Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Director's Cut at Roof Top Film Festival, Chennai

Maybe it was the laid back setting and I mustered courage to show the survivors of the night clips from the old version of That Four Letter Word. The version we had trashed. I didn't half expect the crowd to be awake for the film we played at 4 a.m. Thank you guys.

Sagaro has a report here.

Here's my own post on the Roof Top experience.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

B-A-C-K: Due to public demand

That Four Letter Word will return back to Studio 5, Sathyam Cinemas this weekend. A few days ago, I was so sure that not more than 20 people would actually wake up to watch TFLW so early on a weekend.

I was so wrong. We had a little over 50 per cent occupancy on Saturday morning. And then, over 80 per cent of the hall was full the very next morning.

Thank you Madras for waking up early on a Sunday and making it to the theatres just to watch the movie.

Due to public demand, we're bringing the movie back at 11 a.m. just for all those of you who complained that 10.30 was too early. So all you guys who still haven't got a chance to see the film, here are a coupla more chances. March 10th & 11 (Morning show @ 11 a.m.)

The advance bookings will open on Thursday and you can book online through that yellow banner on the sidebar towards your right. Since this is a digital film, for best results, do watch it from the back rows. I thank each and every one of you who have seen the film for your support.

If you didn't like the film, I'm truly sorry I let you down. And all those who've seen it three times or more, I can't thank you enough. I'm really touched that some of you have listed That Four Letter Word among your favourite films on Orkut. I'm not sure if it deserves a place there but thank you so very much for being kind.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Painting or Poster?

I was talking to one of my friends about how people perceive a film like That Four Letter Word.

Some end up reviewing it like it's another mainstream movie or a Hollywood romantic comedy in the theatres. And, some take it so seriously and take it up as their subject of critique.

But thankfully, there have also been many who have seen it for what it really is.

Paintings and posters should never be compared by the same set of parameters.

Posters are designed for a purpose. To deliver a message to a mass. There's a certain amount of slickness in production, boldface screamers, simple smart copy and colourful visuals with instant appeal, tailored to deliver the communication to a mass audience. Or, like most commercial cinema, it aims at giving you pleasure for the money you've paid. But being a whore filmmaker needs a certain amount of shamelessness.

Paintings, however, are just an expression of the artist. Almost like an extension of his thought-process and imagination. Or, like most art cinema, it aims at giving the creator all the pleasure. But, we all know that wankers do it only because they got no takers. So, Is TFLW a poster or a painting?

Neither. As a beginner, I do not have the skills required for a painting. And with my limited resources, I cannot afford the production values a poster requires.

So what is TFLW? The independent film That Four Letter Word, at best, works as a scrapbook.

A scrapbook that's personal, random and straight from the heart. It has these sketches of characters, especially, those you would instantly identify among your friends. It tells you only as much as you need to know, as much as any comic book would tell you about its heroes. It does not say one of these characters is you. It only hints that you could be any of them or all of them at different points in your life. Each character epitomises and personifies one way to live your life.

That sort of generalisation was needed so that we could face off one approach with another. It is this generalisation that has worked with the lowest common denominator among the youth. And it is this generalisation that has made a coupla inexperienced critics call the film 'shallow'.

At another level, this is a film on male bonding. And it is not about the girls and their lives.

The girls are just sub-plots and their role in the film is limited to their impact on the lives of the four central characters (Which is why all posters and publicity have more of the guys and less of the girls). The girls' approach to life and backstory is explained in the comic book right at the beginning of the film. That's all you need to know about them.

In fact, a lot of women have been able to identify with the way the guys live their lives. Because, like Vishal, they sometimes wear their heart on the sleeve. Like Prashant, sometimes they have a head on their shoulder. Like Sunil, they have been confused. Like Zebra, they have sought escape through alcohol.

Like I explained to someone in the comments section of the 'Nishabd' review, we can only judge the depth or shallowness of a script depending on what the filmmaker is trying to say. If Varma wants us to understand the love story between a 60 year old man and 18 year old girl, he needs to show and tell us more than shaved legs.

He needs to give us a glimpse into the conversations that led to the unusual attraction. So what am I trying to say in my film? The only point I'm making through the film That Four Letter Word is that different people have different approaches towards chasing their dreams.

We do not pass value judgements on whether you should be Vishal and listen to your heart all the time or that you should be Prashant and use your head all the time. We are just telling you that even if you are as confused as Sunil is in the film or as escapist as Zebra in the film, life has its ways of bringing you solutions.

All TFLW says, like Sunil often says in the film, is that God is just the scriptwriter. It is upto each one of us to do what we want with that script. We have to direct that script the way we want to do it. It is up to us whether we want to keep the sad scenes short or indulge in the fun scenes for a little longer. No matter how we direct that scene, we have no control over the new twist that the next morning brings with it. So if you are like Vishal, you might still end up becoming Prashant and if you are Prashant, you might end up becoming Vishal.

Watch the film with this perspective and you'll know what I mean. We don't have the answers. Life has them.

That Four Letter Word is about the people we know so very well. Ourselves.

Since the film is just a scrapbook intended to trigger memories of your days at the crossroads of life, I urge the bitter critics of the film to tell me what they think is missing from what they ought to know.

Because, honestly, that would really help me while scripting my next film, something that I have been doing off late. As I do that, I'm tempted to design a "poster".

Thursday, March 01, 2007

The review I was waiting for...

Not because it says the movie is really good. It doesn't.

Besides, we've had many other reviews where people've liked the film.

This review is special because it is honest and well, critical.

Baddy does not know this but I had a sleepless night before the press show wondering what he was going to say.

Because, it is criticism from people you respect that always matters. I've said this before on many occasions, he is the best in the business. Raja is murderously good but Baddy's reviews are always more likeable given the down-to-earth tone he uses even while trashing a film.

I didn't realise until someone (I think some disgruntled anonymous reader) pointed out recently that my reviews sound patronising. Point well taken.

So the morning of the press show, I went to bed at four and I just couldn't sleep till 6.30 a.m. And I had to be up by seven again to go check the projector. You can quite imagine the anxiety when I landed up at the theatre to find out that the lip-sync was completely off. And, the picture quality was grainy. Thankfully, we were able to fix all of that before the commerical release.

Was he going to hate it? I had never been more nervous all my life. It was like my favourite teacher had just taken my answer-paper and he was going to grade it in the next 91 minutes.

If he failed me, I knew I had to go back to school and learn everything I learnt all over again. Because, he's the teacher. He knows his stuff. He can't be wrong. After the movie, when I was playing host to Vikram and attending to the NDTV crew, the only thing on my mind was what was Baddy going to say.

Vikram was obviously nice and said he loved the movie, just like Suriya had said it earlier. And I was never sure if they meant it because stars are polite to everybody. When Baddy came out of the hall smiling, it was a relief.

More when he said, "I had a good time. It was okay. What do you mean it's a not bad film? It was really okay."

He said he would talk to me about it at length. But, I wanted a progress report and see how many marks I got. I requested him if he can review it at leisure.

Within a week, he did. Thank you, Baddy.

This gives me the courage to start on my next film. We're starting in May.