Cinemorph November 29, 2007Posted by astralwicks in Arts, Cinema, Creativity, Culture, Entertainment, Films, india, Mumbai, Nostalgia, Personal, Reflection, Thoughts, Writing.
Tags: Amitabh Bachchan, Barton Fink, Bollywood, Salim-Javed, Writing
Yawn. Let’s laze today. Well, I am writing, that means that I am not lazing. Wiriting is an exrcise, a job, sometimes painful, often lonely, sometimes ecstatic, taxing, boring etc etc. But more people in the world (I might be biased) think writing is nothing but a whole lot of posing. It is posing with hands on your head, tearing your hair or cigarette in hand looking at the smoke swirl, curl and disappear…looking for words, sentences, meaning and inspiration in the play of light and smoke on its heanvenly journey.
Bombay houses Bollywood. Bollywood makes films, lots of films. India makes some 800 odd films in a year. Films have actors, directors, producers, music composers and it also has writers. Also because they are the least commended or appreciated. I speak from both personal experience, hearsay and instinct.
Me and millions like me were exposed to films…mailnly in theaters and VHS. DVD’s are recent and I am 32. So we grew up with Tape, audio and video. I saw films and remembered some and forgot most. Some fight sequences, a stray dialogue and some characters. Very few films were remembered because of the writing skills. It was also because of my inexperience. Remembering the immediate, the pleasurable but not long-lasting.
One didn’t know or understand as kids why films of Bimay Roy, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Guru Dutt, Vijay Anand, early Yash Chopra etc left a lasting impression and not other films. I am talking of the so called commercial films. Even then the gut knew what was different in the films shown at 1.30 on sundays on Doordarshan. Films by the Indian masters and other new – wave directors from the regional centers.
It was something. But what was it? I couldn’t figure, but only sense.
Over the years after a gradual exposure to international cinema, my horizons were widened. Not just by films. Books and the written word began to weave its magic. It gained the pre-eminence that one gives to one’s mother. Words I realized were the nutrients, the ground, the soil upon which all meaning was constructed. In poetry, short story, novel.
The new art of the century, Film, was of course different. It was a coming together of everything else till that point and more. Meaning was constructed piece by piece by the simultaneous synthesis of picture and sound. The word existed. But the word was shaped and chiselled by sound, facial expression, light and shade, movement and other symbols that were already a part of our collective consciousness. The word was no longer the prima donna.
It was never the case in Bollywood. There are exceptions but…
Here it is the actors. They earn in crores. The director too earns in crores if he or she has given hits. The music composers too earn in crores. But the writer is still a beggar.
The early writers during the independence were still nurtured by ideology and rebellion. The middle years by growing disenchantment. The 80’s by nobody knows what and the 90’s by the noveau. All these films of course had words, many of them were hits and people still remember them.
But hits can get dated and the re-runs on the innumerable channels offers us an opportunity to test. Most of them fail. It jabs at one’s memory. I still remember the day when Shahenshah was out on the pirated circuit in Jamshedpur. All of us friends contributed and raised some 150…a princely sum in 1988 to lay our hands on the VHS tape for 1 run around 3 and a half hours. Or the day when another Bachchan starrer was screened during a family gathering. What a disappointment? One remembers the highs also.
Pulp Fiction, Blue Velvet, Space Odyssey, Blow Up, The Passengers, Z and many more.
Coming back to writers. I did my stint in Bollywood. Doctored scripts. Wrote and didn’t get credit. In the meantime I also saw some films that were well written. But the majority of them offer no hope. Why is that?
Saif was brilliant in Omkara. When I came to know that he was being considered, I was horror struck. The chhote nawab mouthing those lines and body language. I was surprised and so was Saif I suspect, at the mature consistency of the character. But see Saif in other films and you wonder…what a waste. Is he the same guy who did that? Well, commerce is what sustains us and let’s not bemoan.
What do we see around us? Slapstick comedies, action and romance. We watch films because they are made by a particular Brand…either the Yash Raj, KJO or RG Varma kind of films. Then we go for the actors. Shah Rukh, Salman, Aamir etc. Then the music etc etc.
When will we go because of the writer of the film? They say Salim – Javed did that to another era. But what would the pair have done if AB was not around? That’s a question worth answering. Was the symbiotic relationship between them a coming together of destinies, serendipity working overtime to make collaborations possible…la Scorsese, Paul Scrader, De Niro.
But that was another era. Will we again make arresting drama? And who are the subjects of this drama? Like Barton Fink…will we be able to make films that makes the common man / woman, his or her concerns to be the subject matter? Will we in our time see a new kind of cinema? At par with the Iranian kind? Simple but not simplistic, universal and relevant. Or will we be satisfied by the tag Bollywood spectacle, musical, a unique narrative form that takes on the might of Bollywood?
Are we scared that if we make a different kind of cinema then our way of story-telling will disappear? Is quantity our only weapon? A whole lot of questions so far and obviously no answers. But what the hell, I felt like writing.