The surrealist painter, Salvador Dali, was known to be creepy and disgusting. And then there was that schluppy American painter, Jackson Pollock, who got rich jerking us all off with his hurled paint on canvas. These were no artists. They were jerks who found millions of suckers to admire them. Today we too have our share of jerks – Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohans and Justine Biebers and believe it or not, even these specimens have admirers amongst us. They seem to think that, to be creative, they have to be abominable.
I once remember travelling on an Indian Airlines domestic flight Mumbai-Kolkata, back in the early 80s. The flight was chock full and I was sitting up front. I was looking over my shoulder to case the plane for any nice looking young ladies back there (hey, I was single and twennie-fie), when I noticed some folks standing around the aisle right at the back next to the toilets. They were laughing raucously, obviously inebriated, the harsh laughter carrying all the way up to the front rows where I was sitting.
Sometime later, when I wanted to use the rear toilet, I found them still hanging around the aisle, but speaking in subdued voices that were punctuated with sudden bursts of guffaws from time to time. One of them had his elbow resting on the headrest of a seat in the last row, occupied by an old gentleman. Under the weight of the elbow, the headrest had bent, forcing the poor passenger to crouch forward painfully. The passenger did not complain but his misery was clear on his face.
As I drew near, I realized that they were a bunch of Bollywood movie stars, among the most famous names of the day. There were four of them and as I approached, I expected them to straighten up so I could pass but they carried on as if I didn’t exist.
I was a bit high too as I had had four shots of vodka before boarding. I am always loaded when I am in a plane. I am shit scared of flying. You should see me on a trans-Atlantic flight. The Pratt and Whitney PW4200 gas turbines on the 777 can cross the ‘lantic using only my breath as fuel.
Anyways, since those famous louts wouldn’t budge, I looked at the closest one and said loudly so my voice would carry through the cabin, “Hey, butthead, move your f—in’ famous fat ass out of here.” I wasn’t at all worried Mr Famous Film Star was going ta take a swing at me.
Those days, I had this wiry muscular build and just loved to pick fights. I worked out hard and I played hard. If you were female and my date for the evening, you had to worry about only one guy molesting you – me. Throw in a bit of vodka-fortified bravado and trust me, you wouldn’t mess with me. But that was then. It is different now of course. I am a harmless, balding bubbly-boo now.
The conversation in the aircraft cabin halted. In unison, the four turned to stare at the origin of the voice, me. There was an incredulous pause and then one of them, the tall one with the deep resonating voice, the one who was relatively more sober, who also happened to be the reigning Bollywood superstar numero uno, said,” Hat ja, Chinthu, janey dey (move, Chinthu, let him pass).”
They pulled themselves up one by one and couldn’t help going red in the face when an appreciative they-had-it-coming murmur rose from the passengers whom they had been pissing off with their chatter.
When I emerged from the toilet, the trio were still around, but this time they moved with surprising alacrity, to let me pass. As I made my way up the aisle I remember receiving quite a few pats in the back. I asked a stewardess who was squeezing past me just then, to direct the famous big shots to go back to their seats. “The plane is full, Sir. They are going for a fund-raiser and don’t have seats,” she told me in a whisper.
No, real creativity doesn’t need being obnoxious cuckoos. True creativity abhors roguishness.
But thank the Lord, all creative folk are not jerks, neither are all jerks creative. Don’t look at me like that. I am in a separate kataygoree – mediocre jerks, who wear their mediocrity on their frayed sleeves. :D.
There are some folk who are not really jerks but still have something in common with the jerks. They self-destruct. Instead of enjoying their creativity, they spend too much time being worried they’ll lose it and have ta go back to being plain like they were, before all the adulation hit them.
Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Jimmy Hendricks, Syd Barrett or Guru Dutt, they all just chose to be, not jerks but losers. I remember having some classmates in engineering school who were brilliant but, like Dr Hook would say, they were stoned and they missed it.
Thankfully, for every Jim Morrison, there is a Paul McCartney. Otherwise, how would one explain Spielberg or Rahman’s quiet demeanor or Viswanathan Anand’s poise and propriety? The worldliness and charm of Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio? Or the immense creativity of a staid and mature Aamir Khan? Or even the mellow and sensual poetry of my esteemed Facebook friend, Sunil Bhandari? Sunil, in case you are reading this, it is not a taunt. I am not being funny. I understand enough of poetry to recognize a gifted poet in you.
Take the Almighty Lord now. God was neither insecure nor insane. Yet He really was the ultimate in creativity, wasn’t He? His creativity wasn’t accidental. If He ever appeared on CNN, I find it hard to believe He would simply blurt out,” I don’t know, Larry, you guys just happened, I guess.”