Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Story Teller

The Story Teller.

Two people read the same novel. One copy for each. It takes the same amount of time for them to read it and both say that they have enjoyed the book and seen two different visuals.

Each person has seen exactly what he/she visualized while reading the book. Even though the author was very descriptive about the location, settings, feel of each chapter, what he cannot do, is ensure that each person sees exactly the same visuals in their mind.

People’s imaginations are based on what they have seen, either in movies or in real. Have heard by people and media etc. Each person has a set of rules in his/her head. The universe operates (for that person) according to the rules set by them.

Sometimes the story is not flawed by the story teller is. For example if I seek to loose weight and a friend who is quite obese gives me tips on healthy eating and losing weight I feel like, and I said FEEL LIKE, slapping the person. What I do instead is nod and change the topic. How can my friend who is way too fat tell me about losing weight?

If the same tips were given to me by another person who is fit and healthy and looks like Hulk Hooligan (for want of a better name) I would eagerly hear what is being said.

It is same thing when we write scripts. The power of narration can tip the balance for or against the script. The listener or reader’s perception can also be swayed by what he thinks of me. He may think I am an idiot but won’t be vocal about it. He may be indifferent towards me because at that time he might be worried about another issue in his life.

Over time I have figured out that there is nothing called a good narration. A narration is a narration. We have good listeners or bad listeners.

Many scripts have not been made, many people have lost hope and given up, many have gone back to their home place or taken up another trade. NOT because they had a bad script but because they came across bad listeners.

So are we to base our lives and careers on a stroke of luck? And pray that we get only good listeners???

No. What we ought to do is this….

Write something spectacular. Then re-write it…. Then re-write is 3 more times… polishing the stone till it has a mirror finish… Then the listener has NO OTHER OPTION, other than to sit up in his seat and give you the attention that you deserve.

Now it does not matter what he thinks of me. Nor does it matter where I come from. What matters is the story. Please… please tell me… what happens next????

There you go…. Success.

The film may or may not be made. The script may or may not work eventually. But I have got a good listener.

I hope this post may help somebody someday.

More later….
ps. your comments are valued

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Anybody can talk about a movie, that good and bad. Movies once released are in the public realm. You, I or anyone has the right to like or dislike any film. It is our personal choice. Having said that, the freedom of ‘my 
personal choice’ is not a luxury that a Film Critic has.

A Film Critic’s Job is to analysis and evaluate films, individually or collectively. Critics that have their analysis published in newspapers are into ‘journalistic criticism’. They have to take a academic approach to films. These film critics try to come to understand, and explain to their readers, why film works, how it works, what 
it means, and what effects it has on people.

They have to answer the following questions that any audience wishes to know.

Story and Screenplay
Is the story interesting and does the screenplay unfold in a way that holds your attention?

Does the use of language in conversations adhere to the characters making the happenings believable?

Have the principle actors lived their characters and make you believe that they are not actors but the characters themselves?

Has the Cinematographer done justice to the need of the story by lighting the shots well and giving the whole film a color tone that helps in the story telling process?

Does the action provide the thrill and edge of the seat experience?

Has the editor done justice to keep only the stuff needed to keep the pace at it’s maximum while not hampering the story telling process?

Sound Design
Is the sound realistic and innovative, creating the experience of “being there”?

Has the Director told the story keeping the pace and maintained your attention? Has he/she been able to “suspend my disbelief” for as long as we are watching the film?

Production Value
Are Production values justified? Or have they splurged because they can?

If computer graphics are used to enhance locales and sets they should not be noticeable, but should add to the grandeur of the scene. If graphics have been used to achieve super human tasks then do they convince the audience that ‘this is real’?

Does the music entertain me, culturally or otherwise?

Background Score
Background score is used to enhance the feel as well as entertain me. Does the background music effectively enhance my emotions in various parts of the film?

Would the majority of our film goers most likely be entertained by this film?

If the critic has trouble analyzing the above topics, he/she should hire people that have the capability to analyze.

Once you have hired the people FIRE YOURSELF, you don’t deserve to be a Film Critic. Work as an assistant director for a few films and then come back.

The above report is for overall audience and not for a selective club.
Do not be star struck. You are analyzing a film and not saluting a star.
Be honest and maintain integrity towards your job.
and finally… most importantly… KEEP IT SIMPLE

Your comments are welcome.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Corruption in India is a cultural aspect. Indians seem to think nothing peculiar about corruption. It is everywhere.

Indians tolerate corrupt individuals rather than correct them.

No race can be congenitally corrupt, but can a race be corrupted by its culture?

To know why Indians are corrupt, look at their patterns and practices .


Religion is transactional in India.

Indians give God cash and anticipate an out-of-turn reward.

Such a plea acknowledges that favors are needed for the undeserving.

In the world outside the temple walls, such a transaction is called - “bribe”.

A wealthy Indian gives not cash to temples, but gold crowns and such baubles.

His gifts cannot feed the poor. His pay-off is for God. He thinks it will be wasted if it goes to a needy man.

In June 2009, The Hindu published a report of Karnataka minister G. Janardhan Reddy gifting a crown of gold and diamonds worth Rs 45 crore to Tirupati.

India’s temples collect so much that they don't know what to do with it. Billions are gathering dust in temple vaults.

When Europeans came to India they built schools. When Indians go to Europe & USA, they build temples.

Indians believe that if God accepts money for his favors, then nothing is wrong in doing the same thing. This is why Indians are so easily corruptible.

Indian culture accommodates such transactions morally. There is no real stigma. An utterly corrupt Polititian can make a comeback, just unthinkable in the West.


Indian moral ambiguity towards corruption is visible in its history. Indian history tells of the capture of cities and kingdoms after guards were paid off to open the gates, and commanders paid off to surrender.

This is unique to India.

Indians' corrupt nature has meant limited warfare on the subcontinent. It is striking how little Indians have actually fought compared to ancient Greece and modern Europe.

The Turks’ battles with Nadir Shah were vicious and fought to the finish.

In India fighting wasn't needed, bribing was enough to see off armies.

Any invader willing to spend cash could brush aside India’s kings, no matter how many tens of thousands soldiers were in their infantry.

Little resistance was given by the Indians at the “Battle” of Plassey. Clive paid off Mir Jaffar and all of Bengal folded to an army of 3,000.

There was always a financial exchange to taking Indian forts. Golconda was captured in 1687 after the secret back door was left open.

The Mughals vanquished Marathas and Rajputs with nothing but bribes.

The Raja of Srinagar gave up Dara Shikoh’s son Sulaiman to Aurangzeb after receiving a bribe.

There are many cases where Indians participated on a large scale in treason due to bribery.

Question is: Why Indians have a transactional culture while other 'civilized' nations don't?


Indians do not believe in the theory that they all can rise if each of them behaves morally, because that is not the message of their faith.

Their caste system separates them. They don't believe that all men are equal. This resulted in their division and migration to other religions.

Many Hindus started their own faith like Sikhism, Jainism, Buddhism and many converted to Christianity and Islam.

The result is that Indians don't trust one another.

There are no Indians in India; there are Hindus, Christians, Muslims and what not.

Indians forget that 400 years ago they all belonged to one faith.

This division evolved an unhealthy culture. The inequality has resulted in a corrupt society,

In India everyone is thus against everyone else, except God and even he must be bribed.

(This is what I read somewhere and I kind of agree)

p.s. I notice many people read my blog but hardly anyone comments. Why is that? Have a voice my friends....

Friday, May 20, 2011

Movies - Fact or Fiction

Yeah yeah. I know… haven’t posted anything to my blog for a while. I had nothing to say, but here I am trying…..

I will refer to movies, some old and some very old. If you, the reader has not watched the movies that I will speak of, then watching them may make more sense of this post. I must warn you though, that this is my opinion and I have no arguments for those that feel otherwise.

Many people tell me that we need realistic movies. Movies should depict reality. That, in my opinion, is not a possibility. Skew lines never meet, never fall on a single plane. Likewise, movies and reality cannot fall into a same plane.

Of course I am not speaking of documentaries that we see on BBC, Discovery Channel or the National Geographic Channel. They are movies as well. Here I speak of Movies as in entertainment, that we all see… grrrr…. You know what I mean. So, lets move on.

There is constant debate. Why can’t we have realistic films?? We need facts and not fiction some say. Let’s take a look.

Fiction: Mandakini bathing under the waterfall amidst snow peaked mountains.
Fact: Any girl will get Pneumonia and no one does that.

Fiction: Sunny Paaji pulls out a pump, that cannot be there in the first place and beats up a hundred people.
Fact: No one can pull that off.

Fiction: Boy and girl run around trees singing songs.
Fact: I have never seen that happen in real life

Fiction: Superman flies off to fight Lax Luthor.
Fact: Even Wright Brothers cannot do that.

Fiction: No matter how realistic a setting we hear background music in a film.
Fact: In real life John Williams does not conduct an orchestra when there is a domestic row.


It is the fantasy element of each story that draws the audience into the theater. No one really wants to see a movie truly realistic. There are movies that seem grounded in reality, or that are based on true stories. Even these stories examine what happens when everyday people are thrust into an out-of-the-ordinary, bigger than life situation.

So even REALISTIC Movies are fantasies.

It isn’t the fantasy element of a story that is interesting, exciting, romantic or funny. It’s the reaction of the everyday world to that fantastic situation. Therefore you will notice that most of the times only one fantasy element is allowed to introduce that single incredible element into your story; everything else must be logical and believable.

For example, in Lagaan, Aamir Khan has to decide to accept the bet from the British Officer. That is the fantasy. The movie explores what might really happen after the fantasy situation occurred. Every single conflict that Aamir faces after the fantasy is logical, believable, and grounded in reality.

The FANTASY of accepting the bet is what draws the audience and sets up the series of events.

Now imagine the same movie if Aamir gets super powers, can fly, see through walls and even makes a neutron bomb to win the match???? There we go we have lost the audience. This new scenario would fail to capture the emotion of the audience. The whole conflict would become meaningless.

In movies, it is the hero’s desire that drives the story forward. But it’s the conflict the hero faces that elicits the emotion in the audience. If the Hero becomes a person who can do anything and becomes too powerful, then, there’s nothing difficult to overcome, and the audience feels no real tension, worry or fear. The audience will simply observe the action, rather than becoming a part of it.

Now that we know that all movies are fantasies, how do we insure that our story remains believable?

We ask…. “Do our characters behave the way people with their backgrounds would normally behave in this situation?”

We ask…. “Is this what I would do if I were in this situation?”

Don’t forcibly infuse documented reality. One of the weakest arguments we can make in support of our characters’ actions is, “But that really did happen.”

Lots of unusual things happen in real life, and people often behave in strange ways. But in our screenplay, even if we are portraying real events, the characters’ actions must seem logical, and the events believable, within the context of the story.

Always maintain the suspension of disbelief (to suspend audience’s disbelief). Superman is REAL while I am watching the film. Only after the film gets over I say, “ah it was a film”. Just like a dream, while I am dreaming it is reality, till I wake up.

Openly admit the incredibility of a character’s behavior. If, Sunny Paaji pursues his wife who is captive in another country, have someone close to him say to him, “Are you nuts? How can you possibly get her from the other country?” Then Sunny Paaji can explain his actions in a way that is consistent with the personality and background that has been given to him.

Subconsciously the audience is being told, “Look, We know this seems unbelievable, but let us tell you why it isn’t.”

People go to the movies for emotions, and if the visuals are captivating enough, if the action moves fast enough, or if the humor is hilarious enough, audiences will sometimes forego the pleasure of a great screenplay with great characters.

No matter how big and exciting movies can be, all they really do is plunge everyday characters into extraordinary situations without ever losing the reality of those characters' humanity.

All they ever do it tell you a fictional tale. Hence….

Movies are all FICTION.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Flogging a Dead Horse

Flogging a Dead Horse

It has been a while since I have said something on my blog. Not that it was intentional, but I just did not have anything to say. Many people wanted me to write but I refrained. I did not want to say anything till I have something to say that may be relevant. Who wants to listen to what I did today, what I ate today etc. It would bore me if I had to read what a person does with his everyday life.

The topic of this post may not be as interesting to some as it may be to others; nevertheless I wish to state my opinion... and my opinion alone. This is what I think about the state of affairs in our industry.

The audience is complaining. Most films don’t work. Where is the entertainment they ask. A lot of money is pumped into big films that we have trouble sitting through. Occasionally a film works. Some say that over all Entertainment is lacking, that we have got lost somewhere in the search for a perfect film. You know what? There is no perfect film. Each film has an audience that likes it as also audience that does not. So, a good film is a matter of perspective. What is entertainment to a person need not be to another. Ah, we must not forget that a film that entertains the majority of the audience works financially.

Here is the catch 22 situation.....

This being a male dominant industry we shall discuss the male actors for now. There are no more than 10 film stars. (Those that draw an audience which results in a good opening, exceptions to the rule of course sometimes even stars can’t get a good opening.), and there are about 100 films to be made in a year. Stars work on 1 or 2 films at a time. So, at least 85 films will be made without the stars.

Films with stars

These stars have their own problems. They are popular. They have to attend to other PR related work besides working in movies. They have to also attend shows internationally. They have to give time to act in ads (as ads with saleable actors will get eyeballs). They have to plan further films, listen to scripts (if they do) and generally be a busy person. Some stars reach to work late and leave early. I said some, not all. The film makers have no choice but to wrap up the scene ASAP. Some won’t dub so film makers have to do sync sound which is more expensive. Especially in our noisy cities. The cost of production of these films soar and more money needs to be made to break even.

Of course I need not mention, but I shall, that they depend on Big Directors so that the directors will handle the story-screenplay. These Directors must know more, they have made hits earlier. So, why bother to read the screenplay. If I was a star actor, would I read the screenplay?? Sure but who has the time, I already told you how busy stars are. No wonder they will work in subjects that don’t make sense at all. They did not choose the subject, they chose the film maker and let him handle it.

I don’t blame the actors they are busy.

Audience to blame??

Audience wants to see good films. People always say we want to watch good films, but with stars. So, they can watch only 15 films a year that may or may not be good. So what happens to those 85 films without the glitz and glitter? Some work. Good films work. Some good films do not. I saw a couple of films recently without stars, they were good. But there was hardly any audience in the theatres. You see the cost of any film ticket is the same with or without the stars.


Promotion is top most need. How will I watch a film that I don’t even know exists? The Producers cannot afford to promote smaller films like bigger films are promoted. Audience watches TV and knows of a silly film with stars but misses out on the good film which is a relative smaller film.

Aamir Khan ad.

This is the trend. I wait for a film to release which is a non starrer. Wait for the newspaper the next day and check out the *** it got. Then I decide to watch it.

I saw a great ad on TV recently.

Aamir Khan plays a owner of a Barber shop. He gives a new haircut to some guy. Question... Do we get our hair done according to the barber??? NO.

Aamir Khan plays a owner of a clothing store. He gives a new freaky clothing to some guy. Question... Do we get our wardrobe done according to the owner of the clothing store ??? NO.

And yet we see the star rating in the newspaper and decide what film to watch.

We forget that the movie has been rated by an individual who has his own sensibilities. Do I have to agree to that person’s sensibility? Have they not proved to be wrong many times?? So, Mr. X will decide what films I should watch or not? He finds a film funny, I fall asleep. See???? Sensibilities do not match all the time.

What is the solution???

The audience is the problem and the audience is the solution.

The audience has to agree to watch non star films, don’t depend on star ratings in newpapers. Smaller films will work. New stars will be born. The industry will not have so many flops. The star system (which exists because of the demand from the audience) will ease, and, over time a new breed of film makers and actors will emerge. Entertain you. Make films for all kinds of audiences. A revolution will happen.

Do I think this may happen soon? I don’t know. I hope though. I hope that we shall move on and stop Flogging the Dead Horse.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Film Director

As a kid, I was exposed to film making very early in life. I recall when I was around 4 or 5 years old, shooting on a set meant that audio was exposed on ‘film for sound’ in a van that was outside of the stage. I have seen people edit at the Moviola, then on 2 plate Steenbecks and then on 6 plate Steenbecks. Avid and FCP came later.

I lived in a joint family, comprising of a total of 10 people. Each night our whole family had dinner together and guess what was the topic most of the days. Movies and Screenplays. This had a profound effect on the growing kid called Vikram Tuli. He started to ‘see’ himself making movies.

As most of the family from my Maternal and Paternal sides were into film making, most of what I knew of film making I learnt being around my family.

At one point I started assisting Directors. My Gurus are Mr. Naresh Kumar (who is my My Father), Mr. Shantilal Soni, Mr. Rahul Rawail, Mr. David Dhawan and Mr. Sachin Pilgaonkar.

Sachinji taught me the most. Perhaps because I assisted him for the longest period of time. He is one of the most talented people I have known. His sense of music and screenplay needs special mention. I recall he telling me ‘I can teach you how to make movies but I can’t teach you how to feel... that you have to learn on your own’

So, one day, I thought now I know how to make movies. I had learnt that Film directors are responsible for overseeing creative aspects of a film. They develop the vision for a film and carry the vision out. They also direct what tone it should have and what an audience should gain from the cinematic experience. Directing a film is a kind of storytelling. They coordinate the actors' moves and also may be involved in the writing, financing, and editing of a film.

The director works closely with the cast and crew to shape the film and may often take suggestions on pertinent issues.

The director also plays a key role in post-production. He or she works with the editor to ensure that the emotions of the scene appropriately reflect which character is driving the narrative. He also participates in the sound mix and musical composition of the film.

However, I did not learn the most essential aspect of film making. PEOPLE SKILLS.

This is a skill that most people learn, gradually, as they grow up, on their own. I had to struggle to learn it and even now it is my weakest skill.

The term “PEOPLE SKILLS” is used to include both psychological and social skills. People skills are understanding ourselves and moderating our responses, talking effectively and empathizing accurately, building relationships of trust, respect and productive interactions.

In short “the ability to communicate effectively with people in a friendly way, especially in business”.

GAWD.... That seems like a tall order. Moderating our responses? Building relationships?? Communicate effectively with people in a friendly way???

I had never heard of these things before, why was there a need to change? My Father and Mother tolerated me! My Brother tolerated me!! (heheh obviously they tolerated me, they love me) But this world would not tolerate me !!! I had to change.

People loved my script, they said my narration is out of this world; but no one signed me to do ‘Main...Joker’. Probably, it seemed that I was not to be trusted. So, if I wanted something to change I HAD TO change something. This change is a slow and tedious process for me. I grow as a person each day and yet I feel so far behind. What others seem to take for granted I continue to struggle with. I know I don’t seek perfection, I only seek growth and I see an iota of change now. I hope this growth rate will accelerate as I get better with it.

If not for the trust that was displayed by Mr. Kishan Chowdhary, Mr. Sunil Thadani & Mr. Rajeev Khandelwal, I would still be running pillar to post.

Now, it gets tougher. More scripts needed, better ideas needed and more ‘people skills’ needed. I continue to learn. For all those that aspire to make films all I can say is what I was told and learnt....

‘I can teach you how to make movies but I can’t teach you how to feel... that you have to learn on your own’ and also you’d better get along with people (even if you don’t like them hehehe). That is the only way. As Munnabhai had said....

Main Vinamra hoon.... (at least...for now )

More later

Vikram Tuli

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Walk Uphill

Hi All,

We are back from a shooting stint in Kashmir. Srinagar and Aru (8 kilometers from Pahalgam) to be precise

People say that Kashmir is not a safe place and that maybe there could be trouble if we film there. This is not true at all. It is all safe and the place was flocked with tourists.

We were stunned by the visuals. Mother Nature has blessed Kashmir with so much beauty, which ofcourse was needed for the film.

The songs were Choregraphed by Longines Fernandes. He had also done 'Slumdog Millionare' and was mentioned by Danny Boyle at the Oscars. I found him to be a humble and gentle man with a great sense of humor. He is one of the fastest Choreographers I have known.

Our Director of Photography, Alphonse Roy is a genius. One has to see to believe what he is capable of.

Now there is a last schedule to be done. 85% of 'Main...Joker' is filmed and it has been a great experience.

This movie will be a emotional roller coaster. The ups and the downs, entertaining as it is watched. It is a simple story told simply.

More later.
Vikram Tuli