Filed under: Film Musings | Tags: film education, film workshop, ftii, Indranil Bhattacharya, Mamaiji, NFAI, oorvazi irani, short film
Sharing my experiences of the screening with you in this post
‘The audience completes the film for an artist and the circle is complete’
On 22nd June 2012 my film “Mamaiji” was screened in the NFAI theatre, on an invitation by FTII Prof Indranil Bhattacharya for the session “Face to Face” in this year’s Film Appreciation course, Pune.
It is special to be writing this blog post as it is because of and through this very blog that Indranil and I communicated with each other and maybe otherwise our paths would have never crossed.
My short film “Mamaiji” (translated in English as Grandmother – 6 min 55 seconds) is a very personal film as it is a cinematic portrait of my grandmother. The film has been completed in February 2011 but my grandmother lives on and thus at one level the film continues in real life. I wanted to share the news of the film screening with my granny and told her so but since her memory has now become more vulnerable due to old age she did not recollect that a film was made on her. So I showed her the film again. After 15 minutes she thanked me and smiled and then bids me a good farewell with a victory sign with two hands in her special way. These brief moments of joy in the arduous path of old age are cherished by me and I am sharing them with you.
For a filmmaker the film is complete when the audience experiences it and this was a special honour and privilege to screen my film and interact with an audience who loves cinema.
On my way to the screening my thoughts went to my cousin Alzeyne Dehnugara(who is now married and in London) who was very close to me and an integral part of making the film a reality. I thought of that one important day in Barista, Lokhandwalla in Mumbai where for more than 4 hours we brainstormed and “Mamaiji “, the film was being conceived. Of course the final film was a lot of evolving and reworking but this was an important turning point for the film to happen. Going back to that point in time and reviewing it now got a smile to my face that it has now reached from being an idea in our head to a reality being experienced in the real world.
But the film would not be made if it was not for my dad, who started it all – a veteran producer( I call him ‘A Producer with a vision’) who urged me to get back to filmmaking, as with the digital age, now the medium of cinema was more accessible and like a pen. “You are an artist and you need to write what are you waiting for” he said. We bought the Canon 5D mark ii and my journey began.
Getting back to the screening, I was there on time at the NFAI theatre and as discussed went to the projection room to do a test of the film to be screened on my pen drive through a video projector. Manohar and Salaam were very helpful however with the arrival of Indranil my film test was successful. So I finally met Indranil, who came across as concerned and dynamic, somebody totally in control of his show in the midst of the test screening and then I was being introduced to Mukul who was there for a lecture on Documentary and we got chatting, I was impressed with his preparation and concern for the topic but unfortunately could not attend his session. Being a cinematographer he helped me adjust the final settings on the video projector and we were ready to roll. He did see my film and I am still to ask him if he liked it.
The theatre is special as it’s a venue where during my course in FTII I had seen some great classics here and to be put on that same platform was special. We now shifted from the projection room (like a back stage) to the centre stage which was the theatre. I was very happy to meet Gayatri, who is an important faculty in the FTII & NFAI film appreciation course and it was lovely to be able to share my film with her today. I was also met by a course participant to whom I had recommended the course and was happy to learn that he was enjoying the process and was also waiting to see my film and in fact was the first person in the audience to share his warmth and appreciation for the film. Suresh Chabaria was invited too, but I guess his siesta ruled over my screening.
Indranil then gave a small brief about me to the audience and invited me to the podium to introduce my film. I shared my thoughts (on a rather tall podium in which I felt miniscule) which went back to those days when a friend during the FTII course asked me in a relaxed moment over a glass of beer. “So for you as a filmmaker/artist how important is the audience?”. This question keeps haunting me every now and then and is a very interesting dynamics that it brings into play. At one level it completes the film for an artist too in different ways than one. And then there was the aspect of an auteur which I wanted to explore with this film for myself and the obvious place to start was my world and my relationships as the challenge was to say something original and yet it not being limited to a home video or indulgence.
The film was screened and at the end there followed an applause and not a dreaded silence.
Seeing the image of me in the picture above – sitting at the foot of the tall theatre curtain is like sitting humbly at the feet of cinema and my audience and I sat to discuss my film. It felt comfortable and I was waiting for a stimulating discussion. I was happy to see some smiling faces and the response was mixed from an interpretation of it to a museum space to a filmmaker questioning me if the film limited my Grandmother and my childhood memories, she said can they really be contained in one film and is that really doing justice. The museum comparison was nice and even better because he liked the film unlike some others who found it lacking in emotion and synthetic rather than real. A very important part of the film for me was the production design and space of the film and to be able to create another realm which is between the real and unreal as a filmmaker was a joy and when it was appreciated it felt nice.
The length of the film was too short, felt some and I would like to take that as a compliment as they would be ready for more, maybe a sequel J and not bored to death with what they experienced. For me it was a challenge in a concentrated time and space to deliver a cinematic portrait of a loved one and I humbly tried and agree to disagree with my friend in the audience who feels an artistic expression limits the real world I feel it expands the experience and pushes you to draw an insight into life.
I was enjoying myself interacting with the audience and then I hear Indranil say, last question. I guess this was how my audience felt with the length of the film, it was too short. I took a bow and left… …walked into the theatre of life after biding goodbye to Indranil and been driven in a car to FTII to be given my token travel expenses and signing some paperwork. So that’s how it ends , or does it, lets rewind…As I stepped out of the NFAI theatre before I sat in the car there was someone from the audience who called out and handed me a paper – he said that was a poem in Hindi that came to his mind after he saw my film and it went like this
Chand pe beithi nani ma
Yadoo ka buksa khol rahi hai
Kitna bhul gayi
Kya yaad raha
Lamha lamha jine ko
Nani meri apni kahani bol rahi hai
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