Bhopal , Madhya Pradesh Jan 28 , 2011 Fri 11 : 03 PM
I see incredible scenes of violence and disruption on the television about what is happening in Egypt and in particular in Cairo and feel so sad that this beautiful country and city and its warm and hospitable people should all come to such condition. All my visits there have been so memorable and full of so many happy times. The shoot in Cairo for ‘The Great Gambler’ in 1975, when they did not know anything about Indian films and actors. On the streets if India was mentioned it was always ‘Nehru’ - their known association with him and their own President Nasser and the relationship that they enjoyed. Many years later and on an invitation to their film festival I had gone there with the kids having picked them up from Switzerland after school, to the most amazing visit ever. Those events and that visit shall always remain imprinted on the sands of time in my life eternally.
Something between the ‘Great Gambler’ shoot and ‘Mard’, which was a colossal success in Egypt in particular, had changed the perception of Indian cinema in this historic land and I had fortunately become the receiver of the love and affection that they had been holding on to for so many years. Those visuals of the tapes that were recorded are my great source of upliftment whenever I am down and depressed. The warmth, the affection, the love and care, the respect that they gave was so so overwhelming that it shall be difficult for me to describe it.
There are many visitors from India that go across on holidays to this land of the pyramids and come back with such glorious stories of the association the Egyptians still have for me and I am touched and feel so blessed. And so it saddens me even more to see the anger and discomfort that they go through now and I hope fervently that it all comes to an end soon and in peace.
When there is the opportunity of a fresh project underway, I have often tried to think my way through as to what the best way would be, to acclimatize myself to the circumstances that prevail immediately. And I think I may have a solution that could become universal in its final assessment. I believe that the project we work on is the brainchild and the creative structuring of the Director. He is the one that encapsulates an idea first and foremost. It is an intriguing process by itself to suddenly get up one morning and declare that I would want to make a film and this is what it would be about and these are the characters that would play a prominent part in the project, and this is who I would want to enact them and here is how I would want the project to look and the clothes and colors that would be worn and the sets to be designed in such fashion and the properties in the house to be arranged in particular manner and ….
The list of things to be done is just endless …
Converting such process into reality is the next heading that intrigues me. How does the decision to use a special kind of furniture in the make shift house come about, or why a certain kind of curtain or property is hung on the walls and doors. What is the reason behind the kind of songs and the music that is used in his film, or the flair of the writing that precedes. And if he is writing his own lines and scripting, then why does he do it in that manner.
In many ways therefore I have believed, a film reflects the nature and character of the Director that makes it. It reflects his sensibilities, his taste, his culture, his aesthetics, his reasons for life and the way it should be treated and conveyed. And if the written word belongs to him as well in the shape of the dialogues that are written, then he is not just a Director, he is also and perhaps more importantly an accomplished actor.
There are then many instances where the Director of the film is also its Producer. Many such examples exist and abound the present day film industry of India. Production is an intricate job. Scheduling a film, booking artists, dates, locations, facilities, hospitality, personal and individual intricate exigencies, handling, observing, dictating, controlling and at the end fulfilling a task that he had originally set out to achieve as an idea one fine morning, in the confines of his comfortable bed or home !
When you saw a Raj Kapoor film you were also exposed not just to the story or the film that unfolded before you on screen, but it also displayed to you what he could be in person, in reality. There was an extravagance, and an excitement to life as it were in all his films. And that came about from his own personal nature. There was an exuberance in the way he lived. It was always to the fullest, drawing every inch of that prized nectar that is offered to all of us as individuals.
When you saw a Guru Dutt film, you were drawn into the intricacies and subtleties of the white and the black, with the odd grey thrown in. Shadows prominently caught your imagination as you watched some of his scenes from the more dramatic scripts he dealt with. His characters, soft and gentle, lyrical almost in their execution. His music and words drifting as if they would never want the strain to end. I never did meet him, but those that did, perhaps may have felt those shades of the black and white in his own life, the troubled shadows that he reflected on screen could perhaps have been a reflection of his own being.
ManMohan Desai, Prakash Mehra, Yash Chopra, Ram Gopal Varma, R Balki, Karan Johar, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Khwaja Ahmed Abbas, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Bimal Roy and an endless stream of talented technicians and makers have all perhaps displayed in the varied hues of their creativity, their own personal view on life and how it needed to be viewed.
There is often talk and debate and discussion on how actors because of being exposed to so many different situations via the characters they play, finally have nothing left within them which they can truly call their own. And whenever occasion has arisen, does the world outside view that as another performance from an actor or the feelings of a person, another human or an independent individual ! Actors face this dilemma often. We are the so called stars of the horizon, the face that makes people happy, the element that draws the crowds and viewers and respondents and followers. Little is often then heard of the people that make us do what we do - the director. And in my very humble view, it is he the director that we see in film after film that we admire. It is our more treated face that occupies most of the 70 mm screen, but behind that make belief mask is the concept of a very proficient machinery. A machinery that is often known as the Director of the film !
My tribute then to all those valiant men and women that have conceived and valued, what I may have been capable of doing and what I could through their most generous gift of giving away, put their face masks on mine to give me the credit of their soul.
Good night dear and near … I travel again in the morn to my own city and clime to attend to a commitment given to an editor who wishes to pay tribute to me at the annual award ceremony that he conducts.
My tribute would be inconclusive without the support of those that I just spoke about. Long may they live and long may they continue to express themselves through the efforts of those they consider their transferable soul mates !
Some moments from ‘Aarakshan’ as promised. The Director and DOP and colleagues that go to make cinema what it is … and why it is …