Monday, August 30, 2010

The Making of Raavan & rambling about film academicians!

I am sure everyone loved hating Raavan. I am not going to defend here, coz I myself fall somewhere in that category. But wait, am I sure? One look at the visuals on the big screen and you are left open-mouthed. For starters, buy a DVD of Raavan and check out its 'The Making' or 'Behind the scenes' as they say. I saw it yesterday and was entertained thoroughly! The movie might not be as entertaining as 'The Making' is. Leaving the actors aside, you have the biggest technicians/artists of the industry coming together. And now see what possible visuals they all can come up with.

In a way I was lucky to know almost everything that went behind the megalomaniac sets and locations of Raavan. courtesy: for 2 months in Scotland, the guy with whom I was sharing my room was sir Samir Chanda's Assistant Art Director on Raavan for almost all of the 2 years. The story behind the gigantic Vishnu statue, the story behind that wooden bridge and how they shot it, the story behind the action sequences in midst of waterfalls & rivers and and and...the biggest story of how to make a bilingual film: with one shot of the Hindi film being taken and then right after that going for shooting the Tamil version and not just dialogues or actors that go into change, its the whole locations and the cultural references that go with it. All of this within 30 mins, so that your shoot time doesn't get prolonged.

Now I know the reader must be thinking: 'arey itana sab kuch kiya aur baad mei flop ho gayi film, kya faayda?' (what's the use now, the film failed at box office, no one watched it!)
But hey hey, Colours or some such channels will be showing it on weekends and make sure you try and catch some visuals, if not the whole movie. And then try watching 'The Making' - I am sure you will be blown away by the efforts. Sample this: Samir Chanda (for people who don't know him. He is the production designer for some of the most amazing hindi movies. Omkara, Rang de Basanti, Guru, Kaminey, Netaji Bose, Dil se, Iruvar, Delhi-6, Zubeida, Aks and many more) builds the hanging bridge between two huge cliffs. And after the bridge is done, there is an action scene with fire on it to be shot! Here's a short clip I thought I should upload and not put words for what he and his team did.

If someone tells me that you know these guys have so much money that they all can do this easily. No! after a point of time money becomes secondary, the whole idea of plunging into such a situation and to get the scene exactly as visualized: Thus as you saw in the clip, Samir-da ends up making 4 different bridges for the whole sequence. One miniature, Two for the close shots on green screen and the one on Location. Isn't that a huge effort for that thing called cinema? Now its ok if it didnt work, people didnt go and the film failed. All these efforts are so much better than the Anjanas and Anjanis and the Dharma movies that conveniently go abroad and shoot the whole film there and capture visuals that are already beautiful. Its like if one goes to Ladakh and takes a beautiful photo, its good but its not great - After all anywhere you put the camera and its going to be a picture post card frame.

So for readers I highly recommend to watch 'The Making' and more so for people who are associated with media, movies or television. What all it takes before the camera is placed on a tripod and switched ON.

Now the rambling part:

P.S: Had to write this somewhere: attended the FTII seminar on 'The uniqueness of Indian Script" and the problem with seminars and workshops is that due to the way bollywood movies are and their subsequent box office success over the years has resulted into more academics and 'researchers' than actual filmmakers who want to turn the popular bollywood around. Sample these terms from one such academician or researcher called Eeeeeeerrraa (to be spoken in Utpal Dutt style) Buskar!! (first put off: she comes with a bindi that is so reminiscent of the elite delhi leftist people who dont want to do anything but keep commenting on world affairs): The terms are as follows: 'Hyperbolic cinematic exteriorization', 'Desacrialized sacred space', 'Semi-operatic Indian melodramatic form with Idioms that subtended the content' - I mean what the f***' - what are you doing in life? I mean get a life - who is she trying to fool here by using such terms. And just by the way If she didnt look up while she was reading these pathetic terms: 'Ma'am half of the auditorium was snoring, not just sleeping and that includes the 'big' personalities that were sitting on the front row'! Ranjani Mazumdar with her paper on Urban Fringe with examples of Dombivali Fast, Being Cyrus and No Smoking was so much better. At least she was making sense.
Eeeeeeeeraaa (to be spoken in Utpal Dutt style) Buskarrrr!!!

Copyrights for Video belong to Madras Talkies and the picture is Google courtesy.
© Copyrights 2009 All Rights Reserved. Hardik Mehta

Saturday, August 21, 2010

'what is salvation'? asked 20 year old Johnny Boy

Now dont go by the title. I am not going to initiate the reader into a cult or a religious following. Neither am I trying to tell how my Babaji is greater than other existing Babajis or Gurujis of the world. Hell, I dont have any Babajis and I am the strongest opposer of this kind of mentality. But why this post then? Coz I was having this conversation with a 20 year old boy, who comes from a very rich family, living in the suburbs of Bombay but interestingly he chooses not to go to college but to start working. Why? coz ultimately he wants to be in the movie industry, what's education got to do with? yes, Johnny boy - education has got nothing to do with movies, no need wasting your time behind even graduation. School is enough. Oh dear Johnny Boy!

Welcome to the world of high-income earning, high life-living, supposedly modern 'liberal' and outgoing people who believe that to get salvation you have to understand what the Guruji or some Babji with a beard is telling you. And it is only then that you will understand the purpose of life. At 20, Johnny boy knows what his purpose in life is.

'Its all about your karma in previous birth. Today If someone is born rich, then it is because of the good karma that they did in previous birth. Look at the bollywood stars!'

Ok, Johnny Boy: 'what about the poor on the streets of Mumbai?'
Johnny Boy, almost as if that Babaji has come inside him: 'of course, they must not have performed their proper karmas in previous life'.

So Johnny Boy: 'Did people living in US did a lot of good karma?'
Johnny Boy (get ready for the shit now): 'yes of course!'

'And people in Iraq and Afghanistan did a lot of bad in their previous birth thats why they are being bombed'
Johnny Boy: 'Maybe!'

But he added more spice to the conversation:

Johnny Boy: 'If the US-wala are doing something wrong in this birth then in next birth they may take birth in some poor country of Africa!'

Oh All right! so the Zambia-wala who does good karma may get birth in US. Hmmm. Interesting!'

Take that crap coming from a 20 year old. Dude, get real. get yourself some education. You belong to such an affluent family, you have the world by your side - you can study, read, become whatever you want to - why get into this nonsense. Leave this 'truth-seeking shit' for your parents and grandparents. This aint your age to meddle with it. Let life be a good teacher. After that you can choose whatever you want to be - you can preach, teach, murder, become a hero, flex your muscles, go to rishikesh, become a rockstar - whatever.

And the way these cults have to present themselves outwardly - we all are good, we only do good, we dont smoke or drink, we all wear white, we all know what the ultimate truth is - 'You guys dont know, you need to come once to our 'gathering' to know yourself.: Thats exactly the kind of bull shit these cults, organizations will give you. The more they try to prove that they are pure, the more the criminals, murderers I see inside them.

I asked him: 'So does your cult leader accept poor people? Johnny Boy says: 'you should not comment on something you dont know and well about poor, you should just come there ONCE and you will know your answer.'

Well, next week I have it reserved for the FTII seminar, maybe the next to next week I need to try and seek the truth!

copyrights for the photo belong to
© Copyrights 2009 All Rights Reserved. Hardik Mehta

Monday, August 16, 2010

Once upon a time, Mumbai had a verbal diarrhea: The last to review

"Jo apni maa ki izzat nahi karte, unka baap banke mein aata hoon" -
Just when Sultan Mirza speaks these amazing pulp lines, on the screen the credit comes: written by rajat arora. Now, was it deliberate or was it just an accident? lets leave it to that. But having said that, Once upon a time in Mumbai has so many such pulp lines that you start wondering "dude, everyone's poet in the movie". Something that the phenomenal Kanti Shah and his writer Bashir-ji can do even in their sleep. Now coming back to the topic: Once upon a time in Mumbai isn't a Gunda, no it can never be - but it is a movie that I so loved watching it, mind you, i didnt like it esp the later half, but i enjoyed it.

In the world of multiplex movies, here is one movie that you would want to watch in a single screen with its amazing ambience, seeti-maaroing masses and something that the whole India loved to do before the dreaded multiplexes came. And when a dialogue like "har kitab ki kismat main library nahin hoti, kuch kabadi ki dukan main milti hain", comes, you know what you are in for -its like Ajay Devgan trying to get his 'Dilwale, Diljale', 'Jigar' fan-base back in his kitty. But leave those inhibitions because the movie "Once upon a time" is a super entertainer at least when Ajay Devgan is there on the screen.

The best part about the movie according to me is that it tries to be as politically clean as it can be. Take for example a ridiculous popular film like Wanted, it was shot so badly, it had all its politics wrong esp the way women characters were shot, as if the audience is dying to see how the character of mahesh manjrekar looks at a woman's bust. Outrageous Prabhudeva, I am so sorry, you are a loser! Here's hoping that Dabanng entertains and doesnt get into other territories. That brings me to the camera of "Once upon a time". The movie is very well-shot, watch the sea shots in opening sequence (of course they were digitally worked upon), but wow they do give an idea of how entertaining the half-biography of Sultan Mirza would be.

While sitting in the theatre and listening to lines like "Jinki manzil ek hai woh raaste par hi milte hai" - I simply loved it. Yess!! don't you know the other India always talks in idioms and phrases. The simple ones. Get into a railway compartment and strike a conversation with the uncle sitting opposite and in a while he will speak in idioms, "beta sab oogte sooraj ko salaam karte hain", and "beta aam tabhi girta hai, jab woh poori tarah se pakk jaaye". Now havent you heard that so many times, thus if these kinda lines come on screen and a star delivers it the way it is meant to, then you have a winner in your hands, undoubtedly!

And by the way, these are dialogues that very few, take my word: very few writers can write like this. Its an amazing flourish on the paper: take some more punchlines:
"bus, dua mei yaad rakhna"

- "Barf ki tarah thanda rehne ka bhi kya fayda sahab… Thodhi der akde, phir pighal gaye?"

- "Kya Khan, athaarah saal mein kabhi tune prasad nahin khaya, aur aaj bhagwan badal liya"?

- "Tasveer kheench ke apni dukaan mein laga le, Shoaib, Kabhi zaroorat padhe, to donon mein se ek bhagwan chun lena"

- "Vardhan main un cheezon ki smuggling karta hoon jiski ijaazat sarkar nahin deti…unki nahin jiski ijaazat mera zameer nahin deta".

(the last one had audience clapping on it! Someone shouted paisa vasool)

Rajat Arora is a genius. We knew it post-Bluffmaster:

Sample these lines that Nana Patekar speaks:

- "line achchi boli hai tunne, likh leta hoon, kaam aayegi kabhi"

- "2 crore rupiye chahiye, Kis Liye? Picture Bahot Acchi Chal Rahi Hai..Parade Pe Fekne Hai".

- "Goli sirf wahi chalate hai jo apna dimaag nai chalate"

Waah Rajat-ji, I am a fan for sure!

The point is that "Once upon a time" is an amazing popular movie that takes me back to my world of late 80s yes 80s and not 70s. The time when I used to hover around video cassette parlours and choose titles to watch - the pomp and galore of Tridev, the three-hero multi-star sagas, the dialogue baazi of Shaheshah (remember the famous line from Shahenshah. "Jab bhi mei kisi hassen ladki ko dekhta hun, toh mere andar ka kutta jaag jaata hai, aur tab mei Black Dog peeta hoon' courtesy: Kadar Khan)

But my only complain is that a little bit of restrain in the dialogue-baazi was required esp for actors/characters who cannot carry the dialogues with them. The police commissioner character was a serious case of verbal diarrhea. Like Ajay Devgan knows how to deliver the written lines but some actors cant pull it like him.

The music is pretty neat. esp the sufi-inspired stuff, but hello did they credit Guy Ritchie's Rock N Rolla or Black Storbe for lifting the "I'm a man" soundtrack. coz that sound goes good with Sultan Mirza too. By the way there was a random song called 'Baburao' - a perfect misfit. As in just when you were enjoying the soundtrack with some harmonium, some tabla and somethign melodious, out comes Mika with his 'Babaurao mast hai..' aaargh!! Its as if the Ekta Kapoor brigade pulled out an unused song from Shootout at Lokhandwala.

By the way what went wrong with the sound of the film. It was so bad. A movie that heavily depends on the dialogues and taali-maaro lines, has to at least have a clean sound, thats the least someone would expect, anyways those are complaints that a cinema fan like me will always have, if only they would care for sound as much as they spent on camera and creating digital images.

But if there are people like me who were brought up on regular 80s hindi movie masala, then this is the movie you should go for. By the way, my favourite dialogue in the movie and I was right there when Emran Hashmi speaks it:

"Supaari li hai, toh chuna nahi lagaunga...."

yeah boss!! style hai!!

On second thoughts how would someone enjoy these movies with subtitles? You dare not watch it! There is always a festival movie for you!

© Copyrights 2009 All Rights Reserved. Hardik Mehta

Monday, August 9, 2010

Connecting the World!

While browsing through some of the pictures in last 6 months, I came across these two very very similar pictures that I had taken unconsciously at two very very different locations. And guess what, they both were exactly 6 months away from each other.

The first is taken at midnight on 1st Jan 2010 at Katni Railway Station, Madhya Pradesh. Its like the melting pot of India, where every train that goes from west to east or vice-versa passes through this junction. You could find the best of the both worlds here. Tea available in glass and tea available in kulhads (earthen cups). Trains arriving and leaving, Announcements being made on screechy speakers but people, who were suppose to catch the trains in morning, still sleeping on platforms unperturbed. We also had an amazing adventure at the Katni station.

The second picture again was taken at midnight on 1st June 2010 at Dubai airport. And well, if someone has been to Dubai airport then its the ideal melting pot of the world. Almost every destination on planet earth could be reached through this one city. This airport, was my first visual outside India. And to my surprise in the middle of the night, I saw Africans, Japanese, Europeans, South Americans, Indians, South-East Asians - all sharing the Starbucks Coffee and almost everyone looking for a lounge-like chair for catching a quick nap before their flight announcements are made.

© Copyrights 2009 All Rights Reserved. Hardik Mehta

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Reactions to a Bhaand

First the definition: According to the Sarai website and the writer Mahmood Farooqui (not sure if he's the same: co-director of Peepli Live) "Bhaands were mimics, lampoonists, satirists, outspoken commentators on the affairs of the day, stand up comedians, masters of pun, sarcasm, double entendre and performance.

Now, from how I see it - Europe is the best place where Bhaands get their due respect. They are encouraged there unlike India where the 3 Idiots will take the mantle to explain Indian parents whats the value of 'kala' in a 'kalakar'. The streets in Europe are full of artists. After all "kyon na ho" the place, the buildings, the atmosphere, the joie-de-vivre of European cities will automatically turn even a dull morose boring engineer into a poet. Its not surprising that over the years Europe has produced so many artists, painters, poets and writers. How can Mumbai produce such artists with the kind of atmosphere one lives here in. "khair chhodo yeh sab!"

Coming back to the topic. A photographer friend generously gave her amazing Tele lens to me on the last day of my stay in edinburgh. Without losing a single second, I took to the streets and tried capturing the spirit of the city in its people. Now mostly people who you will find in Edinburgh city are the visitors, travelers types who might have come for a good spring break. And after being there for 2 months, i was tired of the same places, thus capturing the portraits came to my mind. As i took to the streets with that amazing lens, I saw a whole lot of crowd where a street artist was performing. Everyone was enchanted by that Bhaand's performance. The Bhaand was a Polish immigrant into the UK and was known for his amazing fire juggling, sword guzzling, weird balancing and god knows what all kinds of acts. While performing one of those dangerous acts from a certain height he said
"If i fall down and die dont worry ladies and gentlemen there is another immigrant ready to come into the UK and entertain you all"

"Kitni badi baat, haste haste bol diya"

The following are some of the reactions from people to that wonderful act of the Polish Bhaand. Click on the picture to view large!

Finally, the Bhaand

© Copyrights 2009 All Rights Reserved. Hardik Mehta