Sunday, September 11, 2011

WHAT DOES IT TRULY MEAN?


Shooting at Sarai Ghat for India's Got Talent
It's amusing how distances take a different meaning in different geographics. Like how travelling half an hour is very far away in a small town or city but is casually dismissed when mentioned in a megapolis like Mumbai where one hour is considered the minimum time to cover a reasonable distance. This rang true when work got me on a short trip to Guwahati a while ago; a chaotic city not unlike my hometown Dhanbad but with the advantage of being accessorized by hills, the mighty Brahmaputra river and a lazy something in the air.


After a hectic day of shooting in the tea gardens, at Sarai-ghaat & around, a sleepless night followed making the rounds of the now absolutely still city to meet my mates. Even though it barely took 30 minutes to move about, time seemed to have painfully stopped in it's tracks, to put it mildly! Nevertheless, I was looking forward to seeing my friends again, some of them schoolmates I'd spent 8 years of my growing-up life with. One would expect sentiments running high, hugs galore & nostalgic stories of the good ol' days. But there was to be none of that. Instead, the air was thick with a "sizing up" that does not & should not exist in friendship. A thick & impenetrable wall reared itself between us that heavy artillery wouldn't get through! I was baffled, to say the least. We promised to keep in touch & meet the next day, but we knew in our hearts that it was not to be.


On the other hand, I later came across a couple of acquaintances who I'd hardly interacted with before and who I am great friends with now. I later went on to make the journey of a lifetime to Nagaland with them, twice. More on that in another post. This unexpected change of dynamics put me in deep thought & introspection about the real meaning of friendship. I'm no philosopher, but in making great friends out of none, and strangers out of some old friends, I guess distances took a different meaning in my life as well. It's aptly stated that the mere time spent together can never be the true measure of friendship. Either there's a spark, or there isn't. We're either meant to ignite, rekindle or stub it out. Sure gives a whole new meaning to the erstwhile jingoism & marketing heavy Friendship Day, doesn't it? And makes you think, who are your true friends, really?
Making great friends out of none: Kasturi & Ritika
*****
The world is as we see it. As children, we're imaginative, outrageous even. And as grown ups, we become smarter but tied down by conventions & the supposed right thing to do. As the flight back home took to the skies & distanced itself from terra-firma, the sun became a hot, bright ball someone tossed into the sky & forgot to bring back; set against the dirty slate of a sky full of dark clouds. Feeling the warmth of this most beautiful sunrise ever, barely a 100 feet above the gloomy clump of ominous rain clouds got me philosophical. The clouds are akin to our troubles; worldly troubles that should be beneath us but bog us down instead. And the sunrise is eternal hope; the burst of optimism we need to look forward to if only we could look beyond our "clouds" that are literally & metaphorically obscuring our sight. The bright yellow of the sun is not merely light, it is a gift of a smile & many joyful, positive thoughts.
Image courtesy - http://buyousef.net
Seat belts strapped, the descent into the destination city mimics a sinking feeling. The pessimist equates this to drowning in life's quagmire once again, but the optimist believes we shall fly again to watch the sunrise. The day we absorb that thought in our person, life will truly be worth it.

****

Thursday, September 01, 2011

RECOLLECTIONS & REFLECTIONS


A fan helped unearth a memory from the deepest recesses of my mind; a memory that now seems like from another lifetime altogether. It comes from a time when choreographer Ganesh Hegde landed up on the sets of Indian Idol 3 as a guest. Those were heady days for me as a contestant who was taking a big risk by switching professions. I nervously confessed to him that I could sing but not dance for nuts, and he encouraged me to just have fun with the "bulb-fixing" & the "tap-closing" steps he proceeded to teach me. That done, I never remotely thought about dancing again. Not until 4 years later, when I was offered to participate in one of the biggest celebrity dance shows on Indian television; Jhalak Dikkhlaa Jaa

Here I was again, in flashback mode & thinking "All right. Let's just have some fun. No harm in that." But before I had time to gather my bearings, the fun turned into initial disappointments and subsequently into a friendly, yet cut-throat competition. People were getting eliminated even before we'd had time to know each other. To make things worse, I still couldn't dance! But that's when the trust, belief & innovations of my choreographers Marischa & Deepak re-infused life AND the fun-factor into my preparations. No longer did I care about eliminations or points. My only aim was to do justice to what I was being taught. In a few quick weeks, appreciation began to pour in & so did the expectations, work-load & near-nervous breakdowns. Often, it became difficult to tell night from day as we lost count of the number of hours we'd put in practice. Reason often gave way to rage & frustration when things weren't going our way. We celebrated every moral victory and with every setback, we went back to the drawing board

Improvement. Growth. Upward graph. Dark horse. The underdogs. These were terms being used to describe us. And boy, did Marischa really want to win this one!!! Having been part of two earlier seasons, she was in no mood to be content with a runner-up spot this time round. In hindsight, I realize that apart from the lessons learnt from initial setbacks, it was also her hitherto unrequited dream that egged me on to reach for the stars. That's the beauty of team-work, isn't it? You forget everything else, embrace each other & learn to fly! 

I remember mentioning in one of my interviews that "in the end, it will boil down to who handles the stress best" and indeed, only the strong-willed improved & survived. Otherwise, what chance did a complete non-dancer like me have against seasoned performers like Yana, Krishna, Ankita & Sushant? I absolutely loved most of their performances & it inspired me to do better. Everyone, from the Judges, co-contestants, choreographers, stylists, reality team, production & post-production team, sound engineers, in-studio staff & many others who I might have forgotten to mention here, were a dream to work with. The amicable atmosphere & the constant encouragement by well-wishers gave me ample opportunity to prove myself and made the sweat & blood seem worth it. Yes, sweat & blood, considering the months of preparation & the numerous injuries incurred. 


In the finale, the three finalists who took the stage were broken warriors; down but definitely not out, each with their own motivation & goals. What transpired thereon is common knowledge. Whether the world agrees or disagrees with the end of the story, it remains a thoroughly cherished one. Since the curtains fell on Jhalak Dikhla Jaa Season 4, all of us have moved on with our lives. Deepak is currently teaching the contestants on India's Got Talent & Marischa is conducting dancing workshops in various Indian cities. We still carry fond memories of the time spent together & the profound experiences shared and continue to be good friends.

*****

I don't really believe in horoscopes. But call it co-incidence or otherwise, there are times when your horoscope reads eerily close to what you're going through in real life. We dismiss them as just another way to fill up newspaper columns & our imaginations but yet some of them strike too close to be just that.  For example, I was shooting for a horror reality show a year ago which was undoubtedly the most physically & mentally draining experience I've had so far in my life; what with shooting in remote & far-flung locations at the peak of an Indian summer and the lack of the basest of amenities.  Add to that, gastropathy & a gargantuan pile of official work back home was eating into my peace of mind. So imagine my surprise when I came across this in my daily horoscope:

"Slow down before you burn out."

Fortunately or unfortunately, my career is on a fast-track that does not give me the liberty to slow down. The show came to an end soon after & I had some time to recover. However, the timing of the horoscope was uncanny & not just a one-off incident. I'm sure you too have had similar experiences to vouch for the verity of daily horoscopes. Too many of them hit bullseye too often to be mere co-incidences. But then again, wouldn't believing in horoscopes be equivalent to being superstitious? Or is there a definite science behind their perceived accuracy? I guess there's really no answer for that.

"I don't believe in superstitions since they bring bad luck." 
Anonymous

*****


While shooting for the same show in a remote corner of Goa, Arjumand (the script writer & a dear friend) and I decided to take a walk on the beach. As the sun slowly melted into the sea & our feet sank into the not-so-clean yet soothing sand, we lost ourselves in a conversation about life, our dreams, ambitions, friends, troubles and so on. A lot was said but the most important sentence spoken in that enveloping darkness was:

"Life is about the little things, and not always about riches & career. For one, life is about being able to walk on the sand, unfettered, without a care in the world. We just don't realize it until it's too late"

Food for thought...