Shallow Direction (Part I)

Schindler’s List is a 1993 American epic historical period drama film directed and co-produced by Steven Spielberg and scripted by Steven Zaillian. It is based on the novel Schindler’s Ark by Australian novelist Thomas Keneally. As part of his preparation to make Schindlers List, Spielberg went to Poland to talk to numerous survivors, read avidly on everything on the subject, talked to people who told him about their memories to understand the subtle emotions that people carried in order to understand the tragic reality that remained enveloped for a community’.  The pain of the community that is not understood and difficult to project on screen. The pain, the Jews felt at being thrown out of their homes having lived in for centuries, being herded like cattle in trains to be killed in mass extermination camps and the silence of the world. Just imagine Spielberg’s dilemma, as not just how to show the pain in day to day events as it actually happened but also the emotions the present generation Jews still carry about that chapter of their 2000 year old history.

To me, the stories of Spielberg and Bhansali have an uncanny similarity isn’t ? However, their styles as film makers is diametrically opposite while dealing with sensitive issues. I dont mean, foregin thinking is better, but Sanjay leela Bhansali have let his countrymen down by not going deep in exploring an indian story. Both Spielberg & SLB, have depicted an issue and an era where lust, greed and power tried to overcome every human moral virtue of what was good in society. The irony is that while one researched it by going in the hearts of people, studied in depth to make it a story depicting human condition, the other is how a mass tragedy is converted into a mindless entertainment and turned into an insensitive drawl.

The context of this movie ‘Padmavat’ , is the poem written by 15th century sufi poet, Malik Muhamed Jayasi. The poem relates to an allegorical fictional story about the Delhi Sultan Alauddin Khilji’s desire for Padmavati, the queen of chittor.  Sanjay Leela Bhansali, took the easy route & dramaticised the story with all bollywood ingredients, which were, the hunter, target and victim. The hunter in the movie is Ranveer Singh, the target is Deepika and the victim is Shahid Kapoor. Simple isn’t ? In the end, the hunter kills the victim, the target kills herself and the hunter is shown as a lonely winner without his prey !!!

Sanjay Leela Bhansali, claims that he is an artistic director and he creates ‘Art’ and hence people should watch it as an work of art. But to me, good art always synthesises conflicts and contradictions, and is painfully aware of society.  Padmavat is an insensitive attempt from SLB, which is proved to be regressive.

In this case of period/mythical dramas, the film-makers world may be historical, but the film is of this time; the film-makers world dwells between sets and yet, it is not place-less. In every grain of film is a response to the place and time we live in, they may be reconstructions, but they ‘ARE ‘a product and response to the present. So a film about Schindler’s list made in 1993 will be different from the one made in 2010 which will probably be greatly different from the one made during a resurgence of fascist ideals in civilization. Because every story told has a deeper narrative ideology. So much so that, Padmavati, historical in nature it may be, says nothing about the times we live in (implicitly or explicitly) and it could well be a film made by 15th century folks with great technical skill & grandeur.

The relentless valour based dialogue and the Jauhar scene point to a film that is more propaganda than art, knowing SLB’s talent, he has demonstrated little care for nuance that have led to caricatures rather than characters.

Writer Anais Nin, said it rightly,We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are”, and all I could watch is SLB’s imagination and nothing about Truth.



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