Wednesday, September 10, 2014

You want to go social?

I think having a social newsfeed in your site has become a bare minimum requirement for most of the sites that aim to be an ecosystem in a certain field.

I thought of having that in ShortFilmWindow. Since I was totally out of touch, I had to really start digging lots of information around it.

What I have realised is that getting the data structure right is the biggest key. An interesting graph structure tailored to your user behaviour will impact system performance greatly.

I have collected some resources that might help folks understand the problem, define it better and take right decisions.
Most of these are good starting point and a person can dig deeper if need be.
They talk about graph structure and system for searching through it in a efficient way.  There are two courser courses that I am gonna take and make everyone in my development team take too (they are starting in a week).

Facebook Graph Structure and Search Systems:
Twitter Scalability:

Coursera Courses:

Anyways next step is personalization. But I have done enough ML courses to not get intimidated by it.   The above thing still intimidates me.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Design of life

I was writing some trailer notes for my trailer editor and was talking about nostalgia, childhood, longing etc that is the core theme of time machine and somewhere I wondered why was life designed like this where time was unidirectional and ephemeral? Why couldn't we visit childhood or youth the way we can visit different places in the world?

Anyways I ended up writing a story in this hypothetical world where one day the doorbell rings and we find that the older version of the family's son has come to visit the family. Initially there is super excitement- there are gifts and souvenirs and the older version is welcomes and he decides to stay on for a few days. However, gradually the family and even the son starts getting annoyed by the presence of this old intruder and start missing his privacy. The whole family keeps waiting and wondering when this old man will leave but feels it won't be right to enquire from him. They try to check his return tickets and worry when they don't find any. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

And august 16th and 17th was landmark day

We did our first release of a short film Raah and it went viral within hours. 

Also yesterday we got an investor on board.

Hope we can achieve what we set out to achieve. 

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Robot Message Carrier

This was probably the twitter of 19th century. This device had a rolling paper in which one could attach a message by dropping a coin. The message would be rolling and visible for 2 hours. 
Many of these were installed in public squares where people would fix time of meetings. And in case somebody had to leave they could leave the message hoping that the intended person shows up within 2 hours. 
I feel we should still have these ! 

Stepping in someone's shoes

I was trying to understand what is the most effective way to empathize with a fellow living being. I thought I could experiment by trying to empathize with a street dog abandoned in bandstand (bandstand looks like people's fav place to abandon their dogs). And I felt that I can feel maximum for that dog if I actually step in his shoes, see the world from his eye level, feel cornered and feel the wetness of the rain, be hungry and wonder where is my home from where I was thrown off. I almost became him briefly in my thoughts and I felt scared, lost and worried. 
Tuning into someone else's consciousness (taking in steady stream of input from his/her assumed environment )  just opened up a new dimension for me. For a brief moment I was him. I was an animal on the street and had all his pains. And then I tried empathizing with a traffic signal beggar and I stayed with her a little longer too long past driving my car. 

It just felt weird to abandon myself and be someone else even if in mind.  But again for some reason after this experience I feel way more connected to this world.
Well hope I am not becoming too weird. 

Best compliment I got

' I don't think I can work as hard as on a film as I would feel it's not worth it. You are little mental about it '

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Fragile things

I had a pretty happy perfect kind of childhood. There was laughter, fun, warmth and a great feeling of security growing up. 

I remember my mom was super hygiene conscious and wouldn't let us eat roadside food at all. In those days (I must be around 5-6 years old) we used to live in vizag and going to the beach was a regular Sunday activity. On beach side along the shore there were carta that used to sell lovely pomfret fry that used to smell really good. My mom obviously was not very keen about we eating that- 'Outside food that too fish fry!'
However I remember one evening dad took me and my brother for a walk along the shore. My mom was probably near our shoes and other stuff.
 There we stopped at a stall and my dad bought us spicy pomfret fry. And I and my brother knew it was rare and we might never get to eat it again so we both devoured it faster than the guy could supply the next fish. And we went back quietly as if we never ate anything. 

Today years later, on a cold day, while watching the sea, the memories of that evening came flooding by - bringing a faint smile and a familiar warmth. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Home Design

 Oflate, I think I have seen lots of french films set in Manhattan or seen some awesome apartments for Manhattan that I feel that I should too have apartments like below. They are so splendid!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

100 years of solitude

Reading Gabriel Garcia Marquez's (Nobel laureate) One Hundred Years of Solitude and the darkest reaches of my imaginations have been lit up. 

Magic realism with a fascination for interesting inventions and human behaviour - I feel all my work revolve around these thoughts and to find a writer inside whom you can fit so cozily is extremely comforting.  Recommended read. 

Mechanical Automatons of 17th century Europe

Saw Mechanical Marvels - clockwork dreams on YouTube (Todo add link video id is 8OAA7yn_km8)

It contains everything from an automated town to fish gulping silver swan to a lady playing flute to a (programmable) writer. 

17 th century fiction also contained the same conundrums of machine versus humans as we have today (except we have robots and they had automatons). I don't know what happened to automaton movement - they lead to industrial revolution and all that art and trivia and aesthetics and delicateness was discarded. Machines were gradually seen less like humans and were built more for the purpose of serving humans. In a way Industrial revolution (that these automatons brought about) sort of lead to gradual domestication of machines. 

 Insightful documentary. Precursor to era of robots. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Of myths

Myths were generally used to cover gaps in human knowledge. They would originate from existing prevalent belief systems and then would work towards reinforcing those beliefs.
I like myths because they are imaginative, weird and strange. They don't restrict themselves to the possibilities of physical world we live in and yet end up telling us a lot about our mental, social texture.  
Civilizations over a period of time have really wondered about origin of cosmos and humans and almost all of them have multiple myths around our origin. They range from explosion of dragons to a creature finding life in the bottom of Ocean and bringing it up on the surface to a piece of God falling on earth. 

The most interesting myths even serve as documentation of those times. 

There was one myth where it was believed that father Sky and Mother Earth were very close and had a passionate relationship with their bodies touching each other and they gave birth to humans. However the humans felt suffocated by earth and sky being so close to each other and they pushed the sky away and gradually the world we live in today was formed. However Mother Earth gets angry from time to time and gets hardened so humans have to humour her by plowing her and putting seeds in her so that she remains happy and continues to provide us with food.
(Interestingly - Egyptians called the Sky mother and the Earth father - several theories float as to why but  many point to strong matriarchal society and also the common intercourse position where women in egypt were on top of men).

The other creation myths had to do with separation of people in various classes in society.
One was African myth around a giant seed buried deep inside earth and from which came a tree. And humans were fruits of those trees and people in lower branches constituted lower caste and in higher branches constituted higher castes.

Other was a Chinese myth where a large demon made humans with his hands. When he started doing it he realized that this is not practical and he can't make all the humans so he took a stick and started throwing mud on wall and the mud whenever it hit the wall turned into a human. Here too separation of classes was achieved. Higher humans were made by hand and lower humans by mud thrown on wall. 

Makes me wonder what are the myths of current times that most of us largely believe in. Belief in God is still very much prevalent in our society. In India stories behind festivals talk about triumph of good over evil reinforcing that being good is rewarded.  I remember sitting in a satyanarayan katha where all the stories were around how the katha itself changed the fortune of people who performed it. It was a strangely self referential recursive story but has survived in most of Hindi heartland. 
Most of the myths that are universal and that still exist are around life after death - or the concept of soul. It's tough for people to believe that they are finite and will invariably turn into a vegetative body and they believe in sort of continuum where their consciousness will continue to live on - either in places like heaven/hell or across various rebirths. I largely believe that maybe your consciousness will live on in the ideas you spread, children you nurture, or work you do. 

All this brings me to a question - what are the myths we are creating? What does it tell us about ourselves or our future generations about us ? 

I always wonder what happens to family albums when people die. Or to strange interesting conversations between two people when both of them die. Or those random thoughts that are part of your inner life. How finite is their existence? Where can we put things so that do not go away? 

I keep coming back to stories, the all powerful myths that stay somehow crosscutting generations and societies. Smart myths continue to stay floating in the air (or as programmers would believe - floating in the cloud).

 I sometimes even wonder what will happen to all the digital data we have generated. Can that be used to recreate us in the future (the way cryogenics advocators hope regarding the success of genetic replication). Or there is possibility for each of our life stories (regardless of how drab it is) to become a myth and live on for future generations to discover. But how many of these stories would survive? 

 I keep wondering, what will be our traces.. What will happen to the seaside when we won't be there to see it...

Saturday, July 12, 2014

I hate working weekends

And empty weekdays. But the nature of my work these days is such that that's what is happening last two weeks. 

I am trying to hone my analytical skills for the fear that I am becoming more right brained (or do they call left brained (see what I mean)).

Maybe few coursera courses on math or just some good old fun puzzle solving might help. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Turtles all the way

"After a lecture on cosmology and the structure of the solar system, William James was accosted by a little old lady.
"Your theory that the sun is the centre of the solar system, and the earth is a ball which rotates around it has a very convincing ring to it, Mr. James, but it's wrong. I've got a better theory," said the little old lady.
"And what is that, madam?" Inquired James politely.
"That we live on a crust of earth which is on the back of a giant turtle,"
Not wishing to demolish this absurd little theory by bringing to bear the masses of scientific evidence he had at his command, James decided to gently dissuade his opponent by making her see some of the inadequacies of her position.
"If your theory is correct, madam," he asked, "what does this turtle stand on?"
"You're a very clever man, Mr. James, and that's a very good question," replied the little old lady, "but I have an answer to it. And it is this: The first turtle stands on the back of a second, far larger, turtle, who stands directly under him."
"But what does this second turtle stand on?" Persisted James patiently.
To this the little old lady crowed triumphantly. "It's no use, Mr. James---it's turtles all the way down."
—J. R. Ross, Constraints on Variables in Syntax 1967

Monday, June 23, 2014

Nikolai Gogol

Read some of his work - written 200 years ago in a different space and time. And it still resonates with our realities. Wonder if any of my work will survive even half that time.

Quoting some of his quotes:
I am fated to journey hand in hand with my strange heroes and to survey the surging immensity of life, to survey it through the laughter that all can see and through the tears unseen and unknown by anyone.

But youth has a future. The closer he came to graduation, the more his heart beat. He said to himself: “This is still not life, this is only the preparation for life.

He who has talent in him must be purer in soul than anyone else. Another will be forgiven much, but to him it will not be forgiven. A man who leaves the house in bright, festive clothes needs only one drop of mud splashed from under a wheel, and people all surround him, point their fingers at him, and talk about his slovenliness, while the same people ignore many spots on other passers-by who are wearing everyday clothes. For on everyday clothes the spots do not show.

Everywhere, in whatever realm of life, whether among its callous, coarsely impoverished and messily moldering lower ranks, or among its monotonously gelid and tediously tidy upper strata, everywhere, if but once, a person will encounter a phenomenon on his journey that is unlike anything he has chanced to see heretofore and that, at least once will awake in him a feeling unlike any he is fated to feel for the rest of his life. Everywhere, across the sorrows, whatever they be, from which this life of ours is woven, a resplendent joy will gaily flash, just as sometimes a glittering equipage with golden trappings, picturesque steeds, and the gleam and sparkle of windows will suddenly and unexpectedly rush past some wretched little back-country village that has never seen anything but a rural cart, and long afterwards the muzhiks will stand, mouths agape, caps in hand, although the wondrous equipage has long since whirled off and disappeared from view. Such is the manner in which the pretty little blonde, suddenly and quite unexpectedly, has appeared in our story and has vanished in the same manner. If on this occasion some twenty-year-old youth had happened to be there instead of Chichikov, whether a hussar, or a student, or merely someone who had just embarked on the course of his life, then Lord! what would not have awakened, not have begun to stir, not have begun to speak within him! Long would he have remained standing, insensible, in one spot, eyes fixed vacantly upon the distance, oblivious to the road and to all the reprimands awaiting him and to the chastisements for tardiness, oblivious to himself, and his work, and the world, and everything that exists in the world.

But there is nothing enduring in the world, and therefore even joy in the second minute is already not as acute as in the first; in the third minute it becomes still weaker and finally merges unnoticeably with the usual condition of the soul, as a circle on the water, caused by the fall of a pebble, finally merges with the smooth surface.

Countless are, as the sand in the sea, the deep desires of men, and none resembles the other, and all of them, whether shameful, or great, in the beginning are obedient, but later become terrible masters over him.

For every man there are certain words that are as if closer and more intimate to him than any others. And often, unexpectedly, in some remote, forsaken backwater, some deserted desert, one meets a man whose warming conversation makes you forget the pathlessness of your paths, the homelessness of your nights, and the contemporary world full of people's stupidity, of deceptions for deceiving man. Forever and always an evening spent in this way will vividly remain with you, and all that was and that took place then will be retained by the faithful memory: who was there, and who stood where, and what he was holding--the walls, the corners, and every trifle.

Amount of Hindi Juno can understand

It spooks me out that my dog Juno can understand following terms:
'Hum Jaa Rahein hai'- on which she  goes to the door ready to leave 
'Paani pee le'- on which she goes and drinks water
'Udhar dekh'- she starts looking everywhere
'Mein jaldi wapas aaungi'- when I am leaving her. She goes from restless pose to sulk pose
'Saurabh Jaa raha hai'- runs after saurabh
'Chal aaaj nehlaate hai'- she runs and hides in the cupboard
'Nehla Nahee rahee Sirf pair dhula rahee hoon'- she stops resisting
'Yeh Kay kar rahee hai. Are u mad ?' - in which she stops doing what she is doing starts walking away as if nothing happened. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Calling a big party at home

Since I am completely off the idea of cooking animals (unfortunately for the sea world I am still not sensitive about their lives) I thought of having this menu-
1) whole pomfret fry (with pudina)
2) konkani shrimp curry
3) tofu in orange soya sauce (experimenting on poor guests)
4) ripe mango curry (since something should be seasonal)

And maybe will order something from mamagoto or lemongrass like dimsums etc.

For drinks may be watermelon caprioski.

So lots of work for a Friday night. Thank god my cook will do most of work. I will only make mango and tofu curries.

Synthetic biology

A great part if my job as a filmmaker is exploring areas I wouldn't have thought about in day to day life.

Right now exploring synthetic biology or having objects external to u as part of ur genetic circuitry so u can control them the way u control say your hand.
Isn't that cool and think of the possibilities. 

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Musuem of automatons

I wish I was rich enough to curate one with all kinds of automatons wooden birds and waterfall and all... Maybe some day ...

Saturday, April 26, 2014


juliet to romeo

"...and maybe not today but we will be born again - another time another place with different faces, with whiskers or needle legs , deep in ocean or outside a cobwebbed cave and with no memory of this, of the pain and the hurt and then we could be in absolute bliss, find real happiness, and bring the earth to life..again..and yet again..."

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Short film culture

I think the times have changed. Bollywood had a culture of assistant directors because the camera cost was expensive. Also camera was heavy so expensive sets were built inside studios.
Shooting a movie was something only privileged few could afford. So anyone wanting to learn had to assist.

Today we have cheap cameras. Infact everyone has a camera in their pocket thanks to mobile phone revolution. Basic editing tools are accessible to people. Ofcourse there is a need for professional touch required for good writing, shot taking, editing and have good sound design but with technology and knowledge available skills can be picked up. There are lot more film schools with interesting films that gives students exposure to good craft.

Every industry that flourishes, provide avenues for new talent to showcase their work. You dont have to wait 10 years to do your first work. I think assuming a newcomer has a where-with-all to make a feature film is asking for too much. But short films is something through which they can express themselves, find their voice.

I think bollywood has really neglected short film category but just the way Oscars have a short film categories I feel mainstream bollywood awards should have them too.

1) It will encourage more people to make films - an incentive that is really attractive to drive them to perform better. Short film is of a scale that will not make anyone go bankrupt. So it is a good way to encourage newer voices to try out the medium. 
2) It helps bring in plurality of ideas and thoughts in mainstream award functions.
3) It helps producers identify potential directors that they can employ.
4) The thing is even if we help the career of one director and provide him a inroad to enrich us with his work, it will be worth it.

Keeping a lookout for the edge of the world

In the olden days, it was believed that the world is flat - not round. Which means there was a belief that world had edges and if a ship fell of the edges, it would probably go to hell.

The fact that so many ships did go missing , fed the myth even more.

So in every ship, there were men, whose job description involved climbing the mast and have a lookout for the edge of the world. These men would constantly keep a watch, day and night, lest the ship falls off the edge. They would be awake, took their duties seriously and were genuinely worried about finding the edge.

I feel these men in modern times, are film directors. Worried sick over something that is fictitious.

Ah well, post production is taking its toll on me.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Blogging restart

I have really hated being away. Blogging for me was a way of checkpointing my days and my life. And now I just feel that I have no documentation of my life and its learnings.
What is up on my front?

Yup, I shot a movie. It was supposed to be part of 3 short films package. And we were producing it. But I had a tough time handling production and direction at the same time. We had Zain handling production but he is actually a a director and since we were spending our company money it was getting really tough. Also our budget blew up because we were hoping to get some equipments free but we didnt get.

The good thing is now I have understood production. We had done ads but the max shoot was 2 days. Film goes on for 10 days, each day very expensive - of the order of lakhs -  and there is a host of location and many people to manage. Everyday it was like juggling balls and somedays I felt there was one ball too many. Infact I remember coming back, taking backup of data everyday after 14 hours shoots.

My biggest production learning was:
1) Invest in a good team rather than a good camera. We tried to save money in the wrong place.
2) Have people who are passionate, dont hire people in the first meeting. (Because i personally suffer from a syndrome where I like everyone in the first meeting)
3) If someone has worked in mainstream bollywood and is proud about it, chances are that he/she will disappoint you by doing sub-standard work. (This is a very sad truth but for me the biggest disappointments were the most experienced people)
4) Dont be scared of taking tough decision. I took lots of tough unpopular decisions. But I am glad I did. My film is better. Be extremely selfish about the quality of the film. Dont compromise because thats how the filsm start becoming bad.
5) Tap people's strengths, passions and enthusiasm. My best contri came from people who were fiercely passionate about their work. There will be days you will derive energy from others.

My key directorial learnings were:
1) Dont even leave one shot to be decided on location. Because that will generally be the most average shot. Magic may happen but magic is random.
2) Take coverage shots no matter what. Even if you have planned lovely takes, take your inserts.
3) Even if the shoot is for 30 days, prepare for everyday before the shoot. Dont depend on the break. Also production design wise, get props made before the shoot sched starts.
4) Preprod is the key.
5) Take suggestions and be open to people contributing but preserve your thought process. Sometimes the most popular decisions are wrong and sometimes they are right. Carry your internal compass.
6) Be early riser.
7) Rehearse. Rehearse. Rehearse.
8) If you cant love your actor, dont cast him.
9) Cut of the noise, protect your thought process as you are the only one carrying the film in your head so you know the tone of the scene and color palatte of the scene in relation to other scenes better.
10)I should just figure out eyeline match. Its embarassing.
11) Always have reference films. Show it to crew.
12) Even if there is a 10 page dialogue. Think about how you will shoot every word of that dialogue. Dont bank on coverage.

13) Most important -  Have a good chief AD who will shield you from all the logistic nightmare.