Monday, March 31, 2008

Which chapter are you on?

Portia Nelson

1/ I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost.... I am hopeless.
It isn't my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

2/ I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don`t see it.
I fall in again.
I can`t believe I`m in the same place.
But it isn`t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

3/ I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in... it`s a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

4/ I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

5/ I walk down another street.

I think I am between two and three. Wonder if I will mange to walk down another street in this life.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Short Film making Workshop

Manjushree, who’s taught at NID and FTII

is conducting a


Learn to make a short, fiction film. A 5-day concise package, which includes screenplay writing, shooting with a digital camera, editing and uploading the film on your blog / website. Basic theory coupled with hands on practical experience.

Film-making is a marketable skill as well as an affordable hobby in today’s world. Short films are widely used by corporates and NGOs. They find an audience at film-festivals, You-Tube, video-blogging, and are a great beginning for a career in the booming media.

8th April to 12th April,

10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Fees : Rs. 3500/

For registration, contact Manjushree at

Ph: 98988 72862


Course Structure

  • 8th April : Class on Basics of script writing, by Manjushree. Students will write a script of five minute duration.
  • 9th April : Class on Camera operations, by Mehul Upadhayay. Students will shoot their script, using each other as actors.
  • 10th April : Class on Editing theory and software, by Manjushree and Mehul. Students will capture the rushes.
  • 11th April : Students will edit the five minute video, and then upload it on the net.
  • 12 th April : Class on Music, by Dahivat Shukla. Students will also watch some good short films.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A meditative fantasy

What do you do when your best friend has gone for a Vipassana meditation course?

I think of her, sitting on the blue square cushion. Eyes closed, a slight frown between her brows, floating in self awareness. How beautiful.

I know Buddha did not approve of murti pooja. So forgive me, sir, if I fall into those who keep your statue in their homes, though they do not sit thus. After all, among all the statues ever made, Yours is the most popular.

I can only wonder at the aura-scope, the star power, of the man who looked so charming while he sat in meditation, that, thousands of years later, no sculptor worth his salt dies before sculpting the Buddha.

I also wonder, in those rare, foolish moments, if it will ever be possible, to maybe remember a past life, of a leaf, a caterpillar, a grasshopper, that saw the Living Sample before he became more of a statue.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Worse than pregnant

We were shooting a docu-drama on safe sex, one of my students being a practicing gynecologist. This is part of the weekend batch in the documentary workshops that is going on these days.

On Saturday we pen the script. A group of young people chill out with cold drinks, one young boy takes off with one girl (establishing the scenario), cut to two pink strips on a urine test kit signifying positively pregnant teenage girl (confrontation), panic calls to boyfriend, meetings with girlfriends leads to doctor's clinic, lady gynecologist asks so what is your plan? are you going to marry or do you want to abort the baby? (climax), poor young boy waits in doctor's office, then girlfriend and doctor come back relieved of the problem, doctor gives advice on family planning and use of condoms (resolution).

On Sunday we shoot. Somehow they have managed to get actors of the right age. As usually happens with such topics, we joke with the actors to make them comfortable. Things go fine till the climax. The doctors office scene takes multiple takes to get an Ok take.

The student who is doing the camera is an intense director.
'We should focus on the boy when his girlfriend is having an abortion,' she says.
'Usually the sympathy is on the girl alone. (To the young boy) so, show us how you will look when your girlfriend is undergoing an abortion. No, you wont read the pamphlets on the doctor's table. No, you wont hold your head in your hands like that. Just look straight at camera, without blinking. . . .'

And this is when the poor fellow said, 'This is worse than an actual pregnancy'.

We all laughed but secretly agreed with him. Face to face with the worse thing possible, sometimes it is facing the world that is more difficult than the tragedy itself.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Oh, Godda beautiful

This photograph of the Arunachala mountain reminds me of Sri Nanagaru, one of the many ice-cream toppings in Tiruvannamalai. Nanagaru is a disciple of Ramana Maharishi, and he has is own ashram at Tiru, which has a terrace that has the mountain as a huge backdrop.

Basically, there are two kinds of seekers at Tiru. Those that Guruhop, and those who stay put. Ever seen a grasshopper that doesn't jump?

Nana Garu's satsang started at eight and Johnathan and I were a few minutes late. Johnathan is an English friend I met at Ramesh's in Mumbai. As we hurried up the steps, we heard this song in a child's voice.

Oh, Godda beautiful,
Oh, Godda beautiful,
Oh, Godda beautiful,
Oh, Godda beautiful!

'That is Nana Guru singing!,' I whispered to John, before I saw him. He peeked out at the terrace door as we were removing our footwear.

'Yes, by jove, it is. How sweet. He sounds just like a child.' he whispered back to me.

We tiptoed our way in and sat with the devotees, on a big mat on the floor, with white sheets blowing softly in the mountain breeze.

Nanagaru was seated on a revolving chair, his back to the mountain, eyes closed, singing away in Tamil-Hinglish. (Godda for God, etc.)

Yoou are the blue of the ocean, Yoou are the high in the mountain!

Yoou are the flow in the river,
Yoou are the bliss of the Yogi!

Oh, Godda beautiful,
Oh, Godda beautiful,
Oh, Godda beautiful,
Oh, Godda beautiful!

After the song was over, he slowly opened his eyes. And looked at us. Very slowly, he moved his revolving chair in a semicircle, looking at everyone, holding each gaze, showering bliss in slow motion.

And then he turned the chair completely around, his back to us, now looking at the mountain. A simple gesture, but it melted all duality in that moment. There was no him, no me. The debt to the Guru was finished. He was one with us, beneath the magnificent Arunachala.

A ripple of laughter passed through us and he started singing again, raising his arms to the mountain.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Missing, doing, Papa

So what does a child learn when Papa is out of town for long periods?

He learns about time.

'When will Papa come?'

'Two weeks more, kiddo.'

'Two weeks? That means seven days, no?'

He learns about the net.

'Is papa online or off-line?', he asks and plonks himself on my lap to chat with my friends. Most of them know its him by the QQQQQQQQ and XXXXXXXX he so loves to type.

Sometimes Papa calls him and yells, 'oye, don't drive a cycle on the keyboard.'

'No, Papa, I am just playing the piano. Ja ji ju ja ja ja ju ja ji ji....'

He learns about post and parcel.

'But Papa, why can't you send me the helicopter flying?'

'I can, but how will you get the remote then?'

He learns about direction.

'This way is the south. Bangalore is in south. My papa lives in Bangalore.' I overhear him telling his friends, showing them his magnetic key chain.

He learns how to visualize people.

'Where are you right now, Papa?' he always wants to know.

'I am on my cycle. I am going to the college.'

'You are going to college to study?'

'Yes, Pavan.'

He gets a gist of politically correct gender awareness.

'Mother is making a movie. Papa is studying. Papa is learning to make vegetables for poor people.'

He learns to kiss photographs. And, maybe, he learns to dream of sitting on Papa's shoulders.

Boys should cry

This morning I heard a sound I had almost forgotten. Tukru was howling loudly from the bathroom. I left the roti on the tawaa to burn and ran to him.

'Two big spiders ran over my back,' he cried, naked, wet and frightened out of his wits.

'It's ok babu, spiders don't bite, I will clean the bathroom of all the webs today, ok?' I bathed him and wrapped him in the big blue towel, all the while wondering at the effect of his howling in my stomach.

The last time he had howled was when he was learning his bicycle, and often came home bleeding from both knees. Inside the bathroom, papa holding him tight as I cleaned the wounds with savlon, the howls would amplify to maximum volume.

But that was over six months ago. Although he is not yet allowed to cycle out of the complex, he has become an ace cyclist. He doesn't fall and doesn't howl anymore. He does weep and cry softly when I make him stand against the wall, or when I take away his cycle keys and make him study / go to bed / eat, whatever he is supposed to do.

This transition from howling to weeping, is it a healthy sign of growing up, or is it a process of learning to repress feelings, I know not.

It is a reminder for me, to stay in the present, to enjoy is childhood, to cuddle him and to baby him. I won't be able to save him from spiders for long.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Some old rose petals for his birthday

I met Ramakrishna on an important turning point in my life. From blind faith to blind conviction.
From Siddhayoga to Advaita. From Gurumai Chidvilasanda to Ramesh Balsekar. In fact, I would safely assume that Ramakrishna facilitated the Guruhop.

Those days and nights were very sweet, almost diabetic. Bhajans and satsangs and deep blue clouds in meditation sessions. Chanting Guru Om in the early mornings with Gurumayi in the ashram at Ganeshpuri. Listening to Shree Ram, Jay Ram, Jay Jay Rama in the dining hall, drinking tea from the orange tea cups. And then the elaborate Darshan, with Gurumayi looking like a royal princess in one of those hats she wears with such grace.

'It is all Grace', she said, then added, 'but self - effort is needed too.'

'How can that be?', I wrote on a chit and passed it to her, 'If all is grace, where is the scope for self effort?'

'If it is all his will, then where is mine?'

The question followed me around as I browsed in a book shop in Poona and the Gospel of Shree Ramakrishna sat upon my lap. It is by far the thickest, heaviest, two volumes of hard bound that I ever bought. And of all the books that I have loved, I have cherished the Gospel the most. It has rose petals stored since over twelve years, in those special pages.

Including the page where he answered my question. 'The wise man knows that he is the Chariot and that the lord is the charioteer.'

Now that I knew what the wise man would say, it wasn't long before I found him. I thank you, Ramakrishna, on your birthday, for coming to me as Ramesh.

Although Ramesh does not sing and dance like this, and says he cant smell flowers, he does let me touch his feet, for as long as I need.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Digital Documentary Workshop



These days, online audio visual communications is the name of the game. Video equipment has become easy to use, and a lot of people are making amateur videos. This is a very healthy step towards self–expression, and autonomy.

However, there is a clear scope for improvement in the quality and clarity of the medium.
The objective of this workshop is a practical, hands on experience that enables a thorough learning of the step by step process of making a five minute video documentary.

This workshop will enable the students to conceive, script, shoot, edit and upload their own video films.

Benefits for Corporates and NGO's : Corporate communications mostly rely on PPP's and still photographs for their presentations. Or, they hire filmmakers to make video films to raise funds, to showcase a project, etc. Why not make your own films? It will be cost effective, and the time spent in dealing with a filmmaker will be saved. This is a unique opportunity for companies to upgrade their talented employees' skills by enrolling them in this workshop.

Course Content

1. Script writing

This includes observation trip, discussion, and writing the audio visual script of a five minute film. Idea and concept development, story boarding, paper planning.

2. Cinematography

Camera operations, basics of film grammar. This will include the main aspects of shooting a five minute video with a mini DV ( Digital video camera).

3. Editing

Elements of Editing will be taught, with the practical inputs of Non-linear Editing software like Adobe Premier Pro, a professional editing software. Each student will get hands on experience of editing the material which they have shot.

4.Launch your documentary on the Internet.

Students will learn about web friendly formats and the short video films will be uploaded on your website, blog or You-tube. Strategies and plans to become popular over the net as a documentary filmmaker will be discussed.


We have two batches, one is a four weeks batch, which starts on 10th March and ends on 4th April. In this batch, the class timings will be 2 pm o 4 pm, on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

The total fees for this batch will be Rs. four thousand only.

The weekend batch, which is specially designed for working people and students, will be on 15th (Saturday), 16th (Sunday), 22nd (Saturday), and 23rd (Sunday) of March. The timings will be 2pm to 6pm on Saturdays and 10am to 2 pm on Sundays.

The total fees for the weekend batch will be Rs. three thousand only.

For registration, please contact Manjushree on 9898872862.

The classes will be held near Judges Bungalows, Vastrapur, Ahmedabad.

Course Structure

The objective of this workshop would be to use a real and happening event, or a place, as a subject for making a documentary film of five minutes duration. The students will get hands on experience of shooting, and they will actively participate in each stage of the editing.


Concept, Research, Script writing and Story board. ( 4 into 2 hr. sessions )

By popular consensus, the class will arrive at a topic for research (for ex., child labor in the city). Then we shall go for an observation trip, to research and contact the possible subjects.

A detailed discussion of all that was seen and heard will set the tone for the shooting script. The points that are noted will be structured to form a shooting script. This will be a preparation to get into the mindset of shooting.

We shall also see some good documentary films and discuss them from a professional angle.


Using a digital video camera and shooting. ( six into 2hr sessions ) *

The next step is learning how to use a digital video camera, how to record both sound and picture in a non-controlled environment.
We shall also discuss the rules of composition while framing for an interview, how to use the available light, some basic terms like mid shot, long shot etc.
The most used camera movements, like pan, tilt, zoom in will also be introduced. They will learn how to conduct interviews, with / without a tripod.

The students will then plan and shoot. Everyone will get a chance to operate the camera.


Editing. (six into 2 hr sessions.)*

The principles of Non-linear Editing will be taught, with the help of clips from various films. Students will be introduced to an easy to use, professional Editing Software, Adobe Premier pro 2.0.

Capturing and watching the rushes, selecting the ok shots (sorting), and re-thinking of the structure of the edit. After this, we fine cut the film. Every student will learn the basic operations of the editing software. The theoretical aspects of Editing will be taught in conjunction with their practical application. When the film is done, we will convert the video to a web friendly format and upload it on You Tube.

A discussion on how to launch yourself as a documentary filmmaker on the net will end the one month workshop.

If students have their own cameras, or computers, they are welcome to bring them so that they can learn how to use their own equipment. However, it is not mandatory to bring your own equipment.

*( Whenever more time is required, for example in shooting, it can be planned on a weekend. Editing may also spill over.)

Teacher’s profiles

Manjushree Abhinav

I am an alumnus of FTII, (Film and Television Institute of India, Pune) and I have fifteen years of experience as a documentary filmmaker and Teacher.

I have made several documentary films for NGO’s in Ahmadabad and Delhi. I have taught at NID (National Institute of Design, Ahmadabad) and at FTII.

To view one of my documentary films, click here., Blog :

Mehul Upadhyay

I am an Electronics Engineer. I have been exploring digital filmmkaing for last four years.I am holding position as Director (strategy & planning) for FTFM to spread visual literacy across the globe.

I have conducted successful Digital film making workshops at premier education institutes of India like IIM-Ahmadabad,IIT-Bombay, IIT-Delhi, IIT-Roorkee, BITs Pilani and other institutes. Recently I have conducted Advance level Digital film making workshop at IIT-Bombay which contains special effects stuff,advance camera movements and advance lighting.

Skills : Photography, sketching, editing, cinematography, direction, concept development, acting, all aspects of Digital Film making, poetry, cross platform sharing of multimedia softwares, online teaching.

Fields of Interest : dance, music, Interaction design, Web applications.

Happy feet returns

I saw this cute video while doing some research for a documentary script about saving the planet, by not using plastic. This is a nudist beach type, copy of happy feet type, a comedy which sports a message: Hug to keep warm.

As a film maker, I cant help but wonder, where on earth did they find all those penguin looking artists? I cant even begin to imagine how and where I would have to go to make a similar film in India.

Talking of Happy feet, here is a trailer. A delightful movie. Maybe too blue and white, but thats what firangs think kids like.