Sunday, 28 September 2014

Toddy Drinking in Manpur, Gaya.

We were on our way back from a temple in Manpur. We were wondering looking at the palm trees if they were tapping it. That's when we saw two villagers carrying a container full of toddy.  We asked if they could give us some. There was no container or mug to drink it in. So one of them kindly made us dishes out of palm leaves. The toddy tasted absolutely great. :) 

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Poached Egg in Bihar

In Gaya, Bihar I came across a common street food there called poached egg/egg poach. A quick googling and some social media discussion made me realize that it is a common english breakfast. The indian version or the Bihari one, rather, uses oil in place of water. The ladle used for this purpose is called 'dabbu'. The inside is often left undercooked and the raw egg oozes out when pierced.

In Kolkata fried eggs [also known as bullseye/ sunny side up] are often called poached eggs. 

Sunday, 14 September 2014

A 'Titli' Flying High

12.9.2014, Friday

For students in a film school especially for those in direction and cinematography, nothing provides more inspiration than pass outs who made it big. On friday the institute hosted a special screening of 'Titli' directed by Kanu Behl who is an alumnus. Titli had already made news by being the entrant in the Un Certain Regard section of Cannes film festival. Both Kanu Behl and his cinematographer Siddhardh Diwan were present during the screening and after it for a Q and A session.

Titli is about oppression in families. The story telling is so powerful, it hits you bang in the head from the screen. In most families oppression continues as a cycle. It passes from one generation to another till the cycle is broken by someone. Everyone in Tili's family is a ruffian, an abuser. They make a living out of stealing cars. Titli is trying to break out of this cycle by buying a parking lot but it seems like it is the hardest thing to do. The film apart from a brilliant script has extra ordinary acting, some of them by non actors.

Titli is also awe inspiring because of the way it was made. It gives young filmmakers hope. 'Titli' was produced under the banner of Yash Raj Films one of the biggest production houses in the country. Kanu Behl had assisted Dibaker Banerjee in two of his projects 'Love Sex aur Dhoka' and 'Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!' before starting work on Titli's script. When YRF approached DBP in their usual way of making a director sign a contract of three films one of it went to Kanu which became Titli. By the time the movie was in the last stages of post production it was already selected for Cannes which was a remarkable thing to have happened to a debutant director.
Kanu said that 'in a way which sounds emotionally charged' he made Titli like it was his final project. He explained in detail the trajectory of the script. During two of the three major drafts one of the characters appeared carboard like which he tried to rectify, he said. The seed of the story was obtained from a newspaper report on a hit and run case. The person arrested was from a family of three brothers. That was pretty much all that stayed out of the real incident, Kanu added.
The reahearsal workshops were intense and were intended to make the actors get the emotion behind the characters. He was trying to make them relate with the charecters with the actors' personal experiences.

Siddharth Diwan, the cinematographer when asked about the choice of shooting on 16mm explained how it was a joint decision. Kanu wanted everything to look as if it was from ten years ago and based on the tests that were done before the shoot they decided that 16mm was what was best suited for this. He also explained how he tried to achieve the filmmaker's concept that Titli's house was the only one in the area which was left like how it was, tiny among a lot of tall structures hovering high above it. He said he tried to make it look as if almost no direct sunlight entered the house and all that one saw was lit by light which was seeping in through a lot of structures which stood tall around the small house. All the locations were real, he said. Titli's house, however was modified a bit. Initially one could see the road outside from the rooms inside. This was changed into an L shape from which no view of the outside world was possible, thereby giving the feeling of being trapped.

Kanu said that the most of the discussion with Siddarth during the prep days was about shared interests in arts, literature, music etc. While talking about the edit, (the editor is again a pass out from the institute, Namrata Rao. Sound was done by another alumnus, Pritam Das) Kanu said that the basic idea was that of making people aware that they were watching someone being watched. That was the primary thought on which she worked and may be due to this reason you see a lot of dialogues happening when you are watching the person listening to it rather than the person saying those dialogues. Pritam, the sound designer has done a remarkable job in both the location recording and the design itself. Kanu strongly opposed the customary noise cleaning procedure all the tracks in the industry underwent to avoid the polished sound.

The cut we watched was one which is going to Cannes. When asked what was different in the cut for theatres Kanu quipped 'Pay for the ticket, go the theatres and watch'.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Short Film Trajectory #4

Publishing the script. This was the 12th draft. Minor changes were made in the final two weeks before shoot and even during it. The first draft had 33 scenes. This one has 20. It was P Mahmood, my professor who mentored the script mostly. She took me through at least 4 drafts. I spoke to two more professors about it. The lack of a story was a big problem for some. The dialogues in hindi were just for reference and were actually in bangla. The major problems which happened during shoot were that two of my actors let me down even after rigorous rehearsal sessions which were held before shoot and that i had to hurry up a couple of shots due to lack of footage and time. Currently indifferent about it all. Let's see what happens during edit.

What i liked best about writing the script was simply watching how a lot of experiences i had made a note of thinking it would be of use sometime actually form parts of it. I finally realized why it is important to keep a journal. For example, Anupama finding a photograph in the room was based on an experience i had when i moved in to my room here. I had found an envelope in which there were some photos taken in Kerala. The post boxes wall was an experience i had already had and which i even had written about here. The old woman's character was based on a woman i had actually seen at a post office. I had written a script for one of our exercises in the previous semester based on it and decided to take a portion of it and paste it here. So on and so forth. In short even though it might be a little tiresome to actually jot down everything which interests you it has to be done, painstakingly. You will always have to have a notebook/sketchpad or even a phone with some similar option ready at hand. They are sure to feature in your thought process therafter.

Scene 1
Anupama (28) is carrying a lot many things such as bags, scrolls of paper, canvas, art material, shoes etc and hazardously climbing the stairs lined by post boxes. She goes past a door, reaches another one, takes a key and opens the door, enters the house and shuts it with her leg. There is a carton outside the house. Papers strewn beside it. A worn out shoe.


Scene 2
She now comes out with some more old things, has an old carpet which she is holding at a distance from her body, and some more papers with her now. She dumps all of them above the carton outside. Her eyes fix on something on the floor. She picks it up.

Scene 2A
She pulls out the photograph inside the envelope, looks at it and goes in.

She is breaking open a packet of Maggi noodles with her teeth. We can see a patch of light in the kitchen.
She eats Maggi with some pickle with malayalam name. While she starts gobbling the food down which is rather hot, she sees something on the loft. She climbs up the platform and pulls it out. It falls and it is a christmas tree. Plastic. Old and dusty.

Scene 4
The christmas tree is dragged and erected in the drawing room. Just as she heaves a sigh of exasperation there is a knock on the door. She walks on her knees to the door to get it. A woman of about 50 comes in before she even says anything. As Anupama watches in bewilderment she says

Woman: Mein unse keh hi rahi thi ki yahaan koi aayaa hein. Aapka koi furniture nahin hein?

Anupama: Aap-

Woman: Mein bagal wale ghar mein rahti hoon. Aapke woh kaam par gaye honge?

Anupama gives her a stolid look

Woman: Akeli?!

The woman is all the more curious now and sits down beside Anupama and says

Woman: Meri baat ka bura mat maanna par akeli? Aapke ghar waale rishta nahin dhoond rahe hein?

Anupama: [taken aback and ignoring] Joh pahle yahaan rahte the kya aap unhe jaanti ho?

Woman: Woh to ek lambi kahani hein. Do jawaan ladke the yahaan. Woh to bolte the ki woh college mein saath padhte hein. Par sabko pata tha ki...donom...saath...aap samaj gayi na?
unme se ek madrasi tha. Jagah ka naam...kya farakh padta hein. Goa ke neeche to sab madras hi hein na? [laughs]

Anupama laughs along and says

Woman: Oh aap kahaan se ho?

Anupama: Goa ke neeche kahin.

The drawing room is now set with a computer table. Her modest collection of books is on the floor though neatly stacked on sheets of newspaper. On the table is a laptop, speakers, some CDs. DVDs, and the envelope that she found earlier. An old photo juts out from it. We see the face of a young girl. On the floor is a mattress with a pillow. You can see scrolls of paper, canvas boards and some half unpacked bags around. She reads some news and checks her facebook. In the news are a lot of upsetting current affairs. Her facebook shows some baby photos, wedding photos etc of friends and she is turned off. Shuts her eyes and rubs them. The phone rings and she looks at the caller and doesn't answer. There is a patch of light on the wall now. She takes a board and places it on her lap. There is a mug with water in it, paint, brushes in a cup/a holder and paper. She takes the palette and is about to mix some paint when she hears voices from outside. A lot of girls. She sighs and leans back on to the wall.

Her phone rings
reluctantly she picks it up. She is silent for some time. Then
Anupama: ആദി നിന്നെ ആശ്വസിപ്പിക്കാന്‍ അവിടെ വേണമെന്നൊക്കെ എനിക്കും ആഗ്രഹണ്ട്. പക്ഷെ എനിക്ക് പറ്റില്ല. ഇത് കോളെജില് അവളുമായിട്ട് അടി കൂടി എന്നെ വിളിച്ച് കരയണ പോലെയല്ല. ചേച്ചി പോയി. ഇനി ഇല്ല. I will try to finish her assignments. But that is not going to bring her back. Yeah right, we have the same genes, so we will paint the same?! For god's sake, Aadi, she is dead. Yeah now I think I know why it's called a dead-line. Okay FINE! Tell me when it is.

She rummages through one of the bags, digs out a calender from its depth, flips the pages to reach June and circles 26th. Drops the brush onto the calender.

She turns against the wall, presses her face on it and observes the light.
The clanking of wood starts and the dance practice starts. She gives up painting and gets up.

Pallabi collides against Anupama who is standing in front of the letter boxes and checking mail.

Pallabi: [Bangla] late again

Anupama smiles. The girl rushes to the door.

In the corridor a bag carrying newspaper and milk is being drawn up by the dance teacher. The cat sits smugly on the parapet. To her left we see an old woman laboriously watering the plants in her balcony, bougenvillas. We can hear Anupama talking in malayalam to someone in the background.

Anupama: അമ്മ ഇതെത്ര പ്രാവശ്യാ പറയണ്ടേ. അമ്മ ഇവടെ വന്ന് നിന്നാല് എന്റെ പ്രശ്നം മുഴുവന്‍ തീരോ? ഇല്ലല്ലോ. അമ്മേടെ പ്രശ്നം തീരോ? ചേച്ചി പോയീന്ന് വെച്ച്...മരിച്ചവരല്ല പ്രശ്നം. മരിച്ചവരെ മറക്കണതാണ്. (ശബ്ദമിടറുന്നു) ഇല്ല. എനിക്ക് വരാന്‍ പറ്റില്ല. അവള്‍ടെ കല്യാണത്തിനുംകൂടി വരാത്ത കൊറെ കുടുംബക്കാരന്ന്യല്ലേ ചടങ്ങിനും വരാന്‍ പോണെ.

While saying this she looks up and sees the old woman who is watering the plants. The old woman is looking at her now gestures her to get off the parapet.
Anupama gets off it saying to her mother: ആ ഇല്ലമ്മാ സേഫ്റ്റിക്കൊരു കൊറവൂല്യ. ഞാന്‍ ചെറിയ കുട്ട്യൊന്നല്ലല്ലോ .പൈസൊക്കേണ്ട് കൈയ്യില്. അമ്മാ ആദി വിളിക്കിണിണ്ടേ. ഇല്ല, ആ എക്സിബിഷന്റെ കാര്യത്തിനാണ്. ശരി. റ്റാ റ്റ.

She picks up the new call and says Hello and goes in.

It's raining heavily. Thunder, lightning. The dance girls come out and promptly take out umbrellas from their bags. Anupama comes up soaked. She sees the girl who was late earlier and says with an exasperated smile

Anupama: poocho mat.

Now there are patterns on the wall from the light in the corridor coming in through the ventilator.
The calender is up on the wall with 26th July circled. The usual source of light in the room is not used for some reason and the christmas tree is lit.
She is masturbating, is unable to, pulls her right arm from beneath her pants and just lies there.
The dance girls approach Anupama. They all have umbrellas. She opens her eyes and the girl who was late takes an umbrella out, smiles and asks:

Pallabi: Forgot your umbrella?

Anupama wakes up with a start and the knock on the door which was faint in the dream is now quite audible. She gets up and sees the patch of light on the wall and is dismayed that she overslept. She opens the door and finds a young man of about 27 at the door. She squints at him.

Senthil: Hello, I am Senthil. Err... I used to live here earlier.

He is thinking of what next to say when she quickly understands and says

Anupama: Oh!

She makes way for him to come inside.

Senthil: I...wanted to click some photos. We never did when we were living here.

His eyes land on the calender. He is surprised and asks:

Senthil: ഓ മലയാളിയാണല്ലേ?
Anupama nods.
Senthil: എനിക്ക് മലയാളം കുറച്ച് കുറച്ച് അറിയും. അമ്മ പാലക്കാട്ട്ന്നാണ്.
Anupama: എനിക്കും തമിഴ് കൊഞ്ചം കൊഞ്ചം തെരിയും.
They laugh.

Scene 11
They are sharing maggi. Senthil is on the floor, next to the christmas tree. Anupama is on the platform in her usual place. Senthil's camera is beside her. Senthil is probing the pickle bottle with his index finger. It is almost over. He looks at the christmas tree.

Anupama is looking at the photos on the LCD of the camera.

Anupama: ഞാനിങ്ങനെ എടയ്ക്ക് വിചാരിക്കും ഇതൊക്കെ വിട്ടട്ട് നാട്ടീപ്പോയി നിന്നാലോന്ന്. അമ്മേം നിര്‍ബന്ധിക്കിണ്ട്. എല്ലാ ദിവസോം വിളിയാണ്. പക്ഷെ പിന്നവടപ്പോയിട്ടും എന്താ കാര്യംന്നാലോചിക്കും.
Senthil: മ്. സ്ഥലല്ലേ മാറാന്‍ പറ്റുള്ളൂ. ആള്‍ക്കാരെ വെച്ച് മാറാന്‍ പറ്റില്ലല്ലോ. ഈ ഫോട്ടോലൊക്കെ മനുഷ്യരെ കേറ്റാന്‍ പറ്റണ വല്ല വിദ്യേം വേണായിരുന്നു.
Anupama smiles.
Anupama: ആ അതിനെയാണ് മനുഷ്യര് സിനിമാന്ന് വിളിക്കണേന്ന് തോന്നുണു. laughs. Do you want it back? ഞാനിതിങ്ങനെ ബള്‍ബ് ഫ്യൂസാവണേനനുസരിച്ച് സ്ഥലം മാറ്റലാണ്. (pointing at the tree)

He smiles and says.
Senthil: ഹഹ. ഞങ്ങളും അതിനന്ന്യാണ് കാര്യായിട്ട് ഉപയോഗിച്ചിരുന്നത്. ഇത് അരുണ്‍ വാങ്ങിയതാണ്. ഞങ്ങളിപ്പൊ...സംസാരിക്കാറില്ല. നിങ്ങളന്നെ വെച്ചോളൂ. ബള്‍ബുകളിനീം ഫ്യൂസാവും. എനിക്ക് വേണ്ടതൊക്കെ ഇതിലുണ്ട്.

She is on the phone as she is climbing the stairs.

God there are two more days left, Aadi! I said I will. You think I will forget with you calling me 24*7?
നീ ശരിക്കും എന്തിനാ എന്നെ വിളിക്കണത്? പെയിന്റിങ്ങിന് വേണ്ടിയല്ലല്ലോ. Actually, I can't find my key. That is the bloody problem. (Almost yelling, but looking around and muffling the sound) YES! I KNOW THE DATE, MONTH AND YEAR!

She reaches the door irritated and sees a cat outside it. She is curious and sees that she has left the key on the latch. She opens the door.

The cat first enters and then she does. Pallabi and a boy are making out on her bed. She is startled and fumbles and says

Anupama: Sorry.

She quickly moves out.

Scene 13A
Anupama shuts the door behind her and says

Anupama: Fuck Fuck Fuck!

The dance girls from the other flat are all coming out now.
The neighbour comes out and asks if someone forgot their umbrella holding one up. She looks at both the sides and sees Anupama and asks

Neighbour: [bangla] What happened?

Anupama now pretends to be looking for the key and says

Anupama: kuch nahin. Chaabi dhoond rahi thi.

The door is about to open and she holds it back firmly now so that they don't come out.
The lady goes back in, intrigued.
Anupama goes in.

Scene 14
The boy is now holding the cat and the girl is thoroughly upset.

The Boy: I am sorry. We are sorry. Extremely sorry. Isne kaha ki aap saade teen ke baad hi aaogi aur darwaaza khula tha. I mean she had seen that you hadn't locked it and we didn't think it would take so long. Mera matlab isne dekha ki chaabi taale par hi thi aur hame laga ki zyaada der bhi nahin lagegi. Sorry. Mein oopar rahta hoon. Aur hamaare paas aur koi jagah nahin hein. You know, to do it. Please kisi aur ko mat bataana. Please.
Anupama is smiling.
Anupama: naam kya hein?

The boy: Debdatta.

Anupama: (laughing) Tumhara nahin. Billi ka naam kya hein?

Debdatta: (sheepishly) nahi pata.

Scene 15
She is trying to draw something. There is news playing. From the computer. More disturbing current affairs. She is working the colours and just draws circles and makes a mess of the paper.

She dials someone on the phone and says

Anupama: You know what? I am actually glad that she died. Because it makes YOU suffer. No. you listen to me. എനിക്ക് പറ്റില്ല. നിന്റെ വെഷമം നീ തന്നെ തിന്ന് തീര്‍ക്കണം ആദി. റിസ്പെക്റ്റ് ചെയ്യാന്‍ പഠിക്ക്. എനിക്ക് ഈ വേദന വേണം. ഒറ്റയ്ക്ക്. അമ്മേനേം കൂടെ ഒറ്റയ്ക്കാക്കീട്ടാണ് ഞാന്‍- The living cannot replace the dead, Aadi. And I am very much alive. Pauses. മൈരേ നീ പോയ് ചാവ്.

Scene 16
Anupama frantically drags all her canvases out of the room, dumps it on the corridor and kicks and stamps on them.

Scene 16A
The dance teacher peeps out of her house and watches anupama kick and stamp in the corridor. She retreats after some time.

Scene 17
Anupama storms out into the corridor. On the stairs she stumbles and falls. She makes a whining sound [അമ്മേ] and gets up. She takes two steps upstairs, then breaks down and startes crying, weeping. The old woman comes in and sits by her side. In an instant she hugs the old woman and weeps more. The woman puts a reassuring arm around her shoulder.

Sc 21A
The cat in a basket, trying to get out
Sc 21B
Debdatta: We don't have a place to do it, you know.
Sc 21C
Anupama is standing near the post boxes with a huge brush in her hand
Sc 21D
Dance teacher: where is your furniture?
Sc 21E The old woman next door breaks a pot in the parapet. A bougenvilla.

Scene 18
Anupama opens an umbrella and checks for leaks.
She turns the page of the calender to July from June. Leaves the room with a determined look and hastily.

Scene 19
She leaves the room, Locks the door. The dance girls are coming out. They are all crowding around the post boxes and murmering to each other. She waits for some time and calls the girl who was late. She comes with an embarrassed smile.
Anupama gives her the key to her room.

Anupama: Mein kaafi der tak waapas nahin aaoongi.

The girl is astonished at first. Then she says:

The Girl: Thankyou!

Anupama leaves without acknowledging it.
Scene 19A
Pallabi hurries up the stairs. Anupama leaves. We see that all the post boxes have been painted black and a huge drawing has been made on it in white paint.

Scene 20
The girl and the boy make out in the room. The christmas tree is in the room. On the wall is an enlarged photo. Two young girls, seemingly sisters. The patch of light is occasionally on their arms which are ever entwining and relaxing.
The cat lay sleepily on Anupama's chair.

The naked lovers are on the bed, but it is night now and amidst the shadows cast by the light outside.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Short Film Trajectory #3

After we made the floor plan it was time to proceed to actual set construction. Even before that in consultation with the producers our budget was prepared. D Jeet and I proceeded towards finalizing the look of the film. This included props, costumes etc. There were a lot of problems that we faced during construction. The first one was that of opening the pit. We had to use the pit in the floor for the stairs portion of the set. Owing to the use of the rain machine in the shoot before ours it was filled with mucky water. We had to pump all of it out. Work=time=money on set. Students including D Jeet, me and some others from the dept of cinematography also helped in the construction. The first day after the previous shoot would be to dismantle the lights. The second to dismantle their set. The third for our construction, fourth for painting and fifth for weathering. Sixth day is for lighting. On seventh day contrary to popular fairy tales tradition, we don't rest but just lose sleep over the shoot which would start the coming day. I remember the two of us sitting on the stairs and taking a look at the space that was made. It felt as if we had made a house and were taking a final look at it.

Even during those days of prep. I was proceeding with casting and rehearsals. I even got chance to rehearse on set on the day of lighting. Getting the actors acquainted with the set is also a good practice.

When you know that a film was shot on studio what is to be understood is that every single thing you saw on screen was made or put there on purpose. Nothing was a coincidence. From the set design we made and the references we had taken the set we made looked like this. These are stills taken during shoot so nothing might make sense owing to the fact that my script doesn't make much sense. :D

The shoot went as usual. With a LOT of running around, sleeplessness, restlessness, hardwork, toil, rehearsals, good acting, bad acting, exigencies, recoveries, heartbreaks, bonding, fighting, drama etc. To quote Bresson “Shooting. No part of the unexpected which is not secretly expected by you”. Even with all these usual events it was different from any shoot I was part of till date. There were a lot of reasons for this. I had not worked this hard for any other work. It was the first major project after the training we received under specialization. This meant that this was the first time I was going to put to use some lessons and notes I had made for myself and wanted to try out. It was the first time the ability of the four of us to work as a crew was going to be put to test. Everything put together it gave me a high that even the best joint I have had so far wasn't able to give me. I loved working with D Jeet especially. I could feel my ideas feel at home in his images.

The wait for the telecine is on. In two weeks' time I will see the rough cut. Just thinking of it makes me aware of the numerous blunders I made and the disaster that the actual film is going to be. Even then, when I think of the beautiful process that I was part of I feel content. That will do, for now. 

Short Film Trajectory #1 
Short Film Trajectory #2
Short Film Trajectory #4 
Short Film Trajectory #5