Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Zindagi Va Digar Hich (Life..and Nothing More) - Movie

Abbas Kiorastami. The Koker series after 'Where is my fiend's home?'. Only he can make an audience watch a movie like this and remember it.

O Brother, Where Art Thou - Movie Review

Pleasant. But not the usual Coen brothers class.

Monday, February 26, 2018

13 Questions - From Dr. Travis Bradberyy

Dr. Bradberry says that when things aren’t going quite the way you’d like them to, ask yourself these right questions.  

1.       How do people see me differently than I see myself? (Ask for feedback and compare with your own self assessment)

2.  What/whom did I make better today?

3.  Am I being true to my values? (Firstly, what are my values and then this)

4. If I achieved all of my goals, how would I feel? What can I do to feel that way as I work to achieve them? (Is there a way to enjoy the journey?)

5. What haven’t I taken the time to learn about?

6. In what areas of my life am I settling?

7. What do I want my life to be like in five years?

8. What would I do if I wasn’t scared?

9. Who has qualities that I aspire to develop? (Find them, meet them, know more about them)

10. What problem are we solving?

11. What’s stopping me from doing the things that I should be doing?

12. Will you be my mentor?

13. What’s the most important lesson I’ve learned so far in life? Am I living that lesson?

Ask the questions.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Despicable Me 3- Movie Review

A long lost twin brother to Gru. Minions. And a man who wants to take over the world! I liked the other two better.

Don't Get me Started - Mitchell Symons

As the title reveals, Mitchell Symons is not too happy with certain things in life. Don't get him started on those. It is the 'very grumpy guide to the most annoying aspects of everyday life'. And he says it is not so much about grumpy as furious. His range starts at Annoyance and increases to Aggravation and on to Exasperation and Irascibility and Outrage and Fury and settles at Raging Fury finally.

Some examples of things that annoy Symons are.

Unnecessary apostrophe's
Post-modernism - whatever it is.
Reality TV shows
People who use toothpicks in public
Bald men with pony tails
People who clearly don't exercise wearing tracks and trainers
Shop assistant chewing gum
Adolescents wearing hoodies
Sycophantic TV interviews of actors and writers
People who use larger words when smaller ones would do. The vaginas.
The word attitude used to describe rudeness and arrogance
Men wearing ear rings
Women showing off tattoos
Writers who use arcane language to show off
Clothes shops boasting 70% off when 99%of the goods is only 10% off
Booker prize winning novels (more in comparison with great books that didn't get it)
Drunk men having to take responsibility for what they do on a date night  when drunk women don't have to
People who confuse excuses with apologies

And so many more. I love the book because it gives me a whole lot of material to base my columns on the most irritating of human behaviors. So I am going to keep it carefully and make that list longer. 

Work - Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh is a well known Zen Buddhist teachers in the world. His book 'Work' tells us how to find joy and meaning in each hour of the day.

On Work
Work is an expression of our being. It is not separate from our life. We must understand that our work and our home are connected. We must find our home at our work.

Making Work Enjoyable
Work with joy and mindfulness increases our enjoyment of our work.

Being Mindful
Mindfulness is bringing our full attention to the present moment. From the present moment we can be more aware of everything that's happening in the present moment and see it with fresh eyes, without being caught in the past or the future. If you take good care of the present there is no need to worry about the future.

To be mindful is to focus on our breathing and being aware. By breathing mindfully, we unite body and mind. Focusing on our breathing helps us to stop worrying about the troubles of the past or the uncertainties of the future. You will be present. Be present to yourself. You are your responsibility.

Secret to Success
Non-thinking is the secret of success. Don't try to find solutions with your thinking mind. Plant a seed and let it grow.

Practicing Mindfulness
When we wake up every day we can be grateful that we have a new 24 hours to live

"Waking up to the blue sky
I join my palms in gratitude
for the many wonders of life.'

By setting our intention we can live more mindfully through the day.

"Waking up this morning I smile,
Twenty four brand-new hours are before me
I vow to live fully each moment
and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion.'

Every activity can be done with great mindfulness including brushing teeth, eating, driving, going out of the door, drinking a cup of tea  etc.

"Sitting peacefully, I smile
The new day begins
I make a vow to live deeply, mindfully'

When we find our home at work, we have arrived. A flower has no fear.
When we arrive at work we must accept one thing - Obstacles are our friends, so accept them.
We can set an intention to work with joy and mindfulness.
We can do work in the right spirit.

Mindfulness at work
Some of the activities to practice mindfulness at work are -
  • creating a separate space for mindful breathing
  • having a mindfulness bell
  • sitting for the sake of sitting
  • mindful walking, in the rest room
  • over the phone - words we use
  • releasing and letting go. 
Every moment, say -I have arrived' or 'I am here'.

To be beautiful means to be yourself.

Dealing with our emotions
Our fears, anger, despair - they are our babies. They need us to take care of them. Go to your island and take care of your baby (ies).

To handle strong emotions
1st practice - All emotions are impermanent. Do not fuel the emotions with your thoughts.
2nd practice - Breathe abdominally. Return to your body. Follow your breath.

Handling our suffering
To find a way out of suffering we must accept it and look deeply to understand its true nature and its origins. We are the primary cause of our suffering, not someone else. The other person is just a secondary cause.

Our thoughts, words and actions
Our thoughts, words and actions bear our signatures. When we speak we should be aware of the effect of those words. When angry don't say anything until you calm down.

Mindfulness in communication
Apply deep listening now and loving speech to improve communication. Listen with compassion.
Don't confuse joy and happiness with excitement.

My conclusion
By being mindful every moment we practice being compassionate. We become more aware, more understanding and more knowing. There is no difference then between work or home, this emotion or that. We are deeply observing life as it happens, moment by moment. And in that deep observation we find compassion, creativity and enjoyment.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Bladerunner 2049 - Movie


Anjali - But This Day Will Not Come Again

Anjali's new discovery is that this day will not come again so we must do as much as we can with it.

'February 16 will not come again Nanna,' she says in that dramatic tone of hers. 'I want to do as many things as I can this day.'

I try to tell her that its ok to do what we can with more presence. But she does not like that idea.

'No,' she says. 'I want to do as many things as I can in one day.'

Ok great. Do it as you please.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Amarcord - Movie

Italian humor. Italian life. Wonderful. A Fellini.

Anjali - Making Up

Anjali was very upset when she came home. She walked right in, picked up the phone and called someone. She tried two or three times and put the phone away. We could see she was very upset. She went into her room and shut the door. After a while I knocked. 'Can I come in?' I asked.

'Yes,' she said, her voice small.

Then she told me how one of her classmates asked her who her first best friend was and she told her the name of her new friend. Then the one who asked her told Anjali's childhood friend that her first best friend was the new girl. Anjali's old friend stopped talking to her and was not even coming to the phone.

'It is my fault,' she told me crying. 'I should not have said that. It would have hurt her so much.'

I said what I had to and that she could make up with her and tell her that she remains special to her, that there was no first and second and that everyone was special in their own way. And that they had spent so much time since their childhood and that was very special etc etc.

After many more anxious moments and several messages later Anjali got through. Her friend was cool about it all and said she was not upset.

The relief on Anjali's face was something to see and so was the energy in her step all evening. Mostly the learning.

'I was so upset that she was hurt and funnily she was not even thinking about it at all,' she said. We wondered at how much drama we create in our heads and went and celebrated with an ice cream.

But I do agree. So many times I imagined so many things only to find out they had been figments of my own imagination. Good learning. Also to see how much we torture ourselves and how much we deplete our energy with our thoughts.  

The Inner Game of Work - Timothy Galleway

Coming from Tim Galleway who gave us the fabulous "Inner Game of Tennis" ideas of Self 1 (the mental chatter that goes on in our mind and constantly criticises us and puts dount and fear in our mind) and Self 2 (the part of us that executes and knows how to do things and one that responds to feelings and visuals and not words) and how one can use them to perform better with ease, 'The Inner Game of Work' looks at similar themes - of working freely to perform at our best. Timothy's idea is that work must be done without a felling of 'have to' - one's best work comes when one has the feeling of working freely. This means is not "trying too hard" or subjecting oneself to "endless judgment". This trying to please someone and being dependent on their judgment will always distort our perception leading to a downward spiral. Perception distortion causes Response distortion which causes Results distortion which then causes Self image distortion. Tim says that if we can work at removing the perception of threat to a person, it will affect the rest of the cycle positively. By making a person secure, one can get better performance results from them with far less effort.

Awareness-Choice-Trust Triad
Tim's triangle of Awareness - Choice - Trust forms a central core of this book. He talks of "Awareness" as being Nonjudgmental, "Choice" as leaving primary learning choices with the student and "Trust" as trusting the student's Self 2 to learn on its own. By reducing interference through being nonjudgmental, we increase the students security in all three planes - of thought, feeling and action. The idea is of course we are all learning to learn. (Another Awareness- Choice -Trust triangle is Awareness of where one is currently, Choice is where one wants to go, and Trust is trusting the resources one has at hand to get there.)

Understanding How to Make People Work
This is a brilliant paragraph that epitomises how to get people to do things.
"My role was not just to make the immediate goal as clear as possible but to evoke from the student the underlying purpose and motivation for reaching the goal. Allowing the student to be more aware of the choices he was making and the reasons behind those choices was an essential part of this learning process. The student felt more in control and as a natural consequence was willing to accept more responsibility, and exercise greater initiative and creativity in achieving their goal. Equally important, it greatly diminished the resistance to change that was inherent in the command- and- control model. There's and ol saying, 'When you insist, I resist.' It is natural for the human being to resists encroachment on his boundaries, and when the resistance isn't expressed directly, it will come out indirectly. Either way, the resistance is detrimental to the desired outcome.'

Performance formula
Tim's formula is famous world-over.

Performance = Potential - Interference

Interference can come from judgment, beliefs, when people are not working free. Resistance is often to the process than the actual change itself.

The 3 Conversations that Interfere
Tim's a big one for triangles - the next one is about the three conversations one has that interfere.
Inner conversation (one with oneself)
Immediate outer conversation (with people around you)
Background cultural conversation (the cultural stuff in the organisation)
All three could pull you in different directions and affect results.

Inner Game meets Corporate Problems
Tim's exercises with AT&T (a VP came to him seeking help with Inner Game ideas to solve productivity issues) are interesting. The way he honestly tells the AT&T team after their presentation that he had nothing to offer because they did not seem to have any problem at all causes them to define their problem and get over the glitzy cover up. Then when he looks at the operators and realises that they have a boring job which has to be done within a time frame, he decided to bring in awareness exercises to keep Self 1 busy. For example the operators decided to make their job interesting by listening to the customers carefully and trying to understand their state of mind on a scale of ten. The extra awareness kept their Self 1 busy. Similarly they also listened to their own tones and rated themselves and the results. The deeper engagement and challenge shaved time off the prescribed numbers!

Self Expression
While talking of Self 2 Tim quotes Martha Graham. It's a fabulous quote on self expression.

"There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost. The world wil not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable it is, nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware, directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open."

Focused Attention Reduces Interference
The key to great work is focused attention or full attention. When our attention is full, interference reduces. It is a state where we enjoy work, where we are interested and challenged. Self 1 operates from doubt and fear and finds complex ways to do tasks. Self 2 comes from a place of knowing and acts with an elegant economy. Learn to focus and thus quieten Self 1. Learn to trust Self 2 and relax and let it happen.

Sales Team Exercise with Self 1 Chatter
Tim's exercise with a sales team was simple and interesting. Two people were asked to play the role of a seller and a buyer. Two others were asked to play the roles of Self 1s to both buyer and seller i.e. they were to stand close to them and in a voice barely as loud as whisper, distract them from the task at hand. At the end of the exercise, Self 1s found that they could do their job with surprising ease (habituated to the voice in our head) while the buyer and seller found their actions influenced by the chatter and were confused whether the Self 1 chatter was friendly or hostile.

Practice of Focus
Tim advocates practice of focus in day to day things like Communication, Listening and Speaking, on calibrating our interest levels, on time and on results. He advocates selecting critical variables to increase awareness and practice focus using three criteria - criteria should be observable, interesting and relevant to the goal.

He has a simple insight - "Before you change something, increase your awareness of the way it is."
Or, in other words notice what you notice.

Redefine Work as Enjoyment
Tim asks us to redefine our notion of work and equate it to 'enjoyment' in our minds. This is a construct that helped a low performing sales team to emerge as the highest performers - the boss simply said they would focus on the critical variable of enjoyment of the job. Enjoyment was defined as ease and excellence in performance. One way to enjoy work is to set learning goals, to learn while working. Tim's next triangle has Performance, Learning and Enjoyment on the three points.

Work Free is Complete Responsibility
Tim says Work Free is about choosing, about being responsible to yourself.

Conformity vs Mobility
A key concept is the difference between conformity (to outside influences) and mobility (your own adaptability to a situation and capacity to move or to be moved). Tim is shocked when he sees Skinner's Box experiment where he makes a pigeon do exactly as a member of the audience asks - to hop anti-clockwise on its left leg by using a series of stimulants like food, a bell and a light. Tim realises he is perhaps jumping to several such lights and bells in his own life. Mobility is about adapting, change, while being fulfilled and harmonious and growing while doing work. Mobility can be achieved with goals (visuals, feeling and with some commitment of time and effort), an attitude of adaptability, an understanding of one's purpose driven through enjoyment than fear and by synchronising movement with direction.

A wonderful quote by Johann Wolfgang Goethe on commitment and boldness

"Concerning all acts of initiative, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would come his way. Whatever you can do or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.'

The STOP Tool
Tim advocates the STOP tool - pause in the middle of work and allow Self 2 time before proceeding. Stopping at predetermined times could stop the flow of work but could help by giving a much needed perspective. STOP (Step back, Think, Organise your thoughts and Proceed).

Being the CEO
Tim urges everyone to think like they are the CEO of the corporation, of their life. Who is running your corporation now, how many shares do you own and who owns the rest. Are there shares you want to buy back from others who own it now? Even at the cost of losing their approval or their friendship. It's time to gain control of your corporation. Who are the Board of Directors? Who are interfering with your growth?

On Coaching
Tim's ideas on coaching are excellent and profound. He is very clear that the coach is not to solve the problem of the coachee; he merely gives a perspective that helps his coachee find the solution himself. He says his job is to increase awareness of the coachee's problem and to teach less. A coach is someone who eavesdrops on someone else's thinking process.

A wonderful tool he gives to the coach or any manager is Transposing. To understand and communicate better he says first get into the shoes of the other person and ask these three questions
- What am I (the coachee) thinking?
- What a I feeling?
- What do I want?

Coaching for mobility
Tim says that the coaching for mobility conversations should be framed around the Awareness (what is happening?), Choice (What do you want?) and Trust framework.

Inner Game Toolbox
The Inner Game Toolbox now consists of the following tools

  • Focus on critical variables
  • STOP tool (Step back, Think, Organise thoughts and Proceed)
  • Transposing
  • Feedback

Coaching Does Not Require Subject Matter Expertise
A brilliant insight is that coaching does not require knowledge of subject matter. He demonstrates that when asked to coach a member of a philharmonic orchestra. The tuba player steps up and tells Tim that he had some problem articulating the upper range cleanly. Tim knows nothing about what he is talking about. He asks the tuba player how he knew that he was not articulating the upper ranges. The tuba player says that he cannot hear it but he feels it in the way his tongue feels a little dry and thick. Tim does the classic inner game coaching method of 1) being nonjudgmental 2) Get the feelmage 3) Quieten Self 1 and 4) Trust Self 2. He tells the tuba player to focus only on the moisture on his tongue when he plays next and forget about the articulation etc. When the tuba players plays he gets a standing ovation from the orchestra. Tim gave him a critical variable to focus on and be aware of and the problem took care of itself. It's wonderful.

Tim finally says that work is all driven by desire - your desire to work free must find roots in your own deepest urges. To work free listen to that voice. Give free rein to the long-quieted voice and let it grow bold.Do not censor it.It will speak, if you care to eavesdrop.

Listen to the Self2. Be mindful. Reduce interference. Life becomes easier and more productive. Wonderful book.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Two Great Teachers of Mine - Bro Joseph and Baig sir

It had to be an All Saints High School connection.

Bro. Joseph, known as the 'cricket brother' who promoted cricket in all the schools he was involved in and one who made the lives of many like me so much more fuller through this aspect, is a wonderful teacher full of compassion, care and love for his students. He is one who is always smiling, always thinking of ways to bring the best out of the students. After serving as Principal in various Montfort institutions Bro. Joseph is now serving in Rome as one of the top 5 Provincials of the Montfort Brothers order. 'It is the act that may not be acceptable, not the person,' he told me once when I asked him his biggest learning as a teacher.
Mr. Baig sir and Bro Joseph
Baig sir was my first cricket coach and was invited by Bro Joseph to coach a new team at All Saints High School in 1982. He coached us for a week at school before the leagues started and it was the first time I was playing cricket with a proper cricket ball (he was already a BCCI Coach for South Zone). In two sessions he sorted out my follow through, got my action flowing better and rapped me for being casual while fielding. That very year I played for Hyderabad Under 15 and we won and I was happy to see Baig sir watching the game when I scored a crucial 27 to give us the first inning lead. For a whole month that summer we were part of the South Zone coaching camp under his training at Bangalore - an invaluable experience for most of us.
2007 - At the launch of 'The Men Within'
I am fortunate to stay in touch with both of them. Bro Joseph calls me every time he is in Hyderabad and I try to meet him each time and even otherwise we are in touch. Baig sir and I meet every week at the Jaisimha Cricket Academy where he coaches and I chip in and ask questions I should have asked thirty five years ago. They have been an integral part of my journey and have read drafts of 'The Men Within' and gave me their invaluable feedback and even came for the book launch. It was wonderful to give them both copies of the book at the launch.
2007 - Handing over a copy to Baig sir
Now Bro. Joseph is down with a lung infection and Baig sir and I visited him in hospital. When i told Baig sir that Bro Joseph was unwell, he said without a moment's delay - 'Let's go as soon as we can. When someone is in the hospital we must not delay.
2007 - Bro Joseph with his copy
Old world. But its so charming. So we got a picture.

Immense gratitude.

Department of Dance, Arts Management - Meeting Suhita Thatte and Jhelum Paranjpe

As part of our 'Meet the Experts' initiative we had the good fortune of meeting Suhita Thatte and Jhelum Paranjpe who were in town end of January for a performance. I asked them if hey could spend a couple of hours with the students and they were most happy to oblige. Dr. Sivaraju, the Head of the Department of Dance was his usual encouraging self and we got the idea event going.
Sitting front row - Anjali, Anuradha, Sravya
Sitting second row - Anitha, Sreedevi, Shwetha, Sravani, Shravanthy, Veena, Sharada
Standing - Sneha, Sreedivya, Suhita, Me, Jhelum, Hiranmayi and Sreedevi
Jhelum, an award winning Odissi dancer who runs the popular dance academy 'Smitalay' (named after her childhood friend Smita Patil) in Mumbai, spoke of the importance of a learning mindset, of being able to improvise and of practice. She recounted tales of her days with the great Odissi maestro Kelucharan Mohapatra and how he would be very strict in practice and how loving he would be towards his students later.

Suhita, an award winning film and TV artiste spoke of the importance of  being able to recall from memory, clarity of expression and losing one's inhibitions.

It was a freewheeling talk and the students asked several questions. 

Anjali - We Criticise Even When We Do Not Speak

'So Anjali,' I said as we were driving to her school. 'Today I decided I will not criticise anyone.'
She looked at me.

We both saw a taxi driver drive through a red light. I pursed my lips in jest. She knows that the traffic brings out the worst critic in me.

She looked at me and said 'You can criticise without saying a word also you know.'

I was stumped. How did she figure that out?

'How?' I asked. 'How do you sense that?'

'We can make out from their eyes, their body language, something...that we know they are judging us, criticising us. We can feel it.'

'Yes,' I agreed. 'I wonder why we do that though. Perhaps criticising others makes us feel better in comparison.'

Anjali was not too concerned about the why. It was enough that we do that.

The Star - Movie Review

Cannot have a cuter way of telling a biblical story. Wonderful! One to watch again.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

My Article in the Sunday HANS - Silence Kills

The Old Man and His Pineapples

The moment I saw him standing peacefully at his cart slicing his pineapples without a care about the world I knew I would buy a pineapple from him. Not some slices. A whole one. No bargaining. I just wanted to do business with him. The old Muslim man continued slicing away and putting sliced pineapple slices into small plastic covers.

I went to the bank and returned. He was still at his job. People came randomly. One knew him well enough to pick up a packet and start eating. A youngster bought a packet for an old beggar woman. Things happened without any negotiation. He continued on his job. I asked him to give me a whole pineapple. He finished what he was doing and then started my job.

It was this deep purpose of what he was doing that caught me. He was not selling anything. He was just being himself. He was just at peace with himself. If he sold one or a hundred it would not matter. And since it did not matter, it drew people to him. It was amazing how many got drawn to him.

One is the peace. Another is his purpose. Thirdly he did not push anything - he merely did his work and allowed. He created a secure space for others to step in. For someone like me who thinks several times before I buy anything, to decide so clearly was amazing.

It made sense what the zen masters say. You just have to be and not try too hard and the world will come to you. It is when you grab that it slips away. Tim Galleway says in his book 'The Inner Game of Work' that sales happen when you stepped back and gave the buyer space.

The old man is a zen master.  

Paris, Texas - Movie Review

Wonderful. Slow. Real pain in human relationships. Deeply impactful.

Anjali - Thoughtfulness and Care

It was a joke. There are some jokes we cannot stop ourselves from laughing uncontrollably. Anjali is one of the few who shares such crazy laughter with me. I love the way she laughs so wholeheartedly like a gurgling brook. Anyway we were talking about her badminton classes which she was slowly getting out of. She said she did not want t play doubles (perhaps a fallout of her partner hitting her on her head recently - a pretty bad bump resulting). I joked saying that she should probably play doubles by herself with racquets in both hands and going whirr. The visual was unexpectedly funny and we went off into paroxysms of laughter, one that we could not control for a long time.

While laughing uncontrollably I found her patting me on my back and calming me down. She did this a couple of times and I finally asked her what she was doing when I stopped laughing.

'Well, you were getting a little excited,' she said. 'So I thought I would calm you down.'

That's a lot more thoughtfulness and care than I see from most. Good to see the young lady thought her old man needed a hand.

'It's funny how when we laugh so hard the sound stops coming,' she observed quickly, allowing me to recover. The slow curtain. Very thoughtful again.

Friday, February 16, 2018

The Spy Who Came In From the Cold - Movie

Brilliant economy. Taut. Dramatic irony.

The Way of the Screenwriter - Amnon Buchbinder

Amnon Buchbinder draws much inspiration from Lao Tzu's sayings. His writing reflects much of that wisdom. Some of the best self-help books I found have been screenwriting books. If 'Story' was one, this is another.

In writing this book Buchbinder hints at mastery, the way of the masters. The story is a living thing he says and the writer must work with it (as opposed to thinking that he is creating it). You cannot force it, you must draw it out, nurture it. In doing so the writer must always go inside out - from within the character's deepest motives.

It is not the writer who 'does' things in a story but the characters and their world - the writer must understand and submit to it.

Emptiness Is The Key
We must see that within what is evident, there is a hidden world. The tales that engage us do so by their emptiness, where the events under description are invisible and inaudible. The screenplay's usefulness lies in this realm. Limitations are a source of power. What is withheld from the audience is a source of great power.

The key to this inner world is metaphor. Story is a metaphor for life...is life itself he says.

Characters strive to restore balance.

Stories Help Us Understand life better
Stories are always about human condition in progress. Meaning makes our living clearer. We recognise the deepest and fullest extent of our being through them. Story makes our life small enough that we can behold it. Story telling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it.

When ideas come, hold the empty space. Story is a growth in consciousness. Hold the question - what does it want? If we let it have its way it transforms itself into something of beauty. The key lies in the inner world, in what is hidden from view. Devising revelations (in the hidden) is the primary activity of screenwriter.

Our behavior is dominated most forcefully by things which we are least aware.

Dialectical thinking A+B=AB (in the collision something happens but no explanation is needed)

Experience trumps explanation.

Power of belief - Use It
The audience wants to believe. The magic of story is an expression of the human capacity for belief. Belief is the capacity to perceive the reality of life within a story. Children - believe - sensitive to the story! The audience enters the theatre, prepared to suspend its belief. an act of trust.
If our capacity for belief is degraded so is our ability to engage with the world.

It relates part to whole. Economy of time is paramount. Each part must add. If it does not add, it takes away.

3 life systems of story - Character, Plot, Theme
Character - neurological system, capacity to respond to the world
Plot - Muscular system, movement
Theme - Circulation system, lifeblood

Plot - Working  with conflict, The cause and effect chain
Conflict - desire and its encounter with the world
Objective + Obstacle

Setting Objective
Intensity - how strongly does he want it
Depth - how deep is it rooted
Concreteness - can it be attained, can we know and feel
Antagonism - can you generate distraction
Relevance - is the action that flows the story
Accessibility - can the audience have an emotional understanding

Behind every objective there is a motive. Motive provides depth.
A well defined and strongly motivated objective is gold. Conflicts must be pursued to their fullest possible extent.

If Story Has a Problem
What is the objective? What is the obstacle?
Conflict converts desire into action. Moves story forward.

Nature of good
We all believe we are doing good. It's relative. Subjective. 'What is good for the individual is good for the whole' - principle

Needs - Psychological, Safety, Love, Self esteem, Self actualisation

The centre of good. Story is an empathy workout.
Protagonist - one who struggles
The central engagement is the struggle. Protagonists are not born, but made.
Protagonist is where the viewer sits. The moral point of view. Centre of good. Universal, reflects us as we wish to be. A protagonist is the writer's discovery of what it is to walk a mile in another's shoes.

Human action would not be meaningful in a world without antagonism. To evolve. If need and desire comprise the force that drives us forward, antagonism is the counterforce that makes us push and create the friction necessary for growth.

3 types of conflict
1) Motives and objective of other (man vs man)
2) from forces outside the characters (man vs nature) and
3) from within the character's inner world (man vs himself)
A well developed story has all three.

Through plot, time becomes a medium of expression of character. Conflict must be expressed through action.

Dramatic action
Desire - Objective vs Obstacle (action) - Motive

Through their actions characters reveal their inner landscapes

1 motive can lead to several objectives. Each objective can have several obstacles. Scope for action. These actions are the substance of the story.

Objective without motive - no depth
Motive without objective - no impact
Objective without action - sterile
Action without objective - activity

Actions should not be magnified needlessly. Characters must use minimum effort to get desired result.

Plot - Working with Time
What canvas is to painting, time is to story. Every story encompasses a scope of time broader than that represented. While the chronicle encompasses the full chain of events, the plot consists solely of the exact sequence of events portrayed on the screen. Working with the distinction between the chronicle and the plot is one of the greatest sources of power for the writer.

Story's life is constructed in time rather than in space.
Chronicle - time's full display. Plot - disrupts time.

Start working from the end.
'What does my protagonist stand to lose or gain?'
'What's at stake?' If there is more at stake, the greater the payoff. (reputation, life)

Motivation (pushes forward - Stakes (pull onward)

Plot and subplot
Subplots add depth and complexity

Act design

  • Unfoldment of conflict through dramatic action
  • Need to drive conflict to its extreme in order to fully explore character and theme
  • To raise stakes and increase emotional rewards for the audiences participation
  • to surprise the audience while staying within plausibility
  • we don't want the audiences to see where we are headed

A turning point in the plot is a bend in the road.

Act 1 - Objective + Motive,
Act 2 - Heart of plot
Act III - Conflict at higher level, bring story to its highest capacity

Before 1st rung - Set up, what happens before the plot rolls
1st rung - Catalyst, something happens, gives an objective to the protagonist
2nd   First turning point, main tension, change in direction
3rd - breakthrough, goes from reaction to proaction
4th - Ordeal, all is lost, character transformation, sacrifice
5th - 2nd turning point, culmination, launches 3rd and final act, last arc of conflict
6th and 7th - Crisis and climax, the battle that decides the war, fullest expression of central conflict
7th - Resolution after the 7th rung

Anticipation. Recollection.
Repetition is a great friend of the screenwriter.

Plant/Pay off

Dramatic irony - most powerful of these tools
Makes us anticipate where a character realises what we are already aware of

Recollection + Anticipation = Participation

Plot, Part II
Credibility and Surprise
Plausibilityis crucial to belief.
'Unnecessary effort usually has unintended consequences since it isn't inspired by the intended goal.'
The intended goal is a plausible and interesting chain of human behavior - credibility and surprise.

Buried treasure - nature loves to hide.

Stuff of life - fear and pity
What has happened (pity)
What might happen (fear)

Exposition is information necessary to understand the story.
Seek out conflict - it is necessary; conflict moves the story forward.

Power of paradox - contrary to expectations
When you consider a characters choice of action always consider its opposite.
Work the conventional way ...and do it differently.

What is hidden is what matters. Character is what a person is in a dark room.
Imagination - Curiosity. Take you into the dark room.

Behavior is the medium of the drama.
I am a man. Nothing human s foreign to me.

The past creates the necessity for the story. Character is destiny.

The Spell - A manifestation of the force of the past, the force of fate. An undeserved misfortune.

The Mask - a false identity created by the spell, mask - consequences of fate.

The destiny path is the protagonists' greatest need, it will force him from the past and secure the treasure the story holds fro him.
The masked protagonist pursues an objective that contradicts his destiny's path. The objective is a want. The destiny path is a need.

The inner storm - a character exists as a facet of the story. The guiding concern is integirty.

Theme - a general summation of the territory f the story
Where the writer starts with a subject, theme is where he ends up.
Theme is the unity of meaning of the story.
A theme encompasses eveything that happens in story in a unity of meaning. Meaning is  acall to growth, to storyteller ad audience alike.

The anti theme - story contains both
If a theme contains the story's truth and if that truth must be proven, it also must have an anti theme.

A story's setting has an intimate relationship with its theme
It is by creating a small contained knowable world that the story  is able to communicate a theme.
A theme is why the story teller wants to tell a particular story.

Outline - is a blueprint. Index cards. 100 cards. Once satisfied combine to write treatment.
Treatment - -Detailed. Literary.
Draft - Screenplay

Scene is the basic unit

1) expression of larger conflicts 2) scene specific conflicts 3) surface tension (something different at the scene's end) 4) resolution (answer questions) 5) dissonance (new questions), cause and effect

Most important thing about a scene is its necessity, its purpose
A good scene serves more than one function.
Need for speed in a screenplay cant be overstated

Dialogue is a subcategory of action. It belongs to the characters, not the writer. Speech must be motivated. See dialogue in action - express motive. Dialogue is to speech as a character is to a person.

All good dialogue has subtext. Believable dialogue conceals as much as it reveals.
1st necessity of subtext is to make dialogue lifelike.
2nd is economy.
3rd, subtext if effectively withheld, draws the audience in
Subtext is the empty space at the centre of the wheel

Text + Context = Subtext
Most memorable subtext is fully loaded. An active performance can be an element of context. Subtext is what the actors act - the truth of the scene.

Living images

  • Show don't tell
  • Illusion of the physical world
  • Images that define the worlD of the story

A screenplay must make film making team willing to walk through fire to see it realised
Final draft / Movie magic - For screenplay formats
Dialogue - decripttion of action
Specific words, action sentences
Characters - first impressions are important, introduce them well

Work out your story exhaustively before you even begin to write. Writing is an act. An improvisational one. Intuition in action.

Where to start?
The masterful writer understands that what matters is what she doesn't know. She uses her knowledge to leap into the unknown.
Write what you don't know
Know what you write (as opposed to write what you know).
Write what you don't know you know.
Research is a process by which the writer explores the fullness of the relationship.
You must approach writing like the transcendent god (god with no desire) and the immanent god (god with desire).


Hitting the wall
The realisation that the task is bigger than what we had hoped is universal to the creative person.
The story's problems reflect the writer's limitations and solving the problem the writer grows in his craft.
When co-writing, draw up a simple agreement about rights and responsibilities

The Master's Way
Approach with openness to what we might not be capable of, and search for methods to go beyond it.
A writer is one who writes unconditionally.
Being the question - the answers are easy, questions are tough.
A well asked question provides many possible answers.

Resistance to work is futile. Surrender. Cycle of writing - Emptiness, Preparation, Surrender, Awakening
Put stuff that is not working in the drawer.
The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom. More ideas, more alternatives.

Prune - Every scene, every word that does not geenrate energy robs energy from those that do.
Pruning has remarkable effect of increasing vigor.

Do not doubt - faith precedes confidence
Suspend belief - writing for an audience that has not seen the movie.

Film making
20000 words will become 144000 pictures (24 frames per second, 60 seconds, 100 minutes)
Know your Audiences - Who is the audience that will go to the theatre and buy that DVD
Hook - Find your hook
Pitching helps a writer learn the story by heart
Success - progress towards a working goal


Thursday, February 15, 2018

Wind River - Movie Review

Intense murder mystery in Indian land. New setting, new land, new plot. Highly watchable.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Wonder - Movie

As good as the book! Recommended.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Book Fair - Launching Vasudev Prasad's Book 'Sherolck Holmes in Timbuktu'

Vasudev Murthy, a Jaico author, was in town and had a book event scheduled at the Hyderabad Book Fair. I had never been to it so I went. He wanted me to converse with him at the book launch. His school teacher was there too - Mrs. Thomas. So we released the book 'Sherlock Holmes in Timbuktu'.
Apparently Sherlock is now out of copyright and one can write about him. Vasu has written two books on Sherlock already. Apart from writing very well (he has published several books), he practices yoga, is an animal rights activist, corporate teacher and is currently learning Bharatanatyam.
Vasu is based in Bangalore.

Nice Link - Historical Pics

My Article in the Sunday HANS - We Are Under Attack!

Sports Psychology - Mental Toughness Preparation

A few thoughts by some practitioners

1) Patrick Cohn

  • Stop going down with a negative past, stop catastrophising, stop focusing on all the wrong things
  • Develop a highlight reel (video of your best moments, put to music, visualise)
  • Know why you deserve to be confident (the work you put in, your strengths etc)
  • Only think of positive outcomes
  • Stop focusing on the game until an hour before the game
  • Focus on how to prepare to give your best, how to get ready for the game

2) Top 5 Skills - Mental Toughness for Sports

  • Mental practice - visualisation (the key lies in detailed and specific visualisation)
  • Get present - be aware through the day, all 5 senses, to the moment
  • Use a mantra - 'I can do this', 'I never give up', 'I am the best', 'I will always find a way out', 'I work harder than anyone else' etc
  • Letting go - Verbally forgive yourself
  • Practice ability to focus - Pick something to focus on without other thoughts creeping in
  • In sports you need short focus periods
3) Mental Game Checklist - How Coaches Motivate Athletes to Win

  • Vision - Clear, vivid, compelling vision
  • Meaning - Personal - get personal
  • Outcome - What is the pay off for the effort
  • Conflict - Remove conflicts / distractions from goal
  • Results - Immediacy - short milestones
  • Influence - Who can influence positively
  • Support - Show them support
  • Time - Time management 
  • Illusion - You don't need to know everything, you need to know what is important
  • Influence - Can we influence the outcome

5 Routines
  • Feedback
  • Repetition
  • Approach - out of comfort zone
  • Motive
  • Effort

4) Vince Lombardi 
What do you expect of yourself?
What matters to you?

Your expectations shape your reality.

  • Be driven by a pursuit of excellence
  • Commit to a focused plan of action without tolerance
  • Develop and maintain self confidence
  • Practice focused breathing
  • Monitor your self talk - if negative stop, change, sing
  • Practice thought stopping
  • Take charge of your life  
  • Discover Hope out of Hopelessness
  • Practice perseverance
  • Obstacles - lack of commitment, talking instead of doing, waiting for the perfect time