Concept to Commissioning

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The producer of a movie, in my view occupies father’s place, actual gender immaterial. He decides, “let us have it”, and that’s it. He does the first necessary act, select the mother and if old fashioned, marry (in new age that’s not necessary), and then on wards it is her responsibility. The mother, the Director, has to make an infant out of the concept. I am saying this well aware that I am ruffling the feminist’s feathers, but still risking that. I am sure if any of them read it would be abusing me on it, in no uncertain terms, but I am looking at it conceptually, not as MCP or with gender bias. And anyway these are personal feelings , so declare me MCP if one wants.

Our producer has decided to make a movie and selected a story idea and the director had conceptualized that into a movie. However for the infant to be brought up into a model citizen, the mother needs a lot of support. The father is only to arrange the facility and may be once in a while interfere and try to oversee the progress, for good or bad. As the child grows, the mother had to take dual role (with father’s interference of course), the course director’s and the sustainer’s.

The next critical act in the child’s development is done by the Guru(s). I give that place to the performers, the actors. Just the way the teachers (or the proverbial Gurus) develop the child to be a person, the actors develop the concept into a tale. When they are able to give their all into the specific facet of the child, the child becomes strong into that. A chemistry teacher not only has to give all he/she knows, but also make it suitable for the grasp of the particular child. The same goes for Physics, economics, social sciences, fine arts…

It is not necessary that the particular child has the aptitude of all, it is not necessary either that the parents have thought the child to have it. But what the parents have thought need to be integrated into the child,the mother knows the best. It can be only done when the teacher is able to put him/herself into the child’s position, think like it and then pour the information which could be grasped. A bad but good intention-ed teacher is as bad as an excellent but uninformed teacher.

The others – cinematographers, choreographers, music, etc – are like the lab assistants. Equally necessary but in supporting the expression of the particular flair, or even some times in helping hiding that part and diverting into something similar? They do that in case of favorites. The Gurus with the theory can’t really reach the peak unless these people help them in bringing ‘that’ out. How many times in real life we have seen a perfect theory remaining hidden, or maybe even lost, assuming it to be wrong, since that wasn’t proved through experiments? These are the people who too can break a movie to certain extent.

These teachers, and their assistants, as in real life, are selected by parents, when it is at home education. Often they go by the best, most educated and reputed teachers. But is it always that it is successful? We may blame the child or the attitude. But none are or were bad. It became wrong from the moment the infant was misunderstood by the mom. From then the method of training, the trainers selectedand all such things are logical sequences. Did the particular mom know best? Did she understand her child? Did she plan its course of life based on that? Did she put correct trainers for the job? And so on.

A bad plot, not properly translated into script, and the pace wrongly maintained, wrong actors for the roles, all these differentiate a good movie into bad. And I see it this way, even a bad or almost non-existent plot (say a child with ADD or ADHD) becomes a remarkable young man if properly handled by mother and teachers. If I try to see movies and break them into main events, none of the good movies might run more than a few lines. And a lot of them would have the same lines word by word. Those were the infants as conceptualized and born. Then the further molding of them differ and we have Einstein, Bohr, Dirac, Feynman,..entirely different but each great personalities, made of the same basic ingredient.

Who has the primary responsibility? Obviously it is the mother, the director. She has to understand the baby, guide its life, select the correct teachers, in short do everything necessary, till it is ready to face the world on its own, and then the father might come forward to take the credit (and reap harvest from the box-office).

We do see once in a while exceptionally good Gurus sometimes making something out of the child despite a clueless mother. Consider movies like Paying Guest or Tere Ghar Ke Saamne or in fact, with due respect to RK Fan’s, a number of Raj Kapoor classics. But for that, it is necessary that the Gurus are given some scope, some free-hand, to develop. If the mother had decided to make a WWF wrestler of a zero-sized, obviously his mathematics teacher can’t do anything, since most of the time the boy would be in the ring and not in the classroom. The teacher needs a specific and regular time to mold the boy and that should be available to him, and at the pace what he deems proper.

What could be most dangerous is one of the Gurus take on the role of the mother (or mother decides that she would be one of the Guru). In that case the training automatically becomes biased. Obviously Mary Kom, if she takes up on herself, won’t look at the fact that her child has flair to be a gymnast. With the single minded training of course something would be made out of it, but may be it could have been much better in other field.

However that is natural Dynastic concept in real life and naturally happens everywhere. How many of actors, industrialists, etc. children don’t take the mantle from the parent? Some succeed, other fritter it away (in business) or soon sink into oblivion (any other field where the talent of the previous generation can’t be literally banked for the rainy (children). Similar thing happens in movie too. We find the Guru/Mother hogging all the screen time and starving the movie of a meaningful flow (life). This is what is happening in today’s Bolly Industry. It is either one man (woman) movie or at the most two, if both have equal ego and threat potential on the actual parents (producer and director). Some times (may be a lot of?) they themselves are the actual parents, and the child is only adopted and christened under the other couple’s name.

Sometimes (most of the times?) when we find the child, now a young person, is good for nothing, we train it to use the ultimate weapons of the failed, macho-ness (fight sequence), overt-seduction (sex-glamour) and pathos. Isn’t it what is done in real life too? An unemployable youth resorts to robbing, manages an heir/heiress, or begs in front of a temple/railway station. With these three weapons, one could at least be, not a complete wash-out, provided of course it uses that intelligently (which too isn’t always done).

What makes a movie?

First is of course the skeleton of the movie. There has to be something in it. Even as simple as a boy meets a girl, they fall in love, the family opposition separates them, and in the end both live happily ever after (i.e. die) or for seven years they live somewhat happily till the itch surfaces. It has to have a basic skeleton, definitely not a girl meets a frog, who refuses to turn into a prince, but still she makes it her consort! I mean the skeleton should have a believability index. It can’t be absurd. Even fairy tales are not since we attribute some properties to the fairies, angels and with that the fairy tales lose absurdity. You can put a genie into a bottle, but unless you define someone has the power, he/she can’t put a man into a bottle. If it isn’t a fairy tale, where fairies/witches have power to perform magic, puppies are not born to a queen (of course I am not talking of the Hyena-matriarch).

Second step is to put the flesh on the movie. How this few lines, the ‘Mission statement’ is converted into the basic story which would now run into a few pages. We would now expand it, bring in the others who would help or hinder and decide on exactly how they would. If we have started from it, i.e. converting a story/novel into a movie, as used to be in earlier days, or today’s non-masala movies, it would sometimes be opposite too, how to compress a long novel into a short version. For example there was a novel I read long back (it used to be serialized in a famous Bengali periodical of the time) ‘Antony Firingi’ or a set of novels constituting the ‘Apu Trilogy’. Each of them were superb but big novels and no one could even think that those could be compressed into a couple of hour plus movie. To get the main essence, within those couple of hours, need cutting down the flab. This is obviously the crucial part.

This is where most of the movies are made or spoiled. The director must understand the child (essence). Select the correct actors who would translate it and accordingly pace the story so that the essence is never lost, the pace may be quickened, things left unspoken, or stretched based on the capability of actors. Any mistake here and we are left with a complete mess.

How many seconds was Kalyani with her father’s dead body? There was no hysterics then, the cremation wasn’t shown, but when she comes back with tired step, and walks up, with her friend and her husband watching compassionately at her, we know what had all happened in between. Pages of story and may be 15 minutes of the movie avoided even without even a monologue. This I agree was an exceptional actor with an exceptional conceptualiser. However the superb directors can make do with a relatively good actor too, if he knows his/her strengths and weaknesses. It is a must that for the director (mother) the child (the movie) comes first, not who is acting. This concept is missed when the actors rule and not the movie.

Another important part is the buildup to an incident. Say an actor has to have amnesia. It has to be brought up in a feasible way. Just not that since he has to have it, do something so that he can have it. Whether it is one of his natural acts or not director won’t bother about it.

I agree that everything in the movie is not the natural or most probable. The things that don’t happen normally is what makes a story, else everything is what I may call a daily life scene. Morning I go to office and in the evening come back home. Some day something out of ordinary happens and that makes up a story. The probability of that happening may be very low. But even the low means it might not happen to me, but happen to someone? In that case it is his/ her story, not mine, but is definitely a believable one. But that is provided overall probability is maintained.

A person coming under the wheels while walking probable. That person being of hero/ heroine material (young, beautiful, in love,…) not improbable. Say we have hundreds at different parts having this accident, of them one could be like this? It is his/ her story. Result of the accident, amnesia? Well again an unlikely event (even more so through all the probability multiplications). But I would agree to lose my memory, if the accident is properly done. The amnesic person becoming millionaire in a few years, only since the person who had been on the wheel happens to be a millionaire’s daughter? Not very likely, more unlikely since she hasn’t even fallen in love at first sight and in fact had been a bit irritated at his presence. What would I, the millionaire, do? Just pay off, may be search of his antecedents and pack him there. Not difficult for me, police would do it happily, even more so for a reward.

The connector between the events how they are planned forms a critical part. A happily married man, in love with wife and kid, loses memory and marries another woman. These are the two events that form the skeleton. How do I connect these two? That’s where the credibility comes in. It might be made in most improbable way as well as a probable way. Most common of course are railway accident or car accident. But the events must lead to that. The things should not come against the nature of things.

However our directors, obviously the front benchers in mind, keep on doing all these, which not only includes these absurd ‘story’ supports, but also non issues. The hero and heroine breaking into a park dance with no reason. They  don’t need to have that, in the opinion of the director.

Then the next part which our directors always forget is that people should behave as they normally do, even on screen. Whenever a character is built, whether properly or hurriedly (most of the cases now), it has to have be identifiable with a real life human being that one finds around.

The happenings to him/her may be as I mentioned chance occurrences, but the human itself isn’t one of the mutants. I am not talking of X-men or science fictions, where the person is again given those special characteristics, but of a normal movie. Give me a single person who would fight like any of our heroes and live to see the day. One person whether armed or unarmed vs a couple of dozen fully armed? He is in open whereas the adversaries in position of advantage. I am not blaming Bollywood only, the movies of Stallone, Schwarzeneggeretc are no different.

I will really like to see a real life person (exclude the WWF where everyone knows those are feints) hit with all those punches, rods and sometimes bullets, and then getting up and beating the whole villain gang bare handed to pulp. There must be a limit of insanity that the directors go through while visualizing but they don’t seem to have put a stop-limit on that.

A person must behave physically as well as psychologically as any person in his position would do. This almost never happens in the current breed of movies. I will again quote Sujata.

Sunil is a person shown to be progressive not bound by the caste prejudice. However is there something in the back of his mind, a shackle that has to be broken? If I am in his position, brought up by a person with a rigid outlook like Lalita Pawar can I be away from it? The subconscious would play a role.

That has been exactly what we have seen happening before he came out of the stupor by the taunt, which makes his conscious win over the prejudice, “Did this information silenced you? Now would you ever come near me? Now would you have even a thought of marrying me?” and that comes through the stunned face breaking into the smile of realization of his own internal double standard. Is that not natural even in me and you?

I won’t go and take her in arms, “Hey I don’t believe in all those”, the moment she explodes the bomb in my face, I need a few moments to let the thing sink in and then analyse the new scenario. Earlier case was clear, she might be orphan, but being a relative was my caste. Granma may be unhappy but won’t oppose. But now?

Similarly when she refuses despite his profession, and he knows her (we too are aware of Sujata’s introvert nature) that she won’t tell anything else. He naturally goes back and broods in a dark room, till he is given another shock of his life. Each of these episodes must have been less than minutes but excellently paced to bring the whole episode in it.

Or “Please come to the venue, putting the dust of your feet on her hair, this untouchable girl will depart forever” isn’t a threat, it would have been, if it was to her (foster) parents, but here it is a statement of her condition. Those minutes tell a lot

  • She didn’t know she was getting married – “Is it?  who told you?
  • She obviously can’t stand getting married to anyone else.
  • She would rather kill herself.
  • She though can’t marry him but wants to have a symbolic one before killing herself.

Even a dolt would guess the shackles that are put on her, and also that she won’t break that, he has to.In how many moments it told all that to me?

I agree that all are not superb actors, one rarely gets another like this pair, both one of the most natural and versatile.

We also have another great, though in the maudlin, Meena Kumari. She talks volumes in the song “Na jao Saiyaan Chudaa Ke Baiyan..” or the stunned look when she suddenly finds Raaj Kumar gone in “Yunhi Koi Mil gaya tha” are amongst a myriads of masterpieces she too had created in silent talk.

But in case one has to make do with others, one could always pace it, not skip it, and be most careful whether they can afford to show the face or not. Just to show the beautiful face, the director as well as actor (who wants to look beautiful) make fatal error.

I really don’t think the actress would be in a mental frame to smile in “Roop Tera mastana” or “Ya dil Ki suno Duniya walon” or “Mere Mehboob Tujhe.”, but unfortunately not only they smiled, not in tune with the situation, but also director thought that to be OK. May be it was with certain concept, fleeting thought of things pleasant in the pathos of the song, but in that case it couldn’t be brought out by the actor or director.

The capability of an actor to bring a scene to life is an area where the director has no control. The actors must be able to bring in their face what goes in their mind. In real life we are taught to hide that. But when on screen, you have to break that shackle. In breaking it, most try to over-act or deliberately underplay, and those becomes unnatural, or are not able to break it and remain passive, we have many wooden faced actors too.

In all these cases they are only partially integrated with the role, since their conscious mind still is active which tells that you must have this expression of this gesture. It is only rare persons who breaks the shackle naturally. The feelings come in their action, their face, a natural one, bringing out what is going on at the role’s mine then.

It really must be very difficult, maybe that’s why we have so much rarity of excellence? The moment one steps out of infancy to childhood, one is usually trained by parents to hide the innermost feelings. The insecurity complex, which tells us that if others knew, they would manipulate us? Now the actor has to take that off, else the story had to be told in words, by the directors in some other way, not by the actors. That’s where the directors must help the actors by use of props, strangely in Sujata, Bimal Roy did it even when lot necessary (the water drops through leaves trying to show tears or the mimosa/touch me not plant to show the blushing and scared heroine) duplicating the effort. Maybe he wasn’t that confident then; later he didn’t try all these in Bandini. But these are the things that the directors might have tried rather than showing us a pretty but unsynchronized face.

Towards the end, again my opinion (as always) I have always felt that the actors (either gender) had a particular type of face. Some of them were smiling face , even when they weep, the top contender is Sharmila. Some have a weepy face, even when they laugh, you are confused is he/she is laughing or is about to break into tears any moment now, the top being Asha Parekh and then Meena Kumari. Nargis was a no nonsense face, “don’t mess with me”, like say head mistress of a school. A few of them really had very flexible face topped by of course our Nutan, followed by Smita Patil. Somehow the basic face was expressionless, complete blank, and then the internal emotions perfectly colored that as in a white canvas.

I wonder whether this is a gift, or all have it, but they are unable to clean up the personal (off screen or say seeing in advance what the role is going to go through) emotional baggage and bring the one that the role feels, in a given current situation, which is obviously without any foresight? I don’t know, and can only wonder, was this the additional gift bestowed on her?

Taking the risk of ruffling my fellow (Nutan fans), Tanuja I consider much more comely than Nutan, in fact I always considered in younger ages, and still do, Tanuja to be beautiful. But she could never shed that beauty off and become an angel plus to plain to a Meena Kumari plus at the drop of hat, frankly I am yet to see another.

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