The travails of hyperstardom

During the audio release of his last blockbuster Enthiran/Robot, Rajinikanth while addressing the star-struck audience raised his right hand and twirled its index finger in air saying, “once one reaches the top, one has to come down. That’s life. If you remain right there, there’s every chance you will disappear” and signed off with that staccato laughter. A good measure of what he said seems to apply to the great man himself today. His popularity has reached stratospheric heights, but his movies are apparently taking the fall for him.

If Rajini were to be stationed high above this lonely planet, in the stratosphere, how would a conversation between him and ground control look?

rajni1

Rajini: Ground control, I have a situation.

Ground control operator to his colleagues: Oh my God!!! Anbu, Ilamaran, Umaa seekiram vaanga inga! Guess who’s on the line from stratosphere? Enga thalaivar da! Rajini has called.

Anbu: Comedy pannaadha (don’t kid me)! Speaker le podu, let’s hear

GCO: I’m serious! Thalaiva, is it really you?

Rajini: Aamam da kanna (yes dear), it’s me! Now listen, I don’t have forever to talk. Up here, I’m alone and getting really bugged. Can you get me back on earth?

GCO: Impossible thalaiva. You shouldn’t have gone so high up. We have never had anyone reach such heights, and don’t know how to deal with it.

Rajini: Dammit, I’m stuck! OK, here is the real deal. My movies are not keeping me company

Ilamaran: What happened thalaiva?

Rajini: You bloody well know. Last five years, none of my movies have done well

GCO: Very true annai. You should choose good scripts

Rajini: Dei, you think I’m doing time pass? We need to keep evolving, yes? I can’t keep warning every baddie who comes my way with my finger and pack him off with a punch line. So I try to do something different these days

Umaa: Sir, we want you to give us movies like Baasha and Padayappa

Rajini: Ayyoo, the ghost of these movies will continue to haunt me even in my grave, I’m sure! Can’t you ever get over these?

Umaa: That’s difficult sir. But we also like different movies….

Rajini: Where? I try an animation flick, that too motion capture, and you say ‘kuppa padam’ (trash), ‘bomma padam’ (doll movie). I try some history and add amusement, and you say it’s too long and boring. I play a gangster again, just for you, and you still aren’t happy. What shall I do?

Ilamaran: We understand thalaiva. I feel you need good directors

Rajini: You fool! KS Ravikumar has given some of my biggest hits. You call him a bad director? Ranjith is young and promising and critically acclaimed. That’s also a mistake? I’m getting tired I tell you

Ila: Shankar, sir. See how good  Sivaji and Robot were

Rajini: I can’t book Shankar for a lifetime, can I? Anyway next year 2.0 is coming. Working with him 10 years now

Anbu: Why do you worry so much annai? We will continue to love you anyway

Rajini: (to self) When will these jokers understand that a string of flops is not good for a superstar. My resume is starting to look pathetic anyway. I don’t want to end up like Rajesh Khanna.

(to the kids at ground control) It’s for your sake I’m trying different roles guys! Today you watch movies from around the world and choices are varied. I need to give you something that matches international quality

Anbu: All that I agree. But you are special, you see! You are bigger than your movies.

Rajini: Karmam! (all my doing)

(to self) no point in discussing with these kids!

(to the team) ok guys! I’ll see what I can do. Thanks for your time, nice talking!

Hangs up.

Then to his accounts manager, “do you think I will do fine even if I announce retirement?”

Accounts: Yes sir. You can also endorse some brands on TV

Rajini: Kanna, I will never come on TV! Understand? You better understand!

Nightmare by invitation

Swapnil Pednekar had never foreseen this problem. Intractable as it was, the predicament didn’t seem to offer a way out and he was getting knotted up by the minute. Whatever  happened to our dear Swapnil?

Fancying himself a creative writer, Pednekar always tried his hand at smart and quirky themes. He believed he would have rocked the field of advertising, but his ‘well-wishers’ advised him against taking up an ad agency stint, citing pathetic pay scales. Resigning to his concession of being a typical Indian middle-class young man with an eye on a secure future, he took up the first available job at an IT firm in Pune.  As with many individuals of his sensibilities, he went about pursuing his passion for writing by the moonlight. Never did an evening pass without him scribbling his thoughts; never did a day break without his resolution to quit his nine-to-five compulsion.

Swapnil had a hundred short stories to his credit, but just a handful of them published. He always wanted to be known for that one piece that would end wars and vanquish poverty. In his constant endeavour to churn out that seminal work of art,  Swapnil always meditated on different approaches to telling a story. His latest brainwave was to tell a story featuring a writer whose characters came to life, literally, and threw his life out of gear. Kicked about this revolutionary idea, he dashed home from work on a breezy evening, and pulled out his laptop without bothering to change even. This was a grand idea, and he would not rush it one bit. He just wanted to make a start, save the draft and sleep over the flow of the story. He wrote, “Ron from Bombay wanted to disrupt the literary world and wrote a story in which the characters came to life and started talking.  The protagonist was a female prostitute who commanded respect in the alleys of Bombay, and was sought after by the media. During an interview with the Times of India, Mala Dy,  the prostitute was asked if she ever thought of changing to a respectable line, and being a model for many of her followers. Mala Dy retorted , “But why should I change? This has given me life and today I’m sitting here talking to you because of what I do, night and day!” The interviewer seemed to be convinced.” With these lines Pednekar saved his draft and proceeded to finish dinner and then call it a night.

He went to bed, with a smile that refused to leave him till he drifted off. The smile sat on his lips right after he woke up early, and resumed dancing ever so gaily.

Till he opened the saved draft.

—-  —- —- —- —- —- —- —- —- —- —- —- —- —- —- —- —- —- —- —- —- —-

In continuation, Swapnil wanted the interviewer to ask Mala Dy about what was the median age of people visiting her. But the last line read completely different.

“Dude, can you get me a job that pays this kind of money? If yes, come and see me tomorrow. Or do you wanna make it tonight itself?”

Swapnil rubbed his eyes a dozen times and stared at that last line. Was he seeing what he thought was happening? It was still the same, “… tonight itself?”

He was wide awake now, and could hear his pulse racing. For a good five minutes Swapnil let himself lose all calm and started howling, wondering as he did, if THIS was the sound of his impulse.

Back at his laptop, Pednekar scrolled up and saw that the one paragraph he had stopped had had crossed a page.  As he eyeballed the activity on his machine while he had slept in ignorant bliss, Swapnil saw that there was a conversation in progress.

Ron: “Hey Swapnil, kaay re! Tu svatah la kaay samajtos? Who do you think you are?”

A few blank spaces down.

O baba, aiktoyes ka? Do you hear me?  I just wanna know what made you think I’m a writer. Man, I wanted to be an MLA and go on to become CM. Hell, maajha naav Roshan Galande, Ron naahi. Chaaila! Jai Maharashtra!

Swapnil read on and realized that the belligerent Roshan Galande had decided to peek into the character that his own character had supposedly created.

“O writer bhau, hullo, ithe bug! Tula sex manje khup aavaData ka? You seem to like this sex business a lot! Writers are like that only. Given a chance, they write out their imagination! Hello madam, interview vinterview sagaLe bandh kara aaNi ghar zaa! End this interview business and get going!”

To which the feisty Mala Dy responds, “Oiy, mera baap bhi aise baat nahi karte. My dad would think twice before yelling at me. Look at your guts! This is my interview, and I have every business being here.”

Galande: “Wait till I go get my boys! You will face the heat. Aattha bug! Jai Shivaji!

Mala Dy, returning to the dumbstruck interviewer, “Can we please continue? Don’t mind these thugs, huh? I know how to deal with them. What was your question, again?”

Interviewer: “Have you ever considered changing your line and getting into the mainstream,  and being a model to your followers?”

…. ….  …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. ….

Pednekar, fairly in control of himself and alert now, realized it didn’t make sense to continue this story. But then, should he be quitting? Wasn’t it THIS great idea that had found favour with divinity or mysticism or black magic or whatever? He could close the file and destroy it forever. Or should he let the characters tell the story themselves? All he had to do was trigger a conversation and stop worrying about the proceeding. Wouldn’t that mean he was relinquishing his creativity for inanimate characters that decide to start typing on their own? Still better, should he start conversing with his characters and arrive at an agreement, and complete the story in harmony? But seriously, would that even work? A writer who doesn’t want to be one, gets to be a politician and goes about terrorizing the neighbourhood. A prostitute cannot survive a story, because she’s being tormented by the politician. How does one even kill a character?

—- —- —- —- —- —- —- —- —- —- —- —- —- —- —-

What was that? Kill a character? How about bumping off the MLA? And make the prostitute very peaceable?

—- —- —- —- —- —- —– —- —- —- —- —- —- —- —-

He looked at his watch and realized that he was a couple hours late to work already. Darn the bloody story, get to real business, he decided. While at office, his laptop’s hard disk crashed.

The computer died. Swapnil Pednekar survived!

HARDly Content!

Heck, the Internet seems to have spread its legs real wide!  It’s a digital whorehouse, and a free one at that! And I’m as guilty as everyone of you ‘Johns’ and ‘Joann(?)’s, I’ll admit! Well, almost free, given that, as some wise ‘observer’ commented ruefully that ‘we have come to live in an age where WiFi can be cheaper than water’, probably after scratching their head in desperation about getting people to retrospect and decided to do so with an ‘insider view’.

Negative-Social-Media-Comments

A real beauty, the Net, I tell you, but it tosses me in my bed to think how everyone’s having a go at it, willy nilly. Facebook and its ilk, I tell you, have made Wikipedia appear a scholarly journal. Anything goes. Like recently when dating app Tinder decided to conduct a social experiment to check on men’s and women’s biggest fear while dating someone online. Say, worrying they might hook up with an ‘overweight’ lady, or a stalker on the loose? Yeah, the results of the ‘experiment’ should be tabulated in a report for the department of social justice. And while they are at it, how about developing an app to gauge excitement levels of couples on their date? Closer home, there was this lady sweating it out on the streets of Mumbai  asking men how many times a day they thought of sex. This one has got several thousand ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ on Facebook and other sites. OK, so you proved that men are not forthcoming about their basic instincts, or they couldn’t articulate their feelings, or better, aren’t sexually charged. But none of that was published. We are expected to draw our conclusions from it. Sure, that you could have put the camera battery and editing time to direct use, say, to see if people can do without FB videos for a week.

These experiments and videos are still bearable at some level, as they can be regarded as short films by character, if not more. But the written word I tell you (OK, I’m bracing myself here).  Websites of questionable parentage have mushroomed all over and are humping the Internet (read ‘Web’) with crazy vigour and no let up. There’s this website, which piggybacks FB than walk about itself. Without  naming it, this one’s mostly known for ’10 things’ or ’15 reasons’ series of inane realizations, syndicated from the darkest corners of the Web. Easy way out, who doesn’t like bulleted lists. Wish it were more though.  ‘9 differences between life at 16 and life at 25’. Presumably written by someone who’s feeling geriatric at 25! ’14 struggles of being in a long distance relationship’, with the subhead ‘in a nutshell, long distance relationship sucks’. So you know how insightful the list will be, and why didn’t it occur to us all these years? The 9 and 14 are curiosity inductors no more. And Deepika no wonder entered the Forbes 10 list this week; her face is all over their website, which  I visited to see what their mission and vision statement were. Their About Us page assumes I’m either trying to nominate them for ‘TIME Person of the Year’ or being plain curious! I take this, but they still don’t give me any dough. Ask me to check back sometime later.  A couple days later I was almost ready to forgive and forget because a ’15 reasons’ list caught my eye. ‘15 things you will get when you have a South Indian friend’. With an air of triumph, I opened the list and what followed was bunkum! Sample this: ‘Bharatnatyam is not Kathakali’ and ‘Their Hindi has a funny accent’! If it’s all written by the same individual, again presumably a North Indian, then forget having a South Indian friend, they have not got their basics right! But I’ll hold myself, as they do conclude saying cool things about South Indians.

Agree, online content won’t remain fresh for more than a day, but can they help ‘not serving us oily and tasty stuff over healthy and bland ones, please’?

Orgiastic tendencies – Compulsive screwing, mindless gorging!

Damned if Rajini knew, forget others!

ling

Pray, what do I do? I haven’t made the film, but I want it to succeed. I don’t know how it will be, but I know how I want it to be. It shouldn’t be the best, but it should be the best yet. If it’s got him, it has to be real good, but not in the real sense of good. It should be nothing like what has come till date, but should have everything we have come to expect.

Pray, what is it about? Is it progressive? Does it have a human touch, or only his touch? Does it portray women well? Will it glorify the alpha male? Will it have punches aplenty, a swagger too many, and Chicken-soup advices candy-wrapped in tunes? Is it a story of against-all-odds or is it about getting even? Does that even matter?

Pray, will it win? Alpha male or betta’ female, the film should win in which he should win. He should win, because it is the person in him and not the actor in him. I want the punches, because no one else pulls them like him. I want the odds and evens both, because he tags style to victory. His style. He should win, because he has shown that the bizarre can win too, and how!

Pray, is there anything I can do? While I await the answer, let me do what people do best.

Pray

Nice, the new mean?

How does a writer go from good to popular? Write better, of course – something you and I would agree readily. But most often than not, one would have ended up writing very well, only to end up as a ‘good’ writer, and not necessarily a popular one at that! Who then gets the ‘popular’ ‘vote’ or ‘like’, if you will? Let’s guess: a. someone who has done monumental deeds – lot of them, a lot more than they could finish writing about. They can spend the rest of their glorious lives cherry picking delicious episodes from their adventures and serve them up hot and spicy to drooling readers;b. Someone who has clout, and can have the parliament ducking for cover when the individual sneezes. They will have a cohort of faithful who will drum up enough noise about their idol’s writing, that the world is gifted with real-time updates of the said individual’s literary pursuits;, c. Someone in whom resides the most deadly triumvirate of an illusionist, a hypnotist and a tantric. They need no one to endorse their writing, but only need to have the air of a conscience keeper of the masses, with a grave tone and a graver promotional line. In short they are all set to become the next messiah in their part of the world; and finally, d. someone who had a swell marketing career and then decided to take a stab at creativity.

What about the writers who aren’t attracted by any of these categories and those who choose to repel from them? They’ll probably be eagerly joining up fraternities that deride and ridicule members of the aforementioned classes of individuals aka writers.

Naturally, because they are mostly at the mercy of people who are ‘nice’ to them. The ‘nice’ brigade. Make no mistake, this is a dragon rapidly growing in size, and will start treading mindlessly over our magnificent structures. This is very much akin to the massive army of sentinels that awed us in ‘The Matrix’ trilogy. What do the nice ones do? They want peace on earth, which we all do too of course. But, while it’s unclear if they are doing any bit for the peace that’s eluding the geopolitical hotspots in this world, they will certainly praise our writers to the skies and avoid the remotest possibility of conflict. Here’s a poor chap who has lost sleep over a critique of the growing popularity of visuals in social media, and goes about urging people to read his piece. The first chap who comes along – just our writer-critic’s luck – is from the nice brigade. The latter, as he begins reading, has a benign smile plastered on his face, which remains static till the last line of the essay. He looks up at our writer and says it was absolutely fantastic and his vocabulary was exquisite, and that he has style. Keep writing, you’ll do great, he says. Er, what about the critique? Oh, he just remembered he had to rush for a meeting. See you around buddy, keep up the good writing. Never the one to give up, our writer continues hawking his thoughts to other likely buyers.

praise

The nice guys, if one were to think, are probably striving to grow their social network (including the virtual one). Their elating feedback is bound to lift anyone’s spirits up, and bingo, they have collected another ‘friend’. The next time the writer comes out with a piece, they’d have chosen to ignore, as the writing would do anything but boost their social status. So our writer waits up for a while – their readership has remained as low as their toddler’s age-, and decides to knock on Nicey’s door. Nicey is at their effervescent best. Hi there, how do you do? But of course I will read your stuff. I thought you had stopped writing these days. Do show me no, quick. Nicey does a quick scan through. There you go, brilliant as always. Writer says, ‘c’mon you are being nice’. Nicey says, naah, you know I never believe in complimenting people for the sake of it. Wish I could write like you. This is followed by an abrupt silence. Our writer, being the sensitive sort, decides to change the topic, and Nicey all but hugs the opportunity tight.

Our writer by now knows better than to expect any real connect between the world and their writing. People, he reckons, will make time for ideas, but only from certain people, a privileged lot at that!

-Metafore

5 Reasons Why You Should Read a Lot (better stuff than crap like this!)

But of course, you will have come across any number of write-ups extolling the virtues of reading. Some of them sounding really grave, many of them of downright patronizing, and a bigger chunk absolutely driven by motives!  Say, urging you to read whitepapers, available for free downloads! They want you to read, they want you to be knowledgeable, they want you to apply thought, but also want you to do business with them. Choose to ignore them, and they will bombard you with many more such samples. Content blitzkrieg eh? Heck, you even have books on why reading will transform you!

So, if there has been a barrage of literature on why reading is good, there sure must be some good souls lapping them all up and resolving to walk around with a book in hand the very next minute on. So, I guess there’s no harm in adding my two cents (or five?).

Image

Here are 5 reasons why I believe one needs to be read like crazy. And no, I’m not including reading on the fly, or simply, online reading.

  1. The last line above.  Everyone accesses the internet where anything goes in the name of writing. Read a paperback or a hardcover edition, and you automatically get a brand of erudition. Some invisible tattoo sort of thing.
  2. Reduce degrees of separation. For all the ridiculous ideas you may harbor, there is surely one other individual at least in this world, who does more than merely think like you. And who doesn’t like to feel vindicated anyway?
  3. Get a sleeping aid.  Now please don’t throw the obvious question at me. ‘If you like reading so much, how can you slump over a book?’. Well that’s the beauty of books my friend.  More importantly you need to have an eclectic set of books on standby at any given time.  Books that suit your mood. Sample prescription.  Prop yourself up by a cozy pillow and try ‘Idea of Justice’ by Amartya Sen, every night.
  4. Give flight to your imagination. Now seriously, ask yourself what arouses you more. A detailed narration of how people got into each other’s pants or a steamy movie that lasts a whole minute. Oh, have I really swallowed my foot? Before you nod your ever ready  heads in agreement, spare a thought for long lasting impressions. Now, may I excuse myself from ensuing talks of fondling the flagpole?
  5. Be a quote machine. If you think you have a great memory, you should really consider reading  A LOT. You could reel off snide one-liners by conceited jerks, with equal flourish and gusto.

A ship docked in harbour cannot appreciate Facebook updates!

Alright, I’ll get it out. Expectorate it, if you will! It is bloody unfair that I don’t get to cross the seas, OK? Well I won’t say there’s nary a stamp on my passport. An island which you can hang-glide your way to and taxi down to the beach deck almost like you’re tap dancing to celebrate your holiday. My solitary trip away from homeland!

My Facebook pictures will be all about me and those with me, which should fuel instant disinterest in those compulsive photophiles so used to the manicure of the West. That’s because the sexiest background in my pictures will probably be one of those unutterable exotic flowers in bloom at the Lal Bagh flower show, which I’d have gotten in front of, barely managing to avoid a potbellied oil faced ‘gentle’man calling after his incorrigible brats.

But of course, why not, I ask? The said impatient photo junkies have had their friends doing the coolest things; some of them peering down from the Skydeck at Chicago, some trying to restore the Leaning tower of Pisa to its rectitude, a few historically inclined trying to match up the Thinking Man’s poise right next to his stony presence, and a few quite content flashing their benign smile at some obscure parking lot of a super market.

All these jaunts are but a satisfaction of the sheer wanderlust in these globetrotters. And mind you, they have worked their way to get to these places.  A big bunch of them burn the midnight cigarette pack while coding away to weekend dreams, while many others fly all the way to pick up tool skills and have the big bosses give the trainers cotton candy pink slips as parting gifts. The more fortunate of them attend big meetings where they can sink into oblivion, only to resurface for photo ops, while still others go around the world in 80 years of wedded bliss. There’s also a prudent lot who slog their butts off for months at a stretch inside hallowed portals of study, to save for that occasional trip to the nearby mountains.

What to do, I haven’t done any of these things!  An outfit I joined had clients spread across the Western hemisphere, but video conferencing was a revelation then. Then, I thought when I could afford to be insane enough, I’d escape the local drudgery  and do a fancy course out there among the Caucasians, but I didn’t know what I should burn my cash on, and my scores anyway came to my rescue. Those short junkets you ask? Man, I have barely started getting away from my desk, and managed to move a few kilometres West on my sputtering two wheeler!

Pompey the Younger, who fought Caesar long enough to give the latter some serious headache, once said to his sailors, ‘to sail is necessary, to live is not’. Well, that’s pretty much sic, but you get the import.  No sir, I’m not whining one bit. I’m just marvelling at nature.  It’s incredible how I’m moored to the docks.  Even the cruiser that was supposed to take me to Lakshadweep (which is India, mind you) decided to do a U-turn one winter afternoon, for no apparent reason. I figured out that the captain watched Titanic for the first time that morning.

So, what’s with the travel bug? Nothing really, Just that I want to feel what it is to be a Roman in Rome. Well, to be sure, if you sent me to Scotland, you won’t catch me dead wearing those chequered kilts! Those skirts you would dread fluttering. But how about drinking Scotch like a Scot? We can do that back home as well, can’t we? OK, drinking Scotch with a Scot in Scotland? That I presume will take more than a photo update on Facebook, the cheap thrill it provides notwithstanding!

I’m anyway going to be docked here for a long time to come. The least you can do to keep my spirits up (other than getting me that single malt Glenn when you’re back) is to capture yourself doing some really fun things. Kindly avoid holding the Pyramids between your thumb and index finger, and may I also request you to refrain from showing off your dripping yellow jackets at Niagara, where you are as good as your neighbour?