Film Education


The Mikhail/Michael Chekhov Acting Technique Workshop Presented by Oorvazi Irani
MY WORKSHOP INVITE

MY WORKSHOP INVITE

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Dancing Shadows
September 30, 2013, 8:12 pm
Filed under: Art Appreciation, Project Creativity

Art Experiment: In search of little truths

From the Lab of the Artist Oorvazi Irani

A spontaneous live shadow performance captured for camera.

Not planned and self shot

exploring the body… light …emotions…rhythm…life ….

Do you experience a story in this shadow dance ?



On The Shores of Eternity – A short film by Oorvazi Irani

My Art Experiment

My dabbling in painting, poetry, acting and cinematography fusing together to create a small film – on the spur of the moment and a one woman effort.



Plagiarism, Inspiration and Beyond

Plagiarism , Inspiration and Beyond

By Oorvazi Irani

‘Looking Within’

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.

 



Cinema and Literature: “The Tin Drum”

“THE TIN DRUM” : A Comparision between the Novel(1959) by Guntar Grass and the Film(1979) by Volker Schlondorff

Bergman believed that cinema should be independent of literature. However, more often than not, literature has inspired films and some of them have turned out to be great films indeed. One such film is ‘The Tin Drum’ (Die Blechtrommel), a German language film made by Volker Schlöndorff in 1979. It is based on nobel prize winner Gunter Grass’s novel of the same name.  Grass’s work was a pioneer in European magical realism, was widely read and translated into many languages. Hence, the prospect of adapting it to celluloid was a very challenging one. It is generally agreed that Volker had succeeded in justifying the text and his film is a marvel on its own.  It received Palme d’Or at Cannes(jointly with ‘Apocalypse Now’) in 1979. I would like to present a comparative study between the book and the film, highlighting the major differences between them:

1)      The novel in three parts traces a period starting from before the rise of Hitler to after his fall and the reconstruction of Germany. The major events however take place not in Germany, but in Danzig which geographically lies between Germany and Poland and has often been shuffled from being a free state to being under the German or the Polish rule. This is the focus for the first 2 parts. However, in the 3rd part of the novel, the focus shifts to Dusseldorf in Germany and reflects the problems Grass himself faced due to the displacement and his inability to adapt to postwar Germany.

The movie on the other hand restricts itself to the first 2 parts of the book and concerns itself with the rise and fall of Nazism on Danzig. It successfully maintains an ambience of black humor that is a characteristic of the book.

2)      The book starts with 30 year old Oskar in a mental asylum, narrating the story of his life.  For a major part of the novel, Oskar himself is the narrator. However, in the 3rd part, the onus of narration shifts to the warden and a friend of Oskar’s. Through these passages narrated by others, Grass has hinted that the protagonist could be an unreliable narrator, thereby playing with our perception. This aspect of the novel has been generally understood as a metaphor for the inherent indeterminacy of the period of Hitler’s Nazi reign. Moreover, if we consider Oskar’s unreliability, it could challenge the very premise of magical realism. This sort of a literary experimentation adds to the credibility of the novel apart from its importance as an allegory.

In the film however, this unreliability of narration is omitted along with the 3rd part of the book. It also begins with the narration of Oskar, but the director deliberately eludes the part of the asylum. The omission of the 3rd part of the book in the movie is an apt choice in my opinion, since the premise of the film is the chronicle of Danzig and a satire on Nazism. The depiction of Oskar as an unreliable narrator would have diverted the theme of the movie to a large extent.

3)      Oskar’s drums and his drumming action come across as a unspoken language of protest. Apart from this, they serve a few important purposes in the novel. Firstly they act as a chronicle of his life and events surrounding him. In the book, it is mentioned that, all the old broken drums are stored in the cellar of their house, each with a number label. A diary is maintained in the cellar which records the life span of each of them, i.e the time during which they were functional. In his narrative, Oskar often mentions drumming up past events. Therefore his drumming also acts as a reconstruction of people and events that have gone by. Secondly, his drum is a means to induce chaos in order. The Nazi party gatherings at the rostrums are disrupted by his incessant drum beating. He makes them dance to his rhythm, thereby breaking down the orderliness of the Nazis.

The first utility of the drum is not present in the movie. However the other aspect of the drum is brilliantly translated to celluloid. The sequence of Oskar hiding under the rostrum, playing his drum from there, the crowd and even the leaders drifting into a waltz in spite of themselves, is one of the most memorable sequences in the movie. This phenomenon of relapsing into disorderliness, or rather a higher order consisting of waltz rhythm is a satirical reference to the imposed artificiality of the Nazi regime under Hitler, which is easily broken down through human instinct.

4)      Oskar’s abilities with his voice are the most significant elements of magical realism in the novel. According to the book, Oskar’s voice is capable of generating two types of sounds, one a high pitched scream that can shatter glass, another an inaudible frequency with which, he can silently cut through glass. We need to look at the two of them separately. The incidents of shattering glass come across as expressions of fury, and happen whenever Oskar gives vent to his anger.  The silent glass-cutting voice and its consequences on the other hand, serve to symbolize an important aspect of history known as ‘Kristallnacht’. In the book, Oskar describes that during winter, at the dead of the night, he would sneak out and use his inaudible voice to make circular incisions in shop windows and then use the power of his voice to topple the incised portions. These shops would contain tempting materials such as jewelry or thick fur coats(tempting for someone who is freezing on a winter night) etc. He would wait in the dark and observe the passers-by, most of who would be tempted to take them away. He called this game ‘playing the tempter’.  This activity resulted in broken glass windows.   ‘Kristallnacht’, also referred to as the ‘Night of Broken Glass’, or ‘Reichskristallnacht’, was a series of coordinated attacks against Jews throughout Nazi Germany and parts of Austria on 9–10 November 1938, carried out by SA paramilitary and civilians. German authorities looked on without intervening. The attacks left the streets covered with broken glass from the windows of Jewish-owned stores, buildings, and synagogues, thereby earning such a name.

In the movie however, Oskar can mostly scream and shatter glass. The events of Oskar playing the tempter are not present; hence the metaphor of ‘Kristallnacht’ is also lost. However, the actual events of ‘Kristallnacht’ are illustrated through the example of Sisigmund Markus and his toy shop.

The events of shattering glass are portrayed diligently and their relation with Oskar’s rage is commendably elucidated.

5)      The phenomenon of Oskar’s remaining physically stunted during the Nazi reign and accidentally induced into an unnatural growth phase after the end of Nazi reign is, according to me, a metaphor for the oppression of the non-Germans in Danzig during the Nazi rule and the half-hearted reconstruction of Germany in the postwar period, from the perspective of the book. In general, Oskar’s magical powers, his sexual prowess and his adulthood in an apparently child-like outward appearance are a metaphor for the hidden horrors of the Nazi regime. According to the 3rd part of the book, he looses his powers and even his potency, after he starts growing. This could very well symbolize the downfall of the Third Reich and the plight of postwar Germany.

However, since the movie ends with part 2 of the book, the problems of New Germany do not come into its context. From the perspective of the movie, the metaphor of stunted growth will have the same implication as in the novel. However, the phenomenon of Oscar growing up can have only one interpretation (since the problems of that growth phase are not touched upon in the movie), the liberation of Danzig and the downfall of Nazi party. The metaphor for the horrors of Nazi regime would also apply here.

6)      Finally, I would like to point out one improvement in the movie as compared to the book, based on my observations. Regarding the incident of the eels, in the novel, Agnes refuses to eat the eels and Alfred throws them in the dustbin to console her. In the movie however, Jan and Alfred persuade her to eat the eels. Agnes’s consequent fetish for eating fish that ultimately results in her untimely demise is thus better reasoned in the movie than in the book

This is not an exhaustive list of differences between the novel and the film. However, we must accept the film as an independent work of art and appreciate it from that standpoint. Whenever a novel is adapted into a film, the director’s interpretation of the narrative makes certain deviations or omissions necessary. However, the most important aspect for such a film is to capture the core spirit of the book. In this regard, Volker Schlöndorff has shone brightly, making this movie a part of the timeless world classics.

 

The Author was invited by me to write this post

About the Author Riddhiman Basu: 

A software engineer by profession, yet an individual with varied passions. Literature and Music have been his passions since childhood. He has had formal training in Indian Classical music as well as Rabindrasangeet. Cinema as a passion came later, but soon caught up with the others. Starting with the likes of Ray and Ghatak, he has now moved on to the arena of world cinema.

References for the Article:

1)      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tin_Drum

2)      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tin_Drum_%28film%29

3)      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kristallnacht



Interview with Arka Mukhopadhyay – The arshinagar project

I would like to present this special interview with Arka that i conducted yesterday night and would like to tell you about his upcoming workshop The Arshinagar Project presents “Fools and Princes” – a workshop exploring fragments from Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It’, ‘Hamlet’ and ‘King Lear’, through breath, rhythm and physicality.

Workshop Dates: May 14th – 18th Time: 4 PM to 9 PM
Venue: Vedic Cultures, Mahalaxmi Fees: 3,500

Q1. Arka, you have a unique and interesting project  The Arshinagar Project which you describe as  ‘This project is a journey exploring freedom and love as essential conditions for living on Earth.’  how  and why did this project come into being?

 It essentially came out of my individual experiences in theatre, as also working through theatre working with children and teachers, activism, and my exposure to spiritual performance forms such as Qawwali, Baul songs, and the dohans of Kabir. It is also fundamentally inspired by the philosophy of Jerzy Grotowski. For many years, I was working as an individual, wandering about here and there, but at a certain point, I wanted to extend that to a collective vision, and so, about a year ago, The Arshinagar Project was born. It is a trans-disciplinary performance research collective, working at the intersection of performance, education, anthropology and ecology. Our name in fact comes from a Baul song, and means ‘the city of mirrors’ – so we are essentially trying to work with pluralistic visions of identity, in the process promoting the values of personal freedom and love towards other human beings as fundamental to being human. I invite your readers to find out more about us on facebook.com/thearshinagarproject.

Q2. The Body plays a very important role in your work and would you like to share with us why the body is so important in your process? 

Well because everything begins and ends with the body, doesn’t it? We don’t have only one body, but several bodies, several identities – there is our dramatic body, our erotic body, our political body… all the great masters of theatre focussed on the body in their own way. Stanislavsky, Chekov, Meyerhold, Vakhtangov, Artaud, and of course Grotowsky, who’s my greatest influence. And even the ancient Indian Sanskrit theatre was rich in movement and gesturality, as are all our folk/tribal/classical performance forms. To work with the body, to work with rhythms that ultimately originate from our breath itself, is to in a way liberate ourselves and connect with a primal, childlike self, from where deep creative possibilities can emerge.

Q3. Your project is inclusive of all artists including actors and among others you are strongly influenced by Jerzy Grotowski’s work. What according to you is his most valuable insight to the actor ?  

 

That the actor must be vulnerable, that s/he must have the courage to be spiritually ‘naked’ before the audience, be at once the priest as well as the sacrifice (The Holy Actor, as he calls it) must constantly question his/her own clichés, must discard recipes or a box of tricks, and must instead look inside for his/her own truth.

Q4.  Could you describe very briefly the special feature of your current workshop “Fools and Princes”  and  what should the participant expect to learn from the  workshop?

At one level, an entirely different awareness of breath, which is built upon my research into Buddhist meditation techniques, Sufi practices, and other forms – and a way to express the cardinal Rasaas through breath. They’ll also learn how to approach text based entirely on rhythm, as opposed to  purely psychological approaches such as the method. We’ll try to experience organicity, impulse and flow. But more than any techniques, the participant will be constantly questioning and challenging himself/herself, and will try to access their personal creative essence.

Arka Mukhopadhyay is a theatre researcher, performer and pedagogue, as also a poet and a Spoken-Word artist. He is engaged in researching a performance language that delves into ancient mystical performance traditions but is at the same time reflective of contemporary truths. 

 

“Fools and Princes” Workshop

The Arshinagar Project presents “Fools and Princes” – a workshop exploring fragments from Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It’, ‘Hamlet’ and ‘King Lear’, through breath, rhythm and physicality. Led by The Arshinagar Project founding member Arka Mukhopadhyay, the workshop is based on The Arshinagar Project’s research into the performer’s craft, which is inspired by Jerzy Grotowski’s philosophy of the ‘holy actor’ and draws upon the spirit of forms such as Sufi Qawwali and the Baul tradition of Bengal, in effect aiming for a performer who, through a total dissolution of the ego, touches his inner essence.

 

Participants will explore the connections between breath and the nine fundamental rasaas, organicity and rhythm, impulse and flow, musicality and vocal work, movement and basic acrobatics and solo, partner and ensemble creation, in the process learning to let go of technique and acquired cliches, to be fully present in the space, to give support and to receive the presence of the co-actor, to share laughter and tears, to be joyful and free.

 

The workshop is open to actors, dancers, musicians, teachers and others who are interested in exploring psycho-physiological performance craft as a pathway towards unlocking the Self. No prior experience in Shakespearean performance is assumed. The workshop will be conducted in English but participants are free to work with text in their own language.

 

In order to join, please send an e-mail to thearshinagarproject@gmail.com, stating your background, performance experience if any (in theatre, music, dance or in any other way), and your reasons for wanting to join the workshop, by the 13th of May.

 

For an example of Arka’s performance work, please visit the following link:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hKWUghs1D8Q

 




THE FIRST AND LAST LOVE STORY by Oorvazi Irani

                                                                                                          By Oorvazi Irani