This isn’t a tale of heroic feats. It’s about two lives running parallel for a while, with common aspirations and similar dreams.
-Ernesto Guevara de la Serna
I am bad with names. I guess, terrible. And am very good with excuses. So, it gets compensated mostly. And that’s why whenever I save a new contact in my phone, I always add a suffix or prefix to the name. It makes life easier. Because whenever I am searching for anyone, if not the name, the suffix or prefix will help. Either place, profession, common friends, where we met, how we met, why we met, and noun, pronoun, adjectives, verb (don’t pick) of all kinds.
Before I started writing the post, I quickly searched for PFC in my phone’s contacts list and believe it or not, the number of contacts with PFC as suffix is 44 – covering almost every alphabet from A(shish) to W(B), even Z if you count Zoorya (Surya) as I call him. And in the last few years some of them have become 4am friends too. And am not counting any filmmaker, producer, writer or celeb here, with them it’s always aspirational, at least to start with. Talking about mere mortals like us. Friends from across states, nations and even continents. Many of us have met each other, shared our stories and bonded over everything that’s life. At the end of the day, I guess, that’s what PFC has done. Internet, you beauty. Add cinema, and we are alive.
PFC started in August-September 2006. I guess I joined in December. How, why – don’t remember exactly. I wasn’t in a boring cubicle and my day job wasn’t boring either. Then? Must have been a google search for ‘Anurag Kashyap’. Because there was a time when PFC = AK, which wasn’t true but the industry always thought so. “Oh, AK’s mouthpiece. So much negativity on that site!”. Well, that’s the way it was. Just because we had endless rounds of biryanis and drinks at his place with access to some of the best world cinema, it didn’t mean that we had to worship him or his friends. Criticise him and he will listen. He will argue, fight, try to make fun of you, put his favourite question to you, “tune kya likha/banaya hai?“. But that’s just him, trying to figure out if you really know your shit or just blabbering. And yeah, No Smoking had equal number of posts on both the extremes. Let me also confess that there were times when many comments which attacked AK were moderated and without telling anyone I used to approve them. If it’s about cinema, if someone is making a point that AK might not agree with, there is no point in blocking that comment. The general policy was to keeps the trolls away from filmmakers, keep the site clean but what’s life without some cheap thrills. If it’s AK’s cinema, his post, let him face it.
There was also Suparn Varma, Hansal Mehta, Pavan Kaul, Sourabh Usha Narang, Sam Longoria, Ramu Ramanathan, Bhavani Iyer (Onir, Navdeep Singh came onboard later) and some 30-35 bloggers from across the world. Forget everything else, we had no clue about each others names also. Some of us used to write posts with nicknames/handles and we used to address each with those handles. Honhaar Goonda, DPac, RK, Ranga, Macchar Kumar, Dabba – some of the handles that I can think of right now. Once a friend was visiting London and he needed some cash urgently. The first name that came to my mind was Honhar Goonda and I had to ask another friend for his real name. There were mele-mein-bichhde-huye-bhai too, Pavan Saab and Subrat: where Google fails, they come to the rescue. Do you know Chic Chocolate?
Then there was Kartik Krishnan (KK) – the face of PFC in Mumbai. He would go to any length to do anything for PFC, would travel any distance to meet any new author of PFC. With Vasan, three of us soon became the point persons for all kinds of activity. And the invisible brain, the hand, the man behind everything else was Oz. PFC was his idea, his intiative. Log milte gaye aur karwaan banta gaya.
For the first few years, it was all smooth. We never bothered to ask how the site was running, how much space, what the readership was and other such technical details. That was all Oz’s headache. A bunch of 10-12 editors, including three of us, used to take editorial calls and we were busy blogging – shouting, screaming, fighting – all for cinema.
I might be completely wrong but I think the first time we had some kind of disagreement when a filmmaker gave the idea of turning PFC into commercial venture and someone decided to do it. Since it was mostly one man control as far as any cost was concern, it was all his call. Rest of us were foot soldiers. Discussion soon moved from club to chain mails and many of us expressed our discomfort about the way the decision was taken. We were blogging because we loved it, there was no intention of making it IndiaFM or any such commercial venture.
Of course there was ample space and time given to everyone to debate, discuss and put forward all kinds of suggestions in Club. Those days authorship wasn’t open to everyone, but by invitation only. We had a club for the authors which was not visible to the rest of the world. And countless nights have been spent on random discussion threads in that club. Those were the Club days too!
There was Review contest (Yes, Thani), One minute short film contest, Poster design contest, Pitcher contest – Oz was always the man to go and we would execute it in best possible way. TOI gave us half page coverage too, with some of us happily posing for the camera in the middle of a busy road in Dadar’s Hindu colony. Aha, the cheap thrills. Every mention of PFC in the media was one step forward in making it more visible, making it more mainstream. The industry slowly took notice and mostly loved to hate us.
Krsn Kavita Kasturi (I hope I have got her name right) – She was one of the respected blogger at PFC who knew her cinema quite well. As it mostly happened in the club, once she disagreed on some point which we all were gung-ho about. We were quick to brand her as PFC-Drohi and me and KK got into an altercation with her. I Still can’t remember what was the reason, the exact topic. Blame it on age. But we were PFC-Bhakts and she was PFCDrohi soon. She quit PFC after that. KKK, if you have Google Alert on, apologies from me. Because all this seems too trivial now.
And what a surprise, in the next two years, I was in her shoes. As a dozen of us met last night at a friend’s place and we started talking about PFC, we could not agree on one version of the story – how it started? Was it this or that? And there were alternate versions too. Why we could not agree on few things?
Among many other things (man with an agenda, conspirator), I was even branded racist. I could not figure out the reason then and discovered it much later that I had put a comment saying “firangi” or something like that in one of the threads in the Club and by that time one of us had got married to someone for whom that was racist remark or kind of. I tried the search option in my gmail, went through some mails, and gave up. Too tedious, too kiddish. There must be hundreds of those mails, may be we will tell our grand kids about it.
Like every story has my right side and your wrong side, it was the same for PFC. Also, it was “Catfish” syndrome for some of us. “Dude, he is so boring. Come on, we can’t say it to him. We have to meet him. No, you go away, I will skip.” We also realised that the set-up was becoming too feudal. One man would control it all, he would not listen to anyone except those who agree with him and celebrate him. We asked questions, raised our voice and it made things worse. The reason given was, “I quit my job, I gave my life and soul to it, my space, my time for it. How dare can anyone ask me what i want to do?”. And we thought, “But who asked you to do so? We all have our jobs, we all still contribute”. The ping-pong game continued.
By that time, the commercial venture keeda had done the trick too. The critic we had no respect for and who is known for his extremely biased reviews, was asked if he would blog at PFC. Posts/blogs were done in tie-up with films/directors. The aim was to get more page views, more readership and thus generate revenue.
Things started piling up. All kind of decisions were taken on the basis of MBBS (Miyan-Biwi-Baccha-Samet). Many bloggers were finding an excuse to quit it. Or as Roger Ebert wrote in the review of Blue Valentine, “I’ve read reviews saying Cianfrance isn’t clear about what went wrong as they got from there to here. Is anybody?” When in doubt, trust Ebert.
Oz also used to run DesiTrain.com, his personal blog. And there were some incidents where personal things got mixed up with PFC. It involved his family, he felt that some of us said/did something nasty about someone related to him, he wrote a post on it, we commented there, he was hurt, attacks, counter-attacks. And back to Ebert. Since there was no professional set-up for PFC, it was again Oz’s call. So, if he was pissed off with someone because of some personal reason, that also meant that it’s the end for him/her at PFC. You can take any side here and have your arguments, and we did the same. As I wrote earlier, I am not sure if this was the correct flow of the events. Flashbacks are not so smooth always as they show in movies. I might have missed many things but I am writing whatever I can remember now.
What else? I am still trying to think if there was any big reason apart from “making PFC commercial”. We tied up with Tehelka for PFC Awards, some felt we were moving too hastily, some felt it’s better to do something rather than ponder over it and make powerpoint presentations. Few calls and more miscommunication – ‘how dare you hang up the phone, it was ISD call and so must have been the time difference my and your voice, you sent such a nasty SMS when I was going through a family crisis’, ‘But that was a joke and how am I supposed to know that you had a crisis at home..’ – everything that counts for the lovers’ tiff, we had it all. And like in every lovers’ tiff which ends in separation, this story is from one side, the other side’s story might be completely different.
I quit. KK quit. And for similar reasons some 20 authors also quit one after another. And we all felt strange that nobody thought that this was strange – if 20 active bloggers decide to quit one by one, there has to be some reason, some logic, some problem. Someone must be wrong somewhere. Naah, by that time it has straight forward – we are right, they are wrong. It was Us Vs Them. Those who stayed Vs Those who left. Those who stayed – we stayed at the worst period of PFC, we are friends, we saved him, saved PFC. Those who left – they don’t make any sense, it’s feudal approach, it’s MBBS, power drunk, dropping names, enough! It might have been lil’ bit of this, lil’ bit of that, some ego here and there, and that was the end for us. But I/we never thought that it would end in such a bitter way.
I started writing this as a Goodbye post and soon realised that it might not be a goodbye after all. But I thought it’s better to complete it.
So, Dear PFC – Cheers for all those 40 friends and 4am buddies, and apologies for all kinds of ugly spats, intentionally or otherwise, it just seems so funny now, or may be it was all for cheap thrill. May be we all were in our best possible Natural Born Killers avatar and part of that secret club. It was great fun till it lasted.
But no apologies for watching the 2nd half of Contract before the first half and then again going to the other screen to catch the first half, no apologies for asking Ramu, “Do you think you have lost it?”, no apologies for not liking No Smoking and Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na and million other such things.
(PS: Questions have been raised many times about exclusive authors/filmmakers. Why don’t they write more often? They come only for their film promotions. But let me clarify – most of the time we wanted them to blog. Except few, it was us who approached them. They were not dying to blog. We wanted them and they had a film for release, they had something to say, so they blogged whatever they could. There is no point in putting the blame on them. We were eager to get them onboard – always!)
(PPS – Hansal – Sirjee, I have never cooked for anyone.)
What else? Lots, but can’t remember. Told ya, the age.
RK now runs Cinemanthan, Sameer went full time with his CinemaaOnline, Shripriya’s site is Tatvam, Mitch’s work can be seen at Bokehchaser, Fatema reviews films for Indiaentertainment and blogs at filmsandwords, and Pavan still runs GulzarOneline. Also, Indraneel can be found here, Sudhir is here, Jahan Bakshi writes here, Dipankar is here, and Srinivas here . And a bunch of us still create nuisance here at mFC. For the rest, they are all on Facebook and Twitter.