August 10, 2013

#7: The First Signs of Being 'Different'

"I am big. It's the pictures that got small!" - Billy Wilder's 'Sunset Blvd.' (1950)

Once my parents dropped me back to my hostel after my first vacation, which was forty-five days of summer, I realised there were so many things I forgot sharing with my Mom - little things about the hostel, and my experiences there. That left me heartbroken. The next vacation was three months away and it was going to be a short, eight-day leave. And I was sure that in the next three months, I would have accumulated so many more things to share with her. Intimidated and terrified by the idea of a continuously building deficit of "things-to-share-with-Mom" over several vacations, I decided to solve it, once and for ever. I started making a note of things happening to me during my term at the hostel in my little diary, half-sentences that contained long stories and new discoveries and layers of emotions. During the eight days of the next vacation, the mention of which has been made in the previous post in this series, Mom was so busy that I never got the time to sit with her and go through those pages of my diary. She was aware of it and it was an important agenda for her, but somehow we never got time. Finally, the last night, a few hours before I was to leave, Mom and I sat on a mat spread on the floor, and I shared with her all that I had to. That image of my mother, tired and exhausted, her heavy eye-lids battling against her resolve to spend time with her son and hear him out despite the night turning old and cruel, will remain one of the most special memories of my life. But today, as I look back, I also see the REVERSE SHOT of that scene - an eleven-year old boy, going through his 'notes' that he had made over several weeks, narrating stories and incidents with untiring enthusiasm and excitement. Today, as I look at the eleven-year olds around me, I wonder - was that the beginning of the method-oriented, obsessed-with-planning-and-execution storyteller I was to eventually become? Or was it simply, the first sign of me being 'different' - an adjective my friends in high-school and college used for me, for all compliments and insults!

A little more than a year after that night, I was on my way home for the winter vacations. It was December, 1996. It was for the first time that I was travelling from my hostel in a car, as my Buaji (the one who until her marriage was an active member of our domestic movie club) and her family had picked me up on her way to Munger, my home-town. I was sitting in the front passenger seat with my Chachaji and had fallen asleep as the car made its way through the rocky terrain of Sooiya Pahaad (the Hill of Needles). A little later, my eyes opened to the sound of a song that was being played from the car stereo. The song was ending but I heard it sufficiently to exclaim to my Uncle - "This is a good song!". "Isn't it?" he said. "Now, listen to this, an even better one." He reversed the side of the cassette and the song faded in. If life is a romantic ride, that definitely was my first experience of one. As this song soared, I felt its voices echoing in the dull and dead ambience of the hills around me. I was mesmerised by its pure magic, and until today, every time I listen to it, I am reminded of that amazing afternoon.

The first song I had heard while waking up was "Chappa Chappa Charkha Chale". And the one that eventually won me over was, yes you guessed it right, "Chhod Aaye Hum Wo Galiyaan". Within a few days, I asked Dad for the cassette of "Maachis" - my first buy as a music lover. It must be mentioned that buying film music was not encouraged under my Dad's regime, despite the three of us (Mom, brother, and me) being crazy movie-buffs. But Dad brought this one. As Devanshu and I played all the songs on our little tape recorder, the haunting melodies of Vishal and the beautiful words by Gulzar, my Dad expressed his disapproval - "What's so special about this music?"

How could have I answered that? I just knew that Dad didn't think this music was great. And most people around me, including my friends, thought the same. And the world around me was infinitely more obsessed with "Pardesi Pardesi" from 'Raja Hindustani' that was the craze of the season. When I watched that film, the biggest blockbuster of the year, I was pretty disappointed. By the time the film reached its climax, I had given my verdict - "Raja Hindustani is a bad film." The Filmfare Awards that followed a couple of months later thought otherwise, and I realised that I was different, that there will be films I hate which will be celebrated by the world around me. Today as I look back, I feel thankful to my Dad for being vocally disapproving of the music of "Maachis" as well as to that moment when I had discovered its magic among the hills of Jharkhand (then Bihar). "This is good, despite others' opinion of it" - was the thought that had come to my head. Several years later, it was to become the most constant feeling with things, especially movies and music, that I loved and celebrated. Only, the world of the internet would make sure that I eventually realise that there were several people like me who thought of cinema differently, and that I was not exactly "different"!


  1. Hi Satyanshu, I am floored by the consistency with which you have been writing such wonderful posts with the same amount of passion. I wonder how you manage to keep up your motivation. Keep it up and keep writing. I try to read your posts sometimes but find it difficult because of the volume of the posts. So I have a suggestion if you dont mind. For the benefit of people like me who like to visit your posts but dont read out of lethargy or scarcity of time, if you can add a three-four line summary of the central thought of the post, it will attract more people and will be convenient. And moreover, you must be aware, it takes a greater skill to summarize a thought and make it crisp.
    I hope you will give it a thought.
    Thanks and keep writing.... Any new project in the pipeline?

    Arun Kumar Dwivedi

  2. It's quite amazing to know how each one of us discovers that 'different' streak, and then again if each one of us has different streaks, what makes us so different?
    Quite interesting to know about the few things that made you realize how differently (in comparison to mass opinion)you thought about cinema.
    Immersing read!

  3. @Dr Arun: Thanks for the kind words, Sir. I will try to do something about your suggestion.

    @Decent Stalker: I was not very sure about this post. "Immersing read!" you said. That will relieve me. :)