Motifs, Metaphors & MacGuffins

Motifs, Metaphors and MacGuffins

The medium of cinema speaks to us through images. Filmmakers create images that communicate their intentions to viewers. Images by themselves, however, are concrete. They express only the physicality of a situation. For a creative filmmaker, it is a challenge to give these images meaning. If a film only presents what these images show, there is no art in it. Therefore, filmmakers need to develop tools to transcend this limitation of visual communication. Some such popular tools are motifs, metaphors and MacGuffins.


A film’s motif, across all genres, is what gets everyone talking about it. It is that special ingredient that adds depth and meaning to a film and that film scholars talk about for a long time after watching it. It sets the work of the writer/director apart from the crowd. By definition, a motif is the recurring thematic element in a film –a repeated narrative element that supports the story’s theme.

The word ‘motif ’ is originally German, meaning ‘motive’. In movies, motifs are used to signify a character, place or specific action or emotion.

A film’s motif can be presented in a number of ways: physical items, sound design, dialogues, music, colours or symbols. Any motif with narrative significance will vastly improve the story. For example, visual motifs occur in recurring patterns through props, set designs, costumes, symbols and events to support the story’s intended theme.

Theme vs. Motif

A motif can be a symbolically significant image, sound, action or figure that highlights the theme. Motif and theme will always be linked because they feed off each other. Thus, if the motif is a recurring image, then the theme is the central idea behind these recurring images. One type of motif is a leitmotif, an intentionally recurring aural element associated with a particular idea or action. Leitmotifs present themselves as a repeated sound, shot, dialogue or piece of music. One example would be ‘Hedwig’s Theme’ which plays every time Harry Potter appears onscreen. Others are the iconic opening of James Bond shooting toward the camera as the theme music kicks or the Indiana Jones movies opening with the Paramount logo dissolving into a mountain near Indy. We also hear the Bond theme during moments that are distinctly Bond-like.

A theme is the central thesis of the story. The filmmaker wants the story to convey the film’s underlying philosophy. In short, a theme is what you want your story to mean, and a motif supports and conveys the theme. A theme is not dependent on the use of a motif; however, a theme often might not be effectively communicated without one.

Examples of Motifs

Some examples of motifs: A child’s doll, birds, mirrors, trees and even the letter X shown throughout the X-Men movies.

Alfred Hitchcock was known to use mirrors in all his works to show a person’s dual personality. In fact, he used mirrors and birds in The Birds to show both sides of Melanie Daniels’ personality, her penchant for mischief and the result of letting the birds out of the cage.

Like Hitchcock, Christopher Nolan loved using birds in The Prestige. These birds had to be identical to make the trick work. But one bird also had to give its life for the others. Birds and the images of doubles can be found throughout The Prestige.

Perhaps one of the most famous motifs in modern cinema is the glowing briefcase from Pulp Fiction. The film is full of motifs, from bathrooms being bad luck to breakfast being the most important meal of the day.

What makes an element an effective motif?

When it comes down to it, almost anything can be a motif; first and foremost, however, it must support the story’s theme. One can repeat multiple elements to support the theme, but they all must work cohesively to complement the same message. The motifs must recur throughout the film and enhance the narrative.

What does a motif do?

Motifs are a great way to reinforce a film’s theme and have grown into one of the best narrative devices. Great stories are not passive occurrences; they are events that reveal something about us. Without the meaning they hold, the film remains lifeless. The secret to making a meaningful film is finding that meaning and identifying an element that best symbolizes the theme. This could be a prop (the car in Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi), a song (Kal Ho Na Ho’s title track), a dialogue (‘Babumoshai, zindagi badi honi chahiye lambi nahin’ from Anand), and anything else that encapsulates the film’s message.

Magic of Metaphors

A metaphor is the presentation of one idea in terms of another that belongs to a different category, so that either our understanding of the first idea is transformed, or a new idea is created from the fusion of both ideas. The original idea is referred to as the ‘tenor’, and the second idea that modifies or transforms it is known as the ‘vehicle’. The juxtaposition of the two ideas or images must involve a transformation, generating a new/extended meaning – without it; there is no metaphor, only a simple analogy or juxtaposition.

An analogy entails a literal comparison only, in which the categories of the chosen ideas or images remain undisturbed. In contrast, metaphors are figurative. Categories are compacted and broken down so that a fresh meaning can be expressed. The vehicle will either reconstruct the category of the tenor, or the fusion of both will create something for which no category exists. This account implies that metaphors are born at the frontier of human consciousness, where language and image (with their inadequacies) and our mental framework of classifications (with its restrictions) encounter unassimilated experiences to derive new interpretations. Metaphors, in a way, dissolve our fixed notions in order to produce fresh insights.

One of the special properties of the film medium is its ability to present a variety of images concurrently. Prose narratives are generally linear, describing events in sequence. In a film, however, a panoramic shot can encapsulate what it would take a novelist multiple pages to describe in words. Paintings can show coincident occurrences, but only statically. Stage productions can render multiple events simultaneously, but only to a limited degree; stage settings are relatively constant, and if contemporaneous action is parcelled out to different actors or groups, there is a danger of dividing the audience’s attention.

Film, however, constantly sets people, objects and milieu within the same frame. The mobility of the camera permits variety of viewpoint, freedom of composition and rapid changes in focal interest. Normally, the elements that comprise a shot are interpreted literally. They are present, we feel, because they are contiguous with real life. However, the filmmaker can give the objects or events depicted within the shot a metaphorical function without distracting from the probability of their appearance. The filmmaker can also choose to accentuate the metaphor or keep it subtle. The metaphor is not thrust on the audience, it is implied.

Metaphor is one way of universalization

If Apu of Pather Panchali had remained just Apu, the film would have been a piece of insignificant communication. There are thousands of Apus, and the audience isn’t interested in listening to each one’s story. However, if Apu represented ‘the early twentieth-century boy discovering an increasingly industrialized India where the drift from village to city has started’, then the audience would react to his story differently. Now, it would no longer be the story of any Apu. To transform the story of ‘an Apu’ to one of ‘an early twentieth-century boy discovering a new India’, the filmmaker incorporated a number of elements that elevated static images from their banal representative state to one where they were universalized.

A cinematic metaphor not only talks about a particular individual or situation, but also generalizes and talks about the corresponding ‘time and space’. Such imagery or visual communication helps the audience get deeper insight into history, into a situation and above all, into their own experiences. These metaphors universalize an image or a visual experience and make the audience relate with them within the context of their own situations or experience.

Examples of Metaphors

The Coen brothers’ No Country for Old Men is a metaphor for retirement and life thereafter. The elderly people featured in the film are treated as if they are a disease that the world should get rid of, which is in line with the way many old people feel about the lack of healthcare and housing provided by their governments.

The entirety of the film Groundhog Day by Harold Ramis, is a metaphor centred on Buddhism. The main character, a shifty weatherman, is stuck in a time loop and forced to live the same day over and over again until he changes his ways, ultimately becoming a better person. The charitable acts featured in the film are an important tenet of the Buddhist way of life.

The metaphor in Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away – child prostitution – is glaringly obvious. The film centres on a girl undergoing various rites of passage. She is brought to a bathhouse, the equivalent of a brothel, where she is made to please male clients, including the wealthy man called ‘No Face’, who has the inappropriate desire to own her.

Apart from the above examples, films also make extensive use of trains, old houses, clouds, rivers, rain and mountains.

In 27 Down, Awtar Krishna Kaul uses the metaphor of a train journey to build a story about the ups and down in the life of a young couple in a metropolitan city.

In Maya Darpan, Kumar Shahani uses a big old mansion and its huge empty corridors to reflect the suffocation of the young female protagonist.

In Stanley Ka Dabba, the restaurant where Stanley works as a child labourer is a metaphor for the state of the unaccounted number of child labourers in our country.

Ritwik Ghatak, the celebrated Bengali filmmaker, harboured a great love for metaphors. In his most famous film, Meghe Dhaka Tara, which deals with the exploitation of a daughter by a family, Ghatak leverages his metaphors for melodrama. In the crucial sequence in this iconic film, rain is used as a metaphor.

Balachandran Menon used parallel railway tracks as a metaphor in his famous Malayalam film Samantharangal to depict the never-ending disparity between two generations, a principled father and his pragmatic son.

In Avinash Arun’s Killa, the fort is a metaphor for the protagonist’s feelings – abandonment and loneliness, with strength despite the turbulent events that cause an upheaval. These are universal emotions, and that’s why the audience instantly connects with the movie and characters.

Girish Kasaravalli, a Kannada filmmaker, uses metaphors in almost all his films. His diploma film Avashesh (The Remnants) is the story of crumbling relationships in a family of three generations. Apart from an old lady and a young boy, the film has a dilapidated and crumbling traditional house. The structure is a metaphor for the crumbling relationships in the family.

Another of Kasaravalli’s works, Dweepa, has five characters. The first four are human: the husband, wife, grandfather and Krishna. The fifth is the rain, used as a metaphor to convey happiness, romance, fear, tragedy and helplessness. It adds to the subtext in various scenes, giving each a different connotation.

In Bannada Vesha (The Mask), the mask of the protagonist’s Yakshagana character is used as a metaphor for an acquired image that is often identified as a person’s real character.

The language of Motifs and Metaphors

Movies themselves are metaphors for the deeper perspective of the human experience. Creating a unique language of metaphors and symbols (aka motifs) is a big part of visual storytelling. Symbolic images help us understand abstract concepts that cannot always be translated into words. Strictly speaking, metaphors are visual or auditory representations of an action, experience or idea, like the flame of a lamp (diya) that blows out to signify a death. The lit diya is a symbol of life or a living being. Metaphors and motifs can be used for the in-depth development of plot, theme and characters. 

The key to making a film relatable for a large cross-section of its audience is to integrate and weave metaphors and motifs into the texture of the story. Otherwise, the film lacks resonance, however realistic it may be.

Crafting a cinematic visual

Creating a cinematic image in a film, therefore, is a matter of craft; it depends on the cinematographer’s skill and sensibility as well as the framing, composition, pacing, sound design, rhythm, colour and tonality of the image. Through such means, the object is transformed within the image or shot and described differently. Metaphor is, therefore, encapsulated within the image itself. Mise-en-scene can be as much a source of metaphors within a shot as the cinematography.

What is a McGuffin?

A MacGuffin, in short, is a plot device that helps drive the narrative forward but is ultimately not that important to the story. Hitchcock gives a pretty good explanation of MacGuffins when he describes them as the things that characters onscreen worry about but the audience does not care about.

Hitchcock popularized the term with his film The 39 Steps. In the movie, a man is mistaken for a spy and consistently hounded for information about the 39 Steps, a mystery object or piece of information worth killing over. Yet when the movie ends, the viewer is no closer to learning what those 39 Steps are.

To the audience a MacGuffin may seem unimportant, but its purpose is to propel the story forward. A MacGuffin can be a goal, person, object or idea that the characters are in pursuit of, and it generally needs to be revealed in the first act. Unlike other plot devices, McGuffins are vague and interchangeable; they are the plot objective you don’t choose until the story planning is complete.

Examples of MacGuffins

The MacGuffin itself is not important; it only matters as a means of moving the plot forward. McGuffins serve the following purpose:

  • Set the plot
  • Give the character something to care about
  • It is not usually paid too much attention by the audience.

The screenwriter has to complete the story’s outline before they can decide what the MacGuffin should be, whether it is a necklace, money or a telephone call. The actual object does not matter. All that matters is that the character wants to have it, which kick-starts the story. For example, in 1944, Hitchcock was working on a spy movie called Notorious. The MacGuffin he chose was uranium sand because he had heard that uranium was going to be a big deal in the years to come. When Hitchcock’s choice elicited pushback from the producer, Hitchcock told him that the uranium was not the foundation of the story, only the MacGuffin, and therefore not very important. Finally, he said, ‘Look, if you don’t like uranium, let us make it industrial diamonds, which Germans need to cut their tools with He pointed out that if Notorious had not been a war story, they could have hinged their plot on the theft of the diamonds, that the gimmick was unimportant. That’s the key. The MacGuffin is purposely trivial, so it can be changed even after the entire movie has been written. A couple of examples are the stolen money that motivates all of Marion Crane’s actions in Psycho, or the Heart of the Ocean necklace in Titanic.

These are known as ‘pure MacGuffins’ because they follow Hitchcock’s strict criterion: They must be incredibly important to the character, but meaningless to the story itself.

Some examples of Hitchcock’s MacGuffins are:

  • Uranium ore stored in white bottles in Notorious
  • The necklace in Vertigo
  • The suspected murder across the courtyard in Rear Window
  • The coded massage in a piece of music in The Lady Vanishes
  • A spare apartment key in Dial M for Murder.

In the majority of these instances, you could watch the movie and not even remember the MacGuffin. In the rest, like Rear Window, the MacGuffin looms large over every single scene. Either method is effective so long as the plot device drives the narrative forward.

The movie Pulp Fiction is full of symbolism. Still, the symbol that stands out the most is the briefcase. Its glow shows us the importance of being a man of your word. It is one of the best MacGuffins in cinema history.

Citizen Kane has one of history’s most unforgettable McGuffins: Rosebud. The word uttered by a dying magnate becomes a source of fascination for one reporter. He learns other things over the course of the film, but never what Kane meant by the word.

In Aakrosh by Govind Nihalani, Amrish Puri’s character, a defence lawyer, keeps getting anonymous telephone calls, which only increase the tension in the film but ultimately amount to nothing.

In contrast to Hitchcock, George Lucas considered a MacGuffin a plot device that is just as important to the audience as it is to the characters. Things like the ring in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of Rings, the Horcruxes in the Harry Potter series and the Ark of the Covenant in Stephen Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark are good examples of Lucas’ version.

No rules in arts

The single rule of creating art is that there are no rules. In other words, a rule acts as an open invitation to artists to defy it, circumvent it, violate it or shape it to some other purpose. At one time, flashbacks were signalled by a close-up or dolly-in shot of the face of the person remembering, followed by a slow dissolve to a sequence that was foggy at the end of the frame. Nowadays, all these tricks have been dispensed with. Straight cuts are employed to connect to flashbacks. At one time, jump cuts were regarded ungrammatical, but now these are commonplace. How the audience responds to these tropes depends on their education, experience, expectation and cinematic literacy. It takes a comprehensive understanding of the craft and subject matter to create a universal and everlasting metaphors and motifs.

Motifs, metaphors and MacGuffins are plot devices used by screenwriters and directors to make the film and its story more interesting and memorable. Theoretically, they may seem disparate devices, but in practice all three overlap, supplementing and complementing to serve the same purpose: To make the narrative more cinematically effective.


O.P Srivastava; 9819812473:, January 2022

Atrangi Re

Before writing something about the film ‘Atrangi Re’, I decided to get clarity about the meaning of the Hindi word ‘atrangi’. After ‘googling’ for some time, I got many meanings and interpretations, but what seemed to be most appropriate in the context of the film was “colorful”. Indeed, ‘Atrangi Re’ is a colorful film; from the rustic colors of the small town Siwan in Bihar to the rich colors of ‘kalayanmadapam’ in Chennai juxtaposed with the flickering razzmatazz of a circus stage make the backdrop of the film quite colorful. Beyond this colorful backdrop, what lies in the film is something we need to make efforts to understand and absorb. It is an intriguing story of a young girl, who wants to live life on two tracks -one with a lover and another with a husband.

As the mystery of the ‘ two-dimensional behavior’ of the leading lady is revealed only at the end of the film, throughout the entire length of the film, one is neither able to accept what is happening on the screen, nor reject it entirely. I am not sure whether it was intended or it is because of poor writing or poor execution. But the fact remains that a kind of vagueness throughout the story does not allow one to get fully involved with the film.

In the initial scenes of the film, it is through few loaded dialogues of Rinku and others sitting around, the writer tries to give the audience a hint of some mystery associated with the character of the leading lady. ‘ Are o dabloo mila woh launda jiske saath bhagi thi?… Are kahan pahale kabhi mila jo aaj mil jayega? Pata nahi kaun bhoot hai sala ?’ If you miss these dialogues you are going to repent throughout the film and you may have a feeling of eating an uncooked dish throughout the film. Take the initial sequence of the hero being kidnapped and brought to the vivahmandap. As soon as they open the gunny bag, out comes our hero sputtering and cursing in Tamil, which is incomprehensible for the Bihari people sitting around. Whether this scene was designed to evoke a burst of laughter or a shock or pity, one is not able to make out.

Besides the unique twist in tail of the story, the storyline seems to be a cocktail of inspirations derived from a number of Dhanush and Sara Ali Khan’s popular films and uses these popular antics of both the actors to complement the screenplay. Despite having so many ups and downs in the storyline and in spite of somewhat credible performances by the leading pair, ‘Atrangi Re’ is not able to keep the audience engrossed and carry them on the emotional roller coaster, which keeps running between North India and South India.

Music, though, helps in keeping the viewers into the film in parts. Akshay Kumar is used to enhance the market value of the film, which he does to the best of his ability. Another performance , which catches the eye, is that of Ashish Verma, who plays the role of Vishnu’s friend Madhu, the medico, who claims to know psychiatry more than the hero of the film.

Gradually healed by a medico husband Vishu, with dialogues like ‘ Tum bibi ho, jab tum tali bajaogi main bhi tali bajaoonga,’ Rinku, who fled from her home in Siwan, Bihar and came to a Medical College in Delhi via Chennai finally comes to terms with life and all ends well for the couple. The hero is seen distributing sweets on the railway station saying ‘Meri wife wapas aa gayi’. Wife aise bhi wapas aati hai, kabhi soncha na tha ! Apne soncha tha?



Mirror Shots: In Dhamaka, director Ram Madhvani has tried to ride the entire film on the young shoulders of a good-looking actor Kartik Aaryan. As a result, Kartik Aaryan looks over-used and over-exposed in the film relegating everything else into the background, even the storyline. The other actors in the film namely Mrunal Thakur, Amruta Subhash, Vikas Kumar, Vishwajeet Pradhan and Soham Majumdar fail to offer any counter balancing act in this visually single-track studio centric story. Partly, I think, it is due to the undernourished script, which has not fleshed out the other characters adequately and partly because of the director’s belief that Kartik Aaryan alone can carry the entire film on his shoulders.The result is that a high-voltage drama, which could have driven the audience to a nail biting finish, leaves them high and dry hanging by the edges of a collapsing bridge, created graphically.The raison d ‘etre of the entire film (which is an adaptation of a Korean film The Terror Live) is the reason behind the angst of Anand/Ragubir Mhata, the aggrieved construction worker. But in the last phase of the film when the so-called terrorist comes on screen and spells out the reasons for his terror plan, it fails to create any ‘Dhamaka’. To my mind, the story of the so-called terrorist could have been supplemented with a more credible backstory to make the audience empathize with him and his cause. The narrative of the film also seems to be studio-centric asking for some visual relief aka breathing space in terms of visuals of non-studio locations. Other visuals of the collapsing bridge look computer generated and fall inadequately short of creating the required impact about the enormity of the tragedy the film has set out to communicate to the viewers. Overall, it seems budget constraints have played a role in rather compressing the production parameters of the film, taking away the ‘shock and awe’ factors from the film. In short, the film struggles to live up to the reputation of the director built on the track record of films like Neerja and the web series Aarya etc.

New Year’s Eve

 It is New Year’s Eve.  I am sitting by the side of the window of my flat overlooking the most modern hub of Mumbai, the Bandra Kurla Complex contemplating whether to go out to celebrate the New Year’s Eve in a restaurant or sit at home and watch the television. My son and daughter-in-law in any case have decided to party out. My wife and me finally decide to stay at home and have a quiet dinner. We are getting old, we don’t like going out too much and generally avoid outside food. The world outside has changed. When we moved into this flat, through the same window I could see a long stretch of Mithi river and the entire expanse of sky scrappers of BKC. Today, few ugly buildings have come in between curtailing the view and the sunlight, which we had enjoyed for over a decade. The Mithi River that is supposedly cleaned every year has started giving foul smell even during the non-monsoon period. Added to all this is the constant noise of tunnel-drilling coming from the site of metro station ( coming up for last many years) next door adds to the misery of the residents of the locality. The dust in the air and inside the flat has increased- pollution is increasing and the pulmonary problems are on the rise in Mumbai city.But we have no option but to be patient and tolerant.

 All roads around our locality are either dug up or partly occupied by the Metro-workers. Walking on the roads is no longer safe. Senior citizens are scared to go out for a walk. The two old men ( of the light weight category) acting as traffic cops at the free flowing red-light junction are themselves scared to step ahead to stop the speeding vehicles. They whistle though, which is never heard in the din of the honking cars and speeding auto rickshaws. They have been especially chosen for this job, because they are peace loving non-interfering types. Sometimes I say hello to them as I venture to cross the road in order to go to the post office to speed-post my books or film-DVDs to various people.

Driving a car on Mumbai roads has become the riskiest thing. Every morning one reads about pedestrians being knocked down by the rash drivers. Bikers are toppling over the permanent potholes on the roads landing under the wheels of the speeding trucks or buses. I am scared of driving on Mumbai roads not knowing which pothole or man-hole has been designed for me.

Water logging on the roads during the unusually long monsoon period has become a permanent feature of Mumbaikar’s life. Commuters are falling off the local trains losing hands, legs sometimes their life. None of this makes any difference to anyone in this city of dreams. Life goes on as usual, even if people get buried under the collapsing bridges and inside the debris of falling buildings. Their photos provide the content for the newspapers and television channels for a few days and then get replaced by new set of images. Human life is not so important, business is. And so is the business of politics. After all it is the business capital of India. Commerce must rule the city.

The safest way to live in this city is to close the windows of your flat, lock the door from inside and watch television. But the news on TV is also not good. India just lost a match in T20. I switch off the TV and pick up my pen.

Mumbai Meri Jaan

For me coming to Mumbai was like leaving the safe heaven of a Public sector job and jumping into the unpredictable world of the Private sector. I had heard stories about the ruthless dog-eats-dog world of private sector jobs and how difficult it was to survive in a private sector bank, where one had to prove one’s utility on day-to-day basis in order to survive in the system. All these notions largely turned out to be true. From the slow paced routinised world of public sector banking, the private sector demanded hard work, results and the ability to meet new challenges every day. It was the survival of the fittest in an environment, where your peers were ready to dislodge you any moment you slowed down your speed or lowered your guards. However, there was a positive effect of all these challenges. Once I started taking up these demands seriously, it brought out the best in me. It kicked the best of my elements and helped me sharpen and hone my  skills professionally as well as personally. The constant stream of challenges forced me to learn new things on day-to-day basis and keep expanding my domain of knowledge and expertise. Looking back, I think, this habit of incremental learning has kept me going in my life and helped me in exploring new dimensions in my life. It has made me happier, more confident and also improved me as a person. Suddenly, this demanding new world of challenges, allowed me to uncover the latent creative instincts inside me and lo the life exploded !. So much so that my deep-rooted desire to become a filmmaker came to surface, which helped me to finally discover the calling of my life. All this thanks to the gruelling and glittering world of Mumbai.

The Joy of Anonymity

As destined I did not make it to IAS in spite of my best efforts and joined a bank, which took me to the city of Delhi and then finally with the change of bank in mid nineties I landed in the city of Mumbai.  The smell of Mumbai city was very different from the dry smell of Lucknow or Delhi.  The dampness in Mumbai air generates a smell which is unique, more so in South Mumbai, where my office was situated. Getting a cabin in the office that gave an unrestricted view of the deep blue sea was a kind of a milestone in my mental journey towards the high point of my professional career. Due to family circumstances for about an year I stayed in Mumbai alone. Everyday after office hours, I took a leisurely walk beside the sprinting sea waves, holding roasted peanuts in hand and watching the colourful crowd around that was glued into their own world without bothering to know what the person sitting next was doing . It was pleasantly a new experience for me. I felt part of an exalted world yet all by my self. For the first time in my life I experienced the joy of anonymity. This was bliss for a small town boy -the joy of doing what you wanted to do without bothering about the gaze of the prying eyes. Sitting alone on the edge of the boulders watching the setting sun and dreaming to make it big in this city became an evening routine. The sea soaked breeze splashing my face with its intoxicating smell, further invigorated my dreams. The huge expanse of blue sea in front of me seemed to invite me into its fold. The big and beautiful world of dreams was beckoning at me, calling me, challenging me. I fell in love with Mumbai.

Small dreams of a small town boy

In the mid seventies, Lucknow was a small peaceful town and walking on the streets or the footpath used to be an enjoyable activity. While going to school , I used to walk past the majestic street of Hazratganj ( walking up and down this stretch of half a km used to be called ‘ganjing’ ). However , while walking alone on the streets of Hazratganj I used to be apprehensive of one danger , which was always lurking around .The danger of ‘ganjing’ was that someone, who knew me directly or indirectly could spot me there and derive his or her own interpretations about my character. So even while browsing old books at the pavement shops, I used to look around over my shoulders to make sure that I was not being observed before flipping through the coloured pages of the magazines. Such was the case while looking at the posters of English films in Mayfair or Besant talkies also. Once in a while driven by my fascination for cinema, I used to quietly slip into the darkness of Mayfair theatre to watch films like Sara Aakash, Garam Hawa, Bhuvashome, Ka Purush Maha Purush and Ankur. All these films not only created a latent desire in me to become a filmmaker, but also made me dream of the city of Mumbai.

The main activity that occupied the mind space at that age was only to become something in life and migrate to a world of power, money and prestige. Therefore, focus on academics was nearly a full time activity so much so that there was a hand written weekly calendar pasted on the wall over my study table designating how many minutes were to be wasted on daily chores including eating and bathing. As my father was in the employment of the state government, his dream of seeing his son as an IAS officer was drilled into my consciousness day in and day out, without ever bothering to know what was lying beneath the upper layer of my porous consciousness.

 So much was the pressure to get into IAS that I landed up renting a room in the University hostel, to live separately so that I could devote my entire time to studies. One day, my father along with an ex-army friend of his decided to do a check on me and dropped into the hostel for a surprise visit. It so happened that at that time, I was studying with a friend of mine sitting in his room. Infuriated at not finding me in my room, he assumed that I had gone for watching a film and left after slipping a long piece of lecture written on the inside cover of a used envelop and declaring that I had gone astray and my future was doomed. His anger was reflected in the unusually large size of the letters he used in that piece of admonition and advice. Then one day when I had come out of the hostel to have a cup of tea at a restaurant, which for no fault of mine, happened to be located near a girl’s hostel, one of my relatives happened to pass by and he dutifully informed my parents that I was loafing around a girl’s hostel whistling at girls coming out of the hostel. So much for the small town and its invisible prying eyes.