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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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.

 

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?”