Tuesday, 20 March 2012

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

A perfume. You wear it during a time that becomes memorable to you, whether in a foul or sweet way. Your sense of smell automatically attaches that particular scent to that memory.

If that memory was good, then you'll wear the aroma of perfume, constantly wanting to lose yourself in reminiscence. If, however, that memory was bad, then the aroma turns pungent, odorous, on the edge of or right on the verge of the intolerance, to your nose. You, in turn, toss it or give it away.

Such is the miraculous power of the human senses!

Imagine being able to taste a particular food and automatically, sense the feeling of the cook, whose hands molded only to satisfy your cravings.

If the cook was angry at the time of cooking, you taste the anger in his/her creation; if the cook was rushing, you taste the haste in the food.

That is exactly the psychic ability, so intriguing, but annoying to the protagonist, Rose, of Aimee Bender's fourth novel, a work of YA Fiction, 'The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake.'

An innovative work of fiction, 'The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake' takes the reader on a young girl's quest to decipher her mother's feelings, which she tastes everyday in her mother's cooking.

It all begins with Rose, eating her mother's lemon cake. She tasted an ambiguous sadness in the cake. Despite her mother's assurance that there is nothing wrong with her...that she is happy, Rose cannot avoid the hollowness in her mother's eyes. She decides to no longer comment on her mother's cooking/baking...to simply swallow down her mother's feelings and attempt to ignore the horrible taste of them. Even more, Rose tries to avoid eating her mother's meals, at times.

Why is her mother so sad? Can Rose ever scrape the taste of any cook's (not just her mother's) emotions off her tongue?

Most of all, this beautifully-written, full of extraordinary metaphors, work of YA fiction describes a protagonist's connection to her family or the lack thereof. Rose's new-found psychic ability encourages her to not only try to understand her mother, but to also be more open with her father and break through her child-prodigy-of-a-brother's sternness.

'The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake' is a quirky and entertaining read and rightfully-so as it is brilliantly-written.

Aimee Bender

Monday, 5 March 2012

Interview with Asad Shan on Screenwriting

I remember meeting up with Asad Shan. He's a really down-to-earth guy with a plethora of knowledge on film-making and screenwriting. His advice is so valuable and I think any aspiring screenwriter can benefit from his wisdom and experience.

Asad Shan's profile is extensive. He is founder of Iconic Productions, which encourages new talent in the film world, host of ZING’s Brits' Bollywood, face of Zee Network and most recently, Screenwriter/Director/Actor (yes, all three) on '7:Welcome to London' an Iconic Production.

R: How do you do it all? I mean, the role of screenwriter, director and actor certainly do fall harmoniously within the world of movie-making, but for you to have all three of these roles together for ONE film! How were you able to distinguish between these roles?

Actually, there were four roles as I also co-wrote the script... nothing like a control freak –jokes apart I think being a methodical person I was able to separate all four roles – once the story had been written the producer side of me made sure the money was raised and budgeted for. I think the hardest was the Director role and the actor role because being a perfectionist, the director in me always found the right balance in the actor, where actors can be greedy. I believe the UK Film industry and UK Asians are supremely talented and we have a big market here; they just need to work with the right team and well … you will see the results.

R: You have worked very hard on this film and it seems like you had a fantastic crew! What inspired you to come up with a story like '7: Welcome to London?'

A: The story of '7 Welcome to London' is about all of us. The people around me inspired this film. I knew that one should always feel connected to the emotions around one's self and that’s what the story of '7 Welcome to London' is all about. It will connect with
your emotions and once you leave the cinema, I promise you that you will be talking about it for a long time.

R: What do you hope that the viewers will take away from this film, to release 9th of March?

A: Basically if you want a guaranteed entertainer that is a super fast-paced romantic thriller slick British thriller, (Read Guy Ritchie) yet retains the Desi feel (Read Karan Johar) then '7 Welcome to London' fits the bill. It is a must-see for the whole family.

R: Was it difficult to choose the cast?

A: We were blessed to have a fantastic bunch of actors in our film. Aliakbar Campwala is from Mumbai and plays the Rajinikanth loving Goldie. Tim Hibberd is an established theatre actor and he will blow your mind away with his performance as ACE. You have Rob Thorne (Sky Sports Betfair), Musa Ahmet (The Infidel) and loads more talented individuals. My beautiful leading lady is Sabeeka Imam who is UK’s number one Asian female model and was featured in most of the biggest fashion campaigns. Chris Dickens is a legend, one of my favourite editors in the world. He edited films like 'Hot Fuzz,' 'Shaun of the Dead' and 'Slumdog Millionaire' for which he won an Oscar. Having him on board as a consultant producer and supervising editor was my ace card and I knew I was in safe (read Oscar) hands.

R: What genre/subgenre would you place this film in (ie. Action, Romance, Suspense....) and why?

A: It's everything and more – see... '7:...' has something for everyone in the family, action and suspense for the boys, and a thrilling romance for the girls.
R: Could you describe the feeling of watching your words come-to-life on screen?

A: Well, let's put it this way.... I had a box of tissues close-by. I went through a range of emotions whilst watching the film. There was a certain glow within and a real sense of achievement, but I guess the most important feeling of pride came when I saw my mum's face when she saw the first rough cut.

R:What inspirational and technical (pitching producers/agents) advice do you have for aspiring screenwriters?

A: Screenwriters need to have a two-minute pitch ready where they can verbally sell their script alongside a final draft copy ready. Make sure you register your film and story. Be confident and be ready to be criticised as you are the one who went up to them so do not take it personally. More importantly, if you know you have a good film, then make sure its in good hands.

Friday, 2 March 2012



The technicalities of poetry is something we often don't consider when we wish to pour our hearts out into varying lines, built up to stanzas, which are broken up for pause or dramatic effects, containing the intricacies of punctuation and grammar.

'Punctuation and grammar?' you ask. 'Poetry comes from the heart,' you say.

Yes, poetry does come from the heart; it is the revelation of your most inner-self to the world. It is the written word that does not represent you, but simply is you.

I remember taking a creative writing course at University with Dr. Rachel Wetzsteon who, unfortunately, is no more.... She was a lovely teacher, who taught me invigorating secrets of how to write poetry. Every secret revealed was never really a 'secret,' it was simply my lack of knowledge thereof, which she provided to me.

Most importantly, she is the person who taught me that the structure of a poem, the choice of punctuation of a poem has a purpose. Poetry is not the random choice of mere words that splatter onto the paper to reveal your self. Rather, the way you break up your stanzas, the number of lines you choose to write, the way you choose to write them...the overall technicalities of the poem must make sense...make sense...every move has a purpose.

Here is just one poem (published in Celebration of Young Poets) I submitted as part of my final paper (collection) for her class:

Lavender Scarf

Before the gloom of the night,
Seeking exploration,
The lavender scarf slips off my neck.
In complete awe of the world,
It soars with the breeze.

As the sea twists into a grayish mist,
Maroon brick houses turn dark caramel,
and oak leaves are tinged teal,
The lavender scarf seeks freedom,
As I desperately chase after it.

The scarf wanders above cities and towns,
It skulks through the rotting slums,
It glides over the velvet countryside,
Feels the thrill of infinite curiosity,
And smells the essence of nature.

Soaring lavender, then purple,
Purple, then blueberry,
Blueberry, then ebony,
The lavender scarf re-wraps around my neck,
Where the journey ends.

Dr. Rachel Wetzsteon attended my wedding on 2nd August, 2008 and gifted my husband and me with one of her manuscripts, '282 Time Pieces.' She was always such a cheerful soul. Her wedding note to us was 'Hip-hip and hooray to you on this resplendent very happy day!-All best wishes, Rachel Wetzsteon.' Here are a few of my favourite lines I've cherry-picked for you, from her book:

Dr. Rachel Wetzsteon, my Creative Writing Teacher at University

'Cafe Time

How long have I been
sitting here? Some equation
of cup and napkin...'

'Dorian Gray Time

His bright eyes twinkle:
with each malicious frown he's
got one less wrinkle'

'Lovers' Time

Till you come, such is
my fate: to watch each minute
ooze by on crutches.'

'Mom Time

It's a minute past
midnight; you're grounded for as
long as hormones last.'

'Eden Time

They spent every day,
blissfully ignorant, in
amorous delay.'

'Hamlet Time

"Out of joint" 's too mild:
courtier, soldier, scholar
trembles like a child.'

'Monet Time

Light at great speed will
dapple then flee the facade
of a cathedral.'

When spilling your heart onto paper, consider poet-ics.