July 31, 2016

Weeks 18 and 19

AIB First Draft is a six-month writers' residency programme where a select group of aspiring writers from all over India are being trained in the craft of screenwriting. I feel thrilled to head this project and design and conduct the course. This post is a part of the series that chronicles all that happens at the course. Click here and read from bottom upwards for all posts related to this.


After a three-day vacation to Lonavala at the end of seventeen weeks, the course resumed. We had the following exercises during these two weeks:
  • Write a four-page dialogue-scene from a movie being developed by one of the writers at the course. The ten writers presented the scenes in class.
  • Write a five-page dialogue-scene from a show being developed by two writers at the course. These scenes were also presented for feedback.
  • Each student was assigned two of the twenty-two rules of screenwriting by Pixar and were asked to prepare five-minute presentations for each. Exercises like these enable the student the habit of self-study and provide them with the opportunity to showcase their learning of key concepts.
  • The students were asked to select five best scene-transitions from a movie they respectively chose and were asked to present those transitions on class. They were also shown examples from other films, based on the chapter on Transitions by Robert McKee in his book 'Story'.
The students read the screenplays of 'Sling Blade' and 'The Lunchbox'. The students met Ritesh Batra, the writer and director of 'The Lunchbox' at an interactive session on developing film-scripts in Koolar Cafe, Matunga.

We have started lectures on directing and the students were asked to come up with the shot division of a long dramatic scene between two characters. In the lecture that followed, we discussed how to develop a logical approach for such an exercise during which we discussed scenes from 'Udaan', 'Notorious', 'Vertigo' and 'About Elly'.

The screening of movies to understand structure concluded with 'Pulp Fiction', 'Memento', '21 Grams' and 'Primer'. More movies to understand the evolution of cinema were screened: 'Bonnie and Clyde', 'Easy Rider', 'A Woman Under the Influence', 'Kes', 'Sunset Blvd.' and 'Soy Cuba'. We also watched 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind' at Matterden and attended Shubha Mudgal's concert on monsoons ragas at Nehru Center.

Three-quarters of the course is over and we are quickly approaching the business end where all the students will invest all their learning into writing their respective first drafts.

July 28, 2016

My TEDx Talk at IIM-Indore

Sometime in May I received an email from IIM-Indore, inviting me to deliver a talk at their upcoming TEDx event. They wanted to know if I would want to accept the invitation. I was overwhelmed and despite the doubt if I was worthy of that stage, I accepted it. That was the only reasonable thing to do.

I was then informed of the theme: "Inscriptions on Sand". This is how they explained it to me: "Norms help us against the chaos and structure our life. So it becomes tough to stand up against the existing norms and bring about a revolutionary change. But these transformations are inevitable and necessary as they lead to the betterment of the society, washing away our current perceptions as new waves wash away the 'inscriptions on sand'."

When I had agreed to the invitation, I didn't know that I'll have to speak on a theme. From here to receiving the strict TEDx instructions and eventually working on the content of my speech, I constantly wondered what I am getting into. I must mention that the support that I received from the organizers was phenomenal - they literally helped me figure out my talk for myself. When I saw the list of the rest of the speakers, I felt so honored and humbled. There were seven of us. Apart from me, the rest of them were:
  • Anu Vaidyanathan: Athlete (swimmer, biker and marathon runner), PhD in Electrical Engineering and CEO of an IP Consulting Firm
  • Navin Gulia: Guinness Record Holder Adventurer, Author and Social Worker
  • Vijay Padaki: Psychologist, Behavioral Scientist and Theatre Guru
  • Abhishant Pant: Fintech Enthusiast, Explorer, presently on a Cashless Endeavour
  • Swapna Sundar: Entrepreneur, Lawyer and Author
  • Padmashri Dr. V. Adimurthy: The Brain behind Mangalyaan
Finally on 26th of June, we had the event in the beautiful campus of IIM-Indore. I decided to talk about "the Essential Ingredient of Your Life-Changing Moment". What is that? Watch the video below and see if it is of any help to you. For me, it was a privilege to be there and listen to my fellow speakers and an experience I will never forget. I cannot ask for more.



July 12, 2016

Weeks 16 and 17: Plotting (Part 2)

AIB First Draft is a six-month writers' residency programme where a select group of aspiring writers from all over India are being trained in the craft of screenwriting. I feel thrilled to head this project and design and conduct the course. This post is a part of the series that chronicles all that happens at the course. Click here and read from bottom upwards for all posts related to this.


Four months are over at First Draft. As I write these words, the students are on a three-day holiday to Lonavala. I have advised them to stay away from their writing. I hope they do take this break and enjoy, because the last nine weeks are going to be very hectic, like the rest of the course.

We had four scene-writing exercises during the last two weeks:
  • The students were asked to write a four-page interrogation scene from a hypothetical crime drama movie. After their scenes were discussed, the opening scene from 'Maqbool' was read.
  • As part of "atmosphere exercise" the students were asked to write three one-page scenes, without any dialogue, one each from a romance-drama, a comedy, and an action-thriller. The idea was to make them use scene descriptions to serve different genres.
  • The students wrote the first four pages of a fantasy-drama web-show being developed by one of them at the course.
  • They wrote the first four pages of a dramedy web-show being developed by another student at the course. Both these exercises were followed by detailed discussions.
We also had a discussion on Billy Wilder's Ten Screenwriting Rules. Each student was asked to make a five-minute presentation on one of the rules. The students were also made to read eight chapters from the text-book 'The Tools of Screenwriting' by Howard and Mabley.

We had a lecture-discussion on film editing where the documentary film 'Cutting Edge: The Magic of Movie Editing' was screened. 

The screening of movies that have interesting structures continued. In the last two weeks, they watched 'Ijaazat', 'Magnolia', 'Mystery Train', 'Chungking Express', 'Blind Chance', 'Rashomon', 'Amores Perros', and 'Irreversible'. Apart from these, they watched 'Finding Dory' on the big screen and 'The Third Man' at Matterden.

The students read the screenplay of 'Her'. They also read the screenplay of 'Shahid' and watched 'Aligarh' and eventually we had a very inspiring guest lecture by Hansal Mehta, director of the above-mentioned two movies.

We also had a six-hour workshop with writer-director Atul Mongia where he talked about writing in general, apart from conducting acting-exercises that were a new experience for the students. The students also visited the Disney office and had a long interaction with Disney CEO Siddharth Roy Kapur where we talked about how the studios in the industry today are looking at new writers. It was a wonderfully reassuring session for the students.

The students also watched two plays - 'Ismat Aapa Ke Naam' that starred Naseeruddin Shah and 'Stories in a Song' at Prithvi Theater. Apart from this they also visited the shoot of AIB's upcoming sketch.