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First Take

March 17, 2008

I understand that each one of us understand cinema in a different way, so I would relate my experiences with Cinema and how it has influenced me. Before going any further, I would like to have a close look at this letter from English Alphabet….”i” What all things can you think of when you look at this letter?!

1. 9th letter in the alphabet.
2. The only vowel which exists along with a meaning.
3. The only letter which is giving the same preference as your own Name and even God. Have you ever thought why should we equate ourselves to God?!…or why should the first letter when referring to God should be in caps?!

What I mean to say is, when you can come up so much stuff, so many questions from just one letter, imagine the impact thousands of word would have on you?! If you believe that a picture speaks a thousand words, imagine the impact created by thousands and thousands of images. That’s the amount of information you can convey through cinema…absolutely impeccable, and endless possibilities when you think about it.

Before going ahead, let me define what Cinema means to me through a small story. In some parts of the world, before all the modern techniques came into existence, Gold was extracted in a different method. Hundreds of tons of sand would be processed to extract gold. If man had given up digging for Gold because there was too much sand, maybe we could never have got Gold…for me Cinema is that Gold. So, cinema for me is something which makes an impact…and sand is the stuff which is available in plenty around, sometimes hindering people from differentiating quality stuff from the banality around.

There are two quotes which really inspired me…something which reiterate why it’s great falling in love with movies…

“If photography is truth, then Cinema is Truth 24 times a second”-a quote from the French movie…”Le Petit Soldat”
“Talking about movie, is like talking about Dreams”-Fredrico Felini, Italian director, one of the greatest filmmakers ever.

The process of making an image movie is quite similar to the way, how we as kids used to make cartoons at the top of the page and flip it at one go, it looks as if the action is taking place. Similarly, for every second there are 24 frames (pictures) moved at a go, so that looks like an action.

All of us watch movies for different reasons, some would say it’s just entertainment, some for timepass…and quite a few would agree that it really changes the way you think about things around and life in general. Coming to some of the types of cinema, there do exist quite a number of types of cinema, prominent among them are the Commercial cinema and the Parallel cinema. And these can be divided further on the basis of the genres that they fall under…like Action, Drama, Romance…etc.

In my view, people who make commercial cinema understand what people want to see and Parallel Cinema, expects the audience to think and try to understand what the director wants to convey. Most of the times, they literally put you off to sleep…so, it really a test of your patience and your interest in cinema. Personally I like parallel cinema, because I tend to relate the protagonists to people around me and most of the times I find that people don’t sing, dance like what’s shown in commercial cinema…and they are not some superheroes either. Most of the times, Parallel cinema is quite successful in portraying people in different shades where they have feelings quite similar to how you and I feel.

What makes Cinema such an interesting thing is its power to reach a wider audience and also make people aware of several issues like War, Genocide, Racism in places where it is not known. There are plenty of movies which deal with issues related to war…like few of the WWII movies which depict the atrocities by Nazis (have to say, that’s just a part of the greater picture associated with war) and you have loads of documentaries which bring the views from inside…for example, Farenheit 9/11, Sicko, The Inconvenient Truth etc. There are few other great movies which have been adaptations from great books, plays. People surprise you with their view of life…someone like Stanley Kubrick, Andrei Tarkovsky, Ingmar Bergman (these people are adept at depicting traits like loneliness, spirituality, Dark comedies…etc).

Let me take you back to my past, maybe you will get an idea about how this passion for movies started. In Andhra Pradesh, we have a great culture with respect to movies. Every festive season there are tons of movies released, there was a time when we would end up watching everything. This phenomenon transformed to Passion for cinema 15 years later. And I realized how much I had fallen in love with movies in college. Should say it had made me more and more interesting towards things other than books and grades. And I am deeply indebted to it for this. On the flipside, if I have to say, about the not so good things…I became a couch potato, am 84kilos right now and deeply confused about what I am doing right now….But would also add that I know clearly what I love the most, and what I would do few years down the lane.

People always ask me how I get so much stamina to watch movies (I am not exaggerating, the average count was around 3-4 movies per day at one point of time…). The answer is…. I don’t know, probably we don’t mind spending time for something which we love to do. Foreign Cinema, especially that from Europe has made me realize the power and outreach of great cinema. Directors like Bergman, Felini, Pedro Almodovar, Roman Polanski and loads of others from France have redefined my perspective of cinema. Their take on themes that are difficult to comprehend and satirical subjects create an impact which only few can understand; which makes the very point of watching all their so called “philosophical” and “boring” movies so interesting and demanding to watch. It’s like having to talk to a person whom you don’t want to talk to. But after sometime, you tend to look for ways to like that person. And when you do fall in love with that person, you wonder how could you think the way you earlier were thinking? Watching a great movie makes me feel like that. And foreign cinema…the more you watch it, I sometimes feel that the more original themes seem. It’s like eating ice-creams…first you would try having all the flavours and then decide which one you like more. For me, foreign cinema is an untouched flavour.

A bit about Indian Cinema, it has come a great way from Alam Ara to Shree 420, from Mughal-E-Azam to Sholay to Lagaan. What’s most interesting about the trend in Indian Cinema is the effect of the Indian psyche or the conditions in the society which have been adapted so well in many of the movies. The movies which came in the decade after Independence had a huge influence of the prevalent conditions like fight for land, hunger, man vs machines and so on. Some of the best examples for this kind of genre are….Do Bheega Zameen, Mother India, Naya Daur. And then came Mughal-E-Azam, by far such grandeur hasn’t been achieved in Indian Cinema History (perhaps Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Devdas might come close…but considering that Mughal-E-Azam is from 60’s, it has an upper hand). This film took 9 years to finish, some 4000 horses, 8000 troops were used for the war scenes. Also one of the first Indian Films to have a song in Colour (Jab Pyar Kiya tho Darna Kya?), it was a commercial BlockBuster, and one of the very few films which was granted a theatrical release in Pakistan. In the year 1975, another film took the nation by storm, Sholay. Never in the history of the cinema would people end up loving everything associated with the movie. Dialogues would last for eternity and so will the action and emotion. 80’s brought along with it themes like fight for justice, socialism and also the influence of emergency was clearly evident. 90’s was dominated by Romance and we had films like DDLJ stand up for more than a decade. Then in 2001, a film came which turned cinema halls in Cricket Stadiums, Lagaan. Never had a movie captured the imagination of the entire nation the way Lagaan had done. Eventually it was nominated for Oscars and was one of the five finalists. And no list of classic movies is complete without the mention of directors like Satyajit Ray, Adoor Gopalakrishnan and a host of others from Malayalam and West Bengal.

Cinema is also a great medium to bring forth issues to a wider audience. One of the best examples could be stated is that of Marlon Brando. When he had won the Oscar for his role in Godfather, he sent a little known actress named Sacheen Littlefeather who was dressed in the Red Indian Style. And he wrote a letter which she read out to the august audience, the reasons why he wasn’t present on the occasion, and also his objections to the depiction of Native Americans by Hollywood and Television. In 1915, D.W.Griffith came up with a movie “Birth of a Nation” about white supremacy and interracial relationships. Although, it had a bit of negative impact on the society at large, it was also responsible for the resurrection of Ku Klux Klan.

With the advent of new technology and also internet, piracy movie marketing, distribution and advertising have taken the centre stage. There was a time when we had to wait for 6 months, sometimes even a year for an English movie, but the trend changed with Matrix Revolutions, the movie released worldwide on a single day. In India, Reliance came up with a strategy where the movies could be telecasted through satellite. What this means is, cinema halls in rural and remote areas wouldn’t have to wait for longer time to watch a movie…they can simply order a movie within a week of release and it will be telecasted. Also movie merchandising and distribution with the entry of huge corporate houses has helped the production houses rake in huge profits.

There’s a famous debate on whether “Life imitates art or Art imitates Life?” Whatever maybe the case, the ultimate aim of a film should be to influence and make an impact. We have more than 6 billion people across the world. And each one of them have a different story to tell, a different point of view of life…which means at any point of time, we must have more than 5 billion stories….so, it’s crap to say that we don’t have enough films…either you haven’t come across enough or you haven’t made an effort to catch a flick. I would like to conclude this session with a brief mention of my transitions in life. I call it the C to D transition. When I was a kid, C stood for Cat and D for Dog. After few years, C was for Cool, and D for Drinks. In college, C stood for Compact and D for Disks. And now, at the turn of an important phase of my life, I have realized that C is for Cinema and D is for Dreams. I hope we as a generation pass the knowledge what we have gained from this life and not what you learnt from your forefathers. I hope we never cease to believe that possibilities are endless and there can never be an end to what one can think. I hope that we never cease to explore the unknown and interpret things more and more.

Thank You and I hope You Dream a Lot!!!

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. March 19, 2008 6:41 pm

    Brilliant analysis brother!!
    All the while, it felt like you were reading it out for me 🙂

  2. Varun permalink
    February 1, 2009 1:23 am

    brill one mama…
    loved those two quotes and the CD transition, awesome.
    Shows how much you are in love with movies 🙂

  3. Gucha permalink
    February 1, 2009 2:32 pm

    Dude great analysis…. u have to mention chapln also if you talk cinema… Silent classics like sunrise greed intolerance the birth of nation …They r also the great gud old claasics 🙂

  4. Rijo permalink
    September 9, 2010 4:44 pm

    Hemanth, gr8 work n it very well shows ur Passion n Love towards Cinema . I loved “First Take” . Keep up the good show 🙂

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