Saif Ali Khan, Taapsee Pannu, Aanand L Rai, Kanika Dhillon: How Bollywood celebs are making the most of isolation
While some indulge in a creative or therapeutic activity during the isolation period, the others give a though to the migrant labourers' plight.
With India in a state of complete lockdown to combat the coronavirus pandemic, life may have come to a standstill when it comes to work. But for many Bollywood celebrities, it is time for introspection, and an opportunity to think "bigger than ourselves."
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Many filmmakers had to bring a complete halt on their ongoing projects. But work is not on their mind in these challenging times. However, some are penning down new ideas and watching a lot in the digital space. Some have discovered a new talent in them, some are having longer, deeper conversations with friends/relatives, whereas some prefer doing tranquil activities like gardening or just spending time standing in their balconies/terrace, “staring in the sky and breathing fresh air," and for some, lifestyle has undergone a complete change in the last few days.
Nevertheless, all hope the best for those who are unwell and the less fortunate ones who are struggling to make ends meet.
(Also read: Coronavirus outbreak has foregrounded India's inequalities; country must reexamine social order when pandemic abates)
Firstpost got in touch with few creative minds to understand their state-of-mind, and how they are keeping themselves engaged in this period of hope and despair.
"I am not writing anything because to write, you need a stable situation around you."
I am in Kolkata when I am not working in Mumbai. I am mostly locked down at my home in Kolkata. I have two films back-to-back — Gulabo Sitabo and Udham Singh. Gulabo Sitabo was about to release in April but now we will take the call depending upon the situation, and what the government decides. It looks like a long haul. Udham Singh is complete and we are in the post-production stage. The last entire year, I was very busy, and I needed this time to myself. Initially, I was discussing work with industry people but now I am not because now, everything is so uncertain. I am not writing also because to write, you need a stable situation around you. You cannot not worry about the world and write.
I spend seven to eight months in Kolkata, and I am quite used to doing household chores. These days, I am mostly cooking, and you can explore a lot in cooking. It is an unending journey. I have exhausted watching movies but I watch a lot of documentaries. I just watched one on Vietnam War, then I love documentaries on planets. I am reading lots of things. I am also listening to birds, looking at sky. I am asking people to breathe as much as you can. I am not anxiety =-prone. Not yet. But I get worried about what I am touching... it is a new thing... otherwise I am okay. I have got a lovely terrace, I get fresh air and sun, and don’t have to go outside.
Saif Ali Khan
"I am not really interested in work right now. It is going against the thought."
I am taking guitar lessons, reading something special. In the evening, we cook, drink some wine, and watch television after Taimur (Ali Khan, son) goes to sleep. It will be nice to see someone but social distancing doesn’t permit us to do that. At the moment, being actors and having a young child, it has been a blessing that we have got so much time with each other because that is also quite rare. You can tell couples who are in sync and relaxed with each other, and that is a blessing because in these testing times is when you understand whether you are on the same page or not. It is great to spend lot of time with Kareena (Kapoor Khan, wife), and at times like these, if you have things in common, it is an advantage. Happiness, joy will be found in great music, great books, great art, cooking. I can’t tell you how blessed I feel to have time with Taimur. It is incredible. It is a gift. But it is not that we are on a holiday. On the other hand, there is fear that nobody falls ill, and at the back of your mind, you know that the economy must be getting affected. If we go into a three- to four-month lockdown, how will people manage? And how do we go back to shoot? These are very worrying issues.
I am also doing a few new things, like I have started gardening. This is pretty much like how life would have been on a ship, on a voyage of discovery. So you have everything on board, including plants, water, wine, food. But you have got to ration your energy, you have to exercise, you have to stay positive. Luckily, we have lot of social media to connect with our parents, family, friends, and it really helps. It is like going to space... without touching anyone. Maybe social distancing is a good idea even later on if you live in a world with a lot of germs. But it won’t be possible beyond a point. It is a temporary thing. Look at our film sets with hundreds of people around.
We have work lined up but I am not really interested in work right now. We are not talking to people about which film to make or film business. It is going against the thought. There is a general concern about work, movies, projects but we have taken a pause, and the concern is more for people who are sick. I am in touch with old school friends from England, those people who I normally don’t speak to, and I want to look up some old friends from Mumbai also. It is a good time to connect with everyone.
I don’t want to sound insensitive because obviously, so many people are unwell and having a tough time, and our thoughts and prayers are with those people who will be stressing how to put food on the table. Obviously, we are also trying to do what we can, financially, emotionally. But as far as I am concerned, it is strangely a very peaceful introspective kind of time, and it has been very special. It really made me question so many things. We live in a very competitive world whether it is competing over social media posts or about what you said, what you are wearing or how much money you make or how much you spend or who is cleverer but now, we have been with our families in a much more giving space, and I hope I can carry that on into life when situation eases out.
Aanand L Rai
"At the moment, it’s nothing professional in my head. The maker has taken a backseat."
It feels like something is balancing out. Nature is doing its bit. A lot of thinking is happening, and it is more than work. It is about… we as human beings, what we have done, and what we need to correct in ourselves. In February, before the crisis happened, I was shooting in the interiors of Benaras (Varanasi) with Sara (Ali Khan) and Dhanush (for Atrangi Re). It was my first schedule but at the moment, it’s nothing professional in my head. I am not in that state of mind. I am a peaceful person but a lot of things is making me think a lot. The maker has taken a backseat.
It is not about the stories, films. It’s much more than that. It feels like I am evolving. Nature has given us this time to go back, think, correct ourselves as individuals, not to be selfish, don’t take things for granted. Everybody has come on the same level, which is good. Hope we all start respecting each and every individual. I am sitting at home and understanding what family goes through when I am not there for months. I am also realising the time-space. It was important but it came as a scare. Nobody is privileged now. I am hoping that it should not take away more lives. We have seen tough times but this is a global war against the unseen enemy.
"I am using the time in hand to do my research work, and watching a lot of content on digital platforms."
I feel this lockdown period can be quite depressing if not utilised properly. Thankfully, I have my wife and daughter around, and I have been spending some long-missed quality time with them as well as e-meeting family members more often. I am utilising this period to put together my thoughts for the projects ahead, discussing ideas with team, and connecting with the right minds to work with.
I am also using the time in hand to do my research work, and watching a lot of content on digital platforms. Most importantly, I have been using the opportunity to catch up on my sleep to charge myself for the busy times ahead, which I am really looking forward to. However, I am also enjoying the silence on the roads and chirping birds in my balcony, now that I have time to stand and stare.
Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari
"I am utilising this time to write my book, watch movies, read, hear TED Talks, watch international directors’ work, and meditate."
In the given circumstance we are in, we should embrace it, and spend as much time reconciling thoughts. (We should) Do things we love, and find even the mundane ones, like cleaning, important. I am usually a calm person, and enjoy my time at home even when the world was in a good place. Taking time out for me has always been important. So this is not anything new. But yes, I have got disciplined. My children realise the importance of helping me with the house work. We are more responsible, and this lockout definitely teaches us the importance of mindful living and living with simplicity. All of this is a realisation.
Consumerism was getting onto the peak of an overdrive. I am utilising this time to write my book, watch movies, read, hear TED Talks, watch international directors’ work. And yes, meditate. Spend less time talking on phone, and connect only when necessary. It’s a step back to take care of yourself. Put 'us' in front of 'I.' Put the world first instead of me, and egos. At this point of time, everyone is the same, and nothing changes that. The only change that happens is transition of thought. Like Vipassana, when you are doing the same thing every day, and realisation beckons that there is more to life than the success ladders and competitiveness, that the world strives on. It is a time to be one, and breathe one for the betterment of humanity.
"I try escaping in work – meeting deadlines but then with one message or news update, reality hits you – and (then there are) long episodes of worry."
I am trying my best to keep things calm and creative and productive. I am trying not to listen to updates every two minute about the virus, and how fatal it has been. But at the same time, I am worried about the migrant labour and hundreds of poor stranded without food or shelter on state borders. A lot of mixed emotions…stress, worry, fear... time at hand. One oscillates from getting into a productive zone of writing – escaping in work – meeting deadlines but then with one message or news update, reality hits you – and (then there are) long episodes of worry.
The more fortunate ones, who don’t have to struggle with basic livelihood issues under lockdown, have a lot to be grateful for. Keeping that in mind, I try to block out or then use this time of isolation – depending on the day – if I have won over my monkey mind – it is a good productive creative day. And if I lose to the monkey mind, we’ll hope to achieve more in the good days.
"It is a plateau between curious and anxious."
I am reading, cooking, baking, watching, staring out of the window, and staring within. I am trying to write, trying to learn to sketch. I am also sleeping a lot. And there’s a lot more. It is a plateau between curious and anxious.
It is a shade between hope and despair. And one is calmly looking at it all, realising that a lot must change if one was to get anywhere close to what we believed was normal.
"There is a lot to do if you really want to make proper use of time."
Actually, I have enough to do at home. Just to feel at work, I have made myself a time-table from 7 am to 10 pm, and divided my time doing workout, cooking, cleaning, reading/replying to work related mails, learning a new thing, watching one movie every day. There is a lot to do if you really want to make proper use of time.
"Ananya is in isolation because she was shooting till 17/18 March, where they had a lot of people on set."
All of us at home decided to isolate ourselves strictly for 14 days because we were busy with different things. Ananya (Panday, daughter) is in isolation because she was shooting till 17/18 March, where they had a lot of dancers and other people on set. She felt that she should be responsible, and isolate herself. Her 14 days got over on Wednesday (1 April), and mine got over on 29 March. I was in Kolkata last Sunday.
All of us have been cooking a lot. I didn’t know that I could cook or even my kids could cook. Ananya and my younger daughter Rysa have been more into baking, and I learnt how to make pancakes. We are playing lot of indoor games like Monopoly, Taboo, and family games like Housie. Kids are kids, they are young, restless. I try to console them, saying that just imagine that we are in Los Angeles, London or Japan, and staying in AirBnB, and we can’t go out, and not to feel that they are confined to their house. They laugh it out. On one hand, you have to scare the kids so that they listen and don’t go out, and on the other hand, you have to play the good cop and the bad cop. You can’t let them undergo depression. There is no work, no school. They can’t meet their friends so it is tough times.
We never imagined in our lifetime that we would see something like this. These are extraordinary times that require extraordinary measures. I remember the last lockdown that ever happened in the film industry when I had just started my career, sometime in 1987. We were on an outdoor location in Bangalore. It was a seven- to eight-day complete lockdown, and we had spent time playing cricket, cards.
These times also remind me the 1965 and 1971 Indo-Pak war. I remember, as a kid, when sirens would go up, and we would see these red lights of fighter aircrafts in the sky. Those moments remain etched into our minds, and so will this one. This is like we are again in a war-like situation. We have to unite and take this on as a war, and that is the only way to win it.
I have been reading scripts, and I also auditioned for a few web shows while sitting at home. I am in touch with my industry friends, and we are waiting with bated breath that how this opens up. This will make us better and stronger. It will definitely make me look at things and think differently… don’t take things for granted, don’t be over-optimistic, which I am all the time, and cherish every moment of life.
All images from Twitter.
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