Sunday, April 22, 2007

Horror. Hope.

Opened the previous post.

Date: 16-April-07
Title: Horror-scope.
Last line: Somedays, horoscopes stop giving you hope.

Gave the post another read, one of those pointless, inconsequential posts. And yet, a certain sense of ominousness took over. Horror. Hope. The words seemed the same, I had written them alright. Cut pasted them fine.
What had changed then? The perspective? A perspective which seems to fix itself only in hindsight.

Virginia Tech happened. A senseless act of murder. For the past few days, I have read and re-read the news. Watched the guy's rants on youtube with a sense of disbelief. A seemingly normal guy. The kind you would see walking on the streets around you.


This of course is just the beginning of what will seem like an endless analysis of his psychological profile. You know, finding the right pigeon hole to fit this guy in. Son of immigrant parents. Had a tough time fitting in. Wrote of sadness. Wrote of violence. Obsessively listened to Collective Souls' Shine. Sounds like a killer alright?

Is everyone who writes of sadness depressed? Is everyone who writes of violence a potential murderer? Is everyone who comes from modest origins a threat?

What could have been done to stop this?
Guns? Enough has been said about the ease of access to guns. And yet, not enough for them to do something about it.

But I would also hold the gross neglect of mental health issues responsible for a good part of it. On hindsight, its easy to judge him, call him a madman, with a perfect profile for a killer. But I wonder if enough was done to prevent him from sinking to these depths?

PS: Orkut offers advice today: Society prepares the crime: The criminal commits it

Monday, April 16, 2007


Dear Mo,

Here is your horoscope
for Monday, April 16:

Could it be that you've outgrown this way of life? If that's the case, you need to let this old identity go. Isn't it time you acknowledged how much you've changed, and accept the scope of your recent emotional development?

Somedays, Horoscopes stop giving you hope.

Monday, April 09, 2007

The calculus of story-telling

A story, simplistically speaking, is driven by a function. Like a curve - it has its ups and downs. You remember the once-upon-a-time when we all had to study differentiation, and calculate the maxima, minima and inflexion?? If you carefully observe, a simple story would ride on a curve.

  • Boy meets girl, (At t = 0, perhaps? )
  • Boy and girl fall in love, Maxima
  • (Lo and behold, we discover that the families were always rivals. )
  • Girl's dad-mom find out and threaten to kill the boy, Minima
  • Girl and boy elope, Point of inflexion.
The point of inflexion. The point where the double derivative is zero (??). The point where the direction of the story changes. The point of freedom. The point where there is nothing left to lose. The real art of finishing up a story, I believe, comes with bringing your characters to this point of no return. Beyond this point, even if its a tragedy, the story itself takes over.

So, the aforementioned story could either be QSQT-esque tragedy ending in a bloodbath. Or, they could have a child and then the parents look at the grand-child and have a change of heart (Now which movie was it? Dil? Bobby?).
Of course, nobody is making these formula films anymore. But, even for a complicated story, it should be possible to identify such points.

Cheats, (like me), create a vivid landscape for the characters, write about the maxima usually soaked in nostalgia, drag the story to the minima, to the sadness/helplessness/despair, and let the pathos do the trick on the reader. Probably because of the lack the creativity and/or the courage to give a fair treatment to the characters.

What do you think?

Song of the Road

I recently read somewhere that the first principle a writer should remember while narrating a story is - "Show, don't tell". One can write volumes explaining how the character feels, but nothing is as powerful as conjuring up the image of the character and his surroundings in the reader's head, making him a part of the narrative, getting him to think and judge for himself.

But doing it in cinema? There are too many distractions, if one may put it that way - the music, the colours, the costumes - all force the director's vision/ imagination into the viewer's head. Detachment is easy in such a situation. So, to elicit emotions, Indian cinema uses melodrama to great effect - people crying, gore on screen, dialogues drenched in emotion, songs to illustrate the agony of the separated hearts, the high pitched tones of the shehnai. A director will use it all, Unless of course, he is a genius.

Watched Pather Panchali till late last night. The last time I watched it, I was way too young and way too naive to perceive the depth of each character. Now, older, and obviously more exposed to average-tending-to-bad movies, I realized how well Ray used the aforementioned principle brillantly and that too in a difficult medium. Images come and go, without being overbearing. Minutes on end are spent in silence, where one is left alone to explore the emotions, study the evolution of the characters. Emotions are presented sans melodrama, understated, almost matter of factly.

Genius, I tell you.