Chikka Putta | paintings from the film by students of Sita School

Self Portrait_GirlGardening 01Gardening 02RunningDigging in the GardenKarate FightThe Band 02Teacher and Students 01

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Chikka Putta: Objects in Time

The film set in Sita School has been given a new name: Chikka Putta – which in Kannada means all things Small and Dear.

As of 26th March 2013 we have completed the last major schedule of filming.

The last class was on history through objects. The children began by going through rubbish-bins to see what things we throw away and why, and discussing what clues our garbage might offer about our lives to future historians.  By making parallels about how we know about ancient civilizations like Egypt and Harappa through objects, the children slowly put together a ‘Time Capsule’ of durable things and descriptions they felt representative of their own lives, and buried it in the garden for the Future.

Below are a two stills taken from the class.

TypewriterMusical TapeKamal Swaroop:

Twins were born that year, unlikely twins, the typewriter and the chromosome. The typewriter was more evidently beautiful, a carrier of language on the full moons of its keys. The chromosome was the silent younger sister, who contained a more dangerous, secret language. She was a soothsayer, she was a scroll, much like the one that is inserted into the tabeez and strung around the neck of a child. Only this scroll did not protect, it decreed..the long cell called the DNA, would tell the organism what was ordained for it, what kind of life it must live.

Skreen Films Presents: Bhairav

Bhairav Poster small

Youth of today are considered removed from the Indian Classical Tradition. ‘Bhairav’ challenges this generalization and celebrates the power of music over everything else.  No mind is more vulnerable than when it is in the state of ecstasy – Love. The film is about a teenager who takes a chanced step and is embraced by the unexpected.

Abhijit Patil, Pune, 1st January 2013

Bhairav 00 Bhairav 01 Bhairav 02

Beauty and the Beautiful

Cinematography, especially when treated as a ‘specialized’ branch of filmmaking, is often pre-occupied with the beautiful. But indeed, what is beautiful?

When making aesthetic judgments, we find that the attribution of beauty to a work is often misleading. For in calling something beautiful, we usually mean something we find personally pleasing, or something that agrees with accepted ‘models’ of images. For no doubt the recognition (and therefore acceptance) of different kinds of art also affects our recognition of different kinds of beauty.

However, these observations seem to indicate that calling a work ‘beautiful’ is more a statement about ourselves, the viewers, than about the work itself. It is therefore hardly a compliment for an artist to hear that his or her work is beautiful, especially if that is where the conversation ends.

For the artist is perhaps in pursuit of something quite different, perhaps beauty itself – a universal, an ideal, an archetype – where the question of beautiful does not even arise.

Beauty could be argued to be a characteristic of the aspired image, not the image itself. It is not an intentionally created commodity, but a revealing of the intention behind all creations.

The search for beauty as such is a search for wisdom. This is communicated to the viewer when the sensuous aspects of the image are not divorced from the attempt to engage (emotionally as well as intellectually). We reach for beauty in the marriage of form and meaning.

Let us not entangle ourselves in the linguistic differences and parallels between beauty and beautiful. Is beauty beautiful? Or does beauty consist in the totality of all things beautiful? Etc. These questions will lead us in circles, as they stem from the fallacy of expecting the logic of language to explain the logic of things.

But we are all familiar with the experience of watching a film and feeling the distraction, if not discomfort, of the narrative and its execution taking contradictory tangents. We may not be able to articulate exactly what is ‘off’, but whatever it is, it has hindered our engagement. This might be intentional, and used to great effect (Brecht comes to mind), but most often it is not. Either way, we must ask ourselves what our intention is in producing the work in the first place. For honesty is primary in art, as finally that is all that shows and endures.

In our everyday conversations there is always a lot more happening than the words exchanged. We ‘listen’ not to the dictionary meanings of words, but to the intentions of the speaker – conveyed by tone of voice, context, prior experiences, gestures, and so on – as well as the learnt meanings of the said words. Perhaps these intentions cannot be articulated, but they are certainly felt. It is similar when we look at a work of art, except here there might not even be words. Yet our intentions permeate and reveal themselves in everything we do, and their beauty, or ugliness, is that they can’t be clothed.  Maybe this is why it is so difficult to ‘fake’ art.

In any case, to return to the present debate, is the distraction and discomfort we feel in certain works of art a result of faulty articulation? Or perhaps insincerity? When the work seems to say one thing and mean something quite different?

The factors that contribute to this feeling in a painting or a piece of music are quite subtle, but are present nevertheless. But in film it is perhaps more evident because of the simple fact that it is made by more than one person, and so the increased likelihood of it falling ‘out of sync’.

The ‘image’ of cinematography is a plurality, as is the sound, the performances, the rhythm. All the ingredients are like chemical elements reacting with one another. A good film is a reaction that produces the ‘right’ resultant in its audience. In this sense, the pursuit of beauty can perhaps be likened to the pursuit of taste in cuisine. Which brings us to the chef.

How does a director, with a certain intention, or ‘vision’, achieve its honest articulation on screen? When all the organs of communication – hands, feet, eyes, voice – belong to so many different individual people, all having their own set of intentions?

A film can be a clumsy Frankenstein, or it can be a choreographed dance. No doubt the latter is what is usually desired, but it is frightening how easily the dance can fall apart. One wrong step, a word out of place, a laugh when everyone else is crying.

Cinematographers, when they care nothing about the film, or do not understand what the director is trying to do, or when put into a situation where it is just another ‘job’, busy themselves in making beautiful shots. They train for it, they pride themselves in it. But this is far from being a pursuit of beauty, it is a means of procrastination! And often directors, to hide their own confusions or incompetency, encourage and participate in this procrastination.

It must be stressed: cinematography is not an art in itself, it is only an art in so far as it contributes to the art of cinema! This is true of all the facets of film craft. The art is the whole, and the imagination it stimulates.

Sadly it is a common practice, especially in commercial filmmaking, to treat the different branches of cinema as independent specializations. This attitude permeates into the teaching of cinema, even in the best institutions. But once severed from the source of nourishment, all branches wither and fall.

The tree reaches for light. Beauty is not where the journey ends, but where it begins. Beauty is the vehicle of transcendence. It is pure yearning.

Saumyananda Sahi
3rd December 2012

‘Have You Seen the Arana?’ screened as part of Indian Panorama in IFFI 2012, Goa

screening and discussion: For You and Me

For You and Me | Stills from the Film

Concept and Direction: Tanushree Das | Cinematography and Edit: Saumyananda Sahi | Sound: Vinit D’Souza | Text Motion: Suman Roymahapatra

HD | Fiction | Colour | 11 mins 37 seconds

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