The End…

This project was the biggest I have worked on but didn’t seem so just because of how well it was managed. The Winter series was a dream to work on and one I have been waiting to see completed. The project was music videos, a web series and a social message all mixed in one. While starting the project it didn’t hit me at all that we were doing all of this and how much of a responsibility it would hold. Were we going to be able to do justice to all three of these aspects?

Now, having seen the result, I think we did great. The social message is the one I feel still lacks and am waiting to see how the marketing of the project and the release will help this become clearer. Getting feedback for the project was amazing as we got a lot of compliments and people telling us how they almost cried while watching it, which makes me think that we did a really good job.

But, as with all projects, making the final videos is not enough and how would these do out in front of an audience. Would people actually watch it like a web series. While each film is distinct and powerful, do they pull enough for the viewer to watch them like a series? Having been working on it for months and keeping everyone in class updated on what it means and how we were going made our first audience at RMIT University a very favourable audience who saw the entire journey with us.

We succeeded in the manner of making something beyond expectation and managing to score beautifully in class with great enthusiasm from viewers but I think the real success will be when we can do the same with people who didn’t know what we were aiming for, what our skill set was and still react the same to it. In the end, it never ends and to keep it going is the challenge we now face as we come to the end of  the degree.

Yes, I learnt a lot and yes, I feel like I am ready to take on the world with these new found skills that I have been able to give power to, but the big world outside the cocoon of Uni is scary and I can’t wait to find out how I’ve fared. The thought scares me, but having worked on Winter makes me just a step further and just a little bit less scared.

Advertisements

Bollywood VS Hollywood

bolly

While in India, talking to filmmakers and stars, I realized that Bollywood as an industry was completely different from Hollywood. Since then, having done more research on it here are somethings I realized.

Every story has been formed by a person, a person definitely belonging to a religion which has in many ways defined his story. One of my greatest findings has been that the stories or plots of Hollywood films are heavily based on redemption as Lisa Dethridge mentions in her book – ‘How to write a screenplay’. But where does the concept of redemption come from? Christianity. But if that theory is true, what would Bollywood films be based on? I believe that Bollywood stories come from the concept of Karma which comes from the Hindu religion. This makes the plots of both industries completely different.

India is a country of poverty, illiteracy and abundance of population, where the earning is limited, the infrastructure on the rise but still poor, and Indian have a hard life. The last thing they want is a serious movie outlining hardships without a way to overcome it. What is welcome instead is the dance, the music, the emotion filled drama the plots have to offer and magnificent international backdrops that most Indians will never see in reality. They need an escape and Bollywood is the industry that provides it. Where most Hollywood films are like short stories, Indian films are like novels that have a lot of characters, a theme that envolves generations and lifetimes, many incidents all coming together to form one heck of a story. That is why we call Bollywood Cinema an escapist cinema.

Shantanu Gupta, a famous Indian screenwriter said, “Hollywood films can sustain interest, or can interest their audience with one track. You can have a bomb in a bus, a girl driving the bus, and a man whose sole mission is to save the bus driver and passengers. That is all! This is the whole film. We can’t do a film like that. I wish we could – it’s so straightforward! It can be only one scene in a Hindi film, like the climax. It cannot be the whole film.”

_ca14c31a-a6f1-11e5-aba6-7a39899cdf3c

The plot of Bollywood films generally revolve around relationships and the emotions of the people involved. There are a lot of Indian films which are said to be rip offs of Hollywood films, but there is always a difference. This difference is what makes them Indian. Culturally, we are a very different community and emotions dictate everything. It is common for large families to live together, and the break up into nuclear families does not come without the emotional blackmail from the older parents! Strong, intense relationships make our backdrop and that is the way we have grown. We like our emotions and we like them in our films, so a Hollywood movie with emotions turned up super high makes a Bollywood movie.

As I mentioned before Karma, from our mythology plays a great role here. If someone dies, he deserves to die. If someone kills, it is because he has a very good reason to kill. Generally an emotional one, not like James Bond!

Our characters have several high and low points throughout the film, distinguishing it from Hollywood’s mid to low to rock bottom to soaring high. Our plots are multi-linear in nature. Our characters do not have ordinary routines, they have sacrifices, consequences, relationships, moral conflicts and what not, making most films an epic story. We are said to follow a four act structure as compared to Hollywood’s three act structure, and due to the length of our films and amount of drama, an intermission divides the film into half. This half point generally has a lot of drama or suspense attached to it, like the end of a great chapter in a great novel, you have to read on! Or in this case, get some popcorn, cause shit is going to hit the fan!

Song and dance according to Vivek Agnihotri, are a tool used to cause interruptions in the plot while enhancing it and providing a more delay in the development of the plot. That is interesting, as the suspense is being drawn out. Another very interesting thing he pointed out was that the audience actually like the length of the films because they paid money to come relax and make a day of film watching. With limited funds, the drawn out film feels like a better reason to have spent the money. We enjoy them long. It is our escape from reality.

Other stark differences include funding. The concept of crowd-sourcing is still unheard of in India. Most films are funded by rich individuals or the underworld (I heard this from a film director in India!!). Bollywood is in every way very different from Hollywood and I find these differences alluring. I would like to be part of both industries during my career trajectory and hope to keep digging up more.

References:

Ganti, T, 2004. Bollywood: A Guidebook to Popular Hindi Cinema. 1st ed. UK: Psychology Press.

Mumbai Madness

Party

“Mumbai is a city of extremes” Danny Boyle, Director of Slumdog Millionaire.

Our great whirlwind of a trip to India started in the city of Mumbai. As Danny Boyle describes it perfectly, that’s exactly what Mumbai was. Extremes of all kinds, the city we couldn’t have possibly conquered in the mere six days we were there. It was an experience which blew by us and now four months later, we are still trying to get our wits about what happened there, something we can’t put a finger on but something that seems to have changed our lives forever.

It started of easy enough, as I came out of the airport into the sweltering heat that was Mumbai even in what should have been the throes of winter. The smell of the ocean and fish hit my senses and sound of traffic opened my flight ears and I knew I was far away from home. The first day at the hotel, we met the first famous Bollywood personalities, Vipin Sharma and Surendra Hiwarale. Being from India, I was fast to recognize Vipin Sharma from his award winning role in Taare Zameen Par. What I didn’t expect was that both these famous personalities had come to meet us but were not prepared at all. Having just gotten off the flight we didn’t have any questions to ask them and most students being from Australia, had no clue who they were. Being jet lagged, the rest of the day was spent observing the Indian wedding in the hotel from the safety of the magnificent bedrooms.

The next day started out with us being fresher as we headed to meet a Bollywood icon. Having grown up on films of his, I was expecting to be welcome with his trademark line. Prem naam hai mera, Prem Chopra! I was happily starstruck as we had a little chat with him. It was interesting as we learnt from him about cinema as it started years and years ago and how it had evolved to what we see today in Bollywood, and at the same time told him about the internet and the concept of web series and marketing online. He too was flabbergasted by the vastness of something he had never experienced before and happily joked with us about making an online blockbuster for his next film. We spent little time with him before heading out for our first bout of sight seeing.

Prem Chopra

That is when it really hit us. Shit got real! The disparity between the rich and poor. Being from India, I had always been around it but all of a sudden, being with people who were seeing it for the first time, I saw it all with new eyes. How had I for so many year passed by these streets, these children and never really looked at them? Were we so accustomed to it that we had learnt to build up a wall unconsciously? Were we really so vicious that we lived day in and day out around this horrid truth, but chose to ignore it or when spoken about, dismiss it as though it was a pain in our ass?

These questions were hard to answer for myself and I have since spent many sleepless nights thinking of who I am and what I really want to do. Can I make a difference? But these thoughts and these answers are for another day.

We explored Gateway of India and the market around it, getting a large Indian lunch to keep us sane in the heat. Another thing that is extreme in Mumbai is the colours. Everyone dresses like they were born to grace the sun with their bright colours, like flowers in the blue, blooming away. It was another thing I seemed to notice for the first time, funny. It got me so excited that I ended up buying a whole bunch of bindis that came in every colour and put peacocks to shame. The downside, we hit traffic hour on the way back to the hotel and I can promise that two hours or more like a thousand hours in a non-moving car is not a fun way to spend your evening.

Tired, our feet dragging, we climbed the nasty steps, cursing all the way up as we went to meet Vivek Agnihotri, a famous Indian filmmaker at his apartment studio. We were not disappointed, as a matter of fact it was quite the mind simulating evening as Olivia finally showed up and disappeared with his crew! He talked to us and was inspirational, really got me going. I was so happy to be there. The only weird thing or two from that evening, when he told us to keep multiple partners to be good filmmakers (more characters, duh!) and when Kaitlyn jumped on his bed and asked if this was for casting couch!!!! There was no way we were getting anymore done that evening, and bed time it was.

The next morning saw another long drive to Mudd island as low and behold! we arrived at the oldest TV series of India’s set – CID…dun dun dun. The island was beautiful, the beach  made me want to forget everything, pop my sunglasses on and lie down on a colourful towel, soaking in some tan (like I need any). The set itself was pretty darn awesome and I am a fan of CID not because I find it funny (which I do) but because they are very progressive. Daya, darwaza todo! Did you know they are the only show in India that has one episode shot in one take. Also every episode is written, filmed and edited, ready to be aired in 24 hours!

CID

Day four was spent with Ashok Purang, his crew of actors and Imanulhaq. We learnt more about Bollywood, watched their performances and got an insight into directing actors, which to me was very helpful as I would like to be a director someday and was awed by how Ashok was able to pull the emotions out of these young actors. Our very own, Kaitlyn also gave a performance to die for and I was amazed.

The next day was probably my favourite and worse day as we met the icon, Anupam Kher though I did not have enough time to ask him everything I was dying to know and then headed for a Bollywood dance class. Longinus Fernandes, the choreographer of Slumdog Millionaire, taught us different forms of Bollywood dance. I was amazed because I had never felt so sexy in my life! I could not believe it but me, Prachi, I had moves!! In the process of shaking that thang, I learnt a lot about how I would film a dance sequence and how I would direct my dancers according to my camera. It’s what came after that killed the beautiful day for me….Comedy Nights. OMG!!! They were not funny, the actors were drunk, it was a flop show and I was embarrassed to be treating my Australian friends to the best rated comedy in India! We decided never to speak of that night ever ever again….

Anupam

But sadly enough, that brought an end to our time in Mumbai. It really had flown!! We packed our bags, bid goodbye to the heat and the sea and jumped on a plane bound to New Delhi, my home! Never could I have guessed the emotional roller coaster I had just gotten sucked into…

Sketch 7 – Ant Man

This video is of me trying to follow a couple of ants on the wall outside my house. I found the texture of the wall the most interesting bit on my video. It was really difficult in the start to actually follow the ant. The background it was against helped in making the video seem less shaky than it was in reality. Once I actually got the ants in my video, the were really clearly seen due to the light background. When I started filming it, my movements along with the ant were very jerky, with no flow. But as I slowly got used to it, my movement of the camera was much more in sync with the ants.

The spontaneity in this video lay in the ant’s movements which could not be predicted and frankly were very difficult to follow. I felt the video was very abstract as well because of the closeness and constant background of the video. I would imagine something similar but much better shot after some practice at the very start of a film to set a certain type of uplifting mood.

But having said everything, the discovery I made with this video was the use of different textures against which to film. I plan to explore this further with my future sketches.

Sketch 8 – The jumping bird

For this video, I tried to use a different kind of background texture, a little further away and less abstract. The background I chose, as you can see is leaves on a tree. Using a background this bright had an opposite affect as compared to my last video – Ant Man, as you can see unlike clear ants I have a bird that is hardly visible. The brightness took away from my subject. This is in my opinion both good and bad, where it takes away from my subject but creates an ethereal effect/illusion as well. Plus, when the bird takes flight, it almost looks magical, out of a fairy tale. I Really like the effect and I think it is created due to the colour choice as well. Bright greens and a little reddishness from flowers in bloom.

The spontaneity here too was in the movement of my subject, something that cannot be controlled to be camera friendly but just happened to be in those moments. So, for my discoveries at the moment, I am very interested in textures as well as colour. Another thought I do want to work with is reflexes in spontaneity, of which I have spoken before.

The only issue I had while shooting this video is that I would have liked to zoom in slightly more but my phone did not allow me to do so. That was unfortunate as I feel like a bigger image of the bird and a more closed background could have made it even more powerful.

Sketch 5 – Doggy Investigations

While I was working on capturing the rain drops on my small lotus pond, my dog got the curiosity bug. He thought I had either lost my mind or found something in the lotus pond that he had missed the last he went digging!

The spontaneity I caught in this video was actually the actions of my dog. I’m sure he didn’t really think I’m crazy out of my head. He came to investigate, sniffed for clues, got bored and left! This automatically got me thinking about reflexes and the spontaneity in them, or our habits and the spontaneity that spawns out of those. I have explored this thought further in my sketches ahead.

Another thing that I really liked in this video were the angles and the colour shades. The angles for me were never straight and it is not something I was trying to achieve per say. Which brings me to think that maybe it is just really hard to film a perfectly upright image with our phones, especially when they are handheld during shooting.

The colours in this video are all earthy and belong to the same family. But at the same time, they look very bright and aesthetically pretty. Compositions sometimes can really work wonders, without any thoughts, I guess.

Sketch 4 – Raindrops are falling on my head

With this video, I was going for an abstract quality kind of imagery. It was drizzling and the world just looked a little bit brighter and more colourful. I have always loved the rains and as I sat outside, sipping a cup of chai, I thought, well even my horrible phone camera can’t miss the beauty of the rains! I wasn’t disappointed. I got a close up shot of the water drops falling in to the lotus pot outside.

While doing this, I noticed a few things other than the pretty colours. The rain drops were forming the smallest ripples in the water. I could catch the reflection in the water, while capturing the bottom of the pot and everything in that murky water as well. In theory, a pot full of compost and in the rains should not look good, but there it was, a pretty picture just waiting to be clicked.

While noticing the composition, I was thinking of what Sabine, a fellow group member, was saying the other day in class. Reflections are her discovery. The spontaneous collection of aesthetically beautiful things to form a composition which is not planned in advance, but just comes into perception while reviewing the video is pretty genius.

The only issue I faced with this particular shoot was a cold cup of Chai that I completely forgot about and a slightly wet phone!