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Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Poet’s Film in Cannes



The celebration of the best in cinema is on in Cannes. It is happening from 13th to 24 May 2015. Here there are multiple fora to showcase the cinematic  genius of our times.  Short Film Corner is one of them, where Satat (Continued), a short film by Delhi based poet-filmmaker Devi Prasad Mishra is featured. It is the  assertion of independent cinema. We find joy in talking about the film, the film maker and the hope that such films bring about for the revival of meaningful cinema. - NDFS Desk




    The 18 minute long film Satat (Continued) has been featured in the Cannes Film Festival in Short Film Corner. Its director is Devi Prasad Mishra, who is the renowned Hindi poet and short story writer – he lives in Delhi. 


Satat (Continued) The Film:

 The film that features in the Cannes Film Festival is about two Indian adivasi children. In  the backdrop of the twittering  birds,  shriek of cranes and rumbling of mining at a distance the two village children are playing ‘gulli danda’ on a dusty village road.

Pedestrians, herdsmen, cyclists and motorcyclists pass by them. It does not bother the two playing lads. They go on with their game.
One motorcyclist is even suspicious of the camera crew that is apparently shooting the playing boys. He is the mining contractor.
 In a while one of the boys is called by his mother. He rides his bicycle and cycles out to reach his mother. The other boy walks a distance to drink water.  He comes back but the other boy has yet to surface from his not so distant home- he finally materializes but hurries down and upand down to the pond to tend to his fishing net in the nearby pond. Eventually the left-alone boy follows him and brings him back. The play starts again.
 The play may have interruptions and suspensions but it cannot be terminated. The play is metaphor of life that must continue.  The film is almost without the spoken words. It is tacit, imagistic, metaphorical, and poetic. It articulates itself through innocence of human presence and metaphor of continuity. 

How Satat (Continued) happened:


Satat happened accidentally- Devi was in a tribal belt on the cusp of Madhya Pradesh – Orissa border doing a communitarian documentary when he saw two village boys playing gulli danda. He immediately had a sketchy narrative popping up with a blurred beginning, middle and end. He talked to children and briefed them as to what he wanted. The film was shot endlessly through the glare of the morning and mid day sun as the game went on. He told his cameraman Tarique Mohammad that the film will go to Cannes and it did.  So he found the characters and the story then and there on the kuccha road; he made the non- actor Adivasi boys Sardar and Balchand to act in an impromptu, sketchy and uncertain cultural venture. It took him and his editor Ajmal Khan days and months to carve out a visual narrative and to put together the right images at right places. 

The Devi Prasad Mishra:

Known for his moral courage, reclusive poetic habitat, and his disdain for literary machinations Devi won two documentary projects from PSBT, and got National Award  for one of them The Female Nude.    He has almost completed a documentary feature All This Because. It is about the loneliness of womanhood amid the male dominated social prejudices, male gaze and male desires. It is about a rebel woman poet Jyotsana who eventually committed suicide. He has almost completed a  feature film Mahabhinishkramana ( The Great Going Out),  in shoe string budget, wherein the non- actor Adivasis have acted.  It busts the primary education system atrociously designed for the remote rural children.
 Having been awarded Sanskriti Samman, Bharat Bhushan Smriti Samman, Sharad BilloreSamman and chosen by one among thirteen faces by Illustrated Weekly of India for his poetry Devi follows Cannes phenomenon avidly watching its official selections over the years, the French Cultural Centre being the primary source. Even though he is not in Cannes due to his pressing schedules he thinks that it certainly is an exciting hub for filmmakers.  Here the best experiments and concepts  in cinema, and spirit of iconoclasm are exhibited left, right and centre, literally .
 A  film buff involved in running a film society in his home town Allahabad he now lives in New Delhi with his artist wife Hem Jyotika, and son Udbhav who is learning sculpture at Jamiaand making some  real weird music,  a small part of it Devi has used in his film Satat.
Devi started as a poet, he wants to live it out as a film maker, he quips. 

On Independent Cinema & Contemporary Hindi Cinema:


He feels that the true independent cinema is like writing poetry- you don’t have money, you are not paid for your cultural production, you are always discouraged to do what you desire to do, you are doubted as deviant, you don’t have a structured audience. So even if he has three screenplays almost ready for full feature length films based on his own three short stories he is sceptic about taking them to a pragmatic end. 

He feels that the present phase of Hindi cinema has discovered the rawness of underclass dialect and vernacular. But alas, except for Vishal and to a certain degree Dibakar no cinema director has a philosophical and ideological and political mooring. The new main stream Hindi cinema has generally ceased to be that stupid but it is  violence centric, or libertarian - it is forgetful of Ritwik and Satyajit Ray. It is Hollywood way where you have enviable performances, gangsters, spectacular scenarios, smart camera work, witticism at its best but no innate narrative. It only reflects the neo liberal market spirit. The underclass is being portrayed as Lampat. “If we can take a reference from contemporary cinema then what we need to be inspired from is the cinema of Dardene Brothers(France ) or Kaurismaki Brothers(Finland) or Mike Leigh(England)or AsgharFarhadi and JafarPanahi(Iran) or Nuri BilgeCeylan(Turkey),” he avers.


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