Friday, April 19, 2013

Why Kashyap cracks Cannes every year?

me - oye sunn, maine ek nai script likhi hai.. i think its angry..very angry.."
she - toh? yaar mere se yeh sab baatien mat karo.. 
me - hah.. how do you not react to what's happening around you?
she - yaaar...
me - did you hear of watertown shootings last night?
she - yaar, kya karna jaan ke, srijan not in a mood right now.. you know i bought a new top..

Why did I start with that? I don't really know. It has nothing to do with what i'm going to write. It's just a little talk, I had with a friend last night. Why doesn't India create great cinema? How is it that in a country of the size of India, the number of really political filmmakers can be counted on finger tips? How does Kashyap manage to get a movie or two into Cannes every year? Why does the discussion end at Dibakar or Bala or Umesh Kulkarni or Q (dare you say Prakash Jha)? In a population of the size of 600 million (ya the other half needs toilets before going out and directing movies), why do we just have a handful of filmmakers who talk about real themes? 

I think there could be one possible reason for all of these questions. How many of you have seen Midnight in Paris? I'm sure, almost everybody. We all love Woody Allen! aah why doesn't Adi Chopra go stay with Allen for a week and learn how to make movies? anyways, what did you think of that movie? A hollywood scriptwriter turned writer, trying to find his voice? Romancing with a Paris, especially of the 20s, helping him come in terms with himself? Thats what I thought too. Somehow, didn't make a lot of sense to me. Anybody who has seen 3-4 movies of Allen, will deny this movie. Not that it's not a superb film, but where did the Woody cynicism go? where did that pessimism, the conflicted nature of oneself and his whimsical idea of love go? Life is short, and I didn't try to figure out, whatever, he perhaps is a happy man now. 

Until recently, when I read this essay on Midnight in Paris, on some film journal website. The writer suggested, that Midnight in Paris was more of a lament than anything. A lament on the glorious artistic days of the past. A bunch of American and European artists, hanging out together, writing, painting, boozing in 'Paari', as they call it. More than anything, the process of Gil Pender getting to hang out with these guys, post midnights, changed him. It's not the city, but whole artistic culture of 20s, which helped him write a profound book and yes, dump his sophisticated yet beautifully artificial girlfriend. Was he really in love with Adriana? Maybe yes, or maybe for the first time he found someone who accepted him with is naiveness. It was that new found courage, that changed him. The courage, he got by hanging around these eccentric and erratic, yet supremely talented beings. What Woody says through Midnight in Paris, is that, that period is past. It's never coming back again, and perhaps, we might not be able to create great art anymore.

This perfectly applies to the Indian cinema. Not that, I know any filmmakers or writers personally, but this culture of creating art and artists coming together doesn't exist. Except the cute chain smoking and bearded, pretentious college goers. The culture where your friends will hail your work one night, only to trash it the next day. Why? Because when they went back to bed, they really looked through it, and could very well next morning say that to your face. Yes, that's how it's supposed to be. In India, I very strongly feel, being an filmmaker (or any kind of artist) is a sort of alienating job. People around you, are so lost being practical (I fucking hate this word, but can't think of another one), that that practicality gets you. The reality doesn't allow, surreality to sneak in. And that's rather fair, because they aren't god damn filmmakers. They've to earn their bread. But for a filmmaker, he needs that community. That community of filmmakers, where you can be discussing movies, each others movies all day long. Adore it, hate it.. but all the way through, be brutally honest about it. What we see here, is a more of solitary creation of good(sometimes) art, spread across the country. But, seldom they all come together. There is no dialogue that happens. Ya, maybe there might be those 5-6 filmmakers who enjoy such relationships, but its far from being a culture.

Having that community, that culture has the potential to change you. If not change, then definitely help you grow as an artist. And artistic growth is what we rarely see in India. The fact, that everybody is just functioning separately, doesn't allow that natural growth to happen. All you're doing is competing with yourself. All these creative dope heads have massive narcissistic tendencies. Oh, get over it. You might be an artist, but you're still a fucking human. And you will function like one. I'm not trying to say that having a community, will change our cinema overnight. it won't But it'll help us leverage our Indian advantage. The advantage of staying in a country as crazy India, and being surrounded by plain bizarre stuff. And somewhere there finding our much needed political voice. And I feel this is something Kashyap realized or accidentally gained. Be it his PFC years or his existing connections with international and Indian filmmakers (as it seems), he somehow has had the luxury of being around people who are into exactly what he's into. I won't say he's India's best filmmaker or any of that crap, but he's definitely the filmmaker, who's growth is most apparent. He probably gets it, he gets why that culture is important. And probably because of this, he's been able to build a filmmaking ecosystem around him.I don't think he does it because he wants to be the Indian Indie flag bearer, as most of the press tags him. He does it, because he knows the value of that system. He probably knows, that it's that brutally informal culture, that nourishes any kind of art form.

As Hemingway tells Gil on why he won't read his book... 

"If it's bad, I'll hate it. If it's good, then I'll be envious and hate it even more. You don't want the opinion of another writer"

...ya that's the only line we heard from that movie.

P.S. Yes, it's a pretentious title.