Monday, October 31, 2011


I found this passage in a long discarded story of mine (obviously because I found too much of me in it). This is also a tribute to one of first friends I made through blogs. His blog was titled Kaleidoscope, he has deleted his blog (for reasons that I cannot fathom), but, still he remains being one of my best friends and guide (as far as writing goes).

Hey friend, hope you revive your writing soon by whichever name you like.

Kaleidoscope is the word that reverberated in her head whenever she was with Rajan. It was not that she was good with allegories. For her everything was divided into two: Right-Wrong, Good-Bad, Like-Don’t Like or Love-Hate. Only a hyphen could fit in between and nothing else. Rajan was someone who rose above the two clearly divided portions of her mind. As a kaleidoscope was filled with broken pieces of glass, but would show colourful and vibrant images with a smooth jingle whichever way it turned, same way Rajan even with his deformed limbs and contorted face gave a sense of perfection and serenity to the world around him. The vibrancy he exuded was infectious, so was his humour.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Ghost Writer

We may never judge a book by its cover because it is nailed into our heads even before we begin to learn the nursery rhymes. But, what happens when you have seen the film based on a book and that too a gripping one? You go to the book expecting to be in line with the film, maybe little clearer and the characters etched with more depth and empathy; that is all. No, not at all! You be ready to be surprised and even shocked as the book takes a totally different trajectory or to another realm.

This was the feeling I'd while reading  The Ghost Writer (the American imprint of The Ghost as published in the UK) by Robert Harris, which is adapted into a film by Roman Polanski.

The story is political thriller where a nameless London based ghost writer (the book is narrated in first person by the writer himself without ever letting out his real name), who is called into to finish the work on the memoirs of the former Prime Minister Adam Lang (a character said be based on Tony Blair), when the man working on them is found dead just a month before the deadline for submitting the manuscript to the publishers. So, the Ghost heads to the USA to be with Adam Lang and his team holed up in Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts, the summer holiday home of the rich publisher Martin S. Rhinehart to finish the book. Obviously, the sailing isn't smooth as the Ghost had expected. First, the manuscript he has been given to work with is bland and needs overhauling. Second, Lang is very reluctant to open up about is youth and his years in Cambridge, and, there is discrepancy in what Lang says about his entry into politics and the actual version as the Writer finds out through his research. There is more to come in terms of thriller and conspiracy theory.

The film starring Pierce Brosnan as Adam Lang and Ewan McGregor in the title role is loyal to the book as far as the thriller part of the story.

But, what I loved about the book is the fact that at least half of it is a writer's manual, a ghost writer's manual to be precise without the dreaded 'Do it yourself' exercise with the process of writing dealt with in detail; from drawing the Contract to how to present yourself in front of your subject. Everyone of the seventeen chapters begins with a quote from Andrew Crofts' seminal book titled Ghostwriting thereby giving direction about how the story will move in the said chapter.

Couple of interesting passages from the book:

All good books are different but all bad books are exactly the same.

Of all human activities, writing is the one for which it is easiest to find excuses not to begin – the desk's too big, the desk's too small, there is too much noise, there is too much quiet, it's too hot, too cold, too early, too late. I had learned over the years to ignore them all, and simply start.

A book unwritten is a delightful universe of infinite possibilities. Set down one word, however, and immediately it becomes earthbound. Set down one sentence and it's halfway to being just like every other bloody book that's ever been written. But the best must never be allowed to drive out the good. In the absence of genius there is always craftmanship. One can at least try to write something which will arrest the reader's attention – which will encourage them, after reading the first paragraph, to take a look at the second, and then the third.
This in no way means that this book is very high funda or technical; it can be enjoyed by anyone who is interested in listening to a good story.

PS. Searching for this book was an experience in itself. It was last year in Bengaluru; I went into an upmarket book-store and asked for this book. At least half a dozen of sale-people converged around me and virtually emptied the whole of the 'Horror' section on my lap. Ma and my sister-in-law had a hard time explaining to them that I wasn't interested in horror stories but just wanted a novel titled The Ghost written by Robert Harris. In the end, they themselves had to dig it out from somewhere for me.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Day When Jagjit Singh Did Playback For Me

We often feel exasperated when a writer or a filmmaker overly depends on coincidences to move his story forward thinking how lazy of him to use a 'beaten to death' cliché rather than working out something natural or new. But, if we see minutely; the one who has written our lives is the laziest of them all, he uses coincidences that go on to become cliché when used by us in fiction. Here is one such incident:

Long back when I wasn't this bald and my beard was black pepper without even a crystal of salt in it. I was sitting here reading and waiting for my dinner to come. The cassette-player was soulfully playing Seher, the latest addition in my Jagjit Singh Collection.

But, before the dinner, she came that too with a red rose in her hand; “don't get any ideas in your head, this may be the last birthday I'm here to wish you in person. So, felt odd coming empty handed”, she said, handing me the rose. I held it near my nose as Dilip Kumar of Mughal-E-Azam.

At that precise moment Jagjit Singh started singing Tere Aane Ki Jab Khabar Mahke/Teri Kushboo se Sara Ghar Mahke (When the news of your arrival wafts through the air/My whole house becomes fragrant with your scent).

I started to lip-synch him as if I was Naseeruddin Shah. After a few moments she just said trying to keep a straight face; “please save your singing and acting skills for the time when you have a real girlfriend”.

PS. Here are two old posts about Jagjit Singh.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

A Fruitful Day

Yesterday (05/10/2011) for me began on a low note (not the typical 'mood swing' kind of low, but the 'end of the road' kind of low). One good thing about such days is that you tend to love whatever that can keep your mind occupied. So, these kind of days do have a positive side to them, you begin to feel the importance of the things that you'd push away on a normal day.

For me, I reduced the heap of newspapers on my table by at least 250 grams (the pile of newspapers on my keeps increasing unless I mark them as 'Read'). Reread the first fifty of a best-seller that I am intending to finish for a long while now. And, at the end, watched Whose Life Is It Anyway?. It may not feel the right kind of film to see when you are low. But, let me assure you that it can be an uplifting experience if your perspective is right.

I had started this post on the morning of 06/10/11 to mark the Vidyāraṃbhaṃ, but couldn't complete it as other mundane things got priority over writing a blog post.