Filmmaking is both an art and craft. The percentage of each of it in a film depends entirely on the filmmaker and what inspired him to begin with and continues to do throughout the film making process. While for some filmmakers the source of inspiration might be other media like books, theatre or Television, for others it might be films. With remakes doing the round and inspiration touching the zone of imitation, you could say some of the most successful filmmakers today take the second approach. They spend lot of time on indianizing/regionalizing the existing movie content and churn out new films. For most of them, designing a shot is more important than conceiving a scene. Infact, they seem to work backwards—shots to scene, scenes to screenplay, screenplay to a plot. If you do not mind the software lingo, it is like writing the code and then thinking of a design that fits:)
Well, this is not to take away any thing from their success or their mastery over the craft, but it is time to get nostalgic as we are going to talk about Hrishikesh Mukherjee (Hrishida), a filmmaker of the first approach. Our tribute to him probably lies in acknowledging the school he belonged to, how it came to fore through his films and his unobtrusive style that never made him greater than his films. While at it, let’s underscore certain points that are very relevant for even today’s filmmakers as well.
Hrishida always made films that had a script developed in the traditional process so to speak. It appears that his film making process is often kicked in by a novel idea/theme, which is then taken through the route of treatment-screenplay-dialogues-drafts-final version. The structure was not that important, as the emphasis was on the substance. Infact, the substance is so good, that you could simply ‘conduct’ the script. And, interestingly, the script made choices for the important crafts like music, cinematography etc and not the filmmaker. Hence there are no ego trips or foreign jaunts.
Let’s look at two of his successful, contrasting, yet, his kind of films—Anand and Golmaal. Both of them are set in his typical middle class milieu with the protagonists struggling to survive—rather literally.
Anand is about a terminally ill patient and his last days in this world in the company of a doctor. The novelty factor sets in through the philosophy of the main character— ‘Death might seize my next moment, but this one is mine’. This philosophy becomes the central theme and it is carried through out the film. The story moves forward as Anand enjoys his moments with the people around him. All the characters that Anand interacts cannot believe that someone who can enjoy life so much is about to die shortly. Throughout the film, Hrishida never loses sight of this main theme and when finally Anand does leave the world, he leaves a lot of memories and his spirit is immortalized. This once again, reinforces the central theme—’when moments are lived in full, they become everlasting memories’.
When a storyteller stays so committed to his central idea, the film speaks for itself. Marketing of such a film becomes very easy, as the communication objective is made very clear from the word go. Now, if you look at the amount of money that is spent in marketing a movie today, it is primarily to tell the audience what the film is all about and how different it is from rest of the pack. Hrishida managed them at the script stage itself, thus precluding a lot of effort during the later stage.
If the movie Anand dealt with an unusual philosophy, Golmaal is a sweet nonsense kind of film. You could say, P.G. Wodehouse and his British humor inspired Golmaal, specially the characters of Jeeves and Uncle Dynamite. Golmaal is essentially woven around a central theme of ‘surviving at any cost’ by legal means. The film takes a fairy tale route with the life a happy go lucky guy ending up in getting everything—job, girl and riches. All he had to do was to engage in a Golmaal, enact a double role and tame his would be father-in-law.
Once again, Hrishida succeeds in conveying the main theme throughout, right from the title song by R.D.Burman. Infact, the title song is a theme song of sorts and sets the mood of the film. And whenever the characters engage in Golmaa’, title song plays in the background. It is the script that calls the craft of music and the music that blends into the movie. If you were to go by the current trend of music videos popularizing the film, Golmaal title song had all ingredients to make it big, even though the film is several decades old.
So, here is the take away from Hrishida’s films and his filmmaking school. Let art drive the craft. If there is a something novel to say and if the script stays true to this idea, the idea takes the entire film making process forward. The novelty or the differentiation factor, which is so important these days when the film is marketed, is already there, by the time is ready for release. This is something worth pondering for today’s filmmakers, who are forced to spend exorbitant amounts on marketing their films, while their ideas and scripts are half cooked.
Also featured in
A tribute to Hrishida