Filmmaker Rajat Kapoor shares his moments of undiluted joy, even as he tells Nichola Pais that equanimity is the true goal.
Let me say that I’m not the kind of person who looks for a high, like a sky-dive. That is not my kind of a high. I’ve never done drugs, for example. Those kind of highs do nothing for me. But theatre, for me, is a big high. Being on a film shoot is a big high – and a real high, you know. Performing on stage – incredible! Or when I have directed and watched as an audience, it’s an incredible high. The high that your work gives you… You write a film and then you spend two years looking for the money, and you spend two years making it and another two years trying to release the film… Just the day or two before we have a premiere and all our friends come in…and the film works! That high is really indescribable.
I remember the premiere of Mithya, I remember Mixed Doubles. And the Ankhon Dekhi premiere, one of the most beautiful nights of my life. We had a premiere in Delhi and then one in Juhu. All my friends, all my peers, filmmakers whom I respect, like Saeed Mirza, Ketan Mehta, Anil Mehta, people whom I had worked with for twenty years…they were all there. Of course, you yourself know where your film stands. Even if no one liked ANKHON DEKHI it wouldn’t bother me that much because I still know that it is a good film. But, to receive a positive feedback is very special, especially when it comes from people you respect.
Is the feedback honest? I think people, by and large, are not capable of giving dishonest feedback. Body language is a clear giveaway of one’s real feelings. So when you’re sitting in the cinema hall with them, you know whether the film is working or not. And afterwards if they give you a hug, you know by the warmth of the hug whether they liked it or not. The warmest hugs came my way after ANKHON DEKHI. Even now, it’s not over.
Whether it’s theatre or films, my primary reason for doing them is that high. Incidentally, it’s not only the final product but the creative process itself that is a high. Of course it’s hectic and it’s stressful and all that but you’re creating something out of nothing and if you feel it’s coming together, if the energies are good, if the crew and the team and responding well, it’s a madness! It’s more than the sum of its parts.
I didn’t come to filmmaking to make money. I want nothing else except to make something which I truly believe in, that’s all. It may be good or bad; I’m not saying I’m making great films or doing great work. Who knows, maybe I’m just deluding myself. I can’t judge that. But I have to do what I can do to the best of my abilities. And I have to do better than what I did last time.
I am consumed by it; there is no question of that. That is the only way to live, for me! If you are not passionate about what you do, then you might as well be doing anything.
For me, a guy who is making paan or making chai or is a tailor, if he is doing it passionately, then he is doing something! Then he is a spiritual being. It is your relationship with your work which is also your relationship with the world and with yourself. That is what defines you! It tells you if you have integrity or you don’t. I don’t take work seriously but I do it passionately. When I go to colleges and events to speak, I tell people that I’m one of the most fortunate people in this world because I feel I haven’t worked a single day in my life! This is not work; this is play for me. I am a lucky one because I’m doing what I wanted to do – what more can you ask for?
They say in art, the path of least resistance is not the best path. You have to challenge yourself, you have to find difficulties in your way, you have to create structures which are not easy… and that is joyful!
The more you push yourself, the more value your work has. The way I work and understand work, is that there is not a fixed idea that I am chasing in making a play or a film. I’m chasing an abstraction, a vague idea. Only when I finish it, when I see it with the audience, I say, ‘Oh wow, really?!’ It should surprise me.
You think you are making the work but actually – and I tell my daughter this also – your work is making you. You define yourself through your work. And I’m working in order to discover myself. It’s only through my work that I know myself. And that is why it is important to do honest work, to work with passion.
When our children were born, it was a great high. Also, I remember when I got into FTII, it was a big high. It was a great place; still is in spite of all the controversies. But the thing is, nothing lasts. Which is a very good thing also. There is a moment of happiness and then it’s level the next day. One has to keep working otherwise one will get trapped in the highs and lows of life. If one keeps working and stays grounded, then there is an equanimity and I think equanimity is what we should always aim to achieve. Not be too happy in happiness and not be too sad in sadness.