He has made almost 50 movies, many of them award-winning ones like Arth and Saransh, but Mumbai-based filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt says his "most defining work" is a book - a tribute to his spiritual mentor and philosopher UG Krishnamurti.
"It was like fire - lava - coming out of my belly on the paper. The book was not an exercise in flashing my writing skills, it was a sense of awe and wonder that drove me to write the book," Bhatt, 59, told IANS on phone.
The memoir - A Taste of Life: The Last Days of U.G. Krishnamurti - was published by Penguin Books, India, last month. This is Bhatt's second book on the philosopher, often referred to as UG. "This is the most defining work of my life, even bigger than my movies," said Bhatt.
It was compiled from the notes he had "managed to put down on paper during his life-altering days with Krishnamurti". "He was like a blossom in the wilderness which bloomed, withered and then crumbled - the one that was there on a universal plane and yet not there - kind of ephemeral," said Bhatt.
UG, the anti-guru who deconstructed the myth about men playing gods, was like a wildflower who chose to die unsung, said Bhatt. "UG died on March 22, 2007, at the age of 89. He had slipped and injured himself. After a gap of one year, I decided to go through the notes in March 2008 and began to write. By September 2008, I was done with the book."
"I met him in Mumbai 30 years ago during my troubled days. I was drifting through a spiritual wasteland post-my LSD-dropping days. I spent two-and-a-half years with Rajneesh and then went to listen to Krishnamurti."
What struck Bhatt was UG's simplicity and honesty that stripped spirituality of its divine pretences. "UG used to say 'I am not a godman, I would rather be called a fraud'. He was emphatic that the quest for god has become an obsessive factor in the lives of human beings because of the impossibility of achieving pleasure without pain," said the filmmaker explaining why he liked UG's philosophy.
"I had the privilege to be with him in life witnessing his staggering experiences and even in death which I describe as the taste of life because it removed the morbidity that one associates with death like the wind blowing on a landscape where bloom and decay were all one," Bhatt analysed.
Pointing out the differences in ideology and outlook between Rajneesh and UG, Bhatt said, "Rajneesh was part of the entertainment industry. He was good at storytelling and offered an alternative reality. UG, on his part, rejected the idea of 'moksha' saying how can you have something that you already possess."
Bhatt, well-known for films like Hum Hain Rahi Pyar Key and Zakhm, said even his daughter Pooja, an actress-filmmaker, has been "hit by the intensity and the positive energy of the book."
The book is full of strange incidents and omens that surrounded UG's death. "On the morning of March 22, I saw thousands of black ants marching in a line on the white carpet, up the white sofa and on UG's stone-like face where they spread out and completely darkened the left side. There were thousands of them moving with the frantic intensity of life. I remembered someone asking him some time ago what the ants were doing in his room. UG had replied they were 'coming for me'," Bhatt writes in the book.
The slim 164-page volume is divided into five chapters. Bhatt said, "I still feel like a child. I feel what I have written is inadequate compared to what I have experienced."