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The Pursuit of Happiness – filmy style!

April 8, 2010

The phrase ‘The Pursuit of Happiness’ is perhaps one of the most misunderstood philosophies in our lives. If you look at superficially, it means that happiness can never be achieved. But then there can be several interpretations. The way I look at it is that happiness lies in pursuing. It’s the journey, the path that you travel which makes all the difference. I am not here to tell you a tale of how glory can be achieved if you take the road less traveled. It’s about the reason why I chose to take the road less traveled. After graduating with a Mechanical Engineering degree from BITS in 2007 and an 18 month stint in Satyam, I am now a film critic. In a way, I am still in pursuit of happiness and maybe I already know that I can never achieve it or reach a destination, if there is any!

It all began in the summer of 2003. I, Hemanth Kumar C R (ID No- 2003A4PS269), was one among the 800 odd number of students who were selected to study in BITS-Pilani. The great legacy which the erstwhile students of BITS-Pilani had left behind was overwhelming. The day I reached college, my parents had a quick glance through the Gold and Silver medalists from the previous batches. I knew instantly that they had great expectations from me and I promised them that I won’t disappoint them. But then, it wasn’t too late before I realized the difference between reality and aspirations. Within a year, I knew that I can never dream of a career as a Mechanical Engineer. Not that, I have anything against Mechanical Engineering; somehow the machines scared me. Till this day, I haven’t understood even the basic principle of how a motor functions! A sense of vacuum filled my life in second year. I had no idea why I was studying in an Engineering college. I had no idea why should I learn something which I may never ever implement in my life. But then, it’s all in the game and you are expected to compete against your peers. At the end of second year, I sort of gave up on studies and almost skipped most of my classes in third year as well. Maybe the poor grades throughout my stint in BITS would reflect what I had been through.

Things started rolling smoothly. I had set my biological clock with respect to the moon. Like many others, I had become a vampire, a night owl and would sneak out of the campus in the wee hours for a ‘latcha’ session in Nutan. I would sleep after sunrise and begin my day, rather afternoon, with a film on my computer. I had no idea that I had slowly got addicted to films. Of course, almost everyone used to watch films, but when you talk, discuss, write, share information about films most of the time then you know how different it is from just watching films. Thanks to a course named ‘Critical Analysis of Literature and Cinema’, I realized how little I knew about films which began my interest in film studies. The authors of my CDC text books, names which I can’t even recollect, were replaced by names like Woody Allen, Ingmar Bergman, Stanely Kubrick and few other film makers. Eventually I started blogging about films. What began as an occasional urge to write turned into an obsession. The length of my blogs had increased and I used to find it amazing how much I could articulate. On the flipside, I used to remain silent most of the times even during boisterous discussions. Did I go into a shell? Perhaps, yes. At times, the guilt of having neglected my studies had consumed me to astronomical proportions. After all, that was why I was in college. Some call this Quarter Life Crisis, where you no clue about what’s happening with your life and it seemed that I was lagging behind in almost every course that I was enrolled in. It was around this time that a video featuring Steve Jobs was making rounds on the internet. He was addressing a gathering of students at Stanford University. To call that fifteen minutes speech inspiring would be an understatement. Every word which Steve Jobs had said in that speech hit me like a bolt of lightening. He urged the students that if you haven’t found what you are passionate about then keep looking. Some call this exercise soul searching but that would be an exaggeration. It’s all about understanding your personality, what defines you, what makes you happy. Perhaps, that’s what interest and passion is about. When your interest and passion merge, it becomes an obsession. At the end of four years of my life in BITS, all I realized was that I was obsessed with films. No other area of study, let alone profession aroused my interest as much as films did. But then, it’s difficult for a 20 something to break free from the shackles and norms which are set by the society. As a result, I ended up working for Satyam Computers as a software engineer.

In 2007, when I joined Satyam, it was one of most prosperous years for the firm. Contracts and projects were abundant. We had won IT projects from Coca Cola, Arcelor Mittal and FIFA both for 2010 and 2014. The company had recruited too many students from all over the country and allocating resources to various projects had become a major issue. A lot of us were put on ‘bench’, a sugar coated industry slang where you get paid for doing nothing. Of course, you are expected to enrich your knowledge in various IT core areas, latest programming languages and tools. My reluctance to learn these things was a blessing in disguise. After few months I discovered that God indeed exists and His name is Roger Ebert, a noted film critic in USA who writes for Chicago Sun Times. I used to read each and every film review he wrote and understand how to interpret films. I had already started blogging actively @ hemanthology.wordpress.com, mainly about English and Hindi Cinema. With the help of Roger Ebert’s insight on films, I started writing more in-depth film reviews which turned out to be much better than what I had written earlier. On January 7th, 2009, Mr.Ramalinga Raju resigned from Satyam Computers and admitted that he was involved in a huge financial fraud. It came as a rude shock to a lot of us. But by then, I had realized that it was all for my own good. Now, I had the freedom to pursue a career in film criticism. I started writing about Telugu Cinema and the blog especially my Telugu movie reviews were slowly reaching out to more people. The firm sent me on a sabbatical for six months and later I resigned from the firm in December, 2009. Meanwhile, in September 2009, I got a call from a movie website 123telugu.com to write for them and in February, 2010 I got an offer from ‘Southscope’ magazine to work for them. At present, I freelance for both the firms as a film critic for 123telugu.com and a web editor for Southscope magazine’s website.

It’s difficult to point out what motivates me to continue in this line of work. It does sound like a glamourous job but has its share of issues which have to be dealt with carefully. When you are writing about regional cinema, Telugu and Tamil in particular, each actor commands huge fan base who take reviews too personally. Striking the right balance between being honest and politically correct is perhaps the biggest issue. Moreover, I always have this constant fear of misjudging a film. If you get carried away with your views than what’s acceptable, then the readers would ruthless shudder you to pieces, quite metaphorically. Leaving all this aside, the other big issue is convincing your parents about what’s so good about the new line of work. I find it hard to explain to them why I want to continue as a film critic. Every time I walk into that cinema hall or watch a film, I feel alive. There’s so much to learn about people, society, decisions and their consequences. It’s an experience which is difficult to convey in words. At the end of the day, if someone asks me, how much is my work worth? I don’t have an answer to that.

Sometimes, when I try to reason if I have made the right choice, it reminds me of a quote which I used to tell myself in college – ‘It’s always better to be the best in what you are good at’. I don’t think I am adept at writing about films with absolute conviction at this moment, but then there’s no other thing which I want to pursue relentlessly. Well, except maybe for travelling. It’s quite possible that my life would have been totally different had I seriously concentrated on my studies in college, continued to work in a Software Industry or maybe do an MBA like everyone else. I am sure a lot of you are in love with what you are doing. So am I! And I don’t have a reason why I should quit what I am doing. Afterall, I am happy with my life, my work and this alone gives me the strength to travel down this path. More than anything else, my biggest achievement so far has been the transformation from a 2007 BITSian grad to Hemanth Kumar C R, the guy who writes about films. It’s an honour to be recognized for the work you do rather than the brands you were a part of. I will always be grateful to BITS for what it has done to me. I value the freedom which BITS gave me to make a choice and it has transformed me from a boy with a red bag to the one who’s mad about films. Thank you for giving me the courage to ride an Ikran…I can now dream of riding the Torak someday in future.

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37 Comments leave one →
  1. April 8, 2010 11:14 am

    Congrats Hemanth. Another BITSian Bharadwaj Rangan who did Chemical is also a well known Fim Critic and he won the coveted National Award also recently

    • Cherish permalink
      April 10, 2010 7:57 pm

      Thanks Natarajan sir…never kew Baradwaj Rangan is from BITS. He is the best critic of India. Guys he blogs at http://www.desipundit.com/baradwajrangan/
      All the best Hemanth

  2. April 8, 2010 11:51 am

    Hi Hemanth,

    After seeing your post I couldn’t help being reminded of the best time of my life in BITS. I am 2002B1A4673, did mech CDC’s with u. I am so glad that you realised your calling and pursuing what you are good at. You really have showed me an insight on passion. Good going man!! Hope I too realise mine with your inspiration 🙂

  3. Koti permalink
    April 8, 2010 12:57 pm

    Way to go Heamanth 😀 . Really Feeling Jealous of you :). Still i am in the process of cracking this same puzzle.

  4. Sonam permalink
    April 8, 2010 1:28 pm

    Hey Hemanth,

    You listened to your heart and that makes you a winner!

    Very proud of you 🙂

  5. mrinalini permalink
    April 8, 2010 1:47 pm

    hey,

    thoroughly enjoyed it!. guess what comes from the heart can be put in very simple words n yet make it touching.

    loved the line- its all about understanding ones personality, what defines you n what makes you happy. this exactly is my interpretation of “pursuit of happiness” . And i think it can be achieved. 🙂

    goodluck!!!

  6. Sridhar permalink
    April 8, 2010 3:21 pm

    Identifying our passion is important but pursuing that inspite of the norms set by the society takes something more…..Inspiring Success!!!

  7. Swathi permalink
    April 8, 2010 4:26 pm

    Hey Hemanth

    One of the good blogs i have read recently…..Its a very difficult task to do what u like…most of us start liking what they do when they fail at this task…Congratulations!!..u r not in the second junk..:)

  8. supraja permalink
    April 8, 2010 4:31 pm

    hey!!….way to go!!!…congrats and good luck for times ahead!!!

  9. April 8, 2010 10:11 pm

    good perception 🙂 all the best!

  10. Vikram permalink
    April 8, 2010 11:18 pm

    Nice one Hemath 🙂 I can go around bragging that one of my friends is a well established film critic 🙂

  11. Raghav permalink
    April 9, 2010 3:11 am

    Nice Read… Good to see you doing what you really like.. and sincerely hope that some day not very far off there will be people as dedicated to read about your reviews as you are for Roger Ebert.

  12. Subha permalink
    April 9, 2010 10:11 am

    Hey that made a refreshing read! Thanks buddy!

  13. DruiD permalink
    April 9, 2010 5:02 pm

    I am totally touched by this beautiful account of the most decisive turn your life has taken. Most importantly the moment of reckoning, your true passion, got discovered. Some of us r still in the pursuit and a tale like this is an inspiration. U have just proven that there is glory in not taking the beaten track. it may not reflect on your bank account but your bed knows how contented u r when u finally decide to sleep on it.

    It is indeed a great twist of fate that Satyam went under and u went soaring up in something that u always wanted to do. I also see a great strength of character in not getting overwhelmed by the situation and instead using it to your advantage.

    Am thoroughly impressed and hereby add you to my list of inspiration. Welcome and Congratulations!! way to go………

  14. Shrek permalink
    April 10, 2010 7:43 pm

    Way to go Hemanth. Congrats on what you have achieved and all the best for the future.

    I hope you get the expected support from everyone you care.

    02A4pS396

  15. ravindar permalink
    April 10, 2010 8:21 pm

    Woww….Its really nice article….I never read an article this seriously…thanks for such nice msg….

  16. Sujit permalink
    April 10, 2010 8:24 pm

    Hi Hemant,

    I used to read your blog occasionally. I like your posts. Din’t knew you are a BITSIAN too.
    Keep Rocking!!

    -Sujit

  17. Deepak Sharma permalink
    April 10, 2010 8:42 pm

    Nostalgic – reminded me about my days at Pilani…..

  18. Prasad permalink
    April 10, 2010 9:59 pm

    @ Hemanth..
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts..
    @ All:
    I would like to suggest a book titled “What Should I Do With my Life?” by Po Branson.
    The book contains stories of around 50 people who have followed their calling -regardless of all odds- like Hemanth.

  19. vasavi permalink
    April 10, 2010 10:10 pm

    Hey Hemanth..
    Awesome message nd congrats on ur decision to pursue something that u r really passionate about!!! Not everyone is courageous as u are and i must admit ur post is really inspiring 🙂
    Way to go!! All the Best nd yes am gonna follow ur movie reviews from now on coz i’m a big movie buff !!

  20. Ranganadh Velagaleti permalink
    April 10, 2010 10:32 pm

    Hi hemanth..congratulations for being successful in what you are, wherever you are..from now on i will definitely look for ur reviews. I am a regular visitor of 123telugu.com…great going buddy!! all the best….Ranganadh

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