Sunday, January 18, 2015


This weekend I attended the Crime Writers Festival in New Delhi. It was a two day festival held at Indian Habitat Center. There were a lot of guest speakers from around the world, but I didn’t get the chance to attend the entire festival. I was only interested in listening to two guests – Jerry Pinto and Dibakar Banerjee.

Jerry Pinto is the writer who wrote Em and the Big Hoom. It is one of my favourites from all the books that I read last year. He took a half an hour session on Saturday from 2:00pm to 2:30pm, reading excerpts from his soon-to-be-released book on crime. It would be an anthology of 3 short stories, one of which is already published in Mumbai noir, from the Noir series by Harper Collins (that’s the one he read in the session – it is a crime story based at Mahim area in Mumbai).

It so happened, that I got late and completely missed the half an hour session. But I was with a friend who is a journalist and she had an appointment with him for an interview after that. Yes, you guessed it right. I jumped in. I butted in quite a few times with my questions on writing and stories, and Jerry was sweet enough to entertain all our questions. I was super-excited and wanted to know all about his writing experience and how he writes and how he thinks. He also showed us his small (tattered) notebook where he pens his thoughts.
We must have chatted for a little more than an hour. He told us his childhood stories, opinions, anecdotes, lessons, struggles, tips. . .as I sat there starry-eyed and happy. No, I didn’t take his autograph. I felt too shy asking.

Dibakar Banerjee, one of the very few Indian directors I admire, conducted a workshop on script writing. This took place at the Oxford book store in Connaught Place. I had never been to that book shop, and it seemed like a nice place. I ended up buying a book too. They have a cha-bar next to the bookshop where I had a cup of Kenyan black coffee and a chicken quiche. Ok enough about food; I am deviating from the topic :P

Dibakar’s session was interesting too, though I felt it was a little basic. The moot point of his discussion was how script writing is different from writing a book. And he emphasized on the aspect of ‘show, don’t tell’ which is especially important while writing a screenplay because it needs to come alive on celluloid. According to me, it is just as important in any kind of writing, not just a screenplay.

He spoke about Indian movies, how the quality of writing degraded in the 80’s and 90’s – films that didn’t make sense and were meant to escape the reality of life – and how since last decade things are gradually getting better again. The trend is shifting towards importance of a tight, intelligent story that would make the audience think, instead of relying on a superstar’s presence, a few dance numbers and foreign locations.

I had a great weekend, but it also made me a little depressed. I felt absolutely useless and inadequate after seeing the kind of dedication and passion that is required to become a Jerry or a Dibakar.