#BikramGhosh, #CrossPollination, #Cultures
Engaged in Bollywood projects and carrying forward his fusion experiments, percussion maestro Bickram Ghosh is busy creating what he does best: music. He shares glimpses of his musical journey and presents works in a conversation with Subhojit Roy.
Tell us about the Bollywood projects you are working in…
I am scoring music for Torbaaz starring the iconic Sanjay Dutt and Nargis Fakhri directed by Girish Malik. My collaboration with Sonu Nigam for the film “Jal” won an Oscar nomination in 2015 for the best original score which was also directed by Girish Malik. My other Bollywood film under production is “Band of Maharajas” once again a Girish Malik directed film and I am acting too as Feroze Jamshed, an Afghan percussionist.
Tell us about Bickram Ghosh Fusion Studio going global in Amsterdam
Collaboration and cross-pollination of cultures is a major force. Fusion music allows people the space to expand and thrive. My fusion studio is a collaboration workshop creating a track followed by recording and live performance. Our Amsterdam exercise was a huge success with a grand finale concert at the prestigious concert Gebow which was a sold-out! With this kind of earnest endeavour, Indian music also expands its horizons.
Paper Boats is your latest collaboration with Kala Ramnath, the virtuoso violin player, tell us about the album…
Paper Boats remind us of childhood when we inhabited an idyllic world with no sense of barriers, a playful world where imagination merged seamlessly with reality. The album is a collaboration with a fabulous violinist Kala Ramnath showcasing, on the one hand, the purity of unadulterated childhood. Paper boats symbolise this playful world propelled by the imagination. On the other hand the album also addresses the terrible segregation between individuals that adulthood brings to the fore . Across the world today we are engulfed by the terrors of a world where human beings inflict inhuman atrocities on each other. We have moved away from our core position of compassion and this has created a seemingly irreparable rift among people. Paper Boats is an appeal to bring back our core innocence which stems from the sense of oneness of spirit. If we can touch that core, there will be hope. The project brings together artists from across the globe (USA, UK, Italy, France, Morocco, Afghanistan, Egypt, Madagascar, Armenia, Bangladesh and India ) unified through a seamless melodic vision of the two lead artists. The barriers of musical forms are broken down to create a musical vision that allows Indian classical, jazz, western classical, Afro- Cuban and other forms to blend with uniformity. The artists hope that their musical unity can be replicated in life to create a harmonious world where all individuals co-exist in peace and creativity.
Does new-age experimental music have a future?
My personal graph with this firm has been great over the last two decades, albums like Rhythmscape, electro-Classical, white note, transformation, beyond Rhythmscape are still the best sellers. I continue to create more recordings and the latest being the collaboration with Kala Ramnath in Paper boats. Rhythmscape, my band, continues to tour globally and I see a great better future for this crossover music as that’s where the work is headed.
You have a fabulous partnership with the great Sonu Nigam, tell us about the association.
We have created a body of work together including the Oscar-contending score for Jal and the GIMA winning album “The Music Room” being the topmost among them. Presently we are working on two other albums and as friends, we are very close sharing a deep bond and surely he is one of the most warm-hearted human beings I know.
Has there been any pressure of being a son of such illustrious parents having to perform in the same field or was there a choice of any other career? Who has been your inspiration?
It has not been easy and early years were a big struggle trying to create a niche of my own out of my father’s (Pandit Shankar Ghosh the illustrious Tabla maestro) shadow. But then with God’s grace, I was recognised on my own steam eventually. Yes, I was given a choice but I wanted to be a musician. My father and Guru Pandit Shankar Ghosh, he honed my tabla skills and gave me incredibly insightful knowledge into the intricacies of rhythm. I also learnt Carnatic rhythms from Pdt. S.Sekhar, the great Mridangam player.
Your favourite pick of musical cities in the world?
Kolkata, Chennai & Pune for Classical Music, these cities are where even regular households encourage music at home. While internationally New York, London and Paris are my favourites for experimental forms. The minds of the listeners in these cities are expanded to embrace new forms. These cities are cultural melting pots. Indian classical music through the efforts of maestros like Bharat Ratna Ravi Shankar ji, Ustad Ali Akbar Ji, Ustad Zakir Hussain Ji has a huge acceptability abroad.
How does Bickram Ghosh spend his time?
I do a lot of Meditation, regular morning walks, hitting the studio after breakfast. Unless there is a concert in the evening, I am a home bird. I also read a fair bit. Hanging at home or with friends, reading books, watching movies.
(First Published in India Blooms News Services)
Directed by Prarthana Mohan, ‘Miseducation of Bindu’ is a story of the main character, Bindu Chaudry (Megan Suri), a 14-year-old girl at Broad River High School in Virginia, United States (US). Born in India, she moved to Indianapolis at age of 9 with her mom (Priyanka Bose) to live with her aunt (Alka Nayyar) after her father dies. David Arquette plays her stepfather. Bindu finds herself struggling not only between girlhood and womanhood but also between India’s traditional past and the promise of global future in which she tries to develop her own individuality.
Asha Bajaj, the special Canadian Correspondent of IBNS Canada as well as the editor of Canadian-Media discusses the film “The MisEducation of Bindu” with Prarthana Mohan
We wanted to play on the fact that kids/teenagers are unreliable narrators, and in Bindu’s case, she is getting a crash course in what it is to be a teenager from a bunch of kids who have their own motives and agenda. So while it is an education, it is not always proper. We also wanted a title that got us to the heart of what the film is about and took us a long time before we could settle on what it should be called.
2. What motivated you to co-write and direct the film?
Kay Tuxford, my writing partner, and I sowed the seeds of Bindu back when we were in grad school. She wrote a short film that I directed that is very similar to this film, except that Bindu was a caucasian teenager called Wendy. After school, we decided to write a feature-length version of that short film and couldn’t wait to explore that world some more. It wasn’t until about five years ago that we re-wrote the film with an Indian American teenager. High school is a universal experience, and it didn’t seem right or fair to us that people like us were not represented in those stories. We wanted to see someone go through the awkward growing pains of adolescence who looked and talked like us. It was the perfect place for the story and the character to evolve and was the best decision we made.
3. Can you throw some light on the development of complex characters of the film like Bindu, Peter, Sam, Bindu’s mom, and her stepfather?
The film initially spanned a better part of a semester. When we started to work with the Duplass Brothers, they pitched the idea to condense the story to one fateful day in high school. But we felt the idea to be irrational at the time. Kay and I had spent so much time with these characters, and we felt they would not survive being limited to one day. It was incredibly hard to distil the high points to a place where the characters still felt whole. It made us critically look at every element that was on the page and trim lots of unnecessary features. It also helped drive the story forward and keeping the story quite dynamic. We are grateful that we were pushed in this direction. It certainly helped make it a stronger film.
4. Can you throw some light on your high school education in Chennai? Did you feel any culture shock when you came to California? Is the story of Bindu in any way connected to your own background?
I went to what can only be described as an alternative school. It does not reflect the more typical experiences in the United States (US). Nonetheless, the chaos of adolescence is singular no matter where you grow up. I think culturally there are some big significant differences, and Bindu’s story is portrayed in the middle of that.
The biggest thing that took some time to get adjusted to was the laid back attitudes in academic settings. I remember the first time I saw a classmate rest his leg up on the desk the whole time the professor was lecturing, it was very jarring. That would never happen back in India, but here, it was not a big deal. Little things like that were unusual when I first got here.
There are elements of both Kay’s and my collective experiences that have shaped Bindu. It is not autobiographical, but we share some similarities.
5. What motivated you to study film in California? Did you face any obstacles from your family?
Coming from a film family, my parents, in the beginning, were a little reluctant about me going to film school. But after some initial apprehension, they became supportive. Coming to the US to study film seemed like a pretty obvious choice, but I didn’t necessarily have California in mind. I met the president of Chapman University, California at a dinner in India, and was motivated from his talks about the school and program, and that decided that California was a place for me.
6. What are the obstacles you faced in your study of film in California?
It was both the best and the most challenging time in my life. I think the nature of the industry becomes very apparent once you get there. You realize that there isn’t a clear path forward after school. It’s a mixture of hard work, networking, and some measure of being at the right place at the right time. It took us ten years to get this movie made, which is pretty typical for a lot of filmmakers and we finally nailed one of those three things.
Also, there were many more tools at my disposal in school. Crowdfunding was a game-changer. It gave us the ability to build an audience which in turn translates to getting investors to believe in your project. It would not have been possible to make those first movies without that network of family and friends.
7. The audacious attempt on your part to portray the life of American high school is very revealing. Is there any moral lesson attached to it?
We tried to touch on topics relating to parenting, marriage, friendship, female sexuality, high school politics, the meaning of being American, and conservative vs. modern values and LGBTQIA+ issues. These are all themes that are very relevant at that age. It’s a time when kids are learning and forming opinions about so many “adult” concepts. It was also what we are experiencing in the world around us. It was important to address these topics through the lens of adolescence and high school.
I think there are a couple of different lessons, but the one that resonates with me the notion that your self-worth should not be tied to others’ opinions of you. And that it is important to embrace one’s unique brand of weirdness and that it is totally OK to be different!
8. What motivated you to select the career of a writer and director of the film? Briefly describe your previous films and your future projects. Have you any plans to enter in Toronto International Film Festival competition?
I’ve always wanted to tell stories and directing felt like a natural fit for me. I enjoy writing, especially writing dialogue but am working towards writing more consistently.
The MisEducation of Bindu is my first feature, but I have directed a couple of short films that have played at many festivals. Kay Tuxford has had a lot of success with her screenplays, and her short film ‘Wine Bottles’ has been a great in the festival circuit. I have a couple of features in the works, all with female leads, exploring themes of ageing, love, marriage, immigration, etc. We are not going to be at TIFF, but hope to play at other Canadian festivals.
#NewYork; #MuseumOfModernArt; #MoMA'sReimagination; #RajendraRoy
New York's Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), celebrates creativity, openness, tolerance, and generosity and welcomes diverse cultural, artistic, social, and political positions. MoMA is committed to sharing the most thought-provoking modern and contemporary art and enables the viewers to explore the art, ideas, and issues of modern time.
Rajendra Roy, Chief Film Curator of MoMA with a strong connection to Film Programming in Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) was present during the TIFF 2019 festival.
Rajendra Roy (Centre)/Facebook
Asha Bajaj, IBNS Canada's Special Canadian Correspondent, and Editor of Canadian-Media had a chance to discuss with him the chief characteristics and innovative features of MoMA.
It has come to my knowledge that New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) would be reopening on October 21, 2019. I would like to learn from you the history of the museum, its salient features that reflect the modern art of the museum. I would also like to know the different elements of modern art portrayed in the museum.
When and by whom was the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) founded and when and why was it closed? Who was responsible for its development?
Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) was opened by three patrons Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, Mary Quinn Sullivan and Lillie P. Bliss. They were in the process of collecting paintings, watercolours, and drawings by a number of contemporary American artists in 1925, at that time called New Art which is now called Modern Art. It was not really an institution at that time to celebrate that type of art in New York. Their devotion to modern art led to the founding of MoMA in 1929.
MoMA closed on June 15, 2019 to reimagine and reinvent the practices of displaying like disciplines together and replace them with mixed painting, sculpture, film, photography, works on paper, and other mediums on gallery space on the second, fourth, and fifth floors. MoMA also lays emphasis on incorporating artists representative of more diverse geographies and backgrounds.
Rockefeller hired a director Alfred Barr. Barr’s vision for the museum was one that is inclusive of all the modern visual arts — architecture and industrial design, photography, and theater design, as well as the traditional fields of painting and sculpture, drawings and prints and films. The film, at that time was a new art form which was only been invented a few decades ago. It is one of the very few museums in the world which included film as an art form.
When did the introduction of the film as an art form in the museum actually take place? Give a brief description of the development of the film element in MoMA.
The element of the film was introduced in the museum in the year 1935. Soon it was followed by the formalization of MoMA’s Film Library Corporation and the first permanent building as part of the foundation of the Museum called Cinema was built. The Film Library Corporation was established for the purpose of assembling a collection of motion picture films suitable for illustrating the important steps historically and artistically in the development of motion pictures from their inception. This building grew over the years as the film as an art form progressed. The feature of film in the museum became prolific with many galley settings. The moving image has been embraced by the museum in all its forms.
The Circulating Library was established in 1935 to collect films to illustrate the historic and artistic development of motion pictures as well as to establish the medium as a major art form. Initially, the Circulating Library included a collection which was available to colleges, museums, and other educational institutions at reasonable rates. Since then it expanded to include regional and international film festivals, individual collectors, and other film organizations. The Circulating Library also provided access to works by independent filmmakers, works that would otherwise not be readily available.
In recent years the Circulating Library has strengthened certain areas and to make available more titles to a wider film community including important works by and about artists such as Andy Warhol, Richard Serra, Yoko Ono, and Robert Smithson.
The Circulating Film Library has grown to over 1,200 titles covering the history of film from the 1890s to present and also incorporates the Circulating Video Library, an important collection of work by leading video artists. MoMA’s earlier holdings of silent films soon began to include contemporary documentaries, animation, and avant-garde and independent cinema. MoMA also took the responsibility to make these available to viewers who otherwise would not have the opportunity to see them.
Please tell us about the salient features of this museum from its founding till the current reimagination of the Museum.
Upon his appointment as the first director, Barr’s innovative plan for the conception and organization of the Museum resulted in a multi-departmental structure based on varied forms of visual expression. The exhibitions he curated in the early years were based on loaned works of art. With the passing of time, Barr envisioned a permanent collection at MoMA, one consisting not only of painting and sculpture but also of photography, film, and architecture. He subsequently established six different curatorial departments: Painting and Sculpture, Drawings, Prints and Illustrated Books, Film, Photography, and Architecture and Design.
The unconventional and innovative exhibitions of MoMA served to broaden the definition of art as well as the mission of a 20th-century museum and converted it into a forum for cultural dialogue.
The department of architecture was established in 1932, followed by the film which was established in 1935. Photography was established in 1940. Barr also introduced aesthetic and philosophy elements of Bauhaus (Germany) to the American public. Bauhaus was a school of design, architecture, and applied arts that existed in Germany from 1919 to 1933. The Bauhaus trained students equally in art and in technically expert craftsmanship.
In 1939 MoMA opened in a permanent, a new building located at 11 West 53 Street in New York with an entirely new type of museum architecture. Today, these departments include architecture and design, drawings and prints, film, media and performance, painting and sculpture, and photography.
One of the most prominent features of the museum at the time of its foundation that each art form had its own separate department. There were six departments, such as sculpture, design, paintings, films, photographs, and drawings and prints and films. Now we have media and performance. Each department could be celebrated individually. This isolated all the departments. For example, the department of painting displayed only paintings primarily by themselves maybe with sculpture but not combined with photographs. As time passed the segregation of the celebration of the different departments became narrower. The development took place by replacing the representation of each art form individually by a chronological method which included all of its art forms. For MoMA, it is a radical shift and took several years of planning to have a new installation of the interrelation of all the departments.
What inspired you to be a curator of this museum? Please highlight a few features of your work before you started as a curator?
I was very privileged when MoMA offered me the position of Chief Film Curator 13 years ago. I had been involved for many years with film festivals and had been coming each year to Toronto for the Toronto International Film Festival. MoMA loved my ideas about Modern Art and what my generation could bring to MoMA and how our generation could engage in shifting the dialogue of art from different cultures like Indian diaspora, Africa, Asia etc. For me, it was a dream come true.
From 1995 to 2002, I worked at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in a variety of positions in the Film and Media Arts Program, collaborating with curators to coordinate film, video, and new media exhibitions in New York, Bilbao, and Berlin. From 1996 to 2000, I was Executive Director of the MIX Festival, one of the world’s largest experimental film and video festivals.
From 2002-2007 I served as Director of Programming and Artistic Director for the Hamptons International Film Festival. I became the sole American member of the Competition Selection Committee of the Berlin International Film Festival from 2004 to 2008. I still serve as an advisor to that festival.
In 2007, I joined The Museum of Modern Art as Chief Curator of Film, a role in which I lead the Museum’s year-round initiatives to exhibit and preserve works from its collection of about 27,000 titles.
Coming to some personal questions, briefly highlight your background, your education and qualifications? Does your education in any way reflect your present position?
My father, a sociology professor, immigrated to the United States in the mid-60s. My mother is from California. I have one sister. I graduated from the University of California, San Diego, with a BA (1994) in political science and French literature and have contributed to Empire, Frieze, indieWIRE, Moving Pictures, Turbulences Video, and other publications.
My parents wanted me to become a lawyer, but I chose to learn film programming when I moved to New York to become a musician and an actor. My sister also moved from the traditional path and became a fashion designer. I had no formal education in film programming but I learnt about it by practice. My knowledge about filming was self-invented.
I am more interested in the diversity of background. We have shifted from analogue to digital media production. While waiting for a break, I volunteered for Mix – an annual gay and lesbian experimental film festival held at the Anthology Film Archive in New York's East Village. From 1996 to 2000, I was Executive Director of the MIX Festival, one of the world’s largest experimental film and video festivals. It worked out for me because I met a lot of filmmakers and developed film connections. John Hanhart, a senior film curator at New York’s Guggenheim Museum, became my mentor. Eventually, in 2000, I joined Guggenheim as a film program manager. I headed the programming of the prestigious Hamptons International Film Festival before joining MoMA in 2007. Thus, I learnt film programming by doing rather than by studying.
#BoxingWorld; #TIFF; #KnuckleCity
Jahmil X.T. Qubeka, the director of the film, 'Knuckle City' and its screenplay writer, recounts the experiences based on his real-life birthplace of boxing world champions in the township of Mdantsane in South Africa's Eastern Cape province. Qubeka draws attention to the extreme poverty which pushes the male counterparts of the communities to the toxic-masculine rings of boxing. " It is an ode to my formative years and an exploration and fundamental dissection of the toxic masculinity that continues to purvey in this space," said Qubeka.
Image: Courtesy of TIFF
Asha Bajaj, IBNS Canada Special Correspondent as well as Editor of Canadian-Media catches up with Qubeka to discuss the salient features of the film.
Jahmil, you have been internationally and locally acknowledged for your directorial work and have premiered feature films in almost every significant festival across the globe. Can you name a few genres in which had made films? Please provide some examples.
Genres in which I have made films are Documentaries, fables, television dramas, commercials, science fiction and feature films.
Examples are: Talk to Me (05) is a documentary; Of Good Report (2013) is a feature film; Sew the Winter to My Skin, an action film.; A Small Town Called Descent is a 2010 South African crime drama; Stillborn is science fiction Short.
Elaborate on Peabody Awards and BAFTA awards. Can you name some of your works which received Peabody Awards and a BAFTA Awards.
Peabody Award was created to honor excellence in radio broadcasting and was established in 1940 by a committee of the National Association of Broadcasters. It is the oldest major electronic media award in the United States. Final Peabody Award winners are selected unanimously by the program's Board of Jurors.
BAFTA stands for The British Academy of Film and Television Arts. BAFTA Film Awards are presented in an annual award show hosted by BAFTA to honour the best British and international contributions to film.
I was awarded Peabody Award in 2005 in America for ‘Talk to Me’, an AIDS documentary I directed for Sesame Street and In 2013 for my feature film ‘Of Good Report’.
My works which received BAFTA awards were: ‘Of Good Report’; ‘Sew the Winter to My Skin’;
Coming to the film “Knuckle City”, why did you consider the township of Mdantsane in South Africa's Eastern Cape province as the chief place for boxing sports?
South Africa is a sports-loving country and boxing is one of the most-followed sports. And on a rare occasion it is the subject of a film. The township of Mdantsane in South Africa's Eastern Cape province is known informally as South Africa’s boxing hub. It is also the historic birthplace of many stars with boxing world championships over the years.
The fictional film focuses on the culture of boxing in the township, where one of the ways to navigate life is in the boxing ring. Boxing Ring is presented as a community and the struggles we face in that ring are what we face in a community. Fight between families, and domestic violence are themes reflecting the lives of the community. The people of the community would come and watch the shooting of the film and then correct us as they are more familiar with what they do. It is based on reality.
Image credit: TIFF2019
The background of the portrayal of poverty in the film is set against the tough lives of the boxers? Can you explain the connection between poverty and boxing competition?
Boxing is very primal sport. It is also considered dinosaur sport. Its popularity springs from the fact that it brings money and is run by gangsters. Boxing is also a corrupt game and represents the metaphor of the male or man as corrupt as boxing. The boxers literally fight for survival in a poverty-stricken place. Poverty teaches them great endurance in this game. It is also a successful genre to be filmed. People like blood and some are healed by the sight of blood. People like action.
Dudu (Bongile Mantsai) and Duke (Thembekile Komani), two brothers were earlier shown in the film with Duke following a criminal path and Dudu trying virtuously to mend the broken family. Once their father said to the children that family comes first and we should all remain together. What other message do you bring in the story besides the importance of family being together?
I am not one to talk about messages. I do not preach. My role is to entertain the viewers. I do not see the togetherness of the family as the moral of the story. It is the contradiction of this belief which appeals to me more. I give enough space for the viewers to decide about the moral of the story. The main topics that I discuss are masculinity, frustration, dinosaurs perspective of identity.
Duke follows the traits of criminality of his father. The pattern of cause and effect is the main force of the film.
Dudu, on the other hand follows a virtuous path and tries to mend the broken family and has to take the help of his criminal brother to get enrolled in the boxing sport and fight to bring the family out of poverty.
There are several layers of the story. Peeling of each layer brings forth the truth of the film.
#TIFF2019; #Anorexia; #AllegoricalRepresentationOfEatingDisorder
The film ‘It’s Nothing’ describes the internal exploration of eating disorders or Anorexia represented by a hole the protagonist spends her time digging in secret. She goes about her life covered in dirt. People don’t know how to address it or, more often, pretend not to see it at all. Asha Bajaj, IBNS Canada Special Correspondent and, Editor of Canadian Media, brings together Anna Maguire, the director of the film “It’s Nothing”, and Screenwriter Julia Lederer to speak on rarely talked about subject of Anorexia.
Trailer of It's Nothing
Anna, in the film “It’s Nothing” you have discussed the internal exploration of eating disorders. What motivated you to discuss this topic? Is there any personal connection?
I met Julia in 2014 through a friend. Julia had originally written a play for young adults; about a young woman digging a hole under the influence of a friend, which stood in as a metaphor for anorexia, which Julia had herself experienced and wanted me to film it.
Yes, I have personal connection to this eating disorder. It is something I had experienced and really struggled to explain and understand. It is partially driven by emotions and it is something irrational and I felt the best way to express it is through a metaphor. Then when Julia approached me with this book I felt that we should bring awareness of this disorder in some rational and motivated us to film about the eating disorder through a metaphor.
What motivated you to represent eating disorder or Anorexia by a hole the protagonist spends her time digging in secret?
When this eating disorder starts, it takes time to develop. It starts as a hole in your body and your find comfort in it and feel safe but as you go deeper and deeper you feel isolated. This hole symbolizes a representation of the protagonist’s eating disorder. The protagonist who is shown to dig a hole in secret is again an illusion representing that the protagonist’s addiction to eating disorder is increasing. The protagonist does not have control over this. Something about the hole is scary as well. It is like a trap into which you fall and you go deeper and deeper without realizing. You feel comforted and safe for not having to face the negativity of the world and its unacceptance. But the hole is also scary since it isolates you from the whole world, cuts you off from help from the outside help. It is something which I had experienced.
The protagonist is forced by one of her friends to dig deeper and deeper until it leads to her downfall represented by the rejection of her application for further studies. Why is the protagonist shown to be pressurised by her friend? What does this act signify?
Well, it is not a friend. It is metaphorical representation of an eating disorder; kind of illusion terrifying and as well as comforting. It is comforting because the protagonist had been driven by her mental disorder of eating and feels safe in her company. It is a way of coping with the difficulties as well as coping with the world who has rejected her. The act when the protagonist is pushed into a deep dig represents her own mental disorder and her impulsive eating disorder over which she loses control. Unable to recover from her addiction she tries to find safety and comfort in a hole. It is a form of escaping from the disapproval of the world. Mere advice to recover from addiction sometimes does not work.
Image: Credit of TIFF
In this film, you have tried to explain the complicated logic of an eating disorder and its connection to mental health. What made you portray an eating disorder in this specific way? What message is conveyed by this?
It is something what I felt, what I myself had experienced. It is something very honest but difficult to explain. It is also an emotional thing because people suffering for this eating disorder find it difficult to express it to the world for fear of being rejected. They are also unaware that have a mental disorder. I have used the image of a hole as a metaphoric explanation of the eating disorder. It also rationalizes the protagonist’s illusion of a friend, which, in fact is the mental disorder, in which one finds safety. The message conveyed by this is that when you start the recovery process, you fear to lose the visual representation of a friend and start feeling unsafe. People suffering from anorexia are afraid to speak about their illness. Many times they are not aware of their mental illness. These people should be encouraged to speak about their illness, be honest about it and let the person know that there is nothing wrong about it. The recovery is a very slow process and requires lot of understanding from the world.
The protagonist pushed by her so-called friend to the bottom of the dig and says that she was trying to help her. What was the motive of her illusory friend in pushing her down? What does it symbolize?
There is a voice in the protagonist’s head which starts ruling her other reasonings. It is a paradox, it is my own experience. It is not in her control. She feels if she is outside the hole, she would not fit anywhere. But in the hole, she feels safe. The flip side of that is that we had lots of friends who said that they are afraid of admitting that they have eating disorders.
Once the protagonist is deep into the hole and is truly by herself, there is a moment when she realizes that she has to make a choice and to decide what she has to do. It represents the thought of recovery. The protagonist feels that she needs to come out of the hole. It is the very first stage of the beginning of recovery. This process of recovery is very slow. It is the moment of awakening and you realize that she cannot find safety in the hole. It also means that it is very safe to discuss and acknowledge the symptoms and try to come out of it.
In the film, the protagonist is shown to climb and reach the top. But in reality, the process of climbing and falling down occurs several times until she reaches the top. The process of climbing had taken longer than shown in the film of 2-hour duration. The attempt at climbing is the first step, not the end. The film is about hope, not about the structure.
Moothon (The Elder One), a bilingual crime thriller in Malayalam and Hindi, was premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). Asha Bajaj, IBNS Canada correspondent and, Editor, Canadian-Media speaks to director Geetu Mohandas about the film starring Malayalam actor Nivin Pauly and capturing the search for a lost elder brother (played by Nivin) that takes a teenaged Mulla from the idyllic islands of Lakshadweep to the ugly underbelly of Mumbai.
Image Credit/Facebook of Geetu Mohandas
The quest of the younger brother is also metaphorical in the film which the director says portrays a "sense of identity and the crises within”. Excerpts:
Geethu, what inspired the script of this multi-layered film?
I don’t exactly remember how the idea germinated. But I remember that I wanted to experiment something along the lines of search. And that was when the idea struck about a little kid in search of the older brother. I decided to place the child in Lakshadweep island, a remote and secluded island and cut off from the rest of civilization. I thought it interesting to start the story there and see how the child from this island lands up in the downtrodden place of Kamathipura without knowing the language of that place. And as the story developed, new elements, like settings of the place, Lakshadweep and Kamathipura, and from that space emerged lots of characters of the film. The whole writing process was organic. And in 2016 I was given global filmmaking award for Moothon and I was part of the Sundance Lab because they mentored me and allowed me to write not as a director, not as a producer, but in whatever way my imagination takes me. So the whole story came unfolding in a very organic way.
Tell me briefly about the different layers of the movie as well as about different types of searches in this film like Mulla's search for Akbar.
The under current of the narrative is socio-political. It especially becomes evident when you place the characters in real space amongst real people in places like Lakshadweep and Kamathipura. Invariably the politics of these places become the constant undercurrent of the narrative. That is what happened in Moothon as well. It is addressing the different layers upon the placement of the minorities with their dreams, their big goals, denial of dignity to the downtrodden, and also their sexuality.
So apart from the obvious search, which is the kid searching for the older brother, it is also layered in terms of a search for one’s own self, sort of like a metaphor, of one’s own identity and the crisis that one goes through with these searches. There are a lot of layers of metaphors of search as well.
Geethu, tell us about your past experiences about acting in films and your decision to become a director? Why and when did this shift take place? Have you any regrets?
The transition was quite simple. I was a child actor and invariably became an actor when I was an adult. I think the last movie which I did was Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s Four Women. I loved working with him as an actor. Then I thought of discontinuing acting. I think everyone usually enters the field of film to become an actor and then becomes something else. For me, the reverse thing happened. I wanted to write my own story and become a filmmaker. And when I became an actor it gave me an opportunity to enter the industry. When the right moment came I felt I should leave acting and start writing my own story. Then I did a short film 'Liar's Dice' and then 'Moothon'. Ever since then I have been a writer. Absolutely no regrets, love it. I will never go back to acting again
Image Credit: Facebook of Geetu Mohandas
Geethu, tell me, in brief, the challenges you faced in the selection of the varied and complex cast of the movie.
Casting for the film was a very interesting process. Nivin is someone who is a very unassuming actor, and I wanted someone who would play the role to the team. I always had confidence in him as an actor and I have watched all his films in which he worked in his same comfort zone with his friends in commercials blockbusters. I felt there was more to him as an actor. When I offered him the role, and he agreed and came on board, it was an exciting process because he completely subjected himself to me and the film. He wanted to completely unlearn whatever he had learnt and to explore new territories. We did some acting workshop with him. After that when he wore the costume in real spaces among real people, I knew that 50% of the job was done. The only thing left was that he had to behave. It was interesting to see all the characters become alive.
I met Shashank (Shashank Arora) in Sundance when I went to see one of his films and knew instinctively he was the right person to play Salim. All the characters who came on board were very instinctive choices.
Image Credit: Facebook of Geetu Mohandas
Where was the film shot? Please highlight the challenges you and the characters faced while shooting the film in the widely contrasted calm village life of the island Lakshadweep and the chaotic life of Kamathipura in Mumbai?
The film was shot both in Lakshadweep and Kamathipura. In Lakshadweep, the only problematic situation we faced was the weather conditions to go into these islands and we had to wait for sometimes before we could go there to resume our shooting. Other than that, the place was beautiful and picturesque, there was a sense of responsibility among people and we had to bring these characteristics into the visual narration as well.
Kamathipura was a place which I loved when I watched Mira Nair’s film Salaam Bombay. I had not seen the place and was excited to see it myself. But we were worried about shooting the film in Kamathipura because we were afraid that people in this place would be hostile. We were pleasantly surprised to see the warm welcome and hospitality that they gave us. We shot in real spaces among real people and we shot with a very small camera and the actors were accompanied by a small crew of 5 – 7 at the most up to 10 so that people around us were not aware that we were shooting a film. We would shoot and come back without disturbing their personal spaces and their livelihood. But afterwards, when they learnt that we were shooting a film, they were very warm and friendly.
My reason for choosing Lakshadweep and Kamathipura was because of the total contrast in their visual representation and in the soundscape. Lakshadweep represented a sense of calmness and serenity whereas Kamathipura was chaotic and was full of hustle and bustle. I wanted that kind of differentiation in the film as well.