Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A sleepless night, a running nose and lots of films

(A still from Dziga Vertov's documentary 'Man with a Movie Camera')

It’s been weeks of uncontrollable munching-on-chips every night like a ferret, sipping countless cups of coffee and burning my tongue on it, (#everydamntime) sleeping till my body cannot take it anymore and randomly walking around the campus in a full-on emo fashion. Too dramatic my life has become. And every time I sit at my favourite spots on the campus and look far off into the distance all pensive, I play a Pink Floydish song in my head and imagine I’m this deep, graceful, sensitive protagonist in a movie who is lost and life is teaching her how to actually live. Did ANY of that make sense?

Moving ON. Classes have been very interesting, and inspiring. Doesn’t take much for that inspiration to come crashing to the floor though. I particularly enjoy our Documentary Film Making classes. Which reminds me, I need to buy a camera, and a new laptop. I use a chotu Dell netbook, you see. And even though I love it dearly, it doesn’t suffice for editing and high resolution video playing :/

Anyway, in this post I’d like to talk about some of the movies that were shown to us in the aforementioned Film making classes.

I’m 20: This is a film that was made in 1967 (20 years after India gained Independence) by SNS Sastry. This film contains questions that were asked to people born in 1947, hence, all 20-year-old boys and girls about what they think of India and their hopes, dreams, expectations and predictions about the future. What I absolutely loved about the film was how some of the people who talk in the film were so bright, intellectual; while some of them were nonchalant, or indifferent, and some just plain goofy. Some of them were conservative and shy, while some of them confidently spoke about what they felt. One surprising thing about it is that some of the things said in the movie about India hold true even today; which just proves how much our country still lags behind when it comes to certain aspects.

Amir Khan: This film, made in 1970 by SNS Sastry again, is what you may refer to as a portrait documentary on one of the most influential singers in Indian classical music- Ustad Amir Khan. The film is shot beautifully, depicting the singer, his wife and their son in their simple, private moments. The interviewees are not shown talking, their voices are heard while the candid videos reveal the simplistic lifestyle and the complexities of Amir Khan’s life. I loved the way there is an ethereal, poetic feel to the entire movie, where the singer’s music and couplets are sprinkled in generous amounts throughout. As our guest teacher, Mukul Kishore says, “Sastry does the most outrageous things in his movies and makes you feel there was no other way to do it.”

Night and Fog: Made in 1955, directed by Alain Resnais, Night and Fog is a French film which reveals the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps. It shows the abandoned grounds of Auschwitz and Majdanek and has used a lot of real footage of the camps. All of us, including our teacher was in tears after watching this one. We were so speechless we actually had to take a ten-minute break before we could get down to discussing it. It is extremely graphic and disturbing, and the language used to describe the brutality of man is beautiful and impactful. This one should be seen, no matter who, where or how you are.

Something like a War: Made in 1991, this film is about India’s family planning program from the point of view of the women. Through the movie, the film maker Deepa Dhanraj, has exposed the problems, corruption and the cynicism against the methods used to sterilize women all over India. Yet another example of the oppression of women.

An Indian Day: Directed by S.Sukhdev in 1968, this film tries to depict every aspect of India, and succeeds in doing so too. The film maker travelled all over the country and shot India in the most beautiful, ethereal and raw manner, and then mischievously edited it and put everything together so as to expose the various contradictions and conundrums that make up our country what it is. It is a treat to the eyes, and should be seen for the beautiful shots, its randomness and satirical nature.

Mirror of Holland: Shot in 1950 by Bert Haanstra, is a documentary film about the Netherlands. The entire movie is made up of shots that are reflections inside water! How amazing is that? The camera moves over the water as it goes from the countryside to the city, rippling and moving with the music. It is unlike anything I have ever seen. Crazy, yet beautiful.

Meat: Made in 1967, it shows how goats are caught, made to walk in a line, killed; and then gutted, slaughtered and turned into food for people like us. If there was ever a time when I was thankful I am a vegetarian, it was when I saw this movie. It is almost inhuman how these animals are treated and killed, and the poor things do not know they are going to die till the very last moment. It gave me the chills. And sorry to disappoint my non-vegetarian friends again, no, I don’t think I can turn non-veg.

Explorer: Pramod Pati shot this film in 1968 for Films Division. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw this film and realized that the Government was open to such experimental films in those times. This film uses no dialogues or voice overs; just bizarre shots of people, cultural artifacts  religious idols, ‘Om’ symbols, extreme close-ups of ecstatic teenagers, amidst other random things. All of this accompanied by sounds of cymbals, ghunghroos, etc. There are associations between modernity and culture, between religion and spirituality, between the urban India and the traditional India. The images whizz by you so swiftly they hardly give you any time to register it in your head, but the overall impact of the film is intense. Watch this film for the seemingly sheer absurdity, which actually has a deeper significance.

These are but a few examples of the many films we watched in class. It amazes me how powerful a camera can be, and the potential it has to touch people, move them, make them think, make them change. Now that we have to make a documentary ourselves as part of our course, I'm looking forward to start thinking, shooting and producing something that I will be able to call my own piece of work. It will not be easy, but I’m hoping it will be worth it.


  1. Makes me think, yes, there was a time when films were made for something other than just entertainment :)

    All the best and Stay Blessed ^_^

  2. Definitely. There are many films that are made for reasons beyond just entertainment. We just need to watch the right ones! :)
    Thanks! :D

  3. I have seen meat before, but the others are new to me.. Do I get to see some of your work? Youtube/mail em to me?

    1. Let me produce something worth sharing first!
      Once I do, I'll definitely share it with you :)

  4. Whenever I wanna feel nostalgic, I read one of your articles, and believe me, it works like a magical chant every time : )

    1. thank you :) it means a lot to me!


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