Mdeii Life - Anand Krishnamoorthi's blog
Sunday, November 30, 2003
Ultraviolence and the Bureau of Certification
I still don�t understand why people bring their kids to watch a film like Pithamagan. I got back home from the movie and there�s a family type sad movie playing on TV. Sarathkumar is slashing someone with a sword and the whole thing is shown in graphic detail with the appropriate blood spurts etc.; all on primetime television.
It is quite a coincidence that I should be reading Screening Violence when I have watched the most violent Tamil movie I have seen to date: Pithamagan. More about the movie later.
What I want to talk about here is the almost routine depiction of violence on our screens everyday. I don�t think we are too violent a people; neither do I have any empirical evidence to prove that violent images provoke violence in the viewer. It would be patronisingly insulting to call anybody impressionable and take on a superior air to censor; but as responsible people, we sure need to be able to make informed choices.
When our films have begun to aggressively exercise a certain freedom in their expression, it is time our archaic certification norms change. G-M-R-NC17 or G-PG-12-15-18-X fare no better than U-UA-A, unless this system of classification is properly marketed to the viewers. Our current system is very vague, so the first thing is to make a certification system that takes into consideration every type of film our current tastes demand. The next thing is to make the audience understand this.
As I said earlier, a very violent film. I think Guru and Kingsley would be able to give a more comprehensive review. I want to talk about some points that I find interesting. Bala definitely has to be commended for deliberately disregarding certain stereotypes and conventions. The women in the movie are devoid of any sex appeal. They way they behave and the way other characters interact with them, smacks of an almost conspicuous decision to design them so. Reared on conventional cinematic narratives, it is a relief to find somebody deliberately cheating the audience of any of this. Another palpable directorial decision seems to be in keeping away the related �class-crossing-romance-and-the-related-conflict� standard. Certain things that most movies are entirely built around are not even lightly discussed in this film. Bala is one person who seems to do that regularly. But the avoidance of conventional (and sometimes important) causatives has gone to the extent that most characterisations seem exaggerated and artificial (esp. Chittan and Manju). Character motivations are mostly missing or incomplete, but the audience can still lap it up. Plot holes are glossed over as the audience desperately seeks to excuse the filmmaker just because he has given them so much entertainment. And entertainment? It is directly funny, nothing dark or ironic about the comedy. The violence: almost all of it is staged comically, yet by the sheer magnitude of what is shown, it is everything from numbing to cathartic and sometimes revolting. (A lot of people in the audience were laughing during such scenes: but peer pressure of being singled out for �sensitivity� seems to have prompted most of the loud cover-up guffaws from the younger crowd)
I am sad to note that despite having trained under Balu Mahendra, Bala�s editing decisions seem to be close to pathetic: technically unsound with bad cuts and ugly ramps.
And if anyone says Vikram has acted well, I can definitely disagree. There are certain advantages of working with a written script. A good actor can read the script and find our where it lacks in character motivation and design his/her performance suitably. That is why they give awards for acting, not for crying or laughing at will. I do not know if it the absence of a script or the eagerness to perform, but the Chittan character is uncharacteristically fake and pretentious. But as I have said earlier, the audience can be very forgiving (and sometimes inanely lauding) if the director is very giving. Let this not be misconstrued as a thumbs-up for Vikram�s acting or Bala�s characterisation, for when Bala makes his next film and if that seems to be even slightly flat in exposition, he will go the Mani Ratnam way when it comes to the mass audience.
Why is Pithamagan a hit? Where this movie lacks in motivation (cause), it makes up for in exposition (effect). Shots are well staged. It is a violent movie that has no social purpose. This movie simply seems to be a portrayal of strange characters in truly a �Bala� sense. An aesthetic effort that does not try to be didactic at all: what can you take from this movie? I just hope it isn�t any of the animalistic gore. A movie definitely not to be seen with the kiddies.
Saturday, November 29, 2003
Post Post Script with the FCPAPPNLEEDLAVIthingy
Today I did away with the last one! I mean my semester exams. Non-Linear editing (practical). For those of you who have worked on NLE�s before, tell me: do you also prefer to edit visuals to music dropping markers on the beats? Strange that no one else in my class (atleast what I know of) prefers to work that way, while I find it very convenient.
Why the heck is my writing too serious today? Probably too much non-fiction!
Violence on screen
How often have you heard elderly newspeople talk about how they would never show so much carnage on the TV newsshow? Come to think of it, rather than start with the dead horse, that is cinema; we need to start flogging prime-time television for bringing in violence uncensored into our lives. Film now, cannot be considered a �family medium�. If I am not wrong, families hardly go to the cinemas. Down here, they have VCD and KTV. (It is another topic for discussion that this demographic certainty prompts a revision of our certification and censorship norms)
When hordes of rightwingers fight tooth and nail against perceived �alien vulgarity�, they are part of, and therefore do not condemn the impact violent imagery has on impressionable people. With increasing intolerance in our world, this is what needs to be addressed.
There are some people who prefer to read only non-fiction and there are those who compulsively hate that kind of reading. I prefer a healthy mix of both fiction and non-fiction. As it happens sometimes, both the books I am reading right now are pieces of non-fiction.
�Machiavellian� is school-age term reserved for the most devious of characters. The Prince doesn�t seem to be half as macabre as I thought it would be. It is downright practical when it comes to politics: almost innocuously straightforward. I feel so probably because I�ve already read worse in the works of Mario Puzo and the like. This brings me to the theme of the other book I�m reading: Screening violence. This is a systematic look at the depiction and the effects of violence in the mainstream visual media.
Having been in media studies for the past 6 years now, it is rare to come across a book that does not get too moralistic about media effects.
Wednesday, November 26, 2003
I am not a quiz freak, but just slightly bored these days; so here goes.
What is O A I D U?
An effort: also in complicated sentence construction
After a lot of effort, I finally have on Beta tape, two documentaries I was involved in the making of, last year; now I can start building my show-reel.
Monday, November 24, 2003
What are mothers made of?
A totally unexpected take on the 17yr old sound engineer thing came from my mother. She has one look at her picture in the magazine. Hmm... Good looking girl and then comes the clincher You were fiddling around with this sound design thing for a while... why can�t you too be upto some thing? (meaning: do something I can read about in Kumudham) As if you can�t do any of thi... Snatch! I pull the magazine away from her and stomp into my room. Are you so intolerant to even answer my...
It is not that she doesn�t believe I�ll do something someday, but she does strongly believe that I have no drive to do it all by myself. And worse still, she thinks I always make the worst decisions when it comes to my career. Then, most moms think the same way. I�m just slightly piqued that my otherwise liberal mother can also be little too pleased to be a clich�
And then the day before...
I had so many posts written on the 22nd about what happened on Friday that I could not quite squeeze in what happened later on Saturday.
Saturday evening, with a whole lot of non-inclination (is that really a �legal� word?), I went to complete the postproduction on my semester project. I was not exactly pleased with what we had shot, but nevertheless I had to do it for marks (hope this is just one-off and I don�t make this a habit, else I wonder what this bodes for my professional life). As things would have it, I happened to work with the youngest sound engineer in India: all of 17 years old.
I have always found it convenient to work with young technicians and others of my age group because these are the people willing to experiment, listen to your ideas, think on the same lines, and come up with good suggestions. So working with the young sound engineer was good; better still was the fact that she was a pretty looking, and very smart girl; and a celebrity too: She was interviewed by Kumudham and most recently by The Hindu as well.
After a good sound mixing session, we went and did a very quick job of the picture edit. My project was still so-so! But what the heck? Given the four hours we go for it, I understood that our staff guide didn�t expect too much from it and so it didn�t require too much effort. This is probably a very important lesson for me professionally. There are a few projects that really don�t require you to put in your best. They have different motivations and they have a different purpose, as far as that purpose is satisfied, I should be a satisfied artist.
Saturday, November 22, 2003
But the night was still Nuovo
What better way to sign-off an effort in charity than catch glimpses from the director�s cut of Nuovo Cinema Paradiso? B had borrowed the DVD. I must�ve seen this movie hundreds of times. I know the movie almost by-heart and was irritating the guys by identifying with rampant regularity, the scenes that were different in the theatrical version. In a little while, my �gyan�, and general fatigue, forced us to call it a day. What a day it was!
Jam Sandwiches for the poor & homeless
For me, Gangs of New York ended with the sight of large bag full of food packets in B�s front seat. Matrix style, B welcomed me to the real world. I seemed almost a burden. There was also this huge guilt of having accepted a responsibility we could not carry out. Cat reminded me of our young-blood left-leaning days from Loyola where we learnt first hand that we were no better than Marie Antoinette in our charity. Sometimes people feel insulted to get doles from jeans-clad English-speaking urbane rich-kids. And we were carrying packets of Jam sandwich.
Yet we earnestly sought the homeless; Of course, a group of platform-dwellers on Mount Road are definitely not the poorest of the poor. They accepted the packets unhesitant. The first feeling was an immense relive of having unloaded most of the packets. It was only much later, when we saw this zapped looking man at the Sterling Road signal accepting the food looking both shocked and hungry, that I realised the purpose of this exercise.
We could be just like those who would do charity from air-conditioned motorcars feeling good about having condescended to help; we could be like those politicians calculating goodwill, votes and brownie points in heaven. But whatever we were, this exercise made us take notice of those we would otherwise be happy to ignore, insult or mock. I don�t know if I would go out of my way to do this again. But when opportunity and food packets land in our laps, it is worth contemplating things outside our self-made islands of worries.
Gangs of New York
So, we did not watch Baran after all. Gangs of New York had just opened and I was very kicked about the fact that tickets were available on the opening night. The biggest advantage of watching early is the quality of the print; unfortunately, it was not be so. The distributors hadn�t struck a new print for us unfortunate Chennaiites. The print was already pretty scratched up, probably after countless runs in some theatre in Sub Saharan Africa. Another fallout of the spliced-to-platter print, cut back into the cans, and brought in here, was that a few frames in the beginning and the end of every reel were missing. The results put Thelma Schoonmaker�s efforts to vain.
As for the movie, I have a few keywords (key-phrases to be exact): Patchy Masterpiece; Excellent Musical Irony; Daniel Day-Lewis is a genius; Darkly comic-ironic moments; Vintage Scorsese stylisation; Bloody good cutting; Sometimes treading the thin line between �corny� and �insightful�; Theatrical drama; �Sound� sound design; etc, etc.
The thing is, it is too personal a movie to be overly judgemental about. Either you like it or don�t. In this day of crass commercial Michael Bayisms, I am happy that an Ang Lee and a Scorsese still live to be criticised for their autership.
I take my own auterial rights as a film fan to say that this movie slightly reminded me of Mani Ratnam�s Bombay (or for that matter any of his �issue� movies).
OK it is only a bloody once-in-a-million coincidence that both films (Gangs... and Bombay) discuss urban communal violence. My points of comparison are very different: They both have their moments of great stylisation, exciting front-of-the-seat absorbing action, dark humour and irony. Also both movies are very patchy in their pacing, and sometimes dramatic to the point of forcing a slight twitching in the back end of the seat. The similarities should end there. The biggest point of deviation is that Bombay tended to be overly and almost tastelessly didactic.
If Citizen Kane was commended for being a �Shallow Masterpiece�, Gangs of New York would be a �Patchy Masterpiece�.
Despite the projection hang-ups, I am glad to have seen for the first time, a Martin Scorsese picture on the big screen. I�ve seen tapes and DVDs on 21 inches of interlaced video, but on the large screen Thelma Schoonmaker still rocks.
Unwind to the tune of the King
It was Elvis time at the Unwind Center last evening. I haven�t heard too much Elvis, but the guys performing yesterday were very good. Blogworld, Cat and I couldn�t stay on very long as we had decided to go watch Majid Majidi�a Baran. As we left the unwind center, we were asked if we could distribute food packets to the poor. We agreed and were given quite a few packets of jam sandwiches and bananas in brown paper bags. Suddenly we felt that there were not enough poor people in Chennai. Probably we were not looking properly. And we were getting late for the movie.
Democratisation of Technology
Just walk or drive down any arbitrary road in Chennai. There are certain very prominently ubiquitous signboards: STD ISD PCO, Canon XEROX (sic), Video coverage Effect Digital CD conversion NTSC PAL, Surf E-mail Chat Games FTP Search INTERNET, Learn ORACLE Xi C# C% C& C^.. etc.
We people are actually very good tech ad(a/o)pters. And the best thing is that it is not just the techie guys who are part of this democratisation.
Ocean Colour Scene
A relief to see a band that spells colour with a �u�. Raided Blogworld�s CD collection and am very taken in by the music of Ocean Colour Scene. Very good sounds.
Monday, November 17, 2003
Throne of Blood
Saw a Kurosawa movie after a long time. A very dark retelling of an anyway dark Shakespeare drama. Lots to learn from this film; especially the discipline of the scenario.
On a related note, Blogworld and I can do a pretty good vocal improv imitation of Noh music.
Friday, November 14, 2003
It is oaverou!
Last exam oaverou! I now totally escapudu!
Thursday, November 13, 2003
For the opening of Scorsese�s movie, Peter Gabriel had not only used the Duduk, but also the chants of Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. His voice is also well remembered in the movies for his moving songs with Eddie Vedder in Dead Man Walking. Danesh has a post about the great sufi musical genius from Pakistan. Martin Scorsese�s movie on the other hand, had additional music composed by violinist L Shankar. Another person from our part of the world involved with a big movie must be Zakhir Hussain for Apocalypse now. I bet there are a lot more...
For that matter, the only substantial Indian contribution to world cinema must be through our music. The single biggest clich� for Indian music has to be the Sitar, thanks to Ravi Shankar. Ok, this post has now taken a different turn.
Sticking to film music, our own Ilayaraja, and now Rahman (both thoroughly South-Indian and thoroughly Tamil) have, and are making waves, but are we just there for our �different� sound and nothing else?
Exotic music for the movies
The other day I was watching Martin Scorsese�s Last Temptation of Christ. The film opens with the moving sounds of the Duduk (Also Doudouk), an Armenian reed instrument. Ok for all those in India, the Duduk�s the source of the lilting sounds in the Airtel B&W ad. I first really learnt about the instrument and its wonderful sound when I was researching my sound design for the documentary on the Armenian Church in Chennai. The instrument was very Armenian and also had the necessary nostalgia in its sound that I needed for the documentary. Then I remembered that Hanz Zimmer and Lisa Gerard had also used it for The Gladiator. The classical composer Aram Katchadorian had great regard for the Duduk and had said that it was the only musical sound that made him cry (I�m paraphrasing).
Music has real universal appeal and is not restricted by any boundaries: The reason why an American film about a catholic nun and a prisoner on death row can work with great sufi music. I for one, never had the patience to develop my musical skills but I have developed an ear. I feel every filmmaker needs to know the use of music if not the creation. I am kinda proud to have �used� the Duduk properly and in context, much before our blessed ad gurus took the sound for selling mobile phone connections. I have just one gripe against the Airtel ad: the electronic flute at the end, though providing the musical logo, is jarring with its happy major chords (right Cat?). I wonder if Rahman is still involved with the Airtel TVC�s.
Monday, November 10, 2003
If everybody were selfish, then nobody would have problem right? Each one of us would take care of our own needs. After all, who�s interest would we know the best if not our own.
Wednesday, November 05, 2003
Henceforth, I am lawless
And I am happy. Let me explain. Our syllabus requires us to take this examination on media laws, but the problem is, it happens to be one of the most uninspiring tests to take; not because I think it is useless, for that matter I think it is very important, but in its present state, it is a difficult exam to get through. Today I am through with it!
I am no expert on law, but I guess the Indian judicial system needs to be altered. In their attempt at being watertight and perfect, our laws are so wordy that they lose their spirit amongst the letters. Take for example Britain, they have nothing written on paper, but yet they function because the judicial system knows the spirit of the constitution and the rule of the law, but I guess we are too caught up with words that there are so many wordy ways to subvert the intentions of the laws. That�s my personal take on this... hope I have not brought upon myself a criminal breach through a certain Contempt of Courts Act (1971). No I haven�t! All content on this blog is in Good Faith.
Monday, November 03, 2003
Reader�s Digest Today
The takeover is old news, but do you think RD will remain what it has been all these years? In fact at home, we�ve been thinking about getting rid of the subscription. RD�s one of the worst snail-mail spammers I�ve seen and their American middle-class writing is not very interesting either. Except if you want to know what country America hates best. They run features on �human rights� by repentant communists all the time. RD in fact talked about Bad Boy Saddam, just before Bush called on the coalition of the willing about the WMD
I�ve also heard that the RD editor (and this is only hearsay) is never in touch with Indian reality. The only things I read in the books are the jokes: they too have become quite repetitive and predictable these days.
The first thing I expect from the takeover is a shakeover of the management. The second thing probably would be a change from Americanmiddleclassrightwingforeignpolicy to Indianpagethreenothingbutnonsense.
Should we continue the subscription or junk it? Come April I think we will junk it. BTW, Viji, it�s still in your name!
Thought for food
The two days my parents were out of town, I tried my hand at cooking. Ok! No great stuff, just rice and curds and all others worth eating. But it was quite a bit for my rather drab mornings: boiling the milk, washing the rice, putting it in the cooker wondering if there was enough water and let it cook long enough for the cooker to make the right puffing sounds, but not too long that it becomes porridge... you know, the works. Then taking out the cooked stuff without burning myself, performing the neyvedhyam, feeding the crows. Then closing up everything and leaving home wondering in class if I remembered to turn off the gas.
Now that�s not it, getting back home to eat the semi cooked stuff I�ve made; and the worse part that it is now cold. Reheat thanks to the micro and get some podi out of the fridge. Microwave appalams and deepavali murukku and mixture to go with it. Take the little remaining milk out of the fridge heat it a little and curdle it. (The curd tastes great!) And then hit the sack.
And you know what? I like it!
I�ve been doing my own washing for some years now, add cooking to that, I�ve been pretty OK �domesticated�.
Sunday, November 02, 2003
Today my Google Pagerank has improved from 4 to 5.
And heeding Chakra's advice, I have changed my archiving frequency to 'monthly'.
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