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Monday, June 29, 2009

Scriptwriting Workshops in Mumbai

After the success of the first scriptwriting workshop, my sister has announced more, in accordance with the growing demand. . .


SCRIPTWRITING COURSES/ WORKSHOPS


In the beginning comes the word. A script is the ‘blueprint’ of the film. The screenwriter sees the film in his/her mind’s eye and transfers the vision on to paper. The journey from paper to the silver screen is a long one – actors have to be cast, crew members hired, sets constructed, raw stock and expensive equipment procured, the film has to shot, then processed and edited, the sound and picture have to be worked on… It’s a long and expensive journey, but never forget: In the beginning comes the word.

The Indian film and television industry is looking for good, original screenplays. With the diminishing appeal of the formula masala film, there is a demand for fresh voices and out of the box thinking, for scriptwriters who understand the art and craft of screenwriting. The audience wants good stories, well told.

Learn to write scripts for the big and small screens from Rajashree, who is an award-winning filmmaker and a bestselling novelist. She has taught at the Film and Television Institute of India, and some of the best film schools in Bombay.

Rajashree’s been a film buff since she was a kid – she once stood in a line for five hours to get tickets for Sholay. She has been working in Bombay after studying direction at the Film and Television Institute of India, Poona. She’s assisted Mansoor Khan and Sanjay Leela Bhansali. A film she wrote and directed, The Rebel, was screened at many film festivals, and won the National Award and the Golden Ten Award. Her critically acclaimed first book, Trust Me, is a lighthearted romantic comedy set in the Bombay film industry. According to figures given by The Times of India and The Sunday Telegraph, Trust Me is the biggest-selling Indian chick lit novel. http://rajashree.in


While Rajashree would be the main person conducting the workshops, there would also be guest lectures by professionals from the film industry.

CONTACT

For further information, please call 9769449556 or email rajashree.in@gmail.com



COURSES/ WORKSHOPS:

  1. 2-DAY SCRIPTWRITING WORKSHOP:

A full-time 2-day workshop

6 sessions of 2.5 hours each, over 2 days

Fees: Rs 2,900

  1. 6-WEEK SCRIPTWRITING COURSE:

A part-time course of 6 weeks beginning on 18th July.

8 sessions of 5 hours each, over 6 weekends

Fees: Rs 11,900 (Discounts available for students, etc.)

  1. FEATURE FILM SCREENPLAY WORKSHOP

A workshop in which each participant writes a feature film screenplay with the guidance of the faculty. Begins in July

34 sessions of 3 hours each, over 4 months

Fees: Rs 28,000

CERTIFICATES

The students would be given certificates at the completion of the courses/ workshops.

VENUE

The workshops/ courses would be held in Goregaon.

WHICH COURSE / WORKSHOP SHOULD YOU CHOSE?

If you would like to write a feature film screenplay or rework a screenplay you’ve been working on, the Feature Film Screenplay Workshop would be right for you.

If you would like to learn screenplay-writing, you can choose between the fulltime 2-day workshop and the part-time six-week course. The advantage of the weekend course is that it’s a short duration intensive overview of the basics of screenwriting. The advantage of the part-time six-week course is that you can learn by doing – assignments will be given every week that strengthen your understanding of the concepts being taught and you will write a full-fledged script (screenplay and dialogues) for a short film.

The details for each course/ workshop follow.


2-DAY SCRIPTWRITING WORKSHOP:

WHEN

A full-time 2-day workshop

DURATION

6 sessions of 2.5 hours each, over 2 days

CERTIFICATE

The students would be given certificates at the completion of the workshop.

FEES

The fees are Rs 2,900.

COURSE CONTENT

·Film-making: As a scriptwriter, it is necessary to understand the process of making a film - pre-production, production and post-production.

A brief overview of how films are made would be given to the students.

·Storytelling: The audience is looking for a good story told well. Fiction films are basically about telling stories through visuals and sounds. Where do stories come from? Life as a source – memory, imagination, experience – yours & others. The nature and role of intuition. Universalising the personal experience. Importance of research. Adaptation from literary works. The difference between actually being inspired and stealing ideas.

·Audiovisual Writing: Films are an audiovisual medium, so a script is basically a description of the visuals and sounds that will be seen and heard in the film. What are the elements of visual story telling? The discipline of writing a screenplay. The ‘outer manifestation of inner reality’ which Satyajit Ray talks about.

· Characterisation: How to create 3 dimensional characters.

How to establish characters on screen. The Protagonist and the Antagonist. Dramatic Need of the protagonist & its relation to the plot. The way the character grows and changes during the film.

Establishing characters on screen. “Show, don’t tell.”

· The Format: The format for writing the Synopsis, One-Line Script (Brief Step-Outline), Screenplay / Script for a film.

· The Elements of Scriptwriting: Scriptwriting is an art, but there’s also a craft to it. The students would be taught the elements of screenwriting: Action, Character, Setting, Theme, Structure.

· The Importance of Conflict: Drama comes from conflict. We would analyse the types of conflict: Static Conflict, Jumping Conflict, Rising Conflict, Foreshadowing Conflict. How mystery, surprise and suspense are used.

· Structuring: Understanding the way screenplays of films are structured and learning how to use these elements in your own work: The 3-act structure. Set-Up, Confrontation, Climax & Resolution.

Plot, Sub-plots, weaving them together.

· What does the film ‘say’: Films reflect the Zeitgeist, the spirit of the times when the film was made and the Weltenschaung, the worldview of the film-maker. We would discuss the Premise, Theme, Ideology, Ethical & Socio-Political Ideas conveyed through films.

6-WEEK SCRIPTWRITING COURSE:

WHEN

A part-time course of 6 weeks beginning on 18th July.

DURATION

8 sessions of 5 hours each, over 6 weekends

CERTIFICATE

The students would be given certificates at the completion of the workshop.

FEES

The fees are Rs 11,900. They would be paid at the time of admission.


COURSE CONTENT

The students will be taught scriptwriting by interactive sessions and theory classes.

INTERACTIVE SESSIONS: The students would write at home and then read out their work in interactive sessions in which they receive feedback as well as suggestions. They would be required to work on assignments that strengthen their understanding of the concepts being taught, a full-fledged script (screenplay and dialogues) for a 10-minute film and finally, a feature film step outline.

Assignments:

  1. Writing concepts for 4 films and brief character sketches of 3 characters every week.
  2. A scene - One Character, One Space - in which situations, characters & states of mind are depicted by audiovisual means
  3. One-page character sketches of a fictional character & a real person the student knows personally
  4. A detailed character sketch of one person who can be the protagonist of a film
  5. Writing a scene in the international format, in which the character of the protagonist is established.
  6. A scene-by-scene analysis of a classic Indian commercial film in the form of a step-outline / one-line script
  7. Scene-by-scene analysis of a feature film the student likes
  8. Visiting a place for an hour, taking notes and writing an actuality trip report in audiovisual terms
  9. Interviewing a person and writing a report about that

Script for a Short Film

1. The basic idea

2. The synopsis

3. What is the premise of the film? What is the theme? What are the socio-political and ethical ideas being conveyed?

4. Character sketches of the main characters, keeping their physiology, sociology and psychology in mind. The back story – what has happened in the life of the character before the film begins? How does the character change and grow through the film.

5. The Step-Outline of the film, in which every scene is described in a paragraph.

6. Screenplay with dialogue for the short film

Workshop on the Step-Outline of a Film: Starting from scratch, the teacher and students would write a brief step outline for an original film screenplay in class.

THEORY:

Film-making: As a scriptwriter, it is necessary to understand the process of making a film - pre-production, production and post-production.

A brief overview of how films are made would be given to the students.

Storytelling: The audience is looking for a good story told well. Fiction films are basically about telling stories through visuals and sounds. What are the elements of a good story? Where do stories come from? Life as a source – memory, imagination, experience – yours & others. The nature and role of intuition. Universalising the personal experience. Importance of research.

Adaptation from literary works. The difference between actually being inspired and stealing ideas.

Audiovisual Writing: Films are an audiovisual medium so a script is basically a description of the visuals and sounds that will be seen and heard in the film. What are the elements of visual story telling? The discipline of writing a screenplay. The ‘outer manifestation of inner feelings’ which Satyajit Ray talks about.

Characterisation: How to create 3 dimensional characters.

How to establish characters on screen. The Protagonist and the Antagonist. Dramatic Need of the protagonist & its relation to the plot. The way the character grows and changes during the film.

Establishing characters on screen. “Show, don’t tell.”

The Format: The format for writing the Synopsis, Step-outline.

The format for writing the Screenplay and Script for a film.

Learning from tradition: The art of dramatic writing has been written about for thousands of years. We would talk about Bharat’s Natyashastra, Nav Rasas & their relationship with Indian films. Aristotle's ideas about drama have greatly influenced Western theatre and cinema.

The Elements of Scriptwriting: Scriptwriting is an art, but there’s also a craft to it. There are principles but no rules or formulae in screenwriting. The students would be taught the elements of screenwriting: Action, Character, Setting, Theme, Structure.

Structuring: Understanding the way screenplays of films are structured and learning how to use these elements in your own work: The 3-act structure. Set-Up, Confrontation, Crisis, Climax, Resolution, etc

Plot, Sub-plot, weaving them together.

The Structure of commercial Hindi films

The Importance of Conflict: Drama comes from conflict. We would analyse the types of conflict: Static Conflict, Jumping Conflict, Rising Conflict, Foreshadowing Conflict. How mystery, surprise and suspense are used.

What does the film ‘say’: Films reflect the Zeitgeist, the spirit of the times when the film was made and the Weltenschaung, the worldview of the film-maker. We would discuss the Premise, Theme, Ideology, Ethical & Socio-Political Ideas conveyed through films.

Film Analysis: The concepts discussed in the practical and theory classes would be explained by viewing and analyzing films. Films from the following categories would be screened and analysed:

Classic Commercial Indian film

Short films

Contemporary Multiplex Indian film

A documentary film

A classic of World Cinema

Contemporary World Cinema


FEATURE FILM SCREENPLAY WORKSHOP

A workshop in which the students write a feature film screenplay with the guidance of the faculty.

Most people who come to write and direct in the Bombay film industry are
interested in feature films. But a big stumbling block for a lot
of newcomers is having a finished screenplay with which they feel confident
about approaching directors, actors and producers. This workshop would give them the discipline of writing combined with an opportunity of getting expert guidance for their feature film screenplays.

The students would be guided through the process of working on the basic concept, synopsis, premise, characterization, plot, treatment, step outline and screenplay of a feature film. The writing of each student would be discussed in class and inputs given. While this is a practical-oriented workshop, there would also be theory classes about writing scripts for feature films. The concepts discussed in the practical and theory classes would be explained by viewing and analyzing films.

By the conclusion of the workshop, each student would be required to submit a feature film screenplay that has been registered with the Film Writer’s Association. In the Hindi film industry, sometimes the screenplay and dialogue are written by different people. In this context, it would be up to the student whether he/she wants to write a screenplay with or without dialogue. The screenplay which the student has written as a part of the workshop would be his/her property. Equipped with this screenplay, the student would be ready to approach directors, actors and producers in the film industry.

MINIMUM QUALIFICATIONS

1. A knowledge of the basics of screenwriting and the form.

2. A sincere desire to work on a feature film screenplay as a part of the workshop

3.The students would be required to become members of the Film Writers’ Association, if they aren't already.

DURATION

34 sessions of 3 hours each, over 4 months

CERTIFICATE

The students would be awarded a certificate at the successful completion of the workshop.


FEE STRUCTURE

There are two plans for paying the fees:

1. It is preferable if the student pays the full amount at the time of admission. The fees would work out to Rs. 28,000 for this plan.

2. It is also possible for the student to pay in installments. The installments would be:

At the time of admission: Rs. 5,000

Before the batch starts: Rs. 7,000

Within one month (as a post-dated cheque): Rs. 7,000

Within two months (as a post-dated cheque): Rs. 7,000

Within three months (as a post-dated cheque): Rs. 7,000

The fees would work out to Rs. 33,000 for this plan.

COURSE CONTENT

There would be a total of 34 classes of 3 hours’ duration.

INTERACTIVE SESSIONS: Around seventy per cent of the classes would be devoted to interactive sessions in which the students’ writing is discussed.

The students would be required to work on their screenplay ideas over the course of the four months. They would write at home and then read out their work in interactive sessions in which they receive feedback as well as suggestions.

A student can join with just a concept for a feature film or even a full-fledged screenplay which he/she would like to rework as a part of the workshop. Participants can work on their screenplays at different levels of completion depending on what they start off with. However, even if a participant already has script he/she wants to rework, he/she would be required to submit the synopsis, character sketches, step-outline, etc as well. This would be of great benefit to him/her since it would help make the base of their script stronger.

All the students would write:

1. The basic idea for their feature film screenplay

2. The synopsis of the screenplay

3. What is the premise of the film? What is the theme? What are the socio-political and ethical ideas being conveyed?

4. Detailed character sketches of the main characters, keeping their physiology, sociology and psychology in mind. The back story – what has happened in the life of the character before the film begins. How does the character change and grow through the film.

5. Research for the film

6. The way the screenplay is structured

7. The brief step-outline / one-line script of the film, in which every scene is described in a paragraph.

8. The feature film screenplay.

THEORY: Around 30% of the classes would be devoted to teaching:

An Overview of the Basic Elements of Scriptwriting: While the students would be expected to know the basics, we would start with an overview, so that everybody in the class understands these terms: Plot, Character, Setting, Theme, Structure. Protagonist, Antagonist. Dramatic Need. The Importance of Conflict. Types of Conflict: Static Conflict, Jumping Conflict, Rising Conflict, Foreshadowing Conflict. Transition. Mystery, Surprise, Suspense. Premise, Theme, Ideology, Ethical & Socio-Political Ideas. Zeitgeist, Weltenschaung. The Nava Rasas. Genres of Films, Genre Conventions.

The Scene: We would analyze in detail film scenes that work well (and those that don’t) in terms of the action and dialogue and understand why they are or aren’t working.

Structuring: Understanding the way screenplays of feature films are structured and learning how to use these elements in one’s own work: Plot, Sub-plot, Inciting incident, Point of attack, Set-Up, Confrontation, Crisis, Climax, Resolution, etc.

The Format: The format for writing the Synopsis, Treatment, Step-outline, Screenplay and Script for a film.

Adaptation from literary works: Many films are based on novels and short stories. Adapting a literary work into a screenplay is both easier and more difficult than writing an original screenplay. How to write a screenplay for a film that is interesting in itself and also preserves the soul of the work it is based on?

Film History: An overview of the history of cinema in India and the rest of the world.

Film Analysis: Screening and analysis of films from the following categories:

Contemporary Commercial Indian film

Contemporary Off-Beat Indian film

Hollywood Romantic Comedy

A film with an avant-garde non-linear structure

A classic of World Cinema

Contemporary World Cinema

Micheal Jackson's most romantic song

Yup, he did sing one romantic song too.

Having read about Michael Jackson's angelic side on blogs and newspapers, I am changing my views about him. He has given the world a reason to dance.

I remember the first time I heard him. I was twelve, we were in Southampton, and 'top of the pops' was the programme to be mad about.

It was the days when I memorized Mukesh's songs and sung them to myself. This song must have been the first song that I could make out the words, for I memorialized it too. Listening to him singing this is quite an experience, its so rich and melodious. In fact, I am surprised that it has not yet become a hindi film song.

This is the original Jackson. This is the way I would like to remember him.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

cotton in the taj mahal

Walking around in Chickpet (a shopping street in Bangalore) barefoot was an awful experience today. Not a single shopkeeper let me in. No, it wasn't because I wasn't shod. It was because I uttered the word, Cotton.

Pure Cotton? 100% cotton? No, maam. Cotton is out of fashion. It crumples. Nobody makes cotton anymore. We have silk. Try silk.

How I wished I were in Ahmedabad, or Mumbai, or Nagpur or Pune or even Tiru! I know where to get those beautiful colored cotton lungis in Tiru and make them into salwar kameeses.

I have avoided shopping in Bangalore for a whole year. Now I am daring to go out in the jungle all alone to find a nice shop and what happens? I get home sick! For all the shops in other cities, where there is enough cotton to clothe an entire film unit. And that includes the extras.

After walking around in the rain water slosh for a couple of hours, I finally stepped out of the chickpet street. And saw a shop with the words: Handloom Cotton! I was in front of the Taj Mahal! I almost kissed the shop keeper. And he almost kissed me back. Both of us had a whale of a time. I even gave him my debit-card to take down to another shop because his phone line wasn't working.

Sitting in the bus on the way back home, I dosed off with all the shopping bags on my lap. And realized why I brought two very similar prints. They remind me of my grandfather's bedsheets.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Gratitude

There are uploaded about five hundred videos of Swami Nithyananda on you tube, all for free. As has become my nightly habit, just before going to bed I treat myself to a video. A few days ago, it started becoming difficult to find a new video, and I started seeing second shows.

But tonight, suddenly this video sprouted out of nowhere and I was so very grateful. Guess what it is called? Gratitude.

Saying thank you to the Bus driver, the waiter, the shop keeper and of course the maid, I realized, are a part of western culture I was taught by mum. Here swamiji appreciates the the culture of gratitude expressed in the social structure in the west.

A master is used as an object to intensify the devotion in you, he says, later. And I remembered the nandi in Arunachala. How I loved him. I used to go to the Arunachaleshwar temple in Tiru, just to sit outside the innermost temple and look at the nandi. A nandi is always facing north, his body posture is slightly angular, he is always waiting for Shiva. I never realised then that there was something called the nandi puja, but I was doing it.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Scriptwriting workshop in Mumbai

This is Rajashree, urf Raju, my younger sister who is conducting the workshop in Mumbai. I will say this for her. She was a wonderful partner as a scriptwriter since 1986, much before either of us went through any formal training in any kind of writing. She has that intiutive ear for drama.

Her book, Trust me, is a bestseller.
And she is very pretty.


The Indian film and television industry is looking for good, original screenplays. With the diminishing appeal of the formula masala film, there is a demand for fresh voices and out of the box thinking, for scriptwriters who understand the art and craft of screenwriting. The audience wants good stories, well told.

This weekend workshop will introduce the participants to the basics of writing scripts for film and television.

FACULTY

Rajashree is an award-winning filmmaker and a bestselling novelist. She has taught at the Film and Television Institute of India, Poona, and some of the best film schools in Bombay.

Rajashree’s been a film buff since she was a kid – she once stood in a line for five hours to get tickets for Sholay. She has been working in Bombay after studying direction at the Film and Television Institute of India, Poona. She’s assisted Mansoor Khan and Sanjay Leela Bhansali. A film she wrote and directed, The Rebel, was screened at many film festivals, and won the National Award and the Golden Ten Award. Her critically acclaimed first book, Trust Me, is a lighthearted romantic comedy set in the Bombay film industry. According to figures given by The Times of India and The Sunday Telegraph, Trust Me is the biggest-selling Indian chick lit novel. http://rajashree.in

DURATION

A fullday workshop on Saturday, the 27th, and Sunday, the 28th of June.
6 sessions of 3 hours each.

CERTIFICATE

The students would be given a certificate of participation.

FEES

The fees are Rs 2,900.

Discounts available for students.

VENUE: Somewhere in Goregaon. (East or west)

COURSE CONTENT

• Film-making: As a scriptwriter, it is necessary to understand the process of making a film - pre-production, production and post-production.

A brief overview of how films are made would be given to the students.

• Storytelling: The audience is looking for a good story told well. Fiction films are basically about telling stories through visuals and sounds. Where do stories come from? Life as a source – memory, imagination, experience – yours & others. The nature and role of intuition. Universalising the personal experience. Importance of research. Adaptation from literary works. The difference between actually being inspired and stealing ideas.

• Audiovisual Writing: Films are an audiovisual medium, so a script is basically a description of the visuals and sounds that will be seen and heard in the film. What are the elements of visual story telling? The discipline of writing a screenplay. The ‘outer manifestation of inner reality’ which Satyajit Ray talks about.

• Characterization: How to create 3 dimensional characters.

How to establish characters on screen. The Protagonist and the Antagonist. Dramatic Need of the protagonist & its relation to the plot. The way the character grows and changes during the film.

Establishing characters on screen. “Show, don’t tell.”

• The Format: The format for writing the Synopsis, One-Line Script (Brief Step-Outline), Screenplay / Script for a film.

• The Elements of Scriptwriting: Scriptwriting is an art, but there’s also a craft to it. The students would be taught the elements of screenwriting: Action, Character, Setting, Theme, Structure.

• The Importance of Conflict: Drama comes from conflict. We would also discuss the way mystery, surprise and suspense are used.

• Structuring: Understanding the way screenplays of films are structured and learning how to use these elements in your own work: The 3-act structure. Set-Up, Confrontation, Climax & Resolution.

Plot, Sub-plots, weaving them together.

• What does the film ‘say’: Films reflect the Zeitgeist, the spirit of the times when the film was made and the Weltenschaung, the world-view of the film-maker. We would discuss the Premise, Theme, Ideology, Ethical & Socio-Political Ideas conveyed through films.

Please call 097694 49556 or email rajashree.in@gmail.com

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Sorting done

'Can I have two minutes, please?' I grab his hand and look at him intently. 'It's serious'. Hubby doesn't have a fire to put out, so he gives me half a minute.

He stands by my comp and asks in a hurried tone, 'What?'

'I wanted to sort out our passing away.' I say.

'Not planning to die for many years. Conversation postponed.' he says, looking hopefully towards his laptop.

'Me neither. In case of accident, dumbo.'

'Ok. Shoot.'

'You remember when we were courting? You remember you had said we will chill with Shiv and Parvati? Does that still hold ?'

'Mmmm... I think I will sit next to the coconut water seller. Yup. I will meet you near the coconut man.'

'Ok, fine. That is for later. What if one of us is left behind for a long time?'

'You can use my laptop.' he says, sneaking one more look, struggling to go. I grip him tight.

'I will give your laptop to Pavan.'

'Whatever. Or to your husband.'

'You give me permission to marry? I am not giving you the permission to marry. ' he looks crestfallen.

'Ok, you can marry.' I say, slightly sad.

'But take care of Pavan, make papad for him every time you make tehri. I will make sure he paints every now and then.'

'Yes, Pacca. Now can I go?'

'Wait. Take care of my family, I will take care of yours.'

'Yes.' he almost goes, then comes back and cracks a joke and I laugh. (Joke too personal to be shared)

'Make yourself laugh every now and then, otherwise you will get a big ego.' he says.

'Yup.' he leaves for the laptop, to the adjacent room.

'And I want to go with all the proper rites.' I shout.

'You can throw me to the vultures, the Parsi way.' he shouts back.

'I will not. Throw my ashes on the Mountain.' I say, and realize that I am done.

That wasn't so hard. The sorting is done.

Leaving you with three posts today. Probably am taking the creative writing class on my own heart.

Prayas has been playing this song all day, probably with a foreboding idea of things to come.

Saaiyaan, tu jo chule, pyar se, aram se mar jaoo...


Sorting out the passing away of the other

Yesterday morning I got an email with the sad news that Sharada Ramesh Balsekar passed away in her sleep.

I felt bad, but it did not really sink in. Sharada was a beautiful lady, very dignified in her fresh white sarees. I always saw her smiling, welcoming. About ten years ago, I had given her a foot massage.

We had once discussed the writing of a cook book, titled 'Recipes for Enlightenment.' I think Ramesh dissuaded us, as he was always against recipes for enlightenment. :)

I searched the net for a photograph of hers, but couldn't find it.

I connected with an old friend, asked him to go meet Ramesh and let me know how he is. It was his email that brought home the pain.

It is one thing to be prepared for your own death. But how on earth does one sort out the passing away of the other? And yet, it must be done,....

Hi Manju,

I went to satsang today. Rameshji did look fragile but the regular guys said that he was looking much better than last week. He had to be helped to his chair by an attendant. He was otherwise very calm and collected. His voice was weak. He came in at 9.30 am and was there for about an hour. He answered all questions put to him - but he answered them with a certain preciseness, wasting no words. His message was very concentrated. The regulars were saying that for three days before Sharadaji went he had spoken about death. There were several occasions during today's satsang when the entire group dropped into a really calming silence, sometimes for over three minutes.

All in all, it felt good to be there with him. Once again, deep gratitude arose for his Teaching and an irrepressible love surged for him in this form.

From what I hear from Shivdas (their son), Sharadaji complained of uneasiness the night before and the doctor gave her some medication. A little before 3 am she was uncomfortable and within half an hour she had passed away peacefully at their home. Someone else told me that once she had passed away, Rameshji calmly lay next to her with his characteristic 'hand-under-the head' posture. Don't know if that's true. But Rameshji said at today's satsang that they had both sorted out the passing away of the other, among themselves, ten years ago.

Here is a beautiful song that is sung every morning at Ramesh's satsang.

May your form be in my heart, and your name on my mind.


the writing continues

after the person passes away, me thinks. At least, the mischief continues. As he left us, Habib Tanvir played a practical (or rather, mystical) joke on three of us: Tom Alter, David Israel and I.



'May I have Tom's phone number please? Habib Tanvir has passed away and I have to tell him the sad news.' read an sms from David. I immediately smsed him back Tom's number.

A couple of days later, I got an email from David, one of those which is addressed to someone else and you are added in the address:

Dear so and so,

An interesting / amazing little incident, or story worth telling. This followed from your phone call to me yesterday with news of Habib Tanvir's passing away -- and suggestion I convey the news to Tom Alter.

Initially I'd tried telephoning Tom. Not getting through, I tried sending him an SMS message. Here, too, it wasn't clear if it had reached its destination (status "pending" per Airtell). So I tried phoning him again yesterday evening . . . and indeed
I reached him. BUT . . . the manner of reaching was unusual.

He picked up the phone, I addressed him, he said -- "How did you get me here?" We spoke further: I asked if he had yet received the news about Habib Sahib. He had not -- and was thankful to get the news (while naturally sorry to hear it). . .

But what was peculiar was this. He was not answering on his own mobile phone (which I had dialed). He was instead standing in an STD booth at the airport in Bombay, answering on the STD land line! He told me he had just picked up the
phone intending to dial my friend Manjushree Abhinav (in Bangalore -- our mutual friend who'd introduced me to Tom).

Instead -- without the phone so much as ringing -- he simply suddenly found me on the line addressing him.

There is absolutely no physical / electronic explanation for this -- or none I can think of. Evidently, Habib Sahib had (as one may say) "put the call through." Or this seems a reasonable surmise from the evidence.

It struck me as a pleasant hat-tip from the dear man -- and perhaps a sign of ongoing, good-natured mischief.

I was a little surprised, but not totally convinced of the 'miracle.' I know that Tom does not carry a mobile phone with him, and I had sent him the number that Tom called me from. I was sure David and Tom had had some misunderstanding. Till I got a mail from Tom, which explained the mystery.

dear manju -- i do not think i told you -- the day habib tanveer died, i was at bombay airport on my way to delhi -- i was at the same std booth from where i had called you the day i flew down to bangalore for your amazing reading -- i think you had given david that number thinking it was my home number -- anyway -- i pick up the phone -- and without hearing any ring, i hear david's voice asking how i was -- and telling me that habib-sahib had passed away -- manju, it was if a voice from heaven had reached me -- i had met tanveer in bhopal soon after the reading as david had told me he was very unwell -- then, on the day of his death, david reaches me at an std booth where the chances of reaching me at that very moment are one in millions

it really, truly happened -- it is all to do with your energy -- love, tom
Post script: Mom just called and told me that a song I loved as a teenager, taught by my grandmother, is in fact written by Habib Tanvir.

These are the words:

Din dooba dharati per chaayi raat,
gagan ki thandi chaya mein,
aman ki koyal gaan
jung na hone paye

the day has sunk, and the earth is shadowed by night
under the cool sky,
a gentle song for peace
let there be no war

Now that I know you, I weep for you, Habib. I have loved your song so much. It has touched, caressed, stroked and healed a wound so deep that I have forgotten where it came from. The art has knit itself around my heart, the artist was forgotten.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Wall.e, I am not!

Ever since they came back from the Pune trip, father and son are suddenly the best of pals.

Where Papa would first get fed up with the brats questions during a film, now there is a parallel dialogue track continuously going on and on. If I would have recorded it, and added the track to the cd, it would have made the movie 'watchable for the idiots'. There are hardly any dialogues in the film, so this continuous explanation of what, how, where made it quite a rich experience, I must say.

Wall.e, a Pixar animation movie, is a love-story between two robots.

700 years after the earth has been destroyed by humans, destroyed meaning so bad that its rubble after rubble of debris, and not a single green leaf, only cockroaches and a robot called Wall.e are left.

Wall.e is so called because he is a self appointed maker of walls. He collects trash, squeezes it in a cube form, and uses it like a brick. He is also a kabaadi, means a junk collector. For ex, he has a lighter but doesn't know how it is used or what it is used for. He lives in a 'house', where he watches the same video day after day, and wonders why the characters hold hands.

The humans, that is the Americans, have all left in a spaceship, and over the generations, have forgotten many human traits. Like walking, talking, relating to each other. They have all grown fatter with every generation, and they all sit in an arm chair (meaning all the time, since they are babies), with a video screen in front of them.

Every few years, they are programmed to send a robot back to earth to see if it is now re habitable. The robot is to collect pictures of the earth, and her mission is accomplished if she sees a plant. She is glamorous, a newer version, quite cruel, and initially dumb. 'Her' name is Eva.

I ussually cant stand watching a film with too much machinery in it, without any green patches, definately not without a shahrukh khan singing to a kajol. But this movie I recommend to all you romantic souls out there.

Look at the sky! There is a big space out there for romance!




After the baccha slept, we discussed the movie, how it made us 'think'. We thought that yes, we live a more sedentary life than our parents, we are always in front of a screen, even if we want a break all we can think of is another movie.

After a whole day of poking his belly, he suggested something I had to agree, since it better than doing nothing: let us both join a gym! Anyone out there who can tell me how to get the hubby to learn to swim, to dance, to barefoot, join a circus even, anything but doing a robotic thing like joining a gym.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Ftii, I see you today

For the first time in his life, my kid is visiting my alma mater today. He is breathing under the wisdom tree. His feet are touching the girls hostel steps.

Raju (my younger sister, also from FTII) has come down to Pune from Mumbai to meet him, although she met him just a few weeks ago. She must have shown him the huge studios, he must have looked up and seen a flashback of his mother in her pink pants, climbing the dangling ropes on the studio's roof, where from the babies (hmi lights) hang quietly.

He might have visited the Editing Studio, and looked through a negative. He may even have picked up a can of film, being the helpful and over enthusiastic kid that he is and felt its weight, and also its magic.

I wonder if Raju took him up the projector in the MT. Most important, did he sit and watch a film there, and notice how comfortably everyone sits in the dark theater? I really hope someone shouted Frame! Or at least Sound!

Did he watch a shooting in progress? Did he hear a clap? Action? Has it entered his mind that there is something beyond cartoon network? Or the something behind the screen?

I was trying (hopelessly) to teach him how to manually focus in a still camera just before he left. Did he meet some camera fellow who taught him?

And why am I going all mushy with these thoughts? Film Institute, why didn't you call me too? I would have come, honest. Just because I don't look like this anymore doesn't mean you forget me.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Music festival at home

Call me mad, call me crazy, run away from me.

But I will continue to listen to this song over and over and over again.

Two days back, life was normal. Then I got a phone call. From Air tel. They played the beginning of this song and then went blah blah. I immediately searched on you tube, for the words, Dil de diya hai jaan and that was it.

In Marathi this process is called 'Dallann.' In the old days the ladies used to sing the same song over and over again as they ground grains. When ever we used to play the same tape more than once a day, mother dear would yell at us to stop the dallann.

But who will stop me now? My heart beats irregularly each time I listen to the words, after such a long long absence of music in my life, I am discovering, enjoying a hindi film song.

Hubby and kid have already left me. They have gone to Poona for a short workshop, leaving me with a 15th August that is stretching for four days.

I hope the landlords upstairs are immune to dallann, or I will have to take to singing aloud on the streets. For I cannot live without this song for a single waking minute.

Please listen to the words carefully, then turn them around. It's not a man singing to his beloved, asking forgiveness for being unfaithful. It is a devotee singing to the Lord.

It is grasshopper singing to her mountain.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Creative writing workshop in Bangalore

Please note:THIS IS AN OLD POST ABOUT CREATIVE WRITING. NEWER POSTS ARE UPLOADED HERE: www.storygram.in


I am happy to announce that I will be conducting a workshop in creative writing, one of my favorite things in life.

Writing is a tough and lonely job, not to mention thankless and confusing. At least thats what it seems in the beginning, middle and ......well...every single time one needs to lay me down on that blank page, it stares back mutely does it not.

But its also the happiest moment when I need nothing else in the world except to write the next word. To see a painting emerging out of just two colors, white and black. To hear the rhythm from just one instrument: the tapping of the keyboard. To see the story unfolding on the biggest screens of our time: the mind.

More than anything else, writing has cleared my mind and heart of an extra baggage: the self-esteem issue. Who cares if what I write is good or trash. When my written words are in synch with my path, I feel like I have a sakhaa, (dost, friend) to whom I can confide my darkest fears, who will never betray me, and who will forgive me everything except giving up writing.

And so, a workshop in creative writing is one of the best ways I can think of spending the weekend.

This is the announcement in Times of India:






Manjushree Abhinav, author of the recently published novel, 'A Grasshopper's Pilgrimage', will be conducting a Creative Writing Workshop on the last two weekends of June. This workshop would benefit beginners as well as those stuck in the middle of a book. It's main purpose is to fuel the love of writing towards an intense and natural discipline. For details, contact manjushree.abhinav@gmail.com or call at +91 9945192862.








Schedule: The next batch will be a weekend in July.

I will post the dates here as soon as I get them confirmed by TOI.




Venue: Times Of India , MG road, Bangalore.




Fee: Rs. 2,000/-


Author's profile :

I am a recently published novelist of A Grasshopper's Pilgrimage. This book should be available in most of the Crosswords and Landmarks. You can read reviews of this book on this blog. Just type the title in the search box.




I am also a film maker. I was trained at the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune in Film Editing. I have made several documentary films, and taught the various aspects of film making at NID (National Institute of Design), Ahemedabad and also at the FTII. I have conducted a creative writing workshop at the Srishti School of Art and Design last year.




I write for the creative outlet, deep fulfillment and clarity of mind that sometimes comes as a gift with a good session of writing.

A tentative structure of the work shop :




class 1: in the beginning was the word




What is creative writing? How is it different from other kinds of writing? Creative writing is that aspect of writing in which the other, the reader, is not more important than the writer. All through childhood, we learn to write for the teacher. Our understanding of ourselves is rooted from what others think of us and tell us, again and again. An artist is a person who can look within for inspiration. The inner space has to be cleared of all the baggage, by emerging out of the layers of parental and societal conditionings. Writing becomes an art when, and only when, it comes from an unselfconscious space. Creative writing happens when the writer has transcended the need of appreciation of anyone except herself or himself.




We shall begin with an exercise, a ritual for overcoming the writers block, or to get started. Participants will be given blank papers, with a manageable word limit. Lap tops will not be needed.




We shall do more exercises to stretch the mind and work the writing muscle.




class 2 : the short story





The class will read out a couple of their favorite short stories and we will analyze the story-line and compare it to the structure. Then we will work on a short story structure. To begin with, we will write a short story with a straight narrative, and then we will play with the structure.




Those who have a story in mind will write their on their own. Others can follow a guideline.




Completing this story will be the take home assignment for the week. You can mail me the drafts and we can continue to work during the week.





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class 3: Writing a novel




Everyone has a novel inside. Lets write ours. How does one write a novel? The masala formula. Or, the nine rasas.




The kind of education we have had, the information overload, the media inputs, have made intellectual zombies out of us. We think with our brains, not with our minds.




Which is why, the first step is to become aware of what 'rasa' one goes through when writing something. Writing is a lonely job. Words have to become alive, they have to gain the power, a power more intense than a human ear, a sense of fulfillment more satisfying than an orgasm.




Where do novels come from? What is the essence of the novel?




class 4: Elements of the novel:




Characterization: The back bone of a good novel. Class will read out the characters and discuss their difficulties in creating an imaginary human being from words.




Exercises: Two different approaches to creating your character.




Understanding the synergistic effect of music, dance (or any physical activity) and writing. Identifying the enemies of writing: the idiot box. Replacing old habits with new ones. Sell your TV and buy a pen.




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Note: There is a limit on the number of participants, so please register by calling me @ 9945192862.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Hide and Seek in the darkness

Are you afraid of the dark? Of course not. You can walk at midnight on a totally dark road without increasing your speed, right?

Well...

Swamiji touches the tantra aspect in this video.

He brings me closer to Ramakrishna's Kali. Kali is darkness, he says. Look up at night, if it is a cloudy sky, there She is! Ever penetrating, the mother of light, there is nothing as deep as darkness.

Kali is the basic energy, the mother energy, on which the whole world is moving. She is the form of forms. Means, the form of every single object, the planets, the stars, we are all moving in darkness.

Space is darkness, the color of thoughtlessness is darkness.

This technique, of making friends with darkness, of not going to sleep as soon as you switch off the light, can heal insomnia, chronic fatigue and depression. This is the promise of Nithyananda Swami.

After I saw this video, I suggested to my kid that he call his friends to play Dark Room (hide and seek in darkness)! Since he could get only two of them from the neighborhood, he asked me to give up my comp and join them. :) It was very exiting, slightly scary and heart racing. I realized that as children, we flirted with the fear of dark by playing this game. Darkness is an essential, and equal partner in this game. We played with darkness, in darkness. It's beautiful, to visit childhood through understanding, and not just plain longing.

Tips at how to win this game: Stay put in your dark corner for the longest time possible and others are sure to come out of their holes and get ice-spiced.

Tips for how not to get hurt during this game: Don't run and try to dhappa by racing with the denner. Not if you are a fat mommy.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Why is Kali Maa standing on poor Shiva?

'Ai, tell me no. Why is Kali Maa standing on Shiva?' asks my eight year old, again and again.

'I don't know, kiddo.'

'Search on Google.' he tells me.

'Ok. This is what they say on Google. Kali Maa was on a war with the demons, and she wouldn't listen to anyone, she was so angry, so Shiva lay on the ground just in front of her and she stepped on him and suddenly went, oh my God, and put her tongue out and stopped.'

'Oh. I see.' he said. 'But why did Shiva want her to stop fighting?'

'He is her husband, no? He has to look after her.'

'No, Shiva is Parvati's husband.' he corrects me.

'Same thing, kiddo. Parvati is Kali when she is angry, when she needs to be in the action. Two names, two avatars, same person.'

'I see,' he said.

But I wasn't too happy with this interpretation, and so I talked to a devotee from the Nithyananda ashram. And I got a lovely interpretation, presumably that of Swamiji himself.

'When a person gets enlightened, he is as good as dead. For all practical purposes, there is no ego left in him, no 'life' as we understand it. So Shiva's body here is a 'dead' enlightened person. And Kali Maa standing on him is the Goddess or Prakritti that functions 'through' him. '

I was thrilled with this thought until I tried telling the brat about it.

'When a person gets enlightened, ' I began...

'What is enlightened?' he asked.

'When a person becomes, no meets God, he kind of dies.'

'You mean a person dies and then meets God, no?'

'No, I don't mean that death, this is a different kind of death. I mean death of the ego.'

'Oh. What is the ego?'

'Umm. . . Well. . . Forget it, will you? '

Anyone out there knows how to answer these questions when an eight year old asks them?

the healing tower

I attended a Kalpataru on 1st October last year, and 75% of my health problems were solved within the next two months. Mysterious things happened, like I became a partial bare footer, etc.

Some other miracles include surviving in Bangalore without a proper job, with the freedom to stay at home and watch swamiji's u tube videos to my hearts content. :)

On a serious note, Swamiji has done some incredible healings. Day before yesterday I heard of a first person narration of an old man, an ex serviceman, who had been suffering from insomnia for the last forty years. He was not allowed to go out of the house alone, because he was extremely short tempered and picked fights with unsuspecting people. Swamiji gave him three healings over a month and this fellow now sleeps without medicine, goes out alone, walks around the city to test his physical fitness levels.....

Healing, by the way, is just the hook, he is much much more than a doc.

The countdown has begun... just 2 days to go for Kalpataru ..... please call the numbers at the end of the page for tickets.

Kalpataru with Paramahamsa Nithyananda!

A wonderful opportunity to be in the Master's divine energy field for a whole day ... culminating with darshan to each participant from Paramahamsa himself...! Kalpataru is being conducted by Swamiji himself at the Ashram on Saturday 13 June 2009.
Come! Be blessed with the kalpataru darshan from living enlightened master, Paramahamsa Nithyananda.
Kalpataru is a unique one-day meditation program that guides you to blissful living. Through special guided meditations, Kalpataru prepares you to directly receive blessings and boons from a living enlightened being. It empowers you with the energy to align your intentions with your actions so you can live an beautifully integrated life with both 'outer' success and 'inner' bliss all at the same time!
Kalpataru sows in you the seeds of:
· Shakti Energy... to change the things you need to change
· Buddhi Intelligence... to know what need not be changed
· Yukti Understanding. .. that whatever you may change, Existence itself is a continuously changing dream
· Bhakti Devotion... to the eternally unchanging Truth
Mukti – Liberation... that happens when you experience the above in your life!
Kalpataru bestows upon you the energy to imbibe the right intentions in life & align every action with those intentions, so you live a conflict free life, what is called ‘Living Enlightenment’or Jeevan Mukti.

Important Information: To save waiting in lines and to get direct entry into the enclosure, Kalpataru contribution passes (tickets) of Rs. 1000/- each are now available with all Yogam host families - see attachment. More locations will be posted to this newsgroup very soon...

Yogam and several other programs in and around Bangalore have created significant awareness of the Master and His mission... many new seekers are keen to be in the presence of the Master... so please get in touch with all you know - tell them about Kalpataru with the Master...and ensure your ticket books are are all sold out...

For Kalpataru
tickets please get in touch with the Yogam host family nearest you... or call at the numbers below...


For more information and tickets please call:
  • Ma Nithya Akhila: 98802 03654
  • Ravi 99808 44309
(there is a kalpataru in Mumbai, Baroda and Hyderabad in September, for his schedule, click.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Shivkumar, sir, please dis-appear!

It's been more than an year since we moved to this house in Bangalore. But your ghost still lives here. Every single day that I have sat on my comp in this room, I have had a visitor clanking the gate asking for you.

'Excuse me, Madam, is Mr. Shivkumar at home?'

The first few months I showed them my finger pointing up, then I realized that my landlord has some other name.

'Mr. Shivkumar used to live here. I don't know where he has gone now.' said the owner, again and again, every single day, till he told me not to send them up please, he naps in the afternoons.

Since then I have learn t a thing or two about you, Mr. Shivkumar. You are, were a cunning fellow. You swindled quite a few fellas in your time here and somehow they wake up long after you made yourself scarce. They keep waking up, oh so late.

What amazes me is that these fellows come every single day, mostly in the afternoons, and ask for you, in a slightly fearful tone, like they are not sure they wanna meet you, but what to do, you owe them too much money.

Today morning, Hubby finally blew his fuse.

'Just get lost, ok?' he shouted at the poor fellow at the door.

'There is nobody here called Shiv kumar. There never was. There never will be. My name is not Mr. Shivkumar. And why should I prove it to you? Are you a police wala? Why cant you go to the police if you have any proof? Just go. And dont come back.'

I had an eerie feeling that moment that you are around, very near. And I found myself hunting for the envelopes addressed to you (on my address) and throwing them in the trash.

Agar tune maa ka doodh piya hai, to show your face. Or just disappear. In the trash.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Who wants to walk barefoot?

Nope, this ain't a picture of my slippers. But please, someone, I would give you a kiss if you tell me how to grow grass on my slippers.

By the way, I stole this pic from here.

Wonders of Oil-pulling

When I found myself forwarding this link to more than three people within an hour, I knew it was time to blogit.

Now that I am an author, how can I mention which of the problems below I have been helped with?

Oil Pulling ("OP") is reported to cure: Mouth & Gum Disease; Bad breath, Stiff Joints; Allergies; Asthma; High Blood Sugar; Constipation; Migraines; Bronchitis; Eczema; Heart, Kidney, Lung Diseases; Leukemia; Arthritis; Meningitis; Insomnia; Menopause (hormonal issues); Cancer; AIDS; Chronic Infections; Varicose Veins; High Blood Pressure; Diabetes; Polio; Cracked Heels.

Having read this list once more, I realize that one of my health problems (that I have overcome in the last three months of oil pulling) is not mentioned in it. Knee pain. I hope you are listening, MM?

Until now, I have convinced only one other person to pull oil. And he does it to remove the awful taste and feel in the mouth due to eating gutkha!

Here is the most interesting part of the article:

INSTRUCTIONS:

First thing in the morning, before brushing your teeth, eating or drinking, take 1 TBSP of either sesame or sunflower oil. Put the oil in your mouth, tilt your chin up and slowly swish, suck, chomp and pull through the teeth. Do this for at least 10 minutes. 15 - 20 minutes is better. You want the oil to become a thin, white foam when you finally spit it out. If it's still yellow, you haven't done it long enough.

You can do this 2 more times during the day if you want to detox faster. Make sure you do it on an empty stomach, however. Spit it out in the toilet when your mouth is full and rinse your mouth out well.

Follow by drinking 2 - 3 glasses of water.

DO NOT SWALLOW THE OIL.
It now contains parasites and bacteria!

DO NOT GARGLE IN THE THROAT -- THE OIL IS MEANT TO BE SWISHED IN THE MOUTH ONLY.

DO IT SLOWLY.

HOW IT WORKS:
The oil pulls all mucous, bacteria and toxins from your body through your saliva. According to Ayurvedic medicine, mucous is a poison that must be removed.

Note #1:
Keeping the chin tilted up makes sure the oil gets to the back molars.

Note #2:
The old school says that only sesame and sunflower oils produce favorable results. However, our readers report success using other oils too.

Note #3:
If after meals, wait at least 4 hours before you Oil Pull. After drinking, wait 1 hour.

Note #4:
A worsening of symptoms is an excellent indication that the disease/ailment is being cured.

Note #5:
Do not stop Oil Pulling if you feel aggravated symptoms or heightened side effects after a day or two. Your body is healing.

Note #6:
Will your dental fillings fall out? It's possible but highly unlikely unless there is pre-existing damage or loose fillings.

The oil will start to thin out after a few minutes because saliva is constantly being mixed in and swished about.

Excellent Oil Pulling Links for More Information:
(updated March 2, 2009)

http://www.oilpulling.org
http://www.oilpulling.org/opuniversalremedy.pdf
http://www.oilpulling.org/PULLING OIL_karacharticle.pdf




I was introduced to oil pulling by a fellow devotee of Swami Nithyananda. Later I read of it in the book, Living Enlightenment. Swamiji says that without our awareness, the tongue is constantly moving, even as we dream, due to the inner chattering. Oil pulling massages the tongue and brings to awareness its subtle movements. Consequently, our inner chatter is reduced.

And so, the oil pulling method suggested by Swamiji has an added input: Do not multitask while pulling. Do not watch TV, check your mail, cook your kids lunch or make tea. Sit in one place, chin up, look at a blank wall and pull oil. First thing in the morning.

Do not open the door or your neighbor will say Good Morning and you will only nod and go mmmm.