Anand Fadeout

Mdeii Life - Anand Krishnamoorthi's blog

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

London over the long weekend

To take advantage of reduced coach fares over the in-demand bank holiday weekend, I had to wake-up at 3:00 AM on Saturday and walk about 40 mins to the coach station to get the 5:50 to Victoria. Once there, (owing to what I assumed was sleep-induced nonchalance) I promptly spent a good few minutes in the wrong queue before being directed underground.

Having sampled the very-easy-to-figure-out tube system, and some of Chakra's sambhar and paruppu usili in Chesham, Chakra, Anand and I ventured back into the city.

After Anand admiringly zommed in on and clicked away at the lightning conductor running down Nelson's backside, we ventured into the National Gallery. I'm certainly impressed by what London has to offer. I got to see some of the best paintings in the world (including many of my personal favourites) for free. Considering that, you need to spend a day in each room. Definitely on my to-do list when I do go back there. But all we had time for was a tinge of the impressionists, a glance at the rennaissance painters; and an icecream cone.

More 'culture' and more wrong queues to come as Chakra and I rushed to the Royal Albert Hall to experience first-hand, the grandeur of the auditorium, the skill of the World Orchestra for Peace, and the wonderful music of Rossini, Debussy, Wagner and Rimski-Korsakov. All for just 4 quid! Prom 57 was a delight. Now I know why so many of us love the solo violin in Sheherazade! My CD does not do justice.

Sunday afternoon involved meeting London Indian bloggers over lunch. At the time of typing, Chakra and Dubukku (I cannot find a permalink) have blogposts. Anand, Dubukku (aka Renga), Jag and Guru took pictures.

Apart from some unfortunate references to my hairstyle related to a recent Tamil movie, it was a fairly cordial meeting I should say. Praveen provided some wholesome entertainment, while I finally got to meet Radhika. I tried some of my terrible Kannada on a rather terrified Sriram (the kid has a blog?) while I chatted with his dad about what else, but Kalki. It was also nice to get to know Neha and Subhashree. They were the only ones who's blogs I had not read until then (apart from the kid, of-course). It was also nice to finally meet Mr Route 79 in person. Then came the really fun part when Jag took Chakra, Anand and me for a guided tour of London. Anand should post some pictures. I sure am coming back for more Jag.

I know I am stating the obvious, but the interesting thing is that I had not met any of these guys before (including Chakra, who put me up and fed me for two days), but it never felt like we were meeting for the first time.

Also, having lived in Bristol for close to a year, I suddenly realised the actual population of Asians in Britain in very high (at-least in London, every second person I saw was Asian). Most tube stations somehow remind me of Nungambakkam and Perambur stations; and there are chaps who sell Proms tickets in 'Black'!


7:37 pm

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Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Bollocks!...Now flag me!

I've just seen this! Why should we all have nannies? Even if it is a 'collective' nannie! As if it is any excuse? Aren't most religions without titular leaders and hierarchies collective nannies?


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5:08 pm

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Direction, Screenplay and Translation or, What kind of an Artform is film?

As has been the case lately, I've taken to ramble on about various topics, switching and deviating, while skimming through quite a few ideas. After all, this is a blog post and not a carefully constructed and edited essay. Now I intend to roughly go about discussing just that, the medium and its peculiarities, which is defined mostly by its technology.

This one is for Nilu. Saw As Good as it Gets this weekend and I think it is an excellent example of a very good Screenplay, coupled with very good performances, but not brilliant direction.

One can go on to claim that 'clever' directing would be superfluous in such a case, I myself did consider it, but then again, the film medium is capable of a lot more of its own. Good writing and good performances have to go beyond literature and theatre. In fact, take good literature: it is blatantly untranslatable directly into any other medium. For me the yardstick for a good film is that it should be directly untranslatable as well.

In my own definition, an indirect translation is when say, a piece of writing provokes a particular mood or reaction from the reader, forces certain thoughts and plays a particular role in the pacing and tension curve in the context of the entire narrative; then the indirect translation of this into film would, rather than follow the words, work reverse from intended effects and thereby contain even diametrically opposite material.

So a good film is one (if it needs to be inspired from material that already exists in another medium) that justifies it being a film. A screenplay is something that is extremely important in this regard, after all, it is not literature, despite the fact that it is written. A screenplay for one is not meant to be read, but filmed. Direction on the other hand has many distinct aspects to it: one of them being a direction of actors, and mise en scene; another being film auteur, or film artist. Here is where it is sometimes possible for one to mistake the screenplay for literary source material, or simply a story treatment. Essentially, screenwriting-direction is a complex job that is accomplished, sometimes by two or more people (we have heard of co-directing even). Now, the thing that distinguishes the director from the writer is that fact that the director is the person who gets into these job-shares with more than one type of technician/craftsman/artist. He/She has to do it with the cinematographer and production mixer during production; has to do it with the editor and sound designer in post; with the production designer and producer in planning and budgeting; etc.

Sometimes, in a complex professional system like the Hollywood studio system, the director, and the technicians gets a bunch of people to help them out as well. The first AD is for all practical purposes, the one who calls the shots during production. The second AD, along with the first, works out the scheduling and works closely with the location manager and production manager. The third AD is the one who normally controls the actors, and the fourth AD/Script supervisor works with the actors on the script and supervises continuity. On more affluent productions, there are many script coaches and separate technical continuity personnel. So, it is not much a hierarchy as just a set of numbers assigned to assistant directors.

Likewise on a camera crew, the cinematographer hardly ever touches the camera or looks through the viewfinder. That is the job of the cameraman, the focus puller, camera assistant etc.

So, while it would be glamorous to think about auteurship and artistry when it comes to films, it is important to realise that unlike most artforms, it is a highly structured professional exercise as well. We all know the story of how the renaissance painter worked with a whole bunch of craftsmen on large frescos; or how a music composer works with conductors and musicians; or how even authors work with draftsmen and stenographers. Of, course one that unites all artists is their very 'special relationship' with the commissioner.

On a completely unrelated note, I also came upon the very interesting Benford’s Law, when listening to Radio 4’s A Further Five Numbers.


4:04 pm

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Monday, August 15, 2005

Music and more music

Judging from the previous post {rather, the response to it (or lack of) (that's fucking silly with all those brackets!)} I guess people don't take my political side very seriously. Hmprf!
Have just been in touch with Chakra, Anand and Jag, and I suppose you must be aware of what's gonna happen in London over the bank-holiday weekend. Well it certainly does involve a lot of Asian men (alright, persons!) meeting up in crowded public places. Yet our intentions are wholly innocuous. More at Chakra's.
I hope this trip to London, actually my first proper 'touristy' trip to the capital, also involves some music (just to tie the title of the post to this piece of news)

Now, to the actual post: the work on our film is almost done, but for the music, and this is where I suppose the experience of Indian films come in handy. If there is one area in our filmmaking culture that is world-class, it should be our music. Little wonder that what some of us have just started in terms of analysis of narratives and the other aspects of the film medium, has actually been going on for quite a bit of time as far our music is concerned. To take an example, check out the really nerdy vyagyanam on Ilayaraja's Raajangham website (strangely, cannot find the link now).

A strange fallout of our musical tradition of filmmaking is the sheer expertise we have built up in that area. In fact, the only thing we ever export in terms of film talent, has been in music. Now, I've just been doing my dissertation analysis of Stanley Kubrick's use of sound and music in his films, and am rather amazed at how talented the chap is. You see scoring for films requires two distinct talents. One is to actually be able to write music, and the second one is to write proper music for the proper parts of the film: ie suitability, timing, and placement.

But before we go into the intricacies, we must first have a look at the role music plays in film. I personally am averse to the slapped on mood-track, but that certainly is one role a background score has been relegated to. But during my analysis of Kubrick's 2001 A Space Odyssey, I came across a rather remarkable thing. As everybody should be familiar with, the film does not have an exclusive commissioned score. Alex North wrote one, but Kubrick did not use it. He simply chose existing pieces of Classical and contemporary music and used it in the right spots. Which brings us back to the two aspects of film music. The first one being simply waved off, it is the second aspect that takes importance. Remarkably, unlike most films, 2001 does not have mood music at all, instead it has lengthy music pieces (almost complete works) that play on as distinct units with their own choreographed sequences. That is what songs do in musicals, that is the basis of the Indian film tradition.

But! Importantly, unlike modern Indian films have become, these 'song sequences' are not altogether dispensable from the storytelling: They are, for most part of the film, the sequences that tell the story. That is a big lesson for any of us learning to use music in films. They need not be either slapped on veneer, or stand out like a sore thumb. They can actually tell the story and serve both purposes.


10:54 pm

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Tuesday, August 09, 2005

What if, sometime in the next decade and a half...?

Despite my interest in political analysis and strategic affairs, I have rarely indulged in such activity on this blog.

As an obsessive fan of Kubrick, am researching his films for my dissertation, and thus watched Dr Strangelove... for probably the 50th time today.

Putting the two together, I'd like to play around a bit. What if India and Pakistan (I do not want to bring the Chinese in right away) were at the brink of war? Who would make the best wartime prime minister in India? I'd like you to come up with interesting scenarios from reasons for the war, through the course of history hence, and the major players, international repercussion etc.

While engaging in some far-fetched speculation, it would also do good for comic relief if just a few of us also went ahead with some over-the-top funny things to say as well.

To set the ball rolling:
Case #1
Jayalalitha(a?) is the Indian prime minister (don't ask me how, but I feel she'll make a really good wartime prime minister). I cannot think of a cabinet for her, I assume that LK Advani would be her defense minister. President is still Kalam (They decided to leave him as is, he means no harm). Musharraf has been assassinated by terrorist groups and Pakistan is in a state of civil war and general anarchy. A section of the army is in control of Islamabad, and they hold an uneasy power-sharing agreement with certain armed 'political' groups (speculatively linked to terrorists) that have invaded most of Afghanistan by now. Amma receives credible information that in the last 4 hours, despite the Pakistani army successfully controlling all its nuclear missile complexes, one of them has been wrenched away from the army by (one of the many) 'political' groups of uncertain loyalty. The Pakistani army's truce with the groups (they even have a loose umbrella organisation called the Movement for a Free Pakistan) has been compromised, and now the latter (or at-least one of the many groups, and we know nothing about that group as yet) have a trump card with them.

The Americans meanwhile, having been confined to certain parts of 'free' Afghanistan have been under heavy missile attack from the 'insurgent' controlled areas. The Pakistani army is in negotiations with the Americans, and seem to insinuate that 'rebels' and 'rogue elements' are responsible for these attacks, which have included attacks with nuclear tipped missiles.

What will Amma do next? Who're the leaders of America, Britain, Russia, China (do we know any Chinese politicians at all?), Israel, Iran and Australia? (These are specific countries I'd like to include in the picture) What are the relations between these countries, India and Pakistan like? What has India done meanwhile, internally, as well as in its immediate neighbourhood (Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka)? Remember all this is to happen sometime in the next 12 to 15 years.

Either continue this thread, or feel free to start your own thread in the comments section.


10:39 pm

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