Roll around 1994 and I abandoned that idea as unlikely, at the tender age of 12. I saw my first Miss India contest. Sushmita Sen and Aishwarya Rai (little did I know at that time that she would marry into the Bachchan family) left me starry-eyed. That was the way into Bollywood. I had to win a beauty pageant. And so began my experiments with short skirts and make-up only to realize very soon that I had neither the height nor the body size to make it to that platform.
You see I was obsessed with movies since I was a child. I would sit through the compulsory hours of Ramayana and Mahabharata required to be allowed to see the movies at night. It's a testament to my love for the movies that I remember not one whit of information from the epics but can recite dialogues from Do Aur Do Paanch. Same age, same time exposure, it's interesting how my brain soaked one thing up like a sponge and filtered out the other. (Of course now I have to tell movie stories to my son at bedtime instead of ingraining a love for mythology!)
The years went by and I figured theatre is a natural progression towards films only to be inflicted with a severe case of stage fright. After several years back-stage I chanced upon a summer film course by an FTII graduate and the deal was sealed. I had found my entry into films.
Like everyone who wants to enter Bollywood I packed my bags (17 steel trunks to be exact) after this one-month course and boarded a train to the city of dreams. And like most everyone who does that, I wandered around for a month, often without a place to stay, trying to figure out how to crack the code. I couldn't. I came back, humiliated, embarrassed at my naivete, dejected but still not defeated.
That's when I started applying to film schools. The day the call came from one in Calcutta I nearly wept with joy. Before anyone could say a word I was off. It was heaven. I thrived on the films, the classes, the people, the conversations. The idea that one day I would actually make a film. I loved every moment of it, homesickness and all. I traveled to Bombay again, more confident this time, ready to meet actors and directors and tell them I'd like to work with them as soon as my course finished. I was shitting bricks inside but it was the trip of a lifetime.
And then I made the biggest mistake of my life. I met a boy and decided to marry him. No, that's not the mistake I'm referring to. With that decision came one to leave film school. In the throes of what I believed to be love, I made the worst decision of my life.
I once again packed my bags, justified it in my head with the stupidest reasons, and with a heavy heart bid adieu. To friends, to my dreams, to the love of my life. The movies.
I faded away into a life I hadn't wanted. I forgot who I was. Till I had my son. Someone very early on asked me what I wanted my son to be when he grew up. And so naturally the words left my lips, whatever he wants to be, to do what he loves.
The alarm bells rang. I couldn't escape the thoughts I'd often suppressed, wishing I hadn't left film school, wishing I could go back. The dreams were unending. Almost every night I would have clawing, claustrophobic dreams. I am back in the corridors where I had sat and thought about my projects, I was in the canteen, I was in the hostel trying to find my friends. But always, in the dreams, things would look and feel different. Like I was a stranger on the outside, not allowed in anymore. Not a part of it anymore. I would try to convince the dean to let me start again. And I would wake up aching deeply for the loss.
Soon movies I saw started listing friends names in the credits. They started getting awards and recognition. I was so proud of them but it always underlined my own failure. I resigned myself, albeit not completely, to the fact that I would never go back to a film school or to Bombay. Still my eyes would stray every time I saw an ad for a course in film-making.
I have missed out on the one thing I loved from before I even knew what love was. I take responsibility for the decisions that led to this loss. But I haven't given up. I write today, because that is what my circumstances allow me to do right now. But one day I hope that I will re-enter the world I so desperately wanted to be a part of. One day, maybe, I will write something that will be turned into a film, and I will be there, part of it, in a different way than I had dreamt, but there nonetheless.