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     Volume 8 Issue 69 | May 15, 2009 |

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Writing the Wrong

Chasing Clark Gable's Smile

Sharbari Ahmed

A few years ago I wrote an article called “Chasing Clark Gable's Smile”. It was about the exact moment I realised I wanted to be a filmmaker or be involved with movies in some way, shape or form. I was eight years old and had just seen “Gone With The Wind” for the first time in a revival movie theatre in Harvard Square in Boston.

The exact moment God came down and went, there you go kid, this will be your compulsion for the next thirty years was when the camera glided down the banister at Twelve Oaks plantation to the back of Clark Gable's head and he turned around and smiled. Scarlett O'Hara was standing at the top of the stairs and he fell in love with her in an instant.

That is the stuff of dreams and I have been chasing these dreams for decades. For a few years after that first realisation I set about being a kid and now understand that being a kid to the fullest when you have the luxury to do it namely when you actually are a kid is necessary preparation for making movies. Most filmmakers are big kids and remain that way until they are carried away.

I think I have wasted too many years trying to be grown-up and lately I have been very self-conscious about not being very mature, especially since I have been in Dhaka. I am not saying that one should go around being irresponsible, but I think many people suffer from that most tiresome of maladies, image consciousness. They are too afraid to make a fool of themselves, a malady, alas, I do not suffer from.

I was handed a gift, you see. People I thought knew me and respected me actually did not. After the initial hurt, I can now see myself even more clearly than before. Yes, I am too emotional, yes I am a drama queen, yes I am open about my feelings, yes, I am a curious person. Yes, I am a little nuts. As a result of this dressing down, my resolve to follow my dreams to the hilt is even more clearly defined. This is a gift, being deconstructed (harshly) by someone who has known you your whole life but actually never saw you. It breaks your heart if you let it and you enter into crisis mode. Remember that? Ahh, yes! Opportunity time. So I took this pain and humiliation and betrayal and I wrote a film called Duniya, which I start shooting tomorrow, May 12, at seven am. I do not know if it's any good, not really, all I know is that my leading ladies, my DOP and my production team are good, great actually, and that is enough for now.

I can hardly believe it. I wanted to give up so many times. I wanted to dive under the covers of my duvet back home in Connecticut and hide until the melancholy went away.

I am sharing this deeply personal thing for a specific purpose. I know there are people in the world who at this moment, want to give up on something because someone called them a freak, or scoffed at their idea, or told them they were worthless. At this very moment, in a café in Fuengirola, Spain, a man could be questioning his faith in God and humanity and his ability as painter. At this moment, a woman in Dhanmondi is about to believe what her mother-in-law just said about her dream to become an interior designer. Impossible, the old crone just said. This I cannot abide by. People giving up simply because they are made to feel less than.

I recently got into an argument with a good friend who said I am non-judgmental to a fault. They said I am not discerning about talent or who I pick as friends. The friends think I am definitely re-visting but not the talent thing. I made a vow a long time ago that I would not be a crusher of dreams. Everyone has multiple roles to play in the world and that was not going to be one of mine. I have encountered too many people who are too eager to put us down or point out the obvious. “Wow, being successful at filmmaking is hard.” No kidding? I thought it was as simple as point and shoot! Shucks! Thanks for letting me know!

This friend did go on to make a good point about the fact that one cannot casually call oneself a writer. “Writers have to have something to say,” he insisted and those that I deem talented apparently do not have anything to say. I have to admit it used to bother me when I told people I wrote and they would say something like, “Oh! I write too. I once wrote a poem in the eighth grade.” That really burned me up, because it diminished the weight of my dreams. I likened it to my telling a neurosurgeon, “Hey, I've performed surgery too. I once removed earwax with a toothpick.” True story by the way.

The weight of our dreams is what keeps us aloft, I feel, and prevents us from being mired down there with the all the crabby cowardly cynics. Our goal, on the path to becoming real Human Beings, is to stay aloft, while being somewhat grounded. I guess it's about not being afraid or looking dumb or foolish but understanding your limitations as well.

Tomorrow I am going to walk onto that set and start living out my fantasy since I was eight years. I do not have a fancy dolly (for the tracking shot) but I have a story to tell and people who have thrown in their lot with me for the next five days. And eventually I too will direct a tracking shot, down a balustrade, on a huge set, made to look like a nightclub in Calcutta perhaps, in 1942. Mark my words. So please, all of you ready to give up, don't! It'll make me look bad.




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