Tuesday, 31 March 2015

March 2015: Films

India's Daughter

In detail here.
Poorly made documentary.

Whiplash



Why was it so celebrated. A tale of abuse. Why was a whole film made to praise abuse.
The director exhibits uncanny finesse in his craft for his age though.

Still Alice 12th March 2015


Loved it. Loved the way old photographs of her with her sister and mother were treated. The movement to a photograph without effort: enchanting.
Again character's POV changing to director's POV done ever so beautifully especially in the scene on the house facing the sea.
How a person breaks down is very important. Done just the right way here.
Brilliant transitions and cut beautifully too.
The abrupt cuts and slow transitions create a great rhythm. Not easily achieved. Great amount of work has gone into the script and has paid off. The simplest example is of how the character is introduced with her talk in the second scene. Later at the speech she gives at the Alzheimer group it is repeated. Words changed. 
Video of one's self later. What craft. What a tool.

Boyhood



Not one thing i liked in the film. The worst part of it i felt was the editing. The way the film portrays a single mother is problematic in my opinion. She is being blamed in one way or the other. Children who hate moving and mother who makes them move. From the beginning of the film till the end this is maintained. Why are all of the woman's choices in life bad? All the times when she is seen entering a new relationship is as POV of the boy. When the restaurant manager tells him 'wow' looking at the mother is another occasion. What was the need for that piece of information at all. The boy watches a mother who is ogled by men? What does that even mean.

Shutter Island.



Liked it. Liked the use of music the best.
Liked it that it is ambiguous as to which story is true.

Kamera Buff



Second time with the film. 
I love this man. I want to do to others what Kieslowsky does to me. Decided to watch him more and more and copy him as much as i can. I now know why they are called masters of craft. It seems unattainable now, that kind of talent, but something in me says that i will be able to attain what i want with years of practice.
Watch the film once again and note down the transitions in detail. Make extensive notes on the director's films. Do the same with Haneke.

Kieslowsky's meta-cinematic narratives are very interesting. A short film about love and this one. Cinema about cinema. This is perhaps the only way to do it and probably the best way too.

Blind Chance



What a train does to a man. Again music. Music is all powerful if used in the way it is designed to be used in cinema. POVs. Lovely transitions from Character's POV to director's POV as always. Need to work on that really hard. That really takes the film to another level.

No End



Even though the concept is something i resent couldn't help but admire the director's craft. The staircase shot has to be viewed again to copy. Again play with POVs. The staircase shot is the best example. The way in which he introduces music and later makes it diegetic is simply marvelous. (In this case with the child playing the piano) Intertextuality. It is as if all Kieslowsky films are parts of a larger film. Love that idea. Need to copy. Start with Gruhapravesham. 

The opening shot with candles in a graveyard. Beautiful.

Janala



Brilliant! About a man who wants to make a window for his old school. In the background are his unemployment, relationship etc. The partner who is pregnant. They decide to get married. Sweeping shots which are to the point. Need to copy a lot from him.

Ore Kadal (The Sea Within)



Not great. The last shot is what touched me the most. Of the girl climbing up the stairs in search of her mother. Great way to end a film. Copy.

Prahar

Didn't like it. Brilliant cinematography though. An old mother and two daughters in a house. Reminded me of Baadiwali. But after a day of watching it i have no memory of what happened in the film. Just remember a parrot eating chillies.

Mirror



Second viewing. Saw the track in the last track shot. The way music is worked into camera movements one has to learn from Tarkovsky (Tarko da, bengalis might call him). Not a fan of Mirror. This time could see the way he replicated a painting. The painting which was stuck on the back of the balcony door back home. [Hunters in the Snow] I realized it when he gave a considerable stay on that frame.

The Colour of Pomengranates



Never understood the point. I want people's stories. Not art made in an unreachable heaven.

Ida



Wow! Felt as if it was a film in which D Jeet and i worked together. Brilliant cinematography. And the use of sound just perfect. When we show characters why do we show the whole face at all. The other half is a replica. Redundant. And death. Always portray death, especially suicide thus. Out of the blue. When you least expect it. Like in Cache. Ida twisting herself in the curtain and falling. Even the fall is so Ida -isque. Lovely film. Lots to copy.

The Imitation Game



Injustice.
Death.
Meaningful death.
Offered nothing craft wise.
One cut alone deserve some appreciation. Christopher's wheels turning to tank wheels turning. That too wasn't done in a good way.


Il Grido.



Revisted. Didn't like it as much as the first time. Not one of the best by Antonioni. The real Antonioni hasn't arrived yet in Il Grido.
Feel the shot in which the dead man and his wife are shown, the last shot could have been avoided.
But yes, has shown in great detail what a rejected man looks like. Masculinity is torn down. He wants to be masculine but realizes his woman is above all that.
Women kill is also another message that is given. Well, i think it's true at least figuratively.

Adaminte Vaariyellu

Only memory was that of Sethuvamma's description of the last shot. Liked the self reflexive nature of it. Also liked it that the women are letting go of their children. The mothers are not perfect. Women insane: the theory behind it. It's done well. The sequence in which Suhasini's father in law comes alive from the photograph in the wall is good. When you think all is lost women get up and run from the shelter home startling even the crew. Their breaking of the fourth wall is also done nicely. The film was much ahead of its time, really. 





Monday, 30 March 2015

Shrink Tales #4: In Which We Spoke of Faith

Back in first semester when all students had common classes in all disciplines there were several professors whose classes i looked forward to attending. One of it was that of Prof. Ghoshal of the department of audiography. He was the one among the people who asked us all to read Bresson's Notes on the Cinematographer. I read it because he suggested it and it changed my life like it did everyone's who ever read it. 

It was in one of those classes that we were introduced to the concept of compressors, dynamic range etc. Compressors worked to reduce the dynamic range. That is, it would cut the limit to which the highest high and the lowest low could go. When i was prescribed lithium by my psychiatrist and i knocked at google's door with it i thought of compressors. The pills were supposed to do exactly that. Cut my highs and lows.

Now there are things which you don't like for no reason. I don't like curd. Don't like crocs (footwear). Don't like multi coloured buses. I didn't like lithium from the day i started taking it. Everything was fine. I was getting ample hours of sleep. A little too much of it perhaps. As for my highs and lows i didn't find any difference.

When i said this to Ms Mullick, my psychologist, she said it could be that the medicines were working and i was unaware of it.

I spoke of the time when i had a gut feeling about shooting a funeral and D Jeet refused to do it. She asked me if i was impulsive. I was. She asked me to draw a pattern of it. Figure out when it was happening. If i felt that i was being taken for granted. I didn't know.

I would like to believe that the pills are working. I would like to figure out my own pattern in being impulsive. Like the time i rode my cycle to D Jeet's place in the middle of the night. I have no answers to what prompted it. No answer to what usually sets my adrenaline pumping. May be i will find out.

She spoke of finding faith. I disagreed immediately. Said that i was an atheist and could in no way lay my trust upon any 'larger force'. She said it need not be a larger force. It could be someone whom i looked up to. Someone to emulate. That was easy. I had her.
I said that i had a person like that whom i wanted to copy in all ways possible. Also said that i sunk deeper into my pit of sadness when i realized i could never ever be like her.
She said it was enough that i lay my trust in myself. Every time i did something i had to tell myself that i would outshine myself. Sounded easy. During work, however, it never happened. I was always unhappy with what i had. Improvement made me happy but only temporarily.  

From then my sessions with Ms Mullick would be fortnightly.

Journal entries of two weeks are below.

19th March 2015
Twisted ankle. Hate it. Why am i injured all the time.
Sri and NN drank in the room yesterday. Sri said she was attracted to me sexually. I confessed i had a crush on her. She asked if she could kiss me. I said no. Said we would when we were sober.

Restless. Mind wanders like a loose kite. Will she back off again on 30th? Hope D Jeet doesn't back off.

Tried masturbating yesterday. Couldn't.
Could be the pills.

20th March 2015
Deeply upset with D Jeet. Why can't men be a little honest. Blame myself for all this crap. Cycled till Lake Market in the middle of the night to give D Jeet 'The Little Prince'. It is so cool to act like you are in love. The sad part is that deep inside you know there is nothing even close to love, And to top it all men are dishonest creatures. If i find somebody, some man who is as honest as i am, i will simply get married to him. Moral of the story is that you are not going to get married ever.

21st March 2015
Told D Jeet what he had done. The man is crazy. Bengali version of a mallu man. Dishonest. Egotistic. So what about my ego. Why do i always sacrifice my ego in front of people who don't even love me. We decided to continue like we didn't know each other for a week. I hope both he and i snap out of it.

21st
First attempt at baking. Flop.

22nd
Missing D Jeet like crazy. Bad.

23rd Monday. March 2015
Anand Patwardhan interview
Something to look forward to.

Talk about your restlessness the next time you visit.
Mind is unable to be at one thing for even ten minutes at a stretch.
NN cleaned her portion of the room. Was a lovely sight. Did some tidying up myself. Now on the bed and trying to read. I am reminded of myself in high school. Those were good times, i suppose.
I was happy,
Like the small round bandage they put on your arm after blood is drawn. Dr. Mukherjee- tomorrow's mission.

24th March 2015
D Jeet refused to shoot on 30th as well. Very bad beginning of a day. When will all the world turn to being like me. Evident that this world is not my place. I am unfit to be here.

Hospitals suck.
Missed Sethuvamma in spite of myself.
Treatment shouldn't be this expensive.
How do people who don't have that sort of money get treatment.
Stupid people watching cricket again.

Palash: Have you seen fish in hospitals
I have never understood the logic behind it.
But gold fish in huge fish tanks are like moving palash flowers.
Your image should be that of those flowers dropping in and floating. floating. sinking. sinking.

25th march
Session with Dr Mukherjee yesterday was quick. May be i am recovering. Next appointment after a month Watched The Theory of Everything. Nothing spectacular. Need to start attending night screenings as well. Parajenov is not my man. Don't see the point.

27th march 2015
A man applying nail paint on his beloved's nails. The girl bites her nails. That is why the act is important.

Extremely glad that india lost whatever stupid match they were playing. No game as boring & pointless and cricket. I hope india loses every match it plays.

Spoke to dean. Asked him about the coffee offer he had made. Said he would give that on Monday. Monday was the day i was supposed to shoot Florence. Deeply upset with D Jeet. Why doesn't he shoot!

28th March
Wrong day to finish a book. Non working Saturday for the library. Basusree cinema today? London Paris thought it was a single screen theatre. Turned out to be a mall. Sethuvamma reaching tomorrow. Will make payasam.

Reflection of the scrolling writing on a phone of our girl who is in a metro. Going where? [Basusree cinema expedition]

How to go to Basusree cinema
Jatin Das Park Metro. Gate #6
Walk ahead. On the left.
Asked D Jeet if he wanted to come.
He didn't. Feel at home going to movies alone.

Last film watched here was The World Before Her.
Chart all this in the blog.
Life is good.

Nobody understands my illicit relationship with Kolkata
Not even her

30th March
Met D Jeet after the film yesterday. Spoke of his cinematographer's block online. Scared. I feel he is hiding something about his block.

I can't wait to be alone.
Alone is a six legged insect crawling up my back. I want to flick it away but i like the tickling sensation. It will eventually bore a hole behind my head and make a home there by eating its contents.

How can you tell the story teller from the tale?

Meaning is fascist: Yale School of deconstruction






Sunday, 22 March 2015

Sunday Brownie

Life was unbearable to begin with.
To top it all my relationship with D Jeet had taken a different turn. I was scared. My habit of subjecting people i like to my own violence was happening with him too. Over the past week i had come to realize that i could talk in length to him, hang out with him etc. This was strange because in more than two years on this campus and more than a year of working with him i had not realized it.

When we went to meet Florence together D Jeet had asked me to gift him a book. There always is a list of 'giftable' books with me. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass and the Little Prince are about it. I thought of going to College Street where you only have old books shops. Was lazy and settled for the ones in Gariahat. I got the Little Prince and wrote
'To D Jeet, so that you learn, love, laugh and live. 
Love, me.'
[A day ago he had said that all he wanted to do in his life was to learn.]

During the day he was again running away from me and i couldn't give it to him. While i was talking to him at night i got up from my chair like i was possessed and rode my bicycle to Lake Market, where D lived. Incidentally my topic of discussion with my shrink the previous week was 'impulsive nature'. No shrink was helping me none. Evidently.

So around midnight i cycled around ten kilometers to reach the alley from which i could see his room. 'Come out', i texted him. He must have got the shock of his life. Said that i had gone mad. Oh there was no denying that. I gave him the book and cycled back.

Back in the room i told him about my problem with violence, invasion of space etc. He didn't seem to understand so i told him that it was better we stayed away from each other for some time. I couldn't hurt one more person.

The next day i asked Sri out on a date. I felt like spending some time with her. She refused.
Not talking to D was turning out to be more difficult than i imagined. I was missing him terribly.
I tried baking brownies on the OTG she gifted me. Added too much vanilla essence and it went bad.
When i got up on Sunday morning i was determined to be brave and push my idiosyncrasies away. I only had brownie' in my mind.

It was in March 2015 that i realized that i missed being in love. I missed me in love. And love was a distant dream. I had none left after all those years of neglect i subjected my mind and body to. This time the brownies were good.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Documentary Diaries #17: Typing...

16th March 2015

Decided to give the DVD to Florence. When i got off at Chandni metro station i whatsapped her asking if she was at home. I was not expecting a reply.
There are certain things which you see everyday and would never think were capable of making you happy. The header of whatsapp was one such for me. All throughout the shoot when i was sending her messages over it trying to explain how important it was that she spoke to me the header was immobile. I hardly used that app. That day when it showed 'typing...' i felt indescribable joy.
She told me that she wasn't at home and asked me where i was. She said she was near Mother House, AJC Bose road again.

I took a cab.

She was smiling less than the day before. It was a brief meeting where i only gave the DVD to her. I asked her when she was going to watch it. She said she would that night. Took a cab back to Esplanade where Sethuvamma was waiting to have Nahoum's' brownies. I was irritable and sad. I was worried what she was going to say after watching the film. (pseudo film). I was not optimistic. Felt she would tell me that she was not interested in being a part of it.

Back in the institute i messaged D Jeet asking him when his shoot would be over and when he could shoot for me. He said he would call me when he was back which would be around 3 a.m. I started panicking. I asked if he was going to tell me that he couldn't work with me because i was hyper. He said it wasn't that. Till the time he said that i was restless and edgy.

After taking my lithium i decided to wash clothes. So at 1 a.m i went to D7 where Sethuvamma was and took the detergent packet i had lent her. Washing clothes helped me. By the time i was done D Jeet and the rest of the crew was back in the hostel. Prakar, our senior asked if i could lend them some sugar. When D Jeet came to my room to take it he said that he was very worked up in his mind and was unable to do so many things at once. He was assisting in a lot of projects, doing his lighting practice at the institute and there was hardly any time to shoot for me. I was sad, but said okay. There was nothing i could do. If i forced him to shoot i felt it would affect the quality of work. I didn't want that. Let the artist be, i thought.

At 4 in the morning we played badminton. Prakar made us coffee and we sat in his room for a while. After D Jeet went back to his temporary room in the hostel (he was a day scholar) i tried sleeping. Nada. My mind was still restless. I asked D Jeet if he had slept. When he said he hadn't i went down and asked him to go out with me for tea. He refused. So i sat there and kept talking to him till he gave up and said yes.

Thus after tea and some more of our discussion of our own misery i went back to my room and hit the bed. It was 7 a.m. Sethuvamma woke me up after four hours and i started thinking of Florence as soon as i was aware of my own brain.

17th March 2015

Woke up at 11 a.m. Scanned the newspaper and saw that there was yet another funeral. I was sure that D Jeet wouldn't be able to shoot so dumped the weight of the newspaper in the corner of the room.
Whatsapped Florence thus

'Ma'am can we see you on 30th march? My camera person has gone to US for some work and will be back only then.That's why.'
She gave her bland 'K' as reply.
I wrote thus
'I will ping you once on 29th and confirm. Thanks a lot. :)'
She said
'K wlcm'
'Bye'

The 'bye' that she wrote sent a chill down my spine. I didn't want her to say bye to me ever during shoot. I was worried sick about her changing her mind once again.

On 17th March Florence's whatsapp status again went back to 'my ego is more than me.'
I loved that woman.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Shrink Tales #3: In Which i Was Given a Task

She told me that it was a treasure hunt. It was a quest for happiness. It wasn't far away. Only hidden. Only clues away. When she said that i imagined myself in khaki shorts with a magnifying glass. I was on the lookout for crumbs of happiness which led me back home. Fairy tale stuff. Enticing.

On my third visit to Ms Mullick, my shrink, she asked me how my week had gone. It was okay except for one or two occasions. When i was upset i had tried scribbling in red on white paper. It hadn't helped. She said it would take time. Also asked me to try the other methods. Logistically i couldn't and cannot any time soon because i didn't have ice cubes or ice cold water around me.

We spoke of many things. She asked me what i expected out of therapy. [That was what she called those sessions]. I said what i expected was that i be normal. She said that even she felt she wasn't normal most of the time. 
I took the example of my pouring hot wax on my foot. It was normal for me. Deep, my junior from cinematography had his lighting practice. He had decided to do an adaptation of Nissim Ezekiel's Night of the Scorpion. In it was a shot in which hot wax was poured over the mother's foot where the scorpion had stung her. I agreed to do the mother's role. Also promised that i was willing for wax part to be done in reality. I wanted to know what the pain was like. He was going to cheat. When he got consent from me he was happy. Film students crave originality by tradition. Even as a child i used to drip wax from candles on my fist. This time there would be a lot of wax. I was thrilled.

This was not normal, to normal people. I realized that when i was in hospital. Nobody around me could understand why a person would do that. That was what i meant by being normal. Do things which make sense to normal people?

She said that i had high tolerance level of pain. It was okay, she said. She would intervene only when it was harmful to my self.

I also let her know that i wanted to stop having relationships with older men. This had happened thrice and with people twice or more than that my age. I knew that one of it was abusive even when i was in it and the other two in retrospect appeared to be no different. People were quick to spot my vulnerability and made use of it and my love. I wanted that to stop. Ms Mullick listened.

She asked me if i had had suicidal thoughts the past week. I confessed i had. I spoke of how i was talking to her and i blurted out about the hotel room in which i would die alone. She asked me if i had tried visualizing life instead. I said i was unable to do that. I revealed how scared i was about losing Sethuvamma and Kunju Thalona. How i thought of their death and would immediately make a mental note of dying before they did. She asked me if i tried distancing myself from them due to the same reason. I said yes.

She asked me to speak of my goals. Asked me what my short term goal was. It was my documentary project. My long term goal was to be financially independent. I had no goals about what she called 'family' and what i gathered was a life partner et al. I think life partner is an oxymoron.

She asked me to keep a journal of the times when i was upset about something or someone. Asked me to chart out my goals giving them target time periods.

I am doing it on my blog. These journals that i am copying here and plans i have were highly personal and private till now. Now i believe there is a person somewhere who is struggling just like i am and that they will feel that they are not alone when they read this. I feel that it is a different sort of a treasure hunt, where not just one person gets to the treasure but a lot of people do. That there is a maze like in triwizard tournament in Harry Potter. That there are death eaters who try to suck your soul. That even if i don't succeed someone else can, following the bread crumbs i left.
Or may be it will just lie here like this. Stale. That's okay too. 

It was two weeks since i had been to my psychiatrist. From Ms Mullick's room we went to Dr. Mukherjee's. I told him i had stopped taking the lithium. He prescribed me other medicines. Said that i had improved. When Sethuvamma mentioned her plan of taking a transfer to Kolkata i became irritable. I was impatient with her throughout the session with Mr. Mukherjee. He said that since i had improved there was no need for me to get admitted. That sounded like a threat to me. I had no clue that that was even possible. Hospitals scared me. They were places in which i had nothing to do. Not having anything to do would be suicidal for me. And i thought that was what they didn't want me to be.

He said he would see me again after two weeks. 

So the short term goal of the documentary project goes like this.
By 15th March 2015: Finish shoot

12th March sit with Aalayam (my editor) and sort out rushes
13th March Form a rough cut with available rushes.
14th March Sit on edit table with Aalayam
15th March Cut Cut Cut
16th March Take an output file and work on sound.
17th March Sound
18th Sound
19th You have your project.


Long term goals
2015: November: A feature film script to be shot in kolkata.
2016: March: A job which pays.
2016: March a place to stay in Kolkata
2016: August: A two wheeler of your own. (Not a bicycle)
2016 September: Start pre production work of the film
2017: March: Start shoot
2017 May: Post Production
2017 December Move to a better place
2018 March: Get a job in Kerala
2018 March: A place to stay in Fort Kochi

The following are entries from my journal [Yes, i too have unpublished secrets.] It is unedited, complete with grammatical errors and improper constructions. Only names have been changed.

3rd March 2015
2nd sitting with the psychologist.
The otherwise okay week crumbled before me at the mere thought of it. If the purpose of all this is to find happiness i think it is all futile for i am the worst hit when in here, well lit waiting room. Fish. Crying i sit with my green notebook Sivaram sent it to me. Neat and great looking. TV played cricket. World cup. Cricket was the most boring game for me. I hate cricket. She says my hate is passionate. I hate cricket and i feel like ripping cricket balls to pieces. Is that passion?

[This is an entry before the third visit of which i have written about here. She mentioned is the she in my posts and can be found under the label her]

9th March 2015
Obtained permission from S Karmakar that the cut be replaced by my version later. Wonder what to do about evaluation at my department. Fuck marks and scholarship and results. What about the film. My film is always forming in my head and stopping at Florence. Will she. Will she. What if she doesn't. What did i have today? What did i do today? Slept around 7 a.m. Got up at 11.30 a.m. Tea+paratha(1) at mess. Upma-Sethuvamma. Made Bombay toast. Had 3. Rest NN. Crossed the bridge. Went out? This is ridiculous. I want peace.

[Aalayam, my editor had submitted a version of the documentary project which was solely his. I had not even seen the cut. I approached S Karmakar saying that we needed more time to recover the footage we lost by doing a re-shoot. He agreed]

11th March 2015
Yesterday commented on Prakar's picture.
Said that it was offensive.
His comment in response which was bullshit.
Disturbed. Not only doesn't he understand what was wrong with what he said but a lot of people are empathetic to his racism. Sad. This place will never change.
Utterly disgusting.
Tight jeans. Must have gained again.
Hope the new pills don't make me gain weight. Feel that Dr Mukherjee is tricking me into taking lithium.

[Prakar, my senior from cinematography had uploaded a picture on facebook which had a chameleon and A Leo Pou in it. The chameleon was in the foreground and in focus. The title read 'what's for lunch'. I had commented saying that it was offensive. 'Indians' have enough stories of North East India being the land of people who eat anything and everything. His reply was something which most people often said about jokes. Something about friendship and that not being the forum to pick a fight.
I had googled the side effects of lithium when i saw that i was gaining weight even as i was hardly eating anything. My appetite was abysmal ever since i was back from the hospital. I stopped taking the tablets thinking it was causing the weight gain. Dr. Mukherjee, my psychiatrist told me that it was the other pill, the anti depressant that was doing it. He prescribed me other medicines in view of my Binge eating and bulimic tendencies.]

11th March 2015
Love this book. The green is so good.
Painted after a long time.
Spoke to D Jeet. Dates of shoot still problematic. Is everyone but me losing interest in the project? Is keeping your passion alive a task. Why is it not so for me.

12th March 2005
Met Partha today. What he said gave some hope. Will go to Florence alone one day with what we shoot. When is D Jeet going to shoot for me? Why has he lost his vigour. How can someone lose their vigour. Is my obsession normal. Why don't i see others here this way. I think everyone else is phoney? I think too much of myself. Get a grip. 

14th March 2015
Went to Florence. Spoke to her on phone after a long time. Scared.
Should i give the film tomorrow?
Or should i keep the film with me as a bait? Utterly confused.
Fought with D Jeet. He refused to shoot the funeral today. Said i was hyper. Asked me to 'go step by step'. I am hyper of course. Don't understand why he should care. What the hell is step by step. Oh fuck. Why is the lithium not working on me. Don't forget to check newspaper tomorrow. Hazra bitch (an ex professor at the institite) is who said that i don't trust people. If what i do is not trust i don't know what is. Shit scared about this now. What if she doesn't like what she sees. Will mark today as the day on which Florence Madeira alias Jogita Biswas called me on my phone.

Ides of March
Florence. Florence. Florence.
Saw Florence today.
Mother's House. A J C Bose Road. I love Kolkata. I will make this film.

16th March 2015
Scared and hopeless as hell.
Florence not responding again.
Florence Florence Florence Florence.
How the fuck do you do this.
It's going to break now. One of these days. All of it.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Documentary Diaries #16: A Vision called Florence

On Ides of March the newspaper person was late. I asked Sethuvamma to get a copy of the Telegraph to confirm if there was a funeral that day. There was. Florence had, on the previous day, told me that one of her aunts had passed away and that she wouldn't be able to meet me since she had to attend the funeral. That was why i wanted  to know if there was a burial and where it was going to be. Internment at Lower Circular cemetery, told the newspaper.

I went to my dear google and found out that i would have to get off at Park Street metro station. I thought it would be better if Sethuvamma came with me. D Jeet was away on a shoot. Sethuvamma could put in some grown up quality around me. If you didn't look very old people took you a little less seriously. Pertinent problem of aspiring film makers. Lack of the look.

We left the institute around 2.30 p.m. The internment was at 3.30 p.m. By kolkatan ways it wouldn't happen till four. Yet i started panicking when the metro failed to move for an unusually long time from Kavi Subhash station. We reached Park Street just in time to take a cab to the cemetery. Only we didn't know where it was. I didn't have balance on my phone to check it online. When i said the name of the road a taxi driver seemed to know it. We jumped in. Only he was pretending. He neither knew where the road was nor the cemetery. After asking the way to several people we managed to reach Lower Circular road. There was no cemetery there, the shopkeepers told us.

Sethuvamma got in action. She called the pastor of the church she was going to here. Yes, believers do that when they stay at a place for a long time. Came quite handy, i must say. The pastor told us that the cemetery we were looking for was at Mallick Bazar. Another cab and some 'thoda tez chalao dada's later [faster! faster! to the driver] we reached the cemetery to see a lot of people in black. Prayers were being said. I started looking for Florence's face among the people. I couldn't find her. My heart sunk.

We stayed for a little longer till the coffin was taken to the grave. Even though i was upset that Florence was there i felt a strange happiness in attending funerals of people i had nothing to do with. I asked to one of the family where the body was kept. They said it was at Peace Haven, the other undertakers in the city. [The previous week Mamata Banerjee had inaugurated yet another one. There were three in the city now] That meant that the Madeiras had nothing to do with the dead.

We returned to Esplanade. I wanted to be alone. I asked Sethuvamma to take a metro back. She was reluctant. I was melancholic. I walked around New Market with a blank mind. When i reached the metro station again i sat down near a lamp post and decided to try once again. I texted Florence asking if i could meet her and saying it was urgent. While i sat there Sethuvamma called me to say that she hadn't left and wanted to hang around the place with me. I said okay. We then tried finding each other. We were at two different gates of the metro station. While asking her for landmarks near where she stood the call got cut and i saw a little letter of happiness in my phone. 'K'. I hated it when people wrote 'k' for ok or okay. But this time i loved it. That was Florence's reply. She was ready to meet me. It was too good to be true. I asked her where i should be and she said 'Mother House' in AJC Bose road. Mother House it was. I took a look at my wallet to see if i had money for a cab. I had. I asked Sethuvamma to wait and jumped in the first cab which stopped.

At Mother House an elderly lady greeted me with a smile and led me in. 'Seek mother's blessings' she told me. I royally ignored all the nuns and started inspecting all rooms. There was no Florence. I went out and was about to sit at another lamp post when the woman who led me in asked me if i had come looking for someone. I nodded like a wound toy. She pointed towards the door. I don't remember walking. I spotted her car and floated there. There she was, like a vision. She was smiling. I was still floating.

I lied through my teeth. I was a liar first and then a film student. I told her that the film had been selected to compete for a national award. The only problem with the film was that it didn't have her interview in it. She said that she was hurt by the way i had behaved. She felt that her privacy was violated. I apologized and said that i thought that was part of my work. I shouldn't have done that. When i said i wanted her to watch it with me she said that she wanted to watch it with family. Family it was. I asked her what if she felt that the film was bad and refused to give me her interview. She smiled like how she smiled the first time i saw her. She said that once she became friends with a person she was unstoppable. A fireball ran up my chest. I promised to give her the film the next day. We said goodbye.

I said hi to my life which i saw peep out from a corner in A J C Bose road. There was only one happy woman in the whole of Kolkata then and that was me. I walked roads which i didn't know. I saw a tram and jumped in and asked them to take me to Esplanade. They said it didn't go there. I asked them to take me where it went. They asked me to get out and i did happily. I hopped into an auto which went to Esplanade. I asked Sethuvamma to wait at Nahoum's. I floated there and laughed when i saw her. I laughed when she said that Nahoum's was shut. Laughed when she complained about the unhygienic kulfi shop i took her to. She had kulfi for the first time. We bought a lens frame. I had a lot of Florence Madeira to see with my myopic astigmatic eyes. When we walked back to the metro station i saw this building. There were colours around me. Inside me was a film.


I smiled like an imbecile all the way home.

Documentary Diaries #17: Typing...



Documentary Diaries #15: Cinema is Powerful

14th March 2015

It had been more than a month since we went to Madeira and Co in Bow Barracks, Kolkata.
D Jeet had hit a cinematographer's block. He was least interested in shooting. I had become a stalker and was always following him on campus asking him to shoot. Two days earlier after i followed him to hardworking's (my favourite tea shop near campus) and walked to another tea shop for my nth tea that evening we met Partha. Partha was our senior in institute and an award winning sound designer. I respected him a lot from the time he gave us a workshop on 'sound in documentary'.

We spoke over tea.
When D Jeet mentioned our losing a day's footage Partha recounted the time when the same had happened to them during the shoot of Bishar Blues (a brilliant documentary). My immediate reaction to ask what the director had felt. I asked Partha 'Did you see his face? What was it like?'. He said that the director was 'cool'. I sighed. Partha asked us how our project was going. I talked about our problem with our protagonist. I spoke of the mistake i made of talking to Florence's neighbours before i spoke to her. He said that it was not about the film. It was about the person. I said that it had stopped being about the film long time ago. I was only worried about Florence Madeira. I only wanted her to speak to me. 'Then it will definitely happen'. He said.

That was all it took. I found some energy to pursue more. D Jeet and i decided to go to Florence without camera and try and speak with her. I asked NN if she would be able to record sound with some inconspicuous equipment. She arranged for a Tascam recorder. We were all set to go.

On the morning of 14th when i was in toilet and looking at obituary out of habit than necessity i saw a death. Someone had died out of meningitis. The burial was again at Bhawanipore cemetery. I called D Jeet. He didn't pick up. I went to google chat where most of our discussions happen and pinged him saying i had a gut feeling about the burial that it was going to be better than what we shot the previous time. He was not interested. I was disappointed than angry. I asked him what the matter was. He said that burials would happen over and over again and that Florence was what was more important. He said that i was hyper and that he wanted me to go step by step and not do a lot of things together.

Everyone wanted me to change. I was saddened. I cursed the Lithium i was taking. People still thought i was hyper. What purpose did it serve then. What was wrong with hyper. Hyper was what made me work like a dog. May be there was a way to do it without being hyper. That was what normal people did, i suppose.

NN had a splitting headache. I thought it was better that she took rest. We weren't sure that we would get to see Florence. Before cycling to New Garia metro station i called D Jeet and said that it was okay if he didn't want to go. He said it was fine.

I reached Chandni Metro at around 3:15 p.m. D Jeet was already there. I gave him a defeated smile which meant 'why-couldn't-you have-shot-the-goddamn-funeral-for-me' and he gave another in return which i assumed to be 'just-like-that'. I asked if it was okay if i had a cup of tea before going to Florence. He suggested we go to hotel Broadway. I didn't have money for that place. He offered to pay for my coffee. Broadway was a place i loved ever since D Jeet, NN and i went there once during shoot. I agreed.

Over coffee we spoke of the project, people, love(lessness) and our miserable lives.

My heart started beating fast when we stepped out of there and started walking towards Madeira and Co.
Nikki was the only person who was there. He was sleeping. We waited outside. Had more tea. We went back there. Nikki saw us and said that we weren't allowed in there. My heart sunk. Was it all over? It couldn't be. It couldn't be. I kept telling myself. We walked back.

D Jeet asked me to call Florence. She had stopped picking my call a month ago. I decided to give it a go. When i looked for Florence's number on my phone i realized that the contact was in my old phone. It was okay, i had the visiting card she had given me in my wallet. She had neatly written her number on it. Only i had forgotten to take my wallet that day.
I called NN. Her phone was switched off. I called Sethuvamma and asked her to go to my room and look for my wallet. Hyper mother hyper daughter. She panicked and started banging on my door. NN who was sleeping to get rid of her headache jumped up and was confused. When i saw that Sethuvamma was in her panic mode i spoke to NN and asked her to look for the wallet under my pillow. She got it and i got the number. I dialed.

She picked.

I asked her if i could speak to her for some time. She asked me who i was. I realized why she had picked the call. She had lost my number like i had lost hers. Momentarily. I said i wanted to give her the film i made. That got her interested. It was Kunju Thalona who suggested that i went to Madeira's with some footage and use that as a means to pursue Florence to speak with us. I wasn't too convinced but had decided to give it a shot. Never got the time to. When i was back from the hospital Aalayam had already made a cut. All the departments wanted to evaluate their students which meant there was a deadline. The cut was pathetic. I had told him that that was not the film we were making. I suggested some basic changes. He gave me the final cut and i never watched it. I wasn't interested in that film. It wasn't mine. But it was useful. It looked like a promotional for the place. That was what i was going to give to Florence.

I never had a great opinion of cinema. I never thought it was something which interested people. When i spoke to Florence and said that i wanted to show her the film i realized i was wrong. People loved cinema. I don't understand why. Florence's tone changed. She wasn't dismissive of me. She asked me if i could whatsapp her the film. I said no and that i wanted to speak to her. Cinema as bait. Yippee. She said i could leave the film with Nikki. I insisted that she spoke to me. She said she was at a funeral and that she could not speak that day. I looked at D Jeet who was near me. I asked her 'Is this the burial of the lady who died of meningitis?' It was. She asked me to give her a ring the next day to see if she was free. I was to leave the film with Nikki.

I cut the call thanking her. I started hitting and punching D Jeet. 'I told you i had a gut feeling', i shouted. He didn't resist and just said that i was being hyper again. I apologized to him later when i calmed down. I had hit out of comfort. Not out of anger. Even then it was a wrong thing to do. People should never hit other people.

I was relieved. Florence had spoken to me after a long time. I felt rejuvenated.
D Jeet had a dinner date and his friend was going to meet him at Park Street metro. We decided to walk back there. He took me to Metro Gali, the place which was known for camera equipment. It was the first time i was being there. He was proud and showing off. Then he took me to a place which makes me laugh even now. They were shops lined up which had boards which read 'rubber goods'. They sold condoms. I had not seen anything like that anywhere else. D Jeet was taking revenge for me having made fun of him for not knowing many places in Kolkata. 'I know only a few places, but all of them are good', he beamed. We then went to Nahoum's where he bought brownies for NN and Sethuvamma. His friend was at Park Street metro by then. We parted ways there.

rubber goods. photo: D Jeet


Again came a gut feeling. I didn't want to go back to the institute. I hadn't had lunch and beef was waiting back there. I still wasn't hungry. I had a limca and roamed around Esplanade. Bought a lens frame for Sethuvamma. She had broken it while hurrying to reach me when i was in hospital. Smoked a cigarette or two and took a look at my phone. I was only getting used to the settings and methods of the new phone which Buddi had gifted me. So when i saw that i had missed a call from Florence i couldn't believe myself. If it was true it was the first time she was giving me a ring. I called back. Asked her if she had called me. She had.

It was a good day.

She had thought that i was going to give the film that evening. I said that she had heard me wrong. That i wasn't carrying the film but only wanted to speak to her for some time. She said she was very tired. I said it would take only a few minutes. She said okay.
I was lost in New Market. I ran this way and that and walked as fast as i could. [That was hyper behaviour too according to D Jeet. I was always running this way or that] I didn't have money to take a taxi. Not that there were many around. I walked and ran and walked to Madeira's. A man whom i was seeing for the first time stood at the door and asked me for the CD. He growled at me. I said Florence had asked me to wait there for her. I did. I called her. She didn't pick up. I called again and again till she picked. She said she was sorry and that she couldn't meet me. There was another death. She couldn't meet me the next day too. She had to be at the burial. I asked her when i could meet her. [Tried to bring in a little weight in my voice]. She said she could see me on Tuesday. I said okay and left.

Back in the institute while having my beef and erissery, the late lunch at 10 p.m, i thought hard if i should really give the film the next day. That was the only bait i had. That was the day i realized cinema was powerful. That was the day Florence Maderia alias Jogita Biswas had called me on my phone. I went back to my room and watched the cut Aalayam had made. It was the crappiest thing i had ever seen. It was just perfect as a promotional video.

I trusted Florence. I knew she would be at the burial the next day. I would have to wait for the newspaper to know where it would be. I would go with the CD there. Not give it to Nikki. Only Florence mattered. I had to speak with her.

I slept like a baby that night. 

Documentary Diaries #16: A Vision Called Florence

Monday, 9 March 2015

February 2015: Films

Birdman



It screwed my brain.

Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro



Third viewing. Liked it like i liked it the first time i watched it. The opening shot. Brilliant scripting. The only thing which i didn't like was the appeasement policy the film had. To pacify the feelings of the 'indian' by saying Muslims were equally responsible for communal clashes as Hindus. This is precisely what any literature or art should avoid. You needn't say the opposition is equally bad to criticize the ruling party.

My favourite scenes are the one in which Mumtaz is introduced, their meeting at the ice cream parlour, the lighter sequence at night. Brilliant acting by all.

Monday Morning Bombay Toast

France is my dream country. Paris is my dream city. French toast is the first thing i learned to make. I was only a child. That's what i like about it. Even children can make it.

French toast, but was called Bombay toast at home. I don't know how either of the names came about. In first year us girls were given accommodation in a staff quarters called D block. I loved those days in D 11. I had my bed near the window, a grand kitchen and many cups of coffee. I started cooking by making egg curry. It had too much oil in it and while making it the pan caught fire. It was an induction cooker that Sethuvamma bought that i was using and was yet to learn the heat dynamics of it.

NN lived in another room in the same house. She was from Bombay (now Mumbai). When i made Bombay toast for the first time i realized she loved it. It soon became one of our common snacks there. There were times when i made it on all days of the week.
We came to the conclusion that it was called french toast by people from Bombay and Bombay toast by everyone else. 
Bombay made me think of Appachan. That was where he was posted on his first job. I remembered his tales of tailors on the pavement who stitched pants. That was were he graduated to pants from mundu (dhoti). I thought of her (uncle's) Bombay beef fry.

Then she called.
When i told her about our Bombay toast making spree she whispered a cooking tip in my ear. It was to add a little meat masala in the egg milk and sugar mixture. I did and i loved it.
Recently she gifted me a lot of cookware, an induction cooker, and an overn-toaster-griller. I couldn't cook. You know how it is. If you don't have mouths to feed and are cooking only for the joy of it then you cook when cook.

I had stopped taking my lithium pills and had gone back to my usual sleep pattern. It was almost 7 a.m when i got some sleep. She called me before that to impart what she calls 'scientific temper'. Gave a lecture on how sleep pattern affects almost everything in a person's life. Sounded like a lullaby. When i got up 4 hours later i cooked.

NN woke up to the smell of Bombay toast and i was happy. Monday morning Bombay toast in memory of D 11 and its girls.  




Saturday, 7 March 2015

Documentary Diaries #15: Patch Shoot but not Patch Shoot

On 7th March 2015 when i got up and went to the mess to have my morning cup of tea i saw that it was shut. They were taking a holiday post Holi. I decided to have breakfast outside with Sethuvamma. The poori place which was cheaper than any restaurant back home Rs. 10 for four pooris and two kinds of sabji and chutney. Rs 5 for two rotis and the same] was an instant hit in family. Both of us had poori and ghughni and later tea from 'hardworking's'. [I call it that because they open earlier than most places in Kolkata and shut much later too.] It was around 10 a.m when i was back in the room and took the newspaper in hand. Bowel movement was to be with The Telegraph.

In the toilet evading a lot of shitty reporting (no pun intended) i did my daily scan of obituary. There was something i wanted in there. A christian death. The footage we lost. A burial. I don't remember if i finished what i was doing. I ran to the room and called D Jeet. He had a workshop going on and had told me that he was packed for the most part of the month. My family had already started calling him Santosh Sivan because he was so busy. I was scared he would refuse to shoot. Even before he could do that i showered a lot of please's. Later he asked me not to do that. She had said the same to me the previous day. The fact is i don't know what else to do in such situations. D Jeet asked me to arrange for a camera and a card. I tore down the hostel stairs to Kenny's room. He was the rich junior who had a camera. Some more please's later i had it. The next problem was the card. Nobody seemed to have one. I ran up and down the hostel looking for one. Finally got one from D Jeet's classmate, Kesh.

NN was fast asleep. She had slept as late as 6.30 a.m. I woke her up and said that we had to shoot. She made coffee zombie-like and changed. She had to go to her department to see if she could issue a tascam recorder. She didn't get it. We managed with a windshield-less boom mic and recorder.

While D Jeet and i were waiting at the main gate for NN to join us a lot of students asked us if we were going on a shoot. I don't know if it was because they were seeing us together after a long time or because i had created quite a commotion in the hostel running for the card and camera. I don't know why it was that neither of us felt like telling anybody that we were going on a shoot. We didn't feel like saying that we were going to try and recover the footage we lost. We didn't feel like saying anything at all. So we said that it was patch shoot. It sounded cool and it made us feel like we were film makers for real. They are the ones who had patch shoots. For petty film students like us all shoots were shoots.

It was around 11 a.m when we left the institute. My heart was racing. I took an extra anti depressant that day. Self medication that she so opposes and i practise often. When we were a couple of hundred metres away from the institute D Jeet exclaimed that we had left the battery charging at the security gate. U turn. Stop. Retrieve and commence ride.

The funeral service was at 11 a.m. There was no way we were reaching Christ the King church at ark circus in time. So we went to Bhawanipor cemetery where the burial was going to be. We had to shoot the digging of the grave. It was already dug when we reached there. I looked for somebody who could pretend he was digging it. D Jeet later said he knew what shots to take exactly because it was the second time he was doing it. It was as if we had had a rehearsal for shoot almost a month ago.

Bhawanipore cemetery entrance

Like the previous time i went out to check when the family was arriving with the body to let D Jeet and NN know. They arrived around noon. We shot. We had everything we had lost except for a small portion at the church. We had our opening sequence. We had what was in the card which was gone and which made me swallow a lot of small round sleeping pills.

D Jeet said that he didn't like what he shot. I said that we had what we wanted. That he was feeling so because a copy of a copy would never be the copy. All that Derrida and i had chucked the absolute of anything in the bin. There was no absolute shoot. We only had incomplete copies of images and sounds. Our films were incomplete. I liked it that way.

What she was brought in


Lunch at Zishans and back to the institute.
I copied the contents of the card the first thing after reaching my room.
I played badminton.
I watched the rushes.
I slept.

Documentary Diaries #16: Cinema is Powerful

Friday, 6 March 2015

Shrink Tales #2: In Which i Told my Shrink That it was Okay and That it Happened Sometimes

Hospitals scared me. No real people. No home. No smoking zones.
I thought of her at hospitals. I thought of myself four years ago. Had anything changed?
I hated being sick. Sickness was when my body was not under my control. I hated that. When Calico spoke of his migraine of two decades i was enraged. How could a sickness do that to a human being. And yet there i was in a mundane room. Over exposed and good for nothing but sick people. Like me.

When it was time for the second visit i chickened out. I had a screening to attend at 6 p.m and thought i would be late if i went to the hospital. Sethuvamma said that the doctor visited the hospital only once a week and that i would have to go. That did it for me. I became irritable. She said she wanted to take a cab. I wanted to go by auto(rickshaw). Slammed doors and tears later i was at the whiteness of the hospital. I had Derrida for Beginners with me along with the previous session's prescription where she had asked me to try out 'self soothing methods' which involved ice cubes and scribbling in red. I had done none. There had not been an occasion. I was happy the entire week. I had got a new bicycle. Sethuvamma was going to buy me a phone. I asked for a bicycle instead. It was cheaper too, i added. I had wanted one since i sold my earlier Hero when i was hard up on cash. We went to Bentinck Street [that's where you should go if you want to buy a bicycle in Kolkata] together and bought one. I rode the thirteen or more kilometers back to the institute. When i reached the room i found three big cartons with Amazon written on it. She had sent me lots of goodies. She later told me that she wanted me to have a new beginning. She sent a lot more things of which i liked a pair of earrings the best. Golden, it was a leaf.

None of that helped me at the hospital. Tears poured down as Sethuvamma stood guard at the door of Ms Mullick, my psychologist. I couldn't concentrate on the pictures in the book let alone its deconstruction. I stared at the fish. A fish tank was the silliest thing to be in a hospital. What purpose did it serve anyway! I went out to have a smoke. Sethuvamma followed me because she thought i was going to leave like the one time i had. I was sulky and hurt her by saying i was going to smoke. There were more packets arriving at the hostel. I was even getting a new phone. Buddi had sent it when he got to know that my Samsung was getting switched off without provocation. I was numb to everything.

Ms Mullick asked me how the week had been. I suppressed my tears and said that it was fine except when it was time for therapy. She asked me if i were in similar situations often. Where i felt that i was being forced to do things. I realized i was when she asked me that. It was like the time when your room was always dirty. There would be one moment where you decide to tidy it up. That would be when your mother walks in to tell you just that. Then you wouldn't want to clean the room only because she asked you to. To this problem of mine she said that i would have to practise self soothing methods again. Also asked me to set goals. By then i had started crying again.

She asked me what the matter was. Then i told my shrink that it was okay and that it happened sometimes. Only after saying that did i realize how stupid i sounded. She was easy on me. Thank heavens that i am not a psychologist. If it were me i would have laughed out loud. She said she knew it was okay and that she only wanted to know what my thoughts were at that moment. Damn! What was i thinking!
Oh. That was what she wanted to know.

I said that i was feeling bad that i was being changed. She asked me how that was. I said i felt that the world was not a place for a person like me and that i had to do what she asked me to do so that i could belong. So that i could be happy. Said that my pain was also what made me me and parting with it would be sad. It was like when you had a break-up. When it hurt badly you were also happy somewhere because it also meant that you loved that person so.
She thought for a long time. She said that the fact was that the world was not a place for anybody. I didn't get what she meant by that. Nor did i try understanding. What she said next caught my attention. She drew three blocks with 0, 50 and 100 written in them. She said that my pain was at 100. She said that a happy person's pain was at 50. And that 0 was how much pain a person in comatose had. She said that she couldn't even help me be at 50 and that she was only trying to make me be at around 80-90. That was because at 100 my pain was asking me to harm myself.

I was relieved. I paid attention. Like in school. The class was interesting you see. I had to feel that the teacher/professor knew something i didn't to pay attention to them. Ms. Mullick seemed to know things i didn't and things i could understand.

So when i thought i was losing control i had to think of my goals. She went back to the situation of Aalayam losing the memory card which contained a day's footage. That was what she remembered of me, she said. So when a person was in such a situation they had to think of what the immediate goal was. That would be to shoot it again. What could be done so that it could be shot again and such.

It sounded easy. Only it wasn't. If i had seen the footage (reviewing dailies in film maker's parlance) and saw that it was bad i would easily have scheduled a re-shoot. Why then was i not able to even think of such things when Aalayam lost the card? She then took me to stress levels. When stress levels were at its peak and it overflowed one lost their sense of logic. She said lose and wrote loose. The prescription now has 'loose sense of logic' written on it. It was true either ways, i thought.

Back in the institute i spoke to her. I had received all of her presents. She said she wanted me to even start smelling new. Toiletries imported from Paris, my dream land, shampoo and soaps that i had seen only with NN, badminton rackets, an oven-toaster-griller and what not. When i spoke to her i started faltering for all the new beginnings and material comforts i then had. I spoke of my end. I spoke of the hotel room i was going to die in. For the first time i tried the 'self soothing methods'. I scribbled in red in the book Emm, my neighbour had gifted me. It didn't soothe my self.

Later when i looked at those pages i felt really bad that such a nice book was being wasted that way. So i tried converting my scribblings in red to some sort of sketches. Came out very badly, but it was okay. I felt i was doing something.

The first one is me leading myself on. There is a bigger me and a smaller me. I followed myself on, balloons and all.

me, myself and balloons
The second one is a self portrait. That was how i was most of the time. She said she sometimes wished she could wear her pain on her sleeve. I don't wish that. I wanted everyone to see and touch what my pain wasn't, what i wasn't. And my pain, my baby, i would nurture. A potted plant, like the only clitoria on campus which sits smugly in my balcony. Brought all the way from Kozhikode, Kerala to Kolkata, West Bengal. Along with it what people didn't see board the train was that bitch of a pain mantled in laughter and sunshine. Mine. Mine. Mine.


Thursday, 5 March 2015

Documentary Diaries #14: Nth Dream

I have got used to dreams about film making. On Holi day, 2015 i woke up to a rather peculiar dream about Florence Madeira. In it D Jeet, NN and i were again at Madeira and Co. This time we had gone with a cut Aalyalam had made with the available rushes. I showed it to her and she responded to me. She gave the interview i was after. From it i learned that she was a striptease artist. She also gave erotic conversations on phone for money. There were more than two women who worked under her. In the dream Florence was afraid of men. I didn't like it one bit and woke up to the festival of colours.


Documentary Diaries #15: Patch Shoot but not Patch Shoot

Why I am Not India's Daughter:

4th March 2015

Kolkata celebrates Holi today. Delhi will tomorrow. Delhi is India's capital city. It is also the city with the most number of rapes reported. The Delhi gang rape of a medical student in a bus kindled nation wide protests. The documentary 'India's Daughter' has lengthy interviews with one of the convicts. India's problem with the film also lies there. The country has banned the screening of the film. On Holi day 2015 BBC however broadcasted the film in the wee hours of the morning and later released it on Youtube. This is not just a victory of freedom of speech. It is also a strong statement against state repression.

How?

The film maker held interviews with the convicts who are now in Tihar jail. She did so after obtaining the necessary permissions from the concerned authorities. Lawyers of the convicts also speak. The problem here is that a 'foreigner' penetrated the state and subjected it to criticism. Jails are the epitome of state brutality. India is one of the few countries which still enforces capital punishment. The convicts have also been sentenced to capital punishment and have appealed to the Supreme Court.  This country has consent to brutality by the state and has further shut it out from people and made it impregnable. 'India's Daughter' and its director Leslie Udwin penetrate this capsule of violence.

As usual safety of women has been used to keep the truth under the hood. India has banned the documentary. They say that the content of the film is against women. Minister Venkaiah Naidu has said that it is part of an international conspiracy against the nation. Is a person convicted of rape blaming the victim while in jail international conspiracy? Or is the representatives of the judiciary saying that there is no place for women in Indian culture and that she has to be protected by men? If that is the case the film is a truth which has to be showed not just in India but around the world.

Another pertinent issue is that of how permissions were obtained to shoot in a prison. Why are our prisons camera shy? If prisons are state's models of efficiency shouldn't they be welcoming it? The issue is two sided. The first is the belief that prisons and its inmates are the property of state and should adhere to its whims and fancies. The second is that it is an 'other' which has crossed this barricade. In such situations even those who are otherwise anglophiles turn nationalists. The theory is that of an 'outsider' passing comments about the functioning of a family. Families are allowed to do anything. Domestic violence is allowed. Dowry is okay. No questions asked. The convict, Mukesh Singh, who believes that the victim shouldn't have protested and that it was all her fault and repeats this view throughout the documentary is a part of the family. It is intriguing that it is not this misogynistic view that has provoked the state but the fact that it is a British woman who brought it out. State is not protecting the convict. It is protecting the public opinion which is similar to that of the convict's. This is precisely what the documentary topples. 
 
BBC's India's Daughter

India's Daughter is a mediocre film. Nothing artistic about it. Moreover it is somewhat like Slumdog Millionaire in that it looks at India as a third world nation sinking in poverty and anti-social activities. A country which needs reformation. Glee at an opportunity to criticize a former colony is rather evident. India of slums, youth dropping out of school to earn a living, women who only seek protection from husbands- the sketch is just perfect.

I don't know if documentary is still seen as a quest for truth. I don't believe that cinema seeks the ultimate truth or that one even exists. I believe that from the time a camera is placed and a frame is obtained, through cuts to sound design, film making is a story of including and excluding. What is in a frame is also what is not in it. What a cut excludes is also what it includes. In that sense, the 'India's Daughter' has an outlook which says that India is a lot of uncivilized people engaged in heinous crimes. At the same time it is not advisable to ban it for this reason. This is the primary difference between fiction and non-fiction forms of art. Even while opposing the politics of Slumdog Millionaire, India's Daughter poses itself as a big pillar of truth. There are no actors here. No script. It is before media that one of the lawyers for the convicts said that he would set fire to any woman in his family who had premarital sex. He repeats the same in the documentary. Another lawyer says that woman is like a flower and that she will be worshiped if kept in a temple and be crushed if left on the streets. The convict says that rapes will not stop with their capital punishment. On the contrary people will now just murder women without a second thought under similar circumstances.

This is the politics of rape. To know the kind of power patriarchy enforces you only have to listen to the convict for a while. Mukesh Singh speaks of the victim's intestines being pulled out by a convict and being discarded on the road as if it were weather talk. He says with pride that his brother (another convict) is a gym instructor and that he is quite strong. It doesn't scare me, this machismo. On the mirror that is 'India's Daughter' it is silver-cold.

It is this reflection that the state wants to wipe away. The high of bhang is wearing away slowly from Kolkata. Youtube video has been removed already. For me, today's colours have Jyoti Singh too in them. Over all inebriation is a dark cloud of rain; of how an average Indian man looks at women. I am not India's daughter. I don't think Jyoti Singh was either. India is in fact Mukesh Singh. I cannot adhere to anything which originates there. Neither as a woman nor as a human being. In this festival colours i am with a 'foreign' film. A mediocre one which posed threat to state, a film which made me part of a conspiracy. Jyoti Singh, today, i miss  you.

Holi 2015
 Read the malayalam version here

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Shrink Tales #1: On Losing Control

Apart from making me fall in love with the place Kolkata brought a lot of changes in me. I started cooking. Started liking washing clothes. Planted plants. Kept my side of the room clean always. My cupboard was probably the best in the whole of the institute with all clothes ironed and folded neatly into stacks. I took care of documents. Made different compartments in my drawers for a variety of them. If my roommate had something she thought was important she would ask me to keep it lest she lost it. It was the same with family. I was the keeper of things.

So when i went to the psychiatrist and he asked Sethuvamma to keep the prescription from me i was enraged. I was no longer in control. He said that the medicines had to be supervised and given to me. I was a sick person there. Ironically that made me sick (further?).

I was given anti depressants and mood stabilizers. It made me sleep. My lover google gave me a lot more of side effects for them which included weight gain and minor tremors. I was given the exact dosage every night. I hated it.

I fought with my folks for the prescription. I had to keep it safely some place. That was my only goal then. A sheet of paper with writing which was mostly illegible. White like hospitals and just as bland. After the visit to the psychiatrist i was somebody who couldn't hold a goddamn paper. I cried. I shouted. I was irritable. Sullen, i went to the psychologist the next day.

Ms Mullick asked me if i was happy or sad. I said i was confused. Said that i was busy pretending to be happy in front of family that i had no time to think if i was actually sad. She laughed. She asked us all to devise a method by which we could let each other know how we were feeling without hurting or being irritable. If i was not in a mood to talk i would just have to message saying that. She asked me to message her whenever i was extremely happy or sad.

I have been thinking of my death since i was 17. From then i have had elaborate plans of my end. Like directing a powerful scene which made me tense and excited at the same time i have been doing a shot breakdown of it for the longest time. To this Ms. Mullick asked me to try and visualize life whenever the fantasy of death rose in me. I wish it were as easy as saying it. It is not. I don't think i will ever be able to do that. Life bored me to death. Almost literally.

My masochism started much earlier. I remember when i was in class 7. Gee who lived half a kilometer away from my house and i went to math tuition together. For me 85% was a bad score. I always had to be first in class, a straight A student. You know what they say about math. That was the paper in which you could get a 100%. I had to get that. I didn't, once. Gee had scored poorly too. She said she was going to jump in front of a truck and end her life. I thought of it and it sounded like the right thing to do. I said it was better that she we slit our wrists. She agreed. We bought razor blades. We took the short cut to home. The one which had the lone house with a well. Mango and Jamba trees (water cherry) in the compound. Deserted. There was a bridge of coconut tree trunk. It was there in the midst of all that green that we counted to three and i made an earnest slit on my wrist as Gee, the traitor watched suppressing her horror or smile, whichever it was that i didn't understand.

Gee was a liar. I was a fool. From the next day she started threatening me with the incident. She spoke of it to her mother and to my math tutor. From there it went to Sethuvamma. I don't remember what happened at home after that. I was spared from the thrashing that i would have got for the unimpressive 85% but that was a huge price to pay for the embarrassment.That was how i realized i could slit wrists without cutting the vein. Till then from all the Malayalam films i had watched i always thought that a razor blade swipe was death. Remember one shot in which Mammootty did it and a lot of blood splattered on the wall. My wrist is worn out from scars and has given up protesting. She sent me a watch with a butterfly. She said that it would beat with my heartbeat. I don't know if it will. When i had to take a photo of it i went to Deep, a junior from cinematography and asked him to click it because my camera had stopped working. I asked him to click in a way that the butterfly was seen and the marks on my wrist weren't. It was impossible. I put it on my right wrist where the marks were less in number and could be hidden by the watch. He flipped the photo so that it looked as if it was the left hand on which i wore watches. My time was upside down. It was better than my time being up. Even pictures were hard when you were in pain.

She gave me a watch. Photo: Deep


Ms Mullick asked me to practise three self soothing methods when in pain. Scribbling with red ink pen on paper, tightly clenching ice cubes in both hands or taking an ice cold shower. Scribbling would be the easiest for me. Sethuvamma even bought me a red ink pen and said something silly of how she thought i was looking for one. Everyone wanted me to be okay. Everyone also kept prescriptions from me.

Ms Mullick said that it was not a matter of trust and that it was just that sometimes you had to do what your doctor said. My session was almost over. I didn't know when tears started rolling down. 'Yeah, i know. It's just that i was always the one who kept things safe [here Kunju Thalona and Sethuvamma nodded eagerly]. It's okay, i guess i am sick. People keep things from sick people', I said and we left. I cried, shouted and later slept my way through all the Lithium i was given. I write this so that people who are sick like me can may be feel they are not alone. Not that it helps. It doesn't me. I write this because i don't know what else to do.

Shrink Tales #2: In Which i Told my Shrink That it was Okay and That it Happened Sometimes

March: Sketches

Emm, my neighbour gifted me a sketch book upon my return from the hospital. Not another book cover has been so apt for me. It has a google maps page for cover which points to different places the most prominent of which is MENTAL BLOCK and others like Lake of Motivation, Procrastination Avenue and Frustration Rd. Emm, Subho another inmate here, Ri with whom i spent some days in Gaya all said they would like to see me sketch again. I never even knew that someone was even paying it any attention. I think i suck at it but yes, it makes me feel good when i sketch.
I hope i continue.


Untitled #1 Image idea from Derrida for Beginners


Monday, 2 March 2015

Short Film Trajectory #7: A Marriage and a Poster

In celluloid world the merging of picture and sound is called a marriage. The product is called a married print. It was to grade the film and get the married print that D Jeet left for Mumbai (the only place in the country where it is done) last month.

Ga and i went to the same school in Kozhikode. She was a year or two senior to me in school but we had chess in common. Yes. When i was in school i used to play chess and participate in tournaments. So did Ga. We had no contact after school till i messaged her on facebook asking her if she could act in my short film. She agreed to my surprise. It was a pleasant experience for me to meet someone after so many years and learn that i could actually speak with that person. It is impossible for me to have conversations with most people from my school.

Ga and i spoke of cinema, politics, gender, sexuality and our pathetic lives. She lived in Bhubaneswar then and i made extensive plans for a trip there which as usual never worked out. Among all those talks was a joke that she cracked on us students and our films. That it all sounded like a big relationship issue. Sometimes she heard aalayam ask me if a certain wall (on the set) was committed. If a wall wasn't committed we could add more props to it or remove some etc. A non committed wall basically meant that never before had we exposed that area in the film. Later she heard us talk of married print. It was the epitome of our illicit affair with cinema. I am, however of the opinion that it is a rather poor nomenclature. It brings the institution of marriage into cinema. Makes it sound as if two things/people getting together is always in marriage.

Ga, after going back whatsapped me a picture she had made in memory of the experience of shoot. Recently while scanning through the images in my phone i saw that again and thought it would make for a good design for our poster. It was diegetic too, in a way. There was a scene in which Ga's character/the protagonist did that on a canvas. Also, it was the actress herself who made it making it a representation of what the film or its experience meant to her. This was the picture Ga made.

Ga's picture.

Yesterday i went to Rana, our professor of Art Direction and asked if he could help me make a poster for the short film. He agreed. Since the picture Ga sent was a low resolution one we decided to do it once again on a paper and click a good quality photograph of it. We couldn't scan it because the paint was wet. I went to the still photography department and asked Manna to click a picture for me. He clicked this

Copy of a copy of a copy: Manna's click.

Five times removed from reality, the picture again went back to Rana and he made the poster we wanted. I put the crew in alphabetical order and the cast in reverse order of sex. Reverse order of sex is what i call things in which the 'second sex' or women come first. ;-)

So here is the poster. Now the screening in Main Theatre and then i can be content about the grave i dug myself for me.


She Leaves Me. Again

For years I have struggled to explain to her how she hurts me. How I get hurt even when she has no clue that I am getting hurt. She ...