Email conversations with a cinephile.

MK Raghavendra
Greetings. I have today sent you a dvd copy of my new feature film called 'Haal-e-Kangaal (The Bankrupts)'. I was wondering if you could see the film at your convenience and give an opinion on it.

Dear Mr Ramachandra, 
A still from Haal-e-Kangaal (The Bankrupts)
I watched your film and found it very interesting conceptually. But here are some critical comments:
a) It is a very personal film, I think, about the dreams film students have, the compromises they make and where they finally go. I would say that it is very, very pessimistic. It shows how most lives are actually wasted. 20 years after graduating people are forced to tell lies to those who were once closest to them – to look better than they are. It is also about the end of friendships.
b) Its difficulty is that it is too personal. It is like making a film only for those who have gone through the same experiences. There will be very few who will feel what you feel by watching your film – which should be your purpose.
c)  The reason, I think, that you film remains too personal to be effective with any kind of general audience is the format. A film as a conversation between two people is ok but then too much pressure will be put on the actors – which they should be able to handle.
d) I don’t think your actors are capable of holding the audience’s attention. An outside person will not find them interesting. In a film school and hostel you would have become involved with ordinary people in deep relationships. But such relationships evolve over two to three years. You can’t use ‘ordinary’ people as actors because they have to become interesting to us – hold our attention – from the very first frame. You actors are too ‘average’ as people to do that.
e)  The script is ‘realistic’ in the sense this is the way people actually talk, this is what happens in real life. But cinema cannot be realistic in that way. Cinema must also be expressive. It cannot show such ordinary things like people farting and shitting and expect audiences to be interested. You script would have had to be much sharper, come to the emotional gist and give much more emphasis wherever required. There would have to be exaggerations. 
f)  There is very little art direction. Here again, you seem to be showing people dressing like this and having such a location because that is ‘real’. But this makes the visuals very dull. I am not saying that you should have posh clothes/ location but that the locations/costumes have to express something. You should also develop your characters to make them interesting as characters different from each other and dress very differently. Here it looks like the actors have come to the location wearing whatever they have. Both actors look ordinary and are boring as people.  
g) Trips should have been more interesting – given his professed experiences. (Is he based on the Utpal Dutt character in Ray’s Agantuk?) But he comes across unconvincingly. No person with so many experiences could be so dull. He does not hold our attention even for a moment – which is necessary. If he is lying, Lokesh does not seem disbelieving as he should have.         
h) The story Maternity Leave is a confusing story and, I think, cannot make a good film script. Since so much time is spent relating it, all this time looks badly spent.  
i) To convey what you are trying to say, which is deeply felt, you need to distort, use techniques which are not simply realist. The camera would also need to be used more creatively.
j)The best moment in the film is when Lokesh brushes his teeth and Trips says Anu doesn't like the taste of nicotine. That is very expressive. 

Dear MK Raghavendra
Thank you for taking time off and watching the film and making an effort to write your opinion on it. The sum of your opinion seem to be this:- It has a limited audience because it is a personal film, a pessimistic film, and the format does not work because the actors in the film can not hold attention. The script, camera, characterization and art direction are realistic with out any exaggeration or distortions; and hence dull. Correct me if I am wrong.

Can you throw some light on what do you mean when you say that your actors are too average as people or look ordinary and boring as people? Does it mean they are bad actors, or does it mean their characters are boring and average?

Dear Mr Ramachandra,
1. I think the dialogues and actions are too full of the mundane. Any artistic venture needs to eliminate the mundane. 
A still from Haal E Kangaal (The Bankrupts)
2. This handicaps the actors. Their personal charisma might have contributed / compensated but they are not able to do this.
3. They may not be bad actors by themselves but they do not give arresting performances - necessary, given the fact that nothing except the two occupy screen time.
4. The actor who plays Lokesh sounds/looks better in the youtube clip where he talks abut the film than in the film itself. In the film he could have been more relaxed.
5. When I say that it has a limited audience I mean that it is too private a film. It is unlikely to mean to other people what it obviously means to you.
Dear MK Raghavendra
Thanks again for the clarification. I think I now am beginning to figure out what do you mean by realistic / mundane.

I did see Agunthuk when it was first made. It occurred to me that there could be a bit of similarity when a cinephile friend of mine told me so. The characters in the film are a combination of the characters of a few people, I think, I know.

I also am of the opinion that a film need not necessarily mean the same thing to other people what it means to the director.

I have a blog, which I write occasionally. Can I post this opinion of yours on it?


So, here is it - the other point of view seen from the prism of film realism.

It is a prism that I had kept at an arms distance, when I was making Haal-e-Kangaal.

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