“How’s it shaping up?”
“Let’s just say, after this, I can die.”
“What are you saying, you’ve got to live and make more films!” SD was quite alarmed with the mention of the D-word.
“It’s not a scary statement, let me explain.”
For most of us, death is a scary thought – the idea of mortality is something human beings have been obsessed with for centuries. And I know many people who have never had to deal with the death of a close one, be it even a pet dog or cat.
But since this is my blog, let me tell you how comfortable I have been with the idea of death. I belong to a large extended family and I’ve been going to the crematorium since I was 10. In fact, by high-school, my cousin T and I had complete knowledge of the various procedures; we must have been to the crematoriums more than 25 times!
My father passed away when I was in college. And now I’m 41 and in this last year alone, four of my friends died. Some were a little older than me, some a lot younger. A very close friend, AM, is somehow staying strong with husband’s advanced stage cancer. And she has a little daughter. When I asked her how she is handling it, she said, “How I conduct myself now will become my daughter’s idea of dealing with hardships.”
A very dear fried died in the Singapore Botanical Garden when a 270 year old tree fell on her. And she had just become a mother of twins. Life is that fragile.
So lets not pretend that death is a tabboo subject and that if I’m talking about death there is something wrong with me.
There, actually, is nothing wrong with me. It’s not all right. But it definitely isn’t all wrong. It’s just in-between and as people, we simply get rattled by nothingness of the in-betweens.
I’m writing after a year and this past year has been about a lot of good things, albeit not on paper or FB post.
So I explained to SD, what I meant by “… after this, I can die …” Let me also explain this to you:
I’m an artist. Which means that I do something, basis my inate desire to do so, which no one may need. I can continue to create art and depending on how the society around me responds, I will make money or starve to death. And this does not scare me.
Before I discovered art inside me, I had discovered other artists and I’ve always been aware of the fact that artistes and thinkers can be ahead of their times, they can be not understood, misunderstood and even penalized for flouting conformity. Van Gogh died a poor man, aged 37.
Franz Schubert, Edgar Allan Poe, Oscar Wilde and countless others died in poverty.
I personally know supremely talented artistes who have withered away.
The fact that uncommisioned Art is completely unncessary to this world, is a thought every artist should be aware of.
They should know that rejection isn’t just emotional, it’s not like a job where your work gets rejected by your boss but you still get paid next month. When I get rejected, it actually means I don’t earn any money for my work.
That’s quite literally, is, existential.
So, “The poor guy tried, but he died” is one of the possibilities. And it rhymes.
It, most certainly, is a red flag in my head. Especially because in the last few years I’ve had two very miraculuos near-death experiences.
The first one happened a couple of years back when my auto-rickshaw’s front wheel came off and I flew from one side of the road, crossed the divider and landed on the other side of the road. The driver had mutiple fractures and cuts. I was scratch free. But those few seconds when I was flying, with a sense of impending doom, I actually had the ‘death feeling’. Not the ‘dead’ feeling but the ‘death’ feeling. My whole life didn’t flash past me. It was, at first, “What an idiot, how can he not see such a big pothole…” And then “Oh no, there’s that wheel and I’m flying inside an auto!” Followed by “Shit, shit shitshit… my film! My Film! If I die how will I make my film!!!”
Since that day, this has been my worst nightmare – to die before being able to leave behind my cinema, or at least, one piece of work which could say who this filmmaker was and what was the kind of work he was trying to do.
I’m not a painter or musician or novelist. The work that I do cannot be done just by using my talent. Filmmaking needs a lot of resources and it needs these resources to fall in place.
There’s first the story and the screenplay but then post that it totally is about other things and other people which cost money. How much, depends on the story. (I know there are many great filmmakers who work backwards to be able to tell a story within a certain budget that they can manage. And they think on their feet and they make it happen. And it’s so good that later when you see the film you don’t even realise that it was done in such a small budget. But I can’t do that. For me, first, the story comes. And then I am obligated to find the best possible way to tell it.)
For me cinema is not a director’s medium but a producer’s medium – the most important person in cinema is the person who is making someone’s dream, real. With his money, clout, power. Yes, in some cases the director is big enough to command resources, but in most cases he is also the producer. Cinema today, is about the economics.
You give Steven Spielberg a certain set of resources that isn’t right for his projects and he will make a very bad film, if at all. You give an average director the best resources – a great story, the best actors, music directors, cinematographer, editor, fantastic locations and he will make a film most defintely watchable. At least by your cousins.
I still don’t have that – I still haven’t found a feature producer who believes in my work. So I’ve never been able to do the kind of work which I can be truly satisfied with.
My first film wasn’t my story. My second film had to be shot in one night and the lead actor ran fever. Imagine a cute old uncle-type man who has been a school teacher for most parts of his life, leading a very disciplined life, thrown in the Delhi winters from 11 in the night to 7 in the morning. On viral fever medication. We didn’t have any money to shoot another day.
My advertising commercials are not written by me; it’s not my voice, I’m just a part of the chorus.
I was constantly getting judged by what was essentially not Me. And therein lay my worst nightmare – that life is fragile and I could die. And if I die no one will know what I was capable of. No one will ever know.
“He tried. And died.”
Fuck. That’s the scariest thought I’ve ever had to live with.
That ‘This Struggle’ will not amount to anything. No one will ever know what I was trying to say. And then someday someone will get my laptop and they will simply reformat the hard disk.
No one will ever know who I really was.
Thankfully, I’m past that.
Something really disappointing happened mid last year. And in a fit of rage, I decided to approach the only producer who could put his faith in me.