Full transcript of creative director Biswapati Sarkar’s TEDx Talk: Being Who You Want To Be at TEDxFMS Conference.
Listen to the MP3 Audio here: being-who-you-want-to-be-by-biswapati-sarkar-at-tedxfms
Hi, good morning everyone. Thank you for having me here. Thank you for putting up these red balloons. Really nice. I was just wondering if you cut them and they rise — how do you get them off the roof? Do you put a ladder?
Anyways, my name is Biswapati Sarkar. I spend most of my time writing, directing and acting for Internet videos and shows. Some of you know me as Arnub, some of you know me as a writer of Permanent Roommates and Pitchers. Some of you might not know me and that’s perfectly fine.
But today I’m going to talk about three words primarily. I’ve just added ‘and’ to make it sound like a title. It’s actually just three words: Engineering, Entertainment and Career.
Let me start by saying that I’m an idiot, and so don’t judge me by whatever I say by the end of this talk. I’ll start with — the first word is – yes, it’s Engineering. Like most people who are academically OK or academically decent, especially in the sciences and maths, physics and chemistry, I was — a lot of people felt, including me — a lot of people felt that I would be suited for engineering.
Unfortunately, I cracked IIT-JEE and fortunately or unfortunately I — and I entered IIT Kharagpur is when I realized – I met a lot of people and I got exposed to the world of cinema, where I saw films ranging from Japanese films from the ‘40s to the one that released last week. And that blew my mind, that really gave me the idea of the scope of stories that is possible. I had not seen a lot of Hollywood films prior to IIT, so the Hollywood films that I had seen were probably Jurassic Park or Titanic or Pirates of the Caribbean. So the idea that a normal everyday story could exist without songs was something which is completely an input.
Anyways, so third year of college, I went back to my home. I had made up my mind that I don’t really want to pursue engineering. I want to do something in the entertainment industry. So I want to make and direct films or I want to write TV shows. But I want to do something related to making things.
So I went home, I sat down my parents, and I told them that this is what I want to do. And their first reaction was: what do you mean by — what exactly what do you mean — what do you want to do? And I said I want to move from the manufacturing industry to the service industry. My dad said great, so UPSC. I said no. No, that’s a different service industry; it’s the entertainment industry. And my mom looked at me and she said no. And she walked away. That was day one.
And that really made me realize how the concept of this needs to change or has changed over the years. In India, if we are good at something, we usually do it after engineering. So that is the first step of everything. A lot of uncles who were there in my dad’s department they used to meet up and they used to tell him and my dad used to come and tell me, “Ek seat kharab kardi”. IIT ki ek seat kharab ho gayi”. And when he looked back and I think of that argument and it’s so stupid, like there is no classroom that which has limited number of seats. There are vacant seats at IIT Kharagpur.
The thing that people need to understand is this exists purely for the entertainment industry. A lot of guys who were doing MBA here might be from an engineering background. They will never be told that you wasted a seat. Somebody who is a UPSC will not be told you wasted a seat. But that is no way related to engineering. But the fact that the entertainment industry is slightly looked down upon or has a different image so to say, it is not — it does not become a conventional career and therefore people feel that a seat is wasted. Where do we stop this pigeonholing? Do we start saying that people shouldn’t — like an engineer shouldn’t do an MBA or he shouldn’t be an entrepreneur, he should be, like we can go on and say like a civil engineer shouldn’t take up a computer job, or an architecture just make buildings, that’s it.
But then we wouldn’t have had a Sundar Pichai who is a metallurgical engineer from IIT Kharagpur. We wouldn’t have had a lot of people doing a lot of things. The fact is it’s purely a matter of personal choice. And this is again not restricted to my friends and family and people around me. Even when I talk to people in the entertainment industry, they are like, “aachcha, aap IIT se hai? To yahang kya kar raha hai?” “To mujhe kya anpar hona chahiye tha?” Should I have – I am like, are you from a film school then? And like, no, I was doing my BE and I dropped off. How have in this society – we the rare people who dropped out and achieved something, then people who have completed a course in education which they feel was their area of knowledge and then took up a job in their area of interest, how difficult is it to comprehend, I do not understand.
I’ll tell you a simple story which happened to a friend of mine Jitendra Kumar. He works with me at TVF, he’s a great actor. And he had auditioned for a drama school, a very popular drama school here in India. He got selected to the final round and in front of him sat a panel of judges which consists of various actors and popular actors you know. He knew a lot of them my names and a few of them by faces. And he performed his entire Shakespearean monologue and he did well, I think. And then they looked as if assuming, they said, aare, aap IIT se, yahang kya kar rahe ho? And he was like, sir, I want to become an actor. And they said, yaar, acting, acting hota rahega, aap job kar lo. So this comes as a huge shock to someone who aspires to be an actor and is looking up to people who are actors and who are demeaning their own profession.
That kind — that is the really startling and which brings me to the second part of this talk. Day 2: my mom hasn’t spoken to me since a day and I’m back and she comes to me and she says: what exactly do you want to do? I said I’ve done a few plays in college and I think I’m not that good at acting. I think I can write. I think I can write a little bit and I can probably direct a little bit. So that’s what I want to do. I want to make films.
And my mom held my hand and she said, mat hao, bahut gandi life. And that’s what she said, because the image of the film industry or the entertainment industry in general is like this glamorous place where you get lost in glamour, and you know, people are doing drugs and these parties and all sorts of things. Let me tell you that’s not true. I don’t know what my seniors from the industry have done or the media has done to enhance that image but that is not true. It is not at all a glamorous thing, it is not at all a glamorous job.
To be honest, when I was doing, I was doing a statistics course in IIT Kharagpur, and deep down all of us, we talked about following a passion, we talked about chasing our dreams. But beep down I think the first fear that we have is to be stuck in a 9-to-5 job. I think the fear of getting stuck in 9-to-5 job is greater than the love of that dream. And the same thing was applicable to me. I thought statistics is really tough, you know, cracking the theorems and the formula and it’s really tough. I need to probably sit down and study for days at length to understand bits of it. I thought writing was easy – was at least easier, I thought that. And boy, was I wrong. Like today I know, like because I’m here today, I have to work on a Sunday tomorrow. I’m working 9-to-9 in an office daily, sometimes even on Sundays. That’s the amount of effort it is needed. It needs the crew of 50 to 200 people to bring you one minute of content that you see on screen. It’s an incredibly tough job.