Saturday, 26 October 2013

Visual Essay

5th October 2013

The Documentary module was rather hectic. Our Pooja break starts tomorrow but its hardly a break because we are expected to work during this time too. Like I once said, all of us in Direction (the Dept. of Direction and Screenplay Writing) are branded as lazy, jobless, depressed, aimless etc. Most of us as a fact are also penniless. So we consider it a great achievement that at least some of us did two interviews and a visual essay in this module.
The interview was an assignment in which we had to engage in a conversation with any person of our choice and extract the maximum information from them. Our interviews covered a wide variety of people. It was an amazing experience meeting people and listening to their stories.

Deb Banerjee's interview was with a typical North Calcutta intellectual who loved his city and romanticized Orhan Pamuk. It was very well shot, at Baghbazaar Ghat, and was a pleasure to watch.

S did two interviews. The first one was with a security guard here who is an ex army person. We got to know that he believed that Irom Sharmila was a liar and that he wanted India to come under military governance.
His second interview was with Ag Chakraburtty, our batchmate from Sound (the Dept. of Audiography). In it he confessed he was addicted to weed and that he believed that it helped him create art.

S Kar's interview was with a friend of his who had interesting takes on cinema. We got to know that he had a teacher in Engineering who had inspired him a lot but at the moment he believed that he had failed to suggest him the right books.

Sh Ghosh interviewed a senior from Editing. He had permanently deactivated his facebook account and was describing the experience.

V. God's was with Tapas (Bapi) Das member of Kolkata's first rock band called Moheener Ghoraguli. I loved listening to him. We also got to hear him sing some of the very famous songs of the band. This is the band whose song Prithibi ta naki later became 'bheegi bheegi' in the bollywood movie Gangster. He is not well now and the whole conversation happened with him sitting on his bed.

Vi's first interview was with A. Leo Pou, our batchmate from Producing. Because all of us know Pou and we all love him, it was fun to watch. But it wasn't all fun either. Pou is from Nagaland and in the interview he talked about some very important things, about the notion of 'India'. He talked about how much he missed his wife and child. His son's name is Adodo which means freedom. Pou's grandfather was the last member of their tribe who wasn't converted to Christianity. There was an interesting episode in the interview in which Vi said some random words and Pou replied with words which came first to his mind when told that. When V said 'money' what Pou said was 'paper'. I found that rather interesting. It also had Pou attempting to sing a hindi song and playing dumb charades with his room mates. It was interesting to note that the movie Pou had in mind was Chennai Express. I found Vi's interview rather political because it had a man from North East talk about his culture and later showed us the reality of him learning Hindi and adapting himself to this rather Hindu campus.
Vi's second interview was with a very famous instrument maker, Mangala Prasad Sharma He famously made instruments for Mani Kaul and Pandit Ravi Sankar and the Dagar family. What I expected was someone talking passionately about music and instruments. But the man was something else altogether. He had a lot of anger in him. He was indignant about the way their community was being treated. That the instrument player was always appreciated and that nobody ever remembered them. He also showered praises on Mani Kaul and said that when he was alive he was never short of money. He also said that music could be taught, but there was nobody to carry on this craft that he knew.

S. Moitra's interview was with her own brother. The intriguing fact about it was that it was hard to tell that they were siblings. He was talking about how difficult it was for him to go to Kolkata from his hometown Durgapur for higher studies. Later he also said that going to Kolkata gave him freedom. That he had made new friends and that they had had their own adventures here.

Nav's was with VK. I didn't like it because we all knew what VK was like and it didn't give us any new insight about the person. VK talked as usual about all things he was asked about and more.

RK's interview was with two transgenders he met at Ruby. They were talking about how they were cheated by their boyfriends. It is very common among the community that they make boyfriends who use them for their money. One of them said that she had even bought a house where they were going to live with all furniture and in the end he ditched her and took the house. All of us felt that the interview was very short.

I interviewed the main chef at a mess run by a group of malayalees nearby. He talked about how he had gone to Dubai and was there for ten years, then was in Mumbai and how he learnt cooking. He lives with his family here.
My second interview was with Kishore, a recovering drug addict from Park Street. That was a different experience altogether. Kishore and I became friends over the conversations we had. Actually Kishore is the first friend I made from the city. When I was editing it, I felt I shouldn't do it as an exercise, I was too attached to him. So I stashed it mid way. Kishore was going to come to the institute to meet me. But the very next day I lost my phone. I don't know how to contact him again. I have a slight hope that I could pass a message via our meeting place which was a tea stall at Park Circus. I hope that happens after I go back.

After the interview, the next exercise was Visual Essay. We were briefed about what to do in the exercise, but none of us quite understood what was meant by it. I didn't understand anything of what was told. I understood that we could use sound and supporting visuals, but that could be anything, I could make anything under that criteria. So I went on being confused about what to shoot. Meanwhile S finished his Visual Essay. I loved what I saw whether or not that was what was meant by the exercise.
Drawing inspiration from what I saw in S's visual essay, I shot mine. Vi did a lot of the shooting for me. I did most of the acting because no one else was available. Here actors never have dates. When I shot it, I was totally broke. So I had to forget all the props I had in mind. There was one shot of a half eaten apple which was supposed to allude to Adam and Eve and the first sin and other such shit. I didn't have money to buy an apple and instead I shot the icon of Apple computers. An apple is an apple, I consoled myself. My visual essay was shit.
But my classmates when they were making suggestions asked me to remove the shot of Apple and use a real apple. S suggested that I draw it. So I did. This is what I drew. It has the apple which is not yet eaten and not the colour of apple either. I didn't get that colour. It has a serpent and it has a woman, supposedly Eve. Thanks to S for making me draw. 

I hated my visual essay so much that I stopped editing a day before I left for home. I got so tired of seeing my own visuals which made no sense. I had laid my hands upon something which was not like me at all, was trying to attempt the unfamiliar which resulted in a disaster. So I am going to do some shoot at home for my new visual essay. I am just going to shoot school and college going people and just use the original sounds. Thats more like me be it visual or essay.




Wednesday, 2 October 2013

VK's Birthday

29th September 2013

Even though it was a Sunday we had class by P. Its our documentary module that's going on now and this class was going to be on proposal writing. We would also watch Deb Banerjee's 'interview' and later a Buena Vista Social Club, a documentary by  Wim Wenders. 'Interview' was an exercise in which we had to extract the most information by talking, from any person of our choice. I had done two, one with the main chef at a Malayalee restaurant nearby and another with Kishore, a recovering drug addict I met in Sudder street. 

I have not been staying in G 202, my room in the second floor for some time now. A senior and friend, DH, also a Malayalee was going on a long trip and his room was going to be vacant. I had been dying for a single room and a space of my own so I jumped upon this opportunity and asked him to let me use his room during this time. He agreed and ever since that I have been using his room which is in the ground floor. So VK became my temporary neighbour. Thats how I asked him for a camera to click the sketches for the blog posts etc. 
VK is a student of Editing, but had been attending most of our documentary classes because he intends to be a documentary film maker. He talks a lot. Yesterday I was up till 4 a.m and wasn't sure if I'd be able to get up to be in class on time, especially with my phone gone and no customary call from my mother to wake me up. So before going off to sleep I had asked him to knock on my door in the morning if I wasn't up. It was a wise move. For the class at 11, I got up hearing his knock at 10. 30. 

When I reached the department five minutes past 11, VK was the only one there. So we decided to have tea. Vimal da was not open because it was a Sunday and we decided to go to the hardworking's. [Hardworking's are a couple who run a tea shop nearby and are called that by me and NN because they open early in the morning and shut late at night. In Kolkata, 10 p.m is pretty late for a shop to shut]. Just beside the hardworking's is a poori shop which is open just for a couple of hours in the morning and sells poori sabji. VK had breakfast there. He also gave me money for my tea because I was broke with my wallet being lost.  
On the way to the tea shop VK told me that it was his birthday the next day. Somehow I felt like giving him a birthday gift. After coming here I had not given anyone except NN a gift on their birthday. I rarely do that with friends anyway. To NN six months after her birthday I had given an old and pirated copy of 'The Little Prince' by Antoine de Saint- Exupery. I love that book. My own copy was a gift from my sister. In it, she had written, 'To my little princess'. In the one I gave NN I wrote 'Don't burn this when we fight'. Gifts are good, I feel. 
Anyway I couldn't buy VK anything even if I wanted to because I was broke, and so I decided to make him a birthday card. 

There are a few turning points that happened as far as my take on movies and film making are concerned after coming here. Some classes by some professors, a book I read [Notes on the Cinematographer by Robert Bresson] and a few movies I watched. Some of them are 'Elippathaayam [The Rat Trap] by Adoor Gopalakrishnan, The Piano Teacher by Michael Haneke and The Passenger by Michelangelo Antonioni. The Passenger was the most recent one. I was so moved and influenced by that movie that for this assignment called 'study of a director' that we have to do this semester I picked Antonioni as my director. The penultimate shot in that movie is very famous for a lot of reasons. You'll know some of them when you watch it. I am told that with the technological advancement in cinematography, today its a cakewalk to do that shot. But he did it at a time when all that was not possible and made an extremely long crane and everything just for this. Yes, you can do such things if you have a benevolent producer like Carlo Ponti.


To prepare for the 'study of a director' assignment I had lent a book called 'Antonioni or The Surface of the World' by Seymour Chatman from the institute library. Its pretty good. In it was a photo from the shoot of the movie which showed the enormous crane and the set they had built. I made a card with a sketch of this as the cover. It looked like this.

VK's girlfriend B Roy was there when I went to give the card. She was going to take him out for dinner at a surprise place. She also surreptitiously gesticulated to me that there was going to be a surprise birthday party for him at midnight. Its good to watch people in love. I hope I'll get some cake at night. VK seemed happy with the card. So did B Roy. I wrote in it to VK, 'Go through the bars and beyond the window'. Watch the shot and you'll know.