Sunday, March 8, 2009

Cinephile Meeting: A tale of two cities


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First of apologies to all our readers, the article is not on the site due to some technical reason. But the discussion should continue without any problem.


Cinephile Report: Mumbai
Shubhank

I'll start with Mumbai since it was chronologically the first.

The Mumbai Cinephile meeting was postponed by a day since the original schedule was on the same day as the closing day of the Kala Ghoda festival. A couple of fellows, who seemed interested in attending the meet, sent me e-mails. They, however, could not turn up for the event. Hopefully they will be able to make it to the next, whenever it happens. The day brought with itself a slew of dramatic events. My favourite one - when I lost my cellphone in the train.

Well, we did meet ... an hour after the actual schedule, at Prithvi Cafe, Juhu.

There were 3 attendees; really.
1. Udita
2. Abhay
3. Shubhank

To be honest, I was never concerned with the participation, this being the first meeting. It is something we can always work on when the word spreads. One of my agenda was to discuss ways/methods of attracting more cinephiles and increasing the participation.

Obligatory disclaimer - I may not remember most of the details about the meetings. I also may interpret certain things wrongly which is why I would restrict the comments to a single line summary. Correct me if I am wrong Or add further opinions if I missed anything, the comment section is for you.

2nd disclaimer - Plagiarized from Ronnie Sen's article on no smoking - I hereby make no claims of knowing exactly what a film should be and how a film should be made. My knowledge of cinema is extremely rudimentary.

The meeting started with a very brief introduction followed by a not-so-brief but brief nonetheless discussion about the manifesto. There were doubts and issues related to it. Udita primarily felt that our cinema is changing, there is appreciation for slightly different and not-so-mainstream films. Abhay acknowledged and commented that the new breed of Bollywood, which is called urban/multiplex-Bollywood, has seen certain interesting films which have marked a change in the way we tell stories. I think we have seen certain interesting ideas and stories in films but the way they are shot still remains the same. The so called new-breed/new-wave of movie makers have the same objective as certain others its just hidden in the veil of pretentiousness they wear.

There was a discussion regarding the content of the manifesto. We had some issues. I'll, here, play a diplomat and request the attendees to address their issues in the comments section. As far as my comments go, I basically have an issue with the evolution of the manifesto and that it does not give much emphasis on education. More on that later.

Other than this we did talk about Slumdog Millionaire. Interestingly Abhay was reading the book on which it is based. More interestingly, the Agra and Taj Mahal scene is not present in the book, if it is then it has not arrived yet.

The most interesting part of the meeting involved a recently released film called, A Wednesday. Here are the opinions ...

1. Udita - Didn't like the film because in times like these pseudo anarchy is the last advice anyone would want to give through their films.

2. Abhay - Liked the film and said that we are not insane enough to take the film seriously and adopt similar tactics as the antagonist of the movie.

3. Shubhank - Agreed with Abhay but didn't like the movie. I thought the movie was too contrived with stereotypical characters (a hard-ass guthka-chewing cop, a sincere cop, a teenage hacker etc etc) and the last bit when Naseeruddin Shah meets Anupam Kher, the dialogue "Mera naam hai ....... " creates a false sympathy for what could have been a good anti-hero if the movie was written well. And yeah, the usual direction/technical issues.

There were further talks about a lot of films and events. The Reader, Dev D, New York, Urban Isolation and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, really.

The meeting was wrapped up in a couple of hours.
Challenges –

Mumbai is never going to be an easy place when it comes to meetings like these. There is a lot of influence from the industry and participation of filmmakers and people from the fraternity is highly probable if not inevitable. The next issue is to find a representative who can take things forward.

Cinephile Report: Hyderbad

The Hyderabad meeting took place on the 28th of February. Once again, participation was very little. There were 3 attendees (deja vu?).

1. Himanshu
2. Faisal
3. Shubhank

We met up at Barista coffee shop in Kondapur. Later we went to my place and Himanshu was generous enough to provide me and Faisal a copy of Cinema Paradiso - Director's Cut. After this we took a walk to a place Himanshu had never seen before. He had a slight doubt that we might kidnap him and probably harvest his organs but nothing of that sort happened. Sorry to shatter your dreams man.

Coming back to the point, the discussion was healthier than the one I had in Mumbai. We covered a range of topics, from Godard to Mard Tange Waala; from Tolkien to Kafka and from the Cuban revolution to post apocalyptic fiction. Nope, no Slumdog Millionaire here. The highlights follow ...

Dev D

It was collectively agreed that Anurag Kashyap is a brilliant writer, stuff that no one can ignore. There were, However, individual concerns, I'll be a little selfish and start with mine:

1. The biggest fault of Dev D is the title. Anurag Kashyap, who proclaims to make films for the thinking audience, throughout the move tries to shove it in our throats that this is essentially the story of Devdas, set in a modern world. From the 'Maar Daala' song to posters in the background it is everywhere. Even the stories begin with a huge title which has the name of the character.

Why did he name the movie Dev D? Why not 'Emotional Atyachar' or something else? What would have been the reaction of the audience if the whole 'this is a cool-hip tale of the modern day Devdas' was in the subtext of the movie and not as blatant as it is?

2. How is the back story of Chanda relevant to the whole movie and not manipulative?

3. What's up with the ending? I'm not against happy endings but a character has to earn the ending. In case of Dev, the writer definitely wants us to have no sympathy for the character, it defied all the self-destruction that we had seen till that point.

Himanshu agreed with the fact that they film would have been perceived differently if there was no in-the-face Devdas remake. But did say that it would been a conscience decision to market the film, no one would have watched it otherwise. He also agreed with the fact that the movie was very well written, especially the exchanges between Dev and Paro.

He commented on how the film did well in the non-metro cities, which is great for a, for lack of a better word, non-mainstream (is this even a word? pardon me) film. I think it could have been because of the shock aspects and the sex-comedy bits .... which leads us to the next topic of discussion
The Manifesto

Why do people in this country watch films?

The most common answer will be escapism and it cannot be denied. We want to see our delusions come to life. We want to see good looking people dressed beautifully and living the life we always dream of living. But, are we selling our dreams too cheaply? Someone I know loved 'Dev D' and was depressed watching it because it reminded him about his past. A couple of my friends hated 'Oye Lucky' for the lack of a coherent plot.

Different people, different reasons. I threw my remote at the TV when I watched Kiarostami's 'The Wind Will Carry Us' first time - I did enjoy is some 4 years later but something was different. Education. Quoting from the manifesto itself, a common man does not understand that his 'emotions are guided by leitmotifs placed deftly, and religious beliefs exploited.' There is a need for film education, spreading awareness. We do appreciate and wholeheartedly support the cause of Indian Auteur and Cine Darbaar. In fact this is the reason we planned to have this meeting and have set a goal for ourselves for the next one.

The last point which says 'to work towards a film love which adopts a middle ground, to reinstate the cinema director to his deserved position, to celebrate Indian cinema of the past and the present, to examine its potential' is argubly the most important one. Especially the part which talks about celebrating Indian cinema.
We discussed a bunch of ideas. One was to screen Indian movies (Ghatak, Ray, Dutt etc) during the meetings and then talk about it. Figure out what makes that film, a film.

Second was to talk about terms such as 'mise-en-scene' and explain why it is important in cinema. Another idea was to hand out or atleast announce non-monetary awards to people who actually deserve to earn recognition. This can be decided by the editorial panel of 'Indian Auteur'.


That would be it, I think. If I did miss a vital point I hope people who attended the meetings can cover them in the comments.


pic- NT Rama Rao and Dev Ananad.


Coming Up:

1) New Cinephile Listing- anyone interested this time, please contact

editor@indianauteur.com

2) New issue on Ghatak.

17 comments:

MS WONG said...

GREAT!!!!!!


Waiting for other city reports

nitesh said...

Looks like Mumbai meeting is an issue. And even this time we are not sure who will host it there. Any suggestion on this Shubhank?

I'm sure by the second round in Hyd it should grow with the AISEC people hopefully joining.

What is the contest you people talking or suggesting about?

Yayaver said...

Hi nitesh, we are not suggesting any contest.The main the idea of sugesting a non-monetary award each year for the films is to promote good film and technical people behind them.

shubhank said...

Well, I know there are people from Mumbai reading the blog, its entirely up to them if they want to take an initiative.
Alternately, we can contact the AISEC chapter in Mumbai and ask them if they are interested in holding a cinephile meeting there.
I've spread the word and spoken to a few friends of mine, trying to encourage them hopefully something should work out soon.

Yeah, I too am optimistic about Hyderabad. Once we have the dates and the agenda I'm gonna shoot an e-mail about the CineDarbaar initiative.
I'm also planning to speak to the guys at Cinema Paradiso. It is a DVD rental place here (with Branches in some other cities as well). They have a decent collection of world movies and probably a user base, some of who are probably serious cinephiles.
Hoping for the best, keeping fingers crossed :).

shubhank said...

About the contest thing. As Himanshu already explained its not a contest per se - more of recognising talent in our country.
We already know Buddhadeb Dasgupta reads the site and we want people to reach out to his cinema, make them aware of our own roots first.
I was just suggesting an article which rates these films and awards them on an yearly basis - the award can be a certificate or something - non monetary, something which Filmfare and others simply ignore.
I don't know whether it is feasible at this point of time, it's just a suggestion we thought of.

nitesh said...

The cinema Pardiso idea is quite kool and if we can get that moving it would allow not only us to expand but a official screener we can get seriously.

And I think the idea of Himanshu is kool let me see if we can get something moving on that front.

nitesh said...

@shubhank

I don't understand what exactly people mean when they talk about our cinema is improving sorts? Do they mean in literal new "stories" we seeing or developing in terms of form and style?

Shubhank said...

@Nitesh
Literal new stories OR ideas which inspire new stories. The traditional view of cinema is often (if not always) typecasted as typical song and dance popcorn flicks. So when something like 'A Wednesday' OR 'Aamir' happens people can't stop the praises.

Honestly I'd not blame the people for that. It is easy to get tired of our cinema and get excited about the so called 'new age' cinema. If you go to the roots of the problem a lot of so called critics of the country can be blamed, and of course a lack of education.

The point I am trying to make is that this new breed of Urban Bollywood is probably the most deceptive of all forms. They may have got new ideas or whatever but the style or form or simply the way it is shot is still the same. I mean, consider a thought experiment. Take a film, any film, preferably a 'new age' one. Remove the technical credits. Don't let the PR or the marketing people speak about that, Make a group of people watch it. No one in that group can actually find out who directed that movie by watching it.

nitesh said...

@Shubhank..

I completey agree with you. The problem is quite deeep. And I think through this Cinephile Meeting and several others we had acorss we realize that people are not at all "informed" about the medium.

For eg: In Delhi this bunch of guys were proposing that its better to make a 5 min film on mobile than to write film criticism.

So this is something quite preveleant across. I think, the change would come slowly and its only possible when people start accepting an informed person opnion on the same( not necessarily that person could be right). yet this is important here. As people are quite rigid and stubborn on "cinema" matters.

Shubhank said...

@Nitesh

Completely agree. When I read a review or a piece of critique, which is mostly after I have watched a film, I am looking for an opinion which will change the way I think or challenge my opinions and not to read the damn synopsis of the plot.

Of course it is always awesome if someone nods with you but getting your opinions challenged or at least something which makes you think is more important and will affect the way you will watch another movie.

nitesh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
nitesh said...

@Shubhank

Disussion is an important aspect of learning and discovering about the medium. If done in the right spirit. And only if, people don't take it as a contest to test their wits or prove or debate about a certain point(just to protect their ego).

Your right about reading a critique. I maybe not necessarily agree with a good critic all the time. But he/she always give me reason to think or even helps see a film in a different light altogether.

Which is something most film critics in India( I hate to use the word critic for them), but journalist or analyst or anchor rotinuelly dont do. They simply pharaphrase as you rightly put.
I did write an article on Film Criticism in India in the last issue at the website do check it out.

HarryTuttle said...

Thanks for these great reports. This is fascinating to follow. If participation is smaller in the beginning, at least you can enjoy in-depth exchanges with few people. Because it's always frustrating when you attend a large meeting and only a handful of people can ask questions, and limited to one question each, without follow up. It's less intimidating too I suppose.

Mumbai might be more mainstream, like Los Angeles is. But it's a city big enough to harbor enough open-minded cinephiles, especially among filmmakers who hopefully love cinema and watched a lot of films other than musicals.
I hope it takes off there eventually.

The suggestion of "honorary awards" elected by the redaction of Indian Auteur is an excellent idea. You could publish your alternative list before the "Indian Oscars" (I don't know when it is) just to show the kind of cinema you support. And hopefully your awards will gain prestige and fame in the future. ;)

Good luck

Shubhank said...

Thanks for the comment Harry.
Regarding the smaller participation comment, I'd also like to add that the participants are actually, majority of the time, passionate individuals and not someone who simple joins the bandwagon because it is different.
As the participation increases in different cities we'll have to make sure the discussions are interactive and everyone gets to speak up. It is going to be challenging, but interesting nonetheless.

The awards idea actually ties up with the point mentioned in the Chidambaram report as well. Recognizing the talent which goes unappreciated.

nitesh said...

The idea of the award is really interesting, and we should work toward maybe having something interesting at the end of the year or as Harry put our Indian Oscar which is our Filmfare.

HarryTuttle said...

You should also consider making an alternative list of Best Of Indian Cinema to celebrate the non-mainstream Indian cinema, like Rosenbaum did with his controversial list of American cinema opposed to the classic establishment of the AFI list. It always gives a solid reference for exploring cinephiles and matter for debate.

nitesh said...

Thanks for the suggestion Harry this is something we've been working on for a while and hopefully will come up with the list very soon.