15 months ago, I quit my job as a journalist/film critic.
I didn’t give up my two bedroom flat.
It was a huge leap of faith forward.
I knew all my life savings – provident fund, gratuity and insurance – would disappear within a year. I was hopeful that I would get paid for the work I had done over the last three years. Except that the producer disappeared when it was time to write the cheque.
Shit happens. And, Murphy is the plumber who doesn’t show up when your flush is down.
Everyone in this town has stories of struggle. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who got taken for a ride. Blame it on my thirst for adventure. I actually don’t mind exploring where the ride has brought me today.
My last film X Past is Present was quite a mad experiment that involved collaborating with ten other intense, crazy, talented storytellers. We had made a film like none other – a serialized anthology – one story that tried to build a bridge between different genres and disparate styles of storytelling. It had taken up almost three years of my life.
I spent the next two months catching up with films at festivals in Goa, Kerala and friends in Chennai. I caught up with three films that reinforced everything I had always believed. Taxi – shot in a car rigged with cameras in a city the filmmaker was banned from filming. Victoria – a single shot film shot in three attempts over three nights. Tangerine – a film shot on an iPhone 5S.
Turning 39 in February, I had to take stock of my life and where I wanted to go.
There were a bunch of movies I wanted to make, stories I couldn’t wait to share with the world. But I hated the wait.
I am not a fan of the “business model” where artists create something for a buck, middlemen price it at 100 and later, crib about the market or the film.
One of the reasons I loved Begin Again was because it was a musical Fuck You to the system and the middlemen.
The talented Anjali Patil, one of the first friends I made in Bombay became a monk. The actress gave up her flat and went to the mountains and the monasteries. When I met her earlier this year, she told me I should try it.
She told me I would save 50,000 a month on rent and could use that money to travel instead. Just a couple of months earlier, my fellow collaborator on Good Night Good Morning, Seema Rahmani who had already planted the idea in my head. Don’t get attached to the house, she said.
Now, I had moved to Bombay two years ago.
Before that, I had spent an average of three lakh rupees and less than a month of shoot in all for three films put together (X was a lot less – I shot my anchor portion of 40 minutes of the 105 min film for 80,000 rupees). Yes, less than 30 days. All films put together. But here, I had spent 10 lakhs on just rent over the last two years.
I was waiting for cheques to come and projects to happen. With just a year to go before I turned 40. I had made only three films in 17 years (since I wrote the first draft of That Four Letter Word, one month before I took up my job at The Hindu).
Considering that I have always written films I could shoot in two or three weeks, it was actually possible to make four feature films in a year with a plan in place.
Dave: But movies cost millions of dollars to make.
I put up that plan in February and drew up a slate of films I could make this year.
Long story short, I’m shooting the first one – a musical – in Shillong, Guwahati and on a train to Bombay between July 4-9. Hopefully, a Hindi adaptation in Chandigarh in September.
I have a silent anti-suicide film planned in Istanbul and Tokyo. Elsa and Allen, we must do it.
I want to shoot a surreal psychological thriller in the desert and highways of Rajasthan.
There’s the long due sci-fi thriller Ek Nayi Duniya that demands a remote island in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Maybe I could crowd-fund it.
I’ve lived with most of these scripts for months. Some, for years. I’m done waiting to make these films happen. I’m going TO them.
I’ve had enough of penny-wise pound-foolish producers who always have a budget for marketing but none to pay the artists. So, if the only way to make films happen is to give up the flat and be a movie monk, so be it.
Hope to find equally mad travellers on the road.
Yes, people. I’m moving out of my comfort zone. My flat. I couldn’t throw a house-warming party but there will be a house burning.
I’m going to live out of a
suitcase backpack for the next six months. Or a year.
If I can do 1748 kms across South India on a motorcycle in a week, maybe I can do 10,000 kms over the next year with trains, planes and automobiles. Or so, I hope.
I love the road. I love movies. I love exploring. I love adventure. I love sharing stories.
So watch this space. This blog will be my new home. I promise to be more regular here. I will have a lot to share over the next few months.
I might be in your town. Even otherwise, feel free to invite me. I’m teaching a fiction writing course in Bangalore in the middle of all this. All I need is an excuse to visit a different place.
“Better to go out and do everything you wanted to do at 40 than regret not doing it at 50,” a friend told me earlier this evening. I’m not 40 yet.
But when I do turn 40, the road will be a great place to find myself.