Friday, April 24, 2009

Cinema Fresher

The Uniform Days

Year 2003; it was just another boring Sunday spent in the boarding school at a desert like area in Punjab.Most of the inmates had gone home by then. All those who didn’t were either busy sleeping in the dorms or were happily cracking stupid nonsensical jokes in Punjabi. Since it was hard for me to comprehend the local language and had no one to talk to at that time, I chose to be alone. It was almost two in the afternoon, I tried really hard to sleep, but couldn’t (as it is everyone around me were snoring loud enough to kill anyone in the battle of noises). After an hour of restlessness, I got up and walked to the TV room. I picked up the remote control and got busy watching ridiculous shows and videos. After sometime, I saw Paanch’s footage and the name of the director of that film, Anurag Kashyap for the very first time. Those 10 seconds footage completely blew my senses away. It felt so different watching it and I felt happy that finally our Bollywood is ready to experiment and Paanch could one of the films entering into the loop.

Unfortunately, the film underwent a lot of troubles and controversies. The Censor Board of India never approved of its release. Thereafter, Paanch never made it to the cinema halls. Movie buffs like us moved on too. We had to compromise with our taste in cinema by fulfilling our basic requirement of entertainment sans intelligence with anything that came by.

Class Bunk

After Paanch’s hullabaloo, Kashyap vowed never to come back. But on February 9th, 2007, his second film, Black Friday (based on the 1993 Mumbai bombings), finally released. It was to be released in the year 2004, but couldn’t due to legal hassles. But, when things cooled down and the film managed to release, I watched it and was left astounded. The movie was well appreciated by the critics and the public. With the theatrical debut of Black Friday, Anurag Kashyap was finally noticed for his exceptional work as a filmmaker.

Within that year, No Smoking released too. Unfortunately, unlike Black Friday’s success, No Smoking turned out to be a disaster. As opposed to this, a handful of people, including me, worshiped the film. The film boasted of an exceptionally well written script and incredible narration.

Days later, I read about an internet site called ‘Passion for Cinema’, where Kashyap regularly blogged. Since I was an avid blogger, I started to comment on his posts as well, hoping that some day he would post his opinion on my articles.

Getting the Degree

It was a cold and exhausting November night, while I was busy preparing for the semesters (M.A Philosophy). Suddenly, I received a mail alert on my computer. I checked my inbox. There was a mail from the man himself. I was wonderstruck and then stared blankly at the PC for long. I was also shit scared to read the damn mail. Some strange rambling went on in my head almost driving me nuts–

Should I?

Should I Not?

What could he have written?

Did I write something wrong on his blog?

What if he is extremely offended by it?

I was clueless and decided to delete the mail without even reading it. Somehow, I did manage to read the mail after assembling my guts and this is what he had written (to some extent though…I can’t remember the exact message).

“Hey Anjalika, thank you for the comment…..I’m glad that we share a similar understanding….I visited your blog and read your stuff…..I would really like it if you could mail your CV to me…


Anurag Kashyap”

Immediately, I mailed my résumé, after making numerous changes to my CV and rehearsed it after each and every changes made to it. I went berserk and ignored my books. Suddenly, my phone rang.

“Bloody Hell! Who could this be?” I exclaimed after seeing an unknown number flashing on my cell phone.

I answered,


“Anjalika, this is Anurag Kashyap.”

“Yeah right!”

I disconnected the call after saying that.

I was really pissed off. I thought it was my friend fooling around me (as they always do). In another few minutes, the phone rang again. It was the same goddamn unknown number. Annoyed, I answered the call and told him,

“Listen man….enough with this fooling around. I would really appreciate it if you could put a halt to this bullshit right now.”

“Anjalika, this is Anurag Kashyap. You had just sent me your résumé minutes ago.”

“Shit”…Embarrassed, I muttered that to myself and instantly apologized giving out my reasons for being crude. Nonetheless, things chilled out between us and we talked for sometime.

“So Anjalika what are you doing these days?”

“Sir, I’m preparing for my Masters.”

“Don’t call me sir.”

“Is Kashyap fine?”

“Yup! What else have you done?”

“I’ve done my Bachelor’s in Journalism and after that I did internships with a news paper and AIR. I have also worked as a production assistant in a production house.”

“Alright. Anjalika how long have you been writing?”

“Not long enough and I don’t think of myself as a great one either.”

“Your favorite film?”

“Cinema Paradiso”


“Anj, would you be interested in working on my new film? It’s called Dev.D. We have a long shooting schedule in Delhi and we need people.”

“Of course. It will be an honor to work with you.”

“That’s great. You are hired then.”

“Thank you so much, Kashyap.”

“No issues. I’ll tell someone from my team to mail you the script and other requirements like auditions and location set up.”


“Good Luck Anjalika and good night. Also, all the best for your papers.”

“Thank you and good night to you too.”



The Assignment

In another week, I received the film script and, subsequently, kick started with the recce with location hunting, putting up ads for new casts in various theatre schools and intuitions and lots of running around. After a month, Kashyap’s team, along with the casting director, arrived in Delhi, instantly starting off with the pre-production. Actors who auditioned were mostly from National School of Drama and a lot of them were really good. Everything was in progress; it all went smoothly and without much delay. I even met Kashyap (twice infact) during pre-production in Delhi when the winter was harsh. The so called “jinxed” or “the controversial director”, as portrayed by media, is actually a very sweet guy in person. Though I didn’t get to spend quality time with him (Honestly, I barely had few minutes with him), but I still had a great time. He talked mostly about Delhi and how much he loves the city and misses its winters after moving to Mumbai.

He went through the recorded disc of those auditioned. Most of the actors were rejected for faking it. He told us to spend another week and audition more people. As far as the location was concerned, especially Paharganj (as required for the script), I showed him this Café cum restaurant that had a terrace overlooking the narrow and crowded street; all of which was recorded on my video cam. This Café was located in the main market, but the place and the street definitely had a great cinematic impact. He was really happy with this spot and approved it instantly. By late evening, he left for Mumbai and wished me good luck.

The second time he visited Delhi was when the team was ready to leave for Mumbai. Kashyap had come for a press conference. His first animation, Hanuman Returns (dedicated to his daughter), was releasing in that week. He even informed the media about his new film, Dev D. After the conference was over, he took all of us out for lunch at Kake da Dhaba, Connaught Place (incidentally, this dinning place also happens to be his favorite). While he ordered for a Kashmiri mutton dish, I gorged myself with makki di roti and sarson ka saag.

Soon, everything got over. I was really happy with the way things turned out while I was with Anurag Kashyap’s team. I learn a lot during these days. All this was not only challenging but exciting as well. It was surely worth the experience. When the shooting began, I even had a chance to be on the set of Dev.D in Chandni Chowk and meet its star cast (Abhay Deol and the other two female actors who were newcomers). I’m really glad that I had the opportunity to work with Anurag Kashyap. It had always been a dream, and now I shall always cherish this.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Jack Johnson and his ‘In Between Dreams’

"A friend of mine was trying to get this girl," said Johnson, "and I tried to write a song that would help him have a laugh at himself because he was spending so much time trying to get her and it obviously wasn't leading anywhere. That was one just to cheer up a friend." [Song – “Sitting, Waiting, Wishing” from In Between Dreams]

Jack Johnson is a Hawaii-born songwriter, musician, filmmaker and surfer, who has grown up listening to influences such as Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Bob Marley, Neil Young and The Beastie Boys. Before becoming a full-time musician, he was a renowned surfer; until he met with a surfing accident. After finding himself bedridden after the accident, he spent a lot of his time writing songs and playing guitar. He stated about the accident, "I like to joke that I hit my head so hard that that's why I'm so mellow, but I think it did mellow me out." It was during this time that he discovered his passion for music. I guess that’s where the mellowness comes from in his song-composing, making it dreamy like just like the title of the album In Between Dreams.

In Between Dreams is his third album and the best so far. Almost all the songs in this album are just to make you have a good time and sing along. For instance, “Banana Pancakes”, which is more like a wake-up-in-the-morning-and-make-breakfast-with-your-family kind of song. Another example would be “Do You Remember" that was written when the Jack met his wife while attending college, “It is a simple love song with some personal moments.”

The album has a bit of both reggae and folk, and the music’s wave-like sway makes you want to mellow out no matter how you feel. Of all the songs, I particularly liked “Breakdown” especially for its stop-and-smell-the-roses lyrics.

I hope this old train breaks down
Then I could take a walk around
And, see what there is to see
And time is just a melody.

From dedicating songs to his wife to being inspired by writers such as Kurt Vonnegut in “Crying Shame” and Joseph Campbell. Even tragic incidents like the killings in Fallujah during the Iraq War caused Johnson to come up with a song like “Never Know” about people pushing their religions on each other – “People keep on killing for their metaphors.”

Jack Johnson’s laid back approach in his singing is his biggest strength lending a sense of tranquility to his music. It makes you want to close your eyes and picture yourself in Hawaii sitting by the beach…I guess that’s what Johnson wants to say with his In Between Dreams.