Wednesday, March 28, 2012

My Films

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Corporate Filmse now

So after sayin bye bye to KK, I started working with Tushar Ajgaonkar.

I had met Tushar when I had come to Mumbai in 2002 after completing my engineering. We used to live in a small room in a slum in Andheri and used to think of making it big in the media industry.

Tushar was very clear about becoming a film director from those days. I obviously thought getting into advertising itslef was a big deal. In any case, Tushar and I drifted apart when I left for Gurgaon to do an MBA. We kept in touch sporadically through the odd fone call or orkut scrap.

Around the time I was contemplating quitting KK, I called Tushar and learnt that he was now working at an ad film production house. I met up with him and learnt that he had recently started his own small company within the same production house and was looking to make a documentary. He asked me to join him and I agreed coz I was anyways done with KK and his shit work.

So we started working together. In the last 3 months or so, we have made one documentary and 3 corporate AVs. Have learnt quite a bit about the entire film making process on these projects.

So looks like its gonna be corporate films for a while now...dunno how I am gonna get back into feature films any time soon. But am liking the work I am doing here right from scripting to shooting to editing. Also, finally am earning some money. Thats a nice change!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Bollywood Virgin...Screwed for 3 months

Pickin' up from where I trailed off last time...

So I talked to Deepti (ex-Mercer colleague), who put me onto Aastha (works at Sony Television) who put me onto KK (a director who shall not be named in any further detail!)

I call up KK on Sunday 1st July, and am asked to come over immediately. So I land up at KK's office (a 1 BHK apartment in Vile Parle) and am asked to wait in the reception area. Its full of posters from his previous film (a cop-gangster saga which I had liked), stacks of film reels, shooting lights and related film production paraphernalia. The place inspires me and I feel a twirl in my tummy...this is where it starts then, I hope...

I am called in and am in a small room and am face to face with the director KK...a 30 something guy, tall, be-spectacled...with a huge rack of books behind him...on film and sundry subjects. I am impressed as I sit down after saying hello. I am asked why I want to become a director and I give the standard "I want to tell stories" cliche which gets accepted without any elaboration. Next am asked my favourite films and I go kinda hazy on the films I have loved and watched umpteen repeats of... so amongst other randomly mumbled film names I also mention 'No Entry' as a film I liked...which is met with a smirk (which I was gonna see 10,000 times over the next 3 months). The questioning is short and am made an offer (which I should have refused)

KK-"Ashish, I have my team in place already...I basically need someone to 'hustle' around for me".
Me- "Hustle? What would I be expected to do?"
KK-"Basically your job is to keep me from getting irritated. You will ensure that, do everythin that is the running around and in the process you'll learn filmmaking"
Me (excited)-"OK" (what was I thinking!)
KK-"I wont be paying you for the 1st month... I have an attitude problem, so if we gel in the coming month and you prove to be indispensable to the scheme of things here, we'll take it beyond this month and we'll look at some sort of payment for you thereon."
Me-"Okay Sir, when can I start?" (The words I regret the most thus far in my life...)
KK-"Tomorrow" (and that sealed my fate for the coming 3 months)

So I started working for KK from the next day...did part-time lectures in the morning to earn a living...worked at his office for the rest of the day. My 3 month stint here can be divided into 2 broad categories -

First the good part -Film related work (10% of the time):
- Sat on shot divisions with VK (Associate Director)
- Witnessed discussions between KK and VK about how to stage sequences (good fun watching foreign films for reference...and positioning small GI-Joe type toys for simulation)
- Sat on budgeting for the film (realised that KK stand to make 50 lakhs minimum from the film but somehow cant afford to pay me a few thousands)
- Did costing for fight sequences after detailed deliberations with fight masters (some of who looked like gangsters themselves)
- Coordinated with actors for meetings

Now the bad (understatement!) part-Non-Film related work (90% of the time):
- Typing out long SMSs on my mobile phone and forwarding them to KK so he may forward them to his contacts
- Maintaining detailed excel sheets to keep track of how much potatoes, tomatoes, milk, etc we are using up in the office
- Sorting out accounts for the last 2 years
- Making excel sheets of how much Rice, Dal, Aata, etc needs to be bought for the coming month, keeping track of how much is being utilised, etc
- Ensuring that the entire office shifting (we shifted to Andheri in September) happens seamlessly...arranging transporters, carpenters, cleaners, painters, plumbers, etc
- Paying electricity bills, telephone bills, pest control bills, newspaper bills and any other kinds of bills

The 3 months were punctuated with a couple of discussions with KK when my frustration would peak everytime a new month would stare before me with little hope of improvement work quality or chances of getting paid. Also was told that KK was not interested in making me an Assistant Director (AD) even when the film eventually started...

Meanwhile I started realising what it mades to be treated like days were hell with nothing going the way I had hoped...But still I persisted...hoping that the film would start soon, that my work profile would improve once it did, that KK's attitude would change (maybe he is a troubled soul due to the delay in filming)...

The final nail in the coffin was after we'd finally set up the new office...I had worked non-stop for 26 days doing nothing but shit...and KK comes shouting at me coz there was no soap in the toilet...that did it for me and I decided to quit...but didnt have the balls to say that to his face.

A couple of days later...I asked him that its been 3 months and I would like to know if I'd get paid for October. KK smirked (the same repulsive one)...and said that he wasnt sure if the film would start the next day, week or month...and that I should start looking out if I wished...

I knew that the film was on the verge of taking off...but I sat down and analyzed...

Do I admire KK?
As a director-Yes. As a person - No way. So even if the film were starting tomorrow, I didnt want to be working under someone who I didnt respect at a moral level.

Even if I dont like him, shouldnt I stay back for the learning?
Well I would have if I was told that I'd be an AD...all I got was an ambiguous - "You will not have a designation...but I'll ensure you learn filmmaking in the next 6 months..." While this sounded great when it was first said...having seen the man for 6 months, I was gettin more and more sure that it was a load of bull, and all I would do was do shit work when the film goes on the floors...

So, what the fuck am I doing here?
Called up people looking out for new leads and was out of that godforsaken office for good within 3 days.

I join a friend and start work on a documentary...(more about it in my next post)

1 week later I get a call from KK-"Ashish, pre-production for the film has started". He hangs up before I can respond. The man loves to play games, he expects me to go begging to him to be taken in the team. I choose not to respond. A day later KK gets desperate (I CHOOSE to think so :)) and calls again - "Ashish, the work has started and you could learn a lot here. You will get what you are earning in the new place." I decline the offer and it feels sweet...finally to have shown some spine and defiance...something I thought I'd never be able to show KK...

Post-facto Analysis:
Hypotheses A: Maybe I quit because after all my bloated MBA ego came in the way. Was always told that one has to do ground work initially in the industry.
Counter Argument: Dont mind doing ground work...I can sweep sets, arrange costumes, pick up film cans...but give me shit work related to the film. Dont treat me as an office boy. Anyways, people from the industry told that I was being exploited beyond normal.

Hypothesis B: KK is a bad man.
Counter Argument: None

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Kahaani...yahaan se...FILMY hai!

The worst part about leaving your job is that u lose out totally on internet access. Just like brushing and potty every morning, it was almost second nature to get into office everyday, check my inbox and log onto the world wide web. But when u've quit, it suddenly dawns upon u that the WWW u took for granted all these years is suddenly out of bounds. Now to connect into the virtual have to go to a dingy cyber cafe, wait for 20 minutes (which I spend watching college kids send "Whats up babe/dude...wanna be my friend" scraps on Orkut), sweat profusely as you type out a nice detailed post and then pull your hair out as the system crashes at the opportune moment when you are gonna click "PUBLISH POST"...leaving you sweaty, frustrated and poorer by 20 bucks...

Apart from the lack of virtual connectivity...there are a lot of other things that also dawn upon u after u've quit. Like for instance, the fact that you wont have your salary in your bank account at the end of the month...

But lemme type out the vital dope first (even as I pray that the system here doesnt crash before I post this)

So after I quit on 11th May (which became 15th May eventually), I went off on a 10 day holiday to the Vipassana centre in Igatpuri. The prime motivation being a 10 day break from smoking. Was an awesome experience...but the thought of it leaves me reeling under tremedous guilt...since I promptly started smoking when I came back to Mumbai and secondly coz I just havent been able to practise the meditation technique learnt there.

After coming back, I started reading "Robert McKee's STORY" to understand how movie scripts are written. The game plan was to understand the basics of film-making before getting into the thick of things. Did some asking around about the Film & TV Production course at XIC and finally decided against spending 10 months doing a theoretical course. Decided to study film making at home by watching movies, reading books. Found a job with TIME Institute of Management Education as part-time English faculty. So was taking English lectures for MBA aspirants in the morning and was lazing at home for the rest of the day...

A month later, I found that I had become a sloth. So decided that this was not working out...and that it was time to find work as an Assistant Director.

Again Paulo Coelho Saheb's conspiracy theory played its part and within a day or two I was in a film director's office getting interviewed.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Last Hurrah in Corp-Land

11th May, 2007: Today is my last day at Madison Teamworks. I still remember my first day in this office on 17th July, 2006. It was my first day in the media industry. I had just quit a nice payin consulting job at Mercer and I was sure that I was finally on the road to achieving my destiny and success. But here I am starting a new journey... again... from scratch... my MBA batch mates have moved way ahead in their journey and I am yet to even start mine. My only solace - They are running the wrong race (an assumption I am so used to that now am sure it is true.)

Anyways, I will start taking part-time classes in TIME institute from Sunday... have to buy the XIC form also. Am already down to 3K in my bank a/c. And have the next 20 days of the month to go... ohh shit there's no salary comin at the end of this month! Need money for: Getting my root canal and Tooth extraction done, goin to Igatpuri for the Vipasana Course, eating, living, etc.

Anyways.. bring on the hard times, wats life if I havent seen some of it!!!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Alea Iacta Est

Yes the die has been cast I guess!

After the paranormal phenomenon :) described with much intensity in my previous post (the one before the Steve Jobs Stanford speech), normally I would have taken a chill pill and gotten back to life.

But somehow I have stuck by it and I submitted my resignation on 11th April. I chose this hallowed date as Nanhe Jaisalmer was supposed to release on 11th May. Hence, that would mean that I quit on the day my first project is released in the thetares with my humble contribution to its marketing in terms of a couple of events and a newspaper tie-up. Later, the release date of Nanhe got postponed even further but thankfully my relieving date from MATES still remains the same... 11th May.

This was followed by a trip home, broke down in front of Ma and Baba. Explained how fucked up every day at work was, that I couldnt tolerate the dreariness and boredom of corporate life. Ma understood and sympathised, Baba told me not to lose mental peace and I was back in Mumbai with a big load off my chest.

So, in all likelihood after spending more than 9 months here in MATES, I will be leaving without seeing the release of a single project I have worked on. All the films that I worked on ran into one sort of thing or the other.

Jaan-e-mann: Made detailed marketing plan but Sajid Nadiadwala decided to do the marketing on his own, the movie flopped even though it was far better than DON which basically killed Jaan-e-mann with its SRK led marketing blitz
Om Shanti Om: Made as many as 9 versions of presentations detailing out our strategy for SRK's Diwali 2007 release. The plan was presented to director Farah Khan and executive producer Bobby Chawla. Both ho-hummed through it and we were told that it needs to be presented to Shahrukh Khan and we've been trying to meet the man for 3 months now
Babul, Water, Naya Daur: Countless meetings with Sanjay Bhutiani at B R Films office and countless chais, a few more meetings with Sanjay Bhutiani at J W Marriott and some coffee... loads of presentations, hours of discussions but nothing fell in place. What a waste... but then I was getting used to the routine of planning and not seeing execution...
Nanhe Jaisalmer: The film was supposed to be released in December 06.. made plans, film got postponed. Film supposed to be released in April 07... made plans, film got postponed. Film supposed to be released in May 07... made plans, film got postponed. Now, I have no idea when the film will release.
Mera Bharat Mahaan: Made detailed plan, presnted, created media tie-ups... and the film got postponed. Now the film is goin on floors in May but I will be out of this place by then.

So the following conclusions can be drawn:
Normal Conclusion: I need to stick around longer coz things in the film industry are inherently uncertain and hence take time
Para-normal conclusion: God doesnt want me to see success in this job coz then I will not think of quitting and following my film-making dreams. The message is loud and clear: Go out and achieve your dreams.

As always, the question is about choice, what you want to believe and what you want to dismiss as utopian illusions. I, quite expectedly, choose the paranormal conclusion... and hence the resignation was sincerely typed out and given to my boss.

So now that the die has been cast where does it leave me post 11th May 2007?
First things first, it leaves me without a job. How do I plan to tackle this?

Optimal situation:
- I get admission to the 9 month Film and TV production course at Xavier's Institute of Communications.
- I get a nice part-time job in a CAT training institute or a HR Training company
- I earn good money working 3-4 hours a day, watch lots of movies, read lots of books on film-making and attend my course
- I write a couple of scripts too :)

Sub-Optimal situation:
- I dont get admission to the XIC course
- I join a director/editing studio and slog it out

In either scenario, life will change drastically after 11th May.. and I am excited about it!!!

Coming back to the quote that triggered it all of:
"When you really want something, the whole world conspires to help you achieve it"

I was expecting Ram Gopal Verma and Farhan Akhtar to come begging at my doorstep but that hasnt quite happened yet. However, what has happened is that lot of people from the film industry have mailed back to my queries on Ryze. Small words of encouragement from these people mean a lot.

Sudeep has offered to take half the load of the 5000 per month insurance deposit - a sword that hangs on my neck for another 2 years. Met an ex-colleague Suchismita Burman from Mercer out of nowhere, was offered monetary help upfront... declined. She is now helping me with contacts for a part-time job as well as contacts in the film industry.

Accha lagta hai :)

Friday, March 16, 2007

I could read this a 100 times... and a few time more

Commencement address by Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, delivered on June 12, 2005.

I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I've ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That's it. No big deal. Just three stories.

The first story is about connecting the dots.

I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out? It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: "We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?" They said: "Of course." My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.

And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents' savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn't see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn't interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.

It wasn't all romantic. I didn't have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends' rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example: Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn't have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can't capture, and I found it fascinating.

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, its likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later. Again, you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

My second story is about love and loss.

I was lucky — I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation — the Macintosh — a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating. I really didn't know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down - that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me — I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.

I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life. During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple's current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.

I'm pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn't been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith. I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle.

My third story is about death.

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart. About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn't even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor's code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you'd have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.

I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I'm fine now. This was the closest I've been to facing death, and I hope its the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960's, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.

Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: "Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish." It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Thank you all very much.

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