Vikram Bhatt column: Fearing failure

I would think ours is a failure averse society. Such is the fear of failure that most of our health problems might find their roots in the stress and the anxiety that stem from the fear of failure. Why do we fear failing so much? I have been thinking about this for a while and do follow my musing, if you will.

I was in high school when my grandfather asked me to accompany him to the Derby. I had no real knowledge of horses or races, still don’t. And truth be told, I thought the races were a crashing bore. It would take ages between each race and the canteen did not offer much choice to stuff the boredom away. Yet, that day at the races taught me a lifelong lesson.

As we drove back, my grandfather elucidated rather philosophically on how he thought life was much like the races. “There are two kinds of people, Vikram,” he said. “The first kind, like the horses that run the races; and the second kind gather on the stand and bet on the ones that race. You have a choice. You can be one or other. There are very few who run the race because when you stop winning, they retire you and then shoot you down. The ones on the stand find others to bet on. Yet, with the first kind, comes fame. The second kind are just the multitude.”

I understood little at the time. I understand too well now. Those who chase success need to have the gumption to court failure. Failure is inevitable. The only way to not fail is to not make an attempt at all. But failure is crippling, frightening and socially frowned upon. How does one tread that path to success if failure is inevitable?

I have seen more than my share of failure. As a matter of fact, it would be fair to say that I have see someone else’s share as well. Nothing is more humiliating than failure. There was a time after Raaz and Awara Pagal Deewana, and before I made 1920, when everything I made flopped at the box office.

And with the flops at the box office came the side effects of failure. Stars would not answer my calls, producers found it pleasurable to belittle me. I remember one incident when, before the release of my film, my producer decided that it was better that he gave an interview and appeared on the cover of an entertainment supplement instead of me. He was convinced that I would push the audiences away.

I woke up in the morning to see him sharing the space with the actor of the film, they were both sharing an ice cream on the beach. It was a tragi-com. No one knew the guy and no one still knows the guy and there he was trying to woo the audiences by giving an interview that did not matter. I found it insulting and I also found it funny. Yet, the poor chap was only trying to make it work for himself.

So I, Mr. Failure, had reached the bottom of the ocean and I could either stay there or find my way back up. I wondered how it was that I made those successful films. What was I doing wrong? How had I become Mr. Failure?

I remember the swing I sat on as I thought of this. It made a really creaky sound and on any given day would have vexed the life out of me, yet on that occasion I went stone deaf for I had an insight into my problem.  I was not Mr. Failure. My attempts at success had failed but it was an attempt that had failed and not me. I am not an attempt. I am the one making an attempt. If I could make one attempt, I could make other attempts.

I had once read that failure is an event, not a person. Those words came back to me. I understood that I was mixing the events with myself. It did not matter if the world that stood like the betting folks in the stands at the races thought of me as a failure. What really mattered was what I thought of myself!

Success and failure are like a game of darts. Every throw could bring in a new result. If the dart flew off the board in one attempt, it did not mean it would not find its mark in the next one. I had to be the dart thrower. I was confusing myself with the dart. The dart I was not!

It was the day I started to write my film 1920. A film that no one wanted to make; and when made, no one wanted to release; and when it released no one wanted to admit it was a success. And yet, four spinoffs later, it still stands tall. It has been more than 13 years since that day and I have survived here making some good attempts and some bad but I have learnt to look at the crowds in the stands and smile to myself. I know a secret that they don’t. I know that I can make success out of failure.

Now, so do you.