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Nandita Das, actor and director, shares some insights about making her film Firaaq. More here
Cinema, unlike poetry or painting, is not a personal art. You
make it to share it with people and engage with them. As an actor, I resolved the dilemma of wanting to be part of stories that need to be told even if not many people actually wanted to hear them, by choosing to do those roles. But as a director, I also wanted to reach out to as many people as I could, of course with the story I so wanted to tell.
For those who have still not seen Firaaq, it is set a month after the Gujarat carnage of 2002 and deals with five different relationships and the impact of violence on their lives. Firaaq is about how fear, prejudice, guilt and violence linger on much after their obvious manifestation is over. In fact, there is hardly any violence in my film and yet the fear and tension are palpable. The story traces the emotional journeys of ordinary people — some who are victims, some perpetrators and some who choose to watch silently.
There is this short film I watched titled Ghandhat which means ‘urgnet’. It is made by Mithunchandra Chaudhari who is a young film maker who already has quite a few awards for his works including one for this film. The story is simple: the ‘common man’ protagonist is in a multiplex when he is forced to search for a toilet as his urge to defecate overpowers him. The multiplex toilets are not vacant, he is in too much hurry to wait, he rushes out, walks down to a public toilet, has not enough money on him, manages to pick a coin off the front of a deity, returns to the public toilet which is now shut, has to find a way to get back to his hostel, hitchhikes, returns to his hostel, is caught among a riotous group celebrating victory in student elections, somehow slips away and reaches the toilet, with great relief relieves himself finally, after he is through with shitting turns the tap to learn to his horror there is no water!!! The film ends there.
The film is first of all lovable. Simple, straight forward narration, no gimmicks, dense in story content and rich in visuals. The protagonist is played by Vikas Patil who deserves an ovation for the controlled emoting.
The film is truly remarkable for two of its cinematic strategies. It focuses its attention on a human predicament. It does so assiduously by focusing its entire attention on a human figure throughout. Except for half a dozen frames, each frame of this film looks at the protagonist. Looking at him almost lovingly, without any arrogance in the camera eye. The camera eye does no trick. It simply looks at the character. This is entrenched by the second strategy: one that is a rare quality in any genre of film. That is, there are no contrastive images. The film does not employ any contrasting visuals, nothing to demean or valorise the character. Nothing to contrast him with the world outside. These two aspects of the film create a positive impact as the film does not other the protagonist by the arrogance of the camera eye, a tendency most common in most films – where the camera eye becomes overbearing.
There is almost no irony in either the story telling or the sequencing of the images. The human figure is caught in a predicament which produces humour but no sneer. The images or the sounds in the film do not become hostile to the human figure whose innocuous problem is very lightly narrated. Neither the actor nor the director overdoes anything.
Rating: Go watch it. All seven minutes of it.