Archive for December 2010

Iti…. a cinematic experience.

December 26, 2010

Cinema is always an experience. From the greek days any performance has been a projection, an identification and a catharsis. I had the wonderful opportunity that ought to be described as fortunate, to watch a film that made me yearn to see it again, go to my library and pull out dust laden old books, and keep talking about it not only on facebook and buzz, but in real time too..

I am writing about the film ‘iti mrinalini’ by Aparna Sen. Years ago, I was stunned at 36 Chowringee lane, her first film which I happened to see, when my exposure to world cinema had not even been with VHS tapes. Now, in the luxury of my home theatre I watch cinematic masterpieces at will and pleasure. I can afford to compare. I can ponder to dissect and discuss. I knew very little cinema when I saw her first film, but now having seen many great and many more good films, I have to be grateful to the lady for making this film, though in a snobbish beer laden slouch on a sofa I can pick at all the weak spots in that film. A film is what you see and experience at that time. It is an emotion, only later do words come and make it rational and relational. I fell in love with the film- what am I projecting or identifying to enforce a cathartic ‘aha’ experience? At this moment and point of writing I do not know. I may, by the time I finish, or may not too- not every experience can be defined and described.

OK! ‘iti mrinalini’ appears to be a very simplistic story. A very successful actress climbing on screen and falling in life, writes a suicide note, and reminisces. Her life is narrated in flashbacks as she extracts nuggets from her memory laden old box. This by itself is a story line that Shakespeare could have pursued. It needed Shakespeare because the narration needs poetry: The writer/director, therefore uses Tagore. As the flimsy cellophane wrapping of the story line is unwrapped layers and layers of laden narratives breeze through the film. The pride, passion and poise of a truly great artist is a portrait painted on screen. I did not cry after the film, maybe I should have.

And, why does the protagonist wishes death and starts writing the suicide note? She has lost a great role in what could have become a great film! It sounds too simplistically silly, unless you ponder on why all contemplations of suicide are on flimsy grounds. Flimsy? Yes, indeed flimsy, to the one peeping through a window. No emotion is flimsy inside. We laugh at somebody slipping, we cry at somebody dying… it is a moment of appropriate emoting, not experiencing the high and low of reality.

The film is loaded with Tagore. I don’t just love him but adore him. This could have favorably prejudiced me. His lines are so meaningfully and majestically woven into the script and narration.

She decides to die after many tragic and painful moments of her life. She had been living in a dream which was fulfilled part-time by her married mentor who lives in with her; she had given birth to a lovely girl and given her away for adoption to her brother, she is rejected by her lover, her daughter dies in an accident…but she chooses to quit acting only later. She decides to quit acting after seeing the death of Sayajit Ray on TV, saying she had always been waiting for a call from him, and now that he is no more she need not act for or with others.

Clichéd? Of course! As clichéd or more than Clint shooting a lot of guys, but then that is cinema. In life you don’t see clichés. A good cinema does not make you feel that you are watching clichéd script. ‘iti mrinalini’ was a good film for me when I saw it squirming in an uncomfortable seat in a congested theatre. I say it was, hoping it will be so when I see it again.
When the film ended in a screening at the Chennai International Film Fstival 2010, Aparna Sen was there in the lobby, ready to interact with viewers. I wanted to just go there, hold her hands and express a very silent ‘thank you’. I did not. Therefore this verbose but very real “thank you Aparna Sen”

A cinema’s success is what happens while viewing not when reviewing.

opening meandering

December 2, 2010

An empty canvass contains many paintings while my hand gropes in pain to seek that one elusive composition, which is unformed in my mind.

My paintings are signed off before they are finished. My music always ends on a false note. My dreams are never long enough to be captured by my memory. My projections are reversed, my thoughtscape is deserted. I wait.

I keep waiting for that elusive word that would enlighten itself into a meaningful sentence. While waiting I just browse through the years that I have lived and wasted. None of them are real as experiences. All of them are faded memories. Like an outdated radio searching for a signal, I keep wandering inside myself to catch that one phrase which would transform my discomfiting silence into a soundless emptiness or a soulful music.

There is no sadness or bitterness in these words. They are just trying to reproduce fading photographs of a getting-forgotten past. I cannot be my own mirror, nor can I soar above myself to look at myself. I am inside myself, trying to paint the world from a room with closed windows. I am shrinking.

The world around me is expanding. The city is changing. The words that I used are no longer in circulation. The landmarks that guided me have all been erased and replaced. I am an alien in my native land.

In the beginning it must have been easy with just that one word, but now with a million choices which is the word that I should choose to write my story. I know only one story and that is mine. I shall try to narrate my story with as much honesty as possible. My prejudices and personal fantasies may percolate down these words to give a different tone and color to my image, but then, that is my image of myself; and that is what I can show. This maybe just the way I have seen my life.

I do not remember the cradle though I have seen it in my later years. I have many photographs in which I do not recognize myself. The most vivid opening scene in my narration to self is set on a beach on the sands of Marina.

It was an evening in graying tones of blue- not the depressing hue but one with a provocative calmness. One filled with pregnancy’s final moments. The one moment that anticipates a new-born baby’s sound with a fearful hope like the big pause of the clock’s second hand. It was also one of those many wonderful moments when I was doing nothing in particular.

Doing nothing is how a painting starts. You don’t even think or plan. The canvass is there, the palette clean and the brush yet to be picked up. From that emptiness shall come everything that is going to be filled in that frame. Some deliberations would come alongside spontaneity, the expected would intermingle with the unexpected, and the picture would come to present what the artist wishes than what it really is.

I shall begin now, on the sands of Marina, about thirty five years ago. That was not the moment when I was born, but the moment from when I started to live, started to think, and dream that I can dream. It was when words really became meaningful. This is a story but not  fiction.