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!

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Chatushkone – resonating hope in the mute tunnel of recent Bengali cinema

To begin with, please don’t consider it as a review of the film. It is not even a critical analysis. You can read it as an expression of gratitude for the man who brought a spring of hope in the Bengali film industry and is doing wonders for the last five years. It is a humble attempt to assert the fact that Bengali films are still intellectually superior in a country where senseless films are celebrated as commercial cinema!

It is very different here in Bengal. We tend to celebrate art in various forms and when it comes to films we have a natural tendency of becoming a little more critical. After the golden era of the seventies, there was a lull in Bengali cinema. I was lucky enough to experience the rise of Bengali cinema during the earlier years of this millennium. I would definitely credit a few film makers who compelled the Bengali audience towards theatres. Rituporno Ghosh, Aparna Sen, Anjan Dutt, Kaushik Ganguly and definitely Srijit Mukherjee are the leading names in this context.

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The subject of this write-up happens to be the latest film by the last name in the aforementioned list, “Chatushkone”. The film is undoubtedly the biggest blockbuster in 2014 as far as Bengali cinema is concerned. It proved that the Bengali audience is still very particular about the art of cinema. It is not the mindless films (read commercial films) but intelligent and substantially superior films that attract audiences to cinema halls. Srijit’s films have been proving the point from his debut film to say the least! Autograph, Baishey Shrabon, Hemlock Society, Mishawr Roshshyo, Jaatishwar and then came Chatushkone.

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Being a film buff and a keen student of film making, I am a part of the stories that float around the industry for the last seven-eight years now. Chatushkone happens to be Srijit’s one of the oldest scripts that witnessed a number of adversities. If a film is perceived as the brain child of the film maker, perhaps this child of survived the most difficult conditions. Challenging the conditions like actor walk-outs to loss of inspiration (the sad demise of Rituparno), Chatushkone was perhaps the most adamant project of the director that turned out to be his best film till date. Analysis of the film is done in various scales and the success story has been written, discussed and celebrated through various means. I still wanted to point out some of the weak links of the film when I went to the theatre for the second time to watch the film. I considered taking notes! I couldn’t, I was converted to a keen audience.

chotuskone_goutam-ghoseThere are a number of films that are made with the concept of film within a film. Srijit challenged the form – he made a film with four films in it, treating them very uniquely. With different time lines, different colour codes, different taste and a very subtle approach all the four films had a statement of its own. The quadrilateral chemistry between the four directors illustrated in the film was entwined in a soothing yet a very compelling thriller story. The director has a unique signature in terms of his sarcastic and invigorating dialogue writing; Chatushkone was no different.

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The plate was full for the audiences to grab their desired tastes. The likes of Parambrata Chattopadhyay, Goutam Ghose, Aparna Sen and Chiranjit played the major characters along with wonderful cameos from Kaushik Ganguly, Barun Chanda, Neel Mukherjee, Indrashish Roy, Paayel Sarkar, Arpita Chaterjee and Koneenica Banerjee doing justice to the script. Chiranjit (Dipak Chakroborty) probably collected the most number of congratulatory messages for Chatushkone, his comeback film. As far as the music was concerned, the songs penned by Anupam Roy were lyrical and soothing as usual. Although, I personally feel that the film had two songs too many, given the genre or the subject of the film is concerned.  Editing, Cinematography, set design and the execution couldn’t have been better.

 

chotuskone_parambrataAs a concluding note, I would definitely like to congratulate Srijit Mukherjee for restoring the hope of audience in Bengal. Dear comrade, keep inspiring us with your efforts that can and will nullify the efforts of some shallow trade-analysts who define films on the basis of box-office collection! I wish him all the success for his future projects and hope his films cross international boundaries bringing more glories for Bengali cinema.

 

Signing off from the desk of mymotionpicture seeking light on the other end of the mute tunnel called, Bengali Cinema!

The girl I stalked at Park Street Metro!

“Did you believe me, when I said I am fine last night? You hung up after saying a quick goodnight. You prove me everyday how insensitive you are!” She was screaming at the top of her voice while the crowd in front of the metro station at Park Street made way for this lady in black. She was quite tall, she was wearing a black top with folded sleeves with a black jeans. Her phone seemed to be a costly gadget; white and red. She stood at the gate and before disconnecting, she fumed, “Just wait and watch you scoundrel, see what happens today!”

 

I followed the woman as my smoking spree took the back seat for some time. I thought I had a story around that outrageous woman. Although, these relationships nowadays are growing ever so more impatient and couples are happily breaking up! I heard some friends of my friends throwing break-up parties to celebrate their liberation. I wonder why on the earth they tried to make something work that eventually resulted in foul-mouthing.  As I walked down the steps I spotted her a few steps ahead. She walked in haste as if she had a mission. I could hear an announcement, I didn’t care!

 

I know I am a complete mess and I am tired of hiding it, however, when it comes to beautiful women and their grief, I somehow get involved. She was angry when our eyes met and she looked stunning as her glance and gestures probably came from a classic dance drama depicting arrogant love. I saw her punching the ticket and walking in. She went down the tunnel to the other side of the station. She will go north. Then I saw her coming up again. So, will she go south? I went to the counter and bought the ticket that will take me to the terminal stations both north and south. Now I don’t see her anymore.

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I went in and I searched the length of the platform for her. So I went down the tunnel to search for her on the other side of the platform. “All that spirits desire, spirits attain.” – Khalil Gibran described in his words how so co-incidental and how relevant this meeting will be. I saw her sitting at the end of the platform. It was pretty crowded. I looked at the display to find out when the next train will arrive. She didn’t notice me until I went right in front of him and said, “Excuse me, may I speak to you for a while, in private. I am obviously not stalking you but it is really something very personal.” She looked at me with mixed emotions. Anger got the better as she stood up and left the seat to move somewhere else. I felt terribly insulted and awkward as I thought people staring at me might take things otherwise.

 

I stood there for a while keeping a close watch on her movements. I developed a notion that she might have considered doing something extremely insane. She walked down the platform and kept looking at her watch in regular intervals. I walked up to her and this time she spoke to me. “Listen, I don’t know you and neither I am interested, will you please excuse me?” Her voice was cold and the disgust was very evident.

 

“I don’t earn my bread disturbing women at metro stations my lady. I thought you can be a menace to number of people who will choose the metro for travelling today. Are you considering a suicide?” She was taken aback and tried to look say something. I knew this was the only chance and I kept on saying, “I know Bibhash very well, he is my friend and I have watched both of you in his facebook profile.” Before I could finish, she went ahead to see whether the next metro is arriving. She bent in front to dodge other men and women trying to find the same. She looked back and came close to me. She smelt like the red soil drenched in the first rain. I started regretting!

 

I wish I could tell her that when the razors, pills, knives start whispering her name, there is a voice screaming at the top of its lung’s capacity saying that I knew you are not fine. You can never be fine with me, unless I am not me!

 

I believe I looked different but she recognized my voice. “I know you, who are you and how do you know that I came here for end my life? I really don’t want to live. I have to end this suffering! You tell me, who are you?” I smiled, I tried to tell her that it hurts being on the other side of the world. I tried to tell her that she looks astonishingly beautiful and it is not worth giving up her life for some trivial relationship discord. She was growing restless and I spoke to her for another 49 seconds. I told her that she is the most beautiful woman that I came across and I was really dumb that I couldn’t mention that ever so more frequently. I was happy that I could surprise her for the one last time!

 

miss-meThe metro rail officials in Calcutta have a hard time with this idiosyncratic young generation. Some irritated sad soul started announcing again, “Due to a probable suicide in the Rabindra Sadan Metro station, all metros heading towards north are temporarily suspended. Inconvenience regretted!”

I am trying hard but she cannot see me anymore!

An evening at Princep Ghat…

He was new in the team and Anusua used to notice his movements very carefully. He looked like a complete bewildered soul in first few days of work. In a world that sought for gold and fame he was probably the one who was least interested in materialistic amity. He tried to stay aloof but he was the most dedicated, talented and creative photographer in the team. The director praised Sam in front of everyone as the recent Mutual fund campaign took our clients by surprise and a complete awe. Anusua tried some friendly gestures to attract his attention; he nodded with a gentle smile and preferred staying aloof. Just before the Christmas arrived, one afternoon as the entire team was enjoying their lunch; Sam removed his shades and quietly sat beside Anusua. His voice sent a shiver down her spinal cord, “Do you have any important work this evening?”

 

After pack-up, Anusua and Sam walked down the length of a busy road barely speaking to each other. Some of the street hawkers mobbed them with various proposals but they were quite engrossed in something that was far more deep-seated. Anusua broke the silence with her whimsical tone as she demanded a photo shoot on the streets. “I think, you’re very greedy, do you think you are the most talented photographer in the city? Now that your work is praised every now and then; let me see how good you are imagining me as your subject?” She laughed at her own words. Sam looked at her unperturbed. He raised his hand to call a cab, Anusua responded quickly to attract one of the cab drivers who looked promising. “Princep Ghat, Bhaiya.

1233128_10151970063987228_1656528350_oThe cab was already filled with some nostalgic numbers from the late 70s as they drove past the busy city traffic. Anusua was visibly excited. She initiated the conversation again. “So, who all are there in your family; you are from Calcutta, aren’t you? Although you don’t look like…” Sam was staring outside the window. He turned towards her as she noticed his beguiling eyes looking straight into her soul. Her hair was occasionally getting ruffled by the December wind. She was feeling an obvious conflict in her mind and heart. She waited eagerly for him to speak.

 

“I am alone in this city, I came from Siliguri. My parents and my younger sister stay there along with my old granny”, he said after a short pause. Anusua felt the urge to know more and asked about his local residence. She tried to know if he had a girlfriend or if something is bothering him all this while. “Are you like this from the beginning? I mean, I don’t know if I can call you an introvert, but you are certainly a stranger among the known faces in this city.” Sam smiled at times and sometimes looked at her through his lenses. He clicked a few snaps in the cab as Anusua tried hard to manage her hair. He prevented her. “Let them be, your disturbed hair personifies freedom and as far as my answers are concerned; they are blowing in the wind”, he said.

1278950_10151970061677228_2792940_o“Madam, Princep Ghat”, the cab driver intruded in the subtle romance that Anusua was longing for so long. She probably wanted the journey for a little longer. He insisted to pay the bills but the cab driver kept on staring at her. She settled the dues.

She hated taking work back at home and in her position as the copy chief of the ad agency, she had but very little options to avoid it. Her mobile was ringing for a while. She was ignoring the call while she was in the cab. It was the director. She answered the call as she noticed Sam go ahead searching his own mystery. “Yes Sir, I left the file on your table along with the flash drive with all the documents.” She stayed quiet for a while as the voice from the other end shared some more information. She continued, “I am not quite sure but I certainly believe that there is a misunderstanding, I know him.”

They were seating by the Ganges for the last half an hour. She broke the silence again, “Sam, do you know that our mutual fund campaign is leaked?”

“No, is that so? How did that happen?”, he said in cold voice.

1271357_10151970060967228_401995517_oAnusua smiled and stood up. She pulled his hands and took him near the water. She sat very close to the last step of the ghat and said, “Will you capture me like no one did before?” She was adjusting her hair, her red and white muffler was hanging as a knot from his side bag. He went up to her and stood very near to her where she they both could feel their existence. He took out the muffler and put it across her neck and asked her to undo her hair. He went back!

“Should I look a little more left?” She was feeling very special as he continued to instruct her positions, smile, wardrobe and gestures. She didn’t know if it was an illusion. She took out a bottle of vodka from her bag. She took a sip and invited him to take a sip. He obliged. In the next half an hour the bottle was sailing alone in the waters and Anusua realized she too had wings.

She wanted to kiss him but a sudden harsh sound broke the harmonious and romantic space that was growing friendlier between them. There was white flash of light that disturbed her vision. Her hands tried to find Sam. In the next few moments the things that happened with her changed her romantic getaway into an unbelievable and horrible incident that she cannot describe in words.

It was 6 a.m. in the morning. Her eyes were swollen and the wintry weather solidified her tears preventing her from opening them comfortably. She slowly understood that a group of inquisitive people were staring at her as she was lying on one of the muddy steps by the river. A policeman approached as she was trying to reason herself.

Cop: What happened to you madam?

Anusua: Where is Sam?

Cop: Who is he? You came here with a friend?

Anusua: Yes, I was with Sam.

Cop: Your parents are waiting at the police station. Please come with me.

In the course of these events, she made a number of calls; to her director, to her colleagues and Sam. No one knew who Sam was. She kept on checking her camera on her way back home…

A chair in Darkness…

I am planning to go out with my best friend’s mother, Tarun said to himself. He kept on murmuring for the next five minutes before a sudden light searched his room like a lighthouse scans the ocean. The darkness in his room was restored and he started his due conversation with his lover. She was sitting in front of him on a chair that was visible a while before. Darkness still prevails in Tarun’s small yet cosy apartment somewhere in central Calcutta.

Tarun tried to reason her cold expressions and came up with something that he thought was probably the best joke he can imagine in centuries. He remarked in a heroic accent, “Honey, there are certainly two kinds of coveted men on earth- the ones, with whom the girls desire to be with and the ones who are coveted by the fathers of unmarried girls”. He laughed alone! A late night traffic cacophony continued to fill the room with unwanted disputes. She tried to re-adjust her on the chair as he tried to explain the joke. “See, you didn’t get the funny part of the joke, you look bewildered”, he added.  She kept quiet.

“Alright, I am going to talk to her about her verdict. After all she is the mother of my best friend. She cannot do this to me. See, even in this much-loved darkness you look so enlightening. Don’t you believe me that we are made for each other?” Tarun kept on saying without skipping a breath. She remained stoic for a while. He thought she would come closer and embrace him as another stream of light sliced the darkness of the room in two halves. A glass of cheap liquor succumbed to gravity and his frustrations aggravated. He hated light. His expressions grew wilder!

She answered in her soft and gentle voice, “Why do you want to be with me? Your best friend is probably the best match I will ever have; and you should understand this!”  Tarun could not control his voice and shouted like a demon. His words were incomprehensible; however, his actions as seen from a distant window seemed like a perplexed animal trying to break free. He poured another glass of high spirits and mixed it with some coke to calm his nerves. He looked at her as she was trying hard to conceal her fear. His lips were dry and he tried to drink the glass full of spirits at once, his body denied the quantum of excitement; he puked!

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She thought she would reason him before the dawn and kept on maintaining a calm disposition. He grew restless every minute. He wanted to put on the lights and see the face that used to be the reason for his peaceful slumber. But he knew, the lights might unsettle her and he might lose her forever. He captured her on that chair after a long persuasion.

Tarun started walking around the chair describing how he thought he will influence his best friend’s mother to change the fate of three lives. Two of them were his best pals and he himself cannot contain his own emotions in the dearth of this hour that brings in a testimony of his gallant love. He knows where this abduction will lead to, or probably he is afraid of something. But he knows that the desire to be with her is compelling enough to go on a riot against this world. He poured another drink as silence and darkness reconciled in the room for a while.

Tarun kept his eyes fixed on her as if he was gauging her beauty and adolescence for the last time in his life. She looked uncomfortable but she knew it will be morning very soon. Tarun was probably drunk by then as he tried to reach the chair to fix a strip of her hair that was unsettled by the wind. She did not protest but he felt that she did not like it. She knew her hands were fastened tightly and if he wanted he has all the options of discovering her desires. But, he wanted to make it work and he whispered in her years, “I will go out with my best friend’s mother tomorrow. Please hang on till then!”

The first light of the sun could not disturb a sleeping Tarun as she watched him closely for the first time. She knew she was not a reality, but she knew his emotions were real. She waited freely chained on the chair before he would get up for another fighting day in the city of so-called joy. She knew he had no one except a shadow in the darkness to talk about his loveless life! She kissed his forehead! He smiled in his dream!

They exchanged a partial farewell glance in between what you read and what I wrote…

The Cemetery helped me to ask questions…

IMG_0237Now that I’ve made a film on my own, I know there is a huge difference in dreaming about making a good film and actually making it good enough. Honestly speaking, I never had the idea about what are the possible threats that might come in my way and overcoming them was purely coincidental. I am sure if I’m left in an equally drastic situation that I was in during the shooting of The Cemetery now, I will deal them in a different way. However, the improvisation was exciting and when I look back to trace my mistakes, I find myself as an immensely strong character who is driven by an even stronger dream!

 

 

 

 

Let’s hope that is my strength. But, in a world where the mass is ready to trade art for anything and everything, where do I or we (a small section of the world who dream about freedom of real art from the shackles of consumerism) stand? We don’t lack inspiration, we don’t lack enthusiasm, we don’t lack the spirit to learn and evolve.

 

What we lack is the question! Is it an amicable situation where we can define our sense of art and challenge the establishment? Or, is it a society that is not as forgetful as the one we are living in?

I’m sorry, I couldn’t find the answer blowing in the wind…

To all of you who made “The Cemetery” possible!

photo 2The first screening or rather a core team screening of the short film, “The Cemetery” was happily concluded at the residence of the veteran actor and my recent HERO, Mr. Barun Chanda today. A group of sublimely talented friends of mine who stood by my capricious dream in rain and thunder was there to watch the almost final version of the film. I would like to thank all those people who helped me in completing my maiden project, an experience that I will cherish for my entire life.

So, many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable. Probably this short film had a similar run of events! But it would have been really impossible to complete this project unless I was blessed with these people around me. This small post is dedicated to all of you who made, “The Cemetery” inevitable!

 

IMG_0213Barun Chanda: This charismatic, forever young man needs no introduction I guess. From Ray’s Seemabaddha, to the recent successful saga of the Lootera, he was and still is one of the most compelling actors of serious Indian cinema! In this short film project “The Cemetery”, he not only acted in one of the pivotal roles but also became the guardian of the film! It might have been my dream but he protected the dream with all his experience and wisdom as an actor, advisor, and narrator and most importantly as my friend! I owe you this film Sir!

DSC_0117Tanusree Chakraborty: “The Cemetery” is a film typically based on a character called Carole, a Christian widow who seeks emancipation from her past life. I never thought she would readily agree to play Carole; she proved me wrong. She helped me with her precious time (probably the most valuable thing for her) and patience with a relatively young and inexperienced film maker like me! There were instances of difference in opinion and lack of facilities that disturbed the spirit. I take the responsibility and can vouch for a better setup next time. However, she enriched the film with a really professional performance and I hope the end result will certainly give her a reason to smile!

ApratimDAApratim Ghoshal: For some unknown reason we ended up doing a project together, I never thought we will. It would have been completely impossible for me to find the means to go ahead and complete this project until Mr. Ghoshal came to the rescue. He backed me up with the all important fund considering my urge to do something new or probably some unseen enterprise. I would like to thank him from the bottom of my heart for all his support and encouragement. Let’s hope we can work together on bigger and better projects in the near future.

AnirbanDAAnirban Maity: Editing was another tough hurdle that kept me anxious throughout my shooting days. Insufficient funds and stringent shooting conditions prevented me to get enough for my editor to chew upon! The story was twisted and turned a number of times while the shooting progressed and honestly, I was pretty confused with the time line and the final product! Anirban Da, amid all his anxious Argentine adrenaline managed to exploit his poetic mind and nimble fingers to bless “The Cemetery”. He did something that cannot be acknowledged with mere words!

IMG_0033Abhrajit Sen: My D.O.P. and my associate director. You truly served the role of an uncle to the baby, I am a father to; and by virtue of which you also become my brother! Bro, you rocked throughout the film. With those heated argument sessions and with all the hectic schedules you are the one along with Siladitya who kept the frames tight and close to my heart. I would love to work with you again. We can probably work upon the huge room for improvement that is still left to fill in. Let’s explore!

DSC_0164 Ronee Roy: I was awestruck with his guitar playing when I first jammed with him way back in 2012. He still manages to amaze and excite me with his mesmerizing fingers on that instrument. Probably, guitar is an instrument for all and at the same time not for all. He justifies it with the background scores of “The Cemetery”. I am really lucky to have you as my colleague and happier to have you as my friend. Hope we can work together in future keeping your music and interest as the priority, Ronee da. I hope you know what I mean!

IMG_1125In the journey there were a number of other friends, colleagues, well wishers and completely unknown people who supplemented the experience. The vote of thanks would be incomplete without mentioning the toiling efforts of Siladitya Dam, the assistant cinematographer, Aditya Shankar Roy, one who documented the project with some brilliant stills, Ankita Majumdar, my student and my assistant, Ayan Nath (synthesizer player), Sonali Khan (Graphics and Design), Chitralekha Bannerjee, Arunavo Gupta, Tittu Philip, Nitin Panchamia, Kajal Mondal and may be some of you whom I am forgetting right now.

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A special vote of thanks should go to Mr. Rana Basu Thakur of JLT who took a respite from his immensely busy schedule to come over and complement a day with his camera and lenses. Without you, the project wouldn’t have taken the shape it has today!

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IMG_0256Last but not the least; I would like to thank the Creative Director of “The Cemetery”and my companion, Shreya Goswami, who stood by me through thick and thin. Thanks for being there!

 

To fulfill a dream amidst financial crunch and hurdles that evolved on an hourly basis, what acted as my immunity was my belief in the dream that an independent film is still possible with limited resources. I know The Cemetery was not as perfect as I thought it would be, but I will still cherish the journey throughout my life.

THANK YOU EVERYONE!

 

The plot of my first film – “The Cemetery”

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Photo Courtesy: Aditya Shankar Roy.

Carole, a charming young woman in her late twenties comes down to Calcutta to take in her new-found freedom after her husband suffers a sudden death. She refuses to find pleasure in the materialistic beauty of the city and seeks for peace and solace in the midst of the graves of the South Park Street Cemetery.

In a strange encounter amid the sleeping Englishmen of colonial India she is observed by a story seeker in some dramatic change of events. The story is a simple narrative 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.

Film: The Cemetery.

Genre: Narrative Drama.

Running Time: 19 minutes.

Language: English.

Federico Fellini – “I always made the films I wanted to make”

fellini_federico_In a somber conversation with Anna Muzzarelli, Federico Fellini spoke about his love for caricature, popular film art and his perceptions about film making, neorealist cinema and more. The interview was taken few months before the demise of the great film maker and this excerpt is a part of the original interview published in the “Sight and Sound” magazine (4/93).

 

Anna Muzzarelli: In your list of films for the “Sight and Sound” top ten, you commented that you had selected ‘popular’ films; because that is the culture you belong to.

Federico Fellini: Cinema doesn’t belong only to the great directors; it has other participants who are equally emblematic. I can’t help but think of those films from the 20’s onwards that had as their primary symbol an actress or actor – in those days, cinema for me was the faces of actors. This company of faces that represented the cinema included Garbo, then Chaplin, or the two together – Garbo the sorceress, the Pythia, and Charlie the tramp, the young rebel, the two of them representing the most contrasting psychologies and desires. Then there was Stan and Ollie – how grateful we were for the carefree laughter with no purpose behind it, none of the emotional or ideological blackmail f Chaplin. And to conclude, there were Marx Brothers.

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Anna Muzzarelli: Tell us about your taste for caricature, the cartoon-like character that is so present in your work.

Federico Fellini: If Italy survived the gloom of bourgeois education under the twin castrating authorities – fascism and the Catholic Church – it was thanks to American Cinema. The later was great nourishment, it was another life. But even before their cinema, Americans had gained great popularity through their comic strips. An Italian magazine, the ‘Corriere dei Piccoli’, carried the work of these cartoonists – great artists not only in a graphic sense, but in a literary one as well, because American literature is represented not only by the works of Steinbeck or Faulkner, but by Jiggs and Maggie, Hans and Fritz Katzenjammer, characters who became very popular in Italy. They give us a feeling of gratitude towards America that helped us to bear the cultural blackmail of the times.

 Marcello Mastroianni in a scene from FEDERICO FELLINI'S 8 1/2, 1963.

 

Anna Muzzarelli: Was this what led you to become a cartoonist?

Federico Fellini: As a boy I used to spend hours trying to copy those drawings. I always had a tendency to scribble on any white surface – it’s a habit I maintained when I prepare a film, and since I don’t have cinema-technique memories of the great classics, a film that first appears to me through the sketches I make. These enable me to grasp a perspective, the spaces of a setting or the costumes, what face a character should have – indeed when I start to prepare a new film the first approach is graphic. It’s also a way of telling me that I’m working, that the whole shebang is on the rails. During my first years in Rome I also worked as a caricaturist to make ends meet; I would go into restaurants and cheekily ask if anyone wanted a caricature.

 

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Anna Muzzarelli: ‘8 ½’ – (Otto e Mezzo), is a product of expressive crisis; almost as if it was the only film you could make. What gave you the idea of making a film about making films?

Federico Fellini: For some time, I had in mind of making a portrait of a man in its many layers: his memories, fantasies, dreams, his everyday life, a character who as yet had no professional or personal identity (at the beginning it was not a film director). I wanted to recount the multi-dimensionality of a day, a conscious life unfolding like a spiral, without defining boundaries, abandoning any idea of plot in favour of a free narration, a chat. The idea was to restore the sense of a time where past, present and future, dreams, memories and desires were blended together.

But I didn’t know my character. I had thought of a writer, a lawyer, a journalist: I couldn’t make up my mind, everything was fading into nothing. Perhaps this was the great lesson on 8½: at some point I told myself, “get the engine started, get everybody onboard, somebody will provide, force other people to make you do something.” So I did. I started the construction of the set, put the actors under contract, and the film took off. In the beginning I didn’t have a script, only some notes, a scene or two written with Tullio Pinellii and Ennio Flaniano, and my inexhaustible, endless chattering about what I wanted to do. We started to build the scenery of the farmhouse, and after two months of intense work I realized that I didn’t know what I wanted. I would go everyday to the studios and spend all day in my office drawing, making calls, but the film was no longer there. I thought, “I’m a director who doesn’t remember what he wanted to do” and in that moment the film was made: “That’s what I do, the story of a director who doesn’t remember his own film.”

fellini_s-8-12-movie-posterA few days later the film laboratories went on strike. I shot for four months without ever seeing what I’ve done. When shooting was over, I spent three days in the projection room to see the work of four months; it was a historical undertaking, that of someone who shoots a film without knowing what he’s doing.

 

The film was born in a spirit of abandonment, of spontaneity, of trust and defiance, a fortunate film that was later so successful as to become a genre – alongside the Western and the detective film, there is the 8½ genre. If there’s a lesson I learnt from this experience it’s that everything that happens during the production of a film, be it contradictory, adverse, interruptions, strikes, can all become nourishment for the film.

 

 

Anna Muzzarelli: Would you say you have roots in neo-realism – and I’m thinking of your collaboration with Rossellini as a screenwriter for “Paisa” and “Roma citta apera”?

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Federico Fellini: Rossellini stands out from the rest of the so-called neo-realists for his eye, his intervention as a strong and compassionate witness who knew how to photograph the air around things and for his disregard of cinema a spectacle. I took part as a spectator in ‘Paisa’ and ‘Roma citta aperta’ and I may have learnt my way of approaching cinema from Rossellini, who worked in the most incredible confusion: expiring bills, romantic complications, conflicts and the war. I remember in Naples, during the shooting of ‘Paisa’, in the middle of the street with the allies’ tanks parading behind our backs, and there he was, with his beret and the megaphone: the casualness of a God who’s creating an earthquake only to be able to photograph it. This is the true lesson that neo-realism taught me.

 

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Anna Muzzarelli: ‘La dolce vita’ was an enormous success not just in Italy, but in Europe and the US. Did you think at the time that you were making films for an international audience?

Federico Fellini: No. I don’t think so – if I had planned my films in those terms how could I have made ‘Amarcord’? I believe that if one has a sincere, authentic and non speculative vocation to express oneself through painting, literature, music or cinema, one cannot have other concerns than those sincerity and expressiveness. I always made the films I wanted to make.

Belief and Life of Pi

testing belief and wisdom…

The Bookshelf of Emily J.

Life of Pi (2001) by Yann Martel, number 51 on the BBC book list, is one of my favorite books.  When I first read it several years ago, I began recommending it to everybody.  I even made my husband read it, and he’s generally not a reader.  It is just a great book, one that I think most anybody can enjoy.

It is about young Indian boy Pi, who is teased for his full name of Piscine.  He changes it to Pi to avoid bullying.  He’s also a thoughtful and spiritual boy, who begins searching for knowledge and truth.  He ends up becoming Hindu, Christian, and Muslim, seeing beauty and goodness in all of the religions.  His religious experiences are important to the overall theme of the novel.

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The middle section of the novel is about his family’s shipwreck in the Pacific Ocean.  The family owns a zoo…

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Ganesh Talkies – A Commercially parallel film!

First impression: Anjan Dutt must be terribly pissed off with the recent trend in the industry that felicitates 100 Crore club members and he decided to make Ganesh Talkies. Well my second impression was logically reasoned and emotionally verified. Hope you will have a patient read…

Probably, this will be a critical appreciation of the movie – Ganesh Talkies. With all the speculations going on in the market and a huge section of the crowd trying to defend the veteran director, I would like to take a route upstream. It was June 24th, 2011 when his national award-winning movie, “Ranjana Ami ar Asbona” was released. Two years from then 21st June saw the release of Ganesh Talkies, a commercial film as proclaimed by the director himself.

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In a country, where film making is either business or art, the idea was to blend both of them and present something entertaining. A film not only dedicated to the class, but also for the mass. Ganesh Talkies, the recent motion picture by Anjan Dutt was a potboiler with many distinguishable characters that you can relate to. The story was simple, lucid and heartwarming for the young and the young-at-heart audience who would admire the actor, director, singer and song writer for all his credibility throughout the years. It gathered momentum from some wonderful performances by the actors and subtle skill from the director. A candid narration added some adequate flavor to the story telling and one has to admit that the film truly celebrated friendship and nostalgia like many other movies of Dutt. He had the courage to state some unsaid verses in his symbolic honest mannerism and you can easily find him and his ideologies in every scene of the movie. However, did Ganesh Talkies prove the quality and excitements that it created or did it surpass the expectation of the audiences far and wide?

Theory:  We are subjected to a very innovative style of cinema. A film where we have a typical hero and a heroine, however, the story is more about two people from two different strata of the society who were school friends and presently the parents of the protagonists. Now, how would you like the audience to react? A section of the crowd who wished to see some masala story with the major characters hardly got anything to take away and a section of the crowd, who inevitably watches a Dutt film found the item song unjust, untimely and extremely unpleasant to match with the nostalgia and the under-dog love story celebration. The screenplay lacked clarity at various points.

They say the market is a pyramid and to generate revenue you have to attack the base. So, our director did the same. However, with his intellect and perception of world cinema, he could not do away with the subtle features of film making that bagged him the much coveted national award. Here, he unknowingly disturbs the niche audience as well as the alluring new market.

Anti-Theory: We already have a dozen of directors in Bengal and may be hundreds of them in India who cannot think of a film without an item number. May be, they start writing the story after a catchy item number is finalized. Sincerely, the “jhal legeche” number was not bad at all, the depiction and use of the song shatters the entire gravity of the film, to be honest. Trusting the veteran film maker with his tastes and modernized approach, I felt that even the climax was too co-incidental. Raima Sen hardly had a screen presence and Chandan Roy Sanyal was seemingly uncomfortable in the first half of the film.

Even then, I won’t say the characters were excellent, but they were very real. However, it might be a choice for the audience to accept or argue.The alternate love story, the grey promoters in the city, the ageless friendship, selfless love and the captivating local goons fighting for power were equally emotional and hilarious from time to time. Anyone would rate Ganesh Talkies ahead of a lot of films released in recent times for coherent reasons.

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Story in a nutshell: Pashupati (Biswajit) and Pravin (Rajesh) are childhood friends. Pashupati is planning to marry off his daughter Saban (Raima) to an NRI. But Saban is secretly in love with Arjun (Chandan), Pravin’s son. What happens when both families come to know of their concealed romance? The parallel stories revolve around a lack-lusture single screen theatre named “Ganesh talkies” and some enterprising promoters trying to convert it into a multiplex. A cross -cultural love story with all ingredients to tickle the idiosyncratic relationship of bengalis and marwaris which remains the USP of Ganesh Talkies.

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Suggesting “Jhaal Legeche”

Music and the rest: Unlike other Anjan Dutt movies, music of Ganesh Talkies didn’t turn out to be a memorable record to cherish for a long time. Although, I keep humming the “Na Jaane milo ge Kahan” number now and then, the item song, was definitely an itching experience which persisted even after the “happy” ending of the film. The lyrics of the songs are appreciated by one and all. The camera movements and editing were average baring a few signature scenes that can only be seen in an Anjan Dutt movie. However, as announced by the director himself, it would be unjust to expect anything “extra” from Ganesh Talkies for the same reason that would restrict me to write something about Khoka 420.

To wrap up, Ganesh Talkies is a film that should not be quantified with success pertaining to numbers but hearts won and broken. If this was the maiden attempt of Dutt gambling a different genre of films which is sadly known as commercial cinema in India, I must congratulate the Anjan Dutt for his efforts. The unification of viable (read commercial) films and parallel film making was certainly difficult to achieve and the director, like always breaks off the shackles to deliver something for the audience to chew upon. For those who have seen the movie, I would expect a constructive debate and those who are yet to watch Ganesh Talkies, make sure you don’t miss the transformed Dutt.

A Note to the audience from the desk of mymotionpicture:  In India, creating, endorsing and selling something intellectually crisp and indigenous is becoming extremely difficult. As an audience, if you feel restless and frustrated with the decreasing quality of films, original music, plays etc, do have a look at the mirror and reason your choices when it comes to piracy, downloading, stupid south Indian remakes and everything that disturbs the culture and aesthetics of the city and the country. Look around and let the good film makers derive inspiration from deserving claps and proper recognition. It is truly an ominous sign if sensible film makers of our times tend to change their ways and succumb to shallow stories and superficial entertainment. May be a wake up call!