Thursday, September 25, 2014

www.ravideshpande.com is up and running!

After months of frustration - phone calls, emails, and what have you with the primary vendor, the website is up and running. Feel like screaming with joy. It's a relief!!! www.ravideshpande.com.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Consider this...

           Shahid, a film by Hansal Mehta

           "From reluctant jihadist to crusading lawyer, the life of Shahid Azmi was a remarkable one. Gunned down while defending accused Mumbai bomber Fahim Ansari, Azmi was transformed into an unlikely martyr. But Hansal Mehta’s new film is much more than a biopic; Shahid captures the zeitgeist of a generation.
Shahid’s story began in the slums of Govandi in eastern Mumbai amid violent riots between Hindus and Muslims. A young witness to injustice, Shahid fled his home to a jihadist camp deep in the mountains but, never a dedicated soldier, he deserted as a teenager and returned home — only to be imprisoned on terrorist charges. Tutored by older political prisoners, he resolves to fight injustice upon his release. Finding work in a law office, Shahid struggles against a system steeped in contradictions and hypocrisies, defending clients labelled "anti-nationalist," "radicals" or "terrorists."
Hansal Mehta’s Shahid is as much a testament to a remarkable life cut tragically short as it is a cathartic journey through a city filled it seems with equal measure grave injustice and great idealism."
Cameron Bailey
Artistic Director, Toronto International Film Festival.
Consider this: By the time he was gunned down, Shahid Azmi had at least 17 acquittals to his credit, a great benchmark for the small span of time he was an advocate.
So why am I writing about this film? Or rather, why am I compelled to write about the experience of this film? Because the film is as close to a real tale as I have seen. The real story of the film concluded with Shahid’s death but just 2 years ago. His strife is still fresh in our minds. It is a Mumbai tale that Mumbaites know. Difficult to satisfy a critical Mumbaite filmmaker’s mind with a Mumbai story.
In the film, the protagonist is a young lad from the FTII stable of actors, Rajkumar Yadav. Leave aside the fact that the bloke does not age through the 2 decades that the narrative unfolds. This fact does not bother me and has not bothered others while watching his stunning underplayed performance. All the other characters (Casting Director Mukesh Chabra) move through the fabric of the film story with finesse  (Prableen Sandhu, Mohd Zeeshan Ayyub, Baljinder Kaur, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Kay Kay Menon, Vipin Sharma, Shalini Vatsa, Vinod Rawat, Suvinder Pal, Pawan Kumar, Vivek Ghamande, Paritosh Sand, Prabal Panjabi, Yusuf Husain)
Their mannerisms and expressions are palpable, the interactions are humanly common stance, and the scenes make me angry, make me cry, make my blood rush through my temples, and sometimes make me smile, even squirm with discomfort.
Hansal’s approach to acting as well as most things in the film has been organic in nature, and bereft of conventional method. Many scenes, even dialogues have often been reworked on location. It is a dangerous terrain for a Director to operate because an actor can easily bend a scene in a fashion that could alter the earlier intent. Hansal chose a difficult route to extract from artists what they felt was the most honest delivery. So in the court scene, when the judge too becomes argumentative with the advocates and the accused, the theatre split into laughter, or when the naked Shahid is tortured in the Lodhi Police Station Cell, the viewer in the next seat clenched his fists.
There are other reasons too why this impact is astounding. The Cell is lit by a single tube, and does not light up the protagonist in agony.
Consider this: The DOP (Anuj Dhawan) saw the location (A friend’s godown in Andheri) and said, “Perfect! Lets shoot!” And Hansal as a Director had the balls to do exactly that. Hence the spaces become volumes that the viewer can relate to and inhabit.
Consider this: Shahid’s house in the film is Shahid’s own house, and Shahid’s office in the film where he was shot dead, is in actuality Shahid office. A year after his murder, when they were shooting in her house, Shahid’s real mother asked to meet the actor. She just wanted to see him…For her Shahid was still a part of her ‘present continuous’. Her other son, Khalid Azmi (Played by Vaibhav) has gone on record to say that the film is 95% close to the real story.
So Hansal’s choices, or democratically speaking the crew’s and the cast’s choices were nakedly honest. Hansal was able to guide them through to keep the story of Shahid alive and true. It is one thing to say, fine, I do not care that the actor’s face is not lit up in a scene, and yet another to accept that different digital cameras will land on the shoot on a regular basis.
Consider this: They get a RED MX camera one day, a Red One on another and the next day an Alexa. On some days all they had was a Canon 5D. Hansal and his DOP (Anuj Dhawan) have the guts and gumption to mount it and shoot, to make the most of the time available with the given location and the cast on roll call. What a nightmare for the DI artist and the Post Production technical crew.
It looks like a film about the muslims for the muslims by the muslims. However, there is not a single crewmember except the artist Arif and the Professor (Played by Mohd Zeeshan Ayyub and Yusuf Husain respectively) who are muslims. Not the protagonist, neither the Director, nor any of the artists, nor even the writers. And the film is about the plight of the muslims in India. Or perhaps anywhere and everywhere in the world. Simple folk who are pious, righteous, and who wean through the hard struggle of life. Muslims who are wronged for the only reason – that they are Muslims.
And yet, the story could be of any community, as one never becomes conscious of the ‘religion’ in the story but is sensitized only to the situation and the events. Go see any other film about the Muslim community made with adequate or handsome funds and compare. Which is the more engaging, which is more honest, which is the tougher film to make, which is bringing a truer story for the audience’s appetite in today’s time of the RTI, which has more layers, which sets you thinking, which churns your bowels, which makes you feel guilty, helpless, angry, which is the one not biased, which is the one that makes you more aware, more empowered, which is the one non exploitative?
So there is no definite genre that the story can be pinned by. It is neither a courtroom dram, although the crucial scenes are set in courts, neither is it a romantic tragedy, although Shahid’s supportive wife leaves him and then he dies, nor is it a martyr heroic film, although Shahid ends his life as a martyr for a cause…In fact, it is all this and more because Hansal does not steer it to a dramatic fictional tale but insists steadfastly to narrate the story of an individual with all the truisms intact.
Consider this: Shahid was supposed to be a well-funded film by a corporate production house with a star in place. Hansal and Sunil Bohra (Producer) chose the other route lest the shenanigans of the star system or the numbers game shackle them. And they embraced the hardship with a tougher stance of honesty to make a moving, compassionate film.
For any Director to touch and mould his material with a humanitarian approach is one of the most difficult directing tasks. Hansal has not just immersed himself with the material but internalized it, forgotten his leanings, left aside the grammar of filmmaking that he learnt through his earlier seven feature films, as well as rid himself of easy shooting or post production solutions.
Consider this: The Editor Apurva Asrani also co wrote the film. The earlier decision was to make a non-linear narrative as the world over, the traditional linear narrative is considered to be passé and not smart enough for today’s times. Apu is also known for drastic usage of NGs (No-good takes), jump cutting, and edgy editing styles. With the material in front of them, they both opted to be dumb but true to the material and formed a linear narrative! Apu’s edit does not leap out of the screen at you but lets you immerse yourself in the development of the story unhindered.
Consider this: A veteran artist has reservations because her role seems to be just 3 pages in the courtroom. So she decides nearly 8 hours before the shoot to decline. She has doubted the Director because he has said that we will improvise the scene and the dialogues as we shoot. But that is the organic way that Hansal wanted to make the film by involving everyone concerned with the scenes.
Consider this: When the village in the hills threw up extras that were Hindus, the lead actor Raj Kumar Yadav had to train them stepwise (12 steps) how to do Namaaz. The Director read numbers in order to get shots with movements in cohesion from the group. The sound recordist had but just one assistant for the schedule. That is brave for a film with live sound (Sound Recordist: Mandar Kulkarni).

Although the temptation to turn voyeuristic is huge, Hansal’s camera does not try to barge close to the man who is in flames in the riot filled streets of 1993 Mumbai to sensationalize it, nor does it travel from sunset silhouettes to a frontal of the twosome’s faces up North in POK as they share a happy repartee moment, nor does it underline the most significant moment of Shahid’s assassination in the office with a close up or a long shot. Hansal and the DOP refrain from the usual temptations of over dramatizing the situation. The screenplay (Sameer Gautam Singh and Apurva Asrani), the Mise en scène, the acting, and the editing too blends the subtle manner of telling, aided by a music track that does not interfere with the realism. During the depiction of the love story, the dialogues are as matter of fact as can be, and so are the situations.

Hansal’s ingenious shot division helps us see events in a seamless fashion. This Spartan style of filmmaking lends way to a new language that is close to real life, and not the crafted, arranged carefully kind of a story, spoon fed by loud, crass everything-to-be-said-through-dialogue and underlined by music. The proximity to the material increases manifold and the viewer relates to the unfoldment of the story in a much more integral, much more organic manner. No wonder that audiences in Canada (At the Toronto Film Festival) and at the MAMI waited in long ques due to ‘word of mouth’ to see the film. And no wonder that Hansal has had standing ovations at both places.

Consider this: While Music was being discussed for the film, the sound Engineer was asked what ought to be the music. “Sparse, minimal, hardly there types”, he said. His dictat was followed. (Music: Karan Kulkarni)
Hansal’s directorial abilities were never questioned, and infact lauded several times (Dil Pe Mat le Yaar, Chhal, Jayate, etc.) Nor were his sensibilities (It was his own decision to stay away in ‘Wanvas’ at Lonawala for so many years). He meandered just about everywhere in the Mumbai Bollywood terrain of storytelling. This film has cemented his road. Hansal has to start walking on this path which will lead him to greater heights and us as viewers to greater experiences that he will invoke as a refined old-wine director.
I just hope that the film sees the light of the day and does not but just roam the festivals of discerning viewers across the globe. And hope against hope that the authorities and Political parties do not intervene with their typical horse blinds on release or before…
Consider this: Hansal and Sunil Bohra (Producer) have refrained from censoring the film and releasing it because they want audiences to see the film in this form; the more the better – wonder what will transpire at the censor board.
It is a significant film of our times about our times. There, I have said it…

Saturday, June 11, 2011

rites of passage part 1

rites of passage part 1


Dear Aum,
You will embark day after on a Solo journey of a different kind. It is aptly called "The rites of passage". You might want to go someday to the works of Arnold van Gennep to understand the genesis. But let me make it simpler for you. The Rite of passage is a state of transition induced by a separation or shift from an earlier environment, group, or in your case the family, to a new environment which is your school, and then a a return or a reinclusion...
http://feverihad.blogspot.com/
Learning The first thing that you will learn is that any shift or transition or separation is quite painful for us humans, and it teaches us some emotional skills to tackle the pain. I honestly hope I learn some new skills for what has to come...
It is a very emotional moment for us, and the only relief is that you are going to a school which will offer you much more than this busy, overpopulated, and mis managed city.
When you read this, you would have probably spent some time at the school, "grown up" a bit, maybe sprouted a mustache...
Loneliness The empty spaces, moments, and one way endless monologues will trouble you much more than they will hound us. We both and you have to traverse this path together in order to reach a better destination, a better future. The Mumbai city does not offer that morrow...
Friendships
That's beautiful. Lots of friends. Some heartbreaks, some shocks. Some relationships that will last a lifetime. Loads of sharing. You will enjoy this Aum, because you are so friendly, helpful, understanding, and appreciative. You also have to learn inclusion. It is a natural progression and will happen. You must learn to nurture relationships because they are a gift. Friendships are the treasures that life offers. There is little else that will give you more satisfaction than this.
More to come...

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Sahyadri


Well, he did get in.
He is happy and our eyes often get moist at the prospect.
Aum

Monday, March 02, 2009

Gurgaon-Dubai Dejavu

Spent better part of the last week in New Delhi.
It so happens that most Advertising Agencies have shifted to Gurgaon bag and baggage. Friends have followed suit and prefer to live in the vicinity of their work spheres.
I am as sympathetic towards them and their kin as I am towards my life in Mumbai. Gurgaon makes fun of history in the most palpable manner;
1. There never was a discipline called “town planning” in India or the region. Harrappa, Mohenjadaro, The Indus valley civilization never existed and thus we do not have a tradition of city planning. The Sydney Botanical gardens are of no use to the populace there. So are all the green areas developed by cities around the world a whim and fancy of some urban planner.
2. Global warming is a myth. Climate change has not made India lose an island recently (Lohachara island). The fact that Gurgaon is in a sensitive seismic area & prone to earthquakes is a falsity. There is no danger to our progenies or us. For generations to come, Gurgaon as a city and New Delhi as the capital of India will continue to exist without scars from the vagaries of weather, disease, the lack of water, or the abuse of the environment.
3. The following “non-issues” do not matter to the deciding authorities
A. The depletion of ground water
B. Increasing air pollution
C. Lack of proper solid waste disposal and sewer system.
Hence the powers of the Haryana govt have decided that 58 more sectors will be developed in addition to the already existing 57 sectors in Gurgaon according to the Master Plan 2021.
On the other hand, you could say that this is glaringly true of any new city in India. Or is it that being a mere filmmaker, I do not comprehend the complexity of issues faced by the builders, the planners, and the decision makers…
& In the same vein, it does not pain me to see this plunder and rape of mother earth. India is shining and winning everywhere.
It is not a recession here but just a slowdown.
I go to sleep a without a worry, a happy man.
Cause the next morning will herald a glorious day of new achievements, newer breakthroughs by Indians, and a vision that continually assures me of the bright future that my two boys will have.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Venita's Diwali Saga

I don't know about you guys - but I had a really exciting Diwali.

I was arrested, hauled off to the cop station and held for three hours. I attach my column with the paper 'Herald' in Goa that explains all. If you want to read my other columns ( quite an exciting read I promise - one of them is 'How I started A Riot') you can go to www.savegoa.com

To put this in context - for the last two years I have been involved with the Goa Bachao Abhiyaan - a group that has been fighting to save Goa from an awful fate. The Government is busy making plans to sell Goa to Mining Interests, set up hideous SEZ projects, and turn the lush countryside into a sea of concrete.

In my village I have started the Moira Action Commitee and we have been questioning illegal construction for some time now. This happens invariably at the 'Gram Sabha's which are the village gatherings where one gets to question the Panchayat and those in authority.

Here I thought I was just a writer - but I have become an accidental activist. Right now my life is schizophrenic. I am writing a script for Karan Johar while my life is a film by Shyam Benegal.

Go ahead. Enjoy the story.

The Accidental Activist – Will this happen to you next?


I am an ordinary person. I could live next door to you. I have four dogs, two cats, and a daughter that I adore. I write scripts for business and books for pleasure. Like you - I believed that we lived in a democracy and we all had a right to speak up and be heard. I believed that we were safe in Goa. In the past few days I've learnt to think differently.

On Sunday the police forcibly hauled me off my seat in the Moira Gram Sabha, dragged me to a jeep, drove me to the police station and detained me.

All I was doing was attending a Gram Sabha. I had barely stood up to ask a question when a villager interrupted by producing the columns that had featured in this paper and demanded that I apologize for writing them. My reply was simple. If I had written even one thing that was not fact, they were welcome to protest in the same forum by writing to the editor. I would certainly not apologize. I believed that we still lived in a democracy with the full right to have an opinion and air it. I was told 'We will pass a resolution saying you cannot speak in the Gram Sabha until you apologize'. Instead of controlling the situation the Sarpanch said 'Reply to him'. I refused.

The tactic changed. 'Remove her from the Gram Sabha! She is not on the electoral rolls.' Suddenly the lone protestor was a group of men baying that I be thrown out of the Sabha. They ran towards me, threatening to drag me out of the hall.

I sat firm on my chair insisting 'I am on the electoral rolls. Let the rolls be produced and checked.' ( Electoral Rolls for Moira – Part Number 8 Serial Number 809). This was completely ignored by the Sarpanch and Panchayat. They sat back and watched as I was surrounded by ranting men issuing threats 'we'll see how you live in this village… we'll see how you step out of doors…' Ironically they were also protesting the fact that I had in my columns in the Herald spoken of 'rowdies' at the Gram Sabha. And their protest proved ample proof of what they denied in words.

There I was – one woman surrounded by a group of screaming, threatening men. The Sarpanch scribbled a note on a piece of paper and the police swung into action. Did they take into hand the rowdies who were trying to intimidate me? Of course not. They grabbed me and forcibly dragged me from my chair. I was pulled out of the Sabha and shoved into a police jeep. When friends insisted they come with me they were pushed away from the jeep and I was driven off.

Two women panchas sat and watched a single woman being intimidated and manhandled without saying a word. A Sarpanch who writes 'Advocate' before his name ignored every rule of the law and wrote a police complaint without verifying the facts which it was his duty to do so. His complaint said I was to be removed because the Sabha had passed a resolution to that effect 'unanimously'. This is the same Sarpanch who refuses to cancel building licences despite the unanimous Gram Sabha resolution that they be revoked.

I made phone calls. By the time I arrived at the police station press and moral support had started to arrive. The police refused to give us a copy of the complaint until the PI arrived. After a wait of three hours he did. His explanation? 'Madam the Sarpanch is in the authority in that situation. We will do what the authority tells us.' I believed the police were meant to uphold law and order and be the instrument of justice. I now learn that they are merely there to do what the authorities order them to – whether it is right, wrong or motivated with malice.

By the time activists from Utt Goenkara, GBA, Aldona Bachao Abhiyaan, and other concerned villagers had arrived, the police had changed their tune. I was now informed that I had been taken into police custody for my own safety. So was anything being done against those who had made me unsafe in the first place? 'You please write to the authorities and complain about the Sarpanch. We will take up the matter then.'

I believed that we were safe in Goa. I believed democracy assured us the basic right to speak up. But I have now learnt for myself how voices are silenced. By wrongly bending the rules. By using the police as an unquestioning blunt instrument in the hands of those in power. By using strong arm tactics to intimidate and threaten.

It will take more than a bunch of village rowdies to scare or silence me. It is the future of my village that I am speaking up for. The place where my daughter will grow up. I will go a long long way to protect her inheritance.

But what terrifies me is the silence they have already forced on others.

The Assagao Gram Sabha was held at the same time as the Moira Gram Sabha. The previous day in Assagao a seventy year old man had been brutally beaten by goons because he had managed to get the Sarpanch finally brought to book. It should have been a stormy Gram Sabha. Instead there was silence. The topic was not even brought up. In that entire village not one person dared to speak up to condemn what had happened.

The violence, the goondaism is on my doorstep. And I live next door to you.

I know. I understand. You're an ordinary person. You don't want trouble. But you must speak up.

It will be your door that they break down next.


--
'You must be the change you want to see in the world' - Gandhi
Venita Coelho
Casa Coelho
House No. 876
Bambordem, Moira V.P.
Goa - 403507
9867166057 / 832 2470861

Friday, August 08, 2008

Of rain and plastic-the last three months Part 1

The Ghats

When i start out for a shoot or a reccee, the mood is upbeat. Add rain or the onset of monsoon - the promise of a good time to be had. I have tired of Mumbai locations as far as advertising films are concerned. Barring a Dabur in Mukesh Mills, I have shot most commercials out of Mumbai in the past few years.
Had the opportunity to shoot a small Cibaca relaunch film in Pune. I was lucky to have my favorite team in place.
My Favorite Crew
To begin with, Ravi Yadav, the DOP.
He was free from his myriad assignments after RACE, and tagged along happily. It's such a pleasure to work with this simple, unfussy, speedy craftsman who understands the brief in a jiffy.
His team works like invisible silent men; one hardly hears a shout or a bad word from any of them. Efficiency to the hilt.
It has been nearly a decade that i have worked with him, and not once has the man put me down.
He always has a kind word for the assistant directors, a joke or two for the art direction team, and great rapport with the production.

Secondly, my support system of the last 3 years, Dilip More, the Art Director.
Not many people know that Dilip has constructed the set for the goa fest two years in succession. Neither do they know that Dilip has been consistently working with Tarsem on his India shoots.
People do know that he is the only art director in Mumbai who treats his assistants like friends...Check out his chief Mahesh Salgaoncar and his idiosyncrasies. All photos by Dilip himself.

Dilip and Mahesh are from JJ school of arts.












Mahesh also has a striking resemblance to Dilip Acharya, my Production Manager.
To clinch the team was my best assistant director to date, Divya Rao.
Here is an example of art direction team's spirited dare devilry.
video
This was Divya's fourth film with us, and Ms. Dependability was all over the place, with her beaming persona.
The film was not difficult. But the approach I had taken was a bit labored. I was doing a Colgate film for the first time. The sensitive-sensible creative Sneha Nihalani had crafted a charming film for the brand. However, the pan-india-small-town-but-not-rural-not-down-market look, feel, and tone was a grey area for everyone. There were concerns galore whether the client will buy in to the look-'why don't you just shoot it in mumbai', etc. fears and apprehensions.
I wanted the client to get a feel of the India outside of Mumbai - our sensitivities have got smudged by the Film-Industry-recreations-of-India-within-Mumbai. The real India is out there, a few hundred kilometers away.
Coincidences Cibaca is lal-red, and on the day of the shoot, the entire art direction team accidentally wore red.
A musical Discovery
The films chief Harish Mishra, suggested a new music director, Ajit Varman. I met the man and was floored. I was sitting across this great composer who has given music to vijeta, saransh, and a load of other films. His compositions are being copied to date, and the man is wonderfully brimming with new music.
In less than 2 months, i have done four TVCs with this great man.
Took a while for the client to buy in to his indigenous clutter breaking tune. So we rerecorded with another music director duo. Finally, the client saw reason.
Another Colgate
By then they offered me yet another colgate film.
For this one i had the perfect location fit in kolhapur.
Kishyabapu's mala
Kolhapur is a fun place. You get to stay in a palace, see varied sights and people that enrich your senses.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Kalesaheb

It's 2 months since I shifted from the old office in Bandra.
What i miss is Kalesaheb-Arun Kale!

Kalesaheb was across in the opposite garage. Kalesaheb was a partner with Mohammed Khan in the glorious Enterprise Nexus days. To date, Kalesaheb's work is of a higher order than the norm in Indian Advertising.

Kalesaheb came much after i started working out of Excella.

& over the years I have grown fond of this simple but yet great man who evokes respect by his work, his work ethics, his passion for design, his endearing benevolence for the young, the talented, and the needy, and his endearing relationships (Advertising people who had worked under him used to rush to meet him the moment they came to know that he was in the garage opposite).

Every now & then, his friends (A directors, painters, and artists) of 40 years and more frequent his office to share, to discuss, and to thrash!!!

& I have learned to tread with trepidation to restrain my eagerness when i show my completed TVCs...

Mrs. Kale is sunshine-easy to smile. And as eager to lend a helping hand; a bounty of energy!!! & the talented Apu Kale that i lost to the US. I had nefarious plans to use him as an AD.

I’ll miss them…

Friday, December 21, 2007

Adieu to the Bandra office

On the 1st of Jan, 2008, my landlord lands up at the office I've had for 8 years.
"I have sold the property, Ravi. You will have to vacate..."
For 8 years, we have inhabited this beautiful, quiet office in the by lanes of Bandra.
"Some misunderstanding...My sons made the deal when I was in America."
He has been a nice man to know all these years.
"I would not have thought about this had you not told me 3 years ago that you wished to shift to a bigger place..."
He is still a nice man cause he can face read me.
So be it. Welcome 2008 with the first poke!
We will leave this place with fond memories, attachments to moments stuck to these walls; ppms at midnight, diwali get togethers and ganesh aratis. Heated discussions, breakdowns, and the air filled with mirth and laughter. My assistants will remember the endless nights on edits, and the early mornings before the shoots...
Me and Swati will miss it for the warmth we infused in to it...I had designed the office interiors with all my love for Swati, while she was far away in Australia...

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Kolhapur shoot





Tanned to near black, hoarse throat from shouting at the unit, and apprehensive about the end result. Isn't it always like that???