September 28, 2011


I wrote this screenplay for a friend of mine.. but I don't think he's gonna do anything with it so here it is..draft one...

Setting: it's late in the evening, the camera opens up at the Colaba slums, near the railway tracks. There’s a line of women defecating on it. Somewhere in the background an old radio is playing "ai dil.. jeena kahan, zarah hut Kay.. zara bach kay... Yeh hai Mumbai meri jaan." 
There is a man crouched and hiding in the bushes and watching women defecating on the railway tracks, it's dark, he seems to be too busy to notice the sound of an approaching train. The song continues to play absentmindedly in the background as suddenly he is blinded by the light of the incoming collision. There is the sound of something being hit, the high pitched wailing of the train, camera pans out before too much detail is revealed and you see the non curious almost matter of fact faces of the defecating women- this isn't new to them. The song is playing "zarah hut kay..zarah bach kay.." Screen goes blank.
Roll credits on black screen, song fades out.
The screen becomes white and sort of fuzzy, as if it were the eyes of the person who has only just woken up. In the background there is the sound of two people- man and woman fighting. 
Man: "you're mad is what you are, how do I know where the maid is and why she hasn't come into work, maybe she got tired of your nonsense, I know I am"
Woman: " You’re a liar! After all these years you think I don’t know you and your habits? Can't keep it in your pants long enough to zip them up! She hasn't been coming for a few days now, I know it’s got something to do with you!! couldn't you at least leave the maid alone, bastard!"
A mobile phone rings with a decidedly western ring tone. You see the hand picking it up and the boy who has just woken up speaks in,
Boy: "Yo wazzaaap, nah just about surfacing now actually" 
he laughs as he listens to the person on the other end. 
Boy: "yeah man wicked night, I don't know if I can do a repeat- no energy or money I think," 
again he's quiet as he listens to the other side of e conversation. 
Boy: "yeah dude, maxed out my dads card yesterday buying champagne, had to yaar, there was Sonal Kapoor standing next to me, had to show her what's what right?" 
More silence and laughter as he listens to the boy on the other end. 
Boy: "yea maybe I could do a movie but a Bollywood movie bro? seriously?”
There is silence as the voice on the other end makes its point
Boy: “ok, ok, damn! alright, meet you there in an hour, laterz bro!"
Boy gets up off the bed, the room is filled with gadgets, it's large and with obviously expensive furniture over which clothes and other mess are strewn around.  The man and woman are still fighting in the background. 
Man: “I wouldn’t touch the maid, why would you even go there?”
Woman: “Please! I know men okay! The lower you have to go for your pleasures, the better you feel about it… just tell me alright!”
Man: “You’re a crazy person! I did not screw around with the maid! How should I know, maybe she ran away with those boys who used to come visit her!”
Woman: “Boys? How would you know huh? You’ve been watching the maid very closely..”
The boy rummages around for his jeans and upon finding them, digs deep for his wallet. It's empty. He makes an uncertain and unpleasant face and sneaks down the hall of apartment into his parents’ room. The apartment is also obviously expensive and well decorated. 
He checks to make sure the parents are still fighting and then with a practiced stealth takes out a wad of cash from the wallet lying on the dresser. 
Cut scene and the boy is standing in front of a movie theatre in Colaba with a group of friends- boys and girls - all of them expensively dressed and holding the latest cell phones etc. 
Boy 2: "damn dude you look scruffy" 
Boy: "man shut up, this is the worst idea, just look at this line, it's a huge line, we'll be here for another hour or so at least!"
Girl "I know right and why this hall..." she looks around the area with a crinkled nose, "why can't be go watch X-Men or something in the IMAX," 
Boy: "yea dude I hate waiting in line, this is going to be ages..."
Boy 2 (checking out boy from head to toe, noting his scruffy attire and grinning with not uncertain malice: "so mom finally fired the maid eh? Too bad, she was cute,"
Girl (screws her face into a disgusted expression):"ew gross you're looking at maids now, how desperate are you… I mean she’s the maid man she probably smells!"
Camera pans out towards the colaba slum area- following the back alleys in fast motion and then slows down till we see in the frame, the running legs of young boys. There is the air of great excitement and a huge smile on the little boys faces as they’re running. 
[note to self: the dialogue for the slum kids is written in English and MUST be translated into Hindi later- with a mind to the slang they use]
Slum Kid 1: “Arrey Amar!” 
The camera moves to show a young boy, about seventeen years old, standing by a water pipe which is gurgling out water in spurts. In front of the pipe, there is a line of some fifty women, some children sitting in a daze or crying and pulling at their mothers. The women look tired, they are all holding one haanda each. In the background there is conversation about where to find work. The women are speaking about the new constructions in Bombay- flyover, sealink, roads etc that they are helping build. The woman right in front fills her haanda and then says to the women behind her, 
Slum woman 1: “Try and keep my place okay, I’m going to go put this back home and i’ll come back for the second haanda. Won’t be longer than half an hour for me to get home, but please try...” 
The other woman looks at her in irritation. 
Slum woman 2: “What do I look like your servant? I spent all day working on the flyover and now you want me to wait for you too? No, ask someone who has the time to care, I don’t, I have my own problems,” 
She indicates towards a crying, half naked baby sitting by himself towards the side. The baby is sitting on a pile of trash; playing with a bunch of empty Coke cans and covered in mud.
Amar: “Both of you just shut up now, everyone has to wait in line for themselves, those are the rules don’t you know? Now hurry up Kalavati, or else I won’t even let you buy the water, you hear me?” 
Both women immediately see, afraid and exchange quick looks. Kalavati fills her handa and goes away, three little kids following her down the alleyway. 
The Slum kids gather around Amar and thwap his back 
Slum kid 1: “You showed her whose boss huh? Naikbhai will be so proud!”
Amar: (laughs) “We will see we will see, now then, what do you kids want?”
Slum kid 2: “You promised we would go watch Rang de Basanti today, remember? we are ready! , lets go lets go, you promised we would go to see the Rang de Basanti, lets go, lets go, the last show starts in an hour..””
Amar laughs again, he is a confident, almost cocky looking kid. “I did didn’t I? I have some work here though, can’t just leave can i? can’t you see?” 
An old woman wearing a tattered suit is walking around the water pipes, she’s mumbling something to the people standing in line and while most of them speak to her normally, she catches Amar’s attention and he pushes some of his friends aside in order to go over to her. 
Amar (while watching the old woman speaking to another woman towards the middle of the line) “Just watch the pipe for me, just one minute ok...” 
Old woman (speaking to the people in line): “Have you seen my daughter anywhere, Padma, you know her right? Of course you do, she grew up here only, she went to get water two days ago and hasn’t come back since...” 
The people in line are exchanging looks but no one offers any explanation or answers to the old woman. 
Amar: “Oi, old woman, why are you irritating these good people when they’re trying to go about their day eh? What do you want?”
Old woman: “Amar beta, you know me, you know Padma, Padma is missing, please help me, she came to get water here a few days ago, hasn’t been back home since...”
The woman breaks down into tears, her wailing is mostly ignored by the people passing by. Amar begins to look uncomfortable and then his face hardens.
Amar: “Yea I know Padma, but it seems to me old woman, that you don’t know your own daughter! everyone here knows she probably ran away to be kept by that rich boss of hers... check under your mattress, maybe she left you pity money!” 
The old woman is stunned into silence for a moment, the people standing around look at each other but no one says anything; the slum kids are laughing in the back. 
Old woman: “Shut up shut up, why are you spreading these lies about Padma, she isn’t even here to defend herself, my poor child, my poor hardworking good little girl, Why are you saying these untruths about her?” 
Amar: “Yeah, I know her, we all know her! why even Ramu here knows her better than you know her apparently, go away old woman before you get hurt or hear something you don’t want to. Just go, come on,”
and with that he herds her away even as she continues to protest. In the meantime, taking advantage of Amar’s distraction, some women are beginning to cut the line for the water tap. As he’s shuttling the old woman away, a fight breaks loose. The other slum kids start wailing, Amar’s friends are laughing. Amar runs back when he realises what is happening and breaks the fight apart.
Amar: (holding two women away from each other) “Stop this right this minute, fighting amongst yourself! GOD! neither of you can get water today, go on, get out of here!!”
Woman 1: “Arrey she’s the one who cut the line, how is this my fault, why are you penalising me Amar? You know my daughter is sick, I need water, her temperature is rising, she’s burning up, she needs water!”
Amar: “You should have thought of that before getting into this fight. If your daughter is sick, tell a doctor, don’t tell me, I’m not your uncle or even the dada of this area.. now go on get out the two of you”
Woman 1: “Arrey how hospital? I took her to the free government hospital, you know how they are! all the beds are taken! they have no time to see her and no room either and whose going to give me money for a doctor?”
Amar: “Well now you can’t get any water, so you’re saving that money, go on, go use it for the hospital”
He snatches the woman’s haanda from her hands and pours out the water on the ground. The women in line watch the wasted water with envy, tiredness and quiet distress. 
A group of foreigners led by an Indian man are walking about, they are on tour, are taking pictures of everything; with flash. The people look uncomfortable at first but then soon, kids start running around the foreigners and posing for pictures.
Indian Tour guide (In English): “and this is Colaba slums, these came up during the 1970s, during a wave of migration into Bombay, people came from villages to find work...but the government didn’t construct housing at the time; some say to control this same migration. As you can see, it didn’t work. Now these people are largely ignored by the government, though the slums have seen over 40 demolitions, mostly without notice to any of the residents living there,”
One white guy goes closer to the tap where the women are queued up and Amar and his friends are standing watching the tour. He has a large bottle of mineral water in the side pocket of his backpack. One small child comes and lifts the bottle slowly. The foreigner shouts, the child runs but is caught by the Indian tour guide.
Indian tour guide (holding the boy from his arm as he struggles): “Oi boy, what do you think you’re doing,” 
He grabs the water bottle out of the child’s hand and gives it back to the foreigner who has a guilty look on his face.
Foreigner: “Never mind, let him have it...” 
Seeing what’s going on, Amar and his friends move closer to the tour group, they look a bit angry but before anyone can do anything, a big beefy looking guy walks into the frame. 
Big Guy: “Oi Amar, Naikbhai wants to see you, you have the count for today? He’s in a mood, so I hope you managed to make some decent money!”
Amar looks worried; he purses his lips into a single line and nods in a serious manner. Turning towards his slum kid friends he says: “Ok listen you guys go on to the movie theatre, I’ll come in a bit.”
He takes out a hundred or so from the pockets of his shorts and hands it to one kid. 
Amar: “Get my ticket also, I’ll be right behind you.”
The kids cheer and disperse towards the theatre. 
Amar: “Acha ok Bhagwati, watch these people for me will you?”
The beefy guy nods and stands by the water pipe now and Amar makes his way towards Naikbhai’s offices.
Naikbhai’s “office” is a small room with a brown door with a giant lock on it. In front of which stands a wooden desk and a chair on which sits Naikbhai. He’s surrounded by goons and a large Rotweiler is lying on the floor sleeping. There is a single exposed bulb hanging from the ceiling, there’s more shadows than light in the room. He is smoking a Marlboro with one hand and is petting the dog with the other hand. 
Amar: “Yes Naikbhai, you asked for me?”  
Naikbhai: “Did I ask for you, did i? Yes, I think I did;” 
He stubs his cigarette out on the desk with a controlled violence. Amar looks nervous and shifts his weight between his legs. 
Naikbhai: “How much did I make today? Tell me, give me the cash,” 
Amar nods and hastily hands a wad of cash to Naikbhai who then counts the amount, holding each note deliberately. The notes are small, (5 rupees, 10 rupees) tattered and dirty. He laughs as he counts.
Naikbhai: “See this, the cleanest bloody money in India... you know why?” 
Amar shakes his head, he’s looking at the floor and standing at heel.
Naikbhai: “It’s the money of hard working people, manual laborers, the people who build this city you know, I mean really build it, from ground up. Or at least it used to be their money... Now it’s mine!”
He cracks up laughing and Amar joins in hesitantly. Then Naikbhai gets silent, he’s giving Amar a suspicious look. He gets up from behind the desk and walks over to Amar. Standing over the boy in an intimidating manner.
Naikbhai: “The count is correct isn’t it? You know what happens to people who try to jip me..”
Amar swallows nervously. “Yes Bhai, of course, you know I wouldn’t ever do that, me jip you, how can that happen? I would never. Count again if you like.”
Again Naikbhai laughs, a booming laughter and smacks Amar hard on the back; as if in jest.
Naikbhai: “Arrey Amar, I was just joking yaar, joking you know? jokes?” 
Then he gets a serious look on his face again and walks back to the desk and towards the door behind it. He opens the door while saying,
Naikbhai: “but just to be certain, let me show you what happens to people who piss me off...”
The door opens to reveal a dimly lit closet-room with a single bed in it. On the side is a bucket on which hover flies and mosquitoes. There is a small water bottle by the side of the bed. On the bed, tied and gagged lies a naked and bruised body of a young woman with terrified eyes and a face streaked with blood and tears. She sees Amar and there is a look of recognition that passes between them, She tries to speak and struggle, but she’s obviously hurt and weak. Naikbhai laughs and shuts the door. Amar looks visibly shaken.
Naikbhai: “She deserves it, thought she was too good for you didn’t she?!” 
Amar simply nods, he starts looking at the exit door nervously and continues to shift his weight between his legs. 
Naikbhai: “Chalo, see you tomorrow,” 
He ruffles Amar’s hair in a gesture of affection and Amar looking grateful to be let go, runs out into the alley and throws up a few feet away, behind a dumpster, so as not to be seen, behind Naikbhai’s house. He then cleans his mouth with his hand and shrugs and starts to walk away from the house and presumably towards the movie theatre. 
Cut back to the movie theatre and waiting there in line are the Rich boys & Girls, while a few places behind them Amar’s slum kid friends are also standing; being excited and rowdy. The Rich boys and girls are watching them with both discomfort and a kind of irritation. The girls move closer towards the boys they are with. 
Girl: “That’s it, I’ll have to sit with them, ugh, I bet they smell, told you we should have gone to IMAX.”
Just then Amar comes up and joins his friends in the line. He is quiet and looks disturbed. His friends are however boisterous and start pushing him around. The Rich Boy is watching the group of slum kids curiously.
Boy: “You know I think that that guy has come to my house before...” nodding towards Amar.
Boy 2 (sarcastically) : “Oh you’re friends?”
The Boy gives Boy 2 a disgusted look and snorts as if that were a preposterous idea.
Boy: “Don’t be ridiculous dude, I mean I think he came to see my maid once or twice... I wonder if he knows where she is....”
Boy 2: “Aw, the baby is missing his maid servant, why don’t you go ask him about her, she may be missing you too...!” 
Boy gives Boy 2 a shove, not rough just enough to make him stumble back a bit.
Boy: “Missing the maid! Ha as if! You’re an asshole dude...”
Cut to a shot of a small hut, there is blue plastic for its roof and no door so one can see inside clearly. 
Sitting inside is the old woman from before. Her eyes are closed and she is praying silently. In front of her is a tattered picture in an old silver picture frame, it’s sitting in the squalor of dirt with a string of fresh and bright orange marigolds adorning it. The picture is of the girl that Amar saw in Naikbhai’s house. In the picture though, she is smiling and looks faraway but happy. 

September 13, 2011

Oh no they didn't!

So I read a news story in the L.A. Times a few weeks ago that really pissed me off. Basically it said that Muslims were the new untouchables of India. It detailed the bigotry an average Muslim citizen of India encounters within the confines of his ‘motherland’. It detailed how while the investigation of the Mumbai bomb blasts was concluded in less than four years, the events preceding it, the Hindu riots against the Muslim community in Mumbai are still undergoing investigation; while most of the top political figures and their right hand men, men who are responsible for hundreds of killings continue to rule the roost in Mumbai. 
The article made my blood boil: As an Indian, I’ve never been so angry before. All I could think was, this could not be true because I’m an Indian and this is not what I've been raised to believe, not what I've been taught in school.

Remember school? Where they told us about Nehru and Sardar Patel and the Indian dream? Where we were told that our country’s greatest claim to honor was that we decided to look above the petty confines that religion puts on a man. That in doing so we declared ourselves to be the world’s largest secular democracy and that this feeling of unanimity is deeply embedded in the Indian spirit. 
Seriously, I got really mad! I was poised and ready to write a scathing comment under the article to let this reporter know what I thought of him and his horrible lies about my country; and then I remembered- it was the school that had lied! 

Nothing that the reporter pointed out was untrue. Not a thing. In fact, he was almost being nice by not drawing attention to a million other examples that go much further in embarrassing any Indian who dares to proclaim that our country is in fact a secular nation. Lets just face it- It is not. 
It is a country where great artists who are also Muslim are forced to die in exile because their paintings happen to upset the religious sentiments of self proclaimed Hindutva zealots like the Shiv Sena. 
It is a country where the then ruling BJP party encouraged and endorsed a re-write of historical textbooks to suit their pro-Hindu core philosophy, making Muslims invaders and promoting Hindus as indigenous people of the Indian subcontinent. 
It is a country that provides around the clock protection for Bal Thackerey, a man who holds no official office in the nation’s government and whose famous words 'Islamic terrorism is growing and Hindu terrorism is the only way to counter it.' are quoted in Wikipedia for all the world to see.
and today it has the distinction of being a country whose highest court of law staged a cop out of such wginormous proportions, I don’t think I’ve seen anything like it since Clinton’s drama of ‘I did not have sexual relations with that woman... define sexual relations to me please’ 
The Supreme court order in the Gujarat riots case against Narendra Modi can’t be called anything more than what it is- a giant, giant exercise in wanking off. 

To take years to charge the man. To allow the man to run for office while he's being investigated for communal agitation. To order an Special Investigation Team. And then after years of passing the buck back and forth with the SIT that you appointed, to refuse to pass an order? say it with me- WANKING OFF!

and where is this case to go in the absence of any orders from the Supreme court- back to the local magistrate. In Ahmedabad. 

Ahmedabad, the capital of the State where Modi is the Chief Minister. A state where he is for all accounts and purposes, the most powerful man and pretty much reigns supreme. Where the Muslims are so scared that they're basically voting for him just to stay under his radar. (Sadly this wouldn't be the first time, think back to the post-riot elections in Mumbai where Shiv Sena actually got more Muslim votes than ever before)

It's such an obvious cop out that I’m just going to go all out and assume that the much spoken about sealed SIT report told the Supreme Court judges something that the last (almost) decade did not make clear to the rest of us. 
Perhaps it tells them that the testimony of senior IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt, who filed an affidavit detailing how Modi asked the local police to let ‘the Hindus vent’ and be indifferent to calls for help from victims during the riots, is actually false.
Perhaps it explains the mysterious murder of  BJP MLA Haren Pandya only a few months after he disclosed that Modi asked police not to come in the way of a Hindu backlash after Godra. 
Perhaps it explains also what Modi meant when he said ‘every action has an equal and opposite reaction,’ no more than two days after the Godra incident and only a few weeks before the outbreak of riots in Gujarat.
Perhaps they’ve decided that since the rest of us are convinced the man is guilty, the only place that Mr. Modi can get a fair trial is in the heart of a land which he not only rules with an iron fist but where he is actually known as the ‘Iron Man’. (thereby forever sullying the term which was once synonymous with one of the founding fathers of what was meant to be a secular India - Sardar Patel)
Perhaps reports of the Gujarat government’s active attempts to suppress evidence in the Riots case have not reached the ears of our highest of high courts.
Perhaps they do not care to ask why after officer Bhat basically blew the whistle on the Gujarat CM in this highly controversial case and despite their instructions to keep him under a security coverage of 11 men, the Gujarat government - more specifically the State’s Director General of Police- unceremoniously downsized the security assigned to officer Bhatt to only one man.
Perhaps the Supreme court did not see anything gained by attaching importance to this much publicised by Tehelka extract from the SIT reports: ‘The Modi government appointed Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-affiliated advocates as public prosecutors in the riots cases. The government did not stop the illegal bandh called by the VHP on February 28, 2002. Police officers who took a neutral stand during the riots and prevented massacres were transferred
So this is the state that the SC thinks is the ideal place for the fair and adequate trial of Narendra Modi? A state that he effectively has by the throat and where he controls virtually all spheres of life and branches of governance- including the judiciary and officers of the law. 

I'm also going to go ahead and assume that it's not the love he gets from Big Business that's making the Courts read into the evidence more (or less?) than the rest of us seem to have read- because I know that the judiciary of ALL people remember their history. Big Business love tyrants; investment in Germany shot through the roof during Hitler's reign as well. 

And also going to go ahead and assume that this has nothing to do with the fact that the Congress isn't looking good for the 2014 election which means chances are that the BJP might be in power once again (with their poster boy for progress: Narendra Modi as the strongest candidate)

So in another nine years, when the details of the SIT report are eventually 'considered' in the magistrates' court, we're all going to see that the Supreme court of India did not just refuse to exercise their Apex powers in favour of passing the buck on, in a case that could not demonstrate more EXACTLY why they were conferred with extraordinary jurisdiction in the first place; just to keep their own asses in comfortable leather seats for a few more years. 

Hopefully that's what's going to happen later. 

It's only been a few hours since the (non) order but the BJP is already calling it a complete vindication (they're probably right!) and Modi is tweeting about the greatness of God. 

And me? I'm Indian, a Hindu and deeply, deeply ashamed of both right now. 

May 26, 2011

Making it through the water

I'm a lethargic person, not something that pleases me but I've learnt (as any lazy ass does) to get around it. Basically, I  trick myself into doing thing. This blog for example, I started because I wanted to practice and thus I told myself I'll try to write four posts a month. A normal person would have just maintained a journal, which by the way is a wiser decision because mostly journals are only read by parents and the people that are ill-mentioned in them (karmic law). I've decided it's decidedly worse when the whole world can see exactly what you're thinking - such is my plight right now because while I don't really want to talk about anything, I did want to a few days ago and now I feel the need for another post just to take that post off the first page of my blog. Please don't go looking now...! Not that I'm going to delete it, it should stay to remind me to shut the hell up on occasion. 

A lot has happened over this month, there's a lot I could talk about. Osama's death, Obama's stand up at the White House correspondents' dinner, The Arab Effect's full effect is finally being felt, Shane Warne's trial, Bob Dylan celebrating his 70th birthday. In India, we saw our state elections- typical wins, though it was nice to see the Congress results in the South wasn't it? Even if the right messages aren't getting across, some kind of a message is. But I don't want to talk about serious things, because I don't think anyone is taking things as seriously as they should. 

Instead, I'm going to do the equivalent of turning the television on to zone out; I'm going to talk about a television show that I recently watched called Treme. It's a docudrama that follows the lives of various key and non-key residents of in New Orleans, post hurricane Katrina. It's written and produced by a man who I think makes the only watchable shows on television - David E Simon. I'm not going to gush on about how he's a genius, but he is pretty fucking smart and I like how he thinks. His previous productions have included The Wire, Generation Kill, Homicide: Life on the streets (basically a list of my favorite shows). Treme is the latest addition to this enviable list of work.

The show is slow paced, as is most of David Simon's work (think the first season of The Wire). The storyline sort of saunters; and is deeply entangled, but in a manner that is so natural its the closest to real life that you can get on television. Why would you want to watch the real shit on television you ask? Because its nice to see intelligence reflected and even better, celebrated on television. It really is but I imagine that still isn't a good enough reason to watch this show- it does test your attention span at times - so I say if nothing else, watch it for the music - the old Jazz, the new southern hip-hop, the funk, the Marde Gras Indians, modern Jazz. There's tons of cameos from greats like Irma Thomas and new talent like Kermitt Ruffins. I promise you even if you don't like Jazz, by the end of the first season; you have an understanding with it.

Another reason to watch it  (apart from the above mentioned musical intelligence it's got) is that it, like all of David E Simon's work - is very very relevant. It asks hard hitting questions, it proposes logical theories, on matters that range from economic to emotional to simply social. It is a wide range I can tell you- in one hour you may witness a sixteen year old girl's teenage embarrassments along with a middle aged man's battle with life-weariness. It is like I said; like life- there's a lot going on. 

My thing is, I don't think that the show is only relevant for New Orleans, or even just the US. We in India would do well to have a few producers like David Simon, people who are telling the hard stories, asking the right questions and not taking the first easy to digest answer they're being given. 

All in all, if I haven't convinced you to watch it- just watch it because it teaches you a lot about people. David Simon's characters come in all shapes and sizes, all colours, all backgrounds. You have the broke trambone player whose juggling women, gigs and more women; you have the struggling but street wise, chef whose really just a soft hearted country girl; the smupid (that's a stupid smart person) deejay who comes from a rich family but thinks he's the white reincarnation of Sammy Davis Jr, there's the angry English professor, I don't want to go on and on about each character specifically but I could.

That's the beautiful thing about David Simon's characters; they're multi facted, real, to a large extent good hearted and relevant. The chef shows the audience the food, the DJ preaches about the music, the English teacher helps put things into perspective. Everyone is there for a reason and it all melts into a wonderfully rich multi-layered and fascinating watch. You can tell which ones he loves the most though; those characters come across as Randian delights- the old Indian chief who won't let anyone punk him, the single mother trying to juggle a family along with her civil activism and her legal career, the young uber-talented overly modest fiddle player. Just good people who want to go about their work without being harassed too much in the process. 

Anyway- as a parting try- here's some of the soundtrack: Made it through the water- Free Agent brass band

May 16, 2011

Tiramisu- a play

A friend of mine tricked me into attending a theatre workshop over the weekend. I attended the first day enthusiastically and in true Avantika form, skipped out on the 2nd to go home and chill instead! The third day however we were all supposed to come up with a ten minute play and me being me, I took the road easiest to travel and converted my short story into a play.

It's on this last day that I really came to appreciate the spirit behind the workshop and when everyone's plays were showcased, really I was amazed by how much talent there was in the room. Also I have to admit, it's a rush to see your words take on a three dimensional form - my heart was pounding and my knees shaking. The actors may not appreciate what I'm about to say now but they really do make the best 'writers' test dummies'!

My favourite part though was watching virtual strangers find their own connections with my work and interpreting it for themselves - what each person saw in the words, gave me a glimpse into their soul. After the showcase, they didn't feel like strangers anymore.

Anyway since this is the place for my first drafts, here it is; the first play I've ever written (though hopefully not the last)


Time: Late night

Setting: A South Delhi apartment. Door opens (at stage right) into an open plan living room (at stage left). On the kitchen counter (upstage), the remnants of take away are visible. The living room (down stage) has two large armchairs and a coffee table. Across the armchairs, the television is on and one can hear the insincere laughter soundtrack and unfunny punch lines that are the trademark of late night television. The door that leads to the bedroom (upstage left) is slightly ajar and reveals a glimpse of a pristine white bed that looks almost clinical. The apartment is smoky but well lit.

Characters: A boy and a girl; about 22-23 years old.

The boy is sitting in the living room on one of the armchairs and hunched over the coffee table. The clock on the wall chimes to indicate its 2 a.m. The boy is rolling a spliff while watching television.

The doorbell rings, once, twice, thrice... He suits up the spliff and then walks over to answer but in no particular hurry. He opens the door, standing there is the girl. She has a disappointed look on her face.

Boy: “Hello! Fancy meeting you here and at this time! I thought you were on a date?”

The girl shrugs and silently moves past the boy into the apartment. He follows her in, lighting up the spliff he has just rolled.

Girl: “Got anything to drink?”

Boy: “Yes, there’s some Coke in the fridge, help yourself.”

The girl fetches the Coke from the fridge as the boy goes back to the armchair he was sitting on, still smoking.

Boy: “So? How was it with the tennis player? It’s late, I’m guessing someone had themselves a good time!”

Girl walks back to the living room. She sits on the other armchair and scoots it towards the boy.

Girl: “It was okay....”

Boy: “Just okay? I thought he was perfect.”

Girl: “So did I. But then halfway through the date I realised something; nobody’s perfect.”

Boy (laughs): “I could’ve told you that! But you slept with him anyway didn’t you?”

The girl nods

Boy: “Why?

Girl: “I don’t know…. I guess I get lonely.”

Boy: “You mean horny!”

The girl grimaces and sighs but says nothing.

Boy: “and how was it? Also just okay?”

The girl nods

Boy: “So you’ll see him again.”

The girl shakes her head

Boy (relieved half laughter): “Poor guy, he’ll be wondering what he did wrong in the sack!”

Girl: “He didn’t do anything wrong. It’s just that.... I don’t know… sex is just so much better when you actually love the person....”

Boy: “but you just met him, barely even know him. Aren’t you expecting a bit too much too soon?”

Girl (nods her head): “Yes, I don’t know him. I guess that’s the problem. It wasn’t bad mind you, it just wasn’t….” She makes a face “I want to say, perfect.”

Boy: “Well yes then you definitely have a problem. Nothing is ever going to be perfect.”

The girl shrugs

Girl: “Some things could be perfect.”

Boy: “Like what?”

Girl: “Like....”

Boy: “ can’t think of anything, because nothing is.... perfect I mean.”

Girl: “Ok, ok, maybe sex wouldn’t be perfect if you loved each other, but it is different. It’s got layers you know... tenderness, passion, lust, vulnerability, there’s more to it than just instinct might even say its flavourful...”

Boy: “You’re going crazy. Are you seriously comparing food to fucking now?”

The girl laughs.

Girl: “Hey, that’s not fair. You guys did it with American Pie remember? Besides I’m not talking about fucking, I am talking about tiramisu…”

There’s a pause, the boy leans in, he’s curious. 

Boy: “Tiramisu?”

Girl: “Uh huh, sex with someone you love is like a perfect tiramisu,”

Boy (snorts and rolls his eyes): “you can live la vie en rose if you want, but considering that you’ve just met the guy, what we’re talking about is fucking is it not?”

Girl: “Are we still talking about him? I thought we were talking about love and sex... screw that, lets just talk about tiramisu.”

Boy: “No forget the tiramisu, let’s talk about sex.”

Girl: “OK lets. Like I was saying sex without love is like a dry tiramisu...”

Boy: “Why do you keep going back to this tiramisu business? You’re hungry aren’t you? Yes you’re hungry, are you?”

Girl: “Was that a question or an answer?”

Boy (laughs): “and did you just ask a question to answer a question?”

The girl is silent.

Boy: “This is why women make good detectives…”

Girl: “What?” (pause)  “What does that mean?”

Boy: “You’re all so good at following leads!”

He throws his head back and laughs loudly. The girl shuffles in her seat, looking un-amused, takes the spliff out of his hand and starts to smoke it while looking in the direction of the television and away from the boy.

Girl: “To answer your original question, No I’m not hungry and I guess now I’m not horny either.”

Boy: “But it wasn’t like a perfect tiramisu?”

Girl shakes her head sadly,

Girl: “It was good, but no... I wouldn’t say it was like the perfect tiramisu.”

Boy: “But sex with love is like a perfect tiramisu?” 

There’s a moment of hesitation where the girl seems to be thinking about the answer

Boy: “Ok tell me honestly are you hungry? It’s odd but I have some tiramisu in the fridge,”

Girl: (smiling) “I know you do, I saw it in there when I went to get the Coke,”

The boy gets a scared look on his face.

Girl: ‘Oh god, chill out, or are you keeping your blow up doll in the kitchen cabinets these days?’

Boy is quiet for a moment, a sheepish expression on his face. The girl looks at the boy quizzically, he clears his throat.

Boy: “So, do you want tiramisu?”

Girl (smiling): “Only if it’s perfect...”

Boy: “Dude, its a tiramisu, I don’t know if it’ll be perfect, it’s been lying in the fridge for a while now...”

Girl’s smile grows wider

Boy: “oh’re now talking about sex again aren’t you?”

Boy gives girl a frustrated look and gets up from his arm chair in a sudden motion,

Boy: “I’m going to go get that tiramisu,”

Girl (adamantly, grabbing his wrist) “No, no don’t...that’s not what I want!”

The boy rolls his eyes but then sits. She keeps a hold of his wrist for a few seconds; he seems not to notice this.

Boy: “Alright so explain this to me again, sex is like tiramisu?”

Girl: “No love is, and so sex with love is,”

The boy looks uncomfortable and starts to fiddle with things to make a new spliff. In the process, he pulls his arm away from her, still seemingly without noticing.

Boy: “Alright, I’ll accept that.” (pause)“So then let me ask you this,”

There is a pregnant pause; boy turns to the girl looking immensely serious, as if weighing his words carefully. The girl shuffles in her seat again, starts to sit cross-legged, looks into the boy’s eyes earnestly.

Boy: “What makes a perfect tiramisu?”

Girl (laughs wryly): “Oh mon cherie...a perfect tiramisu…that is a question for the sages...or at least the chefs.... and at the very least it will take time....” (laughs again) “Just like the tiramisu!”

Boy: “We’ve got time, tell me.”

Girl: “Well, a proper foundation is everything, so the base has to be right. You can’t cheat, you need ladyfinger cookies, soaked in espresso, timing is everything, you can’t let things lie too long, then they are no good to anyone, except maybe your old grandma....”

Boy (in a mock growl): “Leave the grandma out of this lady...”

Boy and girl laugh together.

Girl: “Ok Ok, after you’ve prepared the foundation, you need to add something extra, something sweet, like chocolate if you will.”

Boy: “Has to be chocolate?  Can’t it just be sugar?”

Girl: “Well my dear boy, if you want it to be right, the beginnings have to be correct...nothing good comes from bad beginnings. You’re interrupting a lot, are you sure you want to know this?” 

Boy nods and makes a gesture to indicate he will be quiet. His expression is mocking; the girl continues to speak without missing a beat.

Girl: “Then you have to combine the mascarpone with the egg whites and rum, you need to whip that till its ligh...”

Boy: “Whip it baby! I can’t believe we’re still talking about tiramisu!”

The girl rolls her eyes but this time she also smiles

Girl: “I was being serious you know,”

Boy: “I know.” (He ruffles her hair) “Maybe its not as complicated as you think it is.... you chicks do have a tendency to over think things you know. The secret to love is to lower your expectations."

Girl: "Firstly we’re not chicks. Secoundly, everybody knows that. Besides I don’t think that’s a gender specific problem, or maybe it is... perhaps because we don’t have dicks our brains are free to think for us.” 

Boy (laughingly):“Now there’s a low blow if any. I think my penis is offended. I’ll confer with it later and I’ll tell you for sure” 

Girl (sighs impatiently): “Why don’t you guys want to grow up?”

Boy: “I don’t know, but if we’re doing the thing where we ask questions that we can’t answer. Riddle me this, when did it become fashionable to wear your biological clocks on your wrists?” 

Girl: “it’s not the same thing!!”

Brief pause, girl looks at the floor with a thoughtful expression on her face, boy looks around the room to finally rest his gaze on a wall clock.

Girl: “Feeling sleepy? Do you want me to go?”

Boy: “No, not at all, why would you think that?”

Again a brief pause, both look at each other as if trying to figure out what the other’s thinking.

Boy: “What is it with women and French pastry...?

Girl: “Tiramisu is Italian darling,” 

Boy: “ it a stud thing?”

Girl: “A stud thing?”

Boy: “like French guys are, Italians, GĂ©rard Depardieu, Jean Reno you know, stud boys?”

Girl: “what do studs have to do with pastry?”

Boy: “No, not pastry. Love. It’s just that I've never heard a woman compare love to sweet and sour soup nor heard a girl say that Jackie Chan is sexy. Do you think maybe the two things are somehow related?”

The girl laughs, the boy seems pleased.

Boy: “the French, the Italians, they seem to have produced a land full studs.”

Girl: “Now you’re just exaggerating!”

Boy: “Don’t pretend with me like you don’t know. I’ve seen you girls check out the men. Ooohing and Ahhing about their barrel chests and behemothic biceps. And all that talk about French kisses, Italian sausages...”

Boy shakes his head as if in defeat.

Girl (giggles): “I’m sure there’s French boys out there who don’t know how to kiss...”

She pats him on the shoulder as if to comfort.

Boy: “Well, if there is I’ve never heard about him. I bet, that if a man is born ugly in these countries, they just kill him. Seriously, have you ever seen an ugly French baby?”

Again the girl laughs again. Her hand is now on his forearm.

Girl: “Or maybe they deport them?”

Boy: “Yes! Maybe they deport them to....”

Girl: “Sri Lanka.”

Boy (quizzically): “Sri Lanka? That was fast! Too fast. How can you just condemn an entire nation of men like that...that’s just wrong.”  As he says this he leans towards the coffee table and away from the girl, her hand falls unto the arm of the chair.

Girl (looking pained): “You know what’s wrong?”

Boy: “What?”

Girl: “A guy who wastes a perfect tiramisu.”