Tuesday, August 29, 2006

No Motive...stills

Shiva and Neha Mishra

Sharan and Neha Mishra

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

No Motive...synopsis of ACTOR

No Motive...

Story 1: Actor


Play Director
Director’s assistant (f)

Characters inside Play-within-play

Actors – Shiva, Vella, Nagan
Musicians – Violinist, Drummer, Pianist.

Synopsis of the film

A drama rehearsal forms the immediate context of the story. A drama troupe is trying to rehearse some scenes of their play which is structurally inspired from Anton Chekov’s famous short story ‘The Bet’. The film tries to depict some minutes in the life of the lead actor of the play (glossed as ACTOR). He performs onstage murder successfully (signified by the tandava dance sequence), while he turns out to be an utter failure while enacting the suicide scene.

The drama rehearsal starts. All the actors are dressed in casuals. There is casual banter among the actors about the plagiarized nature of the play, the scriptwriter’s idiosyncrasies while composing the lines and general bitching. The tone is very cynical, sarcastic. Crucially, the ACTOR does not participate in this. At this point a drunkard enters the rehearsal set and interrupts the proceedings. He is a personal friend of the director. From his slurred speech, it is evident that he is the ex-lover of the director’s assistant and the girl has recently walked out of the relationship. The director lends a sympathetic ear to his friend’s predicament. More importantly, the ACTOR intently listens to the exchange and is affected/disturbed emotionally. The director gently coaxes the drunkard into a seat and calls for the resumption of on-stage proceedings. They enact the drama till the the murder-tandava scene in the play. The ACTOR carries on with renewed vigour and tempo and successfully enacts the dance of murder

Now the director calls a drinks break and tea is served. The actors jump off the stage. At this point the director’s assistant moves towards the ACTOR and starts a conversation with him. She is intrigued by the dichotomy between character and actor and how ACTOR copes up with the ethical, aesthetic challenges that a prosthetic, diegetic device like the bet entails. She is interested in knowing the ACTOR’s actual position viz-a-viz the murder-suicide question. On the contrary, the ACTOR sees this just as a problem of histrionics ie, how faithfully can the poseur in him actualize a performance which is successful. The two really straddle incommensurable paradigms. Instead the ACTOR is more interested in the factual details of the assistant’s failed romance. But whatever be the trajectories of the two, there is an attraction between them.

The director now calls for a rehearsal of the suicide scene. The ACTOR walks up to the stage confidently. He is patently unable to bring out a suicide which can satisfy either himself or the director. Even after a second take, it looks as if the task is beyond him. Dejectedly, he climbs off the stage.

The actor in his walk in the aisle throws down his bandana and turns his back to the whole. The other actors are uninterested and wait for the next thing while the director is resigned and tired and turns back to his friend. But crucially there is no banter this time. Now very slowly the drunkard comes on his own and takes the bandana thrown aside by the ACTOR and adorns it. He walks up to the stage slowly and takes stance. The drunkard gives a successful rendering of the suicide in a single take and falls to the floor. The otherwise uninterested supporting cast is dumbstruck by the performance and their gaze is rooted on to the fallen figure of the drunkard. The musicians’ gaze is also riveted to the fallen figure and they have stopped playing their notes. From the gallery, the ACTOR also watches the show and is visibly depressed. The director’s assistant now climbs on to the stage for the first time and stoops down to the drunkard.

Suddenly the director shouts into the silence, “Aree baaaand bajaooo…” and musicians burst forth into a happy chord.

Synopsis of the play within the film

The play deals with an unnatural, incongruous bet which is placed between the ACTOR and the rest of the supporting characters. The question being mooted is: ‘Which is more easy – Killing oneself or killing the Other?’ (The choice being between murder and suicide and the result being death in either formulation). Goaded by taunts on his own virility (namely suicide as the path of cowards and murder as the path of men), the hapless hero accepts the wager.

Monday, August 07, 2006

I Cento Passi

What is special about Marco Tullio Giordana's "I Cento Passi"?

Cento Passi (one hundred steps) is a film which depicts the notoreity of Mafia, an evil of Italia Meridionale (South Italy). While introducing we foreigners to Elementi di Civiltà of Italian life, our professor took great efforts to screen this movie for us. Peppino Impastato, a real character in history, fought against the mafia in Cinisi, a region in Sicilia, and finally became a martyr for his cause. It's a history-based film, no doubt. But what was the appeal of the film? Was the film trying faithfully to reproduce history and to make a judgement on the good and evil of social and political life of 1960s? If the film was trying to show matrydom how's it different from the epocal event of crucifixion of Christ? Isn't it time for us to give a new interpretation to this epocal event?

There is a shot in the film which depicts the summary of the film's objectives: Peppino plans to contest the elections. During the election campaign for Peppino the campaign vehicle enters a street where it was blocked for a moment on the road by a herd of sheeps/goats. The person who was announcing with the microphone gives a spontaneous remark: "andate controcorrente" (go against the flow). The crowd is always like a herd of sheep, no doubt. For Peppino, who tried to motivate the people of Cinisi to speak against the notoreity of Mafia, the people were like animals; without language. But that is all... Going against the societal norms and becoming a martyr - this is an old model. It's time to think about a power with the king's head cut-off (quote-unquote).

One can easily juxtapose I Cento Passi with the 'finally hero wins' movies in Indian languages. They are much more successful in fulfilling their objectives - pure entertainment. After all, which is more convincing: individual heroism in history or heroic struggle in movies?

Postscript: India can be easily stereotyped. Scenes of sexual liberation and mastery over pleasure was intertwined with Indian music (Sitar) in Cento Passi. Sitar is played when a white lady in Indian Salwar, who seems to have explored 'the hidden India', is shown to be leading Peppino to a friend of her's to make a new collaboration with former's Radio Aut.

Friday, August 04, 2006

No Motive... Independent film production

No Motive... (Col/English-Hindi/43 min/India/2005)
Dir: RG

This film was made as part of a M.Phil. (Master of Philosophy) course on "Popular Culture." The central theme of the film is 'death and the Other.' The fulfilment of

one's death is only characterised by the 'being' of the Other. This is how your individual self is constituted in language. Death is always your own impossibility of dying but a possibility witnessed by the Other. But the self and the Other are no separate entities at least in the schemata of language. Language equally resonates both in the self and the Other. 'No Motive...' revolves around this confusion: inevitable inclusion of the Other in language which makes dying impossible.

Though the philosophical argument has resemblance to the writings of Emmanuel Levinas, a famous French philosopher of 20th century, the film is an independently conceptualised creation.

A complete version of 'No Motive...' has four stories. In some versions of the film, I have omitted two minor stories for lack of their technical quality. Please remember that the film has never gained any market value. Actors were students of Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi; editing and sound recording was done with an amateur software and the film was shot with Sony HandyCam (Hi8 format). Our studio was one of rooms in the hostel. Above all, this was my debut as a film director. I have not formally learned film making from an institute.

Introduction to 'No Motive...'

Story 1 Actor: Rehearsal of a play... Which part in the play would be performed better by the actor, murder or suicide? If the theme of the play itself is such a bet... you end up saying “If you don’t ACT, you die.”

Download complete script in English-Hindi here.

Story 2 Dead Man: omitted

Story 3 PIG's life: PIG is a popular word among the hostellers of Jawaharlal Nehru University. PIG means 'Permanent Illegal Guest'. New Delhi is a hub of job-seeking youth from various parts of the country and the campus is no exception. In addition, the campus is also a peaceful place for Civil Service aspirants. PIGs, though actually encouraged and promoted by the students themselves, are always viewed as an 'Other' in the dominant discourse of the legal residents. The story is based on a real incident in the hostel. PIGs never die.

Story 4 The Impossibility of Dying: omitted

A complete script of 'No Motive...' in English/Hindi and in Italian will be available in the blog in a few days. Write to me for further information:

The 'No Motive...' team

Produced by: Rajakrishnan PR
Dialogues: Chaity Das, Vinod KK, Rajakrishnan PR
Cast: Shiva Shanmuganandam, Neha Mishra, Sharan Kumar, Jayakumar Mannel, Jhelum Biswas, Prakash, Shaubik, Pradeep...
Videography, Editing: RG