Monday, June 22, 2009

Me Love Me Some Monday

So begins another week of mishaps, misadventures, and hopefully, monsoon. Had a lovely weekend that began with the premiere of “X-Men Origins - Wolverine” in Bombay. Had the movie been about any other comic book character than Wolverine, and of course, Batman, I wouldn’t have cared so much. But to take one of the truly iconic figures in Comicdom, a character that is by far the most complex, tragic, dare I say it, Shakespearean of all Marvel heroes and pretty much piss all over him is all that Hugh Jackman has accomplished.
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.

Shiney

I wasn’t going to touch this issue. I wait for things to strike me before I write. And these last two years, things have been striking me ever more intermittently. Perhaps I’m getting lazy, or perhaps it’s merely the lack of exercise I give my talents. But the second I saw Shiney Ahuja on the news with the headline saying “rape” I wanted to write something. Not in his defense, or in condemnation. Merely my thoughts on the way this whole circus has erupted around him.
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.

Blame God

The battle against the Arch-Daemon Idleness continues, amigos. The dreaded strike has passed, and we have survived. But picking up the pieces of our film in this new post-apocalyptic wasteland where super-mutants in the form of HUGE films roam, cannibalizing and tormenting the smaller films, is proving to be harder than I anticipated. Of course, that is only because the people that own the film, Big Pictures, are proving too timid to come out and face even the weakest of these Super-Mutants head on. They may have a point saying that we cannot compete with the likes of “Kambakht Ishq” (I flipping refuse to spell it with multiple k’s) and “New York”. But they even shy of releasing “Sikandar” in the weeks after these monsters releases, in case these films prove to be huge hits and their second weeks are as busy as the first.
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.

Poor Poor Susan Boyle

They just won’t let her be will they? They’ll break her heart, and the hearts of everyone that wishes her success. Because she’s got nothing to offer them but her voice. And in this MTV video world - that means nothing at all. The poor woman’s gotten herself examined by a psychiatrist and he said not to continue. But she’s so close to the dream, how can she stop now? So she’s sequestered herself until the finals.
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!

Won't Come Easy

They surge within me like a drowning tide. Pushing against the walls of my mind, calling me down to the empty page, then abandoning me, their laughter drowning out the sounds of traffic outside my window. This city won’t let me sleep tonight. Its whispering its secrets to me, of all the hidden places within the people crawling through its layers, of the wells of joy being drained dry by the unquenchable thirst of the miserable. That noisy beast called Traffic’s horns goring my eardrums, leaving them insensate to the laughter of the children I see around my building.
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…

Sunday Spent Working

Today was my favorite kind of day - a work day. I absolutely, unequivocally, psychotically love my job. From early morning until now I’ve been at Mehboob Studios in Bandra, shooting there for the first time, for the last two days of my second film entitled “Mirch”. There is a very infectious camaraderie on the sets I’ve been on. I’ve heard that that’s not always the case, and countless people have amused me with their anecdotes about directors and actors who have been real tyrants and difficult to please, and I suppose if luck holds, I’ll probably end up working with those people sooner or later.
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.

Bombay

I taste
Smile upon your lips
Ashes in your mouth
Calling me down
Down into the bedroom
You shake
Like I’m a blizzard
Bearing you down
Down into forever
We make
All that’s forbidden
All that was needed
Rags upon the midden
Tangled up in shadows
Dancing out the window.

Waiting for a Star to Fall

It’s almost exactly a year now since I started shooting for my first feature film Sikandar. Before that I was wandering the vast wastelands of New York and London, begging for acting job handouts. Going to audition after audition, where I was told before I even got a chance to read for the part, that I didn’t “look right”. Too tall, too big, too brown, too Indian, not Indian enough, not white enough, not good looking enough et all. In three years I took more rejection than most people amass in a lifetime.
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!

Entertainment News - There's an Oxymoron

Over the last, almost two weeks, I’ve seen the same headline on the News tab I keep on my homepage - “Abhi-Ash not moving out.” Then it switches to say that they are moving back, then back to not. Or which lucky man is getting naughty with Priyanka Chopra. First it’s one then the other then yet another.
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.

Thursday

We knew where we wanted to be come the first rays of dawn. But we tarried a while, enjoying the slow, spiralling dance towards one another.
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.

A Summer Evening in Bhopal

It begins when the wind turns,
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.

Caffeine Thoughts

praise the gods that caffeine isn’t illegal. I love it. I love it because it makes me feel too fast for the world to catch, too deep for the noise to follow, too happy for people to annoy. Love caffeine.
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 BolaƱo. 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……………..

One of my favorite Poems

Dwelling by Li-Young Lee

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
for forgetfulness.

Untitled

Too many thoughts swirling around in me. Bobbing on a whirlpool of coffee and green tea. The day’s gone by so fast, and I did nothing to make it memorable. I wandered a bit, to remind myself I still know how. But soon, I was searching for a destination again. Bombay has started to change me. It screams at me to find a direction. But I enjoy stumbling through the woods.
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.

Writing Exercise

There are no thoughts here,
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…

Can anybody out there hear me, ’cause I can’t seem to hear myself

There’s not enough love in this industry. Plenty of greed, pride, and sex, plenty of that and all the tawdry power dynamics they engender, but little love, and less respect.
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.

Sweltering

For those of you not living in Bombay, we are currently besieged by the sun. A heat wave is bad enough, but we have to deal with humidity that might as well be visible, it’s that thick, and the wonderful aroma of the ocean at low tide and the fish markets, which are downwind of me all day!
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!
Wonderful…
I need to switch to decaf. And maybe turn the air-conditioner on for an hour. And take a cold shower…

Culture is dead...Reality TV Killed It

Sir Michael Parkinson, one of the true luminaries of BBC, has hit out against the media recently for the truly horrid attention they’ve given Jade Goody saying : “Goody has her own place in the history of television and, while it’s significant, it’s nothing to be proud of. Her death is as sad as the death of any young person, but it’s not the passing of a martyr or a saint or, God help us, Princess Di.
“When we clear the media smoke screen from around her death, what we’re left with is a woman who came to represent all that’s paltry and wretched about Britain today.
“She was brought up on a sink estate, as a child came to know drugs and crime, was barely educated, ignorant and puerile. Then she was projected to celebrity by Big Brother and became a media chattel to be exploited till the day she died”
Why are people so desperate for media attention? I was arguing the Jade Goody example with a friend and she said “At least she got some money for her kid’s education.” I almost choked on my coffee. Really? That’s the best defense we can come up with for her tawdry, attention-starved televised demise? She got some money for her kids?
If your mother behaved in such a manner, would you be proud or in need of a large number of prescription pills?
I don’t understand this world anymore. Truly, I don’t.
India, too is under serious siege, with reality shows. Some are interesting enough in that they promote the search and discovery of new talent (which is sorely needed), but the rest?? Do we fucking care about Rakhee Sawant’s desire to get married on national television?
There is nothing quite like this woman on earth. For those of you who haven’t been blessed with the knowledge of who this paragon of talent, beauty, grace, and charisma is - keep it that way! You really don’t want to/need to know. They’re calling this show (a blatant rip-off of the equally horrid/culture raping “Jodie Marsh : Who’ll Take Her Up the Aisle“) Rakhee ka Swayamvara. Really? Swayamvara? For Rakhee Sawant?
God save this country. For we don’t seem to want to.

Ah, Kashmir, I Miss You So


When I auditioned for the part of ‘Zahgeer’ in Piyush Jha’s thriller “Sikandar”, I had a very vague idea of Kashmir. An idea gleaned primarily from news clippings, documentaries, news reports, and that idea wasn’t a very positive one. But being an actor in desperate need of work, I wasn’t about to let something as trivial as strife get in the way of my first movie role now was I?
The moment I landed at the airport was the beginning of my education into how complex a place Kashmir was. At the baggage carousel, I was asked by a army officer to step aside and show them some papers. Now I have been mistaken for Spanish/Italian/Whatever before, but always by a foreigner. Never has an Indian refused to believe I was Indian. I don’t know what threw the man - my height (which is a few inches north of average), my accent (which is more Brooklyn boy than Mumbai munda). Regardless, after a rapid exchange in Hindi, my Indianness established, he clapped me on the back and let me collect my baggage.
The taxi ride up to Pahalgam, the hill station where we would be staying and shooting for the next month, was awkward by the fact that my legs didn’t fit, the taxi driver refused to smile, and the sheer volume of army personnel we saw standing by the roadside or in convoys around us. I was feeling increasingly claustrophobic. I would have to spend a month here!
But all my anxiousness and tightness of chest vanished as we drove out of Srinagar and up into the mountains. Winding up the Pahalgam River, snow capped mountains on side and verdant, forbidding forest on the other, with that almost overwhelmingly clean air caressing my face, I grinned like a starving man at a banquet all the way up.
I have been swimming in Mediterranean Sea, I have dived in the islands of Lakshwadeep, strolled the streets of Vienna and Venice at sunset, kissed a girl on top of the Empire State Building with New York City sparkling below us, and seen the Golden Gate Bridge loom out of the morning mist in the San Franscisco Bay. And I have never - never, seen a place as beautiful as that hill-station in Kashmir.

Actor Hard at Work
I hiked for hours, picked apples off trees and shared them with goat herders, walked with a caravan of gypsies from Pahalgam to Aru, which is about twelve kilometers further up the mountains, shared many cups of Kahwa with the warmest, kindest fellows, with eyes that had seen years of struggle and pain, yet still crinkled with laugh lines at all my stupid jokes, and I loved every day of it. The sun shines like a goddess during her wedding, the air charges you with a vitality that makes you feel like Clark Kent, and you can fill a bottle from a stream and drink water that tastes so good you want to cry.
Some days I still wake up in the morning and wish it was the Himalayas outside my window instead of Juhu.
I miss you Kashmir. Be safe, Darling. Forgive us humans. We fuck up everything we touch. We can’t seem to help it. Hopefully we won’t be around much longer. And you can be at peace again.

Inertia Woes

One of the things they never teach you in theatre school or tell you about in those magazines that glamorize this profession, is how much time you’re going to have to spend waiting, mostly alone, in a room. Waiting for the phone to ring. Sometimes you stare it with all the concentration and will it would take someone who believed in telekinesis. You wait for other people to get their shit together, you wait for other people to remember you whilst they’re putting their shit together, you wait so much you forget to put your own shit together.
I wonder how many truly gifted, intuitive, natural actors the profession lost simply because it made them wait interminably? How many faces we’ll never see on the screen because they just couldn’t handle this crippling inertia. The ones that are around either got lucky or were too stubborn to say “Enough!”. I’m hoping to slot myself into the first category but am comfortably already a member of the second.
It truly amazes me how long it takes to start a project that’s you’re already cleared for, signed the contract for. You’re in! Then the delays kick in, first one month for this, then two weeks for that, and on and on…Till you want to leap into the office and pummel everybody in sight in frustration.
And forget about going and trying to get a life. The minute they find out you left town on a road trip, or just to get away or are busy with something else, they’ll start calling you all the time. “Kahaan hai tu?” “Kya kar raha hai?” “Office jaldi aa!” So you rush over because, naturally you think, something’s about to happen. We’re off! We’re ready to shoot! Thank you gods!
But…no. You talk about the weather, the industry, the women, the last couple of (always bad) films you just saw. And you drink over-sweetened, over boiled tea, and you leave.
I hope I don’t go mad before my first film “Sikandar” even releases. Maybe I’m already nuts and don’t know. Hmmm….

Some kind of introduction

Greetings, Denizens of the Ether. I come to you for guidance, I come to your for succor, to entertain, and to exasperate, but mostly I come to inveigle. There are many reasons why you should read what I write, but those reasons are yours to discover as you travel the rail yard of my thoughts.
Although I am an actor by profession I consider the written word my true Goddess. And I have been sorely neglecting her. As a result I have been stripped of my vestments and cast back into the penitent crowd. This blog is my way of becoming Her High Priest, the Pope of Words, the Imam of....Oh for pity's sake, you get the idea.
So by way of introduction I thought I'd list a few random pieces of me -

* There are times when I love myself with a fierceness that takes my breath away. I try to balance that with an existential crisis/ utter self-loathing every month or so.
* I'm proud of the fact that after many years of waiting in the wings and a near perfect stream of rejections and failures, I still love being an actor. I still love the craft, I still believe in the dream.
* My name means the "the First Ray of Sunlight".
* Whenever I see a puppy, in the flesh or on a photograph, I start sounding like a gibbering, cooing imbecile. They get me. "Look at that wittle wittle face, Awwww who's a buubuu, a coochie coochie coo" et all.
* I love women. But I can never seem to run into the good ones. And if I do, I end up chasing them away sooner than later.
* I believe in luck, I believe in the gods. But more than anything else - I believe in the Will.
* I get insecure about the silliest things at the oddest moments.
* I am vehemently opposed to the "Size Zero" phenomenon.
* I'm convinced that due to some major traffic congestion on the Highway of Souls, I arrived on this planet a few centuries later than I was supposed to. Where the hell is my axe and my armor?
* I was born under a wandering star. I checked, in between stumbling hither and thither.
* I like being alone. But prefer being alone in a crowd.
* I like R&B, Jazz, the Blues, even some Rock. But I absolutely LOVE Hip-Hop.
* I love to write, and yet I'm filled with this deep, bone-quivering fear everytime I stare at an empty page.
* I wish I could have gone fishing with Hemingway, smoked a cigarette with Humprhey Bogart, shared a not-so-quiet conversation with Marlon Brando, and made Rita Hayworth smile even once.
* I pretend and play-act too often. I usually feel like a fraud, or a con-man, or am highly amused that someone is buying my particularly fragrant bullshit.
* I hate the Internet. I love the Internet. I hate the Internet.
* I fear making good friends because life always seems to put oceans and years between us.
* I'm terrified of the prospect of meeting a woman I'll want to spend the rest of my life with. Yet, I'm always checking the faces in the crowd, just in case she walks by and I miss her.
* I love reading fantasy novels. They keep the child in me alive and wide-eyed.
* I need to sketch more, write more, get out more, laugh more, and above all, think less.
* I like being the little spoon. As odd as that might be for a girl, considering I stand 6'4''
* Love making top 5 lists for everything. Can never seem to keep them static for too long though. Maybe that's a good thing. Drives me nuts though.

So here it begins. The next few posts shall be imports from my other, soon to be discarded blog, but they're worth the read so I thought I'd share them.