September 28, 2015

Must Watch Before You Die #45: The 'Before...' Trilogy (1995-2013)

Several years ago, I had this really beautiful relationship with a very special girl. To be honest, it was far from being a relationship. It was just one year of phone conversations, and she did not feel for me the way I did for her. But that one year of bonding with her is one unforgettable chapter of my life. And out of all the conversations we had, I especially remember one. She was a girl of few words and, by her own confession, of limited imagination. And she hardly spoke at length and she hardly told me stories. But this one time she told me these words which were really, really special for me. She said: 

Imagine a beautiful park. You are strolling in that park, and so am I. We find each other and we like talking to each other. But there is a fence separating the two of us. Both of us know that neither of us can cross that fence. So we walk along the fence, in wonderful togetherness, having an unforgettable time, and totally loving it. And then, we need to walk away from the fence and hence we go our different ways. We get busy with our other duties in that beautiful park of ours and never meet again. You know what is the best thing about this vision, when I think of you and me in that park? I see that there is no sadness, at all.

By the time that year of phone conversations ended, she got engaged and was soon married. We have not been in touch for all these years and it is unlikely that we will ever meet again to have any of similar conversations. This chapter, this really blessed chapter of my life, is over and is now only a part of the memories of my personal journey.

But then, I have been fortunate enough to experience more such relationships, of extra-ordinary connection, with other men and women, and some have been painfully romantic. Life has been unpredictible and life has been beautiful. And I have lived it with this simple mantra - when life offers you something, you have to say yes, unless it conflicts with your conscience. If it feels right, you have to go with the flow, and at times take the plunge, and the flight you experience with your fellow-traveller can enrich you in the most unexpected ways. You just have to keep faith.

You have to keep faith when you find some special, someone you connect with. You have to let go of certain inhibitions and you have to indulge. Because if you don't do that, you can never be sure. Suppose you find a stranger on a train and you want to talk to her. But you don't and you inhibit yourself. You will never get to know that she too wanted to talk to you. You will never get to know what could have happened if you really connected. But what if you did connect and felt that there is something beyond physical attraction in play here? Would you take another leap of faith and indulge in that person, despite it looks too soon, and too dangerous, and too crazy? Instead of wondering about all these questions and regretting later in your life, shouldn't we just follow our heart and do what feels right? I have always done that. Well, almost always. And I have never ever regretted any of those moments. And no wonder I have this tremendous sense of gratitude toward life, for gifting me with all those wonderful memories.

And one of the most wonderful gifts life has given me is this trilogy of films by Richard Linklater. If these three films do not qualify as "must-watch-before-you-die", nothing would. The greatness of these films is that they have all the amazing qualities of great movies - characters, dialogue, heart-wrenching conflict and breathtaking resolutions, but then, they have more. These three films are painted with the incredible sensation of passing of time, telling the story of eighteen years in less than twenty-four hours from the lives of our protagonists. This exceptional and unprecedented use of time makes these films not only great, but most original, inimitable, unforgettable and an inseparable part of you once you have experienced them.

But then I also feel there is so much more in these films that you overlook in the first watch. I am amazed how the first two films are "movie-like" because they take you through the magical phase of romantic love. And the last film is "life-like" as it deals with a long-standing relationship that is surviving all problems. There is so much to learn from Jesse and Celine, especially how they respectfully listen to each other during their long conversations. A very dear friend very rightly remarked that the biggest reason behind the strength and longevity of their relationship is that they know how to talk and listen to each other. I rewatched 'Before Midnight' just a few days ago and I had tears streaming down my face as it ended. I totally broke down admiring the divine, soulful connection of love these two display, time and again, holding each other's hands through life's worst moments. If only, we could be like them!

Can we be like them? Can we experience togetherness and love and understanding like this "American teenager" and this "old French woman"? Can life be so kind to us as it has been to them? Are we destined for something even half as beautiful? I think the answer to these questions lies in this line from Wim Wender's 'Wings of Desire' (1987). If you look carefully, you will agree with me that this line defines every plot point in the lives of the wonderful Celine and Jesse. I hope it will define every plot point of my life, and yours: I don't know if there's destiny. But there's a decision. Decide!

September 19, 2015


I'm home. That is what the Japanese expression "Tadaima" means. And I feel like shouting it aloud. Because I am glad to be back on my blog. I was away for so long that it had started bothering me. I also received phone calls from people wondering what's up with me, when they saw no activity on this blog for such a long time. But the inactivity on the blog is just one side of the story. Over several weeks that just went by, I have hardly done things I usually do. I have not worked at all. And the biggest surprise is that I have not watched a movie in forty-five days!

So what happened all these days? As Mumbai faces its biggest water crisis in years, and it may hurt my swimming all through next monsoons; as preparations for the Bihar elections are in full swing, and I may have to miss voting unless I take a flight to be in my constituency on the day; as Roger Federer keeps his promise alive by stunning us all with his magical innovations before going down to the greatest player in the game today and I am humbled once again by the spirit the two men have displayed; as my new batch at Anupam Kher's school struggles to keep up with the enormous work-load this course comes up with and I try my best to keep them motivated, what is it that has kept me away for so long?

Well, one, I had this amazing three-week trip where I roamed about the coastal towns, temple towns, hills and rain forests, and cities of Karnataka. The first half of the trip involved travelling alone and then my parents joined me. The trip finally culminated in Bangalore where I met some dear friends and conducted a one-day film-writing workshop. My parents saw me teach for the first time and I was so glad to see my father sit through the entire day as I talked about what I love the most in a language he did not completely understand. It really meant a lot to me, and to him.

Once I returned, I could not forget the blissful solitude the forests of Agumbe provided to me, or the 125-year old house where I spent two days, in a village that has only a few hundred inhabitants. A couple of episode of 'Malgudi Days' were shot in this house and I slept in the very same dormitory where it had happened. I could not forget the amazing food that I had all those days on my trip, and those long walks that eventually allowed me to achieve my target of getting under seventy kilos. And I could not forget the joy of travelling alone and then with my parents. But the days that followed, after my return to Mumbai, have been a tremendous revelation of life and my own self to me due to reasons too personal to share on this blog. I must admit, though, that in the last few weeks I have had the most special spiritual, emotional, and romantic experiences of my life.

So yes I was away. And I didn't watch any movie. And I didn't work. But life has given me so much in these six weeks that I'll be the last person to complain. There was a time when I doubted my love for cinema - after all I had had perhaps my longest break from it in almost a decade. A friend of mine reassured me instantly. He said - "You think of cinema all the time. Watching or not watching a movie cannot be any indication of your love for cinema or lack of it."

I felt glad. And I smiled. And in my heart I thanked him. Now as I scream "Tadaima" from all my heart, I hope to indulge in my first love all over again, and somehow compensate for my absence on this blog for this really long time.

I hope you agree with me that whatever has happened has only happened for good! :)