Jio MAMI Young Critics Lab - Nurturing Film Critics For The Future!

By Aditya Savnal. Posted on September 24, 2015

Jio MAMI Young Critics Lab is an interesting initiative by Mumbai Academy of Moving Images (MAMI). The initiative selects students from premier colleges of Mumbai with an intention to expose them to the best of film criticism and writing on cinema. They also get an opportunity to watch films screened during the festival, meet experienced film professionals and personalities for workshops and discussions that are intended to help them gain a credible approach to writing on cinema.

This year, two rounds of the Jio MAMI Young Critics Lab have already taken place. The students were trained by noted journalist and film critic Meenakshi Shedde. Besides being a well known critic, Shedde has also been a part of many international festivals such as Berlin, Venice and Cannes – FIPRESCI International Jury.

The selection committee of the Young Critics lab consists of Mihir Fadnavis (Film critic for Hindustan Times and movie columnist) and Pronoti Datta (Co-founder and editor of The Daily Pao).  The sessions also featured interactive discussions on topics like 'New Media and New Opportunities' with guests like Priyanka Sinha Jha (Head of Content, Screen), Deepanjana Pal (Senior editor, Firstpost), Anand Doshi (Shudh Desi Endings) & Anagha Rajadhyaksha (Co-founder, PING Network)

Meenakshi 1

   (From L To R) Anagha Rajadhyaksha, Priyanka Sinha Jha, Meenakshi Shedde, Deepanjana Pal and Anand Doshi

The third and final workshop in the series will be conducted by the internationally acclaimed film critic for The Guardian, Peter Bradshaw on October 27th & 28th. These aspiring film writers and critics also get an opportunity to be mentored by the renowned film critic.

The students will then write for the length of the festival and the best among these students will win the critics award at the festival.

As a part of the program, the students were asked to review Rituparno Ghosh’s Bariwali featuring Kirron Kher in a National Award winning performance.

We were keen to know more about this initiative and share some of the reviews written by these budding critics. Thanks to the Jio MAMI team, we have a sample of the review of Bariwali written by Rutwij Nakhwa, a student of St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai.

Meenakshi Shedde makes a reference to this review in particular when she says “When going through the critics' review submissions in the Jio Mami Young Critics Lab, I wanted to see an openness to appreciating good cinema, regardless of any labels-commercial, arthouse, regional language, films without stars, a director they have never heard of. I was looking for a keen interest in cinema, but also informed by an interest and some knowledge of cinema, as well as the other arts that cinema draws from--visual art, photography, sculpture, literature, poetry and music.

So I was delighted when one of the critics wrote that the cinematographer of Rituparno Ghosh's Bariwali showed a Cubist influence when shooting the same scene from different angles, and gave examples to illustrate his point. Also, the idea was not at all to have the critics agree with my opinion, but to encourage them to have their own independent opinions and justify them with good reason and knowledge, which would make their reviews credible.”

Here's the review that Rutwij Nakhwa did.


Rituparno Ghosh manages to capture the heart and mind of the viewers yet again with the compelling tale of a middle aged woman, beautifully essayed by Kiron Kher, in the 2000 film Bariwali. Raincoat, his later work does reflect some shades of this film, in terms of the theme of solitary confinement of a lady in the house; but comes nowhere close to this earlier gem. Neither does Aishwarya’s acting compare with the beautiful role essayed by Kiron Kher.

What is refreshing about the story tackling the theme of loneliness which has been interpreted in very many ways is how it only concerns itself with the present happenings in Banalata’s life, choosing not to waste time on giving out long drawn explanations about the character’s past or showing what lies for her in the future. It’s almost reminiscent of Godard’s treatment of story in certain films like À bout de soufflé and Vivre Sa Vie. It dares to say that the film’s intention is to tell only a certain instance from a person’s life and it will do only that.

We are exposed to her story when an inspector comes to inquire about the ancestral temple in the courtyard of the huge mansion where the lady lives all alone, except for the help. A maid with whom she has a typical love-hate relationship, which due to its longevity almost resembles that of a mother and daughter. There is also an old manservant, who is constantly supportive and seems to be as ancient as the house itself. Her life takes a turn when a film director unexpectedly shows interest in using the house for shooting his next “art-house” production and a sudden dynamic that builds between him and Banalata.

The Director and Cinematographer display a masterclass in the way the entire film has been shot. The use of camera and its placement at an angle creates a distance between the viewer and the actors in a way which makes the viewer slightly aware of watching a film, giving them the impression that they are looking in on a person’s most intimate moments, which is wonderful.

Close-ups are barely used, but when they are, are quite effective when the makers want us to really think about what’s going on in the characters’ minds and empathise with their emotions.

Inspiration from cubism is quite evident, when in certain shots, for example Banalata looking at her marriage certificate, lighting the lamps with the assistant director, etc are shot and shown simultaneously in and from multiple angles.

Bairwali

There are some iconic images that are created, one is where Kiron’s reflection can be seen in the mirror of the dressing cupboard and the maid walks in and stands between her real self and the image.

In terms of sound design apart from the beautiful use of the theme song and other songs woven in dialogue to enrich the film, what stands out is the constant ambient sounds that are present, be it the insects and the birds chirping or the fans or the sounds of Kiron gulping down sips of water with difficulty; in a state of distress after the opening fight with the maid, all make the movie very grounded in with a sense of reality. Foretelling sound cues like the sound of the car, the sound of women cleaning cotton wool are a good device to link scenes and make the film very fluid.

The house and its subdued colours have been used really strategically, be it in the terrace scenes or the use of the staircase to bring out the loneliness and emptiness in the Banalata’s life. The costumes really bring about certain elements of the Bengali culture, like the wedding dress, which features in the fantasy that Kiron has about the director or the garb of the maid and the clothes of the film crew are very well thought out.

In terms of acting, we see Kher in a very different mood than her mainstream portrayals in over-the-top bollywood melodrama. Her attention to detail, small mannerisms that she is very particular about throughout the film, such as covering her lips every time she is embarrassed truly steal the show. There are solid performances from the supporting cast; Chiranjeet as Dipankar and Rupa Ganguly, especially in the film scene where she is crying, making one question if it is acting within acting or entirely genuine, is simply marvelous.

In Ghosh’s inherent style the quick snips at the Bengali film industry, in the most self-critical way are present throughout. So is social commentary, in the maid’s boyfriend making all sorts of chauvinistic remarks and the made in the end asking Banalata if she would hire a Muslim maid, are all quite nicely woven in, in to the bigger picture.

This is a movie full of beautiful images and frames, blocking is done amazingly well in multiple scenes where three characters are in frame at the same time and are arranged in the front, middle and background in various patterns. For example the lead actor in the film being shot-in the front, his assistant behind him in the middle and crew at the back, sort of hinting at the power dynamic. And the actor’s ego does get hurt when someone from all the way behind, an assistant director speaks up to him. Other frames in which Banalata, Malati and Prasanna are present together are also beautifully imagined and shot. Another shot with the conversation between Kiron and Rupa, on the evening of Deepankar’s birthday, with the use of the blue walls with a black door, a void between them and Rupa’s subdued attire and Kiron’s triumphantly yellow sari stays with you. And so do all the delicately handled dream sequences and flashbacks, particularly the one with Banalata’s father and the shot with the reflection of the aquarium on the mosquito net.

But the most memorable visuals come right at the end, the scene with Banalata crying, completely broken by her betrayal, the director choosing not to show her face to us, adding to the sympathy that we feel for that character whose life the viewer has entered and invested in for more than two hours and makes us imagine the pain in her heart and her face without us actually seeing it.

And the ending again steals the show, a slow track out when Banalata has to go fix the fuse box, the light in the house and in-turn her life, all by herself, as she walks away, we see a distant Prasanna in the next room through a penetrating door and Kiron following after him, one is left with the feeling of betrayal and pain that she must be feeling, you can’t help but notice the juxtaposition of the framed picture of a married couple on the left wall and the overall poetry in film and the final frame with which it end.


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