Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Another lovely review of Manan, by LiveMint

LiveMint describes it as a "charming tale of growing up in an Indian city in the 90s"

Here's the link to the review:

Once again, pasted below in full without permission :)

We have been there, done that. This, in large part, is the draw of Mohit Parikh’s debut novel Manan, which gives a realistic account of a few significant days in the life of a teenage boy, growing up in an Indian city in the 1990s. 
A late bloomer, the eponymous hero is sent into a tizzy by a wonderful (for him), though ordinary (otherwise), discovery: his first pubic hair. To Manan, it appears to be an answer to all his prayers. It is a remedy to the grave injustice that he sticks out among his peers, not having shot up—in spite of being the “eighth-oldest” person in his class and aged fifteen-and-a-three-quarter years. That he does not know as much about sex as his friends do is more humiliation than he can bear. The hair encourages him to address this lack of knowledge immediately. 
But sex isn’t the only thing on his mind, where Super Mario video games, a constant war on his family’s superstitious beliefs, and real-life applications of scientific truths also jostle for space. Parikh makes it easy to slip under Manan’s skin, painting his inner world through daydreams. Everyday triggers, like the school bell announcing the end of lunch break, spark elaborate feats of visualization in him. He doesn’t just respond by rushing back to class, but takes a moment to consider how the sound travels in waves, ricocheting off the walls and ceilings, seeping through the floors, before setting his own eardrums vibrating. 
The illustrations by Urmila Shastry work well to supplement Parikh’s descriptions though, more often than not, readers won’t need these to imagine the scenes. One of the more interesting artworks, printed across two pages, shows a convergence of several things. At this moment in the story, Manan has been told off by his mother for eating mangoes on the veranda in case he catches the evil eye, when he “imagines an evil eye wandering in the crowd, a large single transparent human eye visible to no one but him. It makes searching sweeps, left to right, right to left, searching for those who eat indecorously or outside. The eye stops in front of him: locks him as a target and focuses all its laser power on his stomach to trouble his digestive system. He makes Mario jump on it and crush it out of life.” In the drawing, a giant human eye—the kind of diagram readers may remember making in biology class at school—is shown walking towards Manan in a parody of the superstitious evil eye, as Mario uses a wall for leverage, presumably to jump on the offending eye. 
Parikh exercises restraint throughout. The language, while descriptive, is never excessive or showy. Fragments such as “Incisors, molars, swallow” pithily describe Manan eating a snack. Students play “answer sheets aeroplane” after class. Not only do you get what Parikh means, better still you see it in the mind’s eye. Most young-adult novels try to create new worlds. Manan tries to recreate a world most of us have lived in. Parikh achieves this by peppering the narrative with detail. Some of the incidents, such as Manan skipping a day of school or spotting the girl he likes at the market, are universal enough to speak to any generation. 
Other episodes, such as the time he reads R.K. Narayan’s The Missing Mail at school, or speaks of the Internet cafés just beginning to open in Indian cities, or describes the canteens, corridors, classrooms and clubs, may resonate with those who grew up in the last years of the 20th century. Such readers may be left with the feeling of having known someone like Manan in their teenage years. Or having been such a teen themselves.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Manan reviewed by The Sunday Guardian

"Mohit Parikh's debut novel is an eloquent, sensitive and restrained look at the onset of puberty. Its earnest protagonist stays with you long after the last page is turned, says Aditya Mani Jha."

Check out the review at the newspaper website:

Pasted below in full too (without permission :|)

ADITYA MANI JHA  23rd Aug 2014

An Urmila Shastry illustration from Manan
hen you think about it, literary trends aren't that difficult to predict. The year is 2014. Young writers (say, from ages 25-35) today, including the ones beginning to find their feet, are likely to be teenagers (or pre-teens) at a crucial phase in India's history: 1991-2000. We're all fairly familiar with globalisation's effects on middle-class India, thanks to books like Butter Chicken in Ludhiana. The rise and rise of coalition politics has also been written about in some detail. As someone who was a young boy in the '90s, I can tell you that my generation was quite aware of the momentous changes that we saw all around us, the changes that we couldn't wait to immerse ourselves in. But the tricky part was taking our parents along with us, convincing them that the new world held only possibilities, that it would leave behind only those too weak or too stubborn to see them.
And so, in recent years, we've seen quite a few nostalgia-tinged first books about the '90s, the most gloriously tacky decade since Independence. Tharun James Jimani's debut novelCough Syrup Surrealism spoke about the '90s like one would describe a torrid, hard-to-forget affair. (Also, the protagonist's relationship with his parents was a bit of a lost cause.) But its protagonists were up to their eyeballs in psychedelic drugs, and hence had the license to hint at subliminal truths, cloaked in automatic, surrealist speech. While reading Jimani's novel, I felt myself wishing, more than once, for a glimpse of his characters as children. Oddball 20-somethings are likely to have been marvellously sensitive kids, in my (limited) experience. 
Mohit Parikh's superb debut novel Manan fills this space with aplomb. Through its titular 10th-grader's stream of consciousness (a nod towards the protagonist's name, which means "thinking" in Hindi), Parikh lays bare the insecurities of a boy who has just hit puberty. ("That day while, when bathing he has noticed a hair on his balls, and all his life's problems are in the past.") 
However, Manan is still short for his age, and over the telephone his voice is often mistaken for a woman's, much to his chagrin. When he asks his friends if they knew when his voice would crack, they are silent. There is a sense of awed complicity in his peers' silence, and this, I feel, has been captured particularly well by the author. It's a moment that feels familiar at a visceral level, yet manages to convey the isolation that Manan feels. (Later, he feels something similar at home when he starts changing clothes behind closed doors, and nobody seems to question this.) 
The restless imagination and the endless self-analysis of the bookish child lie at the heart of the narrative: Parikh’s achievement here lies in capturing a likely train of thought for such a 14-year-old.
"They go quiet. Shrey seems to be on the verge of saying something funny but Rajat shakes his head. He looks from one face to another: all at a loss for words, all discomfited by his inappropriateness. All making a concession to him: Manan, 140 cm, 35 kg, not Kshitij, not someone else, someone who is their equal, so they won't ridicule him. He hasn't yet earned the right to be ridiculed. And they understand this too well."
The restless imagination and the endless self-analysis of the bookish child lie at the heart of the narrative: Parikh's achievement here lies in capturing a likely train of thought for such a 14-year-old. This is also manifested in the way Manan rhapsodises about every little step on the path to adulthood. Consider, for instance, the following passage, where Manan is surveying the aforementioned hair on his balls, ad infinitum.
"The hair. Still defying gravity. Give it space and it will point toward the sky at seventy-five degrees, towards the evening star at twilight. The hair has germinated like those adamant trees, those that poke out of cracks in sewerage walls and fort walls and walls of old buildings, feeling their way through at odd angles for sunlight and air and stability. Geotropism. Phototropism. Thermotropism. Life finding its way. That's what the doctor inJurassic Park said."
also loved the way Manan tells us about the lives of the adults around. In some of my favourite books involving children (like David Mitchell's Black Swan Green or Roddy Doyle's Paddy Clark Ha Ha Ha), such a venture feels like spying on someone through a peep-hole, or listening through a closed door, the surreptitious air skilfully and gradually built up.
Manan has been observing, for instance, the way his cousin Pinky is not allowed inside the kitchen when she's menstruating. "It makes him want to ask her in their jovial argumentative way the reason for this cannot-in-be-the-kitchen practice, to make her agree that this is a stupid practice and therefore she is a stupid person because she observes this practice." However, he knows that he cannot question things openly, especially in the presence of his uncle. "In Tauji's presence, he must treat the women of the house as a man of the house must: from distance, through instructions."
The novel also anticipates the madness of the Internet era in a mischievous yet earnest way, describing it as "the puberty of society". Manan realises that this may be one of the few freely available sources of information that he has, but that it does not suit his tastes at all.
Finally, Manan features some very adorable illustrations by Urmila Shastry. I liked, in particular, how some of Manan's more macabre or surreal flights of fancy are drawn — through a very Wes Anderson-like whimsy rather than with any real darkness or intensity. Manan is highly recommended for everybody really, but particularly so for thinking teens such as the protagonist himself.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Manan's video trailer

Interesting last three days. We invaded cafes and malls and offices, disturbed the good people there and shot with them video trailers for Manan . Nice of them to acquiesce and to share some very personal incidents and opinions. The videos will be edited and ready by August 20, most likely. August 20 is also the day, fyi, when the book hits the book stores and all online retailers across India.

While there were all sorts of answers for questions on sexuality, puberty, exposure to information, growing up, relationship with parents and siblings, there was also an emphatic unanimous agreement: that small, precious world of 90s is lost; we are never going to relive those days.


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Stop being hard on yourself!

I am not a writer. I am a dreamer who actualizes a story through words. My writing regime does not - can not- consist of six hours of writing. It can consist of five and a half hours of dreaming and a half an hour of note taking. Things start from there.
Writing is the last thing in my writing. May I not forget that.  

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Sunday, April 6, 2014


Third sleepless night in a row. I am eating up the words I used to form. Nebula black hole. Empty, empty, empty. Write. Shut up, lock up, act appropriately.
In other words: some habits are dying, leaving behind space. Not for too long. Do, what you have been intending to.
This is how one makes oneself?

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Good things are happening

Never have I had any doubts that this project is going to be a failure. Never. Not even for a second. I close my eyes and visualize the sequences. I jot down notes and quotes and details of random scenes. I discuss it with my friends. I imagine myself on the location, with my "crew", ensuring that the abstract turns into something tangible. And it all feels so GOOD. Like there is something beautiful that is going to happen through this project. And that is what has made me stick to it every single day.
We are going to fail, for sure, and something beautiful is going to come out of it. Our job? Not to ensure that we fail. Not  to ensure that we not fail. Our job is to work to our potential in creating an authentic movie. This could be a start, a way to get ready for the bigger things to come. And I sense that they might just. The team that has formed is good enough. Is excellent in fact. I cannot be sure of our technical abilities, our skills, or even our potential, we know each other very less...but when we talk, we communicate. We udnerstand each other. Good things happened that led to formation of this team, and good things continue to happen.
I hope we stay true to our story and themes. I hope our ambitions aren't misguided. I hope we go prepared as well as we can be in the short time that we have and, once there, translate.
The movie is going to fail but we don't have to.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Where the hell I have been the last three weeks?

To Mcleodganj, and back.
Details soon. Tomorrow.

The movie has become more ambitious in last one week. I think my work for now is to let the script expand, soar, and before I share it with my team, weed out everything except the essentials; and also to work on other components, say, team management and schedule.

Wheels are churning. I sense a momentum building. I hope to flow.

The Remodernist Film Manifesto

From Jesse Richards:

A couple of years back I wrote a film manifesto calling for a new authenticity in cinema, and encouraging filmmakers to strive for this. The manifesto has since been translated into Polish and Turkish, and right now it is in the process of being translated into Traditional Chinese and Slovak. It is also the subject of several thesis papers in progress by students in England, Taiwan and Germany, and has inspired a new, growing, international film movement I was hoping that you might take consider taking a look at it. Thank you for your time.
Remodernist Film Manifesto
1. Art manifestos, despite the good intentions of the writer should always “be taken with a grain of salt” as the cliché goes, because they are subject to the ego, pretensions, and plain old ignorance and stupidity of their authors. This goes all the way back to the Die Brücke manifesto of 1906, and continues through time to this one that you’re reading now. A healthy wariness of manifestos is understood and encouraged. However, the ideas put forth here are meant sincerely and with the hope of bringing inspiration and change to others, as well as to myself.
2. Remodernism seeks a new spirituality in art. Therefore, remodernist film seeks a new spirituality in cinema. Spiritual film does not mean films about Jesus or the Buddha. Spiritual film is not about religion. It is cinema concerned with humanity and an understanding of the simple truths and moments of humanity. Spiritual film is really ALL about these moments.
3. Cinema could be one of the perfect methods of creative expression, due to the ability of the filmmaker to sculpt with image, sound and the feeling of time. For the most part, the creative possibilities of cinema have been squandered. Cinema is not a painting, a novel, a play, or a still photograph. The rules and methods used to create cinema should not be tied to these other creative endeavors. Cinema should NOT be thought of as being “all about telling a story”. Story is a convention of writing, and should not necessarily be considered a convention of filmmaking.
4. The Japanese ideas of wabi-sabi (the beauty of imperfection) and mono no aware (the awareness of the transience of things and the bittersweet feelings that accompany their passing), have the ability to show the truth of existence, and should always be considered when making the remodernist film.
5. An artificial sense of “perfection” should never be imposed on a remodernist film. Flaws should be accepted and even encouraged. To that end, a remodernist filmmaker should consider the use of film, and particularly film like Super-8mm and 16mm because these mediums entail more of a risk and a requirement to leave things up to chance, as opposed to digital video. Digital video is for people who are afraid of, and unwilling to make mistakes.** Video leads to a boring and sterile cinema. Mistakes and failures make your work honest and human.***
6. Film, particularly Super-8mm film, has a rawness, and an ability to capture the poetic essence of life, that video has never been able to accomplish.***
7. Intuition is a powerful tool for honest communication. Your intuition will always tell you if you are making something honest, so use of intuition is key in all stages of remodernist filmmaking.
8. Any product or result of human creativity is inherently subjective, due to the beliefs, biases and knowledge of the person creating the work. Work that attempts to be objective will always be subjective, only instead it will be subjective in a dishonest way. Objective films are inherently dishonest. Stanley Kubrick, who desperately and pathetically tried to make objective films, instead made dishonest and boring films.
9. The remodernist film is always subjective and never aspires to be objective.
10. Remodernist film is not Dogme ’95. We do not have a pretentious checklist that must be followed precisely. This manifesto should be viewed only as a collection of ideas and hints whose author may be mocked and insulted at will.
11. The remodernist filmmaker must always have the courage to fail, even hoping to fail, and to find the honesty, beauty and humanity in failure.
12. The remodernist filmmaker should never expect to be thanked or congratulated. Instead, insults and criticism should be welcomed. You must be willing to go ignored and overlooked.
13. The remodernist filmmaker should be accepting of their influences, and should have the bravery to copy from them in their quest for understanding of themselves.
14. Remodernist film should be a stripped down, minimal, lyrical, punk kind of filmmaking, and is a close relative to the No-Wave Cinema that came out of New York’s Lower East Side in the 1970’s.
15. Remodernist film is for the young, and for those who are older but still have the courage to look at the world through eyes as if they are children.
** The only exceptions to Point 5 about video are Harris Smith and Peter Rinaldi; to my mind they are the only people who have made honest and worthwhile use of this medium. (Aug. 2008)
***(The position on digital/video has changed since this manifesto was written in 2008- the group is inclusive toward use of any motion picture format. See recent essay here).
This manifesto may be appended/added to in the future, as further ideas develop.

----Jesse Richards, August 27, 2008

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Mcleod Project

The movie is based in, and about, Mcleodganj. Who is our principal character? Mcleodganj. The place. I am inspired by my own curiosity since I can't find a way to place this place in my head. How do you understand it beside as a Tibetan settlement? Hundreds of questions really, thousands of curious observations. And there are no simple answers. The movie has to be made. Has to be made. Has to be made. It just cannot be ignored - the itch that I have.

Did not watch El Mariachi today. Spent a major portion of the day reading Castaneda's Fire From Within on a park bench. Played volleyball with random strangers. One area where I waste a lot of time, and so can retrieve a lot of time from, is web surfing. Makes you think you are working but you are not.
Will be more mindful of that moving forward.

About the movie. Some more work on the central protagonists. Looks like we will need 6-7 proper actors. Or people who can pass for proper actors. Wherefrom?
Time will tell. 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Movie Project

Alrighty! Feels great to just say things. Writing fiction can make you go so up your ass that to write without being self-conscious, and in a voice that is your own, seems almost undoable. But it is so EASY! So natural.

This is how we are supposed to write.

So, well, another declaration. I am going to document the progress with the movie on this blog. The movie, and the stuff around it. This will be a journal of sorts.

Doesn't the universe just love that we make decisions? :)

I am going to watch El Mariachi tomorrow. It will be so much fun to watch it, esp. since I have read about its Pre-Production and am half way through Production. Reading Robert Rodriguez's Rebel Without a Crew (yes, that's the title of his book, with an even more macho subtitle: Or How a 23-Year-Old Filmmaker with $7,000 Became a Hollywood Player).

A very exciting story idea about Rama. Like Lord Rama. Should I sit on it and let it develop or should I write?


Time to right things.


Alright. So. A declaration. I am making a movie.

Phew! It helps to get that out. The script is under process. Frankly, script is not too much of a concern, the kind of movie we have in mind. Real people, real conversations, no music, little drama, documentation, found footage (maybe), no background music, no nothing. Story is important though: we have to be aware constantly of what we are trying to do, show and there have to be some central characters for the audience to relate to. That's what I am exploring on pages presently. A trip to the location is long overdue. Going as soon as I get well (just a bit of cough and cold and fever and rounds to a dentist these days). Can't wait for it.

Saw Apoorv's camera and stuff. Pity could not just go out and shoot on the roads of Jaipur. Will do that too, soon. I am glad of his new found inspiration in Abbas Kiarostami. He and I both need to stop watching studio movies. Which means no Hollywood and Bollywood and anything that screens on a Friday effectively. I am going to watch The Clerks again. And The Clerks 2. And The Snowball Effect - the movie about making of The Clerks (yet to find it online).

My biggest doubts since I first blurted out the idea: 1) Is my intention for this project right? 2) Having known the level and amount of commitment required in my last project, am I ready for this one?
Haven't been able to reflect. Maybe these posts will help.