Posts Tagged ‘Jaideep Varma’

After Leaving Home and Baavra Mann, filmmaker Jaideep Varma has directed one more documentary – I Am Offended. According to official post, it’s a documentary about stand up comedy in India within the context of Indian humor and growing intolerance in the country today. Featuring some of the brightest talents, in stand up comedy in India.

Jaideep Varma’s documentary Baavra Mann is yet to get a release in India. Karan Singh Tyagi saw it at New York Indian Film Festival earlier this year and wrote this post for us. Read on.

(We suggest you play the song in the background while reading the post)

Baavra MannWho is this long-haired Sanjay Dutt duplicate?

Duplicate nahi hai bhaiyya. Iska naam Nirmal Pandey hai. Kya acting kari thi isne ‘Is raat ki subah nahin’ me”, was my prompt reply, as my cousin and I stood in line with a dozen others, scanning movie posters outside Gaiety (Bandra) and booking our tickets for ‘Auzar’. As an 11 year old, I couldn’t contain my excitement, at having recognized Nirmal Pandey in the ‘Auzar’ poster, and went on this long rant about ‘Is raat ki subah nahin’. Much to my cousin’s chagrin, I told him everything about the movie – how it was violent and funny at the same time, how all the actors spoke a very different language, how the story finished in one night, and importantly, how Papa and I were lucky to see the movie on the big screen, as it had a single show in Bombay.

This innocuous little incident came back to me while watching Jaideep Varma’s documentary, ‘Bavra Mann and other Indian Realities’, in New York. For those who haven’t seen it yet, Jaideep’s movie traverses through the life and films of Sudhir Mishra, and somewhere in the middle of the movie, Mishra laments how ‘Is raat ki subah nahin’ was confined to a single show in Bombay and how many people didn’t get to see it. On hearing this, I silently smiled as my mind went back to watching the movie with Papa in the same show that Mishra was referring to. How I wanted to thank my father at that very instant! Not just for taking me to ‘Is raat ki subah nahin’, but for giving me the hereditary gift of love for movies and being the best companion I could have had while I nurtured  it.

There were numerous such nostalgia trips throughout Jaideep’s movie. The portions dealing with ‘Hazaron Khwaishein Aisi’ left me mesmerized. Listening to ‘Bavra mann dekhne chala ek sapna’ on the big screen again did my soul so much good; it stirred something deep within me, something in desperate need of stirring. My mind went back to when I first saw ‘Hazaaron..’ I remember crying tears of joy and sadness, laughing gleefully, feeling melancholic and empty, while ‘Bavra Mann’ played on loop and images from the movie interposed with flashes of my life didn’t leave me for days at end.  Probably, this is a uniform reaction that ‘Hazaaron..’ elicits. The movie strikes a deep chord somewhere, and makes one confront broken promises, failed dreams, and all those bittersweet memories, that we carry with ourselves. Right after watching Jaideep’s ‘Bavra Mann’, a friend who had accompanied me to the screening in New York forwarded me this by Avijit Ghosh who captures this sentiment beautifully:

There are a thousand reasons to watch Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi. But enjoy it as a last anthem for a generation who knew how to believe. Watch it holding the hand of a woman you have loved and lost. And it would be nice if you have drunk some rotten whisky before.

As must be painfully evident by now, I am easily susceptible to bouts of nostalgia. However, these glorious nostalgia-filled moments were not the only reason why I enjoyed Bavra Mann. I have often wondered what drives filmmakers to make the kind of movies that they do. For example, at the risk of doing a Baradwaj Rangan here, I have been fascinated by two particular scenes from Black Friday and Gangs of Wasseypur.

Sample these dialogues:

Black Friday – “Jiske paas kuch nahi hai karne ke liye, dharam ke naam par chutiya banta rahega”. GOW2 – “Jab tak cinema hai log chutiye bante rahenge

I have often wanted to argue that we can discern in these dialogues a kind of master narrative, a collection of meanings, and, perhaps, a powerful leitmotif that runs through all of Kashyap’s movies, a kind of slavishness and hive mentality – towards religion in Black Friday, towards cinema and everything that one acquires from it in Gangs of Wasseypur. To take the analogy further, slavishness towards power in Gulal, towards self and personal ego in DevD and No Smoking. Therefore, Kashyap’s movies are magic on celluloid, because he lets characters with such aggressive spirit and slavish devotion face their internal conflicts and external surroundings. What we see on screen is the result of a bundle of contradictory aspects and motivations, a certain kind of dualism that everyone and everything in life has. I have repeatedly asked myself, what are the questions that Kashyap is trying to answer through his work? Has he found any answers yet?

Bavra Mann poses similar questions to someone whom Vikramaditya Motwane calls the “original Anurag Kashyap”. Despite the frequent and frenzied analysis of cinematic moves of all current directors’, I feel there is a strong lack of literature that provides us with enough resources to examine and study their work. This is where Bavra Mann triumphs. It gives enough resources to the audience to interpret Sudhir Mishra and his movies in a new light. Bavra Mann is a fascinating exercise in self-revelation and film lovers will revel in the personal anecdotes and casually delivered remarks that reveal layers and layers of information about Mishra and his body of work. The movie has a series of interviews with Mishra and people close to him, covering the length of Mishra’s career, beginning with his childhood, continuing through his education, his failed marriage with his first wife, his relationship with renowned film editor, Renu Saluja, his early film work, his breakthrough success with Dharavi, and his daring work in Hazaaron.., his most autobiographical Khoya Khoya Chand, and finally his recent movies. There is a treasure trove of diamonds in the movie. After all, who wouldn’t want to eavesdrop on Mishra and Shantanu Moitra’s recounting of how they got Swanand Kirkire to sing ‘Bavra Mann.’

A criticism often peddled against movies like Bavra Mann is that the director holds back, and is reverential towards his subject. Here, Jaideep is never in awe of Sudhir Mishra. His questions are probing and the discussions on films themselves are less about why they’re great and more about how they were put together. Jaideep knows that directors are not good at explaining motives behind making particular films. Movies, like many things else, begin with something very vague and abstract. Jaideep, therefore, never tries to look for definite answers and actual motives behind Mishra’s work. His aim is to allow the viewers the freedom to interpret the scene in the way they want, and depending on how their cinematic education (and earlier experiences of Mishra’s movies) has prepared them. Bavra Mann succeeds in bringing before us the greatest number of possibilities to reinterpret Mishra’s movies. After watching Bavra Mann, I realized that Sudhir Mishra’s movies (especially the earlier ones) resonated with me because they were being truthful about life – the movies expressed some deeper emotional experiences that Sudhir Mishra recognized in his own existence. This in and of itself was a reason for me to love Bavra Mann.

However, for me, the biggest strength of Bavra Mann is that it never wavers from admitting that Sudhir Mishra continues to be plagued with what is an inconsistent body of work. It subtly engages in criticism of some of Sudhir Mishra’s recent movies (the likes of Inkar, Calcutta Mail) to reflect on the present-day infertility of thought in India. By using Sudhir Mishra’s example, Jaideep exposes the dangers inherent in adopting a conformist and consensus-driven career. According to me, it is in this context that the movie makes a brutally frank attempt to unravel the intellectual decline of India and Indian movies (using Sudhir Mishra as a metaphor).  The movie, therefore, is an elegy of intellectual life not only of Sudhir Mishra but of us all. In a way, the movie tries to jolt us (Sudhir Mishra included) out of the dark recesses that we have allowed ourselves to fall in.

I do not know if Bavra Mann is getting a theatrical release anytime soon. However, I strongly hope that everyone gets a chance to see it. Watch it to revisit old times, to go back to your personal stories intertwined with Sudhir’s films, watch it to hear “Bavra Mann” on the big screen again, watch it as a student and lover of cinema, and most importantly, watch it because it is a powerful statement on the times that we live in.

Naseerudin Shah says the single most perceptive thing in the movie: “Mishra’s best work is yet to come.” Even though, I love ‘Hazaaron…’, I wouldn’t want it to be Mishra’s best work. I earnestly wish that it turns out to be just a teaser of what he (and by association) Indian cinema goes on to achieve and that no one is ever required to come to the rescue of this long-haired maverick director, like I had to once come to the rescue of his similarly long-haired leading man outside Gaiety.

– Karan Singh Tyagi

(Karan was born in Meerut, lived and studied in Bombay and Harvard, and after a brief stop in Paris, now finds himself in New York. He strongly feels that Ramadhir Singh was directly referring to him while saying, “Sab ke dimaag me apni apni picture chal rahi hai aur sab saale hero banna chah rahe hain apni picture me..” When he is not day-dreaming about movies or Real Madrid, he also works as a lawyer. You can find him on twitter here: @karanstyagi)

(A piece on the public conversation I had with Sudhir Mishra at “Wassup Andheri” last Sunday, 3rd March, written for Lucknow Tribune).

By virtue of having made a full-length documentary film on Sudhir Mishra (entitled “Baavra Mann – a film on Sudhir Mishra and other Indian realities”, to release in 2013), I was invited to host a conversation with him at the Wassup Andheri festival on Sunday. The topic (chosen by me) was why Indian cinema is not up to the mark of world cinema (apt perhaps a week after the Oscars were awarded, and even more so for the “100 Years of Indian Cinema” celebration that is on till May.)

Having never done anything like this before, I was apprehensive about how it might go but assumed that the experience of making this film (over two years) with Sudhir Mishra would enable me to draw out the more candid, less politically correct version of him (as it did in the film). It almost happened.

Initially, he spoke freely about why a filmmaker like him (who has made films like “Hazaaron Khwaaishein Aisi” and “Khoya Khoya Chand”) has lately done films like “Yeh Saali Zindagi” and “Inkaar”, by his own admission having (relatively) slighter material. He said it is not always possible to do the more challenging films, in any case, as an artist he needs a break too. Besides, the current environment is by and large not supportive of films like the former – it is very difficult to get funding for the same, and he would rather make out-and-out commercial films than no film at all. Also, the challenge of appealing to more people (“the burden of being interesting”) is something he likes to take on periodically. However, he admitted that it does bother him that he has underachieved and that he may not fulfil his potential but he hopes to fight this and squeeze out the best from himself still; he feels there is still time for that.

About the state of Indian films, Sudhir Mishra was optimistic – boldly stating that the next 4-5 years would see a revolution in our cinema, with younger filmmakers using digital technology more innovatively and decisively. He also admitted that he has not set enough of an example as a senior filmmaker in using this new technology to do cutting edge cinema (particularly because, by virtue of not having children to worry about, he had a greater opportunity to take risks) – he hopes to rectify this in the near future.

He agreed that Indian cinema, by not having to cater to any other audience except its own, has made it complacent. This, despite the fact that younger filmmakers are being able to create films on subjects it would have well nigh impossible to do a decade ago. But he expects all of this to change for the better in the very near future.

Beyond this, Mishra went back to his default setting in public – of being politically correct and playing to the gallery. Rather than report on his pronouncements, I’d prefer to make a few comments of my own here.

1)      It is becoming increasingly grating lately to find true-blue jingoism rearing up every time the word “Oscar” is brought up these days. “We don’t need Oscar approval” seems to be the new anthem in these quarters (and the gallery responded with claps too). It is fundamentally wrong because the fact is that the Oscars absolutely do put forward some of the best films of the year. From the 5 foreign films, 5 documentary films and 10 screenplay nominations (original and adapted) – at least 80% of these every single year are at the very forefront of world cinema (many of these nominated at the premier European festivals too, which Mishra said were more worthy). Even if you very conservatively credit 50% of the Best Picture and Best Director categories with this quality, that’s a further 5 films perhaps? Another 2-3 worthwhile films from all the other categories – altogether, accounting for repetitions, at least 20 great films? How much faux bravado does it take to dismiss a time-honoured standard of excellence from which we are so far removed from today?

2)      Keeping apart the issue of not enough local rooted stories being told, I was trying to explore why established Indian directors are not even attempting international films, telling international stories (given that we have a distinct language and cultural advantage through exposure and familiarity) which films like “Babel” have done in the past and “Waiting For Sugar Man” and “War Witch” did last year (in different ways). After the session, someone actually came up to me and accused me of having an “international/Hollywood complex”. It seems as if having a complete lack of any perspective is now worn with aggressive pride amongst film industry people. To answer the scornful query of another of those (who threw names of two contemporary Hindi films at me), I even expressed my own thumb rule for judging (for myself) whether a film was of international standard or not – which is if I would want to see the same film if it was made in a foreign language. Not surprisingly, it led to further derision.

3)      But the cake has to be taken by the most aggressive objection of the evening – about why I held this conversation in English and not Hindi. This is a certain brand of reverse snobbery that is gaining ground even amongst more evolved conscientious objectors than this particular one was, and it is getting tiresome. If someone has to tell them that English is an Indian language today (every bit like Hindi, Tamil or any other) just like cricket is an Indian sport, is it even worth the effort?

People have asked me why I chose to make a film on Sudhir Mishra (as if being perhaps the only filmmaker from the last 25 years who is still relevant today is not enough). Thing is, it is really not a film on him – it is not hagiography. It does not glorify him but uses him, his worldview, his life and his work to illuminate the decline that has so comprehensively set in milieus which were once marked by the sparkle of new ideas – milieus through which Mishra passed through (or is in now). The subject himself admits he has underachieved, explains why he has, and how he hopes to change that. It is as much the story of modern India as it is of Sudhir Mishra – just like each one of our own stories are. The candour and honesty with which he allowed this examination in this film was perhaps what I had hoped for in this public conversation. It didn’t happen entirely but as an admirer of his formidable mind and one of his biggest well-wishers I just hope that he doesn’t play to the gallery in his forthcoming films at least. He deserves better from himself.

Jaideep Varma

(Jaideep Varma is a writer-filmmaker whose documentary film “Leaving Home” won the National Award in 2011. He has also published a novel called “Local”.)

Your Own Voice, Whatever It May Be Worth

Posted: February 24, 2013 by moifightclub in cinema
Tags: , ,

The precocious students of Ruia College nagged and pestered and forced me to do this – a piece for their film publication “Film Eye” which came out last week (a highly readable magazine too). Asked to choose my own subject, I figured directly addressing the students in the piece (whilst being aware of the context of the publication) might have more value than a generic piece that could have appeared anywhere. It was really for their eyes, and perhaps not very smart of me to put it out here but I just feel like doing it. If nothing else, at least it will make me even more unpopular than I presently am (if that is even possible), even though, contrary to what some think, that is not exactly an objective.

 Instead of a general piece on cinema that could be published anywhere, this is an attempt to do a customised piece for this particular publication addressing its readers directly. Many among you may be contemplating a career in the arts – perhaps cinema. That professional world is perhaps inscrutable and even intimidating. Dealing with the clear conflict between the mainstream and personal expression is the toughest battle ahead. This piece uses film references to make its points – for whatever they are worth.

In what is perhaps the greatest documentary series ever made (the “Up Series”), fourteen British children aged 7 were selected from diverse backgrounds in 1964 and their lives revisited on camera every 7 years (director Michael Apted stayed constant too) – in 2012, they were all 56 years old, and there had been 8 films made. From these, the most revealing films are 21 Up (film made when they were 21) and 28 Up – not because of the individual films but because of the transformation that occurred between these two ages. Most of the hopes and aspirations these young men and women had expressed at 21 had been significantly tempered by 28, and a strange sort of auto-pilot acceptance crept into their worldview.

This is not the only evidence to suggest that the age-span 21-26 (or so) is perhaps the most important stage in an individual’s life when his (or her, of course) relationship to his work (any kind of work, not just in the creative fields) is fundamentally determined. It would appear that the majority give up during this time, and focus on stability – in their jobs and family lives. There’s no rocket science required to process why this happens – it is natural and perfectly understandable. Those who develop a different relationship to their work and have a drive and restlessness to reach out for something beyond this assured stability with no guarantees are not necessarily more intelligent or talented; it has more to do with a certain attitude and perhaps it can even be argued that it is often not a voluntary choice one makes but more akin to an urge.

This absolutely does not mean that these people have to achieve something within this age or that people with say, artistic ambitions, have to complete something by then. Many such people may actually take a decade or more to express themselves properly, to create or build something. Some may change several jobs, even professions to find their true calling. What they have in common – regardless of what their muse is, or where their interests lie, is that they don’t stop searching. For some reason, whether consciously or not, the commitment to this mindset appears to be almost invariably made during this 21-26 age-span.

So, this crucial period in your life is now ahead of you when this commitment will be defined, consciously or otherwise. Circumstances have a big role to play here – and no-one should ever be judged on what calls they take on this count. However, given that the vast majority of people (including commercially thriving people) seem to live “lives of quiet desperation” and compromise, some even wearing their unfulfillment on their sleeve, it is likely to be the most important choice you will make as it will define the rest of your life. Perhaps even more than matrimony, as this certainly seems to be more irreversible (as a mindset, not as an act).

However, even if you decide to commit to a life of self-expression (or self-realisation), that would just be the starting point – the long road ahead would still have plenty of potholes to waylay you.

There was an outstanding advertising filmmaker in the late-1980s – everybody believed his transition into feature filmmaking was a certainty (also because he was related to a legendary Bengali filmmaker) and would happen very soon. 25 years later, it still hasn’t. A few years back, he was asked amongst friends why he had never ended up making a feature film – and after some cajoling he said that the idea of matching up to his legendary filmmaker relative intimidated and discouraged him so much that he could never quite get started with any kind of confidence or momentum.

He deserves sympathy not for bearing such a great weight but for getting it so completely wrong. The point of any kind of art is not to match up to anybody (whatever the award shows may suggest to you) – but to put one’s own expression out there – tell one’s own story, try to find and communicate personal truths, whatever it may entail. To get scared of doing that (and there is no other way to quite describe what happened to this advertising filmmaker) suggests a complete misplacement of priorities – where it is craft that is aspired to, not art. The art is in the search and the soul of the work, not in the barebones of craft, however accomplished the latter may be.

We are very emphatically living in an age where how a sentence is crafted is appreciated more than what it conveys. And nowhere is this truer than in India where interpretation (rather than original expression) has been all-important anyway – from folk to classical music, from film songs (where interpretation is happening at every level) to talent shows on television, it has been about getting it “right” first, about technique and “correctness” then individual expression. This, coupled with the post-colonial inferiority complex we are still very comprehensively reeling from, has made creative confidence a very rare commodity in our country.

This is precisely why someone like Quentin Tarantino has destroyed two generations of Indian filmmakers without knowing it. The man who made violence hip and cinematic more than anyone else in film history did it with a slant that was its real dimension but too many in our quarters have gone about mimicking the cool and ignoring the vision (it is this vision that makes Tarantino a great filmmaker, not the craft). Some of our filmmakers discovered that the shock value that could be extracted from this mimicry also provided considerable commercial felicities. Today, the gangster genre (unimaginatively and perhaps typically in our quarters, this is almost the only genre in which this mimickery happens) is the most prolific (and profitable) one in the Mumbai film industry and this brand of quick-shock cinema consistently produces films that amuse more than they last. Some of them make enough money, and even excite enough “critics”, to perpetuate this hollowness.

If a law forced these filmmakers to not allow the characters in their films to bear arms, much like the Chambal dacoits who have been surrendering their arms from the early 1970s, one suspects many of them wouldn’t really know what to do with themselves. It could lead to a forced clarity that would almost certainly have very welcome long-term consequences as they would be forced to look at life around themselves then (as perhaps happened to Iranian cinema, thanks to the limitations imposed upon it). Of course this is just flippant fantasy, as thoughts of forcing anything on anyone should be in a democracy.

Also, unfortunately, most of our younger filmmakers seem to think the path to becoming a world-class film director is through imbibing world cinema immaculately. As a result, they seem to live in this cinema more than in life around them and their rootedness, has, for the most part, gone missing. As certain bastions of the elite cinema universe (like Cannes) evoke the Miss Universe/ World pageant in the 1990s in its temporary interest in work that departs from their exotic notions of Indian cinema (which has tragically been Bollywood for about a decade now), their aspirations even appear to be bearing fruit, which the jaunty media here rejoices over. Overlooking the undeniable fact that not a single indigenously-made Indian film ever commercially crosses over internationally outside the time-honoured melodrama markets (like say, Egypt) or captures the imagination of the world cinema audience (precisely because of that lack of genuine rootedness). For the most part, we produce spurious cinema in these times which is such a waste (especially given what diversity these churning times offer us). Why just films, even our books and popular music do not show signs of much originality and honesty for much the same reasons (with rare, but notable, exceptions).

The over-emphasis on detail and craft (which is also derived from foreign shores) is one of the main reasons why very little work has an original voice in our country, and therefore, very little value beyond the ephemeral. Even the people who consume (the audience) and the ones who judge (the “critics”) are more conscious of these details than the big picture or the soul of the work – this has become the predominant cultural sensibility in our country. Leading to the celebration of ersatz poster boys.

Spiritualists of all kinds and persuasions say one thing in common – that the human mind often comes in the way of fulfilling an individual’s true potential, thanks to the distractions of everyday life and its preoccupations. The same could be said for the stories being told around us – their true soul remains unexplored, underutilised, underappreciated, thanks to the focus on the details around them than the core itself. Every aspect of the entertainment industry perpetuates this these days, especially, sadly, the audience.

Of course, there are in-between spaces where new talent can try and find their feet (and some do but they are almost invariably non-commercial spaces). For example, it is curious that just like new acting talent rarely gets the choicest opportunities without familial connections within the film industry, new filmmakers never ever seem to emerge from outside the “camps” and the various coteries. There is a good reason why the industry is considered by many to be run by a kind of internal “mafia”. So, how does someone with no connections negotiate all this?

Besides adopting the path of least resistance and aligning your objectives to the status quo or opting out altogether (and changing professions), there is a new alternative that is gradually emerging in these digital times. A 1 TB hard-disc costing about Rs 5,000 (when in 2006, it cost about Rs 1.2 lakhs) is just a small indicator of how accessible things have got. Digital cameras and sound equipment are personally affordable today. A huge pitfall for some people is their excessive preoccupation with formats and cameras and technology and the rest – it is all nonsense, really. They forget that even the lower-end cameras they get to work with today are better than the high-end cameras the established professionals may have been working with a decade or two ago (and some produced classics with).

However, the commercial possibilities of cutting-edge work are limited in today’s film environment in India and practically no-one who wants to do innovative and personal work without significant compromise can really make much of a living from it.  Thankfully, due to the dynamics that are changing so rapidly, it is most likely a temporary state of things.

In the meantime though, how does one keep this promise alive? One option could be to try and make filmmaking a hobby, and find a job or a line of work that sustains you financially, perhaps even something allied to films (though it often helps the cause if you do something that does not exercise the same muscles that filmmaking does, to keep the freshness intact). And work in your spare time in cinema – the digital revolution has made DIY (Do-It-Yourself) cinema more achievable than ever before. Find like-minded people to work with and expand the scope of what is possible within your set-up gradually. With the Internet breaking down old ways of distribution as well, this way of working outside the system should eventually end up transforming the mainstream as well. And it may not even take as much time as many fear. By removing middlemen and having direct access to the final consumer, thereby being able to find your core audience much faster than possible ever before, significant profitability (significant enough to at least allow all its participants to earn a living from it) is not such a pipe-dream anymore.

The ones to benefit the most from these changing equations would be those who keep their desire of personal expression alive in some way. And amongst most of you reading this, this decision will happen in the next 4 or 5 years. Whatever you decide, do it consciously. It will probably lead to the most apt decision, for yourself. Good luck.

– Jaideep Varma

The above writer is a fringe filmmaker/writer (Local, Hulla, Leaving Home) and should have very little credibility for those seeking fame and fortune in the entertainment world. The piece, even if it did not provide any food-for-thought, hopefully at least entertained a bit.

After Hulla and Leaving Home (documentary on Indian Ocean), filmmaker Jaideep Varma is busy working on his latest documentary film, Baavra Mann. And here’s a trailer of the film.

Here’s more info on the trailer and the film from its youtube account – A trailer of the rough cut of the full-length documentary feature, “Baavra Mann – a film on Sudhir Mishra & other Indian realities”. A film not only on one of Mumbai cinema’s longest lasting and relevant filmmakers but through that prism on a declining cultural life in India.

Aha, finally some documentation of our cinema and some of its prominent voices. Whenever i think about Sudhir Mishra, i often wonder why is there no making of Hazaroon Khawshein Aisi. It’s such a terrific and landmark film, and has a great story behind it. That needs to be documented. Hopefully we will get to hear some bits in this docu.

This trailer surely looks interesting. Though my only concern is Sudhir Mishra is quite overexposed. If you have been tracking him or his films, you probably know everything about him. But it’s nice to see anecdotes about his personal life too. And the film seems to go beyond Sudhir Mishra and his films. So eagerly looking forward to it.

Because its Indian Ocean. Its their story. Its all about their music. And if you are not a fan of Indian Ocean, what are you listening ? Or what are you smoking, dude ?

From Kabir to Kashmir, Narmada to North-East, Indian Ocean’s music has the sound and soul of India. The roots that makes it an original and unique voice. And they just dont sing those songs, they believe in it, they live by it.

Jaideep Varma’s documentary Leaving Home starts with a really funny and smart line, the funniest I have ever read on a film’s opening credit. Actually even before the credit rolls. Am not going to spoil the fun by telling you the line.

The documentary unfolds in different chapters, based on their songs and tells the story of all the four band members, one by one. Susmit Sen, Rahul Ram, Amit Kilam & Asheem Chakravarty. How the band was formed, new members, entry, exit, girl in the band, girl gone, days of struggle, no money, first performance, first song, first album – many unknown and known stories are documented through family members and freinds.

Sometimes you cringe at the way the handheld shaky camera is used, you can spot the boom mike, its shadow, the lapel mike wires, the second camera in the frame while the first one is shooting and wonder why the makers could not cut it out at the edit or just be little more careful during the shoot. But if you are an Indian Ocean fan, you just sail through without wondering much about it. Because this is one untold story that needs to be told.

The tone is intentionally raw & rugged, the space has not been polished to make it look better, much like what the music of Indian Ocean is all about. Also, as a friend pointed out, there is enough drama in their story to convert it into a feature film but here everything has been kept subtle without hammering it down the throat with loud music and going extreme close up to record the tears rolling down, as the news channels intentionally do in their features.

At one tense moment, the camera remains on Asheem, when he is talking about his childhood and then he goes silent for few seconds and you wait and wait, not knowing what is he going to say next. But Jaideep holds it back without intruding his space for any kind of emotional manipulation.

The film was edited much before Asheem’s death but now it seems too uncanny. May be it was all written. The film opens with Asheem’s voice, it closes with his story and there is a clip of him singing “wahan kaun hai tera… musafir…jayega kahan…dum le le ghadi bhar…yeh chaiyaan payega kahaan! Gave me goosebumps all over. Still seems unbelievable that the man on the screen is not anymore with us.

Towards the end, at another point, the director even asks the band members about their future plans. What will they do when they grow old or are the worried about tomorrow ? what will happen next ? Then, they didnt. Now, we know something.

And thats why this documentary is important. We dont have the tradition of documenting our cultural history. Films, music, art, theatre…we never bothered. Lost it all. Its great that someone thought about Indian Ocean and documented their times and music because with one core member gone, it will never be the same again. I know that they got new members, they will continue with their music but somehow I already have a mental block. May be, am thinking too much. But there is some good news too. Have been told that there are many pending tracks that has Asheem’s contribution in many way.

So, three cheers to their music. And more cheers for documenting the tales of their music. Jaideep is trying to get a theatrical release for it. Hope it happens soon. And those of us who saw the film, were expected to talk about it, if we liked it, so that atleast twenty people would buy the ticket when it releases. I hope it goes much beyond twenty.

Do this favour to yourself. When it releases, buy the ticket. Its one ticket for lot of music. And if you know & love Indian Ocean, I know you will do it for sure.

For more about the film, click here.

PS – As always, Sudhir Mishra’s sound bites are priceless, with Che Guevara on the back wall and Hazaroon Khwashein Aisi on the side wall.

PS1 – Jaideep is also planning a four hour version of it with more music and more stories. May be for the dvd.

PS2 – A friend made a very relevant comment after the screening. If your kid is still feeling suicidal, forget Aamir Khan & 3 Idiots, go watch this film. Who said life is going to be easy. But see, there is way to do it. These guys did it, lived it, enjoyed it. And then you would not mind dying for it too. Just dont waste it.

Here is an excerpt from the documentary…Asheem and more…

Its more than 24 hours and its still sounds unbelieveable that one of the members of the band is not with us anymore. May be because the voice is so close to us, at the click of a button or mouse. Have been listening to Indian Ocean since morning. So, here is the video of the day – song excerpt from the film Leaving Home – the Life & Music of Indian Ocean. Its directed by Jaideep Varma and produced by Cartwheel Features. Hopefully it will get a theatrical release next year.