Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Creation and The Creator

I envy Woody Allen. I hate Woody Allen. I envy him because he gets amazing and innovative ideas, he writes excellent scripts and he is astoundingly original in whatever he does. I hate him, because he has ventured into most of the creative terrains that could be covered through the medium of cinema. Nothing is left for me!!

Well, let me come to the point. I recently watched one of the lesser known works of Woody Allen; “A purple rose of Cairo”. The highlight of the story is that a character from the movie comes out in a cinema hall, falls in love with a woman sitting in the audience, and wants to live in the real world like real people. The actor who performed the character is worried that his character / his creation has gone out of control. The creator (actor) and the creation (character) confront each other and debate upon it.

This is one of the most puzzling questions in the arena of arts, who is bigger? The Creator or The Creation? History is replete with examples where creations have been immortalized while; creators have been obliterated from our memories. Followers of Indian cinema still remember Mother India, but the creator Mehboob Khan doesn’t ring a bell. Some years ago in a program where Lata Mangeshkar performed “Ay Mere Watan Ke Logo”, Dilip Kumar reminded the rest that, we have forgotten the creators of the song, Kavi Pradip (lyricist) and C. Ramchandra (Composer). Amjad Khan is still remembered as Gabbar Singh. Pankaj Kapur is still remembered as Karamchand. Well, Pankaj Kapur also featured in a TV serial titled “Mr. Fantush”. Here Mr. Fantush is a character of a novel that comes out and goes out of control of the writer (performed by Anang Desai). Al PAcino’s Simone and Jim Carrey’s “The Truman Show”, stand out as one of the most interesting movies on a related theme. Simone has a unique story. Al Pacino is a movie director who creates a virtual character called Simone. Nobody knows that Simone is a virtual character; everyone believes that it’s a real woman. Unfortunately, Pacino is overshadowed by his own creation. His grief reaches an extent where he has to create death of his own character. The Truman Show may not be on similar path. The only difference is that here, the director (Ed Harris) treats a real person as a character. However, the real person denies to be treated like a character and leaves the false world he was forced to live in. does this happen to characters as well? Probably yes. Some characters are created so strong that they just deny living a life forced within their limits. They want to break free. Eventually, they do it also. Creations run away from the shackles of the creator and enter the public domain.

Creations are like kids. They have their own lives. Some of them, live longer much longer than the creator. Some of them just fade away in no time. Da Vinci passed away centuries ago; but Mona Lisa is still in her youth!

Monday, February 20, 2006

Seismograph of Solitude

Frozen terrain of moments

Boiling dreams !!

An earthquake in the offing ?
(photograph : Le Jardin du Luxembourge, Paris)

Creation & Life

Two weeks ago I visited an exhibition on Works of two directors of parallel cinema, Victor Erice from Spain and Abbas Kiarostami from Iran. Apart from their various creative works, there were a couple of very interesting pieces of work by Victor Erice, which I wish to talk about here.

Victor Erice, some years ago, made a documentary on Antonio Lopez, a renowned painter of Madrid. Lopez has drawn some excellent landscapes. Victor, while making the film, visited sites, from where Lopez captured these landscapes in his vision and than brought them on the canvas. Victor captured the same landscapes in his camera; of course with motion and sound. He created two beautiful artworks from this experiment.

First was called Apuentes or just notes. Here he first showed the landscape and than the motion picture with the soundtrack for the same place. Through written notes flashed on the screen, he explained the difference between the painter’s vision and the reality. This was a wonderful experience. In a very brief and beautiful manner he showed, how an artist reinterprets reality with his own choice of colours and shades, without doing any injustice with the reality. As you can see, I am struggling with a verbal handicap in explaining this experience.

If in the first artwork I was handicapped, in the second one I am literally impotent. Let me just describe the entire process and leave perception and imagination to you. Look at the image at the top. Now imagine that there is a large white screen, put up in front of you. In the middle of the screen there is a dark square, on which there are not lights. Gradually, lights illuminate the white screen and a soundtrack starts. The square in the middle is still in dark, while rest of the screen has been illuminated with a yellow shade, akin to broad daylight. The soundtrack is that of a noisy traffic. Coupled with the soundtrack, illuminated screen creates an impression of a big road busy with traffic during peak hours of the day. Puzzled but amused you start liking the sound and light. Then gradually lights fade, soundtrack also regresses and focus increases on the square in the middle, which emerges to be a canvas; the one given above. In the end, there is total focus on the canvas, no lights elsewhere, no sounds, and on the canvas you see the picture. And you realize that the director just walked you through the process of the creation of that landscape. The process ended in what they called ‘Ontological Silence’.

Isn’t this a metaphor for life? You are thrown in chaos; a big muddle of noises, and shades. And you picking up the right shades, shadows, colours, objects, and sounds create a picture of life on the canvas of moments. And when the picture is complete, there is no mess, no chaos, and no confusion: but only silence, peace and beauty. That’s creation! That’s life! Creation is not an event in life, it’s the truth of life, a process, which ends only with life.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

The Art & The Artist

For whom does the artist work? For the sake of art? For the sake of admirers? Or for the sake of life?

In our youth, on one hand; we already have some experience of life, and on the other; still lot of curiosity is left to see more. Out of this clash, of experience and curiosity, an artist is borne - in all of us! Many of us are ignorant of it, some of us are skeptical about it, some of us are evasive about it, some of us are just aware of it, some of us are proud of it, and a few are arrogant about it. This arrogance is borne out of brilliance and knowledge of that brilliance. Recently I was reading famous Gujarati play, “Kahe Koyal Shor Machaye Re!” (Why does cuckoo create noise?), written by one of the finest playwrights, Mr. Labhshankar Thaker. The preface to the play is as enjoyable as the play itself. He writes about his concept of ‘drama’. It implies from what he writes that a playwright doesn’t bother about real, surreal and neo-real. All he does is to have fun, through creation of characters. He refers to famous Austrian playwright Peter Handke. Peter Handke wrote a play called ‘Self-Accusation’. In that play the stage is empty. The auditorium and the stage are however illuminated throughout. The curtain is not used at any point of time, not even at the end of the play. This is a drama, an ‘obra de teatro’, but there are no characters. From two speakers alternatively we hear male and female voices. Theatre is an audio-visual art form. But Handke creates his world only through audio. Isn’t this is clear defiance of the expectation of audience? An average theatre spectator would not accept this as drama. But Thaker says, if some stupid/stubborn/critic, says this is not a ‘play’ than hell with him. Handke wrote another play called ‘My foot my tutor’. It has two characters, but entire play is silent. Samued Beckett’s ‘Act Without Words’ is also a ‘speechless’ drama. Interestingly (and quite fittingly), Handke’s first play was titled “Offending the Audience”. In this play actors insult the audience, and later praise them for their performance.

One such example of arrogance mixed with brilliance was Andy Kaufman. I had never heard of him, until I saw the biopic about his life, “Man on the Moon”, where Jim Carrey plays Andy Kaufman. Andy was an American entertainer famous for anti-humour. His forte was to shock the audience. Be it faking death of an old lady on the stage, fake imitations, fake personality (as Tony Clifton) or be it fake wrestling with a real wrestler, he was always a step ahead of his audience. He irritated the audience so much that they had no option but to like him. The movie is one of the best I have ever seen. One must watch this movie for two reasons. First, To see how big an actor Jim Carrey is. It is a pity that such a talented actor has still only one oscar nominations to his credit. Second, the movie depicts how difficult it is to create fun. How painful is the process of making people laugh? How evils of commercialization have spoilt innocent joy of artists.

Andy Kaufman was an artist, who knew his brilliance and was arrogant about that. However, Andy Kaufman also suffered a lot because he was never understood. He was always forced to do things that he wouldn’t himself enjoy. When he himself tried to have fun, he was denied and rejected. An artist believes in his/her art and wants to enjoy his creations. When we see that an artist is arrogant with his audience, we should double-check our perception, may be we don’t understand him. May be he wants to show us something else and we are forcing him to show us what we have already seen!
(Images : Top-Left: Peter Handke; Top-Right: Jim Carrey; Center Left: Andy Kaufman