How to Succeed without Success: Surviving in ‘Bro-World’

Disclaimer : Today was a dreadfully boring day in office. My utter boredom has led to this utterly useless and ridiculously indulgent outpouring of wisdom. Read it at your own risk.

Here is my randomly ordered list of 12 survival strategies in the world that so many of us inhabit, dream to inhabit, grudgingly observe or admiringly follow. Gentlemen (sorry ladies, nothing in this for you) here is my valued guidance – with malice towards none!


1. Remember! The world is male-centric

This is a guy dominated world. The opposite sex is purely an object of gossip, a target of lust and a recipient of false chivalry. Films succeed because of heroes. Films sell on the strength of the leading man. The leading man chooses. The leading man disposes. Obviously, I will restrict my ‘analysis’ to the dominant sex.

2. Never take sides

Things change. Nothing is permanent. In an act of bravado if you do take sides, do it in a way that you can conveniently deny, alter or contradict your stand.

3. Brother is the operative word

This is the ultimate expression of male bonding in B-town. Every contemporary, every rival, every threat, every drinking partner is your brother. Every question on every other male has the standard answer ‘He is like a brother to me’.

4. Without a camp you are nobody

Always park yourself in a camp. Play loyalist to the hilt until you get a chance to swear loyalty without having to pay a price for shifting loyalties. Camps have regular jesters, some tabloid editor/journalist for company, many desperate/aspiring filmmakers, personal attendants, business managers/star secretaries, compulsory attendance at all dos, forced laughter at all repetitive inside jokes, the same conversation over and over again. The camp has a leader who unfortunately foots the bill most of the time and in return gets the same spellbound audience for the same riveting speech or recounting of ‘that’ life-changing experience every single drunken night.

5. If you screw up, you are screwed

It’s a lonely world out there – particularly when you screw up. And if your screw-up is splashed across the screw-up-hungry tabloids only God can help you. Your camp will disown you. They begin to ignore your calls. Your brother remains your brother only for a persistent journalist who needs to stop his awkward questions. But take heart. Like everything else this is also temporary. Things change. Suddenly someone else screws up. You and your screw-up will be forgotten.

6. Criticism is NEVER welcome

If you are privileged enough to be invited for a sneak peek, preview or ‘trial’ of your buddy’s (brother’s) film be nice to him. Be lavish in your praise. You have been invited to find something praiseworthy and to dwell only on that. Criticize and you will perish. If there is nothing praiseworthy a nice, long, big hug will suffice.

7. Cultivate common hobbies

Outside drinking hours you must have common passions. Gym buddies, fellow bikers, car lovers, home theatre experts, gizmo freaks are frighteningly attractive and make great brothers. Did anybody mention cinema buff? That is an utterly ambiguous, uselessly exclusive and dastardly boring hobby. After all people (brothers) who are united by their love for cinema need to have a life beyond cinema.

8. Have a great DVD/Blu-Ray collection

You must possess the ability to spot plagiarism in work not featuring your brother, to smartly plagiarize for work featuring your brother, to unabashedly compare your brother to Cruise/Caprio/Pitt. Do not waste time watching anything seminal, cerebral or intellectually challenging; these are great decorative pieces for exquisite DVD shelves. Remember to continuously refresh yourself with an in-depth understanding of some popular Brando/Pacino/DeNiro films. These are often discussed at length; they are important reference points for some of the challenging work undertaken by your camp leader. American TV series are in. A thorough study of these masterpieces are an indicator of your passion for the unusual.

9. Reading is very important

Of course you visit the Jaipur Literary Festival every year. You brave the cold as you carelessly put on your casually purchased ethnic outfits. Always memorize the names of writers that have the largest audience. If you manage to remember the names of their books it is an indicator of your vast intellect. Besides the 4 days spent in Jaipur cultivate the daily reading habit. Recommended reading :

  1. Mumbai Mirror
  2. Mid-Day
  3. Bombay Times
  4. Twitter
  5. Shobha De

Your knowledge of these constantly updated reservoirs of vital information will determine your wisdom, awareness, standing, intelligence and capability.

10. Get Invited

It is crucial that you attend every event, every party, every ceremony, every celebration and that you are armed with a decent camera on your cell phone. Get yourself clicked. Inflict these pictures on your growing followers around the social media world. Use your superior memory to remember jokes, jibes and one-liners that you get exclusively on your messenger/messaging service. Always look like you are having a blast. Every picture must display your wide smile (visit your dentist regularly to ensure that your smile is always attractive). It is also a great pleasure to interact with the same people all the time; often at the same place most of the time. Revel in that pleasure. Take back unique stories/incidents/anecdotes from your outing. Note them in a diary. Narrate them to all your brothers to create avenues for stimulating conversation on a daily basis.

11. Stories of your sexual exploits

Here is a test of your ability to conjure up tales of sin, sex and digression. It is also the best excuse for a night of absenteeism from the camp meet. Brothers always support your eternal search for carnal salvation. Talk about a starlet that you might have seen at some event or a boisterous conversation that you might have struck up with a random attractive woman at some ceremony. Tell them how you got lucky. Tell them how you scored. Tell them how she is a beast in bed. Tell them how kinky she is. There is nothing more engaging or engrossing as stories of forbidden sex. Give your brothers a ‘deep’ insight into your story telling skills.

12. Terms of endearment

  1. Bro is the most endearing term of endearment. It is personal, intimate and essential for insider conversations. Advice often begins with Bro. Admonishment is softened by a Bro somewhere appropriately placed in a sentence. Affection, good wishes, exclamations, proclamations, public displays of warmth and all other things inclusive are generously sprinkled with a Bro here and there.
  2. Baba, Bhai, Kaka, Dada, Da either as a suffix or by themselves irrespective of age
  3. Innovative versions of your pet-names (Tony becomes Tones, Lucky becomes Lucks, Lovie becomes Loves so on and so forth…)
  4. Even more innovative versions of your surnames (Gupta becomes Gups, Kapadia becomes Kaps so on and so forth…)
  5. Imaginative derivatives from your first name (Sanjay becomes Sanju, Akshay becomes Akki, Govinda become ChiChi, Salman becomes Sallu, Sharukh becomes Shah so on and so forth)
  6. Respectful prefixes such as Big, Junior, Badshah, King are effective means of reverence and brevity
  7. Sir and Saab are widely utilized in the quest to attain Bro status.

Sorry but I will have to truncate this list now. I have failed to relieve myself of the boredom I hoped to abandon by writing this nonsense. I will need to find another avenue, another unsuspecting audience, another cure for this disdain of the mundane. Maybe I need to find myself a new ‘Bro’.

Until then… Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna!


(first published on, Dec 15, 2008)

The last schedule of my new film is fast approaching. The office is like a fish market. I feel like the most important person on earth. The very next instant I feel small and insignificant. I am a bundle of contradictions. Production staff scurrying around with reams of paperwork. Assistant directors trying to convince production that their requirements are all part of the director’s vision. You cant meddle with vision…

Actors flocking the office. Many of whom are friends, many of whom I have worked with in the past. I try to avoid most of them as I am unable to offer them any work in my film. The casting is long over. The film is nearly complete. Yet they remain hopeful. Like me…

I sit back in my cabin isolated, oblivious and afraid. Afraid to face some awkward questions about my ‘vision’. Afraid to be reminded that this film is perhaps my last shot at glory. Afraid to face awkward questions from the producer. Afraid to face the angry accountant. Afraid to visualize the location. Afraid to think of how the actors will enact the scene. Afraid to imagine any spillovers in the already packed schedule. Afraid to think about how its all going to fall in place. Afraid to think that very soon all this is going to end. Afraid that maybe there won’t be a next time. Afraid of failure. Afraid of disappointment. Afraid of resentment. Afraid of jealousy. Afraid of anger. Afraid to face the disappointed actors. Afraid to face some quashed hopes.

A few days later…

I have been cursing myself through the entire journey to the location. Did I need to be so conscientious? Did I need to call a 6.30am shift? Am I hung-over from a drinking binge the previous night? Did I spend a sleepless night pondering over my fate? All I know is that I am sleepy and irritable.

Then, I arrive on location. 6.30am. Equipment is already unloaded. The generator is already connected. The make-up vans are operational. My lead actress had a call-time of 5.30am. Did she make it on time? Is she going to be ready for the first shot? Is the lead actor there? Is he ready for the first shot? And what is the first shot? I walk up the stairs and am greeted by almost seventy-five smiling faces. All of whom have gotten up much earlier and all of whom have slept much later than me last night. Most of whom do not have a comfortable home like I have. Most of whom cannot even dream to have the life I live. Most of whom have stopped dreaming…

Suddenly I stand there, humbled. I stand there, overawed. I stand there, amazed. I stand there, thankful. What would I have done without this life? All despair dissipates. All fear fades. I am a film-maker. This is where my life begins and this is where it must end. I pick up the script. The script assistant has marked out the pages of the scene that we will begin the day with. I decide to do the next scene first. My first assistant has the ‘I knew it’ look on his face. I am joined by the actors. We read the scene together. We read it again. We read it again. We change lines, try to make the scene conversational. I try to make the actors oblivious to the spoken word. I try to find motivations for moving my characters, for moving the camera.

We rehearse the scene once. While we rehearse again I begin marking the various camera setups with my cinematographer. We agree on camera moves. We disagree, then agree on lenses to be used for each setup. We decide on a floor plan. I look back at my first assistant. A look of disappointment is writ large on his face. Then a wry smile. He has spent the previous evening devising a floor plan and shot breakdown for this scene. The cinematographer puts his hand round the assistants’ shoulder, ‘my sympathies, mate’…

As the day progresses, all thoughts of tiredness are far removed from my mind. All negative thoughts are stashed away in my cold, comfortable cabin. As one shot germinates from another, a scene is born. As scene after scene is canned, a film is born. Cigarettes are stubbed, cups of hot, sweet ‘chai’ are downed, my throat is hoarse from screaming.

The magic words ‘Action’ and ‘Cut’. They are all I was born to utter. The illusion unfolding between these two magic words is my universe. This is the world I was born to rule. This is the kingdom I was destined to command. This is the only life I know and this is the only universe I want. These are the only friends I have and this is my true family. Finally, the dreaded call ‘It’s a wrap’. I am back in my car. Irritable, tired and mortal. In the chaos of this vast world – insignificant, insecure, unknown and uncouth.

Deep down, no one really believes they have a right to live. But this death sentence generally stays tucked away, hidden beneath the difficulty of living… – Jean Baudrillard

%d bloggers like this: