Chapter 40 | Love for the New Order – Part I

2013 ended with a sense of hope.

I think for a lot of people, 2013 was a really hard year to get by. 2013 was clearly the dividing line between how it has been and how it’s going to be.

And because this is true for a overwhelming number of people (seriously, NO ONE told me 2013 was fun for them), I started thinking about the possibility of a cosmic change. Something somewhere in the universe is changing and 2013 marked the beginning of that change.

It’s like the year when a lot of people were born again in some significant way.

When we are born, we come crying. We are yanked out of the comfort zone of our mother’s womb and the light and the people and the unfamiliarity makes us really, really nervous.

We cry because we don’t know what the fuck is happening. In reality it’s too much of a shock, to be yanked out of our pre-natal ecosystem and put into another.

Ecosystem.

The Oxford Dictionary describes it as: a biological community of interacting organisms and their physical environment:

If you want a further probe: An ecosystem is a complex set of relationships among the living resources, habitats and residents of an area. It includes plants, trees, animals, fish, birds, micro-organisms, water, soil and people. Everything that lives in a ecosystem is dependent on the other species and elements that are also part of that ecological community.

It’s completely biological and rather homogenous in nature. Every species, every living being thrives in a particular ecosystem. And it perishes if there’s a change in it cannot handle.

Which has happened in the past – ecosystems have changed and that have led to the extinction of species. Some species have been fitter in their battle for survival and have migrated.

Migration or not, we could assume that the species who have reacted to the change and initiated another ‘system’ to make up for change have survived.

There was a process to it and the process helped them live.

In the case of mankind, that process was always more complex. As human beings evolved they became more and more different from other species in way they conducted their lives.

As mankind evolved further, they not only became very different from the other terrestrial animal species, but they became different from each other as well.

The Greeks were different from the Huns and the Oriental though we were all from the same forefathers.

Through centuries of evolution we stand at a juncture when your neighbor could be very different from you in the way he conducts his or her life. Right from his food habits to his ethnicity, his religious beliefs, his job, his taste in things, his orientation, everything could be different.

How did this happen? How did the atoms of the same cluster start behaving so differently?

My answer lies in one word – individuality.

Yes I am a part of an ecosystem or a social system that shapes me. But does not define me.

It shapes me, yes, for I’m a product of an Indian system, I’m a part of it but that’s not my complete identity. If you meet me and then you meet another fellow Indian, you may not find similarities.

In fact if you meet all the 1.2 billion people in India and then you meet me, you may still find me different.

You may find many others who also are very, very different. So different that they will not remind you of anyone else you’ve ever met in any part of this planet.

Something about them will leap out and make you happy that you met someone who’s not like anyone else.

An individual.

Now, there are certain places in the world where individuality thrives – like New York. Or London. Or in suburbs like Bandra in Mumbai – free agents floating in this universe, dancing to their own songs.

But there are places where individuality is taken as a sign of revolt – like (and I may be wrong in naming these places, I beg for forgiveness if my examples go against your view) China, Pakistan, some other Arab countries …

In some places having your own individual point of view on things can mean treason – if you’re not in compliance with the system of the State then you’re dead.

India, as always (and that’s what I love about my country) is bang in the middle. Certain small pockets India welcomes individuality, certain parts are tolerant about it and large parts are going to pass a verdict basis what you’re being individualistic about.

A large part of the society still goes by tradition – funnily though all the traditions are quite recent: like sex is taboo in the land of Kamasutra (200 BC).

Sometimes we’re allowed to behave like an individual. Sometimes we sense trouble and we keep quiet about it.

There are times when your personal thoughts and beliefs may make you disagree with your ‘system’ but it’s best not to voice your disagreement (unless you anticipate some great collective harm).

Truth is, it’s 2014 and many of us on the planet are pretty comfortable with our biological ecosystems. It is the other kinds of ‘systems’ that we are at cross with.

Social system, judicial system, political system, the system that doesn’t have legitimacy but are thriving – like the system of human greed and corruption.

We hate some of these systems.

But we are a part of it and can’t function without it.

80% of us don’t love our jobs and we hate the system that’s making us do what we don’t like doing. But if, tomorrow morning, we found out that our companies no longer exist, we’ll populate our hospitals.

We are too dependent on things that are sucking our lives out, day in and day out, systematically killing the great life force we once were, dumbing our human potentials down, instead of helping us evolve.

In 2013, I feel, many of us realized that. And looked to break out. Some of us actually broke out.

That led to a very tough year.

Getting out of a system is a near-impossibility. And if you’ve achieved it, you’re already part of something special.

Before you think I’m flattering you and I’m flattering myself in the process, just consider the cosmic dimensions of what you’ve come out of.

The entire universe follows a system.

Orbital force creates a system by which stars and planets and satellites and asteroids are bound in space that is otherwise a big vacuum. Things have been going round and round around something and that entire cluster has been going round and round around something bigger. And it goes on that way, unchanged.

The Moon goes around the Earth that goes around the Sun that is definitely going around something (we don’t know yet, but it’s definitely moving in a larger orbit).

The current of the oceans, they go in the same elliptical motion around the planet.

Our governments, policies, corporations, religions, fashion, cinema, all things are a ‘system’ that makes the rest of us go round and round around something larger and more powerful. And it’s called a ‘system’. And we’re ALL a part of it, knowingly or unknowingly.

The overwhelming truth is that there’s a particular pattern of movement in everything the universe holds – smaller bodies orbiting larger bodies for their survival.

And in 2013, you, you have realized that you’ve had enough of going around something else and you’ve made an attempt to stop and change your personal orbit.

That’s h-u-g-e. That, by itself, is path-breaking.

But that is also quite scary. By establishing your individuality you’ve rebuked the system and it will no longer feed you or reward you.

It would definitely give you a window of time to go back in. Say sorry and get plugged in again. It will take you in and make you pay, by testing your dignity and patience more than it tested before.

Do it then, if you don’t have a choice.

Till then, give yourself all you’ve got.

Be your own Sun. Create your own system.

It’s not going to be easy. Like it hasn’t been.

But the Universe is our true Father; as long as we are in his karmic good books, He will take care of us.

Something about 2014 tells me that we are going to be shown a new way, a new Order.

A very different kind of Order that will make us caterpillars, fly.

We just have to go through it to go to it.

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Chapter 39 | Love and Light

For once she expected some emotion from him; and an emotion would be the equivalent of seeing him broken. She did not know what it was about him that had always made her want to see him broken.

-x-

She was the princess and he was the shepherd boy. And their story was a once a fairytale in one magical land. There was no one prettier than her. Or lovelier. Whenever she came to meet him, she would bring a rainbow.

She was the kind of princess who made the shepherd boy feel like a prince.

There was no evil minister or pompous king, it was really the magical land. But one day, there was war. The kind that brewed inside the shepherd boy’s head – a part of him was at war with the other part and despite many efforts, peace could not be made.

The shepherd boy was called upon by a higher power and though he tried to answer it from the meadows, his voice got lost in the valley.

A time came when he had to leave the meadows.

On the day they were supposed to say goodbye and make promises, the princess arrived with a resolve that changed everything for the boy.

“I want you to be Him.”

“Who?”

“I want you to be like him. I think you’ll be like Him.”

“I have to read first.”

“Promise me you’ll be like Him.”

-x-

I kept the book down and I smiled. Yes, fourteen years later, I finally understood what it is to be like him.

I remember reading it in the train from Kolkata to Delhi, perched on the top berth of a train compartment.

I remember, carrying it with me and reading a few pages at a time whenever I had to wait outside somebody’s office.

I remember reading it in the kitchen of the tiny one room apartment my cousin had, hours into the night.

The book was like a Bible for me that set me off on my journey. And yes, I liked him enough to want to be like him.

I got a job with an ad agency in Delhi and I lost her.

But her parting words were going to shape my life for years to come and I’d be forever grateful to have someone like her come into my life.

To realize – the most beautiful relationships are the ones with people who come into your life and make you better. (And not your life better)

As the years passed by I moved on, from her memories and from being ‘him’. A lot happened and then suddenly, in the last year, nothing happened.

Almost nothing.

2013, the year that went by, was, without a doubt the most difficult year of my life.

I could look at it as a year where I laid all the foundations for my future years, or that I actually learnt a lot.

I could take it as a year when I stepped away from being a cog in the large corporate machinery to being a lonely cog trying to build my own machine.

But the truth is, it was a year of failures.

2013 I tried every possible thing and I failed at every possible thing. Sometimes I got things wrong, sometimes other people got it wrong, and sometimes everything was just perfect but the timing was wrong.

Sometimes it felt so right for the longest time, but in the end it went wrong.

Every time things went wrong, I tried harder. Things went wrong faster.

I fell down and found myself at the bottom of a Well (well, S, who’s seen my struggle closely says it IS like the old and broken Batman, rising. As much as this glamourises my hardships, it is also a reflection of the depth in writing we see in Christopher Nolan movies).

And there was nothing down there. Absolutely nothing and no one to tell me how to get out.

I panicked.

I tried to reach out to whoever I thought could lend me a hand. Some of them tried but the rope fell short. Some of them wanted my soul. Some weren’t ready enough.

Many were in their own wells.

The spring finally completed its recoil.*

And then I saw a rope of illumination spiral down in the midst of all that darkness. Just as it reached me, the light blended into the darkness.

Why is light hope and darkness despair? Aren’t some nights more beautiful and days more tiring? Why should we always try to run away from things we don’t like?

Sitting at the bottom and being with my own self for a while, I realized that coming out of this Well is not about escaping darkness and stepping into light.

Sometimes illumination comes in the form of darkness.

The Well is a creation of my own will; the Well of my choices. And I have to honour it.

I have to love and respect the darkness it offered and make friends with it. I have to make the Well feel that I don’t hate it; being in the Well is not captivity and getting out is not freedom.

That the Well is just another space I’m in. That it is not my cage, it is my Bodhi Tree.

I have to make the Well believe that I’m going to listen to all that it has to say, and then once it feels I’ve been a friend, it should honour my friendship and let me out.

So that I can go out with a resolve and make my movie.

And I can’t make the Well believe anything if I’m not patient and honest about it.

So I waited for the Well to open up and speak to me. Once it understood that I’m not resisting and actually enjoying its company it told me a lot of things.

Things that are going to stay with me, forever. One day I’ll write a book about it.

On the forward I will write:

“There are no demons in life. Things that bother you, bother you because they know you hate them. And there are no answers in hate.”

2013 ended well. I am so happy to say that the most difficult year of my life was also the most meaningful year of my life.

After the Well finished what it had to say, it handed me the book.

14 years back it was a story I read. 14 years later it was a story I realized I lived through.

All the people in that book came into my life. One person in that book gave me my religion.

Probably only one person in this world will understand this.

Then that’s how special that person is for lighting up my path.

At times, He could have been swept away, but He couldn’t be broken.

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Chapter 38 | Love for Bollywood

Why do people behave the way they behave? Why do they like certain things over other things?

What’s the reason behind brand preferences?

What has cinema got to do with it?

Everything, probably.

Cinema need funds. And funds are available to people who do justice to the economics.

I was watching a Future of Indian Cinema conclave – talks hosted by a large media house. And on the panel were people behind commercial cinema, indi-commercial cinema, parallel cinema and art house light bearers.

Basically people who hated the idea of mainstream Bollywood and their key concern was how to divert the funds that go to mainstream Bollywood and make it available for them.

There were mainstream Bollywood people who want to make meaningful cinema but are aware of the fact that they are a part of the larger system and market dynamics. And there were the radicals.

The mainstream guys understood the country better and the radicals refused to acknowledge the Indian truth. They wanted to be successful mavericks; do what Andy Warhol did in the sixties; it seemed to me that they wanted to live in another country (not China, Europe maybe)

The big truth in today’s world emerged – they were, like everybody else in every other discipline, talking about the ‘system’. It worked for some, some hated it.

I think there’s no point hating the system; you have to understand it well enough to make it work for you, unless of course, you want nothing out of it.

(Understanding the system is like knowing about the weather conditions in this new place you’re going to; it’ll help you pack wisely.)

To understand the system you must have an understanding of what the majority wants, or is silently validating it. And there isn’t a more conclusive way of validation than to put your money on it.

The majority of India puts their money across a counter that sells tickets for a mainstream Bollywood film. It’s not the best cinema, it’s probably something you’ll find stupid.

But it’s the truth.

Our politicians and the cinema we endorse tell a great deal about how we are as people, collectively.

And let me preface the rest of this piece by saying that I don’t hate either of them. I don’t blame our politicians and I don’t blame the mainstream mindlessness of Bollywood or hold them responsible for who we are. Without our support, they can’t do what they do.

The world is a marketplace and we are all selling something – some stuff sells more. All I can do, as an aspiring feature filmmaker in India, is to understand the market realities and find a way to make my product more sellable.

Thankfully my growing years and my formative years spent in marketing and advertising helps me understand one thing with greater clarity – what is it that people like.

It’s not going to help me write my story but it’ll surely help me sell it.

So why do the majority of Indians like mainstream Bollywood?

The answer actually is simple – anything ‘main’stream will always be the main stream.

But why do we like “heroism led modest-good-guy-beating-the-crap-out-of-the-powerful-bad-guy” stories?

The answer to that lies in the Indian reality. Almost 70 years into independence, 60 million people are under the 50 cents day-wage-earning poverty level.

The richest Indians are one the top richest people in the world.

And it’s true that while the rich get richer, the poor are getting poorer. Not because the rich are directly taking advantage of the poorer (though in some cases, that also, is a reality), but because the poor are living in darkness burdened by the perils of castism, sexism, puritanism, reliogionism etc.

For ninety-five percent of our people, every day is a constant battle for dignity.

They blame the people in power for that. And deep in their hearts they all know that there is not a thing in the world, they, in their individual human capacity, can do to change that.

But they still wish for a miracle and a messiah.

Mainstream Bollywood gives them a messiah for two and a half hours. The good-guy-hero (who is always a representation of the working class) fighting the powers of biased evil (almost always a representative of the State or the State-Corporate nexus). When that is all they see, inside a dark theatre, they forget their own identities for those 2.5 hours and they live on dignity borrowed from the figure of absolute heroism on screen.

That’s what Amitabh Bachchan gave them in the 80s. That’s what Salman Khan gives them now. Through them, on borrowed mindspace, a struggling nation kills the evil and gets the girl.

That’s what mainstream Bollywood and a poster of the next blockbuster film guarantees them – borrowed dignity in relatable circumstances.

That’s the most important element in the Bollywood success mix – relatability. When a story has elements that could be from the life of any Indian, it’s a product good for the market. The more, more people can relate to the story and see themselves in it, the bigger the box office collections.

And that’s true even for the romantic films, relatable scenarios (even if they are placed in other exotic countries) where the protagonists are relatably Indian. Fantasy, yes, but very, very relatable.

That’s the reason why people flock to see Shahrukh Khan – he is the most relatable but impossibly fantastic lover an Indian girl will ever find. That’s why they love him and that’s why he needs to play almost that same role film after film.

Coming from a very middle-class family, I myself can relate to that. When I saw these same storylines being played out film after film, I would find myself jumping with joy when the hero knocked the daylights of the villain and his team, with his bare hands, despite the fact that the villains team may have had weapons.

I used to jump with joy emulating the punches and the sound effects of ‘dhishoom dhishoom’ because, that, for me, was all I could do to counter the forces of strict adult supervision that always told me how I cannot do what I wanted to do.

I knew it was impossible for me to do what that hero is doing but I could relate to his need to break out of his limitations.

I feel most of my fellow Indians who flock the theatre to see this happening are still children at heart and interestingly most of these Bollywood blockbuster heroes play their roles with the innocence of a child – very basic, uncomplicated people who resolve the relatable crisis with an impossible fight.

Somewhere between that child and the adult that I am now, is the living reality of over one billion people. If that reality changes, Bollywood will.

Till then there’ll be products that will be manufactured for the same show to go on, albeit with more and more flamboyance.

Mainstream Bollywood will be the only solver of the existential crisis faced by us Indians.

And we must love Bollywood for that.

When we are miserable, don’t we all love the person who tells us how we are right and how the person who caused us the misery should be punched in the face?

 ———————————————————————————————————————————–

P.S.: I also see a new wave of cinema coming to us because I already feel a new wave of consciousness amongst us. There are some great statesmen who are doing some great work. And there are some fantastic filmmakers who are giving us great new stories. Because cinema is so big in India, some of these movies are actually managing to help us evolve as richer human beings – watch the films made by Raju Hirani. They are masterpieces in societal evolution. The old is fading and the new is being inked. Someday we won’t need to find hope in seeing our realities being played out on the screen with unrealistic outcomes. I will buy you an ice cream that day :)

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Chapter 37 | Test of Love

My friend B is getting married to her true love R.

And it’s a big deal after years of fighting religion in India.

B is from a Muslim family that held interfaith marriages as blasphemy.

He’d be failing his duties as a father if B married outside the religion. And he’s that kind of a man – progressive about most things, except this little thing about his own daughter.

For years B sat through the test of getting the doting but rigid father to turn a corner.

Some days she’d think of giving up. Some days she’d decide to give up on the father and walk out. Some days she’d decide to give up on her relationship and stay home.

But most days she drove her car to the office hoping that when she gets home she’ll magically find her father and her boyfriend sitting together having a beer and watching football.

Her father lined up an international spread of eligible Muslim bachelor boys and B, respectful to her father, met all of them.

After meeting them she would go and meet R and they’d probably joke about it.

B did everything her father asked of her except actually saying yes to any of those boys.

What B knew is that this is a test. Life is testing her patience and her integrity.

Her true love towards her father and her boyfriend were put to a test and it was a test of willpower – she wanted something impossible – “I will marry him with my father’s blessings.”

It took her 8 years and a divine intervention for her childhood superman to pass on the cape to her future one.

Years of walking the tightrope B knew two things – one, the rope would end someday and she would step on the grass on the other side, holding two hands. Two, she couldn’t fall.

What if she met some charming Muslim boy and told herself, “Hey, this is much easier”?

What if after a lovers’ tiff with R she decided, “OK enough, this is too hard”?

What if R weren’t understanding enough to respect her father’s views?

Thankfully, after B was sure that this is the guy she was going to marry, there were no what ifs in her life.

That’s what a test does to you. It just shows you the truth about the choices we make. It makes us go through a process of understanding why we made that choice and why there cannot be any other.

True love always tests. And in a way, the tests reveal the truth about the love.

Sometimes it’s a test of integrity. Sometimes honesty, sometimes faith, and sometimes, patience.

I chose to love cinema. And the past years I’ve been through countless tests that question the same thing – how pure is my love for cinema?

“Are you into me for how sexy I am?”

“Umm … I don’t want to hurt your self-esteem if you base them on those parameters…”

“If you had to give up your fancy life will you still love me?”

“Yes.”

“If you had to touch the rock bottom of insecurity will you still love me?”

“Yes.”

“If you had to walk away from everything you’ve built so far, will you still want me?”

“Yes.”

“If you spend all your money and can’t make rent will you still love me?”

Hang on. That’s a financial question.

Actually that’s the toughest test – the money test.

Most people fail the money test while chasing their dreams. Either before they start the journey with a “Oh no, how am I going to survive if I give up what I’m doing right now to earn that good money.”

Or, “My dreams are shrouded in EMIs.”

Or, they take a leap of faith and then backtrack somewhere down the line because they don’t have enough savings; they have a cut off mark.”

Or, worse, history is witness to people dying penniless following their dreams (and worth millions, posthumous).

Since most of the dead guys have had some or the other ‘dependency’ issues that I don’t have, I may be safe.

Plus I’m allergic to EMIs.

But still, the possibility of pulling the plug becomes scarily real each passing month.

I have some money in the bank. That money is my tightrope.

And you know what’s worse than walking that tightrope? Knowing that there’s a live band with a salad, buffet and bar counter running parallel to that tightrope.

With all your friends waving at you, “Hey you crazy one, come down, join us, there’s going to be a Lido Show!”

You just have to pick that phone and you’ll get your past life back – the money, the security, the job, the respect that the world gives you because of that money, security and job.

Instead I’m just being stupid and blind in love. Seeking some divine form of light within that blindness.

Within my blindness I see drifting fireflies.

Sometimes it’s getting the email id of a high profile movie star’s agent.

Sometimes it’s getting through to someone important on a phone call.

Sometimes it’s finding an address and landing up only to discover that people really don’t care about stories; they don’t even listen to them.

Sometimes it’s a meeting on something that involves making films but of a totally different kind.

Sometimes it’s getting a freak FB message from a stranger working for big shot at one of the biggest motion picture companies in India.

Go, meet, hear some great compliments. Talk about my stories. Log in screenplays. And wait for them to get back.

If this happened a couple of years back, I would have written a post just to share my excitement about this – that one of the heads of a big motion picture company chanced upon Un.kahi, loved it and expressed an interest in my cinema.

We had the most wonderful cinematic connection and she is reading my screenplays. It could be divine intervention leading up to my big break.

But having become wiser, I know that the irony about things of utmost passion is that you have to learn to harness it.

You have to learn to understand and respect other people’s choices and not take rejections as personal or professional. Just circumstantial.

At the end of the day everyone’s a businessperson and every decision is a business decision. And what ultimately matters is whether or not what you have fits into the scheme of things of the people with the funds.

If this works out, it will make for a magical story of how finally a movie was made. (That will be awesome – making of my story will have a story).

If it doesn’t, I’ll have to understand – just as my story does not fit into their scheme of things, they also don’t fit into my story’s scheme of things. The right people will come and stay (Will Smith – “Don’t chase people”).

Honestly, I don’t know about the external elements. I don’t know whether to go with “if it’s meant to be” or with “I can make it happen.”

I don’t know if I could make it happen because it’s meant to be.

I just know that I have to keep walking the tightrope till I get to the other side.

I know that all I can ever be is a sum total of my choices and some of those choices are responses to the tests the universe is throwing my way.

Our choices are a function of our intent. And in the end it is the absolute purity of that intent that shines through.

What I’m going through is the only way I would have ever gotten to know how much making cinema means to me – to come to a point where I am taking absolutely all life-decisions around being able to make cinema.

Maybe it’ll get harder in the days to come. Maybe the rope will begin to wear out.

It’ll scare me at times but it won’t snap.

Because life is like cinema, my friends.

There’s always some drama before the happy ending.

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Chapter 36 | Love and Effort – Part II: Business Plan

“Once upon a time there was a little snowball with a lovely song in its heart. When it rolled, every bit of snow in the mountain wanted to be a part of it.”

What starts a business?

Is it an idea? A skill set? A product?

A void? An opportunity?

The market needs?

A monetary motivation? A status proposition?

Historically, businesses have been started to fulfill self-interests.

First it was about one person. Then it became about a family. Then it became about family, friends, acquaintances. The Corporation came about. Corporations started borrowing money. So it became about family, friends, acquaintances and investors. Then businesses started borrowing money from the public. And that’s the latest – businesses modeled in a way that fulfills the interests of its stakeholders/shareholders.

Can there be a business that benefits people?

My friend HM who shares the same belief, told me about Toms Shoes. That’s such a wonderful business model that is actually good for everybody. Not just for the stakeholders but even for people around the world who have nothing to do with the business.

Can my business aim to do that?

It’s a film production house; it’ll only be audio-visual content.

Ok.

So how can my business do that?

How can I run a film production business that’s beneficial for me and other stakeholders and at the same time be beneficial for a child in Brussels, or a man in Rio, or a woman in Syria?

That’s when it occurred to me – the beauty of cinema. Films that are made from the heart and made with love have the power to run through geographies and cut through social classes.

I just have to make sure that there is enough love. And in a sense that’s just the most wonderful business model with timeless possibilities because there can never be such a thing as ‘enough love’.

No matter how much love there is, we’ll always want more.

There can never be too much love, love is such a thing; it can just keep growing.

It feels right.

Maybe it’s wrong in 2013 for businesses to exist or to be formed only to fulfill the personal interests of a select few.

Maybe larger business, global businesses should be modeled around larger things – things that everyone would want to be part of.

Not functions that people appropriate, but emotions.

Emotions people can share and grow.

Positive emotions.

Like love.

Love that leaps out of one heart, spreads to the second. And then the third and the fourth.

Like a little snowball rolling; so delicate, yet made so powerful by every bit of snow it picks on the way.

On and on, till one day the little snowball becomes as big as the planet we call home.

And that day, in the years to come, we suddenly realize, “My god! This planet is such a lovely world!”

I know some may not believe in this.

But I do.

I’m starting a production company. And this is what my business will be modeled around: “snowballing love through cinema”.

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Chapter 36 | Love and Effort – Part 1: The Ghost-Angel-Spirit

What’s the difference between making love and having sex?

It’s the same act of “insertion of the male organ into the female”, sex and making love. Which ones would we call sex? And which ones would we term ‘fucking’, ‘bonking’, ‘making love’, ‘rape’…?

Guess it’ll have to be about the emotions attached to it, and not the act by itself.

The same act can sometimes be poetry, liberating, fun, exciting, bad, boring, wrong, humiliating, painful, killing … depending on the emotions attached to it.

Sometimes that act seems natural and effortless and sometimes it feels like a chore.

Sometimes a weekend of intense physicality energises you. And sometimes a few minutes of intensity tires you out; it all depends on love or the lack of it.

I’ve always believed making Art should be like making love.

Not just art, I think any form of excellence comes from making love to that form.

Sachin Tendulkar uses his bat to make love to the cricket ball. Mozart made love to his piano. Jobs used his spirituality to make love to technology.

Did they not put long hours of work and endured physical discomfort in their pursuits? Of course they did. Did it feel like long hours of work and physical discomfort? Think no. When you enjoy something, doing it makes you feel more alive. It feels less like work and more like breathing; if you stop, it feels like death.

I know because the last five months felt like death for me.

Was it really that bad? Did nothing good happen?

Like my friend N whatsapped, “I have no clue why you are so upset. Had I been in your shoes, I’d be dancing.”

Some of my other friends thought that this was my way of pretending to be cool, getting depressed and withdrawing into an even more compact shell; it just sounds like such an artist’s thing to do.

I have dutifully accepted all social invitations and have unceremoniously stayed at home.

If you called me and I didn’t pick up, it was probably because I couldn’t pick myself up.

Hope and despair were like the sun and moon for me – they came about every day. The sun is bigger but the moon is closer.

So what happened in the last six months since the time I last wrote a post?

Sequence of events – my short film Un.kahi started getting recognition in the international film festival circuit with selections in IFFCA Los Angeles and IIFF Tampa. The one in LA, International Film Festival for Cinematic Arts (IIFCA) honoured it with an award for excellence in screenplay (short).

I traveled with my film to LA and then NY, DC, Tampa and Miami. Met some great artists and filmmakers. Exchanged views and shared dreams.

It screened at a film festival in Mumbai. And at Film Clubs.

I posed on red carpets and spoke on podiums:

 

Attended parties and after-parties.

But most of the time, it felt like death.

I realized the biggest truth about my existence as a filmmaker – that I am probably only in it because I enjoy the process of making a film, creating the work. And I’m not so much into the social hobnobbing.

I have realized in these six months that I have become really, really boring; certainly not the person you’d want for company.

Unless, of course, you were genuinely interested in talking about art and cinema and the kind of cinema I want to make. I love talking about my cinema now.

It’s this thing that’s riding me. A cinematic spirit. A ghost. It’s not letting me do or think about anything else or to enjoy any other moment. It’s just sitting inside my head and killing me.

Every minute that goes by without me getting to be a part of a cinematic process, it is telling me, “You’re not doing it. You’re not making a film. You’re not shooting.”

“But I can’t! Shooting a film needs resources. And I don’t have that now.”

But that ugly voice does not stop, “You’re not making a film.”

“But I made a film and it has been very well received.”

“You’re not making a film now.”

“I’m getting there. You know I’ve been trying for so many years now… I’m doing my best… I left all the baits of comfort to do this … I’ve done all that I should have and could have…”

“You’re not shooting a film now.”

“I went around with my script to all these people who…”

“But you’re not shooting a film now.”

The hiss gets sharper and sharper and I just drown in the ruthlessness of that voice.

Till one day I plunged deep down, the deepest I’ve ever been. The first and only time I felt I’ll never be able to get to my dream. It was all over for me. I’m hitting rock bottom.

My unrequited art had become my demon. It had me in its belly. And if I’d wait, it would just leave it for its natural digestive juices, the acids, to start working towards my eventuality.

I can’t let that happen.

Something followed that realization, as if the bottom was not made of rock but made of springs.

I remembered – Virtues of Failure. Recoil. Spring back.

“What else can I do to make my dream come true?”

In times of emotional complexity, it’s good to get back to answering very basic questions – What is it that I need?

I need a producer.

Why do I need a producer?

For pulling in the resources required for a world-class execution of my story.

But the execution depends on talent.

Talent and execution capabilities.

Am I sure about my talent?

Yes.

So I’m a good chef without a restaurant.

Why can’t I start my own restaurant?

Because I’m an artist, not a businessman. I suck at it.

So that’s the drawback.

If no one ever puts faith and money on me, I’m never going to make my movie.

That’s a scary thought.

Is it scarier than learning to be in business?

No.

Maybe the ghost is my angel, wearing a mask to scare me out of my flux?

Decision.

I have written it. I am going to direct it. And now I will have to produce it too.

I have to take an entrepreneurial plunge and start a production company.

Will I be able to do it? Will business push over the artist in me?

What is my ghost-angel-spirit telling me?

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Chapter 35: Love and Commitment

I keep strangely worried these days.

Strange thing worry is.

When you’re shipwrecked cast in a boat and out there all alone in the sea with no land in sight, you just think about survival. About catching fish, avoiding the sharks, hanging on to your boat in the storm; you just worry about preserving yourself.

But then when you sense land in the distant horizon, you’re suddenly very worried about making it to the shore. The storms that you have weathered aren’t so intimidating as the storm that you think may take you deep into the sea again. You worry about the hostility of the land.

You doubt the universe and you may even begin to feel a wee bit insecure.

When you have nothing hope is just all hope. When you have something hope turns to a possibility. And possibility, as I understand now, is not as soulful as hope.

Things could possibly go wrong – that’s the demon that raises its head.

Now that Un.kahi is made and people who have watched it are saying great things about it I should be mighty pleased and happy about it.

But I’m not. I’m worried and restless.

A friend SD wrote to me the other day – congrats on breaking through that gigantic wall that many who ‘feel’ a film inside them are unable to cross!

I replied: I still haven’t crossed that wall. This still isn’t ‘my’ story; I haven’t felt this inside me from the beginning. But what this has done is – given me a coin to put inside the final slot machine :)

A while later it occurred to me that maybe with Un.kahi I’ve earned that coin for the next slot machine and not the final slot machine.

It’s like what happens in these video games – every completion gives you an entry to the next round. And you don’t know what the next round is, till you’re in it.

Life, unlike a video game, doesn’t come with pre-described ’42-levels’ of great action.

You didn’t know at what level you entered the game and when you’re going to get done – you don’t have knowledge or control over the games architecture.

You only have control over your own choices as and when the situations play themselves in.

Real life choices are often not as basic as ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

Like the dilemma I’m facing – quite a few people have liked Un.kahi and some of them are in positions to help me become a full time director directing ad films. They are supportive, encouraging and probably right in telling me that I shouldn’t waste my time and start directing commercials.

The money is really good and I’ll be doing something that I truly enjoy – be a part of the filmmaking process. Besides, I’ll learn as I do which will surely help me when I make my feature film and I will also know more people in the business, people whose paths I don’t cross otherwise.

Sound advice I’d say. Having worked in advertising for so many years now, I’d probably be a good candidate for quite a few brand commercial projects.

My head says go ahead, make commercials, make money, know more people in the business and then like most other ad film directors, when the time is right, launch your feature dreams.

Follow the track.

My heart is the bitch.

It’s like I’m in college and I fancy this out-of-this-world beauty like every other guy in the college does. And I’m not in her league.

Should I befriend one of the girls in her group I think has a thing for me? I could get into closer proximity with the woman of my dreams. I’ll get to go out with her, talk to her know what she wants and then one day, bam! This strategy totally works, the head will say that.

But my heart says why would you ‘use’ a really nice girl to get to the girl of your dreams. Wouldn’t it be planned cheating? Wouldn’t you give her a heartache? Wouldn’t she feel sad and miserable?

I’ve always believed that nothing good eventually comes out of cheating.

One must always be clear and honest with his intentions and stay committed to the course. Even if it takes longer. Even if it eventually leads to nowhere. At least no one else is going to feel let down because of me.

I don’t think everything is fair in love and war, that statement is an old world virus.

True love is always in the heart. And the truest action that shows true love is in your sense of commitment.

My true love is my own artistic expression through cinema.

In real terms, this is the project that I want to put my heart and soul into:

’3W’:

Human drama – a story based in Calcutta of the 60s, 70s and the 80s; a story that’ll be relevant for as long as humans will stay humans.

I want to work with the best talent (not the more famous) from across the globe. I want to make it a multi-country production. It’s a bilingual – English and a bit of Bengali (like Namesake or Slumdog Millionaire. Or it could be a multi-language production like the way I’ve handled advertising productions for region/language clusters worldwide.)

The shooting of it will not be expensive, leaving aside the outdoor scenes where the art has to go back to the time period – which means changing everything you see. Luckily Calcutta, as a city is quite preserved in time. I could choose to shoot in locations that haven’t changed at all since the 60s. So the most I’ll have to change will be the billboards.

But the real cost will be the talent – acting, music, post production… I want to score the music with Nitin Sawhney. And Norah Jones and Anoushka Shankar.

I want to do the VFX in Bangkok and Amsterdam. 

I want to do the colouring and post at The Mill with the guys who’ve seen London through the 60s and the 70s and the 80s.

I want to be able to distribute and market the film in all parts of the world (the story is timeless, human, universal and therefore has a worldwide market).

Like The Intouchables.

I want to be able to work with great actors who will be able to give me all their time and commitment. I have to work with them and mould them into their roles. And it doesn’t matter what language they speak as long as they fit the role in basic human requirements and are willing to ‘get marinated’ (great food is always a result of great ‘pre’).

Some of these people are friends. Some, I’ve met and know. Some, I know of. And some of them, I don’t even know who they are.

But at this point in time, all of it seems like the out-of-this-world beauty in college; totally out of my league.

Should I listen to my head and use ad-filmmaking?

Should I listen to my heart and stay clean, stay committed?

Or should I listen to my intuition?

I’m going to try and eavesdrop into the conversation between my inner voice and the outer universe.

Keep you posted   :)

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Chapter 34 – Love in The Times of Violence, Depression and Serial Bankruptcy – Part III

To really understand SDG’s story, you have to go back a bit in time. To a place called Bengal.

Bengal is a state in the east of India. Kolkata, previously known as Calcutta, is the capital of Bengal.

This eastern state, till one point in time, was the bustling hub of art and culture with influences from all over the world. The creative vibe was as much local as it was international.

Not just famous for noble laureates like Rabindranath Tagore or Amartya Sen or genius filmmakers like Satyajit Ray (who was also a world-class writer and music director), Bengal boasted of abundance of creative talent like perhaps Vienna did, in music.

The moneyed were connoisseurs of art; in that economy, originality and creativity flourished.

And like in the process of evolution your dominant traits get sharper and the ones that you don’t use get redundant, the Bengali got too caught up with its pursuit of art for art’s sake.

What it failed to catch up with was the sign of changing times – the Money Age. Many enterprising states of India came up on the social hierarchy with its people working very hard and making money.

Even in Bengal, the migrants from the west of India took fair advantage of the average Bengalis disrespect towards hard work and took the economy away.

One fine day, the softer skills of singing, dancing, painting, writing did not matter much. The state wasn’t geared for this change.

The politicians misled; perhaps they misinterpreted. The result was a steady decline of everything that Bengalis were once very proud of.

I am a Bengali too. And the Calcutta I grew up in the 80s and the 90s to the Kolkata that is today, is like a poet losing his verse midway.

From concerts of every genre in every corner of the city every day to elaborate book fairs to theatre, cinema, art exhibitions, debate, dance, recitation, book readings and cricket and football and never-ending political discussions in a city throbbing with the life force of youth and creativity, to, a very tired city today.

With very little money and outdated pride.

If you go to someone’s house in Kolkata today, chances are you’ll only find old people living there – their kids are in some other part of India or the world.

Nine out of ten houses will tell you the same story.

Two things are very prominent in the entire city – yellow cabs and medical centres. Every second building is a medical lab, nursing home, hospital or chemist in this ailing city.

Thankfully, it still is beautiful, architecturally.

Coming back to SDG, he and I are both from Kolkata. But we have never known each other, personally.

I knew who he was. And why wouldn’t I – twenty years back as a bumbling high-school kid I would wait outside the amphitheatre trying to get myself a ticket to a sold-out concert where SDG would be lead pianist with Hip Pocket, one of the most popular rock bands of Calcutta.

He was part of the cult.

Long hair. Panache. Disdain.

I met him, for the first time, a couple of months back when KP, my assistant director (who is also a drummer), casually mentioned that she knows a pianist from Kolkata who could do the scoring for my short film.

We met at a café and I saw a man in his forties, short hair and a lot of hurt in his face. In Kolkata, no one really cared about making music any more.

The DJs are spinning their magic and bands don’t even get as many shows. Over the years the money and the respect kept going down, till it reached a point that a forty-year old, accomplished musician and a father of three kids had to leave his city and move to Mumbai. Rent a tiny apartment in the suburbs and prove to people with dubious taste that he can actually play the piano.

Such is the power of money in India – if you have more money than me, you are right and I am wrong.

Amazing.

I remembered the promise I had made to Rodrigo.

SDG and I met over many sessions at a Tibetan eatery. Interestingly the owner of the eatery, we learnt is also from Kolkata. And is a guitarist himself. He knew SDG and couldn’t be happier that a musician of his stature was having Momos in his shop.

Besides listening to work-in-progress track of my film Un.kahi we spoke about various things. The ones I loved most were stories about people whose understanding of music were like a roach’s understanding of Monet. But these guys are always the bosses.

They always have the kind of money, fifteen times my production budget to spend on one performance on one of the days leading up to their daughter’s wedding.

While we hire the cheapest bungalow away from the city and kill ourselves in order to make it look like a massage parlour.

There was a day when KP, MC and I were stranded on our way to the bunglow, caught in the middle of a heavy downpour, wading through knee-deep water full of filth. Trying to make our way to the location, worried only about the safety of our equipment.

There were two things running through my mind – one, why is it that the reality of a place where we were to create the most beautiful spa, so ugly?

And two.

Two was a happy thought.

Wading through that knee-deep water filled with overflowing garbage, with my laptop bag over my head I started laughing.

It felt like shit. Real shit. But somehow there was a little more meaning to it than flying business class to some place nice, been whisked away in a C-Class and put in a hotel with temperature controlled toilet seats. And then hatch an evil plan on how to make millions of people believe that there life would be futile without Brand X.

Sometimes you plug out of the matrix and go through hell, before you get to heaven.

 

This video is the reality from that day:

———————————————————————————————————————–

And here’s a look into the film we made:

 

Synopsis:

True love lies in understanding the unsaid words.

Spread over months of massage sessions a bond of sisterhood develops between a rich woman and her masseuse. She tells her stories of her happy married life and her lovely husband. Through her, masseuse sees perfect love that every girl longs for.

But very often in life, people use words to run away and hide from the reality. Is a lie just a lie? Or is there a bigger truth for all of us, unsaid in it?

Experience a sensitive portrayal of two women and the very essence of true love.

 

Here’s the first look:

(If you do not see the video on this page please click here)

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Chapter 34 | Love in The Times of Violence, Depression and Serial Bankruptcy – Part II

It all started at a family wedding a few months back.

I was meeting some of my relatives after ages. And they were all very curious to know what I’ve been up to.

“I’m still with my advertising job but I want to make movies.”

They were all very pleased to hear that – the part of India I come from, Kolkata, is a land of Bengalis. And the Bengalis are all about the ‘Art and Culture’.

They lost all their money in their old-worldly pursuit of art and culture (while the rest of the world intelligently pursued money), but drop a hint of Art in any conversation with the Bengalis and their eyes light up; the Bengalis are unrelenting.

“What a noble thought… We are all very proud of you. We will have the next Satyajit Ray in our family!”

Of all the people who had made it for the wedding, there was this very-eminent-businessman brother AC. He has always been very fond of me since I was a kid.

His wife, my sister-in-law, MC also held my creative capabilities in high regard. Just that we hadn’t met in ten years. So there was no chance of having this conversation earlier.

“Wonderful! We are all very happy with the fact that you want to make movies… Have you made any…?”

“Not to my liking.”

“Why don’t you make a short film? I have some stories… You could hear them out?”

———————————————————————————————————————–

A week later I was at dinner in their place. Post which MC started narrating her short stories. I heard a few and realized that I wouldn’t be able to tell those stories. And then I heard another one, which had a twist in the end.

I hate twist-in-the-end stories. Unless it’s of the caliber of Usual Suspects or Fight Club, please avoid the urge to ‘drop the penny’. I find them too wannabe.

I quietly gulped my dessert and slipped out.

Soon enough all the stories slipped out of my mind, but one – a story set in a massage parlour about the relationship between a lady and her masseuse.

A story about two women from very different social strata bonding over the concept of perfect love and elusive happiness.

It’s a nice subject to shoot; perhaps I could make something out of it?

 

Maybe I could take the basic structure of the story and do a different kind of screenplay – movies based on books aren’t always as per the book?

 

The story that was narrated to me was like an emotional thriller, maybe I could actually look at it like a love story.

 

I love love. I think it’s stronger than all the other emotions put together.

 

I want to make films that are about love.

 

So why not this one?

 

I quickly sat down to write the screenplay. And it felt like love.

My cinema cannot be all about a surprise; my cinema has to be about love. The oxygen that flows through the blood that flows through the veins has to be love.  The characters can be flawed, but you still must love them as your own.

I made it a love story between two women and before you get any ideas, let me clarify – it’s the kind of love all human beings are supposed have for all other human beings.

The kind of love MC had for screenplay.

The excited wife turned to the creative-friendly businessman husband for a nod of production approval.

“Take a look at this short film”, he said, and showed me something made under a thousand dollars.

It was … well, I wouldn’t want to make a film like that and give people the wrong idea that cheap is good.

Besides, I knew this film couldn’t be produced out of a garage. A massage parlour could be aesthetically demanding – locations, art, props etc.

It would require at least 24 hours of setting up, lighting and shooting time.

It would require top of the line actors with stunning faces to hold the film (there’s nothing in it other than them) and my lead model would also need to be in perfect shape because a large part of the film would be on a massage table.

I knew I’d need to do extensive recce and casting sessions.

I knew I couldn’t shoot this in a real massage parlour because they have really small rooms and I wouldn’t be able to put lights and the camera and the monitor and the crew in that space.

“I don’t want to get into the production. You line it up for me and I’ll direct.”

———————————————————————————————————————–

That he did. That’s how I met my Executive Producer MCT.

We met, discussed, worked out a production plan and I asked MCT to share the budget with AC.

Then I got a frantic phone call – “%$*$#* … for a fucking short film … are you out of your mind???”

With that, for the next few days, a triangle of hope and despair formed between AC, his wife MC and me.

“Be reasonable…”

“Make it happen!”

“I don’t understand…”

“When are we shooting?”

Finally I realized that I’d also have to step in to plan the production.

And work backwards from a budget that was like a 20-inch belt for a 32-inch waist.

Now if you are a filmmaker yourself, you could be wondering what’s the big deal, we all start with miniscule budgets. And people are ready to work pro-bono.

Not in India. Not the people I wanted to work with. Not for the kind of film I wanted to make.

I’ve tried to orchestrate pro bono projects in India and it doesn’t work. Not because people are not interested in contributing towards good work, but they just can’t afford to. Taking substantial amount of time and energy out from their otherwise paying projects means not taking up some paying projects. And most technicians and talent can’t afford that.

Even if they say yes, sooner or later they’ll have to de-prioritize the pro-bono work because of some paid-for stress.

And it’s irresponsible to mount a production under the constant fear of someone backing out at the last minute.

The only way pro-bono works is when you’re already a part of the industry working with a big banner or a big director and either your big producer or big director gives you the ammunition to go out and make a short film.

Say you’re the first Assistant Director of a multi-million dollar Bollywood fare and people see potential in you – you could figure out a way to get the equipment and the talent for your personal project. Of course after you’ve obtained the necessary ‘blessings’ from a heavyweight.

I had none.

So I believed in the sanctity of money. People are only going to be seriously accountable when they get paid. You can push people (and I’m a very difficult guy to please) only after you’ve given them something more than a promise of good work.

Otherwise, and I’ve faced it in the past, it comes down to, “Fuck off, I can’t give you more than this… anyway I’m doing you a favour!”

Yes there are some who can afford to be the exception, but for most people it’s not easy.

I knew I could probably request people to charge less, but I knew I’m not going to approach any of these guys to work pro-bono:

  1. Casting Director for three rounds of casting sessions with a high-end Talent agency in Mumbai
  2. Call backs
  3. Actors fees
  4. Two days of studio time – one day for set up and pre-light and one day for the shoot
  5. Art director’s fees and three different set-ups for the Massage Parlour and one other sequence; we actually designed and set up a massage parlour.
  6. A good cinematographer. Plus camera crew
  7. A good camera plus technology
  8. Lights. Lots of lights
  9. Costumes
  10. Make up
  11. Music director’s fees
  12. A good editor and offline studio time
  13. Grading (the final colours and the final look) at one of the best post houses in Mumbai with seasoned technicians.
  14. Two days at a good recording studio with a fantastic sound engineer for dubs and music and the final mixes
  15. Online and titling and sub-titling
  16. Final output encoding

All 16 heads had to be top-of-the-line, the best in Mumbai; the word I wanted to hear post viewing is “Super!”

And not “nice.”

The plan in my head was simple – to get one process done and get great deals on the next process basis the merits of the first process. It’s great if you can give a feel of the end product before your colleagues begin working on it.

(Homework. Pre-production. Homework. You should be able to mount the film even before you shoot an inch of film.)

Thanks to so many talented people who saw the merit in this project, we managed to have the best on board.

Everything eventually fell in place. And some became signs that this was shaping up well.

Like my lead actor ST.

When after a month of auditions I couldn’t find an actor with a great face and body, willing to bare her back for the massage table sequences, a friend I bumped into after four years suggested that I look up this actress ST.

She looked good for the part. She auditioned. And then I wanted to meet her in person just to get an idea of how well she’ll be able to portray a rather difficult role.

“You know, I could relate with this woman who I’m supposed to play… I myself have gone through some sort of a personal tragedy like …”

My prompt reaction – “Oh how lovely!”

Of course I quickly backtracked… but she wasn’t offended. She realized that I was so into the creative process that I probably lost out on social skills.

A few days later when we met up again, ST told me that she was advised by her doctor not to wear lenses. So she will see everything hazy during the shoot.

“Perfect”, I told her, “You’ll not be conscious about baring your back in front of so many strangers.”

Both of us believe that her blurred vision added to the performance.

The other lead actor, the masseuse – the girl who played that part is a well-known face from the soaps. And because the soap-opera schedules are really demanding she could only meet me for half an hour before the shoot.

Much to my excitement, she, just as she was, embodied the role of the masseuse. I just had to control the projections.

There’s this boy I had cast for the role of a delivery boy, thinking this would be my good-Samaritan act. He is the son of my cleaning lady. I thought this would be an opportunity for him to make some money and his school fees could be taken care of.

He didn’t turn up for the shoot.

Instead I got a better fit for the role in another boy who was working with the pantry –a gawky teenager, dispassionate enough to deliver the most important lines in the film; the lines I strongly believed needed to be delivered absolutely dispassionately.

My Director of Photography, TB, who is the most obsessive creative person you’ll ever meet. He gives you the feeling that he is not even aware that there actually is a world where things other than films, happen.

He wasn’t really making much money out of this assignment but he stopped taking any other assignment till this one was done. He wanted to get wired and put all his energies into this.

He stopped going to the gym because he didn’t want to take a chance with injury.

I think he also stopped rain on the day of the shoot because this was during the peak of monsoons in Mumbai and the days before and after the shoot were heavy on the downpour.

Our Art Director/Production Designer, MC, also a close friend of mine put together a wonderful set and production design job in miniscule budgets within four days when our original Art Director had to bow out because of clashing dates.

My assistant KP who I literally picked up from the corridors of my (then) office (I’ve quit my big ad-agency job) because I heard she is a drummer.

“But I have zero experience in films?”

“You’re a girl drummer. You’ll be good as an Assistant Director. Wanna?”

“Okay.”

There were many others who put themselves out for the sake of art. But the one story that is the most heartwarming for me is the story of our music director, SDG.

That to me is truly a story about the triumph of art, cinema, music and love in the times of violence, depression and serial bankruptcy.

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Chapter 34 | Love in The Times of Violence, Depression and Serial Bankruptcy – Part I

N.A. put down her iPad, exasperated – “I hate this News App … it pushes notifications that pop up every now and then and all of it is just so depressing. What’s wrong with the world?”

Seriously, what’s wrong with the world? What’s wrong with India?

Mumbai?

The morning newspaper here is about 48-pages thick. And from the front cover to the back page, barring the sports section, the entire newspaper seems to be a dossier of mortified humanity.

If you missed the ‘celebrity fashion implant’ trivia, you’d think no one’s got a chance to ever go to a happy place in their lives.

48 pages of how we are fucked and how it’s only going to get worse, is a little too much reality for every single morning.

As a common Indian I have two choices in looking away – watch cricket or watch movies. I could watch television or go to night-clubs, but cricket and movies are better for my eyes and liver.

Between cricket and movies, movies are playing all the time and require less of a commitment. I trust a movie to negate the effect news has on me.

But even that’s not happening. The broadly-three-kinds-of-movies:

  1. Hero Movies: A man like you and me is vindicated from scene one to scene second last. And then he kills the vindicator. This is the best reflection of the average Indian’s reality ending with his dream – to kill the motherfucker. .
  2. Circus movies: It’s a circus on screen, which you need not make any sense of, but it enthralls the five-year-old in you. But you don’t take anything back, other than the luscious ‘item number’ girl’s thirst for erotic divinity.
  3. Real Movies: These are the most disappointing. Simply because they are made by very capable directors who are, I guess, anti-Bollywood. Their agenda is – if Bollywood is glossing it up to a level of escapism, I’m going to make the real, really cool. And by real, I mean the Slumdog life, the corruption, the ugliness; their films are a celebration of these. I guess that’s all right, once. Or twice. Not thrice a year for many years now. Take for example the plot of ‘gang wars’. We’ve had many gang-war movies on the same plot in different geographies. Every ‘real’ director wants to make a gang war movie. The last one in the reckoning is GOW. In 2 parts. Synopsis: A, C, E, G, I, K, M, O, Q, S, U, W, Y are in one team. B, D, F, H, J, L, N, P, R, T, V, X, Z are in the rival team. They all kill each other in many different ways till the end. Apparently this is India’s Godfather – the tale of three generations of the Mafioso. And my heart sinks because Godfather isn’t even about the violence; it is about keeping the family together. It is about the helplessness of a really powerful man. It is about love and such other human emotions. I wish the gun GOW held to my head slipped down to my heart. But, naah…

Yes GOW is a story about three generations of people but where are the human beings in that story?

Where’s the magic that turns movie sex to motion picture love-making?

Like The Intouchables.

I could go on and on and on about the film because that’s the kind of film I will make, that’s the kind of story I will tell, that’s the kind of cinema you’ll get from me. But I’m not going to sell it to you because I know you, me and everyone else actually wants to see more of that kind of cinema. Especially in these times of violence, depression and serial bankruptcy.

And I’m guessing a worldwide $ 2000 Mn. Box Office collection is proof enough. (GOW in 2 parts is at $ 10 Mn. appx. cumulative)

So after GOW I felt helpless as an Indian viewer – I’m not getting the magic; I’m getting sad reality. I felt helpless as a filmmaker; I can’t create the magic because …

Well, I’ve never said before but it’s always been true – the filmmaker is perhaps the most unfortunate of all artists.

If you’re a write you just need a pen and paper and you can write. As a musician you can just pick up an instrument and play. Or sing. As a painter, dancer, sculptor, actor … you can demonstrate your true capabilities because the implementation of your art is not dependant on a hundred other things.

Filmmaking is a complex and arduous process. And you can’t demonstrate your capabilities all by yourself. You need other people, you need money.

At least I do. I am extremely visual.

I have a heightened sense of aesthetics that wants to project images of the world I want to see, not the one I see.

And that requires people, money.

I have a tendency to remain unhappy about the output till it reaches my idea of artistic excellence. That requires people, money.

Yes, I’ve also heard celebrated filmmakers saying, “If you want to make films, just go out with your cell-phone camera and shoot.”

But I’m incapable of doing that because I think “what you want to say” comes first and then comes “saying it.”

I don’t have stories about slum dwellers in Mumbai. Or edgy mafiaso. Or about bubble gums. I don’t want to shoot a film on my mobile phone camera or my Flipcam if that’s not the kind of visual treatment the story demands.

And Mumbai is not Prague. Or London. Or Cape Town. Or wherever else the orientation is on ‘design’.

And people here don’t really want to make art, they just want to make money.

I don’t have the money to make my films.

And I don’t want to take the peanuts some financers have lured me with because I’m very sure that you can only achieve excellence if you constantly keep ducking ‘scope of mediocrity’.

I’ll wait till I get a sense that I’ll be able to pull off almost exactly what I want.

Fortunately, after over two years of writing this blog, I’m not going to have to end this post with just another resolve.

If you’ve read my post on Understanding Luck, you know how it ended.

You may have sent more than your share of wishes because the film is ready. And it’s mostly all that I wanted it to be. (I’ll never be completely happy with anything.)

It’s a short feature called Un.kahi (which means ‘The Unsaid’) and I am now in the process of sending it for film festivals around the world. (If you know of any in your part of the world, then please do pass me the link, thank you.)

I can’t have the film here to share with you – I can’t make it publicly available before it does the rounds of the festivals. What I would love to share is the trailer.

Perhaps we could get to that after I shared the story about how it all happened?

I’m guessing you’d love to read about what goes in to make a piece of 8-minute cinema that does not have a revenue model.

In India.

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