First, my apologies to Cameron Crowe for my version of Jerry’s Mission Statement.
I had been postponing this post for a while now and I’ve finally managed to find time to get it out of my system.
There used to be a time when this blog used to be a feel-good space. It used to be childishly wise and romantically foolish. It used to document my life, my thoughts, gyaan for people I cared for and confessions to people who cared for me.
Then, something happened.
My readership increased. And before I knew it, I began to get conscious about who was reading me and what they thought. Statcounter only aroused the curiosity further. It threw up all kind of data. Most of these people were strangers.
To be honest, it felt a little stupid posting about me and my life. It was like stripping in public with voyeurs from all around the world dropping in regularly for long, studied viewing. The thing about blogs is that all those who read you, decide they know you, just on the basis of a few random thoughts that you’ve posted when you had nothing better to do. When strangers do that, it can get quite annoying.
That’s when I decided that I can’t let myself appear vulnerable. I made a conscious effort to keep the blog free of what was really happening in my life. I even stopped updates about my movie. I decide to shift focus from my thoughts on my life to my opinions on issues and ideas. When you’re a journalist on the beat, you tend to save all your opinions for the blog because they don’t let you write that in the paper.
A year ago, I got transferred to the features section of the newspaper that devoted pages to lifestyle and entertainment. It didn’t take too much of my time and getting paid a fortune for spending five minutes a day at office (to sign the register) didn’t seem to be a bad idea at all. I had a laptop, I didn’t have to take notes anymore. I just had to browse the net, read a couple of recent interviews of the person I was scheduled to meet, and then sit across the table and hit the RECORD button on my Apple Powerbook.
Journalists just pretend that they ask different questions. They all ask the same questions. Just that they frame it differently. All questions ultimately are about the interviewees’ past, present and future projects. If that doesn’t sound significant enough, then you ask for his/her opinions and views on whatever his/her discipline is. To make yourself sound intelligent, you link it up to something that’s been in the news. Or quote them back to them from one of the two recent interviews you’ve read of theirs. Even in the remote probability that you had something different to ask, you will still get the same old quotes because most of these people you interview come prepared with readymade answers. So all you could hope for was that your interviewee would be in a mood to talk. The more he/she spoke, the better your copy.
At the end of it, all you had to do was transcribe it and email it to office. It was like blogging, only that you had to be more careful about the spelling and grammar. It didn’t seem like work.
Nor did reviews seem like work. All you had to do was watch a movie and write about your observations on how the storyteller told you a story. If you had your first movie review published when you were 17 years old, by the time you are 29, you can write one even if they woke you up in the middle of the night. This didn’t seem like work either.
I love movies. I usually pay to watch them. Why would I then complain when I got paid to?
Yes, when you write for a paper as big as the one I work for, you have to follow a certain style prescribed by the desk, especially with your reviews. You cannot get too flippant or nasty. So you use the blog to write all the unmentionables. You stop caring how they butcher your copy. After all, you have a blog to write what you really feel. So what if there are fewer readers than the paper. You still got it out of your system, right?
So I continued doing my own little thing in my own little space. I was just a guy doing my job, trying to make my movie, almost caught in a time-warp with one hurdle after another. In the free time I got, I would blog. Write about things I had done, places I had been to and movies I had seen. And of course, post links to the fun stuff I got to do – the columns. Being one of the newspaper’s youngest Special Correspondents meant I was senior enough to let people know what my opinions on movies and lifestyle were.
The section I work for is a supplement to the daily. A lot of people probably overlook the fact that this section was only a bonus. It was a little mint thrown in along with the meal. Only idiots would take the mint too seriously, ignoring the meal. There were people who were smart enough to realise that this was just a guy providing a little flavour to the mint and there were the idiots who, by virtue of spending less than what it costs to buy mint, decided that they deserved a better meal for the money spent.
Here’s the thing, morons.
A newspaper, minus the advertising revenue, would cost you as much as you need to fill a litre of fuel, every day. More than the ten times the amount you spend. It is thanks to supplements that take on the burden of ad space that you get more centimeters of news in the main section of the paper.
When I joined this newspaper in 1999, there were no ads on Page 2 of the main paper. The circulation department came up with research that showed us that our paper lacked what the young wanted to read. Their research showed that the younger generation had become so cynical of reading reports of accidents, rapes, robberies, murders and civic issues that they stayed away from the reading habit. To rekindle their interest, we positioned Page 2 as “City – Life”. The brief was simple: Focus on the bright side of life. Let’s spread happiness and cheer by devoting half a page to life.
It worked magic for the newspaper. Our circulation increased drastically. I wrote a story a day. Sometimes, two or three stories in a day. I can brag about being the youngest journalist working for my paper to have reached 1000 stories in the shortest span of time. So much that this page started generating so much revenue that we figured that we should create a separate space for such content lest it trivialised the editorial content of the main paper.
The Metro Plus section of the paper was thus born. Soon, it increased from once a week to five times a week. And that’s only because people liked the mint they got free with the meal. I spent a few more years doing hardcore journalism before I finally got my transfer and earned my chance to do what every son-of-a-bitch blogger dreams of doing – Get to write opinions on almost anything I wanted to write on. We have a readership of over four million and if you plan to count the eyeballs the website gets, you’re likely to die before you finish counting them.
Obviously, this meant I had a job every wannabe-journalist/columnist blogger wanted and still want.
I guess that’s when I became important enough to be criticised and blogged about.
Initially, I took it all too personally. Especially, since I’ve never walked away from a fight, I made sure I gave it back. I’m a Tarantino fan. When I get a chance to kick ass, I do it in style. I have near-ruined people. It was quite evil of me but no regrets. I’m human. Mistakes happen.
And then, my film happened. Finally.
I could see things in new light. What did I see? The ones who have always been around, still there, rock-solid as ever. They were happier than I was. Instead of sharing my life with them, I was needlessly getting carried away taking on the ones who didn’t matter.
On the eve of the release of ‘Guru,’ let me quote Gurukant Desai when he says: “When people start speaking against you, understand… you’re making progress.”
It is true. I have the perfect life.
I have a job that does not require me to work. I would pay to keep it.
I have made my movie. And I’m all set to make my next. No matter what.
I have a wonderful business partner. This year, we’re going to rock your movie, Sashi! Let’s get started on that life-changing road trip.
I have a rockstar bike that everybody seems to envy.
I have the most amazing family though I hate the fact that I’m going to have to get serious and take up a little more responsibility now that they plead old-age. My Mom’s just about touching 50 and she’s a drama queen. An adorable one at that. I’ve always had a formal relationship with Dad and for the first time all my life, I saw signs of old-age in him. He broke down wondering if I would take care of Mom after he’s gone. That shook me a little but I figured he was only reacting to what he was seeing: My frail little granny, his widowed Mom, fighting senility to be alive, just so that she can see that a couple of my young cousins wear that sacred thread. I’m sure she’s a little hurt that I discarded mine years ago. Given how loudly we have to speak to her, I was almost sure she’s deaf. I saw no point in my folks wanting to play for her, that audio clip of the Censor chief saying that TFLW is his most favourite film of 2006. But guess what?
The moment the guy mentioned my name, she turned around with an excited smile and said Congratulations. I’m glad she’ll die happy. Or at least, I hope. Her husband, my grand-dad, incidentally, died the day I started shooting my film, from scratch, for the third time.
My unit insisted I leave to Kochi, I didn’t. Today, I’m glad I didn’t. A trip to Kochi at that point would’ve shelved the film yet another time for at least nine months because the cast wasn’t going to be available. Besides, the man was already dead. What could I have done?
I had promised my best buddy and co-writer Murugan that I would finish the film no matter what. I remember him telling me he would have me run half-naked on the Marina if I ever gave up making the film.
Murugan is getting married mid-January. Machaan, thank you for telling me that you wish you had my life. He he!
I also have the most amazing girlfriend. The kind of stuff fairytales are made of. Thank you for putting up with me and my insanity. All the time.
Darshan, my soul-brother… Can’t believe I know you for less than a year. Thanks for being there, unconditionally. And, all the time.
I have an extended family in Be Positive 24. Sandeep, you are the agency’s only hope. He he! By the way, your blog rocks and don’t let your partner tell you otherwise. Though I don’t always approve of the fucker’s confidence that borders on arrogance, I’m very proud and equally surprised of what you guys have achieved in a such a short span of time. Incredible! Having said that, Mrs. Shah, may God give you all it takes to put up with his craziness and him.
Since I’m talking about all my friends, here’s one more personal note. Sravan, if you don’t die this year, we’ll celebrate your birthday. Stop fucking drinking. It’s already on my blog. Next thing you know, your poor helpless Dad will break down, like he did when you were in that hospital bed. For his sake, stay alive.
I’m super excited about going to Dubai though I’m paying for my ticket. Thanks to my job, I’ve never had to spend on a foreign trip ever before. I’ve been on all-expenses paid trips to Singapore, Sydney, Melbourne, Seoul, Manila and our very own Goa.
So it’s going to be different this time but what is liberating is that I can afford it in the middle of what is going to be the most financially challenging month of my life, with the film slated for a commercial release next month.
With this newfound liberation, I’m going back to what blogging used to be – an extension of ourselves. It’s back to what I started with. To what was good about blogging: Just long trains of different thoughts, straight from the heart.
I totally admire what Kiruba does, even if it sometimes defies all limits of enthusiasm and sanity. He writes a web-log. Of his life and things he sees. That’s where the whole idea started.
Somewhere along the way, idiots began to infest cyberspace and changed it all. They thought having a blog made them important enough to pass judgment on others. They owe their parasitical existence to other blogs. Someday, when I feel 18 again, I might let them kiss my ass.
Yeah, I know this is too long a post for people to read. But guess what? I’ve stopped writing for people. I’m writing for me and the people who care.
Like Jerry, I have lost the ability to bull-shit.