Postmortem of two Short Films

This seems to be a very relevant time to discuss why both my short films didn’t work the way I’d fancy them to be…

People are either talking about demonetisation, black money, capitalism and the fascism of the government or random self obsessions. I am compulsively subscribed to the second group. Films are my manifestation of overestimating my self-obsession. Not being humble at all. Drunk and allured by this lunatic desperation, I ended up making two short films, The Cemetery (19:55 minutes) and B-Minor (14:45 minutes). Both of them failed miserably due to an array of reasons apart from the fact that they still look very original and leave a remote possibility for an audience to say that he or she has seen something like this!

Cinema and Cakes

The postmortem was becoming an inevitable phenomenon to say, “Hey, this time I will bake something worthy!”

They make good cakes without eggs now. They have a green dot on the pack to say its vegetarian. I wonder when, but the question ‘why’ haunts me more when I reassess my  work! A cake with eggs and the other egg less – both remained unsold while hot. A few slices were appreciated – you know you will always have friends to encourage your ‘let’s climb the Everest’ fantasies!

However, the short films in India are not climbing the mountains anymore. I have realised this after transcending from the unnecessary pressure of delivering my best in those two attempts. I was hasty, yes at times but I always kept my feet on the ground. In terms of the length or size, I was baking muffins, you see…

Postmortem

post-mortem/ pəʊs(t)ˈmɔːtəm/

noun: postmortem

  1. an examination of a dead body to determine the cause of death.

synonyms: autopsy, post-mortem examination, PM, dissection, necropsy

“the hospital will want to carry out a post-mortem”

an analysis or discussion of an event held soon after it has occurred, especially in order to determine why it was a failure.

synonyms: analysis, evaluation, assessment, appraisal, examination, review, investigation, breakdown, critique, study; rareanatomization

“the very last thing she needed was a post-mortem of her failed relationship”

Postmortem of The Cemetery

finalI wanted to shoot inside the South Park Street Cemetery from my very first visit to the place. I wanted to tell a story that was feminist; but in the most subtle way possible. The superlative expectations coupled with the superlative challenges such as my own amateurish approach towards production had a huge blow. I wish I was more prepared to handle the mood swings of a professional actor and I wish I could share some responsibilities. The cake was egg less in terns extra fats and budget.

As a kid in my decent school days, I saw a human brain in some science exhibition. I wanted to be a Brain surgeon for almost a couple of years, before realising that neurons (the unit cells of a brain) are in millions and the legend of the man who knew what is in your Mind is rather fiction!

That’s when I felt this unfathomable urge to make films for the very first time!

While making The Cemetery, I reconsidered my whim and thought may be the brain surgery would have been an easier hobby.

Yes hobby! In India, film making is a hobby of the elitists. There are misleading articles going viral that digital mediums have bridged the gap! The truth is the notion of making a film gives a high to most of them!

The generous reviewer at the Worcestershire Film Festival, Luke Cooper said,” This film is not to be missed.” Well, he wrote some other good words as well, but the fact remains that the film ended up being a complicated allegory of “High Hopes”!

The film was made from a fund that was lent to me and my team as a short-term loan by another generous man from my city. I never thought I will make money out of it, I’m sure neither did he! The budget of the film was less than a gear-less two-wheeler in India.

However, I made sure we had an air-conditioned car for the lead lady – it was a part of my story! Not the air conditioner but a power window would helped a scene look very cinematic. Besides, I had an enormous trust on my location. The colonial cemetery, a heritage site under the archaeological survey of India, is a visual treat.

Reminiscing about her past life, when Carole would walk around the damp lanes amidst the indigenous architecture of the British tombs, I could see an image wrapped in modern nostalgia and a story that would transcend continental boundaries. I planned a schedule and on the very first day, my film took a nosedive. Disgusted with mosquitoes, lack of man power and layman discussions between me and my cinematographer, Carole dumped the film. All verbal and digital persuasion went in vain. We had 35% of the shots or may be fewer. But somehow we managed to shoot the scene where Carole would collapse in tears; the only brighter side of my first day at shooting!

The crew (4) had no idea whether we will shoot the next day.

The Cemetery was supposed to be a film about Carole, a young woman in her late twenties who comes to the cemetery to dispose off the ashes of her recently deceased husband. She knew about the affairs of her husband and how this cemetery used to be a refuge for two guilt-ridden souls. A piece of life witnessed by an old man who perhaps is a story seeker taking an unmindful stroll around the cemetery. We were supposed to see Carole remembering her past and disowning the ashes of her husband. A slow yet permanent transformation of a young morbid soul to a fun-loving adventurous girl, that she has always wanted to be!

We had to change the perspective of the story to keep our journey alive. With no Carole on the last two days, we shot with one meticulous, veteran actor trying to tell the same story seen from his eyes and voiced by his narration.

The film later got selected in four international short film festivals. NDTV screened the film in one of their primetime shows. There were local screenings in Kolkata and there were industry friends who would watch it and tell me how beautiful the film would have been, if… They gave a lot of suggestions! I gracefully accepted all of them!

Well, making a film, rather an independent film with a borrowed fund is not the only challenge. I paid my producer back, and gave whatever I could to all of them who supported the project. The challenges continued… Post production, certification, sending to film festivals and most importantly branding.

There was nothing substantial but I was happy the film was made! However, today if I say I have no regrets, I will be lying.

You can watch The Cemetery on Youtube! I might add a few lines later to this post! You can share your thoughts as well. The final autopsy is still pending.

Postmortem of B-Minor

poster-bmThere is something amazing about making films – you nearly tend to depend on accidents for good things to happen! My second short film B-Minor is no exception!

Almost after sixteen months, my spirits was young again to plunge into another endevour. This time a drama with a tinge of thriller – a short film that happens to be a part of my feature film script 3-Acts. A curiosity about filming space within the scope of dialogues evoked the urge to make this one! I landed up again in a situation with no funds but this time, the support system was not that feeble.

Young and promising actors, fairly professional setup, a professional with the camera and a story with a lot of promises backed my second short film. B-Minor was made! That’s it!

This time it was me who was more disillusioned than anyone else. It was high expectations that followed a very meticulous plan! I would not say this film was amateurish but it was definitely not serving my purpose. I was candid as a story teller, supportive as a challenged technician and passionate as a director whenever I was working on the film. Whether it was the script, the background score, the workshops, the shooting, the post production or during the final digital intermediate (DI). Everything was almost perfect except the climax! I screwed it big time! That is how I react when I see the film now, although the end product has its own beauty according to many viewers. Or may be they were kind enough to say so…

The prime challenge was as trivial as it might sound. We were shooting at the producer’s friend’s place. He obliged with his patience but we could not convince him how intricate the climax scene was and it needed a few re-takes! We had just enough money to rent equipment for a day but here, time was money and we lost it there. Don’t underestimate the predicament although it sounds amusing to have cited such examples as a document defending a second time disappointment. Folks, who are not constrained by the medium can take a lesson from this.

Probably, the cake deserved more eggs than I thought…

While a battling artist can somehow get along with the bare minimum of a canvas or a guitar, a film requires a huge investment of time, cash and something more. “Manufacture it and they will come” is not enough; it’s maybe the easiest part said about a film.

“All we need is cash” isn’t the reply. It requires a proper plan. To acquire the financing for your thoughts (a convincing script), you’ll have to know who is your intended interest group, your positioning, rivalry, openings, dangers, means of distribution, budgeting and so on. Arrange it, construct it, showcase it, disperse it and advance it and they may very well come. Marketing can once in a while be more significantly creative than the film itself.

Everybody has an “extraordinary” script. I’m simply struck by how really incredible authors, artists or great film makers are once in a while happy with their work. Some decline to take a gander at their books, songs or movies after the release since all they see are its deformities, the defects and here I am doing the same. I am sold with the notion that the feeling of this humility and self-reflection will enhance my work in the future. At least, I will try not crib about my limited resources and exploit the little I have to tell a rather simple yet gripping story.

My stories are about failed attempts. There will be a man who would not get what he wants, there will be a thief who would fail to steal the heart of his lover, there will be a woman who would fail to convince her husband that she loves his sister more than him and there will be stories of those unsung normal human beings who fights despite a bruised knee and mind singing the anthem of heroic chronicles with careless disposition.

No, they don’t want films to be made on them; neither have they had the appetite for cakes baked in glass ovens. I want to re-visit the innocence of those road-side jar cakes and fail making films on these people who starves for that cinematic solution. That will at least add some glory to those failed attempts. Isn’t it?

It took me sometime to pen down my thoughts that are apparently in favour of my efforts but I pursue them to be the critical anecdotes of my work…

The postmortem or inquisition is not yet complete; however, in the process, I recouped enough courage for my third…

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Sharing my first short film “The Cemetery”

Making a short film amid a host of odds and still enjoying every moment of the journey is probably the most enriching memory that I have for my first short film. With some due accolades from the international film festivals and a prime time telecast in one of the major national channels in India, “The Cemetery” has come a long way.

 

I am sharing this for those who have missed it and for those who would like to watch something different from the regular films they are subjected to. So, here you go… Do share your feedback and leave your comments.

 

Please RATE my film on IMDb simply by clicking on the button below:
The Cemetery (2014) on IMDb

5 Reasons why should you watch this film:

  1. Captured in the backdrop of the oldest colonial cemetery of South East Asia, The Cemetery is a short film depicting a timepiece of human behavior in solitude and distress. It is an example of my understanding of an attempted relationship that culminates with a subtle understanding of human feelings.
  2. The film was showcased by NDTV Prime which narrates a surreal story about a woman and an old man and their chance encounter in one of the colonial cemeteries in Calcutta.
  3. The film is devoid of dialogues; however a soothing music accompanied by a solemn narration takes the story ahead.
  4. Watch out Barun Chanda in a very different character as he plays a visitor and a story seeker in The Cemetery. He along with Tanusree Chakraborty who plays Carol pulls out amazing performances to justify this otherwise alternative attempt to capture unsaid or indescribable human emotions.
  5. The Cemetery was selected as an official entry in the prestigious Worcestershire Film Festival and was applauded for being one of the most poetic and musically enriching films in the festival.

 

The poignant evolution of short film making in India

Short films or ‘shorts’ can be quite disruptive in terms of what is qualified as a movie in the recent times. All of you who form the casual yet informed independent film audience and are somewhat aware of a few successful titles may have a different opinion. However, the definitions with which short films are surfacing the social media pages in the recent times actually devalue one of the world’s premier artistic mediums. Albeit there is no law that can dictate a film’s length and the fact that the idea of feature films emerged just to meet a commercial need is hardly acknowledged. So, do you think, I am complaining?

 

Unfortunately, short films are treated like demos and EPs in the world of music. Just as the cost of recording a 10 or 12 songs for an album may be too high for an up-and-coming band to pay for them, the cost of creating a feature-length film can be far too much for an up-and-coming director and crew. Therefore, self-obsessed artists (some self-motivated as well) resolve to shorter forms of story-telling to prove a point to the studios, producers or individual donors (a link of perennial importance for the indie scene). But, how far can they take the financially crippled indie film scene?

 

I see no hypocrisy in it, but I beg to differ in my approach. Storytelling is at a premium when it comes to shorts. So, why tell a story the way they are told in feature-length films? With a formula that keeps ringing and making us cautious of what is not comfortable for a story – shorts will soon lose fall prey to further commercialization. The hypocrisy lies in the fact that, shorts are not encouraged as an independent form of art where stories can be presented without caring about the comfort zone of the regular cine-goers. Although the recent excitement among the so-called enthusiasts might give you different idea, it is imperative to understand the ground reality…

short-films-featured-image

You might imagine that with the advent of digital film making, the entry barriers to film-making have collapsed. Anyone can shoot full-spec HD video on a phone, upload it to a waiting website, and build an instant audience through social media. Consequently, you might have also thought all this would inevitably have brought the short film roaring back, to tower over the entertainment landscape. But it hasn’t. Will you blame the medium or the scope that the medium is still seeking?

 

The counter arguments can be examples like Sujoy Ghosh’s “Ahalya” or Anurag Kashyap’s “A day after everyday” along with a few others. It’s not true that shorts are not around, but the concern is the liberty of expression of those short film makers who would like to take an alternate corridor. Audience can embrace or reject a film only after the film gets a fair chance or visibility. The way, it is done out here in our country is quite a regressive one to say the least. Film enthusiasts rely on a comforting explanation to help their grey matter respond to the metaphorical implications portrayed in the film. How selfishly comfortable! And thus the quality of work is yet to evolve even after so much of noise on the development of film making.

 

Well, to assume that this blog vents out frustration might be an easier option, however, let me just underline the purpose or agenda behind putting these words together in the form of a blog. I am well-aware of the limited resources and perceptive ability of our audience.

 

In the age of digital transparency where every average individual is aware of YouTube, Vimeo, iTunes and many other video streaming sites, watching a short film should not be a problem. To claim that can make you sound stupid! However, why don’t more people watch short films? Short films were instrumental in launching the careers of directors like Ken Russel and Ridley Scott. Then why? If you ask a regular multiplex audience why they don’t watch short films, you tend to get similar replies: they are not worth watching!

Empty-red-cinema-seats

So, the answer lies within you – the audience. The audience who would criticize a sub-standard film over technical and aesthetic grounds and at the same time rejects a short film for being uncomfortably unusual. Where is the space of experimenting? Where is the urge to create a demand for stories that have the guts to walk down the not-so-comfortable paths?

 

To close this very personal concern about the evolution of short films, let us put this entire genus for students to learn and ambitious film makers to experiment. The rest of us can carry on ignoring the existence of short films and its immense potential as a medium of audio-visual expression.

 

I’m sure there will be many of you who would like to state a different opinion, why don’t we keep the argument alive?

Uncovering the allegory behind B-Minor

There is something amazing about making short films – you nearly tend to depend on accidents for good things to happen! My second short film B-Minor is no exception!

While we are meticulously working on the post production, I thought of uncovering the allegory behind B-Minor…

B-Minor-still

If you ask me about the story: A young, blind guitarist, Theo, comes to a city to find his fortune. Albeit, he is praised for his genius, there is something more that he does than just playing with the six strings. His only mate, Ana, whom he kind-of trust meets him at a restaurant where they both exchange uneasy confessions long-awaited. On that very night, before Theo plans to leave the city, he visits an old acquaintance to pick up his guitar and bid him a last adieu.

An unexpected and ruthless melodic twist awaits his final visit…

Film Name: B-Minor

Genre: Thriller/Drama

Run time: Less than 15 mins

Like the Facebook page of B-Minor Facebook page to know more…

How the Academy saved APU from oblivion!

The Academy recently shared a video showing how they restored the legendary Apu-trilogy by Oscar recipient Satyajit Ray. The Academy Film Archive started the preservation project post the 64th Academy Awards in 1992, when Ray received the Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to world cinema. So, it took more than 20 years for the team at work… Incredible! Isn’t it?

The process was rigorous and the endeavor is worth a standing ovation!

Subir Banerjee plays the young Apu
Subir Banerjee plays the young Apu

The three films Pather Panchali (Song of the Little Road), Aparajito (The Unvanquished), and Apur Sansar (The World of Apu) — based on two books by Bibhutibhusan Banerjee changed the paradigm of Indian cinema to say the least. Albeit all the challenges such as mangled film reels to missing and beaten-up clip sections, the restoration team reinstated something that marked the uprising of Indian cinema in true sense.

 

This humble post is a signature of gratitude to all those people who put in their efforts to preserve one of the classics of international cinema. All said and done, you must watch this short video which they called, ‘An act of faith – saving the Apu trilogy’ and I am sure you will second my thoughts that will follow…

 

Ray received an academy award and he is lucky that his works are reciprocated with the same honor received by his western counterparts. However, are we equally concerned about the preservation of classics from other film makers from India who equally contributed to the developing finesse Indian film art?

 

Although there are efforts from Shivendra Singh Dungarpur who formed the Film Heritage Foundation, there is still a lot to achieve and the efforts from the Academy Film Archive and The Criterion Collection, and L’Immagine Ritrovata speaks volumes about that.

 

Signing off from the desk of mymotionpicture with the hope that the classics from veterans like Bimal Roy, Ritwik Ghatak, Mrinal Sen and the likes receives the same treatment in the near future!

Faces from Vietnam and some tiny tales…

One of the greatest casualties of the war in Vietnam is the Great Society… shot down on the battlefield of Vietnam.
-Martin Luther King, Jr.

I see the eyes that still have the courage to dream, I see the tired smile that still hopes for a better tomorrow….

kid_red
‘She’, Cai Be Island, Mekong

Tiny tales from Vietnam #1: While the World was busy making gun powder, she was trying to make rice wafers for the widows of martyrs who will consume the bullets!

Rice_wafers
Cai Be Island, Mekong

The object of my relationship with Vietnam has been to heal the wounds that exist, particularly among our veterans, and to move forward with a positive relationship,… Apparently some in the Vietnamese government don’t want to do that and that’s their decision.
-Ho Chi Minh

on_the_way_2_Mekon
On the way to Tian Giang

Tiny tales from Vietnam #2: When hunger begged mercy, friends promised fruits for foes…

fruit_seller
Mobile fruit seller, Cai Be Island, Mekong

I was proud of the youths who opposed the war in Vietnam because they were my babies.
– Benjamin Spock

boatman_and_she
Gondolas, Ho Chi Minh City canal

Tiny tales from Vietnam #3:  He will rather buy a guitar and not a gun for his son…

Father_Son
Father and son, Cai Be Island, Mekong

Now we have a problem in making our power credible, and Vietnam is the place.
– John F. Kennedy, 1961

Musicians
6 Strings and 1 string, Cai Be Island, Mekong

Tiny tales from Vietnam #4: When they decided to sit and smile with love, peace threatened war! At the Walking street of Ho Chi Minh City.

couple
Late night lovers, Ho Chi Minh City

I see light at the end of the tunnel.
– Walt W. Rostow, National Security Adviser, Dec. 1967

Tien_Giang_beauties
The boss and her staff – Tian Giang

Tiny tales from Vietnam #5: A fruit seller of the floating market on the Mekong River; coconut water is free if you buy a dozen of bananas from her!

floating_coconut_seller
Floating market, Mekong River

We believe that peace is at hand.
– Henry Kissinger, Oct. 1972

post-card_sellers
Postcards please. $1 – Cai Be Island, Mekong

Tiny tales from Vietnam #6: She knew the value of education, she comes to teach the kids in the Cai Be Island (Mekong Delta) all the way from Ho Chi Minh City; everyday…

teacher
The Teacher, Cai Be Island, Mekong

I think Operation Smile is in more than 22 countries, mostly Third World. It just happened that my schedule opened up at the time they were heading to Vietnam.
– Roma Downey

coconut_roof
Coconut Roof makers of Cai Be Island, Mekong

Tiny tales from Vietnam #7: She played to the audience, she didn’t listen to their remarks, she played to music lovers – just now she opens her eyes…

her_flute
A musician in Ho Chi Minh City

Television brought the brutality of war into the comfort of the living room. Vietnam was lost in the living rooms of America–not on the battlefields of Vietnam.
– Marshall McLuhan, 1975

Guide
Frank, the Guide in Cai Be Island, Mekong

Tiny tales from Vietnam #8: They want to touch the sky as well; like your son and daughters do. They demand a better living!

3-kids
Siblings from the Cai Be Island, Mekong

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
– IF, Rudyard Kipling

perspective
Two sisters, Ho Chi Minh City

Tiny tales from Vietnam #9: His wife asked him to paint for food, he asked his wife to be the model for love!

Painter
A street painter at Ho Chi Minh City…

Vietnam was what we had instead of happy childhoods.
– Michael Herr, 1977

my_darling
Poppy rice and honey tea joint, Cai Be Island, Mekong

Tiny tales from Vietnam #10: When the world slept, she would pack chocolates for living and read Tintin comics; the only thing that makes her laugh in solitude!

The_shopkeeper
Chocolate seller, Cai Be Island, Mekong

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.

– The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost

rice_poppers
A local house in Cai Be Island, Mekong

Tiny tales from Vietnam #11: He said, “Red means so much more than blood and communism…”

jewellery_man
Cai Be Island, Mekong

A humble attempt to capture some of the faces from Vietnam while I spent a week in Ho Chi Minh City and travelled to the Tian Giang and the Cai Be Island of the Mekong Delta! There are stories behind all those faces and the stories gave me a simultaneous rush of hope and depression… Sharing a few with fellow bloggers and readers!

Signing off from the desk of mymotionpicture, bidding a fond adieu to this mystic land of ‘endless charm’…

Sacred Trust

Unless you are too carried away by the social relevance of same-sex marriage getting an accreditation in the U.S., you will recognize the pain in their eyes… Child Labour as seen from the lens of Steve McCurry…

Asha Jaoar Majhe inspires the ‘Labour of Love’ for good cinema

Labour of Love – If that is the English title of the film Asha Jaoar Majhe, it is equally justified. I have lived almost another 24 hours since I saw her walking past those mystic by-lanes of Calcutta, the film was getting over, but my longing to see them meet for another cup of tea is very intense still now!  I can’t imagine anyone ignore the deep-rooted melancholy hidden behind those stoic faces longing for a moment of sublime togetherness. No wonder why the film had so much of international recognition! The film celebrated love in the simplest of forms yet reaching out to an emotional level which will always flirt with the definition of happiness in the most contemporary outlook! Splendidly portrayed and magnificently executed, Aditya Vikram Sengupta deserves all the accolades bestowed on him! Here is my humble take on the film, Asha Jaoar Majhe…

 

7 reasons why you should watch ‘Asha Jaoar Majhe’

Screenplay: Apart from the very intricately written text, I can imagine a number of sketches. The story was effortless yet intriguing. It explored the incessant struggle of a dyed-in-the-wool couple fighting for survival during the recession days in a metropolitan city. The effortless disposition of pain (read labour) to spend a few moments of heavenly togetherness came from the essence of the screenplay. Very distinctive with the likes of the Iranian cinema of the recent past, the script of Asha Jaoar Majhe tried to conserve its Bengali flavour quite specifically. The film has no dialogue the characters don’t even have a name making it all the more fascinating for any inquisitive film buff. In a nut-shell, a very out of the box effort given the scenario of ambitious films released every week!

Asha Jaoar Majhe bagged Best Original Screenplay award from New York Indian Film Festival.

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Sound Design: Labour of Love was uniformly shaped with a very delicate and apposite sound designing. Only a person with a keen ear can listen to the deep-rooted sounds of an everyday life and bring them so naturally on the celluloid. From the monotony of an old ceiling fan to the spirituality of a Bengali evening, from the disturbances of an untimely water pump to the amateurish efforts of a child singer in the neighbourhood – every scene tried to tell a story of its own. The world is not quite quiet even for the loneliest soul; the film illustrates that rather uniquely. The film demands patience, but once you are in the groove it will not test your patience. Rather the sound sequences coupled with the grey frames of a seldom seen Calcutta will take you to a different time. For me the tram bells will ring, the revolution against joblessness will continue, the yearning for being together will again express itself through a radio from a distant land and the sound of unspoiled love will echo in my ears for quite sometime.

Asha Jaoar Majhe bagged Best Audiography award from the 62nd National Film Awards (India)

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Cinematography: Initially, Mahendra J. Shetty was doing the camera for Labour of Love and then when he became unavailable, the director took the camera himself. It is quite obvious, that the long shots, the subtle time-lapses, the unusual positioning of camera was well planned; however, the scenes never let the soul of the film go haywire. Every frame depicted an honest minimalism in terms of its composition. Be it the evaporating footprints on the floor, the dawdling sunset or the hurried paddling of the bicycle, every scene portrayed a very integral part of the story. The feat was really amazing and again I have to congratulate the captain of the ship.

ASHA-JAOAR-MAJHE-2

Acting: Ritwick Chakraborty is now probably the most favourite actor for niche film makers. He adds a flavour to all the films he has been a part of. Be it Shobdo by Kaushik Ganguli or Bakita Byaktigato by Pradipta Bhattacharyya, he has made it a habit of winning a national award for his director. His mannerism as a longing husband and his well-timed subtle expressions added a very unique hue to the entire film. He made me curious with very simple actions and the culminating scene of the film demands a special mention! On the other hand, playing the better half of Ritwick, Basabdatta Chatterjee played the character epitomising affection and endurance amid a lot of unsaid challenges. She looked very elegant and poised in every scene of the film and reciprocated her partner beautifully. Credit should go to the Executive Producer for choosing the acting couple so prudently. I congratulate Basabdatta for her efforts and wish her all the luck in the near future.

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Editing: The editing process took almost a year for Aditya as per an interview published in a reputed daily. Quite responsibly, Sengupta made it sure that the entire effort of production does not go for a toss when he sat for the post production. The way Aditya composed the film, I must thank the clear mind he had and the sincere and candid language he tried to follow. Not a single frame in the film looked forced or incongruent to the flow of the story. Thus the editing made the entire film look even more humble yet appealing to the global audience. All those brain storming hours spent with all those raw rush footage now reaping true dividends.

Aditya-Vikram-Sengupta

Direction: I would say Asha Jaoar Majhe is completely a director’s film. The way he used unusual long shots to describe every small detail of a couple’s unworldly existence was truly not very uncommon for global film viewers. However, the present trend of quick entertainment has snatched away the valour from directors of our so-called industry. But the brilliance of the director of this film was his execution. He created a cosy, silent and slow illusion with a brilliant audio-visual chemistry. It is very obvious that his demands were much higher as far as the final product is concerned but to say the least, the dream or the vision for a film like this should be hailed with a standing ovation. I am sure, Aditya will not be concerned with the box office outcome after so much has been said and achieved. Dear friend, you have instilled hope in the hearts of many a directors in the country who wants their coffee and films their way! Cheers to the current success with the hope to see more effortless films like Labour of Love.

Asha Jaoar Majhe bagged awards for its direction from:

  • Indira Gandhi Award for Best First Film – 62nd National Film Awards (India)
  • Best Director – New York Indian Film Festival
  • Best Director of a Debut Film – 71st Venice International Film Festival (Venice Days)
  • Best Director – Marrakech International Film Festival

ASHA-JAOAR-MAJHE-7

The seventh reason that I would impose on you as an audience who crave for good cinema is that Asha Jaoar Majhe is a kind of film that you will not get to see very often in India. Unless we take time and be more vocal in the support of films like Masan, Killa or Labour of Love in India, film making will stay behind as an industry that will keep producing films like grocery or toiletries. Asha Jaoar Majhe demands an attention by virtue of its cinematic brilliance and not by means of flashy hoardings, greedy stars or costly advertisements.

Asha Jaoar Majhe also bagged accolades such as:

  • Abu Dhabi Film Festival – Jury Special Mention
  • BFI London Film Festival – Honorable Mention
  • Bangalore International Film Festival – NETPAC Award for Best Asian Film
  • Jaipur International Film Festival – Best Feature Film

 

Signing off from the desk of mymotionpicture until my city soaks in the labour of love for good cinema…

“Playwright” vs. “Playwrite”

Hell ya, I’m a playwright…

Thoroughly enjoyed the piece…

I wanted to post a blog tonight… Wrote a lot of things, but could think of nothing as interesting a read as this piece… I am sure, my readers and fellow bloggers will like the piece as well…

It's Kind of a Long Story

(This is a revised version of a post that was first published in October 2009.  I went back and changed some stuff so it sounded better.)

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Playwright.“play”, from the Saxon “plega“, meaning “recreation”; and “wright,” from the Old English “wryhta“, meaning “worker.”  First recorded use of word: 1687.

I am a compulsive word-use-corrector, a ruthless proofreader, a highly-critical grammar snob.  Anyone who has ever made the mistake of asking me to edit a paper for them can verify that this is true.  I love my red proofreading pen with an unhealthy passion.  While it’s partly because I’m a judgmental pain in the ass, it’s also because I’m a giant etymology geek.  I love words (certainly I use a lot of them) and I find them really interesting.  Which is why the word “playwright” fascinates me.  It drives me bonkers when…

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Do you know there is a latent ‘Partho De’ in you and me?

Robinson Street, Kolkata: To be disreputably honest and true to what I witness in my everyday life, I presume there is a mentally ill Partho De in all of us. “No one can be good for long if goodness is not in demand”, as Brecht said… There is a front page article on The Telegraph today (Sunday, 14 June 2015) by Mita Mukherjee, where she described Partho’s academic career in such a regular succession of admiring information that it might even beat Partho’s best cover letters written during the tenure of his professional career. However, what Partho did or what his intentions suggest is still something that is utterly vague. The print media, satellite media and online media of Bengal got a story to munch on for at least a week – is not the picture that I personally have. I have followed the story from day one and I strongly believe that he was not happy with the demands of this world and thus tried to create a small parallel world where his goodness is in demand.

#selfTALK: Don’t we? I am sure we all are cool, alive and pretending to be happy people with a smart motive in life (even if we don’t have a goal)! However, occasionally or frequently we speak to ourselves. I don’t know if everyone has a tendency of arguing but I am sure you all speak to yourself. Who is the second person you are talking to? Or do you want to be the other person talking to you? This is quite amazing but that’s okay, you don’t have to get cautious while you talk to yourself from now on. I am just taking a guess which is not very wild when I am saying that there is a Partho De in every one of us. I back this up with a comprehensive introspection of human behaviour. Read further, you will soon figure it out…

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3 Robinson Street, Partho’s residence…

Partho’s sister reportedly died out of starvation. She used to read a lot, but she was superstitiously dependent on some guru. “Hungry man, reach for the book: it is a weapon.” Brecht exclaimed to instil a sense of faith among the poor. But Partho and her learned sister were from a pretty well to do family. Like most of us, Partho and Debjani must have crossed those tricky years when their passion and abilities had a regular duel. After his mother’s death, Partho gradually became a loner, a person who sought respite in books, music and non-materialistic research. He was drawn to a particular subject that enticed him to experiment and rediscover himself. Well the subject could well be exorcism! This decision probably had a connection with his career where he chose an IT job over a golden opportunity to earn a doctorate degree and pursue advanced research. Amid all emotional disturbances he was hungry, hungry to invent.

#unhappyCAREER: I am not talking to the lucky ones! But three in every five urban soul is not happy with their career. They wish they could be in a different role doing something else even if that is harsh on their wallet. And then again they succumb to the rules of the universal rate race and start concentrating on their ties and formal shirts. However, the urge to be different and the evident ardour of an individual never fizzes out completely. The erudite brain demands food for stomach and mind. The hungry minds reading this post will understand why Partho went back to books or something that will air the fire within him to invent. If you, my reader haven’t had a single revolt against your plastic-sophisticated life, the Partho within you is still sleeping or busy with something else.

“In the dark times,

Will there also be singing?

Yes, there will also be singing

About the dark times.”

Yes this is by Brecht again and I am deliberately using his quotes because he saw a piece of art as a hammer to shape the reality and not as a mirror to see the reflection of the real society. Creativity and the love for art can be traced in both Partho and his sister Debjani. However, the unpleasant and uncanny outcome hardly speaks anything about the hope that the brother and sister found when they were in laps of music. People are busy calling it an incest relationship defying the thought that they might have developed a paramount depression out of some materialistic or spiritual loss that kept on haunting them. It could be the death of their mother or the deviant sexual orientation of the family. It could be the indecisive nature of their ancestral property or it could again be the hunger for being someone different, someone unique. If one delves into the kind of music (sermons by Joyce Meyer who is famous for his lessons on practical Bible) that Partho used to listen, he will automatically figure out an unnatural taste. He was going through dark times, he resolved to music that sang about dark times.

#sadSONGS: A survey found the share of sad songs over jolly peppy tunes on the iPods of a thousand random people and it came out to be 4 out of 10. However, each one of them said that the sad ones are few but they love them as they help them to recuperate their grief in a better way. For all of us who witnessed the internet gradually becoming the immense thing that it is now, we know how we have an access to a million different form of music and we chose our own style. Some of us parade a versatile choice while some of us resolve to a particular genre or form of musical expression. A few nurse the scars while others would like to keep them afresh. Don’t you indulge in a particular list of songs when things are not so bright?

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What they found was humble yet shocking!

The meaninglessly nostalgic culture of the so-called learned Bengalis, the disgust of mediocrity growing like unwanted creepers, the desperation to prove a point that voices an alter philosophy, the hypocrisy of spiritual promises, the morbid competition, the demise of joint-families, the celebration of selfishly attained success, the fading strength of cooperation, the increasing tendency of sexual indistinctness, inflation, pollution, dishonesty, insecurities, indiscipline and a future based on false dreams and real defeats make us stand on the same podium where Partho is standing right now! He wanted to be with his sister, probably  the only person he had a connection in this world. At least he tried to figure out a solution which is indigenously his effort to revolt against all these negativities that constitute our life.

“Alas, we who wanted kindness, could not be kind ourselves.” – Brecht.

Yes you are right, living with a skeleton is not a form of expression that suggest contemporary taste for art or creativity to say the least, but aren’t we all trying to preserve some moments of our otherwise boring life like they are still flesh and blood? Consciously or unconsciously we are gradually becoming obsessed with the success, love, recognition or attention conferred on us, once upon a time. How will you deny this behavioural similarity with Partho De? Is it suggestive of the fact that human nature yearns to conserve the proper as well as the abstract nouns of life in the form of tangible collectives. We too believe in a reality which is comfortable for us to believe. To sum up, I feel Partho and his skeletal mania is just an intense chapter that can be found in the books of numerous eccentric souls walking up and down the streets of this crowded city called Kolkata.

We are failing to cope up with the fact that we are lonely but we are not alone… As Brecht would exhale a cloud of smoke and sigh, “Sometimes it’s more important to be human, than to have good taste.”

Balancing the number of Rotten Tomatoes!

For those who think independent cinema is almost like inviting cannons firing rotten tomatoes, our sacks are full! We are dreamers and we dream about making people perceive art differently. We like forcing a different thought. Why?

How many films that you have watched helped you in expanding your thought, opinions or empathy for fellow human beings? Aren’t we compulsively happy about the kind of art that is sold in the name of entertainment in the present times? Well, it will be an understatement to say that Hollywood, Bollywood or our regional cinema fails to produce film that are equally thought-provoking. However, the acceptance of such works is yet to see the broad light of the day. Thus it’s better to consume rotten tomatoes than sponsor sugar-coated reviews on national dailies.

 

Independent filmmakers are often accused of making something that fails to generate enough buzz in the market. Very true! I don’t feel they have a reason to make a buzz out of a star controversy or a billion dollar pay check. We do it because we simply want to share a story – we take risks. We don’t owe anything to anyone other than the handful of audience we have.

 

The Cemetery is not made to capture sugar-coated reviews and attract Facebook likes. I would rather appeal for sincere and frank perception. I’ll have no regrets discussing the faults in the film and neither do I expect an ‘all-so-good’ review. I am more concerned about how viewers react to an emotionally dry scheme of visual sequences. I am concerned about how viewers feel about the open-ended climax and I am really looking forward to some real criticism from all those who have resolved to dedicate 20 precious minutes of your life.

 

Independent Cinema will not flaunt big banners but will knock your doors and urge you to think differently. As an indie filmmaker, I tried the same in my debut project. An attempt that might seem feeble to a few but I can promise that the passion for something indigenous will reflect in the entire work. Be it the narrative, the music, the locales or the acting, The Cemetery will be a different span of film-watching for any quintessential film lover!

 

Determination and passion will drive us forward, in the hope that a few more stories that lurk around our not so dramatic lives will find their destination someday! Expecting support and honest feedback… Join the Facebook event and watch The Cemetery as it releases online on June 1.

Nirbaak – a true reflection of honest artistic conscience…

I couldn’t connect with Nirbaak. I didn’t go all “claps and praises” for the film. I didn’t understand why Srijit made a film like Nirbaak.

No, Nirbaak is definitely not the right movie choice for a Sunday afternoon with your beau. A few left before the show ended and even fewer applauded. Yet I couldn’t ravel what I saw.

Okay, so going frame by frame, it’s the story of a narcissist, inter-species love and necrophilia, punctuated with some metaphysical sequences. Is that it? So Nirbaak is a “slow, pseudo-intellectual, claiming-to-be art house movie gravitated by Sushmita Sen”.

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The post-watch adda of the film was not so speechless. While some considered it a complete fiasco, others called it an innuendo of what today’s Bengali film industry can look up to as an exemplary creation.

Contrivance, mixed with the right amount of quandary can give rise to a masterpiece and Nirbaak is one such example, undoubtedly. This acerbic movie is not for everyone. And why should it be? After all, not many of us listen to the wind or understand our pet’s parable or relate to the tryst between the morgue-man and corpse.

 

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Thanks to the team who could think of such an incendiary plot and pass it through the red-eyed censor and make it to the theatres.

Keeping the entire buzz aside, do yourself a favour. Go and watch the movie. After all, the fulcrum of the movie is all about loving yourself and everything else would fall in place.

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The relentless shenanigans of the Bengali film industry didn’t create any sense of sordid amongst the tireless (read sick) remake movie-makers. It takes a lot of guts to pull up all the good factors in a single movie and challenge the moviegoers ‘universal mindset and passing the test with aplomb. Nirbaak answers, or rather questions the base of the modern film industry with all its pedagogic skills what an “experimental” film would be like. How you perceive Dali or what Van Gogh permeates in you is absolutely individual aesthetic coaching. What essentially this movie makes you feel is the surreal world which probably doesn’t get through our membrane too often. The ubiquitous sense of surrealism is not always felt but you cannot but subscribe to this hypnagogic element of life.

 

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I watched the recent Bengali film Nirbaak last evening. It is still with me and I’m still very profoundly with the characters of the film. A number of fellow audiences in the theatre thought the film was insane and tried to bully their partners indicating the time that they are wasting while watching an old narcissist bathing or a tree having an orgasm or a fetish love of a bitch for her master or even a morgue-man’s first found love in a corpse.

Well, to be honest Nirbaak is a film that is not made very often in India and in terms of commercial cinema, this is a rare species. Thanks to the portfolio of the director, a substantial number of movie-goers managed to make it to the theatres. Some were forced by their mates and some were probably hoping to experience another urban-romantic pot-boiler. Nirbaak disappointed them!

A film dedicated to Salvador Dali, the director Srijit Mukherjee draws inspiration from one of his abstract and surrealistic paintings while conceiving the concept of Nirbaak- very evident and very aesthetically done! Ambitious as a commercial project and revolutionary as an alternate cinema, Nirbaak emerges as a soliloquy of human psych depicting the not-so-happy minds of our society and their unconscious connections with voiceless sources of happiness (read respite). Hats off to the concept, attempt and the effort!

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I don’t prefer writing reviews narrating the story or the good and bad moments of the film, I fancy investigating the mind space of the creative personalities involved in a project. While Srijit’s earlier films promised something for every soap-watching audience, this film condescendingly disobeyed his own style and he challenged himself with a form of cinema that is not visited very often. This is either ways not a review but a vote of thanks and a heart-felt congratulation to the entire team. Nirbaak, very organically creates a space and a scope for the otherwise abstract ideas resonating art and the truth of being an artist.

 

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Wrapping up, I would like to assert the significance of art being a medium that can foresee truth. Art should disclose truth, truth of the present hour, truth from the untold stories and truth of being differently happy from varied perspectives. Nirbaak as a piece of art achieves them gracefully!

John F. Kennedy in a speech to bid farewell to the immortal poet Robert Frost said, “If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him. We must never forget that art is not a form of propaganda; it is a form of truth.”

Nirbaak arrogantly defied to be a form of propaganda and evolved as an artistically poised truth!

Signing off from the desk of mymotionpicture, thanking a fellow writer & friend for contributing in this excerpt and keeping the indispensable arguments alive.

Exploring the incredible Single-Shot look of Birdman!

The creativity involved in film making in the recent times often fall under microscopic inspection as film enthusiasts try and decipher the techniques to create the visual illusion. It is quite obvious that a film attracts such mass attention if and only if it excels in some global film podium. Birdman by Alejandro González Iñárritu is one of those rare instances when a film grabbed attention for creating a visual illusion – as if the entire film was a single shot!

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When discussed over coffee the technique was appreciated by a number of film enthusiasts, however, when discussed over whiskey Birdman’s single shot illusion is often regarded as one of the great cinematic magic tricks of all time. If you have not watched the film (you must be very busy), come back after watching it and read the rest of this write-up. Some of you might find it absurd and some of you might wonder about the impossible sense of geography – I am still an explorer!

[For film buffs and intense followers of international cinema – this is not the only one take film that I have watched. There is Ana Arabia by Amos Gitai and there are various instances when a particular part of a film is shot in a long take. However, Birdman is an exception – an exception for all good reasons]

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Birdman delves into the life of a former movie-star, Riggan Thompson (Michael Keaton) portraying his mind and psychosis in an attempt to regain his lost fame. It is a first person account of the actor who is preparing for a Broadway production depicted in a style that appears seamlessly one-shot. Although the film looks like a 119 minute continuous shot, it is obviously not. The idea behind this blog is to congratulate the team (sometimes I feel I am a part of it) that made it possible and explore the blueprint of such a miraculous technique.

In an article published in Hollywood Reporter in December 2014, the Oscar winning cinematographer, Emmanuel Lubezki described the entire process of filming as a ‘ballet’.

Describing how difficult the lighting of the sets and maintaining the continuity were, Lubezki said, “That is because, for instance, the light that is lighting Michael at his makeup mirror will create a shadow a minute later if we move around the room. So we had to time all of the lighting changes, making sure you don’t see shadows. We were moving lights; we were moving diffusions. There were grips moving with me. Every time you see a shot, there were eight people moving with me. It was like a ballet — that’s what made it truly exciting.”

According to me, the entire movement of lights along with the camera that provided no clue to crack the single shot illusion gave Michael Keaton the much acclaimed dramatic look. The director, cinematographer and editor along with a team of highly creative people followed the panning of camera and the movement of color to stitch those otherwise long takes (usually in the 10 minute range). A tricky editing and a subtle VFX followed in the master copy.

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Well, theoretically the end result seems quite achievable. However, in reality the cinematography of Lubezki is nothing less than incredible – such flawless movement that it never looked disjointed. I am curious to find out how the entire team decided on this goal. The journey must have been fascinating to say the least. Cinematography is something that I am stating quite profusely in this article. However, it is aided by a pool of creatively genius people who contributed in editing, color grading, writing and most importantly directing the thought which probably seemed like a dream!

One of the striking features of Birdman, the film is probably the confusing and bold use of space. The film was mostly filmed on a mazelike set and the use of space, color of lights and the camera movements were purely out of artistic desire as I understand. And I completely believe that Riggan’s inner state of mind was perfectly described in this process. Whether that was intentional or not, I hold no version of my own. But, to be honest, every time I have seen the film, it excited me; I felt an utmost rush of desire in me that transported me to the sets of Birdman where Iñárritu and Lubezki would probably shoot the next scene planning the perfect transition!

119 minutes of visual illusion – One shot – quite an incredible feat!