Yes. The first post on Dusted Off was published on November 4, 2008.
It wasn’t as if I’d woken up suddenly one day with an epiphany and decided I had to create a blog. It just so happened that everything began to come together for me in 2008. I’d just quit the corporate world after 14 years of hard slogging—years which had left me with almost no time to call my own. I read books in fits and starts. I wrote in fits and starts. I didn’t have time to watch TV, and only very few films, and those too mostly in bits and pieces: half an hour here, half an hour there.
But, in March 2008, having given up my job so I could focus on my writing (I’d just signed a contract for The Englishman’s Cameo, and was busy writing its sequel), I began to spend a little more time doing the things that really appealed to me. Like watching cinema. And seeing what others had to say about the films I enjoyed watching.
Very soon, I’d discovered Greta’s thoroughly addictive blog. I began commenting, and Greta—sweet as she is—suggested, after a while, that I should begin a blog of my own. I didn’t, for a few months, because of sheer laziness, some trepidation (would anybody even want to read it? Would I get any visitors, or would I end up writing for myself?) Finally, I succumbed. I decided my blog would focus on cinema from before the 1970s, with only the very occasional exception being made for films from about 1971-2, whose tone and style set them in an earlier decade.
And, I decided I wouldn’t restrict myself to Hindi cinema. I’d also do Hollywood and English films.
Thus, Dusted Off was launched. I told my family, and I told Greta. Greta was kind enough to publicize my blog a bit.
And here we are, 5 years down the line. While I still stick very rigidly to my principle of only writing about pre-70s films, other things have changed. For instance, because of suggestions (primarily from blog reader Bawa, who has gifted me some amazingly good Spanish films), I also began reviewing international cinema. Because of a caustic remark left by a one-off reader on a blog, I’ve reduced the length of the story I generally give away during the course of a review.
Along the way, I’ve also gained a lot, learned a lot. I’ve been told fascinating anecdotes and trivia (and I’ve discovered some for myself). I’ve learned about some unsung people without whom cinema might not have been half the joy and fun it is. (Edwina, do you hear me?) I’ve discovered—thanks to Greta again—who Ramu Kaka was. I’ve got to know, even if only in the virtual world, the daughter of Johnny Walker and Noor, and Tarun Bose’s daughter, Shilpi, whose blog is one of my favourites.
And, best of all, I’ve made friends with a lot of people across the world, all of us united in our love for old cinema. Some connections are proof of that dictum about the world being a small place: blog reader pacifist, it turned out, was a relative of a family friend. Another blog reader, Samir, was a relative of an old friend and ex-colleague. And Anu, whose Conversations over Chai is another of my favourites, had first become acquainted with me years ago on Sulekha, before we lost touch—and then found each other again.
I’ve met some of these people in person (some in previous years, three already this year, and another bunch planned for January 2014). And I’ve discovered that, besides the love we share for old cinema, there are other things we have in common. Shared memories of growing up in an India where Doordarshan was the only TV, and where films meant the 5.45 PM one on Sundays. A love for old things, even old monuments. A passion for books. A similar sense of humour.
These years have been fun. Humbling, too, in some ways. I’ve come a long way, from being merely someone who loved old cinema, to someone who has been actually invited to write on cinema (I hasten to add: not in a big, to-be-taken-seriously way). Dusted Off has had over 9,30,000 views as on date, with nearly 18,000 comments (the most commented post has been the one on female duets). I’ve written just over 400 posts. I’ve reviewed almost 150 Hindi films, 120 Hollywood and British films, and 27 (yes, I know I need to focus here more) films in other languages. I’ve compiled more than 60 lists. I’ve written about my own connections to the world of films, and have been as excited as any of my readers to read the guest posts contributed by others.
And, I am grateful. Grateful to those who’ve made these films. And grateful to those who’ve patiently read my blog posts, have taken the time to comment on them, or have even just clicked the ‘Like’ button. Each of those little actions have encouraged me in some way or the other. They’re what keep me going.
So, because this is a very special month for Dusted Off, November 2013 is dedicated to my readers. To acknowledge the part you play in keeping this blog alive and well. To thank you for your suggestions, your requests, your enthusiasm. Dhanyavaad, shukriya, thank you, dhonnobaad, merci, grazie, gracias… and please stay with me. There’s lots more to come.