONE person. Pakistan is not one person.
She: It’s just unconditional support. I love Fawad Khan and Atif Aslam btw.
Another friend had a somewhat similar justification.
“…sometimes, without intellectual masturbation, we just need to show solidarity as a nation. Nation comes first. Period. Having said that, all our other trading activities with Pak should also come to a stop! As an individual, you may like whatever, watch whatever but at times like these when the Govt. has taken a stand to isolate Pak, we should not question the Govt!”
So this is what I think of this solidarity school of thought – it relies upon the emotions expressed by some of the below words (over and above ‘solidarity’ itself):
don’t think much / don’t question;
sometimes / none of this lasts;
After these conversations, it is easy for me to understand why some of my friends view Pakistan as one person, while I don’t. They have convinced themselves that this phase will anyway pass, so it’s okay to just show loyalty without too much of thinking. I wonder though, if they will ever be able to get my perspective. I doubt it.
Now this is where things get pretty interesting. I got hold of one FB friend (have never met him in real life) who supported the ban AND at the same time, agreed with my perspective that Pakistan is not one person.
He: Right now Pakistani citizens have no say because they don’t bother. They have to bring a revolution. Me: Ok. So you think if people of Pakistan feel the pain (by banning Paki artists amongst other things) then they will end up taking control of their army?
He: No, they will protest. Like India Against corruption. Like AAP. Maybe they make PAAP. Sorry for the unintentional pun. Me: PAAP was a good one. 😛 So you are saying, if India bans Paki artists, people of Pakistan will start a revolution?
He: No that would be beginning of things. We need to isolate them completely on a global map. Me: How about the resulting discrimination against an individual artist (based on his country, which he / she didn’t choose)? Is that okay?
He: Interesting. That’s my point. They need to migrate. Like Adnan Sami. Take refuge. Take citizenship. Like Tarek Fatah. And stop being proud to be a Pakistani.
This guy didn’t say anything about solidarity. For him, everything was ‘strategy’. A strategy to isolate Pakistan on a global map. And what better way to pull this off than by banning a Fawad Khan movie, right? A ‘beginning of things’.
Thankfully, at least so far, the Indian Government doesn’t believe in any of this bullshit.
To the friend who said “at times like these when the Govt. has taken a stand to isolate Pak, we should not question the Govt!”, what is the stand that we are talking about here? I don’t see no stand. Look, this isolation strategy might work, might not work. I don’t know about that. I am not a political strategist. But unless the ban on artists is a smaller part of the bigger strategy of isolation, it cannot be supported. It cannot be the ‘beginning of things’. It has to be the last thing to take place. Stop that fucking train first. Pull out Indian diplomats from Pakistan. Shut down the Pakistani Embassy in Delhi. Stop importing from Pakistan. And only when all of that is still not enough to ‘isolate’ Pakistan, think about the artists.
But then, why are artists the only target so far in the supposedly brilliant “isolation” strategy that will solve all India Pakistan problems?
I found a reasonable answer to this question from the video below. I had almost forgotten that news channels in India still had anything sensible (and not sensational) to offer, till a good friend shared this video. The panelists in this debate don’t abuse each other, the moderator doesn’t shout at them and for most part, everyone lets everyone else speak and talk and put forth their point of view. You don’t have to (if you don’t have enough time) see this 30 minute video to gain any new insight. There are not many additional points either for or against the ban, than what I have already discussed.
Pratibha Prahlad, a classical dancer, explains in this debate, why in the long list of connections that India has with Pakistan (from diplomacy to business) , artists are the ones who take the first hit (time and again). “Artists operate in public space and make for an easy target. No one cares about businessmen”, she says.
So what do gundaas like Raj Thackrey (who don’t hesitate to instigate Maharashtrians against non Maharashtrians time and again) do to be in the news and amass more fans? They play the patriotism card and make you believe there is no way you can show solidarity to this nation, till you show disrespect to an artist (even when you like them) based on his / her country. They convince you that an artist from Pakistan cannot be politically neutral and just do his / her job but HAS to also make political statements and say he hates his country, every-time terrorists from his country kill Indians.
In the same video above, Ashok Tandon gives one more interesting logic for why the ban is justified – “jawaans love Bollywood heroes – they are often role models. So when a Pakistani ends up playing a role that Indian Jawaans end up adoring, that will be weird”. Yes, that will indeed be weird. Imagine Fawaad Khan doing Hrithik’s role in Lakshya. Or Atif Aslam doing a music show in Siachen and the jawaans having a blast. How would these Jawaans kill Pakistanis after that when they go to a war? Or can they? Apparently they can. When soldiers take up a fight, they kill enemy soldiers or terrorists. And when they fight with / kill terrorists, nationality doesn’t matter. Indian soldiers kill Indian terrorists ALL THE TIME (Kashmir / North-east). So what next, we should ban Kashmiri and Manipuri artists every time a Kashmiri / Manipur terrorist blows up a bomb? No wait, when it comes to India, a Kashmiri artist and a Kashmiri terrorist is not one and the same. But when it comes to Pakistan, of course it’s just one person. And we should do everything that we can to isolate that person on a global map.
Just got an orgasm. Time to end the mental masturbation. Period.
PS: I am grateful to all my friends who chatted with me on this topic. Please do not take offense. We all will live with our views at the end of the day. And may be life will teach us more things as we grow older. And wiser!
I mentioned earlier about my plans to visit Sweety in St. Louis (USA). But instead of flying via New York as I had earlier thought of, I am flying via Chicago now (yes the tickets are booked). I changed my plan because a) Mumbai-Chicago was a cheaper flight, b) from Chicago I can just take a bus to St. Louis which is like a 5 hours ride (compared to the costlier option of flying from NY) and c) I would like to go to NY with biwi – some other time, and roam properly.
I shared my US travel plans on Facebook and Jhops, a junior from IIT saw it and he said he is moving to Chicago later this month and so I must come stay with him while in Chicago. I said ok, that’s awesome! I can stay in Chicago for couple of days before taking a bus to St. Louis. Never been to Chicago anyway. Jhops also told me that Chicago Half Marathon is happening on 25th September and that he will be participating in it. He wondered if I wanted to, too. Now, I knew I would land only on 24th night (after flying for around 20 hrs, with a brief break in Istanbul). So I thought it would be too much to sign up for. And so I registered for the half marathon. It is always fun to push oneself.
After about one week of trying to get back to running (hadn’t run since last four months), I finally managed to get up early enough today morning to do a slow 6k (took me 44 fucking minutes). As of now, the pace doesn’t matter much though. The discipline to keep running regularly for the next 44 days, sure will. Would I be able to maintain my training? Time will tell.
There is another big conundrum to address – should I say no to free alcoholic beverages that would be offered to me in my Mumbai-Chicago flight (so that I can do a better job of running a half marathon within less than 10 hrs of landing)? Well, I have 43 days to answer that question. Don’t want to think about it right now. I mean, I have never ever said no to free alcohol in any flight in my entire life. Would I miss on it this time?
[aesop_quote type=”block” background=”#282828″ text=”#ffffff” align=”left” size=”1″ quote=”I have never ever said no to free alcohol in any flight in my entire life.” parallax=”off” direction=”left”]
In terms of work (before I leave for US), other than a wedding shoot (for few hours in Hyderabad), I am doing one very interesting project. It’s a 3 Minute Story on a blind guy who will be cycling from Manali to Khardung La – a journey of ~600 Kilometers in extremely high altitude, that has five passes to conquer altogether. Isn’t that amazing? It takes about six days to do this (at an average rate of 100 kilometers per day, in a mountainous terrain). I had undertaken a similar cycling trip myself seven years ago (the feature image of this post is from that trip in 2009). It is an experience I will carry with me for the rest of my life. Mainly because I have blogged about it. By the way, if you are wondering how a blind guy can cycle – his way out is to do tandem cycling (the other cyclist riding with him can see – that will ensure they don’t fall off or anything). Weirdly enough, I was chatting with one of my cousins in a Whatsapp group few hours ago, and it so happens that he is starting Manali-Leh cycling from tomorrow! All the best to him.
I will probably have to figure out how to keep running regularly even when I am shooting the documentary. But then there isn’t much figuring out to do really, is it? Manali or Ladakh – I gotta get up in the morning and run. Of course running in mountains is enormously more challenging. But what is not challenging in this life anyway? What can be more challenging for a documentary film-maker than to finish editing his own wedding documentary movie?
[aesop_quote type=”block” background=”#282828″ text=”#ffffff” align=”left” size=”1″ quote=”What can be more challenging for a documentary film-maker than to finish editing his own wedding documentary movie?” parallax=”off” direction=”left”]
Most of last week (till today in fact) went in editing my wedding movie. Yes, it took me three and a half years to edit the movie. Of course I didn’t work on it full time. For the first one year, I think I didn’t even go through the footage properly. And later when I did, I got so lost that I could never manage to create anything worthwhile anyway. Luckily, biwi started helping me with editing for some professional wedding movie projects (starting late last year), and once she became good at editing over time, it was she who undertook the giant task of finishing our own movie. Without her, I am not sure how many more years it might have taken. It’s a ~20 minute movie and I love the way it has finally come out. It’s hilarious and entertaining and insightful. This is the best wedding movie that I have created over the last four years (in spite of very average quality of footage per say – with which I had to work with) and I am not saying this because it’s my wedding movie. It really is awesome. Remind me to show it to you, when we meet the next time, and I will prove my point.