Monday, August 31, 2009

I'm Like...

Green tea left brewing far too long.
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…
Forever Young….
Forever I..

Monday, August 24, 2009


The wind reminds me that change is coming. The moon whispers goodbye and the clamor of the street hates me tonight, but I refuse to cry. I spoke many words today, each one was a lie. When I tried to tell the truth, she began to cry. I couldn’t stand her pain, knowing it was my only gift to her. And all I could think about was the way she smiled at the other man today. The way she laughed, and touched her hair, and made excuses to reach out and touch him. She knew I was watching. She was testing me. But she didn’t expect this, now, here, with the windows open and the cacophony of the devout dancing in the streets below us and blowing their ridiculous pipes and horns and shouting “Morya” with more rage and anger than devotion. I wonder if they realize that their god cannot hear them tonight. Tonight is when he’s turned away. That was unworthy of me. This day was unworthy of me. Rather I am unworthy of this day, and all the ones that came before this.

“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

Introspective Corrective

Less than two weeks to go for “Sikandar” to release. The hoardings and the publicity started in earnest from today. Driving to and from my daily appointments I saw a few bus banner ads and a few big hoardings around town. Felt fantastic, felt like our dream is finally coalescing into a tangible reality, an expectant lover reaching out for a touch. Then I noticed something that filled me with my own personal, familiar cocktail of anger and amusement - I”m not on any of the posters!

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


The prophecies must come true now, the dark demented ones, that promised our race nothing but pain and heartbreak. The world watches in horror as pig’s fly across borders. India as usual wakes up too late, makes a lot of noise and beats it’s chest, but it’s a hollow posturing, the contagion is already here. Panic’s first strains shiver through the air, as civilization peels back it’s civilized face to show the animal beneath. Dear Goddess, have mercy on my country. Show us how to be proud, prepared, and pro-active.

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

Coming Home

I used to be terrified of the idea of working in the Indian film industry (I mislike the term Bollywood, too pretentious, too desperate, and far too eager to be noticed). Since I was six years old, I’ve been in an International school in Kodaikanal, India, where the language of both everyday life and the classroom was English. And rather than pick up Hindi as my second language, I opted to learn French. I wanted to be a citizen of the world. All my initial contact with cinema and literature were Western. I became a stranger to my own cultural history. A foreigner in local skin.

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

From the Heart

“Sikandar” releases in two weeks. There’s very little publicity and quite a lot of apprehension. It’s the first feature film I’ve ever been a part of and it’s the first acting gig I’ve done in India. Needless to say the personal stake I have in the film is quite substantial. But I feel that there is something greater on the line - the soul of Indian Cinema. I know that’s a grandiose statement to make, but I feel that from my limited though perspicacious perspective, cinema and the culture of cinema teeters on a edge of a precipice, one that yawns deep and bottomless.

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.