Why I love independent cinema

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Some of my favourite movies are independent films, which many of my friends either haven’t watched or feel bored by. But these films have helped me reflect and relax during some difficult times, and have lent my diary multiple helpful quotes and songs. Today, as I finished re-watching Paterson after an exhausting day, I felt like sharing some of my observations about independent cinema or cinema in general. And why it works, at least for me.

  • The way conversations are shot
    The use of wide shot in conversational scenes makes them more immersive, as opposed to the usual back and forth manner where you see only one of the actors’ faces at a time. As a viewer, you also have the body language to draw from, apart from just the dialogue.
  • Rhythm and editing
    While I understand why some people may find the rhythm to be off, I feel that there are more layers to how an indie or short film is cut. As you reach the end, the switch-overs, in many ways, inform why you arrived where you arrived. Some directors even shoot the movie sequentially so that the actors’ performance can grow with their characters and the story. I hereby plead guilty of watching too many film festival interviews!
  • Little hints written into the script
    I like how tiny character details and references are written into the script. Sometimes they are as simple as the colour of the scarf that the protagonist would wear. And music is almost like another character in the movie! What’s more is how these little details not only aid storytelling but also seem to seamlessly coalesce into rich characters. And the place and time references have sent me on many a ‘history  hunts’ on the web.
  • Sum of parts
    The slice-of-life narrative allows the story to take a more natural shape since the entire plot doesn’t revolve around one big event that happens either in the beginning or the end of the movie. Much like life itself, it’s a series of events, a sum of parts that make up a whole.
  • They’re all different
    Indie films are subtly funny, heartbreaking without being mawkish, fairly precise and yet universal. Although I have observed these commonalities in most of my favourite movies, there are, of course, many unique aspects in every one of them. It’s also weird that I relate to them differently every time I watch them!

Independent cinema has made me look for the details and fall in love with the art of storytelling and film-making. As Sister Sarah says in Lady Bird, maybe love is the same thing as paying attention.

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Image courtesy of pixabay.com
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A bad morning

auto-3079295_1280Have nowhere to be
Been struggling for three
Been milking my stay
My dad told me yesterday
Circling in a passive state
Maybe a decade too late
Dropped my daughter to work today
Said I don’t get how they play
This game of masters and money
I’ve been home for three
With nowhere else to be
No outlet for the tales inside me…

 

photo courtesy of pixabay.com

 

 

 

Just a bit of hope

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When I started this blog, a little over a year ago, I was in a difficult space personally, and felt like I needed an outlet. I like to think that I’ve since grown to embrace a lot more about myself and understood some of the tricks to ‘keep on and keeping on.’  I wanted to write this post as I wanted to share some of the things that I’ve learnt, but also, I am writing this for myself – to be able to come back to it whenever I feel lost again. So, here goes:

Surround yourself with positive, supportive and understanding people.

Recently, a friend gave me one of the best pieces of advice: “Think of what you would want to do and work towards it; don’t think too much about what you’re good at and what you could do.” I carry this with me every day as I hustle and move forward. And as I go, I am constantly reminded that my I CAN is more important than my IQ.

Limit your distractions, and do at least one thing every day that brings you closer to your goal. I’ve realised that I am usually able sleep better at night when I’ve been productive during the day.

Exercise. Sometimes your mind needs it more than your body does.

Don’t forget to take breaks, and take a moment to pat yourself on the back for how far you’ve come.

Know that there will always be good days and bad days, but you can find your way through it all.  Believe that going on is always the best bet.

 

Exploring Delhi: Humayun’s Tomb

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Those walls
Resting on symmetry
Climb up to a bulbous head
And finials reaching out
To a clear firmament.
Those walls
With holes and crevices
Let light in
And shine it out
Out of those rooms
Full of stories and sounds.
Those walls
Of rust red tombs
With six-pointed stars set in sandstone
Chipping away
Living on.

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Humayun’s Tomb was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1993, and has undergone extensive restoration work since.

One fine day, a friend and I were idle, magically, at the same time, and we decided to head to Humayun’s Tomb, the mausoleum of the Mughal emperor Humayun built in the 16th century in Delhi. What ensued was a realisation about how we often overlook the beauty of our own city while hankering for escapes to outstation destinations. A wondrous escape was right here, under our proverbial noses!

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We reached the main tomb enclosure after passing several smaller monuments that adorn the path leading up to it. It was more than 400 years ago that Humayun’s first wife, Haji Begum, commissioned the tomb near the banks of river Yamuna.

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The site was chosen because of its proximity to Nizamuddin Dargah, which is the mausoleum of the Nizamuddin Auliya, a celebrated Sufi saint and a favourite among Delhi rulers.

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Designed by a Persian architect, Mirak Mirza Giyath, it was the first garden-tomb to grace the Indian subcontinent with its ‘Charbagh’ gardens. The structure portrayed a leap in the design of Mughal royal mausolea, which reached the apogee with the Taj Mahal at Agra.

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Naturally, it is one of the top tourist attractions in Delhi, being a monument that gives a peek into history together with art and architecture. As for us, this small trip was also a fresh change from the long hours spent amid papers and books and electronic devices.

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As much as I wish that we had chosen a breezier day and time, the sight of lush green fluff shining bright under the buttery noon more than made up for the mid-March heat.

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Even more memorable was that this mini-exploration culminated under the cool shade of a tree overlooking the six-pointed stars set in red sandstone, in the good company of an old friend and alloo paranthas packed in a steel lunch-box.

Featured image clicked by Ishan Sharma.

Travel Diaries: Laxmi Ashram, Kausani

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Dharti hai ek,
Aasmaan ek hai.
Phool hain anek,
Baghbaan ek hai.

All the squeaky voices, hushed conversations, and noisy banters were replaced by a mellifluous chorus as I sat down in the back of the classroom. Morning prayers at Laxmi Ashram, as I found out, are always unifying affairs, and down-the-line cheerful and cathartic.

Forty five minutes previous I was tossing Imli toffees in my mouth to prepare myself for the ensuing altitude sickness. I was going to hike to a seven-decade-old, all-girls residential school run on the principles of Gandhi’s Nai Taleem. Established in 1946 by Catherine Mary Beilman or Sarla Behn to empower rural girls and women through education and holistic skill-based learning.

When I reached the Ashram, there were two smiling faces, waiting. Waiting to open me up to a world of simplicity and unity. To show me how empowered and independent young girls go on to become pillars of strength for the rural community.

I was a bit late, thanks to the multiple stops I’d made during the hike. Some girl students were collecting their books while others had already started ascending the stairs to their classroom. I entered the room from the back, and quietly sat on the floor like everybody else. I was soon going to hear them sing a prayer song that would footprint my heart.

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I left the place humming a tune of togetherness, and optimism. Of a song that distilled in a few words this beautiful message:
There is one Earth. And it is but one sky that canopies the flowers on its face. The flowers may look different, still there’s but one Gardner who looks after all of them.

Travel Tale: Floating in the Poetic Dusk

A big ring adorned Mamta’s nose, silhouetting half her face as we huddled around a bonfire for warmth. And sitting there with the glorious Kumaon hills girdling us and Mamta reading one of her poems for me, I learned how nature and words soothe a crumbly spirit.

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It was only a day before that I had met Mamta for the first time when the hosts of my retreat centre introduced us. Our small chat had concluded with her beaming at me and exclaiming in broken Hindi, “Didi, I will come and see you at the inn tomorrow!” She wanted to know what a bunch of college girls from Delhi were doing in Kausani!

Which brings me to: What could I do here? In 3 days?
For starters, I could sit on these porches that always welcomed us with tea and viands. I could talk to these people who always regaled us with colourful stories. With them, I could drink these buttery noons and tangerine sunsets. Maybe along the way, I could pick up a few Kumaoni words, understand a new culture, unspool its richness and authenticity. But, who could’ve imagined that I would do just that and more, and that Mamta would help me with most of it!

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She joined our group for tea just like she had promised. A few moments later, we were scribbling Aipan designs on random scraps of paper—and in the next few—up on our feet, matching folk tunes with our own versions of Chholiya as the sun dived between the hills. Here, in an Indian village in the quiet vicinity of the Himalayas, the Italian saying of il piccolo mondo got a whole new meaning!

Within hours, I was sitting under the pin-pricked night sky, listening to Mamta’s voice as she read a poem from her notebook. And while her words warmed the December air, I took a closer look at the poetry of the land I was in. I could see and feel it in the Buransh (Rhododendron), in the chartreuse farmlands, and in this amazing rendezvous of nature, people, and history.  

That’s how I was always going to remember this village cradled in these verdant hills. As a place where I felt freer, happier, lighter—all at the same time. My souvenir: A friendship that began with a Kausani local asking me, “Tumar naam ki cha?”

Travel Archives: Almora

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Yesterday, while scrolling through some old photographs on my laptop, I found this one of me and Munni Devi. It was clicked in December 2015 when I went on a cultural trip to Almora, Uttarakhand.

I met Munni Devi at Nanda Devi Handloom and Heritage Centre that sits peacefully amid the Himalayas, supporting and empowering rural women. She showed us around the museum―a recent addition to the place―and took us to the workshop to meet the women artisans. Some of them had been working there for more than a decade!

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Scarves and shawls knitted with the indigenous nettle grass, hand-woven carpets, and an argosy of trinkets were put out on display. What stood out to me more than the material objects, though, was the affection that was raffled off to us.

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An Aipan artist at Nanda Devi Handloom and Heritage Centre

It was so easy for them to trust a stranger. To happily take a break from their intricate work and strike a conversation with some curious students who’d come from a gummy city to know more about their art.
But, did these students know the story behind the wedding ritual of a traditional pichhauda? And that they shouldn’t go home without tasting the signature Bal Mithai! Had they tried the folk dance of Jhoda?
They didn’t. And no, they hadn’t. But suffice it to say that they left the Himalayan peaks of Nanda Devi much more enlightened about Kumaoni culture, and a lot more in awe of this land’s warmth.

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Also, Munni Devi gave me the biggest hug as I said goodbye! Recalling that feeling twists my tear ducts even today.

My Recent ‘Feels’ Playlist

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When it comes to music, my song picks end with anything that has strong lyrics. A song that marries the sensation it evokes with the emotion it comes from sticks to my playlist for a long time. This may be because of that thing about music – it connects, makes you feel less lonely. So, today I decided to list down a few such songs; I call it my ‘feels playlist’ as it has the power to soothe my melancholy and elevate my joy.

Nostalgia: The songs that disinter the sweet moments.

Journey: Companions for when the going gets tough.

Perseverance: For me, these songs are like anthems that obviate the blues.

The Rationals: These songs can work wonders to kill the din and clutter of a bad day from your mind.

Happy listening!

Midnight snacking

In a dusty corner of a small mezzanine is a scrap of paper scribbled with poetry. Sea Fever by John Masefield – is a friend that is around when it’s  hard to sleep. So here goes:

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.
I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
                                And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.
I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

The God of Small Things – A story that stayed

I usually end my day with either reading or writing something. Today, I thought of welding the two worlds together, by writing about a book I read by my night lamp: The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy.

 Roy delves into sexual abuse, gender bias, and untouchability in a subtle and poignant manner, stimulating deep thoughts on these issues. The story is set in 1969, in the south Indian state of Kerala. She narrates the story as if it were unlayering the thoughts of the two twins, Rahel and Estha, with words which evince innocence – Orangedrink Lemondrink Uncle, light blue carsounds, bumpy red road, . The sentences are as rich as they are moving. Twins separated following an unfortunate incident, a loved one dying because of a wretched system, and a mother spending her last moments alone after a series of unfair events – everything transpires as if one were half expecting it, but shocks and saddens in equal measure as the story unfolds. “Who should be loved, and how. And how much” is a question which forms the nub of story. The question is posed when the twins’ mother leaks her “Unsafe Edge” that leads her “to love by night the man her children loved by day.” It is posed again when the society looks down upon it. And yet again, when Estha’s quietness and Rahel’s emptiness finally merges. Roy depicts the malaise of the characters’ lives through words which depart from the literal sense, thus evoking deep emotions in the reader’s heart. It’s a beautifully written tale about love laws, and how they destroyed lives. How the small things led to a sad turn of events and shook the big things. It is a story I read months ago but one that has stayed with me and will stick around for a long time.

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