Swabhaav

July 29, 2013 at 9:15 PMJul (Cinema, Friends, Media, Music, Musings, Slice Of Life)

Uncloven-SpaceIn the book Abhed Aakaash, now translated into English as Uncloven Space, Udayan Vajpeyi asks Mani Kaul if there is a fundamental difference between his film Nazar and Robert Bresson’s film A Gentle Woman as both are based on the same short story by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Mani Kaul gives an interesting answer in two sentences. He says, “The raaga is the same. Two different people are singing.”

Obviously the raaga is the same as Mani Kaul was majorly inspired by the kind of film-making which Bresson had actualized. But when Mani Kaul sings it there is something of Mani Kaul which seeps into the raaga making the rendition of it a Mani Kaul experience. That is the signature of Mani Kaul which comes from something unique to Mani Kaul.

Mani Kaul while a student at the Film Institute was extremely close to master filmmaker Ritwik Ghatak who then used to teach at FTII. Mani Kaul was one of his closest disciples. This can be hardly made out while watching the films of Mani Kaul for Mani Kaul went on to learn all that is possible from Ghatak and find his own kind his own style his own method his own flavor.

Gurvinder Singh, who has translated Abhed Aakaash to English as Uncloven Space, in an article for DNA after Mani Kaul’s death said, “Mani never wanted anyone to get inspired by him or to be like him. His word of advice was simple- discover your own swabhaav (personality). That way, you will be unique and your work will always be original.”

If I am not wrong it was Heiner Muller was said that the actual way of being loyal to Bertolt Brecht is by being critical of him and by abandoning him. What, I think, Heiner Muller said by abandoning Brecht is to find your own voice, find your own swabhaav, find your own uniqueness and find your own originality.

Few months ago Piyush Mishra was on campus for a workshop with the acting students. The last night of his stay on campus was marked by a workshop party and it was being well planned that he would be made to sing. The initial requests were brushed aside but slowly the party started becoming colorful. Resh Lamba, an acting student, who has a voice texture like that of Piyush Mishra, started singing the songs of Piyush Mishra and after a few lines Piyush Mishra would pick it up and then continue. When he would pick Resh would leave the thread letting Piyush Mishra alone to sing. That is how most of the songs began, while every song was to be the “final one” according to Piyush Mishra. Resh would begin, after each of the “final one” and then the river would continue to flow. We were thankful to Resh who The next morning all the acting students were to assemble at the Rebel Bench for one last meeting with Piyush Mishra. When Resh arrived at the rebel bench he saw only Piyush Mishra. His other classmates were on their way. Very hesitantly, out of respect, Resh sat on the rebel bench wishing Piyush Mishra. Looking straight into the eyes of Resh he said, “Bahut achcha gaatey ho” (You sing well) and then taking a pause continued to say, “Bilkul meri tarha” (Just like me.) Saying so he looked aside for a while and before Resh could feel the joy in its flesh and blood Piyush Mishra continued. He said, “Apna tareekha doondo” (Find your own way.)

Coming back to Abhed Aakaash/ Uncloven Space, Mani Kaul and swabhaav there is an interesting part in the book that Mani Kaul says after discussing his dislike for Ritwik Ghatak’s style of dramatic stylization. He says, “What the discipline of cinema is, we don’t know. What is cinema? We don’t know this, but we do know it is dramatic. We know it is painterly, it is musical, it is literary. Therefore keep these things out. Perhaps what remains is cinema. In this at least there is a beginning to understanding what cinema is. It is not much but one could begin here.”

Mani Kaul was not just searching for his own swabhaav, it appears, but also for the swabhaav of the medium of cinema!

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1 Comment

  1. Prajna Shastry said,

    I don’t have much knowledge about Mani Kaul and his works. But, I liked the way you interpreted him. This write up has motivated me to know more about Mani Kaul. 🙂

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