Yet Untitled 030 - Stories I tell
An anatomy of narratives commissioned by my children
A few things didn’t go as planned this week, dear Yet Untitler.
Which is why I’m going to have twice the fun on this page than I usually do!
I wrote my first feature film as a response to disappointment. The response was to have fun - the regenerative kind. The story that changed my life was born.
So here I am and here you are. Party time. But wait! I’m so glad I remembered you right at the start, dear Yet Untitler. I shouldn’t be having all the fun. Indulge me as I attempt to make my vengeance against disappointment fun for you.
Drop me a line at the end of this here YU 030 and let me know if I succeeded!
My woes as a writer...
As a writer, I get to hear the ‘no’ more often than ‘yes’ when it comes commissions for work. With commissions:rejections ratio always skewed towards the right, it takes a resilient spirit, it does.
I do have one set of commissioning producers who are very generous - they’re always commissioning, as long as they are entertained!
Ananya and Aahana are connoisseurs of story and experts at creating characters. Every one of their stuffed friends has a name and a backstory. Here are two of them:
Night after night, I am given license - I am commissioned - to create by Ananya and Aahana. Some great things happen, some gems are born and I do everything I can to achieve box office success. I listen carefully, keeping the stories as malleable as well-made pizza dough in my head, taking them one way or another to please my patrons.
Ever since they developed a taste for story, the three of us have been collaborating incessantly. I don’t create the same way anywhere else. The energy is just different. Here are some things born of our collab:
This family of stories is a direct descendent of Studio Ghibli’s The Castle of Cagliostro.
Premise: A regent-like character called “the Count” (basically - me) rules over a castle. He has an evil arch nemesis brother called “Count Part 2”, and a set of twins called the Count-Kins (versions of Ananya and Aahana). Every story revolves around Count Part 2 creating trouble, and the Countkins…heading to an enchanted land of Unicorns via a convenient portal in their backyard and coming back with clever solutions to foil Count Part 2’s skulduggery.
The Count is usually clueless about how he’s been saved. He’s too obsessed with The Countess, anyhow, who has a Russian accent that - when evoked - ensures box-office success.
Dr. Bear lives in a forest of giant-redwood type trees with his offspring Baby Bear and Bear-a-rina (who wears a tutu). We got through a few weeks of pretty simple, meat-and-potatoes narratives where Dr. Bear cleverly cured and saved various animals in the forest. For a time I thought that I had found the ultimate, never-ending saga that I could expand on in my sleep with minimum effort, until my commissioning editors challenged me, and asked for some spice.
I brought in the spice in the form of a new character - the sultry Mrs. Bear - who crash-lands at the edge of the forest and seeks refuge in a cave nursing a broken leg. I unapologetically lifted this scene from The English Patient. Mrs. Bear’s appearance in the stories is usually a Groundhog Day kind of loop, and my commissioning producers only want to hear about the crash and how she’s rescued. I’m relieved that I don’t get any refrigerator questions about whether this is the original Mrs. Bear or a replacement and where is the original Mrs. Bear if she’s a replacement.
My commissioning producers don’t care much for refrigerator questions.
What’s a REFRIGERATOR QUESTION?
After having watched a film, when you come home and open the refrigerator for something cold - the question that pops up in you head at that point is a Refrigerator Question; usually to the tune of “Heyyy, why did the hero pick the green car and not the red one??”
In other words, they have nothing to do with your real-time enjoyment of the film.
STAR WARS: The Saga of Lick-like Walker
Sometime last year, I got my commissioning producers deeply into Star Wars. They wanted me to become a spinoff generator, which I really sucked at (thinking of an expansive universe and a never-ending web of characters got a bit tiring. I usually ended up falling asleep myself!). I kept it sustainable by inventing a whole new inventory of characters:
Luke Skywalker became Lick-Like-Walker, the lover of lollipops instead of lightsabers.
Obi-Wan Kenobi became “I-be-one-can-you-be”.
C3P0 became Pee-Pee-P-0.
I didn’t need to invent story - just going through existing Star Wars stories with the changed names was entertaining enough. New things happened because of these wonderful names.
My commissioning producers don’t frown on cheap laughs.
My commissioning producers and I have nailed the horror genre via ‘Ghooooosssst House’ - a smorgasbord of thrills and treats, featuring our versions of the horror regulars - Cerberus the three headed dog, Headless Horseman, an operatic bat called Vampira, a screaming baby called Bébé who’s alternatively cute and scary, Frankenstein (called Frankie here) and a collection of partying skeletons called The Skeletal Guests (no clue how I came up with that).
The most important character is a sentient building called Ghost House, who all the above characters take as their home. The Ghost House is needy and surprisingly restless - wanting to meet lady-houses, travel and generally go on adventures, taking its resident ensemble with him. I had to be most inventive about how Ghost House travelled.
My favourite story was when Ghost House went on a date with the Police Station.
Did I forget the Potty Spiders who stay in the Ghost House’s lavatories? Less said the better!
Romeo and Boobiette
My commissioning producers requested this story and came up with the title themselves.
Boobiette was called so because she has a Red Footed Booby for a pet.
Other than the inclusion of this funny bird, everything else remains the same as Shakespeare’s well-know play. However, just for a moment - just imagine R and J with a red footed booby bobbing around the balcony while the star-crossed lovers kiss. It’s…different.
Pitching stories to my commissioning producers in never a straight and narrow path. Sometimes, I spiral towards sleep while telling, and then things get really trippy. Helicopters appear in prehistoric times and Ghost House characters merge with the count metaverse. Perhaps Bébé finds herself hanging out with Boobiette’s Red Footed Booby.
This is when my commissioning producers are the most entertained - when shit gets surreal and all the rules are broken. Ghost House finds ways to achieve escape velocity, traverse space and makes warp jumps via black holes, with Cerebrus sticking his three heads out a win, tongue hanging. Continuity be damned! Logic be damned!
Because they are thus entertained, my commissioning producers sometimes ask me to be half asleep while narrating - the equivalent of some of my other producer friends asking me to drop LSD before pitching them a script. Thankfully, the rest of my life doesn’t resemble my arrangement with my commissioning producers - at least in these zany ways. Things would get out of hand, to say the least.
For years before Yet Untitled, I had my commissioning producers with their never-ending commission. Perhaps it isn’t that surprising anymore that I manage a comparatively meager, one dimensional newsletter each week whereas with them - under their aegis - I have been creating psychedelic, multi-dimensional narratives almost daily.
Thank you, Ananya and Aahana. For more than you know!
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What’s the wildest story that you’ve ever told? To who? Did it set you free in some way?