Biswapati Sarkar: Being Who You Want To Be at TEDxFMS (Transcript)

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.

Having said that, basically if we look at again talking about change in the definition of entertainment, when I went there — I think the one thing that I noticed was entertainment per se is divided into two categories. The two kinds of people who make entertaining content. One is the very commercial plastic kind of content, I don’t relate to those people. I don’t know four guys who are 20 years old who go in an open jeep and run around India Gate. I have not met those people. That is a very 50-year-old thinking of what a 20-year old does. You know, that’s all I’ve seen in films and TV, the youth of India drinks, they party and they do drugs. That’s it. That’s it. That is a very shallow understanding of how 20-year olds in India are. That is one school of content.

The other school of content is art. It’s art and I think that’s the easiest thing to say is that nobody gets me because I am an artist. Nobody really understands me because I’m an artist and I don’t think the audience deserves my art. It’s probably the easiest thing to say and that is a portrayal of a society which consists of serial killers, murderers, wives killing husbands and I don’t relate to either of those. I have not seen 20-year olds going to office, coming back and their issues. Today, for example – tomorrow, if for example, you have to submit a PPT, you go back home, the internet is not working. You go to your friend’s house, there’s a power failure. This is a very relevant problem to our generation and I have never seen it on TV or on films or anywhere else.

Most of the people that I meet — you know, the writers or the directors who are just in town, who just want to do something, everybody has one single aim – it’s to find an opportunity. Like I need to make a film. Once I get the film I’ll figure out. But that’s not really how it works, like what after that. You’ve made one film and it got released. It is a huge success. You don’t have the basic skill set to carry on and build on that. Or what if it fails, how do you recover from that?

ALSO READ:   Transcript: Tracy Chevalier on Finding The Story Inside The Painting at TED Conference

What I’m trying to say is which brings me to: my PPT is grossly underprepared, so that’s you can see. So what I’m trying to say is basically opportunity versus career in the entertainment industry.

Day 3: My mom sits next to me and then she says, “How long do you want to do? How long do you think you can sustain yourself there?”

I said, “I want to do this for the rest of my life, I think. Till the time I am 65, I think I’ll probably want to write and direct them because I know this is something which I like.”

And she said, “Tell me, give me an example like which director in Bollywood had worked till 65, or had a career of — had a full-fledged career since he started when he was 25 years old and he ended when he was 65”. And there is not one single name. Probably one — probably Yash Chopra is the only one who had a career spanning over 40 years but the directors and writers who were actively working and successful in the ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s none of them are working today. Not one single one. It just goes to show that the entertainment industry, so to say, doesn’t sustain career. We’ve had phases — we have had phases of 10 years of — or 20 years of Subhash Ghai, 10 years of Rajkumar Santoshi and we have phases of Anurag Kashyap but we can’t look back and say that there are filmmakers who worked for 30, 40 glorious years and done their lives work in that period of time. That doesn’t hold true.

One of the first things, like, about writing which I studied when I was in college was always make sure you have a presentable draft, always make sure that the screenplay that you sent is not written in Word, there are softwares for writing like final draft. Always make sure you write on those, it is well formatted, because otherwise people wouldn’t take you seriously, people wouldn’t think that you are a serious professional writer.

I have been to places, I have done projects where people prefer unformatted scripts because they don’t know how — what a formatted script looks like.

I’ll just tell you a small story. One of our writers used to work in TV, he used to write one of the crime shows — popular crime shows on television. And they preferred a Word document script. So they write a script and they said it gets too long for half an hour show. You need to cut it down. So his was like 26 pages and they wanted it to be like 20, 21 pages. And all he did was he selected that and just reduced the font size. The channel approved it and it got made, and I’m not kidding. This has happened in Indian television.

ALSO READ:   How We've Been Misled by 'Emotional Intelligence’: Kris Girrell at TEDxNatick (Transcript)

There is a system which is set like a printing press where no matter who, how big a writer you are, you can’t write a great episode every day. The daily soaps which are running, I don’t think anybody in the world can write half an hour of great content every single day. It’s a printing press sort of a machinery which just churns out episodes one after the other. And that’s when I realized that probably the existing system of the definition of film and TV that needed to change. And because nobody else was doing it, we took it upon ourselves to kind of do that, to do things the way we feel are right, to make sure that every script is formatted, every script reaches the fourth draft to make sure that the actors have rehearsed before shoot, to make sure that enough time is given on a piece of content, so that because we know we’re taking minutes out of people’s lives. And we couldn’t have existed without an audience. So that I think sort of germinated the web content revolution in India and to be very honest, I don’t confuse this as a modesty but I’m realistic enough to believe that whatever I’ve done is very OK, is at best OK.

I think people around us are so that the content around us that we see every day is so bad that we seem like people who are doing some great things we’re not. We’re doing very basic OK things. And again don’t confuse this as arrogance, is when I say that if we wouldn’t have done it, people wouldn’t have come out with their shows and it started with sketches in 2012, everybody started doing sketches, we started doing web shows. Now everybody is doing web shows and it will keep continuing till the time we don’t give up. And I hope if there are people in the audience today who are passionate or who want to pursue this as a career or something they like, then please don’t look for opportunities. Work on yourself, learn things, work hard, improve yourselves and aim for a career.

And that’s I think at the node where I would like to end is that I personally have no dreams of having three houses in Mumbai or like 10 cars. I don’t aspire to do that. All I want to do personally is to have a 40 year long career. That’s all I want. Thank you. Thank you so much.