I hope I cleared any doubts about this being a post about Valentine’s Day. I’m trying really hard not to look down upon the celebrations as best I can. I’ve not sent cheeky messages to friends who’ve changed their display pictures into pouting selfies; I’ve not bitten off the heads of the few who came to talk to me about Valentine’s nor did I reply bitterly to anyone who thought it would be a good idea to wish me. So, I’ve behaved pretty well, now, haven’t I? Moving on.
For those of you who don’t know how seriously I take Instagram – I should warn you that the way I fall in love with certain posts that introduce me to a whole new Universe almost every week – can seem quite weird to you. Of the three hundred odd people whose accounts I’ve subscribed to, there are a few that have added pages to my life by giving me tiny bursts of inspiration. It could be the quotes they share or a certain picture they took while travelling – a work in progress – a memory – portraits of people – views I’d never have seen if I hadn’t followed them – experiences that inspire me to go the extra mile. I know this is a generic list but one must find pleasure within their means.
Dayanita Singh is one such person. Photography as art. Subtlety and originality. A curator of memories she is. Her posts capture the essence of her travels and encounters with people and places. Sometimes they speak of the art that she’s making and sometimes about the musician on a bus. Through her I met my love : Vikram Seth.
I had bought A Suitable Boy with great interest in a book fair from one of those second-hand stores – it was one of the early-prints of the book – its white jacked tattered and pages yellowing. My Mother wondered how I’d ever get to finishing the book – it being thicker than her arm – as she paid for it. It’s stayed on my shelf ever since because I believe that every book has its time and I never force myself to read – anything. That was my first encounter with Seth and now suddenly, after two months I see him again on Singh’s post – its a quote, I thought, before realizing its in verse.
I smiled at you because I thought that you
Were someone else; you smiled back; and there grew
Between two strangers in a library
Something that seems like love; but you loved me
(If that’s the word) because you thought that I
Was other than I was. And by and by
We found we’d been mistaken all the while
From that first glance, that first mistaken smile.
And that’s it. I dropped what I was doing and began searching for where I could get more of this. Like a cat lapping up milk. I tracked the book down and then a larger collection of poems until I had almost five of his poetry books in my hands within a weak. And I devoured it – in silent passion. I did’t note verses down or speak about it to anyone because I wanted it all for myself. I’d sit hour after hour in my sanctuary – reading about love, about places afar, sculpture, anguish, resignation, sleep, kinship – and a myriad of other things. I like how simple Seth is. The images that form in my head as I read line after line – are clear and resonate with feelings of my own. I didn’t stop at poetry – I wanted to hear the voice that spoke in his head. And once I found his voice – speaking to me about his impulsiveness and his process of making anything – art or novella – I fell. You can almost here a certain tone of self-importance but at the same time he flashes a humble smile and his fragile hands move in the air painting something from his mind that he’s trying very hard for us to understand.
I am yet to read A Suitable Boy, Two Lives and An Equal Music (All of which I’ve bought and kept in my shelf for the right time) but when I do read them I will write about it because something tells me I will love it. Also, I hope I read these books before he releases A Suitable Girl (whenever that is).
Since November – time’s just swished passed by me. One day I was excited about moving to Pune and the next day – I was to continue here in Chennai. You dream things, sew them in a fabric with minute details leaving space for the things to come. And sometimes you don’t get to complete it, just yet. So you fold it and keep it in a trunk for another time, perhaps and pick up a new piece. Its been some time since then and many good-bad-crazy things have happened.
I’ve begun reading again, writing bits of poetry, sketching in odd corners of journals, walking to places I’ve never had time to give a second look, stalking beautiful buildings with gardens and things like that – things I’d lost touch with. And sometimes that messes your head up. I went back to college for the viva and got to get back to the good times with the girls. Its interesting how we change – within a couple of months. Some looked different but were the same; some looked the same but were a changed person. Towards some I felt the same warmth and towards some – I just began to see them in a new light. I spent an entire week in Bengaluru – soaking up the winter sun, binge-watching horror movies with my cousins, riding under the night sky with the winter breeze blowing against us and making plans that never quite materialized. And just when I thought I was having a great week-off, things happened that I can’t quite elaborate upon. Things like these really show you who you are and where you stand. Unnerve you. Tear you enough for you to breakdown behind trees and sit on steps before thresholds wondering what to do next now that you don’t want to go inside. It passed. I understood things and learned that I needed to accept some realities.
The most beautiful things happened, too. I’ve begun reading like I used to before but the books are different. Galadriel’s chants have been replaced by Abeer Hoque’s poetry, dragon-riders no more reside on my shelves – there are letters of love exchanged by an artist and a poet sitting atop Jane Austen’s finest. More Indian authors than fantasy-fiction. More depth, more tears, more black and white photos of things of the past, more feeling, more originality, more questioning, more understanding, little vanity, more secrets than messages and well, more insight. A lot more and yet, a lot less.
(I’m listening to Whitney’s No Woman and have discovered these new bands called Oh Wonder ; Hibou; Foxes in Fiction and Low, as I write. Yes, that’s a lot of distraction, I know but its music, come on.)
I’ve made correspondence with some delightful people. Friends from my childhood, friends from college who I never got a chance to know better and a friend with a mind so beautiful that I want to pique it tirelessly. Their stories, my stories, our stories and everything else around us have kept me pleasantly busy. I’ve come to realize that there are really people who love things I love and see them in a way that tells stories that others can’t hear. People who see the way I do, even deeper, I believe. How I’d wish to get lost with them and go to the places we only talk about. Collecting antiques, savoring moments spent walking by beautiful street- scapes, gazing at old-houses endlessly – just being. Its wonderful to hear similar stories from a mind that’s different from everyone else and yet so familiar. When you think a little differently from others around you it so happens that you either feel a tad bit lost or try to be someone who mixes with the crowd. Either ways, you’re missing out on being yourself. But when you meet someone whom you could tell what you think knowing they’d understand – you’re liberated in a way. You’re being yourself. Alas, time makes sure I don’t pester that mind too much.
Of course, I’ve been narcissistic here. My city suffered deep blows this entire past month. From standing in queues, penniless, to being blow away by a cyclone and losing a gem of a Leader. All said and done, the city is beginning to frown upon Decembers because of all the ghastly surprises it brings with it year after year. But then the clock never stops and we still stand in queues and stock up on candles and instant-noodles at the slightest spotting of dark clouds. We move as does the year.
Hopefully, in my next post I’ll share with you some poetry I’ve under-lined (I used a pencil so don’t frown at me) in my new books and a more interesting read. Christmas looks promising and so does New Year (Family-friends are throwing a bash at their place – a home I love because its got certain spaces that I can’t stop talking about). And there is the Birthday on the first Saturday of the year (is that somehow supposed to make it more cheerful? Or is this just a sly reminder to all you, readers?)
Hope you’re all doing well, so far. Give 2016 a chance – there’s still a week left. Great things can happen, yeah? Happy Holidays!
Warning : Reading this may upset people I know personally and who may have said things that I quote so please be kind and use discretion. I love you all, anyway.
I know people, like my best-friend from school, P who did his engineering while I did Architecture – he got a job like everyone else while I still did Architecture because its a longer course (and is still not over – for those who think I’m chilling in Chennai). He just knows he wants to work for the forces. He left his corporate job and is preparing for SSB. I recently (read, July) had the opportunity to act in a Short Play (Short + Sweet, Chennai, 2016 ) and this was, by chance – because I went against my usual habit of ignoring messages and actually replied to a friend who was the director of the play. Okay, coming to the point, I got a chance to meet other actors, writers and directors. To us, the lay-folk who only enjoy cinema and read gossip blurbs or the Times of India – actors just happen to be and earn big bucks and splurge it on controversies that we can use as ice-breakers at work. But the truth is, getting a job as an actor for a somebody is really tough in a country where every third person wants to be one (Okay, you knew this). I think you can become a politician, more easily, if you’re erudite and tactical enough. SO – I met all these people who just KNOW that they want to be an actor – regardless of where they are right now – they’ve left jobs, homes and families for this. Every text, every expression, every meeting – they only talk about their passion and I’m left aghast. Like, ‘sapne mein aaya kya tere?” (did it occur to you in a dream?). It probably did.
Such crystal dreams don’t occur to me. I’m usually in morbid situations in dreams- running around with people I may/may not know in strange set-ups that may/may not exist.
Every month – I have a new ambition. I get influenced by movies, books, people, magazine articles and of course, social media. Its not easy. They say – trust in the magic of beginnings. I do – but then it fizzles out. And something new takes it place. Its not easy – when you’re pursuing a degree; want independence; super-fast WiFi; good food; social life; a job which feels like a holiday; security – it just doesn’t all materialize in one night on a platter – much like how we’d like it to. Some people just get stuck in the grind of everyday mundane jobs to support themselves and a family. Or run behind their passion – a train they may/may not catch. Or live in the delusion: ‘Aayega – Don aayega”.
Don gaya tel lene.
No parent/well-wisher/aunty/uncle-ji who owns a shop/dhobi-wallah/already-established-friend/Data-scientist-cousin-in-the-US likes it when you tell them you want to become a Screen-writer or Casting Director – Art Manager – Art Director – Critic – Media Producer – Shift to another city – Get a flat- Buy a dog- etc:-
“Does it even pay well? What – I’ve never heard of it. Its just tricks – to scam your generation into doing odd-jobs no one else wants to do. Are you crazy? Interns are unpaid labor – even the dhobiwallah knows that. Pune? Tomorrow you’ll go to New York also. Pehle na you lose weight and leave that Facebook wagera. Some Hunky Dory became a screenwriter – doesn’t mean ki you’ll become one, too. Please keep your room clean, first. And what about the five years you spent cutting cardboard to become an Architect (or whatever you studied)? Who’ll pay for rent? Accha, leave all this blogging about movies which some other person made and share serious views on your blog. Get married before 25 – movie mein dekha na – that actor also said that only. Kya? How many degrees do you want? PINK dekha PINK? Yahi hota hai outside world mein – go, go get your flat ab. Accha jao – sab karlo – Director bhi ban jao. Artist bhi ban jao. Go ask your Michel Gondry’s mother if he spoke to her in this tone, ever. Remember Ankita? She’s working in that advertising company – she’s getting married in November. You’re still sending in CV’s to these funny companies. What do you want to do with the rest of your existence? Ja, main nai poochti.“
You got my point. And its all in our best interest. No parent wants their kid lying broke in some dingy corner smoking cheap cigarettes regretting why they didn’t take up that Accenture wala job. Neither do they want you as an added attachment to the house (unless of course you’re a boy, in our patriarchal country). And I agree with them. This is not a rant as much as it looks like one.
Its a dilemma that I realized, more recently, a lot of us are facing but because we want to maintain the status-quo of being happy – we don’t share it. We just write poetry because its a hobby. We don’t tell people that it gives us more pleasure doing than data-entry because poetry doesn’t pay – unless of course you write something that goes viral on scoopwhoop. No one writes Facebook statuses about how they fought with someone who thinks their dreams are worth nothing. No one tells you how much it hurts to lose a job because you could’t focus on your work. No one tells you how bloody scared they are about life, itself. We blame our social status, lack of money, parental pressure, etc – and continue doing what we do best – nothing.
But all that is when you have some tinkering clue about what you really want to be. Thomas Zacharias (okay, I not-secretly have a crush on him and he Instagrams as @cheftzac) knew he wanted to be a Chef. Though it looks like he’s always smiling as he grills salmons and posts pictures about inspiring local cuisine – it took him a hell load of effort to become the Executive Chef of the Bombay Canteen (believe it or not, one of the many reasons for me to want to work in Pune is so that I can go to Mumbai to see this place designed by a firm called The Busride – where I will work, one day.). A snippet of that effort (posted with permission aka DM that he may/may not read, on Instagram) :
On the contrary, another person I got introduced to, thanks to all the weird research I do – is Shanoo Sharma (@shanoozeing on twitter) who is the Casting Head at YRF Films. And she didn’t just land up this job in one year or even two. She has the experience of working as a hair-stylist, bartender, waitress, singer – and pretty much everything she wanted to try. She has no degree to her name and at one (or many) point was tagged by well-wishers as someone who could not stay in one job for more than a year. And look where all that has lead her to. She now gives actors their breaks. She calls her job a holiday and has the authority to work from where she wants, when she wants. She does a job she’s obsessed with and this didn’t occur to her in a dream. She is India’s top Casting Director. Ranveer Singh, Parneeti Chopra, Arjun Kapoor, Alia Bhatt – and many more happened because she thought they could happen. And her story which I read is here .
Closer home, in Chennai, someone I actually know did something out of his dreams. Shyam Renganathan just gave his first TEDx talk in VIT, Vellore – and why? Because he didn’t just sit around moping (okay maybe he may have done that at one point) – when he believed that he could be funny. He didn’t want that engineering life – he stood against joining a B.E course and went ahead to do what he loves doing – he’s now a Standup Comic, RJ, Web Series (Black Sheep) Actor and I don’t know what more he will do. It was definitely not easy – or fun, when he decided to take a step back and change course. But he made it. Its not an easy world for dreamers but then again, people make it.
And these are just some examples that I’ve stumbled upon. Okay, let’s take Sushant Singh Rajput – for those who are living under a rock / From another country – he’s a Bollywood actor who recently acted as M.S Dhoni in his biopic. Besides that, he has starred as Byomkesh Bakshi and as a lead character in Kai Po Che, the movie based on Chetan Bhagat’s Three Mistakes of My Life. He didn’t become an actor bas aise hi kyunki sapna aaya. He was first an AIEEE Topper with AIR 7 – then a student in DTU – a dancer in Shiamak Davar’s Dance troupe – a theatre artist with Ekjute – an actor in Hindi Serials – and finally, an actor. This journey was a long and strenuous one. I haven’t interviewed him but I sure as hell know that he didn’t know he’ll be acting as M.S Dhoni in the year 2016 – when he was giving his AIEEE. Not everyone knows for sure. And you know what, its okay.
I say this to myself whenever I get a new idea – that’s daunting – that makes me look jittery and unsure – which I agree I am. But what’s wrong in that? I’m afraid that I don’t know. But at least, I accept that I don’t know and I’m trying to know. I’m giving my everything – I’m working hard and looking at prospects- I’m applying to places which resonate my beliefs, somewhat. I’m looking at originality in a field dominated by trends and popularity.
But that doesn’t stop me at marveling what Michel Gondry does with a few colours, a paper and a video camera. It doesn’t stop me from reading scripts written by Woody Allen and Rebecca Miller. It doesn’t stop me from thinking what Greta Gerwig thought before signing up for Frances Ha. It doesn’t stop me from watching Wes Anderson movies back-to-back noting down things I like – joining FTII forums and discussing Bollywood – watching Anurag Kashyap’s speeches on Film-making – noting down email addresses of Production houses I would like to intern with – sending my CV to Art Management firms just to see if I fit the bill. I’m trying. I don’t know if its right – I don’t know if job security is the secret to success. I don’t know if I’ll ever end up in Mumbai writing films like Juhi Chaturvedi and Gauri Shinde. I also remember promising my best friend, Sarkar, that we’d write scripts for Korean Drama together, when we were in college. Maybe we should have done that.
Its all a bit unsettling when you see your friends going to pursue their Masters in the US, UK and Singapore – or when they post “FMS / IIM – Life be like” pictures on instagram – and you’re still here sitting before a screen.
Being afraid is normal and so is stalking celebrities on Instagram. Reading Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (by Mindy Kaling) instead of Lean-In or Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (or whatever its called) – is absolutely OKAY. Crushing on celebrity chefs who don’t even know you exist is OKAY. Reading never-ending tumblr posts on inspiration is OKAY – as long as you don’t lose yourself in another person’s world and come back to your own to build yourself up. You’re not alone. You never will be. Talk to people and get to know things instead of being shy and apprehensive. Throw yourself at opportunities and learn things that can’t be learnt on lifehack or buzzfeed. Get out of your shell and give yourself a chance to feel vulnerable.
It doesn’t matter where we are as long as we know we want to try harder and make something out of this opportunity we call life.
Hollywood – a topic that’s been coming up in my life a lot, lately,thanks to all the writers living in and chronicling about Los Angeles. I dim all the lights, shut the rest of the world because I’m excited to watch this new flick (relatively) and its a Woody Allen product starring Steve Carell; Blake Lively, Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart and some other great actors I discovered after watching the movie. Of course there are expectations when you sit to watch a Woody Allen. He has given me a bunch of favorites right from Annie Hall to – silence – Midnight in Paris. He supplies images of Paris, New York and Los Angeles rendered in his eccentricity and yet old-worldly charm. And I lap it up like a greedy kitten – as all dreamers do.
The starting looked promising – oh wait, have I revealed too much, already? – with Phil Stern (Carell)- a Hollywood power-broker – getting a call from his sister (who almost seems estranged because she has to remind him that she’s his sister and that Bobby is his nephew). And one fine morning Bob (Jesse) lands up in Hollywood hoping that it will provide him the break he needed from working in his father’s jewelry-making business. And there he has to wait almost a month to just see his Uncle who seems pretty reluctant in offering him any substantial position at all but agrees to introduce him to people and give him odd-jobs to keep him going. And that’s when he meets Vonnie (Kristen Stewart) and things take a sharp turn (expected) as he falls in love with her as they eat cheap mexican dinners and drive around L.A. They joke up about the stars and the hollowness of it all. Bob is soon left dry by Hollywood’s prospects for him. So he decides to join Ben – his mysterious (not to us) who starts a Nightclub in the Big Apple. He wants Vonnie to join him and asks her to marry him (in the most un-movie-ish way). Here, I’d like to mention how refreshing it was to see a man not taking the trouble to wait for the opportune moment- by which time the girl has totally lost all hope that he’ll ever ask her and ends up proposing herself out of pure exasperation – which has become a fashion. I have no qualms with the woman taking control but its just that that theme has been used too much, already) and telling the love of his life what he plans for them. The only trouble (there has to be one, right?) is that she is still not over her ex who had broken up with her because he couldn’t break his 25 year-old marriage. But poor Bob has not a clue that she is having major second thoughts because the ex is a magnetic personality and his charm is well, too charming to simply let go. As it ends out – things don’t work out and end half-hearted-ly. I can’t divulge anything more without spoiling it for you. And what happens then? Does he move to New York and start again or remains a lovelorn – fidgeting loner trying to get something meaningful done?
You must be wondering where Blake Lively makes an entry, right? Well, she does – even though for short bursts – her fabulous presence can never be under-stated.
So basically its Woody Allen overstating his qualms about religions and the sanctity of human beings and their decisions. He chose Hollywood and New York (his favorite city, undoubtedly) as the backdrop to portray how people are faced with to be or not to be situations and the fact that not all decisions are thought-through. You just make them with a whim and you live with it in all its entirety. Regrets ruminate in your mind till you start looking dreamy-eyed. Dreams remain dreams. Your ideals dwindle. But the lights in these big cities come back to life at dusk.
Critics applauded Kristen. Maybe I’m just a bad critic and I haven’t watched enough Stewart movies but isn’t shy-weird-confused her natural state? She plays it best every single time. Its her comfort zone. So why are we calling Jesse’s- who’s portrayal of Woody’s alter-ego is on-point- mediocre and fidgety compared to someone who is just doing what they were born as? Guess what – that’s how he was meant to act like. But the performances that really shined through were those of Bob’s Jewish family who keep debating about all things political, religious, ethical – actually just about everything. Jeannie Berlin (Mom) and Ken Stott – please take a bow. Right from their conversations and cursing to the they kind of stitch Bob’s life by coming in every now and then.
So, Cafe Society shows us a glimpse of the 1930’s – on two canvasses – one is the glamour of Hollywood attracting dreamers to its hollowness; golden beaches and sly embrace and New York where the life of stocks and its people are moving at a pace no one seemed to comprehend in that age. It was a time when thugs and high society mingled in glamour (wait, am I living in a deja-vu era because isn’t it happening even now?). The movie shows a beautiful contrast between the two cities and struggles of human conscience but falls short in its predictability and un-digestible pace.
Its not Woody’s best but it did have his madness in it. I know all his movies end up becoming about himself. Now, there’s a real artist who makes you stop and look.
Parting comments : Dreamy, makes you expect more but falls short on delivering a movie that can be applauded.
So you enjoy watching trigger-happy people blow up the place (for good, of course) and intense passion for nothing but being oneself? And people who live for love?
Then you’re going to love this movie. Don’t bother looking at that the star-ratings (I have never believed in them). This movie was not made for people who are hypocrites and who are looking for something artsy. Its for the hard-core, comic-loving, thrill-hungry people who cheer for Harley Quinn swinging by a pole and Deadshot firing holes into monster-heads. Its for the people who believe Joker and Harley Quinn are the real lovers and that Lois Lane and what-his-name are just a mess.
The casting was fabulous and that’s what makes this movie so strong. Of course you have grand expectations when you have Viola Davis, Will Smith and Lovely Leto. To add to it Robbie did such a good job that I can’t imagine any other face as Quinn. The surprise cookie is Cara Delevingne who really made up for her performance in Paper Towns.
I’m not giving any spoilers here but yes, the movie is fast-paced as felt by my friend Sabhari who accompanied me. And I have to agree with it but I guess that’s what keeps the rush going on. The tiniest of jokes and touchy-feely scenes came through to the audience.
This movie goes onto show that sound background work really helps create the premise for a good movie. The story-line is pretty okay but Waller really dangs the shit out of everyone. And I wish they had worked a little more on actually making us feel the Enchantress was hard to kill.
At the end of the day, I was still hooked onto my seat enjoying Twenty One Pilots’ Heathens when suddenly – there was another surprise. So yeah, hang onto your spot until the screen goes black, okay?
Go for the movie. Joker has some surprises up his sleeve. Thank me later.
‘Bhai, PMC mein milna theeke na?’ translates into Brother, meet me at the junction where lovers meet.
And where is this PMC? Well its at the center of my college. And its like the cerebrum of all activity. Its a roundabout before the Admin block which is where all the main college-streets lead to (in some way or the other). And that’s where friends were made, watchmen slept, meetings were held, people were eyed, Girls’ Hostel Buses were parked etcetera.
We were about five thousand students belonging to more than a dozen departments. And PMC was where we’d gather. There were other places – the BBC (Basketball court), the LTC (Lawn tennis court which was actually a chewed-out clay court), Coffee-shop (which is just a tiny stall which sold instant-coffee and junk food to meet varying collegiate needs), Back-Gate (which qualifies to be an adda) and the canteen (where the ground-floor was dedicated to those who actually ate and the first-floor mostly had people who had nowhere else to go and didn’t want to run into the faculty). Oh we did have a library but it wasn’t such a common meeting place unless and until you planned to study (or sleep) in the Annex.
I wonder why I’m writing about it today. Is it because half of the people I met there (definitely not as piyas) have drifted to faraway continents or are in the process to do so? Is it because I will never forget the day my Dad and I walked into the College (well, the never-ending infinity road starting from the main-gate directly leads you to …no reward for guessing…the PMC) and I had finally realised that my twelve years of education led me to this place. Ah, that kid then. Or maybe the pictures clicked there on various ethnic days will never be clicked again (or found – I’m sure I’ve lost most of them in miscellaneous drives), the mosquito-filled evenings we’ve spent waiting for the second bus to pick us up or the fountain that worked only once in a blue moon with its colorful lights. I’m sure most people graduated even without seeing it in all its glory due to its rare usage. Or perhaps I yearn to walk under the ever-spreading canopy of the Umbrella Thorn Trees (at least that’s what I called them and fooled my friends for four long years).
I’ll never meet Aryan in his baggy clothes waiting to meet us whenever he dropped by college. I’ll never see the cute-guys (like one out of five) play basket-ball in the court across the road. I’ll never walk by the juniors waiting for the bus with my troupe of cackling monkey-friends who were probably laughing at some seriously retard joke I must have cracked. I’ll never see Komi fly his balsa wood planes with his team there. I’ll never get to sit there with my friends as we’d see daylight turn to dusk as we’d wait for something else. I’ll never ask the auto-wallah to take a left from PMC to reach my departments, I’ll never run by it with arms-full of sheets with my classmates and I’ll probably never stand in a sari with my two best friends, Rhea and Mouli, clicking our last picture together before our final speeches on behalf of our departments. Ah PMC did hold a lot of meaning in its own way. I will never know why it was named so but I think I’ll never forget the happiness it brought on my face when my friends and I would decide to meet up there to hatch some new craziness after college.
Arrividerci SIT and its survivors.
I still remember sitting in the balcony seat with Mom as we saw Shreekumar Varma Sir’s play : Ganga at Rishikesh being performed by artists from Stray Factory in the Hindu Theatre Fest. Madras Players performed, too. At that time, it was another world. Even while riding out of the venue I remember being completely taken by the lights, the laughter, the excitement and the people. It was so much more than cinema – and yet it works on you the same way. Only, its so much more real and absorbing, in the sense that at a certain point the change-overs begin to matter less – the opinions you form and performers keep you riveted or well, looking around, instead.
At college, I worked with a small yet very enthusiastic team of actors – whenever we got time, with roughly-edited plays; depending more on improv than real emotions, subtle details and strong scripts. We performed to thoroughly entertain the rest of the college – with cheap props and makeshift sets. Nobody had the upper-hand, the director was usually the script-writer who may or may not have understoodd his/her own play, completely. Casting was based on availability and the capacity to bunk extra classes that were held after 5:30pm. Performances only happened alongside college fests, the odd culturals in another campus or as an opener to an event. Practices led into flat-made dinners and night-outs intended to work on scripts usually turned into a lot of laughter and tom-foolery. We would collect a hundred bucks each to buy the odd prop or paint – we even had an account and a manager of it. There was one designated person (usually a bright child with a good pointer) who would be in-charge of getting the Principal’s signature in permission letters. Well, now that college is done, I can tell you the story of how Eason, my senior and the Captain of our troupe – Black Pearl (what did you expect?) – sneaked in my name in the medical register to get me attendance. Well I’m sure the resident doc found out because the name had no serial number and was scribbled above the margin but he let me go, anyway. That was for Survey and Leveling, I guess. I hope you don’t go tell on me, now.
But after college, things changed (in the past month, that is, not some major past) – and I got the opportunity to play the part of Julie in The Blind Date at the Short & Sweet Festival – South India Chapter. I knew about S&S before – I’d seen Stray Factory perform in the East and win accolades. I knew this was something very different. Well things got real the day we (the cast and the director, Charan Saravana) met at Alliance Francaise which was also the venue of the shows.
Introducing the cast:
I played Julie, yes. And she had a Grandmother : J.J who Sharada played (who is a fellow blogger who writes poetry, erotica and is an outgoing woman who is currently writing her next script, perhaps) and a date, Dave played by Prakash who is also an actor in Tamil Cinema and you should see him when he speaks about how much he likes acting. My favourite character though is : The Waiter (Sravanth – a mime-artist and fabulous performe who is equally funny, if not more, in real life) who started out to be a witty American but then transformed into a Mexican and then an Indian (Tamil, to be more precise) immigrant who fakes a Mexican Accent.
Practices lasted weeks together and I’d drive to the venue which is a nice spot under bel and mango trees and has so many other artists practicing and frolicking about that you’ll never spend a dull moment there. Eating at the bajji stall and the nearby sweet-shop – practicing lines, putting up with tantrums, being difficult, eating up lines, cracking unbearably stupid jokes (mokkai or blade jokes), talking in my incomprehensible Tamil and well, just spending time with a bunch of dreamers and performers is what I did until the show week arrived.
We had two technical rehearsals and then it all happened:
Ten plays- with mixed genres and actors coming from all backgrounds and walks of life – some hoping to compete and some, like us, just wanting to be a part of the theatre festival. I met so many people and interesting is an understatement.
Back-stage is where all the drama really happens with the backstage staff comprising of Char-less and his boys trying to find props on time and keeping actors from smoking in the toilet and maintaining decorum. Well, what do you expect if you put three dozen performers in a small, dark room along with adrenaline and make-up? But it was in no way horrible – it was pure fun. Every person was upto something, if not unusual, then funny. So much comedy. From props getting lost to lights being turned off when actors put make-up to people losing their costumes to actors going missing a minute before their play! Its a party in there.
The silent minutes in the small ante-room next to the stage which is the actor’s entry spot – where you await your turn to perform. You can see the other play from the tiny window. You can hear the audience and yet you’re not out there. The lights haven’t caught you . Do I remember my lines? Will he remember what to do when the cue is right? Will the spotlight light up at the right moment? Will the audience get our jokes? Will we exceed the 10 minute limit? And the the stage goes dark and the blue lights turn on – your props are being set and the audience knows you’re next. And then your fellow actors go out there and do their part while you await your entry cue : and at that precise moment you enter – pretending to be unaware of the two-hundred odd pair of eyes watching you and listening to your every breath. The show goes on – you play your part. The light is so bright that all you see before you are silhouettes but you play your part. And you’re exhilarated when the audience responds to your performance – they did get the joke! That feeling on-stage is a big responsibility – towards the time you’ve spent gearing up for this, the people you play a part with and those who have come to honor your effort. And then the lights go off and you walk back to the ante-room where you wish luck to the other performers hidden in the dark – and escape into the green-room which is bustling with silent activity and you see smiles. A quick exchange of comments and then you go downstairs for the scrumptious chocolate cake and lemon tea at the canteen. I think I also had a keech and chicken-rolls (if that’s how you spell it) one day.
I met a lot of people – some great performers, some good-nature’d folk and I had some friends come over to watch my play and that felt quite nice – them seeing another side of me. The last day, I just absorbed all that energy and looked at all those smiles before I left with my Mum who watched all of my shows and probably knows every play by-heart.
I may or may not do theatre again but this chapter in my life has already been written.
Enslaved by internet speed and storage-space in mobile phones and devices such. That’s what life has come to. Office got over a while ago but here I am waiting for In Which Annie Gives… to buffer. Yes, that’s what its come to.
So, I thought I’ll visit the space I’ve been meaning to but not getting time (mind frame, actually) to attend to. There’s 8 hours of office and two hours of travel along with 7 hours of sleep. To add to it I joined a short play with well-meaning friends some of whom are serious thespians and actors. I’m just learning, really – experiencing, rather. I was always drawn to the theatre- well, now I’ll really get to know if I make the cut or whether theatre makes the cut for me.
Well if you happen to be in Chennai (or live here) – come catch us live at 7pm (be there on time because we perform first) – Alliance Francaise, Nungambakkam. Its made with love, really – the other kind, you know. It has a lot of laughter and goof-ups, bajjis and lemon tea behind this play being performed. For me, maybe because of the people I’ve been around with – architects and writers (of sorts) – the Process is always more meaningful than the end. Well that’s what I believe in, for now, because I haven’t really completed anything of importance. Perhaps if I ever get a project (writing, art, audio or whatever) done – I’ll tell you.
Damn, the internet is slow. I’m still here. The office is almost empty.
Well, I hope to see you at the play should you drop by – do say hi. And, I miss my leisurely days, really. And I long to go back to my hostel-mates and do the things we used to do. I miss my single-bed and the best room-mate, ever who loves cats, books and strangeness alike. We could exist parallel-y, peacefully and interact at a comfortable wavelength without any awkwardness and in these times, that a real miracle, you know. If you happen to read this : I miss you Gurangutan and all our erratic, crazy and lovely times. Making videos, playing with Peter, walking walking walking, eating together, watching favorite movies. You will be my best friend forever – without definition. I hope we stay in touch like our mothers and their best friend in college did. I hope to come there and meet your cats and little brother – go with you to all the places you mentioned. Someday. I have another set of special friends apart from my classmates – the Chicchar Gang. No, I will not translate. Its best left like that. They hailed from Meghalaya, Ranchi and Jamshedpur. And they were my closest friends by the end. I can’t even start telling you our stories. Because, well, not all of them are mine to tell.
Ah, well, Dad inquired why I’m still in office. And its getting dark outside. I must leave now and leave you with patchwork-memories.
‘Life is as infinitely great and profound as the immensity of the stars above us. One can only look at it through the narrow keyhole of one’s personal existence. But through it one perceives more than one can see. So above all one must keep the keyhole clean.’
Found this quote in Sakshi Nanda’s most recent post : Ordinary. Extraordinary!