Sunday, February 5, 2017

The masala formula : The charm of its origins


Notes on Script-Writing


Introduction of the Navarasa theory : the origin of the masala formula

So you want to make films. If your ambitions go beyond the glamour, you will realise that it is the script that is the driving force behind any fiction film or tv serial. Writing for films is a deeply satisfying process, and it can be learned by anyone who is passionate about cinema.

The secret behind a good film is a well told story. All of us have many stories in our cupboard, but we don’t know how to tell them. I begin my script writing course by teaching the Navrasas, which form the elementary basis of storytelling.

The Indian art scene, traditionally, is formulated as a sadhana, a spiritual path. The path of  devotion is  strewn with artists and the art force. Sculpture, architecture, instrumental music, classical vocal music, dance, storytelling and theater. Our great ancestors of cinema. Our forefathers of scriptwriting. Let us begin our learning with turning back and listening to their wisdom.





The Natya Shastra, literally translated as the technique of drama, is a big fat book written by Bharat Muni, in the twelfth century. Outdated, you may say, but it’s a gem because it encodes the secret of the box office success of the Indian cinema all over the world. The overused but magical term, the masala formula, is none other than a modernised, trivialised version of Bharat Munis' concept of the Navrasas.

Which is why, if you want to write a script for an Indian movie, fillum in short, it is imperative to begin by tapping into our immense wealth, the Navrasas, .

So what exactly is a ras? Let us not be hasty in understanding the term. Because haste will swallow the mystery. Let us, like a cow, chew on the term.

Literally, ras is juice. Juice that a fruit or a vegetable is crushed to release. A juice is relishable, nutritious and quickly absorbed. It is intense. It is the essence.

Ras can be equated to bhava, but not with emotion, for the word emotion has gone astray. Like the rupee, its value keeps going down. A baby crying from hunger is an emotion, but a Devdas yearning for a Paro is a ras. The baby will stop crying when fed, but Devdas will die outside Parvati's door. Devdas is eternal grief, a grief so relishable that our film makers cannot keep themselves away from wallowing in this devdas-ras, not even in a single fillum.

So Ras is a sthai bhava, a permanent state made relishable and developed by attendant emotions.

The natya-shastra mentions nine rasas: Shringar, Adbhuta, Hasya, Shanta, Rudra, Veer, Karun, Bhaya, and Vibhatsa. The charm of this analysis is that the interpretation of the rasas is by default a personal reflection. The ras that intrigues you the most is the ras you can work with.
And lastly, Ras is a drink. ;)


Shringar Ras



We are familiar with this word, Shringar, as we have seen it on many a beauty parlour. How much we strive to look good for the other. Shringar was born when the other came into existence. Prior to which, all was one. Advaita, which means not-two, claims that All Is One. However, life as we know it, is overflowing, overpopulated with the many.
Shringar is a ras that relishes duality, in all its forms, in sukh and dukh. The intense attraction and the heart wrenching animosity between polar opposites, the dance and the drama that ensues between the male and the female, Shringar includes all. The totality of life between the two shores of milan and viraha, all is Shringar.

Girl and boy meet, a few sparks light the sky, they separate, they yearn to meet again, they meet in ecstasy as fireworks light and sound the sky, they become three, they are insanely possessive about the third, but the third grows out of the nest, they learn to love her distant mode, then one of them becomes dust, then the other becomes one with the first. All are stages of Shringar. 

Even when woman and man don't meet, but yearn for the other.

Devdas is Shringar of virah, the bittersweet pain of yearning. Bhakti is also Shringar, as darshan is the word for meeting the Beloved. Vatsalya, parental love is again a strong bond with the other.
On a base level, the sentiment in this ras, Shringar, is Erotic.

(to be continued )

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