Smita Patil – The Unofficial Biography

An unofficial biography of Smita Patil – researched and written by Saurabh Garg.

Hello! So somehow I stumbled onto the life of Smita Patil and I was so fascinated that I got reading about her. The output was this twitter thread. Here’s the same thread, in the shape of an essay. 

Smita Patil was an actor par excellence and above all, an extraordinary human being. She lived for all of 31 years but her legacy HAS to stay around for 31 millennia at least and this is an attempt towards that. 

If I could sum her life in 3 bullet points, I’d say, she was/is…

  • – a study in contrasts
  • – deeply compassionate, especially towards under-represented (indie filmmakers, feminists, the common folk)
  • – fearless, spoke her mind and lived life on her own terms

Lemme elaborate.

Wait. Before I start, I think she was probably not meant to be even born! 
Smita was the second child of Shivajirao Patil (a politician) and Vidyatai Patil (a social-worker/nurse). However, when her mother was pregnant with Smita, their financial condition was unstable and her mother was reluctant to continue with the pregnancy when she conceived Smita. Even when the mother went ahead with Smita, she was born premature baby (on 17 Oct ’56). 

Legend says that when she was born, she had an angelic smile on her. Her mom named her Smita. Smita means “ever-smiling woman”. And since she was dusky, her mother endearingly called ‘Kali’ or its appendages like ‘Kaloba’ and ‘Kaluli’. 

Most of her friends call her Smi though. I will take the liberty of calling Smi in this post. 

Smi, as long as she lived, had a very strong and important relationship with her mother. Smi would often quip (in Marathi), “Tula mi nako hote na” (you didn’t want me, right?). Nothing could be far from the truth. Smi’s mother has been a pivotal figure in her life. She in fact raised Prateik (Smita Patil’s son) when Smi passed away at the young age of 31. 

Growing up, Smi’s family was based in Pune and was part of “Rashtriya Sewa Dal” where they’d travel to towns and villages across India and performed dance dramas. She’d play the role of Jijabai (Shivaji’s mother). This was her early tryst with dance, acting, stage, and everything else that we know her for!

HOW DID SHE GET INTO FILMS?

Well, luck! 

One of her friends, Deepak Kirpekar, was a hobbyist photographer and would take pictures of Smita Patil in various outfits. Since the photographer’s friend was a newsreader on DD (Jyotsna Kirpekar), the couple would often go to the DD office at Worli, in Mumbai. Once while they were there, the office was getting renovated and the friend spread Smita’s photos on a makeshift table, while his wife was busy. These photos caught the eye of then DD director, P.V. Krishnamurthy. 
He invited Smi to audition and the rest is, well, history!

Smi started as a newsreader on DD and she was so good with her husky voice and magnetic eyes that people would rush home to catch her show! One of these was actor Vinod Khanna, who was romantically involved with Smi at a point in time.

Cut to FTII. 

A couple of students (one of them was Arun Khopkar) were looking for actresses for their Diploma Film. They asked Shabana Azmi but she was unavailable. They were lost and went walking around the FTII campus. They passed by a TV shop where the bank of TV screens was tuned onto Smita Patil, reading the news! They were stuck by “defined cheekbones and striking eyes” and decided to cast her. 

They did not know who she was but they tracked her down and convinced her to do a role in ‘Teevra Madhyam’. This film is on Youtube! See it here
Post that film, Smi got to work on some roles for Shyam Benegal. These included Charandas Chor (a children’s film), and Nishant (Smi shared the screen with Shabana Azmi in this one). 

Later, Benegal signed her for Bhumika, which was based on the life of Marathi actor Hansa Wadkar and her struggle to cope with her career, love, and independence. For this role, Smi won the National Award for the best actress (in 1977).

This film made her realize that films were her calling. And there was no stopping her. 

Three years later she won her second National Award, this time for Chakra (in 1980). It is said that she donated all the money that she got as the award to women’s causes. She also won a Filmfare for this film (in 1982). Oh, random trivia – Nasserdduing Shah was her co-actor in both films. And years later, the two of them also auditioned for an adaptation of Gandhi. 

Her string of awards did not stop here. 

She was conferred with a Padma Shri in 1985, one of the youngest (if not THE youngest) film personalities to be awarded.

The Government of India ever released a postage stamp honoring her! 

AS AN ACTOR

As an actor, she chose to do experimental, small, and art films over commercial ones. 

She would do films for free or tiny sums if she liked the subject and content. Case in point? Bhavani Bhavai (in 1980). The film explored caste-discrimination in Gujarat and Smi did it because she believed in the underlying theme and message of the film.

She eventually did foray into commercial cinema. She did only to expand her acting prowess. Plus she believed that if she becomes famous, she could support small filmmakers more! After all her audience would be curious to see smaller films if they featured her. She apparently said, “commercial film is a job I have to do in order to pursue my goal of helping create an audience for the small film in India.”

Even with commercial cinema, Smi refused to do films that underplayed the role of women. 

Namak Halal is a noteworthy exception. The ‘Aaj Rapat Jaaye’ track apparently pained her immensely. She was reportedly very upset with the song and after it was shot, she locked herself up in her room and cried for hours. It was only AB who could put her at ease! 

Anyhow. She did about 80 films. About 10 of those were released after she passed away. She was paired frequently with Rajesh Khanna. And with Raj Babbar (RB).  

PERSONAL LIFE

In Mahesh Bhatt’s Arth, Smi’s character loves a married man and wants to settle down with him. Ironically, the theme played out in her real life as she fell in love with RB, a married man with two kids!

Smi was married to Raj Babbar (RB) and like other things in her life, it probably wasn’t meant to happen! 

Why? 

Well, for starters, RB was already married to Nadira. Second, her mother was unhappy about it. She apparently said, “I can’t get out of our purana sanskar nor can I embrace contemporary morality fully.” Plus, it may not have mattered to her but the very feminist institutions that she supported, labeled her “ghar todne wali” once the news broke.

But Smi and RB persisted and eventually married. Oh, and RB was still married to Nadira at this time. A big deal in Indian society. And more so in those times! 
Years later, RB said about Smi, “I would say that she was a bit mizaazwali (this is being said with all the respect and humility towards her)” 

And so yes she was! 

PS: I must add that there are unsubstantiated reports that she apparently had a turbulent, emotionally abusive marriage with RB. She reportedly planned to leave him after childbirth. Not sure of this though. 

Smi was “delighted” when she became a mother. Here is an anecdote. Soon after PB was born, she developed a high fever (104 degrees). She put ice packs on her body and fed him! 

PS: I can write a LOT about the early days of Prateik Babbar and how he coped with the loss of her mother! But I think I would skip it.

SMITA PATIL’S LEGACY

Smita Patil is probably the most remarkable person I have come to know. I don’t even know how to get started talking about her. 

People that knew her to call her bindaas, bohemian, and Tom-boy-ish. And yet she stood for women’s rights and the early feminism movement. Even though she would play tough, conservative roles on screen, in real life, she was the polar opposite! She was a typical bindass girl, “very liberated and progressive in her thoughts and work.” She was fond of western clothes and wore off-shoulder dresses, halter tops, fitted trousers, and boots in contrast to her screen image in perfect handloom sarees.

For her news gigs, she would go to the studio in her jeans and shirt and wrap the saree neatly just minutes before the camera rolled in! 

Her mother once said, “She used to dress like a bhikaran (a tramp). She’d wear a pair of jeans, pull on a kurta (even her father’s), Kolhapuri chappals, tie her hair into a bun and rush out. She never needed a mirror. Once she was to meet a well-known editor for an interview at a restaurant. He couldn’t recognize her. He kept waiting for ‘actress Smita Patil’, till she introduced herself. They both burst out laughing.”

Smi was dedicated to women’s causes and women empowerment and wanted to change the perceptions about women. She was part of the Women’s Centre in Bombay and contributed the money earned from her awards to women’s organizations. This link is a great read about her support for the feminist movement.

I have to say that unlike most of her co-stars, she belonged to the people! Apart from taking a vocal stand for feminist causes and indie & small filmmakers, she truly was a gem a human being. She treated everyone with respect. She could be found playing volleyball with the unit boys. 

She would sit with the women of the village to catch breaks between shoots and was often unrecognizable to the public who had come to see her. Smi was a vegetarian and did not complain even at tough locations. If required, she would cook her own food, by borrowing things from the villagers. 

Once there was a rebellion in one of the units on a shoot. The workers were demanding better food. Smi tackled and ended by announcing and eating the same red rice that they were served! 

Even as a child, she was deeply compassionate. She’d bring stray cats and dogs home and feed them with milk and biscuits. She would personalize her gifts. She would write something special to make the gift special.

Smi was fond of photography, roads, drives, and adventure in general. The minute pack-up would be announced, she’d zip off! She once took off to Rajasthan and gave no explanation, no reason to anyone. When she came back a month later, she had a heap of photos she had shot on her Leica.

Once during monsoons, Smita drove Ashalata, another actress, at neck-break speed to Khandala. She jested with the scared Ashalata and said, “Imagine the fun if tomorrow the headlines carry, ‘Smita and Ashalata died in a car crash’!”
Other trivia about Sri before we move on? Well, she… – wanted to be a director- contributed to production and costumes- came up with “Genesis” as the name for the new company of the veteran adman, Prahlad Kakkar.

Smi loved the sea and she wanted a sea-facing flat and yearned to enjoy the rain splashing through open windows. On her visits to see the house she was building, she would have chai from the kettle along with the workers. In fact, Smi wanted these very workers to be the first guests in her home! And they were indeed the first guests. Just that Smi had passed away by then!

DEATH

The end of this fascinating life is also intriguing like the rest of it. During the shooting of Situm (1984), a handwriting expert apparently said that “She won’t live long!”.

She herself had this uncanny 6th sense, apparently. She had a premonition about AB’s Coolie accident the night before it happened!

About her own life, at different times in her life, Smi apparently told her younger sister that she wouldn’t live long. And she told Mahesh Bhatt that the lifeline was short.

The most freaky? She told actress, Poonam Dhillon that she’d die at 31! 

And boy, was she right?

She did die at the age of 31. Her son was all of 2 weeks old at the time.  

The most commonly held belief is that Smi died of Viral Encephalitis and most reporters write it as complications arising from childbirth. I am not sure of this though. Plus there are accounts that she died from medical negligence. And there are murmurs of murder. No, this is NOT substantiated at all. 

I’d say the cause of death is a mystery. 

Once Smi told a friend (Deepak Sawant) that when she died, she wanted to be sent off as a “Suhagan”. And as per her wishes, she was indeed decked up like a bride on her last journey. Random Trivia – DS has worked for decades with Amitabh Bachchan as well.

IN THE END

As I wrap this piece about Smi, I want to mention two people here. Shabana Azmi (SA) and Prateik Babbar (PB).

A. Shabana Azmi – SA and Smi started their careers almost at the same time and they had this rollercoaster relationship. SA apparently said they “were good colleagues who could never be friends.” Further, SA said, “She was born for the camera. It lingered over her face and she held it captive without the slightest effort. I felt both challenged and inspired by her as a co-actor. She was also very feminine and deeply traditional, at times easily intimidated. I think it’s these contradictions that were both her strength and her weakness. But it was also this that made her an artist who will always be spoken of when the finest actors of Indian cinema are counted.”

B. Prateik Babbar – I can write a LOT about the early days of PB and how he coped with the loss of her mother! But I think I would skip those. Have to mention that PB was raised by Smi’s mother. 

As I end this, two things stand out about Smita Patil. 

  • She is if not THE MOST, one of the most remarkable women I’ve ever come across.
  • It’s uncanny how her Reel and Real lives were so similar and so starkly different! Truth as they say, is stranger than fiction!

That’s about it. Thanks for indulging. Oh, who would you want to read about next? 

DISCLAIMERS 

  1. 1. All photos from Google / FB searches. I did not save the sources. Regret the laziness.
  2. 2. All info from online research that I did over a few days.
  3. 3. I don’t mean to slander. Am merely presenting what I found online. If I am wrong, please do point out.
  4. A lot of this has come from various reports, press releases around the time Maithali Rao’s book on Smita Patil came out (on Smi’s 60 birth anniversary). It’s titled Smita Patil, A Brief Incandescence. No, I have not read this. 

PS: There are talks of someone making a biopic on her life. When it comes out, I will be there. The first day, first show. I am that smitten with her!

PPS: Secret wish to Universe – I’d love to work on crafting the biopic!

Other things that I did not know how to include in the essay?  

  • Smita did not know English as a child. She learned it herself by reading Hadley Chase novels and through her friends
  • Smi would frequent FTII to see evening screenings with friends. In fact, she was so regular and frequent and commonplace, some people mistook her for a student/alumni.

Links that I read to come up with this essay? These are not in any order

Personal Branding 101

9 Lessons and Tips in Personal Branding for modern knowledge workers, especially as work becomes more distributed and remote!

Personal Branding 101

Hello!

In this tome, I will talk about lessons I learned from a conversation with Ashish Kila (a friend from MDI) on personal branding. When I showed him a draft of this one, he said that this is more of Networking 101. I disagree and I think I will let you decide. 

A quick intro to Ashish Kila (AK)


AK manages Perfect Group and apart from all the fabulous work around value investing and the impact he has had on his community, he has worked really hard on his personal brand to improve his network. He has ensured that the right kind of people know him for the right kind of things. I mean talk to anyone from the world of value investing and there are odds that they would have heard about him if they aren’t friends with him already! 

So, as a practitioner and student of branding and marketing, I sat with him and tried to decode how he’s done this.

Before I launch into what he said, some disclaimers… 

  • This is based on my notes from the meeting that went like a whirlwind. AK had so much to share and I had so little speed with my scribbles and notes. So I may have missed a lot of what he said. I may have also attributed things to him that he may not have said. AK, I am sorry for this. 
  • I am presenting the conversation as a set of “lessons”. AK did not make this classification into lessons per se. 
  • These “lessons” are in a specific order – each lesson builds on the subsequent one! 

Wait.

What is a personal brand? 

If I am going to post this 2000-word tome on how to build one, I better define it. 
Your personal brand is nothing but the sum total of your reputation, the value of your word, the experiences that people have had with you, the after-taste they are left with after they meet you, the kind of work you do (quality, quantity, timeliness, etc) and more such things. 

And why is personal branding important?

Well, the information economy we live in, every opportunity that comes to you comes because of your personal brand. 

Gone are the days when people would look for the absolute best person to do a gig. Sounds counter-intuitive but clients these days would rather work with a reliable person. And not with someone they don’t know, even if that person is THE best ever. 

So, unless you are like furniture in your workplace, you will need to work on and cultivate your brand. 

And, without further ado, here are the lessons! 

1️⃣ Lesson 1.
If you are an entrepreneur just starting out, you are the face of your brand! And rather than investing in a brand for your company, work on building your personal brand and you’d notice that it would rub off onto your business! 

In AK’s case, post his MBA, he joined the business that his father started decades ago. When AK started working with his father, as the cliche goes, he was fresh out of the boat and he had to work hard to create his brand in the value investing world. And of course, with time, that has helped the brand Perfect Group. 

This is probably the biggest lesson for me. Even though I am a marketer for hire, I have remained behind a veil all my life. If I want my business to flourish, I need to be out there a lot more. After all, I am the biggest advocate of my business! I thus need to work hard on my personal brand and that means work on content and appearances (and heck, even put my photo out there).

2️⃣ Lesson 2.
Identify themes that you wish to be identified with.

Malala – Women’s rights
Bill Gates – Software, Global health
Piyush Pandey – mustache, advertising 
Ranveer Singh – irreverence
Sanjay Bakshi – value investing 

Get the drift? 

And EACH thing you do MUST be a part of that one theme. And the theme must be so simple that a 5-year old must be able to understand that. 

An easy way to think about themes is to think about the hashtags that you would want to be identified for. 

Lemme elaborate on AK. He clearly stands for three things, IMHO. Value investing, Community, and Leadership. Each thing he does – teaching, mentoring, masterclasses, tweets, blog posts, etc serves one of those themes. 

If you are someone like me that chases multiple things, pick and choose three hashtags that you could stand for!

And here is a question for you. What are your themes? 

For me, all my life, I have taken pride in being a Jack of all trades and thus have remained all over the place when it comes to my personal brand. I met a friend the other day and he said that no one knows for sure what I do! But now, after this session, it will change. I will stand for creative entrepreneurship, startups, and impact. Yes, these are fuzzy. I need to work hard on my brand. Will evolve with time. 

3️⃣ Lesson 3.
Add value. 
Each thing you do MUST add value. If you can not add value, forget about trying to build a personal brand / network.

AK is known so wide and far because he is out there helping others, connecting them, gifting them books (relevant I must add), being of use. And tangible use at that. There are enough and more armchair activists. A conversation with AK adds real value. To a point that I’d be happy to pay him. 

If you want a network / brand, you MUST add value. Around the themes that you want to be known for! 

4️⃣ Lesson 4.
Create content. 
One easy way to add value is to create content. This could be a blog post, a podcast, an interview, a well thought out tweet, or a simple link that allows your followers to derive value from.

Content is like compounding. It takes consistent effort over the long-term to see the tsunami of results. 
And like compounding, sooner you start larger the results.
Like compounding, start with a bang! Start big. Let the law of numbers work for you! You can’t expect to do tiny things if you want an enormous impact. 

Oh, and each piece of content must have a well-planned distribution strategy. It is no longer enough to just churn out valuable pieces. You need to take them to places where your audience is! 

A simple and powerful tip that AK gave me? Find a publication that has a wider reach than you. And write for them. I am on it. 

5️⃣ Lesson 5.
What you do on SM is important! 
On Social Media, most people (apart from your friends and family) follow you because they get to learn from you. And what you post adds value. 

So, each piece that you put on SM, it has to add value. And it has to be a part of the theme that you wish to be known for. 

Oh, please stay authentic. And while you are being authentic, please ensure that your content is relevant for your audience.

6️⃣ Lesson 6.
When in Rome…
What he means is that you need to tweak your content and appearance and message and conversations for the Social Media channel you are on. A tweet is different from a FB post and is different from a LinkedIn conversation. And so on and so forth. Most of us are guilty of trying to fit the same thing at all places. I commit an even greater sin – I am inactive on most channels apart from Twitter. 

So, identify the channels you want to be on.
Create things that would do well on those channels.
In a format that will get the most relevant eyeballs (most relevant; not just most).  

7️⃣ Lesson 7.
Engage engage engage! 
Identify key people in your domain.
Look at various channels that you think your target audience is on.
And engage with them.
And ensure that EACH engagement adds value.

Also, the channel could also mean things beyond the Internet. For his community work, AK has to take out hours to be present at community meetups, industry forums, and whatnot. Yes, there is life beyond the Internet. 

So, engage. At the place where your audience is! 

I do this but I am yet to see the results. I am largely on twitter and I’ve made lists of marketers that I like and respect and I try to engage with them. May be I don’t add enough value? May be I need to tweak my filters? 

8️⃣ Lesson 8.
Jo dikhta hai wo bikta hai. 
Anyone from India would know of this adage. Translated in English, means whatever is visible, will sell. 

So, get out there and seek out opportunities around your personal brand. And ensure that the word is out there.

Yes, it is time-consuming.
Yes, it’s a lot of effort.
Yes, there are hardly any tangible outcomes. 
Who said it was going to be easy? 

A Network / Personal Brand takes a lot of work to cultivate. AK has invested a lot of time and effort into it. What we see right now is an outcome of hard and consistent work that he has put in over the last so many years! 

9️⃣ Lesson 9.
Use technology to your advantage. 
AK mentioned that he uses Whatsapp broadcast lists to share relevant things with relevant people. He also mentioned that he takes copious notes on each person, each meeting. He knows where to slot who. He knows what will move who. He knows who to reach out to when he needs help with a certain thing.

It is such a simple and yet powerful idea. While I am pretty adept with tech, I think I need to learn this. 

***

To be honest, when I was meeting AK, I did not expect to learn so much about networking & personal branding from a “financial brain” but guess that’s how life is – hits you from unexpected places when you are off-guard. 

Also, AK has kindly agreed to help the readers of this letter! Please do reach out to him. He is on every platform you imagine 🙂 

Also, apart from these 9 things, some other notes that I took that I can’t seem to slot into a lesson are… 

  • Think long-term. The long term is 10 years. Not 10 days. 
  • Iterate. Tweak. Experiment. There is no formula for what works. What works for AK may not work for you. And vice versa. Some people are plain lucky. But you will have to put in serious time and effort to be able to do this. 
  • Students are your best bet when you want to get feedback on things fast. They are smarter than you (like all newer generations than you) and they have zero context. Thus they are fearless and can question the very tenets that you stand for. The lesson I am taking away is that I will approach all colleges around me and try to be their marketing SPOC and challenge my understanding of the discipline.  
  • Testimonials. Videos. AK is a big advocate of this. Even though report after report pointing that video is what people consume more than anything else, I have my reservations. I will let you decide.
  • A great rule of thumb is that assume EVERYthing you put out on SM will end up on your CV for your prospective clients / employees / partners / colleagues to see and dissect. 

So, yeah.
That’s about it.
What are some of your “tips” for building networks / personal brands?  

And like I asked you in the beginning, I think this is a piece on personal brands. AK thinks this is more apt for networking. What do you think? 


Saurabh Garg
Met AK and wrote this in Sep 2019

PS: One more thing. 
Plant seeds. 

AK did not really give out this advice but it occurred to me while I was talking to him. 
Planting seeds is to seed opportunities that have the potential to grow. 

Lemme give an example to further illustrate this. 
Even when you know that a certain conversation will not lead to your personal brand, please engage. Plant that seed. Let the world know. And then let that grow. Create opportunities. Wait till you get lucky. Law of numbers. Create chances so that serendipity strikes you. Say hello to that poor fellow who’s got the middle seat and is jealous of your window / aisle seat. 

This post, for example, has nothing to do with the themes that I wish to be known for. And yet I am putting in time (took me about 2 hours – yes I am slow) to write this. I am planting this seed. This will hopefully make me known a tad more. This will probably get a larger audience than my SM presence can ever get.

Originally posted to the subscribers of my weekly newsletter, Shoulders of Giants. Subscribe to it here

Hero’s Journey for Munna Bhai MBBS

Prof. Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth model (The Hero’s Journey), as seen from the lens of Raju Hirani’s Munna Bhai MBBS.

Credits: Vinod Chopra Films

Hello hello!

You know, Munna Bhai? The film? Well, this is where Shreya and I try and decode the idea of the Hero’s Journey via how they’ve been portrayed in popular films. Read more about the project here.

For each film that we take up, we would talk about the plot, break that into a beat sheet, and then try to identify what part of films fits into what part of the monomyth structure. 

Without further ado, here we go!

The plot 

The Sanjay Dutt starrer was written by Rajkumar Hirani and Vidhu Vinod Chopra

The story, set in contemporary Mumbai, is of Murli Prasad Sharma, aka, Munna (played by Sanjay Dutt). He is a Robinhood-ish goon for hire in Mumbai. As a character, he is simple and flawed. He’s all the happy-go-lucky and all he seeks in life is approval from his father. But his flaw is that he’s lied to his father (Hari Prasad Sharma, played by Late Sunil Datt) that he’s a doctor and runs a hospital in Mumbai. To live that lie, he puts up an elaborate facade everytime his father comes to visit him.

All’s well in his regular life, till his father bumps into a real doctor (Dr. Asthana, played by Boman Irani) and proposes that Munna and Dr. Asthana’s daughter (Chinki / Dr. Suman, played by Gracy Singh) get married to each other. On the day when the marriage discussions were to happen, Dr. Asthana finds out the truth about Munna. He humiliates Munna’s father and throws them out of his house. 

Hari Prasad Sharma being the man of his honor, he feels humiliated, disowns his son and goes back to his village.

Munna is aghast – the only thing he held dear (his father’s pagdi) has been attacked and he is helpless! Against the advice of his trusted flunky (Circuit, played by Arshad Warsi), he decides that he would become a doctor for real and earn his father’s respect. 

The story then follows Munna’s journey as he uses rather unconventional methods to navigate the world of medical studies. Along the way he finds his love in the very person he was supposed to get married to, makes friends across genders, cadres, backgrounds et al and collides head-on with the steadfast, moral, principled Dr. Asthana.

As the film ends, like the proverbial Hero, Munna wins all that there is to win and turns his “enemies” into allies. And, they live happily ever after! 

The plot, broken into a beat sheet. And the Hero’s Journey structure. 

Disclaimer for a millionth time – these are our interpretations and could be incorrect. This is an academic exercise to learn more about Hero’s Journey!

Also, we will use the following interpretation of the journey that places equal “weightage” to all three stages (unlike the more popular one that is skewed towards the two worlds).

Source: Unknown
Part 1/2
Part 2 /2

So, there! 

Even though NOT all stages of the Hero’s Journey are evident in Munna Bhai MBBS, the story clearly follows the structure. Enough to warrant an investigation and research. 

Please do give us feedback on our interpretation. 

Also, should you want the open files and notes that we made and have not published, please email us and we’d be touch. We have Munna Bhai’s script (found via the internet), script broken into beat-sheet (our interpretation and may not be right), and various stages of the Hero’s Journey, as adapted for Munna Bhai MBBS. Happy to share those 🙂

EndNote

What would we improve if I was asked to make the film better?

Two things…  

A. We’d make the villain a tad more powerful. 

Thing is, in our opinion, in India, we do not believe in an all-powerful, impossible to kill villain. In most of our stories, once the villain is often a lesser mortal than the hero. Of course there are parts where the villain is strong, after all we like to see fights, but Hero remains the more powerful entity. The way we go through the struggle of the Hero, we often leave that out for the villain. Compared to the West, they spend as much time on the villian – this makes the villain as loved as the hero. Case in point? The Joker! In our lores, we all know that Duryodhana was an accomplished fighter but he was blinded by his lust for power. In the retelling, we don’t delve on his good parts. Similarly, Raavana was a Pandit but we don’t really spend a lot of time showcasing that. 

In Munna Bhai, we know that Dr. Asthana is a straight-jacketed individual. But we do not go into his past to understand why he’s like that! 

B. The character of Dr. Suman / Chinki. 

The other part that is lacking in this story is the character of Dr. Suman. She has a very very insignificant role to play. She does not help him cheat, she does not get vocal against her father ever, except the last scene (which looks like a forced fit). She is even ok with the idea of getting married to a person that she’s not seen after she was a kid! 

What few things could we add to make the story follow the Hero’s Journey more closely?

Again, two things… 

A. The character of Munna had to reach the final destination by himself. And not use assistance from Dr. Suman to rally the support. 

B. We did not find an active mentor (apart from Dr. Rustom) guiding him through. 

Further Reads

Here are some things that we read while we were working on this piece. 

About Raju Hirani and Raju Hirani’s comments on Munna Bhai MBBS

So, Raju Hirani lived with the idea of Munna Bhai for 9 years. And between Shreya and I, we do NOT have that many years of experience of even watching films! We are nobodies to critique his work. All we can do is learn from the output and other conversations he’s had with people about his work. 

Raju Hirani says, “the message I wanted to convey to the doctors was to have more compassion. If they want to make money they should go somewhere else” and I think it’s amply clear in the film. Even when Munna gives up (in the last scene) and moves on, he goes back to being a compassionate goon and not a greedy doctor! 

He further says, “Cinema is all about entertaining. My principal motto is, ‘I shall entertain’. Nobody walks into the theatre to be preached to or to learn something. So I have to be sure that whatever I do, even when I have a message to deliver, it must be done in a manner that is highly entertaining. Cinema is storytelling and story telling is about entertaining. At the same time, it is a commentary on reality.” Again, something that is VERY evident in Munna Bhai. 

He adds in another interview, “Never Lock The Script: Never call anything finished, keep writing it and it keeps getting better. Sometimes an idea which is ‘good enough’ can become perfect if we keep writing some more.” I think this is where we take courage. Even if a film has been shot and loved by people across the world, there is merit in going back and seeing what could’ve been better. Of course we can not make the same film again but we can definitely take back some lessons! 

Finally, he says, “I thus realised that what Munnabhai had done for a lot of aspiring filmmakers was to give them the courage to break the rules.” We are taking the courage to break the rules and dissecting a film that Raju Hirani has spent almost a decade in perfecting. 

And of course time spent on thinking about Munna Bhai, his story, the Hero’s Journey has given us some incredible lessons!

Phew! 

Some interviews that we read while researching about the work of Raju Hirani… 

That’s all folks! 

So, that’s about it from us! Let us know what you think. 

Oh, one more thing. Please do let us know what next film we do this deep dive on. 

Shreya + Saurabh 

June 2020

Note Taking 101 for 2020 and beyond

A 3000-word guide on how to take notes that work for you!

Context. A couple of days, a friend asked me how I take notes and while I was giving him gyaan on that, I realized, I could write a piece on it! So, here we are.

PS: In SoG 40, sent in Dec 2018, I wrote about how I take notes for the first time. And 18 months on, most of the process has remained the same! Except that Evernote has been replaced by Roam. And that one tool has allowed me to streamline my process far better. Let’s dig in!

So, how to take notes that actually work!
I am dividing this piece into various parts. These are the philosophy, tools required, the actual process of taking notes, and more.

Read on.

A. My philosophy of taking notes

This is going to be the longest part!
Lemme start with a simple question.
So, why do you take notes?
Easy peasy.
Note-taking aids in learning better. See this free course and do it if you haven’t.

Thing is, the act of storing information helps create neural networks in the head that moves things from your temporary memory to long-term memory. Plus, I have observed that if I write things in my handwriting, the brain tends to make stronger associations and I can remember things for longer.

And of course, you want to save information and data and notes and tidbits and all that, that you think can come in handy as you go along! You know, sometime in the future?

Lemme give an example.

Imagine you and I worked on a start-up idea 2 years ago and we made elaborate notes on it, including sketches and all that. Now, after 2 years, suddenly, somehow, for an important work presentation, you need to refer to some charts from that idea. Of course, you remember making some notes! But for your life, you can’t find the piece of paper (or the notepad) that you took those notes on! You see, back then you spent hours on those notes, and now that you cant find em, they are worthless!

So, the notes you take must be taken in a way that allows you to retrieve those notes FAST.
THIS IS THE CORE OF HOW I TAKE NOTES and you must too!
Repeat. I MUST BE ABLE TO RETRIEVE NOTES.

And the process of retrieval MUST allow for serendipitous connections to happen. This serendipity is what makes us humans better than other living things. You know, how you often get some of your best ideas when you are thinking of something different altogether! It happens because deep down at the synapse level, your brain has made some connection between those things!

Lemme give another example, to give gyaan to my friend when I was looking for my notes on #noteTaking, I realized that I had actually written an entire SoG on #noteTaking and this could be a good time to do a redux. And thus, this SoG! I also “remembered” the Coursera course on learning that I have linked above. It also made me stumble upon the painful memories of how my ex-girlfriend managed her closet (will talk about it in a bit).

So, repeat. A great note-taking system MUST allow for serendipity!

A1 – Your notes as your wardrobe!
Think of taking notes as your wardrobe. While wardrobes and the management are personal to people, I think there are the following approaches that most people can be slotted into…

A1.1 My ex-girlfriends’ method.
She would dump all her clothes in a pile in the almirah. In no order. To make matters worse, she had three different almirahs at three different places in the house where she would store clothes. Which to her worked because, in her head, she had all her clothes in one of the three predictable, known places.

But when we had to go to a party, she would have a hard time finding her party dress (yeah, she had one favorite dress). And to find that dress, she will empty all the three almirahs. And more often than not, she wouldn’t be able to find her dress and make do with something that is easily accessible.

Most people take notes like this. They save things in an un-orderly manner. At multiple places. With multiple methodologies. With no means to retrieve. And when they need to revisit those, they do not know how to find the notes they want!

Plus, because they are looking for a specific dress (aka note), they ignore other great dresses (or notes) that could prove to be better at that time! You know, serendipity?

So, notes must allow for the retrieval and help bring to surface seemingly unrelated connections!

A1.2 A shopkeeper’s method.
Imagine walking to a store that sells clothes. You tell him that you want a shirt in Salmon Pink color. He’d ask you your size and in less than 1 second he’d pull out a piece of the exact color and size that you asked for. If you then told him that you wanted a Baby Pink or a Rose Pink or a Blush Pink or some other minor variant of Pink, he’d find it as fast as you can rattle of the color name. Aren’t you amazed at their speed / system etc? They organize things so neatly that you can use their shelves for ASMR meditation! Imagine ASMR and notetaking in one piece! Serendipity!

So, how do they do it?
Well, every time they get new stock, they either stack the inventory neatly (which takes a lot of time) but makes the retrieval fast and easy. After all, you need to serve the customer fast!

Some people take notes like that and it is super! Except, all the time you invest in taking notes is essentially sunk, and more often than not, you do not need all notes that you take!

Lesson? Note-taking must be reasonably quick!

A1.3 The Sheldon method.
You know Sheldon Cooper? He is so predictable and so orderly that there is no room for adding newer things. I mean his closet would probably be arranged by days or color or even by superheroes. It works great for him but may not work for you and me. Look at him arranging Howard’s closet!

Plus, it would leave no room for serendipity!

A1.4. My best friend’s method.
So, he is somewhat like Sheldon and somewhat like a shopkeeper. So, he has these 4 different closets, each with multiple shelves. In one he puts all his shirts, in other, he puts all the tees, and then in yet another, he puts his pants. So across these 25 shelves in those 4 almirahs, he’s spread his clothes methodically.

This is great but when he has to dress up, he needs to go to each closet and each shelf and then decide. This does two things. He misses some great combinations that he can wear if he could see all his wardrobe at the same place at the same time. Plus he takes time!

This walled-garden worked well for boring people that wear predictable patterns and combinations. But if you want to get crazy and do new things, this may not work.

Think of how you organize your files in folders and sub-folders and then further nested folders. You bury the files so deep that it’s literally impossible to look at multiple files at the same time. The method worked great to hide porn when we were kids. But now that life has little more meaning, this nested folder approach just won’t cut. No?

So, you need to be able to see your notes in toto and they can’t be buried under structures and all that.

Here’s a quick / dirty way of visualizing these…

So, like closets are personal, note-taking is personal. And you need to find the approach that you like. Just that you need to stick to the five principles. Your notes…

  • must allow you to remember (aka retain) better
  • must be reasonably fast to take
  • must be easy and fast to retrieve
  • must allow for serendipitous connections
  • must make zoom-in and zoom-out possible with reasonable speed

B. Tools that I use to take notes

So, now that we have established the philosophy and principles, here are tools that I use to take notes…

B1. I use a physical, old-school notepad to record everything that I come across. Nothing is missed. Even the pauses that people take while talking gets into my notepad!

B2. I use Roam (been on it for about 3 months) where I transcribe everything that I initially put on the notepad. Before I had access to Roam, I used a combination of things like Evernote, Asana, The Brain, Google Sheet, and even my EA for that matter!

B3. Web-based clippers like Wordbrain Memex etc that automatically save all that I browse / see etc. This allows for a quick search on the pages that I may have visited but not found good enough to be saved.

B4. I have enabled all history on all websites that I use – things like Google, Twitter, location data, auto-completes, etc etc. Thing is, I am one of those that believes that privacy on the Internet is a myth. I may try whatever I wish to, someone out there would have access to my data and would target me with ads! So, stop trying!

Before we jump to the process, please allow me to submit that as long as you know what’s your note-taking philosophy and the reason why you take notes, tools are not important. Tools, like other things, will evolve with time and you can not become a slave to a tool!

C. The process I follow to take notes

The holy grail! The meat. The crux. The reason why you are here!

The process has largely remained the same since the original piece. The tools may have changed! So, the process is…

C1. Use tags extensively.
For EVERYTHING.
Every piece of data that you save (called a block in Roam) has to have a tag. Think of a tag like a connection to the world. A note without a tag will get lost. There is no way to navigate to it. And more tags a note has, better it is!

For example, if I am listening to a conversation between screenwriters, I would use tags like screenwriting, filmmaking, sgInterests, creativity, name 1, name 2, and so on and so forth. Often I have more tags than the actual piece of information.

Now imagine I am brushing my teeth with Colgate, that is endorsed by Sonam Kapoor that worked in a film scripted by a person that I saw the talk in the instance above unless I use tags and links, I would never be able to connect my daily chore to writing for films! Ok, shitty example. But I guess you get the drift!

Thing is, you have to make sure that the tags are consistent across all your tools! This is the linchpin on which great notetaking rests. Tags allow you to link notes to each other. Tags allow you to zoom-in and yet zoom out. Tags allow you to find meaningful and often, meaningless connections.

More on this in C3.

C2. Use your hands!
I take pen-paper notes as much as possible. If I am not sleeping, I have a notepad within an arms reach. Even if I am walking or something. And then I digitize these notes. Back then I wrote that if I am on a date, even then, I have a notepad on me. That has changed :D.

When I first wrote about taking notes, I wrote about how I write (bullets, index, etc). But after almost 18 months of sustained use, I have realized that I have stopped following any particular template. So, I’ll skip it.

For times when I can’t carry a notepad, I use blank visiting cards. I’ve also sort of spewed them all over my house. See this thread. If I am walking, I cant take a note per se. But I have these cards. If I am watching TV and the notepad is not around, these visiting cards are right next to me.

C3. When on a computer?
If I am on the computer, I use Google Chrome (even though its slow af) and use things like Pocket Web Clipper, Memex, Pinterest button, Feedly, Google’s Keep, and so on, and so forth. A quick glance at my extensions tells me that I have more than 50 active extensions on Chrome, most of those manage tabs or history! Most people would scoff at this but I really like to capture all that I can.

In my emails, I have tools like Hubspot active to archive those.

Plus when I am reading on the computer (or seeing videos or something), I keep Roam open in a tab and I keep dumping links, thoughts, etc in it.

And, on a day to day basis, in no order, I use the following tags in Roam to archive notes / information…

  • whatIRead – I keep a list of things I read. I add my notes on those, add links and tags. For example, for this Bloomberg story about Ambani’s, I have tagged it as Mukesh Ambani, #sg5stars (a tag I use for best of the things I come across). The things I read, I often write #sgTLDR – a short summary of what I read.
  • People – like a CRM, I take notes of calls made, things that I did, etc. Of course, I can’t capture everything but I try to get the most of it. For example, today I had 6 conversations that were worth saving for later. This does not include conversations with friends, family, etc. And neither do these include inane chats.
  • toDo – things that I need to do during the day. The ones I do, I mark them as #sgDone
  • sgThoughts – ideas, thoughts, and other things that I don’t have tags for. I often club this with #parkedIdeas, #toWrite, #currentThings etc.

There is more. But tagging is like wardrobing. You need to find a system that works for you.

C4. The phone is not an office tool!
Call me old-school but I do NOT consider the phone an office or a productivity tool. I do not check my mail on the phone. I do not read on the phone. I do not use the phone to learn by watching videos etc. The only thing I use it for is podcasts. I want to stop even the podcasts but I don’t know an answer right now.

Phone to me is communication, entertainment, navigation, and payments device.

If there is something that I see on the phone that needs saving, I send it to myself on a WhatsApp group that has just me on it. And then I log in to a computer and then copy-paste it in the right place. If its a tweet, I “like” it and it gets saved in my Pocket. If its a LinkedIn update, I “share” it on the WhatsApp group that I have with myself. Ditto for videos. I tried taking notes on Notepad in the phone but I kept forgetting about those – like I said, unless I write things with hand or put tags onto them, I don’t consider those as “notes”.

C5. Digitize all hand-written notes and compile them in one place!
I compile all information from all sources and dump it on Roam. Like I said, I do not dump anything without the tags that I spoke about earlier. Repeat. Tagging is the cornerstone of great notes. Plus the double-linking in Roam allows me to find connections between things that I did not know existed!

So, I digitize things that are not automatically in Roam.

The sifting and sorting of things from digital sources is easy (copy-paste and some manual processing using Google Sheets). People like Tiago recommend that we use automation looks like Zapier and IFTTT etc to get things into one common repository. I like the idea but I can’t afford the monthly, recurring payments for those tools as yet. You may want to try. And you MUST read this piece by Tiago on note-taking and listen to this conversation between him and Perrell. Both are long but both are good!

The tougher part is digitizing notes that I have scribbled with my terrible handwriting!

When I got started on this PKM journey, I’d do it every day but now I do it once a week. This does two things. When I revisit things after, say, 3 days, I am reminded of things that I would otherwise forget. And second, once I set time away for this information management, I get to do deep work with on it. You know, without distractions.

Oh, I still use help from my EA on transcribing some of the notes. Though I am trying to do less and less of it. I have realized that the act of transcribing helps with retention and serendipity.

C6. Assign tasks to action items.
Everything needs to be actioned goes into Asana. Again, I maintain those tags that I have used on my Roam.

That’s it.

D. How do my notes help?

So, I had to write this piece on note-taking. I ran a quick search in my Roam (and nowhere else). I found that I’ve written about note-taking a bit and the search throws references to Tiago Forte (have included already), Andy Matuschak (skipping it for the time being), Zettelkasten (the principle on which Roam is based), and the fact that I wish to be a super-connector and a quote from Bill Gates about notes. And other things things that I don’t want to publish here. Without the notes, I wouldn’t have known that all these are connected. So, there is serendipity for sure.

Here is how my notes look like. The faint blue lines are things that are connected to #noteTaking in my Roam!

Second, this act of writing this piece (about 3500 words) took me less than 2 hours. I wrote the entire piece with the help of just the Roam. I did not have to open another webpage (except for referring to the old SoG, making the cover image for the post and finding a youtube link for Sheldon’s sorting thing). So, there is the ease of retrieval for sure. And it’s fast!

Third, since I have started to use Roam, I now have a large repository of notes. This is growing larger by the day! This means that every time I have to refer to something (for a meeting, a project, or something), I just glance at my notes and I am ready. Yay!

Finally, I must say, a note-taking system is as good as the number of notes in it and the tacit connections that you can draw from that. This is the second linchpin of the note-taking system (apart from tags). You need to thus spend time on it. There is a learning curve but once you are over it, you will NOT go back. In fact, there is this entire school of thought emerging in the PKM circles where they compare taking (and maintaining) notes to digital gardening (you know how gardening requires a lot of work initially and then it gives you this beautiful garden that requires tad less maintenance? That! See tweets from my list of digital gardening geeks!

E. Finally, a word of caution

Do NOT let these notes become the end goal in itself. Notes and note-taking is your slave that you must use to become better. Not the other way around.

A great note-taking system can be one of the differences between you reaching the peak, vs you almost reaching there! If you do not have one, may be its time to start implementing one!

And here’s an offer. If you want to put in place a note-taking system for youself, I would love to help. Lemme know and let’s do this 🙂

That’s about it for the time being. Over and out.


Wrote this originally for SOG (original at SoGv4-10). Should you want to receive the weekly SoG’s in your mailbox, sign up here.

Introducing, The Hero’s Journey Project

A series of essays where I will research, explore and postulate on Prof. Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth (The Hero’s Journey).

Note: Edited this on 20th June after I attended yet another session with Anjum Sir. The changes I made on 20th are marked as v2.

You know how things fall in place when you least expect them to? That happened to me! 

Lemme tell you a story. Because of the lockdown and general joblessness that I had, I decided that I would try and use this time to become a screenwriter. Now, how do you become a screenwriter? I had no clue, except maybe, to write an actual screenplay! 

Lucky Strike 1 

And while I was mulling it, luckily I spotted this initiative by writer-direction Satyanshu Singh where he got Anjum Rajabali to take sessions for people wanting to be screenwriters. I attended a couple of lectures from him (one was on Mahabharata and the other on Hero’s Journey) and the two lectures OPENED my eyes to the method you need to get your madness pouring out on a screenplay. I instantly decided that I want to make The Hero’s Journey my life’s work.

Ok, that’s hyperbole. I have a million life’s works like that. Lemme not digress. The point is, I want to learn as much about Hero’s Journey as I can. And I believe in learning by doing. But then, I was stuck. I had no freaking clue about it (apart from an academic interest I had in it) and what Anjum Sir taught me in those 4 hours. 

Lucky Strike 2

On Twitter, I bumped into Shreya of the Green Grandma fame and somehow we got talking and somehow one thing led to another and somehow we realized that we could do this together. This? Learn about Hero’s Journey! 

She of course is far more informed and read compared to me and partnering with me would be meaningless to her. But I think I played my cards right and talked her into it! 

She recommended that if I wanted to learn about Hero’s Journey, the best way would be to watch some films like Star Wars and The Matrix Trilogy that follow the Hero’s Journey to the T. 

But then we decided to check if the Monomyth structure was followed in Indian films as well! 

Hero’s Journey

For the uninitiated, The Hero’s Journey is an outcome of the work of Joseph Campbell who studied myths, lores, and stories from across cultures, times, religions, regions, places, and discovered that the most compelling and memorable stories tend to follow the same path. Their stories tend to have the same structure! And he called that structure the Monomyth. Or as it is more popularly known, The Hero’s Journey.

The chart below describes the Hero’s Journey… 

While a short-note on Hero’s Journey is literally impossible, lemme try and explain! 

A primer on Hero’s Journey 

For starters, there are two worlds…

  1. The ordinary, current, existing, comfortable where the Hero currently lives. He is unaware of trials and tribulations that await him in the other world. 
  2. The unknown, new, special, unnatural, supernatural world where rules from the ordinary world cease to exist. There are new rules, new norms, new reality. The world is full of dangers that the hero does not even know of! 

Then, there are three distinct stages of life in the Hero. Different scholars and writers have used different terms for this. I will stick to what Joseph Campbell used.

  1. The departure from the ordinary world. 
  2. Initiation into the supernatural world 
  3. Return to the ordinary world where the hero originally came from 

Of course, these stages are further divided into various substages. And each time the hero transitions from one stage to another, he has to go through a battle of sorts. Lemme explain each. (v2)

1. The Departure. So, all is well in the life of Hero. He is happy and chilling and all that. And one fine day, someone from a distant land comes over and tells him that his world is in grave danger. And he MUST undertake this journey to the unknown if he wants to save the world. He may be reluctant initially but he will get over it and take the journey.

2. Initiation. This is where the Hero gets to the unknown world. The hero overcomes trials & tribulations, faces threats & temptations, and finds allies & enemies. The entire journey in the unknown world is a step towards becoming, rather than becoming one thing. You know, the journey in itself is the destination!

3. The Return. This is where the Hero now has to come back to the original world where he started from. Just that as a result of his journey, he has become better and become a master of sorts. And like they, he’s live happily ever after. Unless he gets another call to adventure!

So yeah. That.

And if I were to tell you a story to explain the Hero’s Journey, it would go something like this.. 

Once upon a time there lived a prince in a cocooned world where he had absolutely no clue about the harshness that life has to offer (Ordinary World). All was well till one day while playing cricket, he makes a wild swing with his bat and instead of making contact with swings hard and breaks his father’s favorite vase. What more? The vase actually contained his father’s life! He suddenly is petrified. He doesn’t know what to do. And just then, the wise old courtier tells him that he can undo the damage and save his father’s life if he could go to the dungeons protected by the scariest dragons and retrieve this magic potion (The Call to Adventure). Of course, the prince is scared about it – after all, he’s been warned all his life to not even talk about those dragons! So, he is reluctant to go (Refusal to Call).

But then he has to save his father. He takes the courtiers’ blessing and a cloak of invisibility (Supernatural aid) and goes on the adventure. Along the way, he meets people – some good and some not so good (The Road of Trials). He does a lot of good deeds, after all, he is a good prince. Like while he is thirty and he just has one sip of water left, he gives that to an Eagle that has been shot down by an unknown hunter. 

As he heads towards the innermost cave where the pot of magic potion is hidden, he has to battle with the monster, the size of a Jupiter (Crossing of First Threshold). The battle is ferocious, sparks fly off in all directions and it seems that the monster will have the upper hand. And while the prince is struggling, news comes from a home that his father is on the verge of dying (The Belly of Whale).

All is sort of lost for this young prince. He questions his choices and decisions and is about to give up. Just then a beautiful princess arrives (The meeting with the goddess) with her pet Eagle, the same one that had given his last sip of water. The princess tests him by offering one of two things – a magic sword that can kill the monster or a union with her that can allow the prince to escape (Woman as temptress).

But the prince starts to understand why his father was the way he was with him (Atonement with Father). He chooses the sword and thanks to the superpowers and allies that our prince has gathered on his journey here, he prevails! In a fierce battle, he defeats the monster and gets the magic potion (Apotheosis and Ultimate Boon). All he needs to do is, now, to go back home and save his father. 

But just when he starts to head home, he gets tempted to stay back – after all, he will be a prince if he goes back to his ordinary world and here, in the extraordinary, he is the mightiest of them all – he is the one to have defeated the monster! He decides to not go back and enjoy the riches of this world (Refusal to return). He starts to settle down till he sees a picture of his father in his wallet. He pines for his affection and he decides that a kingdom is not greater than his father’s health. 

He finds a teleporter that can instantly take him back (Magic Flight) and as he is on his way, everyone of importance, including the princess, from this extraordinary world decides to tag along. The prince has no choice but to listen to his new-found followers, disciples (Crossing of return threshold).

Once he reaches his father’s palace, of course, the father is back to the pink of his health, thanks to the magic potion. Father then decides to let the prince ascend to the throne. And the young prince now rules over both the kingdoms and lives happily ever after (Freedom to live)!

Phew! 

So there are multiple versions and variations of this. If you are a scholar, you may choose the one that appeals to you the most. Shreya and I will settle for a broad framework that helps us understand people and emotions and characters and narratives.

So yeah. This is a primer on The Hero’s Journey! 

But before that, Some disclaimers… 

  1. Anjum Sir is VERY VERY VERY vocal and categorical that the Hero’s Journey is NOT a tool that you may want to use when you write. PLEASE PLEASE respect what the master says.
  2. Of course, not all stories follow the Hero’s Journey. And the stories that do follow the structure, don’t have to follow it to the T. In some stories, some stages may get clubbed, in others, the order may get changed and in some, there could be just one part from the journey.
  3. Please do note that the Monomyth is not the only structure that screenwriters and storytellers follow. There are more like the 3-act structure, the 5-act structure, and the nonlinear structure. Plus there are many more variations of this model itself. For example, there is one by Vogler that uses just 12 steps (unlike Campbell’s 17). And of course, there are more. In one line, this model (Campbell’s) is NOT the holy grail! But as Saurabh says, it does come close 😉 And Shreya disagrees. She is of the opinion that modern screenwriters do not use this at all. You decide and tell us 😀
  4. We are mere students and all text herein is our interpretation. And not the thoughts of the original writer or of Anjum Sir. So, we may be off. PLEASE DO TELL US IF WE ARE ON POINT. OR ARE OFF. The idea of doing this is to learn and your input helps! 
  5. Since we would analyze these films end to end, we would have to narrate the story end to end. So, can’t really “hide” the climax, etc. 
  6. These pieces are not film reviews. We are not here to judge the film, the plot, the story or anything else for that matter. We are here to find traces of Hero’s Journey in the story. And try and learn lessons as scriptwriters ourselves. 
  7. All the work for the posts was done collaboratively by Shreya and I. But for the ease of writing and narration, I am the one who’s writing the post. 
  8. Oh, one more thing. In everything we write, Hero is being used as a gender-neutral salutation.

We’d start soon, with Raju Hirani’s Munna Bhai MBBS (published in Jun 2020). After that, we have lined up Deewaar (published in Nov 2020) and Lagaan. What else can we take up?

Till then, over and out!

Shreya + Saurabh 

May 2020