Saturday, August 01, 2009

get lost

Ever since I can remember, I've always been constantly reminded about how lost or confused I am. And I don't even mean lost from the inside. It shows on my face as well. I'm not necessarily placing the entire blame on others, some of it is also situational and it's right in my face. The idea of feeling lost is weird, it makes you feel as if, at some level, you're alone. You're supposed to tread a path with others. I guess the realization of being lost only hits you when you find yourself on your own. I don't know. You start comparing yourself to others, see what they did that you didn't. And it's absolutely normal: when something isn't the way it's supposed to be, you look at what others are doing. 

My point is that feeling lost shouldn't feel wrong. No reason to. Let me give you an analogy. Say you're driving to this new restaurant where you're supposed to meet up with your friends. You're driving. And along the way, you miss a turn. Then, you miss another. And on and on. By now, you're just guessing and hoping that the next turn will get back 'on track.' But what about all the nice restaurants you're driving past all the while you're supposedly lost. (I wonder if I've stumbled upon a philosophical side to owning a GPS. I think I have, haven't I? Hmmm ..... brilliant ! :) ) 

Being lost can't be such a bad thing. You're in a newer place, and that's a good thing. You've seen something new, which you might not have had you followed 'the path.' You can now connect 'the path' with this new one. It probably seems like I'm going to extreme measures to justify my situation. Maybe I am. But to me, it makes complete sense. Being lost, being confused is a good thing. I've seen more, experienced more, learnt more than I ever could've, had I owned 'the GPS.' And you know what? I'm still lost!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

**** and coke

(the prelude is here)

Somehow it all comes down to Jack. It just does. It's written. No matter how much I try to avoid it, it just comes right back to bite me in my ass and remind me of its existence. To remind me that it will always be there for me, just how the Bollywood hero promises his beloved beau.

Ok, the deal is that I'm trying, with as much power as there is in my arsenal, to phase out the beloved Jack. People forget my real name. Or worse - they don't even know it! I mean I don't want to become a famous guy in the future and be known as Jack Patel. That would be a huge disgrace to Pratik. Huge injustice! If there's anything inside me that will contribute to me being a famous guy, it will most likely come from Pratik, not silly lil' Jack! Jack is only good for sowing the seed of multiple personality disorder - which I'm very confident of acquiring in the distant future. 

See, the way I look at it is that there are in general two parts of me: there's Pratik and then there's Jack. Pratik is a little more serious, a little more boring. At times, he just gets lost in a trance, making others around him think he's lost or that something is wrong with him. Pratik doesn't use plastic bags. Pratik wants to write (but he doesn't). Pratik pisss people off because he urges them to car-pool. But Jack! He's a little different. Jack can crack a few jokes. Jack's laughs evoke great intrigue. Jack is easier to get along with. Jack stays up late at night. Jack is childish! And there are times when these two merge into a whole other person (let's not give him a nickname). (This is the height of self-indulgent self-analysis!)

So know this: where there is a Jack, there is a Pratik. Kindly not forget please ...

Monday, December 24, 2007

making 6 - part III

And then the next day ..... oh well, that's a story for another day ....

Today's another day and so the story continues.

Now that the dust has settled on the chaos in my life the past month, I can enlighten you all. There shouldn't be a part III to my story. Some stories have a twist, some don't. Fortunately or unfortunately, this one does.

So the next day, I get to work and I was laid off. Yep, laid off! Seinfeld has a theory about breaking up : "You should just do it like a Band-Aid. One motion! Right off!" And that's pretty much how they chose to break up with my colleagues and me. I was out of the place in an hour. This includes clearing my desk and stuffing all my so-called valuables in a plastic bag. You know how you find junk while packing when you have to move to a new place. It felt the same. I found so much junk and I only worked there for a year. Imagine the number of bags I would need if I had gotten laid off after 10 years or something! So in principle, all I lost was some storage space ... In principle, I've also lost my head a little ... But that's not the reason I didn't have a job then - I was laid off. It's like a UFO - no one can explain the science of it, it just is. UFO's are real because! I was laid off because! .....

On the way back home, it was snowing, the first snow of the winter ahead. It wasn't snow actually, it was like little, solid dots of ice, just pelting down - very odd. This could be a very long winter ....

I didn't know how to react to it all. I certainly didn't see it coming, it was a surprise. Despite that, I was pretty cool about it, unlike some of my other colleagues who were also let go. I'm good at being calm. I pride myself for it. I remember, a few months back, my friend Deepti was visiting the US and she forgot her passport at a Dunkin Donuts. She realized a couple of hours after and she freaked out. I guess, rightly so. I mean, who am I to say you can't freak out if you misplaced your passport. Just because I wouldn't doesn't mean you can't. So my other friend Saurabh, who in normal circumstances can make anybody laugh, gets all serious and starts reassuring her that we'll find the passport. I, on the other hand, want to turn up the volume on the car radio because I like the song (I think we were listening to Dodgy - Oddly enough, it pisses them off. But it's all forgotten because we did find the passport. Why wouldn't we??!! The Dunkin Donut employee was kind enough to keep the passport she found lying around. Who wouldn't do that?!! I would!

Anyways, this feeling of getting laid off is one of those that sinks in real slowly. Little by little, day by day, you grow into this idleness of unemployemnt. I've been through this before actually. Not the lay-off, the unemployment. I didn't feel an iota of shame then. So why now? In times of idleness, one does a lot of thinking. One must. It struck me that I could actually make a profit out of this lay-off. If I found a job quick enough, say in a month, I'd actually have more money than while being employed. Amazing innit? See? This is what idleness does to a man. So I thought what the hell - let's be positive! And as luck would have it, I do have another job now.

This is supposed to be part III of making 6, my first short film. I couldn't quite stop thinking about the irony of it all. The day after I submit my short film I get laid off from my job. Is this a sign? It's like I was waiting in line at Mcdonald's and someone pulled me out of the queue and said "sorry, you can't be doing this." Somebody tell me it's a sign!

I had all the time in the world to follow the reactions to my first short film. Refreshing the page every minute of my waking hours, I'm waiting for the next comment. But alas - there aren't any comments. Nothing good, nothing bad, nothing. It wasn't like it was trashed. It just didn't seem to get any reactions, which was a little disappointing. One guy found it "wacky but underdeveloped", with which I agree. My friends liked it - what are friends for anyways? Well, it's not like the end of the world. It never is.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

making 6 - part II

Things seem to be going on the right track, that is until our first obstacle. Our actress is late (I thought such things only take place in big showbiz, not little showbiz). There's talk of postponing the shooting to the next day; Manan has a 1pm appointment with his cable guy and Atilla can't stay for too long. Yeh kya ? Shuru hone se pehle hi The End .... ??

Manan receives a call from Karina; she'll be there in 15 minutes. We give ourselves another chance and wait some more. I'm a little anxious myself, for other reasons. The first time Manan told me about Karina, he mentioned the word 'melancholic.' Since I didn't know what the word meant, I presumed it was a good thing; 'melancholic' has a very musical sound to it. The day before our shoot I'm a little bored and I look up the defintion; says 'gloomy' and 'expressing sadness.' I'm having doubts if Manan has actually understood my story; I was hoping he'd know that we didn't want a melancholic face. I'm pleasantly surprised when she walks in through the doors. Manan's done a good job at casting, much better than his 'definitive' abilities.

We get straight to work. I'm explaining the elevator to Sujit. There's nothing to it really : the elevator stays at the same floor and he just needs to hit the DOOR OPEN and DOOR CLOSE buttons at the cue. Initially, he doesn't open the elevators at the cue. Once it's too early, another time too late. And yet another time, the elevator's gone off to some floor! This is driving me nuts! This is supposed to be a very simple shot! So I say screw the elevator doors - I'll just cut them out of the shot.

Then, we have to take the shots from inside the elevator. One thing about elelvators : they are cramped as hell. Apparently, it can fit 8-10 people. I'm not so sure about that. We need some different camera angles from inside the elevator so I try taking some shots while standing on a (rather shaky) chair. They turned out really well. Finally something to be happy about.

We're getting close to our deadline for the elevator. On top of that, the camcorder battery is running low. So while I leave the camcorder for charging at my place, I'm asking Manan and Karina to throw off some ideas for an alternate ending. Manan's totally barren with ideas. Karina's suggestion has a good feel about it so we decide to try it out. The office receptionist comes up to remind us that we better finish up with our 'moving.' I think she's a little perplexed to see just a chair and a man with a camcorder in hand. We pretend to move the solitary chair and assure her that we'll be done in no time. I think she's about to call our bluff, maybe even complain to higher management, but I'm not so sure. We have a couple of shots left and we hurry through them. I think Manan's a little unsure about how to portray his character in the last scene. I'm trying to explain 'dazed' but I'm not completely happy with the final take. It's all happening in a hurry. I wish we had more time but I guess that's the way it's going to be.

After all that shooting, we're off to Panera Bread for lunch, discussing a little bit of foreign film and bitching about our colleagues at work. Manan insists that he pay for lunch since he's the producer. "Producer and you? Who said so?" So he enlightens me about how his ancestors had a film studio in pre-Partition Lahore and distributed films India-wide. It makes for great reading in a newspaper : "grandson revives family-owned film studios with phenomenal success of short film". But I'm afraid this film can't, in fact shouldn't, have a producer. Maybe our next feature .... :-) On the way back home, Manan's feeling a tad apologetic because I felt his performance was below par. I meant to say it as subtly as possible, but I'm not a good actor! Or maybe I'm just too honest. Manan saw through my disappointment. I had a feeling that he'd make a good actor and he would. The whole atmosphere that day was chaotic. It's not like I did a great job at handling everything either. So shit happens. Despite all that, everything's cool. All said and done, it's time for a few days' break and get cracking on the editing.

I'm giving myself around 15 days to make the final edit. We don't have so much footage, just over 15 minutes. More than half of that is just footage of stairs and elevator doors opening and closing. My first cut, where I'm trying to be as stingy as possible with the shots, turns out to be 90 seconds long! Screwed! My earlier doubts have been realized : this is not 60-second material. So I'm stingier still the second time round. I'm having to remove shots which add to the build-up, making the climax less effective. The story is basically taking place on 3 days; in my final draft, the first day alone is taking up nearly half of the film. It's very hard to set up the end. I'm having to fight for half a second of footage - that's how miserly I had to be.

The most fun part of editing was picking out the background music. Now I can't just pick any of the few 1000 mp3's I have. The competition rules state that we have to buy rights for copyright music so the only option is royalty free music and sounds, of which there are plenty of sites on the net. If I had the money for it, I would've bought the rights for the theme of In the Mood for Love ( - listen to it with your eyes closed and the violin just melts you within. The funny thing about background music is that everything works. The music will create the mood. I'm especially conscious of background music whenever I watch a film. I can instantly feel it when the music adds to the impact of images displayed on the screen. So selecting the right track should be a piece of cake - I knew what I wanted .... apparently. All I had to do was sample as many different tracks as possible. So as I'm sampling each, I'm thinking "this is good, this one fits beautifully." This goes on for almost every track I sample. So I stick to my old policy and pick out a classical music track. I'm looking for something like the In the Mood for Love theme, but not quite like it. Something with a violin. Had I used the theme, it would've created a melancholic (!!) mood, which I didn't want to. So thank god for royalty free music. I stumble upon "Concerto for Violin and Oboe" and "Symphony in C Major 30"; I have no idea what all these names and numbers mean - but hey, it fits my short film and that's all that matters for now! The background music elevates the film to another level altogether. It's not perfect, but it's a huge improvement.

The best part - I have a final edit and it's surpisingly better than I had earlier anticipated! I wasn't completely convinced with the footage we shot. But I think it's turned out pretty OK during the editing process.

Phew ..... So here it is finally. Presenting 6 (trumpets, drum rolls et. al) -

Give me feedback people. I want feedback! Good, bad, everything.

And then the next day ..... oh well, that's a story for another day ....

Friday, November 23, 2007

making 6 - part I

I didn't expect to say this a couple of months back, but here I am saying it anyways : I have written and directed my first film, a short film of 60 seconds (70 if you include the start and end credits). I'm not sure what I feel. At one level, it's good to get it off my chest, to finally make one. At another level, I feel I could've done better; yet, there are a few things I'm quite impressed with. But more than anything else, I've enjoyed it and learned a lot. I know what to look out for the next time I make one. And I will make another one !

Making a film is tough. Even more so when it's supposed to be just 60 seconds. It's like making a commercial; them ad film-makers don't have it easy. Why only 60 seconds, you ask ? Because those are the competition rules. PFC is hosting an online short film festival in December. Honestly, it's nothing fancy. But it's an opportunity for me to get up off my ass and make something worthwhile.

Coming up with a story for my short wasn't as tough as it seems. Part of the concept is borrowed from my own experience. I think one just needs to observe and take note of all the little incidents that one experiences; every unique incident is a short film in itself. Every time I come across one of these incidents, I'm intrigued by its on-screen possibilities.

Once I had a couple of story ideas finalized, I needed to look for a cast. There was no way I could've done this on my own. Also, I never saw myself playing any character in my short film; I wanted to take the reigns of the camera. So I pitched the ideas to my very good friend Manan; he's a cinema connoisseur, just like me, and we're always exchanging ideas about alternative movie endings. One of the stories seemed to appeal to him and I thought he fit the main character's look and more imortantly, he was game for it. He provided invaluable creative feedback, including the perfect ending I was looking for; he also suggested the title for my short : 6. In addition, he volunteered to be the casting director : the other principle character is a pretty (and) young woman. I only see such species in my every-day life and have no acquaintance with any of them; luckily, Manan knows a few and promises he'll find one. Initially, I planned to shoot the film with my digital camera; the videos aren't so bad. But then, I started getting greedy and realized it would be awesome if we had a camcorder. I nudge Manan to ask his contacts and soon enough, we have a Sony miniDV camcorder (courtesy : Vickram) - beautiful, the wheels are in motion!. Manan, I only have one thing to say : you da maan !

Even though I was clear about the story idea, I still had no script. I mean it's a one-minute short - script ki kya zaroorat hai ? It turns out I needed one. My actors needed to know what I had in mind; Manan knew the story, but Karina (the female lead) had no idea what she was in for. So I sit down and start putting it all on paper. I have all the action in place but I'm not sure about how much dialgoue to incorporate. My first visualization had little or no dialogue at all; the actions and expressions of the characters spoke louder than words. But suddenly, the time constraint of 60 seconds is nagging me and leaves me in a spot of bother. This whole script-writing idea isn't such a good one after all - it's bloody tough ! So I add a few more dialogues. While writing the script, I find myslef stuck at the end. I know what the end is but I don't know how to get there. I ask my friend Rahul for possible ideas and I realize that the ending needs to be very direct. In addition, I also have doubts if I can fit the whole film in 60 seconds. I'm playing the short film in my head and it runs for 75 seconds - dammit ! This whole film-making idea isn't such a good one after all - it's bloody tough !

I've added a third character and ask my casting director to look for an actor for a bit role. One of his work colleagues, Atilla, is willing to help us out. I mail Karina and Atilla the final script - I still hadn't met them in person so I have no idea what they think of it. My short film also requires an elevator so I reserve one in my apartment building on a Saturday morning. I inform the management that I need to 'move some furniture' and will require the elevator for 3 hours. We try to be as tactful as possible but I get the feeling it's no use : there's a security camera perched in a corner of the elevator - there is video evidence of us shooting a film !

The morning of the shoot, I'm a little nervous. I don't know what to expect. Rather, I don't know if I can realize my own expectations. I'm trying to be as active as possible, running around getting the props ready. I'm roaming around without any footware to make myself comfortable (also for some odd reason, I thought the chappy sounds of footwear would cause unwanted sound effects). I haven't made any notes about shot division, what camera angles I'm going to use. This means we have to improvize. And that means you have to be in that frame of mind in which you try out crazy things, in which the circumstances enthuse you. Usually, such energy is contagious. That morning, I didn't have it; I was nervous.

We're shooting on the 6th floor and since it's Saturday morning, there's hardly any crowd around - exactly what we need. I had asked Manan to come to my place a little earlier (9 am) than the rest so that I could shoot some of his individual portions. We're testing our elevator and find that there's a problem : we need someone to stand inside the elevator and control the doors. On such short notice, we had to get someondy living in the same building. Luckily, Sujt had a day off from his MBA duties and was available.

Things seem to be going on the right track, that is until our first obstacle. Our actress is an hour late (I thought such things only take place in big showbiz, not little showbiz). There's talk of postponing the shooting to the next day; Manan has a 1pm appointment with his cable guy and Atilla can't stay for too long. Yeh kya ? Shuru hone se pehle hi The End .... ??

to be continued ....