White noise is a random signal (or process) with a flat power spectral density. In other words, the signal's power spectral density has equal power in any band, at any center frequency, having a given bandwidth. White noise is considered analogous to white light which contains all frequencies.

Who am I?

Neo-hippie cinephile. Follower of the great Jim Morrison who once said "If the doors of perception are cleansed, everything would appear to man as it truly is, infinite."

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Satyajit Ray's Speaking of Films

Finally got done with this amazing collection of essays by the great man last night. Most of the contents deserves to end up in a text book for film making, and there are very few parts where Ray expresses his opinion on matters, rather than explain his technique or thinking behind a certain method. Translated by the award winning Gopa Majumdar from the Bangla Bishoy Chalachitra, who has done great justice to this I am sure, much like Ray's Feluda stories. I am indebted to Jabberwock, on whose blog I first heard about this.

The first few chapters showcase the history of film-making, with a emphasis on Russian cinema and then gradually progress to Bangla cinema of yesteryears with sporadic mention of a few American directors of the pre-talkies era. It is apparent that Ray's favorite Russian film maker among a few geniuses he talks about is Eisenstein. Will try to watch his Battleship Potempkin which Netflix claims to possess in its vast collection. The biggest challenge these film makers faced in a controlled USSR was the lack of freedom of speech in its true sense. It is unfortunate to note that film makers today face similar problems in what is known as the world's biggest democracy due to the Censor Board's rape of creativity.

By no stretch of the imagination can I be considered a connoisseur of Indian classical music. However, the chapter on background music is enthralling and packed with useful information such as the use of certain ragas to portray certain a certain time of day. He talks about his artistic association with maestros like Pandit Ravi Shankar and Ustad Vilaayat Khan for his initial films, before he gained the experience and confidence to compose music for his own films.

Ray maintains throughout the book that dialog should be a director's last weapon of choice after he has exhausted more subtle options like angles and lighting conditions. However, his admiration for Bibhuti Bhushan's writing is apparent as he says that the writer's stories are so descriptive that the art department's job becomes a piece of cake and even the script writer's. He stresses the need for natural dialog - lines that the character's equivalent in real life is likely to speak, thus far removed from over the top and histrionic lines of theater.

The chapter that got me thinking the most was the one on color. Today it appears as if every film maker takes color for granted. What Ray says is that this is hardly the correct approach. Directors should only use color if they are able to justify it. Citing examples from his work like a married woman's vermilion or the shade of blue of the sky, he talks of an era when color was new to the Indian and thus Bangla film industry, not to mention an expensive option.

A couple of chapters are dedicated to Apur Sansar and Charulata and answering a critic named Mr. Rudra, mostly justifying his methods and answering some ridiculous criticism in my opinion, such as the film's script not following the original story. Apur Sansar still remains one of my favorite for its sheer tragedy, paling even the classical Shakespearean ones. I have got to see Charulata. Didn't know Tagora had woven such an intricate spiderweb of emotions with so many human angles, long before Hindi cinema was smarting over the Pati, Patni aur Woh concept.

The last few essays talks about his experience of working with amateur actors and their surprising natural acting skills and unexpected lack of camera shyness, most notably Chunibala Devi (Indir Thakuran in Pather Panchali). I like these essays for they reveal the more or less down to earth man behind the strict facade of the dominant director, which mind you, is essential to the completion of a successful film.

Some interesting points that came through were his dislike for theater because of its confining of space, and thus the imagination of the director, his dislike for Shantiniketan because of its emphasis on Oriental art as opposed to modern art, his pragmatic approach to the question of success of parallel cinema (he maintains that it is a director's duty to be loyal to the producer, who, is really a businessman while remaining true to art), and finally his fears of the death of the art of cinema in India. When the essay was written there may have been a dearth of creative cinema, but I think he would have been fairly satisfied with the current state of cinema in India, notwithstanding the Censor board of course.


WHAT'S IN A NAME ? said...

Ray was undoubtedly one of the Grand Masters of Cinema of his time along with Bergman and Kurosawa. Though some critics feel he is overrated, one cannot deny his contribution in showcasing Indian cinema on the world stage. Along with Charulata, I would also recommend Seemaboddho and Mahanogor for you to see.

ad libber said...

Watch Charulata. You hate her, you love her, you grieve for her. It has to be one of the most profoundly emotional experience ever to watch her story unfold in layers of unsaid words and glances.

ArSENik said...

@WIAM: Yes, big fan of Kurosawa too. Keep hearing a lot about Bergman. Gotta check out his work. The critics must be crazy. Saying Ray is overrated is like calling Kishore Kumar dumb (as in goonga). I own Seemaboddho. It is my favorite after Jana Aranya and Pratidwandi. Mahanogor I have to see again. Was too young when I saw it.

@AL: Yes, I got that feeling from Ray's essay. Will watch it soon.

Mala said...

Ray: brilliant, his movies: timeless! I agree with his theory on the use of color. It is definitely so taken for granted these days and also overused - especially all the colored filters used these days that makes you feel the entire cast has jaundice or something. I will check in my collection if I have Charulata. If I do, I'll mail you the DVD.

ArSENik said...

Thanks a lot, but Youtube has the entire movie. In fact, it has a lot of his movies. Sigh! Isn't it surprising how piracy increases viewership manyfold?