"No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world." - Robin Williams
It was early hours of the 12th, when I received that shocking text from one of my friends stating "Robin Williams passed away" to which I spontaneously replied "Screw you", thinking it was one of his usual sadist pathetic jokes but in a matter of minutes realized that it was sadly true. Honest to god, I have never been affected by a celebrity death (May be a little when Michael Jackson passed away in 2009) but I always had this notion that people who mourn celebrity deaths were just being superficial. I just couldn't understand, how we could mourn people we don't even know. But on 12th August,2014 I understood how. Just moments after getting this news I was overwhelmed by so much grief and sadness, felt devastated. My Twitter feed and Facebook timelines were being flooded with quotes and RIP's. I was getting these flashes of scenes, these brilliant unbelievable scenes of Robin Williams one after the other. Few hours later, when the feeling and the truth had sunk in, I had to ask myself "You don't even know the guy, how can he be so Important to you? How has he touched your life so much so that it has made you cry?". The answer to that I guess was, Robin Williams wasn't just a celebrity, he wasn't just somebody known to us through the tabloids, gossip columns or films: He was an artist, who touched us few lucky ones through his art.
I just knew 140 characters or a status update wouldn't do justice to him, I just had to write out my feelings.
I was 6 when I was introduced to him for the first time, when he dressed up as 'Mrs. Doubtfire' and a few years later it was 'Jumanji' and 'Flubber'. Even though I didn't have much idea about films or what acting was, I for sure had become a fan of this guy's work. A cameo in 'FRIENDS' (One of my favorite episodes of all time) and few stand-ups later, I stumbled upon 'Dead Poets Society' and 'Good Will Hunting'. Williams, in both these movies is like an Angel. He's just an actor who's on screen reading and enacting his lines but somehow when he smiles, you start feeling comfortable, you start getting this feeling that this guy is there for you and everything is going to be alright. Majority of his characters had that charm, whether it was John Keating, Sean Maguire or Patch Adams, when they smile, you feel home. It felt as if Williams could have the answers to all of our problems! That's the true Genius of actors and the legacy they leave behind.
I am sure those of you who have seen 'Good Will Hunting' remember the Bench scene. The warmth with which Williams acts out this scene is wholly recognizable and till date I am in awe of this scene. We are able to sympathize with both characters, because they are held on equal grounds and neither one is played as positive/negative. 'Sean Maguire' is not trying to engage Will, rather, he is implicating him, he is forcing Will to assess himself, to come to terms with his own insecurities. Fittingly, the scene ends with Sean’s line: “It’s your move, Chief.” Williams and Matt Damon then go on and enact one of the more moving scenes in all of cinema, with Williams helping Damon tearfully palliate the self-blame he harbors from the abuse by softly repeating the phrase: “It’s not your fault.” The role got Williams an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. This is one of those movies that I re-watch every time I feel down and depressed and it helps me every single time.
When I think of Robin Williams as Sean Maguire, all I can think of saying to him is I never had a friend like you Chief, Thank you.
“You don’t know about real loss, because that only occurs when you love something more than you love yourself.”
Another one of those great Williams movies that I re-watch almost every other month, that talks about the clash between traditional and conservative education system with that of progressive teaching methods is 'Dead Poets Society'. For starters, I have to thank John Keating and his 'Dead Poets Society' for getting me interested into literature and poetry. I always wished that either in school or in college, I would meet a teacher like him but I never was that lucky. Looking at Williams' Keating, you just wish you could be in this out-of-the-box teacher's class. Taking the boys outside, for class, encouraging them to stand on their desks, rip pages out of their textbooks, write poetry to woo the ladies, and meet in a cave in the middle of the night to celebrate the verse of the dead poets that came before them. The thing about his unconventional teaching style is that it is exactly what his trapped-inside-the-box boys so desperately needed. We all need that someone to tell us that there are rewards for taking risks, that someone to tell us to look at things differently, that someone to tell us that we are all exceptional in our own different ways.
In one scene, Keating stands on his desk and asks his students: “Why do I stand up here? Anybody? I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different way.”
"Gentlemen, what are the four pillars?
Travesty! Horror! Decadence! Excrement"
Williams lived the role as the teacher, the kind who could actually change your life - it's hard to differentiate the man from the character. Just like Keating, Williams too believed in taking risks, being original, spreading love and joy, seeing things in a different and exceptional way and achieving them. Robin Williams was one of the teachers I will never forget, When I think of Robin Williams as John Keating, all I can think of saying to him is I never had a teacher like you. O Captain, My Captain! Thank you, You taught me more than any teacher in school ever did.
'Dead Poets Society' - The ending that makes you want to stand on a desk
O Captain! My Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weather'd every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:
The more I get to know and hear about this man, I end up getting more and more pissed with god. From trying his luck as a street mime to then doing various stand ups to breaking into television and then into films. Even during his depression, he made sure that he continued performing for the US national troops in Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq, continued his unpublicized campaign for St Jude's Children's hospital, even funding Jessica Chastain's full-ride scholarship to Juilliard acting school when she was just starting out herself.
From starting off as an alien on TV going on to play a disc jockey in Vietnam and talking about press freedom in 'Good Morning Vietnam', to being a Clown doctor in 'Patch Adams', to improvising 70% of the dialogues as Genie in 'Aladdin' so much so that the Academy Awards rejected the bid in the Best Adapted Screenplay category because so much of Williams role ended up being improvised, to being a nanny and bringing out the issues of single parenting in 'Mrs Doubtfire', to being a therapist and bringing out the issues of domestic abuse in 'Good Will Hunting', to being an android who gradually acquires emotions in 'Bicentennial Man', to voicing a wise and all-knowing penguin in 'The Happy Feet', to being a photo lab worker who gets obsessed with a family in 'One Hour Photo' and in 'The Birdcage', at a time when it was still relatively controversial to be gay in America, Robin Williams and Nathan Lane played a loving gay couple who fought through stigma and showed their son why he shouldn’t be ashamed to be part of a gay family. From comedy to drama to even thriller, he excelled in each every role he did. Heck! He even made 'RV' and 'The Crazy Ones' watchable.
His Oscar winning speech is still one of my favorites. It encapsulates the essence of this man, his passion for life, his love of people, his close friend and Oscar host Billy Crystal coming and hugging him, his quick witted humor.
Robin Williams along with Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg, raised almost $80 million for people in need with their Comic Relief stand up specials, which spanned over 20 years.
"And most of all, I want to thank my father, up there, The man who, when I said I want to be an actor, he said, 'Wonderful, just have a back-up profession like welding.'
May be deep down it was the hint of depression that made him excel in every single role, no matter what character he played, funny or dramatic. Always felt there was something different about this Genius, but i guess it can surface at any time, and devastate lives, even in the case of a man who's gusto for living and seemingly very happy life seemed he could be immune to. It will be very difficult to reach the benchmark that he has set and I personally believe that his shoes will never be filled. A truly remarkable comedian with electrifying energy, extraordinary actor and more than all that, an unbelievably great human being.
I may not have been able to place flowers outside your home or on your Hollywood walk of fame but this right here, is my tribute to you Chief. God bless you Robin, few people leave this place with the impact of how many lives you touched. You are and will ALWAYS be an inspiration to me.
A fitting Tribute to the Genius, who made us laugh, cry, think and a lot more.
Life is too short - stop worrying so much and start living it.
The 'Good Will Hunting' bench in Boston Public Garden
My tears are an evidence of his death, My laughter is an affirmation of his life.
Rest In Peace Robin. You were one of a kind. Now you are free to make God laugh.
Thank You for everything.
Two words : 'Carpe Diem'.