Posts Tagged ‘My Name is Khan’

I know nothing about editing. I don’t even understand how people get it by just watching films. But recently i read a wonderful piece on editing by Deepa Bhatia. I requested her if it can be shared on the blog so that it can reach more people. She agreed instantly and so here it is. Thanks to her, and hope you guys enjoy it as much as i did.

Deepa BhatiaDeepa has edited films like Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa, Thakshak, Dev, Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara, Taare Zameen Par, Rock On!!, Stanley Ka Dabba, My Name Is Khan, Ferrari Ki Sawaari, Student Of The Year, Kai Po Che, and has directed the documentary Nero’s Guest. Over to her – @CilemSnob

A media school requested me to put down a note on my process of editing for fresher film students. ‘A ready-reckoner sort of thing’, they said. Of course, I didn’t offer the short cut document they were looking for, but the idea set me thinking. Let me attempt expressing; if only for myself, the delicacy, the intricacy and the nuances of editing.

As I sit to try and articulate my thoughts, my know-it-all- son prompts, ‘joining?’ Having made his share of little videos, edited mostly on i movie, it’s a fair shot. But not good enough, I answer. My mother in long shot contributes, ‘Like Stitching?’ ‘Somewhat Mum…Stitching together a design (read scene) visualized by the designer (read director), darning over its flaws, cutting it correctly so it fits into the larger landscape of the garment. (Read film)’

Not bad, but still not bulls eye.  Agnes Guillemot’s description comes to my mind. “I discovered that cinema is music and editing is like being a conductor. I don’t invent the themes but I can produce orchestrations- I can adapt therefore I can edit.”

So there are shots, and each shot has multiple takes. To pick then, the right take, from the right shot and arrange it in that perfectly right way for the magic to happen.

That’s the moment I seek. A shot placed differently to change the meaning of the narrative. 6 frames off a cut and the moment transforms drastically. A sequence rearranged to create a new truth.

In the quiet of my empty editing room, my heart shrieks with joy.

The heart thumps at the discovery…a day well spent.

SEEING THE MATERIAL

The moment of ‘magic’ is within reaching distance of those interested in ‘listening’ to the material. More than the script, more than the director, it is the material that speaks. It reaches out, hoping you see it with care and attention, not missing a detail…a tear, a quiver in the voice, an actor trying something new, hoping you will catch on to his or her little secret, a camera lingering that extra second or a surprise shift focus that adds a delicious taste to the scene.

So the key lies in seeing. Really seeing with all your senses alive and focused. When that happens, the director usually appreciates the cut. ‘Great, that’s exactly as I saw it’.  Or ‘That’s more interesting than the way I saw it.’ That’s when you know that you saw with your soul and intellect in perfect harmony.

HARMONY AND RHYTHM

Harmony is of utmost significance.

Soul and Intellect.

Reason and Instinct.

Listening and Dictating.

Following and Leading.

It’s a tight rope. I often realize that, when I am guiding my young team through their scene cuts, and helping them achieve that harmony.  ‘You are ignoring the actor’s rhythm; you are imposing your own rhythm on the material. WHY ARE YOU NOT LISTENING TO THE VOICE OF THE MATERIAL?’ At other times, I implore, ‘didn’t you see the pauses are too much and the performance is lagging? USE YOUR SKILL AND BRING RHYTHM INTO THE SCENE.’’

Contrary advice because editing demands that you react differently to different kinds of material and give it form in response to its ‘personality’. Like parenting. As a mother, I know for a fact, no single rule applies to all children and all situations, so your ear better be on the ground. Listening when the child needs to speak, but speaking when it is his time to be quiet and listen.

Asserting, yet leaving room for dialogue.

A little of this and a little of that.

And in that delicate balance, lies the art of editing.

RUMINATION

And how will you find the magic? Craft helps, no doubt. Experience too wizens you. But, in the end, for me, it boils down to integrity. Integrity in watching the material, in seeking the truth from it, in devoting complete time to a project so the process becomes instinctive and not merely physical.  I am inspired by the devotion of classical musicians, and I believe editors must have the same quiet soulful relationship with the material.  If you are running from one editing ‘job’ to another, where is the time to ruminate, to mull, and to contemplate? Writing and Editing, the two ends of the filmmaking spectrum, that allow you time to think, we editors insist on rushing through.

When I lock the edit of a film, I often embark on yet another journey of watching and revisiting all the rush again. When a scene is edited, it is in the context of the script and of the film, as you know it then.

Once it is edited, it is an all-together different entity, a full-blooded  organism. You will be amazed at how you find bits of film that didn’t seem relevant at first cut or even final edit, that worm their way into the film. So processes are critical. Give yourself time to think and contemplate. It’s my golden rule: the answer to most cinematic problems lies in the rushes.

LATERAL VISION

The script makes an imprint. Then the material follows with its own voice. And yet, the editor must be able to see things differently, to be able to flip the visual on its head if the need arises, to relook at material all the time, with new eyes and new imagination. I call it the Little Prince approach. ‘Is it a hat, or an animal swallowed by a boa constrictor?’ Keep your heart and mind open to discover that.

SYNERGY

When you enjoy the material, and editor-director sensibilities match, that’s the film that’s going to work best.

When you sleep thinking about the film, and wake up, raring to go to the editing room, that’s the film that’s going to work best.

When your director respects that you have a point of view; that may or may not be his/her view, that’s the film that’s going to work best.

When you work like co-parents to protect, nurture and raise the child, without ego, without doubt, always, always aware, that the child is bigger and more important than anyone, that’s the film that’s going to work best.

I also feel it is important to develop your own relationship with the material. A director lives with his film for years. He starts with the germ of the idea; it simmers in his heart and mind, is then poured out into the script and finally filmed with effort, time and money. If you are to be of some use to the director, it is important to own the film as much as he does, to know it as intimately, so you can do your best for it. A mother can touch the head of her child and sense that the temperature is different from usual. She can sense that because she knows her child so intimately and deeply and dearly. This innate knowledge helps her sense something amiss and find the right and timely solution for her baby. An editor must be committed and sensitive enough to find the same deep relationship with the material, to be equipped to do the best possible to it, for it.

My son pops his head in and brings me back to base. ‘You started by wanting to explain what editing is. That hasn’t happened yet mum…

Why is it so important to explain what I do? Because very few, even in the business of filmmaking, seem to recognize it for what it is.

There are some simple ways of judging editing.

Anything short is usually good editing.

Anything fast too is good editing.

Anything with razzmatazz is of course good editing.

DAMN, IS THIS FILM WELL CUT OR NOT?

As an academic exercise, I looked into recent films that I liked and didn’t, and studied the critical response to them, particularly to the edit. The truth stares out clearly.

 Somehow, no one is able to separate the film experience from the editing. The two are deeply linked.  It’s easy to spot good cinematography, art direction, costumes, but can you ‘see’ an edit, beyond the film?

Almost never.

And so it follows, have you ever read about an editor being praised for a film that the reviewer did not like? It’s impossible! This facet of cinema is so deeply linked to the final outcome, to the way the film finally shapes up, that we, as editors must accept that burden completely.  Very recently, I edited “Student of the Year” for Karan Johar. One critic found it ’20 minutes too long’, while another said the editing was ‘fantastic’.  On Stanley Ka Dabba, one critic commented, ‘Let me warn you that Stanley Ka Dabba is slow. In places, the story seems stretched’ Another felt its ‘very-well sliced together…the pacing really works’

 ‘The truth is that their reaction to the edit is linked directly to their reaction to the film.

So can a bad film be cut well?

Or is every good film well cut?

I believe both are true. I believe if you like a film, or if it ‘works’, it means the editor has done the job well. The fact that a film comes together and the spell works, implies a good editor at work. (A recent example being English Vinglish, that I thought was beautifully edited by Hemanti Sarkar).

Being an editor, I often see the craft and emotional tenor in the work of some of my peers. Not a single review of Paa, for example, spoke of the breakthrough scene cutting, where jump cuts were used within a dialogue scene to create a certain pace and energy. Not many people appreciated the use of freeze frames in a film about speed and motion, a device Aarti Bajaj employed with great effectiveness in Paan Singh Tomar.

PROCESSES

In terms of processes too, some films fly out of you with very little effort. Rock On, for example, is really one the simplest films I have cut and we completed the edit in a relatively short time span.  Taare Zameen Par required more work and application because people in test screenings were resistant to its philosophy and we needed to get the balance of the edit delicately right to achieve a certain aesthetic portrayal, while telling a story.

Stanley Ka Dabba, in particular, was a labour of love. Certain processes were followed while filming, that defied conventional grammar, and yet we had to achieve a narrative that was acceptable to an audience. Amole and me spent many hours playing with footage; reinventing the story and its telling, and literally carved out the purest film possible from the material. Yet, I’ve rarely been complimented on its editing, the way I have been for say, Rock On. And yet in my mind, it remains my best work!

I’ve finally concluded that films that have form to fall back on are much easier to edit than stark plainer films. The editing is in the face, easy to notice and therefore easy to appreciate.

The hitch is when the film needs work on the table. That’s the time when director and editor need to recognize and accept that work is needed, reinterpretation is needed, a fresh approach is needed. It’s a very delicate process, for makers are deeply attached to their material. Editing out a chunk is heartbreaking. Editors must be deeply sensitive at such times and accept that the process will take time and effort. And sometimes you hit a deadlock because directors are too headstrong and sometimes, we ourselves, as editors lack clarity and vision. I try my hardest; I fight with my entire being if I am convinced something should go out of the film. I explain, try to convince, scream, shout, bully and finally beg and implore if I am dead sure! I don’t always succeed but I try my best.

I personally felt a sense on failure while editing My Name is Khan. We had some issues with the unfolding of the second half. (I took about a year to edit the film). We slogged to get it right and at one point, I felt that I had achieved the balance. My director was totally supportive of me shaping the film, and was completely open to shortening and re-interpreting, and yet I didn’t get it bang on. A dear critic friend met me and dug the nail deep. ‘I thought it was a super film, and then the Hurricane came’.

So obviously, we were unable to curb the excesses that bothered both critics and audiences and I take the blame completely. Somewhere, in working overtime to get the second half right, I lost objectivity and I feel it took a toll on the film. I failed on the one benchmark I set for myself. Make the film the best it can be. Whatever the material, whoever the director, make sure the film reaches its own ‘potential’.

In the end, the truth about editing lies buried in an editing room, known best to only the director and the editor. The director, of course knows the contribution and role of the editor, regardless of the outcome of the film. But it is the editors and the editors alone that know how committed and focused they were, how truthfully they engaged in the ‘process’ of editing. For in the process lies the fruit. In the effort lies the reward. And in a truthful approach, lies a good, peaceful night’s sleep… That you did everything possible to make the film the best it could be, without short-changing it, without judging it, without giving up on it, regardless of how good or bad it was.

If you already had an over-dose of MNIK and are suffering from Khanantitis, then you can skip this post. But if you are still curious or loved it so much that you are willing to defend it at any cost, then go ahead and read this post. Fatema Kagalwala saw My Name Is Khan recently and wrote this post.

When creative artists try and push their boundaries but miserably fail time and again, should one condemn the failure of just applaud the effort? The approach one takes on the grand debacle of My Name is Khan depends on what side of this question one is on.

 I had no expectations from the film, only a curiosity. The promos did look sincere and unlike the usual drama. However, twenty minutes into the film, the question above started playing in my head as I anticipated the nature of the rest of the journey.

My Name is Khan is an interesting film and more than any other KJo film is the closest reflection of the maker. Not because it reveals his ideologies or creative quotients or even psyche by any stretch of imagination but because it very genuinely reflects his need to grow out of the limitations he himself has set on himself since his first film. And of course by the choice of his principal school of filmmaking , YRF. In many ways than one My Name is Khan is a product of the fight between his learning, his conditioning, the limited-ness in his world-view it brings and the need to outdo himself, to test the very limitations he has put on himself. This is evident in every choice he makes as the director of this film. And sadly, each one of those choices is still marked by that one thought. Of the common denominator. 

Explanations, expositions, evocative moments which end up being tedious, hammering, spoon-feeding, emphasizing, over-emphasizing, be it messages, moments, emotions, facts, each flaw in the narrative signals at the one thought, the film should not be rejected for lack of understanding. Well, of course subtlety has never been the strength of the maker or the school of cinema he belongs to but to admit, the promos were quite misleading. 

Bad writing aside, the film is yet another example of trying to do something ‘different’, these days that has become ‘realistic’, which means no melodrama, but within the constraints of commercial cinema, which means some drama here and there. And as one would expect, it comes in at the wrongest possible times and in the wrongest possible moments. All those who have watched the film will know of all the events, episodes and manners of expression that I am talking about.

A surprising element of the film was the abuse of film language because of this wish to entertain, create drama, banish stillness, slowness, as they are directly proportionate to boredom. Sweeping shots find abundance usage where there is absolutely no need for drama or grandeur. Lack of time and vastness of the production schedule must have influenced this excessive use of Jimmy Jib single takes and a number of two-shot conversations that should have had proper traditional cutting to emphasize the very emotion it wanted to arouse. You might think this is giving too much attention to a film that does not deserve it, especially in a set-up where the grammar of a shot is hardly understood. But it becomes important to note it here as it clearly reflects the disconnect in the style of the maker and his experimentation. How muchever he may have tried to find a ‘new’ voice, his hand-writing remains the same. And that, sadly, is the biggest failure of the film.

I did come away with a distinct feeling that SRK despite all his megalomania has made a sincere effort to be Raymond Babbit, oh sorry, no, I meant, Rizwan Khan. And so has Karan Johar. It is merely this sincerity that remains. It is all that film is about. And it is quite a strong driving force. Had it not been tempered by other considerations (and a terrible writer) it just might have formed a product, heart-warming if nothing else.

The film, of course is overly ambitious with multiple events and confused messages. It ‘says’ (all of KJo films are always telling you, never showing) it is about love conquering all. All of KJo’s films are always about that anyways. And it tries hard to inspire in little and bigger ways with Rizwan Khan’s ‘innocence’, straight-forward world-view. But unfortunately the maker and writer do not share that world-view and at best the innocence ends up as corny. It’s the same way children are treated in our Hindi films. Rizwan Khan’s character is treated exactly as that. If only here the character had gone out of control of his creator, charted his own journey, he could have saved the film, if not the world.

And I do sincerely pray that K Jo goes back to his style of film-making, make his brand of unimportant cinema which is true to its medium and ideology of entertainment or if the zeal to experiment still persists, even after disastrous products like KANK and MNIK, then he go the whole hog. The towing the line and saying something new just won’t work.

Its filmy friday. Its Khan-day! Karan Johar’s big budget film My Name Is Khan is the release of the week, starring Shah Rukh Khan & Kajol. So, does its score or not ? Lets check out.

Anupama Chopra (NDTV)My Name is Khan is a film made with sincerity and sweat, ambition and conviction. It grapples with the most urgent and fraught issue facing humanity: religion. It features a striking performance by Shah Rukh Khan – 3/5

Raja Sen (Rediff) – Karan Johar’s finally made his first grown-up film, and made it well. It could have been the stuff of much more, but let us leave that for another day. This is a film that will inspire, make aware, make happy. And for now, let us celebrate how the man whose name is on the marquee just proved why he deserves that crown he so often boasts of  – 3.5/5

Rajeev Masand (CNN IBN) – The film shamelessly tugs at your heartstrings and on more than one occasion wallops you to weep. Aided by solid camerawork, tight editing and a layered story, Johar crafts an engaging, stirring saga that is earnest and noble. With this message movie in the mainstream format, the director takes a step in the right direction. Watch it for its star who doesn’t miss a beat – 3.5/5

Kaveree Bamzai (India Today) – In khushi or gham, Karan Johar always wants to please. He stuffs his goodie bag with so many little bon bons that the viewer finds it difficult to look away. It’s the same with My Name is Khan – 3.5/5

Mayank Shekhar (HT) –  Forrest Gump in its scope, Rain Man in its approach, slightly convenient in its ‘Bollywood opera’, world-class in its photographic treatment (Ravi K Chandran), more sorted than Kurban (from the same producer, along a similar theme); you can sense, throughout, honesty in the film’s purpose – 3/5

Taran Adarsh (Indiafm) – On the whole, MNIK is a fascinating love story, has an angle of religion and a world-shaking incident as a backdrop. It not only entertains, but also mesmerises, enthrals and captivates the viewer in those 2.40 hours. At the same time, a film like MNIK is sure to have a far-reaching influence due to its noble theme. I strongly advocate, don’t miss this one – 4.5/5 

Gaurav Malani (Indiatimes) – Like his placard that reads ‘Repair almost anything’, Shah Rukh Khan makes up for every minor inconsistency in the film. My Name is Khan is worth a watch on his name alone – 3/5

Nikhat Kazmi (TOI) – It’s Khan, from the epiglotis (read deep, inner recesses), not `kaan’ from the any-which-way, upper surface. In other words, it’s the K-factor — Karan (Johar) and Khan (Shah Rukh) — like you’ve never seen, sampled and savoured before. My Name is Khan is indubitably one of the most meaningful and moving films to be rolled out from the Bollywood mills in recent times. It completely reinvents both the actor and the film maker and creates a new bench mark for the duo who has given India some of the crunchiest popcorn flicks – 5/5

Sukanya Varma (Rediff) – The verbose nature of the script doesn’t leave much scope for gestures. Although the image of Khan standing on a deserted highway with a sign board that reads ‘Repair almost everything’ is true to the soul of this film. Even if it’s the only one of its kind – 3/5

Khalid Mohamed (PFC) – At the end of 18 reels,  you do carry something precious  home – SRK and Kajol. They are absolutely electric. Undoubtely, they don’t make’em like that anymore. And never will, which is why MNIK is absolutely compulsory viewing. You may have problems with it. Yet it is a must-must-see – 4/5

Shweta Parande (Buzz18) – One of the important films of Hindi cinema. Although it messes up its length, there are some touching scenes not to be missed. My Name is Khan has many messages and not just an ‘Autism Alert’ and ‘Terror Alert’. Go for it and enjoy interpreting – 3/5

Phelim O’Neill (Guardian) – It’s stunningly shot, on mostly US locations, and tackles plenty of hard topics – its deceptively light touch gets heavier as things progress. It’s a shame that much of the intended audience will not see this well-intentioned, slickly constructed and just plain likable film, for reasons that are very little to do with the film itself – 3/5

So, the verdict is between 3 and 5, scoring 3.5, 4, 4.5 and 5 too! Seems like much better than KANK which had quite extreme reactions.

 

One more director joins the club. Tarun Mansukhani will make his acting debut in Karan Johar’s new film My Name Is Khan. The news seems to be all hush-hush so far. Strangely, his name is missing from the credit list of the film on IMDB also though the list is quite long. For surprise ? Or just cheap thrill ? Or are we going blind ?

We discovered it when we recently saw the international trailer of the film. Do check it out. 

The first song promo of Karan Johar’s My Name Is Khan is out. Sajdaa. Lyrics by Niranjan Iyengar (wow) and music by Shankar Ehsaan Loy. Check it out!

Call it a strange cocktail of reel and real life. When Shah Rukh Khan and Karan Johar were busy revealing the first look of My Name Is Khan, the screenwriter of the film Shibani Bathija was busy with Aamir Khan’s Bharat Darshan yatra. In the film My Name Is Khan, Shah Rukh Khan’s character goes out on a cross country tour chasing the President and now for the promotion of 3 Idiots, Aamir Khan is almost doing the same, the difference is, he is asking people to chase him. And both have one person in common, Shibani Bathija.

If the gossipmongers are to be believed, Aamir’s Bharat Darshan yatra have been planned and written by Bhatija. What, when, how, clues and everything else. She is also busy scripting a film for Bhanja-jaan and has been paid a fat cheque by Bhanja-jaan’s sasumaa! No prizes for guessing ki kiske pocket me rocket hai! So, has she switched camps ? or she is having the best of bollywood ? Our sources say that she prefers Aamir Khan much more than Shah Rukh Khan! So, dont be surprised if you see Aamir Khan in a film scripted by Bathija soon.

Check out this Varanasi video from 0o:14 to 00:40. If we are not wrong, the woman walking behind Aamir Khan is none other than Shibani Bathija.

A new poster of Shah Rukh Khan-Kajol starrer My Name Is Khan has been released. And this one says bit more….An ordinary man….An extraordinary journey…..For Love! The first trailer of this Karan Johar film will be out today.