It’s a constellation out there…

Harpreet Kaur lives for Hindi cinema. She loves Amitabh Bachchan (in a platonic sort of way) and can’t imagine life without her daily dose of Lata. Harpreet is about a year into her Master’s in Computer Science at the University of Alaska. Her dad, back in Ludhiana and prone to hyperbole, never tires of telling people about how the Americans were bedazzled by his daughter’s intelligence and gave her “full aid” at the “best university in the world.” Harpreet did get financial aid, but she can’t get Computer Science for the life of her.

Srinivasa is the tall guy that sits with her in the Data Structures class. He hails from Nellore and has only a vague idea of how big Amitabh Bachchan is up north, but he gets Data Structures really well. He used to look down upon Harpreet because she sucked at Computer Science, but every time he did , he ended up staring at the prettiest pair of boobs in the world. And so, he fell in love with her.

Harpreet, on the other hand, liked the guy – especially on days he did her homework for her – but she wasn’t in love with him or anything. It didn’t help that he kept mixing up Lata and M.S.Subbulakhmi all the time. “I always have trouble differentiating between old women singing in alien tongues,” he told her when confronted. She wasn’t impressed at all by that answer…

Harpreet didn’t know it then, but change was in the air.

A few days later, Harpreet came down with a nasty flu that brought the meanest headache along. She took a Tylenol, and asked her roommate Aparna Shah if she could bring her a bowl of Campbell soup, but Aparna refused because the Campbell soup in the refrigerator was purchased from her share of the grocery fund.

Unable to counter her roomate’s sound logic, Harpreet went hungry that afternoon, and was delirious by the time Srinivasa came to visit her. He had stopped by to find out if she had really bunked classes to “be with her boyfriend,” like his friend Ravikiran had speculated.

Moved by her plight (and by the sight a pretty girl coiled vulnerably on a used Sealy Mattress), he made her some soup, and then sat by her bed and said comforting things to her until she fell asleep. He then watched the Tonight Show and spent the night on the couch in her apartment. He could’ve walked to his place, but it was his turn to cook today.

The next day, he woke up, used Aparna’s Listerine, made some coffee and drank it together with Harpreet. He experienced bliss, or something like it.

This pattern continued for a few days, and Harpreet no longer had the flu, though she was still not attending classes because she felt weak. Sri wasn’t going to classes either, “to provide her some company.” He was now a regular in Harpreet’s apartment, regular enough that his toothbrush was in her bathroom, and regular enough for Aparna Shah to demand that he pay 14% of the rent that month. Things were going very well indeed…

“What do you like? ” he asked her that afternoon, acting on advice from Ravikiran “to find out her likes and dislikes.”

“My favorite thing in the world is Amitabh Bachchan”

“My favorite thing would be my iPod. But I do like Amitabh Bachchan. He is a great actor.”

“Really? Thats so sweet. What’s your favorite movie of his? ”

“Err…I thought Shahenshah was great. So was Giraftar ”

“Shahenshah? Even I couldn’t stand that one. Tell me the truth now – how many Bachchan movies have you watched?”

“Only those two on the video coach bus from Madras to Bangalore. Nellore theaters only play Telugu and Tamil movies. But there was a lot of potential in his angry eyes.. I could see it very clearly.”

“Oh you poor thing. That’s such a sad story… I need to show you how much you are missing.”

So she said, and put in a copy of Black into their Apex DVD player. A few minutes into the movie, and Sri hits the pause button.

“So you say Amitabh Bachchan is a big star in Bollywood, right? ”

“Of course, he is a superstar. ”

“If that is so, how come the title card doesn’t say SuperStar Amitabh Bachchan. If I call him a Megastar, would that be ok?”

“Yes, he is a megastar, a superstar, a huge star. The biggest there is.”

“He can only be one star. Tell me which one. ”

“I don’t think I understand where this is going. ”

Sri takes her hand, and holds it against his chest.

“Baby, before you explain Amitabh Bachchan to me, let me explain the Southern movie industry to you. ”

“I am all ears. ”

And thus the lesson begins.

Continue reading “It’s a constellation out there…”

Introducing SilverScreen

Someone talking to me for the first time is usually struck by two things: How incredibly handsome I am, and how incredibly smart I am. If they can get over this, they’ll be struck by two more things: How much I love movies, and how much I love books.

Someone meeting Manoj for the first time is usually struck by two things: How much he loves movies, and how much he loves music. Ok, maybe they’ll also be struck by how smart he is. Whatever. That’s not the point.

So anyways, Manoj and I spend the better part of our days IMing each other. In normal English, capitalized first words and all. (The only allowance for IMspeak is the ubiquitous brb, which I thought was a misspelt female undergarment when someone first used it on me. Now I know, and love to use it coz it sounds so, um, kinky.)

Continue reading “Introducing SilverScreen”

When Crummy, Cruddy, Cheesy and Crappy Compete

The last month has seen several truly remarkable things happen to this blog: We turned into a group blog with two real contributors, and several imaginary ones. Our fan following among pharmaceutical companies seems to have increased, and like all delirious new fans, they can’t seem to stop writing to us. (We might trash your letters, ladies, but your affection means a lot to us.)

We watched four horrid Tamil movies. While that in itself is not remarkable, what is remarkable is that we have refrained from reviewing any of them. Even this post is not a review per se. It is about celebrating the movies in question and rewarding them for the things they did.

And so, without further ado, Ladies, Pharmaceutical Industry Representatives and other Gentlemen, here we go.

The Freakist Bird Flu-ke Award:

Kamna Jethmalani, the lead girl in Idhaya Thirudan wants to send an anonymous email to her mom. She types up the email – whose contents are the proud recipients of another award – but she can’t figure out how to sign the email.

Unable to pick a random name, she picks up a pigeon hovering nearby and lays it gently on top of the keyboard. The pigeon walks back, then forth. Then forth again, and back once more. And then flies away, to leave the half dressed girl staring at the screen.

The pigeon had just keyed in T. Mahesh, which happens to be the name of.. you guessed it, the hero of the movie. What an incredibly clever way to move a story forward. Anyone out there who still thinks our moviemakers are unimaginative?

Continue reading “When Crummy, Cruddy, Cheesy and Crappy Compete”

A Tepid Testimonial

Bhavna clutching an umbrella, Sunil clutching an underarm.

The boy: toughie, hired goon, bearded brute, all rough edges and bad acting, tall and dark and not so handsome.

The girl: heart that bleeds for all, assists helpless people cross roads, smooth and pretty and voluptuous and rich and pretty and smooth. Sigh. I mean, scratch the sigh.

How could they not fall in love? And how could he not turn over a new leaf, bringing a few oddball leaves along with him to keep him entertained at newdom? And how could their wedding plans not be rudely interrupted by her seeing him visit someplace not nice? And how could they not… well, no spoilers on this blog folks. By the way, for the record, this post is about a movie called Chithiram Pesudhadi.

“Ordinary plot,” you want to say, “hackneyed and trite, tried and tested (and failed).” True, we say, the movie is all that, but it has a little bit more going for it – it is disarmingly unpretentious and heartwarmingly earnest. The earnestness of a first time director striving hard – very hard – within his contraints to salvage something out of a mediocre script shines through every frame, drawing empathy from his viewers, and Chithiram manages to get off with sympathetic winces where another movie would’ve gotten a groan or two.
Continue reading “A Tepid Testimonial”

The Titular Head

Agatha ChristieWe are just a day or two into the new year. The year that just passed was a year in which Agatha Christie hogged more or less all the limelight, even though she is not that hot. In two separate studies, scientists claim to have unlocked the secret of why her books are so popular, even though they feature protagonists we’d rather not drink tea with.

Scientists at the Universities of London, Birmingham and Warwick “loaded Christie’s novels onto a computer and analyzed her words, phrases and sentences.” The results of the study show that

[S]he peppered her prose with phrases that act as a trigger to raise levels of serotonin and endorphins, the chemical messengers in the brain that induce pleasure and satisfaction.

[Another] finding was that she used a very limited vocabulary. “It means that readers aren’t distracted and so they concentrate more on the clues and the plots,” said Dr Pernilla Danielsson from the school of humanities at Birmingham University. [Link]

Here’s Mark Lieberman’s take at the Language Log.

Christie used a limited vocabulary, “pleasing and gentle” language even though the plots were macabre, and repeated certain “mesmerizing” phrases over and over again to stimulate serotonin and other chemicals in the body.

Favourite words or phrases, repeatedly used in a “mesmerising” way, help to stimulate the pleasure-inducing side of the brain. They include she, yes, girl, kind, smiled and suddenly. Common phrases include “can you keep an eye on this”, “more or less”, “a day or two” and “something like that”. [Link]

Let’s summarize the recipe for bestsellers: Repeating the same things over and over again, gentle presentation, familiar phrases, sixth grade vocabulary. And let’s also state our opinion of the whole stylometric study: Duh! Just read any three books by Robert Ludlum, and you’ll know. Familiarity sells. Familiarity and simplicity, we are convinced, are the key ingredients that make popular art so… popular. Actually, duh again. There is a whole industry in India, um.. I mean, South Asia that has been using the formula successfully for ages – Indian movies are all about familiar settings, dumbed down plotting and an insistence on making audiences feel good. The next time someone asks Ram Gopal Varma why he keeps remaking his own movies (and those of others), he should quote Professor Danielsson, stylometry, serotonin, Agatha Christie and Antara Mali. And Anu Malik – what can I say? I respect him a lot more now. Something like that.

The repetitive nature of Bollywood means titling movies is a hard, hard task. How many ways can you headline the same article? Guy beats up Bad Guys, falls in Love with Girl. Girl Falls in Love with Guy who beat up Bad Guys. Bad Guys beaten up by Guy that Fell in Love with Girl. Love fallen into by Girl and Guy who beat up Bad Guys. And so on. Which, by the way, is a great segue into the next Agatha Christie finding.

According to a statistical study commissioned by Lulu.com, Agatha Christie’s Sleeping Murder is the “perfect title” for a bestselling novel and John Le Carre is the most consistent producer of “good” titles. [Link]

Figurative or abstract titles, such as “Sleeping Murder,” or “Presumed Innocent,” produce more top-sellers than literal ones, such as “The Da Vinci Code.”

A title’s length does not affect sales — contrary to publishingindustry wisdom, which decrees that bestseller titles be short. Another increased respect moment here. Remember all those Hindi movie titles: DDLJ. HAHK. K3G. Damn. These guys knew.

Through the Language Log a link to the statistical analysis tool used for the study. The Lulu Book Title Analyzer. Please don’t forget to leave comments complimenting the intriguing figurative title I chose for this post.

[Previous Post on why Bollywood is high literary art.]

PS: Agatha Christie picture courtesy The Free Library.

The Long And Winding Bore

My favorite pastime is talking to myself. Not many people know this, but I am actually two persons in one: There lurks inside me this crass dude called Smith who thinks this blog is truckloads of bull and periodically tries to convince me to loosen up and go check out Kirsten Dunst pictures instead of writing stuff that no one cares about.

Last night, Smith wanted me to go to The Myth. It is a Jackie Chan movie starring Mallika Sherawat and Smith had read somewhere that Ms. Sherawat contrives to lose a strategic piece of her clothing in the movie for a split second. I wanted to go to Thavamai Thavamirunthu instead, because it is my strong opinion that movies like The Myth are best left to DVD players with pause buttons.

TearsSo I won, and we ended up going to Thavamai Thavamirunthu, directed by Cheran – the guy that made Autograph – and starring himself and a new girl called Padmapriya. After the movie, I had a pretty long conversation with Smith about what I was going to write in my review of the movie, and as we were wrapping up, he begged me to publish the conversation on this blog to provide people a window into his soul. He also wanted me to tell people that Xaviera Hollander is so much better than Raymond Carver.

Me: In fiction – both written and on film – details can mean the difference between good and great; between corny sentimentalism and touching poignancy. Descriptive details – she was beautiful, wide forhead, strong chin, pretty clothes, unsightly mole – are much easier on film than paper, a good director can reduce ten pages of Tolkien to a single shot. Narrative detail, on the other hand…

Mr. Smith: There you go again. Descriptive detail, Narrative detail. You bore me to death.

Me: Please, I hate being interrupted. Let me continue here. Narrative detail, on the other hand, is different. The reading audience has more patience than moviegoers, and will tolerate even digressive, detailed narratives better. The moviegoer has a limited attention span, and too much detail – man waking up, stretching, brushing, showering – usually does not go down well.

Mr. Smith: That’s coz people that read are fools. And yes, too much detail stinks unless it is a girl bathing. There is this movie in Malayalam where they show a girl taking a shower, and man it was very detailed and I liked it. Therefore, it is not like all details are bad. So,there you go.

Me: What’s your point?

Mr. Smith: My point is, the movie sucked. It was long, and the dude that acted in it kept crying. The girl was fully clothed throughout, and she was crying whenever he didn’t. So why don’t you just tell people that instead of going on and on about details?

Me: Aw, come on. A twenty word review on this blog? Scandalous.

Mr. Smith: Whatever. Go on and wake me up when you are done talking.

Me: Cheran’s Thavamai Thavamirunthu is a son’s tribute to his father. Rajkiran does an outstanding job as his dad that puts the welfare of his kids above his needs, and Cheran is the kid that never forgets how much his dad did for him. Once Cheran decided that this was going to be his premise, he look no further than Autograph: he took the movie and retooled it, using the same technique of a guy reminiscing about the past intercut with sequences from the present. The problem with the movie here is that it lacked the freshness of Autograph…

Mr. Smith: Wait, you mean you liked Autograph? Freshness? You are a mushy piece of…

Me:: Will you let me finish my sentences? I was going to say Autograph was corny, but it was the first attempt in Tamil cinema to move away from the traditional premise based format to something more informal.

Mr. Smith: Funny how you always use thirty words when all you needed was two. It was a Bad Movie.

Me: The problem with the movie was the length. It is obvious that Cheran wanted to make something that was deliberately paced, but deliberate pacing does not mean showing every single event in a sequence. When his wife delivers a baby in a hospital, the viewers know that the hero is broke. Yet Cheran has scenes of him not being able to pay the hospital, not having money to buy medicines, a scene of him riding a bicycle to try and borrow money and a scene of him coming back on the same bicycle without money.

Mr. Smith: That was terrible! How can someone watch a guy riding a bike for five minutes? Although I am pleased he didn’t wear Spandex. In fact, the movie was so boring, I’d rather have read your blog for three hours. Ha Ha!

Me: What else, smartass?

Mr. Smith: Why don’t you tell them how the dude managed to make his classmate pregnant? Or how she cries and cries for half the movie because of this? About how he tells his dad he could not face him after “defiling” a girl? Now, what the heck is that supposed to mean?

Me: Yeah, true. That was bad. Now please, get off the girl, and say something else.

Mr. Smith: Oh, I see. Let’s talk music.

Me: Sure. The music was pretty average…

Mr. Smith: Shut up, let me take over. The music was hideous, horrid and unpalatable. Some people cannot do slow songs ever. It was like reading Joyce while watching Will and Grace. Torture.

Me: Yeah, I think I’ll agree with you there.

Mr. Smith: Cool. So there you have it folks, Sucky movie. Too long. Too much crying. Bad music.

Me: In the interest of balance, I should say that the good things about the movie were, Rajkiran’s performance and well… At least I tried.

Mr. Smith: And when the critics try to tell you the movie was well-made and touching, please laugh.

I’d like to go on record that this review is not totally mine, and please don’t accuse me of snobbery. I love you all.

Cross-posted at teakada.

Delusions Of Grandeur

I have been unable to sleep over the last few days. While mean people might think it is just jetlag, the truth couldn’t be farther away. The truth is, I can’t sleep because I am worried. Very worried.

Blogging seems to be an activity with a very limited lifetime, and quite a few people are retiring rather early. Burnt out, bored, tired, whatever. As I toss and turn, I know that some day in the future, I will have to call it a day. And when I do, what would I leave behind? What will I be remembered for?

You see, dear reader, I am worried about my legacy. I am also slightly concerned about dozing off at work tomorrow, but let’s set that aside for a minute and talk about my legacy.

After giving it a lot of thought (three nights, no sleep) I think I have figured out what I need to do – I need to transfer my considerable knowledge of almost everything under the sun (except Konkani classical music) to people. After some more thought (one night, no sleep) I have decided that the best place for me to start this process would be movies.

Bad angle, no teardropAs I write this, visions of numerologically correct movie titles that say “Thanks to Stochhasticcca” or “A Klassic Koncieved at Karthik’s Blag” cloud my mind. Maybe someone from Hollywood’ll pick up these lessons, and when she wins an Oscar she’ll say “I owe it all to Karthik”, as tear drops roll down her cheeks, fall on her neck and continue on downwards. Nice. Why did I not think of this earlier?

I will sleep a little and then come back and start off with the first lesson in the Stochastica Sinema School Series.

__________________________________________________

Please, these are not the tears I meantI am up now, and visions of that lonely tear drop still linger. Tempting as it is to start off with the acting school for women, I will selflessly start off the first lesson with tips on writing good punch lines for Indian movies.

But the truth is, if you don’t know how to write good punch lines, you will never make it big as a screenwriter in any language but Hindi. To be successful in Hindi, screenwriters need to make it big in Hollywood first. And oh, before I forget, the acting school for women will meet next week, soon after I get my haircut.

Let’s start with a question.

A fat man is beating up fit people. Unable to bear the overpowering strength of his flab, the fit guys have no option but to try and electrocute the fat man. But he is stronger than that, so the moment the wires touch him, the power station that generated the electricity that dared approach the fat man explodes. Spectacularly.

The fat man turns to the fit guys, and tells them, “Don’t be shocked! I can shock electricity!” He then swishes his hands, turns around and walks away in slow motion – the camera focusing on his fat ass. [Navin, you know now.]

What did he just do?

Answer, students, is that he just mouthed a punch line.

A punch line, to start off with a formal definition is:

1. A pithy piece of gibberish.
2. Spoken by mostly fat men in lead roles, but there are exceptions.
3. The point of which is to (appear to) highlight the virtues of the speaker.
4. The speaker of the line is the subject. (In other words, fat man on himself).

Another example of a punch line would be:

“If you try to touch a woman when George is around, George will turn into a man and turn you into a woman.”

Notice that George is the speaker, and the subtext of the sentence is that George would castrate the toucher. This technique of referring to oneself by one’s first name is quite popular and is employed in every other punch line. It is something you should file away for future use.

We will close this part of the lesson with a few more examples. Please try writing some more at home, and test them out by saying them out loud in crowded places. If you get into trouble, sue me, please.

Whenever people are in need, I help them. I can’t help doing this.

God might forgive you for this sin, but I will never forgive you. May God forgive me.

A type of punch line that is less frequently used is the pithy sentence about nothing. These are mostly spoken by the hero to a skimpily clad girl. After this sentence is spoken, the girl usually falls in love with the hero.

For a woman, not wearing mini-skirts is the only way to skirt trouble.

If you wear a dress with a plunging neckline
On you bad men will want to recline.
On them lies no blame,
for you have no shame.

.

The amount of trouble you invite is inversely proportional to the amount of clothes you wear.

This is only for classy movies, I think. Will work in A centers.

If your blouse is always cut high
and you act shy (by lowering your eye)
no man will open his fly
this is not a lie.

This one is poetic, so please email me before using this in your movie.

After the girl falls in love, she will proceed to dance with the hero on the alps, clad in a bikini. It is quite important to not have your leading man speak any punch lines now.

We are almost at the end of our lesson, folks. The last type of punch line is similar to the first type, except that some leading men don’t feel comfortable talking about themselves all the time. In such cases, we have a comedian mouth the line and this gives us the latitude to make it even more outrageous.

Lo and Behold!
Brother will turn sand into gold;
the young into old;
He will never be sold.

If you make women cry,
Brother will take a pan
put you in there and fry
you until you turn tan.

Nice observation, student number 1. Yes, indeed, a comedian should always call the hero brother.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the end of Stochastica Sinema School Lesson #1.

__________________________________________________

Before you leave, remember this: I am an electrical fire. Even water cannot touch me. Let me go back to sleep now.

Objective Reportage

Vijay, the heroI have been called a DUMD ASS(sic) on this very blog by an irate commentor that thought I was being snotty when talking about Indian movies. Now to be honest with you, one part of my brain would like me to think the commentor was a nubile young lady who had very, very strong feelings for me. But y’all know this quite well: I am a realist and such balderdash cannot delude me that easily. I will readily concede that her feelings for me weren’t very, very strong.

So anyways, in deference to my secret (but not very strong) admirer, I will restrict myself to a strictly objective, factual reportage about this movie called Sivakasi. It is in Tamil, and it stars an actor called Vijay. What? Ok, sure. I will defer to the spirit of this report (objective, factual) and revise the last sentence. It is in Tamil, and it stars a person called Vijay.

Close Shaves:

A group of people headed by a guy called Palanquin Pandi surround another group of people. After a series of scuffles, Palanquin Pandi’s group reveals their motive – they want to know who heads the other group of people. “Fairly easy question,” I thought to myself. Regular movie watchers know what would happen next: The hero will come up to Palanquin and punch him a few times, and then look at the cameraman and inform him that he heads the group, and owns their hearts. Cue a song.

Now imagine my horror when the scene unfolded differently – someone that did not look like Vijay at all duly stepped forward, applied generous amounts of ash on his head and moved his hands up and down. “This guy, hero?”, “Oh no!”, “What the ..” were the thoughts that ran through my mind. The guy then used several long sentences and clever placement of a title card to inform the cameraman that the hero was wise and strong and that he was the director of the movie. I am not sure Palanquin got the point, but I heaved a sigh of relief. Phew.

What happens to the losers on Jeopardy?

Dad A complains to Dad B that Dad B’s son tried to rape his daughter. Dad B is very angry, and tries to beat up his son with a stout object. After a couple of blows that didn’t land that well, Dad B asks his son if he is indeed his son. The bemused son asks the dad to check with his mom. Unable to stand this question, dad promptly dies. Hard questions can kill.

What a total waist?

Music Director Srikanth Deva in a cameo appearance shakes his enormous waist to the beats of Maama Un Ponnai Kodu, an old Illayaraja number.

Actress Nayanthara in a cameo appearance shakes her enormous waist to the beats of a song I can’t remember. Coming to think of it, I am not even sure it was a song, but the waist was enormous. She is now a cabalite.

Best Song in the Movie:

Music Director Srikanth Deva in a cameo appearance shakes his enormous waist to the beats of Maama Un Ponnai Kodu, an old Illayaraja number.

The rap-like song (wanna, shake it, s to the i to the blah) that plays in the background. Music can be mirthful too.

Movies can educate too:

A male human being is defined as someone that:

a. Falls in Love with a girl.
b. Marries the girl.
c. Sleeps with the girl.

Any change in the order of events is not acceptable. What will happen to such people though? I want to ask someone, but I am afraid it might be a hard question.

Chicks will dig this:

Several (male) actors show off their thighs during fight sequences. I even detected a glimpse (or three) of undergarments. Sorry, no thongs though.

Biggest expense item:

The amount of ash purchased for the movie. The good guys show their goodness by applying generous amounts of it on their foreheads.

Second biggest expense item:

The amount of kum-kum purchased for the movie. The good guys show their goodness by applying generous amounts of it on their foreheads.

Dialogues heard the most:

“Start the car!”

“Beat that guy!”

Decrease most noticeable:

Quantity of clothes worn by Asin over the last few movies.

Increase most noticeable:

The number of times Vijay speaks to the cameraman. They must be close friends.

Optimism:

Majaa will be better. Surely.

Impossible:

The opinion of my dad – reliable critic, born, brought up and living in India still. Both movies are bad, Majaa is a tad worse. Such depths exist?

Cross-posted on teakada.

Simile, you are on camera

The Real ShriyaMaking a movie is hard work. There is much thinking involved – plots and premises; characters and camerawork and a whole slew of such things, but if you ask me who has the hardest job in filmdom, I’ll unhesitatingly raise a metaphorical arm and say: The Dialogue Writer. What is the easiest job then? Why, Lyric Writing, of course. Now if you are one of those fancy-schmancy Hollywood types that knows not what a Dialogue Writer or Lyric writer is, go away.

On second thoughts, do stay: Losing sixty percent of my two person strong regular readership is bad, so I will explain. Now here is how it works. After a plot is decided upon, a screenwriter sits down and writes the entire screenplay but wherever the screenplay has characters talking, he leaves the page blank. Like so:

Shriya enters the room from the left.

Sanjay is sitting on the bed.

Shriya:

Sanjay:

Shriya:

Sanjay:

Now Sanjay hugs Shriya. Takes off her red saree to reveal a black saree inside. Sanjay now brings his lips closer to Shriya’s lips. Giant rose covers lips. Shriya wipes off her lips sensuouly; camera focuses on her waist. Music begins. Cut to song.

Shriya:

Sanjay:

Shriya:

Sanjay:

Now Ms. Fancy-Schmancy, if you are still there, the person that fills the first set of blanks is the Dialogue Writer. And, yes, the person that fills the second set of blanks is the Lyricist.

In the real world, a conversation between Sanjay and Shriya would probably go,

Shriya: Hi, you are late.

Sanjay: Hello, you are hot.

Shriya: Thats so sweet, thank you.

Sanjay: Let me take off your clothes now.

Shriya: Ok.

Ok, I will stop here. My mind wandereth.

Once upon a time, the person that filled the first set of blanks had a clear-cut job description: he was to write exchanges that were completely different from any real world exchange ever. So he would write something like

Shriya: Sweetheart, why art thou cometh late. I waited long, took a shower, and have withered like yonder flower.

Sanjay: Huh? I had to go to the loo. But now that I’m here, let me stick to you like glue.

The more unrealistic it was, the more people would clap and whistle. Easy enough. Today though, things are murkier. The Dialogue Writer is expected to be a little bit more realistic, but if he writes something like “Um, you smell good, let’s have a go at it,” the censor board will immediately intervene and do a couple of things:

1. Misspell the dialogue as “Um, you small goon, let’s have a go at it.”
2. Mark the dialogue as offensive, and ask that it be removed.

So now the dialogue writer has to go back and write something that fits the lip movement but is not offensive anymore. Like, “Um, your mail came. Let’s take a look at it.” Imagine doing this constantly for every line. Very hard work. There is some hope though: A new technique that consists of Sanjay making violent speaking motions with his mouth, with sound muted is doing the rounds. But that will be for a later post.

Fancy-Schmancy? Please don’t go away now. I will grovel. Will buy you coffee when we next run into each other. Maybe a Mocha Latte from Starbucks.

Now a lyricist has no such worries. All that is required to be a successful lyricist is is a certain set of easily available tools – the metaphor, the simile and the names of ancient works of Tamil literature. There is minimal interference from the censors, and whatever interference there is can be circumvented with ease. Say you are asked to write a steamy song to describe the courtship betwen the lead couple, you just reach into your toolkit and pick the tool of choice. For example, in this song, the lyricist uses a metaphor (from the movie Mazhai, starring someone called Ravi and the real Shriya, who is not in any way related to the Shriya in our screenplay).

Let your kisses be the hammer
that drives a nail into my brain

It should be obvious by now that metaphors in songs don’t really need to make sense. You just say Y is like X, where X and Y can be quite random. And there is plenty of latitude. Imagine Ravi saying “Let me put my sword into your scabbard” to Shriya. That would drive the censors into apoplexy (and create a new record for bad spelling). But on the other hand, a lyricist can effortlessly slip in stuff like that in a song and no one will blink.

Let out bodies unite
like a sword and a scabbard

Or you could say,

Let me be the Thriukkural
to your Kurunthokai

where Thirukkural and Kurunthokai are the names of literary works. Naturally, the names chosen here are random. You could put Silappadhikaram instead of Thirukkural and no one would care. In this case, people will call this gibberish literature and even try to slip a few awards to you. Yes, that’s how easy it is.

Occasionally though, some lyricists go overboard and the censors notice.

In your hand a pile of books
And you, a pile of sex.

And when they gently chide you for using the word seks, you just pick a random word from the dictionary that rhymes. In this case the song became,

In your hand a pile of books
And you, a pile of Vicks.

Yes, that’s how easy it is. We got our favorite lyricist to comment on this, and he said:

This is easy, I sound the horn
as easy as eating a cob of corn
you can even slip in some p*rn
and the dialog writers will go darn.

Fancy-Schmancy, please wake up and smell the corn. If you are wondering about the releavance of the title to the post, I’ll put you out of your misery by confessing that I am not too sure either. But it seemed very cool, and the words simile and camera appear in the post.

Also posted at teakada

Update: Manoj manages to find a few (non-blogging) people who translate verses much better. Go here. I hope Venky listened to Shriya and let her stay in his cute smile during one of his watery orgies.

Divine Proof

Let’s call this guy Krishna, because I don’t know what his real name is. He is an assistant director in Tamil movies, and like everyone else employed thus, his life is

a) currently very miserable.
b) centered around dreams of making it big some day.

One day, Krishna says, he got to meet the head of a large production house. After complimenting the head of the large production house on his magnificent pecs (you can be a hero saar!), Krishna went on to narrate the screenplay of his dream movie to the guy. The narration went well, Krishna says, and the head thanked him and told him he would keep him in mind for his next movie.

A few months on, the large production house announces a big budget movie. And wonder of wonders, Krishna says, it is based on his screenplay. So he approaches an arbitration body. The hearing went like this:

“Mr. Krishna, you claim that this movie is based on your screenplay.”

“Sir, yes, sir.”

“Can you prove it?”

“Of course sir. I will narrate the screenplay line by line right here.”

Proceeds to narrate it.

“That’s pretty good. But you could’ve just sneaked a peek at it when it was lying around somewhere. Got more proof?”

“Sir, yes sir. I will now tell you exactly when and where I narrated the screenplay to the head of the large production house.”

Proceeds to tell them exactly when and where he narrated the screenplay to the head of the large production house.

“And that’s proof? Give us something more concrete man.”

“I will go to the temple of your choice, light some camphor and swear in front of the deity of your choice that it is my story. I dare you to ask the head of the large production house to do the same thing sir.”

“Holy cow, that is irrefutable proof. Let me call the head of the large production house and set up the showdown.”

Other members of the arbitration committee nod sagely.

No not 55-word story that ran over, though I wish it was. This came straight out of this story from an online newsmagazine. Link (in Tamil). The only part I made up was the line about the arbitration committee members nodding sagely.

I believe this legal strategy has a lot of potential. For starters, I sent an email to Mr. Banville today claiming that The Sea was my work. I’ll even go to a church if he wants me to.