Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Sight that I never miss any working day

There is something about this automobile that I never miss its sight while walking to the Edit suite. Its been 6 months now. And the wonderful days at the Edit are coming to an end.

Forever Young - Ranjan Palit & Sound for Documentaries

Last Sunday as I was surfing through TV channels I happened to see on a ticker that Documentary 24x7 on NDTV will show Ranjan Palit's film - Forever Young.

Now during my days in Jamia's Mass Communication Centre, one of my faculty members had told the class that how Ranjan Palit is one of the best or probably the best documentary cinematographers of India. She said: "he almost dances with the camera" -

I was hardly impressed with that statement of hers. Later she showed us a clip from one of his works and that too didnt leave an impression on me. I thought there was nothing so extra-ordinary about the visuals, which our teacher was trying to point out to.

So then, with this in mind, I started watching Forever Young. Its a documentary about probably India's biggest Bob Dylan Fan - Mr. Lou Majaw, who resides in Shillong. From what I am told, Ranjan sir himself is a huge Bob Dylan fan. The camera in the documentary follows this guy to his concerts, performances, his life, his home and to his fans.

There is a moment in the documentary when the girls from St. Mary's school in Shillong are so excited to be at the performance that while he is singing, like every concert they too join by an impromptu dance steps. Now here is where i saw two superbly executed shots - where "the camera almost danced with them - step to step". It was amazing to see, my teacher was right.

Absolutely on target, even while the camera danced - it was so stable, the framing, the idea behind doing that - amazing. i felt that i was Enlightened.

Cut To

I was with Mr. Vikram Joglekar (Location Sound for Road, Movie). I casually referred to him about this documentary and Mr. Ranjan Palit and out came a box of surprises. Vikram had stayed at Ranjan Palit's place at Yari Road for a year. He too repeated the same words, what my teacher had told the class about Mr. Palit being the best camera for documentary. Vikram stressed that how everything happens so impromptu when he comes on location. the lighting, the framing, the movements - everything.
Quite an artist - i must say!

Vikram told me an interesting thought. The Sound for documentary is so much important compared to fiction. In Fiction films, the concentration is on Visuals. "Sound Post mei FIX kar denge" - is the usual remark you will hear from people on Sets.

But for a documentary - if Lou Majaw is performing for students in their school - then that sound has to be recorded then and there itself, in the best possible quality, you cant ask those guys to perform for you again. It wont have the same effect, the same quality, the same ambiance.

Thus, the sound and visual go together when it comes to a documentary whereas in Fiction - "Fix it in Post" is the attitude.

Thankfully, on "Road, Movie" - not a single shot went without the call of "Sound rolling". It surely was a great learning experience.

As for Mr. Ranjan Palit - I have got your filmography. Next few months, will go in sourcing some of them.

More posts on you will follow.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Of Brown paper covers and School days

Those unique Brown Paper Covers with which we used to cover our school notebooks. And the Sticker labels - ah!

Once the brown covers were put over the books… edges neatly folded – then was the turn of the various sticker labels that had to be pasted on top… to tell the world who does this Book belong to! The stickers had different characters drawn on them - from colourful cartoons to He-Man to Tom & Jerry etc.

First was the choice – involving very careful selection of which sticker label should best suit which notebook. Once that decision was reached, then with great precision… you were to get the placement of the label right on the cover. Sometimes the non-conformist streak in few would prompt rather edgy/angular placement of the label… Sometimes using the lower left corner… Anything little innovative… thoda different… we thought to ourselves.

After that came the part where you were to fill all the details… (some of us blessed with elder siblings, who had or at least thought they had neater hand writings…were deprived of this pleasure, in my case… with my scribbles… I took great pride in passing the honours to my father…)

Name: Hardik Mehta
Std: III Div: A
Subject: History
School: Students Academy

Last night, I happened to read one of the finest books of Rohinton Mistry and it took me to that world of mine - when my Parents used to take me to buy the books for the new academic session. I precisely remember that come first week of June and we used to head to this shop outside Malad station, East side - The shop was called Bipin Stores.

I happened to check a few days back and it still stands tall… with all its stationeries and various books… Actually now it seems to be oozing stationary actually – its loaded itself with so much stuff in the same dimensions of fifteen years ago Bipin stores - like it could explode of stationary!

Once the New Books were brought - the storewallah used to promote the new Brown Paper covers and the Cartoon stickers - saying:

"These days, it is compulsory for students to cover the notebooks with Brown paper cover, just yesterday two students from your same school bought it"

Thus we had no choice but to buy them. But my parents always had a different idea for things. That day, my parents told me that there is no need to cover the books with the special Brown Paper, we can always use the old Calendar sheets - especially those Bank Calendars which were of no use once the Year had gone by. Those Calendar sheets were huge and every Month, if torn out carefully, they could be used to cover at least 2 notebooks.

Amazing it was - they showed it to me: November covered my Science & History and December covered my Geography & Mathematics.

But in a fast changing world, covering your books with Calendar sheets was looked down upon… esp. when there was this beautiful Brown paper made available exclusively for covering the books.

Now in the middle of the academic session starting from June - the brown paper would breath its last, somewhere near December and then till April, the front few pages of the Book too would come out - thus giving both the book and the user the assurance – it was used often and served its term well!

Actually the condition of the book would determine how much the student has used/spend time with it (playing cricket with the rolled up book was a way too ☺)
I still laugh at this memory.

Back to the story, so when I saw my classmates with all their fresh Brown Paper covers on the first day in third standard, I immediately summoned for the Brown Papers… I spelled out the clearly the demand to my Parents.

Infact my classmates even knew how to cover a book by cutting the exact size of Paper from the huge Brown Cover Sheet. I never knew how to do that. (There are a few things I still don't know: eg: tying a tie, ironing clothes, Folding my full sleeves collared shirts etc)

My Parents had to help me in covering the notebooks with Brown covers. I didn’t even fill the sticker labels. I thought my father's handwriting was beautiful –each alphabet formed like a pearl and he obliged by writing on the labels.

One fine day my bench partner saw the label on the Brown cover of my Book and asked me:

"That handwriting on the label is not yours, whose is it?"

Without much ado, I said - "Its my Fathers"

The next thing he asked: "From which place did you get this brown covers ?"

I said: "Bipin Stores"

He said: "Same pinch"


Same Pinch I tell you - June is coming in a few days. Time for children to buy those books and those Brown Paper covers. Am sure the labels will have IPL players on it. And now am told the huge brown paper sheets are eating dust in the back stores of the book shops –fancy water proof sheets custom sized for notebooks have come in…
This note… in memory of those unique Brown Covers with which we used to cover our school notebooks. And the Sticker labels - ah!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Cricket and India

clicked outside a TV showroom in suburban Mumbai during an IPL match

copyrights: hardik mehta

Friday, May 22, 2009

Inglorious Basterds - the screenplay

Its an amazing, high adrenaline read, no doubt about it. There s no two way about Tarantino's ability to entertain an audience. Be it with his writing or his cinematic treatment.

Reports are in that the film hasn't gone down too well with the audience in Cannes, but thats ok, Cannes is not the ultimate authority. I would rather recommend cinefans to read the screenplay - its a 168 page non-stop, one hell of a roller-coater ride. Even when he writes, there s so much of energy, enthusiasm and passion for it. It just shows. You would want to be seated besides him and laugh out loud and be with him on this journey.

And notice what wonderful anecdotes he comes up with when he is writing. clearly making a huge difference between both the mediums - visual and written and then proving that how he has almost mastered both of them. I have read Death Proof's screenplay too - which again is an amazing treat to read.

And boss!! hats off - even when you write, there is a deeper meaning in the way the stories, incidents and characters pay out. In this case, the Cinema, the War and the Revenge. And what a marriage it turns out to be in the end.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Tujhse Naraaz nahi - Screenplay Written, Printed and Bound

Have just completed writing my first 25 page long screenplay. Its intended to be a short 30 minute Gujarati film. Temporarily titled in hindi - "Tujhse Naraaz Nahi...". Needless to say where it comes from.

Tujhse Naraaz Nahi is about a relationship which we all share but hardly acknowledge. Its about a 6 year old Sanket and his growing up years. More info on it - later.

The poster should be something like this. Although the story has got nothing to do with Kite flying. Well, see it as i am just on a ride, i loved the photo and thought it goes well with this story. so attached it.

photo courtesy: Vatsal Kant

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

My all time favourite actresses

I have been a Raja Sen fan. His word is almost always true. Come any friday and you click on Rediff to read who has reviewed the film. If it’s Raja Sen, it will always be a treat to read. Will be extremely eager to see how he reviews Road, Movie.

Now Raja Sen follows an interesting format. Whenever there is a New Release around the corner, he comes up with a Rediff Special segment – like if Johnny Gaddar is releasing next Friday – he will come up with his 10 best caper films of all time. So putting an end to my babble on Raja Sen’s antiques – here I am listing my 10 best Women characters in whatever cinema I have watched till now. These characters are strong, adorable and unforgettable and in a few cases they are surely some of those who you would love to meet in person and treasure them throughout your lives. These characters are not in the order of preference.

1. May in Miyazaki’s My Neighbour Totoro
If I could have brought an animated character to life. then it would be this wonderful girl called May. Watch this film and its hard not to think that “if she could be my daughter”

2. Irene Jacob in The Double life of Veronique
Partly due to Kiewslowski’s magical use of light, colors and music. Weronika/Veronique is a woman that will captivate you all throughout the film’s ninety odd minutes. Although a film that is slow in pace, but the audience wont be complaining. Such is the power of beauty.

3. Audrey Tautou in Amélie
The most lovable character you will ever see. Although performance wise, it was played a little over the top. But am not complaining. While writing Amelie was someone you would happily give your right hand for. Her gesture of getting that compass box back to Dominique Bretodeau, her relationship with the reclusive painter, the neighbourhood grocer and her practical jokes and the best of all – her thoughts and imaginations – stuff what a classic is made of.

4. Konkana Sen Sharma in Luck By Chance
The lesser I say, the better it is. A tailor-made role, an amazing performance and a powerful character. Watch out for the climax of the film.

5. Sibel Kekilli in Fatih Akin’s Head On.
A power packed performance – Head On. Undoubtedly. The music added to the pain. How many directors have brought together romance, pity, pain, pleasure, self-disgust and a little redemption – all together in ninety minutes.

6. Catalina Sandino Moreno in Maria Full of Grace
If I could, I would have asked her out. She fitted the character of Maria to a T. The most innocent face getting into one of the most heartbreaking crimes that a few Colombian women are subjected to.

7. Many performances by Shabana Azmi
esp. Ankur, Nishant, Pestonjee, Morning Raga, Mandi, Ek Doctor ki Maut

8. Naomi Watts in Lynch’s Mullholland Drive
What a film it turned out to be, and Naomi Watts almost carries it throughout on her. The final state of her is as credible as the enthusiastic wannabe superstar in the beginning of the film.

9. Abigail Breslin in Little Miss Sunshine
Amazing performance. Why wasn’t she nominated ever? Or was she. You would love to stand up and dance with her as the film reaches its amazingly written climax.

10. Uma Thurman in Kill Bill
Amazing. Full stop.

Some notable performances, which I would have loved to add in the ten above but couldn’t, would be:
Gong li in To Live, Tabu In Maqbool, Madhabi Mukherjee in Charulatha, Anjelina Jolie in Girl, Interrupted, Lee Young Ae in Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, Issabel Huppert in Haneke’s The Piano Teacher, Penelope Cruz in Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Monica Belluci in Malena, Sridevi in Mr. India and Sadma.

Probably Sridevi shaped my imagination of what an actress should be like, in the late 80s. I felt for Kamal Hassan in the end, but it was due to this shrewd behavior of Sridevi in Sadma.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

of Indian Elections and US wannabes

i am not some nationalistic pig or a guardian for Indian culture. But this is something i have observed. i could be wrong in this, but am ready to debate.

There are these certain individuals who love following Obama and US elections and they would be knowing everything about Texas state, Ohio state governors and representatives. But ask them to which party does Naveen Patnaik or Kumarswamy represent? they will be standing before you like dumb fucks. More importantly, since they follow America Elections, they will prove you that you are a dumb fuck trying to follow Indian elections. Well, that can be true. There is nothing to follow in what Kumarswamy or Mr. Patnaik are doing. They are just mere examples. Look at today's results and you will know. Indian politicians (most of them) do not deserve our time.

But sample this, the kind of people i am referring to will lecture you on the conditions of Blacks and how Obama means "hope" and all that, but right here, just outside your home, there will be samples of the most dreaded Caste System in India. Probe them on that and you will know.

By mentioning things like above I absolutely do not think that Watching American serials on Star World means you belong to them or listening to heavy metal means you belong to this breed. Anyone is absolutely free to exercise her/his choice - whether it is Star World shows or VH1 music, South Park series or anything. But to be rooted and to be aware about your surroundings is equally important. No one is telling you to take up issues and start fighting for it.

But there's no point in trying to prove that "i'm cool" because i follow US-led things. And Indian system is fucked-up so who cares. If "fucked-up" was the case. Then there is no country as "fucked-up" as America.

As Roy, would put it so beautifully. "they cant imagine their world without Coca Cola". Here at least along with Coca cola, we have ten other options - from hand cart cold drinks to the dreaded Red Can.

Think about it. or argue...

Thursday, May 14, 2009

virtual re-union

"when u get a really understanding person to share ur life with u will know that u don’t have to bully the other, it is a thought- the feeling the other person catches up and tries to make that feeling pass through..." - Karishma Shah.

This is one of my friends responding to other, when the other allegedly said that you bully your husband. a simple but profound line she wrote to him. I was touched. Am sure now, marriages change people for good. One starts learning so many things. patience, sharing, tolerance and creative excuses. :) hmm...

Today morning as i opened my mail box, Bhargav had mailed to all of us who were friends since class 6 in Baroda. As a kid i was not much into friends i guess. like one of my friends started crying when our taxi left the Mumbai apartment - At that point of time - it struck me - man i will never come back here again, hardik!! does that strike you anything? yet I never cried. Nothing affected me

Although i remember each and every incident and each and every person of that phase in Mumbai, yet am emotionally disconnected to them. But somehow I was always emotionally connected to the city of Bombay (then).

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Still in Motion

one of those nights or rather early mornings in delhi spent creating something. The image was born from the idea that if Zhang Yimou's characters can break all the arrows while they are in motion then how would one frame if captured look like. The one frame which will be still, yet it should tell what would it have been if it was to show what happened during motion in that one frame. complex? maybe coz my inexpressive writing. But the thought is still crystal clear. Thus the caption:

"Still in motion".

i was posing the way the characters are standing in the frame at 5 am in the morning and Akanksha kept sketching. maybe i didnt have to explain her so much, the way i had to for this post.

Cheers, dear mate...!!!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Hats off to Bachi Karkaria

people out there. one clear instruction. not many read my blog, but those unlucky, who do. here's a message.

please read Bachi Karkaria's essay: "Like that only and proud, no?"
The essay is a part of the book called Mumbai Attacked 26/11 by Ashish Khetan and others.

the book costs 295/-. if you are desperate to read and lack funds. please pass your Bank account number. i will deposit the money in your account for this book. esp. this Essay.

Salaam Bachi Karkaria!

u made me cry in the middle of the night. full stop.
The last person who was able to do this to me was Emir Kusturica. somewhere in March 09

Sunday, May 10, 2009

A year after post graduation.

12 months, 13 destinations. 3 films and unlimited journeys.

Sounds like a movie title. Yes of course, last year has been like a roller coaster ride. From running errands, walking incessantly, clicking the camera, writing and learning on the screenwriter to managing 3 films – one student, one commercial and one independent.
If that journey is not enough than the physical journeys have made up for them.

May - Sometime around last May, it started with picking up my bags and going to the ISBT bus depot in Delhi. Got a bus for Haridwar and reached at the ghats at around 1 am.

Ek baat sach bolte hain, Ganga maiyya ki kasam - Agar Ganga maiyya ke darshan karne ho – toh sabse best time hai raat 2 se subah 4 ke beech. It’s amazing to sit on the steps of those ghats with your feet immersed in the cold rushing water at midnight. There is hardly a soul around. Maybe one of those junky babas who is one of the “Raat ka Musafirs”. The lights, the water, the flow, and the night – it all adds up to the charm. You feel blessed for that moment. Exchange this scene with day time and am sure half of us would want to run away seeing the public urinal that the river gets converted into.

June – I have never had a wonderful friend who also happens to be the faculty of Jamia. From staying over at his place at weekends, to watching cricket matches with him and now in june – he asked me to join for a trip to Allahbad. In the heat of June, he got behind the Santro steering and I besides him. Some journey it is to get through the heartland of UP to reach to Allahbad. Again happened to meet the river, although she was in a different state of mind here, as compared to what she was in Haridwar. Yamuna meets Ganga here. Went to the Kumbh Mela grounds. The worst part - the whole trip to and fro from Allahbaad was without my wallet. I forgot it at his place on the morning we started.

July – Mumbai-Delhi-Mumbai: Shuffled between editing, vivas and meeting the new film crew.

August – September – Jaisalmer. Couldn’t believe seeing what a movie shoot looks like. On the first day of shoot, 18th Aug – I saw some 25 to 30 vehicles, around 120 people – all of it breaking the morning silence of a sleepy Rajasthan barren land called Khaba. Entering the tent, I made a remark to one of my colleagues – “Socha na tha”. And out came Abhay from his vanity. One of my remarks caught me off guard in front of director Dev Benegal and bas phir toh kheench-taani ka silsila shuru ho gaya…” September end also saw the shoot of Road, Movie going to Jodhpur.

October – ICU of a Hospital. Criti Care. Andheri West. All 2 years of Delhi’s bahar ka khana showed its true colors. Add to it the heat of Rajasthan for 2 months. It had to be hospital.

November – Baroda-Mumbai: took some “forcible” rest at home and joined back on the film on post-production.

December – Kutch, Gujarat. The most amazing landscape that I have seen after the Srinagar-Leh route. Road, Movie continues.

January-Feb-March – Mumbai, Mumbai, Mumbai. The Edit starts and so does my running around. The post-production is where you get the maximum time with the director. Never miss that.

April – Pune, Kolkata, Gangtok, Nathu-la (almost). Was just 10kms away, when the landslide happened and the weather got worse from bad. But alas, the journey was satisfying. China kisi aur din jaake aayenge. Unko jaake kahenge, boss yeh Arunachal toh chhodo. Tibet ki toh tum vaat lagaa chukke ho…

The last year – well, its been a Road, Movie for sure

“chal toh tu pada hai, faasla bada hai…!”
Dekh andhere ke sar pe khoon chadda hai…” Rahul Ram – you are too good in this song

copyrights for the photo: hardik mehta

Ramblings on a friday evening - Afzal Case, Javed Akhtar and Phir bhi dil hai hindustani

As I was going through my old collection of music, I came across this gem of a number: “aao na, aao na” from a film called “Phir bhi Dil Hai Hindustani”. Surely one of the films that was a little ahead of its time. Look at what media have become these days. Ajay Bakshi with the Bomb Disposal Squad telling the nation what coloured wire will have to be detached. And the nation waiting with a bated breath on their television sets. Amazing, isn’t it? It rings in so true. Anyways back to “aao na” – the song or should I say a rough sketchy track of a minute duration, sung by one of the music directors himself is so melodious. As in, the song has got a heart and words that are as simple as “tum jaisa koi nahi hain, tum nahin jaanti…! But hear them and you will know the impact of the music. Sometimes I think there are amazing similarities in the way Paresh Rawal’s character in the film is declared as a terrorist and is forced towards capital punishment and the Mohammed Afzal situation. Look what Islamophobia, nationwide hysteria and half-baked journalism has led Afzal’s case to. Its amazing how someone who was not even completely associated with the attack has been declared as the main conspirator. Courtesy: the fanatics. There has to be another post for Afzal’s case, but as of now I think he should have been free – given the time since he has been in jail – he has almost completed the term that could have been given to him, according to the offence he had committed. For people who disagree I recommend the book “13 December: The Strange Case of the Attack on Indian Parliament”.

These days I have got into journalistic writings. Past few months, my list says:

1. S. Hussain Zaidi’s Black Friday (an amazing insight into the 1993 Bomb blasts and later on the operation to nab the criminals. Rakesh Maria, Mumbai Police – you are my hero!!)

2. 13 December (read for the 3rd time) and now the new book

3. 26/11 Mumbai (Ashish Khetan and others, not the other book that has more celebrities writing on the attack: like Barkha Dutt on 26/11 – aargh!! Someone please save us!!

As Raja Sen would say that you love movies about great journalistic attitudes is because you don’t often see great journalism these days on Television or in newspapers. Similarly, I guess am reading hard-core journalism cases on these books is because I don’t find any great journalism on any kinds of media these days. But, I guess there are a few websites doing some great job.

Coming back to Phir bhi dil hai… the title song and its line:

“Dil Dukha hai lekin, toota toh nahin,
Umeed ka daman chuta toh nahin… “

Waah Javed Saab waah. From the most clichéd words, Javed saab can weave the most intrinsic meanings. That’s his power, on the other hand Gulzar saab would have made us go back to dictionaries and have made us learn a whole new set of words. And then we would join the dots to take out a meaning.

Weekend is near, will listen both of them again and will come up with an analysis on them.

Stranger than other Directors

Caught Jim Jaramusch's Stranger than Paradise - on a sunday morning and what a wonderful sweet morning it proved to be. now from what i know he is certainly one of the biggest names in the world of independent cinema. Anyways, Jaramusch has an amazing way of showing what happens outside the limits of the screen. Almost all of his main events happen outside the realm of the screen. amazing learning. what hits you during the film is the nonchalant behavior of the characters. they are so laid back and so not what we see around on television.

Stranger than Paradise is a must watch to learn how a simple thought can be translated on screen even simply along with telling us the complexities of relationships, characters and how they live. I have not seen many directors who can make their actors act like the way they did in Stranger than Paradise. I almost fell in love with Eva, but i realized it was the way Eva was shown that made me fall in love with her. Jaramusch certainly is much much stranger than other directors. up next is his "Permanent Vacation" and "Broken Flowers"

Friday, May 1, 2009

The power of Close Up

Frost Nixon is an amazing piece of cinema. Imagine making a whole film based on a set of interviews. How difficult it can be? The character of David Frost itself is so beautifully sketched. A talk-show host taking on a former President, but that’s not it - watch how Nixon butchers Frost in the interviews almost contrary to what audience is actually waiting to see.

Ron Howard is in amazing command in the final lap. The use of close ups and silences. Richard Nixon, the president on television, his face swollen indicating self-loathe. How many such great interviews have taken place on television? The other day I was watching that “over enthu” journalist called Arnab Goswami and how he was interviewing Narendra Modi. Arnab was obviously like a student who was told to shut up and listen, whereas normally he is charging like a bull on some small-time MPs and spokespersons of any party. But look how easily he gave up against whom he should actually have been charging or performing his gimmicks.

The power of Close up reminds me of this year’s best film “Luck By Chance”. Observe how every sequence in the film ends with a close up and a silence. The silence speaks so much when it comes during a Close Up and add to it that Close Up actually ends the conversation or the scene for you - thus leaving so much for you to grope/guess/imagine. Amazing are the elements of cinema. Isn’t it? And for more on Close Up, please watch one of my favourite director’s best films “Close Up”

on Frost/Nixon

the first and greatest sin of the deception of television is that it simplifies; it diminishes great, complex ideas, trenches of time; whole careers become reduced to a single snapshot......."that reductive power of the close-up" - Frost Nixon - What a movie!

The primary reason, I believe, we cherish cinema about great journalism is because we don't see enough of it around in the inept, tabloid-worshipping media all around us. - Raja Sen, Rediff