Ambition handicapped by laziness and inertia (So…I shot my first film and why it took 15 years – part 5)

4. Ambition handicapped by laziness and inertia

” I don’t do anything with my life except romanticize and decay with indecision.” 

(Allen Ginsberg)

francis-bacon-self-portrait-1969

Self Portrait by Francis Bacon (1969)

You’d think that after making obsessive efforts (which I excel in), to trawl the internet in order to track down two favourite Indian filmmakers in their secluded office hideaways in suburban Mumbai, asking one of them if I could assist them on set – and then actually getting a positive response –  that I’d be really serious about learning filmmaking.

Nope. 2007 was yet another year that passed away. Only this time I could brag about my feeble attempt at how close I got to the magic of real-world filmmaking, and then lament about how my (already booked) flight next day meant that I could not have stayed and made something of it. Continue reading

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The burden of dreams (So…I shot my first film and why it took 15 years – part 4)

3. The burden of dreams

Sisyphus

Sisyphus by Titian (1549)

Having come from a completely non-creative, working class background, understandably, my folks were not equipped to recognise, encourage or direct my creativity – I even wonder in their defence – if it even manifested itself during my adolescent years. They, were simply the products of all their influences and experiences, and just like the masses they understood schooling as a means to secure ‘respectable’ and ‘successful’ (financially rewarding) employment, that would perhaps also be a source of pride for them.

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Races are for rats, not artists (So…I shot my first film and why it took 15 years – part 3)

2. Races are for rats, not artists

“The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat.”

(Lily Tomlin)

Just until a few years ago, I found it very difficult to escape the burden of the rat race  taking place around me, and as much as I knew that it was an exploitative and selfish way of living, I just could not escape the feeling that with each passing year, I was falling behind everyone else.

In fact, when I had decided to extend my years in higher education, it had not only been a desperate attempt to appease the questions that were evolving in my mind, but it introduced me to a reservoir of extraordinary ideas such as the malice of capitalism, which I previously knew nothing about. These next few years of real education then also became an opportunity to delay my entrace into what I confirmed as being the oppressive 9-5 grind. Continue reading

A Steppenwolf cannot live amongst sheep (So…I shot my first film and why it took 15 years – part 2)

1.  A Steppenwolf cannot live amongst sheep

“I am in truth the Steppenwolf that I often call myself; that beast astray that finds neither home nor joy nor nourishment in a world that is strange and incomprehensible to him.”

(Herman Hesse – Steppenwolf)

Wolf with Sheep

In this world that seems so indifferent and alien, the rebellious, creative, artistic Steppenwolf many a time craves to be around other kindred souls, so that there can be an exchange of alternative thoughts and ideas, which then nourishes the already afflicted soul, and provides some kind of mutual motivation to stay alive.

In the absence of this, and in reality, we end up preferring to live as loners. Continue reading

So…I shot my first film and why it took 15 years (part 1)

On Friday the 23rd and Sunday the 25th of March 2018, after about 6 months of writing and planning, and a lifetime of varied life experiences, conscious and subconscious inspirations, so many years of writing down and accumulating ideas in secret notepads, and then tiring people who had to listen to my crazy dreams – I finally directed my first short film.

Scene

Location 1

The days were long and arduous but exhilarating. I felt like a fish that had finally dived into the sea after spending a lifetime in a fish tank, imagining the sensations the sea would arouse.

This is such a life-defining moment that I am compelled to write about my journey… Continue reading

Why do we fear silence and solitude?

Eric Lacombe – The Weight of Silence

“We come from a generation of people who need their TV or stereo playing all the time. These people so scared of silence. These soundaholics, these quietophobics.”

(Chuck Paluhniak)

“My solitude does not depend on the presence or the absence of people, on the contrary, I hate who steals my solititude without in exchange offering me true company.”

(Friedrich Nietzsche)

I’ve often wondered why so many of us are afraid of silence and solitude?

Is it because we have been surrounded by artificial types of noise from such a young age, that we now crave its presence at every moment in our adult lives?

Or is it that people simply fear sitting on their own, with themselves. And, that any type of noise – even it is of little substance and value – gives them a temporary, superficial feeling of company.

Maybe the noise provides a distraction and a protective barrier, without which many would begin to listen to their inner voices, be confronted with uncomfortable truths about themselves, and actually begin to grow as contemplative beings?

How do people get to the stage where their own company is not adequate enough for themselves? So much so that they would rather sit and consume the sound of anyone or anything but themselves. What a scary thought that is – to be so bored, stifled, petrified of one’s own Self, that you would so cheaply dispense your presence to anything.

Silence and solitude is beautiful, and I am captivated by the company of my Self. The silence grants me precious moments where the pointless noise is blocked out. I have been able to ponder, listen patiently to the questions of my own soul, to talk to it, to ask questions of it. I have discovered dark truths about myself and about the world around me, which for so long had remained hidden beneath all the noise.

It is then in this silence and solitude that I have been able to blend my questions, my truths, my memories, my dreams and began to create something.

I understand that noise and empty company is the enemy of any creative process. And this is perhaps why the human being child, intrinsically imaginative and creative is slowly reduced to an unimaginative, uncreative, unoriginal entity. The world is filled mostly with these quietophobics. They hate silence. Addicted and enslaved to the noise, they crave its presence at every moment of their life, even if it of no real worth to their existence.

So I ask you quietophobics, soundaholics, slaves to the pings of your phones and gadgets, bewitched by the chatter on your TV, those who dread to sit for a moment alone, strangers to the voices of your own soul, to leave us in peace with our silence, so that we may listen to the precious sounds contained within it that end up being swallowed by your noise.

As I finish writing these last sentences, let me listen:

To the slow movement of the hands of the clock, so that I am reminded of the impermanence of my life, and the urgency with which I should pursue my dreams, as time continues to slip through my fingers the harder I try to hold onto it…

 

 

Abbas Kiarostami: The Cineaste, The Philosopher

“If you look at the four seasons, each season brings fruit. In summer, there’s fruit, in autumn, too. Winter brings different fruit and spring, too. No mother can fill her fridge with such a variety of fruit for her children. No mother can do as much for her children as God does for His creatures.

You want to refuse all that?
You want to give it all up?

You want to give up the taste of cherries?”

(Mr Bagheri in Taste of Cherry)

Anything I can possibly write praising the late, great poet of cinema Abbas Kiarostami will be an epic disappointment. One, because I lack the finesse to write well, and secondly because the art that this grand filmmaker and artistic polymath has left us behind is beyond the limitations of words, it’s beauty is simply inexpressible.

Although, I had only seen ‘Taste of Cherry’ (quite a few years ago) and ‘Close-up’ (last February), prior to his untimely passing, I was so moved by just these two films that I felt compelled to say something – but I just didn’t know how or what. Continue reading

Believe those who seek truth, doubt those who find it.

Believe those who seek truth, doubt those who find it.

(André Gide)

Prophet of the Most High by Jean Moore

I first came across a similar version of the above quote in first few pages of the book ‘Makhmalbaf at Large’ written by Hamid Dabashi.

I find that it neatly summarises the philosophical position at which I have found myself arrive at, since 2013.

The seekers of truth(s)

I have discovered them through the ages, and undoubtedly they are few in numbers, yet they are the ones who I feel a deep reverance for.

Sometimes the world has called them saints, philosophers, poets, artists, or revolutionaries. Other times, they have been called heretics, or madmen.

No matter what their labels, I believe they have shared a precious and rare commonality. This is their inheritance of an abnormally sensitive and fragile soul.

A soul that is highly attuned not only to the subliminal rhythms of nature, but also engrossed in deep contemplative thought that is urged by the combination of a child-like curiosity, the restlessness and melancholia of their life experiences. With this, they are inspired to make sense of the complexities of their Self and other human experiences. Continue reading

Intoxicated in Love

Laila and Majnun

Many of us may have heard of the legendary and timeless love story of Qays and Layla, popularly known as Majnun Layla. It is reported to have been composed by the Persian poet Nizami Ganjavi as well as Amir Khusrow later on, and many others who have interpreted and been inspired by it in different cultures. The love that Qays has for Layla is such that it surpasses the boundaries of mortal love, and he becomes known by the people as Majnun – meaning the mad or possessed.

Here is one of the anecdotes which involves Majnun and the Praying Man that I came across many years ago and which I have presented in my own words. Continue reading

Age and the Loss of Innocence

A beautiful, poignant piece of writing about how our childhood sense of innocence slips away from us.


Written by Jeff Coleman – a modern literary fantasy author.

blog.jeffcolemanwrites.com/2015/07/28/age-and-the-loss-of-innocence/

Innocence of Youth

Innocence of Youth

There are those exceptional moments in life when you experience crystal clarity in thought and purpose, when all is as it should be, when all is right and good with the world. But those moments are rare, are few and far between, and they almost always occur when you’re young. As a child, you didn’t have time to formulate your own beliefs; instead, your world view hinged on the beliefs of others. The innocence of youth is a wonderful carefree time in which the mind and the heart are free from the burdens of autonomous thinking and responsibility.

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The Madness and Aliveness of Nietzsche

It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.

(Jiddu Krishnamurti)
The alleged moment which executed Friedrich Nietzsche’s journey into apparent clinical insanity is the basis for Bela Tarr’s masterpiece film ‘The Turin Horse’ (2011).

This moment of inhumane cruelty and bleakness that Nietzsche witnesses in his life against an innocent animal, could be a symbol of the tyranny and silent desperation in elements of our lives and the world around us.

We continue with our lives desensitised and immune to the brutality within, and around us. Perhaps our inability to not become ‘clinically’ insane at all this, is evidence of the silent sickness (or the true insanity) that has engulfed our lives.

So, I consider his emotional reaction at this particular moment and the mental breakdown that ensues, as a sign of the deep sensitivity and aliveness of his soul.

Here is the account of this moment shown at the beginning of ‘The Turin Horse’:

Continue reading

Ghazal and Qawwali: The Gifts of Rumi, Khusro and Ghalib

Yes, there is truth to the idea that Ghazals and Qawwalis are the passions of the old.

Despite my limited proficiency in Urdu and my complete ignorance of the intricate differences between the different forms, I have seized the few chances I have had to attend such gatherings. Each time I have been surrounded mostly by the older generations.

I think this may be partly due to the frequent use of complex Urdu or Punjabi poetry which is difficult for the generally linguistically-challenged generations of today – myself included. It could also be because there is a greater focus on the lyrical value of the words sung, rather than simply emphasising repetitive foot-tapping musical numbers which appeal so much to the mainstream. But mostly, I think it is because of the deeper existential and melancholic themes that dominate the poetry – which appeal to older people who have perhaps had the gift to reflect on the past experiences in their lives, unlike the naive and inexperienced younger generations.

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Art, only after a lifetime of experiences.

Picasso

Maybe this happened, maybe it didn’t. Do the facts even matter, when the truth is so illuminating?

Legend has it that Pablo Picasso was sketching in the park when a brave woman approached him.

“Oh my — It’s Picasso, the great artist! Oh, would you be kind enough to sketch my portrait for me?”

Picasso agreed to sketch her. After studying her for a moment, he used a few pencil strokes to create her portrait in a few minutes. He handed the woman his work of art.

“It’s perfect!” she gushed.  “You managed to capture my essence with a few strokes, in such little time. Thank you! How much do I owe you?”

“That will be ten thousand dollars” Picasso replied.

The woman was floored.

“Ten thousand dollars! How can you want so much money for it? Why, it only took you a few minutes to draw this sketch!”

To which, Picasso replied, “No, madam. It took me thirty years of my life to be able to draw like that”

Truth Is A Mirror That Fell From The Hand Of God

Mirror

A beautiful saying which filmmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf narrates in a book I have just finished reading (Conversations with Mohsen Makhmalbaf by Hamid Dabashi), reminded me of my own changing perceptions of truth(s).

“Truth is a mirror that fell from the hand of God. Each person picked up a piece of it, and, seeing his or her reflection decided was what they each held rather than realising that the truth had become fragmented amongst them all”

(Rumi)

What a preposterous and dogmatic idea it is that possesses humans to proclaim that a chosen group of people possess dominion over one absolute truth.

Once upon a time in my blind youth, it too had given meaning and comfort to my naive mind. But now the sheer absurdity scares me, and I stare at those who claim this dominion over this one divine truth, yet stand estranged from their human brethren and walk alone in their misguided pomp.

The reality is that we live in world where each of us is shaped by our unique circumstances and subjective life experiences. We spend our lives dealing with the tribulations that arise within our worlds. Nobody can truly empathise with them, simply because nobody has experienced their unique subjective realities.

Nor can they provide the answers,  or relieve us of them. But each of us will continue to struggle to make sense of the world we have been placed in.

Through this struggle we construct our own stories, search for, and live our own fragmented truths…

 

Do we forget our memories, if we have no one to tell them to?

‘Life is strange… I think we forget things if we have no one to tell them to…’

(The Lunchbox)

A Failed Memory by David Szauder

A Failed Memory by David Szauder

After months of waiting and reading about The Lunchbox (Ritesh Batra), I was lucky enough to watch it last year in a local art house cinema.  It turned out to be a beautiful meditation about love, longing and loneliness that ended up leaving me close to tears.  I felt that Irrfan Khan (Saajan Fernandes in the film) had once again stolen the show with his naturalistic performance, breathtaking screen presence, and the sheer intensity of his eyes. Yes, I do have a major man crush on him.

But truth be told, most of the praise for this masterpiece should go to Ritesh Batra – the writer and director.  In June this year, when I decided to read the screenplay, I ended up teary eyed once again. I realised then, that it was the dialogues of the film that were actually so powerful. They appeared to be simple and minimalist, but contained so much within them.  Continue reading