It was just another midnight of last year’s summer. I had just finished re-watching Alexander Payne’s Sideways, a movie that had moved me profoundly. I opened a notepad, and started typing down my thoughts. It was an inspired moment.
I made a blog (my very first), posted the note, and without thinking too much, I shared the post on Ebert’s official FB page.
I knew he would answer and react to his fans on his FB page as often as he could, and with such generosity! What I didn’t know was that I would become one of those fortunate fans. Within 30 minutes, I received a notification “Roger Ebert commented on your post.”. I died! Of happiness! I couldn’t believe it!
Then my ecstatic moment slowly started fading away as soon as I started guessing what he may have commented. No, I hadn’t read the comment yet. I was savoring the moment. I was too busy reading those fantastic words of the most important notification I’ve ever received on my Facebook profile, and surely the one I ever will. “Roger Ebert commented on your post.”
What he might have said? He must have found my writing amateurish. Well, of course! What was I thinking?–My inner critic started voicing in my head for a while. And then I took a deep breath, and saw the comment. I read his words. He had written ten words. And in those ten words, he managed them to be the most encouraging words I’ll ever receive.
“You, my friend, can write, and you should blog more.”
I was looking at those words, and they became blurry. I realized that I was crying! Happily! Tears ran down my cheek as I read those words again and again. It was just too good to be true! But there it was. The greatest film critic the world has seen, reading and encouraging my writing! What obligation did he have to do that? None. Did he have to spare time to read the post? No. I still don’t think I am worthy of that comment.
But that’s just how that man was. Always encouraging. Always generous. The most human film critic. A writer who would operate the keyboard like a maestro stroking piano keys. I thanked him by replying to his comment, and let him know how much his words meant to me. That was the end of my brief interaction with Roger Ebert. I believe he must have smiled reading my reply. I hope so.
Did I live up to Roger’s encouragement? I am afraid not. I hate myself for that. There were times when I would think of ideas or get inspired to write again, maybe post on his page once again to let him know that I was walking on the path he directed me towards. But I delayed or ignored those ideas for the reasons that now seem petty. I feel regret.
It was April 5th, early morning, in India. I go online, and I come to know about the news. A terrible, unreal news. I couldn’t think for quite a while. It may sound corny, but I went offline, and tried to sleep again, wishing that it was just a bad dream from which I would wake up eventually, and read another new post by Roger Ebert. But, no, it happened. He left us. And I was reminded of those ten generous words again. I realized how I was going to dedicate a post to him, hoping that he would read it, and maybe, just maybe, it would make him smile. But it would never happen now. I took his divine presence for granted. I never thought there would come a day when he won’t be around, when there won’t be any words written by him anymore. I guess I just didn’t want that to happen, of course.
I discovered Roger Ebert while looking for a review of a movie that I don’t seem to remember at the moment. Perhaps, that’s not important. I wasn’t exposed to online written reviews before, and I came to know that Roger Ebert was considered the most prestigious of them all. And after my very first experience of Ebert’s flawless writing, I understood why.
There was this flow of a calm and confident river in his writing. Always inspired, and always connecting with the reader. He would not tell you whether you should or shouldn’t watch the film. His reviews were more than that. In fact, they weren’t reviews. They were windows through Ebert’s genius and beautiful mind, through which, you could re-interpret the films in different and eye-opening ways, the ways that you wouldn’t think were possible. He would show you the big picture. He would tell you what to look for in the film, and how. He always was inter-acting through his writings. They were, essentially, conversations with the readers. Always helping you evolve as a cinema aficionado. It became a ritual for me to read Ebert’s review as soon as I finished a film. Without his perspective, the film experience always remained incomplete. And now, that hollowness is to remain forever.
Everyone knows what a wonderful life he lived, but not short of challenges. I think he knew the possibilities of social networking sites and blogs, more than anyone of us, because those became the only stages for him to speak. He touched so many lives, connected with so many people, and inspired so many souls. In his own words, “You can’t say it wasn’t interesting.”
Oh, Roger. I miss you! The loss has me saddened, but not discouraged, no. I have so much of your writing yet to read. You’re alive in your words, and memories and love of your fans. You’ll see me at the movies. Whenever I would come across a profoundly moving film, I would wonder how you would have enjoyed it, too. You should know, and I hope these words find a way to you cosmically, that those ten words hang on wall of my room. I start my every morning looking at it.
“You, my friend, can write, and you should blog more.”
I will, Rog. I will.
Thank you, for everything.