Sunday, February 28, 2010

If You Love Someone - Hyderabad Launch

The Hyderabad launch of 'If you love someone..' is at Landmark, Road No 12, Banjara Hills (next to Ohri's) on the Friday, 5th of March at 630 p.m. Gangaraju has consented to be the chief guest and Mohana Krishna Indraganti has agreed to introduce the book and be the guest of honor. I sorely miss Ms. Meenkashi Mukherjee on this occassion because we had discussed this book extensively in the past and I would have loved to hear her opinion and maybe, even introduce the book.
I have also invited Sumanth to join us on the panel that day, and he agreed, making it an all-male panel for a book like 'If you love someone..'. But I guess we will play it along with our feminine sides.
I am going to send out an invite to all that I know but just in case anyone happens to see this blog and is not on my mailing list, please do drop in and attend the event. And if I have not met you before, I would love to. The e-invite is attached.
Organising the event
For all those writers who wonder how one gets to go about arranging these events, here's the dope. You either speak to the bookshop directly or go through the publisher. Bookstores normally like to have events that bring in footfalls and in most cases they are very happy to host the event. In fact Landmark was more than welcoming when I broached the topic. They have their own creative team that has come up with lovely posters and mailers. They have a PR fim, an inhouse compere and they take care of everything from the backdrop to the booksales and promotion. The writer needs to come there and smile, read maybe and sign. If the writer is an unknown quantity (like me), a chief guest and other known guests help in bringing in media and some public. I am relying on my freinds and family to make up the numbers as they did last time, so loyally!
Any writers who wish to know more about this process can write in to me and I will share whatever I know. In fact when I dropped in at the store this evening, Landmark's store manager was actually wondering if we could do more events with local authors. I told him that there were several local writers and that I would share this information with him the next time. If you are an author/poet who wants to do a book reading contact Kailash, Store Manager at Landmark, Banjara Hills.
So then, more on the event to follow.

And A Loss - Art Beat Capital Stumbles

A win against this team would have ensured a semi final berth and we were aware of that. In fact we wanted to play ISB, the new team, in their first match so we can catch them unaware before they adjust to the format. But full credit to the youngsters that they pulled off a creditable win.
We started off with two changes - Sumanth and Sreenivas were not available for the match. So I stepped in, and Subbu was pulled in to bolster the batting (though I would have preferred to have Ramesh playing this match). We lost the toss and were asked to bat. Pawan opened with Subbu and they put on 15 for the first wicket with 4 dismissals. Gajanand and Ramesh played next and they added 14 with a couple of dismissals. Things were not looking too good at 29 in 8 overs when Sanjay and Shilpi walked in and added 49 runs for the third pair. We ended up with 78 at the end of 12 overs. Suri and I batted for the last pair and could manage only 9 runs with 6 dismissals. That set us back a bit and we ended with a fighting total of 87.
ISB began by losing a wicket off the very first ball. But they batted hard and confidently despite playing for the first time. They added 29 for the first wicket. The second wicket added 10 runs. The third pair added 17 runs. AT 56 in 12 overs we looked like we had a good chance especially since Shilpi and I finished our two overs and gave only 10 runs. But Sanjay's over on the 15th cost us about 15 runs and they were suddenly at 81 requiring only 7 to win. ISB batted sensibly to secure a win off the last ball and ended up with 88!
It was a close match. Now we are back to waiting for ISB to lose two matches in which case we play a faceoff. If they win three, we are out of the competition.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Bestseller list - If You Love Someone

For the second week running The Hindu's Hyderabad edition carried 'If You Love Someone' at the top of its bestseller list in the Metro Plus. This list is based on weekly sales at A.A.Husain Bookstore, Abids, one of the oldest bookstores in Hyderabad. I consider it a great honour. The list can be viewed at the following link:

The book launch of 'If You Love Someone...' at Hyderabad is to be held at Landmark, Banjara Hills on March 5, 2010. More on this once other details are finalised.

Art Beat Capital Wins Third Match

Art Beat Wins Third Game
We went into today's game facing a must-win situation. The team from Bengaluru has won 3 out of the 4 games and tops the table. If we win today's game we will be second in the pool and have a good chance of making the semi final.
We decided to play the same eight as the last match. Sreenivas took his time in coming for the game and I almost had to step in for him. But then he made it just in time and we fielded the winning team - Sanjay, Gajanand, Pawan, Suri, Shilpi, Sreenivas, Ramesh and Sumanth.
We batted first and got off to a good start. But after 2 overs when the score was eighteen, Pawan and Sreenivas got into a spate of run outs - five - and still managed to get a start of 18 for the first wicket. Gajanand and Ramesh did a good job of adding another 19 for the second wicket with another four dismissals. 39 in eight overs. Sanjay and Sumanth walked in at a dicey situation and played magnificiently adding 40 without losing a wicket even once. Sumanth was in great form with two brilliant cover drives for four, a lovely pull and some neat placements. He really looks graceful when he bats and has the gift of timing. Sanjay pulled off a fine 6 in the last over and it was 89 at the end of 12 overs. Suri and Shilpi batted sensibly to add another 14 to the score and we wound up with 103 in our 16 - a good score.
The opponents however got off to a good start adding 37 in four overs. The next pair too it to 51 in eight and the next took it to 66 in twelve. A spate of dismissals through run outs, catches and stumpings got us ahead and by the time the last four bowlers got through their overs through we were home comfortably. Sumanth bowled his off spin well, and in his two overs there were the usual run outs which we have come to expect. Suri bowled a great spell once again and Pawan complemented him well.
There is a possibility of an extra team being added to the pool which means another league match before knowing the semi line up. But we are looking good as a team now and are ready for the next match as well.
We all went down to the Extreme Sports Bar at Karkhana save Ram and Sumanth and had a good time. Mohan, Sagar and our other supporters joined us for the revelries!
Onwards then Art Beat!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Art Beat Wins 2nd match - Yes Factor!

The Art Beat Capital Team

Presentation ceremony by Vidyuth Jaisimha
Sumanth in action

Sumanth, Ram and Umesh

Pawan and Sreenivas in action
Our team Art Beat Capital, (the production house which is making 'The Men Within' into a movie) played its second round robin match last night. It was a must-win situation because we need to win all remaining matches in the round robin to be in contention for the semi final berth. The Bengaluru team that beat us in the first match is already through and our chances now lie in how other teams perform. In such a situation, we took the field.
I opted out, having pulled a hamstring muscle badly in the first game. I also felt that the younger and more flexible have a better chance at turning this game around. So the final eight for the game was as follows - Sanjay alias Military (captain), Gajanand Reddy, Suryaprakash, Pawan, Shilpi, Sreenivas and Ramesh and Sumanth (the likely lead in the movie) stepping in to replace me and Ramesh. We lost the toss and the opponents chose to bowl.
We started with Pawan and Sreenivas as the opening pair. We knew we had to minimise the dismissals and that was drilled into each pair. The opening pair did a fairly okay job until they got that strange illness of a rash of run outs again - four - and still managed to put up 14 on the board. The second pair of Gajanand and Ramesh went in with low expectations and did a wonderful job - only one dismissal - and added 35 runs! The score was 47 by the time they finished their 4 overs and it included one rousing six by Gajanand. Sanjay went in next paired wih Sumanth and once again, after a couple of early dismissals, they rallied round to add 34 runs in their four overs to take our total to 81 with only two dismissals. Sanjay got a great six as well. We were on target for over 120 runs in our innings when Suri and Shilpi walked in. But a series of run outs and dismissals - about five in all - set this pair back - and we wound up with 91 on board with 12 dismissals. A competitive total certanly but by no means not a matchwinning total.
When the opponents batted we had Gajanand bowl the first over. Shilpi bowled the second. Suri bowled the third and so on. We got a few run outs early thanks to the younger team. Our catching could have been better and Sanjay missed a stumping chance. The first pair put on 17, the second took it to 37 and the third to 49. Our main concern was figuring out when to bowl Sumanth. But when he got the chance, he kept it simple, and his first over got a net minus with two dismissals - a huge bonus! With the final four overs to go, the last pair needed 43 runs to get to win, and we looked like we were home on a canter but things turned out different.
Sanjay's first over got about 10 runs, Sumanth's over another 10 or so, Sreenivas bowled his over for almost the same number of runs and suddenly they were upto the last over with 14 to get which was too close to comfort. Thankfully the ball was in the able hands of Gajanand and he started off confidently with a dot ball, and a 2, 2and 2 in the next 3 balls. Eight to get in two balls and he conceded two in the next ball which meant that unless he bowled a no ball or a wide, they needed six off the last ball. Thankfully the last ball was a 2 again and we were home by 3 runs!!
Its such a huge difference when you win. Nothing compares to that feeling. We won our 60 small Royal Stag coupons at Extreme Sports Bar having won the match and decided to hold off celebrations until the next match is done.
Now on to the next match on Wednesday!

Monday, February 22, 2010

ML Jaisimha Indoor Cricket Tournament - First match

The first match of the Indoor cricket tournament was played yesterday morning against a Bangalore team. The match was at 8 in the morning and we all reached the ground on time. It was the first match we ever played in this fast-paced, indoor format. I wanted to opt out in view of my not-so-good physical condition - not having payed the game for a year. But I played in the end and wound up going for the toss.
The Bangalore team was young and fit and seemed to be in good nick. We were a bunch of old players who were good at the outdoor game, obviously rusty and not so fit. It was going to be a challenge anyway. We got the team together Shilpi and Sreenivas, Ramesh and me, Suri and Sanjay, Pawan and Gajanand. We lost the toss and they opted to bat.
Their first pair batted four overs for 44 runs without getting out even once (each time someone gets out it is a penalty of minus five, the pair bats on for all 4 overs even if the net score is in minus). That was a flying start. But then once we got the spinners on, the brakes fell, with Suri getting three dismissals in two overs. Ramesh got one, I got a couple, and the series of dismissals got us back into the game. The opponents ran well, negotiated the bowling well, and put up a score of 94.
We started off with Shilpi and Sreenivas batting confidently and adding 18 in the first two overs without losing a wicket. And then in a sudden spurt, they lost wickets four times which set us back into the negtaive. By the time they returned to the hut after 4 overs, we were 6. Ramesh and I went in next, and we had our fair share of dismissals. The game is so fast that decisions have to be made very quickly. Despite one lovely six by Ramesh we added only two to the total and ended up with a team total of 8. Suri and Gajanand took the tally to about 20 and then Sanjay and Pawan took it to 38. We lost by 56 runs.
In the final analysis it was clear where we went wrong. We had 19 dismissals, mostly run outs and ended up with a total of 38 i.e. we actually scored 133 runs but got penalised 95 runs. Also we gave away several extras in terms of wides and no balls - almost 20-30. The opponents got 94 with 8 dismissals, a total of 134!
Beaten thoroughly, we were a sweaty and sore lot. Obviously we are not used to being treated like this and being made fools of. But we learnt from this game and I think we should be much better in the next. I pulled my hamstring in the very second over itself and now it hurts like hell. I do not think I will be able to play the next match atleast. We need to win the next two games to be in contention for the semis.
All in all, it was a very enjoyable format especially now that we are getting a hang of it. Let us see what happens next!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Pleasant Evening at the Evening Hour

The Evening Hour ( is a wonderful concept - a library, bookstore, coffee shop and a movie watching and conference space rolled into one. More of a library and bookstore, the Evening Hour goes by the appropriate tag line of "Relax, Refresh and Rejoice", and is located in the heart of Kukatpally (in the lane adjacent to JNTU, and accessible to a lot of the reading public in that area). I was very impressed with the concept just as I was with the young owner Priyanka, whom I met through Rama Raju. Over a few mails we fixed up a book reading cum a Meet-the-Author session on the 20th of February.
It turned out to be a very pleasant evening with a well read and highly interactive crowd. For starters I was welcomed into the store with a lovely bouquet and we were soon drawn into a freewheeling discussion on my journey as a writer. There were several questions on being published, the process of writing a novel, the state of writing in India, whether it makes commercial sense to write at all, how to sign up movie deals and so on and so forth. It being a bandh-like situation yesterday due to the Telangana issue, the audience was sparse in the beginning, but it gradually swelled as the evening progressed.
Priyanka's father was very effusive in his praise for 'The Men Within' which he said was one of the few books that he had read at one go. It was very heartening to hear his views on 'The Men Within' and its many layers. There were a few others in the audience who were either reading the book or had read it.
I did a reading from 'The Men Within' as well as 'If You Love Someone'. Choudary drove me there, Nalini and Ajay dropped in and Shobha and Anjali joined us halfway through the program. We enjoyed the lovely samosas, soft drinks and the hopistality thoroughly. The program ended by about 8 p.m.
I am glad that there are young entrepreneurs like Priyanka who are encouraging the reading habit through such wonderful concepts. The Evening Hour has a good selection of books and videos at a very affordable price. It is clean, well lit and has a good display. Not only that, the Evening Hour has a facility where the book/video can be delivered at home. The Meet-The-Auhor initiative is a wonderful one and I do wish there are more people like Priyanka who take up such initiatives. And Priyanka herself should do more such events in the future. Thanks Priyanka and your team for a truly memorable and enjoyable evening. And for the record, I am available whenever you want me for an event!

Friday, February 19, 2010

A Men Within Like Situation

While the movie based on 'The Men Within' is taking shape, Ram decided that Art Beat Capital, his production house which is producing the movie could participate in an indoor cricket corporate cup to get a hang of the game. The indoor cricket cup, named Corporate Quicket, and organised by Vidyuth at the ML Jaisimha Cricket 365 Cricket Academy, has caught the fancy of several corporates in Hyderabad and even in faraway Bengaluru. The job of piecing together a team fell on me.
We finally got three from MCC - Suri, Pawan and Ramesh, Sanjay from Central Excise, Me, Gajanand Reddy, Sumanth, Ramesh, Shilpi, Srinivas from Art Beat Capital, Uttam from BDL and Mohana Krishna, Sagar, Subbu etc filling up the bench in various capacities. It needs to qualify for the semis from the first three league matches and then plan ahead. A blend of youth and experience like they say and should be fun and competitive.
What is more interesting is that this is almost like a Men Within situation for Mohan or Sumanth to look and experience. A team that has just been formed and needs to be made into a cohesive bunch, a five match route to the final result. How do we get this team to win? It should be an interesting process.
We bought a new kit for the team, practiced the indoor format which is completely different from the regular format and got a hang of the proceedings. The indoor cricket game is placed within an enclosed net just slightly bigger and wider than the cricket pitch and is played with a softer ball. Eight members make up the team and all eight get to bat and bowl.
Today we have a practice match and on Sunday we have our first match against the Bengaluru team. Let us see where we go from here.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

If You Love Someone...Bestseller List

'The Hindu' in its Hyderabad edition carries a weekly bestseller list based on the AA Husain bookstore's report. This week's bestseller list was topped by 'If you love someone...' which is wonderful I hope it continues to remain on the list for many weeks to come.
The initial reactions to the novel have been good. But I must share what the National Book Trust, the organiser of the World Book Fair, has printed in its Newsletter.

Quotes from the book launch:

"We, particularly women, are brought up as per the expectations of our parents, not according to our wishes. While only a woman can realise her problems, understand the lives, conflicts and sacrifices of women, a cricketer and a management consultant writing a book on a woman's life is really an achievement.'
- Smt. Renuka Chowdhury, Former Minister Woman and Child Development

'The charactersisation of Meghna - beautiful, intelligent, complex, extremely attrative, yet instantly recognisable central character is the triumph in the novel."
- Prof. Anuradha Marwah, Delhi University

One Day Workshop - Department of Dance, University of Hyderabad

I did a one-day workshop, a compressed version of 'Recognizing Excellence Within' for the 2nd year students of the Department of Dance, Sarojini Naidu School of Performing Arts, Fine Arts and Communication, University of Hyderabad yesterday, the 15th February 2010. I was pretty confident that the program could be made modular - a one hour talk, a two hour workshop/talk, a half day program, a one day program, a two day and a three day program - conveying the core message of pursuing excellence or, of being the best one can be.
The class size was small - seven - which made it easier. What made it better was that they were all punctual and very eager to learn. Archana, Surekha and Priyadarshini were students of Bharatnatyam, Ramakrishna, Radhika and Vijayalakshmi were students of Kuchipudi and Mallesh was a student of folk dancing and western dancing. We started off at 940 am. Treena joined us a few minutes later and she assisted/participated in the program which was a great help.
To do 15 handouts that ask some tough soul-searching questions in the course of one day is quite tough and I was amazed at the interest level that the class sustained throughout the day - even during the most difficult sessions such as making detailed action plans. In the end it all was worth it when they came and shared their experience. Mallesh driving home the point that he became aware that he had so many more marketable talents that he never thought of. Vijayalakshmi was thrilled at her husband's reaction, Surekha's gradual evolution during the day, Archana's clarity of her goal and her sustained enthusiasm, Radhika's vision and her future plans for her school, Ramakrishna's clarity of purpose and Priyadarshini's awareness of her strengths.
Ms. Madhavi Puranam sat patiently throughout the day while the sessions were in progress and it was entirely due to her initiative that this workshop was possible. I am glad that the Department is making these efforts to expose the students to management, marketing and other areas which they are normally not, because I think it adds depth to their expression. It is one thing to know and practice dance, and another to know and emote what one has experienced in life. It is good to be exposed to all aspects, commercial, creative, scientific etc because it helps be a whole person. In fact the initiative by Dr. Jyothi of the School of Management is also laudable because she was keen that the first year students be exposed to the workshop. I am impressed by the faculty of the University of Hyderabad and their endeavour to give their students that extra bit.
So thank you University of Hyderabad, Ms. Anuradha J, Head of Department, Ms. Madhavi Puranam, Treena and all the students. I really enjoyed the experience and as always I learnt much more from the session than what I gave!
Thank you all!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Indraganti Mohana Krishna - Talented film director

I like Mohan's work simply because he has the confidence of someone who knows his craft. I saw 'Ashta Chamma' seven times and never got bored for a minute. I liked the fact that it is packed with content, was well planned and executed. He did not pander to the audience and treated it as something with intelligence. Dealing with a bunch of first timers and getting them to act of their skins was another thing he pulled off. All in all a very impressive record for me. To me he should have bagged a few awards for direction, story, screenplay and such other awards for 'Ashta Chamma'.
Also, I like talking to him -he is very entertaining.
I met him yesterday to find out a bit about screenplay writing and direction.
We started with the difference between a script and a screenplay. He said that the script is a generic term like a 'book' while a screenplay is more technical like a 'novel'. A good screenplay is the form of telling a story as one would like to see it unfolding on the screen. That is a good place to start with.
Another thing he said was that a good screenplay depicts the action and does not describe it. The story is driven by verbs and not by adjectives!
Like any story a screenplay begins with the idea. The idea takes structure with a beginning, a middle and an end. And then the treatment takes over where the story is driven scene wise.
Mohan believes in preparation. He believes that the story, characters have to develop organically. Only after everything is explored and known and felt under his skin does he feel that it is under control. The characters must be known in such detail that he quotes his teacher ' must know the character's sexual preferences as well if one must know him or her well enough to understand how he or she would react to a situation.' One may never use these details but it adds depth to the character.
Does such preparation make the entire process flat and boring? No, he says, spontaneity and preparation can never be mutually exclusive. In fact preparation should help the delivery to be more consistent and more spontaneous.
For his part he prefers writing a screenplay that is 300 pages and then bringing it down to 120 pages. I like to do the same thing with my novels as well!
As far as direction is concerned Mohan feels that the biggest challenge is to get the actors to perform. A director must be in complete control of how he wants the scene done, what he wants the character to do and how it helps him to drive the story forward. For all purposes only the director knows how the story would unfold and he cannot afford to be uncertain or loose about the scene because it could end up all wrong.
As a director he feels that he would be constantly dealing with change. Things might not work out exactly the way you want and there are too many uncontrollable but he must do the best within the framework without doing injustice to his story.
I asked him how he got his actors to perform best. he says that his style is to know the actors well by building a friendship with them and gaining their confidence. And the same rule applies in direction as in any other form of man management - he lets the actors do the scene the way they understand it after he explains it to them. That way the actors are living the part, they are doing it themselves the way they think their character would react in such a situation - not the way they think that the director thinks that the character would react. The line is thin he says, and the director must pull the players back in when they are crossing the line.
It all boils down to preparation of course he says. And knowing your craft.
I could not agree more!
I will write some more when I see him in action.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A Challenging Assignment

I got a call when I was in Delhi. Ms. Madhavi Puranam from the University of Hyderabad, Department of Dance wanted to know if I could do a workshop for the students of the Dance Department. I found the idea interesting. I told her I would meet her after I returned.
I met her and the Head of Department Ms. Anuradha on Monday and we fixed up a one day program for the second year students. There are seven of them. Packing all my content into one day would be quite a challenge. I am pretty excited about the audience as well.
Let's see how it pans out. More on that soon.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Badruka College - National Entrepreneurship Week

I was invited by Prof. Rao of Badruka Institue of Foreign Trade, Kacheguda, Hyderabad, to speak at their National Entrepreneurship Week last Saturday. I went with the preparation that I would share my two bits about how the MBAs could aspire to become entrepreneurs by developing the midset required. As the events unfolded I was surprised to find out that I was the chief guest and this function was the inaugural. Which meant that there was a lamp lighting to be done and also the unveiling of a fine calendar that the students had designed and produced. It was my first experience as a chief guest and I was honoured to be one.

I made do with my speech as I had prepared it. More so because I do think that it is more important for the 30 odd students to know how the entrepreneurs mind works rather than reeling out figures and facts about opportunities and laws and stuff which is available on the net anyway.

The successful entrepreneur risks everything (like all entrepreneurs do), takes complete responsibility for his act (which makes him give his best), explores all possibilities, plans everything in great detail, leaves nothing to chance, learns all that he needs to, is focussed on a clear goal, perseveres with his project in the face of difficulties, takes setbacks and failures as teachers, does not limit his learning to one area (understands that he needs to know everything - engineering, production, marketing, finance) and so on and so forth.

To me it is the state when people are at their best, their most honest, because they not only stake all they have, they personally take responsibility for the growth of their dream. Entrepreneurial mindset is what we can take everywhere - into our jobs, personal life, career, hobbies, business - because it is a choice to give it the best shot at what you wish to do. It is the pursuit of excellence in its own way with the stakes raised high!

I am so impressed with Prof. Raos' commitment to open up the thought of entrepreneurship to youngsters. And just as I promised him, I will help him realise his dream in anyway that I can. It starts with opening up the mindset just that bit.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Book Launch 'If You Love Someone' - 19th World Book Fair

Went to Delhi for the book launch of "If you love someone" two days ahead. The flight was full of people we knew: Asif from AA Husain, the Midhani team, BG Raj. Delhi was pleasantly cold but the warmth of my friends blew me over. Suresh and Vasu put me up magnanimously at their guest house at Barakhamba Road, Bhaskar lent me his car and had me picked up from the airport in fact, Prasad used his PR experience extensively, D. Suresh made it all possible, Basant Pandey took time off his otherwise busy schedule, Das gave me his journo contacts, Tanuj gave me as much time as he could, Anil Kak, Sandeep, Sahu ...and many more.
The World Book Fair
First time at the World Book Fair and it was a pretty nice experience. Pragati Maidan is a huge place and Hall 1 had all the big names; Penguin, Harper Collins, Rupa, Hachette etc. Did not pick up any books because I did not want to lug any. Indialog had a stand in Hall 2 manned by Sahu and his Man friday, Bipin. Met Clement at the Fair which was great. Food was lousy. Distances were huge to and fro the gate. Crowds were manageable. Ambience was great.
Book launch
The book launch went off very well. Sheela did a fine job of compering. There was a capacity crowd with many familiar faces. Good to see Tanuj, Madhav, Bhaskar, Sandeep Nath, D. Suresh, Clement, Anil Kak, Domblekar, Annshu Mishra, Gita Rajan and her sister Radha, Prasad among the crowd. Anuradha Marwah gave the book a wonderful introduction. My reading went off without a hitch. And the Chief Guest Smt. Renuka Chowdhury gave a great speech that was far beyond my expectation. She dwelt on the book in detail, said that the protagonist was a 'real person' that every Indian woman could relate to, and that it was a sensitively written novel that everyone should read. The Press was in attendance in a fair number.
All in all it went off far better than I expected. Thank you all!
And I loved what I experienced of Delhi. Plan to go there again and explore it at leisure.