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‘UDAAN’ of Parallel Cinema, and Parallel Careers

Image

“O memories mine, pieces of reminiscence that art gone,

A touch, thy sense still prevails,

On the timeless grounds from life to death I walk,

That I feel not for the barefoot me, for I ail.”

….my translation of a verse from the 2010 film ‘Udaan’, written and directed by Vikramaditya Motwani.

Why Udaan? I asked myself. Why not? I replied. I have watched it 47 times already and the 47th instance being a recent one, 10th Feb, 2013 post-midterm.

The film has been an integral part of my movie-studying experience since its release in 2010. Though it was a flop show at the box office, grabbing a meager 3 crore in its lifetime, it did include itself into the lives of a handful of those that value the script part of a film more than the industry numbers.

A young, rebellious Rohan amidst his desire for creative possibilities and his nettlesome choler for the one person in his life, he comes across as his ‘father’, forms the crux of this artistic workmanship from Vikram Motwani.

A countable number of filmmakers in India have tried to weave a story around a strained ‘father-son’ relationship. The Elizabeth fame crossed-over director Shekhar Kapur and his Masoom is worthy of a mention.

What is it that makes Udaan strike differently than others? Whilst I was digging for an answer since 2010 – read the script and watch the movie; read the script, watch the movie again – repeating this exercise 47 times to this day, I found myself attending a talk by the ad filmmaker Prahlad Kakkar during MANFEST 2013.

Risks or risk-averse MBAs, nose-browning or individualism, creativity or run of the mill – could form the list of keywords plucked from his talk. It hardly took any time for me to correlate Mr. Kakkar’s dysphemistic conveyance to Udaan’s standout appeal.

Vikram Motwani’s attempt at a simplistic play of scenes – be it the father-son jogging schedule to portray their mental rift; be it Rohan’s puerile yet assuasive poetry narration to his benumbed school friend or the innocence in Arjun’s (stepbrother) day-to-day actions – is rarely epitomized in Indian film arena. A Risk. Individualistic? Yes, and without any nose-browning to adhere to the precedents. Left a mark? Ofcourse.

So, is “run-of-the-mill” (in cinema or in careers) now an overrated cliché??? Or is it still your way of life?? Hasn’t individualism hit you yet??

The answers and the interpretation to this abstract write-up are left to the readers.

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Mumbai Dreams – Part I



The abnormalities of Mumbai beseem this unduly congested city, thought the man sitting on a bench at the Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus (formerly known as Victoria Terminus). The usually blatant railway station in Mumbai had chosen to remain silent for the past ten minutes.

    For the man.
    No clanking of trains. No timely announcements. No buzzing of the daily commuters. No creaky chaiwallas (kids carrying kettleful of tea, with tiny hands holding a balancing tower of paper-cups, short flaccid steps paving their way through coarse men and numb women). SILENCE.

The searing heat of Mumbai summers, blatantly known for drenching the ambitious dwellers in sudor, and the exploiting trait of Mumbai television industry, represented by a handful of superstitious and mine run production ventures, had exacerbated his woes. For he, a fledgling scriptwriter in his early twenties, had been at work for the entire summer day battling for opportunities to earn his share of write up in a screenplay for a television sitcom.

“You better be good this time with your write up. Ektaji wants a perforating episode to be telecasted tonight. It will be shown to viewers with the title suggested by Ektaji – ‘Pavitra Rishta Mahaepisode’ (‘Virtuous Relations Grand Episode’).” 
The director had conveyed emphasizing the title, with his hands mimicking a hoarding in space. Typical gestures of a motion picture director.

“Do put some extra rancour amidst the lead pair. Also, we can have a few scenes by killing the protagonist’s brother. We need some heavily emotional glycerine scenes” The director had added in a holistic tone.

“Rahul, you better be good this time.”

The director’s warning cry before disappearing for his lunch had sounded  more restraining than encouraging.

The offstage grimace of this neophyte writer in the television scripting arena had been appalling lately. The Mumbai television industry churns out a superfluity of sitcoms that straddle the limited creative content written on the foundations of romance and the household spurts of epithets between monster-in-laws. A winning formula followed by most of the industry pundits. For a writer, it was callously implied to adhere to these norms and avoid traversing any untouched aspect of story-telling. By the book.

The writer’s afternoon had been weary. Plot Designing. Character Segregation. First Draft. And no time for lunch.

The first draft had turned into an exact portray of his director’s plain unembellished suggestions. Although a smearing touch of finesse to the characters, their behavioral convention was a much needed ingredient to the story, the writer had been reluctant towards it. He was fearful of taking this stride that could annoy Ekta and her accomplices and cost him his chance of writing for this sitcom.

“Better to be a regular writer with a job, money than trying to be an Artificer, a Craftsman and be a cast away.”  He had considered.

Eventually, the draft script had moved up the ladder.

It is presumptively inconceivable to decrypt the pattern in which scripts are reviewed in this television industry. A task that can let down even a gallant writer.

“This is not the way I wanted it to be. It lacks the emotional punch. Raw. It has the elements I had told to include. But its not commercial.You don’t understand what I’m saying!”  The director turned into a confounded philosopher with the first-draft script in his hands.

The lead character being sad about his brother’s demise resorts to cursing people around him, delivers over-the-top dialogues. Squalling.

“This blizzard display of perceptible emotional chaos is commercial. This is what you mean a**” The writer had not been able to put forth his understanding of the situation and his paradoxical opinion on it.

Second draft was assigned to another writer with traditional writing sensibilities.

Disdain.

The writer had perceived this doom as an opportunity to search for work that is originative and doesn’t bind his liberal want for contentment. He’d called a few of his busy ghost-writer friends and inquired about any need of an adjunct to share their burden of work. No Respite.

He’d received a call from one of his acquaintance and, with no halcyon choice at hand, had consented the offer to work as a second-level production assistant for the finale episode of the Indian counterpart of American Idol. The shoot was scheduled to commence at 2:00 am at a nearby film studio.

With two barren hours on his hands, he had taken shelter on a bench at the Terminus.

SocialWork, INDIA

SocialWork, India <First Draft>

Written by

rahulme

                  FADE IN:

MUSIC CUE: “SAARE JAHAN SE ACHCHHA HINDUSTAN HUMARA” < Better than the entire world, is our Hindustan, We are its nightingales, and it (is) our garden abode> a piano tune plays.

 

INT. HEADQUARTERS OF IPP, AN INDIAN POLITICAL PARTY, – DAY

(IPP is the parliamentary-party alliance of India) 

We pan across a room – the side walls studded with medium sized Indian flags and huge mahogany-framed photos of the legends of Indian freedom struggle. People walking around dressed in white pajama-kurta, reminiscently pretending to be busy.

We see a receptionist busy over the phone, her desk located at one corner of the room.

We close in on a door adjacent to the desk, hosting a NAMEPLATE that reads: “PRESIDENT, IPP”.

The door opens up. A bald-pated old man in his late 60s, dressed in a white shirt and a black trouser, wearing thick rimmed glasses, comes out of the inner room and approaches the receptionist.

MUSIC CUE: The music fades out.

                  RECEPTIONIST

Ah Yes… Hajareji?

                  OLD MAN

(nodding his head)

Yes BEAT Yes.

The receptionist removes an envelope from the drawer of her desk.

We close in on the envelope. Her hand hammers a rubber stamp on the envelope. The stamped letters read: “SocialWork, India”.

She hands over the envelope to Hajareji.

                                                CUT TO:

 

INT. IPP PRESIDENT’S ROOM – DAY

TIGHT SHOT on the IPP PRESIDENT seated at her desk. She looks straight ahead with a somber expression. The camera pulls back to reveal she has three gentlemen seated opposite to her.

The IPP PRESIDENT is a woman in her late 50s. Dressed in a Handloom silk sari, she radiates the evocative Indian fashion. Simple pearl strands and earrings serve as her accessories. Her looks project her as a very well composed lady, with mastery on deceitful display of emotions.

                  IPP PRESIDENT

            This could have rather serious political

            implications. Also, we cannot afford to

            ignore the media attention it would get.

                  BEAT.

            Now, will you excuse me for a moment please?

The IPP President springs up from her chair and walks toward the lavatory in a hurry. The three gentlemen placid in their seats and imbrued with a mundane wonder of unimagined kind, stare at the autocratic lady on her way.  

Diverting his attention, one of the three gentlemen, Mr. KAL, in his 50s, brown-faced, bearded, and dressed in a safari suit, grabs the glass in front of, Mr. SINGH, a turban-headed gentleman seated alongside, sniffs it with suspicion and keeps it back on the table.

                MR. KAL

            (squeezing his nostrils)

            What is this? Smells awful.

MR. SINGH is in his late 70s, soft spoken, intelligent eyes that squint from years of intense study. INNOCENT SMILE.

                  MR. SINGH

            It’s the bitter melon juice.

            BEAT.

            Good for me. Keeps me calm and

            silent.

            BEAT.

            Silence is good.       

                  MR. KAL

               (scoffingly)

            Silence is good. BEAT. It is good for you.

            But, it’s prickly and vindictive

            especially when a billion inquisitive countrymen are expecting answers.

                MR. SINGH

               (sedately)

             It is evident that way.

             But, it does portray me as a good listener.

               (smiles)

The third gentleman, MR. NILEKANI, curiously listens to the conversation between MR. KAL and MR. SINGH.

MR. NILEKANI is a plump personage, trendy, dressed in an Armani suit and sports a proud moustache. His indigenous expressionless countenance makes an intelligent, diligent and evidently a non-political man out of him.

  

                  MR. NILEKANI

             (changing his posture on the chair)

            Last night I went through a Wikileaks cable.

            The report reveals some sad facts about the

           Cash-for-Votes fiasco over India approaching

           the IAEA for Indo-US nuclear deal.

                  BEAT.

            Did you have a look at it MR. SINGH?      

MR. SINGH picks up the juice glass in front and gulps down the bitter melon juice in a jiffy.

                                                CUT TO:

  

INT. IPP PRESIDENT’S LAVATORY – DAY

We see a soft feminine hand push the flush button of the toilet.

A GURGLE SOUND.

The President emerges in front of a large mirror, runs some water in the basin and splashes it on her face. She picks up a hand towel, wipes her face dry and stares at the mirror for a moment. The avowed wrinkles on her white face are a testimony to her coming of age in Indian politics. What Age does to a good wine, Age has miraculously done it to her. From the puerile young spouse of a de-facto political prince to a sanguine widow. And then to an influential authoritarian. Senescent in the art of politics. MATURE.  

Staring at the mirror, it strikes her that her sari has unsettled at the pleats near the waist. She removes the tucked pleats and tries to pleat the sari. She fails. She tries repeatedly. Fails.

 

                  IPP PRESIDENT

            (rattled and exploding)

            God damn it, why do I have to wear this

            fucking sari? Stupid Fuck.

Becalming herself, the President gives another shot to the sari pleating act. She succeeds this time. She looks in the mirror one last time and confirming her attire to be proper, she exits the loo, closing the door firmly behind her.

 

INT. IPP PRESIDENT’S ROOM – DAY

The President walks to her table and settles on her chair.

                  MR. SINGH        

                (worried)

              Is everything alright, madamji?

                  IPP PRESIDENT

               (wearing her glasses)

               Yes. BEAT

               Yes it is.

Silence. The three gentlemen stare at each other.

                  IPP PRESIDENT (CONT’D)

               MR. NILEKANI, shall we continue with

               our talk?

                  MR. NILEKANI

               Only if you all are interested in it. 

 

 More Silence.

                 

                  IPP PRESIDENT

               So what is it that you wish to accomplish

               with this SocialWorkIndia.com ?

                  MR. NILEKANI

                A Social Networking website in true sense

                of the words.

                  MR. KAL

                  Oh. BEAT

               Yes. MR. Nilekani here wants to be like

               that Zuc-ber. That Facebook boy.

                  (looking toward MR. Nilekani)

               I have a nice Facebook account I must tell you.

               Lots of friends. Networking you know!

                  MR. NILEKANI

               Facebook is a good example, an addendum to

               my proposal. BEAT

               In January 2008, shortly before the

               New Hampshire primary elections in the U.S,

               Facebook, as a platform, allowed users

               to give live feedback about the Republican

               and Democratic debates. Over 1,000,000 people

               interacted and voiced opinions through Facebook.

               This facebook effect resulted in high youth

               voting rates in the elections.

                 IPP PRESIDENT

               In that case, we can form a special

               Facebook-For-IPP committee that would

               roll out our party campaigns on Facebook

               as well. BEAT

               Why do you propose to have a new

               social networking service altogether?

                  MR. NILEKANI

               I propose a “social networking service

               for social service”. BEAT

               On Facebook, users create a personal profile,

               add other users as friends, exchange messages,

               join common interest user groups. We adopt most

               of these features on SocialWorkIndia.com as well.

               However, the users will also be encouraged to

               raise agendas like rampant Corruption,

               soaring commodity prices, communal riots, nuclear

               deals and much more.

MR. Nilekani halts to drink a glass of water.

                  MR. NILEKANI (CONT’D)

               People are exuberantly high on networking these

               days that they do something just so they can post

               their doings on Facebook. Photos are snapped in

               abundance on a vacation trip just so they could

               be shared with online friends. BEAT

               My point is that these facts bespeak a syndrome, a

               networking syndrome which could be employed to

               benefit a developing nation like India.

               Let me bring up the preliminary basics of my

               proposal. The social networking service, amongst

               many things, would act as a platform for users to

               post corruption incidents they encounter. Users may

               also post any social work done by them. For

               each activity they post, they will be credited

               with reward points. These reward points would be

               entitled to cashability at any SocialWorkIndia.com

               offices throughout the country.

               What do you all think?

                  MR. KAL

               It is an interesting proposal certainly.

               But, it makes me wonder where the initial cash

               inflows would come from?

                 MR. NILEKANI

               Government funds.

                  MR. KAL

                 (addressing to the President

                  seated in front)

               May I take this opportunity madamji, to let you

               know that post-CWG, I am out of work. I can very

               well lead this activity if MR. Nilekani’s proposal

               is thought upon.

                  MR. SINGH

            MR. Kal, the least we need now is another

            corruptive scam in the

            initiative-against-corruption itself.

            Nonetheless, MR. Kal, you do have some serious

            work to wipe-out the negative tags given by our

            fellow countrymen in response to the CWG fiasco.

                  MR. NILEKANI

                  (mockingly)

            Sports Mafia. I heard this tag on television

            recently. Sounds really good!

                  MR. KAL

            Let our madamji speak up her decision.

                  IPP PRESIDENT

            As I already said, this could have rather serious

            political implications.

            This SocialWorkIndian.com would definitely garner

            media hype from day one. What if our own party

            members fall prey to this fight against corruption?

            All I can say is that we will consider this proposal

            in our next party meeting.

                                                      CUT TO:          

EXT. IPP PRESIDENT’S HOME AT 10 JANPAT DELHI – NIGHT

 On the balcony of the house, the President is seen – very serious.

She is accompanied by her only son.

                  PRESIDENT’S SON

            Mum, what’s the matter?

            You seem disturbed.

                  IPP PRESIDENT

            After almost a decade in Indian

            politics, I must not get disturbed

            by some acrid remarks of my fellow

            politicians. Yet, here I am.

                  BEAT

            I am an Indian at heart. And I am unable to

            figure out a way to prove it somehow.

Silence.

                  PRESIDENT’S SON

            Mum, do you know that song?

                 IPP PRESIDENT

                  (smiles)

            Which one?

                 PRESIDENT’S SON

            Goes like this…  

                  (sings)

            “Better than the entire world,

            is our Hindustan,
            We are its nightingales,

            and it (is) our garden abode

            If we are in an alien place,

            the heart remains in the homeland,
            Know us to be only there where our heart is.”

The IPP President joins in. They sing together.

            “That tallest mountain,

            that shade-sharer of the sky,
            It (is) our sentry, it (is) our watchman

            In its lap frolic those thousands of rivers,
            Whose vitality makes our garden

            the envy of Paradise.

            O the flowing waters of the Ganges,

            do you remember that day
            When our caravan first disembarked on your waterfront?

            Religion does not teach us to bear ill-will among  ourselves
            We are of Hind, our homeland is Hindustan.

            In a world in which ancient Greece, Egypt, and 

            Rome have all vanished without trace
            Our own attributes (name and sign) live on today.

            Such is our existence that it cannot be erased
            Even though, for centuries, the cycle of time has been  our enemy.

            Iqbal! We have no confidence in this world
            What does any one know of our hidden pain?”

  THE END

 

                  

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‘Black Swan’ – My View, My Thoughts, My own Language..

February 26, 2011 1 comment

white and black

A fragile young princess, Odette, is entrapped into the body of a White swan by a villainous sorcerer. Her only key to freedom is ‘Love’. She eventually finds it, yearns for an endearing prince anticipating her independence from the captivity.  But, hostility spreads its shackles, masquerading as the lustful Black Swan. The Black Swan, an indomitable, sensuous being, bestowed with perspicacious evil-intent seduces the prince. Notwithstanding the feelings for the white swan, the prince capitulates himself along with his charming paraphernalia to the playful, coquettish Black Swan. Implausible for the secluded grieve-struck lonely still-trapped Odette, the white swan – the lonely princess – throws itself from a cliff, embracing death. Death, thus, sets the fragile, young soul free from the entrapment.

…A Russian folklore that was proffered as a piece of art, as a ballet ‘Swan Lake’ first performed in 1877.

 

Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) in ‘Black Swan’, the movie, plays a ballet director dreadfully earnest to bring the ballet ‘Swan Lake’ for the audiences. The lead role in the ballet, a ‘Swan Queen’, demands of a ballet dancer proficient and dexterous not only in the modus operandi of the ballet to epitomize the White Swan but also proportionally free-flowing in her embodiment of the intense lustful Black Swan. A NO-EASY UNDERTAKING.

Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) is one of the aspirants. A dancer with the New York City Ballet Company, Nina dreams of dancing as the Swan Queen which composes the opening scene of the movie. <Nina’s delicate yet agile personage is manifested by Natalie Portman with tranquility> Nina auditions for the role along with many others.

Whilst Nina’s perfect portrayal of white swan is applauded by Thomas Leroy, he gets inkling that playing out the antagonist Black Swan with a sensuous fascination is a far-fetched venture for Nina. The Black Swan is required to be imperfect yet passionate, vulnerable yet lustful, uncontrolled and deceitful. Nina’s control, her mastery over the dance, her keenness for the perfect moves work against her. She well-nigh loses the role.


natalie

Nonetheless, at the last moment, Leroy, getting a glimpse of Nina’s concealed rage in the form of a bite, changes his view of Nina and casts her for the lead. In consequence begins Nina’s endeavor.

The movie culminates with Nina lying wounded and probably dying after the opening performance of the ballet. She stares, with content, to the stage lights and whispers “I felt it. Perfect. I was perfect.”

The core of the movie encompasses Nina’s encounters with the people around her. Be it the ballet director whom she adores for his craftsmanship. Be it her despotic mother, a ballet dancer of yesteryears and now full of resentment for her past. Be it Lily (Mila Kunis), her self-assumed rival who, as claimed by Nina, is determined to grab her role as Swan Queen. Be it Nina herself, copiously obsessed towards perfecting her technique of the art, eventually turning into a self-destructive persona cognitively crippled with hallucinations.

Darren Aronofsky, as the director of this movie, is sensible in presenting a watchable psychological thriller with the right amalgamation of elements that are bound to attract the Academy.

Natalie Portman delivers a performance of a lifetime. She is real, hard-hitting, reaps sympathy from viewers at times, and makes people believe Nina on the nail which in itself is a huge achievement.

Natalie Portman shed 20 pounds for the role which is evidently visible in the movie. A CRUEL PERFECT BALLET ESTHETIC. She also learned the dance form for a year, her trainer being her on-screen dance partner in the opening scene of the movie, Benjamin Millepied.

As an  addendum, a trained ballet dancer was used as a body double for Portman for a few of the scenes.

The ballet performed in the movie mostly constitutes the Neo-classical type developed in the United Stated by the legendary George Balanchine, a Russian dance master who dominated the field of ballet for more than 50 years.

Some elements of the movie depict, beautifully and within the confines of the motion picture, the irrefutable starvation diets, dance injuries the performers pass through and the tendentious idiosyncrasies of the dark underside of Ballet.

Oscars are on the way and I, a fan of Natalie Portman, am keeping my fingers crossed for the Best Actress Oscar to come her way.

 

Way to go Miss. Portman!!

 

-Rahul Nilangekar

 

P.S: IMDB rating for the movie – 8.5/10