A Literary Journey: Shakespearewallah

Entered the venerable white tent about five minutes ago, sat down, looked up at the stage and whisper-screamed: HOLY CRAP I’M SITTING IN FRONT OF VISHAL BHARDWAJ!

In”The Craft of Cinema”, Bedabrata Pain is in conversation with India’s new Shakespearewallah: as a student of Film Studies (as a pass subject, but shhh) who has heard professors fanboying over the very man sitting in front of yours truly, this is a transcendental experience. Mr Bhardwaj contends the idea of Shakespeare being boring, mentioning how he ignored the advice of an expert who made the latter statement. He speaks about the effect Throne of Blood had on his cinematic view for Makdee; he talks about how he continues with the burden of Shakespeare in Maqbool and Omkara. The talk turns to Oscar nominations over the past decade: Scorcese’s movies and Birdman pop into the talks. What is the science of Indian script-building? Emotions, answers Mr Bhardwaj.

The talk turns to the craft of cinema and Mr Bhardwaj stresses that Indian filmmaking needs to be learnt and is as much a craft as any other. “To break the rules, one must first learn the rules,”as he puts it. He goes on to give the example of European cinema actively defying the hegemony of the studio system in Hollywood. I learnt about this LAST SEMESTER and at this point I’m in raptures, I’m unable to deal, I’m unable to can.

How does one direct actors? Mr Bhardwaj mentions Pankaj Kapoor, Irrfan Khan and others and explains that his directing process evolves with each one. How many takes does he prefer to take? He elaborates on his usage of space and his perception of the cinematic stage being similar to a theatrical one, and within it, allowing the actors to move and “perform the way they want”, intervening only if he thinks an improvement can be made.

The craziness of schedules is lamented: “Every day, everything goes wrong!” The confidence about artistic pursuit is a lot about the fine line between foolishness, and bravery, and inspiration is about surrounding yourself with people smarter than you, Mr Pain quips. He asks about Mr Bhardwaj’s collaboration with Gulzaar Saab because, as he puts it, “The audience wants to know!” Mr Bhardwaj refers to Gulzaar saab as his “creative mother”, mentioning his reverence for his genius. In fact, he says he writes his scripts much how Gulzaar Saab writes poetry. A magical session ends with Mr Bhardwaj reciting a shayeree, RIGHT AFTER WHICH I MANAGE TO ASK HIM if any particular director influenced him especially for his adaptations of Shakespeare. Kurosawa, he says, not before asking me, “Where exactly are you?!” (Perils of being shy and short).

There were more questions: debates began about analogue vs digital, brought to the world’s attention by Christopher Nolan and Quentin Tarantino: Mr Bhardwaj comments that one cannot fight the progress of technology, no matter the nostalgia of cinema, and a really good question is unearthed about which amongst Haider, Maqbool and Omakara were the toughest to direct, and Mr Bhardwaj even regales us with the story of how, in his early years, he was once “traumatised” by a very scary cameraman, but nONE OF THAT MATTERS BECAUSE OH MY GOD I SPOKE TO VISHAL BHARDWAJ.

This was a fantastic session of the once-in-a-lifetime stuff dreams are made of. Stay tuned for news on the next session with none other than Shobhaa De.

PS: Mr Pain said that if we write a good enough story centred on women and women’s issues, he and Mr Bhardwaj will turn it into a movie. Okay, Mr Pain. Challenge accepted. I’ll hold you to your word. (Just kidding. I will write the story though.)

#KLF2015

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