The Aram Nagar Documentary

An introduction to the Aram Nagar Project. A documentary where I want to explore this place called Aram Nagar.

I won’t be exaggerating if I said that Bollywood fuels the dreams of millions of people and gives hope to billions. I have been so enamored by it that my first book, The Nidhi Kapoor Story (2015) was all about it!

And then, thanks to luck, sometime in 2018 I met Shikha and we somehow created The Red Sparrow (largely her effort) and it took me deeper into the glamourous world of the film stars that I had never imagined I could get access to.

And alongside, I saw first-hand how the world works. I saw how people you call friends stab you in the back to get a shot at fame, how guardian angels support you even if you are nobody, how the industry is and wants to remain a closed circle, how your heroes fail you, and how thousands of people chase the ever-illusive dreams of seeing their names and faces on the posters and hoardings that adorn the towns and cities across the country.

Truth be told, these dreams do come true. But only for a handful of these dreamers. The handful that “make it” make the headlines. And the hoardings. And more. The millions that are left behind are well, left behind. They become like that distant relative that you know you have to talk about but you get uncomfortable their name is brought up.

These people start their “career” in relative anonymity and spend their entire lives hoping to get that fleeting shot at fame. The hopes, more or less get dashed! Even though these people work the longest hours, in a neverending rat race. Slog the most even when they know they would likely face rejection. Face non-stop rejections, only to chin up and show up the next day. Hold their dreams the closest to their chests and open their hearts the widest. Seek and lend shoulders to others of their ilk. And hang out at communes at, well, Aram Nagar.

Aram Nagar.

Aram Nagar is where the cine aspirants go to learn the craft and hone their skills, participate in auditions that can make or break their lives, cry when the dreams are shattered, rejoice at even a remote hint of opportunity, celebrate their victories, play with each other and scheme and plot and plan and conjure elaborate ideas to get “noticed”. By casting directors, if not by the directors or producers themselves.

Aram Nagar.

A lazy village characterized by a tangled maze of gullys and dusty footpaths and bungalows in various stages of ruin. Most of these bungalows tote a “no audition” sign on their facade and yet there is always a group of “strugglers” hanging out. Hoping that they would get “spotted” and get that shot! After all, everyone has heard stories of how some random kid playing cricket at the maidaan was chosen for a meaty role. If this could happen to them, why not to us? That tiny, fragile thread that they call hope is a bitch. You don’t want to let go. You don’t want to stay tethered.

Aram Nagar.

Aram Nagar is their solace. It’s their hope. It’s where these people that want to conquer the world get called “strugglers”. A tag that gets attached to their lives till they make it.

It is this wondrous world of Aram Nagar that Mudit and I wish to explore, investigate, capture and immortalize.

Both of us are enamored by it. Both of us are keen on understanding the phenomenon. Both of us want to know more about the people that have left their homes behind. In search of what they think is their rightful place in the world.

More in the next few days as we get closer to doing this. Meanwhile, if you know people from Aram Nagar, please do connect me with them and help me pick their brains for this.

Update. 24 Jun 2021.
We put out an audition call for people that know more about Aram Nagar. Here…

The audition call for the Aram Nagar Documentary with Mudit

PS: Also, the content on this page is my version of the project. I am sure Mudit has some flavor to add. He may even disagree with a few of these things. So that.

170221 – Morning Pages

A longish post where I have dumped all that is clouding my head. I talk about Mumbai, Goa, Money, Work, Shah Rukh Khan and more!

7:43 AM.

Am at a Starbucks. The Powai one. This is where I wrote most of #tnks from way back in 2013. Or was it 2014? Whatever it was. I used to love the early morning grinds (this one opens at 7 AM) and flurry of words that would come out. Truth be told, I miss it. I mean I still live a tiny hop away from Starbucks (4 of them!) but for some reason, the one at Powai feels like home. Things have changed – your know, ambiance, people, staff partners, what I do in life but for some reason, the Powai Starbucks feels like home!

So, the morning pages. I have quite a few things to dump on paper. I am not sure if I would have the time. I have a LOOOOOOOOoooot of things to work on. Actually, lemme start with that.

Work. So thanks to COVID and the general fuckery with which I live my life, I am struggling to make ends meet (no wonder! Mr. Garg, you are wasting 500 bucks on average coffee, you dumb-wit!) and as a result, I took on everything that came my way. Most of these things are where I need to create make. And that means I am left with very little time or energy to do things. And that means I am unable to make things move. Remember what I spoke about movement the other day? And what Sheba told me as well? That!

So, I need to find more work where I am paid well for being a mere manager. You know, not invest a lot of time and get paid for experience and expertise. Right now, I am slugging it out like a modern slave. I am paid for my time. I exchange money for time. I am not getting rich while I sleep. The hourly rate that I charge can continue to go up but at the end of the day, I am paid for the hours that I put in! And that has to change. Naval has talked about this so many times that it’s impossible to miss it. I just need to find a way to get to a point where I no longer need to charge for my time. So, that.

This is also related to what PG has been saying for years – Maker and Manager. PS: PG is probably the best essayist that we have on the Interner right now. Do read his stuff. Gold.

So that’s first thing I need to work on. Someone, help me please!

Moving on. So this trip to Mumbai (wow, did I say this trip to Mumbai?), I have been indulging – you know, watching TV, spending money and all that. And you know what I realized? I like love to spend money. The only pair of shorts I have, it was housing dirt and muck and I don’t know what else from at least 3 months. And since I don’t have a washing machine or help or even the time to let it dry after I wash it, I had to buy another one. I bought the exact same one and I loved the feeling of swiping my card on a machine at an almost fancy store (Marks and Spencer). And I am wearing it today. And I feel good about it. In fact, I was out with a friend last night (well, thug life) and while talking both she and I agreed on the following relationship between money and happiness. I call these ‘SG’s Rules of Scarcity or Abundance of Money‘. These are not really my original thoughts but a mere articulation of what I’ve read and what I understand about it.

Here we go…

  1. While money may not buy you happiness, it definitely makes your life comfortable. If you are indeed sad, you’re better off being sad in the comfort of your plush home (or the backseat of a Merc) than being sad at a place that doesn’t offer you any privacy. You know, in shared accommodations, large families, Internet (lol!), etc.
  2. While money may or may not make you happy, not having money will definitely make you sad. I am the biggest living, breathing, moving, thinking testimony of this. I operate at my best when I am comfortable.
  3. Money gives you the freedom to do what you want to do. And this ability (or inability) to do things that you want to is often is the root cause of happiness (or sadness).
  4. Money allows you to control your time. You become the master of your time and this mastery is what drives happiness or sadness in large parts.

Am sure, there are more. I will write them in a separate post and publish em here. But one thing’s for sure. I love money. I love earning And I love to spend. I can’t wait for the achche din to be back. Come on, Universe!

So that’s that. The next thing? Happy Accidents. At the Starbucks, I bumped into an old acquaintance. This is what I love about places like Mumbai and Starbucks. These places allow for serendipity to happen. Plus, there is something about a hug that a Zoom can never make happen. We are social animals and while we adapt fast (and we will), at least for me, the handshakes are as important as breathing. I just hope that I am not obsoleted to a minority that still wants to meet IRL. Sigh. That’d be sad.

Once I understood the power of living at hubs, I have tried hard to find those and move there. The move to Andheri helped me like mad. If only I had some passive source of income, I would have done a lot more. Wait…

Wait.

Epiphany just happened.

I just dawned onto me that I love Mumbai WAY too much to not live here (#facepalm). Even though I don’t have anyone here that I can call my own. Even though I hate the dirt and the filth and mess and all that. Even though the place is expensive af. But I love the convenience of living in a big city. I love that I can dream here. Unlike in other cities. I like the idea that people are open. For ideas, conversations, business, work, and all that.

But then I like the idea of being a rootless bird as well. I loved the time I spent in Goa (for all the fuckery around the Internet) and I am getting serious about a cafe in Goa. I’ve made a few phone calls, have connected with a few folks, have started to do the maths! Again, I am not sure about it. I will let it simmer in my head and see where it goes.

The point is, while I was in Goa, I loved it. Now that I am in Mumbai, I love this. I am easily swayed I guess! Let’s see where I go life takes me and what I choose and what’s in store for me. To be honest, I am very very ok with the ambiguity and randomness and all that. Just that I need to be comfortable 😀

There’s one thing though that I’d like to know. How would the world change with WFH and all that? I tend to believe that places and things that thrive on IRL human connection will continue to remain in vogue. You know places like Mumbai and businesses like films. And things that do not need you to be in the same room as others, may change radically. Places like Silicon Valley and things like technology and software.

So that. Any ideas?

Before I move to the next thing, am at 9:47. Been writing for two hours now! And I still have a lot to write about! Lemme use bullets to take notes and I will probably pick these up tomorrow. And in case I don’t, at least I would send these to my Roam.

  1. SRK (who else but Shah Rukh Khan). I dont know where to start talking about him. Or where to end. He is, well, one of his kind.
  2. Met Sid Saahil from TID Podcast yesterday and shared notes. Learned that despite him coming from an affluent background, he hustles 10X harder than what AD and I engage in at Podium. We have to pull our socks. Such rude shocks are required once in a while to keep us on course. Will write a Twitter thread about the lessons from the meeting.
  3. A documentary on Aram Nagar. I was at Aram Nagar yesterday. Realized that someone needs to make a documentary about it. I mean it is as iconic a place as any and the contributions of Aram Nagar to Bollywood has been immense! I wonder why it’s not been captured so far? May be it has been, just that I haven’t seen it yet.
  4. Writing Tips. A few days ago, I started a series of writing tips. Primarily to friends that are nonwriters. Here’s the first one. You can join the no-spam, admin-posts-only WA group here.
  5. Someone asked me what was I doing when I was 31. I had no answer. When I asked her to tell me the year (I was 31 in 2013), I could remember with great clarity where I was! I always thought people operated in terms of ages but I realized I operated in years. Dunno what to make of it. I just found it interesting and amusing. Here’s a question for you. What do you remember better? Age? Years? And what were you doing when you were 11? 21? 31? 41? 51? Do tell me!
  6. Another conversation yesterday made me realise that you need to find underserved markets that could be immensely boring! Cases in point? Recruitment for young startups, digital marketing for mom and pop shops, content farms etc etc. These are really boring and non-sexy businesses and yet they deliver exceptional opportunity!

So yeah. That.

I know it’s a lot for a day. Guess this was a long time coming. Am glad that I could finally pour things out. I just need to continue with the flow and get going on #book2. And no, I am clearly not working on #book2 today either 🙁

110221 – Morning Pages

A quick post on talking about the fact that I am back in Mumbai! Yay! Even though I would go back in about 10 days.

8:11. I have 19 minutes to do this.

Today’s one of those days where I cant even die. AA would laugh at this but it’s true. So, the things am thinking about are…

I am in Mumbai as I write this. At least till the 19th.

I am here after exactly three months (went to Delhi for Diwali on 10th Nov and then Goa on 6th Dec). When I reached home, a rude shock awaited. The house was in a mess. There were inches of dust, dead bodies of cockroaches, moss on the furniture, the stale smell in the almirahs, and whatnot. If you know me, I want things to be perfect af and I am anal about cleanliness. I was fucked in the head. But then I was too tired from the damn train journey and I slept. Fuck I am at that place in life where bodily comforts are more important than mental stimulation. Old age, boys and girls, sucks!

Lemme talk about the train. Yesterday I said that I will see if I could work from train. I am happy to report that the experiment failed gloriously. I couldn’t get a single thing done. The train journey is way too uncomfortable and obtrusive. The guy sitting next to me could not stop peeping into my laptop, my phone, my shirt, and I don’t know what else.

And that means that I have this BIG pile of things that I should’ve done yesteryday. And thus this rush to get over with these morning pages before 8:30.

So, the good thing is that I am writing from a Starbucks. Love that the store is clean, AC is perfect, cheap jazz is playing. And I just got myself a coffee. After a few days. I wish Goa offered such predictability. But guess that’s the charm of living in Goa and that’s what makes life fun. But the point is, at a Starbucks, I come into the rhythm, the zone as fast as, well, a train.

Anyhow, there’s more but there’s no time. This tweet by Anusha summarised my life so perfectly.

Let’s see if I can find more time during the day to write more. Till then, over and out. And its 8:29! Fuck so cool!

PS: This is not really the morning pages that Julia talks about but I had to keep the streak going.

150121 – Morning Pages

I talk about how yesterday was a bad day and how I need to write about films and may be, make a quick trip to Mumbai.

7:34 AM. I had a disappointing day yesterday. More than external factors that I can easily pin blame on, I think it was me. A couple of really important meetings got canceled (no, this is not my fault). I missed sending an email to a prospective client (I should’ve been more careful). Another client call got fucked cos my internet sucked (I could’ve been at a co-working space rather than at a cafe). The two projects that I am thinking hard about – Shumbur and TRS in Goa, both are proving to be tough to crack. Both of these depend on other people saying yes and it’s a task to first find those, pitch to those, and then close. Of course, it is fun to do these but still. Life should be easier. I stress-ate crap like Doritos and chocolates and Chips and all. Despite eating well for a large part of the day. And promising to myself that I will not eat. All it took was a few taps on Swiggy. Even though it’s not installed on my phone.

I hope today is better. Even though am groggy and sore in the back and neck and joints (is this a result of eating crap?). I do have quite a few things lined up for the day. I plan to check out this new co-working cafe that has come up in Anjuna (Felix). Clay is anyway fun, just that the phone does not work there at all and I can’t do video calls. If I can get another alternative in Felix, why not! PS: While looking for directions to Felix, I figured, there’s another one – Nomad. Should’ve tried that as well! I did not know there would be so many coworking places in Goa. I have to get going with that Ultimate Guide to Remote Working from Goa.

So that’s the rant on how the day yesterday was.

Coming to what am thinking on. The favorite part of these morning pages for me. While talking to Shikha yesterday about TRS and where it could go, I realized that I want to write about films and Bollywood, and more. Though I am not as well-informed or well-read or well-researched about it, I think films have the power like no other medium. For most people, it is the most immersive, easiest to comprehend and understand the medium. And that gives filmmakers power like nothing else. While I am far from making films, I can definitely talk about this power. And how filmmakers are leveraging (and even wasting) the opportunity they have. I can’t talk about the craft per se. I can’t talk about deep, thinking filmmakers that have shown alternative realities to us. I am not even aware of world cinema. I am a mere aam aadmi that finds my escape in a film that is made well and I want to write about that. Of course, I do want to point out the problematic things they paddle in their films (body-shaming, hate-mongering, casual sexism, stereotyping et al). Films, after all, have to reflect the times we live in, talk about how can we move forward, and communicate things that simpletons like me do not understand. The good part is that in The Red Sparrow, I have access to a film platform that reaches far and wide. However, this access is not really a free pass. I still need to pass through the editorial filters of the team that manages it. I can’t bypass that. Even if I could, I don’t want to. The platform is bigger than an individual.

The other thing am thinking is that I need a trip to the chaos of Mumbai soon. I’ve been here 45 days. I know how it is to live here and I know the issues and I know the good things. I need to now decide on where I want to be. I want to make a trip to Mumbai before I do that.

On that trip, I can see if I like the comforts of Mumbai better. Or if I like the open expanses of Goa. If I decide on Goa, I can even wrap up the house and belongings in Mumbai. And if I do that, I will have to find a hostel or something that I can use when I travel there for these “break” trips from the peace of Goa. Let’s see when that happens. Plus, if I want to be in Goa, I will have to find a house for myself in Goa. I can of course use Rajesh sir’s house. He’s cool like that. But I don’t want to take advantage of his kindness. And if I choose to be here, I am reasonably sure that I want to be in Anjuna, Assagaon, or thereabouts. It has to be North. Beyond Baga and the touristy stretches and yet close to places where people hang out. I could go even further to Mandrem / Ashwen etc. but that would make me very far from almost everything.

Lol. I think I am getting ahead of myself. The entire para above is essentially me getting ahead of myself with things. Take a deep breath, Mr. Garg. I think it’s all the carbs that I ate last night that are talking. I don’t even know where would my work take me. What if work picks up in Mumbai? Or Delhi? Even Chennai for that matter? What if projects that am thinking about do not materialize in Goa? That’s something that I don’t have an answer to. I need to think. Let’s see.

So that.

Onto #freewriting for #book2. It is 8:31. I will write till 9. Let’s see how many words do I get in.

Blue.

The color of the sea.

Every time I see the sea, I am fascinated by the vastness of it. It is so infinite, so never-ending that it would have only taken the ingenuity of a human to navigate. I don’t think any of God’s creation has what it takes to circumnavigate all the waters that we are surrounded by. True, some fishes are known to travel more than 12000 KMs in search of food and warmth, and better seasons. They still do not come close to us. We may not have the fins or coated eyes of gills or large lungs or whatever. But we do have a thumb that moves perpendicular to the other 4 fingers. And we have the wheel. And we have tamed the fire. And we have sharp tools to make whatever we want to. And we have made them boats that tear around the sea and take us places.

I’ve never been close to one. I grew up in Punjab and while we did dip around in the lakes and canals and the rivers that dotted the state, I never knew of the infinite that an ocean is. Funny that I think about it from the closed confines of the cell that I am locked in. Often when the sea is in a mood and the winds are strong, they carry the smells from the faraway lands. On the nights when the ocean is angry and dueling with the rock, we are on the top of, the moans and the cacophony of the crashes drown even the voices in the head. That’s what all of us want in life. No? Drown them voices in the head? To get out of the shackles and the traps that our own minds have bound us in?

There were no easy answers for Raunak.

On one side, he was in jail for the rest of his life, without a possibility of a bail. Who would bail him anyway? There was no next of kin. No one even knew if he was alive.

And on the other, he held the secret to the greatest treasure known to mankind.

***

Ok, that’s about it for the day. More tomorrow.

040121 – Morning Pages

A quick, dirty post for today’s morning pages. Nothing significant to offer to be honest.

6:54.

Today’s edition would be small. Probably the smallest that I have ever written. Have a few deadlines at work and I need to allocate some time to it. I am gonna end this by 715. That means just about 15 mins. And I will thus not spend the extra time in fixing the tags, meta data etc. That I can do during the day.

So while I have a lot of talk about (a lot’s on my head), with the limited time I have, lets see how much I get on paper.

If I had to use one phrase to describe how I spent yesterday, I would say, I broke all the rules that I have set for myself for 21.

For starters, on morning pages, I am not to talk about the past per se. Neither are these pages supposed to be part of a journal per se.

Then, I am late with my 2021 plans. It was supposed to happen yesterday but I could not. I was NickyM‘s maître d’hôtel for the day. Nick had some errands to run and needed someone to take the post. I did. And it was fun. It helps that his food is so good that the job is merely getting chatty with people – which I did with ease. I have learned this art of faking conversations with strangers and coming across as a “nice guy” – I mean I think they think of me as the nice guy when I speak with them. I am digressing. So I was to work on the plan for 21 but I could not. I had even decided that I will make myself the priority but I did not. I am actually glad that I did break the rule – I learned that I may like running a restaurant (to add to a million things that I already want to do in life).

Good news is that I am still eating far less than last few days. And I am eating less carbs. Except all the peanuts. I must be eating so many peanuts that the entire country would be left without any chakna with their drinks.

The last thing that I have to talk about is the house situation in Goa. I like it here so far and I can see myself living here for another couple of months, if not more. So that means I need to do two things. A, figure out the house. I can’t continue to live on Rajesh Sir’s largesse. I’d start looking out and will take a 2-month lease from maybe the 15th onwards, once the tourists are gone. May be. And B, need to figure out the Mumbai house. Do I need to stay there. Or do I need to give it up altogether. Thing is, all of it is so dependent on work, on the money. I need to probably fix that first! So that.

Ok, I have 4 more minutes to go.

Oh yeah. So I am in Mumbai in mid of Feb. When I need to attend a wedding of the other Rajesh. Fuck, I have too many similar-sounding people around me. As of today there are three Nikhil’s at the top of my head. There are two Rajeshs. No Saurabhs, which I thought was the most common name in the world. Lol.

So I think that’s that for the day.

There are more that I want to write and talk about but I will leave it for tomorrow when I am not this rushed.

Over and out.