“Have you ever been struck by lightning?,” asked the orderly as we moved down the corridor lined by the confinements of the mentally deranged. I was struck by the choice of his words, alright. I might have taken his question in stride had the day been of a cloudy nature but it was warm and sunny outside with as much chance of rain as the dead coming back to life.
I was there at the institute to meet a friend, Jim. Jim was how all the parents of the neighborhood wanted their kids to be. “Why can’t you be more like Jim?,” was the constant jam. Jim was a quiet child who never crossed paths with mischief. Jim excelled at tests even though he wasn’t particularly driven. Jim was a good-looking kid whom the girls seemed to fancy but he never did notice. Jim was above desire. Jim was an only child and pleased with that. He was content being by himself, and that felt like a reproach to the rest of us who were always seeking company. I need to clarify, I didn’t actually become friends with Jim until much later.
Jim fell off the wagon during his college years. With no drive and no desire, he couldn’t possibly cope with the demands of the professional world, and he came to live at home. He had failed to make something of himself, and worryingly for his parents, he didn’t seem to regret it either. Jim’s parents were lost. They took to approaching me. They were hoping he would snap out of his stupor on watching his more successful peers. But alas, Jim wasn’t made that way. Jim never thought of himself as being in competition with the rest. The qualities that led to him being lauded in his childhood were working overtime to thwart him in his adulthood. Anyway, I did my bit. I took to visiting Jim, as per his parents’ wishes.
On one of my bi-weekly visits to the Jim household, Jim came up to me with heretofore unseen enthusiasm and asked, “Which movie character do you associate the most with?.” I thought for a moment and replied, “Han Solo.” He said, “I know.” Before I could laugh at his witticism, he added, “The character I most identify with is that of Michael Shannon in Revolutionary Road.” I hadn’t known Jim had a thing for movies.
Turns out Jim always had a thing for movies, it was in his genes. Jim’s father had flunked out of high school after spending too many days at the cinemas and by red carpets. That he eventually turned out to be a successful person was a moot point for him. Jim’s father, on account of not having much education himself, was obsessed with everything education stood for. He wanted his son to be nothing like him, and for a while, it did appear that his wish would come true. But then Jim went to college, and fell off the wagon, whatever that means.
Following the death of his father, a mortal, Jim outdid himself. He ran away to a mental institute. Some of the neighbors saw it as just another instance of Jim running away from responsibility. Others nodded in agreement. Jim’s mother took a vow. She vowed that her son wouldn’t lack for any facility wherever he may choose to spend his days. She was convinced that movies were the only thing keeping her son alive and made arrangements so Jim could have access to all the latest well-received and festival favorites.
I offered to be of assistance. I wasn’t paid for my services, not that I had any wish to be, or that it was anything but a pleasure, but I was given the title of ‘Entertainment consultant’. I was at the institute, on this day, to visit Jim, in this very capacity.
As the guard busied himself opening the door, I peeped in through the looking glass to see Jim, turned away from us, hunched over a piece of paper. Jim didn’t even turn around when I entered the room. I assumed he was working on something close to his heart. Letting go of any propriety, I peered over his shoulder. He was working on a questionnaire; to be taken by whom, I had no inkling. These were few of the questions:
1) What is Brad Pitt’s highest grossing film?
2) Arrange the following films in the decreasing order of their box office receipts: Ocean’s Eleven, Ocean’s Twelve, Ocean’s Thirteen.
3) a) Pineapple Express isn’t one of Seth Rogen’s top 10 grossing films. True or false. b) Can the same be said of Jonah Hill and Wolf of Wall Street?
4) What story do the box office collections of the Spider Man trilogy tell you?
5) Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted. Which actress’ highest grossing film is that?
“I know the answer to the last one,” I said, by way of hello. “Well, good. I would have felt sorry for you otherwise,” he replied.