Film Education

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.



“Shirin Farhad Ki Toh Nikal Padi” – Film Review by Oorvazi Irani

“Shirin Farhad Ki Toh Nikal Padi”

First published on
Directed by Bela Bhansali Sehgal
Produced by Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Sunil A Lulla
Starring Boman Irani as Farhad Pastakia and Farah Khan as Shirin Fugawala and co-starring Daisy Irani,Shammi, Kavin Dave etc.

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.



(watch his latest film “The Forest” on 4th May)

I would love o share with you Ashvin’s article on his journey as a filmmaker I think its inspiring to young independent filmmakers

Getting an Oscar nod is quite an overwhelming experience; particularly when it comes to you on your first film. Well, nearly first film.

The film I made before ‘Little Terrorist’ was ‘Road To Ladakh’. It starred Irrfan and Koel Purie. It almost didn’t get made; which is why the making-of is called ‘The Near Un-making of Road To Ladakh‘ take a look, it’s a hoot.

RTL is what I call my film-school, or what others would call ‘student-film’. Suffice to say, I had no clue what to do at the beginning of that experience. A few ideas, yes. Plus, hundreds of films watched and books read, sure and an oversupply of confidence absolutely. But in terms of making films, the seat-of-my-pants was the main mode of transport. Fortune favours the brave, they say, I think it favours the foolhardy.

Oscar-nominated filmmaker Ashvin Kumar's column: My journey to the 'Forest'

Dragging a crew of forty people from various parts of the world to 15,000 feet, convincing them to fund their own air-fare (forget about fee), using tents for accommodation in the blistering cold and rain, disasters striking so often that it becomes normal. Small example: Irrfan Khan saying yes to the part, then agreeing to forgo his fee, then breaking his arm, then agreeing to come along regardless and then being attacked by altitude sickness that knocks him out cold. And yet, somehow, with dedication so rare in Bollywood, doing all that was expected of him without a fuss and turning in a brilliant performance. He deserves every award and commendation that has come his way since 2004, the year I made ‘Road To Ladakh’.

As I recall these snap-shots, the hair on the back of my neck stands up. So many things could have gone seriously wrong, how did anyone ever let me do that? I was so green, so raw. That film was funded on fumes, infectious enthusiasm and passion.

So, hard on the heels of a recognition like the nomination, comes the expectation of a repeat performance. That causes anxiety and pressure that have little or nothing to do with making films and telling stories. It has everything to do with an inflated perception of oneself and the fallacy that one has “arrived” so to speak.

The story of my debut feature film ‘The Forest‘ is as much a story of arrival at no-destination-in-particular, as it is about a remarkable collaboration of some seriously well-meaning, skilled and talented individuals drawn from around the world.

More than that, it taught me about life. It grew me up.

So, here I am, post-nomination. Do I decide to make my debut feature film about a couple in Delhi going through marital difficulty? One apartment, maybe a few car shots, maybe some second unit shots of Delhi night life – all very contained, focusing energies directing the actors, small budget. Performance driven human story about love and loss?


Instead, a remote, damp and freezing jungle location, a main character that is mostly hidden. When spotted its shown to have four legs and very large teeth. A convincing suspense thriller with what is intriguingly called a ‘love triangle’ in Bollywood. A movie that would teach me all about special effects, make up, prosthetics. All about computer graphics, compositing, visual effects, blue and green screens and how to direct an animal wrangler who in turn is trying to get a performance out of two very fierce and determined leopards.

I had no experience of a big film, I had never stepped onto a set of a crew of more than twenty people. Here we had close to two hundred. All I knew for sure is what I wanted to see on the screen. And I spent my energies on creating a team of people who would help me achieve that.

Everything the gurus will tell you to avoid, I did while making ‘The Forest‘.

I hope you enjoy watching it.

May the 4th be with you.


OORVAZI Talking Cinema – Film Review Show AGNEEPATH (2012) – Episode 6

TALKING CINEMA – The Film Review Show by Oorvazi Irani

( Kindly note in the video review above I refer to Fatema as Aayat’s mother, what I meant is mother like figure. Technically ofcourse she is Aayat’s bua(father’s  sister)


Written and Directed by Pankaj Kapoor
Produced by Sheetal Vinod Talwar and Sunil Lulla

A Film Analysis by Oorvazi Irani

A majority of the reviews rated the film in a negative light and I decided to see the film for the second time and ask myself, do I really like it and if yes why. The second viewing only added to my support for the film.

I would not say that the film was devoid of cliché and stereotype completely as it was a commercial film but I feel the poetic touch and concern for each department of filmmaking right through the production design, cinematography, sound design, music, acting – the director and his team made the film as a ‘labour of love’ and that is what lived on with me.

I am sharing with you brief highlights of a film analysis

The beginning title card and end titles:
The film is as much a film about war as it is about love. The theme of violence, destruction and war is the main backdrop amidst which the film unfolds but it is also part of the film in small details like the beginning title card text/typography which is in orange embers and there is in such a small detail hidden an important aspect of the theme of the film.

The film then has a closeup of the embers and the film begins.

The film ends with an item number of Shahid Kapoor showing off his dance moves to a catchy number of the song ‘Mallo Malli’ and soon the end credits roll. But what is interesting is that if you patiently sit for a while the end credits continue to roll but this time the song is gone and there is a beautiful mesmerizing music which reminds you of the artistic vision of the director and leaves you with a poetic note, it opens a space for you to ponder.

The first scene:
The first scene in the film is a letter from a displaced Kashmiri Pandit who is writing to his sister to look after his daughter Aayat, and so is the character of Aayat introduced (but not seen). She is herself a refugee and is directly linked to the effects of war. The film introduces us to the world which is deeply affected by war. The events of war small and big are reasons for the story to change shape and are major events in the life of the lovers.
The Ayodhya riots cause the Bombay blasts and one of Aayat’s close relative whose house she was staying in is killed (Fatema’s husband) and she has to leave for Bombay. This causes the first separation between the lovers. The second separation comes when Shahid is called for duty as an Airforce pilot for the Kargil war. The two lovers are also reunited and the film climax is set amidst an act of violence which is the riots of Ahmedabad. Thus not only the film begins and ends with war but it is the cause of the separation and the final reunion of the lovers.


Pammo played by Kanika Mangkotya

I would like to make special mention of Pammo, the sister of Harry. I found her performance very genuine. The relationship between brother and sister become an integral part of the film. I would like to site the scene where Harry comes to Switzerland to meet his sister to share the joy of the birth of her second child. Its then that Pammo asks him to go and meet Aayat and inspite of his hesitancy urges him to pursue his love with tears in her eyes. The performance was touching and felt sincere.

Guljari (the tongawalla) played by Manoj Pahwa

This character with his tonga and white horse was a good touch to bring alive the village of Mallukot. And we are told by Harry towards the end of the film that he was also responsible for saving his life from a violent mob. He is treated almost as family by the village folk. A small detail which has been looked into is that after many years when Aayat returns with Fatema to the village since time has progressed he now owns an auto and not a tonga, a small detail that connects with reality.

The Punjabi family

Harry’s grandfather was quite adorable as a character. He reminded me that many old people are so innocent and childlike and its their second childhood. He was so loveable in the characterization and the actor did do a fair amount of justice to it. The screaming Tauji was a bit of a stereotype but was fun at times however she could be made more real and less one-dimensional. I missed the charm in Harry’s friends and nobody was really memorable, infact the fat boy was a cliché and the performance did not have the power to break free of it. Rajjo played by Aditi Sharma was an interesting character, even though common and was well performed but I do feel there could have been some more intense scenes with her. The scene where she burns the letter, an important communication for Harry from his lover to an extent makes her a villain and the closeup of the face could have been more rich in its depth of emotion. Pammo’s NRI husband seemed like an amateur actor but at one level this fitted and created a character in its own way and that was interesting. Anupam Kher as Maharaj Krishna was good in moments and a loveable character specially at the Kashmir emporium when he meets Harry for the first time in Scotland.

The Kashmiri family and friends

An interesting fact that reveals itself is that they all stick together and are always there for each other. The film starts with Aayat been looked after by her father’s sister and staying in his house in Mallukot and then they move to Scotland where they shift to Macho’s house and work with him in his Kashmiri emporium.

Fatema played by Supriya Pathak is good as a motherly figure and her most memorable scene is in Scotland where she narrates to Harry that her husband was killed in the Bombay bomb blasts. The shot is in closeup and captures the sincerity of performance and the scene beautifully ends by her saying ‘I will get the tea’.

Aayat: Soonam Kapoor

Aayat has been introduced as a refugee and been displaced, this is interesting dynamics for an actor. She does convey some expressive moments of that pain, like the first time she is introduced visually on screen, with a scream after a nightmare and then she talks to her father on the phone and has tears in her yes, that is a sensitive and well performed scene. But I just hope Soonam Kapoor could have identified and maintained a few characteristics which would have made her more Aayat and less herself. Her sincerity was also seen in the small scene where the old film song ‘abhi abhi to aye ho’ is playing in the background and the last look when her lover is parting from her for the day is very expressive.

The two colors associated with Aayat as a pallet for her clothes seems to be white and red. Ofcourse the colors are so symbolic of peace, innocence, passion, love, blood.

If I had to choose a colour for each section it would be white for the village life with a mix of other colours as a variant, and red as a strong emotive colour for the Scotland section and the next season of love. Their love was innocent and now its passionate. Interestingly white returns at the climax of the film too. Eventhough Aayat does not wear a pure white saree, but it is predominantly white and Harry too has a strong colour pallet of white in his clothes and which features in the climax too. The colour red is also used in a scene where the lovers meet in a church and dip their hands in a red liquid. The colour red again is symbolic of passion and bloodshed and again here at a subconscious level the themes are intertwined together.

Aayat is beautiful at times and has an innocence and grace that is appealing. Some scenes are shot with very minimal makeup and that is a bold step for commercial cinema, it adds to the realism of the character and is well appreciated. However Aayat does not seem to have a specific character identity. One scene as a instance, how a simple village girl from India can now perform ballet so gracefully (which is something that is learned from childhood) is a little difficult to digest and is more in line with the commercial aspect of cinema than the realism of art cinema. But if you excuse that, the scene does have a grace that it infuses to the film. Soonam Kapoor does reveal in an interview when asked about her performance that she has been learning ballet from childhood and infact the crew did not really know about this. I assumed the director would have been concerned about such a detail, as the grace and posture would not be easy to fake. But we do have actresses like Meena Kumari who have played a tawaif in the famous film “Pakeeza” and was not a good dancer but the filmmaker pulled it off and replaced a dancer in the close-ups of the feet and created the illusion that Meena Kumari the tawaif is dancing. However we needed none of that here, besides the film was not about a ballet dancer.

Harinder Singh/Harry: Shahid Kapoor

Pankaj Kapoor, the director states that the film was conceived keeping in mind his son, Shahid Kapoor as the male lead. Shahid was cute and loveable in the Punjabi village section of the film. But the character of the Airfoce pilot seemed one dimensional and at the surface. There was a pride that now spoke in his body language but the entire section of the film which involves the airforce lacked to have a poetic and real feel. The Airforce pilots were presented as stylized heroes with low angle shots and music to match the heroism and the depth of character was missing.

Also maybe the performance is chopped up and the scenes deleted due to the Airforce having to approve it.


What is the imp of separation? It makes the love more intense when they meet and the plot of the film uses this basic devise to structure the film besides other things. With each separation and reunion the season of love intensifies. Sometimes the efforts of the lovers to meet were not strong enough and the separation seemed unrealistic at times but that apart the last separation leads to a loss of communication and things are becoming worse and it seems impossible for them to meet. As a classic plot structure events reach a point where the protagonists seem domed. Aayat is now thinking of taking the advise of her father’s sister (who is looking after her) and marrying Akram( this would be the end of their love story) but just when things have got worst and there is no hope, the plot takes a twist and we have the riots and the two lovers meet amidst this theatre of violence and reunite for the last time. The climax has the traditional heroic qualities of a commercial film where the actor rescues the heroine and then shows his valour and strength to rescue an innocent child from the clutches of death. The film’s resolution is like most of the popular commercial cinema, a happy and simple ending not complex and open ended. The two lovers are united and as a symbolic gesture adopt a orphan child that they rescue, however the film does proceed a few years ahead and we see Aayat now pregnant. The film ends with an item song where Harry and his small family live happily ever after.

Soundtrack and music
Sound Design by Dileep Subramaniam

The soundtrack for the film including the music was well designed and mixed. There was attention paid to small details which created the atmosphere in interesting ways and sometimes a creative use of the soundtrack.

I would like to mention the scene where Harry and Aayat meet for the first time for tea in Scotland after their separation in India. The scene unfolds itself where we hear the dialogues but the characters are not talking and we realize that this is the inner monologue of each character. There is music to suit the moment and create the mood and interestingly when Aayat puts the glass down on the table the music stops and then resumes after a few seconds. The filmmaker is playing with the realism of the film in a creative way and is teasing the audience.

Music Composer: Pritam
Lyrics: Irshad Kamil

The song Sajh Dhaj Ke Tashan Mein Rehna was appealing; the song had a catchy beat and was full of energy. It had the appeal of the Indian Punjabi wedding at the same time made a very relevant observation of the attitude of foreign returned Indians. The song was shot with various angles and movement and the editing helped create the high energy by its fast cuts.
Another song that I would like to mention is Ik Tu Hi Tu Hi where the song and lyrics on the soundtrack reveal the loss and longing. The film reaches a poetic level of emotion and out of the physical real world. The beautiful cinematography adds to the appeal of the song.

Edited by Sreekar Prasad

One of the major problems of a lot of the audiences is the length and pace of the film.
However I did not really feel impatient due to the length or pace and the subject requires a certain treatment. If the subject and if the film is about longing and separation a slow pace is not against it if there is grace and sensitivity to support it.

Parallel cutting (infact its one of the basic vocabulary for editing) is often used in the film ranging from cliché to symbolism.

The scene where Harry as a fighter pilot is about to crash, we cut to Aayat getting up all startled and then when he lands we see her praying so typical and still prevalent.

In the climax of the film we have the intercutting of a happy marriage dance (Harry’s fat friend) of the dandiya cut with the preparation of the violent mob . The acquiring of the dandiyas to celebrate and the rioters acquiring the tools of destruction. The screams of death and the sounds of merriment. Ofcourse the scene ends with the violence taking hold of the merriment and destroying it.

Cinematography and Production Design
Cinematography: Binod Pradhan
Production design: Samir Chanda

Special credit to be given to Binod Pradhan for the entire look and feel of the film right from the nuances of lighting to capturing the beauty of Aayat and maintaining the sensitivity of significant moments in the film like the lovers meeting in the tunnel concrete pipes in Scotland and the beautiful crane shot in the song Ik Tu Hi Tu Hi which begins with Fatema in the Kashmiri emporium and ends at Ayat in the house on top.
The closeup of Ayat on the railway station while she bids goodbye to her father is a lovely moment captured poetically with the moving train and her expression.

The production design revealed hardwork and good aesthetics and each frame had detailing which was significant to bring alive the scene. Right from the symbolic colour palette of white and red for the lovers to the choice of colours in the architecture – a lot was being said and helped highlight the work of the cinematographer and actor. The Punjabi family is situated in a village and the river by the banks is an interesting location that establishes the setting and adds a character and etches it in your memory.

The motif of the Tunnel/Concrete pipes

The concrete water pipes are first seen in the village of Mallukot, where Harry and his friends are discussing their future.

Then they appear in Scotland where the two lovers meet. Harry is with Aayat and in the rain on the streets we find them there. There is a poignant scene here that takes place which involves the love story and a message gently slipped through.

The pipes reappear in the climax of the film when the lovers are reunited amidst the riots of Ahmedabad. Harry rescues Aayat and they hide among these pipes. Aayat asks Harry who are these people and he says “Bhayanak Saye hai, jinke na chehre hai, na naam”.

This space is that of a tunnel and strongly associated with the hero of the film, Harry. This is his space where we find him in different stages of his life – his youth in the fields of the village in Punjab – with his lover in Scotland – protecting his lover from the rioters, but in the two instances before they seem secure and are not penetrated but in the last scene even this space is not safe and Harry is forced to leave. We then see him rescuing a white horse and then arriving at a deserted mela (which was established in a scene earlier as a setting close to the marriage venue Harry was attending).

I will leave you to ponder why you feel the director is using these objects as a motif throughout the film.

Behind the scenes: “Clap Trap” – Part 4

Behind the scenes: “Clap Trap” – Part 4

By Sorab Irani – Chairman/Managing Director, SBI Impresario Pvt. Ltd.

The observational mode of documentary film making was of documentary returning to ideals of truth. The innovation and evolution of cinematic hardware in the 1960s made this very possible. The emphasis was on mobility as, new, light equipment made possible an intimacy of observation new to documentary, and this involved sound as well as image. The move to lighter 16mm equipment and shoulder mounted cameras allowed documentarians to leave the anchored point of the tripod. Portable Nagra sync-sound systems and unidirectional microphones, too, freed the documentarian from cumbersome audio equipment. A two-person film crew could now bring real truth to the documentary milieu.

Unlike the subjective content of poetic documentary, or the rhetorical insistence of expositional documentary, observational documentaries simply observe, allowing viewers to reach whatever conclusions they may deduce. The camera, while moving with subjects and staying in the action, remains as unobtrusive as possible, mutely recording events as they happen. Pure observational documentarians proceeded under some bylaws: no music, no interviews, no scene arrangement of any kind, and no narration. The fly-on-the-wall perspective is championed, while editing processes utilize long takes and few cuts. Resultant footage appears as though the viewer is witnessing first-hand the experiences of the subject so to say.

As a producer I wanted to make a good observational style documentary. It was therefore very essential that we had a camera person and a sound recordist who were aware of this style of film-making. My choice fell on Navroze Contractor for camera and Inderjit Niyogi for sound. Navroze was a veteran world renown camera man in India and had shot umpteen documentaries for European filmmakers and had the all important sense of grabbing a slice of reality as it was happening, this is an instinctual thing and only gets developed with time and experience. So when Navroze’s eye went towards the camera eye piece Indrajit Niyogi the recordist would simply start the nagra. Indrajit and Dileep Subramanium (fondly called Subu), who latter formed a team and a company and worked together were one of the best sync sound recordists in India at the time. This was an essential combination necessary to achieve capturing ‘reality in motion’.

Owing to my other commitments at the time I realized I needed the services of a director. After much consideration I decided to get Jill Misquitta an FTII trained director to do the job. Jill was married to Cyrus Mistry an author play writer of some repute in Mumbai.

Basically it was decided that we observe the world of the extras. To bring a human interest focus to this exercise from our research we picked two interesting characters and for balance one male Masood and one female Pummi.

The story carries on in my next post.

BEHIND THE SCENES: Part 3 (Clap Trap)

Behind the Scenes (“ClapTrap”): Part 3

By Sorab Irani – Chairman/Managing Director, SBI Impresario Pvt. Ltd.

It is believed that in Mumbai there is a potential documentary waiting to be made on nearly every street corner. Mumbai is perceived as the city of dreams, the question which begs to be answered is how many of these dreams ever come true and for how many. As one of the character very poignantly said in the film “The Clap trap” – ” There is only one Amitabh Bachhan and many thousands of disillusioned actors with shattered dreams and compromised  lives – why chase such a dream ?” However to dream, to hope, is the stuff that keeps us going, we all live today for a better tomorrow, without hope or dreams it would be an empty tomorrow and today filled with despair.

Bollywood probably unwittingly made dream-making into an industry. Provided hope and elevated despair with escapism. In the darkness of the movie theaters everything was served up, song and dance, sex, comedy, melodrama, forcing people to suspend their reality and millions thronged the theater space for exactly that, probably again without realizing it.

Having said that even my idea of a documentary film on the ‘Extras’ of the Mumbai film Industry had to move from the realm of idea (mind) into reality.

After struggling with the idea in India where documentary at that time was considered the orphaned child of Bollywood, I shifted my focus to parts of the world where documentary was given its due importance as a film format and audiences were interested in seeing them.

I proposed the idea to Farrukh Dhondy at Channel 4 TV – London. Farrukh Dhondy was a multicultural Commissioning Editor at Channel 4 with an interest in India. The commissioning process was straightforward. Submit your idea in one or two paras if the Commissioning Editor saw merit in the idea then he would commission the research of the idea, the effects of the research would determine if Channel 4 wanted to commission the project or not.

Farrukh Dhondy approved of the idea and commissioned the research, being a documentary the research was rightly given more importance then director, technicians etc. The subject matter was correctly the center focus.

The research that I presented both visual and along with the treatment was appreciated  and my company was contracted to produce “Extras” which was its tentative working title. The budget was comfortable as payment was to be received in pounds sterling.

Once all this technicalities of budget approval and legal contract were over I decide I must  meet Farrukh Dhondy in London and get his thinking aboard realizing that this film had to be made for an international audience and so needed to be crafted as such. I also got to see many documentary films made by Channel Four and benefited immensely.

Farrukh Dhondy was a renowned writer and intellectual which he still is and of course a great communicator. What I learned from him was to stand by me in good stead for the many other documentaries that I made.

The basic thing he told me was that the Films Division format of documentary was dead. We were of course brought up on Films Division documentaries which we were forced to see when ever we went to the movies in those days by government decree. Example – we see a visual of say of the Khumbh Mela and the voice of the narrator would say this is the Khumba Mela. The voice of the narrator was to be eliminated all together and the narrative of the film should be propelled forward by the voice of the characters that people the film. The technique of using voice – over to provide smooth transitions of scenes, that a good documentary was given birth on the editing table, that the director had to be non intrusive, the material should never be staged, capture live events as they unfold in time, the magic of such moments is what Farrukh called ‘Observational Documentary’ all these new ideas were very exciting and I knew they will  help me make a documentary film which will be very engaging to an audience. However I must say here that the most important advise and in Farrukh’s own words was – ” Want advise to make a good film – tell a story, want more advise to make a good film -tell a story” .

So I came to Bombay teaming with all these fresh ideas and work started on assembling a team to make the film.

To be continued…………