Saturday, August 22, 2009

Two conversations, One ride and the journey of cinema

I would rather struggle with film than struggling with other things.... - Woody Allen to Jean-Luc Godard in their conversation. (Meeting WA)

I couldnt have imagined a better way to start the weekend. Now before i start saying, writing or quoting things, I know that there are a lot of my friends working in television and on reading this they would love to kick my ass and label me a psuedo-moral preacher.

But hell, I am sorry but i will write or speak. Woody Allen says and i quote "TV in a certain way is changing the viewing habits of the audience, the audience are now so used to Television and the kind of images it is bringing that thats how they expect from the cinema when they are sitting and watching a film on a large screen".

Apropos to Kaminey. I was traveling from Bandra to Andheri in BEST bus and two ladies sitting behind me were going all guns fired on Kaminey. "What kind of stupid film it is?, how sad Priyanka Chopra looks?" and let me tell you they left the film from between - needless to say i intervened - Not for the sake of Kaminey but for the sake of gauging the reaction of a particular audience segment. Why were they pissed off so badly?

One of the ladies replied "how can anyone like this film? 4 stars my Foot!!! "

I couldn't help but had to laugh, she continued her rant "have the media gone mad in saying this the best film of this year?". Well i agree the media is biased towards "Kaminey". But i think its ok to be biased for a film that is trying to do something different. Anyways, What makes me think why those women reacted so badly to the film is because the answer lied somewhere in the conversation - in what one was speaking to other. Lady A said to B "I couldnt see anything properly on the screen and Priaynka Chopra was so bad without "make-up" ?? Aaaah - there I caught you ma'am.

The images that you were expecting and the images that you couldn't see or were not shown. A Priyanka Chopra has to be there on the screen with "make-up" and is expected to look like a Barbie doll. Well - I am not against "make-up", i am against the idea of "make-up" that makes the actor look great and doesn't do anything to the character. Ok, point made, continuing ahead - its probably a high dose of television images that are responsible for those ladies to react like this. A friend said "Indians are not trained to watch Kmainey-like lighting." hmmm...our job is not to train them, so they watch and are able to appreciate or criticize us, maybe our job lies in providing them more kamineys and make them think that "Oh-ya even this is possible and this too is great". Or maybe I am just expecting too much.

In the conversation between Woody Allen and Jean Luc Godard, Woody also tells an interesting aspect bout cinema. I quote "the idea is so pure in its pristine stage that you would never love your film after it is made. Once the idea has come, afterwards its all a downfall - writing, casting, making, editing, mixing - all of it takes it down" ...Amazing thought.

I have always felt this, but didnt know how to express. Although there are these highs in between you get when a few visuals do come together in the form of how the original idea was. But nothing like the original idea. I worked on a film for one whole year, from pre-production to post-production. From organizing meetings between Producer, DoP, Director on Skype and taking notes till handing over the hard disks and DVDs for dialogue clean-ups and watching over the ADR - and i realized how that statement of Mr. Allen is so true. When you close your eyes and the images that run through your head are the most beautiful ones and as and when the film gets made, you know - "Oh well, was it imagined like this?". But anyways what i would love to add to Mr. Allen (or if i am allowed) is that "The Editing sometimes does bring in all the wonderful images together to give you a feel of how wonderful the original idea was. I term it as the "magical fleeting moment" . On shoot, with the kind of haphazard schedules you would have never ever thought of all this to happen. Yet in 90 mins, even if that magic of coming together happens for 15 odd mins. your audience will be moved, that is beyond doubt.

Well, for cinema fans, i recommend this wonderful conversation between these two greats taped in 1986. The one Cut that i saw was of 30 mins only and it was badly badly edited with completely unnecessary title cards and hammy background score, it would be wonderful if even the text form is available - like Truffaut interviews Hitchcock. Here's hoping that I can get the whole conversation from some source.

© Copyrights 2009 All Rights Reserved. Hardik Mehta

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Anand - a Tryst with Destiny

In the summer of 2004, two friends were about to graduate from their “one hell of a course”. But at the back of the mind, they always knew that whatever hell the course made them go through, it was an experience they will never ever forget.

They thought the course never taught them anything useful for four whole years. But ironically all the elements that surrounded the course taught them much more about life than any course could. The tea stall, the hostel, the cricket ground, the hostel mess, the stage, the auditorium, the cinema hall, the sleepy town, the friends, the senior students, the people, the conversations, all of them contributed in their growing up. Well they graduated in life through these elements.

Thus, when they were about to graduate from the course, they thought it would be a fitting tribute to capture some memories, nuances, people and places through their amateur lens. Neither of them had done any photography before this and nor they had any special equipment for it. All they had was one Kodak KB10 camera, borrowed from their parents. One of the friends came up with an idea to click Black and White images using of course a Black and White film roll. The idea behind Black and White was of course the flashback, nostalgia kind of feel. After all once they were done with their graduation, they were suppose to set out to conquer the world, at least thats what every passionate young blood thinks of.

In 2004’s Anand, digital photography was an alien term and neither had any of the two had seen a digital SLR camera. Hell ,they didn't even knew what is SLR? So, after buying a black and white film, they went around the town in search of a studio that developed Black and White prints. To their surprise, there were hardly any takers. They went from pillar to post, but no one had an answer to “who could develop black and white prints for us?” After some two whole days of grueling research in the month of May, they met a person outside the now defunct “Gopi talkies”. The man was seated on a wooden stool, after some initial questions, he gave them an address of an old man who still had equipment, chemicals etc to process Black and White images.

There! They both rushed to the old man and pleaded for help. The old man smelled business opportunity, he thought them to be some Fine Arts students who could shell out good money for such photographs, and after all he was the only man in the town who could develop B/W prints. The 2 friends were already out of cash; nevertheless they passed him the film and went about borrowing some money from classmates. One can only imagine the desperation to see the images.

The following album is the result of that effort made in 2004. A few of the images got completely washed out due to that old man’s “god-knows-what” chemical, but then the important ones were saved. Here they are.

Anand – a Tryst with Destiny

© Copyrights 2009 All Rights Reserved. Hardik Mehta

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Television finally makes some sense amidst nonsense

One of the startling facts that I got to know was that a very very hyped show on Sony's flagship channel couldnt manage a sponsor for one whole week of its running time. And now the best part, if you are unlucky enough to watch that show, you yourself will conclude that its the most bizarre, stupid and ridiculous reality show on television right now with the choicest of dumb people on it. Half of them dont happen to be celebrity also. No wonder they dint get sponsorship, after all corporates have better brains than some people in television think.

But since a few days I have been observing that amidst this tunnel of dumbness, the other associate channel of Sony - SAB has slowly but surely come up with some good 'light' humor-based serials. They have unleashed an array of shows that are both harmless and entertaining.

Take for example the show Tedhi Baat hosted by two great funny men of television - the amazingly straight-faced sardar and the legendary Shekhar Suman. They both of course along with the script writers of the show, keep the fun going, and the kind of humor sprinkled with satire is really great. Shekhar suman in his different avatars is still so good, he brings people from everyday life and adds the masala of exaggeration and voila i was rolling on a few one-liners. And like every good writer the show itself has so much self reflexive humor. For eg when Suman comes as a babu of Meteorological department, he replies back irritatingly to the question posed by Gurpal
"You have been wasting your whole show on a section that is given only a minute's importance in news bulletin, and there too beautiful girls have to keep that one minute going, so why is your whole show dedicated to weather? Are you nuts?

The another interesting fact of these new shows are that a few of them are bringing back the good old comic actors who have occupied a certain space in our television corners of our minds. Yeh Chanda Kanon hai has Tiku Talsania playing the high court judge with his trademark comic timing. The show always has a fresh episode every time it airs and the same two judges fight for it. Its a good concept.

"Thank you Jijaji" is another serial that has the great Jaspal Bhatti with his always wonderful creative title cards like Misdirection, Production Out of Control, Background Noise, Script Piracy, Sets and Upsets etc. The first episode started with a rocking Bhatti couple discussing the doorbell jisse current lagta hai.

There are some more shows on the line up on SAB but these three are the ones that I am going to follow. But then how can my write up be without some complains, there are a few downsides of these shows. Some of the limitations include poor production design, bad jerky editing and at times terrible background music effects coming from an amateur Casio keyboard. But all of this is something that you can overlook, if you have quality content being served. and as i said earlier Quality content that is harmless and entertaining. SAB surely has started some sort of trends on it.

I m hooked.

© Copyrights 2009 All Rights Reserved. Hardik Mehta

Monday, August 10, 2009

Phatta Poster nikla hero....

I am a huge fan of bollywood posters, from childhood they have been an important part of my imagination. So much so that a poster as you all know can make or break a film.

So i thought it would be best if i reveal myself as a bollywood hero in one of my own posters. Now the challenge was that i and my friend akanksha were the only ones around when we suddenly landed on this idea of making fictitious posters. Thats when our dear macbook came to help. We framed and clicked through its internal webcam and then did some simple photoshop techniques to get this result. Thus, no copyrights issue, no title problems. We will make and star in our own films.

Click on the poster to read the tagline, which will give you an idea what the movie is about.

© Copyrights 2009 All Rights Reserved. Hardik Mehta

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Mumbai, as seen from the High Seas - Eastern Coast

I love untouched photographs. Thats the idea behind good photography. But sometimes its best if you try going the other side. Yazad and I have had umpteen discussions on it, but Yazad here I come.

© Copyrights 2009 All Rights Reserved. Hardik Mehta

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Music Within and my attempt to write a proposal for Documentary filmmaking

The Music Within is a proposal for a documentary film that i had planned two years ago. Right now, the proposal has been sent to the concerned authorities, if it clicks - well then its going to open a world of opportunities for me in a completely different sector. Actually too much bollywood is harmful for health. The proof is 2 hospital visits in one year. thats just 2 much i guess.

Back to the documentary - The attached photo is of an individual called Atul Mehta, who happens to be my uncle. Between 1978 to 1989, Atul suffered from a mysterious genetic disorder called Retinosis Pigmentoza, which lead to complete blindness in his case. Imagine a normal person is told that within next ten years slowly your eyesight is gonna go and who is to blame for this - your genes. Given this kind of situation, it is extremely hard for an individual to come to terms with one's destiny. Well, its a long story, but what happened after the blindness is what the documentary is about - and that i will describe if the proposal gets a green signal.

By the way what happened in next few years is one of the biggest miracles of god that i have seen. Its a film about human endurance, hard work and an extraordinary life

In the photo besides Atul Mehta is his then 11 year old daughter, Shruti, my cousin sister.

© Copyrights 2009 All Rights Reserved. Hardik Mehta

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Fictitious Director and how we made posters during Road, Movie

Since "Road, Movie" the film happens to be about movies, we were required to make posters for fictitious films and this title was one of my favourites ever since i had coined it. Finally got to put this title and named myself as the director of this film. Well its a kind of a small ode to the stupid films I watched in 80s. The films weren't stupid then though, i really enjoyed them.

The Legend of Uncle Nemesis and when Gabbar Singh came in Lungi....

When he shouts, his voice soars like a hungry hawk, making echos in his area

When he raises his hand, the chaos would suddenly organize itself.

When he dons those black glasses, mankind will get justice.

And when he lifts his Lungi, the Earth under it is going to shake the world apart.

Enter Uncle Nemesis.

The protector of a hapless film crew.

The self-appointed guardian of public morality on how to behave when a Star actor is around

The defender of the 'outsiders' in a city like Mumbai

The Man who could easily give Quick Gun Murugan and Bappi Lahiri a complex with his combination of style, substance and sophistication.

I hereby take an opportunity to introduce him.

Shooting at real locations is always tough, especially in a crowded city like Mumbai. So, when the locales came to know that a film shooting with a Big bollywood superstar is going to happen at their Port area, they as usual went berserk. As the military conquest by the Vanity Vans started in the area, people started pouring out in huge numbers. The Film shoot security staff found themselves helpless in front of such a huge number, unable to take control over the situation they were threatened by such an outpour. The Mass was literally out on roads, a few were hanging from their roofs, some were perched on trees and some taking the best available positions for viewing, whatever the corners or support available. Nobody in the film production unit had the clue about how will they pull the shoot off. The Mumbai police constables had conveniently parked their vehicle in a corner and were waiting for the superstar to come. They had no particular interest in controlling the people or the crowd there. They were literally as they are shown in the movies - lethargic and waiting for some free lunches.

Suddenly the Production Manager spotted an avuncular figure amongst the crowd who was making way for himself in the frontline, so that he can be the first to see the Bollywood star, when he comes.

The figure was an Uncle who was dressed in a white shirt, Blue checkered lungi and was wearing dark glasses. His teeth were ultra-stained, his dark fingers were covered with long gold rings and he was armed with a black Umbrella, which he considered his style statement. He shouted something in Tamil and the roaring crowd came to a silence. When he raised his Umbrella, the kids started running helter-skelter, the unemployed & loitering youth checked their catcalls & whistles, the women grouped themselves together, the men made way for him and the chaos came to an abrupt end. The Uncle shouted again and everyone froze. His voice created an echo in that area and came back three to four times. Like the mazda of an army, like the seasoned warrior of the Mughal Empire and like the batsmen who scored a century at Lords - he raised his Umbrella - waves of hush-hush followed.

The Production manager was quick to spot his ability. Without wasting a second, he offered the Uncle some money and food, the Uncle assured him the rest will be taken care of, like in the Movies.

The Shoot was about to begin now. People were as quiet as the school children who have just noticed a long cane in the hands of their teacher. As soon as the Star walked out of his Vanity Van, suddenly the Avatar of Uncle Nemesis changed, he himslef became a kid -

"Won Photto...pleaz...Won Photto....with Sarr.."

The Production Manager allowed and the shoot went on smoothly. Impressed with his abilities even I asked him if he could oblige me for a photo with him. He smiled and posed.

Uncle, you were the real superstar for me that day. The star could be there coz you were around.

Thank You Uncle Nemesis.

You saved our day.

© Copyrights 2009 All Rights Reserved. Hardik Mehta