At a very young age, almost sixteen, I had decided that I want to quit all my preparations for IIT-JEE and pursue film making instead. And I was in it for the love of artistic expression and story telling; and not for the fame or riches. I was from Mumbai, but I had no contacts in the film industry. Someone I knew, knew this one ‘someone’ – my only entry point – and I took that route. I was young, sincere, dedicated and really passionate about my work – that helped me get jobs one after the other. And before I knew it – I was a part of a very big budget commercial Hindi film. At the age of eighteen, I was travelling to South Africa for a three months long shoot schedule.
Little did I know then that this was a beginning of the most stressful period of my life? I was an assistant director and my job was to give the actors the right costumes according to the scene. Now this is not an easy job – there is some grammar around it – the film is never shot linear – so one actor may have to change a couple of clothes everyday according to the scenes they are shooting – and it was my job to ensure they were wearing the right costume for the right scene. And as luck may have it, our costume designer, didn’t get enough costumes for the schedule. So every morning, me and my team members, would be stressed about how to handle the crisis that could follow due to the absence of the costumes. And when lakhs of rupees are at stake everyday, you are more conscious of the repurcussions of your actions.
I remember this one day when we had shifted from Durban to Oribi Gorge (it was on the top of the mountains) for an important action sequence of the film. The director had called for a purple helmet for the actress and had warned me that it was of utmost importance to him and we shouldn’t mess it up at any cost. But unfortunately, on the day of shoot – I couldn’t arrange for it. And we had to make do with a black helmet. All actors were getting ready for the shot and I was getting ready for the bashing – but to my utter surprise – I was told on the walkie that the shoot had been called off. Someone, somewhere had made a bigger blunder. I sighed in relief. I had one more day to arrange for the helmet.
We reached the hotel room – it was a beautiful valley facing apartment and it made me forget everything about the helmet. I just loved the view from my window and was basking in it. Just then a friend of mine told me he was heading to the market to get a tattoo done and I tagged along with him. We had some local cuisine and a lot of fun surfing through the quite market place. Finally I retired back to my room late in the evening, and the minute I got in, my mind thought of the helmet. Oh Gosh! I wasted the whole day, strolling around and didn’t bother to fix the helmet. I made some panic calls to the local art and costume departments to check if we could do something, but all of them stated the obvious – “It was too late, I should have told them before!”.
And then.. what I felt was something else.. I laid there on my bed with bated breath – so intense, so powerful – that I almost thought I was going to get a heart attack at this young age. I just couldn’t breathe. I called a friend and the paramedics on the shoot rushed in to my room. My blood pressure had dropped low and my body had turned cold. They immediately rushed me to the nearby hospital. The doctor declared it was a panic attack and I needed to rest for three days.
The next day I didn’t go to shoot. The director merrily shot with the black helmet, having completely forgotten that he ever wanted a purple one. During lunch, he called to check on me and that’s when I realised that I had overdone it – taken my work rather too seriously. But over the years I did it over and over again. Till the point when on the last project that I worked on where I was no longer an assistant director but an Executive Producer – I just couldn’t sleep at night. The thoughts of the next day’s shoot and all that pressure would just not let my mind rest. It was taking a toll on my body and overall wellbeing.
One of the reasons why we found out about our pregnancy pretty late (eight weeks) was because I was bleeding in the second month, which we assumed were periods. And I clearly remember the day when the bleeding started because it was one of the most stressful shoots that I had ever worked on. Later I realised that had the will of the feotus to survive wouldn’t have been so strong – I would have lost my child due to the pressure of a shoot. And that’s when I decided I needed to do something about the way I approached work or the kind of work I was a part of. Then I decided that while I am pregnant and later, while I am passing on my energy to my little one – I need to be more careful about the kind of stress I live with, the people I interact with and the baggage I move around with. The child is so delicate and precious and porous – he is going to be affected by every ounce of energy that I reflect. And it is my duty to ensure that I pass on only positivity to him. Life will challenge him enough when he grows up. At least his childhood memories shouldn’t trouble him then.
People keep on asking me when will I get back to my film making work. I can’t explain to them enough what really turned me off when I got pregnant. Film making still remains my first love – and I will soon get back to it when my child is a little older. But the people I chose to work with and the levels of stress I expose myself to – that part I am going to be very careful about.