or “Kiske baap ne bola tha?” – is the thought that goes round and round in my head, while I try to shatter the stone steps with my persistent gaze, walking, walking, walking.
My father asked my ex-husband the first time he met him, “So yes, you are an actor, but what do you do?” The most supportive parents then did not tell their children, “Hey, why don’t you go into films, where you may or may not succeed, and where you won’t have any guaranteed income?” I don’t know if it’s much different now.
No one on the trek seemed happy. There were those who were fitter, most people carried their own backpacks and strode off quickly past us, oblivious of up or down. There were people doing the trek in 3 days, 5 days, 6 days, 7. We had a guide and a porter carrying our main luggage, and we did the trek in the stipulated 9 days, and I’d have been happier doing it in 10, or as I counted one day, 20 would have been just perfect.
These super human beings weren’t huffing or puffing like me but they too were tired. And I used to think, “What is this trekking? I mean, why are we going where we are? Why do we have to reach there?”
There’s something so self-indulgent about trekking through the mountains, believing you are doing something worthwhile. Perhaps it’s a way of showing yourself how vigorous you are, perhaps it’s a way of proving you are hardy and tough despite your soft middle-class existence.
Of course, you can pacify yourself by thinking about the jobs you are creating – the guides, the porters, the pack mules carrying your cheeses and pizza breads and soft drinks to the guest houses, the men carrying the wooden logs to renovate the guest houses, the construction workers crushing big boulders to make more steps for your convenience, the guest house owners, the chefs, the cleaners.
For some time now, this one year, everything has seemed a little pointless. Watching films, writing about them, writing films, reading – all of it consumed by the inactivity imposed by a market we don’t understand. To be honest, it’s not the market that has changed, but we have, wondering why, why, why are we doing this?
We could have been doctors, nurses, social workers, teachers, political leaders, shopkeepers, accountants, engineers, inventors. But films, what the hell are films, why do we want to make them, and why do we get so frustrated when we can’t?
I think why Kurosawa’s autobiography made me happy was that it sparkled with such an old-world passion for learning, learning, learning. As if there could never be an end to the things you would like to know. This is not to say that such passion is missing these days, but there is certainly an ease which comes with googling that kills the burning desire to know things out of your finger’s reach.
The book reminded me of our days at FTII, when we were all steeped in film, working so, so hard. Well, at least the women did, the men seemed to drink way too much and fumbled their way into class most mornings. But we were all so sincere, emotions ran high, we got into so many fights with each other and our staff about how we wanted to do things, we were devastated by not being able to execute what we had imagined.
It’s been a while since I got all shiny-eyed at the thought of learning something new apart from yoga. ‘Something Like an Autobiography’ made me tingle up all over again. The trek did too, those long hours of walking seem so pointless, but at the end you are standing between 360 degrees of snow clad peaks towering above you.
What is your net worth, you think, when you are into the film making business. The profit and loss charts, the films you haven’t made in the last 16 years since you were out of FTII all loom before you, and you begin to believe that anything you do is worthless. What is your net worth, you think, as you look at the sun glistening on Annapurna and Machchapuchhare, Hiunchuli and Gangapurna and you realize, it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter.
What matters is that moment you are standing there. And Kurosawa made me feel the same. What matters is the enormous fun you have learning, thinking about films, coming up with ideas, consumed by ideas, who cares if you ever make those films or not, who cares what the market thinks anyway?
As an aside, my instincts about a marketing man I met a couple of years ago proved right. He thought books and films could be written with marketing blueprints in mind. He had a lot of money but he made me sick in my stomach. I never went back with the proposal he wanted me to write. And recently, the things I learnt about him proved that my instincts were right.