On relationships, work and meaning

Wrote this a few weeks back on an email and on Medium. Republishing it here. 

As I type this, I am in Dubai! In case you did not know, I am taking a break from life and work and all that and trying to discover myself. No, I am not killing myself or anything. This is an attempt to #bebetter. More is on this blogpost. Also, at C4 Events, we have a new project about postcards. Read about it here. Do lemme know if you want postcards from Dubai.

Anyhow so the point of this post is relationships and work.

The day before I left for this detox of sorts, I was talking to a colleague and was telling her that most modern relationships are actually based on convenience and not on real, deep sense of belonging. Of course she was aghast and all that. I don’t blame her. This a tough one. Counterintuitive to everything that we’ve been taught — especially in India where we are willing to kill and get killed for family, community, honor etc.

I believe that these relationships merely allow you to domesticate and stay in safe havens. If you have to go in deep waters and take risks and do amazing things, you HAVE to leave the comfort behind. And create (or forge or explore) relationships with strangers.

My point was that we ought to invest more into relationships that are built on top of work (or while working). And work not as in work that a bank teller does or a credit card salesman does (of course both are important and are tough and have dignity and all that) but work that makes us push the limits. The creative work.

So, in between the “argument” she asked me to give my theory of what makes relationships tick. I said that the deepest and the most meaningful relationships are the ones that are created around creating amazing things. In other words, if you can figure out ways to work together with great people, find synergies, find comfort in those people, it creates a fascinating relationship. And creates great work.

This seemed to make sense to her. And to me. And we left it at that and moved onto other things.

And then, something funny happened. I was checking my email in the morning and I stumbled onto this in my inbox…

The subtitle caught my attention and I had to click on it!

So I ended up at https://creativemornings.com/talks/christina-amini/1 and heard Christina Amini talk about how authentic relationships enable awesome projects and how awesome projects allow us to develop authentic relationships. Exactly what I was trying to tell my colleague the day before!

Do see the video if you have 25 odd minutes.

Disclaimer. The story (and the video), while is illuminating (and inspiring), is heartbreaking. You may not want to see it first thing in the morning. Or may be you want to see it, to remind you of the frivolity and shortness of life. A fear that pushes me to do more!

So, here are the key highlights that I am taking away from the talk (to help me reinforce my assertions about relationships rooted in work tend to be stronger, better and deeper). This following list is NOT a verbatim summary of the video. It also includes my thoughts as I saw the video.
  • Most creative work requires you to have immense faith and inherent trust in the other person (or people).
  • You have long-term thingy at the back of your head. This means you automatically start investing more (we all “know” that long-term success requires patience and honesty and openness).
  • When you work together, your conversations are about trying to solve problems (and not about what is Taimur upto or what is the new costume on Ranveer Singh etc). When you try to solve problems, you are often thinking as a team (and not as individuals). You start thinking about strengths of the other person — which automatically make you look for goodness in them.
  • When you work together, you are often vulnerable (you dont know how would audience receive a certain thing, you probably get stuck and seek help) etc etc. And when you are vulnerable, you open up. You start to share things that you’d normally keep buried in your hearts. And often when you solve problems when you are vulnerable, the answers that you come up with to solve the problems are the ones that often resolve the vulnerability. And when you get the resolution to your vulnerability AND to the problem you are facing, Eureka probably happens!
  • Because what you create makes meaning and is often larger than you, your teammates or your team, you have this shared sense of purpose. And achievement.
  • Most “creative” things require love. And that means you put in your heart and soul and all that to be able to create output. And when you work with someone who is also putting in the heart and soul and is creating a piece of love, you create magic! And the very process of creating magic makes the relationship, well, magical!

Apart from these direct inferences and thoughts from the talk, the other takeaway from this talk is when the lady says, “I will do anything with Susan!” This is something that I’ve been trying to be subconsciously. When I become available in market for new work etc, people HAVE to say that they’d do anything with me! Do they say the same about you?

Thats about it. What’s your take on relationships?

Thank you!

PS: This is a slightly edited version of an email that I send to select friends. Please do let me know if you wish to subscribe. 

PPS: First posted here

A primer on how to #beBetter.

Context: I wrote this as an email to a friend when he asked me for tips to manage his increasingly complex life (he is doing exceedingly well in life and has a toddler that keeps him on the toes) while remaining healthy.

I poured EVERYTHING I knew in this email.

And while I was editing it, I realised I could send this to more friends. And thus this post. Please note that I am no expert. Just trying to get better as an individual and these are the things that I am working on to #bebetter.


So I wanted to write you an email and then I thought a doc is better. Easy to format and consume and share and comment and add to and all that.

Standard disclaimers apply. I am not a doctor. This is not medical advice. I am NOT responsible for the results if you do try these.

Oh, I don’t do a lot of these right now but will start doing so by the end of this year (right now, I am not even equipped to do some of these and I am working hard to get there).

Also, dont ask me for research, facts, rationale, reasoning, links, sources etc. This are things that I sincerely BELIEVE in and am willing to do myself. If you think these are right, please try. If you think these are wrong, these are wrong and refrain.

But like I said, I believe in and practise these things. There is all the skin in the game when I recommend these. So, up to you.

I divide my “discourse” in sections. Sections are:
  1. Health
  2. Work
  3. Future
  4. Tools
  5. Misc
A. Health

This is the most important thing ever. I sincerely wish that I could turn back time and not abuse the body the way I did (coke etc). Thankfully I was never on drugs or alcohol. But if I tell something to all young ones, I say that you need to work on your health.

Anyhow, within health, key components are:

A.1 Sleep (I know that you have a baby and it’s tough to do all this but I am sure you can).
  • You have to find your optimal level (duration) of sleep. People say it’s between 6 and 8 hours. For me, its 5. For you, it could be 8. Use a sleep tracker (see tools below).
  • Find your relationship with circadian rhythm. Essentially, know if you are a morning person or a night person. And try to become a morning person if you are not. Easy way to do this is to try to sleep by 10 and up by 5. And no this is not impossible. You can do this. First few days are tough. And then it’s easy after that.
  • When you sleep, sleep in a room WITHOUT any screen. Tough but if I can do, you can too. If you are using a tracker, put on airplane mode.
  • Room temperature — 22 degrees
  • Lights — DARK. Or Blue. Buy lights if you have to. I bought and it got fucked after a few days and since its too expensive, couldnt buy again.
  • As you drift to sleep, think of things that you are grateful for, in THAT day. Not in general. On THAT day.
  • REM Sleep is when what you learn gets reinforced and new connections are made. So I typically try to read / think about things that are perplexing me as I drift to sleep. By the time I get up and reach the shower, I somehow get the best ideas. Remember they say that best ideas come on the pot? This is the reason why. So, use sleep as a weapon.
  • After you wake up, first thing? MAKE YOUR BED. Simple and SUPER EFFECTIVE. Please please do this.
  • Second thing? Think of three things that you need to achieve today. That you WILL achieve today. Think. No writing nothing. Think. And then you start your day. If you want more dope on what to do when you start your day, ask me and I will tell you.
  • Third thing? Watch some funny video. Whatever tickles your bone. I watch haryanavi humor. And prank calls by RJ Naved. You can watch Louis CK. Or even Modi Ji :)

A.2. Nutrition
  • Irrespective of your body size, shape, age etc, you HAVE to go on a lo-carb diet. Fuck what nutritionists say. Lo carb it is.
  • Try Keto for 2 weeks. Trust me, its THE shit.
  • Cut out red meat from your life. Forget that there is red meat. If you eat red meat.
  • Forget sugar. Eating processed sugar is a sin. You need to slap yourself hard in public if you eat sugar.
  • No alcohol. No smoking. EVER.
  • Try weed. Serious. But in moderation.
  • Skip Dinner. If you can’t, ensure that you don’t eat carbs after 7 PM. If you have to have to eat, proteins. Boiled eggs are the best. No milk. And it’s ok to be boring and not want different kinds of food. And it’s ok if you go to family functions and people make fun of you for not eating.

A.3. Brain
  • Install one of the brain training apps. I use Peak. Its immensely helpful. Its like exercise. You know walking is good. But same applies to brain. Each day, doing something that actually works on brain muscles is required.
  • Brain is NOT for remembering. Its for thinking and processing and creating patterns. Outsource your memory to The Brain (a tool), or simply, Evernote. Counter-intuitive. But do it. Your brain has one function and one function only — processing. This means making connections, seeing patterns, connecting the dots etc. Fuck anything else that anything says. No one cares if you can remember a deck of cards — its a simple hack, anyone can learn. What you need to be able to do is process and be creative.
  • Practise deep breathing. Wait. Deep breathing? Brain? Yes. Do it.
  • Challenge yourself in new ways. Do things that you’ve never done. For example, stand up? Or play pool? Brian is about making connections. The day you stop making connections and the synapses, you are fucked.

A.4. Mindfulness
  • Meditate 10 minutes everyday. Use Calm. Free version allows you 28 days. Please do that. If you want, am happy to buy you a subscription.
  • REMOVE all negative things from your life — friends, family — anyone that drags you down, throw that person, thing out. This could be your best friend that pulls your leg all the time. I’ve done this. Thrown people out. It hurts. Like Cancer. Its part of your body but you kill it.
  • ADD positive things.
  • There is LOT more on mindfulness. I am not sure of a lot of things myself. This is something that even I am working on.
  • Get authentic. Read about it. Authentic. You are like who you are. In real life, in conduct, in meetings, in your bedroom, in your heart and in your soul. If you are authentic, you spend less effort (you are not posing and hence you are using less brainpower and thus are happier). Plus people on other side also know you as authentic and good and honest and all that and thus trust you more.

A.5. Body
  • Massage — twice a week. At home. Not spa. There is this guy at XXXX. He charges 400 per day. Find one in XXXXX.
  • Walk — 45 mins EACH day. There is NO alternative to this. Invest in a GREAT walking shoe. Either Nike or Asics or nothing. You don’t have issue with money. So do it.
  • Work with hands. Learn something that makes you use your hands. This will help you in delaying old age. I tried guitar. I am going to pick up Khartal.
  • Grow muscle. Don’t become The Rock. But grow muscle. This will not happen without gym or protein. I don’t understand much of this right now but I once I reach that point, i will.
  • Get a standing desk. You have to. If you can’t, I can gift you one. Mine is coming. At Starbucks, I work with a standing desk.
  • Keep back straight. Remind yourself multiple times to keep the spine straight.
  • Sex. Get regular with it if you aren’t. Sorry, this is a taboo and all that in India but get regular at it. Get an extramarital if you have to. I know this sounds wrong but you need to decide for yourself if you want to live till 120 and you want to be active and all that. Fuck what has been taught to us. Draupadi had 5 husbands. Akbar had a Harlem. What other evidence do you need? There is science. And no, I don’t have an extramarital thing yet. Heck, I don’t even have a marital thing yet. But if need be, I will. I am selfish.

Here are some “hacks”
  • Carry Almonds with you in a small box. Everytime you are hungry, pop in a few. Not too much. A few (less than 5 at a time). Or boiled eggs. Buy an egg boiler. I bought one and it’s super easy to use and its fast and I get perfectly boiled eggs.
  • Buy eye mask if you can’t get lights in the room.
  • Use the night mode feature on your phone to get the phone to automatically go silent post 8 PM.
  • Tell yourself EVERYDAY that you are lucky. You know that study right? They divided a random group of people into 2 groups. One was told that they were lucky. The other was told they weren’t. And then they were asked to search for free movie ticket coupons in the same newspaper. Guess who found more coupons? Just because they were TOLD that they were lucky, they found more.
  • Listen to the music from the time in life when you had no worries and were carefree and you were SUPER happy. May be the same track that you used to propose to your wife! I listen to Lucky Ali, KK, Silk Route etc. I am forgetting who talks about this but this is a PROVEN technique to reduce stress and get focus back.
  • Assume you make 3 lakhs a month (INR). This means you make 10K a day. Means each working hour for you is worth 1000 bucks. Anything that you can outsource for cheaper, do that. For example, you can get a driver for 400 bucks an hour, do it. You can hire an EA to save you 20 hours in a month? Pay 20K and get one. More on EA later. But point is, anything that frees up time for you — even if you have to pay for it, do it.

B. Work
  • Get an EA to handle emails and other “dirty” tasks. Idea is that you will NOT do anything that does NOT add value to your time or life. If there is one thing that you can do from this entire document, get an EA will be THE number 1. May be sleep is but this is close.
  • You will only do 4 things at a point in time. Not 3, not 5. If more than 4 things demand your attention, you will find a resource to do that. You can afford to. So do it. Wish I could.
  • Use pomodoro. 25 mins of deep work and then break. Chunk you tasks in 25 mins. Open office for 25 mins, meetings for 25 mins, thinking for 25 mins etc. The other 5 mins on the pomodoro? Go for a walk. I am going to do 2 push-ups every 25 mins. Lets see. Idea is to cultivate that habit.
  • While you work and you get a distraction, do NOT jump to it. Buy empty visiting cards and write on those the thing that is causing you distraction. And then once you are done what you are doing, do things that are on the cards.
  • Get a personal board. I am getting one. You are on it. And there are 10 other people. Like XXXXX Sir said, from different backgrounds.
  • Tell each of those people about your work ambitions. Don’t hide. Trust them. Don’t talk in vague terms. They are YOUR board. There is often sensitive information. Its ok. Life’s too short. And this sensitive information is NEVER life or death. Its at max career limiting. We can get the career back. But it’s ok to trust in your people, your board. For your progress.
  • Switch off mobile notifications from all apps except SMS. Tell your favorite ones to call or sms for emergency. Everything else has to “fetch” for you. Your life shall not be controlled by the ding of an incoming message by a colleague or a client. Neither it will be run by a notification on Facebook about your wife uploading a pic of your daughter. It will be run by you and your goals and your ambition.
  • Get famous. You already have XXXX. Use that. Leverage that. The idea is that reputation takes you so so far. Go far. I suck at this. I am working on this. And its tough for me cos I havent done shit. You have. Your reputation can take your so much farther its not funny.
  • Write. PLEASE. Even if you think you write BS or write like crap, please write. There is NO better way to clear the head than to write. Writing this note has given me so so so so many ideas and reinforced so many beliefs. Thank you for making me write this one. Ideally you have to write at a specific time EACH day. I am trying to get into that zone of writing. But I need to first get out of the issue that my time is owed to someone else. You are lucky. You own your time.
  • Learn mental models. Use them. If not all models, just learn Cialdini’s. These are social proof, authority, scarcity, liking, commitment and reciprocity. Find out all the models I’ve used in this one email.
  • Get purposeful. Dont do things because there’s nothing else. I can talk so much about this. Not purpose as in world changing and all that. Purpose as in you do things with so much passion, so much love, so much purpose that if someone is looking at you, they get infected with your way of working. Ordinary is boring af.

C. Future
  • Make a vision board (sounds gyaan but trust me, it helps. And ofcourse none of these esoteric things happen unless you work towards those things)
  • Once a week, sit and think on your future. Mark this in your calendar. There is no way you can’t NOT do this.
  • Use your board. I am sure you read the point above.
  • Make your team. Team XXXX. I have this thing called Team SG. A set of REALLY young kids (in the age group of less than 25) that you hire today. These people HAVE to work with you for rest of YOUR life. Groom them, mentor them, help them. Make your team. Not your company’s. Your. Do you have 5 people who’d walk out with you if you have to quit? I have 1. I want 9 more in this year. Working on this.
D. Tools
  • Start using Asana. Or Trello. Whatever you like. Idea is to outsource your remembering function.
  • Google Calendar. You will NOT meet anyone if its not on your calendar. Not even standup meetings. Create office hours (time when anyone can walk in to you office to ask you anything — like yesterday, 5 people walked in while you and I were talking. Train then that they can only ask you things at 11 AM or 5 PM). In 25 min slots.
  • Sleep tracking — use fitbit or even some app on your phone. I use Sleep Cycle. This tells you how is your sleep and if you are sleep is fucked, you are fucked. You need to first know if the sleep is good or bad. You may think you sleep well but the app tells you that you are fucked and you need to fix it. This is the single biggest revelation that happened to me.
  • All tools that I use EVERYDAY are: Hubspot CRM, Feedly, Asana, Toggl, LifeTrack sheet (where I track my life — I note down what I do on most days), Google Calendar.
  • There is no set formula for these tools. You find your set of tools. I found these after a lot of effort and lot of time. I keep going back and forth between tools. Idea is to find your own path.

E. Misc

  • You OWN the day. Not your calendar or emails. You can choose to switch off emails. Once you get your EA, you can further control your time.
  • Use your commute. Cat nap, podcasts etc. Do whatever but do NOT waste it with SM or email. Commute is THE biggest advantage we have. I know of a guy who actually lives in Thane so that he can get 2 hours every day in train to read! Beat that!
That’s for the time being. I am sure there are more. And I am not sure if this helps you. But these have helped me immensely. I am little more peaceful and content. Though I am yet to become the big shit that I’ve always wanted to become — I am sure I will get there. I am lucky. Are you?

Any inputs anyone? I am @saurabh on twitter.

PS: First posted on Medium here

100 Rejections in 2018

I have yet another miniGoal for #in2018. I will try and get 100 rejections.

Like most projects, this started with an impulse. And like all things that I do, I put the impulse in action. See this tweet.

So, what is it?
In one line, I will try and get a 100 rejection letters #in2018.

What is a rejection? What is a rejection letter? 
Lemme try and example with an example. What if I ask a Rabbi Shergill if I can work with him? Afterall I've been a fan and all that since his Bulla days. His music and his philosophy has been a big big reason of my fandom.

However, there is no clear value proposition for a Rabbi Shergill to choose to work with me. And there no reason why he should accept me!

So, in all probability, he will reject the request. Assuming that he will get time to see my request - he being busy and famous at the same time! If he gets back to him and says that he doesnt want to work with me, that to me is a rejection.

Other example, when I travel for work, can I ask for the client to pay for a business class ticket (about 3x the price of an economy ticket)? I know I am not important enough for most of my clients to give me a superior treatment. The request will probably get rejected. Assuming I am not laughed at. Ok this was a bad example. Because this is a recurring event. Everytime I fly, I want to travel business. May be it is not. Some clients may reject. Some may not. Some may give in. Some may not, Some projects could have budget. Some may not. Need to think more. 

The definition of rejection (for the sake of this project) thus, is an ask that I know is almost impossible to get. The ask is so big, so audacious, so stupid, so ridiculous that it is bound to get rejected. The ask that I shouldnt be making in the first place. And since the ask if going to get rejected, I'd not feel bad when it is rejected. 

So, I will send a request. And the person, company he can choose to ignore it, accept it or reject it. Unless I get a feedback from him, I will not put this in any basket. I'd just call it waiting for inputs.

The next step is kinda fuzzy. What if you dont hear back (either acceptance or rejection), you send a reminder? Of course you could sound creepy (or desperate). Or you could sound enterprising and persistent and all. I am not sure of this one. Will think and update it over time. #note2self.

How did I get the idea? 
Three things had to come together to make this happen.

A. I saw this TED talk by Jia and I have been meaning to implement it. Why? Because its a social experiment and it makes you get out of your comfort zone. Its been on the todo list but I never got around to it. May be this is the time?

B. I met Hareesh Sir and talked to him about my failure to grow business at C4E. He said that unless you get rejected a million times, you cant say you have failed. So, I want to get rejected.

C. I saw this tweet and was surprised to know that people achieve such amazing feats that it makes you go wow! And like you, they are made of same chemical components and all that. So, if they can, why cant you? Kiki worked towards getting a 100 rejection letters. That means that at the response rate of about 1%, she would've taken 10000 shots! If she can, why cant I?

And why would I want to get rejected these many times?
I think the biggest thing we fear as humans is, "what if I get rejected!" or "what would the world say." By getting rejected a 100 times in the next 6-7 months, I will probably get over the fear. Jia did. Kiki probably did. I can too.

Plus, if I do get rejected, I can tell myself that the ask was so big that it was anyway gonna get rejected. I would thus probably feel little less bad. 

And finally if I hit acceptance, I am sure it would make like better! Oh, this also means that I need to choose what I need to get an acceptance on. I need a filter. So, the process, the model is, when I chase rejections, in case I do get an acceptance on it, the resulting #win has to take me closer to my three lifeGoals (Everest, Billion People, Billion Dollars). This is how my project differs from that of Jia’s.
So, what is the plan? 
Rather than putting a strict goal, task frequency, cadence etc, I will try and get a 100 rejections in this year. These would be a mix of personal, work, random and otherwise.

Oh, I made the first request already. To Rabbi Shergill. Let's see what do I get.

I will catalog all my requests and rejections on this post. And on this twitter thread.

List of all requests. 
#1. 8Jun18. No response yet.
Requested Rabbi Shergill to meet me and allow me to work with him.

#2. NoDate. No response yet.
Requested a professor from MDI if I could work with him on creating a new model for marketing. He showed initial interest but nothing happened after that.

#3. NoDate. No response yet.
Requested the dean at SPJain if I could meet him and may be teach at SPJ.

#4. 24Jun18. No response yet.
Requested another professor at another business school if I could teach at his.

UPDATE: This updating of the blog was getting way too much. Tracking it on an open Google Sheet. Link here


Thats about it! Wish me luck! And do try it for yourself.
Thank you. Over and out.

PS: Can I turn this on the head and rather gun for 100 acceptances? And that means I will have to ask for a million things (assuming 1 in 100 is granted). Need to think. #note2self.

PPS: I love how this blog is becoming a dialogue with self. I just wish I could find a way to catalog these thoughts and share these with people that I trust and value and then get them to debate with me on the outcomes. Any ideas anyone? 

PPPS: What if I say that rather than trying to feel less bad about getting rejected, how about I try harder and get it? I think I cant do that because for a scatterbrain like me, I simply cant go deep with everything! 

PPPPS: Rant ahead. 
So there are a million things that I want to do in life and because there is one life and anything you want to do takes time to do, its humanly impossible to do all those. But then I may argue that if I attempt to do all these million things, I will probably end up doing a handful of those. And that to me is a #win automatically.

Not a bad theory to subscribe to. As long as I take shots at each of these things.

And to take a shot at these things, I need access. Access to people, ideas, resources, capital, time and all those things. And more importantly, I need permission. Again, from people and others that will enable those things. And acceptance that they'd help me. Thing is, acceptance to me is the biggest gift (apart from attention) that you can give someone. And since acceptance is such a big deal, you often dont get it!

Coming back.

I need to do a million things and often I dont get to those even start working on things because I assume that the other person, that the thing is dependent on, will reject the idea. And this fear of rejection is the biggest bane to getting things done!

So, I thought, can I fix it? Can I somehow get over this fear of rejection! 

One of the mental models that I subscribe to, is, Invert, always invert. In one line, the idea is that if you reverse the problem you are facing, you often get to the solution. You know that thing where the guy says if he knew where is he gonna die, he'd never go there? That! This entire fear of rejection looked like an interesting problem to apply this mental model on.

And hence, I started with the thesis that if I chase rejections (rather than permission, acceptance etc.), I will probably do well! Ergo, this post and the project. 

Veere Di Wedding - Review

I did it.
The unthinkable.
The worst thing that I could ever do as a moviegoer.
I saw Veere Di Wedding (IMDB)!

Yeah, the same movie that has driven a wedge between the otherwise stable relationships of all the men and women that were living in peace and harmony. There are men dismissing the movie as a chick-flick. There are women defending the content. Then there are men siding with the film and there are women who are saying that modern girls around their 30s are not like how they've been portrayed.

Its a fascinating battle brewing and I would love to take a side but then I am not as educated or informed as the twitterati. Oh, my universe is limited to twitter only.

Why would I commit an atrocity of this magnitude on myself?
Well. Lesser said about it, the better. Now that its been done, it's time to write a review. After I got some 300 odd hits on my review for Bhavesh Joshi, I have this career as a film-reviewer and I ought to stay with it.

So, the logline is, a group of four girl friends, each with a dysfunctional family, tries to come to terms with their respective issues as they come together for the wedding of one of the girls from the group. Neat. Sounds like fun. Similar to Dil Chahata Hai - a story of three friends trying to grow up as they make a trip to Goa.

Still from Veere Di Wedding
Like in DCH, there are these friends, there is banter and leg pulling and pranks. There is travel, there is music, there is emotions and there is a lot more jazz. No, not music but things that make movies, movies. But you know, this is where similarities end!

I'll come back to it.

PS: If Farhan Sir is reading this, please excuse me. For I have sinned by comparing your masterpiece with this! 

So, the friend I saw the film with, she said the film is inspired by the famous sitcom, Sex And The City. No, I haven't seen the sitcom. But I am told that the even though it has a million episodes or something, sitcom stays true to the theme (of 4 middle-aged women trying to cope with relationships in a big, fast-paced city). Each has a set of relationship issues that needs sorting and the friends are the support system, the coping mechanism, the bouncing board and all that.

In VDW, while the inspiration is striking, the "episode" is just about 2 hours long, it veers all over the place. The characters are flat, the friendship bland and there is no support or coping or bouncing happening. Flat as in wine that's been left in the open for too long. Bland as in cheese that's been given too much air.

Coming back to DCH, the relationships (both between the set of friends and with others) were really deep. You could experience their elation, anguish, anger, happiness and all those things. In each scene. In each dialogue. In VDW, you cant remember if they were laughing in the previous scene or if they were crying. May be a gang of girls is like that? On a perpetual rollercoaster ride. I am not sure. At least the ones I hung out with were, are not like that.

In DCH, when the guys argue and fight and all that, you feel their anger and the pain. You can understand their actions. You know the dude has fucked up and you take sides. In VDW, the conflict, whatever little of it has been portrayed, is so weak that you don't realize that it was the peak and the characters need to resolve it to take the story to the ending! Mr. Campbell must've turned in his grave. Of course not every story has to conform to his monomyth structure.

You know of those movies? Coming of age? Bildungsroman? May be VDW is an attempt in that direction? If it is, they ought to have spoken to Abhishek Kapoor. The guy, I think, has got coming of age right in India. You know of his repertoire?

Anyhow. The movie, ladies and gentleman is so ordinary that you can easily skip it!

If I were working on the project, what would I improve? 
A lot!

A. The story to start with. Actually come to think of it, the story was ok, you could tweak it a bit. But screenplay needed a lot of work. It just couldn't keep me interested. Despite all the gorgeous places that films has been shot at, all the color that is splashed around by the sets, all the banter between friends, all the mockery that they've made of the loud South Delhi culture, the film couldn't keep my interest.

B. I'd definitely improve the on-screen camaraderie between these friends. I mean I've never been part of these pajama parties, as they call em, but I am sure they are lot more fun. The banter is forced. The dialogues are predictable. The lines are cliched. Apart from a bracelet with their initials and a painting by mothers of one of the friends, they don't seem to have anything that identifies them as part of a clique. The screenplay should've established their friendship better and stronger.

C. The conflict, when it all was supposed to fall apart, when the friends fight, when they call names and all that, is so weak and so short-lived that you don't even realize that it had happened. Compare it with DCH. There is a big-ass argument and a fight and it takes Herculean effort to fix! Here, in VDW, all it took was a holiday? A phone call? Come on!

D. There are some really bad product placements. When If you see the film, you will notice that there are scenes that have blatant and liberal placement for brands like Uber, Bikaji, Air India and others. And these are done so bad that you think you are in a 2-hour long advertisement. Someone needs to bring back the love and passion in the business of making films. 

Lemme talk of each of the Veeres, as they call themselves.
The one with the cigarette.
I don't know why one of the characters always had a cigarette around. In the loo, in the car, on the beach, on the bed, in the wedding. Ok, I know you want to establish her as a free-spirited woman (did you?), could you not find a better instrument than a cigarette? Or those Calvin Klein sports bras?

The bride.
Ok, you are scared of this whole thing called marriage. I understand. I actually think that her character was written well! I don't have any complaints. But then, I also don't really have any vivid memories of her after I've seen the movie. She is ordinary. You know how you have this salt-shaker on the dining table that no-one notices unless they need em? That!

The lawyer.
Sigh. Lesser said the better.

If you can't seem to endure this blogpost, please skip to the bottom and do read the open letter that I've written to her.

The married one.
She is actually the best of the lot. Played her part well. Had better one-liners to deliver compared to others. I wish she had a meatier role. She could've held the story together. But then shes not a Kapoor you know. Or may be I am wrong. The point however remains that her character had hope and they fucked it up.

The good parts? 
There are a few two. No, seriously. There are. Here' a list.

A. There is this character called Bhandari.
He comes in rather late but when he does, he is probably what makes the film tolerable. He may sound crass, down-market, a letch or whatever but he is what he is. He's done a great job - the kinds that would've taken a lot of effort to pull off. I want to see more of him. I actually miss him. He doesn't have a lot of dialogues or scenes but every-time he comes up, you do take notice. He's like that subtle flavour, seasoning in a complex dish that you cant put your finger on. But you know that the dish has the distinctive taste because of that one flavour. You know? The magic sauce? That!

B. I loved the cinematography!
The locations are breathtaking. The movie looks gorgeous. Of course the 4 ladies are pretty and all that but even if I removed them from the shots, the empty frames would look great! Its, as more established critics will say, is

So, the verdict? 
Don't go to a movie hall to see it.

Once its on Netflix, you may want to spend an evening fast-forwarding your way through it.

I'd give Veere Di Wedding a 1 star. 

Also, I must say that I saw the film on a Tuesday night and the hall was almost half-full. Which is a lot considering its been a few days since the film came out. So maybe, there's something there.

And while you are at it, you may want to see this review by this lady.

Oh, if despite the warning, you do decide to watch this, all the best!
Do let me know what you think.
I am @saurabh on twitter.
Thanks for reading!

PS.: As I end this, there are two things that I want to talk about. 


Please know that as a critic and a reviewer, I do not want to merely diss the creators. My intent of being a critic is not to discourage the ones that do the new. But to learn from them. And when its my turn to create, not repeat the mistakes. I subscribe to Anton Ego says about critics. 

And B. 
As someone who's had a crush on Sonam Kapoor K Ahuja since I was a child (when I first saw her in Pyar Ki Ganga Bahe), may I please write an open letter to her? Here goes...

Dear Sonam,

I really really love your sense of style. Plus I am a big fan of your smile. It is second only to Julia Roberts' . The way you carry and conduct yourself? It is so unique that you're one of your kind. Anyone would want to give their arm and leg to see you smile. I will. 


But could you PLEASE stop acting? 

I mean take inspiration from your sister - Rhea. She is a producer. And she has chosen to remain that. What if you remain a mere socialite? and actually up the ante at those parties and charities and fashion events? Really! As a marketer, I really think that's a greater opportunity for you. For every crappy film that you do, you reduce the brand value and you takeaway reasons from brands like Loreal et al to pull the plug. There is a limit to which that these brands can support you. No? 

Oh, btw, even if you decide to continue working in films as an actor, of course as someone who loves you, I will continue to support you. All the best! 



Bhavesh Joshi - Film Review

So yesterday, I saw Bhavesh Joshi. And this is the review.

I first heard about the movie was when I saw the trailer at one of the other movies that I saw a few weeks ago. Yeah, am watching a lot more movies. 

Anyhow. So I saw the trailer and I knew I had to go see Bhavesh. And then I forgot about it. Till I met a friend who writes films (one feature under his belt, second underway) and he told me how Phantom is struggling with Bhavesh Joshi and its been stuck for 4 years and so on and so forth. No, I don't know any more gossip and all that but they were struggling for sure. 

So when yesterday a friend and I were deciding to go see VDW, somehow we realized that Bhavesh is also releasing the same day. And I tricked her into booking Bhavesh. Yay!

Yay for having avoided VSW VDW (the movie is apparently so bad that I even got the name wrong) which going by this review is a super decision (the review has since been deleted - I suspect the SM team from the VDW reached out to the lady ;P). But a big yay and a #selfPatOnBack.

But then, the yay was short-lived.

It lasted till the interval during Bhavesh - that's when the movie starts going downhill. Like Joker says, everyone is on the edge and all they need is a push. Bhavesh was teetering on the edge and dint even need the push. It just needed a whiff of air. And there was a fucking hailstorm blowing in Bhavesh's face. A hailstorm made of poor story, lacklustre plot, ordinary acting and other pieces of mediocrity that you don't typically expect from Phantom. I guess everyone has their ups and downs!

What the F! Its an Anurag Kashyap Vikramaditya Motwane film for fuck sake! 

Wait. Stay with me. I'll come back to it.

For the time being, here's a one-line summary of the film, or the logline, as they call it in the industry. Bhavesh Joshi is a common-man turned vigilante that takes on the might of the politician-businessmen nexus hellbent on fucking with the city to make money.

I were a film producer and this logline was narrated to me, the first reaction would have been, "what a awe-fuckin-some idea!". And then I would be shrouded in a heady mix of fear, awe and excitement.

Fear - has something like this ever been attempted in India?
No, not Krissh. It's lame at another level that doesn't even merit another word on this blog. Or on the whole of Internet. Not even in the history books that are often written at the behest of celebrities. Wait Mr. Garg. This is not about Krissh.

Can I make a film that is so simple and yet so complex? Am I evolved enough to handle? I would be afraid. Really.

Awe - what all can I do with it?
To the film maker in me, the logline makes me gasp at the tremendous opportunities that I can explore with the plot. I'd be awed by the shades of characters that I can create. It inspires awe by allowing me to explore dark themes that most other movies don't allow me to.

Excitement - can I bring it alive?
Fear and bravado often gives way to daring. And that is where excitement is. Remember that excitement that Red talks about? In case you've lived under a rock, he says, "I find I’m so excited, I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain."

I feel a similar excitement when I think about this logline, this plot! Can't you feel it? The fear, the awe, the excitement?

Oh, and once these emotions have gone past me, I would let go of the opportunity to make this film. Really. Why? Because I wont have the balls to produce it!

No really. I wont. Its a very risky idea. Unless I have a lot of money that I can throw around, lose and not lose my sleep over it. Its not even a venture where I see a potential of a 10x return!

But if all producers were like me, no ambitious projects will ever get made! I love people like Phantom for exactly the same reason. Truth be told, the only reason I saw this was because only a Phantom could've dared to make a movie like this. Or may be Drishyam. These are the only two sets of people that try new things. Or like Apple said in one of their ads, "push the human race forward!"

Where I said no, they decided to back this up. They found the money. And the balls. And they jumped in.

And I thank them for that. For unless I had seen what Bhavesh is, I wouldn't know what Bhavesh could be. As a writer, there are a million lessons in what not to do while working on a film (more on this later).

So, after all that ado for nothing, the movie, in one word is disappointing!

There is so so so (repetition on purpose) much potential in the movie that it could've been a legit competition to the likes of Batman. Just that it fails to go anywhere. Lemme make a list.

A. For starters, the movies lacks a credible and powerful villain.
Thing with Superheroes is that while they are awesome and do great things and all that, they need a villain (or an anti-hero) to be able to showcase their might, their strength and even their vulnerability.

I mean can you imagine a Batman without a Joker? Or a Sherlock for that matter without a Moriarty? There is no one that makes Bhavesh Joshi what he eventually becomes. Agree that he fights against a system, a set of people and all that. But is he up against a league A villain? No!

There is no challenge. There is just systematic pressure. There is no personality, no individual, no anti-hero that makes Bhavesh get out from the bed. I mean why does Bhavesh exist? He wants to do good. Ok. Who doesn't? Ramu Kaka, the security guard from my building wants to do good and is willing to risk whatever when he feels that he's been wronged!

B.Characters are not memorable.
There are times that you feel for the characters and their respective losses but the characters are not memorable at all. I saw the movie last night and even though its not been 24 hours since, I cant seem to remember one great thing that any of the characters said. Or did. Or stood for.

Ok I agree that Bhavesh stood for something but then is that what I want to take away from a Superhero movie? No way man! Remember my Ramu Kaka? Bhavesh. That!

C. Too long.
The movie has at least 3 long scenes that do not add one bit to the story. I mean they were shot in typical Tarantino-meets-Slumdog cinematic style and had one or two fine moments. But...

But did they add to the story? No.
But did they establish Bhavesh? No.
But did they help make the villain more villainous? No.
No and no.
And more no.

Why did they put those shots? To make it dark? To give me that adrenaline rush? To ensure that the movie is 2 and half hours long? Come on!

D. The post-interval snafu.
The movie was a great watch till the time interval happened.

From the very beginning, the story progresses at a snail's pace but since they were still building the narrative, it was ok. I could understand. But once the conflict had reached the high point and I was hoping for a masterful resolution, the nudge from that edge, those winds start blowing. The movie, like I said already, goes downhill. So downhill that I am beginning to question the genius of Anurag Kashyap Motwane.

That's about it from me.

Oh, the music by Amit Trivedi - Amitabh Bhattacharya duo is great as always. The background score could've been far better. The acting is ok - like I said, no character stands out. There aren't any moments that you retain after you've watched the movie. You don't even feel sorry for their loss. And neither do you feel any elation for their victory.

Bhavesh Joshi may be a Superhero that we need (in the Indian cinema) but we definitely deserve someone better than Bhavesh. Oh, I'd like to create one. Anyone wants to collaborate? I am @saurabh on twitter.

To end this longish review, I'd give Bhavesh Joshi 2 stars out of 5.

But please do see the film. Its brave. Its an interesting story that you often don't get to see coming out of India. And the movie makes me hopeful that cinema in India will continue to do well. Oh, and Thank You Anurag, Vikramaditya and others for Bhavesh Joshi. I will want to see more from you. And hopefully, soon.

On more thing. Of course I remain a mere critic and like I do in most reviews that I do, lemme quote Anton here. He says, "In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face is that, in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations. The new needs friends..."

Over and out.
Saurabh Garg
2 Jun 2018

PS: If I were to work on the plot, I would make following changes to the script.

1. Add more shades of dark to the villains. 
I'd actually create an anti-hero that the audience roots for. Something that divides the audience on their opinion. You know Joker? Whatever he says, speaks or does is rational and logical. Remember Thanos from the recent Avengers? You actually want the villain to win. You fight with your friends and you are not sure what is good and what is bad. You want to get aligned to their "cause." Bhavesh needs a cause. A thing that an aam-aadmi wants to get attached to.

2. I wont Indianise the script or the plot. 
I will not put a love angle when its not required. There is that mandatory girlfriend. Why? Why do we need her? Why does Bhavesh need her? 

3. I will make the script credible. 
You are telling me that the person could sit in the airport and hack the immigration system? You tell me that you could be on a run for a few weeks and you could still eat a vada-pao without looking over your shoulders? You don't leave fingerprints all over the world and while the the cop knows when to call the immigration system, he doesn't know when to summon the forensics experts? 

Oh and the alternate ending? I have it written. Just that I don't want to publish is here and spoil the film. Write to me (@saurabh on twitter) and I will mail you back. 

P.P.S.: I made this mindmap while I was writing the review. In case you want to see, its available for free for you to download. You'd need www.xmind.net (free) to see / edit it. Do tell me if you find this useful. 

The Nidhi Kapoor Story

Did you like this post? May be you want to read my first book - The Nidhi Kapoor Story.

Check it out on Amazon or Flipkart?