Yes, maybe, no

After a very long time we are renovating our home. It must be a good 7-8 year back when we went through the motions of spending money on painting and other usual wear and tear jobs. I had enough spare money then, for using it on such necessary luxuries…

Somehow the winds changed direction, as they always do; the flow of money got restricted and an unusually dense fog of lull enveloped my professional life. A string of projects that were lined up to roll any day- did not roll at all. In India we like blame the poor distant planets. So, for a true Indian the planets seemed to have turned their favorable face away. All this had started after my main employers downed their shutters under the demonic burden of their bad financial situation. For the next 18 months I was very busy doing some of my most high profile and better paying jobs. I did some serious ‘audio’ work for television in the United States and India. Then I was picked up and appointed as ‘general manager’ in the office of a high profile film maker.

Soon I had another offer from a ‘distance learning’ company. Here I was working in a very high technology area. This job gave me experiences of using VSAT and software used for online education. I enjoyed this job the most, since I have been looking to get away from the glaring lights of media related environment. Perhaps enjoying the work here seemed to have made the company run aground. I said ‘seemed to have’. I am a die-hard optimist. If I have to take cues from twists and turns of my life, then a massive surprise is waiting for me in the wings, about which I have no idea.

Well today I am in a mood of counting the chickens that did not hatch. It’s rather amusing to count that in last five years of my professional life how many high profile and exciting projects surfaced, but never swam ashore. So many films were conceived but never delivered; they remained on the idea and project levels only. The most important one was ‘Singularity’. It was a Hollywood film, being directed Oscar nominated Roland Joffé with Brandon Fraser and our own Aishvarya Rai. I had done documentaries with foreign teams, cinematographers and directors. But I was excited that this time I was going to experience the making of a pure Hollywood cinema, for the first time. I was on cloud nine; but treading cautiously. A very close old friend of mine was involved in the film as an executive. I visited him often, gave him my CV, kept in touch on phone, went to his office and read the script of the film twice over. I had asked to be a part of the direction team at any capacity. If there were going to be 12 assistants I was ready to be the twelfth. Desperately yours, but I was dying to be exposed to the experience of ‘Singularity’. I wanted to see how is it done in Hollywood, how does everyone gets ready, actors are given lines, makeup tested, lighting and sound levels checked, each shot being taken… After all Roland Joffé was going to be in Mumbai next week and he was to meet and interview the direction team. That next week hasn’t arrived for the past 2 years. As per the last update this project has been re-announced for Jan 2007.

Next in line was a friend of mine actor/director Dolly Jena, who was to shoot a film in Goa. It was a period film depicting Portuguese times. I was to be her associate on this project. I read her script too many times over and got involved in production process. Film was to roll in six months, so we were busy getting hotels rates and identifying old houses for shooting. The period of six months has over shot by three years.

Among all these dream productions, three films managed to break through and reach a stage of getting themselves (a) married print. And that’s where they too stopped. I was involved in them in various capacities like script, direction, production design and sound. Presently they all are far from getting a commercial release. Coincidently, my dues from all these films are also awaiting release.

Most interesting part of this long ‘touch and go’ sequence was when an unknown person phoned me to ask, if I would make a children’s film for him. ‘Of course’ was the best answer I could think of. He said he had seen my name on the IDPA festival brochure. That’s it! Soon a contract was signed on his official letterhead and a cheque equivalent to $20, was handed over to me. It thought things have got serious this time. I called up a scriptwriter, organized our meetings and started the work briskly. Producer was in a hurry. I struggled and finally handed over a fairly good version of hand written script to him in two weeks. The Gentleman went back to his hometown to organize adequate funds. After that he never made a call to me or sent any note. No not even to ask for the refund of his money. None of his telephones worked. I wonder why was he in hurry to lose his money on us if he had to do a Harry Houdini.

I was never approached by cheats. There was no fake person among all these. All of them had been well meaning people and serious filmmakers. They just did not have it in them, to finally swing it. Whenever someone has asked, ‘so what are you doing these days?’ I have formatted a humorous answer for this situation, ‘only serious job that I have been doing for years; is looking for it!’

Under these unavoidable circumstances, I decided to take a relaxing stance, instead of usual stance of struggling and worrying. I thought of changing gear as I step into the next stage of age in my life. I started reading and I started writing. I would never have read and written, so much satisfying and meaningful stuff, if I had been busy making small money from the mundane motions of making movies. Of course many do not agree. But I really feel very satisfied with my growth as a writer. I am not bothered if it has not been financially rewarding. This was the right time for me to start using my time doing un-ordinary things, things that gave me a chance of making my immortality a little longer. This would be the best thing to come out from all this nothingness.

Sick Minds

This horrid story had happened around 2005-06.

It has been quite some time since plastic bags containing tender skeletons were discovered in Nithari, a village near Noida, UP. The bags were thrown around in Nallahs and garbage heaps. The news numbed me so badly that I thought I will never be able to write about this horrifying incidence. In my entire long life I have never come across a more hideous act of crime, in my own country. I was completely shocked and disgusted!

I may be getting cynical, but basically I believe that majority of people in our society fall into the category of, ‘not nice’. Although nobody seems so on the surface, but given a chance of doing something on the quiet; we will lose our moral strength. We are insecure and scheming. We have no respect for women. We are always beating them, burning them or killing them; sometime even in their fetal position. Ironically this has been reported especially from the land of the bravery and heroism. We enjoy easy victory over weaker sex, because they are weaker and give-in in silence since they have to take care of home, children and us, men. We are the discoverers of how to rape vulnerable young girls in running cars.

But I had no idea that we had degenerated to this horrible extent.

There are many countries where the life has practically no value and no guarantee, like Iraq, Palestine, Sierra Leone, Somalia and perhaps many more. But there is a difference. These places are going through basic survival and political struggles. For people there, there is no guarantee when they will get a chance to sit down and eat a square meal and from where will it come? There is also lack of education. Idi Amin did a lot of plunder and rape in Uganda; but that is how dictators in such places are supposed to be. Innovators of ‘how to kill efficiently and cheaply’ did away millions of poor and week. It was the ego of a short, complexed and power hungry man against the week and meek. It was also the occasion of WW-2, so eliminating 6 million as cleanup operation was considered fair. But why does a well-educated millionaire who owns land, villas and businesses needs to do such atrocities on helpless poor children? It does not even make business sense, since it is so full of risk and may not be as well paying too. Plus how much sexual gratification the criminals may have got from those poor souls (that is what they are now)? I am at a loss.

This episode reminds me of some scary part of Ramayan when Ram, Seeta and Lakshman are sent to live in forest. This chapter is about the Asuras who are out to disturb the meditation and sacred life style of hermits and saints. Asuras do it by throwing human and animal parts into their holy fire of Havan and killing the sages. The two people who are arrested for this ghastly act, remind me of those Asuras.

I know lower and middle class everywhere is very defensive and wishes to lead a safe, hassle-free life. Many parents of these children either did not file the FIRs or did not pursued it. They did not want to pressurize the cops too much fearing a backlash. Many must have thought that it would be impossible to make the system work (be of help), because if anyone pursued hard, an enquiry against the complainant himself may start.

Some law keepers think, kidnapping young children, their unlawful confinement, violating their modesty (rape), murder, selling their organs and destroying the evidence in an organized way (+ more), is small matter.

Pt. Nehru is supposed to have sighed sadly once, ‘I know there is an India, but where are the Indians’? Well, it has been half a century since this observation was made in self-pity. Do not worry Panditji we are still doing it. Sigh!