July 24, 2011

Understanding Cinema Lecture: 'Salaam Bombay!' and the Initiation of the UC Project

It was really heartening to see the positive response to ‘Salaam Bombay!’(1988) among the students. I was a little confused after the relative ‘failure’ of ‘Pather Panchali’ and was reconsidering my selection of movies. Well, I don’t think I was wrong in selecting ‘Pather Panchali’, but perhaps could not time it well. I should have screened it later, at least after ‘Salaam Bombay!’

Through these two movies I have started explaining to the students the limitations of the classical narrative structure that was introduced to them through ‘Vertigo’. Sticking to the classical narrative definitely limits cinema and it is indeed necessary to defy these rules. However, I have also, and I will keep repeating this, stressed upon the importance of the classical narrative. It is very important to understand it completely, before denouncing it. And for all practical purposes, it is safe, and generally rewarding, to obey these rules.

I also briefly covered some cinematography topics, like camera equipments, and FPS. It was also interesting to note that the students are generally more interested in learning these film-making aspects, rather than understanding the ‘greatness’ of movies I screen. I would try to incorporate this observation into my future lectures.

The most exciting thing, however, is the initiation of the ‘Understanding Cinema Project.’ I am dividing the students into film-making teams, to be led by the Producers. After briefly explaining to them what a producer does (and he does not just put in the money!), I selected all producers I need from the volunteers. They will now select the directors they want to work with, and then divide the entire batch into their film-making units. There is still time before the topics are allotted and they start working on their scripts. Before that I want to make sure that each group consists of people who share good rapport among themselves. That, in my opinion, is the most important thing in a film-making unit, more important than the collective or individual talent.

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