suicide note was the name of a docudrama I made with two of my friends in college. It was born out a ‘real story’ which I twisted and turned and situated as far away from reality as possible. Our project was to make a documentary about something ‘real’, something that actually happened. But as far as I was concerned, the story of a 21-year girl, confused between the modernity of her inner world, and the traditions crowding her outer world, was ‘real’ enough. And while the real story was about a girl who had committed suicide, in my conception she just disappeared one fine day. The film was a suicide note created by someone intimately close to her trying to piece together who she had been and what may have happened. It was his way of achieving a closure.
I began the film with that ever-so famous Albert Camus quote which I love. “There is but one truly philosophical problem, and that is suicide.”
As part of mixing ‘real’ and ‘fictional’ characters I met a person who did in fact know the girl who had committed suicide. She was just an acquaintance, and actually a close friend of his brother who was not willing to talk about her. We heard him speak—he spoke just two or three lines, which we asked him to repeat in the film—and thought we had that perfect dose of ‘reality’ for our documentary to begin. It became the opening sequence of the film. And it worked well. The only ‘truth’ in the entire documentary set the tone for the dialogues that followed.
But that same evening after we had met this person, it struck me that this character called ‘Suparna’ that I had ‘created’ did once exist. And it was a really troubling thought. I remember calling up Shruti, my friend who had first introduced me to the story, in an attempt to get something more. Shruti had nothing more to add than what she had already told me, and did not completely understand what had come over me. I went online and searched for reports or anything that may be there on her. I think somewhere I just needed to be sure (or assured) that what I was doing did not belittle her in any way, and was as far as away as possible from her. It totally was, this was fiction.
I remember suicide note ended with my character saying “I just hoped to God that all this was fiction.” And at the end of the day it was a film that preferred to believe the ‘disappeared’ version, rather than the ‘committed suicide’ one. And that really defines an agenda of many films – a denial, an escape. And the other agenda is acceptance. Any film either accepts the occurrence of an event, or tries to deny it.
Within the denial films a majority just takes a superficial approach, and chooses to create an alternative world. And the other denial films use the existing world, and within it create alternative possibilities.
The acceptance films are the rare ones I would think. But there are types here too. There are those in which a filmmaker/writer is coming to terms with something that has happened, something personal or otherwise. These films may or may not choose to affect their audiences. On the other hand there are those films that attempt at touching the larger public conscience. This is a film borne out a determined agenda to convert an audience, to shock an audience. Some films combine both. Final Solutions comes to mind. It is a film born out of Mehra’s sheer disbelief in the horror that was the Gujarat riots, and at the same time it’s his way of transposing that shock onto people. It shocks you into agreement.
When I first watched it, I did not like Final Solutions. It shocked me, disturbed me but I had the audacity to question Mehra’s agenda. Of course, in any film that involves politics the audience needs to be a little more alert and discerning. Yet, it was only when I watched it a second time that I realized that its one-sidedness was laudable. It was, after all, a filmmaker taking a definitive stand. And today, I am even more appreciative of the same. The short film that I am working on, is, after all, as one-sided as it gets. And I understand the kind of passion that sometimes drives a film forward. The filmmaker’s concerns are above and beyond an attempt at recreating the boundaries of what is defined as creative license.
If Paolo Coelho is to be believed, our souls meet each other long before our bodies do. And this is only true for “important meetings”. Fate, in fact, has the authority to reverse this equation. I met Camus words long before my encounter with its meaning. I loved that quote, and agreed with it. Now, I know it. It was not the kind of education I was ever expecting, or hoping for. But fate, indeed, has the authority to create one too many unfavorable equations.
Today, after the first days shoot on a film that is the result of the alleged suicide of a friend, I am reminded of the panic I had suffered a day before the shoot of suicide note. At the end of the shoot, friends and family asked ‘how it was’. That is actually an impossible question to answer. “How did it go?” I just said ‘okay’, because I didn’t know what else to say. I know I just wanted to scream. Because, above all, what all this means is that Azad is indeed no more. And this is not some nightmare I can wish away.
My inputs in the script were minimal. These were the exact words of those who had suffered these humiliations. And there I was with a headphone on trying to make them say the lines right. It was impossible. I sat there listening to a few possible ways in which my friend suffered, before he was killed – perhaps literally, definitely psychologically. So how Did it go?
I can’t be expected to objectively assess my work, and I have never attempted that. The very fact that I make a film, or write something, means that I firmly believe in it. I know there are many grounds on which a film or a documentary or a short are judged on. On many grounds, I may fail. And on many, I may succeed. But then, again, unfortunately, this is not just a visual representation of something I had written. This was much more than that.
When I was first asked the question “how did it go”, I wished words had no meaning. brother suicide injustice. If only these words meant nothing, I would have said “It was good.” Or “I am satisfied”, which is my usual response unless something terribly wrong happens. And even that would not have meant anything. But it is these meanings that make things worthwhile, or worthless. Or impossible to live with.
During lunch Shruti mentioned how difficult it is, or I think she said “must be”, to think creatively when the ‘truth’ is so close to one’s heart and mind. It is impossible. And that is when you realize the difference that passion can bring about. I made this film because I felt a strong passionate need to communicate this to the world. And in that sense, this film has at least two agendas. With this film, like with everything I have been writing almost everyday, I will move one step towards the impossible – coming to terms with Azad’s death. And with this film, I will tell people, even if not what happened, at least the things that do happen. I think it was in a Graham Greene novel where I read that “creating is living doubly”. It surely is.
As a person creating something I can be myself, and a little more. And creation does give me a new lease of life. The very fact that this film is being made strengthens my resolve.
An uncanny inner strength.
This is, of course, just the first day. But like they say, 'well begun is half done'. And in situations like this, when it is so difficult to define ‘well begun’, it is natural that just a first step does seem quite substantial.
| day five |
This film is that first step.