It probably requires a more experienced and learned mind to explore something so technical in an art form. But this technicality results in a gratification for the viewer, making him the most apt administrator of subjectivity.
The argument is fairly simple; digital vs. celluloid.
Like all things new, digital has its fair share of detractors because of the fact that the quality of image on film is far more superior, and with a certain artistic character, than it is on a microchip. To a director and a cinematographer, this means a great deal because they are the ones whose vision gets imprinted on both these media. One look at the recently coloured Mughal-e-Azam vis-à-vis the original is ample proof of the limitations of digital image manipulation. But when as a viewer you look at the histrionics of The Matrix with its slow motion gun fights, helicopter chases and lavish multiple roles, it becomes evident that digital must lead to the exploration of a new tangent in the history of cinema. Cost, distribution, safety and archival value are some of the aspects within whose framework this debate may be taken forward. But as implied earlier, this exercise is fairly academic. [Side By Side, a recent documentary on this very issue tried to go deeper into this argument. Watch it if you need to go into the depth of digital and celluloid filmmaking. Watch it anyway, it is a nice film.]
Mine is a generation of digital film buffs. Not so much because we have seen only digitally made films but more so because we have seen most films digitally. Cinephiles pay enormous sums of money and invest entire lifestyles to watch all kinds of films on the big screen. But most of these screenings are digital in nature. No matter how the film was shot, its exhibition on most screens is digital. And to top that, the pirate bay (and others) has helped feed the starved cine buffs with a constant supply of classics from around the globe. And we of course watch them on our small computer screens, or in some cases project them digitally onto a relatively bigger screen. The point is that we hardly know how an Eisenstein or Lang looks when projected naturally on a big screen. The relation between the audio and the video must be different to that witnessed by many on our computers. Even if one takes the ‘beautiful’ Hollywood as an example, Leave Her To Heaven must surely feel different when seen through celluloid. What is this difference? How does it affect a viewer-screen relationship? I do not know, but would want to experience dearly. I will go to see a Bergman or a Dreyer on the big screen in spite of what the projection is, but it would be so much more appealing if it was through actual celluloid. Having said this, it would be really unfair to ask all exhibitors of good classics (like PVR in India) to strictly conform to standards of projections. Beggars can’t be choosers, but every once in a while we ought to be pampered.
Good cinema is not prisoner to trivialities like microchips, cameras and projectors. If Chris Nolan swears by celluloid even when shooting The Dark Night Rises; good for him. But then if Leo Carax shoots Holy Motors on digital, he really shouldn’t get too grumpy about it either. Good cinema is good cinema.
[This post is in Hindi, Urdu and English | Ye post Hindi, Urdu aur English mein hai]
Sonapani jaakar ek ajeeb si khushi ka ehsaas hota hai. ye soorat-e-haal imagine karein:
Pahadon mein sarsari si thand hai aur hawa thodi khushq hai. Ek cement se bana raasta dhalta dikhta hai, jaise invite kar raha ho ki aao, mujhpar chalo. Kuch hi door chalkar ek pagdandi kat-ti hai. Pedon ki chhaon se saja hua gaon ka yeh raasta kitna chup hai. Nazar seedha un barfile pahaadon par padti hai. Himalaya. Bahut door hain wo pahaad par jo dikh gaye, to maano chhoo hi liya. Gaon ke gharon ki chhaton par achaar dhoop sek rahe hain, baraamde mein ek kutta oongh raha hai aur ek-aadh bacchhe sheher se aate log dekhkar thoda lajawaab se hain. Itni chahal kadmee ke baad gala sookh raha hai, saans phool uthi hai. Ek aakhri dhalaan ke baad kuch hi metre door chand cottages dikhaye dete hain. Ye hi Himalayan Village Sonapani hai. Yahan filmein dekhai jaati hain.
Ek film buff ke liye film festival ki isse acchi setting ho hi nahi sakti.
Ghar par, main roz ek film dekhne ki koshish karta hun. Kayi din ek se zyada bhi dekh leta hun. Magar sab akele hi. Agar koi wahiyaad film dekhi to koi baat nahi, magar acchhi film dekhne ki khushi jab tak zaahir na ki jaaye, experience adhoora rehta hai. Koi bade festival (jaise Osian) mein bhaag daud itni hoti hai ki filmein bhool jaati hain. Ek visual fatigue sa aa jaata hai. Beshak wahan acchi film ke upar charcha hoti hai magar kuch fast forward mein.
Sonapani mein aaraam se filmein dikhayi jaati hain.
Gurpal (is festival ke curator) ka mijaaz aaraam talab hai. aur baat cheet karna unhein pasand hai. To isliye bina hadbadahat ke filmein chalti hain aur free-wheeling talk with the filmmakers hota hai. Aur host Ashish aur Deepa is baat ka khayaal rakhte hain ki sabka pet bhara rahe. Naashta, lunch, dinner to jayaz hai, magar wo sham ki chaaye, 7 baje ka soup aur raat hote hote garam appetizers, film appreciation ko ek naya ayaam dete hain.
3 din ke is festival mein 3 filmmaker hissa lete hain. Unki filmein lined-up rehti hain. Is baar FTII ke pass outs Surabhi Sharma, Amit Dutta aur Susant Misra aaye the. Kuch technical problems ke kaaran is baar kuch kam filmein dekh paaye magar jitni bhi dekhin, mazaa aa gaya. Surabhi ki filmon mein unke subject ke prati empathy thi, chahe wo planned city of Chandigarh ho ya Bambai ke bidesi. Susant ki filmein ek kahani ki gehraayi se zindagi nikaalne ki koshish kar rahi thin. Unke kirdaar ji rahe the aur dekhte hi dekhte film khatam ho jaati thi. Amit ka cinema ke liye pyaar aur pagalpan unki filmon mein saaf dikhta hai. Shabd aur image ka relation itne layers paida karta hai ki ek cinephile ke liye unki filmein khazaane ki tarah hain. Teenon hi filmmakers mein ek common influence obvious tha. Mani Kaul school of thought se paida huye time-space relation aur narrative simplicity ko hum har film mein khoj sakte hain.
Aisi bahut si filmein hain jinko dekhkar main roya hun, hasa hun ya mujhe mazaa aaya hai. Bahut kam aisi filmein hain jinko dekh kar dil khush hua hai. Nainsukh is doosri category mein aati hai. Kaise ek art form doosre art form se converse kar raha hai, aur aisa karne mein donon hi forms ko explore kiya jaa raha hai. Waah. Mujhe fine arts kabhi samajh nahi aaye (maine samajhne ki zyada koshish bhi nahi ki). Lekin jab cinema ke through miniature paintings ki baat uthi to un chhoti chhoti ‘descriptions’ ka matlab saaf huya. Ek painting ka drama recreate huaa celluloid par! Camera ka frame ek painting ki tarah rakhha gaya. Seedha. Static. Ek hi perspective ke saath. Aur usi moving image mein tension build ki gayi, chahe wo sher ke shikaar ka scene ho ya phir mehal ke andar mehfil ka. Agar camera kisi jagah perspective badal deta, painting ke doosri taraf se dekhta, to shayad main screening ke dauraan naachne lagta. Amit ne kaha ki aisa karna excessive ho jaata (camera ka movement, mera naachna nahin), aur kahin na kahin ye Nainsukh ki ‘language’ mein fit nahi hota. Haan, shayad. Magar main ab bhi maanta hun ki ek pal ke liye hi sahi, agar camera us language ko break karta to wohi language aur bhi zyaada ubhar kar viewers ko dikhti.
Ummeed hai ki ye film jald hi dvd par aayegi. Ek baar mein dil nahin bhara.
Sonapani baar baar aane par majboor karta hai. Khaaskar ek maverick filmmaker aur cinephile ko, jiske liye yahan seekhne laayak ek crore battees lakh cheezein hain. Pichhle saal isi festival mein Amlan Datta se mulakaat huyi thi. Tab pata laga ki zindagi ki koi disha nahi hoti. Wo film banane Malana gaye tha aur wahin ke ho gaye, ab shayad filmein bhi nahin banayege. Is baar digital aur celluloid ke beech ho rahi tug-of-war par baat hui. Digital mein technology haavi hoti hai aur celluloid mein dimaag (ya dil?). Digital filmmakers ko apne dimaag ki kasrat karni zaroori hai nahin to youtube ke video banane kaabil hi reh jaayenge. Aur aisi bahut si baatein hain jinmein se kuch andar jazb ho gayin hain aur kuch nashe mein kahin kho gayin hain. Khair…
Ab agle festival ka intezaar hai. Nayi filmein. Naye – puraane log. Nayi baatein. Puraani yaadein.
Seen any of these? Do let us know in the comments.
No to LOTR trilogy, No to Philadelphia, No to The Passion of the Christ, No to Solaris, No to Terminator Salvation, No to Man of Steel, No to Cutthroat Island, No to The English Patient, No to The Saint. One should learn to say NO in order to give the YES performance. #Daniel Day-Lewis
For almost one hundred years there was only one way to make a movie — with film.
Movies were shot, edited and projected using photochemical film. But over the last two decades a digital process has emerged to challenge photochemical filmmaking.
SIDE BY SIDE, a new documentary produced by Keanu Reeves, takes an in-depth look at this revolution. Through interviews with directors, cinematographers, film students, producers, technologists, editors, and exhibitors, SIDE BY SIDE examines all aspects of filmmaking — from capture to edit, visual effects to color correction, distribution to archive. At this moment when digital and photochemical filmmaking coexist, SIDE BY SIDE explores what has been gained, what is lost, and what the future might bring.
The quote above is as apt and succinct a description you could write for the documentary directed by Chris Kenneally and produced by Keanu Reaves. The documentary successfully gives an account of how the film-making process,post the scripting stage i.e. just before production begins has changed with advent of digital technology. It does so by following a linear narrative of the film-making process, right from photography to distribution/exhibition and eventually archival. At each stage, we meet practitioners, be it cinematographers, directors, actors, VFX artists, DI, Producers, Studio execs and learn from and through them of the impact of the digital technology.
Watch the video below, to see how idea came about and how they achieved this.
What I really liked about Side By Side was that the film-makers were true to themselves and their objectives. At no point did they deviate from the agenda, equivocally presenting and representing argument from both sides of the divide. Keanu could explore an alternative career as a talk show host or an investigative journalist. With an embarrassment of riches in terms of the interviewees( Scorsese, Lynch, Lars von Trier, Wachowskis, Nolan to name a few) it gives a great perspective on what some of the best practitioners of our time feel about a much loved and popular form of art &entertainment.
The documentary is slated for a theatrical releases in the U.S. and is currently making rounds of the festival circuit and trying to promote it. I was really glad to have caught it at the 0110 DIFF in Delhi. I strongly urge all budding filmmakers and film enthusiasts to watch it at their nearest screen soon.
Rustic Hindi in Ishaqzaade to Marathi/Tamil in Aiyya to Punjabi in Luv Shuv te Chicken Khurana to NRI Hindi in English Vinglish. Add to that the Folk in Winterbottom’sTrishna. And now Gujarati in Kai Po Che. Who says only actors choose the script.
DAY 14: 18th Jan 2013
The Colonial, the Convict & the Cockatoo
Script & Direction: Arjun Raina
A very intensely researched production always holds its own when it comes to what it wants to say, and where it is headed. This play was as much a crash course on Aboriginal histories with regards to colonialism as it was an art piece mocking the ‘blind’ bourgeois India. The three characters charted their own odyssey through power, agony and ‘who gives a fuck’ respectively. So much so that in the end it was hard to believe that a law such as the Native Title Act was in place!
The use of film (interacting with actor on stage), music and songs was interesting.
Arjun Raina did a brilliant and unique thing by breaking the fourth wall and explaining the audience what he was really going on about. This not only informed the uninitiated but also made sure that the ultimate goal of the performance, to add to the discourse of native inhabitant’s life, had a better chance of realization.
Based on: Life and works of Saadat Hasan Manto
Adaptation & Direction: Anoop Trivedi (NSD Repertory Company, Delhi)
We all know Manto by now. At least we all should given the explosion of Manto-based performances throughout the whole of last year. This play was a dramatized representation of many of his short stories, letters and snippets of his documented life. The inherent problem with doing a biopic kind of a play is that audience has expectations. They cannot be surprised or awed easily. And Dafa 292 failed to inspire at all. Some of the stories chosen were not popular (which might have been a good thing if they were better stories). Some nuances got lost in the over complicated light schemes. And the overzealous ending with a ‘candle march’ to pay a tribute to Manto would have made the man laugh.
The idea of showing Manto on stage (or film) is a very inviting one but it has to be remembered that such satire is not suited to live action for the simple reason that the inherent irony is in the words that he weaved and not in the actions of his characters. So, it is better to read out his prose rather than enact it on stage, verbatim. No point in being redundant. Or better still, create a better way to show the empathy, the irreverence and the politics of the world’s greatest short story writer.
DAY 15: 19th Jan 2013
Anecdotes and Allegories by Gulbadan Begum
Script: Choiti Ghosh
Director: Anurupa Roy (Katkatha Puppet Arts Trust, Delhi)
Forgotten histories are so interesting that they compel one to ask questions and derive alternate scenarios, changing history as it were. This performance piece tried to accomplish this by adapting the forgotten writings of Gulbadan Begum, daughter of Babar, half-sister of Humayun and aunt of the greatest Mughal king Akbar. The voice of Gulbadan Begum was an overpowering narrative of her text that simply failed to capture the oddities and sounded more or less like a history lesson which we are all familiar with. But what was lacking in text was more than made up for in the visuals and sounds. This group is an object theatre practitioner and it was made evident as they used different techniques to show Babar, Humayun and Akbar. Babar was represented with toilet paper puppets through a web cam that was floated around and inside miniature sets (ala Hitchcock!). The reason was obvious as there is a lack of visual reference available for that period. Next came the opium intoxicated Humayun who was represented through shadows (cast by the now extinct OHPs) of psychedelic lights and images. And lastly the well documented Akbar-era was captured through a technique called paper theatre where cut-outs of images were projected on screen.
All in all, a formative exercise but one well worth watching.
DAY 12: 16th Jan 2013
Inspired by Blindness
Adaptation & Direction: Sathya Bhama (Individual production)
The novel has an apocalyptic plot where an epidemic of blindness has spread throughout and is a perfect metaphor for the degradation of society while seemingly evolving. This production was a solo performance piece that incorporated movements, some vague dialogues and a harsh sense of devilish anarchy. The play tries to explore ‘blindness’ in all its forms but if it succeeds in doing so is a seriously personal matter of cognizance.
DAY 13: 17th Jan 2013
A sad day for Indian arts today; Pakistani productions were called off due to the on-going stir with regards to the LoC. NSD must feel that it is responsible for the safety of its audience as well as the performers – fair enough. But what about the Indian state? Is this the right political face to put forth? Isn’t India really foolish in bending over backwards, to hatred, of all things? If you aspire to shine and be a superpower akin to the United States then at least show the hate-mongers the middle finger, build a serious propaganda and allow sharp talk to be staged, sung, written, drawn or filmed (ZD30 is an example; promoting anti-Islamic thought while ostensibly ridiculing the state).
We went and wrote LoC (repeatedly, in bold) on one of the omnipresent print-outs that stated that the plays were cancelled due to ‘unavoidable circumstances’ and within an hour, it was removed. And a guard stood to guard the notices. Hilarious! Sad!
The Knocking Within
Script: based on excerpts from Shakespeare’s works
Directors: Wendy Jehlen & Pradhuman Nayak (ANIKAI Dance, USA)
A dance piece more than anything, this performance was an experiment. For me, the play turned up against itself because at the very beginning, during the introduction it was revealed that it is based on excerpts from Shakespearean text. But at the same time the performance was meant to be seen in a context-less setting. Sure there was no Othello to blame his woman, or the ominous presence of a Lady Macbeth but it is Shakespeare after all and many know the context by heart. The dance was monotonous and charms of body movements dissipated after a few minutes. And the disjointed nature of this seemingly fluid act was another put-off. Too many lights out in a short piece designed to challenge the audience are jarring to the senses.