I woke up this morning with a fully formed title for the newsletter: doing something vs. being someone. It felt as if I had spent the entire night pondering over this idea in my sleep and upon reaching the title, woke up ready to write (doesn’t mean I did). After waking up, I lay in bed staring at the ceiling, fought the urge to reach out to my phone and let my morning mind wander. I then reached a conclusion, a revelation of sorts, ‘hmmm, this is exactly what I struggle with’. After this, I continued with my morning and promptly wasted an hour on reddit.
The said ‘thing of struggle’ was this: my focus on being someone taking precedence over my focus on doing something. This idea felt familiar. So I googled to ensure that it had already been explored a million times and much to my relief, it indeed had—multiple blog posts with the said title that I didn’t click on, because I didn’t want to be influenced… since everything I write is one hundred percent original.
I realise that I am preoccupied with the idea of ‘being someone’ a lot more than the idea of ‘doing something’. I reckon it has something to do with the perennial question of ‘identity’ we (or is it just me?) dog ourselves with: who am I?
The fact that I valued being over doing was not always obvious to me. I touched upon it briefly in my Karmanye post, but have come to questiong it a lot in recent times. I think everyone struggles with it and this is fairly commonplace. But I can only speak for myself so that’s exactly what I am going to do.
As the years of childhood passed me by and I entered adolescence, I witnessed something first hand that left a lasting impression on me—a brush with fame. I saw strangers stop my grandmother on streets and almost be short of pulling their hair out while admiring her performance in a regional daily soap—either still running or one from years ago—which reminded them of their own mother or grandmother or whoever. I had grown up watching my grandma and other family members on screen and on stage, so I wasn’t exactly shocked by that in itself. But to have strangers walk up to you and fawn as they took your autograph looked very appealing. This, in stark contrast to the city I was growing up in (I visited my grandma only in the summer) where people spat in my face if I entered the local train from the wrong direction, enticed my teenage self. The privilege of being famous—even if moderately, in one city—was not lost on me.
Add to it all, my family, starting with my mother, were very proud of the goodwill my grandparents had built for themselves within the cultural circles of the city; everyone in the family made sure to remind each other of it all the time. But I wasn’t necessarily attracted to fame due to this self-congratulation. I had my own streak, an innate desire to ‘command respect from others’. I just wanted to be respected. And I felt like my school, classmates, and the middle-class existence in a massive city didn’t accord me that—respect. I was yet to learn that just because you were a ‘nobody’ didn’t mean you weren’t worthy of respect.
So that was how I left teenage and entered adulthood—wanting to be famous. And for the longest time, that was all I wanted to be. Fortunately, this aspiration was very short-lived and I outgrew it within a few years. I saw it as a back-scratching club, a bubble—one that I benefited from as I briefly started acting myself. I wanted out. So I left, first to film school and then the club altogether.
But over the years, I haven’t ridden myself of my need to be ‘respected by others’, even if one of its versions, ‘being famous’, isn’t my priority any more. I also understand that I may never be able to completely rid myself of it, despite all my will to scale the Maslowian pyramid.
It, however, makes me curious about myself, as to why I can’t stop looking from the lens of ‘being’ and only look from the lens of ‘doing’. To illustrate with an example, when I watched The Disciple last year, it felt like a story I could tell—the character, the subject and the milieu felt most familiar. I was left wondering why I hadn’t found the courage to simply even write something like that, never mind the next steps of actually making it. Similarly, when I watched ‘About Love’ two years ago, it felt like a film I would have loved to make. In the year that followed my viewing of these (and many other such) films, I would find myself lost reading about the awards and accolades its makers got, watching their interviews, looking up their next projects. This has been the case with all independent filmmakers/musicians/artists whose work I’ve liked. Every praise would invoke some sort of a yearning within myself—man, I wish I was there doing that.
Which brought me to the question this morning—do I actually want to make an indie film where I am bursting with something to say? Or do I like the idea of being an indie filmmaker, who travels from film festival to film festival, 'garnering respect’ and is part of yet another club?
Could it be a chronic case of comparing oneself to others, which shows its symptoms sometimes more than others? Or is this part and parcel of any indie maker’s journey, who doesn’t know how to get where they want to go?
I don’t have an answer to any of the above; I hope to find out.
Thank you for reading this far.
Until next Sunday,