Archive for May 1, 2011

Coup d’état vs Coup de grâce

Posted: May 1, 2011 by moifightclub in cinema
Tags: ,

In media res : My favourite literary technique where, to put it quite simply, the story starts at the middle and not at the beginning and the end. Most of my favourite movies employ it to great effect, and I still think it’s the most interesting way to tell a story. A certain Chris Nolan seems to think so as well, but that’s name dropping and star fucking which is the fundamental reason of why PFC is dead and will remain so in all but name.

My story starts about 3 years ago in NYC where I was trying my hardest to avoid anything and everything Bollywood because I was in voluntary exile from the Emerald City (See how cleverly I foreshadowed Oz. I’m nothing if not subtle). I don’t even remember how but I came across the PFC blog and was very interested to read a rambling, almost incoherent account about a Scriptwriting workshop which had diggaj log like Vishal Bhardwaj, Javed Akhtar etc.

If you know me personally, then you might get the impression that I’m a bit of a snob. I’ve tried to dispel this perception of myself for a very long time but having turned 30 recently I’m like fuck this shit. If you can’t fight it, then bite it. You see I despise amateurism and mediocrity in everything, especially myself. I have a pretty good idea of my strengths and a very good idea of my weaknesses. I limit my singing to drunken karaoke sessions and in the shower and I keep my mouth shut if I know nothing about the topic being discussed. I don’t feel the need to express my opinion on everything under the sun but I realize I’m a minority. I’m not easily impressed by other people’s work and thankfully I hold myself to those same standards. I’m the first person to admit I fucked up or did a crappy job.

Coming back to that avtaar of pfc, everything seemed mickey mouse to me, so as is my habit, I wasn’t impressed. Cut to almost a year later, I land up in LA knowing exactly one person who ran the US division of the biggest Indian studio. (See how I name dropped here since I’m from Delhi it’s second nature). I was in a strange town, without a car and it was Christmas season. I remember spending a very sad and lonely new year by myself eating pizza and watching reruns of house.

It was during these less than champagne days of my life before I began to metaphorically rock the casbah that I recalled PFC and became an author. Mainak was one of the first people to friend me in LA and buy me some truly diabolical chai (See my latent snobbery emerging here again) and I thought, “hey this is pretty cool.” Even while being tadipaar I can kinda sorta keep in touch with desi filmmakers and maybe we can collaborate. Gheun Tak, as they say.

I think I blogged for about a year and a half and the quality of my posts varied mightily in quality, content and grammar. It was really influenced by the state of my liver, love life and very occasionally by intense bouts of homesickness. Some of my posts make me cringe now and I wish they would vanish forever but like films once it’s out there you have to live with it forever. PFC in that time changed it’s look and editorial direction a few times.

I got in touch with some amazing people and made some very close friends with PFC folk. I’ve had the good fortune of working with some of them and hope that their tribe increases with every passing day. I’m not gonna name you guys since clearly your not famous yet so I’m gonna wait till you are winning awards and shit till I start bragging bout you guys. Btw, Shripriya’s film is playing in NYC this week. So catch it if you can (Shri, it’s ok to plug you). Very recently I shot a documentary on the legendary K Balachander for another PFC founding member Vijay. (Note the blatant the name dropping here? Respect my authoritah !!)

Now that I’m back home, I run into a lot of people who know me through my posts on PFC, and in a sense I’m probably the one who took advantage of PFC the most as I was able to have a foothold in Bombay even as I was slogging my ass in LA and working towards my goal of racking up imdb credits like it was going out of business. PFC was a pleasant distraction but I never lost sight of what’s important i.e honing my skills and craft.

I have a lot to be thankful for, to PFC and to Oz, but the thing is, buddy, you can’t demand gratitude, you gotta earn it and it’s the most delicate thing in the world. As far as emotions go, it’s pretty much unobtanium. You can’t rub it in people’s faces and demand to be worshipped. It works when your Idi Amin Dada but not when you are Oz. For someone who always thought himself to be spiritually enlightened, you forgot the basic tenet of Karma. What goes around comes around. But enough of Oz who misguided though he was was in reality a puppet of the greater problem.

The problem was you, dear reader, who supported mediocrity in all manners possible and never put your money where your mouth was. For all the talk about supporting being warriors for indie cinema, it was Yashraj and UTV which got you hard. Indie cinema was a mere footnote and even at that moral relativity came into play. A film is not good or bad based on it’s budget or it’s director. It’s just good or bad. You refused to call a spade a spade and lavished praised on films which were meh and condemned films which were decent just because they were masala.

Why did I start reading PFC ? Because I wanted to read what a filmmaker went through while making a film not what the audience thought about it. I wanted to read about the blood, sweat and tears. I wanted to read about how they failed and how they triumphed. What I didn’t wanna read was fanboys giving online blowjobs, which what PFC ultimately mutated into. I’ve shot enough real porn to make fanboy porn look very boring. Then, of course, was the other end of the spectrum of the trolls getting their kicks by being a bitch.

Remember what I said about being a snob and keeping my mouth shut when I don’t know what I’m talking about? There are two sides to that coin. Shut the fuck up when you don’t know what you are talking about as well !!!! The amount of pinheads waving their dicks around in the name of their take on cinema was staggering. I mean, really would you tolerate it if I came to your place of work and gave you pointers on how to code or build a car from the ground up ? You would brand me a loony and kick me out on my ass. If PFC had done that long ago then it wouldn’t be a vestigal entity right now.

Mediocrity breeds mediocrity. It seems unfair to pick on one person but as a case study let’s take the enigmatic XX (Not exclusive author, just a blogger). I’m sure he’s a wonderful human being but as a writer he’s the donkey’s bollocks. If you can’t write in English then for god’s sake write in Hindi or Swahili for that matter. Why must you brutalize the language and cinema in the process? I can tell you for a fact he was one of the primary reasons why a lot of bloggers who were actual filmmakers quit PFC coz they couldn’t bear to write on a site where XX reigned supreme.

His divinely incoherent posts replete with bad grammar, syntax and almost zero understanding of the craft of filmmaking was a sight to behold. If you ever engaged him in an conversation, then the prospect of cutting your balls off with a blunt nail would probably prove to be less painful. When XX wrote, the collective soul of PFC had an orgasm and that sperm resulted in something much more dangerous. The pollen seed of mediocrity which spread like the kudzu weed and in the end throttled the life and soul of PFC. The folks who actually made or wanted to make films. When XX can write, so can anybody with access to a computer. All very democratic and idealistic wouldn’t you agree?

Unfortunately this very idea that everyone can make a film proved to be the death knell of PFC. Life isn’t a democracy and neither are films. It’s equal parts idiocracy and meritocracy with each playing the role of yin and yang. Once again as I’m a snob I believe there needs to be a barrier between the artist and the customer otherwise what will result is not going to be a work of daring individuality but rather a cookie cutter compromise intended to please the most number of people.

In essence a fast moving consumer good rather than an artifact of the human condition. Yes, PFC unearthed a lot of filmmakers and gave them hope and put them in touch with their heroes but there was a price to be paid. The price was mind-numbing sycophancy and with sycophancy comes the loss of perspective and eventually megalomania. It’s happened to lot of filmmakers who were touted as the saviors of Indian cinema and now they are nothing but a case study of what went wrong.

PFC was a great idea but it’s time is past and it’s for the better interest of the filmmakers themselves that I beg you not to indulge the fanboys and fan the fires of mediocrity. I know it’s a great ego boost but I’m pretty sure Kubrick didn’t a software engineer or any other random dude with an intense need to starfuck to tell how him great he was.

Another sad fallout of the entire PFC movement was that a lot of budding filmmakers got it into their head that the lack of craft in their films made it somehow more legit and honest. You would have an entire generation of filmmakers for whom being amateurish in their approach was a badge of honor. Even for established filmmakers excuses were made and discounts were given for their slipshod films.

I personally think the worst thing you can do to anybody in a creative endeavor is to give them dishonest feedback. This is the time I go arty farty and quote Rumi, “If you are irritated by every rub, how will your mirror be polished?”

I studied Business in my undergrad and despite having forgotten most of what I studied, one thing has always remained with men and hopefully always will. The two most important things for any entity be it for profit or otherwise are goodwill and brand perception. Once lost it’s almost impossible to get back and there is always a faintly rotten smell in the premises. PFC lost it’s goodwill a while ago and it’s brand perception is a joke.

I won’t be coming back to write on PFC and most probably on any other forum either as I am terrified of what sycophancy will do to my creative process. Now I understand why most visionaries are recluses. I’m no genius or visionary but I do value my work so I leave PFC to XX and his merry men. I feel sorry for picking on you but you are endemic of all I deplore in life the most, namely the celebration of mediocrity in the name of democracy. More than the folks who write on PFC it’s the people who read it now are the problem.

In the end just to prove how fucking indie/hatke/cool/ I am, I leave you with these words from William Shakespeare who may or may not have been from Kapurthala.

I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.

The evil that men do lives after them;

The good is oft interred with their bones

 – Mitchinder Singh Mathurawaale aka Mitch aka Gangopadhyay