May 5, 2010

India's Got Tortured Genius?

There's no formal classification of talent, but biographies often throw up phrases to describe their subjects. One of the most intriguing ones is the notion of the "tortured genius". A tortured genius is one whose talents are far beyond our understanding, of the sublime and the ridiculously easy, coupled with self-destructive tendencies that often derails said genius' own talents. Kind of like a woodcutter so talented that when he cuts down the branch on which he's perched, the resulting pattern causes crop circles below. (This didn't make sense? Ah, you mere mortal, you).

Despite its rarity, there are enough examples of tortured genius, the most visible being from sport or the arts. Vincent van Gogh was the epitome of the phrase. Diego Maradona or George Best of Paul Gascoigne. The bizarre Howard Hughes or the tortured souls housed in John Nash Jr. Ronnie O' Sullivan. (The British seem to produce an excess of sporting TGs - or perhaps they are just very good at spotting and anointing them as such.) Gregory House, of course. With genius, can drugs, sex, music, alcohol, and psychedelic teddy bears be far behind?

But the thing is - I can't really think of any TGs from India. Our sportsmen have been an endless series of nice boys or just muscled morons. Our filmstars just got old and fat, or began blogs. If only Salman Khan was a half-decent actor. After a lot of thinking, the only ones that come to mind are the likes of Mukul Shivputra or Ritwik Ghatak. But where're our pill-popping, fisticuff-flying, call-the-curfew-on-your-child's-senses assaulting genius who can do magical things during the day to have his every sin erased off the charts?

There's many a show with a genius for torturing the masochistic bunch of viewers that can't peel their eyes off them. But finding our own tortured genius? - now that ought to be a talent show waiting to happen.

14 comments:

D said...

trouble is that as a culture we don't seem to be open with being twisted or complex...

Ray comes to mind. it is not uncommon knowledge that while he had the talent of about 6 gifted people atleast, he wasn't much as a family man and quite cranky to shoot with.

Guru Dutt was definitely in the tortured zone and KGP is enough to qualify him in the genius category...

Not sure Kishore Kumar was "tortured" much but he was one of a kind alright...

More when I remember stuff...

Ajay said...

Guru Dutt?

Anurag Kashyap was one for a while, but then his films started getting released and he found love :)

Anonymous said...

Bharathiar, Guru Dutt, Pudhumai Pithan, Ramanujan, Raghuvaran, Chandrababu, Kannadasan.
Every Indian writer / poet / film personality who is roundly dismissed as an alcoholic has immense TG potential.

Anonymous said...

surely, guru dutt counts as one

Anonymous said...

surely, guru dutt counts as one

Salil said...

Vague one: Srinivasa Ramanujan - genius beyond doubt. No self-destructive tendencies, but his self-imposed strict dietary habits and lack of suitable options pretty much screwed his stay in England and health thereafter.

anand said...

Can only think of Adrian Ezra, Rohit Rajpal, RGV, D Pillay, Rakesh Mohan !
Is drugged promiscuity the only sign of a genius / If not, then leave the tepid Brits out.
Do torturing geniuses count ? :)

Upasna said...

But Dr Dipankar Roy was a TG! Don't movies reflect the state of the world we are in :D

Ramanand said...

D: quite; degree of tolerance would be fairly low
Not so convinced about Ray - sure he was immensely gifted, a genius polymath, but falls short on the self-defeating behaviour :-) (just one affair and a pipe-smoking habit :-P)

All: Guru Dutt - yes, very much - how could I have missed him? very sad. Wish someone could have intervened.

Ajay: apropos Anurag K - very much so (I thought of the same later - love did screw up the ending of Dev.D - now waiting to see what effect it has on the rest of his career :) )

Anon: quite a list of Tamil TGs there. But Bharatiyaar? Didn't know that.

Salil: I quite agree - Ramanujan perhaps didn't quite come to terms with honing a talent overseas. His bio does suggest a persona uneasy with many things.

Anand: RGV!! No, drugged promiscuity is a sufficient condition, not necessary :-) Wondering if Mithun qualifies as one - someone who seems to have deliberately taken his acting career downhill, caring not a whit.

Upasna: Dr. Roy from Ek Doctor Ki Maut? quite a movie, that.

Ajay said...

I never put the unsatisfactory ending of Dev. D with his dating Kalki K until you blogged about it. It just came together then :).

Anonymous said...

Actress Saavithri, perhaps?

I do not think Bharathiyar fall under this category, but never know for sure.

Also I feel, most of the time we do not know, most of the stuff are kept away from general public/cleaned under the carpet, the "god/clean/uncontroversial" image is maintained at any cost and so on.

Srihari

Upasna said...

Yes that one, and it felt very real. I have to also add, I didn't particularly mind how Dev D ended. But love has done strange things to Anurag K read his interview with Filmfare, it was slightly tacky...

Meghana Kshirsagar said...

Lots of suggestions above that I agree with. But I do feel the torture levels are lower in India, or probably less sensationalized.

Ramanand said...

Srihari: Savithri, perhaps. Yes, torment is usually silently suffered.

Upasna: Dev.D is a separate discussion, but I found it interesting that the saviour of both Dev.D and his creator were the same person, so I can't help feeling AK projected his life on the story.

Meghana: I think it's a lot less public - someone would prefer silent dysfunctionality rather than disturb the image of a talent. (A Tiger Woodsian fate, I wonder.)