Who are we really? What is our role? Are we just making a living? Or do we have a say in what’s happening around us? I write this after spending six hours writing a happy romantic comedy; I forgot what was happening around us. Like the hundreds of films in which the hero accomplishes things single-handedly, wouldn’t it be great if that were reality?
In one part of the country, we have bodies burning, people losing loved ones — suffering and pain. Yet, in another part, we function as if things are okay. There are debates and discussions as to what the government should have done but we also see people hanging out without masks.
What does all this have to do with me, who is trying to get a screenplay written? I am writing this to try and make sense of where I stand as a filmmaker. Do I write a romantic comedy (and be happy) or do I make films that question the system (or do I have to find a different medium for that)?
Should I write stories that take into account what is happening in the country? I dreaded everything I saw during the election rallies. It’s not like people didn’t know that a pandemic was raging. When five thousand members of a minority group — for want of a better word — attended a ceremony last year it made a lot of news. Now, what about the Mahakumbh with 9.1 million people in attendance! So, should I set my romantic scene in the Mahakumbh? Or do I make a picture with haunting images of bodies burning in a bonfire?
We don’t have accurate numbers for how many beds are available. Every sensible person is angry, but there are also educated people who call all this a hoax, as if they can’t see what’s happening right in front of them. Do we have to be affected worse to become more sensitive? Haven’t years of viewing heroic masala films given us a spine to question the system like our heroes? Or maybe, they’re meant to only be seen and forgotten as entertainment…
I’ve heard that when society is looking to entertainers as the heroes, it causes the death of civilization; that’s how we go down the drain. That’s how the Roman Empire collapsed.
But, I need the dates of at least a sort of saleable start to get the audience to come to the theatre. And so, I’ll have to write something that has no relevance to what’s happening around. But, perhaps, it will help people forget their troubles for a couple of hours, which is a kind of peace. That’s what films did to me as a kid. If I didn’t have the gratification of watching a film in the theatre at the end of the week, I might not have survived a really tough childhood. So, as an adult if I cater to this part of my own self (and the audience’s) am I justified in doing my part to fight the pandemic?
I can only come up with a mass masala scene that goes like this:
EXT. GRAVEYARD/STREET. EVENING
The Protagonist with a mask, is looking at a large burial ground, his eyes tearing up as he sees people crying. We see a family of 3, a man and 2 young kids in a corner, numb.
The protagonist walks dejectedly, out in to the road, as ambulances rushing across him, he witness a middle aged man, with a rickshaw and a cylinder that is giving oxygen to his wife, who is collapsed in the back, the middle-aged man is trying his best to get his wife to the hospital.
The Protagonist is in tears, he is unable to see what’s happening around him.
He walks past an auto where a young man is collapsed, the protagonist sees a kid next to him, weeping as she is looking towards the graveyard.
EXT. TERRACE. NIGHT
The Protagonist is looking at the city burning with smokes filling up the city.
The sound of ambulances and people crying fills up the air. The protagonist is in tears, he is angry. He looks at the flame-like city, with tears. After a brief moment, he takes a deep breath and with might, he gets up. A tear shed. He gives us a look of conviction and HOPE, in slow-motion he exits the frame, with his fist clenched as tight as he can.
Well, what does The Protagonist do? What if I am The Protagonist? What if you are The Protagonist?
More than what I should be writing, it’s important to know that I can only write what I can. We have been manipulated, cheated and fooled. But, we can also write our own stories, be our own heroes. Let’s not forgive or forget, instead let’s keep the pain inside us. Let’s mask up, stay resilient, and remember that nothing can defeat people with the right intention coming together. It’s not going to be the politicians or money that’s going to save us. It’s going to be our own gut, instincts, and decisions.
So, what do I write? I don’t know. I am going to do whatever it takes to try and help a small number of people. Even if I have handed masks to a hundred people, I’ve done my part. And I’ll be saving others if I isolate myself when I’m unwell.
Like The Protagonist, I am going to stick with this agony that’s filled me for some time now. I am going to be affected with a feeling of hopelessness. I hope that I, like The Protagonist, walk out with my verse that will change the world!