Ever since I can remember I was always an atheist. I never went to a temple, and even when there was Ganpati puja at home my only interest was in the sweets and that I could keep the text books away at the idol for three days. That was the custom back in South.
The point of non-belief or not caring for the forces that supposedly control us can either come out of ignorance or extreme self-confidence. But there were instances when something happened and there were no answers. Three times this happened to me. For instance, ten to twelve years back there was an incident when there were rumors that Ganpati is drinking milk all over the country. I was in my office and I just laughed the rumours off and thought people will believe anything.
When I went home, my nephew came running out and said Ganpati is drinking milk inside. I got scared, because as long as things are happening far away it is fine. But to confront it right in your home is something else.
Dreading to see a miracle I went in and it didn’t happen. My nephew claimed that an hour back it did. I brushed it off with a sigh of relief. But what was nagging me was that I was scared of the ten feet walk in to my home. It means basically my so-called non-belief is just on the wall. It just needs one push here and there to fall off either side.
The second incident occurred when Shiamak Davar, the choreographer, was with me on a flight to Chennai. I have never worked with him. I had just met him at a social occasion for a brief time few weeks before. I said; “Hi Shiamak” and I went and sat next to him. I was on aisle seat and he was at the window seat and we started talking shop. Suddenly he looked to the side and stared as if somebody is next to me. “Your father is dead?” he asked me out of the blue without any preamble. I was taken aback for a while and said “Ya”. He said “He is here with us”. I was obviously jolted and said “What do you mean by he is here?” He further added “He is a little concerned about you?” I didn’t know anything about Shiamak. You know all sorts of people claim that they have all kinds of power. I said “Shiamak, I don’t believe in all this” and he again looked to the side, stared and said “Your father says he never believed in it either.”
My father was an atheist too. I was scared, and all kind of thoughts came to me. I just got up and went to my seat. I was like how the hell he knows something like my father died and he was an atheist. There has to be an explanation. I was refusing to acknowledge that my father’s spirit was there on board of that flight as per Shamiak Davar’s claim. Then I thought okay I am a popular person and it is highly possible that he just may have got to know somewhere about this and he is just playing this trick on me. This is one possibility. And second point I thought that either my father is alive or dead, or my father is an atheist or not it’s just fifty-fifty chance the odds are not so great that he couldn’t have struck lucky. So I thought it has to be one of the two. So by the time flight landed I was convinced it has to be one of the two reasons and I just got it off my head.
The third incident happened at my home. Three years back, I was sitting with my mom and sister, and a relative of ours came with her 4-year old son. My mom and sister claimed that the kid has some powers because of being blessed by some baba and he can answer any question posed to him and people from all over come to him. He can’t speak but he just writes the answer. I was just quite amused to hear the claim and I at random asked what is 338 multiplied by 486 and the kid’s mother started coaxing him. He took about 20 to 30 seconds as she was bribing him with a chocolate and in front of me he wrote the answer.
Yes, I was scared to see something like that happen right in front of me. I was even more scared of my mother and sister because they took it so casually as if he has written 1,2,3 or A,B,C. Then I realized that they are taking it casually because they have faith, they believed and took it for granted that he has the power so he can write the answer. Because I don’t believe I am fucked.
Now years later after this incident happened… I think I imagined it, may be I dreamt about it. I am scared to ask my mother ‘Did it happen?’ because if she says YES I am screwed! So in all the instances… first the Ganpati never drank milk in front of me, Shiamak Davar I never met him again and the kid, I imagined so I still can claim that I don’t believe in supernatural forces.
But what if Ganpati drank milk in front of me? What if Shamak Davar said something what only my father and I could have known? What if the kid continued to be in my life? I would like to know what would have happened to my convictions.
So the point is you can brush off superstitions… you can counter the existence of dark forces or argue about them in a drawing room. But what if it happens to you?
Do you really understand the nature of what you are denying and accepting?
Being an atheist I would like to believe that there is a rational and scientific explanation to supernatural occurrences. But till I know and understand the same I am forced to presume that they are supernatural happenings.
“Phoonk” is the story of a confirmed atheist whose belief systems are shaken up when his loved ones are subjected to unspeakable horrors by forces whose very existence his rational mind refuses to accept. It is also the story of a fanatical devotee who is forced to turn her back on God in the face of traumatic experiences.
“Phoonk” is also a very scary film, but the fear element is not just on the surface level like for instance in a film like “Bhoot”. Here it seeps into you and plagues your entire belief system thereby making you highly vulnerable and will also put you into an emotional state wherein you would start fearing the most inane objects which you would normally take for granted in the daily course of life.
Finally I would like to say, not as a tall claim from a directorial position but just as an observer of the sheer content of Phoonk, “Don’t say I didn’t warn you?”