A2Z Reflection: Tale of a survivor

There was no plan. No inkling. A dim idea surfaced at the back of the mind.  Blogging from A to Z April Challenge was looming behind the door and I was totally clueless what to write. A vague and skeleton idea. Initially, I was planning to make four very short novellas every week for 26 days. I tore my copy. It was good for the bin.

Grey cells do matter. A tale of a film star losing his mind, tale of a struggler in Maximum City, Mumbai itself or intimate tales? I racked my brain. It was already Day 1 of the challenge. I took a risk. I am glad that I did. It all started with a character, a commoner who is a film star-no scant reference to anyone-losing his memory by waking up one morning. So far, so good!! The character was born. Bingo!! After all, no point in yelling victory. I was well aware what I was getting myself into.

The female character was sketched out of the blue on Day two. I was in the middle of the story when Maya-the illusion took shape in a unique manner. I remember reading how way back in the late 1980s, Madhuri Dixit was touted to play a college student who discovers a secret agent, Amitabh Bachchan and helps him recover his memory. The shelved film was Shanakht to be helmed by Tinnu Anand. It was cinema lovers loss that AB-Mads could never be paired together. I imagined Maya to be a pivotal character in the novella. That’s how the character was born. She was never part of the novella or the episodes imagined. Of course, the main character superstar Akhil Kumar is very contemporary and bears no reference to Amit Sir nor does Maya has  Maya  bore streaks of Madhuri Dixit. As the challenge was progressing, I was clueless since I was never part of the film industry and failed to do justice to the story of a film superstar losing his memory. I tried to tap the character’s struggling day as an actor but couldn’t give it the real touch. That’s how the episodes were twisted and given a thriller edge.

Pic- Amitabh Bachchan ji & Madhuri Dixit ji in SHANAKHT - unreleased film  @SrBachchan http://t.co/lp6vxSc5P3

A still from the Amitabh Bachchan-Madhuri Dixit 1987 unreleased SHANAKHT. Image credit: Moses Saphir of FMXT/http://www.scoopnest.com/user/MosesSapir/536562967240667136

Trust me, it was the toughest thing I’ve ever done as part of A to Z Challenge by attempting a thriller the Hindi movies potboilers made in the 70s and 80s were famous for. I am not trying to be modest but it’s the plain truth. It was the first time that I was writing something that had no theme, ranging from memory loss to struggling artists and finally settling on a thriller.  It’s not my forte for I am more at ease with candy floss romance. I myself know how I completed the challenge. As we reached midway, it was decided that the episodes would be a no-brainer and a tribute to Hindi movies made in the yore days…chase scenes, hero’s entry by flying and breaking splinter of glasses and resuscitated from the ashes of death. I have always loved the no-brainers. What better way to give a tribute!

As things rolled and canned at the back of the mind, I visualized the episodes in the form of a film played in front of me. I was the spectator yet the architect. I wanted to make them as entertaining and paisa vasool, something that has no logic or rationale behind. There were some blink-and-miss cum eccentric characters like the psychologist making my character time travel, journalist suffering from cancer, pop singer cum seasonal girlfriend, maid for letter A and Shantanu Sir the director as well as the mother figure who gave him a place to stay. Of course, Maximum City played a pivotal and parallel character to the life of the star.

It’s my A to Z story. There were no characters, story structure or visualize…nothing. I am not really satisfied with the end project for the simple reason that I wanted to make it about memory loss meeting the tale of a struggling artist. Nothing of that sort happened. But, I am happy the way some episodes such as Jet speed, Rave the Rave and X letter for climax turned out. It was heart-pounding. I didn’t expect to give it the edge. Phew! I was done. I didn’t blog for couple of days. It might take the form of an e-novella and stay tune for more.

There were days where I was well in advance, posts ever ready to make the kill and before hitting publishing, editing on the alphabet day. Trust me, it works big time for the first two weeks postS were ready. However, as I ushered into the challenge, I was lagging behind and time to do soul searching to weave characters.  Bingo! It was done. And, I survived. Certainly, it was my toughest in the three years I participated.

The challenge drained me. I was sapped of all my energy. It’s my third and final outing with April A to Z Challenge. See you at the other end of the fence.

You may check some of my posts below.

Letters B E Letter F Letter G Letter H  Letter I  Letter R





Postscript: The best thing about A to Z Challenge that it helps you reflect on shortcomings. I have decided when I move to Mumbai next year, I will do a well-researched book with interviews on the lives of struggling actors in the industry.



  1. Well written Vishal. I remember last year I thought of participating in the challenge but somehow couldn’t (blame it on my work commitments or may by my lazyness)…its commendable indeed to participate and take up the challenge. BTW great to hear that you would be back next year (hope it’s early next year🙂 )

  2. Vishal, congratulations on crossing the finishing line of the A to Z challenge!
    You were brave to approach the story with a basic idea…no set theme…characters out of the blue…and then to just go with it…very brave.
    I wish you everything of the best with your book on the lives of struggling actors, that you intend researching next year. The A to Z challenge has inspired you to follow through with this project, so I think you did well.
    Thank you for visiting my blog.

    • Indeed, it did Michelle. I was able to see the flaws and that’s how the idea of doing a book came on struggling actors. I want to do something well documented. I did go along with the idea and I was like, I wasn’t aware what I was getting into. But, happy I completed the challenge. Thanks again for your kind words..characters popping out of nowhere.

  3. I am a “pantser” in my normal blog writing but I could never do what you did for A to Z. You might enjoy something called NaNoWriMo, held every November. 50,000 words in 30 days. You crank it out without editing, without worrying about plot. You get the words down and you worry about editing later – and you don’t have to show it to anyone, unlike A to Z.

  4. Congratulations Vishal. It can be tough just plunging in( I did that last year) . Your story this year was a Hindi movie though I confess too long to read everyday during the challenge .i will have to go back and read it ( or perhaps wait for your ebook or movie version???)
    You are a passionate writer and good luck with your move to Mumbai.

  5. Superb finish and refelections Vishal🙂 I can imagine your drained feeling I am much the same but far better than my first time in 2014, so it only gets better. You have given us your angst in a way that I felt it all too as I read this post. Kudos and hugs. All the best for the book on struggling artists your are planning.

  6. You did it Vishal and with style! Totally draining wasn’t it?! An amazing block-buster with 26 posts! I enjoyed reading the thriller with twists and turns. Your plan for next year sounds exciting….all the best, in advance🙂

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