About 16 years ago, I was sitting at the computer lab at Manipal Institute of Communication – super nervous. What next?
I have never been a believer. I’m a cynic. Maybe that’s why I was right for criticising everything.
I looked at my resume.
I had morphed the cover of Gentleman. It featured a guy in a trash bin on the cover and I put my face over his; I changed magazine name to Gentlemen, and modified the featured blurbs to Freshly Dumped (out of a communication school – in fine print), Looking for a job, For Hire… you get the idea.
The rest of my resume – formatted in two-column magazine layout – with generous use of pictures to support each section came to three pages (as opposed to the single page resume we are taught to submit).
I printed three copies before the computer wiped out the file that took me two weeks of work. The back-up floppy disk got corrupted.
I took a chance and sent one copy to the newspaper I grew up reading. I didn’t hear from The Hindu for a month and a half. So I sent the second copy of the three with a reminder. It worked. I never had to use the third printout of my resume for 16 years.
That brings us to today.
I’m sitting staring at the laptop screen in my apartment in Andheri at the heart of the film industry – super nervous. With the same old question. What next?
I quit my job at The Hindu last week.
It was a very difficult decision – one I never saw myself making all these years – because of pure economics. It just wasn’t feasible anymore and I had drained all my savings trying to keep the job going for the last nine months.
Bombay is an expensive city and nobody living outside can even imagine the complexities of living here – say, simple things like finding a house on rent when you are a bachelor – let alone traffic and topography. It was my choice to come here to report on films. It was my price to pay.
I quit on a high with the satisfaction of doing the job to the best of my ability.
I had the unique record of getting eight of my stories (with seven bylines) on the same day (February 22, 2015) in different supplements of The Hindu.
I had turned in 55 stories in my last 68 working days this year – in fact, I filed a big one a day after I resigned.
* * *
The truth is I never saw myself doing films full-time. It was a passion I entertained with savings from my journalism career. Over the last 15 years, I’ve made three films. X, the third one, a collaborative project with 10 other filmmakers, is all ready for release mid 2015.
You know the feeling when you have been married to one person for as long as you can remember… and then suddenly one day, you are single. This feels just like that.
I really don’t know what it is to be single. It’s like I’ve always been committed. I always had that job that supported me, despite my flirtations with cinema.
Now, that’s gone. And there’s nothing to fall back on.
The Hindu was home to me. It still is. But if you don’t leave home, how do you know where all you could go?
I know what I don’t want to stop doing.
I do not plan to stop reviewing films or chatting with people because I never saw that as a job. Thankfully, I still have a base of readers on social media and I hope to continue to give them what they follow me for. This just means my own WordPress, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube channels will be a little more active.
It may not bring me money but I can do with the love. And of course, the hate because that’s always pushed me to do better.
* * *
It was just last month that I took a motorcycle trip across the South.
I did Madras – Tiruvallur – Bangalore – Hampi – Goa – Chiplun all the way to Bombay. I felt I owed it to the cruiser I bought, ten years ago, with the resolution that I will go cross-country riding some day.
When I got home last month, I saw the motorcycle rotting at home and I remembered the resolution. I was eaten by guilt. I borrowed money from a friend, got it fixed and decided to do what I had always only dreamt of doing.
It didn’t matter that the furthest I had done was Madras to Pondicherry.
But if I had done it once, I could do it a few times. I told myself I just had to take it 50 kms at a time. And then, worry about the next 50.
That’s how I finally did it.
I stopped every 45 minutes to an hour, clicked photos, enjoyed the journey, live-tweeted, rode all day and chilled with friends – old and new – in the evenings. One day at a time. 50 kms a session.
One week later, I had finished something I never imagined I could do.
Today, I think that trip happened for a reason. It was by design. I had code-named that trip The Road of Trials (because that’s how much I love Joseph Campbell).
Today, I realise it was exactly that.
It was a trip that was preparing me for this moment.
Just like that one-way trip on a plane that took me sky-diving. It was a trip I did to tell myself: If you can do this, you can do anything.
I have jumped off a plane.
I rode 1748 kms on a motorcycle.
I’ve made three films as an extended hobby.
Today, I’m all set to take a full-time plunge into films.
Because that’s what I love most. The first two films I made wiped me off Rs.35 lakh rupees of my savings of 15 years. But the third one earned itself a producer. It even changed the way I look at cinema today. It probably happened to make a snooty critic like me look at the unlimited, varied possibilities of storytelling in a non-judgmental, inclusive manner without delusions of superior self-intellect.
I can feel the flutter of giant butterflies in my stomach and it’s not something I ate. It’s that jittery feeling that comes pre-exhilaration.
Conventional wisdom says I should shift from my house to a hole just to save money that will keep me afloat for a few more months. But when have I ever been conventional? I’m not quitting the life I am used to that easily.
In fact, I’m moving into a more comfy home even if it means a little more rent. It took me a week of bunker-mode depression and introspection to figure this out. But now, I can see it clearly.
I came to Bombay to be a fly on the wall reporter and do my reviews a little earlier.
Today, life has given me a chance to be more than that.
Maybe I’m not here to pay rent. I’m here to buy this fucking house.
Maybe I’m not here to deconstruct films. I am here to construct them.
My best friend lent me $9000 when we were making Good Night Night Morning. I asked him then: “What if the film doesn’t recover even this much?”
He said: “I’m not investing in the film. I’m investing in you. I have full faith in you. You will return it someday, say, with a 10 per cent interest?”
It’s also time to channel the faith that people have in me.
It’s time I embraced faith, not blind-folded, but with a clear vision of where I am going.
It’s time to take that leap.
Because: “There’s no such thing as half a leap of faith. You either jump. Or you don’t.” (X)
(Originally posted here.)