Clips of the Same Chain

September 18, 2017 at 9:15 AMSep (Activism, Cinema, Friends, Media, Musings, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

The board outside the Main Theater (MT) at my Alma mater Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) serves the purpose of announcing the daily screening at MT and National Film Archives of India, which is associated to the Institute. On happy occasions like some alumni winning a prestigious award or on sad occasion of some alumni’s demise the board speaks of it.

Few days ago the board carried the name of Gauri Lankesh. The announcement said a condolence meeting was being held at the Wisdom Tree that evening.

Under that very tree around 4 years ago we had gathered to pay tribute to Narendra Dabholkar, who was murdered just a couple of kilometers away from the campus.

A day after Dabholkar’s murder when some members of the Akhila Bharateeya Vidyarthi Parishad attacked Kabir Kala Manch members and students of FTII, I had got a call from Gauri, who I fondly called Captain, asking for details. She had expressed her solidarity with all her heart.

Later when FTII went on strike against the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan by the new Government at the center, Captain had spoken to me a couple of times regarding the same with great concern.

It was during the same time that M.M. Kalburgi was murdered in Dharwad and Captain was one of the leading voices to protest against this and demand justice. She drew connection between all these incidents.

Now I see in photographs  Captain’s name in that very campus and on that board.

I recollect all these because all these incidents scattered over time and spaces are all, as I see, clips of the same chain.

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Dil Sau-Sau Ka Chutta Hai…

July 27, 2017 at 9:15 AMJul (Cinema, Friends, Music, Musings, Poetry, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy, Uncategorized)

After watching Jagga Jasoos I kept humming the song Dil Ullu Ka Patta Hai, probably the only thing I carried back from the hall. I couldnt help but keep admiring the brilliance of Amitabh Bhatttacharya. I was particularly stuck with the line, “dil sau-sau ka chuTTa hai.” I messaged some friends about this line in particular and also how much I admire Amitabh Bhattacharya for his lines like this and how I feel deeply that he understands the characters and their emotions better than the director themselves.

Later when I fell asleep I had a special guest in my dream. No it wasnt Amitabh Bhattacharya. It was Gulzar.

I woke up wondering how Gulzar had come into my dream when I had gone to sleep thinking about and admiring Amitabh Bhattacharya!

Probably my love for Gulzar started feeling insecure after witnessing my high appreciation and admiration for Amitabh Bhattacharya, especially because this time the heart was declaring that it comes and goes like a change of hundred rupees!

Love is independent with its own desires and insecurities, beyond us, though a part of us. Isnt it?

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Personal Success Amidst Collective Failure

May 26, 2017 at 9:15 PMMay (Cinema, Media, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

Adding nothing more to what we already know about Sachin, relying only on moments of thrills, from archival footage, with its straight-forward narrative of a life, James Erskine’s film Sachin: A Billion Dreams, in wanting to celebrate the legend makes us realize that Sachin, though a man who gave us many thrills, is just not worthy a story to be told, though certainly a series of statistics worth being documented.

During the interval of the film, I called a friend, unable to resist telling him that the film is like any 80s-90s decent Mumbai cinema focusing on an individual who respects elders, values family, finds his love, has a dream (World Cup here) which is personal and wants to achieve it for the country and works hard for the same day in and day out, with the support of a loving teacher (who says “if you save the kit the kit will save you” in the lines of ‘dharmo rakshati rakshitaha’), a sacrificing wife, a loving family and an unquestioning blind mass support, where every other person is just an ornament to highlight the magnitude of the individual in focus. Knowing the trajectory of the life, and hence the film, I knew in the second half of the film, like in any decent Mumbai cinema, the dream will be achieved with some minor struggles.

Video footage from family archives of Sachin Tendulkar spending time with his parents, siblings and his wife and children are few moments where we get to see what we haven’t earlier. Of course there is a moment when speaking of the match-fixing Sachin says, “I was asked why I am not speaking. How could I speak of something which I did not know of completely?” which answers his silence from those days but fails to satisfy. Other than these all we get to see and hear is what has already been spoken and seen of the man who became God to many in this country.

The days around the match-fixing controversy, Sachin says in the film, was the darkest phase of Indian cricket and the people had to be won back again. Immediately the film cuts to the India-Australia test series where A Sourav Ganguly lead Indian team with a historic Laxman-Dravid partnership made the impossible possible. This, Sachin says, made the country finally put behind all the bitterness of the past few years.

A similar “dark phase” reoccurs when India has to return to India from the World Cup very early because of the poor performance. “I contemplated retirement then,” says Sachin and adds, after recollecting Viv Richards calling him and asking him to stick on, that his brother reminding him of the next World Cup being played in India with final to happen in Mumbai made him look forward to 2011 World Cup.

What is to be noticed is that what brought Indian cricket team out of the “dark phase” was, in the first instance, a team led by Ganguly, and in the second instance, a team led by Dhoni, of which Sachin was a part. Even in the film which is designed to celebrate the legend, there are no hints of Sachin Tendulkar, the highest run scoring cricketer, having saved the Indian team’s face or dignity.

Even when speaking of his long career there are no references made to how Sachin Tendulkar made the Indian team succeed though it rightly says that for innumerable Indians hope sank when Sachin got out.

So, what makes Sachin Tendulkar a legend who, in the words of Virat Kohli, “carried the Indian team for 22 years” and for whom team India pledged to win the Word Cup in 2011?

The film gives no hints, no insights.

When Sachin claims to be “playing for country” and when the country declares that winning the world cup was for Sachin, how is one to understand the phenomenon called Sachin Tendulkar and make sense of the seemingly opposing views?

The film gives no hints, no insights.

The film hints at the poor performance of the team while Sachin was the only hope. The film hints at how the nation was starving for some good and banked its hope on cricket ad Sachin. Is Sachin Tendulkar a story of a personal success amidst collective failure? The film leaves us with this question, without intending to.

Similarly in the film Sachin: A Billion Dreams the cricketer Sachin manages to win even when the film fails.

While watching the film Sachin: A Billion Dreams I was constantly reminded of two documentaries Steven Riley’s Fire in Babylon (for cricket) and Nasreen Munni Kabir’s two part documentary on Shahrukh Khan (for humble background to legend story with similar family touch).

Fire in Babylon tells the story of West Indies cricket team observing the phenomenon not just as a triumph of the underdogs but also as a story of a team making their game an anti-colonial statement. The humiliation faced by the West Indies team and their grit to beat the master in the masters’ game is no less of a thriller. But the story of Sachin is not a story of neither an underdog nor a battle against a force which is larger than human, though, I stress again, its a series of statistics worth documenting.

Nasreen Munni Kabir’s documentaries The Inner World of Shahrukh Khan and The Outer World of Shahrukh Khan explores the human side of Shahrukh Khan who, like Sachin is attached to family, focuses on work etc. But what makes the two part documentary beautiful is that it makes Shahrukh come across as a human with all his vulnerabilities, his anxieties, his playfulness etc. Though the film on Sachin speaks of the playfulness of Sachin during his childhood, speaks of his health issues, fails to make the same impact as Nasreen Munni Kabir’s film does precisely because while Kabir’s attempt is to understand and explore the phenomenon called Shahrukh Khan, the film by James Erskine’s purpose is only to put Sachin on a pedestal and sing glory of the man, which makes the film a flat two dimensional narrative, giving no fresh insight to Sachin the man or Sachin the cricketer.

Why are India-Pakistan matches given an extra emphasis in the film? Why does the tension between Azhar and Sachin get underlined with a negative sounding BGM? why does Bora Majumdar makes reference to the insurgency in Kashmir saying “it was brave of a 16 year old boy to go to Pakistan then” while he was going to play cricket to face Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and not to the border to serve the army? They might be coincidental if we are to ignore the long portions of Sachin performing pooja, comparing cricket to temple going, embodying the values of an ideal son, husband and a citizen. All put together we see, let me say though I will be accused of stretching this argument too far, a portrayal of an aadarsh baalak which India fancies, for what it values are and what it doesn’t value. Also given the unquestioned acceptance of commercialization and justification of it saying, “Yes, money is important,” after saying “What mattered the most was country,” the film Sachin: A Billion Dreams is like a Sooraj Barjatya, JP Dutta, Karan Johar and Yash Raj films from the 90s, the era in which Sachin emerged.

The film has nothing to offer to cinema lovers or cricket lovers or even Sachin lovers, except for some nostalgia and moments of reliving thrills, which Sachin, we need to acknowledge, gave this country in abundance.

Impressive statistics doesn’t necessarily make an impressive story and inspiring statistics doesn’t necessarily make an inspiring story.

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RIP Om Puri Saheb

January 6, 2017 at 9:15 AMJan (Cinema, Friends, Media, Musings, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

In his autobiography, Girish Karnad recollects an incident from the initial days of his term as the Director of the Film and Television Institute of India.

Interviews for the fresh batches were being conducted and among the faculties a discussion was taking place regarding one particular student who was good with his performances but wasn’t good looking. “His looks doesn’t make him a hero material for films,” argued almost everyone. Girish Karnad, as he recollects in his autobiography ‘aaDaaDtaa aayushya’, as the Director of the Institute said, “If there is an eligible candidate and does well in the entrance exam it is our duty to select and train such a student. Whether he fits the roles of a hero or not is not our concern and we are not a hero producing factory for the Bombay industry.”

The boy was finally selected for the acting course at the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune.

That candidate was Om Puri.

My heart ached to hear this morning about the demise of Om Puri. In some time a friend (Ritwik) from the Institute shared a photo of the board outside the Main Theater where details of the daily screening is made known everyday. The board is also a space where the list of National Award winners is announced and congratulated every year and also the space on which the demise of an alumni is made known.

Today the board read, “6 /01/2017. RIP Om Puri Saheb.”

om-puri

The Institute, which I hold in great affection and am grateful to as an alumnus, which once was reconsidering the admission of the same person has respectfully referred to him as “Om Puri Saheb” and that shows what an artist and an artist of what caliber Om Puri Saheb has been; an artist who could make an institute revise its thought!

During my days at the Film Institute, I remember, being numb after watching the speechless performance of Om Puri in Aakrosh, which to me till date is his best performance. That day in the mess I had told my roommate Lohit that no filmmaker no screenwriter seem to have sculpted a character which would challenge Om Puri and Naseer. I still stand by my word.

Aakrosh, a film where Om Puri Saheb is wrongly accused of murder and the lawyer in his defense begins his conversation asking, “Why did you kill?” A judgement was already made in the mind of the lawyer who was supposed to defend the case of Om Puri Saheb. The film is about the lawyer, played by Naseer, revising his opinion about Om Puri Saheb and the entire case. As we watch we too, who initially believed Om Puri to be wrong, slowly discover the truth and feel ashamed of our initial judgement and revise our opinion.

Years later while watching the cunningly scripted interrogation of Om Puri Saheb on a national tv by a man who is disgrace to journalism, I was secretly wishing Om Puri Sahebwould sit silently like he did in Aakrosh. But sadly, Om Puri Saheb fell into the trap of self proclaimed nationalists and was disrespectfully and mercilessly attacked by them, first for not any valid reason and also after he apologized for a crime he never committed. Watching the show was painful, to say the least.

Now in this hour of mourning, I sincerely hope that a day will soon arrive when all the nauseating jingoists will revise their thought about Om Puri Saheb after having harassed him unnecessarily during his last days!

Though not a believer of time and history being just, today I would like to believe it to be true. Because Om Puri Saheb deserves it and he has proved it right once earlier.

Accept my salutations Om Puri Saheb. Rest in power.

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Is Only Khaap Patriarchal and Problematic? Not Baap?

December 23, 2016 at 9:15 AMDec (Cinema, Musings, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

dangalHere is a father who imposes his dreams on his daughters, who doesn’t even once bother to ask, ‘What are your dreams like?’, a father who snatches the childhood from his daughters and more importantly refuses to cut the umbilical chord from his daughters once they grow up and continues to control them and impose his own methods refusing them any agency and refusing to even give their will a chance to breathe; all to boost his own ego, in the name of ‘Nation’. Please tell me why should my heart go out for such a man/ character or even sympathize with him?

There are fathers whose imagination doesn’t see their daughters beyond ‘choolha‘ ‘roti‘ ‘shaadi‘ and ‘bachchey‘, as shown in the film. But if that is to justify the militarized upbringing and to give a clean chit to the force used on children, validate and justify a control freak father, then it must be told in loud voice that a force is force whether into marriage or into a profession,sport etc.

We need to celebrate free spirit and will of the individuals, dreams of the hearts. Constant parenting beyond need and a certain age, uninterrupted monitoring is, to say the least, claustrophobic and denial of the right to be a free spirit, a violation of human rights.

There is one scene where Geeta wrestles with her father and wins. That moment was one of the most brilliant moments to witness. But how sad and frustrating that Geeta, in no time, is made to feel guilty of battling and opposing her father and his ways.

The way in which the training of young girls is shown in a comical, light hearted ways is disturbing because it doesnt want to take the trauma of it seriously nor does it want to show it seriously. It is made acceptable, palatable with the touch of humor to it. But deep within the training the cry of the girls is, “baapu sehat ke liye tu toh haanikaarak hai,” which the filmmaker, the film nobody seems to be listening to. Because you know, winning a gold medal for a hyper masculine idea of nation and to fulfill the dream of a father is more important.

No, I cant celebrate this film knowing that it will do well at the box-office, will be applauded by a large section of the society, will be given good reviews. The film, as I see, is not just regressive but also dangerous.

Baap is more dangerous than Khaap because it has the capacity and strength to play with emotions, manipulate minds and thus make individuals conform, at their own will, after silently and in imperceptible ways snubbing the free will of individuals. To be honest, “tum sey behatar toh apni Hindi filmon kay khalnaayak hai.”

And it is beyond me as to why to Bollywood strong woman means someone who can beat up boys or display strength the manly way.

Amir Khan suffers from the same Messiah complex which was shadowing him in Lagaan, Taarey Zameen Per and 3 Idiots. His dialogue, in the end, telling Geeta that her father will not always be around to help her, seems like him departing from this self-imposed Messiah role but then again, it is just to feel good about yourself, through words, as someone who raised up an independent girl. But if you actually respected her independence and her strength you wouldn’t have molded her into what you want her to be. It ends up being a story of your dream being fulfilled by your daughters and not about them and their dreams; or their dreams which could never flower.

Sorry Baapu, there is blood on the gold medal. If a ‘bachpan‘ went ‘tel leney‘ then no gold’s shine can hide or compensate for that blood. And eclipsed by the gold medal, your glory, the tri-colour flag fluttering high in the air and the national anthem is the corpse of a ruined childhood which was cut short early and never given a chance to live and explore the basic right; the right to dream and which could never be what it was born as; a free spirit.

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Rainbow, Music and Tears

December 14, 2016 at 9:15 AMDec (Cinema, Music, Musings, Poetry, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

Sir and me after the talk.

Sir and me after the talk.

“Once as a small boy,” started recollecting K.P. Rao, “I saw a rainbow on the hill near our village and walked towards it. As I went closer and then under it, all the seven colors vanished and turned into mere droplets. I could only feel the moist, nothing else. It got me wet and I could hear a strange sound in my ears.” Remembering this childhood incident he asked, “How can I speak of this experience of mine?” Pausing for a brief moment he continued. “It is the same with music. It is colorful from distance but when you go under/ within it the colors vanish and it absorbs you and you get drenched in that state of being possessed by the rainbow.”

K.P. Rao, my mentor, was speaking at SaRiGaMa Bharathi, Parkala last evening (13 Dec 2016) on music and musicians in his life.

Taking us through his journey of life, closely associated with, violinist Sridhar Parsekar who taught him that music means to see through ears, Salil Chaudhary who composed music in ‘vaadi-samvaadi’ manner, Vilayat Khan, Amir Hussain Khan, narrating stories of his initial refusal to meet or listen to Ravishankar and he becoming the disciple of Annapurna Devi, Sir not just made us listen to some music clips saying, “See this music,” but also provided us with insights on their music and their personalities.

“Nikhil Banerjee was once critiqued heavily by Annapuruna Devi for one of his performance. When we stepped out of her house Nikhil was heartbroken and was almost in tears. He was considering quitting music. We drove sense into him saying Annapurna Devi had only asked him to do more rehearsals to better himself and had not suggested him to stop.” That night, recollected Sir, Nikhil Banerjee sang, in pain and out of will to better himself, from around 10:00 pm till 4:00 in the morning next day.

“I have never heard him perform so well,” said Sir. As Sir said that his lump in this throat and and his eyes became misty, becoming one with the tears of Nikhil Banerjee, of decades ago.

“How do I speak of all these experiences? How can I share what I felt and have carried within me always?” asked Sir.

Hearing of Nikhil Banerjee’s tears for failing in music and pushing him to music, seeing tears in the eyes of my mentor recollecting music and the tapasya for music, my eyes became wet. In that moment I felt/ realized that the language of tears is the closest to the language of music.

You get drenched by both, in an explicable manner, like by the rainbow, when absorbed by it, possessed by it.

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Library of Experience

December 9, 2016 at 9:15 AMDec (Cinema, Friends, Literature, Media, Music, Musings, Poetry, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

Photo: Hiren Patel

Photo: Hiren Patel

Last night I had a strange dream.

In my dream all of Amrit Gangar sir’s experience- reading, viewing, listening etc- was turned into a library where he would visit every now and then to access the huge archive of experience and knowledge. It was a huge huge huge library.

In that library of experience, I was the librarian. Of course I was feeling extremely happy that I have access, though second hand, to all that Sir has read, heard, viewed, experienced and understood.

On waking up I realized the trigger for this dream was my envy for all the experiences in reading, listening and viewing Sir has had and my deep felt desire to be able to access all of them through him.

This was one of the two most beautiful dreams I have ever had, the other being one where I was a line of poetry in the heart of Gulzar.

Thanks for everything Amrit Sir.

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New Antagonist of Bombay Cinema

July 8, 2016 at 9:15 AMJul (Cinema, Musings, Soliloquy)

Javed Akhtar had once pointed out the changing antagonists in Bombay cinema.

While in the 1940s, Javed Akhtar, observed, the antagonist used to be a zamindaar, a thakur, in the 1950s the antagonist was a capitalist, an industrialist. The 1960s saw urban gangster as the antagonist, who as Javed sahab pointed out, became the protagonist in the 1970s. In the 1980s people’s disillusionment in law and order made the politicians and police the antagonist and in the 1990’s mostly it was Pakistan who was the antagonist in Bombay cinema, Javed sahab notes.

Following this there was no antagonist as such in Bombay cinema for which the reason as Javed sahab saw is, “because the villain had become the ideal.”

I happened to remember this because after watching Sultan and some recent films like Tamaasha, Fan, Udta Punjab etc. I am wondering if the new antagonist, now in Bombay cinema, is oneself! We see people battling against/ with themselves.

Just wondering.

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Lost Self and Search for Meaning

June 11, 2016 at 9:15 PMJun (Cinema, Music, Musings, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

Hemanth Rao has made a promising debut with Godhi Banna Saadhaarana Maikattu as a director and a screenplay writer driving the point to the Kannada movie going audience that it is the writer-director who basically makes a cinema work.

GBSM

Venkoba Rao (Ananth Nag) aged 66, goes missing after his son Shiva (Rakshit Shetty) takes him from the old-age home for shopping. The interaction between the two and the fact that Venkoba is in an old-age house reveals the troubled relationship between father and son. Shiva with the help of Venkoba’s doctor Dr. Sahana, sets out to search for the missing Venkoba.

The missing Venkoba accidentally lands up in the vehicle driven by Ranga (Vasishta Simha) and his assistant Manja (Ravikiran Rajendran) who are carrying the dead-body of a murdered official. The vehicle meets with an accident and accidentally Kumaar (Achyuth) ends up with the three of them.

While Shiva and Dr. Sahana are searching for Venkoba, the politician who has masterminded the murder is looking for Ranga and Manja who have failed to do their job of burying the dead-body without it becoming known to the outside world.

All the three who are sought; Venkoba, Ranga and Manja, end up in the house of Kumaar where his wife and son also reside.

As the search of Shiva continues and escape of Ranga continues the audience realize that Venkoba going missing is just a pretext for the writer-director to explore the personal journeys of these two characters that are lost in life and have lost the memory of what their actual potentials are.

Shiva in his aspiration driven life has forgotten his art and has been dissatisfied with the middle-class family and father. Ranga being an abandoned child has not been able to touch and awaken the humane side of his. Being pushed to a harmful life Ranga and diving into a market-oriented life Shiva both have lost touch with their inner core and realizing this existential level of getting lost becomes the journey of the film, at a deeper level.

While Shiva has to reconcile with the lost self, Ranga is forced to accept defeat and the inability to walk into a future since the shadow of past is inescapable. But the only way he can make his life achieve meaning is by saving lives and the only way Shiva can bring meaning to his life is by enabling himself to love, his father and also achieve romantic love. Thus both have to find themselves to find meaning for their lives.

GBSM..

Dr. Sahana who was once lost and found herself with Venkoba’s support is capable of loving someone unconditionally.

While Venkoba is missing in his own city, Shiva and Ranga are lost within their own lives and the search for self and meaning should take place within oneself. And these are journeys by themselves. And nothing lost is the same when you find them again. Things have transformed. Quite a lot.

What looks like a story of a lost father with a lost memory grows to be a film about lost childhood, lost innocence, lost future and a lost ability to love and live! It is in creating such layers that Hemanth Rao turns an explored arena of old age and Alzheimer disease into a fresh work of art and story-telling.

Neat cinematography by Nanda Kishore helps the film and music by debudant Charan Raj strengthens the mood. One should mention, without fail, that the music and visuals, at places, are not in harmonious synchronization. Editing, quite evidently, could have been more tight and crisp.

But the centre forward who finally kicks the ball to the opposite post is his actors, especially Ananth Nag and Vasishta Simha, though not to forget Achyuth, Shruthi Hariharan and Ravikiran Rajendran.

What is commendable about the writer-director is his ability to avoid a moralistic position about the actions of any of its characters, especially that of Shiva for neglecting his father and Ranga who has turned violent being abandoned in life. Hemanth, the writer-director, has a sympathetic gaze towards all characters caught in the whirlpool of life, which makes him a promising director, who has a fair command over the medium.

[Originally written fors the newsportal News Karnataka, where an edited version of the same has been published]

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An Inadvertent Q&A with David Bond

June 9, 2016 at 9:15 PMJun (Cinema, Friends, Musings, Slice Of Life)

[A friend- Kiran- had put up a status on Facebook regarding film reviewing in the context of some Facebook discussions taking place around reviews of some recent Kannada films. Commenting on the post by Kiran, I raised some questions which were in my mind regarding reviewing of films.

Saying those questions were similar to the questions he has had in mind for some time now, Kiran sent the questions to film historian David Bond seeking answers. David Bond answered those questions or rather responded to those questions. Kiran later shared the answers with all of us. Thus happened an inadvertent Q&A with David Bond.

I wish I knew this was to happen so that I could have framed my questions in a better way and more structured manner than this, which are more casual due to the space of Facebook. But, it is okay…]

Samvartha ‘Sahil’: How to view/ read/ review/ critique/ analyze cinema in a country where film is not just art but also entertainment, recreation, a sociological text, a catharsis?

David Bond: Film is recreation as much as it is art at all times and in all countries. There is absolutely no difference in this respect between any of the major traditions (US, Japanese, European, Indian – to which probably we should now add Chinese). It is in the nature of film to serve both functions (and others also) and cinema would be the poorer if either function were disregarded. Catharsis is a significant element in all performance drama. In fact the cinema tradition which is most determinedly geared to “recreation” is without doubt that of the United States where the notion of cinema as “art” hardly exists at all (and is usually taken to apply only to foreign films, especially European, Japanese and more generally “world cinema”). The only difference one might point to, is the very unfortunate tendency in India to divide films of recreation and so-called “art” films into two different camps as though there were two entirely different types of films with two entirely different audiences. This has been particularly noticeable in Karnataka; it is far less true of Tamil and Malayalam film and seems to have no meaning in Telugan cinema any more than it does in the USA. Such an artificial division always has the result of weakening films of both kinds by cutting the natural and important process of cross-fertilisation that should take place between them. The good critic will always judge a film for what it is not for what it is not. It is, for instance, absurd to blame a superbly entertaining film for not having profound significance and it is equally absurd to blame an intellectually difficult film for not being a bundle of laughs. To create first-rate entertainment is not at all an easy thing; so-called “commercial” films are far more inclined to fail than so-called “art films” which play to a niche audience, usually very faithful and not in practice very critical. A critic should not therefore ask spurious questions of a film. I have known a critic here criticize the film Mughal-e-Azam (a wonderful film in my opinion) because it was not sufficiently political radical (for the critic in question) and then attempt to compare it with an experimental Iranian film with a strong political subtext (a rather irritating, pretentious film in my opinion). This is completely to misunderstand the heterogeneous nature of cinema by attempting to reduce it to one set of rules applicable to all films. One cannot I think stress too strongly that there is not one “film language”; there are many films languages. There is not one way to make a good film; there are many ways of making good films. Cinema has the duty and the great privilege of serving many functions in people’s lives. This is its great strength as a medium and no director nor any critic should ever forget it.

SS: How do we differentiate between film analysis, film criticism, film appreciation, film review, film studies? What should be the approach to be taken by a film reviewer writing for general public as opposed to academic writings?

DB: The object of good academic writing – and there is plenty of bad academic writing – is to add to knowledge and increase understanding. The journalistic reviewer has clearly a great deal more freedom. It is entirely legitimate for such a critic to write a commentary that is in itself intended to be entertaining and witty and such a piece, even if is abusive, can have a value of its own. I grew up on the drama-criticism of the very iconoclastic British critic Kenneth Tynan whose reviews were extremely amusing and a little unjust on the plays and the players he reviewed. Nevertheless Tynan proved very important at that period in moving attention away from the old-fashioned “well made play” which he detested toward more interesting and innovative forms of drama. Not everyone is a Kenneth Tynan and we must all attempt to play to our own strengths and develop our own styles of criticism. My own personal approach is different because I also have a strong academic interest in cinema and in cinema history. My attempt (and only the readers can decide whether I succeed or not) is always therefore to try and combine two things – a relevant and pithy commentary (which will aid the reader to know whether a film is likely to be worthwhile) with a contextual approach that varies from review to review, depending on what aspect of cinema or of cinema history the film in question appears to me to highlight or relate to.

SS: How important is it to take into consideration the atmosphere in which the film is made? Not just the atmosphere within the film but the atmosphere within which the film is made which is inclusive also of the social, political, economical conditions.

DB: These are all areas in which readers are in general very poorly informed. It is, in my view, vital for the critic to be as well-versed as possible in all these aspects. The English novelist and essayist, E. M. Forster, once summed up the object of all intellectual exercise in a very simple phrase – “only connect”. The task of discussing any film in isolation is inevitably rather superficial (the reader will in any case make up their own mind about the film when they see it). The entire value of a critique lies in its ability to make connections, to show how films relate to each other, to the tradition of cinema to which they belong and to the history of cinema as a whole. It is also the critic’s role to explain as much as he or she can of the background to the film, a knowledge of which invariably enriches the viewers’ experience. There is always the film and a story of some kind to be told about the film; to know the latter is to better understand and be able to appreciate the former.

SS: Can a film be viewed, in our context, without taking into consideration the cinematic literacy or the culture of cinema, not as we expect it to be but as it is in our time and space?

DB: We are in the twenty-first century. India, just like the US and Europe, has a culture of cinema that extends back to the 1890s. Along with the traditions of the US, of Europe and of Japan it is one of the four major cinema-traditions to have existed continuously over the whole of that period. The inferiority that some Indians continue to harbor with respect to their “cinematic literacy” or the supposed inadequacies of their “cinema culture” is perfectly ridiculous. I am never especially surprised by Indians’ lack of knowledge of other cinematic traditions (the Indian tradition has had a rather isolated development in many respects) but I am often shocked by their lack of knowledge of the Indian cinema tradition itself. Know your cinema and you will find plenty to be proud of.

SS: Should a film be, to borrow metaphors from MH Abrahms, a ‘mirror’ or a ‘lamp’? Should there be different frameworks to view/ review/ analyse/ critique art that is a ‘mirror’ and art that is a ‘lamp’?

DB: The metaphor is, I think, colourful but little else. If we take the “mirror” to be the reflection of life and the “lamp” to be that which shines light, it seems to me fairly evident that the one is in fact the corollary of the other and that the two are simply different ends of one single process. What needs to be examined in a film is the degree to which it is a true mirror and, therefore, the degree to which the light shone by the lamp is helpful. A falsely sentimental film, for instance, is a kind of distorting mirror and the lamp will therefore project a similarly distorted light.

SS: Should a film be compared just to those films which are of similar theme, across the globe, and films by masters or should it be seen with the films made in the same time and same culture, to see how different/ meritorious the film is?

DB: All comparisons are valid but all films should be seen to some extent within the context in which they are made. European films, for instance, are quite different from US films and belong to a tradition that has often seen itself as seeking entirely different ends (very broadly speaking a difference between the pursuit of drama/sensation and the pursuit, in intention at least, of “truth”). Film-makers are always wise, in my view, to respect the cinematic traditions within which their films are made. The “unrooted” film will always tend to be a rather bland product of only ephemeral interest.

SS: What is the role of a reviewer/ critic in a society where the cinema culture is not a trained one? How should the review/ criticism be in a society where culture of cinema viewing is not trained one?

DB: What on earth is an ”untrained cinema culture”? This is a completely meaningless notion. It can in any case hardly apply to a country which has been producing and watching films since 1898. Where is this “untrained cinema culture”? Outer Mongolia?

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