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.