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HindustanTimes Tue,21 Oct 2014

The Corporate Guide to Struggling in B-town

Kanika Dhillon, Hindustan Times   July 16, 2011
First Published: 12:53 IST(15/7/2011) | Last Updated: 18:54 IST(16/7/2011)

A Bollywood struggler needs to remember two things – first that he/she is a struggler, and second, that no one else should know the desperation of his/her struggle. Especially when he/she is desperately struggling.However, a struggler can always indulge in the pleasure of describing the details of what it took to reach where he or she did – after he/she has raced ahead of it all.Of course, one hopes that by that time, he or she has acquired the appropriate discretion to know which colourful tales to glorify, and which slippery hues to erase from his or her memory before divulging the dynamics of it all for public consumption. But before he or she gets to this delightful dilemma, a struggler has a long way to go.

Let’s start at the beginning of the strugglers’ journey. These Bollywood hopefuls come in various shapes, sizes and colours. Some are water-proof, some tear-proof. But the ones most likely to survive are the ‘extendables’ – those who have the capacity to take on more than they imagined. Once the candidates have been segregated and the ones with less durability have taken a plane, train or bus back home, the remaining few need to chart a fairly precise path. In the 21st century, this needs a corporate approach (somehow, attaching the word ‘corporate’ to this process adds virtuosity to the phenomenon of trying to be part of Bollywood’s world of gyrating celluloid dreams).

So let’s take a look at the Bollywood Strugglers’ Manual. Subtitled: ‘What to Expect When Expecting a Bollywood Miracle’. Before anything else, glance at the index page of the manual. The one where it says ‘choose your poison’. What do you aspire to be? An actor, director, singer, writer, producer? (Don’t forget to read the comforting footnote that states that anyone at any point can pursue acting. It is a universal option.)

For those tortured souls who engage in an education and train to be actors – developing their instincts and emotions to emote for the camera – we’re sorry to tell you that such dedication has merely a theoretical implication. Because, more often than not, ‘genetics’ is the way to superstardom in Bollywood. (And we don’t mean genes determining your perfect physical attributes. We mean genes determining your perfect surname.) So don’t forget to please the gods in this lifetime to get your ‘genetics’ right for the next.

Now that that’s out of the way, turn to the first section of the Bollywood Strugglers’ Manual. Chapter 1 is titled R&D – i.e., research and development.

StarLearning Curve
The research in this particular field pertains to reading about the people who are already basking in the glory of stardom. (Strictly the official version, of course.) Development is the extension of your research – you must hone your skills, understand your talent (or lack of it) and acquire the skill sets you need to put your best foot forward (assuming you get a footing anywhere).This R&D can help you determine where you want to head… and most importantly, how.For those who have a pretty clear picture already: pat yourselves on the back.

For those who are aiming for the stars and the moon right from the start: keep in mind that small opportunities need to be grabbed as well.  Because though the grocer down the road may be a movie buff, he is definitely not going to give you his eggs and bread free of charge just for the ‘love of cinema’.For those who don’t ever need to see their local grocer: well clearly, their ‘genes’ have given them a silver spoon. So they should hold on to it with both hands and use it unapologetically. 

Soak Cycle
After the R&D, the Bollywood struggler needs to ‘marinate in her or his creative juices’. This means day after day of inactivity and dis‘appointments’, puffing cigarettes in the balcony while wondering why no one notices her/his talent. This is the phase in which things don’t move, but life races ahead. Many strugglers lose the battle while sitting in that balcony surrounded by wilted plants and cigarette butts, while the rest patiently wait, letting their creative juices soak into their skins. (Note for people with genetic – read surname – advantage: This ‘mythical’ scenario is merely the immature and one-sided account of jaded bitter people who don’t really make it. Talent is what one needs – surname or no surname. )

Having survived the ‘creative marinating’, the third step is gathering HR or human resources (inverted). That is, gathering Resourceful Humans. However dedicated, talented and skilled, the struggler will need a bank of resourceful humans to show her or him the way, provide that elusive phone number, fix that path-breaking meeting or just introduce her or him to someone with a job to offer. The HR (or RH) in this case is not organised, but the struggler can work on instinct. This instinct is something that a struggler develops while sitting on that balcony for months.

Express Yourself
However, a word of caution. Self-help books on how to meet the right people, or how to improve your body language to attract the right people will not help here. Barging into a director’s office and depositing yourself on his couch till the springs under the cushions start resenting your weight is not a wise move either. E- stalking on Facebook and Twitter is also definitely not the way.
It’s a process that will take time, but slowly and steadily the people around will discover the halo of talent that, all these years, was visible only to you in your tiny bathroom mirror. And then, hopefully, this Resourceful Human will extend a sympathetic ear to your unfulfilled aspirations. 

This will lead to the next chapter in the manual – application. A job as an assistant, intern, a small role in a big venture or a miniscule role in a small venture will definitely come up. But the key here is to assess, reject and then focus on what you really want to do rather than jumping on the first offer made. (Even though the local grocer is not sending you free gift hampers even now, although he knows you by name and your favourite brands.)

Note for those who have landed exactly where they need to be by this point: Rush to the nearest place of worship for thanksgiving.
Note for those who are still stuck in the balcony, with an overloaded ashtray: Head for a holiday to Lonavala, Bangkok or Paris. Or get together with friends who are in the same or slightly worse condition. Community pain always helps lift the burden of solitary dejection.

Once rejuvenated, you can start the process all over again. And hopefully your path will lead you to the Eden Gardens of glamour, where the war is beautiful, the war paint glossy, and the warfare is executed from the dreamy trenches.
Welcome to Bollywood!

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Light of your life
The ‘Bollywood Strugglers’ Manual’ does come with some well-meaning mumbo- jumbo, but in fine print. This is meant especially for those who feel they came here chasing dazzling flashbulbs, but found a malfunctioning light bulb instead – mostly it doesn’t work, but it bursts into a flood of glittering illumination at erratic intervals. But a true blue Bollywood struggler will pretend that this cheeky bulb was the rainbow he chased all his life, or else the insolent ‘bulb’ may weigh too heavy on a life spent discovering it.

From HT Brunch, July 17

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