Thursday, February 25, 2016

An Actuality Trip...

A sunrise at Telangana.
It is only in Hyderabad that someone like Parushuram Singh can sponsor a Biriyani and listen to the Telangana VS Seemaadra argument initiated by someone like Upender Apparasu. If Parushuram had anything remotely to do with any Government in India, in present times he could have initiated a case of sedition against Upender. Elavarty Satya Prakash and I, who had wry smiles on our faces during this discussion, would also be liable, then.

Fortunately, Praushuram and Upender are just two old colleagues from the film world - local Hydrabadies. We were sitting in a cozy roof top hotel at Hyderabad when we were having this discussion and after attending a screening at Lamakaan of my recent film ‘Haale-Kangaal’ (The Bankrupts).

Lamakaan is a cultural hub in Hyderabad. Recently, there were murmurs that it would be asked to shut down, allegedly due to parking issues that were created when culture shows happened here. But a swift signature campaign ensured that it stays, doing what it does the best – providing a space for cultural expression which otherwise would not have been heard.

It was originally built as a house. But the owner does not stay there anymore. Exhibitions, stage shows, musical performances, film shows, poetry recitations etc... are held instead. The venue is offered free for anyone who does not charge the viewers. 

There are four curators who manage the show – for four broad disciplines. I was dealing with Sumanaspati Reddy, an employee of All India Radio. Among other things, Sumanaspati curates film sections. He was introduced to me by Elavarty Satya Prakash.

Satya Prakash's book on Cinema 
Satya Prakash is an Assistant Professor at the Sarojini Naidu School of Communication dealing with the Documentary Course at the University of Hyderabad. I was asked to conduct a small workshop for the documentary course students.

Yes, when I went there, the students had just ended a boycott of classes on the Rohit Vemula issue. Rohit had ended his life in a most tragic way. The question of his Dalit identity was mentioned in his suicide note. The students have alleged discrimination.

Shop Com at UOH
Though the strike had ended, the protest was still on - so was a whiff of counter protest. There was anger, sadness, anguish, confusion and fear lurking around in the campus. A professor told me that there is no chance to know who is a student, who is not; who is an informer and who is not.

In the evenings, after four, students gather around in the shopping area, what is called the Shop Com. It is also the main area of the Rohit Vemula protest. Apart from students, possible plainclothes policemen, watchmen, stray animals, coffee cups and Karachi Biscuits, I also bumped into the likes of Sheetal Sathe, Anand Patwardhan, Deepa Dhanraj and Navroze Contractor – people of my ilk.

Rohit's selfie
Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student union president Kannaiyya had just been arrested and there was considerable buzz around it. Was the sedition charges applied on him really needed? Did he really shout those anti-national slogans that the police and the press said he did? Was sedition law, first used by the British to curb the freedom fighters, itself redundant in present times?

There were fifteen Mass Communication students in the Documentary Course. I led them to an actuality field trip to the Shop Com area as a part of the workshop. Actuality field trips result in observations and structured audio-visual scripts. The students were then sent with cameras to the same area, so that they film and edit what they observe. It was stimulating; I did the exercise myself. It was impossible to keep Rohit Vemula out of Shop Com – for me as well as for the students.

Post 'BV Karanth: Baba' screening at UOH
Satya Prakash and his Communication school also hosted the screening of ‘Haal-E-Kangaal’ (The Bankrupts) at Lamakaan on the 14th of February, 2016; along with another documentary of mine, ‘Lohit Diary’. The previous day, on the 13th, I had a University level screening of ‘BV Karanth: Baba’. My day was made when Satyabrata Rout, a long time student of BV Karanth and presently a faculty at the Drama School at University of Hyderabad, agreed with me that the film on Karanth was a portrayal of the man himself seen as a metaphor and a myth.

Raj Kumar Roy was out student union leader at FTII when we had gone on a strike against the rustication of a few students way back in 1987. We had to leave for Mumbai and then head to Delhi – the very second day of my joining of the course. We, the entire student body, stayed in Delhi for almost a month. Roy was there till the end; he was someone we looked upon for leadership.

Roy now teaches the Art of Films at Rama Naidu Film School in Hyderabad. He was very keen to watch ‘Haal-e-Kangaal’. He is also a keen student of Film History and therefore he also wanted his students to see ‘BV Karanth:Baba’.  On the 10th, I had two back to back screenings of these films at the film school at Jubilee Hills.
Raj Kumar Roy

I was meeting Roy after twenty five years. Roy was born in Benaras, he studied in Mumbai, Kolkatta and Pune. He has worked in Delhi and Chennai. He was on the beaches of Tamil Nadu when the Tsunami hit the state. After going through a series of health issues and a near death experience, Roy is now heading the Direction Department at his film School. In his resilience, he still inspires.

Roy, Rohit, Shop Com and Lamakaan – for me, this was what the Actuality Trip to Hyderabad was all about.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Taranjit Kaur on 'BV Karanth:Baba'

The rest is personal...

Sumit Ghosh

Sumit Ghosh is an affable character.  Although he joined the Film & TV Institute of India a year after I did, we graduated together, as he was in the editing course, which was then just two years. For a year or so, he was even my neighbor at the institute hostel. 

I had requested him to support me in arranging a few screenings of ‘Haal-e-Kangaal’ in Kolkata. Referring to the dates that I had chalked out he had mailed me, ‘Oh, why did you plan during those days?’ He was worried that we could not meet, as he was to go to the North-East for a workshop. But before going he had put me on to filmmaker Pradipta Bhattacharyya.

Pradipta Bhattacharyya
Pradipta Bhattacharyya had made “Bakita Byaktigato’ (The Rest is Personal), a film in Bengali language that is not only refreshing in it’s form and content but it had also broken away from the conventions of the ‘realism’ debate that Indian cinema has gloriously clung on to, over the years, ever since Satyajit Ray. It also reminded me of New Theater’s ‘Vidyapathi’ and I thought it belonged to that line of Indian film tradition.

Pradipta and his friends run an organization called ‘Kolkata Shorts’ where they have shown films in the remote areas of Kolkata. Bakita Byaktigato had found an audience like this. On the 14th of December 2015, a screening of ‘Haal-e-Kangaal (The Bankrupts) was held in Kolkata under the aegis of ‘Kolkata Shorts’. The kind of excitement the screening generated was one of its kind and is the best I have had till date.
Discussion at 'Kolkata Shorts'
The post screening discussion that we had, dealt with a lot of issues – about the kind of choices that was made in the making of the film, to the kind of audiences that it could be shown to. We also had an animated argument about the nature of Post Modernism, which one member of the audience, to my amusement, was convinced that the film made a case for.

Most of the audiences either were film buffs and short film makers. I did mention my ‘man ki baat’ to this audience that I would want the film to be shown to an audience who are not necessarily from a film background. After the film an excited Pradipta asked me if he can screen the film in his village – the audience of which would be the general public. I readily agreed.

The next day, there was a screening at The Satyajit Ray Film & TV Institute of India (SRFTII); I have to thank my good friends Prasanjit Ghosh and Santhi Ranjan Mujumdar for that – both of whom are teaching there. Most of the teaching staff at SRFTII are from the FTII, so a film on film school graduates was easily related to, especially by some of the staff, all contemporaries from my film school days.

The screening at SRFTII
Non mainstream film screenings would mean that there is no uniform quality in those projections; for the projectors may differ from screening to screening. In many cases, the screening spaces might not even be entirely dark. One is mentally prepared for such things. But the projection at SRFTII was by far one of the best projections of the film Haal-e-Kangaal. The other one was at the Manipal School of Communication.

I should say that the attendance count was below what I had expected at SRFTII; maybe the ongoing ‘Sexual Harassment’ case and the palpable tensions that it generated albeit simmering underneath the calm exterior, had played a part in it. Or maybe, in an age where World Cinema is easily accessible and available on a lap top or on a mobile phone, the collective viewing of an Indian no budget independent film is not that good a proposition.

I did miss out of a couple of screenings like the one at the Roopkala Academy; they had their student exercises during my visit. But a few of Roopkala students had come to the screening arranged by Pradipta. Pradipta himself is an alumnus of Roopkala Academy. Jhadavpur University is another possible screening venue.

It was good to have made new friends in Kolkata and to have caught up with old ones like Shyamol Karmakar, Abdul Razzak, Debashish Ghoshal, Pankaj Seal, Pradip Sarkar and Monish Das. I was especially pleased to have met Prasanjit Ghosh, who teaches production at SRFTII. He had discovered the value of wearing a suit when I was there and he was looking like Sharmaji, our Production teacher at FTII.

If I plan another screening schedule in Kolkata one of the ulterior motives would also be to catch up with Sumit Ghosh. It has been ages since we sat together for a chat.

If you want to screen this film in your colleges, film clubs or even offices 
please contact HERE