Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Salaam Cinema

This write-up is in response to a blog written by my beloved friend, creative partner and critic, Somaasri (Soma),
Whenever my media team (Me, Soma and Nithya) is in canteen, it’s not just the coffee that is hot. Being a film enthusiastic lot, the atmosphere naturally gets heated up by cinema and just cinema.
Yesterday wasn’t different as she mentioned in her blog. Everything started with my remarks on the film “Salaam Cinema”, by celebrated Irani filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf. True to my inclination towards experimental filmmaking, I was excited about the concept of this documentary film, which the filmmaker’s tribute to the one hundredth anniversary of cinema.

The director holds a casting call for 100 actors to appear in his next film. 5000 people show up, some desperate, some bewildered, and some self-absorbed. Dozens of men and women stand in front of the camera and explain their reasons for coming. They all express a burning, sometimes desperate, desire to work in film. One young man has traveled hundreds of miles pretending to be a blind man because he thinks that will give him an edge. One young woman wants to become a movie star so she can travel to film festivals abroad and see her boyfriend, who has emigrated. Another young man thinks he looks like Paul Newman…etc

Finally, when the director explains to the auditioners that he or she has just played his or her part in the film, each is amazed, uncomprehending. They have very different conceptions of what a film and film-acting should be like. But Makhmalbaf explains at one point, "If cinema reflects social life, then it is for everyone."

Now that’s a quick review of “Salaam Cinema”. But topic of discussion was the objective of filmmaking. Soma was so adamant that every film should convey the message to each and every viewer ( A, B and C class audience as called in India). I was defending her statement. In my view every filmmaker need not think that he should reach everyone. On the objective of filmmaking let’s classify filmmakers as Crappy filmmakers (Agenda: No clue why they are making film), Safe-side filmmakers (Agenda: Successful films for their survival with all safety measures for the success of film), Beautiful filmmakers (Agenda: A beautiful film imitating another beautiful film done in past or in another industry), Experimental filmmakers (Agenda: Break all rules and creates new dimensions for filmmaking inspiring other filmmakers)

Federico Fellini’s '8 ½', Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s ‘Salaam Cinema’, Alexander Sokurov’s ‘Russian Arc’, T. V Chandran’s ‘Danny’ etc, follows this pattern of experimental cinema. They are above all the other categories of filmmaking. In fact when others can be called filmmker, they are the innovators or scientists in cinema.

I’m not against the objectives or other filmmakers. I equally enjoy a crappy film and an experimental film. My simple answer to Soma is that all filmmakers need not think that they have to reach every single viewer. When the other categories of filmmakers target general public, experimental filmmaker reaches or inspires another filmmaker. Now that is his objective. Films need not be for everyone, they can be targeted at a sector of audience too…It is great if a filmmaker becomes the subject of study for another filmmaker.

Sometimes I feel that learning filmmaking is killing the innocence in me to enjoy a crappy film. But at the same time I’m proud that the knowledge of filmmaking is giving some kind of social responsibility. Filmmaking is a mission as well as a passion above profession.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Born into Brothels
"I want to show in pictures how people live in this city. I want to put across the behavior of man." Gour (13) said.

Gour is one among the eight kids who communicated to audience through their photographs on the life of ‘NO' hope lived by those who dwell in red light area of Kolkata, in Zana Briski’s Oscar winning documentary film “Born into Brothels.” The other kids are – Avijit (11), Kochi (10), Manik (10), Puja (11), Shanti (11), Suchitra (14) and Tapasi (11) too.

A few weeks back I got a chance to see this documentary that left me deep in thought for hours. Whenever I am fascinated by something, the first thing I does is to google for more details on it. Undoubtedly the search on it led to so many facts on this film, the crew and its cast. Added to that, the controversial remarks as well as the critical rewards. Let me not try looking into the authenticity of it…Let me just be frank on what I loved about this film.

There are a few advantages documentary films have over any fiction. That is nothing but the flexibility on pre-production, production and post-production. Moreover, an uncertain nature of the past, present and future of the film as well as the hardwork and adventure involved in each stage of its fulfillment. A natural documentary filmmaker should have only one objective- to bring the truth in the most appealing form. Documentaries are hence appreciated for the innocence, influence, trustworthiness and reach of its content and not for the beauty or the form of film.

In both the ways “Born into Brothels” is a remarkable film. The content as well as form of this film touch the heart of any genuine viewer. Hats off to the very special thought of filmmaker for ‘living the film’ rather than just ‘doing the film’.

Briski, a documentary photographer, went to Kolkata (Calcutta) to photograph prostitutes. While there, she befriended their children and offered to teach the children photography to reciprocate being allowed to photograph their mothers. The children were given cameras so they could learn photography and possibly improve their lives. It is nothing but the photographs taken by the kids that tells you their story. The narration is by the kids themselves as well as the filmmaker. The children's work was exhibited, and one boy (Avijit) was even sent to a photography conference in Amsterdam. Briski also recorded her efforts to place the children in boarding schools.

Born into Brothels, by Ross Kauffman and Zana Briski, is the winner of the 77th annual Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. It is a tribute to the resiliency of childhood and the restorative power of art.

What we must be appreciating is the true interest filmmaker took to showcase facts though the eyes of children in the most innocent and touching manner as well as the excellent effort they took to save the children from their terrible reality. As a filmmaker I was fascinated by the style of naration, innocence of concept, smooth editing and creative placement of visuals. The music goes well with the mood. Three cheers for the filmmaker's efforts on this cause.

Visit the site: for more.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Artist – in the journey of Art
The film showcases an artist in the journey of his Art. Here he undergoes two different stages of Art – An enlightenment stage & an excitement stage.

The camera discovers an artist getting enlightened of some thought, which he develops into his art. As the art work progresses he discovers himself as a part or the art. More than a creator he identifies himself as another dark stroke on his canvas. The symbols he derived from nature and the models gives him wings to fly on his Art. The sky, the leaves, the horse and finally the artist himself becomes the Art.

I thank my friend Vijaynarain for doing the magic of music with three different themes - The enlightment theme, The excitement theme and the rotation (The journey of art) theme, which coloured this black and white film in the mind of viewer.