For Pisceans, laziness kills creativity, writes Shah Rukh Khan

Thursday, 20 March 2014 - 6:00am IST Updated: Wednesday, 19 March 2014 - 5:53pm IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna

The symbol for Pisces originated in Babylonian times during which the constellation was associated with the two great rivers: Euphrates and Tigris. Apparently, Pisces is one of the oldest signs of the zodiac.

I always assumed that the two fish facing each other’s tails stood for a duality of nature. Good and bad. Or perhaps, just a general lack of direction. At a more juvenile level it also made me think ‘maybe it’s a fishy version of the 69 position’. But now that I have done some research, I have found that it symbolises the dual nature of the Piscean in an entirely different context. I Googled away to discover that the fish swimming in opposite directions are indicative of an intuitive and idealistic nature (fish swimming upwards) coupled with a sense of practicality and grounded-ness (fish swimming downwards). They’re idealist realists! Pretty impressive, eh! I wish I was an idealist-realist too, that way my ‘I will make the best Indian superhero movie ever’ idea could have shot into the box-office stratosphere as well as being my favourite dream.

(By the way, I noticed on one of the websites I trawled that idealism was listed under ‘negative’ Pisces traits! I found that even more interesting than having stumbled upon the meaning of the confused fish. Why would anyone think idealism was a negative a thing?)

Nevertheless, the Piscean seems to possess a number of wonderful traits: Intuitiveness, instinctiveness, imaginativeness, kindness were all listed under positives. On the list of negatives (right under idealism) was ‘laziness’. Now laziness has always intrigued me. Being a semi-evil Scorpio I figured that there was no harm writing about a so-called negative trait for a change. So laziness it is this month. And let me start by saying that if there is one thing I have always aspired to be, (and never quite managed) it’s LAZY!

I’ve tried my level best to wind my mind down to indolence with no luck whatsoever. Just the other morning I awoke, looked at my watch and resolved to stay in bed as long as I could. Within minutes my mind was buzzing with things to do. I listed 54. I was up checking mail, which mainly consists of strange property deals in stranger places and smartly disguised messages which invariably lead you to cheaper deals for Cialis and Viagra. I called for inconsequential meetings, and was refused everywhere. Then I spent time dialing numbers from my phonebook, which I did not recognise in a bid to figure out important strangers who might have inhabited my life when I was in kindergarten. In general, I ended up making a nuisance of myself. I admire people who are able to do nothing. I admire their languid pace and their easy distance from achievement. I admire that they can lie about without feeling like they’re committing murder because I can’t. The only time I don’t work is when I am asleep. In fact, I have a feeling that if someone were to record my brain waves even then, they would be switched onto something suspiciously connected to my profession. I’d probably be helping girls onto moving trains and arguing with goondas double my size in my dreams or working out different ways to extend my arms out wide. I have what my mother diagnosed as ‘ants in my pants... and pyjamas.’

Laziness, they say, is an absence of the sense of responsibility. Kids can be enviously lazy. Like my son. I have mentioned this before but due to lack of memory and this being an article on laziness, I will recount the same story. My son who studies away from home is sorely missed by me. So at times overcome with fatherly emotions I will type out a long message of love or teaching to him. Like the following that I read somewhere, ‘a son is truth with dirt on its face, beauty with a cut on its finger, wisdom with smell in its hair and hope of the future with a frog in its pocket... I miss you my beautiful son... blah... blah... blah... weep... weep... weep...’And he replies to my long message with a single letter… ‘K’! What does ‘K’ mean for God’s sake? How lazy can one be, not to even type an ‘O’ before it? It’s a matter of one extra itsy bitsy teeny weeny gentle tap of a key, that’s all. Kids can be so effortlessly lazy and heartless, if I may add. (Thought I must add that my friend Karan Johar is quite happy with replies of ‘K’ to his messages.)

I have a feeling it’s as much a question of training as circumstance. It’s true that those who do not need to provide or have not built the vehicles of their own sustenance can afford to be less hardworking and driven than those who carry the burden of necessity. Yet there is an element of rigour in the enthusiasm to work and to build that is essentially a product of training. Unlike me, my children have been born into wealth and they have all that kids their age would wish for. I have never refused them anything or tried to impress upon them, the material value of the things they are surrounded by. I am averse to this habit many parents have when they say something like, ‘beta yeh shirt expensive hai, ispe kuch giraana mat’, and the kid ends up telling his friends how his shirt costs too much to dirty. Then there are those poor kids who aren’t allowed to mess up their dad’s fancy cars and go around telling everyone they came to school in a Mercedes (with plastic covers still on the seats for two years). It feels cheap to me to be honest!

To be able to provide for my children is a matter of deep pride within my heart so I have always felt the irrelevance of making them aware of the material worth of things in their lives. However, what is relevant is that they understand the value of hard work and perseverance. I have tried to ensure this understanding and help them transform it into a spiritedness reflected in the way they do things whether it is sports or academics or their performances at school. I have tried to teach them the essence of hard work and not giving up. To try and try again like the internationally acclaimed ant until you succeed.

I am proud that they have learnt this lesson well. Though I must warn you there is a downside to this. Especially when you are playing Scrabble and beating them at it. Then you have to play all night long till you lose to them or you end up making non-existent words like ‘zigges’, ‘roulter’ or ‘akhrot’ so that they catch you on an illegal word and you can go to sleep. laziness isn’t merely a physical phenomenon,  about being a couch potato, stuffing your face with fries and watching cricket all day. It’s a mental thing too and that’s the part I have never aspired for. I see evidence for this sort of laziness all around me. In the world of creativity, laziness translates into an inability to be rigorous enough to create fearlessly. It makes us plagiarise or water our creativity down to make it more acceptable to the public.

There is a famous story in Bollywood about this renowned and respected actress who is extremely passionate about her work. She went to the director and gave him many a variations of a mentally-challenged character that she was essaying. She had done deep research into the various maladies of the mind and how a particular affliction will affect her portrayal. It seems after performing the different variations for the director she asked him, ‘Sir, how would you like me to portray it, schizophrenic ‘mad’ or manic depressive ‘mad’?’ The director who, of course, wasn’t as conscientious as the actress and had no idea what she was referring to, looked at her and said, ‘Madam, I only want you to play it filmy ‘mad’.’ Then he went onto give her references of how roles in the past in Hindi films had been played by various artists. (Apologies for the usage of the term ‘mad’ in a politically incorrect way.)

While a little of this is fine (we all do it to some extent — and label it inspiration) a lot of it done habitually makes for very lousy art indeed. An artist belongs to his art, not his artistry. The essence of creativity is to be able to hold your own truth to your art as diligently as possible. This takes courage. It’s much easier to compromise. Sometimes, what holds truest to you just won’t resonate with the world outside you, and the ability to weather that separation of your ideas from that of your audience is impossible if you have allowed yourself to be lazy about your creativity.

Most masters were only recognised way past the age in which they lived. It took centuries for the rest of the world to arrive at a place where it could identify its own truth with that the artist had expressed of himself. I don’t know of a single master who was lazy about his art. This is because when the things you create are a part of you, it is impossible to feel that they are chores. It is when your creativity functions at a superficial level and does not resonate within you, that it becomes hard to give it all you’ve got.

In the same way as laziness can translate into a lack of creative rigour, there is also a form of intellectual laziness that prevents us from probing deep enough or being curious enough to find our own answers to questions. I’m often amazed at the intellectual laziness encouraged by some of our schools or teachers, for instance. Children copy notes, learn for exams from books compiled out of previous year’s question papers, teachers shut them up when they ask too many questions and so on. A teacher was suspended from  a school in Atlanta, for giving all the answers to the students during an exam and on being questioned, said, ‘I had to give the answers because they are dumb as hell.’ This may seem like an ideal teacher to ill prepared students, but the point I am making is that teachers sometimes take away the confidence of the kids in their pursuit of getting good marks for the school or even the kids themselves. We have to instill confidence in kids so that they do not ever feel stupid accepting the fact that there are things they do not know and there is no harm in that or telling your teacher the same, so that they can help you with it.

The magic of learning becomes stunted by an intellectual superficiality that reflects in our society as a whole. The level of discourse dumbs down. Switch the TV on and anchors are more interested in making the point that they are smart than any relevant point at all. It’s all very lazy actually. Facts aren’t checked, figures are churned out without any basis and judgements are pronounced with no need for evidence at all. So often I find out what film I am doing and with who, post who I have replaced and thrown out of the film. Also, I do calculate my salary as quoted in some of the stuff I read and watch, whenever I want to feel like Carlos Slim. My issue is not with the tabloidisation of news, my issue is with the laziness behind not getting some sort of factual basis for a comment. Just that! Otherwise I enjoy the gupshup as everybody else does. I can’t say I like it, but I do enjoy it at times.And that leads me to the basest of all laziness’s in my lazy list: Moral laziness or the lack of moral rigour.

I am no moralist and I have my own very particular idea of what values ought to be (I won’t get into that right now). I don’t pretend to be a Mahatma or even aspire for nirvana as some might. My moralities are probably the idealistic-realistic part of me, but they’re well thought out and clear. I remain constantly perplexed at the moral laziness that surrounds us for the most part. It’s not so much that people live their lives on the edge of an accepted social morality. I’m not judgemental of those things, I actually believe that each one must have his or her own compass and define his or her own limits provided that they do not cause harm to others. I get taken aback when people make a big deal about others’ sexuality or what they do in their private space. If someone wants to express love in the manner they wish to and it’s all consensual and happy for their respective partner or partners, I guess we should just let that be. It’s love! It may not be your idea of love, but that doesn’t make it incorrect or immoral.

It is the lack of depth with which people view their own behaviour and the ease with which they excuse themselves that I find intriguing. I’m not referring to big things (fodder scams, coal scams, cricket scandals etc). I’m talking about the simplest things. The way people treat their friends, how letting one another down becomes ‘professional’ or using one another becomes ‘friendship’ out of expedience. I’m talking about the everyday things that actually make our lives livable. I believe the essence of friendship is grace, not love. Love without grace is incomplete. Grace can only come about if one applies some moral rigour to oneself. It is the product of understanding your own shortcomings, of watching the places where you have erred and stretched the boundaries of your own values. By doing so, you open your heart towards the failures and weaknesses of other people. You understand that they too, are caught up in their own compulsions, in complexes and insecurities. You don’t expect perfection in relationships if you have learnt to be gracious. You accept the beauty of their imperfections and you become able to love regardless of them.

I read somewhere that each human being’s life experience creates a unique moral universe around individuals that becomes a kind of biography of their life and determines how they live it. I found this thought interesting and true. Some of these universes are very simplistic and linear while others are extremely complex. Sometimes simple frameworks are easier to inhabit because their rigidity is more comfortable than the fluidity of more complex ones. The laziness comes about when you remain in a particular frame without ever challenging it. It’s not a question of whether you are right or wrong, good or bad, better or worse. It’s a question of whether you ever challenge your better-ness or your worse-ness or your goodness or your ability to be bad. It’s also a question of what you accept as good and how and why you choose to define it that way.

If you allow yourself too many excuses and too few challenges, the odds are you’ll end up unhappy and unable to make others around you happy. Imagining that the entire universe is conspiring against your joy might be easier than looking inwards to reflect on how you are contributing to your own suffering, but it doesn’t make you any happier. We actors are adept conspiracy theorists. Living in the fish-bowls that we do, makes it easy for us to feel very important and it follows that we tend towards feeling as victimised as well. Like I had this stupid big door fell on me recently and injure me quite seriously. Lesson for youngsters: Sometimes big doors or people falling for you can hurt you quite badly (but that’s another article). Back to actors feeling victimised. I was made to understand that some people thought this accident was a planned move to outdo my so called competition. Really! What next? Get kidnapped and send my body parts to theatres to be distributed if audiences buy bulk tickets? Just to put the record straight, all I try and do is make films to the best of my capabilities and with passion. It’s that simple, that’s all! Any other conspiracy theories that are built around my accidents or public behaviour are a false notion. I remind myself also of not falling trap to this malady of victimisation.

Playing Hamlet permanently is no fun after all. With due apologies to Shakespeare, Hamlet was a soppy bore. ‘Rahul’, on the other hand, is a much more interesting chap. He forces the world around him into happiness, sings songs whenever he is sad or craving female attention and has a sense of humour about himself. Besides, he takes a good look at himself in the mirror, gets his act together and works hard at whatever it is he’s decided to do (even if its making Anjali fall in love with him).

So my profound advice to all of you this month is: Get off your asses and get with the programme. Be brave enough not to be lazy about who you can be and ought to be. Don’t be sorry for the beautiful human beings you actually are. The universe is a conspiracy of beauty with happiness hidden in the natural simplicity of its infinite complications. Don’t be daunted by life (or the sentence before this one, it’s designed to rid you of some intellectual laziness), just make sure you refuse to be lazy about living it well.

Now my work for this month is over. I need to get into my blanket, get some munchies and stare at the TV blankly. like a caveman staring at a fire after a hard day of hunting. Just so that I don’t feel lazy, this whole set up has been put in my gym, amidst the dumbbells and the smell of sweat. Till the next zodiac sign….zzzzzzzzzzz…..zzzzzzzz.

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