Monday, January 4, 2010

Film Appreciation course at NFAI

The last week of December'09 was an interesting week for me. I attended this 8-day course conducted by Film Societies of India at National Film Archives (NFAI), Pune. I was a movie buff since some years and this course came as a fresh outlook towards movies for me. As it was a 8 day course I'll write about each day in a separate blog so as not to bore the readers with a looong write-up.

Day 1: There was a small ceremony after which the course commenced. Mr. B.K. Karanjia attended as the chief guest. I really admired this 90 yr old who still remembers a lot of his Jawani ke years.. He was the chief editor of Filmfare and Screen, Chairman of Film Finance Corporation of India( Never knew what this corporation does uptill then ;) ) and a writer too..

So he related some anecdotes from his FFCI days about his interactions with politicians like I.K Gujral, Indira Gandhi and Vidya Charan Shukla.. Was very interesting to learn the role politicians play in manipulating the kind of films being made in the country..

Also came to know that the FFCI is a Govt owned institution which provides finance to film-makers for making movies.. Typically the films are chosen by a panel of directors on board (at that time Hrishikesh Mukherji, Teji Bacchan, P.C. Sorkar were some of the ppl on board).. Director Mrinal Sen's "Bhuvan Shome" was one of the hit movies such financed and it seems during Mr. Karanjia's tenure 22/36 movies financed were great hits commercially and won some or the other kind of awards.. Interestingly, he had put some conditions on the movies which can be financed by the corporation, one of them being tht the movie should be in black and white(this was in days when the colour movies were already very popular and norm of the day)..

Then we had Mr.Vijay Jadhav, the director of NFAI talk about the National Film Archive and its role in promoting the viewership and storage of the rich collection of old movies it has in its archives. NFAI runs a film club whose membership is for Rs.2000/- per yr and u get to watch a lot of uncommon and hard to find movies/documentaries from its archives. They have storage vaults in which they have preserved the prints of films made in our country uptill now.. They also keep exchanging movie prints with other countries and u get to watch a panorama of good international movies if ur a member.. For those interested, the membership starts from Jan every yr..
So after this very entertaining ceremony, we were shown the first film of the course, "Poet of the Wastes"(, not much info here though..).. This is an Iranian movie about a man who aspires to be a poet but due to gross unemployment in the country ends up being a waste-collector instead. Out of a population of 3 million people, only 3000 job openings have been issued by the Govt. and tht only for the job of a sweeper/cleaners on the roads.. The selection process contained a 3-stage interview in which the candidates were questioned about science, religion and politics.. They were asked to state and explain Newton's laws of motion and other such other questions.. When asked his politican inclination, the hero's answer is hilarious..He says sometimes hes a leftist and sometimes a rightist as the left becomes right sometimes and vice versa.. The situation depicts the state of anarchy in the country and the ongoing political turmoil in a point blank manner..
The story then turns towards this hero who now becomes a sweeper(after having passed this complex interview process) and meets other such sweepers who wanted to be pilot/doctor,etc.. Their routine life as sweepers and waste-collectors and their humble dwelling place are depicted perfectly..
The movie introduces 2 more characters, a herione who wants to get out of the country and keeps trying at embassies of other countries to issue her a visa, without any success. The other one is an old and famous poet who our hero hero-worships. The story continues with these 3 characters and the end is also good..Some of the shots show all these 3 characters in the same frame doing their daily activities, which is very relevant to the story in the film.. The relationship that the director establishes between these 3 characters is apparent from such shots.At some points the film seems to be going a bit slow but then it catches up the pace in the end. All in all, a good movie to start the course with..
This is it for now...keep following the posts for the next few days of the course..


  1. Nice & detailed post to begin with. It'll be great if you could delve more into a few of the 'appreciation' aspects of the movies going forward.

  2. yes definitely ..
    In the current movie "poet of the wastes" the shots that I talked about where all the 3 characters are in the same frame doing different things of their own is one such example where without saying a word the director tells a lot about their intermingled relationship..
    Also, there are some shots where the different sweepers are shown day-dreaming about the professions they wanted to pursue and the dejection in their profiles due to the situation they've landed in.. they take the movie to a level beyond what the story tells..
    p.s. These are some observations made as a appreciator of the film ;)
    Also I missed out on another session that we had on the first day where we got an introduction of what the course will be about..will write about tht too in the next post..

  3. Iran has a closed, uni-religious society and they make excellent films. We Indians have a supposedly free society and mostly make lousy films. What an irony.

    Blog's looking fine. See if you can put any 'free to embed' pics about the films you write about

  4. Very informative! But yes, besides the plot of the movie, I am also looking for appreciation & insight into the movie-making aspects... I am more interested in the tidbits. And yes, links, images or youtube embeds would really help... Overall a nice beginning :-). Keep on posting...

  5. Thanks for starting the blog :).I love the mix of historical perspective and the movie of the day.Usually I see movies as a product of its director and other crew only-so it is good to see the social and political factors that affect film making.

  6. O yes! I was shocked to hear some of the comments that Mr. Karanjia made about Shukla. It seems he was told to stick to financing mainstream movies and promote the directors who copy English movies and remake them in Hindi. The entire board of directors of FFCI had handed their resignation letters due to such attitude of the politician..It was Indira Gandhi who appeased Mr.Karanjia and made him stay back for some more time.
    There was another promise that Mr.Gujral had made to Mr. Karanjia about building small theatres for film clubs all over the country where non-mainstream cinemas would be shown. This proposal was also tabled in the office of I&B ministry but then emergency was declared in our country and the proposal for this scheme was buried under hundreds of files..
    Many such shocking and informative facts were revealed in that session..