Monday, August 28, 2006

Chinese Whispers: Scenes from A Screenplay Writing Seminar

A couple of anecdotes from the fringes of the Screenplay Writing Seminar that took place at the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune, last weekend. This is the first seminar of its kind in the country, and high time too!

Disclaimer: I was not at this seminar. Everything you see here is reported by someone else, who presented a paper at the seminar.

So, to the Vishal Bharadwaj story that I’ve been promising to tell in the comments section.

After Vishal Bharadwaj’s paper (it would be inaccurate to call any of what was presented at the seminar, a ‘paper’; almost no one had prepared a paper. Instead, they recounted experiences in a more informal, though informative way.), one person asked him about Omkara. She asked why, in translating an issue of race into one of caste, he touched on it only lightly and almost in passing.

To which, Bharadwaj, who seemed not to understand the question, said, “People told me Ajay Devgan was dark. That is why I cast him as Omkara.” Rephrasing the question or elaborating didn’t appear to help. He insisted that because AD was dark, he would make a good Omkara.

Which goes to show two things: that one need not be equally articulate across media. Just because Bharadwaj has mastery over the visual and the aural, it doesn’t mean he can talk with equal felicity.

Second, nothing could more clearly show how popular culture is created. People often assume that directors are more conscious than they really are of the coding that takes place in cinema. I think this anecdote puts to rest any lingering doubts we might have had about how much thought is given to what goes into our cinemas. What is intended and what we read into popular films are two entirely different things.

In another illuminating anecdote, Jahnu Barua said that once, after Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara, some producer type turned up on his doorstep with the intention of making an ‘award-winning’ film, and he very kindly wanted Jahnu Barua to direct it for him. Barua being the polite man he is, asked what the film was about, etc etc, at which point the producer type whipped out a DVD. ‘You don’t have to do anything,’ he said. And waved the DVD at him.

Barua, fuming but conscious of his duty as a host, offered him chai and escaped to the kitchen to make it. Watching the kettle boil, he said, I thought to myself, I am a short man, and it won’t take me long to flip my lid (this is a free adaptation of what he really said, you understand; but he did emphasise his height). So he raged and paced the floor and wondered what he could say to the man sitting outside waiting for his tea. Barua found that he was waving the offending DVD around in his agitation. Before he knew it, he had flung it into the now boiling water and watched as it rose and fell.

With much satisfaction, Barua watched the producer type drink his DVD-flavoured cuppa.

I wonder if it tasted any different. God, but the seminar must have been fun.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

It's just the teeniest bit late to put this up...

...but I rediscovered this somewhere in my computer, so here it is.

Clearly, plus ça change.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Saridon, Disprin, D’Cold

This was the first time in my life I’ve bought tickets in black to watch a film. For the last three days, I’d been trying to tele-book and book online, tickets for KANK, with no success. And because there was a fairly large bunch of us who had to watch the film this weekend, we went to one of the non-multiplex theatres. Tickets at three time the price, and no bargaining for a Sunday night show; the guy even gave us a breakdown of where the money would go. And this is what I got for all my efforts.

Rani Mukherji’s eye shadow always, but always matches SRK’s (and everyone else’s) outfits. Hell – even with her eyes blindfolded, the stripes on her whip matched Amitabh’s shirt. It’s just as well that in any given scene, almost everyone in the frame is colour coordinated. Otherwise I shudder to think what would happen to Rani’s eyelids.

Men draped in feather boas have clearly been at an orgy.

Saying ‘Dude’ is so uncool. You have to wince every time Amitabh and Abhishek address each other this way.

Favourite line: “Any message for mom?” Amitabh asks Abhishek from his hospital bed.

Spoilers Alert

So all New York is on the alert for a kidnapper whom the press – in an unbelievable fit of political incorrectness – has named The Black Beast. Because, wouldn’t you know it, the kidnapper always wears black. What innocent times we live in. Rani, who hasn’t seen SRK’s face, sees him dressed in black and uttering dire threats to his son; she snatches up the boy in order to rescue him and guess what? she’s also dressed all in black. And she waddles exactly the way she did in Black, thus allowing for some neat pop-culture referencing.

I hated

The child abuse, which was supposed to be funny.

The songs. They were so badly picturised.

The way the camera starts spinning around SRK. You don’t need any special inducements to be made to feel ill.

Actually, the film.

But I loved

The viewing experience. It was after ages that I was seeing a film at a regular theatre. There were even curtains that went up. (When I was a kid, this was the most exciting part of the cinema-going experience). Guys were selling cold drinks and popcorn inside the theatre, their bottle openers going trrriiiing on the bottles.

Misplaced sandals were found after the film (some of us slept through large portions of the film); rude remarks were made and fun was had by all.

But the best part actually came before we saw the film. As we were waiting to be let into the theatre, we watched the people stream out from the previous show. My friend asked, “So what do you people think the predominant mood is?” Glazed, I said; indifferent, said my friend’s niece. Tearful, relieved.

And then, one kid came bursting out as if released and said to her friend, “After that, I need Saridon, Disprin and D’cold!”


Very, very soon: a review of The Cry Of Winnie Mandela by Njabulo S. Ndebele.

And many apologies for not posting, for those of you who do drop in once in a while.

In other news, I don't know about anywhere else in the country, but The Hindu in Hyderabad has lost it just a little bit. They now celebrate a half-yearly Valentine's Day. Sheesh.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

so is blogspot down again?

I'm able to post, but I can't get to anyone else's blog.

If you're reading this, the problem must be local.