Saturday, November 06, 2010

The Preview at Maithreya

Manohar Patel is an agriculturalist and a self styled wild life documentary film maker. He is outspoken and direct in his communication. Srikant Kelahatti is soft spoken, persuasive, methodical and a practicing charted accountant. Both are environmental activists, both love theater and are avid film buffs. They run an institution called 'Maithreya Institute for Environmental Studies.' Conservation of grassland ecology around the Tiptur region in Central Karnataka, illegal quarrying that have all but destroyed the nearby villages and the dumping of third rate environmentally harmful industrial technology by the west are some of the day to day issues that they deal with. Thus, both face physical threats from the anti environment lobby that they have pitched themselves against.

In the evenings when they get bored with their day to day existence they call up each other and identify a nearby village – making sure from the electricity board that there is no scheduled power cut in place there. They hop on to a car, with a digital projector, a laptop, portable speakers and a large white cloth in tow, and head to the village. At the village they identify a common spot, fix the white cloth as a screen, connect the laptop, the projector and the speakers and get ready for a show. They throw in a few Dr Rajkumar songs downloaded from youtube in the beginning just to get the audience coming in. And then, when the village gathers, they show Al Gore’s film ‘The Inconvenient Truth’ – they have managed to get a Kannada version of it!

In their initial days, the villagers were skeptical. But these days they always manage a hot debate each time they screen the film – making people realise the importance of conservation and the need to respect nature. After the screening, they are invariably invited to dinner at any one of the houses. By mid night they are back in the town of Tiptur, back to their daily lives. Thus relentlessly and ferociously they have been going on for quite some time now. They now want to start a film club, the preview screening of ‘Putaani Party’ was the first film in their list. It amazed me that they had wanted to screen the film for the Tiptur school kids for six months now!

The newly formed Karnataka Chalanachitra Academy under the guidance of filmmaker Nagabharana recently held a workshop for people who are interested in the film society movement. The idea was to form a series of societies that would screen award wining films in various parts of Karnataka. They would be provided with a projector and the films. Manohar Patel had attended the workshop; but refused to toe the line. Films we will do show – but we wont take your grant; for if we do so we would be singing to your tune and we like our independence. Immediately after the screening Manohar called up Nagabharana and got a promise from him that he would publish a write up about the screening in the magazine that the Kannada Film Academy is come up with.

I am inspired.

If you are looking to arrange a screening for your club / college / house / office
please click


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Murthy Saab

The vehicle that Madan had arranged turned at the Corporation circle at Bangalore. I was woken up from my thoughts by Sampath, ‘Where Sir in Corporation?’ I looked around – the Corporation area that I had known no longer existed. I could not figure out where Badami House was located. Twenty six years back I had gone there to attend a film appreciation course. After circling for around ten minutes Sampath finally located Badami House. I ran upstairs, was greeted by an eager official who asked his peon to add a chair in his boss’s office. Another official ensured that the chair actually went inside. It was only then that I was escorted inside, where around fifteen men had already gathered and I was terribly late.

The top official from the information department was presiding over an informal gathering of National Film Awardees from the state. There were two lot of them – This year awardees; it included me and the last year awardees; they had forgotten to honor them. I was made to sit besides Sheshadri, someone from the last year lot. As I sipped the coffee the coffee that was offered, it registered to me that the person sitting in front was the legendary VK Murthy!

He looked at me inquisitively, maybe wondering who I was. I smiled at him, he did not; there was no need for him to do so. Unable to hold his sharp gaze I shifted mine elsewhere. The man who created magic with the light beams that came in between the characters of Waheeda Rehaman and Guru Dutt was sitting in front of me, and I was afraid to hold his gaze! I now realize that it was a crime, an unpardonable one at that. But then, when my gaze shifted back to him, he had lost interest.

Outside I met Prakash, he informed me that Srikanth should arrive any moment. Raja came; Chikaps and Yasku aunty walked in with daughter-in-law in tow. When Arundathi arrived, both lot of awardees were herded on to the dais. Murthy Saab was from the last year lot – the recipient of the Dada Saheb Phalke Award, the highest film award in the country; awarded to an outstanding achiever in the field of cinema, the first cameraman to receive so. His body crumpled as the shawl got wrapped around him. There was no emotion – I thought he would have been better off taking a track shot with Jonny Walker.

As the chief guest spoke my eyes shifted to Murthy Saab again. He was looking like any other grandfather; simple, humble and seemly bored. With a sense of restlessness he looked around and found an invitation on the vacant chair of the chief guest, opened and fiddled around with it. He did not know that I was gazing at him; there was no need for him to know that I was doing so. But I had to gaze; could not have done otherwise. I thought Sheshadri from the first lot saw me gazing at him. And I thought he too shifted his gaze at Murthy Saab with all seriousness that it warranted.

There was he – the man who refused to light up the faces of the junior artist / dancers in ‘Saheb Biwi Aur Gulam’; the man who followed the singing Dev Anand with his camera on the Marine Lines, the man whose close ups created the careers of so many heroines – the creator of some magical images for an equally legendary director Guru Dutt. He had by then got his shawl, the sandalwood garland, a flower bunch and a basket full of fruits. Soon, I got mine. On behalf of us, Girish expressed his pleasure in sharing the dais with Murthy saab. The audience clapped hard; but the man showed no emotion.

I gave a DVD of my film to Arundathi; and when I came out I saw Prakash chatting with Srikanth. Raja had by then gone. I gazed at my tiny nephew sleeping blissfully in the back seat of the car; in the care of his driver. Chikaps, Yasku aunty and daughter-in-law bid fare well and I wondered why on the earth I did not hold the gaze of Murthy Saab in that conference room then – the rookie that I was.



Sunday, August 29, 2010

The junk that we like…

I own some old dusty diaries – around ten of them, each representing a particular year. They normally contain some hurriedly written phone numbers and host of ‘things to do’ lists - lists that I religiously write each day I wake up, but most times forget to refer to. I must have opened just one of the diaries once in the past two years; and I must confess that I don’t feel like throwing them away.

We all love junk, don’t we? Friend Pankaj Advani loved it so much that he shot the climax of one of his films in a junk yard. And I loved the character who sat on a heap of junk with a stengun in hand – it seemed that he loved his junk. Lilly, a distant relative from Baroda firmly believes that if we don’t use a thing for two years, then it should be disposed off. My second cousin Subbu from Bangalore drastically reduces this time to three months. Wish we had the skill and training to recognize junk as and when it occurs. Most times, we take most of our junk to our graves.

Recently while I was winding up our house in my home town, I found a lot of junk – broken steel spoons, gas stove knobs cut into half, unused plastic ice cream spoons, rusty nuts and bolts, fevicol tubes that refused to open, old switches, scissors of various sizes that wouldn’t rip anything, files pertaining to one Mr. Shankar Gauda, a vague faceless employee of The Life Insurance Corporation of India, a person I did not know of, old greeting cards that had grown ears, photos of gods that were so faded that one did not know which gods the photo frames housed, all sort of dried leaves, twigs, colored powders and stuff that were supposed to have medicinal value, white fungus ridden vintage mango pickles in broken but patched earthen pots...etc..etc…etc...etc… and if you feel like, another etc...

The kabadi wala refused to pay much for the first lot, refused to come for the second and the third. I had to pay someone to get rid of the stuff that filled around eight to ten extra large plastic bags that were probably three times the size of an average cement bag. Wish I had clicked a snap before they were disposed off. But unfortunately during that time, my mobile phone too had temporarily become a piece of junk. And guess what? I was preserving it ferociously, not wanting to buy a new one – because it meant parting with the old!

And then some, I could not figure out if they were junk or of value. The fact that they were preserved meant that they were of value to those who preserved them. Pankaj found great value in the junk yard that he shot the climax of his film. Libraries, museums, the film archives, computer hard disks, drawers, cupboards, shirt pockets, suitcases – they all store junk. They may be of value. It a matter of perception and that perception changes with time. This is the junk philosophy.

Or it thinking the other way round - maybe those who preserve junk do not know that they are preserving junk. Ah... if only we could recognize junk as and when it happens. To recognize other peoples’ junk is easy; throwing them away at times is a bit difficult. Hesitant to dispose off some of the old family junk, I carried them to my present house in Mumbai. As I was making space to store them, I chanced upon my old dusty diaries – my new junk. I have now resolved that I will dispose off at least seven of my ten dairies, if not all of them.

But boy, don’t we all love our junk? And I haven’t even talked about the junk stored in our minds. That is for some other sunny day.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

I am not sure...



I am not sure why have I preserved this for twenty two years.
I am not sure why have I uploaded this on my blog, now.
I am also not sure how long I am going to preserve this.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

To sir, with love...



Certificate of Participation - Course Director Satish Bahadur

I first came in contact with Prof. Satish Bahadur way back in 1983 during a film appreciation course that Magsaysay award winner K.V. Subanna had arranged with the collaboration from The Film & TV Institute of India and The National Film Archives of India in Heggodu, a small village near Sagar, Central Karnataka. With his analysis of films he had then opened up a whole new world for me and I am sure for a lot of others who had attended the various film appreciation courses that he relentlessly conducted all over India. He tought Film Appreciation in the film Institute. By the time I joined the Institute in 1987, he had retired. But by then I had attended many of his film appreciation courses in Karnataka. His passion for cinema was very infectious. An entire generation of film makers and film buffs is indebted to him. To sir, with love...



Satish Bahadur - a signature in film appreciation

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Two errant coconut trees

Way back in the seventies, when we bought a piece of land and began to construct a house, I was promised that I would be able to set up a 22 yard cricket pitch in the empty space within the compound. Though friends and cousins were envious; we made elaborate plans about the matches that we were supposed to play. But soon, when five to six coconut trees occupied the empty space I was aghast! It was a promise broken and a loss of face with my friends.
Today the trees have grown tall; two of them bend towards the neighboring compound. There were complaints that things falling from these trees broke tiles and woke people at night. When I came home, the neighboring lady first enquired about everyone's general health condition and then gently asked me to arrange for a person who could climb the two errant trees, tie metal wires around them, pull them to our side and tie them to another coconut tree. I was again reminded of the broken tiles; and was offered some leftover metal wires that the neighbors themselves had used to tie their own naughty trees.
These days it is difficult to get men who climb trees, exclaimed the friendly Shekara. A few days later a person whom I thought had seen before, mentioned Shekara's name and offered to do the job. He looked at the trees, made mental calculations, pointed out at directions, took a loan of of hundred rupees, promised to return the next day and never came back. It became THE news of the neighborhood. The guy from Bombay was duped of hundred rupees. Shekara too chided me; took responsibility and fixed a date where he could directly supervise the operation.
But the coconut trees would have to wait, for on the D-Day two of my family members had a tryst with a hospital. Gentle general health enquiries of the neighbors soon turned into critical health queries. The coconut tree operation was postponed. The trees can wait, health is important; exclaimed Shekara again. I apologised to the neighbors for the delay. They said, they understood.
The tryst with the hospital ended, but one family member, my mother, had a tryst with her destiny - ambulance, frantic doctors, tense phone calls and a heart beat that stopped. And then the usual stuff - mortuary, cremation, emotions, condolences, glum faces etc. In between I made a feeble attempt to re-arrange the coconut tree operation, but was vetoed by Shekara. Let the last rites get over. If in the process a few more tiles get broken, so be it. The lady of the house upon which the errant trees had leaned had tears in her eyes. She said that my mother was like a mother to her. Well, her son was of my age, she had a couple of school going grand children and it was she who first complaint about the trees. To 'be' with her, I had to drop a few tears myself.
And then this morning, another man whom I vaguely remember, knocked at my door, uttered Shekara's name and offered to rein in the wayward coconut trees for eight hundred rupees. Not to be undone, I called up Shekara. In came Shekara on his bicycle. Eight hundred for two trees is good enough. We should fix him before he slips away. Remember, these days it is difficult to get men who could climb coconut trees and do work for you. Buy nine kilograms of 8 mm metal wire, we will do it in the afternoon. In the forenoon my niece is getting engaged and I would be busy, exclaimed Shekara yet again.
I hired an auto roamed around the hardware shops only to find out that none of them had 8mm metal wires. How tall is the tree? Is it slanting too much? Is the tree worker waiting? Maybe try that shop... and why do you want 8mm? It breaks. Everyone uses 6mm. It is stronger, thicker and sturdier. Well if they say 6mm is thicker than 8mm, it better be. Remember, I am not an agriculturist. And here am I sitting in front of fifty grams less than nine kilograms of sturdy but difficult to tie 6mm metal wire waiting for Shekara and the coconut tree climber to arrive. It is coffee time, its pouring cats and dogs, the trees would be too slippery to climb by now and I bet directing a film would have been easier.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Back again on the plane that crashed...


On the plane that crashed yesterday in Mangalore were Mohammed Ziad, his wife and two of his kids. Ziad was coming to India to attend his mother's funeral. During my college days, he had a VHS camera that was gifted to him by his father who worked in the Middle East. The camera was a novelty at that time – at least in our small town. With it, a few of us got together and shot a video film called 'Happy Birthday' - an emotional murder mystery, whatever that meant. It was my first ever attempt at filmmaking. My cousin Ravi and neighbours Amjad and Prasad were the actors; and yours truly was the director, apart from playing the inspector who arrests the murderer in the climax. By the virtue of owning the proud camera, Ziad was my technical adviser. May his surviving kids, left behind in Dubai under the care of their uncle, find the strength to cope up with this tragedy.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

On the plane that crashed...

Jayaprakash Devadiga, JP as we called him, was on the plane that crashed in Mangalore this morning. I had the opportunity to work with him in my film SUDDHA. We were immensely benefited by his ability to quietly get things done without anyone even noticing it. He also played a cameo in the film. May his family find the strength to cope up with this tragedy.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Jahaji Music

Good friend Gurpal Singh has something called 'Docus At My Home'. He calls a few friends to his house, feeds them with buttermilk, sweets, herbal tea, normal tea, biscuits and at times with good food; and then shows them a documentary film. The bonus is a discussion with the filmmaker. I saw 'Jahaji Music' at his house, yesterday - a 112 minutes film directed by Surabhi Sharma. It was the second screening of the film at his house.
The film deals with the identity of a generation of Indians whose ancestors had migrated to the Caribbean islands taking along with them their own local music. The identity of these migrants is aptly depicted by the musical journey that they have been taking over the years. The natural artistic collaborations that they have been having with the music of their adopted land, forms a large part of this journey.
The sequences in the film progressively deal with the harmonious merger of two musical cultures. In a sense, this structure of the film itself seems to be its content. One rarely gets to see such amalgamation.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

SUDDHA at Sanehalli

CR Jambe presently runs a theater school in Sanehalli, a remote village in Karnataka. He was also instrumental in running two of Karnataka's well known theater schools - Neenasam in Heggodu and Rangayana in Mysore. In my formative years, I was fortunate enough to have participated in one of the numerous theater workshops that he conducted all over Karnataka. Recemtly, at Jambe's behest, a screening of SUDDHA was held at Sanehalli. Friend IK Bolwar too was present at the screening. The screening aparently went off well. I am thrilled.

If you are looking to arrange a screening for your club / college / house / office
please click

Friday, February 19, 2010

Cosmos Mein Panduranga…

We once used to call NSD as the Nainitaal School of Drama - Nainitaal because we knew a lot of guys from NSD who originated from in and around that area. For my diploma film at the film institute I needed two actors and I was sure that it had to be NSD trained actors. I met Nirmal Panday two days before my film shoot – before that I had already cast him in the film. Nainitaal guys Rajiv Katiyaal and Sudarshan Juyal had suggested me his name. Nirmal was full of energy, had immence zest. He was excited about the script. I had a song to record and shoot in two days time, but had no music composer. Nirmal volunteered… and after some bottles of santra (local liquor) I was relieved! The lyrics whet something like this ‘Panduranga, Panduranga, Panduranga… Cosmos Mein Panduranga, Universal Panduranga…’ The tune he set was catchy enough to be sung by all and sundry at the film institute, at least for the next ten days.

… nothing significant about this interaction. In fact, I haven’t even met him for the last fifteen years or so. It is just that when someone is no more, you tend to be reminded of the times you spent with him. Mid forties is not an age to die. But such are the vagaries of life.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Saangatya...

Come January and a group of forty to fifty film buffs - journalists, poets, writers, media professionals, students, college lecturers, IT professionals, etc - travel from all over Karnataka and gather for two days at a remote village by the Western Ghats. Situated in the picturesque Shimoga district, Kupalli, as the village is called, is the home town of the famous Kannada poet, the late KV Putappa (Kuvempu). His house has now been converted into a trust called The Kuvempu Prathistana. The Kuvempu Prathistana is not just the venue of this Film Festival, but it also facilitates the logistics of staying and food for these film buffs.

The group calls themselves as ‘Saangatya’. Collectively they pool in their recourses – money and goodwill – and organize a yearly film festival – digital projection and DVD screenings. It is not just another Film Festival where delegates hop in from one theater to another trying to catch up with as many films as they physically can. The films here are limited – a couple of features and a few documentaries. The crux of the film festival is the mandatory group discussion that happens after every film. There is no one lecturing them as it happens in a film appreciation course. No filmmaker to introduce the film, receive red roses and deliver a ‘director’s statement’. It is just a group of people watching films, discussing them in order to know and understand what the medium is all about.

It sounds exciting - because the filmmakers are not directly involved. It feels good when filmmakers organize themselves and show films of fellow filmmakers. But this one is coming from a cross section of the society. All of them are film buffs or cinephiles who are trying to develop an alternative system of watching films. ‘Sangaatya’ is just a year old and already they have had two such film festivals. The third is on this month. Since many months they are running a blog in Kannada language where participants can write about cinema. And now, they are also planning to bring a quarterly magazine on serious cinema. On top of it a documentary workshop within the next few months.
Not particularly keen on on watching the films that are thrust upon you at the mulitplexes? Well, try going the 'Saangatya' way...