"A writer and nothing else: a man alone in a room with the English language, trying to get human feelings right. " ~John K. Hutchens, New York Herald Tribune, 10 September 1961

Friday, August 27, 2010

Watched a Movie Lately?

posted by Ayesha

Well-written scripts should be given a well-deserved round of applause. But how rare it is to come across a script that meets expectations, let alone exceeds them.

Most times when I am watching a movie, I am pleasantly surprised if the script manages to add texture to the plot. More than often, the interaction between characters is either overly done or is way too cliched.

As I watched an Indian movie only recently (Once Upon a Time in Mumbai) I realized how thoroughly disgusting over-the-top lines spoken in intense situations can become - especially when you have the likes of Devgan and Imran Hashmi delivering them. In addition to the experience being quite ridiculous, I could not help but marvel at the loss of common sense on the part of the director when he had decided on this match between the screenplay and his super-star cast.

It is a rare situation when the script is exactly the way it should be: defining the story, tapering the edges and moving it along. A good script, while focusing on the story, challenges the skill of acting just enough. The right words simply add some spice; they do not steal the limelight from anywhere else. Most importantly, it is evidence of a worthy story when the screenplay can provide more than one dimension to its viewers.

A screenplay that I found quite amusing and rather original was of the much celebrated Peepli [Live], which I managed to watch over the weekend. With a pint of sarcasm and shadowed treatment that borders on comedy, the movie is not mainstream to say the least. A thorough bashing of the media made for an interesting watch and definitely a fresh POV for an audience that is deprived of originality and the right kind of film making.

In a day and time when bizarre technologies, special effects and twisted psyches have rendered us insensitive to story plots and screenplays, it is a relief to watch a movie with a fresh perspective, whether it is the director who has visualized the concept with a real lens or the writer who has managed to take the time to write an original story line.

In a country where we have hardly any recreational activities, a handful of cinema screens feed my appetite for the love of this art. Only recently have I realized how thoroughly disappointing all the movies I have seen in the past few months have been. I wonder then about how these movies are chosen to be put up on the big screen; are there any criteria at all? Do we realize the impact this media has on our culture/the audience? Who is to be accountable for the disappointment we take home?

This brings me sadly to the conclusion that our audiences don't really give a crap about what goes up, as long as it has some tasteless nudity, at least a few scenes full of senseless action and at most the hint of a story. We have been watching the art for many decades but our sensibilities have not really seasoned.

Perhaps we can't really complain, as who do we know who would want to write for a film? Literature as it is, suffers from a lack of quality writers - script writing is a long shot.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Sombre Update

As an unimaginable disaster unfolds in Pakistan in the shape of massive floods, the Desi Writers Lounge community is planning an initiative to take part in the relief efforts as best as it can. We have several ideas brewing on the forums. Primarily we are focusing on ways to get the international community to take note of the horrific plight of millions of Pakistanis. The biggest source of distress right now is the weak response and media coverage internationally, and what that means in terms of aid money that is required urgently.

We have issued a call for articles and eye witness accounts from members based in Pakistan who have the means to visit relief camps and collection centers, which we intend to promote on international blogs and online publications. Another idea in the pipelines is that of a writing competition with an entrance fee in the form of a check made out to a specific relief organization (we have not decided which one yet). We are thinking of promoting this writing competition in universities outside of Pakistan, and roping in guest judges who are established authors and journalists.

These and other ideas are being discussed on the forums currently, and we would love to get feedback and input from you.

The Desi Writers Lounge Team

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

"All your dignity is belong to us."

posted by Omair

Soon, war will be upon us. Not the fun kind with armies and explosives and fascist dictators. But a far more quiet, more sinister war. It'll be clean, quiet, bloodless, and mundane. A war we'll be fighting without even knowing it.

Look at us. If you're reading this, I'm shocked. But that's besides the point. If you're reading this you're probably within three feet of an LED. Look at that smug little bastard, glowing innocently, lulling you into a false sense of security. Pretty colour though. Hehe, shiny.

But yes, the machines are everywhere. In our homes, our offices, our bags, even in our pants. Everything you do, everything, is probably being uploaded on Facebook, youtube, twitter or what have you right now. What's more, you're probably doing it yourself. Some of you, to an annoying extreme. (That's right, you status update fetishists, I'm talking to you. Get a life, and keep it to your damn self.)

Now, because we're people, we do stupid things from time to time. It's our privilege as sane rational adults, to do stupid things. Often in the company of others. Often when someone in said company will have a mobile phone with a camera built in. And that act will be stripped of all context and become a permanent digital testament to the wonders of you, and will remain forever googleable to your friends, family, boss, police, your children and your children's children down the generations.

Your dirty laundry, once safely locked in with the skeletons in your closet, will now not only be aired, but delivered directly via courier to friends and strangers alike.
And that's just us grown ups. What about the little ones? Children thrive on stupidity, and parents ensure their silliness is captured in all its glory and promptly uploaded. Twenty years from now, these kids will grow up and have their childhood rubbed in their faces repeatedly, a curse they will never be able to shake off.

We are merrily skipping down a brightly lit, digitally enhanced, OCD- fuelled dangerous road. Stop the madness! Stop the incessant updating, newsfeeding, twittering and blathering.
For god's sake, live your life without advertising every moment of it.

Keep it real.


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

There’s Death, Good Sir, And Then There’s Death

posted by Osman

There’s death in a blinking cursor; death in a blank page.

I often find myself staring at the John Doe of poetry titles, ‘Document1’ (Microsoft Word); a thousand words bled white. I then look through my poetry archive [read: ramblings of the poor man’s Stephen King/M. Night Shyamalan] and think Holy Frack, what the pig’s scrotum happened to me? I could find terror in a teacup, a tale of macabre waiting to unfold behind the steely blue eyes of a doorman.

Now, there’s only wretched white noise. I think ‘vampire’ – bam! Head stuffed with images from the latest episode of ‘The Vampire Diaries.’ Next thought: evil fetus that drives its mother insane through violent nightmares – hello, ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ slash ‘Splice’ slash ‘Alien.’ Every thought is unoriginal, derivative. Where once all I needed was a word [‘Whack!’ was my inspiration for ‘Incubus’], a phrase [‘Eat some of my remorse’ from ‘a la carte’ just came to me], or a character [suicidal closet-homosexual, for example – see ‘Sodom’], now I find myself fishing for inspiration; forcing my hand on the keyboard. I wrote two poems recently – they were as effective as Stephenie Meyer’s take on Nosferatu [my umpteenth ‘Twilight’ reference; do you see where I’m going with this?]. To her credit, though, I found ‘The Host’ to be a particularly riveting read. Gaah – I’m digressing again. I can’t write 224 words without – sigh. Moving on.

I once wrote a concept about a little boy who walks in on his parents having sex; he’s told they were playing a ‘wrestling game.’ I must have forgotten all about it: just came across the document while cleaning up my ‘My Documents’ folder. [I also came across a document that only read: ‘PRIVATE MALE ESCORTS NOW AVAILABLE, HANDSOME GUYS FOR YOUR SWEET MASSAGE, DINING AND NIGHTLIFE PLEASURES’ – and before you triumphantly pump your fist in the air, Shehla (she insists on interpreting 'Sodom' as my subconcious urging me to come out of the closet!), that was character research: I played a gigolo in a Lahore Grammar School production – but that’s a story for another time].

The draft/concept read:
“9 year old boy (8? 7? How young is too young?) sees parents in Kama Sutra position number – oh just pick a number. Goes batshit ballistic till daddy tells him they were ‘wrestling.’ Boy wants to ‘wrestle’ with sister – [comment added later: ‘You’re fu***ng sick, Obi, make it girl from school.’], scary freaky shit – to show or not to show?
‘I drew mommy as a trout’ / daddy as (what’s a really big fish? Shark? Lol, this gives ‘Jaws’ a whole new meaning.)”

When I couldn’t think up of anything more original than that concept, I decided to write out a poem based on the material my perverse mind conjured more than a year ago. This is what I came up with:

I drew mommy as a trout; Snotty Steven thought it was a grey
SpongeBob SquarePants - he doesn’t know they don’t have
spines; silvery freshwater seafood – Steven laughed when
I used the fuchsia pink crayon to fill in mommy’s cheeks; but that’s her
only camouflage against the rose bed spread when daddy plays
the wrestling game with her. Mrs. Trellis was quite bemused (I learnt the word
in English-II today) when she saw daddy
devouring mommy; a great big shark, or the whale that wolfed down Geppetto
“Why would you draw your parents that way?” she asked me; but that’s how I saw them,
Swear on the old ghoul that lives in the attic. She said she’d call home when it’s
After dark, but that when’s they play the wrestling game most; the trout and
The shark. Tonight, canvas in hand, I opened their bedroom door, just as
Daddy was done wrestling her on our hardwood floors; they were so quiet after those
Three seconds I was sure he was going to dogheaven (just like old Scooby did)
From a heart-attack, just like that mostly shirtless man from mommy’s favorite soap opera –
And mommy was going to be crushed under that human grand piano
(Sylvester does many times, but a cat has nine lives, doesn’t he?)
They were staring at me but not staring too; so I asked mommy if what they were doing
Was just for fun; and my heart skipped a beat – what if daddy turns into Jaws and mommy’s
No more – sometimes I wish Steven hadn’t made me watch that movie – but then mommy
Laughed in a voice that was much too hoarse, and said of course, baby, of course.
Daddy took me to my room, and while fidgeting with my Transformers model said
that it’s not scary what they do; that might be true
I’ve seen them pray sometimes in between their game; just yesterday I counted
Mommy taking the Lord’s name
Five times (or was it six?) – so maybe it is holy and daddy’s not a monster after all; he crinkled
His eyes and laughed when I showed him my picture;
he tousled my hair and said
I’d have my fill of the wrestling game one day
Little Peggy makes me all funny inside, with her painted toenails and
Maple syrup scent; I wonder if she’ll be at school tomorrow
I wonder if she’ll play.

After writing this, trying to change and alter it into something worth salvaging [read: making it so complex it seemed as though the poor boy was spewing Sanskrit], I have now resigned myself to the following:
a) I should stop trying to enter the mind of an eight-year old (as poetry protagonist, gaah – this reads like I’m a bizarre Inception pedophile),
b) I should stop trying to write poetry that rhymes,
c) I should just … stop?

Oh sweet Krishna, I started off this blog post saying there’s death in a blinking cursor.
Well, there are some things worse than death.