A tale in the twist

Entertainment happens when you see someone else’s reel life as your real life. Enlightenment happens when you see your real life as someone else’s reel life.”

How true. How very true.

Whether it is the movies or life, the magic lies in their stories. It’s stories that turn movies into cinema. It’s stories that breathe life into our lives.

Take the example of our good old values.

Unity is strength

Truth always triumphs

Cleanliness is next to Godliness

Honesty is the best policy

Would that list have meant anything to a you had it been dished out as a ready reckoner in your school’s morning assembly, to be referred to and practised when in need?

Na, never.

It is the stories that were woven around them that brought those values to life, and etched them permanently in your mind.

Which is why even today in a battle between the good and the evil, your heart goes out for the good. When you see yourself instinctively stand up for what is right even amidst stiff opposition, or, when in spite of knowing that there’s much at stake, you find truth tumbling out of your mouth, blame it on the small story that has been sown in your heart long long ago.

That’s the power of stories, well told.

Wonder why our teachers didn’t apply this across all subjects. Imagine stories in place of equations and formulas.

If college’s hotbods, Nina and Clary decide to stay together, how would the boys wooing them describe their relationship? So sweet? Never. More likely to be salty.

Of course, it is.

Na + Cl = NaCl

Which, you’ll never again forget, is Common Salt.

Stories are distilled wisdom. An unabridged, unambiguous version of anything that’s meant to be understood by all.

I learnt it the hard way, through this blog.

A good old friend and a regular reader of this blog, Charu, dropped out after my first few posts. He said he didn’t quite like maths, so was dropping out.

Maths?

This was even better summed up by another dear friend, Vikas.

“Bahut achcha hai. Lekhin, exactly kya bol rahe ho?”

(It’s very good. But what exactly are you trying to say?)

My fault entirely. Simple stories could have communicated so much better than all this meandering prose.

Having said that, like any good story, let’s move on. From my blog to philosophy.

Small step, really.

Most modern philosophers have quietly stolen an idea from Shakespeare and turned it into a convenient philosophy of theirs. It says that the world is merely a stage and we are actors enacting a preordained script.

They warn: In this play, there are no prompters, no audience. There will be no time for a curtain call at the end, either. And expect no encore.

But yes, there is a director, they say.

Don’t look into the wings, He isn’t there. Look up. See those puppet strings? See the man handling those from up there? That’s Him. He’s your life’s director. He’s not a director who calls cut. If He doesn’t like what He sees, He just cuts your strings off.

“So obey Him. Act out His story to your fullest potential. Put in the performance of a lifetime,” they say.

Rubbish. Absolute rubbish. (To emphasise, say it in Boycott’s style. Rubbish in Yorkshire accent sounds genuinely rubbish.)

My problem with that philosophy is that it turns us into dumb, sheep-like actors. No aspiring scriptwriter likes that.

Compare that philosophy with what my mom’s maid, Shanta, once said when asked how she was going to tide over her life’s new tragedy. She quoted an old MGR song. It goes like this:

In my life’s story

that I write and I enact,

here comes a new twist of fate.

‘So what?’ I ask.

For this too, will be written by me, enacted by me!

Wow. Simply wow.

I believe Shanta. Actually, I am beginning to believe in her.

God is no director. He is a client, a producer who sits there and dictates those changes in your story. And like any good writer, you have to rewrite and move on.

So what?

Doesn’t it feel good to know that we are the writers, directors and actors of our life stories? Look at it this way, all of us have at least one of our films under production. Our life.

Whether it is life, blog, movies or whatever, all stories come with spoilers. We’ve got to handle them. No choice.

Take for instance that harmless looking popcorn. It is the universal symbol for the magic of the movies in a dark hall.

But that innocuous-looking popcorn can be a bigger threat to cinema than piracy.

How can you expect a filmmaker to tell his story on celluloid when people sit there munching noisy popcorn.

I mean, will you let a surgeon perform open heart surgery while digging into a tub of popcorn?

Sister, pass me the forceps. The knife. And that tub of salt and cheese popcorn, please!”

Or, how would you feel if you went to the church for a confession and smelt freshly popped corn from the other side?

Yes, my child…munch-crunch…What sin brings you here this week…crunch-munch…Oh, when did it happen…munch-crunch…How was it…I mean, how did it happen…crunch-munch…Who was the lucky guy…I mean, the bastard…munch-crunch…”

That’s how heartless popcorn munchers are. They watch the horrific tales of a hero unfold on the screen while fisting large quantities of popcorn into their mouths. Aliens are attacking the world and kids are fighting over the tub in the middle instead of fighting to save the world with, who else, Harrison Ford. How could we?

But then, haven’t there been movies that were so engrossing that it was only when the lights came on at the end that we remembered the untouched tub of popcorn on our laps?

That’s the power of compelling stories. No one messes with them. Not even fate.

Again, this is something I learnt the hard way.

When I took my scripts to Chennai, they told me: “This is very good. It is ideal for Hindi.”

When I took it to Hindi producers, they told me: “This is very good. I’d love to remake this from Tamil.”

And so, I went to a Bhojpuri producer.

He said: “Okay, narrate it to me tomorrow at ISCON.”

Not at their temple, at their restaurant.

There they serve Chhappan Bhog (56 dishes) for lunch.

Imagine the plight of having to narrate to someone pored over an unlimited Gujarati thali with dishes that outnumber the characters in my story.

Unequal contest, this.

We both finish in two hours. He, his 56 dishes. I, my story. And as always, I wait with bated breath, for reactions.

He burps. Baked breath.

I was so angry that I could have stabbed him with a fork, stood up and proudly announced to aghast devotees: “Ab tak chhappan!” (That’s my 56th!)

But I didn’t, because I realised the truth: My story wasn’t better than a vegetarian Gujarati lunch.

So, I called a friend for some professional advice.

“You know it is easier to live our real life than script a reel life. Maybe I should quit the Entertainment business and get on to the Enlightenment business. What say?”

“Wrong number!” said the voice at the other end.

How meaningful. How very meaningful.

I get my answer.

Putting a twist in the tale is what movies are all about. Making a tale out of a twist is what life is all about.

I move on.

See how even a wrong number can become a Guru?

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One response to this post.

  1. check my new post 6 men and a lottery ticket @ kumarganesan.wordpress.com

    Reply

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