Sometimes, when you reach a certain age, you are no longer able to differentiate between a half empty and a half full glass. It’s a mixture between enthusiasm and also fear. But gladly, for me, the fears do not revolve around job security, future, finances, or marriage.
Instead, it is about making my dreams come true that still consumes me and morphes into my greatest fear and also my greatest enthusiasm at the same time. It scares the shit out of me but yet it is what keeps going with passion and zeal every day.
But I choose to feel proud, over the fact that 2014 will mark the 10th anniversary since I first decided that I would eventually become an author and a filmmaker. Of course, I can somehow, in my own twisted way, call myself an author, thanks to my self published 2011 novel The Rainforest Unicorns, and also my unpublished 500-page saga Last Man Dreaming, which I completed back in June.
But the ambition of becoming a filmmaker has somehow been neglected and has taken a back seat in the midst of me focusing on my increasingly consuming yet fruitful career in journalism, while balancing it with my hours doing creative writing.
It is a bit of let down for a man who wrote his first full film script at the age of 19, which I still have today, six years later, and could still use with minimal tweaks, to make my first full feature film (if anyone would give me that money). It is also a bit of let down for a man who first envisioned a science fiction story spanning a trilogy at the age of 16, (a story that I later re-developed twice in the form of novel drafts, and plan to write a three-part book sometime later).
Circumstances, though, aren’t the same for everyone. Being born in Malaysia and harbouring these dreams are not easy. You know, you kinda have to make a living, and nobody will tell you that pursuing these dreams will put food in your mouth when it matters.
Of course, it’s not easy anywhere in the world, but here, we don’t even have decent opportunities to explore our filmmaking ambitions to begin with. It’s a pain in the ass to get a proper team with proper technical knowledge, and it’s an even bigger pain in the ass to get actors who can actually act given that drama schools are run as though they are for the elite (read, for those who can afford that extra time which doesn’t pay). The rest, we all rot in our offices, slowly clobbering our passion to death with each passing punch card.
Given all these factors, I woke up yesterday to being told that it’s my birthday and I’ve failed to reach the target I set for myself ten years ago, which is to become a director by the age of 25.
But then again, I bask in the fact that nothing has changed- the enthusiasm remains the same, the passion remains the same, and the inspirations come in abundance. The filmmaker inside me might not have a shot a single scene since 2011 (when I shot a music video for a friend), but this is not my trade for me to be rusty after two, or even five years. This, is my talent.
The 16-year-old still lives inside me, and that my spark of inspiration, and the many inspirations after that, remain vivid in my thoughts till today. Looks like no amount of years can eat away into that passion.
Luckily, my passion is still alive. Now, I owe to myself to take it by the scruff of the neck and start making real progress. I might have starved my passion, but now is the time to feed it again.
And, in a rush, all minute moments of inspiration that made me who I am today comes rushing back to my fodder of thoughts, and my fodder of writing.
My moments of inspirations with those teachers of mine whom do not even know they have been guiding me all along:
1. That English teacher whose name I do not remember- when I was 16 and in Form 5. This was when I attempted to write a story and pass it off as an essay for my SPM trials, and she gave me 48 out of the 50 marks available. She attempted to get me to write for the school magazine, but that failed miserably (because I always exceeded the word limit), and she finally gave up while warning to keep my words in check when I write the real examination. But my overzealous self did not listen of course, I wrote a story for 1,000 plus words for my SPM essay and flunked with a B because I gloriously exceeded the word limit.
2. A Biology lecturer I vaguely remember from my short stint at Nilai college, who saw me writing a short story at 8am in the morning in the lab, half an hour before a Biology class during my American Degree Programme course there. He told me, you don’t belong here. He couldn’t have been more right, though I never had the time or maturity back then to thank him.
3. Kamal Haasan, for teaching me what real acting was. For Anbe Sivam, in which you never missed a single twitch in your jaw when you played a man disfigured from a serious accident. For having that innocent smile on your face, for redefining what is joy and also loss, on screen.
4. Mani Ratnam, my guru, for those title credits and the first scene of Aayitha Ezhuttu which stirred something inside me, the building tempo of background music, and the almost careless way with which you portrayed the character of a hit man, ranting on about his wife, moments before committing murder. For giving me that first moment inspiration.
5. Mani Ratnam, again for that climax in Raavanan, which keeps playing in my head as if it’s a form of poetry in motion, for the thoroughly brilliant portrayal of shades of grey in both the perceived evil and the perceived duty bound man in today’s world. For blurring the lines, for making Seetha come close to touching Raavan but pulling him away at the last moment, without ever showing what happened next. Thanks, for being a genius.
6. Mani Ratnam and AR Rahman for those numerous times in which you showed that I’m not a over romantic fool for dreaming about making Indian movies and not Hollywood movies like how the rest of the world seems to think. For showing that art exists even in our song sequences, for showing the songs in Indian movies is not about running around trees like how some self-absorbed tools think, but is rather a great vehicle to tell a story within a story. For shooting Pachai Nirame, which portrayed the different colours of love with such effervescent beauty, for Usure Pogudhey, which could make any filmmaker worth his salt take his hat down and applaud with sheer jealousy as to how it was shot, conceived, composed, and written.
7. Kamal Haasan, again, for making Hey Ram, which showed it is possible to make world class movies in Indian cinema.
8. For that random chance with which I got my hands on a Paulo Coelho novel back in 2007, which taught me a great lesson- that I’m not a filmmaker alone, but rather a storyteller. For showing me that I had an author inside me.
And above all, a thanks to my continuously superficial self which listed eight inspirational moments in my life (being born on 8th, and having already made eight as my favourite number).
Not to forget, to all my friends, well wishers, family and loved ones who, over the years, have stopped laughing at my dreams and have instead nodded in subtle recognition of my talents.
Despite the fears that may envelope me and those who care for me, this should be the year for me to start making a dash for my dreams. I’ve walked on the sidelines for long enough, it’s time for enter the competition and start sprinting.
For that “director sir” inside me.