Category Archives: Random Rants

Twenty Years On The Fringe – Incoherent Ramblings

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In 2014 I completed roughly 20 years in the industry – of course encompassing my work as a TV producer/director, editor and filmmaker (and atrocious makeshift actor at times). I call these 20 years my life. The remaining years were another life, led by another person, lived by another soul. In 1994 I was a directionless 25 year old bored of computer software, a failed entrepreneur, a young father and basically a young man without a vision for life. 20 years later not much has changed. Except the fact that I have survived. I have survived these 20 years like many other nameless, faceless individuals do in this industry – on the fringes.

Being on the fringes of this industry means that -

  1. You rarely get invited to parties or premiers or previews.
  2. You don’t get written about often. Your personal life is very personal and is of no interest to anybody.
  3. You are rarely / never perceived as a threat to established insider stereotypes.
  4. You don’t expect or win awards.
  5. You make less money.

Essentially, this oblivion means that you can focus on work, lead a simple life and most importantly it means that you do not have to be politically correct all the time. Being on the fringe also means that your mediocrity is often looked down upon as mediocre and you have to ensure that your most mediocre work is less mediocre than the insider’s least mediocre work. You can also be irreverent, impolite, even honest and fearless as an outsider – your survival after all does not depend on your conformism or your sycophancy.

Yes, there are disadvantages, mostly self-inflicted, of being a fringe player. You can get cynical very easily as you see those less talented and more fortunate than you get all that you believe you deserve. You can get very bitter and you can waste immense amounts of time limiting your own creative growth. Nothing will ever seem worthy of your appreciation – not even your own work. Yes, cynicism is the greatest danger posed by oblivion as you will soon be unable to look at yourself in the mirror and you will constantly lower your own standards to belong to a place that you will never belong to.

I write from experience. I was once happy in my oblivion. Then I was dissatisfied. I desperately wanted to belong. I got cynical, frustrated and directionless. I stopped holding a mirror to myself. Fortunately, failure helped me recognize this. I took some time off from myself and my ego. Today, I am comfortable in my own little world. Shahid emerged out of this comfort with my own aspirations and my own inner self. I now inhabit an independent universe that is driven by me, my own benchmarks for growth and my own levels of satisfaction.

I write this because I see many like myself fall prey to the perceived pressure of oblivion and because I see them afflicted by the rampant mediocrity around them. I often see these people fading away and resorting to desperate measures that either undermine their talent or see them fading away beyond the fringes that they belong to. The truth is that being an outsider is far more fulfilling than having to belong to a place that you never belonged to in the first place.

The Stink Operation

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I was in a meeting with two friends this evening. We were talking about getting another friend’s film made and about how there was a businessman who wished to invest in the film. We had no idea about the business of this businessman. We had no idea about whether we would get money or not. All we wanted was to get the film made.

As we spoke I got a call from my father. He told me there was some sting operation on CNN-IBN exposing black money in bollywood. That conversation with my dad had me intrigued enough to trudge back home with the ‘noble’ intention of deriving some vicarious, voyeuristic pleasure from this sting operation.

I normally sleep by 10.30. I stayed up to watch the drama unfold. I wish I’d watched Bol Bachchan instead.

I was expecting a potboiler spiced with titillation, drama and some comedy. Instead, I was subjected to a cheap tragedy. Here was a stink operation that looked for an unidentified, unbearable stench in lowly gutters of the neighboring slums without bothering to flush its own toilet.

An aspiring movie mogul, a director on the decline, a producer who was once big, a producer who wants to be big, two starlets and a faceless voice that did most of the talking. Correction. A faceless voice that put words into their mouths. The ‘sting’ exposed desperation of people either on the decline or people on the periphery of an imaginary land with an unfortunate name – bollywood. This was not an expose on black money or the dark underbelly of bollywood. Once again our news channels bereft of ideas and anchored by brain-dead loudmouths subjected us to a shoddy operation without investigation, research or basic understanding.  It is disturbing that an opportunity to expose those who exploit this desperation for money (black or white or any color/currency/form) has been totally wasted.

A system has been in ruin with tainted money from politicians, brokers, gangsters, betting rackets being laundered in films (also perhaps in property, but that is another story).  The film industry in particular has always been an exploitative place. Stars have exploited producers. Producers have exploited workers. Financiers have exploited producers. Distributors have exploited producers. Producers have exploited directors. Directors have exploited writers. The list is endless. The web is complex. Corporatization of the industry is simply the introduction of management jargon to justify traditionally exploitative practices. Here is an ecosystem in total ruin. Lack of transparency, mistrust and manipulation form the core values of the film business. Lies are freely traded. Nepotism thrives. Sycophancy flourishes. This is a safe haven for a larger system that creates unimaginable sums of ill gotten wealth. This larger system will continue to flourish while our government will continue floundering, while our fourth estate will continue regressing, while our desperation will continue increasing.

I have a lot to rant on this but I will stop. But this much I will say… Hamaam mein sab nange hain