Film Education


My Short film “Mamaiji” (Grandmother) at the 7th IDSFFK International Documentary and Short Film festival of Kerala

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It is always a joy to be traveling with your film and I feel that a work of art is always in the making, it is never really complete, you discover it a new way through the eyes of the audience each time and your work takes a rebirth.

Recently I was invited with my short film “Mamaiji”(Grandmother) to the 7th IDSFFK International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerala.  I received a personal email from the Artistic Director Bina Paul Venugopal , who is the heart and soul of the festival(and has sadly retired from the festival this year) and I quote This year along with IAWRT we are programming a section of Short Fiction Films by Women  and would very much like to screen Grandmother in this Special Focus which was to be curated by Anupama Sreenivasan, Festival Director IAWRT (The International Association of Women in Radio and Television) Asian Women’s Film Festival. I am also very grateful along with Bina to Anupama for taking interest in my little film and giving it a beautiful platform starting with the IAWRT festival itself held earlier in June 2014. So it seemed Kerala was calling and I packed my bags to visit the beautiful land.

Once I reached Kerala I was in the care of Bandhu Prasad who was in charge of the Festival Filmmakers’ Liason & Artists’ Facilitation Desk who made all the necessary arrangements for us to feel at home and enjoy the festival. As I drove from the airport to the hotel I cannot forget the first impression of leaping white waves dancing to their bliss of existence, so complete so powerful a vision that stayed with me and one of the regrets of this visit was that I did not find the company in others or myself to come back to the seashore but my wish was fulfilled in a cinematic experience latter in the festival itself so that was some consolation. I quickly proceeded to my hotel and reaching on July 18th was in time for the Opening Ceremony of the festival which had an inspiring speech by Rajiv Mehrotra, Managing Trustee PSBT(Public Service Broadcasting Trust), who I made a mental note of to meet in the near future. He was not quiet the person I had in mind who would head a government organization like PSBT as he passionately advocates the cause of the independent documentary in India.

Opening ceremony

 

I met a few friends, one of who was on the Jury ( no, I  would not be breaking any rules if I met him as my film was not in competition and was part of a Special Focus section) but he was kept so busy by the Festival authorities during the festival that I could not spend any time with him on the remaining days which was disappointing but was compensated by other activities and films and there was always something exciting to do.  The two opening films “La Estancia” and “Nelson Mandela, The Myth and Me” both were a good beginning to exploring new perspectives. There was dinner thereafter and a good night’s rest followed.

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19th July and I open my hotel door to be greeted with headlines from the festival. It felt like company  to be welcomed by the newspaper of the state mentioning your film. That was the day my film was to be screened. It was an almost packed house for the Special Focus session. There was a special Q and A arranged with the filmmakers but what was a slight damper was that each film did not get its focus in the Q&A as it was after all the 4 films screened and some of the audiences started walking out of the auditorium after the screenings. But that is always the case and why do I complain, there are so many films to catch in a festival like this.

Standing for the Q&A with Anupama and the other young woman filmmakers Anoodha Kunnath, Arya Rothe in the special focus ‘Films by Women’ an interesting question arose about the perspective of women filmmakers, the question put to Anoodha who had directed her short film ‘My Grandfather’s Yakshi’  was that why did she not use a young girl as the protagonist and instead a boy as the film was born out of her own personal life and something her grandfather use to tell her. What was more interesting is when the topic came to the discussion what really consisted in the film which was unique as a woman director’s perspective and I in turn asked the audience what they felt in her film was not a woman’s perspective. We were told that the cameraman must have been a male gender as the way he captured the female ‘Yakshi’ was sensual and more like a man.

This opened a very interesting question to explore in all our films. What is it that a woman filmmaker can do or say in a film, is she just more sensitive and can we really find a particular vocabulary in women filmmakers’ in modern times and is there a need. Of course there was Laura Mulvey and a lot of independent women filmmakers before and after her who fought the traditional grammar of filmmaking to represent the woman as object and made radical shifts but are there nuances that are subtle yet obvious in a woman filmmaker. In fact its always sensitive men filmmakers like Satyajit Ray that we talk about in relation to powerful women sensitive films and many commercial women film directors today don’t like being slotted as a woman filmmaker. Can you really tell the difference is something that I have not yet found a definite answer for and am still searching as an audience and artist.  It’s interesting that my film never set out to be about a woman but yes the feminine gender does hold an important place in my identity and search as an artist which subconsciously surfaces itself in my work. The film for me was about making the ‘ordinary’, ‘extraordinary’ which is all around us and in its simple existence is so beautiful and rich. There were some questions about my film which I was most happy to discuss and the film had a fan (who had most of the questions to ask) in one charming young lady who was a young filmmaker herself,  Vaishnavi and was participating with her film “Doll” dealing with the metamorphosis of a relationship between a young girl and a barber, there was a passion and excitement that I saw in her eyes and I am sure she will go places, we connected and remain so.

Oo in audience

I did shortlist quite a few films but just managed to see the following which I was richer by the experience and touched me in more ways than one.

I would like to make a special mention of the documentary “The Invisible wars”. I was choked  by the Investigate Documentary directed by Kirby Dick dealing with the epidemic of rape within the US military and its cover up. Here are these strong women who are broken from within and their lives are not the same. Sitting at a comfortable distance from the trauma I could not even begin to understand their pain and justice was in the waiting. I felt I needed to follow the story in real life and hoped justice would be delivered soon, here is one film which goes into the real world and can make a difference. The documentary premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, where it received the U.S. Documentary Audience Award and was also nominated for the academy awards.


Trailer “The Invisible wars”

My desire for the sea was soon fulfilled and I experienced cinematic pleasure for 81 min seeing the “Coast of Death”  – a poetic ode to the Galician coast in northwestern Spain in which a fly on the wall camera observes the magical land of ‘meigas’(witches) where fog and drizzle prevail. The filmmaker says We adopt a slow and poetic view, letting time going by within the image´s frame, this allows us to observe landscape´s movements. To convey the idea of dialogue and relationship between landscape and people we use wide shots where the human figure is seen distant but his voice is heard close. The story suggests the experience of Finisterre´s landscape. A journey that will go away from reality to a dreamy look immersed in the mythical representation of the Coast of Death. This experimental feature was judged the best New Director at the Locarno Film festival 2013.

Trailer “Coast of Death”

I was introduced to the personal and professional world of Sukhdev by his daughter Shabnam Sukhdev who takes us on a personal journey coming to terms with her famous father after his death, trying to find the man and father she never understood all her childhood and a coming of age film. It was a beautiful discovery  titled “The Last Adieu” .

Trailer “The Last Adieu”

I took this opportunity not to miss seeing the animation film “True Love Story”(18 min) by Gitanjali Rao sensitively and creatively capturing a Bollywood style love story as a theme which was part of the 2014 Cannes Film Festival 10 selected short films at the Critics Week. I would like to quote below from an interview done by Animationexpress.com

True Love StoryTrue Love story 2

 

What inspired to make ‘True Love Story’?

I had been toying with the idea of first love for a while. And being a Bombayite I spent a lot of time in traffic jams watching at life unfolding on the street sides. I began to get interested in the lives of street boys who work hard selling flowers and books at traffic signals but are looking for love by impressing girls all the time.  I loved observing the small flirtations that happen between these flower sellers. I wished to tell the story of these young boys and girls who have complicated migration stories yet their spirit survives in the chaos of the big city, and then, emerged a first love story between two people living on the streets of Bombay.

 

Another charming world opened up with the documentary “Songs of the Blue Hills” by Utpal Borpujari. It is a feature length documentary, the first ever film (mentioned by the filmmakers) to present a wide range of Naga music and musicians to take the viewer on a journey through contemporary forms of Naga folk music.  

During the course of the festival I happened to enter a screening of a film in progress by a young filmmaker Tanushree Das. I was impressed by its contemplative style and self-reflection which used image, sound and the medium of sms text messages, “For You and Me” is a film of yearning and the struggle to sustain relationships in a society steeped in both physical as well as technological distance. Since I reached almost at the end and missed it I made it a point to communicate with the director at the festival and managed to make contact and now await to see the film which she has so kindly personally shared with me.

Bina Paul Venugopal introducing the Impact Campaign Workshop conducted by IDF

Bina Paul Venugopal introducing the Impact Campaign Workshop conducted by IDF

One of the other highlights of the festival were the workshops and one of them attracted me was titled ‘Impact Campaign Workshop’ Conducted by the IDF Indian Documentary Foundation which is a Not-for-profit organization co-founded by Jaaved Jaaferi and Sophy VSivaraman for the Promotion, Development and Funding of Documentaries in India and about India. I felt the workshop was targeted for young filmmakers and some experienced filmmakers felt out of place during some of the activities but however it was nice to be introduced to this platform which is very encouraging for the medium of documentary and non-commercial film. So I might catch up with Sophy and the gang in the near future and see if worlds meet and if it interests you do have a look at their website and work.

Sophy VSivaravan Co Founder of IDF

Sophy VSivaravan Co Founder of IDF

Javed Jaaferi talks about IDF

 

The festival for me was coming to an end and it was not possible to attend everything and one of the many things I missed were the films and talk by Saba Dewan, who was the Filmmaker in Focus at the festival, and will explore her work shortly. She says  Paradoxically, more creative documentaries are made in the of darkest times and during the most oppressive regimes… Funding and distribution of documentaries are important, but if the film has nothing new or creative to convey, it will all be useless.

Saba Dewan

I did not go to the sea but I managed to pick up some traditional mundus for my dad from a Kerala emporium from the main market close by and ended my day with beautiful company with two spirited lovely lady filmmakers – Shashwanti Talukdar and Kavita who were put up in the same hotel as myself and were attending the festival with their film “Wall Stories”.

Wall Stories

I was leaving the next day and they had just arrived, we shared a meal and we parted, I came to Mumbai and they continued to savour the pleasure of being in the company of cinema.



“Lootera”: An Indepth Acting Analysis of the film By Oorvazi Irani

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It is through the close-up that we “discover the soul of things.” – Béla Balázs, film theorist

Introduction

A film comes to life with actors, it is the actors who make you cry and laugh. And all the efforts of all the artists and technicians including the director is consummated in the act of acting, that is the final medium through which the film gets transmitted from the creators to the audience.

According to the “Natyashashtra” the ancient Indian text on art and aesthetics, there are four kinds of abhinayas(means of communication for an actor) postulated by Bharat Muni. They are categorized as angika, pertaining to the movement of head, torso and limbs;vacika, consisting of speech; sattvika, expressive of deep emotions indicated by subtle facial changes, and aharya, related to the use of costume. And further the “Natyashastra” states that mastering the sattvika is a true indication of a great artist and to be strived for.

The human face has 43 muscles and various combinations can create more than 10,000 expressions and the face, is the greatest tool for an actor in cinema to make the audience deeply identify with the world they inhabit and make them experience a new reality.

Béla Balázs, an international film theorist argues that it is through the stylistic technique of the close-up that we are able to reveal human subjectivity in film. Close-ups reveal the most hidden areas of our life and allow us as viewers to notice those minute details that we typically overlook. Balázs asserts that it is through the technique of the close-up that we “discover the soul of things.”

It is this very close-up that struck me about Vikramaditya’s film “Lootera” and I will attempt to analyze the film in relation to acting with this powerful tool of cinema, which I feel is often overlooked by some amateur filmmakers or is not acknowledged by a sensitive audience. However I will also address in the process the other means of filmmaking that aid an actor in his art and craft of acting.

We live life through moments and similarly when we experience a film we feel and identify with the acting beats and moments of the character and if strung together could be conceived as an ‘Actor’s Script’ and a character arc emerges, which I will attempt to unveil for the two main lead protagonists in this article – Pakhi Roy Chaudhary and Varun Shrivastav.

The first half of the film, till the intermission strongly belongs to the character of Pakhi and thus I begin with her character arc for the first half of the film.

“Lootera” Part One

A) Pakhi Roy Chaudhary – performed by Sonakshi Sinha

Pakhi is introduced as a character suffering from Asthma and her close bond with her zamindar father is established, located in the picturesque town of Manikpur (West Bengal) in the era of the 1950’s.

The character of Pakhi is brought to life with the soundtrack as much as the visuals right from the beginning of the film. Besides the Bengali character that the music establishes it is the heavy breathing and choking on the soundtrack of an asthma attack that gets linked to the identity of Pakhi and with that a pain and struggle to survive that comes into play which overshadows her character, it’s very different from introducing a character with giggles for instance.

Pakhi’s character as scripted and her bond with her father comes to life with the small nuances of facial expressions that the actor shares onscreen with the audience. It is her charm and warmth that is visible in her eyes that makes us want to enter this world that has been scripted by the filmmaker and we thus journey with her into this parallel reality.

Pakhi falling in love with Varun, who comes to her village posing as an archaeologist

door

bulb

candles

Sonakshi mirror

As an audience we experience Pakhi falling in love with Varun and how is that done? Ofcourse it’s in the script and the art direction and cinematography and the soundtrack that make the scene possible but it is only because of the actor Sonakshi that you really want to believe that it’s true. Every glance, every gesture brings to life the beauty of the scene right from Sonakshi biting her lip mischievously while playfully switching the lights on and off, admiring herself in the mirror or simply looking at Varun with so much spoken through her eyes – naughtiness, joy, yearning,warmth, contentment all enclosed in the emotion of love and romance. And I feel Sonakshi here fulfills this need of a period film very aptly by being expressive with her eyes and takes us in to the old world charm aided by the costume, jewellery and art direction.

I would also like to make a special mention here of two integral scenes of the love story

POND reflection

pond conversation_Sonakshi

pond Ranveer

The two lovers are framed in a beautiful setting of nature by the pond, just having finished a painting session. A beautiful moment captured which we realize latter as an audience is an integral plot point to the film where Varun reveals to Pakhi his desire to paint a masterpiece before he dies. Close ups of the two actors are of course integral to the scene but a highlight of the scene is the use of whispers in the dialogue after a critical point in the scene. Sonakshi as an actor executes her acting abilities this time consisting of speech with beautiful precision and brings to life a special touch of tenderness that makes the scene rise above the mundane. Of course the director(along with other creative artists who might be responsible for this) too need to be given due credit for this choice and in cinema an actor’s final performance is never complete without the choices of the director, as cinema is a director’s medium.

archaelogy site

Another powerful scene in the film is when Sonakshi is able to express the yearning and pain for Varun after their small separation that he inflicted on her. Through her eyes the dialogues get a resonance of truth that touches a chord in you. This is when she visits Varun at the archeology site and asks him when he would return for his painting session. She urges him, will you come tomorrow, day after, the day after that, and the words ring true with emotion…and each line is full of expectation and yearning. And the scene ends fittingly with Pakhi emotionally charged and vulnerable, asking an innocent, yet bold question “Aap mujhse pyaaar karte ho …Varunbabu”. And like in every scene the actions and words and how they are delivered continued to paint the character of Pakhi besides expressing emotions.

A missed opportunity as an actor to explore the 'expressive object'

A missed opportunity as an actor to explore the ‘expressive object’

However one tiny scene caught my attention but for the missed opportunity it portrayed. There is a point where Pakhi puts on Varun’s coat, wears his hat and holds a cigarette in her hand but as an actor Sonakshi did not make the props potent ‘expressive objects’ which could take the scene to another level and could be a memorable moment in the film. Of course this was not a scene set out in the film and maybe if it was given more screen time it could be worked on by all concerned. But it’s significant how an actor can infuse life into inanimate objects and how that object can become an extension or means of revealing feelings and character and this remains one of the areas I feel the film did not explore to a great extent. Successful popular instances are – the use of the kane by Charlie Chapman or Marlon Brandon’s use of a glove and other objects in the film “On the Waterfront”.

Pakhi heartbroken and devastated when Varun’s true identity of being a ‘Lootera’ (conman) is been revealed when he abandons their marriage and robs the valuable ancestral idol from the village, and runs away.

Among the few scenes in the film, I found this scene when Pakhi is told by her father about Varun’s betrayal as lacking in the scripting and execution and rather than an integral scene it seemed to be treated as a transition scene with less attention to detail and depth. The scene was essentially limited to two or three shots and the close up of the father and daughter being essential to the impact of the betrayal. However Sonakshi was limited in her impact and seemed to be given little space or directions to execute these shots to satisfaction. One close-up was sufficient with no dialogue but the emotion was not conveyed.

B) Varun Shrivastav – performed by Ranveer Singh

Varun’s introduction when Pakhi throws him off the road in a minor car incident

bike

bike fall Ranveer

The first half of the film does not do justice to Varun or rather Varun does not do justice to the role in the first half. This is a shot that introduces the audience to his character and the beginning of his love story and meeting with Pakhi but the look on Ranveer’s face when the camera is capturing his character on screen is not effective to want you to identify with him, you rather feel there is no inner life happening when the camera is on him. Having said that making a film is a daunting task and achieving perfection in every scene is sometimes not a liberty for an actor or director who has deadlines and budget constraints and just has to move on.

Varun’s responding to Pakhi’s flirtations and losing a grip over his own feelings and falling in love

kiss

It seemed like the script did not develop the nuances for the character of Varun or is it that the actor Ranveer could not build a unique character strong enough to hold his ground against Sonakshi. Had the actor transformed into another character or was he playing a restricted part of himself. Ranveer in his interviews does share with us his director’s advice about not moving his hands too much as he normally does. Yes that did help make a shift to the role required but could something more in-depth be done as an artist to actually bring to life another human being. Ranveer does say that he was influenced by Sonakshi in being more spontaneous as an acting style rather than his more studied research based method to acting but a preparation that equips you for spontaneity according to me is the ideal way to proceed and spontaneity alone cannot equip an actor without a thorough grounding.

It seemed right for the camera to have Sonakshi in the frame for a close-up at significant moments because her face was more expressive and she seemed more effortless in her responses.

Can lighting help an actor and director convey dimensions of character? Pakhi comes to Varun’s room late at night to express her feelings for him. As Varun opens the door we see a deliberate shadow on his eyes keeping us in the dark about his emotions and intentions for a brief few moments. The scene does progress to show his eyes briefly which I felt broke the spell for the scene. However it’s mostly Pakhi who we see and rightly so, as if we ask the question from the point of view of the script – whose scene is it? it would be Pakhi who we identify with and she is the character moving the action forward in the scene. This similar lighting of deep shadow and concealing the eyes is played with in the scene when Varun is pressurized by his chacha to give up his love and return to work the next day. The similar lighting setup adds an interesting connect to the two scenes and could be thematically explored. If the whispers in the soundtrack in the earlier scene convey tenderness to the lovestory then the lighting in the scenes with shadow and specially concealing Varun’s eyes help bring out the dilemma that he faces in this love story

Varun’s dilemma as a conman and his profession which prevent him to have a relationship and a normal life and he finally chooses his duty over love

The director Vikramaditya seen behind the scenes in 'the making of Lootera' with Ranveer Singh

The director Vikramaditya seen behind the scenes in ‘the making of Lootera’ with Ranveer Singh

here is a close-upjust before we see Varun leave the haveli, which could go past almost unnoticed where for a very brief moment we see Varun looking at the mirror with a tear rolling down his eye. Maybe its intentional to keep the mystery going for the second half of the film. But as a performance it remains a potent close-up not fully exploited by the director and actor and maybe here the editor plays an important role in choosing to shape the impact of the performance of the actor in that particular instance as very powerful performances are made and broken due to the impact of a few frames being present or absent. But in the service of the final impact of the film the shot being brief is a significant choice.

The film after the intermission does bring a greater focus to Varun as a character but does not leave Pakhi far behind and the second half belongs to both these characters and how they resolve their love story. The film now shifts from Manikpur to Dalhousie in the atmosphere of a cold winter.

“Lootera” Part Two

Pakhi Roy Chaudhary – performed by Sonakshi Sinha &Varun Shrivastav – performed by Ranveer Singh

Pakhi betrayed in love, traumatized by her father’s death and coping with her deteriorating asthma condition is trying to find solace in writing a book about her life experience and seems to be struggling to succeed.

Pakhi is introduced here with a bland look and ailing face which gives the illusion of no makeup but many a times there is more makeup required to give the ‘no makeup’ look convincingly on film and it is the makeup as a tool that plays a big role in aiding the actor here to make the audience believe that she is sick and has lost the vitality of life.

The scene finds Sonakshi in a typical situation like a writer’s block and innumerable scenes in films where a character tries to write but keeps scratching out the text and tears the paper and throws it on the floor. Here again the pen in the hands of Sonakshi could be used as an ‘expressive object’ in an interesting manner but it did not go beyond the mundane.

However the beauty of the scene emerges with a violent cut into a sensitive flashback in close-up that follows where we see Pakhi effortlessly writing and interrupted by her lover and with the flashback the scene is complete and gets a unique dimension.

Behind the scenes 'the making of Lootera' Vikramaditya with Sonakshi and Ranveer

Behind the scenes ‘the making of Lootera’ Vikramaditya with Sonakshi and Ranveer

Here Sonakshi and Ranveer share one of their best chemistry in the film and feel really in love which seemed lacking in some parts of the film. The cinematography with the mosquito net that works as a veil over Sonakshi’s face creates a mesmerizing frame with beauty and softness and whispers on the soundtrack take over to elevate a simple trivial exchange to a romantic tenderness. But one point strikes me here is that maybe nuances of Pakhi’s literary world could be shared with the audience to shape a more realistic and complete persona which would help us identify with her intellectual space and thoughts.

Varun is hunted by the police and it is under these circumstances that he meets Pakhi again and takes refuge in her house in Dalhousie.

Ranveer gun

Ranveer returns into Pakhi’s life, this time not clean shaven and this reflects his slight shift in persona which aids him as an actor, seemingly now more macho and in control and the plot takes him to Paki’s doorstep, where he takes refuge in her home. Pakhi on seeing Varun is angry and sad as she feels he is responsible for her father’s death and exploited her and wants to hand him over to the police.
The scene in the film when Pakhi and Varun are confronted by each other seems to be treated with a commercial audience in mind rather than the artistic demands of the film. The scene starts with heavy asthmatic breathing and I felt if the soundtrack could have remained with that alone it could be very effective to create tension in a sensitive audience but the use of loud music in this scene submerges the soundtrack of breathing and the pain that it is so symbol of. The treatment of the scene is treated and acted both melodramatically which slightly robs it of its depth and realism.

However the second half of the scene is more sensitive and has an interesting Blocking of the actor Sonakshi which exploits her acting abilities and effectiveness of the character placement in the scene which is symbolic of the feelings towards each other at the same time gives the audience a pivotal point to observe the drama.

There is a beautiful use of the principle of ‘contrast’ put into play here where after the turbulence you now have calm which again gives way to turbulence but having a slightly differing quality to it. Pakhi faces her back to Varun and sits on a chair which faces the camera and the blocking is very symbolic yet cinematically exploited to get a brilliant view of Sonakshi slowly breaking into tears after Varun has exited the room and closed the door in the background. Its again the close up that allows this emotional moment to unfold so truthfully.

Varun then convinces Pakhi of his innocence and explains that he is a victim of circumstances and should not be held responsible for her father’s death. Varun and Pakhi’s love for each other is rekindled and Paki now wants to protect Varun from the Police.

In one of the acting highlights of Ranveer’s performance in this film is this scene where love is rekindled, where the emotional truth and effectiveness stand out. Also what makes the scene more challenging and thus memorable is the absence of dialogue and it is only through his moist eyes that the scene is conveyed. Ranveer mentions in his interviews that he attended acting workshops and for him the film was very challenging, one of the reasons being he had never as a character had to dig so deep into his emotions. The scene is poignant as its just after this scene that the plot reaches closer to its climax and we have the Police Inspector visit Pakhi and she now protects him from the Police rather than handing him over.

Varun confesses he loves Pakhi and Pakhi in turn is convinced of Varun’s love for her

couple

Another beautiful scene in the film follows between both the actors is where they meet for the last time before their eminent separation. The scene starts with an interesting touch of humour to an otherwise painful experience, which is used by great directors like Satyajit Ray and others who have observed life and know its workings. Varun asks Pakhi “ You know what my real name is – AtmaramTripathy”. And this brings a precious smile to Pakhi’s face.

Another minute detail which is captured in a mid-shot is the body language of the two actors. They are both seated together on the sofa and they both look like mirror images, I don’t know if it was intentional or by default but like it is said that couples resemble each other with their body language after many years their love seemed to fuse them together or rather put them into perfect sync with one another.

And the whispers return and in close-up Pakhi says “Did you ever love me” and Varun says “Everybody used me, but only you loved me”.

Varun discovers Pakhi’s ailing condition and death wish through her writings and this time sacrifices his freedom and life for the sake of his beloved and does a final act of love which gives a new life to Pakhi. Varun knowing fully well that he has lost his chance to escape and walks to surrender to the police, but threatened by his actions he is shot to death.

Pakhi at the window silently expressing her desire to die with the falling of the last leaf

Pakhi at the window silently expressing her desire to die with the falling of the last leaf

Varun who ensures that the last leaf will never fall

Varun who ensures that the last leaf will never fall

Even though scenes are not shot in continuation in a film it seems like after the scene of the rekindling of love Ranveer as an actor is gaining his ground and brings his role to a good finish.It’s in the final moments of the film where Varun literally walks into the arms of death with pause and care that makes you look forward to the next film of this actor who in his dying achieves a glimpse of truth through the camera close-up enough to remain alive in our memory.

Pakhi’s life of suffering and hopelessness is transformed with the power of love into a desire to live. This is proof of Varun’s deep love for Pakhi.

The film concludes with a close-up of Pakhi where she discovers the masterpiece on the tree and with quick cuts into a flashback prior to that reminds us of the innocent romantic moments that make the film come a full circle round. The intercutting of the leaf on the tree and Sonakshi’s face is what fills the frame and underlying it all is the emotions that the actor portrays through her face which through the medium of the closeup we get so close to her. Her tears of joy and hope, love and pain, the choreography of the action – a glance and then a pause, a gentle look downwards and then again she faces the tree and in those small gestures, those choices, those unspoken words, in her eyes is enveloped the magic and experience of cinema. No novel can describe, no theatre can reveal the intimate brilliance of the actor’s depth than the humble close-up in cinema. And all that the filmmaker wants to say and wants you to feel is culminated in this last close up.

Conclusion

And now let me leave you with some food for thought. Who is an actor. What is acting. The basic challenge for an actor is to emote truthfully and transform into different characters. Therefore what is the process of an actor.Is using your personal memories the only devise an actor can and should use to create emotions. How many times is an actor truly successful in going beyond his own personality and bringing a character to life.The actor being ‘the instrument and the player’ of his art from is he therefore vulnerable as an artist as the tools of his art are inevitably linked to his emotions and his very own identity. Acting as an art form can either drive you crazy or it can lead you to the path of self-discovery and help you evolve as a human being.

Oorvazi Irani is an acting coach for professionals and amateurs and has introduced the Michael Chekhov Acting technique to India with her dvd of same http://www.oorvazichekhovindia.com

This Article is First Published on the website madaboutmoviez.com

http://www.madaboutmoviez.com/2013/07/lootera-indepth-acting-analysis-review-film/



“Ship Of Theseus” – A Film Musing by Oorvazi Irani

Ship of Thesus cover image copy

Being a film educationalist I am not comfortable making a claim that this film is path breaking as its not new cinematically and so much exciting has been happening ever since the birth of cinema  internationally and in India that these are not significant claims any longer but what is important for me is that its special. Its special for me personally as I am encouraged as an artist, as a filmmaker one more time, if a film is made and seen not for entertainment and passive viewing but for something deeper, meaningful and more engaging. It inspires the artist in me to believe in the medium of cinema as the art form of the future.

Here is an artist who is sensitive to the world and himself and has something to say, rather something to ask and his films are like a quest of that truth in which he involves the audience. I believe true art is about an exploration and is anchored in the real world. Are the questions new, or rather can they be new and can they go beyond self and existence if that is what we as humans are enveloped in. So its not about how radically new the questions are but how effectively they are posed and bought back to the forefront and what is the unique personal touch and experience of an artist that absorbs us in his work.

An important appeal of the film for me was the reality that it touched at many moments and the eye for detail right from the acting beats to the real life conversations to the symbolic little actions in the plot to the excellent sound design to the powerful poetic visuals that helped you enter into this parallel reality of the filmmaker’s world where as an audience we become one with his quest for identity and life itself. The reality like in great masters including Satyajit Ray is not just about reality as it sounds and looks but about how real it feels and therefore about the ‘truth’ in every moment. And this film tried to venture there, if it succeeded or not is up to each individual to decide and I or no one else is supposed to pass a judgment on that , is what I feel.

The audience is always free to make their own interpretations and experience the film the way they like but its also insightful to try and understand the world and concerns of the filmmaker and that is best known through his body of work. Even though this is Anand Gandhi’s debut feature his older short film and featurette hold some interesting similarities, concerns and style which put together tell a story, help you to understand “The Ship of Theseus” more deeply.  After seeing those films this seems like a beautiful evolution, as an artist, and I felt like I was traveling with a friend and each film took me one step ahead and I am eager to continue this journey where the worlds of the real merge and blur with the reel and a third reality is born.

I will leave you to comprehend for yourself the larger picture that these links of his earlier films tell you about him as an ‘auteur’ in theme and style and hopefully help you understand “Ship of Theseus” in a broader context of the artist and his art and gain a deeper understanding of his quest and make you engage in his art which is trying to reflect on our reality, is located in our world that we live in as human beings.

Let us not see a film to pass judgment but to experience another world, a reality that tries to bring us closer to our own world, our own reality.

“Right Here Right Now” 2003

30 Minutes ( uploaded in two parts) written and directed by Anand Gandhi.

http://youtu.be/OVAokeqQuFM

http://youtu.be/gIYJePEnvUY

 

“Continuum”  2006

40 minutes (uploaded in 5 parts)

(a featurette written and directed by Khushboo Ranka & Anand Gandhi)

Part One (Hunger)
http://youtu.be/tYfZWPEmu6o

Part Two (Trade and Love)
http://youtu.be/O5niloPdmRA

Part Three (Death)
http://youtu.be/E_7yqdSl0nY

Part Four (Enlightenment)
http://youtu.be/Rqt5LbU2658

Part Five (Continuum)
http://youtu.be/u7GAdzz9U_I

 

“Ship Of Theseus” (2012) written and directed by Anand Gandhi

catch this film in theatres in Mumbai till 25th July 2013 (Thursday)



Review of “Inshallah Kashmir: Living in Terror” a documentary by Ashvin Kumar

Review of “Inshallah Kashmir: Living in Terror” a documentary by Ashvin Kumar

By Oorvazi Irani

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When I think about Kashmir I cannot but help think of this imagery of a child who is being pulled in all directions wanting to be claimed after a bitter divorce, and my heart goes out to this child which is Kashmir and ‘living in terror’.  What does this child want is not an easy answer and Ashvin Kumar has tried to delve into the heart of Kashmir to explore this question.

“On 21st August 2011 the Indian state made a historic announcement. The State Human Rights Commission admitted to 2156 unidentified bodies from 38 unmarked graves in Kashmir” this statement made in the beginning of the film by Ashvin Kumar who has written, directed and edited the film is one of the key concerns that the film revolves around, which questions the two decades of Militancy, living terror, and the irony of living in terror under the watch of a secular, democratic republic, India. An integral part of the film is about the atrocities of the law enforcers on the common man and the probe into the militant identity.

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The film leads us into its narrative and the land of Kashmir with a point of view shot from the edge of a boat in the Dal lake along with the soundtrack of the Director and how he discovered this film. The shot is powerful and poetic and symbolizes the troubled waters of this beautiful land that we are about to enter. The film is largely interview based and it is the human stories that take the narrative forward including Ex Militants, a Kashmiri Pandit and the other voices of the common man in Kashmir, interspersed with views and comments by Omar Abdullah and government of India officials and experts. “Inshallah Kashmir” is culled from three hundred hours of rare footage shot in the conflict-zone of Kashmir while shooting “Inshallah, football”. This film reveals the scars of two decades of conflict through testimonies of over forty people whose families have been devastated by the conflict. In order to avoid censorship after his earlier films were banned/restrained from circulation Ashvin decided to bypass the Indian censor board and release “Inshallah Kashmir” online and free-of-charge on 26th of January 2012, India’s Republic Day.

The film as a whole develops a dialogue between the visual and the sound and the drama of real life is combined with poetic moments of pause and reflection. One such instance is the beginning of the chapter of ‘The Kashmiri Militant’. The meeting ground for the director’s first interview with a militant is a poetic imagery of dried burning leaves being swept in a football field in a village in Kashmir and the soundtrack draws us into the reflections of the director as he speaks on the militant identity “..the Kashmiri militant is not part of a single homogenized group. Differing motivations and ideologies are at play, at times working against each other…”

The film does try and make a sincere attempt at presenting a picture with varied shades and voices and has distinct chapters like ‘The Kashmiri Militant’ ‘The Kashmiri Pandit, the Hindus of Kashmir’, ‘Missing or Disappeared’, , Kids in Conflict’ etc.  Is the film the whole truth? But can one film ever attempt to be? I feel its value lies in the pertinent questions that it raises; it asks you to probe and involves you in the midst of the human turmoil that Kashmir is suffering.

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An independent voice not controlled by the establishment is extremely precious and the least we can do as an audience is engage ourselves meaningfully in its narrative and begin our search for truth.

For those who are yet to watch the film and for those who would like to revisit  the same here’s the complete film for you all-

My Review first Published on the website http://www.madaboutmoviez.com

http://www.madaboutmoviez.com/2013/04/review-of-inshallah-kashmir-living-terror-2012-documentary-film-ashvin-kumar/

 

 



Entertainment Vs Truth

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Entertainment Vs Truth

A musing by Oorvazi Irani

The recent Oscar nominees and winner have got me thinking again. Do films reflect reality or a perception of reality, or is reality and the truth anywhere in the picture. A film always has an agenda and belongs to someone. So when we view a film we need to think deeper than the plot and be aware of an undercurrent ideology that the film promotes.  Sometimes intentional, sometimes in the name of formula and entertainment truth is put for sale.

I would like to quote Farrukh Dhondy(from his column Cabbages and Kings that appeared in Asian Age on March 2nd 2013) in regards the film “Lincoln” and the interesting views he puts forth

“Slavery in America was not abolished by Lincoln and his civil war but by the need of the nascent capitalist industries in the North for free labour from the South.

…….The question is, quite simply, “Did Abraham Lincoln intentionally and heroically liberate the slaves?”
A child’s first view of history is mythological. Figures loom largest. Noah saved all living creatures from the flood; William conquered Britain; Ashoka united India; Aurangzeb stubbornly brought about the downfall of the Mughal empire; Lincoln freed the slaves… People dominate. They are the movers, the shakers of the earth and it makes sense.
Then comes adolescence and the awareness that history is not the story of kings but the story of the people. One embraces that doctrine with all the enthusiasm of the new republican and then follows the theory… ” ( here is the link to the full article http://www.asianage.com/columnists/revisiting-history-834)

The film “Argo” at the surface does not seem a Hollywood formula film and is based on true facts but why does the film have a climax that seems just too filmy to digest, a car chasing a plane and the heroes get away safe and sound.  What is the level of creative liberties in relation to depicting facts that do not dilute the heart of the matter is an interesting exploration. As facts were omitted , different circumstances created for a more entertaining film but as a certain critic rightly questions is that really necessary to create drama, a good storyteller could extract the drama out of real life but I say would that sell is the big question, but why not, do we want it to sell and to whom. When presenting a historical fact seeing it from the American viewpoint only could be dangerously pushing Iranian stereotypes and highlighting an event itself projects the makers in a certain light. Its not about how good or bad the Iranians are  but whats most important is about how great the Americans are.

“Argo” the Oscar winning film this year again highlights a supposed success story of America and the whole world starts talking about it. The film is cinematically quite good like all the films mentioned above and has a style of realism in its cinematic appeal (most of the time) but yet again the main focus of the film remains projecting the American CIA agent as the star. A popular film needs a active single strong protagonist and this character dynamics is never lost in the tale of all our Oscar films mentioned above. It just happens to be that two of those protagonists are CIA agents, isn’t it.

Reality is all perception and truth is but relative, in that web I search for my vision of discovery.



“DEATH OF A SHADOW” – A Review of the Oscar Nominated Short Film – 2013

“DEATH OF A SHADOW” A Film by Tom Van Avermaet

Oscar Nominated Short Film – 2013

 

A Review by Oorvazi Irani

Soldier Nathan died during World War I. A strange collector imprisoned his shadow and gave him a new chance: a second life against 10,000 captured shadows…

How is this for a beginning to a story idea. Not real but fascinating. And that’s the power of a good story, you believe in it not because of it being realistic but because of its hidden truth, power and beauty. The director Tom Van Avermaet is influenced by ‘surrealists’ of the American cinema (Darren Aronofsky, Terry Gilliam, Tim Burton, Stanley Kubrick…) and inspired by the mythology and mystery of fantasy tales and comic books. This is very apparent in his style and choice of subject but what is interesting is that he does not deal with the film poetically or mysteriously as a treatment but makes this magic realism rooted in the apparent world of realism. Many critics have dubbed his film as steam-punk which the director defends “Steam-punk is like a general term for science fiction in the Victorian Age, with machines” but says his work is not centered around that but does use certain elements from that genre.

Coming back to the story why does Nathan want to go back to the world of the living, why does he want a second chance? Here kicks in the director as auteur again “there are elements I come back to, like the element of someone looking for an unreachable love. Both shorts have those elements.” (“Dreamtime” 2006 was his first short film and the current film was under production for 5 years now). So at a simple level the film is a love story where our hero wants to come back to life or rather buys his way to a second chance to live to meet a woman he fell in love with just before dying. But of course there is a twist in this love story, after he buys his second life he is faced with the harsh reality that she does not love him but someone else. The film now gaining dramatic momentum leads Nathan to take revenge and destroy his object of jealousy, however ultimately ending in a self realization and a sacrifice for love.

The love story is not new but what makes the mark is that the film is in a new wrapping with surrealistic layers and this added with Matthias Schoenaerts (“Rust and Bone”) intense performance as Nathan Rijckx, the eye for detail with great production value and visual beauty along with a effective soundtrack, help take the film beyond a simple love story to the realm of a pondering on life and existence itself.

An imagery that lingers on is the gallery collection of the ‘shadows of death’. But for my liking I did expect more of the poetry of the mysterious world of shadows, but that’s another story and maybe another film.

“Death of Shadow” was Screened exclusively in Mumbai by the Shamiana Short Film Club on 24th February 2013 with a message from the film-maker.

You can watch Oscar Nominated Short Films here http://theoscarshorts.shorts.tv/thefilms.php

This Film Review First Published on the website Mad About Moviez http://www.madaboutmoviez.com



AUTEUR & ACTING – The Michael Chekhov Acting Technique

AUTEUR & ACTING

The Michael Chekhov Acting Technique

Presented by Oorvazi Irani

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If cinema is the director’s medium 

And the director is an artist, an Auteur

An Auteur director works in collaboration with the writer which is the first stage of creation

But collaboration with an actor with an acting technique can lead to an exciting final stage of creation waiting to be explored

The question I propose to ask today is  – Can an auteur director involve with the actor with the technique of acting itself. Rather than orienting himself to the actor’s style of acting can he introduce and work with the actor together as a collaborative teamwork. Can they both work in a new collaboration where the character comes to life and is truly born from the marriage of the writer , auteur director and actor.

The next question will be how does the auteur director go about this process.

The first step would be for the auteur director to understand the challenges of the actor as an artist and put himself through the process. Not to become an actor but to experience firsthand the possibilities.

Also what this does for the auteur director is that it helps him to live the part of the character and become one with his creation, he might not be the most skilled individual to bring the character to life but he can share the joy of creation with the actor and discover his characters from a deeper source adding nuances that have escaped the writer. Ofcourse the writer could also be included in the process, as acting is the final phase of the written script and it actualizes the potential of the story and screenplay.

The challenges an actor faces are the demands to transform himself into other characters and to bring them to life by emoting truthfully. Every actor has his own way of responding to these demands which he either evolves with experience or by following a particular acting technique.

The most popular means used to act is – to use one’s personal memories and personality to act. As an artist I find that limiting the ‘art of acting’. I believe any form of art should put the individual in a position to evolve and not regress and high points in artistic creation are experienced by the artist and audience when the artist has transcended the ego.

The Michael Chekhov acting technique unlike some other acting techniques is not regressive but fun and creative and any individual who wants to creatively ‘play’ can start the exploration. Michael Chekhov himself was a great actor, director born in Russia in 1891. He devoted his whole life to developing and perfecting a revolutionary acting technique that does not use personal memories and one’s limited personality to act but at the core of the technique is the use of the actor’s ‘Imagination’ and the actor’s ‘Body’ . The actor is treated as a creative artist and the possibilities of creation are infinite with specific tools like the ‘Imaginary Body’ – ‘Imaginary Centre’ – ‘Psychological Gesture’ – ‘Sensations’ with which the whole world opens up to the actor and the world inside him  strives to reach out surrendering to the joy of creation.

An Auteur can rediscover himself and his film in artistic collaboration with the actor – are there any takers in India for this exciting journey to join the list of internationally respected actors and directors who are inspired by and follow the acting technique like Clint Eastwood, Jack Nicholson, Ingrid Bergman, Anthony Hopkins, Johnny Depp, Marilyn Monroe, Joanna Merlin, Anthony Quinn, and many more.

For more information on the technique do visit my website, link below

www.oorvazichekhovindia.com

 

Article first published on the movie website http://www.madaboutmoviez.com