Tuesday, September 28, 2010

TheAtrix - The real germination

I had the pleasure and the opportunity to watch some of my friends(and well, part of the MISF!T family), perform an in-house play titled "The strangeness of reality". The script was written by amit, who also played the protagonist and he also directed the play...whew! That's in itself a lot. Unlike the traditional MISFIT plays, this was the first time without any involvement from anyone outside the cast. The 35 minutes that the play ran for, went on just fine, pushing the audience to their seats with the right amount of suspense mixed with emotions, that made the evening quite enjoyable.

The story starts with an actor(amit), shooting for his movie, where he realizes that he had actually participated in the shoot even before it had started, in the exact way it was about to happen. Similar incidents follow at home when he meets his wife(rency), so it kind of leads the audience into believing that the actor, has some kind of an ESP. Soon, he realizes he isn't normal and meets a doctor(ankur), who happens to be his friend. There again, he foresees that the doctor is about to get a call from his wife and also tells the doctor the prescription given to him, even before any of these occur. The doctor advises him to consult a psychiatrist, which in a way alarms the actor. As the actor steps out of the hospital, he realizes he sees multiple events that are about to happen at the same time. On one side is his elder brother(praveen), a failed actor, who is frustrated with life and his brother and attempts to commit a suicide. On the other side is his aged dad(praveen again), who is again about to die, due to his old age. Another side, he sees his sweet and innocent wife, plotting a devious ploy with his director(karan) to kill him. Will the actor be able to stop any of this? Will he save his brothe? his dad? Will he be able to save himself? Are all these real? These questions and their realities form the strangeness of reality, leaving the audience in a completely different end(which i don't think i should reveal now, just not to disturb the future viewers).

Now, getting back into the stagecraft and associated mechanics, each and every character, completely fit the part. The cast had a mixed set of actors, 3 of them from MISF!T, who had done the level 1 and the level 2 workshops and 2 others(karan and akshay), who hadn't undergone any formal training. But whether it was akshay playing the DON in the initial scene as amit's co-actor in the movie, who immediately switches to this nervous first time actor when the scene is over, or karan as a very understanding director in the first scene, suddenly switches back into this absolutely devious person towards the end, there wasn't any difference from the rest of the cast. The interesting part to observe is each character had multiple shades to them, which was portrayed beautifully by the actors. Whether it was rency, switching between this absolute trophy wife in the first scene to this devious vamp towards the end and then finally the caring wife or Praveen who switched between the elder brother to the father, so effortlessly, or the doctor, who was caught between being a friend and executing his responsibilities, each one had done their job brilliantly. But honestly, my personal favourite, is the protagonist, simply because he had to handle a gamut of emotions, ranging anywhere between a state of insanity to helplessnes to fear to anger to joy and amit handled it beautifully.

There was nothing to complain about the story or the play, except a few things:

  • The end came in too fast and a little abrupt. Maybe, the end needs a little more work and maybe a more concrete ending, not leaving too much room for interpretations.
  • The last scene with the father's monologue could have been positioned better, since the father was lost and the audience could only hear his voice. Also, in my view, the father's role did not add any specific value to the entire script.
  • The point where amit sees these events at the same time, he was completely upstage. Hence, the focus kept switching between amit and the rest. Maybe, it could have been positioned better.

Besides these minor issues, the play was worth watching. And as someone said, i would have definitely paid to watch the show(Yes! you read it right...it was a non ticketed show:) ). Overall, it was a very very enjoyable experience for me and it kept me completely engrossed. I would love to watch this play getting done once again. In "reality", the play was far less "strange" and far more entertaining. Hats off amit and your team for putting this up. Hoping to see more....

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Why are you behaving differently?

Yes,thats what some friends asked me a few days back when i went to meet them. Well, to give you some context, the topic of discussion at that point was centered around women, attraction etc. And i just bluntly turned around and said, "Well: sex does not motivate me". I got some serious stares right then and there. Then this girl asks me :"Why are you behaving differently today?". I said, well, i am behaving myself today. All these days i was trying to be social and all that. And yes, in that process, it might have appeared very differently. Today, for a change, i am being myself. So is it difficult to accept me this way?

The point is, all this while i have been trying to cover up what i was actually feeling about a lot of things. Just to keep things social, i do not push myself; my joys, my sorrows, my anger, my frustration, my thoughts, my ideas and opinions onto my friends. But again, i am trying to please the people around me, some of whom i know and some of whom i don't know - being etiquette, you see(or seeking acceptance,as i would put it). As far as some of my close friends are concerned, i am most of the time, well, myself. As soon as my comfort zone starts disappearing, i start becoming another person - the put on charming, talk-a-tive jovial self of mine. For a change, i wanted to be myself and the reactions i got were...well, rather interesting:

1. Why are you being suddenly nasty?
2. What, if sex does not motivate you, what does?
3. Are you a even a man? (Well, i don't need to prove that, do i?)

Well, all these reactions did not happen this particular day, but these have happened every time i just wanted to be myself. No no, don't get me wrong, i am not blaming anyone here. I mean, everyone is entitled to their opinion. I am no one to pass moral judgements about what anyone thinks. In fact, i was amused that it was becoming difficult for others to accept me the way i truly am.

So i started going back thinking, why? I mean, why was it difficult. Well it all starts a few years back. I, was like any other normal fun loving guy back then in college. I had the same aspirations, same thoughts, same emotions and the same libidos like any other normal 20 year old would probably have. I had great friends(or atleast i thought until then), was in a great place learning my life skills and was having some amazing time. Then, this peer pressure started setting in : "You need to have a girl, thats what makes a true man". But hey, girls are not like apples, who might just fall into your lap. They probably require some work, said a few of my friends. Well, and i think that is where i learnt some really bad lessons, which have sort of become irrecoverable, now.

Lesson #1: You need to either have the looks or the money to attract women
Lesson #2: You need to talk to them well. You need to be social. You need to be fun loving. You always need to have something interesting to talk about
Lesson #3: There are 3 kinds of people : 1. The naturals 2. The learners and 3. The rest. The naturals are born with some skills. The learners learn them and the rest are incapable of learning them.

There were a lot more, but i guess these were a few important ones, given as gyan to me.

Now, i am not naturally an extrovert. I am quite shy as a person and extremely introvert-ish. Now, again, i was constantly told (both by men and well, and a lot more by women) about my lack looks. Fine, i am on the heavier side, but thats me. And i am definitely not the best looking guy around(i probably never will be). And yes, i wasn't obviously a rich dad's kid.

As far as lesson #2 was concerned, I had very different interests then, which obviously weren't lets say, "gelling" with the rest of my peers. In essence, lesson 2 didn't happen successfully.

Now, for the lesson #3, the only thing good about me, which i think holds good even today is that at my core, i am a very nice guy. Yes, you read it right :" Nice guy" :). Which means, i didn't have the skills necessary to attract women. Women could be friends with me, but thats that. Rejection after rejection, spending one of my b'days in the college lawn, stargazing and then going back to the lab, spending overnight there, coding something and then to spending 2 consecutive new year evenings with myself, in my room, watching tv, i had definitely learnt to live lonely. Not that i liked it, but well, my "friends", were entertained differently. As with this guy, who borrowed my dinner jacket to go out with his friends, but didn't even have the courtesy to invite me or even ask me how i plan to spend my new year eve, as if i am going to push myself into his group. Am i that ugly that not one girl even wants to spend some valuable years of hers with mine?, i thought. It affected my self esteem, i thought then, that i didn't have a girl in my life. Self-esteem, is something that originates from within, and i don't know why i placed my self esteem on other's opinions about me. I lost a few more opportunities later when this one girl asked me to go out for a dance with her(lesson #3 - part of the 'skill' training). I said, well i don't know how to dance, i said. Funny, as it may sound, even after a decade, i don't know how to dance. And in this decade, quite a few promised to teach me and a few of them didnt and the rest left me midway stating that it was beyond my scope to learn dancing. Well, i am sure they had their reasons(time, patience, effort required etc). No seriously, again, i am not blaming them. Fine, so be it. If and when the day is right, i will learn, i told myself. I don't wanna become an MJ or something. I will still learn it, maybe to prove a point to myself(or maybe to prove a point to them). And there were others, who wanted me to smoke-up and drink, both of these were a no-no for me. So, then i learnt to create this different self, which was fun loving, joking, and most importantly pretentious and yes, definitely not me.

Well, through these years, i did make some success on this front. But time and again, i have been told and beaten to death with my insecurities, everytime i tried being myself : "You aren't good looking, you don't know how to sweet talk me, you befriend a lot of male friends,so you must be gay, you are boring, ....YOU AREN'T GOOD ENOUGH". Not one, not two, but a lot of them.

Yes, maybe i am not good enough. But this is all i am - "A nice guy".

Monday, September 13, 2010

A Letter from my Past - A letter from my 20 year old self

I've traveled in life this far, from the year 2000 with some advice. Unfortunately, I can only time travel in one direction: forward. I can't go back and tell myself: "You should have gone out of this country and made a few more bucks than being here".

But perhaps some of my advice will be useful to people who were where I was then: 20 yrs.

Save, Save and Save More: I've always had good jobs, but I haven't always spent what I got wisely. I'm not saying that I should have been a penny pincher, exactly. But there's a big difference between buying everything on a whim, and buying nothing.

I wish I had been a little more conscious of that balance. Catching up later in life is much harder than starting early. Even starting a few years later can have a big impact. A Simple Recurring Deposit of Rs 1L for 20 years(at an interest rate of 7.75%) yields an interest of Rs.155000 + Original. 10 years later, its only Rs. 77500.

I almost wrote a Rs.10 Cr. (back then) check on my name when I was 20 to invest in my retirement -- as a kind of forced savings plan. I was good(or probably scared) at paying off loans quickly, but not so good at just saving money. I've regretted not doing that.

Buy just what's needed: In the movie Fight Club, Tyler says "The stuff you own ends up owning you". That statement has really resonated with me. On the one hand, everything is saying "buy more": TV, magazines, the Internet, buses and bus stops even. Everyone wants you to buy their stuff. Getting stuff is often much easier than getting rid of it. "Just throw it away" I hear you saying... I've found it's not as easy as it sounds to throw away a perfectly good - whatever, even if you aren't using it.

These days I think hard (and probably still not as hard as I should) before I buy something new. I admire the people who are trying to live with less stuff, even though I'll probably never be one of them.The more stuff you have, the more stuff you have to keep organized. The more gadgets you have, the more you need to ensure them and the more you need to protect them.

Follow Your Bliss: This has really made my life enjoyable(or sometimes miserable). I get paid for doing what I'd be doing anyway. For me, it's working with computers. I really, truly, love that. I'm convinced that everyone can make a living at doing something they really want to do. Well then you might ask, who is going to clean the garbage outside my house? Funny you should ask. I had a friend back in high school, his father was a professor at the University. During our summer holidays, he used to call the folks in our colony on every sunday morning and we used to clean our community. Figure out what you really like to do, and spend some effort trying to come up with a way to make money at it. I truly truly believe, that a job you love is worth much more than a job that pays well which you hate.

Follow through, till the end: I love starting new things, and i mean starting. It's easy and exciting to start something. Buying a fancy universal remote control kit is fun! Then you realize there are a zillion little pieces, all similar, that you have to, sand, glue, realize you did it wrong, and fix...

That thing that was so great when looked at from a distance can really become tedious when you're in the trenches doing the work to make it a reality.After a string of half completed projects, it starts to get pretty oppressive...and sometimes leads into severe trauma, that would take years to fix.

I am right now very very careful about starting new projects, be it my theatre, or my music or anything fun, outside my job. If I'm going to start something new, I have to decide what existing project I'll give up on. Or can this new, exciting project wait until an existing project is done?

I really enjoy the satisfaction of having something done, and being able to make use of -- whatever I was working on.

The tool called "Perception": For quite a long while, confused with the topics like "start with the end in mind", in any project, i was only seeing the boring things that stand between me and the completion.Very recently, I have started looking at similar projects and think about how good it will feel to be done with it. This has been instrumental in improving my follow-through.

And this all comes from (and trust me, I hate this cliche) looking on the bright side. So, don't concentrate on having to get up early, deal with the traffic and travelling, spend long hours inside an AC room, starting at your 17inch beast, among other things.... Imagine you are on a miracle flight, that could change things. I know, i know its a very very cheap trick. I know, but like placebos(The placebo effect: http://wn.wikipedia.org/wiki/Placebo), its shockingly effective.

Believe, Believe and Believe that you can do anything: This is almost my superpower. It's not so much that I know I can do anything, it's more the converse; I don't know that there's anything I can't do. And you would be surprised to know that i learnt that just a few days back, in a very trivial circumstance. That attitude has made it so that I pretty much can do anything... This is another cheap trick like the above, but it's one i believe is serving me well now. If you decide you can't do something, you're probably going to end up being right.

Learn to leave your frustrations: This has really been the hard part for me, all these years. The biggest stumbling block to the above idea in "Belief" for me, also stems from here. One thing, if at all, i have to say has been strong in my life, is the belief in God. And someone, recently told me this, which was very very inspiring(or cliche if you are an atheist): "God sends you flowers every morning. Trust me, he is crazy about you. God didn't promise days without pain, laughter without sorrow, sun without rain, but he did promise strength for the day, comfort for the tears and the light for the day. If God brings you to it, he will bring you through it". One of my friends recently asked me this : "What is that one thing for which you could give up anything else in your life". I probably didn't have an answer then, and then i realized, that when that one thing wasn't obvious then, why get frustrated about something because that "something" is not all that important in your life, probably.The band, the WeatherThans (http://www.theweakerthans.org/discography/reconstructionsite_content.html) have this song where they say "Throw away my misery; It never meant that much to me; It never sent a get-well card." Just let go of what makes you mad or sad. If you focus on it, you're just giving it power. Let your frustrations go and give power to the successes. I could go on with this, probably even publish a paper or two on this. For me, its more of an internal healing process.

And Finally: Now go forth watch of Bill and Ted (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt096928) who said "Be excellent to one-another." And party on, guys :). Life, is, after all a roller coaster ride :).