Monday, July 02, 2007

workshop notes

did a quirky ( in my book) list of film screenings for the students. began on the first day with shyamal's i am the very beautiful , followed by mukul's snapshots from a family album. the next day i began with amudhan's shit, amar's freedom and then ended with leni reifensthal's triumph of the will -projected in their huge auditorium.
From personal films, to the political to the propoganda. From films using interviews, single characters, voice overs and music.
And a list of films that figure in my list of favourites.

Then we spent some time throwing up ideas for films they would be interested in. I culled out one idea from each of their lists. Four stories of food, very different from one another. WE had the idea for the workshop film. A story on the city, through four food stories. I was thrilled with the idea. We developed the idea for another day, the students even went and did their research interviews. They came back dejected and wanting to change their idea. Much against my will we discarded this very lovely idea for a film.

They went off looking for another film. Came back even more dejected. They had visited a 300 year old dutch cemetary. The cemetary was run over by a park. The graves were barely a dozen or so. The more they described the place, each with his or her own take , i listened all the more fascinated. There was another film here. I played back their own descriptions to them, and they suddenly saw a film too.

Dutch merchants enroute from surat to agra came to this city just for a stopover. some of them stayed back to trade in indigo and calico. a bunch of them, along with their armenian middle men lie buried here. travellers who rest in a strange city far away from their trading routes. resting in tombs that carry the embellishments of mughal and jain architecture , rather than the spartan dutch design. the only dutch features are the three obelisks standing guard.

The cemetary is taken over by a regular park. a city that creates space for its lovers and its loiterers is a compassionate city. despite the carnage it witnessed few years back.

this park, like many that dot the city, is frequented by lovers, errant school boys, those who have no where else to go through the day, and the occasional family out with their tiffins. One man came to the park every morning. never carried a newspaper, never struck a conversation with anyone else. he walked five kilometeres to get there. He sat there until noon, when the park was closed down. stood on the road until two, when the park was opened again. He sat until six, and walked back home.

the park had the usual laughing club members in the morning. the graves as their backdrop.

serious yoga followers. they breathed in and out sitting amongst the graves.

the satsang group of old men, who sat in the tomb, their velvet chopdis resting on the grave, singing their bhajans, quoting from kabir. this image took my breath away. what was this? complete disdain for the grave, and those that lay beneath? complete acceptance of the tranquility of the space? such deep faith that the setting did not matter? all of it?

as the sun became less gentle, errant school boys stole a puff from one cigarette,hidden behind the graves. illicit love found solace in the shade of the tombs. and there was the young girl, conscious that she was alone, waiting for someone. i dont think the person she was waiting for showed up.

and as the sun set a bunch of boistrous boys, thrilled to perform for the camera, clambered up the tomb, waving a golden ribbon tied to a stick. from where i stood it was an endearing playful image, of a space taken over by the present. a space that has not stood untouched by time, but has evolved into a living throbbing space, taken over by the fringes of a city.

But when we played back the footage the boistrous boys were shadows with a burning evening sky behind them. an ominous image, of a space robbed of its dignity, bringing back memories of the kar sevaks atop the babri masjid. it was disconcerting.

the students: one was taken up by the memory of the travellers who lay there. the other was overwhelmed with the feeling of tresspassing their resting place. of nameless graves. of faceless names etched on the graves- hemant loves sunita. the third student was intrigued by the visitors- why a graveyard to meet your lover, why a graveyard to hide from the teachers and parents, why a graveyard for your breathing/laughing exercises. the fourth student was taken up by the watchman, who whistled away at the entangled lovers, the dogs, the vagabonds, the students sharp at noon. that was the film.

sanah enjoyed the workshop too. i took her to the shoot. she played amongst the graves, and was entertained by the students. she woke up one night to find a meeting on with the students. one of them, glad to be rid of the discussion scooped her up and went for a walk at midnight. she came back wide eyed and thrilled at this unexpected midnight stroll.

2 comments:

Space Bar said...

Wow! Sounds like the workshop went very well. I'd really like to see the film. Isn't it strange the way something look sso good can get twisted out of shape by our memories and by perspective. That one shot must have put the film in a different light altogether.

SUR NOTES said...

being a workshop film its not over. i have left it to the students to finish. and students being students, i doubt it will go any further.