Friday, November 6, 2009
Lonelier than the people I see
Feeding pigeons in the sun
Whistling to the squirrels
Begging them to come.
I sit in a crumbling tower of dreams,
Behind a forever-locked gate.
Staring at the empty pages
Smoking the cigarettes I hate.
Trying hard to capture a moment
Feeling unworthy every time.
I look into mirrors to remember my face
Reading words that can never be mine.
Who am I pretending to be today?
A poet, an actor, a wandering flame
Trapped in a stillness of spirit
Looking for something to blame
Searching for my corner of Beautiful
Somewhere to hide the love I keep.
To greet the dawn with a smile
And dive a thousand kisses deep.
You remain hidden from me,
Like all the hopes
We dare not breathe.
Sometimes I catch your scent
Lingering. A wisp of magic
In a mundane day.
I see a smile I recognize
On an unfamiliar face.
I search through Coltrane
To understand the meaning
Hidden just beyond the words
I don’t quite understand.
All these words…
What happened to my voice?
I can’t force a picture to smile
Or a glass of wine to be truthful.
We are all locked within
Parodies of ourselves.
Searching not for a way out,
But to trap another within.
Where do your dreams take you
Into the meadows we were banished from.
Into the songs the Seraphim hum.
Feathers on the summer wind,
Where do your dreams take you
Do you see my face, there
just beyond the Light?
Where all the things you wish for dwell.
Waves of hope against the darkness swell.
Do you see my face there
I cannot make the words beautiful.
I cannot make them sing the songs I hear.
You are the beauty and the song
The flame of my hearth.
You are my burning bush,
my desert cave.
My brimming cup of nectar.
You are my final goddess
My last loss of faith.
We, who reflect only moonlight.
Silences they cannot drown
Or wash with television,
Silences that never whisper
Music that never stops.
I do not remember
I search the faces,
For the bright ones,
With eyes like drops of nectar.
We gather the sheets, and
Whisper “Good night,”
to empty beds.
Linger with the shattered
Things, and whimpered dreams.
Away from the silence.
This begins with guarded smiles
Safe distances, excuses wrapped
In Hookah smoke and Turkish coffee,
And two perfect cups of lemonade
Wearing matching smiles.
Words dancing to her voice.
Fingers weaving around each other
Like dragonflies in the sun
I take her eyes in mine
And forget to look away.
A song sung by this woman of quiet,
Distant places, and desert suns.
And hair that curls and flows
Like the pen of an Arabian poet.
A woman deeper than all of this,
A sound vanishing beyond itself
She sprinkles me across her sky.
Jasmine dreams in a secret garden.She gives me the wordsI told my ears to forget.
A prayer calling its priest,
As I take her in my arms,
And welcome her home.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Moment of silence…………………………………………………………………
Words cannot begin to describe the nostalgia, the euphoria, the overwhelming shaking of the booty, and the heartbreak I felt whilst watching. I have loved that man’s music ever since the first day I heard “Thriller” playing, in July 1991. In Swedish House Dormitory at Kodaikanal International School. I was all of seven and a half years old, and I had told my parents the year before that I wanted to go away to boarding school. I have no idea what had gotten into me to leave my comfortable home and my doting parents and move to the other end of the bloody country, up a mountain, and into a boarding school.
I remember the green stucco walls of the dorm. I remember the alien sounds coming out of the Tamil maids as they cajoled, pleaded, screamed, and jovially pushed all of us into the cafeteria for dinner. I remember the white tiles on the floor that smelled like spilled spaghetti sauce and Coca-Cola spills. I remember the heady aromas wafting out of the kitchen which wasn’t really separated from the cafeteria by anything except one of those saloon doors that they show in the old Western films. And every now and then, Mary, the chef’s wife would step through like Clint Eastwood and thump unidentifiable stuff into the bowls in front of us.
I remember that first dinner, sitting at a table alone, watching everyone so comfortable with each other and themselves. I tried to understand all the jokes, decipher the stories being told and the references they used. I knew nothing, and noone. I had grown up on a pretty secluded farm, with my only contact with kids my age at the local public school where we all had worn uniforms and not really talked to each other.
That’s when I heard the music. Michael Jackson playing on the most beat up tape recorder I had ever seen. But this kid called Dhanus Nair, who would later become my room-mate and my friend, put it on and did an impromptu jig in the middle of the cafeteria. Our dorm parent, Mrs. Lazarus, a tall statuesque, Amazon of a woman (who later become as close to me as my own mother, through my time in that dorm, and later, as I moved on, grew up and grew out) come storming through the doors like one of the ghouls breaking down the door in the video. But I, sitting alone in the corner, was the only one who noticed her smile when she turned away again to walk out after chastising Dhanus.
That smile was the first moment I felt the weight and the fear lift off my chest. And I’ve always associated that feeling with Michael Jackson’s music. It’s one of those strange psychological associations that happens. Doesn’t have to be logical, doesn’t even have to matter to anyone else.
Till this day, all I have to do, to feel like a kid with an entire universe of adventure ahead of him, is to play Michael Jackson.
You were an angel Michael. An angel we raised up then tore down and threw away. How we wailed when you died…how we beat our chests. But what we cried for wasn’t that you were gone, we cried that we had ever known a moment of doubt about you. That the world made us stop loving you as much, even for a little while.
And thank you.
For the music, for that feeling, for the love.
You were it.
Have fun teaching the angels how to Moonwalk.
It’s strange how I’m always wishing to be somewhere other than I am. I wonder if it’s my own personal purgatory, or do others have a similar ache in their hearts now and then. When they look around a room, or stop at a red light and stare outside their cars, do they long to be anywhere but in their present circumstances. I’ve been working at not being so disconnected with my present, and am proud to say that there have been mostly successes on that front. But my rambunctious mind and it’s endless, bounding energy to skip and twirl and disappear into fantasy, like a pup chasing into a thicket after a rabbit, it always takes me by surprise and snap! I’m away in another world.
I found myself doing that very strongly this last Thursday night. I was invited to attend the Mumbai Academy of the Moving Image’s Eleventh Film Festival. Truth be told, I went more because the opening film was going to be Soderberg’s “The Informant”, a film I’d been jonesing to see ever since I saw the trailer earlier this year. But before the screening, there was a long drawn-out introduction and opening ceremony, with many speeches and many moments of applause. It was very well done, heartfelt, a bit sloppily staged, but sincere. And yet for the life of me, I couldn’t bring myself to actually pay attention to my surroundings.
Thankfully the movie started and gripped me from the first moment. Matt Damon who, after watching him in the “Talented Mr. Ripley”, I have come to greatly admire, was unbelievable in “The Informant”. The man altered everything about himself, body-language, mannerisms, idiosyncrasies, tics, speech pattern, even his body shape. It was a humbling experience watching an actor inhabit his role so completely. Realized I have a long, long way to go before I can even claim to be an actor worth the mentioning. If you get a chance, watch this film. Aside from “Frost/Nixon” it’s probably the best film I’ve seen this year.
After the screening was a dinner, but everybody seemed to only want to head home. So I peeled away too, took in a nice quiet meal at a nearby restaurant. Something very relaxing about eating alone in a dimly lit joint, with smiling waiters and perfectly decanted port sparkling crimson in a glass. There’s definitely something in the air these days. I don’t quite know what it is, only it fills me with the oddest surge of hope. As if something’s coming, or has already arrived. I keep walking into rooms hoping to find IT there, or turning corners hoping to glimpse it.
Now to be away. Brand new book sitting on my bedside, and a steaming cup of kahwa. My apartment smells like champa, and the wind’s tapping softly on the windows, asking to be let in. I think I’ll oblige. Excuse me…
Thursday, October 22, 2009
She told me that her favorite song was “Again” by Lenny Kravitz. Her voice was a soft whisper in my ear, and her body a softer one beside mine, separated only by the arm of one chair and every fear that glistened in her eyes. We were both high on more than weed, and we were both exhausted, and we weren’t alone, but we might as well have been. The laughter of the other’s around us, their jokes and their back-slapping camaraderie merely added to our isolation. They were no different than the moon flitting in and out of the swaying branches of the trees above, and the moths and the candles locked in their deadly tango. The night it seemed, and all its children were there for us, and for us alone.
Or at least, it was so in my mind.
Now it’s the following day and I’m listening to the song, again and again. “All of my life, where have you been? I wonder if I’ll, ever see you again. And if that day comes, I know we could win. I wonder if I’ll, ever see you again.” And I wonder about a girl who could love those lines so much. Where every pleasure was deferred, every wish was killed by negativity before it could ever take flesh. The search for the perfect love, the finding of it, only to cast it back into the wind hoping life and destiny and chance bring it back into your arms again. It’s a great song, but a sad one. How you can meet someone completely amazing and yet you can let them pass you by without saying…anything. Then you wonder why you never meet anyone truly amazing. How could I have let last night pass me by without fulfilling it’s promise? How could I have been so stupid?
I wanted her that night, from mind to body, follicle to toenail, but I did nothing. And she wanted me, inexplicably to her and to me, and hesitantly for sure because she didn’t trust that part of herself that was drawn to me, and she trusted the world not at all. So she pushed herself away from me, from the table full of kindly laughing faces, and away from that night of seductive shadows. She pushed herself away with a snapped “Good night” and fled down the hallway. The moths flitted after her, drawn by the dying heat between her and me. She pushed herself away, and locked herself away in her room, alone and wondering. And I sat outside, with my laughing happy friends and felt myself seized by the oddest mixture of rage and sadness and lust and loneliness.
I remember us, and our canted postures, our breaths doing what our mouths wished to, our hands finding reasons to brush up against each other. It was our last chance for a dance; our last night together before the world intruded and work took us away. And we did nothing. I sit alone now, drinking teas of regret, while she lies in her room, surrounded by friends and familiar things. I wonder if her thoughts are straying, stumbling their way towards me. I know they are not, why would they? She is a woman that ever will ask “Why”, never “Why ever not?”
But what galls me is my restraint, my petulant insistence that the next move be hers. The things I could have said, the things I should have done, all carefully and brightly wrapped in my mind, of no use now. Just extra clutter in that room we all have in our heads, the room full of things we never said. Mine’s more a mansion than a room now.
It amazes me how much we think we’ve matured, become scarred veterans of this bloody war of the sexes. Then lightning strikes and we’re left just as blind and scared as we were the first time it struck. How pathetic this must sound? How weak and despondent? I’m writing now to turn my face away from the mirror. I don’t need seven years of bad luck. I’m writing because my disgust must not be allowed to ruin the fragile castle of patience and faith I have erected. I’m writing because out in the real world, I feel like a coward of words.
Almost exactly one year after we made “Sikandar” in Kashmir, I find myself once again under the ageless gaze of the Himalayas. This time it’s Hrishikesh that’s playing host to this wandering soul. The undying Mountains and the undying fires of faith being assailed daily by the polluted river of humanity, that crash against it without pause, without pity, and completely without thought. It hurts me to see the garbage heaps we’ve turned our holiest and most beautiful places into. But that’s what we do, I guess. I might as well try to change the Sun into a gentler watcher, than tell my species to stop befouling their surroundings. Probably have more luck with the Sun.
Been shooting for a new project for about a month now, and have been quite underwhelmed by work. Not been working as often as I would like. And nothing saps my energy quite like inactivity. Pathetic excuse for the lack of any blogs I could have posted, but it’s the only one I’ve got.
I’m just grateful to be working again, even if it’s a relatively small part. I’ve had a great time working on this one. The crew and the directorial team are all oddballs and fun spirits. And a truly blessedly wacko bunch of co-actors which always is preferable to the stuffy, stiff-shirts that one can across. This bunch is all young and funny, and uninhibited and chilled. It’s a great atmosphere for work and contemplation of nothing much at all, just sitting in the evening light on wicker and plastic chair circles with laughter and coffee fumes floating up and startling the birds sitting overhead in the temple trees.
I went white-water rafting today for the first time and had myself a big, bloody blast. Half way down the trip the guide told me that I could jump out of the raft and body-surf the next bunch of rapids. My companion hit the water wrong and swallowed a rather unpleasant mouthful of the Ganges and then panicked in the water. But I reached him in time and propped him upright, after which he laughed and got the hang of it. So barring that first terrifying minute until the smile reappeared on his face, the rest of the body-surfing section was the about the most fun I’ve had in a long, long while. I highly recommend it to all of you.
This is what I love so much about my job. To go routinely travel and stay in all these places, the nomadic life, the life of new faces, strange tasting waters, odd-smelling rooms, and the bonds I make with all the people. Some which will last only until the filming lasts, and some a ways longer, but all dear and all interesting. Life is grand.
The only thing I miss from the city is the cinemas. I’m craving a dark auditorium and a bucket of popcorn. I was hoping to be able to catch the new Tarantino flick in the cinema adjacent to our hotel in Delhi on the last free day before we travelled to the mountains, but there was a party and there was tequila and pretty girls dancing, and much Mary, Mary, Mary… So yeah, that plan didn’t get executed quite as smoothly as I had anticipated.
I feel strangely blessed to be where I am right now. It’s not a deep or moving feeling, simply a quiet satisfaction with my present. I’m coming closer and closer to living in the moment only. I still manage to stray from it, but I’m gaining my stillness. The more I wander, the more I work, the more calm I seem to become. Bless you Lords and Ladies for blessing this unworthy fellow.
Monday, August 31, 2009
Long walks on a dirty street, hunting for a patch of green.
A young dog with the eyes of an old wolf.
The literary equivalent of a harmonica before Bob Dylan picked it up.
Sleeping on your side of the bed in an unfamiliar room.
The first cup of coffee after a great night.
The first page of a great novel, written by a writer you’ve never heard of before.
The first night in a lonely city, watching the lights twinkling below from a window you can’t open.
Full moon thoughts in the Delhi sun.
Watching the prettiest girl say the ugliest things in the sweetest voice.
A lost soul in disguise.
Where the lost and the forgotten meet and toast to the setting sun.
The last thought you have before you fall asleep.
That dream you need to but will never recall.
A New York State of Mind thinking Indian thoughts.
That new Jay-Z album playing on blast in a black and yellow cab, and even the cabbie bobbing his head. Like this.
Finest wine drunk off the wrist of the finest dime, with her eyes on yours.
Muddy Waters’ “Hoochi Coochie Man” playing everytime you walk into a room.
An irresistible force on vacation in the Mediterranean, sipping MaiTais, head resting on glistening thighs.
A Spanish Guitar played in the middle of a Bombay traffic jam.
Technicolour dreams in a sepia print.
Sinatra singing with a broken microphone.
The illest shit smoked on a wet sticky night.
An insomniac dreamer…
Monday, August 24, 2009
“You don’t love me?” she whispers, standing under the windchime and the flicker of the lights from across the street spying on us from between the swaying fronds of the palm trees.
“I never did.”
“Yes you did. You said so.”
“A man will say anything to get what he wants.”
“And did you get what you wanted?”
“No. I got disappointment, and this night. That’s what I got.”
“Why are you saying these things to me?” She shouts this, not because she’s angry at me. But because she knows I’m angry at her, and I have reason. She wants another. I hate for that. But I hate her more for wanting me to be angry at her for it. I refuse. He can have her.
I turn away to make some tea. She follows me into the kitchen. I say nothing, she says less. Just stands there under the disgusting white light in my kitchen wall, the one that makes me look like a ghoul in the reflections, but somehow she still looks like an angel. That, I hate her for, deeply.
She stands there, looking like an angel cast down from heaven, with my heart at her feet which she’s trying to put together again and she starts to cry. They say there’s nothing that can withstand the force of a woman’s tears. I want to disagree, and I try, but I can’t. Neither can I give in. I rip open the tea bags and stir the leaves into a gentle vortex. She sobs, I stir, she sniffs, I stir, she stifles, and I keep stirring. She stops.
When I turn around she is no longer the weeping angel. When I turn around she is smiling. And that is what finally lances through my pain, and my hurt, and my insecurities, right into my bleeding heart. It’s how she trapped me that first time. But her first smile was an invitation. This one is for malice. This is the smile that says she’s leaving me.
I’m left standing in my kitchen, under the white light besieged by moths, and two cups of tea in my hands. She doesn’t bother to shut the door behind her.
Monday, August 10, 2009
Anger, disgust, self-loathing, ironic amusement, tear-jerking mirth, homicidal rage, dejection, resignation, and finally quiet introspection. I started to consider whether I should even bother getting so impassioned over what seemed to me a simple marketing decision. What’s more important to me? My own individual success and some pedestrian, egocentric need to be famous, or the success of the picture I’m a big part of. And I know I’m a big part of the film. The fact that I’m not on the poster shouldn’t matter, right?
But for a burning few minutes, it did. Any actor, or model, or performer, has within them a desire to be noticed, applauded, acknowledged. Sure we do, we shouldn’t hide it or deny it. We all love our crafts and are fulfilled by them, at least I hope “we” are, I know I am - but there is certainly a sprinkling of self-aggrandizement in the mix. When Dustin Hoffman asked Laurence Olivier why he thought they were actors, why anyone would want to be an actor, Olivier asked, “You want to know, boy? You really want to know why we do what we do?” Whereupon he stood up and leaned over the table, putting his face inches away from Hoffman’s and hissed, “Look at me, look at me, look at me.”
Truth be told, a few minutes later, I was quite disgusted with myself. I thought I had, long ago, wrestled my artistic ego to the ground and told it to behave. I thought I had convinced myself that the most important thing about being an actor, is the work itself - the becoming, the delving, the search. It was humbling to see just how far from that I am. But I refuse to give up the travail to reach that ideal, otherwise I am not in service to the craft of acting, I’m expecting the craft to be in service to me. And that is not how actors achieve that rare, thrilling resonance on screen. Someone said on a comment that an actor needs to connect with the audience. I disagree - an actor needs to connect with their own humanity, their own imperfections, and through that connection, help the audience connect with their own. A great actor makes you feel WITH him, not necessarily for. And to become that kind of actor, is my heart’s truest desire. My ego is just an impediment in the way, like a desert I have to cross to reach my ocean.
It’s amazing how easily the ego gets bruised, or offended, or affronted. What’s important, for me, is to learn to move forward despite it’s tantrums. No matter that I’m not on the posters - posters get taken down. I’m IN the film, and that can never be taken away, by anyone.
Sunday, August 9, 2009
I run to escape the cigarette smoke that follows me like a stray cat I made the mistake of feeding once. Wherever I go now, there’s she is, rubbing against my legs, mewling to be scratched. The morning papers make my lips snarl, and my brows furrow. No wonder so many of us have mature lines and hollows in our youthful faces. How much weight can we continue to bear? We are not Titans, we were never meant to be. Where are the gods? Perhaps where they’ve always been, behind us, only now we’re too proud to turn around.
The snake has returned to me. It stretches and slithers around in the hollow of my hip, making it painful to even sit and write these days. Every so often it twists up my spine and licks the underside of my thoughts, hissing it’s sibilant seductions, commanding me to indulge it’s thirst for my self-loathing. But I refuse tonight.
Saw Johnny Depp become John Dillinger yesterday night and for two something hours I was reminded of just how great my profession can be when done by a master. Spirits were lifted, smiles were cured of their amnesia and reminded that they must come out and play more often, and coffee was had, sweet and black, so hot it burned the tongue and ached the teeth. But it went with the night, and the breeze that came in clean and soft, all it’s burdens cast aside, running free until the morning tide.
I was alone again, but once more reminded that often I prefer it that way. It does me good to hear no other voices but those in my head. I keeps me from getting confused, or at odds with myself. This city is a wonderfully diverting one, it can show you too good a time, and make you forget all that keeps you grounded and true. And though I like losing myself in it’s slow whirlwinds now and then, I always need to come back to the quiet corners and soft, patient moments, where there is nothing to prove and no one to impress. No masks to don, no conversation topics to avoid. No need for speech, no need for thought, just the breathing in and out, and the tasting, and the smell of the salt in the air, and the shadows cavorting on the walls like the dearest lovers.
I hear Billie Holiday sing over the speakers…
No one here can love or understand me,
Oh, what hard luck stories they all hand me,
Make my bed and light the light,
I’ll be home late tonight,
Blackbird bye bye.
And I tell her I understand, and I tell her it’ll be alright. Because the poets of the nighttime sky haven’t lost their gifts just yet. And she puts her arms around me and sings me to sleep, and makes sure I don’t dream at all…
Saturday, August 8, 2009
Then came the American years, the university, the first taste of a theatre as a career, the great loves, the great nights, the city of New York walking beside me, closer than love, closer than my own breath, telling me how long it’s been waiting for me. Those midnight slices of pizza when I was on the way to work, the early morning coffees at Moonshine diner with the remains of the previous night still stinging our happy eyes, sitting in Washington Square Park and watching all the people rush hither thither with their dogs and their children on leashes, shopping for old records in the Village…
They took all that away from me. I felt abandoned, exiled, discarded. That’s what I was when I limped into Bombay. Had nowhere to go where visa hassles for an actor struggling to find work wouldn’t plague me constantly, nowhere except where I’m from.
But going around Bombay, meeting the people I’ve met, restored little by little my confidence that there was work worth doing here, alongside people that love Cinema as much if not more than me. That here were some people I could talk with, share so many coffees with we could be declared toxic hazards. Work that may not be popularly successful, but that we enjoyed doing and believed in. Work that made us proud to be who we were and all the reasons we got to be that way in the first place.
That’s why I’ll forever be grateful to Piyush Jha and “Sikandar”. They brought me home, they told me that it might be a jungle out there, where everyone’s a cannibal and even the rabbits have teeth, but we are not alone. So I go around town and the Internet promoting this film of ours, in an effort to let the others like us know - you are not alone. We are all here, together, and we may stumble, or get it wrong, or fail, but we will never stop trying to be better, trying to become worthy of being called artists.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
There shall always be a need in a country like ours, where the average living conditions are so poor and the lack of infrastructure and the ambition to become a world power while ignoring the very real issues that plague the nation abound, for popcorn, “feel good” movies. Just because I have not enjoyed the majority of the films that have released recently, and from Hollywood too, before anyone can claim that I’m biased towards the West, doesn’t mean I don’t understand the hold they have over the mass consciousness.
What I’m concerned about, is that attitude of the producers and the distributors and the media towards films that aren’t packed tight with glistening, perfect bodies, or stunning women (the kind only India can make) gyrating to catchy music, et all. Someone (I’m sadly learning the art of vagary) said “Sikandar” that it would be easy to market the film had there been a major star in the cast. Really? That’s the reason you can’t market the film, there’s no super-stars involved in it?
Where does this attitude come from? It’s one thing to refuse to produce a quirky film, or one that has no “starpower”. That’s a legitimate stand to make. Making films is after-all a business, and a business requires returns and profit to be viable. Fine. But after producing the movie, after investing in it, endorsing it, to refuse to do absolutely everything possible to ensure that people at least know about the film and consequently, go to check it out, is unforgivable.
Then there’s the people that ask me why I haven’t opted for a conventional launch vehicle, rather than do a small (but substantial) role in a film like “Sikandar”. Is a launch the only way for an actor to get noticed? Does being launched guarantee your becoming a superstar, or even mildly successful? Does being launched mean you can even carry a role? And I’m not one of those people that pretends to support independent cinema while I’m getting work in it, only to run away and dance in a Yash Raj film the minute they notice me. I believe in what I do, and where I work. I believe in “Sikandar”, I believed when I read the script that this was a special film written by a unique mind, with a setting and a premise that was as far from the popular norm as possible.
Now what we need is for people to go see the film. Love it, hate it, be indifferent to it, but watch it. Talk about it, because I guarantee it’ll worm its way into your conversations long after the credits roll. That’s how you market such a film, you highlight it’s heart, it’s desire to inform, it’s shining a spotlight on the plight of children in strife-torn regions. You don’t need Aamir Khan or a Shah Rukh Khan or any other super-luminary to tell people to go see a film that’s about people like them, that’s about children like theirs. We have an engaging story, a suspenseful and thrilling story, we have a group of actors who tried hard to not only act but inhabit their characters. We have Kashmir like you’ve never seen it before.
I don’t know how many people read my blog, really. I’m grateful anyone does. But don’t read it if you aren’t going to see the film. Because the person that can enjoy my writing will enjoy the film. The person that doesn’t enjoy my writing, will enjoy the film too.
We need you. But in a way, you need us too. You need people like us, to show you the other side of the coin, the tarnished, notched side. The side that mirrors your situations, your turmoil, your fears. One cannot subsist on popcorn alone.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
I’m sure that a number of these actors recognize that, and agree to appear on such shows only to spread awareness about the film they’ve worked so hard to make. But in doing so, they’re indirectly also saying that “I approve of this type of television.” While they choose so carefully the movie scripts they work on, What about the unscripted hideousness that is reality shows? Does it dilute an actor’s integrity you think?
I’m afraid that due to your talent, you will soon be popular and somewhere down the road a publicist or agent may want you to do the same thing. Would you?”
This was posted as a comment on my last to last blog (the last being the latest victim in the insidious war I wage against political correctness) by a person calling themselves ‘Kashmirfan’. And it’s had me thinking all evening. As you all must be tired of hearing - “Sikandar” releases on the 21st of August. I await that date with an ever burgeoning mixture of excitement and dread. It’s an odd feeling knowing that pretty soon many, many (hopefully a few more many’s than that) eyes will have seen my first bit of work in front of the camera. And I’d be lying if I pretended to not care what people think about me as an actor, since it is precisely that response that will determine whether I get more work or not.
Because believe it or not, the work IS all I care about. I’ve never paused to consider what would happen to my freedom of opinion (which I value, strongly) as I moved further and further into a public arena, where not only my work, but everything about me would be judged, gauged, dismissed, admired, scorned appreciated. I never actually thought to consider the career more than finding work and doing it. I had posted a review of my honest opinion of a film recently here that I was ‘asked’ to take down. Not because what I was saying was wrong, or unfounded, but simply for the act of having said it. I’m not entitled to an opinion. I must be liked. Even though I commented only on the film. I had nothing against any of the actors in the film personally, or professionally. I’m a lover of cinema, and it always has and always will elicit a strong response from me. How can an actor not have an opinion on a film? It’s like saying a economist shouldn’t have an opinion on a new budget. It’s ludicrous.
I never considered that once I sign a contract with a production house to do a film, they legally own the rights to my time and my person and can use me to promote the film as they see fit. Consider what it must be like for actors Shahid Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra to be constantly in the news. What must it do to their private lives to have every single move they make towards one another analyzed and magnified? And of course, it’s only coincidental that they have an eagerly awaited film, “Kaminey”, shortly due to hit cinemas right? Right. Couldn’t have anything to do with that. Did they stage the relationship to promote the film? Did the producers of the film do it for them, or even despite them? Because that is how films do seem to be promoted these days - controversy and sex. The sure fire weapons in any public relation team’s arsenal. That’s all they seem to want to do, know how to. And are they wrong in thinking that all this works?
Kashmirfan, my friend, it’s a tricky question to ask and even trickier to answer. When “Sikandar” was being prepped for all the attendant, soon-to-be-unleashed marketing campaign, I was privy to a fair amount of brainstorming as to how the film should be promoted. The team seemed more interested in knowing whether I was dating a celebrity and how great that would have been in terms of marketing, than actually selling the film itself. So if the best these geniuses can come up is the idea to have me appear on the “Rakhi Sawant ka Swayamvara” show, what else needs to be said?
Thank the Goddess, that idea died a swift and immediate death, but it was an actual suggestion put on the table. How would me, who nobody in Indian really cares about right now because they’ve never even seen my work, appearing on a show like that, be promoting “Sikandar”? I have no answer. But I signed a contract that said I agreed to let the producer’s decide how best to utilize me for their marketing strategy. So if BIG Pictures had decided to push me to appear on the show, I would have been contractually obligated to do so. I would have told them to go stick their heads into dark, moist places, but then I would be labelled and ostracized in the industry for being a trouble-maker and a louse.
I think actors after a certain level of success or time, simply disconnect themselves from their public persona. They must, right? Otherwise how could they stand all the cringe-worthy things they are made to do, the rubbish shows they are made to appear on and pretend to involve themselves in? Because believe me, it’s not like an actor has a choice really. Certainly not one at my most humble level.
I concur completely with Kashmirfan’s assertion that an actor appearing on a show is an endorsement of it. Presence implies allegiance. How can an actor who is so particular about the kind of work that he/she does, be so cavalier and laissez-fair about the manner in which they conduct themselves during publicity drives? But they don’t have a choice. And in many cases, they simply don’t care, they’ve been at it for so long.
So in all honesty, I don’t know what I would do. Would I not want to help promote the film that I am a part of as best as I could? However, would that be worth the betrayal of every artistic sensibility I have, say if I was asked to allow them to link me up in the press with some actress whom I’ve barely said two words to my entire life? Or pay almost triple what I earn for a role in order to get my name and some horrendously pointless bit of badly written trivia into the press?
All I know is that I’m glad at least I’m aware of the questions. I have many leagues of maturity to chart, and missteps to go before I can consider myself wise enough to answer any of them. I’m a kid who wanted to act since he was nine years old. I wanted to be like Marlon Brando. It’s only when you grow up that you realize that Marlon Brando’s life was not a very happy one. And then you ask yourself the most important question - because anyone can survive struggle and hardship, human beings seem to be uniquely capable of that as a species. But can you survive success?
August 21st is when the quest to find an answer begins, I suppose. Failure is a familiar demon. Success…
I pray to my Goddess, that she grant me the serenity and the equilibrium to weather either with my spirit intact.
Monday, July 20, 2009
These days I seem to be sleeping a couple of hours more than I usually do. Normally, after years of boarding school upbringing and my own hyperactive nature, five hours of sleep is all that my body requires. I feel sluggish, lethargic and not at all like myself if I get more than that. These days I sleep too much. I wake up hating myself for wasting so many hours of daylight. Hours I could spend writing, or sketching, or reading, or just enjoying the sound and the smell of the rain against the palm trees in front of my window.
I know why my sleep cycle is skewed. It’s because of all the uncertainty in my life these days. Sure, my first film “Sikandar” is due for release soon and that makes me excited as hell. Sure, my life in Bombay seems to be approaching something resembling what I lost when I left New York City. But the heart of my life, the actor in me, is left wondering whether the work he was looking forward to doing this year will ever happen. Every week, sometimes every day, I hear a different version from the production houses I’m supposed to be working with. One week they say a film’s definitely on, and soon, and they sound excited and frantic to get my dates and block rehearsal times, and other days I hear people tell me that the film is shelved or abandoned or plain cast aside. And everyday my heart does a little twist. And the other film (there are two I was supposed to be doing this year)…I won’t even begin to talk about the other film, whose languishing has become so self-indulgent I don’t think it ever wants to be made.
And I know that this is the nature of the business. I don’t work in a nine to five with a boss, an oversight, a steady paycheck, a company parking spot, boring co-workers, broken coffee machine, and stringently doled out vacation time. The nature of my work and the life I lead is a chaotic fractal in a whirlpool. I know all of it. And I am as patient as I need to be to retain my sanity. It’s just some days I wake up and I feel - blue.
Schroedinger’s Heart - that’s the condition I’m suffering from. No wonder I can’t wake up in the mornings. But I vow from tomorrow morning, I shall greet the dawn. I shall pull out my notebook and write for hours, or at least try. I shall sketch, I shall watch the Tom & Jerry show and laugh like I used to before I became an adult. Because otherwise, this waiting, and this wondering will mangle all that was good and talented and centered about me. I will not let that happen. I cannot let that happen.
So, dazed and confused, and reeling - but not ready to sit down just yet.
The rains returned the next day, with eagerness and vigor. They slapped against the windows like children begging him to come out and play. And so he met them halfway. Standing out on the balcony with his morning coffee getting diluted by the rain plinking in. He smiled wet smiles, and brushed the happy drops off his eyes. The world below him was rushed and potholed, and soaked and miserable. Up here, the world hissed with pleasure, and the coffee was good.
He hadn’t called her back yet, he was proud of that. Silly thing to be proud of, but he wasn’t very good at waiting, playing out the game like he should. An old girlfriend had told him he gave too much too easily, that was why people found it easy to break his heart. Of course, she said this just before doing a damn fine job of it herself. But he found it hard to hate her for it. The smile of hers nestled in his arms was still visual poetry, and the memories of her in bed, wearing nothing but his tie…People like her never understood, that the heart is never broken, it’s tempered, it’s honed, it’s reinforced. He was the way he was, and he had stopped fighting that a long time ago. “To thine own self be true,” wrote the Bard, and the Bard was never wrong.
The day was promising to get only worse from that morning coffee. Cases piled up on his desk like regrets. His secretary was starting to truly hate him for facing all the clients and the phone calls alone. But he couldn’t get back to the work. Not yet. The thirteen days weren’t over. But he needed to hear something good, something light, and so he called her after breakfast. But she was still asleep and hungover. He called after lunch, but she was busy. And again after an evening meeting his secretary ambushed him with, he called, and again his call rang and rang and choked away. Just when he thought it was time to try and reimagine the day without her smile in it, she sent him a message: “Sorry busy meet tonight still? Want to see you ;)”
He laughed with equal measure delight and disgust. The former because she was still a part of his day, and the latter at the ease with which she plucked his heart strings, the callous “;)” with which she sent needles into his patient flesh. He wondered again, do pretty girls attend a secret night school that teaches them the art of man-manipulation?
She wanted him to come see a movie, and said come early, come at five thirty. He arrived with a few minutes to spare. It had stopped raining but the threat of it hung dark and brooding above, and all the mice were huddled under awnings and inside the damp, musty indoors. He bought a muffin and a coffee and sat out on the stairs leading up to the theatre. For once the city smelled clean and fresh and happy. It wasn’t true, he knew that, but he was grateful for the momentary easing of his cynicism.
The muffin should have tasted like blueberries, instead it had the peculiarly non-specific muffinness that these fucking chain coffee shops were so good at concocting. He called it pseudo-food, for people to beaten down to bother asking for more. He threw it away and watched the local pack of dogs fight over it. Truth of the world laid bare, he thought.
His stomach filled with ice and apprehension. That’s how he knew she had arrived. His body always knew before he did. It filled with that sick, anticipatory mixture of fear and lust and a little bit of what might have been called love, once.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
The host and his wife were the sort of people who weren't quite friends yet, but would inevitably be. And they were gracious, and laughed loud and often, taking care to make those around them laugh as well. Good people. He stood against a wall and pretended to listen to the woman talking to him. Despite telling him about her husband, she touched her hair too often, and licked her lips like she was trying to revive them back to moistness. He smiled and tried to keep her gaze, but couldn't. A gaze held too long became an open door with large mat saying "Welcome".
Faking an urgent call from his bladder he headed out towards the mensroom. The restaurant was full of people that he unsaw by habit. No faces standing out, no voices that invited his ear. Just the cacophonous assault of an average Sunday night in Bombay City.
Her message came just as he was washing his hands. But this city had made him lonelier, and he checked his cell phone with hands still wet from the tap. He couldn't stop his heart from leaping out of his mouth and doing a joyous little samba around the bathroom floor. He had been avoiding her, even the thoughts of her that always crept into the abstract sanctity of his dreams. He knew even before he brushed his teeth that morning, that the bullet in that gun, the one that had come screaming at him, represented her.
He read the message. And then read it again. Then he put away his phone and went back to the party. His friends smiled and waved him over and offered him a cigarette. But every exhalation was a thought of her, and what she would look like when he saw her again, and what she would be wearing, and the smile that split her face into a mosaic of laugh lines. Then the hostess came by and dragged them all onto the dance floor again. And they laughed and danced and enjoyed the music and the night.
Then it was time to put the night to bed. He went outside with his friends. One of them needed a lift back to his own car, the other needed someone to go home with. Well, they all did, but tonight was going to be another lonely night for them all. So they smiled, and slapped hands, and headed off.
His friend sat back in the car and lamented the lack of any pretty women at the party, and he agreed with him. Pickings were slim he replied and let his friend continue complaining. And though he himself agreed with every word, his thoughts were swirling around her, and her message on his phone, inviting him to a little do the next evening.
He dropped his friend to his car and drove home, not even listening to any music, which he rarely drove without. He brushed his teeth in the dark, sat and stared at his empty email inbox for a moment. Then he wiped his hands across his face and fell asleep, hoping to dream of her again, even in the abstract.
Monday, July 6, 2009
Take me away, from here. Take me to where the lilacs aren't coated with dust, and the roses wait a day before they decay. Take me to a place where the woman of my dreams sits, waiting for me to find her there. Where the monsoon never goes too far away, and never shouts and floods, but pitter patters away at my window, like the sound of a conversation with a dear friend.
I saw a pretty girl smile an empty smile today when they asked her the questions. I saw her looking at me with the ghosts of tears flitting across her eyes, but even then she kept the mask on. She can never be real, because they don't want her to be. They want her to be who they wish to see, and the strain is drowning her. Pretty soon, the facade will be all that remains. And the pretty girl, with those ghostly tears, and her quiet giggle will be gone. Another victim of the flashing light assassins of Bombay City.
Take me where the words dance around me, laughing as I chase them, and they, eager to be caught, fall into my arms and show me how to paint an empty page the way I see it painted in my soul. Take me where the words love me back. And I can write for hours, and it be good. Where the words come faster than my fingers can move, and my fingers move faster than a hummingbird's wings.
Take me where all the news is good and the weather is fine. Where the city I live in doesn't smell like excreta and ejaculate and effluvia. Where there's no traffic because everyone walks, and everyone walks because there's no rush, and there's no rush because we love ourselves just fine just now. Where the hugs last for longer than a second, and the kisses actually touch flesh.
Where beauty goes deeper than the skin, and skin is all we wear.
Take me away, take me away. Take me away, to where your smiles are, and where your secrets are on the wall. Where your go to put away your mask, and take off your makeup, and settle into the you no one ever sees. When you write in your diary and repeat all the gestures and idiosyncrasies you saw today. When you make those sounds, you make them for me. And then we share a silence together.
Take me there, love. Take me a thousand kisses deep, and drowning.
Monday, June 22, 2009
The script writers clearly did no research beyond some basic comic catch-up, ignored the main elements of the character’s personality matrix, completely distorted the man’s history, and in the end basically made a Bollywood melodrama. It was pathetic. Hugh Jackman, for whom I have an immense cinematic fondness, has revealed to me just how Broadway his sensibilities really are. People tend to forget that the man did an entire Broadway production in New York, singing and dancing to showtunes. The fact that he is a brilliant dancer and a fine singer are things he should be proud of. But please, keep your nancy sensibilities away from a character like Wolverine. But the damage is done, the shitty film made, and fans all over the world in a state of apoplectic rage. Well done, Hugh. Well done indeed.
The only thing that saved the night from being a completely disaster was the ray of sunshine sitting beside me. Had it not been for her, I would have come out of the theatre sulking and bad-tempered. As it turned out, she got more pissed off than me at the film, which I found instantly endearing.
From there we decided to ditch the group and share some coffee and conversation at a nearby after-hours spot. Again the trickster gods had a laugh at my expense by seating the world’s most pathetic male specimen directly behind me. Picture a man with a face like a starving rat and the voice of a whiny twelve year-old. This dumb shit was sitting beside a completely charming woman with an American accent complaining about the Indian Cricket team’s destruction at the T20 World Cup. She mentioned that the Pakistani team was doing well, good for them. And that was it! The fellow starting shouting obscenities and saying things like “Fuck those pricks. I wouldn’t piss on a Pakistani even if he was on fire!”
No one in the place said anything. My own impulse to evict the man out the front door was handcuffed by my date, who insisted that I behave myself. Which I regretably did. I’m disgusted by people like that man. Who hate so strongly for a reason as juvenile as a sport. And then have the nerve to get angry when they encounter hatred and racism in places like Australia. Hatred breeds only hatred. That is how the universe works. Whatever you transmit into the world is returned upon you tenfold. That asshole in the bar, one day, is going to get the holy hell beaten out of him by running his motor-mouth in a place where not everyone is so polite, or with a girl who abhors confrontations. And I pray I’m there to at least witness it.
There’s an article in the Hindustan Times today about the hypocrisy of racism. How we Indians can get so angry at a few brainless Australians beating up our fellow countrymen that we completely forgo all logic and reason and start tarnishing the entire continent of pretty decent, laid back people with the same negative brush. But then look at how we treat those Africans who are either working or studying in cities like Bombay. They get treated like thieves or criminals or worse just for being black. Nevermind the fact that Africans and Indians were the most enslaved people during the Time of Colonization. Let’s hate them!! Pathetic.
Saturday was all about green tea and my new stack of books. From which I can thoroughly recommend Geoff Dyer’s “Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi” and Milan Kundera’s “The Book of Laughter and Forgetting.”
Sunday was another great day spent at the Del Italia in Juhu, Bombay. For a brunch that lasted almost six hours. Good food, good wine, great music, perfect weather, pretty women, pithy conversation - I am one contented son-of-a-gun.
And we come to Monday. A monday that began with great weather and the greater urge to be creative. Hence my current blog entry. And now if you’ll excuse me, I think I shall go sketch something or the other. This is how I wait for my films to begin, or release, or just stop breaking my heart. I write, I sketch, I dance around the town in search of women who wouldn’t mind dancing around me for a song. There’s a better life out there, but I’m quite happy with mine.
None of us know whether the man is guilty (of the worst crime this side of infanticide) or not. None of us except for the man himself and the maid. What we know for certain is that they did indeed have sex. The man’s admitted to it (which is another entirely more convoluted sociological/psychological discussion - “why the hell would a good-looking actor, with fans, need to sleep with a maid?”), claimed she gave him consent. But when the socio-economic divide between them is so skewed, what does the word “consent” imply in that situation? Did she initiate, did she seduce him, did he imagine consent from her silence or lack of resistance? The media, of course, is interested in none of these ambiguities because they have headlines to sell. Good for them.
What is interesting however is that the initial reports from the police suggested that the maid’s physical state had no visible signs of forced entry. She claims she was bound and gagged, and thus must have struggled, but there were no signs of welts on her hands from the binding, or bruises around her mouth from the gagging etc. So why now do they now claim that there IS evidence of rape.
Then there’s the rather glaring absurdity in our constituition that the woman’s word is always given more weight in such matters. What about evidence? What about testimony? What about being innocent until PROVEN guilty? Rape is among the most heinous of crimes in my opinion. But a law that unilaterally sides with the woman is a law that doesn’t even understand the complex variability of sex amongst human beings. I had an acquaintance in college who was accused of rape by a girl that had completely consensual sex with him after a party. However she wanted a relationship and he thought it had just been a one-night stand. She cried rape. He didn’t go to prison, but got expelled from university and his reputation forever tarnished. In India, he might have ended up in jail.
Is that not a possibility here? Can it not seem conceivable to us that Shiney and his maid were having consensual sex, she thought it would lead to some monetary gains for her, he denied her what she felt he owed her, and she cried rape? I read in the newspaper yesterday about a journalist who claims that the police are not looking at the matter at all from the angle of blackmail. Shiney is a successful actor (not recently sure, but better than most in this dream-destroying town) and there seems to be an unsavory character in the form of the maid’s boyfriend.
And while I understand, and support to an extent, the zealotry of seeing everything from ther perspective of the victim, I must remind myself, that people are stranger, deeper, crazier, more twisted up inside, than they appear to be on the surface. I hope justice is done diligently and honestly. I hope they stop telling us that Shiney is being held in a cell but receiving better food and more cups of tea because of his “status”. Find the truth. Forget the pageantry.
What happened to faith in one’s own film. There’s strategizing, and then there’s saying “Let’s wait till the other army lays down their weapons, then we’ll attack.”
I suppose, for prudence’s sake, I should be a little more tactful in my blog, but they can blame God, he blew breath in my lungs. This is who I am, and this is what I think about this situation. Any wise person, respects and listens to criticism, so I’m hoping Big Pictures is paying attention. Class is in session, children. Get off the ground, stop crying, pick up a rock, and hit the bully right between the eyes.
Meanwhile, during this summer of discontent, I have moved on to other projects. Now I never speak of my work until it’s ready for releasing, but they are all exciting scripts that I’m hoping come together soon. For in this time of recession and tightening purse strings, everything seems to be delayed or, Goddess forfend, shelved indefinitely. So I sit and I pray, and then I get dressed to go out, and I play. Lord how I play. Even though I’d rather be working, I’m learning the art of staying contented in the moment. We cannot control our lives beyond a point. But we can be adaptable and adventurous enough to roll with whatever our way comes. Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, your hands can’t touch what your eyes can’t see. Only I float like a will’o'wisp and slap like a tiger. Your eyes can’t see what’s always floating higher.
Feels good to be back on the blog. Internet up and running, green tea simmering, morning breeze free of the stench, and the Doors lighting my speakers on fire. Damn it feels good to be me. Hope you are all feeling that spring of contentment bubbling up within yourselves. Don’t walk like you own the world, walk like you don’t care who does.
I wrote out against Reality TV in one of my previous posts and that post got a lot of replies from readers. Readers who mostly agreed with me, that such programs showcase all that’s base and banal and bawdy and raise it to the level of culture and art. One reader commented on this show called “Splitsvilla”. I had never watched this show before, being severely allergic to the television. But I made myself watch it, so forgive me the following profanity - WHAT THE FUCK???
Is this the kind of behaviour women should be condoning and encouraging and lusting for in men? Is this the best we men can do to woo worthy women? I try to think not, but every weekend party I attend, I find that ninety percent of the people I see around me validate and personify this degrading, demoralizing kind of social behaviour.
And here’s Susan Boyle - wishing her poor Scottish self stayed in that church. As my landlady in New York would say, “Girl, you done messed yourself up.” You stepped into the limelight, and the limelight’s made of acid. It leaves nothing of you behind. There are psychologist’s who have commented that her mental state is alarmingly fraught and fragile with all the negative press she’s been getting after being bullied by journalists in a hotel. You know what’ll be worse for this woman than losing the show? Winning it. Then they’ll shine a light on her life and leave it on. A bright white merciless halogen on everything she was and everything she will now have to become.
I often wonder that none of us who want to bask in the limelight, really ever realize just how high the cost of fame and success really is. And all of us have a basic desire for recognition, of being a singular presence in a faceless multitude. But it’s a basic survival instinct in all animals - it’s the one that's unique that get cast out. Should that mean we should stop striving to excel, to better ourselves, to fight our way to center stage? I wish I could say yes. But that’s precisely what my life is all about. Being an actor for me is about the craft, and is about the joy I feel while I’m working. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say I want heads to turn when I walk into a room, or the way a girl to stare when she realizes who I am.
But look at Frieda Pinto. No one seems to be saying anything nice about her in India anymore. Everyone I overhear calls her things the poor girl just doesn’t deserve. Look at the Azharudin and Rubina, who will never lead normal lives again. How often will Danny Boyle be able to come and bail them out? How long will their parents be able to pretend to be who they need to be in front of all the cameras pointed their way? What about their friends and family members who probably cared not a whit about them before the stars fell, and now just won’t go away?
Goddess, sometimes, the smartest thing I can do, is stay home, cook myself a nice hot meal and curl up with a book. Some nights, I love the fact that no one knows who I am or what I’m about.
But I’d be lying if I said I can’t wait for that to change!
What complicated creatures we humans be!
My neighbor’s little girl smiles and gives me a flower everyday she sees me. She’s comes no higher than my knee and her eyes hold all that I wish to write about. Each time she gives me a flower I feel like an undeserving ogre, but I smile and take it, and keep it next to my books until it withers away. I hear my other neighbor yelling at her servant. She’s always yelling, at the servant, at her children, at the building guards. I never hear her yell at her husband. Her husband with the cloying sweet breath and hands that remind me of the bullies of my childhood. No wonder she takes her anger out on everybody but him. She even tried to yell at me once, but something in my eyes stopped her. She saw through me, for a second she saw past the man and saw the animal, the one we all keep chained inside. But she was yelling at her little daughter, and my animal didn’t like that.
Everyday I wake up praying for the rains to come and wash the dust of this year off of me. And everyday I see the clouds blow past without a single tear shed for us down below. I dream these days more than I usually do. Each dream merges into the next until I’m floating through the nightime sky like in Chagall’s painting - with a yellow goat playing the violin guiding me through.
I’m an addict in a prison made from my addiction, I’m a psychedelic prince in a monochromatic world. I’m the last of the poets lost in a crowd, I’m the unfulfilled wish, the dying dream, the undying desire. I’m a Kings of Leon CD playing while making love. I am the last page of the book before your eyes fall asleep. The best cup of coffee left until it got cold. I’m all the words I wish I could write.
Words don’t come so easy no more. They avoid me like disappointed parents who caught me with a joint and a smile. They look at me like my dog does after I yell at him.
I’m….done for tonight…
But not today. Today I got paid to make out with an actress. And before you think that’s all fun and games, try to imagine yourself kissing someone surrounding by at least twenty people all watching, gauging, measuring intently everything from your level of passion to the position of your bodies with relation to the lights, your expressions, your angles, your movements….
But the actress was a lovely girl who giggled her way through the entire day, and I’m a man most comfortable in front of the camera. Even so, it was an interesting experience trying to use all that I have mastered in the amorous arts and failing miserably because of things like : blocking her light, her hair blocking my face, my head bouncing out of frame. But the director was patient, the actress a darling, and the crew a highly amused crowd. So the day passed successfully and we finished in time for most of them to get back home and switch on the IPL finals.
Me…I came home to write to you and to drink my first cup of green tea of the day.
It occurs to me that today could have transpired very differently had the actress been any less comfortable with herself and with me than she was. I’ve become aware recently of how hypocritical a stance most actors and directors will take on the subject of physical contact between lovers. I’m not even going to talk about a proper sex scene such as the legendary ones in films such as “Last Tango in Paris” and “Sea of Love” and many others. Just kissing sends people blushing and retreating off the sets, or turn down a script that, but for the a few moments of justified passion, would ignite their careers.
But I suppose it will take me sometime to readjust to the Indian ideologies concerning physical contact on screen. I’ve been corrupted by the decadent West, I suppose.
Don’t we kiss in real life? As often as we possibly can, right? So what’s the big deal? Oh well, at least I’m uninhibited and true to my art. That’ll do for now I suppose.
Smile upon your lips
Ashes in your mouth
Calling me down
Down into the bedroom
Like I’m a blizzard
Bearing you down
Down into forever
All that’s forbidden
All that was needed
Rags upon the midden
Tangled up in shadows
Dancing out the window.
But a very great teacher named James Price told me that in New York before I even took my first step down this path. The great ones weren’t necessarily better than the others. The great ones are the ones that are just too damn stubborn to quit.
I was so excited to get a part in “Sikandar”. It was a great script, with a wonderfully odd and intelligent director, Piyush Jha, and best of all, it had a place for me in it! It’s strange to chase a single dream for years without any idea really what the dream actually entails. I’ve known I wanted to be an actor ever since I was 9 years old and saw the movie “On the Waterfront” with Marlon Brando. But you can want something bad enough that isn’t right for you. “Sikandar” showed me how much the life of an actor fits me. I love the research, the preparation, the rehearsals, the readings, the long conversations with cast members on set with really, really terrible tea. I love sitting on set and chatting with the assistant directors during those rare moments of calm.
But the film wrapped and now here I am, back to waiting. This time for it to release. This Strike is an important step in the evolution of the Indian Film Industry. I know that. Really. We need to come to a better business model on how films are made and distributed in this country. We cannot continue to function in this nepotistic, chamchagiri-filled system. Change is important.
I’m just hoping change happens soon. Because as much work as I’m doing now after “Sikandar” and I’ve been blessed with more than my share. My dream hasn’t become a reality until that first audience member pays for their ticket and sits down in that seat next to someone they care about with a big bucket of popcorn and the lights dim and the projector beams dance with the dust motes all the way to the screen and paste my mug there. I don’t know whether people will like me or think me the worst thing to hit the screen in Goddess knows how long.
But the truth is - I don’t care. I made it here. And no one can take that from me.
I hope who ever’s reading this gets a chance to watch “Sikandar” in theatres real soon. It’s a small film but a good film, with a lot of heart.
Watch it! And let me know what you thought. Even if it’s the digital version of a tomato in the face!
I don’t give a rat’s heiny whether they are moving out or not. I don’t care whether their house is complete or not or where it’s located. I do not care whether they hold bacchanals in their home that put Caligula to shame. I don’t care!!!!! Do any of you? Leave these people’s private lives private.
Tell us how the economy is affecting the delayed talks between the multiplex owners and the producers. Tell us how the psychology of greed and control are affecting the way in which movies are being made and released these days. Tell us how the recent atmosphere of over-inflated production costs, outrageous actor fees, have resulted in those of us that make and act in better, smaller, more intelligent films are being forced to put our lives on perpetual hold whilst these fat cats whisk about in their foreign cars in between giving each other a finger and a fuck off. That’s Entertainment News.
I tire of this celebrity-centric culture of ours, where journalists don’t even bother checking facts or verifying sources. A culture where many of us would rather read through the Bombay Times than the actual newspaper. Where journalists basically just write whatever they want. This country despite all the celebrity campaigners and their over-hyped public service announcements had some of the lowest voter turn-out this year in many places including around Bombay. That shows how much impact celebrities have on issues that really matter.
Tell me more about why Mamooty was denied a visa into the U.S.A. That’s news. That’s a real indication of how xenophobic and closed the borders of America (a country I spent nearly eight happy years in) are becoming.
But saying all this isn’t going to magically turn our news providers into better, more sincere and professional services. This is just my way of exhaling my morning paper irritations out into the ether.
Now I feel good. Time for a cup of green tea and a nice cold shower.
It began with coffee. Stale, over-creamed, under roasted coffee in a cafe where everybody around us held nothing but empty hope and dirty cups in their hands. I didn’t even know how she liked her coffee. But I knew I wanted to know. I wanted to know down to the amount of time she likes to set it aside to brew and steam and fill her with the promise of its aroma. I watched her order. The slow bloom of her smile as she met the waitress’ eyes, the slight shift in her shoulders when she turned back towards me. The widening of her smile and how she leaned across to play with the napkin on my side of the table, her fingers tracing patterns around my left hand.
She spoke of things in a way that made them instantly sensual and vibrant. The way she described this city of hers that I was new to. The music in her car and how each song was picked so that even traffic couldn’t shake loose her happiness. She laughed, and it was a sound that echoed and reverberated in the deepest, quietest parts of me. It seemed to reach across and demand an answer from my throat, like a flamenco dancer in her last pose, drinking in her well-deserved applause.
Our coffee came and we sipped. I watched her ask for sugar-free sweetener. I watched her open it precisely with her artist’s fingers and empty it into her cup. Watched her stir it in a smooth, metered stroke. Then she spied me watching and that smile came out again, and that shrug, and she winked and licked the spoon.
I didn’t care my coffee tasted like New York tap water drunk from an old coffee can. I was here, across from her, and the city didn’t seem uncaring. At least for tonight. At least until the sun came up and banished us, us the poets of the nighttime sky.
And the crickets and the cicadas open,
their long talks on the business of the day now past.
It begins when the wind sighs and sheds its heat
And wraps a cool blouse around its shoulders,
and curls up next to me across the lawn.
We watch the bats chase away the birds
as the crickets talk about it all.
The lake seems to almost smile then,
Just before the Sun dives into its arms,
Like a wayward son running home to Ma.
The jasmine opens it’s doors, and the figs,
and the champa begin their ever-shy courtship.
I am thinking of all that I have become,
And all that I wish to be.
And here, under these summer stars,
And their quiet sussurating song,
Neither fill me with shame.
I wake to walk back, with the wind
Laughing beside me,
All the way, all the way home.
thoroughly mystified by the sudden celebrity status voting has received. Probably a good thing in the long run if youngsters feel that voting is “cool”
sad that we need celebrities to make us participant in our fundamental duty as democratic citizens
funny picture of the Bachchan family all giving the middle finger (to show their voter ink). I wonder if they forgot what the gesture means. Or they know and are doing it deliberately? I saw the paper before my first cup of coffee and thought the former, that they didn’t realize what they were doing. Then I drank some coffee and really looked at the smiles on their faces - how could they not know? Hilarious picture.
love my dogs. They are so badly behaved and unruly, it amazes me that I find anything to love about them. But each and every one of them is a finely crafted lunatic character. Maybe it’s because I’ve never chained them. But the idea of boundaries and limits and social grace are alien concepts.
did I mention I love coffee?
multiplex/producer strike continues to delay the release of my first feature film. Granted it’s an art film and I’m one of the secondary characters. But it’s my first film!! Until it releases and people talk about it, my dream hasn’t become a reality.
have been out of Bombay for a good week and have not missed it one bit.
although I miss the pretty girls.
only pretty girl here is my dog and she doesn’t bite
love the comments people have been posting
amazed people are even reading my ramblings.
thought this would be like sitting in an empty room, muttering at the walls like the lunatic I pretend I’m not
thoroughly recommend the book 2666 by Roberto Bolaño. although be warned, reading it is quite an undertaking. Not for those satisfied with airport lounge paperbacks. The fucking book weighs a ton! Fantastic prose though for those up for the challenge
want to write a book, but am suffering from too many ideas ricocheting around my cranium. need to spend a day and distill them down to one workable premise
feel like smoking a cigarette. Luckily I don’t have any. Always feel a strange mixture of pleasure and self-loathing everytime I finish one. Why can’t there be a substance that gives a good high that isn’t poisonous to the body. A righteous high. That would be something
what the fuck is up with all the raping going on in this country? Are Indian men that repressed and angry? And it’s happening more and more in the upper echelons of society. So they can’t turn their noses up and say it’s only among the lower classes. These rich kids with their trust funds and their utter disregards for a woman’s worth. I’d like five minutes in a room with one of these punks.
caffeine buzz receding…
lucidity murking up…
words beginning to……………..
As though touching her
might make him known to himself
as though his hand moving
over her body might find who
he is, as though he lay inside her, a country
his hand’s traveling uncovered,
as though such a country arose
continually up out of her
to meet his hand’s setting forth and setting forth.
And the places on her body have no names.
And she is what’s immense about the night.
And their clothes on the floor are arranged
Friends don’t call anymore. They wait for you to call them. This is how the world is. Everyone’s waiting for someone to call them. They stare at the phone staring back at them.
I went out for some coffee and watched people. I like doing that. I like coming with entire conversations as I watch them laugh, and joke, and whisper, and cry. It connects me to them, somehow, that I can imagine what they’re saying to each other.
There’s a serious lack of good coffee shops in the Juhu area. The Baristas, and the Coffee Days all serve this mutated soup that they dare call coffee. Met with a director I have recently worked with. Sweet man. Full of warmth and kindness. Likes to make tea for everyone. Gets slightly offended if you don’t have tea with him. I try to have extra cups.
He wanted to know my thoughts on some ideas he had for how we could improve some of the scenes we shot. But soon we were talking about the people we knew, and whether I was meeting any nice people in Bombay. He meant had I met any nice girls. I smiled and said yes. He smiled, but I knew he didn’t believe me either. I feel there are no nice girls in Bombay. There are those that used to be nice. And there are those that are nice, but know they can never reveal it.
And so it goes. The waiting for my next project to begin. I’m most alive when I’m working. When I’m not, I hibernate like a bear in perpetual winter.
Writing for this blog has become a nice exercise for me. I’m stretching my literary muscles again. I had thought them atrophied a long time ago. Nice to know I still can find my way around a pen and paper. Planning to read Hemingway again. He always make me feel I should write more often. I wish I could have known him. Stood side by side with him on his five foot high desk, and wrote for four hours straight like he used to do everyday, before his wife and the dogs called us outside into the Cuban sunshine.
Lingering amidst the warm ashes of my forgotten cigarette.
There are no thoughts here,
Swimming in the cooling pool of my sugar-sweet coffee.
There is only the numbness, the old familiar throb of it.
Creeping up my legs, slithering up, slowly up, into the back
of my spine, coming to rest behind my neck. Flicking,
Flicking my throat with it’s forked tongue.
Testing me. Teasing me. Reminding me,
I can never escape it, and I never want to.
I drop the cigarette into the coffee, and I leave.
When I get home, I remember,
I forgot to pay. I drive back.
They don’t remember me.
I drive home. I go to sleep, listening to the snake in my spine,
hissing it’s long lullaby…
This concerns me. Truly it does. Because I’m new here to this town and to what Sudhir Mishra once called this Cottage Industry called Bollywood. I don’t know too many people here. I’m only just starting to build relationships and friendships. But how is a person supposed to do that when everybody you meet hates/dislikes/loathes/mistrusts everybody you know. From assistants and office staff up to the producers and directors and actors. Everybody has an opinion about everybody else, and nine times out of ten, that opinion is not a particularly flattering one.
Admittedly, I am a little liberal with the hyperbole, but not by much. How is a young actor, desperate to prove his worth, tear into good scripts, eager to meet the people that will change his life, supposed to gauge who he should or should not take seriously and work with, whenever everybody’s opinion differs? And differs to such an extent that he’s left wondering who’s the sociopath here, the subject of the advice, the object of the advice, or me the dumb schmuck that should know better than to ask for advice?
I’d scream for help, but then what would be the bloody point? Nobody cares, nobody’s going to listen, and nobody’s really going to give me unbiased, unprejudiced, balanced advice. Everybody’s got an angle, everybody wants something, and nobody is allowed to be honest.
The scary part is that at times, whilst in conversation with people, I find myself saying unkind things about the people being talked about. That scares me. I don’t want to become one of these mistrustful, jaded phantoms, with all the dying embers of choked dreams in their eyes. I want to be more. I am more. But how long can you survive in a place with no light before going blind yourself?
Forgive my overly dramatic prose. But this has been a week of some frustration. In the golden naivete of my dreams I thought, all I needed was my talent. Just let that shine, and all will fall into place. Thank you Bombay for taking a chainsaw to that boy’s foolish imaginings. Hopefully out of what’s left, a man shall arise. A man worth knowing, true to his word, and full of that quiet confidence that doesn’t need to stand on the shattered egos of others. A man who can survive this city’s tempters, corruptors, succubuses, and remain true to himself.
Let this hope not be destroyed as well. It may be the last one I have left.
I never thought I’d say this - but I miss the Boston winter, the New York spring, the London…well, the entire year in London really. Heat I can handle, but humidity thick enough to garnish and stir with a soup spoon is a bit more than I can handle. Give me another year here and I guess I too shall become inured to it, but for right now I shall have to channel my discomfort creatively.
What the hell is wrong with the world???
The morning newspaper is so packed full of bad and depressing news that I’m actually laughing out loud. That’s the only healthy response, I think. You either get full of (very real, very visceral) fear, or you cackle like a maniac. The world is going to hell in a hand basket and yet there is our wonderfully inept Madam President, waving from the gangway leading up to her brand new (disgustingly low-tech) answer to Air Force One. There are people dying all over, even more people making sure that they die quicker either by stabbing them, or drowning them, or shooting them with rocket launchers (I swear, I read somewhere yesterday that this man tried to kill his mother-in-law with a rocket launcher - and the woman survived!!!!!!!!), and our President, who I’m not sorry to say, is the most embarrassing diplomatic poster girl our country has ever chosen, is waving to us from her not-so-shiny new plane, that we are reminded doesn’t have any escape pods in the case of a hijacking.
Has anyone ever seen this tiny, tiny woman standing in front of any foreign delegate and smiling away? The Prime Minister needs to run the country, he can look like the back end of a sick bulldog as long as he’s doing his/her job. The President is a symbol, an icon, an ambassador to the world, our diplomatic flagship. I’m sorry, I’m sure she’s a lovely lady, but for god’s sake. Can we find someone a little more imposing and impressive, so that at least he/she can knock the pathetic way the world views us back a few steps?
I took nine hours for the commandos to get from Delhi to Bombay when this city needed them the most. But huzzah! for the President. She has her own plane. Well, three new planes, that she has to share with the PM. But progress! At last!
I need to switch to decaf. And maybe turn the air-conditioner on for an hour. And take a cold shower…