I couldn’t review Sudhish’s Good Night Good Morning. None of us at The Hindu could. We were too involved. Not that we were of much practical use, to be honest. Let’s say our contribution was moral support – and an undying enthusiasm to help him pick the lead actor, since it involved going through umpteen pictures of hunky models, actors and wannabes. (We also tried bullying him into giving us roles as ‘hot women at the bar.’)
When he made The Four Letter Word (TFLW), I didn’t review that either. For the same reasons.
But I always felt there was a story there that should have been told. So I’m telling it now.
When I joined The Hindu, Sudhish had just finished making TFLW, for the first time. Those were the days we were all young(er), anonymous(er) and perpetually broke. After-work entertainment involved watching the very slick TFLW trailer, which preceded the movie on a gasping, geriatric computer. Repeatedly. For one entire year. Hence the joke that went around the reporting department: “We don’t know how long the movie will run – but at least the trailer has lasted a year.” The movie gave a lot more trouble. Funds ran out, actors changed, the reel got eaten by bugs. (I kid you not.) Hence the next joke, “Well, at least somebody enjoyed it.”
Amazingly Sudhish stayed cheerful all through – even laughing at our admittedly rotten sense of humour. The movie ended up taking 7 years to make, in total. Finally, it released and despite a brave struggle, it sank.
The end? Not a chance. He started on his next movie. And this time it was set in expensive, impossible, exotic New York.
Was it any easier? Not a chance. (Read this for the whole picture: http://www.longlivecinema.com/2012/01/16/the-truth-about-films-ungrateful-fing-bitches-sudhish-kamath/)
Why should you care? Think of all the things you secretly want to accomplish.
I’ll go first. I want to write a book. But that involves taking at least a year off. That’s one year with no income. It means putting everything I have into that one effort, and then standing on an unnervingly unsympathetic public stage – to sink or swim.
And I play safe. Always. I don’t even invest in mutual funds. When I studied Kipling’s ‘If’ in school, I had a problem with: “If you can make one heap of all your winnings And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, And lose, and start again at your beginnings And never breathe a word about your loss…” Why would he encourage gambling? Then I saw Good Night Good Morning in the theatre last night, was mesmerized by the responsive audience and the magical chemistry it created, and it began to make sense.
When you have a story you believe in, you should tell it.
What if all the artists, writers, playwrights and directors sat back and said, ‘Oh. Let’s do something easier. And more profitable. Maybe become Investment bankers. Then we can write for a hobby. Do it in our spare time.” We’d have inherited a rich literary heritage of haikus on bulls and bears. Instead we’re all lucky enough to be global citizens, as familiar with the streets of Paris as those of Perambur, intimately familiar with stories and ideas from all over the world, all because we’ve had the privilege of reading books and watching movies written and made by people who didn’t care about economics, and villas and two gleaming cars in their garage.
Which brings me to the reason why Good Night Good Morning is touching a chord with people. Hollywood has its bells and whistles, speeding trains and flaming planes; high-powered love stories propelled by famous faces and magnified emotions. Good Night Good Morning is just two people, in black and white, having a conversation that’s so familiar it leaves you a little breathless.
We’ve all had those long, late night conversations, sure. But this is more than that. It’s a story of two people who have absolutely nothing in common, connecting thanks to technology. With all the modern whinging about how the Internet is alienating us, we forget how it brings us together. How it’s so much easier to be recklessly open about how you feel, and what you’re thinking on the phone, or on sms, or Googletalk or Facebook.
Which is why this movie is so definitive of our generation.
Let me tell you a story. Boy meets girl? But of course. I was in Berlin a few months ago, sitting in a ridiculously small café at a ridiculously late hour with my sister and brother-in-law, both of whom had just landed in the city to spend the weekend with me. Then, boy walked in. Isn’t that how the story always goes. He smiled hello, we chatted about the menu and then somehow tripped into a political discussion that lasted all through dinner. He asked for my phone number to discuss the ‘Indian Diaspora in connection with a contemporary art project.’
Later that week, we met for a drink a noisy bohemian bar. That led to dinner at a pretty Turkish restaurant. Then more wine in another candle lit bar. We talked from 7 p.m. till 2 a.m. About literature and religion, Guardian columnists and grandmothers. And then, we went back to our respective apartments.
This isn’t about romance. It’s about unexpected friendships.
We live in a world where we can connect with complete strangers because we share a common sub-culture. A sub-culture that comprises Friends and The Matrix, Paulo Coelho and Charlie Brooker, Facebook and Twitter. We’re a generation of global citizens, comfortable everywhere, from Milan to Madras.
We’re open-minded, because we’ve learnt life never stops surprising you. We’re in a strange space where it’s easier to connect with a random boy in a random bar across the world, than have conversation with a second cousin from our hometown. Because the culture we’ve wrapped ourselves, the space we inhabit, the knowledge we share… it has very little to do with geography, tradition or heritage.
This is the setting of Good Night Good Morning. It’s gritty, real and thoughtful. A movie about the life we’re living. The people we’re meeting. And the fact that ‘happily ever after’ is a bonus: But what’s really interesting is the ride there.