Why ‘I don’t know’ is the only mantra to creativity?


I am also a part of this society. I am also trained to take pride in my knowledge. In a competitive world, the more we know the faster we grow. If we look at our life retrospectively, we will find that most of our life has been spent on showing off to people how much we know. With friends, we are proving that we know more than them. We always tell our children to do things according to our instructions because “… I am telling you because I know.” Seniors tell juniors ‘… listen to me as I know better”. All of us are in a race to prove that we know better. People who don’t know are made to feel inferior, smaller and intellectual subordinates. Sometimes this even goes on to shaming others “… you please shut up… you know nothing”.

When I started my career in advertising, the culture was to look smarter than others with obnoxious display of our knowledge. Those who couldn’t’t show off were left behind in the ladder of success. I was groomed as a ‘I-know-better’ person. All the books, articles, essays, presentations and speeches I was introduced to, during this stint, were screaming about their knowledge. The English was so complex that one had to open the dictionary most of the times and I used to go back to the office and show off my knowledge of this complex book. I was trained to make complex presentations for the client to reinforce his belief that we knew better. I was a successful participant in this world of impressing others. I was in the business of communication but nobody was communicating. There was a wall of knowledge between us. Nobody was knowing, everyone was telling. We were in the business of creativity but were we creating? Or repackaging and recycling an existing idea?

Then I joined the business of cinema. Here too, everyone knows everything. Stars teach directors how to direct. Directors teach writers how to write. If you sit quietly in meeting, you will be considered as someone who knows nothing. If a directors tries to tell a star what’s wrong with the take, he says “I know… I know….”. I made big films but inside, the creativity I was seeking, was never found. I was feeling dehydrated. I was making what I knew. Film was just another medium to show off what I knew. I wasn’t discovering. There was no invention of thoughts, ideas, concepts.

Few years ago, on 2nd October, I tweeted that in our obsession with Gandhi ji, we must not forget that it was also Lal Bahadur Shashtri’s birthday. In a reply, someone asked me to make a film on his mysterious death. I didn’t know anything about it. After few days, I was discussing this with my assistant and he asked me why not make a film on this and I said I can’t because I don’t know nothing about it. “This is exactly why we should make it”, he replied.

Did Newton know about gravity before he found it? Did Picasso know about cubism? The entire Geeta is based on Arjuna’s not knowing. Not knowing transformed Siddharth to gautam Buddha.

Since then my life has changed. I surrendered myself to ‘not knowing’. I wrote the entire script just travelling into dark territories not knowing anything. I wrote as I discovered. Until the very last minute I didn’t who to cast. As the roles developed they found their own actors. This film ‘The Tashkent Files’ has 5 national award winning actors besides 7 outstanding senior actors. When we met for the first workshop, all the actors asked me how I wanted them to play the role. “I don’t know’ I said. I seriously didn’t know. All I told them was “Let’s just try out various things… when we find the honesty of the moment, we will lock it.”

“How will we know if we found the honesty of the moment?” the senior most actor asked me.

“I don’t know…. something will tell us… like when we fall in love for the first time without knowing the person at all…. “

This making of this film became a journey of finding the honesty… that feeling…

Things kept happening on their own… we kept finding, discovering, learning….

Nobody wanted to go home when we wrapped the shooting. Not because they loved the food or had fun. Because everyone was discovering that we knew nothing and this discovery was as much bliss as the birth of a child… or the flowering of a flower in our garden…

Yesterday, I saw the first cut of the film…. The creativity I was seeking in my stagnated world found me again. I don’t know if we discovered the full truth of Shashtri ji’s death but the film seemed like an honest journey. An attempt of honest discovery.

Isn’t finding honesty the real creativity?

Will the audience like it? I don’t know.

How will the critics react? I don’t know.

All I know that I have never felt like this in all those years when I knew everything. Today, I know nothing and there is so much space in me to know everything. In this space, for the first time, I feel creative. Content. And eager to know more. To discover. Find. Invent. Learn.

And live.

When we walk in an unknown territory, only to learn, without any particular destination… without wanting to possess any new knowledge…. When we are in sync with the mystery of the cosmos…. We discover. That is creativity.

Walk in the unknown. Be #IAmBuddha. 

Note: you can also contribute to this column by sending your ideas, stories, fables, anecdotes. I’ll use them with due credits. 

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