Sunday, May 31, 2009

A Defining Moment

Let us for the sake of political correctness call the two women 'A' and 'B'. This was about 10 years back. It is funny how incidents such as these play a significant part in shaping the emotive traits in a character.

I was supposedly in love with B. It was a time when my infamous rationality had gone for a toss. In fact, as I think back, I hardly thought. There is this manic obsession one is consumed with when one thinks one is in love. And I was no exception. 'A' was my friend. A very dear one. Someone with whom I go back a long way. 'A' and 'B' were classmates. One fine afternoon, a very fine one indeed, considering the events to follow, I got a call. From B.

"Are you free now ? Could we meet and just go around for some time ?". For a brief moment, I thought my heart would stop. Just stop. Here was I, always waiting for such a call to go out, with HER and in the web of my dreams had pictured such an outing to near perfection and lo behold, I do get one such invitation ! Who says, miracles happen only in fairytales ? I stuttered and composed myself and asked "Yeah, sure, you alone ?". The basis of the question was my earlier experiences with 'B', wherein, she would consciously avoid being with me all by herself. This, in spite of the fact, that I was hopelessly decent with women and pathetically harmless. The answer was a cryptic "Yes, who else would be there?" to which I promptly asked her to wait wherever she was and assured her that I would get there in about 10 minutes.

During this short walk to the agreed destination, I had all sorts of questions in my mind. I was so excited that I was actually amused. Amused at the effect a ridiculous 'date' could have on me. But behind all of this, lurked a sneaky feeling - "Why on earth would she suddenly call ME?" and that too after steadfastly refusing to even walk 5 metres with me ever. I reached there on time. It would not have been even a minute when out of the blue 'A' appeared, from behind with a glorious and slightly sly interesting smile. I was shocked to see her there. Then I saw B approaching from the other side of the road with a knowing sickening smile towards A.

It took a minute for it to sink in. The first thought that struck me was "Shit, they planned it!".

I do not know whether it was at that moment that I understood what having fun at the expense of someone else meant. And whether I did start appreciating emotions much more from that point on. I have thought of it many a time and have never come to a definite answer as to why one of your closest friends would do this for the heck of it. For B, well, maybe, maybe when you know that there is one who would be there to answer to your beck and call, or rather, when you know that you have a power over another, a power so strong that it is capable of controlling the other without wielding any sort of authority over the other, possibly the human tendency is to sometimes test it out. Just for fun. Which does not make the action forgivable. But to an extent would surely justify it.

For A, it was unforgivable. It still is. Vivian Leigh has this line in "A Streetcar Named Desire" where she says "Intentional cruelty can never be forgiven". On the money, I would say. But just that with time, hurt heals and we become wiser. With time, we also come to the inescapable conclusion that it all evens out. Where and when are just matters of detail. So it best not to forget but always to forgive.

The dilemma is that sometimes you hardly want things to even out - just because they are friends. Even at your own expense. Even at the expense of a dignity compromised and a loss of self-respect.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

My FilmFare Acceptance Speech

I would like to thank:

Filmfare, for supporting the trashiest awards ceremony the world has ever known or will ever know - one that panders to general opinion, based on pure escapism of the highest order, where quality or excellence is measured in currency, where how much you make is more important than what you make and where crony nepotism is the sureshot way to fame.

Yash'ji' (and Pam 'Aunty'- it is fashionable to mention her name with his) for giving us timeless classics full of intensity and passion, for bringing together some of the best talent in the film world and extracting mind blowing performances from them and then thrashing everything he had created earlier to make huge money spinners without a soul, without a story and mindless cliches. Just to let us know that it is indeed possible to dive into the depths of alarming mediocrity from a plane of excellence.

Karan Johar, for showing us the talent he has and letting us know in the same breath that he will never do justice to it.

Shah Rukh Khan, for taking on roles considered to be graveyards for heroes, for defying every stereotype that was there in the industry at that time, for making a success of his marriage amidst the heaps of broken ones all around him, for breaking the shackles imposed by the burden of being a superstar and then methodically, consciously undoing each and every one of them so painstakingly built. For frittering away the opportunity of a lifetime to bring about a paradigm shift in the business of making films in India.

Abhishek Bachchan, for showing that it is possible to leverage one's career, first through one's father, then the mother and then the wife. For proving again and again, that in our nation unworthy sons make absolute fools of illustrious parents, for proving
that in the CV, the surname matters more than the matter that rests in it. For landing up with plum roles inspite of being the greatest dud ever. Well, apologies, he did beat his father to one record at least. The most number of flops before a hit.

Hrithik Roshan, for using his lineage judiciously and making it count on his own merit every time. For just showing that hard work might actually make up for a perceptible lack of talent to an extent. For showing that humility does have a wonderful charm.

Kareena Kapoor, for putting to shame the legacy left behind by Raj, Shammi, Shashi and Rishi - all very competent actors of their times simply by her expressionless acting and horrendous selection of roles. For confirming the notion that great genes do not necessarily translate to greatness in reality.

Ram Gopal Varma, for being the most maverick filmmaker of our times. For never being afraid to try out new things, most of them utterly crappy, yet never shied away from trying. For giving horror a new dimension, for gloryfying and humanising the dreaded underworld and for screwing every awards ceremony that India offers.

Aamir Khan, for never attending this awards ceremony and for calling their bluff and surviving inspite of being at loggerheads with the powers that be.

My cast, crew all other support staff for making a film which none of us should be proud of, purely because here I am on stage receiving an award from the most farcical institution, if it could be called that, through a process of selection which is anything but transparent or credible from a bunch of people whose only claim to fame is to sit on the fence and applaud greatness and never make an attempt to achieve it.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Mark and Steve

To say that he was the cheese and I was the chalk would be an understatement. To say that he was Mark and I was Steve would be a closer approximation, nonetheless stretching it a bit far.

He has grace. I have grit. He was prolific. He still is. I was the typically sedate. He made it look so easy. For him, it was just a question of when. The how was clear and so were the results. I was cocky and definitely lacked the ability he had. Ironically enough, we both started from the same room. And reached different horizons in life.

It had to be this way. There was no other.

He was a mother’s delight. Unobtrusive, quiet, a boy of exceptional intelligence and concentration, obedient and a sneaking tendency to excel in everything he would touch, the indications of his success were for all to see. He was destined to be something special. Coming from an academically illustrious family, this was the norm rather than the exception. And he did not disappoint. Never did. The boy grew up to be one of the best in the family – excellent in demeanor, hard-working, handsome and professionally outstanding. The parents were blessed. Or so they thought.

Till I came into the picture.

I was everything he was not. I was mischievous, deliberately non-conformist, utterly vain and supremely confident in the idea that I was an equal if not better than him. I never was. Contrary to the general fortunes in my life, in academics, luck did smile on me when it was most needed. I barely scraped through otherwise. Statistically, I hardly had an average academic career. I never listened to the soundest advice of my parents even when I knew that they were right. My desire to learn everything through experience was unshakeable even after persistent, recurring setbacks. In short, I did nothing in my excellent useless life so far to deserve the tag of a worthy sibling. I could not have cared any less.

If it were not for my mother.

When he was felicitated as one of the beacons of hope, after he stood in top 20 in our final board examinations, only one could accompany him to the ceremony. My father went and my mother missed out. I promised to her that on my day it would even out. Much as I pride myself on keeping promises, I was not able to. She never mentioned it and I am quite sure she would not even recollect this incident.

But promises in childhood are more than just promises. Particularly those made to parents.

Today, we have both made something out of our lives. He – expectedly and I, contrary to popular belief quite unexpectedly. He – seamlessly, effortlessly and I scrambling and scraping. As I think today, given an option, whom would I like my offspring to emulate? The one who gave joy and made them proud or the one who hardly ever could? The one who grew up to be everything his parents hoped for or the one whose only connection to his parents would be the same genetic constitution?

This time, the answer definitely does not blow in the wind.