Tuesday, July 26, 2011


This map you see above isn't a picture of the earth, seen from space. Europe’s map seen was created by Eric Fischer, by geo-tagging. It’s a map of the locations attached to every tweet and Flickr photo. What results is a remarkable picture of how each service has spread across the globe.

At the very broadest levels, you have a map of the very different ways that Flickr and Twitter have spread across the world. Take a minute to look at this map of America, where Flickr use is shown in orange and Twitter use is shown in blue.It is noticeable that Flickr is everywhere, but Twitter most widely used in the eastern seaboard of the United States. One might have expected the Twitter and Flickr maps to have overlapped quite nicely, but it is not so. Flickr outstrips Twitter by far, especially in Europe, where it is dominant. Only Moscow sticks out as a blue plume of pixels.

In the geotagged maps of cities Tokyo, San Francisco and New York too the Twitter and Flickr tags again fail to overlap inspite of being both really popular.

Geotagged map - Tokyo Geotagged map - San Francisco
Geotagged map - New York

As interesting as these images are, I also found another image which has truth and humour in it which says – ‘From Space, no one care about your tweets’.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Anurag Kashyap Interview part I

This is an abridged version of the interview, which Anurag Kashyap gave as a part of the London Indian Film Festival workshop.

Part I

Q :Your first coming was as a writer, long before you became a director and now producer. Satya (1998) was one of the first films that you wrote for Ram Gopal Varma and that brought the world’s attention to you as a writer. I believe he told you he wanted to bring Howard Roark to the underworld.

That was the brief. But the film went through a lot of organic process. The first draft of the script was chucked into the dustbin by Ramu. Then Saurabh Shukla and i went back and started again.

That was the time when people didn’t write scripts in Bollywood. Scripts were not written. Nobody actually had the time to read scripts. They used to write a single line. One line and the sight of scene. It was called a one-liner. For instance, Satya arrives in Bombay. Satya meets Bhiku Mhatre. And then create a scene for it. And so after the script was thrown in,we worked on it again. But Satya is a film with a lot of improvisations and impromptu dialogues.

Q: What is your process when you write a script?

I just write. That has always been the case since i was a kid. I used to just write .My writing process has been two days at a stretch, 3 days at a stretch. Come out when the script is over .If you can’t just fill 6 -7 pages just like that, then it’s difficult. For a lot of people, the most difficult part is writing the first page, the first line or dialogue. Any aspiring writer should get into the habit of writing first .Until you write 30-40 pages, you can’t write. They don’t write as they feel it’s not working .Write crap, but write. If you can’t do that, you can’t write. I used to write 100 pages a day.

Q: Before you did Satya and before you became a reckoned name, you had to do a lot of hack jobs for other directors. Sanjay Gupta gave you the paper by paper screenplay of Reservoir Dogs for you to work upon for Kaante .

I used to do that for money at that time, yes.

Q:Was that difficult for you to write those films?

They were far more difficult to write. Because they were written keeping an audience in mind. Everything was to be done with that in mind. They would put in a resort with all the facilities and you just write according the brief. They give you more money actually for not taking credit and the director taking credit for the script and story.

Q:There was the time before Satya also, which many people call your struggling years. But you call them something else isn’t?

Yeah, those were the formative years. The struggle is now. Everyday you are struggling to make a film. And you don’t want to just get carried away with what you are doing. It’s like you feel what you are doing is really important. But those early days were fun days. There was no responsibility. We lived under a water tank. I and Prashant Narayanan, and we used to peep into other people’s windows. And we used to write stories like that .We were kids, just 19-20.Everyday we used to manipulate the security guard standing outside the Centaur Hotel. We would get in , one guy would have a coffee , another would go use the toilet, and then we would get out of there without anybody having a clue what we guys we up to. Those were great times. Paanch actually came out of those times.

Q:Your debut feature film is Paanch, which was never released.

Paanch actually came out of a lot of anger. With Satya, it was my equivalent of going to a film school. I learnt everything there .The film was shot and then reshot. The second half was completely scrapped and reshot .It was a film in which the post-production was done simultaneously .So everything, editing, sound design, dubbing and background score had to be done together in a studio in Chennai. That process taught me a lot about film making .Coming up with all those ideas. What you chose to keep and what you reject, that is where you learn the most and after that experience, when it released and became a defining film of the last decade, we thought, we could do something. We were young and we could change the world. But then people involved with Satya changed. Everybody started crediting themselves for Satya. Everybody involved thought it was because of himself that the film is what it is. That is why the whole team broke up .The success of Satya killed the team. And i was really disheartened, disappointed with that. Then i started working on Water. And they didn't allow water to be made in Banaras in 1999.Then i started working on Mission Kashmir . But again the whole point of making the film was dropped and i walked out the film half–way as it was becoming something else. When you are doing a film that is political in nature and you are trying to say something, it’s sad to see the idealism go away.

So Paanch came out of that anger and discontent. I thought, this industry is star-based, so i will make a film that has none of the stars and an entirely new crew. The art director, the camera-person, the editor-my ex-wife. We all were new. All of us. We figured out everything while shooting the film. And when the film was banned, it made us even more angry.

Q:What is you experience from Paanch?

I don’t know..i mean whatever person/film-maker i am today is because of that film. I remember the initial test screening for Paanch and everybody was raving about the film. Boney Kapoor told ‘which penthouse you want ..from Andheri to Bandra..i will give it to you .But you have to do this film with Sanjay Kapoor and Sunil Shetty.’ And i was seriously considering it .Had Paanch released and i had done that film, i don’t know what kind of a film-maker i would be today. That time i was very naïve and innocent .I asked myself ‘why can’t i say what i want to say? What is so wrong with my film?’

Q:Why exactly was it banned?

Because at that time the censor board was such .One of the members was this hairy guy and he looked at me and i was this 24-25 year old guy with a carry bag with me .I think he was first of all upset that how could i be allowed to make a film. He just looked and said ‘what does cinema mean to you?’

I said it means many things to me. What does it mean to you? He replied ‘Cinema is healthy entertainment. Your film is neither healthy nor entertaining. Why would you make it?’

And then he gave me various reasons like Indians don’t masturbate. He gave strange reasons and then i got into a fight. It became an ego issue and it got banned. Today it can be released, but the producer of Paanch has many debts and he can’t release it until he can clear that .Lots of people have offered to buy out the film but he refuses to do so.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Anurag Kashyap Interview part II

Part II

Q:Your next film Black Friday too was dogged in controversy.

It was banned by the High court but then Supreme Court cleared it. It was banned for 2 ½ years.

Q:As a writer was it difficult to adapt a work of non-fiction as it is based on Mid-Day journalist S.Hussain Zaidi’s, book Black Friday ?

It wasn't difficult to adapt the book, what was difficult was to find the start point. It was initially meant to be a 6-part TV series. So i was actually writing it as different episodes. I had already written the pilot episode. And that’s when it was decided to turn it into a movie. The only thing was, how do you put it together, till we came upon the idea that let’s use the police procedural investigation into the bomb-blast case as the protagonist element in the film. That is how we get into the whole conspiracy .Once that was clear; the script was written in 2 days.

Q:And how difficult was it getting legal clearances to use actual names?

That was the reason why the film was banned and the High Court issued a stay order. We don’t have a tradition of making films based on real events. So when i was writing the film , Mid-Day ( also the publisher of the original book) was backing the film, it was producing .Mid-Day and the producer Arindam Mitra also got the clearance for the location for wherever i wanted to shoot, because i was very stubborn that i would shoot in the same places where the incidents actually happened. And Arindam and Mid-Day got the permission. The crew would all wear Mid-Day badges and we would pose as journalists and we would say we are shooting a documentary. That is how we discovered how to shoot in low budget and in guerrilla style. Also a lot had changed;we were shooting it 2003 and the events were of 1993 and between 1993 and 2003 a lot had changed. In 1993, we had only Maruti cars. By 2003 we had all these modern cars, mobile phones, pagers and satellite television come in. All the hoardings were different .So we just could not shot Bombay as it was in 93’ and it would have been really expensive to digitally alter the footage. And those were also the early days of SFX, it cost much more than it does today.

So we started shooting from rooftops and that became the style of the film. We used a lot of tele lens and shot from long range distances. We would have a lot of our people in the crowd, who would then monitor the frame .There are couple of sequences seen in which the film assistant on sets would bang into someone who took out a mobile phone. That was the only way to make the crowd look convincing. We were monitoring them without their notice. And for Mid-Day the whole producing experience was so traumatic, they haven’t produced ever since. It was very courageous of them what with the subsequent court cases; they spent a lot of money on it.

Q:Has this low-budget kind of become your style.

With time it has become like that somewhat. But it was between Paanch and Black Friday that i wrote Alwin Kalicharan and Anil Kapoor was supposed to be in it. But at the last moment , i don’t know why he backed out. He didn't get why the film was being made. It was kind of a science–fiction inspired by Sin City graphic novels. And we created this whole futuristic Delhi where pleasure was the whole business largely inspired by Red Harvest. Nobody understood the film and it was shelved in 2003. Then Black Friday started.

Q:So until then, it was a lot of bans, stay orders and shelved projects. There must a lot of frustration.

There was, there was. I had decided after Paanch that whatever happens i won’t stop working. Black Friday’s stay order came a day before the release. I had got my first suit stitched for the premiere. That's when Black Friday got stuck .And then i said let’s start another film. I took up Gulaal, a script i had written earlier. We started shooting for 4 days and then had to stop because the producer disappeared after that. I picked it up again and Jhamu Sughand, who also had produced Lagaan liked Black Friday and blindly trusted me and gave me the money to go shoot for Gulaal.

We started the shoot and then Jhamu ran out of money as 2 others films that he was banking on tanked. So he pulled the plug on us. But even after that, what mattered was i never stopped working.

Q:And then you made No Smoking next, your film with the most hostile reviews. Is it a very personal film for you?

It..became very personal .It was very organic. It became what it became. I didn't analyse it when i was writing it .It was a time when i was going through my separation and a whole lot of other things at the same time. It was the time i started blogging. I thought i had stumbled upon a place where i could just let out my anger. I didn't realise that it would become such a public space. And suddenly what i wrote came in the papers the next day and i didn't know what to do with that. So suddenly my private rantings became public. I was just discovering the internet and i would just get a bit drunk and type and i would let it all out. That was the time i found money to make No Smoking as Vishal Bhardwaj produced it. No Smoking was made during that time all these things seeped into the movie. And it became an extremely personal movie and stopped being what it was meant to be. And that is why it is also the film that i feel the closest to.

Q:So were you taken aback by the sheer critical hostility towards the movie?

Yeah..yeah i was..completely. You know it had become a joke while i was shooting the film that when this film comes out, we should put a camera on the screen to get the audience’s reaction. We would joke about it everyday, but when it actually came out; people didn’t react at all to the film. The audience reacted exactly the way we expected them to react. Though we never taped it, the film never ran enough days i guess!

Q:For this film it was the first time that actually approached a major Bollywood star. You approached Shah Rukh Khan and then John Abraham eventually did the film.

Yes and Shah Rukh wanted to do the film. He was one of persons who reacted positively to the film. He said i will do this film, but you have to wait. But i couldn’t wait. I was desperate. I had 2 banned and one half finished film. I came to anyone who listened to me. And John had just came back after finishing shooting for Water .And Deepa Mehta had said some nice things about me to him . So he believed me. And he came on board.

Q:That was the only time you felt the need to go a bonafide Bollywood star?

That was the only option and the only way my film would get made. I was told that upfront by Vishal Bhardwaj and Kumar Mangat, because people think i am jinxed. My films get stuck. The only way to get money for the film is to get a star. That was the only time i approached a star.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Anurag Kashyap Interview part III


Q:The next film that came out was Return of Hanuman – an animation film and a complete change in direction and genre. Why?

I had wrote it for my daughter .My closest friend for the last 20 years, is Imtiaz Ali. We came to Bombay together. And he is this mainstream popular film maker and makes these incredible love stories that my daughter is allowed to watch .And most of my films are certified adult. So she kept complaining why can’t you make a film that i can take my friends to . Which is why i wrote the film.I was not supposed to direct it. The guy who made the first film somehow couldn’t deal with the story that i wrote .He said this film meant for children. What is this stuff about Chitragupt having sex with Menaka? And in India we don’t call them animation films,we call it cartoon films and basically everything is done in 3 months. They don’t give you time or the money. We just have to finish the film .I was called mid-way through the film, which is 1 ½ months into production. I was told, you just have to stand there and give directions to the tech guys. I asked, but what is a director supposed to do here?

I would just want to change everything and obviously that was never possible, because it takes double the time. I was literally learning on the job and i would never go there again. The only thing i got out of it was that i got to dedicate it to my daughter and premiered it on her birthday to her entire school and that was the biggest day of her life. That meant the world to me.

Q:So after a lot of fluctuations, finally a success in the form of Dev.D which was box-office success .How did you work out the whole look of the film?

The idea ..well this is the look i has worked out for Alwin Kalicharan . Dev.D was shot in all the locations where Alwin Kalicharan was supposed to be shot. During my college years, we used to spend a lot of time in Paharganj.

Q:It was Abhay Deol’s idea, of this modern interpretation of Devdas . He has also been credited with the concept of the film.

Yeah, Abhay had this idea of movie set in Las Vegas in a strip club called Chandramukhi. But what it did was, it planted a seed in my head. And i am not a big fan of Devdas as a character. If you read Sarat Chandra’s life, Devdas has lot of parallels to his own life. He had run away from Bengal and went to Burma and experimented with drugs and all. So only his personal life interested me more .So i used a lot of those elements from Sarat Chandra’s life that were camouflaged in Devdas. I have read the story of Devdas, i have read a lot of Sarat Chandra’s work. But i didn’t re-read it before writing Dev.D because i had already decided what i wanted to do with it .So i told Vikramaditya Motwane, a big fan of Devdas, my co-writer and who directed Udaan that you write your version of Devdas and i will take your version of the script and i will make my own version out if it. Vikram did his work in 3 months. It was Vikram who changed the script and took the scene to Punjab .Then i took that and reworked it.
Q:The first part of the film; was it a conscious subversion to the Yash Chopra kind of films?

No.. but the moment Vikram wrote Punjab, i said i want to shoot the real Punjab .The way Punjab is, not the kind of Punjab we see in films. We went and found the sugarcane fields instead of those mustard fields.

Q:How did you then get to the idea of Gulaal which has student politics and a smattering of national politics?

Gulaal came out a lot confusion ,written post Paanch when the CD of Pyaasa was on a constant loop on my CD–man. Then this person Raj Singh Chaudhary came to me with a story .I liked the story but it had no place mentioned in it. So i asked him where’s he from? He said Rajasthan and then we went to Rajasthan on a road trip and i was talking to a lot of Royals. This was in 2000.That was also the time when they were running out of money and mulling to sell their castles to the hotel chains. That had become the case by the time, the film came out.
Q:It made to the London Film Festival .What was the reception to Gulaal?

Gulaal , i think has over a period of time become my most liked film across the Hindi speaking heartland. It is the highest viewed film on Zee TV in the last 1 ½ years. It shows every 1 month and according to Zee is their highest revenue generator. At the time of the release, nobody saw it, but over the years it has become really popular in North India. Strangely, i can get anything done in the government offices there, because they love Gulaal. From police officers to ministers, their favourite film is Gulaal and half my jobs are done because of that !

Q:You have also started producing films. Aamir for Raj Kumar Gupta , Udaan for Vikramaditya Motwane and Shaitan for Bijoy Nambiar. How can anyone get a film made through you?

I don’t have the capacity to produce films .We don’t have the money most of the time. But we have an office space, where a whole lot of kids from film schools turn up, people who want to make films, and people who think they can make films. My office is full of these young kids, who refuse to go .I don’t have salary to give them and i keep telling them that i can’t hire you .But because of these kids, i realised something. It's that while most of my films were not making money at the box-office, but when you get on to, No Smoking has more votes than the film that was a big success that year .So there are definitely people watching those films. But they are watching it on the internet, after downloading. The audience is a non–paying one. These are students who don’t have the money to go watch all films. They wait for the torrents to turn up. I started cultivating that audience.

Now companies coming up with new technologies notice that on the internet i have a bigger audience. They started contacting me for this short film contests now and then. Aircel gave me $ 250,000 to make 12 short films. I started taking these on and passing then on to these guys in the office. And through those short films i can know whether they are ready to make films.

Q:How much are you in control of those films that you produce?
I see the first cut when they are ready to show me their first cut.

Q:And finally your latest film That Girl in Yellow Boots which screened in London the day before.

It’s my most uncompromising film yet and i had complete freedom to make it . We did a lot of improvisation in this films and Kalki has a huge role to play in it as a writer and actor. And because it was screened in London that we got a distributor.
Anurag Kashyap has finished the post-production of his next film Gangs of Wasseypur , starring Manoj Bajpai , Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Richa Chadda and is scheduled for an early 2012 release in India.
This is an abridged version of the interview, which Anurag Kashyap gave as a part of the London Indian Film Festival workshop.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Wimbeldon Diary

For all the vagaries of British weather and the crazy expensive arena that SW 19 is , Wimbledon is special. Its because of the green and purple colours, the surface itself, the hospitality, the Royal Box, the history and tradition,the retractable roof, the strawberry and cream that bring the uniqueness to the whole experience.They make Wimbeldon what it is.
Nothing can compare the feeling for a tennis player of lifting the trophy aloft on the hallowed grass court of Centre Court at Wimbledon.
The 125th edition of the pre-eminent tennis championships ended after a decent final between Rafael Nadal and the new world number one Novak Djokovic.One thing that I sorely miss though is the serve and volley approach to the game which has almost disappeared.Even more so from the women’ game which is lacklustre and devoid of any decent rivalries .The women’s tour is kind of boring unless you watch the new designs that Stella McCartney designs for Adidas and Caroline Wozniacki or watch other ladies like Ana Ivanovic,Maria Sharapova or Daniela Hantuchova upping the fashion quotient.
Seldom are there matches of high quality and they are often ridden with unforced errors and few winners. The best example is the ladies final itself.The matches involve a lot of high decibel shrieking and powering through the baseline.
The women largely move left and right at the court rather than an up and down approach, thereby completely negating the most beautiful and best way to play – serve and volley.However,the decade long Williams sisters domination that had ended here is a welcome change .But how I wish some young lady comes up with a serve and volley game and blitz the tennis courts. Although she is unlikely to come from eastern Europe, which now throws up so many girls with surnames ending with ‘ova’ and each having a power baseline game .
The best match from the women’s draw surprisingly was in the second round between Venus Williams and Japan’s Kimiko Date-Krumm.Both with a combined age of 71 played a fantastic 3-setter . Date-Krumm coming back on tour after an absence was brilliant and only Williams height and net game prevented a huge upset.
So it was the men’s draw that provided the excitement for me .The fun was watching the ladies invitational featuring past winners in Martina Hingis, Lindsay Davenport, Jana Navotna and Martina Navratilova . As always,Wimbledon also had its fun moments , a compilation right here.Watch out for Andy Murray’ hotdog shot at 2:06 minutes
With all the support and a vociferous Centre Court and the Henman Hill behind him, Murray for an hour held a belief than he can beat Nadal in the semis .But the inevitability was there to see, as Nadal wrested the second and third set in a flurry of counter attacking tennis. Murray is not a loser, is not a choker ,only Nadal is better.Hope the Scot wins one Slam soon .This Wimbeldon might sadly be also the dipping of bell curve for the great Roger Federer. He might just squeeze one slam somehow, but he has to find a way to play 3 great matches as now more players are nipping at his heels -David Nalbandian, Robin Soderling, Juan Martin Del Porto, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic .That is why the men’s game despite the lack of serve and volley has viewership value. It has characters and rivalries, contenders and quality. A decent fight on court is never away.
Considering that, Djokovic's record this year is outstanding, and his Wimbeldon triumph richly deserved. I loved his gesture of eating a bit of grass of the court after his win . Just goes to show how much it means to be a Wimbeldon champion.Looking forward to next year when Wimbledon will be followed shortly by the Olympics, again at the All England Tennis Club !!