Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

I See India…

Posted: August 9, 2014 in Life and Living, Photography, Writing

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In the statue
Of Infant Jesus
On my cab driver’s dashboard.

My cab driver,
A Muslim,
At Infant Jesus,
Every Thursday.

In thalis at Christian weddings,
Jesus in puja rooms,
Indian biryani.

In Eid Mubarak,
Happy Diwali,
Merry Christmas.

Three greetings, one reply,
“Same to you”
“Aapko Bhi”.

In Kabir’s dohas,
The tricolor,
Jodha-Akbar.

In Irfan Pathan,
Declaring,
He was proud to bowl for India.

Irfan Pathan,
Almost burnt alive,
in Gujarat 2002.

In Nargis epitomizing Mother India,
Sania rallying for India,
Priyanka turning Mary Kom.

In politics
That gave us
Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister,
Abdul Kalam as President.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh,
President Abdul Kalam,
Both, at the same time.

In Mumbai’s apartment buildings,
Teams in global corporations,
A Pub and an Islamic Boutique, standing side by side.

In those moments,
When Mubarak is Hindu,
Lakshmi is Christian,
Andy is Muslim.

Yes,
I see India,
All around me.

India has become.
I choose to believe.

We cannot be undone.

(A poem inspired by a blog post that I’d written a couple of years ago on “Incredible India’.)

When I chose to write a book on Aamir Khan, I always knew it would be controversial. Not simply because he is an actor whose work has impacted Hindi cinema, but because he always seems to evoke two extreme responses – adulation or extreme dislike (on the belief that his work is overrated and his positioning pseudo).

So just as I am grateful for the attention this book has received as the Landmark No 1 Non-fiction Bestseller (For almost two months in a row), a Crossword Non-Fiction Bestseller and its debut amongst Nielsen Bookscan’s top non-fiction bestsellers, I realize that I must accept both the criticism and the praise that this book has received with equal grace and humility.

However, there seem to be a few myths doing the rounds and I would like to respond to them as if I don’t set the facts right about my own book, nobody else will :)

  1. “I’ll Do It My Way” is not a biography. It is a filmography – as all the summaries released by the publisher will tell you – and should read/evaluated/reviewed as such. A filmography does not dwell on the man Aamir Khan, it looks at his work. So readers who expect me to examine all the dark rumours around the man will be disappointed. These are not the subject of the book – not because I was too scared to investigate them, but because they were not an area of interest. My passion is cinema – both film-making and the rationale behind it – and that’s what this book is about
  2. Am I die-hard Aamir fan/admirer? Not really… So I can say that I did not care for some of his recent films like RDB, Ghajini or TZP (and many others too!). But as an objective film researcher, I cannot ignore their impact, especially if it has been very clearly documented.
  3. So is the book only “in praise” of Aamir Khan. That is not true – unless one is so prejudiced by one’s own views that one is not able to take a balanced perspective. For instance, one of my favourite interviews in the book is with Mahesh Bhatt – simply because it is amongst the most objective voices. Mahesh appreciated Aamir’s sincerity and commitment, but seemed to find Aamir’s search for perfection exhausting – even as Mansoor Khan provides a different take on the same subject (without any knowledge of what Mahesh had said before this). The debate between the two views is interesting. Then, later, for the first time, directors like Dharmesh Darshan, Indra Kumar and even Mansoor talk about certain filming decisions taken in conjunction with Aamir that were mistakes. So we see that while Aamir has made cinematic decisions that have worked well with audiences in the recent years, there have been mistakes as well. Just as there were many poor film choices in the early and middle phases of his career. This book touches on all that too. Infact, this is more than most existing books on Indian actors have done so far.
  4. A review in Deccan Chronicle insinuates that Amol Gupte was dropped from the list of interviewees because Aamir Khan/his office edited the list of interviewees. That is not true and borders on defamation. Aamir Khan’s office did not suggest that I drop anyone… But they did suggest that I include directors Muragadoss, Rajkumar Hirani and Vidhu Vindod Chopra. As I had begun working on this book much before Ghajini was released, they were not on my original list and it worked well for the book that this was pointed out.
  5. So why was Amol Gupte not included in my list of interviewees? Only because in MY view he was not a director, producer or principal actor in Taare Zameen Par. My interest was in how the film was made, and there was sufficient documentary coverage from the producers in the public domain that allowed me to analyze this aspect.
  6. Incidentally, my modus operandi was to try and get every director whose film was being included in the book to give me some commentary on his/her film. If directors like Ashutosh and Farhan are not in the book, it’s because they were busy and could not give me their time. Ditto with Juhi Chawla! In fact, for the record, the person I tried hardest to reach while writing this book was not Aamir, it was Juhi. But her secretary was unable to put us in touch over a period of two years. Incidentally, Juhi did not interview for the only other book that currently exists on Aamir — “Aamir Khan: Actor with a difference” by senior film journalist Lata Khubchandani. On the subject of interviewees, I would also like to point out that none of the directors I spoke to were interviewed for the previous book by Lata as well. In fact, this particular panel of interviewees is unlikely to be put together again. As a documenter of Hindi cinema, I believe that this makes the book significant — both in any study of Aamir’s work or his films.
  7. Aamir collaborated with the book in some way. No… He did not. This book was an independent research initiative. Aamir’s office was only aware that I was working on it — nothing more. I even paid for all the expenses/travel related to the book on my own, and till the end I believed that I could have to self-publish it. Just because the stance is positive does not mean that it is less independent or researched. Anyone who has read my previous work would know that I am a positive person and I like celebrate the best in people. This book reflects that approach.
  8. Is the book is a compilation of interviews from film magazines? Hardly! The first information source was live interviews, then came film/video coverage, followed by coverage in the national press and then film magazines. Having said that, I think a researcher is striking a pseudo-intellectualist stand if they believe that film journals are beneath them. Film journals reflect popular culture and can be a rich and extremely interesting source of information as they capture nuances that are sometimes missed by mainstream media. Typically, any quote that I have used in the book is not an isolated statement. It is corroborated by other interviews that he has given over the years.

When it comes to my work on creating the book, I am grateful that I got to write this book from a non-film background as this gave me the freedom to write my book without any prejudices. I started with a clean slate, and if at the end, my conclusion was not ‘negative’ or ‘darkly sinister’ enough to suit either the cynic or the traditional film writer, then so be it.  

I also did not have any pre-conceived notions on films like “Dil”, “Raja Hindustani” and “Ghajini”, and responded to them on the basis of both how they were made/how they were received/their impact. It does not matter to me that most people who appreciate “French cinema” better did not find these films appealing enough. In all truth, none of these films appeal to me personally either… But I am ready to look beyond myself and understand that making commercially viable Indian films is also an art that most film critics themselves have never mastered, and these films represent that art and to that extent reflect popular culture.

In fact “I’ll Do It My Way” is a actually a piece of film research, a methodology that I picked up under the Media Studies Department at the London School of Economics. But we also turned that approach on its head to make the book accessible to the lay reader. As I look at the book’s Flipkart journey, I believe that has already happened, and that is this book’s biggest achievement.

Finally, “I’ll Do It My Way” is an Aamir Khan filmography… So this work was begun with the view that Aamir’s work is significant to Indian cinema. The films that were covered in this book were meant to reflect different shades of his work as that was the area of my research. People may have their own views on it, and if this book encourages discussion around Aamir’s craft or even prods someone else to write their own book on the subject, it would have served its purpose.

(This post has also been cross posted on my blog for the book “I’ll Do It My Way”.)

I’m back

Posted: September 7, 2011 in Life and Living, Writing

Because I have something to say 🙂

It suddenly occurs to me that I’ve been blogging for as long that I’ve been married. As with many other things, it was my dear friend AM who introduced me to the wonderful world of the blogsphere in November 2005.

Like her, I first began blogging to practice on my craft as a writer. We started off as a close community of writers on Yahoo 360 – there was AM, SB, AW, L and SS. Not only did I write much, but I also get wonderful feedback on my work from fellow writers who I admired.

Yet I am also a very private person. So this blog has always reflected ‘me’, but not the most important events in my personal life (at least not till I am ready to talk about them-and that could be never). In fact, I’ve worked very hard to keep the personal and public spaces very different. So more often this blog has most reflected my interests or the causes that move me.

But then posts petered down as I got busy with my book. Then cinema moved out of my blog to my column on Citizen Matters and Facebook took over. Yet I kept pushing myself every now and then to make the occasional blog post.

But today morning a blog post from AM said that she was considering hanging up her blogger’s boots. The reason? She just didn’t feel like blogging anymore.

That’s when I realized that I haven’t felt like blogging in a long time now. When I do, it’s more an act of discipline than an act of love.

I don’t feel like blogging for a variety of reasons. The most important one perhaps is that my favourite subjects, which is cinema, has moved to Citizen Matters. I’d like to focus on that a lot more. My work on my books also takes up a lot of my time as well. But mostly importantly, I am not very comfortable about talking about ‘me’ right now and important changes in my life on a public space. So I have nothing to say.

The community of writers that I depended upon has also moved away from the blogsphere into various forms of social media. I do have my trusted inner circle in NG and AM… But I don’t need a blog to share my writing with them.

I still see blogging as a tool to create a great community. But I would like this community to be around areas of interest and not ‘me’. So it seems like a good time to retire 101dreams and replace it with multiple blogs around these areas of interest. And then maybe I could take a break for awhile.

So I am thinking about it… And more on that subject when I have a plan. But this time, my head will be in tune with my heart 🙂

I first became a blogger five years ago in November 2005. It was a month after I had gotten married, and I think that blogging was my way of keeping in touch with the Christina who always wanted to “create”. It was a part of me that I was not going to let die, as I had seen happen in many of my friends for whom the urge to become, achieve, create had in some way been satiated by the contentment of togetherness that sometimes comes with marriage.

I wrote about many things. But I am sure that most people who have followed this blog for some time now would agree that I spoke with most power in my movie reviews. Then perhaps it was just what I liked to write about cinema more than anything else, and so it seemed to me like my most powerful writing.

But whatever the underlying factors, this was the space that I used to analyse films and shape my ideas on cinema.

Today the journey I began on this blog has taken a new direction. My movie reviews will now move out of my blog to Citizen Matters, where I will have my own column that reflects cinema as it is experienced in Bangalore.

You can have a sneak preview to my weekly column here: http://bangalore.citizenmatters.in/articles/author/4441-christina-daniels

I terribly excited about the opportunities this opens up for research and writing on cinema as it is experienced in Bangalore. It is also the second time that this blog has been a launching board for bigger dreams and wider horizons 🙂

Mindblogs 1.0

Posted: September 6, 2010 in Writing
Tags: ,

As I recollect, I first began talking about Mind Blogs at least two years ago. It was to be a book created by a group of writers (mainly bloggers) on themes from the world around them.

We had initially planned this as a collaboration between, Nimmi, Zahid, Anamika, Sowmya, Sirisha, Andy and me. But for various reasons, it finally boiled down to just Nimmi, Zahid and me.

After a long wait, the book is almost ready and I feel proud of it. Not to mention that this is also an interesting experiment for Nimmi, Zahid and myself. Who knows what this could lead to?

But for now, we will be relying heavily on social networking to spread the book’s message. Here’s a peek into what’s in store with our blog for the book here: https://mindblogs1.wordpress.com/

As always, your comments are always welcome!

It was a special day for me this morning. I walked into Landmark to see “Chicken Soup for the Indian Romantic Soul” on display, with my name amongst the contributing authors.

Not a huge achievement (and yes, I agree with those who think that Chicken Soup has been oversold), and yet sometimes life is about celebrating the little things that make you smile. So here’s to “Chicken Soup for the Indian Romantic Soul” because I felt really good to see it in print this morning 🙂