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 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.
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 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…
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.