Mansoor Khan, whose book on alternative energy was released recently, talks about the leap from making blockbusters like Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak to growing one’s own food.
Mansoor Khan, the man behind blockbuster films like Qayamat se Qayamat tak and Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander, is not in the hustle and bustle of Mumbai where the biggest Hindi films are produced, but in quiet Coonoor.
His journey from the city to the 22-acre ‘Acres Wild’ in the hills began with computer science at IIT-Mumbai, Cornell University and MIT. But this was not his calling. Instead, he followed in the footsteps of his father, filmmaker Nasir Hussian. Though temporary, filmmaking helped him identify Coonoor as the space that would fill his spiritual vacuum.
After the recent release of his book The Third Curve: The End of Growth As You Know It, he talks about his filmmaking days, life as a farmer and energy perspectives. Excerpts from an interview:
Why did you leave Mumbai?
When I came back to India from the U.S. in 1980, I realised that I did not like cities. The city was all about straight lines, traffic lights and people rushing to office. Open spaces, the desire to grow my food — it slowly began making sense. It took 23 years to materialise, but the decision was made a long time back. People ask me why I gave up a successful film career. I tell them I moved away to something that I value more than some film of mine doing well. It’s of no value to me that someone else thinks I am successful.
Why films at all, then?
I had to prove myself to my father. I had a knack for telling stories. Could I render the story differently; through characters that are real, and not completely over-the-top? Life took its own course after that. I do not believe in free will beyond a point. We do not make our destiny, but within that we can shape our lives and believe in something and know what is good for us. I bought land in Mandwa, where I went sailing, and thought I would live there. It took me three hours (from Mumbai) to reach there. I realised I can’t live half here and half there. I had to get out of there totally.
What was the turning point?
The government wanted to take my land in Mandwa in 1997. That led me to question the basis on which the government acquired land for development. Later I met Medha Patkar and that led me wonder what we actually value when we have dammed our rivers. I realised that this is the other side of education we were not taught because we are not the ones being thrown out of our homes. We created an inverted concept of development, which is why these people are homeless.
What is the central theme of your book?
My book talks about possibility. I’ve explained why economic growth is over from an energy perspective. Growth is dead for a geological reason. Oil makes the industrial world work. It is the keystone of energy. Remove that energy, everything else fails. We’ve reached the peak of the resources. So, growth slows down because the earth gives you these resources slower after the halfway point. Nothing in nature grows forever. How did we come up with the concept that growth can go on forever, when we are using stored energy? Oil is nothing but 250 million years of stored sunlight.
Why not make a film about this instead?
A film is not a strong medium. It’s a great medium for entertainment, propaganda, titillation and instruction. But it does not serve as a platform for shifting paradigms or to change a set of rules. Real life is good; you’ll stick with your paradigm till real life teaches you that this does not work.
To what extent do you think your views will be absorbed?
I do not expect people to change instantly, but hope they will keep it in the back of their mind. It will only be seen in hindsight. If you don’t believe what I’ve said in my book, please go ahead and do what you think. But keep this lens handy. Tomorrow, when something you did according to your rules fails, look through my lens and see. May be it will make sense.