Filed under: Project Creativity | Tags: Anurag Basu, art, artist, Barfi, Bollywood, creativity, film education, film workshop, foreign language film, indian cinema, Indian film Oscar nominee, inspiration, oorvazi, oorvazi irani, originality, Oscar, plagiarism
Plagiarism , Inspiration and Beyond
By Oorvazi Irani
None of us artists are pure or not guilty of this crime in small ways and big but we need to strive to be original.
Creativity and originality are two of the biggest challenges for an artist. And consciously or subconsciously we are all copying from the past from film, literature, paintings etc. Therefore one way to help escape this is being inspired by life – the need to look within and into our own lives. Be inspired by observing life first hand rather than sit back on a chair and soak in the observations of others.
But having said that if a great artist has moved us there is no harm paying homage to the work but we need to be able to take it to another level or make it our own. And if the tribute is very strong the source needs to be acknowledged.
Sometimes our society pushes us to imitate, to plagiarize, eg a local fashion magazine has an international standard it wants to meet and be assured of success, thus is not interested in originality, but imitating a successful photographer, his image that can guarantee success. The new local fashion photographer is told to imitate that international standard image and not urged to be original. The film industry wants a success formula and its industry sometimes pushes the filmmaker to play safe and imitate successful moments rather than create them, but the artist and his conscience will not be spared. The current film “Barfi” (directed by Anurag Basu and produced by UTV) is being sent to the Oscars as an Indian nomination is a case in point.
Each artist needs to try and find means by which he accesses his imagination and creativity to be original. Surrealism as one art movement started in the 1920’s, besides being a revolt also encouraged the artist to a more primal source of inspiration – our subconscious, and a realm beyond logic and rationality. This technique is still used by creative artists today to help them find a voice of their own.
How to be truly original – the search continues for each artist and infact each human being. To make an invention, a breakthrough, atleast strive for excellence and we will be closer to living a more authentic life and create a more authentic world. Those are moments of inspiration which we need to strive for rather than take the easy route.
Filed under: FILM REVIEW show - Talking Cinema | Tags: Bollywood, Boman Irani, Farha Khan, film education, film review, film workshop, hindi film review, hindi films, indian cinema, oorvazi irani, Shirin Farhad ki toh nikal padi
OORVAZI TALKING CINEMA – Film Review Show
“Shirin Farhad Ki Toh Nikal Padi”
MAM brings to you an exclusive video review for the first time of the movie Shirin Farhad Ki Toh Nikal Padiby Oorvazi Irani and her thoughts on the same.
Filed under: Film Musings | Tags: Abhay Deol, Anurag Kashyap, auteur, Auteur Theory, Bicycle Thieves, Black Friday, Black Friday – The True Story of the Bombay Bomb Blasts, Cahiers du Cinema, cinema, Dev D, film education, film workshop, Francoise Truffaut, Gangs of Wasseypur, Gulaal, indian cinema, Indian Ocean Song, indie films, Kalki Koechlin, Kay Kay Menon, last train to Mahakali, midday multimedia, No Smoking, oorvazi irani, Piyush Mishra, Raj Singh Chaudhury, Ram Gopal verma, S. Hussain Zaidi, Sahir Ludhanvi, Satya, satyajit ray, Sneha Khanwalkar, sriram raghavan, Taxi Driver, That girl in yellow boots, Viacom 18 motion pictures, Vikramaditya Motwane, Vishal Bharadwaj, Zeishan Quadri
“Anurag Kashyap: An Auteur Demystified” An Indepth Essay By Oorvazi Irani
‘Auteur‘is a French word which translated in English means ‘author’, the creator of the work. Having said that, cinema unlike the other arts like poetry, painting etc. is a collective art and includes contributions from other artists to make it a completed film and is not the work of a sole artist. However, the ‘Auteur Theory’ suggests that there is one prime force that leads to the creation of the film and that individual guides all the processes of filmmaking. It is the vision and worldview of this individual who makes the film special and thus a work of art. The ‘Auteur Theory’ was born out of the French New Wave movement in cinema pioneered by the critic and filmmaker Francoise Truffaut ( he wrote an important article ‘ a certain tendency in French Cinema’ for the Cahiers du Cinema magazine in 1954)which was a protest to liberate the medium of cinema from its old conventions, asking for freedom for the director to express himself beyond the reliance on literature and demanded respect for the director who is to be treated as an independent artist in the medium of cinema enabling him to create a body of work, like any other artist, dwelling on themes and developing his distinctive style.
Why do I regard Anurag Kashyap as an auteur and chose to analyze his body of work because I feel there is a struggle - there is a creative voice that wants to rebel and a heart full of feelings. His films contain a personal vision and a distinctive style which as an artist interests me to observe and examine.
What is the place, in the history of cinema, of this young filmmaker? He is not revolutionary but belongs to the rebels, he is not radical but belongs to the non formula, he is not the first artist but belongs to the world of artists, and he is not extraordinary but does not belong to the ordinary either.
In India after 1950 there was a parallel cinema movement which was literally created as a force opposed to the popular mainstream film industry with higher ideals and broke the conventional rules set out by popular cinema like happy endings, songs etc. Anurag Kashyap belongs to that alternate cinema movement in India today. It has evolved to not necessarily being opposed to mainstream cinema but seems to be seeking if it can maintain its soul and yet remain mainstream. It’s interesting to note that Anurag started his film career with his feature film Black Friday(2007) financed by Midday Multimedia (with a mere budget of Rs 4.5 Crores)who were new to filmmaking and with his latest film Gangs of Wasseypur(2012) has the support and backing of a major Corporate – Viacom 18 Motion Pictures, produced by Sunil Bohra (with an app budget of Rs 9.20 Crores for GOW Part One and a collection of Rs. 10 Crores in the opening weekend). History and common sense both suggest ‘Less money is more freedom’ for an independent filmmaker or a director in a studio system (rather corporate setup in today’s terms), so what interestingly remains to be seen is will all the bigger budget trappings compromise the ‘spirit’ of films in the near future for an auteur like Anurag.
For an Auteur to enter the system and yet retain his personal freedom and smuggle the ‘soul’ into it (as Martin Scorsese puts it) is an interesting challenge. Also till now he has largely been opposed to the star system and has not used big stars even for his recent film Gangs of Wasseypur – will he venture, in the near future making bigger budget films and using stars, if he does what will be the price he pays is the big question. Best summed up in Anurag’s own words on the release of his first film Black Friday(2007).
“Every rebel becomes a conformist..my real insecurity begins now” ( Feb 13th 2007 http://anuragkashyap.tumbhi.com/uncategorized/black-friday-introspecting-156 )
The Auteur and his influence of his own life
Every Auteur consciously or otherwise is exploring certain pet themes and thus his body of work reflects his thought process and insights on the subject. The personal life of an auteur cannot be divorced from his films. This interplay is different every time, sometimes more subtle, sometimes more overbearing, which can include premise, locations, character or any or everything. If the filmmaker does not involve himself its the work of a craftsman and not an artist.
I feel the starting point for a true artist is that he/she is sensitive to life unfolding and also aware of their inner self. There is a constant process of questioning and probing for the truth.
Anurag was a sensitive child – as a young boy in school he wrote a poetry on suicide but it was not seen as an expression of pain by a sensitive artist but rather misunderstood and perceived wrongly as a state of depression and was recommended treatment. His keen sense of observation, his originality and creativeness in his schoolwork were never understood or encouraged in his childhood instead his voice was drowned in the routine and security of a conformist existence. He felt like an outcast in a prestigious school where he did not know English and was teased by others. He always had a voice but nobody heard him. This continued even with his films as one film after another was banned (starting with Paanch, Black Friday,Gulaal) but, as he himself says, that was a very important part of his life, those failures really shaped him and in fact interestingly entered and become part of his artistic world of exploration.
“No Smoking mirrors my struggle in the industry. That’s why it’s most dear to me and it’ll always remain so, more than Dev. D and more than Black Friday.” (Interview with Bikas Mishra – Dear Cinema Feb 8th 2009).
An important layer of the film is Kafka’s Trial and this takes us back to an early influence on Anurag in his initial struggling days in Mumbai. He had written a play and showed it to Govind Nihalani, who appreciated the work and asked him to read Isben and gave him Kafka’s Trial to read and adapt to film. At that point in time all this confounded Anurag’s confusion as he was going through a tough time in his life and as a result Anurag stopped taking Govind’s calls and meeting him. But its interesting to note how this finds itself later in a film that he makes.
And Anurag says about the film at the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi “The first book that I read in English was Kafka’s Trial (Anurag could not read English till the age of 17 years) I never could understand it but it never left me. If you work in any system its very Kafkaesque, you don’t know what is going on, you cannot figure it out. And you don’t know what is wrong with you. I could not understand why Black Friday was banned. I could not understand if a book could exist why the film could not come out. I could not understand why Paanch was banned. I could not understand why I could not make Gulaal….what is wrong with speaking up.”
“Just smoking becoming a metaphor it became a very personal movie. And the end portion where the things are not explained is also because I never could understand what was going on with my life so I felt let the audience also feel the same thing.”
The motif of smoking however as a metaphor for freedom is introduced in his first short film Last Train to Mahakali (1999) which the filmmaker later takes on to make it a major aspect in his film No Smoking(2007).
However the film No Smoking was marketed by an item number by Bipasa Basu, where I feel the target market seemed to be all wrong. An audience who would be lured to a theatre with an item number is not the deserving viewer for a film like No Smoking.
Another very personal film is That Girl in Yellow Boots(2010). Anurag seems to be confronting his painful past of sexual child abuse which he experienced for 11 years. “ I came to Mumbai brimming with angst, bitterness and a sense of violation and isolation. Thanks to the love of my life, Kalki Koechlin, I am completely cured of my acrimony.”(TOI Subhash K Jha, Nov 11, 2009, 10.51 am IST) These words of Anurag are revealing that as a young man when he came to Mumbai to make films he had a lot of pain inside him and a voice that wanted to be heard. The film has as its theme child abuse and incest, which we realize only at the end of the film when the protagonist is confronted with a bitter truth that the father she was so desperately searching for was a pervert, a child abuser and had sexually violated her sister and caused her death. The film leaves the character and the audience in a state of shock and deep pain which are not expressed with tears, not taken to the level of sentimentality but to a much deeper level.
The film is not limited to the pain of a personal experience; it reveals the underbelly of society and provides a glimpse of the darker side of life at close quarters. Above all the film is interested in the journey of the inner self and reflects on how so many of us are living a delusion. The film prompts us to see the need to confront reality and find our true selves.
The film uses as the title track a doha by Kabir which speaks about this search for oneself.
Hear me, says Kabir, seek and you shall find
In this world tangled in delusion,
The self cannot be seen.
In this world tangled in delusion,
The self cannot be seen.
The self cannot be seen.
The self cannot be seen.
In fact the metaphor of the ‘mirror’ and the character looking at herself/himself in Last Train to Mahakali, That Girl in Yellow Boots, and Gangs of Wasseypur, and in a lot of his films seem to hint at the director’s examination of self delusion by the characters, a sort self examination, a self exploration, a contemplative introspection.
The Auteur and his themes
One way of looking at an auteur is that at a certain level ‘he is making the same movie again and again with slight modifications’. He has pet themes that he is exploring. If we look at Anurag’s body of work we find that this is probably true. Anurag goes from the micro to the macro, from the self to the nation and back again. And at a deeper level from the outside world into the inside world.
Revenge seems to be an important part of the dramatic hook of many of his films including Black Friday, Gulaal and his recent Gangs of Wasseypur. Revenge is a crucial element of popular genre storytelling and in fact was one of the main themes for the ‘western’ genre in Hollywood. So many Hindi formula films are based on revenge. But ‘revenge’ here may also be looked at with more depth besides being a popular formula to tell a story. Not to make a simplistic reading of personal life and its relationship to his films but Anurag has been the underdog and a lot of his films have the spirit of revolt as a rebel an involute revenge may be of sort. However, his films are not a glorification of revenge but mostly rise above to question its very existence.
The filmmaker is not self indulgent but concerned, raise pertinent questions about the world around him and as a true artist should, is searching for the truth. His first feature film Black Friday made in 2004 but released in 2007 three years later due to censorship trouble is a film based on Mumbai’s Black Friday – The True Story of the Bombay Bomb Blasts, based on a book by S. Hussain Zaidi about the 1993 Bombay bombings.
Realism and social, political concerns take centre stage in this film and begins the career of this filmmaker but the concerns and issues raised in this film never really seems to leave him but only get reinvented on his journey.
The film begins and ends with a quote by Mahatma Gandhi “ An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind”.
The film ends with the bomb blast recreation and then text title cards.
The Bombay Blasts became India’s largest criminal case
The designated court took 13 years to deliver justice
100 out of the final 122 found guilty
29 still absconding including Tiger Menon
And Bombay is now called Mumbai.
An important scene dealing with revenge, seems to be critical, in regards to what the filmmaker wants to convey to the audience as a message or an insight on same. The scene is – where we see the jail cell through a red filter and one of the bombers, Badshah who is now captured and is being interrogated by the cop. Badshah Khan very proudly takes credit for the bombings and says Muslims have taken the revenge for the atrocities done to their Muslim brothers. That’s when Kay Kay Menon who plays the cop says and speaks in the voice of the director “ …Allah was not on your side, on your side was Tiger Menon . He saw your rage and manipulated you. He was gone before the first bomb was even planted. ..he fucked you over. you know why ? Because you were begging for it. All in the name of religion. You are a fucking idiot. You are an idiot and so is every Hindu, who murders one of you. Everyone who has nothing better to do…but to fight in the name of religion is a fucking idiot.”
The end credits appear with the Indian Ocean Song ‘Bandeh’ which ends the film on a poetic note of lament but never pessimistic rather urging the audience to wake up. It’s a film where there is anger and he wants the audience to acknowledge that justice is not done and wants the audience to question the state of justice in our country.
With his film Gulaal (2009) where the canvas is now the state of Rajasthan he continues his lament of the nation and urges us ‘to save India’ and at a larger level to save this world. Production on Gulaal began in 2001, when Anurag Kashyap was listening to songs from Pyaasa and his film Paanch was struggling with the censors. The film is inspired (and gives credit to) by the song ‘Yeh Mahlon, YehTakhton, Ye Tajon ki Duniya’ By Sahir Ludhanvi from the film Pyaasa
The film is set in present day Rajasthan, a state in western India. The plot is provided by student politics of the university and a fictitious secessionist movement consisting of former Rajput leaders who have become the present day elite.
Also revisiting the title card at the beginning of the film sums up the intent and tone of the film which I would like to reproduce here below:
The first text card:
The film is a work of fiction, dedicated to all
Those poets of per-independent India
Who wrote songs of freedom and had a vision of
Free India, which we could not put together.
If Black Friday was more of an angry voice which was symbolized by Anurag then Gulaal is now more grief and lament which seems stronger, but there is still the use of the strong red color which is symbolic of power and danger. Also the characters of Prithvi Bana and Ardhanareshwar take the film to mythical realms.
Returning to the Theme of Revenge with the film Gangs of Wasseypur (Part 1), the film speaks about revenge at various levels and in its very existence laments the current state of our country and contemporary society. What now hits you hard with this film is that ‘revenge’ a primordial emotion is so strongly still prevalent in our society today and the film seems to be questioning our evolution as a species. The filmmaker like in his earlier films here more than ever is drawing on newsreel and documentary footage and attempting to weave the story of India’s independence with the story of this personal epic saga spanning generations which succeed in revealing, the fact that free India is not really free even today and shows us that prevalent level of lawlessness and bloodshed is so paradoxical in an apparently democratic India. ‘Might is Right’ which is something of the cave man era is still so prevalent in our 21st century, Kashyap does not spare the viewer from confronting this brutal truth nor does he dilute harsh reality with candy floss.
Violence and revenge are intertwined and thus become a very important part of his cinematic vocabulary, violence being mostly external and visceral but also speaks about internal violence specially in one of his more personal films That Girl in Yellow Boots and No Smoking. Dev D also at one level is about revenge where Devdas is on a mission of self destruction.
The Auteur and Realism as a treatment
Anurag says that he makes films about things as he sees it. In fact the appeal of a lot of Anurag’s films are his realism which seems raw to a lot of viewers. Here raw for me refers to the unadulterated truth and not a work that does not treat the raw reality. As art and an artist does not present to you life as experienced in real life as raw and personal but by the process of his art and craft he makes your experience richer, makes you reflect and offers you a space to experience the apparently raw reality which he has treated with the processes of filmmaking. Also an interesting observation of a lot of viewers after seeing a Kashyap film is that they could not emotionally identify with the characters and that I would say is revealing as it seems that the filmmaker does not passively want you to get sucked into the emotional life of the story but remain detached enough to be an active viewer and participate in its unfolding. Also what makes Anurag’s films special is the Realism in them. But what I mean by realism is like what you would feel in a film by Satyajit Ray who has observed life and character’s closely and brings them alive in each scene nuances, uniqueness and an authentic truth which connects with the viewer (however I am not suggesting here that the experience of an Anurag film is close to the experience of a Ray film, far from that).
The Auteur and the writer
A very important aspect of an Auteur would be a director who is part of the conception and script of the film and in this regard Anurag is very closely involved in the creation of his work. In fact he started his career as a writer writing scripts in Mumbai (he wrote the script of Auto Shankar overnight which was loved by Sriram Raghavan and Shivam Nair) and got famous and recognized with his script Satya which he wrote for Ram Gopal Verma. Black Friday, his first feature film, was based on a book but the screenplay was by none other than Anurag. Now another dynamic sets into play, Anurag as an Auteur is not (or is not supposed)to be the sole originator of his work, it has in fact always been a practice that auteur directors including Truffaut have associated with other writers for the script and screenplay, sometimes to keep away from personal indulgence and many times because the idea or story is initiated or bought to the director by someone else who then with that merit being the best person who knows the world of the story should be present to be a partner in scripting the project. The film Gulaal has Raj Singh Chaudhury as a co scriptwriter. It was Raj Singh Chaudhury who bought the story to Anurag based on his experiences of college ‘ragging’ and its consequences. Raj says the story idea was his ( and he also suggested the film be set in Rajasthan) but the script and screenplay was by Anurag. No doubt Anurag connected with the story as he recalls in an interview to Tehelka in 2005 ” Scindia (school in Gwalior) was hell for me. The sexual abuse continued there for years. I hated myself. I couldn’t understand why it was happening to me. I was often picked out, beaten, then taken to the toilets. To save myself from the beatings, I’d give in to the abuse,” . Another fascinating aspect of Anurag’s script collaborators is that all of them are actors. Raj Chaudhury was also an actor and had in fact written the story keeping himself in mind. Anurag felt he would fit the character perfectly and in spite of other popular actors keen to play the role he cast Raj as one of the lead actors, Raj says he also helped in the scripting of No Smoking.
Dev. D is a collaborative effort too. The film was developed from a concept that Abhay Deol( who plays Dev, the main protagonist in the film) narrated to Anurag. “Core idea came from Abay, Abhay told me this idea of a boy lost in a strip bar in LA and this triggered off a lot of ideas I had in mind and showed the possibility of adapting Devdas.” “ …. The idea was to try and explore that adjective(Devdas) that it has become and through which I wanted to talk about the youth , I wanted to talk about how they look at love, life, relationships, in today’s day and age, the age of fast cars, fast cash, fast food, instant gratification. Does it really happen that people are longing for one woman for the rest of their lives because I don’t see that happening today. It has changed . So it was trying to explore all that by using Devdas as a medium.” Vikramaditya Motwane(assistant director of Sanjay Leela Bhansali and latter Anurag produced and co-wrote his debut film Udaan) was asked to write the first draft of the script and Anurag said he would take his draft and add his bits to it (From Eros extra features). Also what would be an important touch to the film would be that Anurag understands very well and has experienced being depressed and lost like the character Dev, of course for other reasons, a young boy who enters science and takes up zoology at the University of Delhi, dissatisfied with his choice, confused and depressed he takes to drugs and alcohol.
How do you measure popular mainstream cinema – its by the stereotypes and clichés that it adopts in its telling.
Dev D is backed by a major corporate house, who is encouraging alternate cinema catering mainly to the multiplex audience but not limited to them. Dev D is a modern reinterpretation to the classic Devdas (which has 12 film versions made of the Bengali novel written by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay). So the first rule that Anurag breaks from the popular cinema standard is ‘romanticizing’ the hero Devdas and he makes him into a very real practical contemporary youth of today. He also breaks the backbone of the character who epitomizes self pity to giving up drinking, discovering that love is not romantic ideas and does not die for Paro but chooses Chandramukhi instead and starts a new life. This is in fact one of Anurag’s rare films which has a positive, if we can call it, a happy ending, but never the less, seems real and not romanticized.
The sexual frankness given to the characters including the female characters is unlike popular formula films and the women are strong and determined not passive and docile. And the self-sacrificing Chandramukhi (played by Kalki Koechlin) that became the epitome of the character mold of the prostitute with a golden heart in Hindi cinema over the years was also broken, in fact her past life is also contemporary in its origin and is taken from a real incident and inspired from newspaper headlines.
Another important collaborator with Anurag has been Kalki Koechlin, she had been invited by Anurag to co-write the script of That Girl In Yellow Boots primarily because he knew that she would be able to give insights about the world that the film portrayed and also she is the key protagonist of the film. Where like other instances we have the actor-scriptwriter collaboration merging into itself.
Also this being a sensitive subject and theme close to Anurag’s heart and Kalki being his life partner who he credits to have rid him of his past pain adds another dimension to the film itself.
His recent film Gangs of Wasseypur (Part One) seems to have a long list of writers Zeishan Quadri, Akhilesh, SachinLadia, AnuragKashyap. But it was Quadri who bought the story to Anurag. Quadri’s deal was simple. He’ll write the script and play the character Definite, a key character in the second part of the two-part film.
“Though I was born in small town in northern India, I migrated to the city to make films, the city got to me and I went deeper in exploring it’s effect on me through my films until I met Zeishan. Zeishan was from Wasseypur and a few things that he told me about this place dragged me back to my roots, my backyard, my growing up and my tryst with Bollywood and the politics of my region.The few anecdotes that Zeishan shared with me of this place then went on to be retelling and an analysis of the history of the place explaining it’s evolution as a burning inferno and it’s fight for coal to the way battles were fought. From digging coal to killing someone over an innocuous brawl to vengeance being inherited. Part One of the film gets to the roots of the people and explains why they are the way they are.”(Anurag’s own words - GOW official website)
The Auteur and his style (visual)
Style or treatment of the film by a director is not necessarily consistent or easy to catch but some directors do have a distinctive style that can be recognized as a signature style of the artist in his body of work. Anurag Kashyap according to me has a characteristic way of using colour in his films and that becomes an integral part of his signature style which began from his first short film and continues till this day. In his visual palette we see the use of the three primary colours Red, Green, Blue and their combinations at various points. Besides being three primary colours we have the added dimension of the colours mostly appearing either desaturated or as part of the noir vocabulary of neon lights reminding us of the underbelly of society that we are exposed to in the films.
Below is a brief observation and analysis of Anurag’s colour palette in his films.
Anurag’s first short film Last Train to Mahakali (1999) ( a short film 45 minutes made for the television series ‘Star Best Sellers’) starts the film with a green desaturated tint while we are introduced to the main protagonist of the film a prisoner who is on death row. His present world in the prison seems to represent this colour. In fact green is repeated in No Smoking(2007) – In the film an important set or world of existence is the rehabiliatiton centre and the world of Baba Bengali who runs the rehabilitation centre (which is symbolic of the establishment) is presented in a desaturated green tint.
The film The Last Train to Mahakali does fleetingly play with blue and red but it is the end of the film which is red mixing with yellow, like a kind of an orange (which in fact is the common space occupied by the journalist and the prisoner) there seems to be a surreal (artificial) sunshine that fills the room on the chilling note that the film leaves you with.
In the film Black Friday (2004)the colour red seems to dominate which symbolizes anger to me besides the bloodshed and pain that it contains within itself as a colour not to forget the element of danger that the colour stands for and that at one level the filmmaker is alerting us about. Red is an important part of its title and credits and a red filter is used in significant scenes of the jail torture which enclose an important message of the film by the director. Anurag is said to have referred to those scenes saying that he wanted a green filter but since that was not available he went for the red filter instead. The filter was to reduce the realistic goriness of the scene but I feel it does more than that and fortunately since the green filter was not possible the red palette by default comes into play.The film has a special use of blue, rather in its de-saturated form, for the flashback sections specially where Dawood is shown and also to portray the treatment of the recreation of the pain and loss of the actual bomb blast which ends the film.
So if Black Friday begins with red and is about protest then so is the case with Gulaal(2009) where the chief color seems to be red. This film primarily uses red as an integral colour in the film right from the gulaal which is red in colour to certain sections of the inner haveli which are bathed in red light or a filter where there is a clash between characters who revolt. In this film red is also part of the costume palette which infact is part of many of his films but here they become symbolic, Prithvi Bana played by Piyush Mishra is dressed in red and his mythic Ardhanareshwar who follows him around is in blue (his body is painted in blue). The film has scenes where green and blue light are visible but red stands out as a primary symbolic colour of this film.
The film That Girl In Yellow Boots has yellow as one significant colour in its colour palette which is related to the boots which the protagonist wears on this journey in the film (it also appears in the title and credits titles). Yellow could represent hope for a brighter future, a joy the protagonist is searching for. But the film also has blue which is the other important colour and the note on which the film ends . To quickly glance though the world of the film – the massage parlour is predominantly green, Ruth the protagonist of the film has an apron which is green in colour. The last scene the client who we realize is her father has a blue towel ( however the towel is always blue for all clients)also we saw earlier the room where she discovered her father’s pictures (when she visited his home) also predominantly had blue walls. The film reaches its climax when Ruth confronts her client who she discovers is her father and his reaction to her truth shatters her into a state of shock and grief. It’s the end of the film which this sequence leads to which has an important use of the colour blue as symbolic yet part of the realistic setting of the film. After the confrontation with her father she walks into the corridor with a green light, then enters the streets which are yellow and when she sits in the taxi, her face is bathed with blue light (which is the light in the taxi as planned I assume) and the world outside which she leaves behind has a tinge of yellow and green. The last scene is the taxi ride, a minute long in duration where the camera remains with Ruth as a mid shot followed by a kind of jump cut mid close, and the audience remains focused on Ruth’s face bathed in blue light, she then shuts her eyes and the film fades to black.
The film Dev D is sprinkled with many colours starting primarily with green and yellow and then moving on to red, blue and most importantly pink that enters into this film with the character of Chandramukhi played by Kalki( Red + Green = Pink). Pink represents a very feminine colour at the same time is very punk . The film travels into the drug world of clubs and underbelly of Delhi and gives the makers to exploit the neon filled streets and existence of the colour that seems real, at times gaudy but symbolic. The concluding scenes have Dev and Chandramukhi bathed in a tint of a combination of red and yellow with a hint of pink( being the colour of the bathtub in which Dev is seated and the loffah with which Chandramukhi is gently scrubbing him). But the last scene however is natural colours with the sun shining through on the couple riding a bike.This film The Gangs of Wasseypur – Part One (2012) is subtle in its colour palette and merges with the real world but on keen observation it is prevalent. He chooses a palette for its production design to be predominantly green and blue. With a brief small scene in red and continuing the desaturated blue at many points. But at the end of the film which is the death of Sultan brilliantly played by Manoj Bajpai is the use of the colour yellow or rather the yellow of the sun going into white which with the death of the protagonist is symbolic of the fiery revenge which finally turns to nothingness. White is the combination of the three primary colours (Red +Blue +Green = White) and thus in his colour palette he is now critically poised already combined and merged all his colours. I do not suggest that this is necessarily consciously done but for me it plays out brilliantly. What next …
The Auteur and his collaborators
Since Anurag’s films have a distinct colour palette and the visual impact of the film being strong requires a special mention of Wasiq Khan as a Production Designer(responsible for the visual look of the film) and his two key cinematographers till date being Natrajan Subramanium (Last Train to Mahakali – Paanch – Black Friday)and Rajeev Ravi (No Smoking – Gulaal – Dev D – That Girl in Yellow Boots- Gangs of Wasseypur) who have contributed significantly to bring his vision to life.
‘Song and dance’ form a very integral grammar of popular Indian cinema and starting with Dev D Kashyap with the music director Amit Trivedi has reinvented the music soundtrack specially with the song ‘Emotional Atyachar’ (one of the important sources of reference for the song was Om Dar Ba Dar – an avant garde Indian film in the year 1988). Over the years a very distinct quality of an Anurag Kashyap film is his soundtrack that he has developed and this film is an important juncture for it to take off which reaches a new high in his latest film Gangs of Wasseypur(Part One) with the title track ‘kehke Longa’ and ‘Womaniya’ besides others . In this film Sneha Khanwalkar who has designed the music and song for the film ( besides the background score which is by G V Prakash Kumar) has added a special touch by including folk singers and tunes mixed with modern sophistication to give a vibrant dose of chatpatta music that brings alive the landscape of the story and characters. Song and dance is a powerful tool to enhance the emotional experience of the viewer which has its roots in ancient Indian arts and aesthetics and most of Indian popular cinema uses this to transform the viewer into a realm which is not imitating reality but experiencing emotional truth( what an item number does , can be another essay in itself ). However most of the songs in Anurag’s films are not limited to the emotional realm of realism but many times the songs are a commentary on the film’s theme, its plot, or its characters. The songs are rooted in Indian culture but yet are funky and reinterpreted in a postmodern vein. In this regard Piyush Mishra is also an important close collaborator in his films who wrote the lyrics for Black Friday and Gulaal, also being the music director for Gulaal. He also wrote some lyrics for Gangs of Wasseypur along with Varun Grover. (Piyush has also acted in many of Anurag’s films besides being a reputed actor himself, he played some memorable characters like Prithvi Bana in Gulaal and an important character role in GOW Part One). Each film having a unique identity and original soundtrack Black Friday had the special quality of the music of band Indian Ocean and with the film No Smoking Vishal Bharadwaj interpreted the surreal world on the soundtrack as an artist.
Another important collaborator is the editor -editor Aarti Bajaj edited many of Kashyap’s films including Last Train to Mahakali ,Paanch (unreleased), Black Friday, Dev D, Gulaal, No Smoking and shaped the films to a powerful experience. But from the film That Girl in Yellow Boots and his recent film Gangs of Wasseypur, Anurag has worked with Shweta Venkat Matthew (as I assume his personal life came in the way of the professional world and this collaboration broke up). Each of the two editors try to keep up with Anurag’s pace and rhythm for his films and the result is a highly charged film.
But I would say that like a true auteur he maintained his style in all departments of filmmaking irrespective of changes that took place and found the right individuals to fit his vision. Also at any given time there are many young aspiring filmmakers in his office wanting to learn and be part of the exciting world of filmmaking that Anurag represents to the Indian youth.
The Auteur and his influences from cinema
What has been the influences on Anuarg as an auteur besides his personal experiences, and here cinema itself plays a very important role. In his recent film Gangs of Wasseypur he mentions the influence of Tamil cinema, infact dedicates the film to ‘the 3 musketeers Ameer, Bala and Sasikumar, the sons of Madurai’ as he calls them. He says “I realized that these filmmakers are making their films in a milieu that’s so much familiar to them. This made me feel that even I have lots of stories to tell which belong to the place I belong to.” (Interview by Sethumadhavan.N featuring on the website www.madaboutmoviez.com).
But it was in 1993 in a film festival (which he was urged to attend by his friends) when he witnessed ‘A Retrospect of Vitterio De Sica Films’ (Bicycle Thieves is the film that influences him the most among the 55 films of De Sica), it was “an epiphany” he says which changed his life and he runs away from home with Rs 5,000 in his pocket and decides he wants to make films. The Screening of the film Taxi Driver by Martin Scorsese (on a tv screen in the office of Shivam Nair, Shriram Raghavan during his struggling years in Mumbai) was the beginning of another interesting phase. Pic Posters of Bicycle Thieves and Taxi Driver
Seeing films like Fun ,De Sica’s Films, Taxi Driver he says gave him confidence to make cinema as his voice was similar and other hindi films he saw he could not relate to, they were films not about him but some other people. Also the attraction to noir is that its about him too. Anurag says “Noir might mean different things to different people, but for me its an environment and a story of the underdog. We don’t pay attention to the people on the streets and just pass them by.” He thought cinema could be about that too. “I wanted to tell those kind of stories and these films gave me confidence.”
However Anurag ‘s work includes the influence of Bollywood, and in a post modern sense. Gulaal has for its inspiration a song from the Hindi classic film Pyaasa but the film builds on the original and adds a new dimension to it. In Gangs of Wasseypur Bollywood referencing is integral to its plot and characters – the film explores this revenge saga through the socio-political dynamic in erstwhile Bihar (North India), in the coal and scrap trade mafia of Wasseypur, through the imprudence of a place obsessed with mainstream ‘Bollywood’ cinema. This has a direct link to his childhood, when as a young boy in UP he was attracted to Hindi cinema from a very young age and repeatedly saw films (often visited the open air theatre or the Government theatre next to his house)like Kora Kagaazand Aandh iand latter Do Badaan in his college days.
The Auteur and acting
Another influence as a director is that Kashyap was an actor before being a director and a distinct quality of his film is strong and powerful performances which bring the film to life and seem real and truthful. Acting was something that he did while he was struggling to find his voice, he joins a theatre group Jana Natya Manch and performs street plays. This also helped him to meet people and its not therefore a coincidence that a lot of his collaborators specially his scriptwriters are actors who are attracted to work with him. He says “Instead of the actor performing for the camera, I let the camera capture the people….” A little known fact is that Manoj Bajpai was responsible for suggesting Anurag’s name to Ram Gopal Verma as a young scriptwriter for the film Satya (which got him a lot of fame) and Anurag does not forget to return the favour by casting Manoj in his recent big budget film Gangs of Wasseypur (which has helped Manoj bring back his acting career to the top after a low phase). Anurag like the rest of his team has been quite loyal to many of his characters like Kay KayMenon and Kalki but without compromising the film at any cost.
Where does Anurag Kashyap go from here – the real world and the world of cinema meet in his films, will one dominate the other – and how – and to what effect ? What form will his colour palette take on now, are the three primary colours going to be repetitive and boring or are they going to help telling a story and increasing its complexity of visual vocabulary ? Will the distinctive style of the songs in his films take on newer dimensions and reinvent themselves or will its novelty die out? Will the plot of revenge be a continuing fascination and lead to deeper insights ? Will the commentary of Indian politics and society be allowed to freely express itself, will it continue to cause a stir in the conscience of the youth ? What will Anurag Kashyap discover about himself and the world around him is what we the audience will have to wait and watch to see!
Anurag’s films are like a silent scream – real yet not raw, disturbing yet not deafening, shocking yet not depressing, violent yet not ugly, a hope hidden in a lamenting.
© Copyright Oorvazi Irani
First published on madaboutmoviez.com
Filed under: Film Musings | Tags: auteur, Cannes film festival, Chetan Anand, Directr's cut, film education, film workshop, hindi cinema, hindi film industry, indian auteur, indian cinema, Indian film stars, indian popular cinema, Kudrat, neecha nagar, oorvazi irani, Producer's cut, Rajesh Khanna, sorab irani
A Real Story of a conflict between A Super Star Actor- Rajesh Khanna and Cheten Anand a Super Star Director
Musing of a Veteran Producer/ Director – Sorab Irani .
So much is said about Rajesh Khanna post his sad demise in all media, I am reminded on this occasion of a interesting real life story which I would like to share.
A little known fact is that Chetan Anand’s debut film,Neecha Nagar bagged the Palme d’Ore (Best Film) award, at the first ever Cannes Film Festival in 1946.
It was my honor and privilege to have worked and observed and to have learned so much about cinema from this great truly Indian cinematic genius
Chetan Anand was the first director to cast Rajaesh Khann is his film ‘Aakhri Khat’. Latter when his career started flagging a bit, Rajesh Khanna thought he needed a great director to make a film with him and he approached Chetan Anand. I was at that time general manager of Chetan Anand’s production company – Himalaya Films. In those days films were produced largely on star-power, and if a project was initiated by a Star it was good news. However Chetan Anand was in financial trouble and in a meeting with Rajesh Khanna confessed to him that he had the right subject but no money. Chetan Anand always had ready stories in his head, he thrived on the creative process that resulted in a film idea and at any given time had a great oeuvre of film stories. In that meeting where I was also present he narrated the story of ‘Kudrat’ to Rajesh Khanna and Rajesh Khanna loved it.
In a week’s time Rajesh Khann was back at Chetan sahibs Juhu seafront shack with a producer in tow one B. S. Khanna. It was all settled in that sitting that B. S would finance and produce the film and that Chetan Anand would direct the film and so the film ‘Kudrat’ was born.
This is not the story of how ‘Kudrat’ was made, which in itself is fascinating but about the antics of stars and a conflict that developed pre release of the film between Chetan Anand and Rajesh Khanna.
The film was very hot, the music was already a super hit. It then transpired that Kakaji arranged for a private screening of the film and decided on a course of action which was unethical for sure but not entirely unheard of in the Bollywood of that time. Encouraged by his chamchas he decided that in order to hog the entire credit of the success of the film he had to reduce the roles of the others like Vinod Khanna, Raj Kumar, he high jacked the editor of the film, and started reediting the film. The editor informed Chetan Anand quietly as his conscious troubled him, he was in great awe of Chetan sahib and had worked together for over a year to shape the film.
I got a call from a very distressed Chetan sahib at 6 am in the morning asking me to go to the editor’s house and bring him over to meet Chetan sahib. I was also very amazed that any one dare tamper with the edit of a director like Chetan Anand. By 7.30 am I was at the editors house in Matunga but he was absconding. I went to the shack and Chetan was furious. Kaka would not taking his calls nor was the producer B. S. Khanna, the conspiracy was clearly unfolding. What do we do. I went with Chetan sahib to Navarang Lab, spoke to the owner protesting but the owner claimed helplessness as he had to follow the instructions of the Producer of the project owing to the large sums of money involved. We then decided to file complaints with the Film Editor’s association and with the Film Producers association requesting this be stopped. In the night I started getting threatening calls. Some one called my wife and told her that she would find my dead body by morning. I was out and there were no cell phones at that time, so when I called home my wife was weeping and scared silly. Now I was indeed very angry and being in Juhu at the time went to B. S Khanna’s house to confront him, he was not home but I got him on the phone from there and asked him about all this nonsense about threatening calls to my wife and told him very plainly that I was not one bit intimidated and if it did not stop I would lodge a police complain. Later I spoke to Chetan sahib and he too complained that he had a similar experience of his residence getting threatening calls.
The next day the producer B. S Khanna claimed total innocence about all the goings on and said nothing was true, we demanded that we need to be allowed to examine the final cut negative and talk to the editor and informed him that no one had a right to make changes to the final cut of the film. He diplomatically said it was too late, the negative was involved in the process at the lab of making copies of the release prints.
Gloom set in at the shack, it seemed that the Rajesh Khanna camp in connivance with the producer B. S Khanna have prevailed.
In an unprecedented move Chetan Anand decided to go to the Bombay High Court to stop the release of his own film.
The case came up before the astute Parsi judge Justice Lantern. The whole film industry was there. Justice Lantern denied us the relief that we were seeking although sympathizing with our case but saying that huge sums of money would be lost of the third parties namely the distributors if he granted us the ad interim relief and posted the matter for regular hearing.
The real point of this story is not to malign anybody but to raise critical questions – who has the right to the final cut of the film, the director or the producer. Who decides what the audiences will see, financiers/producers or the creators the/directors. Added to this perennial existing conflict and tussle enter today the marketing guru’s who with sampling and consensus building marketing methods start confusing matters completely. What happens to an Auteur director if he is not also the producer of the film. Food for thought and meaningful debate.
Written on Special Invitation
Filed under: Professional Talk | Tags: Farrukh Dhondy, From Aan to Lagaan, indian cinema, Indian cinema book, Indian film studies, Moti Gokulsingh, oorvazi irani, Trentham Books, Wimal Dissanayake
“From Aan to Lagaan is a unique critical guide to one of the greatest dream-factories in the world. It is the first time that a compilation has avoided the shame of hagiography and the obscurity of pretentious academia.” - Farrukh Dhondy
“From Aan to Lagaan and Beyond : a guide to the study of Indian cinema “ by K. Moti Gokulsing and Wimal Dissanayake
Published by Trentham Books
Exclusive Email interview with Moti Gokulsing, Author of the recently published book.
About the Author
K. Moti Gokulsing is Senior Visiting Research Fellow at the University of East London. He co- edits the journal South Asian Popular Culture and is the author of the acclaimed Indian Popular Cinema, also published by Trentham.
Wimal Dissanayake is Adjunct Fellow at the East-West Centre, Hawaii and founding editor of the East-West Film Journal.
It is an honour and pleasure to be part of this book in my humble efforts involving in the research and my extensive interview with Govind Nihalini which is an integral part of the book – Chapter One ‘From Vision to Screen Reality’
1) What is the need for such a book ?
This is a study guide and is aimed at helping the increasing number of students many of whom are of non-Indian origins understand the complex relationship between Indian culture and Indian cinema
2) What are the concerns the book addresses ?
While Indian cinema is taught in many institutions as part of Media Studies/ World cinema/ South Asian studies, the Study Guide makes a case for it to be taught as part of a Film Studies approach. As such, it introduces students to the variety of concepts andtheories relevant to a Film Studies approach. One its strengths is the interview which Oorvazi Irani conducted with the internationally known filmmaker Govind Nihalani . Having done both Popular and Parallel cinema , he identified some of the reasons why theyare different and why the vast majority of popular films fail at the box office-an issue which has been rarely addressed
3) Could you share with us your beginnings and background as a writer and academic ?
As an academic teaching in a Department of Teacher Training and Education , my publications focused on teaching and university issues. At a conference at SOAS some years ago, I met Professor Wimal Dissanayake. At that time I wanted to introduce my 2 daughters to Indian cinema and as there was scant literature available , Wimal and I decided to write a book-Indian Popular Cinema-A narrative of cultural change which became a bestseller
4) What have been the challenges and Joy of writing this book
Coming as I do from Mauritius where success in education was measured by how much French you knew, I had very little knowledge of Indian history and culture. This was a formidable challenge and I still have much to learn
5) Which are your favourite Indian films ?
My favourite films relate mainly to early ones such as Garam Hawa andSholay and Rang De Basanti of recent ones
6) Is there a memory of the first Indian film you saw ?
The first Indian film I saw was Bandhan with Ashok Kumar and Leela Chitnis
7) Who is your favorite Bollywood actor and actress
Favourite actor-the early Amitabh Bachchan and actress Nargis
8) Where do you think Indian cinema stands today ?
The much maligned Indian Popular cinema has moved from the periphery to the centre of world cinema. Its choreography and technical innovations are outstanding.
9) What is the role that Indian cinema plays in the International cinema market today ?
Indian cinema is trying to meet a variety of goals: catering for the indigenous population, the increasing young population as well as the increasing middle classes
10) What is the impact of Indian cinema ?
Internationally, the diasporic Indian film makers and the diasporic audience will continue to boost post Bollywood
Indian cinema opens up a window onto the wider world . By watching Indian films and exploring them sensitively, we can attain a deeper understanding of Indian culture and values.
For me one of the most endearing aspects of Indian cinema is its captivating music.
The Book Details:
“From Aan to Lagaan and Beyond : a guide to the study of Indian cinema “
This authoritative and accessible guide is written especially to help students understand the complexities and intricacies of Indian cinema. It covers the vast range of the cinemas of India plus the meteoric rise of Bollywood, and discusses the key theoretical approaches to the analysis of films, the cinema audience and audience segmentation.
The book describes how an Indian movie is made and explains the technology entailed. All the major issues are discussed: the relationship between cast and crew, the contributions of playback singers, designers and choreographers. It offers original information on the impact of the corporatisation of the film industry and on censorship, taxation, insurance and advertising.
The fascinating case studies of filmic analysis illuminate the different theoretical approaches and concepts students need for analysing Indian film appropriately. And teachers will find that the comprehensive coverage, extensive bibliography and suggestions for further reading, the discussion of pedagogical issues about the teaching of Indian cinema and the sample questions make it an indispensible resource for teaching Indian cinema.
1. From Vision to Screen Reality
- The film making process
- The role of technology
- How an Indian movie is made
- Cast and crew
2. Theoretical approaches to the study of Indian cinema and its audience
- An introduction to some of the major theoretical approaches to the study of Indian cinema
- Audience/spectator studies and audience segmentation
3. When Bollywood goes to war – Bollywood’s contribution to nation building
- The contributions of Indian cinema to nation building
- An introduction to some of the most important nationalist and patriotic themes in Indian cinema
4. A Passage out of India
- Diasporic Indian filmmakers’ contributions to Indian Cinema
5. Iconic directors, composers, lyricists, playback singers, choreographers and designers
- From Aan to Lagaan and Beyond
6. From Theory to Practice
- Case studies of filmic analysis using some of the theoretical approaches discussed in Chapter 2
- How to study Indian cinema – some pedagogical considerations
7. Exporting filmic culture
- The corporatisation of the film industry/Insurance/the role of advertising and marketing
8. The Price of Globalisation
- The government strikes back: taxation, censorship and film classification
Filed under: Film Musings | Tags: 26/11, asab. bombay times. hindi cinema, independent cinema, India, indian cinema, Kasab, oorvazi, oorvazi irani, short film, The K File, you tube
ASAB SPEAKS to the Filmmaker Oorvazi Irani
Asab: Oorvazi ! hi ! I was happy to read the Bombay Times headlines ‘Kasab is now Asab’. I have taken a second birth after your film and it feels nice to be in the spotlight. Tell me oh master why did you create me and why this name ?
Oorvazi: You are not Kasab but an artistic persona that represents and symbolizes Kasab. So I take out the K and with that I put you into the realm of artistic imagination and beyond real life. You are an abstraction of all terrorists who wrongly take the name of religion and strike terror. At the root of terrorism is the evil desire of greed and power. I created you to symbolize that evil.
Asab: Being your creation, I have two selves one is the artistic character that speaks to you and one is the character that has taken birth. Its interesting to be having this dual consciousness and be able to have this conversation with you. But I am sorry if I did not meet up to the expectations of some of your audiences.
Oorvazi: It’s a great pleasure to be talking to you too. Film is a subjective experience and I am sure there are enough people who appreciated your existence and understood your worth and let me tell you these are people I highly respect in that list. A dear friend once told me, its impossible to satisfy everybody, don’t even try.
Asab: But tell me Oorvazi, why did you make me one dimensional and not explore my motives my inner world. Is not having complex characters a sign of intelligent cinema, you should know better you are a film educationalist.
Oorvazi: Ha ha ! Asab you do ask intelligent questions and I see you have been reading some of my film reviews too. Agree to what you say but the danger in exploring your inner world and motives would be to put you in centre stage and give you prominence and sympathy which this film did not intend to do. I am sorry but in this film you are a means to an end and not an end in itself. Your one dimensional character was important to bring about the aspect of the ‘killing machine’ which a lot of these terrorists are with a lack of conscience. But I am sure meeting a real terrorist will make another film and reveal new realities.
Asab: Was the film about me or the Minister who was the hero and who was the villain ?
Oorvazi: Good question ! this film has no hero and no vilian in the conventional sense. If you look at it from the plot point of view, the Minister is the hero as he kills you, Asab the hated terrorist. But going deeper, the Minister is no hero himself he does not kill you for justice but for his own gain. He is equally evil as you are. For him the issue of terrorism, justice, human life is not important, what is important is his self-centered world of power and politics.
Asab: But who actually fired the bullet, this is a question that many are unclear about
Oorvazi: I am happy the way its turned out, that its got a ‘gap’ for audience interpretation but as a filmmaker I intended the Minister’s smile in the end to explain it all.
Asab: Now the character is taking over….” Sali mutton biryani kabhi khilayegi ?”
Oorvazi: If I meet you in hell I’ll treat you for that …
Watch the movie “The K File” if you have not yet done that, on the blog
Filed under: Film Musings | Tags: 26/11, Asab, Farrukh Dhondy, film education, film maker, filmmaking, independent cinema, India, indian cinema, Kasab, movie, oorvazi irani, sorab irani, The K File movie
MY FILM ‘THE K FILE” FEATURED IN BOMBAY TIMES
‘KASAB IS NOW ASAB’
A pleasant surprise and i would like to share it with you all and hope you have seen the film.
‘THE K FILE” MOVIE SCREENING 24×7
Invite your friends to see the film and would love to hear back from all my viewers about the film experience !
Filed under: Film Musings | Tags: feminism and films, film appreciation, film education, film workshops, indian cinema, madaboutmoviez, oorvazi irani, popular indian cintema
Identity of Women in Contemporary Indian Popular Cinema
The Coexistence of the Indian Nari, Item Number, and Individualism
Society influences cinema and cinema in turn influences society.
The filmmaker is inevitably always juggling the demands between the art, craft and commerce of filmmaking. What I will attempt to do is to understand this very interesting interplay between society and cinema which the director sets into motion with the making of his film.
I will limit my observations to four contemporary films and would like to begin with the film “Vivah” (2006) directed by Sooraj Barjotya.
Before I talk about the film I would like to share with you some audience responses of the film (rediff.com website)
“Hats off to Rajshri production..they are the true embodiments of our rich and cultural heritage”
“I AM WRITING THIS MAIL FROM IRELAND.
I WATCH THIS MOVIE ATLEAST ONCE A DAY. TILL TODAY ITS 276 TIMES !!!
ITS A WONDERFUL, MUST WATCH MOVIE.
For we people who are NRI’s and want to pass on Indian culture and values to our children, movies of this kind need to be produced or else our young generation will always follow the western culture tracks which is absolutely heartbreaking.
We understand the importance of our Indian culture only when we come and live in this western world and see their culture with no family values.”
Critics sometimes run down a film and call it regressive and pass judgment on the film but lets remember that filmmaking is an industry and the filmmaker is also interested in getting his returns and looks to the audience for that and therefore it is the audience that counts.
Sooraj Barjatya in an interview in Mumbai Mirror a few years ago mentions
“The Rajshri film audience is the 35 year old middle class woman, who goes to watch the film with her extended family”.
So if the filmmaker is giving the audience what they want, what is the problem? Does he have to have a social responsibility? And is he going against that by making a film which upholds supposed traditional Indian cultural values and speaks of an ideal world which incorporates the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.
Vivah is ‘Marriage – an institution that binds two individuals into a bond that is sacred, pure and eternal – a commitment for life….”Vivah” is a heartwarming tale of unconditional love. (Quoted from the synopsis of the film from the official Rajshree website)
Right from the first Indian feature film “Raja Harishchandra” the Indian filmmaker has used the Indian epics with their ideals to structure the plot or infuse strong moral values which make up the characters in the film. It does present the woman as coy, docile, conservative, selfless, sacrificing but is that not a reflection of what the society wants her to be, however right or wrong or regressive critics might consider it to be. Some filmmakers thrive on this identification and some filmmakers question some aspects of it trying to remain in the confines of the boundaries of the status quo in society. That both can coexist is an interesting phenomenon in Indian popular cinema.
Karan Johar, made his directorial debut at the age of 25 with the film Kuch Kuch Hota Hai in 1998. Subsequently after the release of his film “Kabhi Albida Na Kehna” (2006) speaking as a panelist of NDTV’s ‘We the People’ he had something very interesting to share which reveals his inspiration for his films and I quote
“When I made “Kuch Kuch Hota Hai” I was right out of college and I felt these bookish feelings of first love and heartbreak and then I felt great reverence for my parents and great regard and respect for everything that they had given me after I had met with success and I made “Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gum”. “Kal Ho Na Ho” was my fear of death, I feared losing a member of my family, which I eventually did and that was a reflection of my state of mind then. Then I was on my own for two years and spent a lot of time with people, traveled a lot and suddenly I found myself only listening to people and I am fortunately one of those men who have female friends and male friends, so I have had the opportunity to listening to both sides of the story. And all I did was listen to their marriage woes, their problems, their loveless existence, their passionless marriage”
What are very apparent here are two things, that is – a filmmaker however commercial many times makes a film which reflects his state of being at that point in time and also reflects his experience and observations of society and events. Thus society was the inspiration that triggered Karan to make his film “Kabhi Albida Na Kehna”.
Karan’s films have been larger than life, star studded and eternal love stories, upholding Indian values and traditions. All these ingredients being at the core of commercial Indian cinema. Thus placing the director in the context of the films he makes I would like to examine his film “Kabhi Albida Na Kehna”.
The audience largely did not like the film and because it dealt with the problems of a sacred institution like marriage. Also as Sharrukh Khan points out more importantly they could not digest the fact that Maya, one of the key protagonists in the film being a woman should be encouraged to break her marriage.
Indian society puts the burden of morality and tradition in the hands of the woman of the house and rather than she being treated as an individual she is representative of the ‘izzat’ of the family. She is supposed to make innumerable sacrifice for the family not break it.
The film does question the existence of a loveless marriage and the yearning to go beyond the sanctity of the institution of marriage for individual happiness. But yet the characters keeping in line with their Indian upbringing want to give their marriage another chance and sacrifice their love. However the events that follow do not allow this to take place and the director has interestingly made his point succeed by dramatic plotting and finally the power of love triumphs. So though it’s not an open rebellion it gets its point home and keeps in the mould of the popular film genre.
We live in a patriarchal society and most Hindi commercial films are hero driven and this film is no exception. The film starts by introducing the key characters in the film and of course Sharrukh’s introduction tells us he is the hero and that the hero is the most powerful influence in the film. The film is mainstream and the male lead Sharrukh Khan is the main active protagonist in the film typically leading the way for his lover Maya, played by Rani Mukherjee to follow.
Karan has tried not to be gender biased in many ways and has attempted to liberate the female protagonist. There is an interesting scene in the film where the father-in-law played by Amitabh Bachchan encourages his daughter-in-law to walk out of the marriage if she does not love his son as she is denying herself and her husband the love of somebody else. The filmmaker wants to convey by this scene the message that marriage should not be a mere compromise with no joy and if it is so, it should be ended. But with most sections of our society they did not accept this stand and thus rejected the film, in spite of this the film was quite a commercial success which tells us that many also were sympathetic to the proposition. The film however was a super hit in the US markets.
In terms of characterization for the two lead female characters, Karan has succeeded at times and at times played into the stereotypical image. It is also interesting to note the image of the actresses who play the character in the film. Preity Zinta in quite a few of her films plays this independent woman who fights for her rights and is not bullied by men. The character of Rhea played by Preity is that of a career woman. Interestingly she is introduced in a tight short sexy dress and with an emphasis to her butt showing as she walks for a job interview in a fashion magazine. She is shown not having time for her husband and son as she has to work long hours as a career woman and is neglecting her family. Then she is made to sacrifice her promotion in her job since it requires her to shift to another place, but she puts the family first, this however is not appreciated by her husband. Karan here directorially breaks the stereotype of a cold bitch career woman but consider would a wife even be asked if the husband would be getting a promotion and they had to relocate, no – it would just be accepted and life would move on,. We live in a patriarchal society and the man calls the shots. Of course in this film Rhea is the breadwinner and thus due to her financial independence has power in the equation and in fact it is she who asks Dev (Sharrukh Khan) to leave the house and breaks the marriage as he is the one who has been unfaithful and doe not love her.
Above all the film is a love story and the appeal is in the escapist genre of romance – boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl and it promises an ideal of love which maybe does not exist in life itself.
The film “Guzaarish” (2010) directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali starts with Sophia played by Aishwarya Rai opening the curtains and the morning light fills the dark room. We are then introduced through the activities of Sophia to the hero of the film Ethan, who is a quadriplegic and she is tending to him, cleaning him, feeding him with the professionalism of a nurse yet the warmth of a friend. Here Sophia literally introduces the audience to the hero of the film and we enter the film through her character. In cinematic feminist theory Laura Mulvey raised an important point about the portrayal of women in cinema by speaking about how women can be subjected to the male gaze as most of popular cinema (she was referring to Hollywood cinema) worked by introducing the hero first which the audience then therefore indentifies with and so the female is viewed through his gaze and thus the woman was objectified. Laura was interested in looking at the traditional language of cinema itself which made the audience a voyeur and attempted to break that mould and questions it. This reveals an important point of the language of cinema and certain choices that can portray the woman in a certain light.
A lot of Hindi cinema does not give a lot of importance to create a specific identity in terms of plot and look for the female lead, however in rare cases when that is done it shows respect for the female protagonist and helps create a memorable character that is as important as the hero.
The character of Sophia comes to life with her physical appearance which includes, red lipstick, a black and red palette for her clothes and so much attention is paid to every small detail like the accessory she wears to convey a kind of person. In this specific treatment there is respect to character and an urge from the point of view of the director to create an equally powerful female lead. The look of Sophia is not just at the surface but has a symbolic significance to her character
About Sofia’s costumes, Bhansali said that “It’s an expression of her grief. She’s a woman who has dedicated her entire life to this suffering man. And she wears that red lipstick so that when he faces her, he sees life in all its colour.” Aishwarya Rai’s character Sophia D’Souza goes through a bad marriage. The costume designer said that according to him
” ..her internal suffering has manifested itself into an over-dressing syndrome. People who are depressed tend to either over-eat or overdress! Aishwarya wears the strangest of clothes. She has such a morbid life that she almost derives comfort from her clothes”.
The costume most of the time does include a low sexy neckline, is that exploiting the female form at one level or a necessary part of the characterization and does not compromise the integrity of the woman is a question I leave you to answer.
The film gives a lot of importance to the value of the character of Sophia and makes it a point to give her center stage and dwell into her selfless love for the hero. The scene which best displays this is when the judge visits Ethan’s house for a special hearing for his petition for mercy killing and the prosecutor lawyer accuses Sophia of being only interested in Ethan’s property and wealth and would be the sole beneficiary of his death. What follows is a beautifully conceived and executed scene where we intercut from Devyani her defense lawyer defending Sophia to closups of Sophia slowly raising her eyes which are filled with emotion.
“ Agar koi ek insaan hai jiska Mr. Mascarenhas pe hak hai, khud Ethan se bhi zyada to woh hai Sophia. She has been more than a nurse to him, more than a friend, a lover, even a wife, that is the truth your honour”.
Bhansali specially creates a scene for this character where her spirit shines though. She lets herself free in a bar and she breaks into a dance but it’s not an item number but reveals character and is filled with emotions which connect Ethan and Sophia and Ethan discovers Sophia in a new light.
The film ends with Ethan having a farewell party with his close friends celebrating his last moments. It is here that towards the last part of the film we see Sophia and Ethan kissing for the first and last time as they have now accepted each other as husband and wife. The filmmaker keeping with Indian tradition does not allow any physical intimacy between the two characters and maintains their purity. It is only after Ethan proposes marriage and Sophia acceptance that they are allowed to come close and have their first kiss. Of course it is more powerful as drama at this point in the film since it’s the first and the last kiss but would it be relevant in another culture is the question. Is this an important aspect that reflects Indian culture in a film which the filmmaker plays with to appeal to the Indian audience in a popular mould and or keeping maybe with his own Indian upbringing? If we probe the character of Sophia, she too is presented as a sacrificing selfless lover and that keeps in line with the sacrificing tradition of the Indian woman in Indian culture and Indian cinema.
Sheila Ki Jawani (from the film Tees mar Khan – 2010 ) one of the recent biggest hit songs which children from all over India have on their lips, this made Katrina Kaif more popular and maybe more well-known that Maya in “ Kabhi Albida Na Kehna” or Sophia in “Guzaarish”. The USP of the film was this song. The film did not have a heart or soul and the body was not in shape either. The character of the female lead Anya played by Katrina Kaif is a one dimensional cardboard character of a stereotype – a dumb, pretty, sexy heroine in Indian cinema who does not know to act and has no brains. She has no role to play in the film besides being a pretty doll and asked to show off her sexy body in all the songs of the film. She has no part to play in major plot events but is used as a prop.
The hero Tabriz played by Akhsay Khanna is always running behind his lady love, Anya (Katrina Kaif) this wanna actress who is constantly flaunting her sexuality, to save her modesty. There is a significant scene in the film when the two protagonists are waiting to receive the big film star Aatish Kapoor (Akshay Khan) from his approaching helicopter. We see in Marylyn Monroe style Anya’s dress flies high above her thighs and our hero desperately holds on to her flying dress to save her modesty. She is the Indian nari who is best covered. Since it’s a comedy at one level it is a spoof on all these aspects of Hindi cinema but the audience who will watch such a film will probably not get the point, but rather it will emphasize the stereotype and thinking of a particular kind.
The film is directed by a woman director, Farah Khan and does not speak well of the sensitivity of women director. She could at least have given the character of Anya a more significant role to play in the unfolding of the plot and maybe made her a more active than a passive protagonist. But having said that is the director responsible for the image of the Indian women, why can’t we take it lightly and laugh it off. Does the audience just watch the film and forget about it or does the film reinforce a perception of women in society with each passing film.
The film presents a personality of a famous male film star and acting for him is in the emotional drama but for Anya who is represented as a wannabe female actress her preoccupation is in looking good and dancing around in a sexy outfit. This could be a satire on the present condition of female actors or is this playing in the hands of a stereotype which is regressive and maybe not true only for the female.
However a special mention should be made about the picturization of the item song Sheila Ki Jawani, it is not vulgar in the way it is shot. The song gives close-ups of Katrina’s face and does not have separate shots of her body parts as some previous item songs use to ogle on the woman’s anatomy literally as objects to be devoured not seeing her in her full form. Also the personality of Katrina itself helps make the song less vulgar.
But Katrina Kaif unfortunately remains an item number and nothing more as an identity in the film. This film is representative of the role of a lot of actresses in particular types of commercial films inIndiaand which do very well at the box office. This is not a new phenomenon, where the woman is portrayed as a mere doll and has no real role to play in the unfolding of the plot. This is something that persists and is part of the commerce of filmmaking and the Indian public loves it. Many a times an item number is a kind of a stepping stone to success for an actress today is not surprising. In our country the music & promos for a film are released before the movie and continues to live on after the film, the dynamics of this have an important role to play in Indian cinema by films like these. .
Indian popular cinema works on a kind of formulae to keep its commercial risks to the minimum. Many of these formulas like sex and violence, song and dance, the romantic genre, happy endings, simplicity in plot and characterization, larger than life melodrama, the use of Indian tradition and culture are maintained in contemporary cinema today but at the same time there is a desire by a few directors to try and smuggle in a consciousness of the winds of change and the contemporary social soul into cinema.
The Identity of the woman in Indian cinema will be determined by the two forces – ‘Collectivism’ which is a part of Indian traditional culture and the effect of growing ‘Individualism’ from the impact of Globalization. The challenge for the filmmaker will be to portray the woman characters with an individual identity still maintaining cultural values but staying away from practices that are regressive. The filmmaker is critical in the decisions he makes and can shape the perceptions of a society he reflects and portrays.
© Copyright Oorvazi Irani
This article first appeared on madaboutmoviez.com
Filed under: FILM REVIEW show - Talking Cinema | Tags: aamir Khan, female infanticide, film, film education, indian cinema, indian television, oorvazi irani, review, satyamevjayate, satyamevjayate review
Satyamevjayate – Going beyond a Talk Show to become a Documentary
My Review of Aamir Khan’s new programme on television telecast today
A personal touch and a sincere effort is what strikes you in the first episode. The television show tackles one problem of India’s many and tries to bring it out from mere statistics of news papers to a more human level of emotional truth. Dry facts can make you think but emotions can move you stronger to action is what Aamir deeply recognizes and is true.
Its not that we don’t know of female infanticide taking place in India but it just does not happen in our personal world and thus we are not part of its reality. The show holds your hand and forces you to see and hear human stories of struggle and takes you in the midst of the reality emotionally, politically and intellectually.
The treatment of the show is as basic including the sets, the approach and treatment. It is the format of a talk show with its appeal in witnessing real people and listening to their stories but Aamir does not stop at that he tries to involve researches, doctors active in the filed so that it takes the programme to a deeper purpose of understanding the issue and giving a complete picture to reflect. Importantly statistics with human stories and breaking of myths that the illiterate poor are the people in India that are most responsible for this evil but its the middle class, upper middle class well educated docters, lawyers, PHD individuals who are at the forefront of the continuation of such a inhuman act. What really is at the core of this action and their desires is what it leaves you with, what makes these individuals commit such atrocities. Its in perceptions and mindsets that lie the power of change and that is not necessarily achieved by dry education or brute money.
What is the society that we are part of, what is the present and what will be the future is what the show addresses and I must congratulate Aamir in his attempts to reach out and speak up for what he believes in.
Newspapers and news channels do report these stories but hoping that Aamir’s voice will help make it reach the ordinary man and make a difference.
The female gender – a mother, a sister, a daughter, a wife… but above all a human being an individual just like a man …why does some sections of society forget this basic fact.
Three cheers for Aamir Khan and his team
By Oorvazi Irani
Filed under: Top Ten Film Books | Tags: apu trilogy, Asian cinema, B.D.Garga, cinematography, film books, film education, film workshop, Filmmakers master class, filmmaking, Gustavo Mercado, Hitchcock, indian cinema, Lagos Egri, Laurent Tirard, oorvazi irani, Robert Mckee, satyajit ray, Sidney Lumet, Story, Truffaut
Would like to share with you my list of Top Ten Film books which are a must read for filmmakers
1. MAKING MOVIES By Sidney Lumet
The book is from experiences as a filmmaker and not dry theory
Easy and enjoyable read .
2. MOVIE MAKER’S MASTER CLASS By Laurent Tirard
Reveals unique working styles and techniques used by international contemporary directors.
Brief chapter for each director but insightful.
3. STORY By Robert Mckee
Gives an insight into understanding different kind of films with the ‘Story Triangle’.
A lot of reference to actual films.
4. THE ART OF DRAMATIC WRITING By Lajos Egri
The chapter on ‘Premise’ is most valuable
A Classic !
5. THE FILMMAKER’S EYE By Gustavo Mercado
The book is more pictorial and is not text heavy
Easy to digest with a lot of references to actual films and deals with basic shot scale but in that simple structure reveals the complex and effective use of basic cinematic grammar by filmmakers.
Not theory but practice.
6. THE FIVE C’S OF CINEMATOGRAPHY By Joseph V. Mascelli
Detailed cinematography aspects explained
Very informative but maybe not a fast and easy read.
A Classic !
7. ASIAN CINEMA By Tom Vick
Published by the Smithsonian Institutte, a good book on Asian cinema, good background information on cultures, politics. But the chapter on Indian cinema is not that insightful.
A good introduction to Asian Cinema.
8. HITCHCOCK By Francois Truffaut (revised edition)
An Interview by one filmmaker to another. Interesting insights on Hitchcock’s technique with detailed references to scenes in his films.
Detailed but insightful.
9. MY YEARS WITH APU By Satyajit Ray
The process of making his first film. The struggle and ecstasy of filmmaking.
A personal and enjoyable journey.
10. SO MANY CINEMAS, THE MOTION PICTURE IN INDIA By B.D. Garga
A big coffee table book which begins with silent cinema and comes into the present times.
A good archive.
by Oorvazi Irani