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When we eat a new dish, we learn something . But our main aim is to experience the dish, not to learn. Similarly, when we see a film, it is to experience the film. Not to learn something.
Audience gets connected to a film through a character. Personification of an abstract idea, the emotional connect can happen through character.
A story is more powerful than morals, than truth, than you.
The mind is so vast that it can encompass every kind of character if it is in the form of a story.
A hero is one who is committed to a goal (or to the woman), at the cost of every other thing.
Life avoids conflict. Story cannot do without conflict.
Conflict releases energy for the high of the resolution.
We cannot even walk without conflict between body and gravity.
The basic genre beneath all genres is drama. In realistic films as well as in superman.
Dramatic moments provoke the truth to come out.
Writers are the biggest thieves of reality. She cheats reality. And call it fiction.
Vulnerability and effort in a character endears the audience’s empathy, even if he is a murderer. (Norman Bates trying to sink the car with the dead body in psycho)
A writer should introspect for the routine casual prejudice that we carry in our hearts. For it is when we do not acknowledge that its most dangerous.
—Anjum Rajabali , (Rajneeti, Legend of Bhagat Singh, etc.)
Writing is everything, the be all and end all of film making.
While beginning a script, approach the film through the character. Theme can come later.
Once a character is created, it weaves the story by itself. The writer just has to follow the character. This happens when the matrix opens itself and shows you the film.
Every character better have an arc. Even hero ka dost.
(Having said that, he also said, An actor plays an equal part in the creation of a character, as the writer.)
– Abhishek Chaubey (Udta Punjab , Ishquiya, Dedh Isquiya )
A story is more powerful than morals, than truth, than you. – Anjum Rajabali.
-Analysis by Manjushree Abhinav.
a ) Morals. A story is more powerful than morals ?I remember a text book called Community Work, from the pre primary level of school. After every chapter, they had a sub title in bold, ‘Moral of the story’. So it is drummed into our heads, that stories are all about morals. However, in our experience, our life long and on going love affair with mythology, movies and literature, proves the opposite. Stories take us beyond morality. They take us to the field which is beyond good and bad, where Rumi promised to meet us.
A story can take you from good to bad in moments. A master storyteller, like Alfred Hitchcock, does this so effortlessly in the film, Psycho. A young woman is murdered ruthlessly in the shower by this sick character called Norman Bates. After she is dead, Norman cleans the shower of all the blood stains. Then he wraps her dead body in a carpet and takes it down the stairs in the dark of the night. He puts her in her cars dickie and drives away. After many shots of him driving, he finally reaches a pond, where he manages to push the car in. And he stands there, watching the car sink slowly in the water. Just as it is about to sink totally below the surface, the car stops sinking. We see Normans tense face and at that moment, all of us have a deeply immoral thought: the car should sink. And it does.
The point here is not that it is ok to murder and then try to hide proof. The point of a story is that is gives you an experience of life which you otherwise wouldn’t have had. In Psycho you become the Psycho. You feel what he feels, at least for a moment. The bravest, the most righteous person can feel fear in a horror movie. And in this the story is more powerful than morals.
b ) Truth . A story is more powerful than truth?
All stories, by definition, are not entirely true. The Ramayan, Mahabharat, and what happened yesterday. When Tulsidas narrated the Ramayan, he exercised his creative license to delete, add and change Valmikis version at crucial phases of the text. They all are made from the stuff of the imaginary mind, which itself does not exist. Cinema itself, is an illusion of twenty-four still frames projected per second on a huge screen in a dark theater. Even a documentary film, has a perspective of the director on which it heavily depends. On the other side of the spectrum, a film like Superman is a worldwide hit.
A film should be believable. It need not be realistic. When you buy the tickets of a film like Superman, you buy into the belief that in the world of Superman which you are entering for the next couple of hours, Superman can and does fly.
The root of all stories is drama. Be it art or commercial, realistic or bizarre, a film’s success depends largely on to what extent the audience brought into the belief in the narrative.
A story like Cinderella is retold across centuries and to date its theme ( socially unequal couple ) is repeated in every other film.
Mahatma Gandhi, a great exponent of truth, once had an interesting conversation with Birla, his host in Delhi . ‘Bapu,’ said Birla reverently, ‘You have done so much for us. Indians will never forget you.’
‘That’s not true, I will be forgotten sooner than you would like to imagine. The only two characters Indians will never forget are Ram and Krishna.’ So even the father of the nation knew that stories are more powerful than truth.
c) You. A story is more powerful than you. Or me.
A story is always bigger than its characters. However great Bhagat Singh is, his sacrifice is what made him great. Rajesh Khanna became a star because romance was in the air. Amitabh took over because the romance gave way to frustration and anger. Angry became the new sexy.
A story is more powerful than the writer. Once the script is bought by the producer, the chord is cut. The script may be written by whoever, a film is always the director’s baby.
The script may be adapted from a book, but anyone who has loved a book will never be happy with the film. I am sure Chetan Bhagat wept when he saw three Idiots, which was inspired from his book, Five point someone.
A story is what pulls the audience in the cinema halls. The actors, or the stars, are there to act out the story.
And the biggest storywriter of all, the almighty, thinks nothing of popping a character he has so lovingly breathed life into, when he loses interest in the sand castle. Savitri was perhaps the only woman who convinced God to give her back her husband. But Satyawan, finally had to leave the earthly abode. What does not leave us, is their story.
So the ocean is more powerful than the wave.
WHY, then, IS A STORY SO POWERFUL?
(to be continued …)
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FREE INTRO TALKS
2nd Module: Film making = Acting + Camera Practicals + Editing basics + Storyboarding Aim : Making a short fiction film.
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Films made during Storygram workshops and courses across the last four years. Films are scripted and directed by students. Storygram mentors and produces the films.
I Am Not Free
After The Storm
She Is Mine
The Bermuda Triangle
Love Is Food Deep
And Then The Mountain Called Her
How can a mountain call anyone? And even if it does, how does one know that a mountain is calling them? And even when one feels the calling, how many of us pack our bags and travel, specially when we dont even know the address of the mountain?
A lot of us are hit by at least a moment of spiritual calling at a very young age. But most of us dismiss it as a random inexplicable occurring, or the society interprets it for us as a temporary mental illness or we suppress it because of the fears or overwhelm that surface with this yearning. Would you like to meet a woman who is mad enough to interpret a pain in her heart as a call to travel, and to seek an alternate lifestyle?
Two women meet one morning to do a pradakshina around a holy mountain, Arunachala. They decide to be silent during the walk. But a song breaks the spell and they start talking.
And then the Mountain called her is a film about two women conversing in the shadow of the past. This act of remembering cinematically navigates Tiruvannamalai, and layers of history are woven into the landscape. Tiruvannamalai is the temple town in which sages like Ramana Maharishi have risen from. It has had a continuos tradition from Vedic times of layers of mythology, non confirming gurus, and spiritual seeking unravelling simultaneously.
My interest has been in rescuing these stories from the blurred cultural landscape, and work towards breaking stereotypes in the character of a seeker. I have had a personal experience in Tiruvannamalai, which I have narrated in a fictional form here, as it is easier for us to empathize with fiction than autobiography.
Leaving No Trace
A documentary I shot, directed and edited. Inspired by my grandfather, this film glorifies cyclists in the city, for they leave no trace.
Banoonga Tera Dost
A group of twenty-five riot affected children from Gujarat travel to the North East and befriend the violence affected youth who are now working for peace. Amongst all the songs and dances, a deep catharsis emerged for all of us. Although I don’t understand what it means, I love the last song. I shot, directed and edited this drama-docu.
And So Flows The Indrayani
My personal favourite film. The hero is a varkari, someone who sings Tukarams bhajans in temples and begs for a living. I edited this diploma film on steenback, made in the FTII.