Sunday, 15 March 2015

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

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