Tuesday, December 4, 2012


Taking the discussion further, Mani Kaul was a filmmaker who tried to oppose each and every structure of filmmaking through his unique methodology. Even the structures which are extremely basic to the filmmaking process were brusquely shattered by him. From the best to the worst of filmmakers of world, everybody consider script to be the backbone of a film. And every effort is made to follow the script in detail. Recently, Indian filmmakers have also started giving too much importance to the script which is something new to Indian cinema. Masters like Raj Kumar Hirani, Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Amir Khan, Vishal Bhardwaj, Anurag Kashyap, and Dibaker Banerjee spend majority of time in writing the script as opposed to the actual filmmaking process. Undoubtedly, this has changed the way our films look nowadays than they used to ten years ago. This has also contributed to the improved standing of Indian cinema internationally as well as in film festivals. Even the film schools in our country have started giving a lot of stress on teaching script writing to the students in their courses. The amount of justice done to the script while making a film actually decides the quality of final product. When Mani Kaul had planned his first full length feature film ‘Uski Roti’ based on Mohan Rakesh’s short story, he wrote a twenty five page draft of the script along with the author. Mohan Rakesh wrote the dialogues mainly, besides working on rest of the script and Kaul had explained what and how the things were to be done. But when Kaul used to reach the location, he always worked according to his own way. The way Rakesh had planned the script used to change completely on the set. Finally when the film was done, there was very little from the script which actually became a part of the creation. According to Parsa Venkateshwar Rao Jr who works with DNA, Mani Kaul did not mean to convey the intent and tone of Mohan Rakesh's story, which was more about the emptiness of rural life. He admitted that earlier he used to believe whatever is there in the script must be incorporated in film also. But in later years his perception and method altered completely. This lead to difficulty in finding sponsors for the films. No sponsor was ready to invest in a film without a script. He always believed in innovating rather following the order of script religiously. Kaul considered it a method of bringing polychromatism (anekta) in a creative product. Recently, Ranbir Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra starrer ‘Barfi’ became an instant worldwide success. The maker of the movie, Anurag Basu explained in an interview that original script of movie was written in about ten pages. Rest of the movie was made through innovation on location. The actors used to arrive on the sets completely oblivious of the scene they were going to shoot and the director used to come and innovate the entire scene along with them. This is how the film finally evolved from a rough draft to a masterpiece. 

Kaul made a virtually plot-less cinema during his career. There was a very little almost non-existent story in his movies. On asking how his technique was different from other filmmakers, Kaul expressed that during the process of editing, his shot used to be very mobile throughout the film. Since there was no big story inside the shot, no concrete context and no special place where the shot must be placed, it could be easily taken anywhere. Due to the inherent mobility and impartiality, one shot could be easily placed in three four different places. Since there was no strict serial number of the scenes as is usually the case in most of the movies, the same shot could be taken to scene no 3 and scene no 9 at the same time. He was accustomed in taking the shot in such a way that rather than being special it could be mobile and at the same time it was not very regular also. The shot taken in some context could be used in some other context while editing. For him shot was primary and the context (sandarbh) was secondary. This juxtaposition of shot with the context is a chance factor or sanyog according to Kaul. This was possible because he worked in a manner which could allow randomness to enter the structure without much hassle. He was a one filmmaker who not only understood Mahabharata but also tried to interpret it through action. His cinema demonstrated the magic and exceptionality of Mahabharata which is not only an epic but also a way of living in itself. The mobile shot in his cinema could be interpreted to be a representation of Krishna who appears in the epic at different times, completely dispossessed from the bondage of time and space. Similarly this time-space concept has been violated many a times in Mahabharata. Sanjay, an advisor and charioteer to Dhritarashtra, blessed with gift of seeing events at a distance granted by sage Vyasa, narrates to Dhritarashtra the action in the climactic battle of Kurukshetra, which includes Bhagavad Gita also.  He is actually violating the concept of time and space here. Mahabharata illustrates that consciousness can be present at more than one place at the same time. Mani Kaul was fortunate to comprehend this reality very early in his life so he made it a part of his creative and personal journey also. 

The second structure which is considered very significant to a film is the character (kirdar). Those actors are usually chosen who can play that particular character and even if they can’t, good actors prepare themselves to suit the role. Some lose their weight, some gain extra, some undergo rigorous training sessions, some go for speech therapies and some even opt for method acting. The aim is to fit into the sleeves of character. Meryl Streep, a renowned American actress is well known for her ability to imitate and master foreign and domestic accents. In The Iron Lady, she reproduced the vocal style of Margaret Thatcher, from the time before she became Britain's Prime Minister, and after she had taken elocution lessons to change her pitch, pronunciation and delivery. Streep believes in the dictum, ‘How could I play that part and talk like me?’ Christian Bale starved himself for over four months and lost almost 60 pounds to play the role of a man suffering from chronic insomnia in a psychological thriller ‘The Machinist’. According to Kaul there is a context (sandarbh) to everything. Whatever we do and whatever we are, is in relation to some context. Otherwise there is no meaning to it. When an actor says, “come here”, then is it the character who is saying this or is it the actor himself? A character is simply a context, nothing more and an actor is just representing that context. He cannot become the character. Secondly while shooting, if the actor is simply portraying the character, then the shot would have greater mobility. But if it’s otherwise, then the scene would have a definite position while editing and couldn’t be placed anywhere else because the scene assumes a different form when the character is strictly enacted. Kaul says that when an actor is performing, he is expressing his nature (swabhav). And it would be great if he stays close to his real nature. Most of the times, an actor struggles to become the character by parting away from his real self. An actor playing the same character at different times if liberated from the actor-character bondage would be able to express it more easily. This would end the concept of typed casting also. He further elucidates that Peter Brooks, an English theatre and film director, while making the stage adaptation of Mahabharata did cast those actors who had no resemblance to the physical personality of characters. He selected a very thin lean man in the role of ‘Bheema’ who actually was very tall and muscular. Kaul says that Bheema is a nature which can be there in anybody. One need not be physically huge to play Bheema. Therefore Kaul always refuted the concept of character because it negates the possibility of polychromatism (anekta). 

Mani Kaul believed that cinema is not a hundred page script, nor it is a medium to say stories or a stage for performing actors. Cinema according to Kaul is a unique interplay of image and sound which actually should create a magic. Cinema is a beautiful canvass on which we try to paint the reality of life. But most of the times, it has been browbeaten as a medium to bear the burden of fiction. More than ninety percent of cinema till date has been fiction and nothing more. Only a small fraction of it has managed to be something beyond. Cinema of Ingmar Bergman, Federico Fellini, Godard, Luis Buñuel, Robert Bresson, Tarkovsky, Kieslowski, Mani Kaul, Kumar Shahani, Béla Tarr was a colossal departure from the fictional enslavement which majority of cinema is subjected to. Their aim was to narrate the story through images and sound. These nonconformist filmmakers endeavored to create a multi-layered, multi-dimensional, polychromatic visual impression, which at times even trespass the confines of time and space. Kaul used human face as a landscape and music as a vehicle to transport the emotions of character. Fiction as my brother, Prof Sunil comments is the worst addiction. Fiction after a certain point of time is a dead weight which most of us carry throughout our lives. It is a ‘mayajal’, which doesn’t liberate us from the illusion of body and mind. Once caught, we are carried deeper and deeper without even realizing the futility of whole trap. The worthlessness of this obsession would be realized only in a moment of darshan. But since the fixation with order and morality is so strong, we are not able to appreciate this truth. We are always stuck up in our individual fights. Similarly, a modern man is always trying to represent somebody else. He is always performing the role of some other person (kirdar). The futility of context is never ever realized. In this process he forgets his real self. He keeps on moving away from himself until a point is reached where his true self gets completely eradicated. The real self gets substituted by some fake mysterious identity. The grooming and conditioning of the society facilitate to reinforce this identity even more. Gradually an ego is created which disguises itself as our true self. In Michael Winterbottom’s latest work ‘Trishna’, the protagonist of the movie Jay (a wealthy young businessman) asks Trishna (a waitress and mistress to Jay), that in Kamasutra sex is permitted with only three women – a single woman, maid and prostitute, then who real Trishna is out of these three. Torn by the question and inability to identify her true self, she brutally murders the man. A woman though plays different roles in her daily life, needs to apprehend that she is a pure, unscathed and all pervasive reality, a conscious being first, then anybody’s wife or mistress. Tattered inside the jungle of spurious egos and identities, a modern woman needs to find herself. An ego is nothing but a veil which masks the true self with glitter and glamor. True self is hidden somewhere beneath the pile of these fake egos and identities. It would be identified only if we try and move a bit from our positions. We need to realize how much damage has been inflicted upon us in this pointless war. The real self is still lying intact in this chaos. We just need to liberate it from ‘kirdar’.