Shades of Yellow

That tiny promise
Of the first gleaming Sun.
From behind everything
Through the horizon.

That rising king to the throne.
Changing hues of Orange
From amber to blonde
From bumblebee to corn.

That Tuscany artwork
Of embroidered ochre borders
And finely knitted mustard
Seeking my attention.

That shining glory,
Golden—a burning fury.
Showering its might
Dare I fight.

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bc0B9SmlkqPwamd8BtJ2x2CUicqBSyR419F-540/

PC: Shambhavi’s camera roll, Instagram

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That crimson ball
Through the Spring and the Fall.
Quietly appearing from behind the vine,
Breathtakingly simple for one and all.

The ages of the Sun
From honey to medallion
Of joyful colors and tone
Are, after all, second to none.
©Suyog Ketkar

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Movie in Review: Kedarnath

Any debut that lends expressions, insights, and promises alike, is a dream debut. More in my case, because this is my first movie review. Nevertheless, it has been a promising debut from the lead actor (female) of Kedarnath, Sara Ali Khan, who plays Mandakini (cutely shortened to Mukku). That’s it. I’m done.

Wait, here are the details:

We will start with the surprisingly underplaying Sushant Singh Rajput as the sober-looking Mansoor Khan—Believe me, this has nothing to do with Sara’s grandfather, Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi. So, Mansoor is from the “other” religion. He follows the footsteps of his father of helping pilgrims climb up to the Kedarnath temple. He is a genuine guy, who charges a genuine fee for his efforts. He even clicks a groupfie with pilgrims after their darshan is complete. And, manages to look fresh despite the tiring climb of 7 kilometers up the hill. Basically, he is everything that a girl looks for in a “relationship”—minus the possibly conflicting part of religion. But, we are diverting.

This movie doesn’t do justice to his acting talent. Just that his underplaying has helped his co-star. His frequently used non-verbal dialogues (read eyes) convey thoughts more than sufficiently, while Sara’s eyes convey Mukku’s intentions equally well. Whether it is Mukku throwing away her share of tea or her sister confronting and warning Mansoor to stay away from Mukku, the actors have portrayed emotions rather well. Kedarnath is a Hindi-heavy movie, so Sara’s efforts on improving her spoken Hindi have well-paid off. It is kind of cute to watch her call her own father “Panditji”. That adds a hint of situational humor, too.

As is the case with most star kid’s debut, all actors have performed well except for the kids themselves. Coming to the acting and the cast, the patriarch pandit is played by Nitish Bharadwaj, who is as composed as ever. Pooja Gor, the stern elder sister of Sara, has acted to the point and deserves a special mention. As the mothers of Mukku and Mansoor, respectively, Sonali Sachdev and Alka Amin have brilliantly timed their tears of both joy and fear. Arun Bali, playing the chief priest of the Kedarnath temple, brings the usual sense of stability to his role. Kullu, who is the villain and the fiancé of Mukku, has been well portrayed by Nishant Dahiya. Overall, full marks for the casting.

This brings us to the story and direction. To cover the weak plot, the director has used the backdrop of the May 2013 catastrophe; yes, just like most of KJo’s melodramatic movies that hide weak plots under the carefully woven “dying with Cancer” sympathies. In Kedarnath, it is the torrential rains, landslides, and loss of life that find an immediate connection with the Indian audiences. To top it all, the protagonist doesn’t make it to the rescue helicopter—you can figure out the remaining part. Not to point out the director’s fault, a couple of things could have well been changed. For instance, the meditating Himalaya Tyagi could have lived through the sluicing downpour and subsequent floods.

Basically, there isn’t much of a “story”: a plot that’s tried and tested for just about a million times. A poor boy and a rich girl. Wait. Let me rephrase: A poor Muslim boy and a rich Hindu girl. There you go. The plot or its absence thereof lends enough space for Sara to showcase her acting, dialogue delivery, and dancing skills. I will give bonus marks to the director for weaving in micro-plots that help the movie steer along smoothly to the conclusion. We all know what happened in those floods back in May 2013. So much was lost. The good thing is, the director has covered most of the real-life encounters. The VFX work is commendable.

While the movie is banned in Uttarakhand, and certain sections of the audience believe that the movie projects politically sensitive topics, it is the acting, or the promise of it, that comes out as the winner. A fair comparison that almost everyone will draw is between Sara and Dhadak’s female lead debutante, Jhanvi Kapoor. The funny thing is, both to-be stars do playacting (overacting, as we call it). I found Sara to be relatively better at acting. Just that in Sara’s absence, any other actor could do her role, unlike in the case of some established actors like Kangna Ranaut—particularly, in the case of Tanu Weds Manu and Queen. But, that’s asking for too much a little too early.

After watching Sara’s maiden performance in Kedarnath, I can safely say that she is one of the better actors to debut in 2018. Unlike Saif Ali Khan whose debut in Parampara didn’t earn him the required momentum, Sara’s debut looks to match more to her mother’s immensely successful debut in Betaab.

Long story short, success is a team’s effort. And, so is Kedarnath, a story inspired by real-life events. Kedarnath is an account of those few occasions that make us realize how tiny and powerless we are in comparison to the might of nature. Not all is lost, though: amidst the sludge full of dirt, debris, and dead bodies, it is the memories, faith, and Kedarnath temple that continue to stay tall—both in the movie and for real.

In the end, we have two love-struck souls departed by the never-bridging gap of life and death. Speaking of debuting in Bollywood, you can’t get more Bollywood-ishly typical than this!

My rating? 2.95/5.

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Contribution to STC India Annual Conference 2018

Since the last few years, I have been regularly contributing to the STC India Annual Conferences.

This year though, I was loaded with work. After I gave up the co-editorship for Indus, the STC India chapter magazine, I could free up some schedule for the blog. So, I could schedule articles and posts beforehand and be more active on my blog (site).

Late November, about three days before the release of the newsletter, I received a request to write an article for this year’s Annual Conference’s newsletter. Of all the time I was given, this is what I could manage.

I am happy that my article fits well with the others. And, happier, because I could deliver within the given time. Hope you too will like reading it. 🙂

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What I Look for in a Story?

Writing stories requires huge amounts of mental investments. For each story I write, there is a lot that I need to get correct, for example, context. At least, that is one of the few things I look for in a story; any story—technical or not. What else do I look for? I delve the question.

Purpose

Technical and creative stories have a lot in common. For writers like you and I, both technical and creative storytelling are journeys full of experiences. The reader is our co-passenger, who, along the way, discovers and rediscovers. The reader, I believe, is also a seeker—like us. We embark this journey along with them, on their own terms, and, sometimes, in their times of dire needs. That’s why the first rule is always the most important in my eyes: have the purpose clearly defined. Having a clear purpose ensures a unidirectional flow of words, which builds a memorable experience.

Rehearsal of Fear

Despite how purposed we are, if there is still something that makes us all human, it is fear. Uncertainty, for certain, is fearful. So is lack of information. And so is misinformation. Fear has a say in both technical and creative stories. Our readers often call our stories “eyeopeners” not because the stories rehearse, relive their fears. But because stories begin with their fears and end with resolutions for their fears. Sometimes with logic and science. Sometimes with emotions and interpretations. Our stories are sources of remedies and cures for our readers.

Position vs Juxtaposition

Even if we were to know what constitutes a good story, would it be enough? The larger question, in this context, is of knowing who we are as storytellers. Would I, as the writer, behave the same way as the reader? Would you, as a reader, be equally moved (emotionally) each time you were to read a story? Like I said before, we are all seekers. Consider this: we look at the outside world to find answers to questions that lay inside us. We continue to walk the two paths of which one leads us towards finding answers and the other, towards exploring unanswered questions. Our stories must help readers seek more answers more quickly. Through the journey of a story, we must take ourselves from point A to point B. From one plot to another. From one cause to another.

Connecting the Dots

Stories are full of expressions. Delight lies at the crossroads of the seeker’s past or present: at a previously recited story (or tradition) that connects common threads. At times, even distant, disconnected stories have threads in common. In the context of technical writing, it is much like the seeker’s experience of design, which is only as good as the product and its interface, a story is also only as good as the seeker’s comprehension. In the context of creative writing, it is like reading through accounts of experiences: co-creating value. We read. We imagine or relive. We compare. At times, we imitate. We learn.

Conclusion

A thought, by itself, is like water. Despite what form it takes, it remains the same in its essence. So long as the intent is clear, our stories, too, should behave accordingly. So long as seekers continue to find answers in them, the stories remain immortal.

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The Child Never Died

The child in me has never died, for

When the morning, gleaming Sun shines,
The aroma of each new day brings a new smile.

Thoughts unbound. Countless dreams.
Coloring the milestones ahead in my stride.

Lives genuinely appear truthful to me.
The love in people’s eyes equals their might.

Recounting experiences; resounding the self.
Reciting the lore called life.

Never did I stop sprinting toward goals,
Never did I stop seeing horizons beyond the sight.

Things anew have always taken me aback.
Things anew have always had me surprised.

Reasons are infinite. The truth remains one, though.
That the child in me has never died.
©Suyog Ketkar

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Top 3 Things I Look for in B/W Portrait Photography

I have been practicing black and white (B/W) portrait photography since as long as I got my DSLR. In fact, for that very purpose, I had purchased a 50mm f1.8 prime even before I got my DSLR. I knew it would be useful. And how!

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Candid shots of kids have a surprise factor. Not for the subjects, though.

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Candid shots can give you perfect subjects in (almost) perfect set ups.

Here’s a list of tips I have come up with after experimenting with B/W photography:

Begin with What and Why

Have a clear picture of what you want your picture or subject to convey. Answer the “what” and “why” through the picture. Think what story you want your B/W portrait to tell and how.

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The wrinkles have thousands of stories folded along.

Let the Eyes Talk

Consider focusing on the eyes. Let the sparkling eyes of the subject, especially kids, do the talking. Focus on the expressions: draw the attention on the subject’s thoughts.

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Yep. Those eyes.

Look for High Contrast

B/W portraits bring out the best contrast in people’s expressions. That’s because there are only two colors for you to play around with. The black and the white are the only color sources to bring out emotions onto the paper/screen. Having a higher contrast helps.

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Depth in the eyes conveys more than the picture.

If you are clicking pictures from your phone, look for settings that give you higher contrast. This will help you highlight facial expressions. For non-portrait B/W, switch to HDR or taking longer exposures. But, for this, you will need a tripod.

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One from my Instagram feed: the underside of a bridge. (London, UK)

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Whether it is? Or, the weather it is?

If you liked any of the B/W portraits I clicked, let me know.

Happy clicking.

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