Different Strokes|Nov 26, 2003 7:51 AM| by:

Turning Points

Every year I try and make an effort to become part of the International Film Festival which takes place in India. It’s a treat for not just those connected to the film world, or the media, but even those like me who simply love a good film, for nothing save its story, or acting, or direction. It is another world, at times familiar, at times so alien that one wonders where it is coming from. But even during the most  absurd or imaginative moments there is an element that one is able to relate to, at whatever level of one’s being – for human imagination, varies only in degrees, but nonetheless remains a product of our own species, a trait common to every one of us. How one exercises that level of imagination varies from person to person, as well as from one period of our lives to another and how a subject titillates this mysterious plane just enough to suddenly awaken a new thought process is truly fascinating, especially so if one is a little watchful, and aware of the subtle changes.

I’m not always aware, but at the end of a festival, which incidentally entails watching five films back to back every day for ten days, I do come out a little stunned, sometimes depressed, sometimes hopeful. Little things pop into my mind suddenly when I least expect it, relating to some line spoken by god only knows who, in god only knows which one of those fifty films. Its not necessary that the situation behind that line may have been pleasant or joyful – no indeed, it could be the darkest and vilest of truths even, that may find an occasion to register on the subconscious.

And that line becomes a turning point.

Many times, such turning points are indeed so valuable that its sad I cannot remember who was responsible for it. For here again there are many who could take the credit – the writer of course; but then there is the actor and the director. If the actor is unable to get under the skin of the character being portrayed, then the delivery of those precious words would be entirely wasted, sounding banal and pointless. Then again, if the director is unable to guide the actor into the right mood, into the life of that moment, then once again we end up with nothing. But to these three, I’d add another participant. And that is the viewer. And his or her mind. His or her being, soul, consciousness…call it what you will. For if the writer gives birth to the perfect word, the director shines the perfect light, and the actor delivers the perfect moment, it would all be wasted on a being that is as yet unfit to accept, absorb, assimilate. The perfection in that case is not perfection just by taking birth but can finally be called thus when it manifests itself, much like an imprint on one’s soul.

This year’s films were bordering on the ordinary even though they were reflecting on human issues and ethics. No doubt there were some exceptional films as well, but on the whole, drab. And I wondered why because, it is after all a world selection and obviously if films are meant to depict the times, then a ‘drab time’ is not what one wants to be part of. What was even more terrifying was the turnout for two x-rated films, which beat the audience count for any other entry – including the classics and closing film. And of course there was a terrible incident when a girl was nearly abducted and another raped, after viewing a late night film.

All this makes one think, do a retake and think half a dozen times again… what on earth triggers off a mind to succumb to such atrocities? Why do we make such a choice that can only degrade us from within rather than uplift us to a new height? Is there such a thing as a good choice or a bad one, or are they all just simply there for us to learn from and by that order, deemed necessary? By giving full freedom to one’s baser instincts, is one harming oneself or then as others say, relieving the tension that comes with suppression? How absurd it all seemed suddenly to not be part of an audience that viewed a film, a moment of fiction, but to actually live through the horror of it at close hand.

I couldn’t answer any questions. I had my ideas and I rationalized to the best of my ability but that would keep changing, I know, as I progress in life. What did result from this Festival however, was my perception of the film world as it exists today and in one word it is hypocritical. Every director or actor who came on stage to make a speech before the film said the same words of how the film world was the most powerful instrument to effect change in the human psyche and civilization. And yet, after the two shameful episodes, not one person reacted vociferously enough to even make it felt that something had gone drastically wrong. With the whole world watching and recounting this sordid affair, not one of those who were actually part of the festival, suggested a boycott or a dialogue to express the disgust and revulsion. Rape is not a new thing but every government in the world, especially our own, is so lax when it comes to either the prevention or the legal procedure thereafter which is why this would have been perfect – an opportunity where the laws could have been revised simply because “the instrument of change” was for once the target and held the platform at the same time.

Alas, it was not to be and life continued to roll along, with the incident becoming a subject to speak on between films, like a filler.

For me, the entire ten days became the plot of a film. The actors the directors, the writers – each one of the participants was playing each one of these roles. The ‘line’ that was really a cry of anguish was delivered on empty ears. Our own. And the perfection of the moment which could have been ours, went totally amiss… none noticed, none applauded.