Saturday, April 8, 2017

Scene Breakdown/Analysis : Bharatham (Mohanlal)

Disclaimer : This post is purely my analysis on the craft that I am most passionate about . I love breaking down scenes to understand what made the performance so impactful. This is my understanding :)

I guess the fact that I am a student of how this man executes his craft is pretty evident in my blog posts :P. Today I would like to do my analysis and breakdown of one of the famous scenes of Mohanlal from the movie Bharatham which is one of his most landmark performances. Though this movie won him a national award, I feel the movie and his performance here are still underrated. Here is the scene below :

***Spoilers ahead***

A little backstory for those who don`t know this film.
Gopi(Mohanlal)'s brother, Raman (Nedumudu Venu) whom he adores and practically worships is a well renowned singer who struggles with alcoholism and finally when the alcohol takes over him completely, it affects his singing and reputation and subsequent career. Gopi meanwhile through a turn of events ends up singing in his place and is heralded as the next big thing. This creates a lot of friction between the brothers owing to Raman`s ego taking over. After Raman realises his mistake, he blesses Gopi during a Thyagaraja function where Gopi had replaced him and decides to mend his ways. After this function,Raman has being missing for many days with the marriage of their younger sister just a day away and Gopi secretly finds out about an unidentified dead body bearing resemblance to his brother and comes to find out secretly if it is true. This scene is where Gopi comes to the police station  with his friend who is a Govt Officer to find out regarding the same(Praying its not his brother). The Police had cremated the body as no one claimed it, but the photos and belongings are available to check which confirms Gopi`s worst fear as  it is Raman.

0;34 Creating a thread for the scene : Gopi finds out body has been cremated -  Mohanlal uses his eyes effectively to project the confusion. Without saying a word it is very clear what he is thinking. He purely depends on his eyes to create and project what he is thinking while the body has almost frozen and become numb (This will be the character`s thread for the remainder of the scene). This contrast of a numb body and expressive eyes keep the focus on the gravity of the situation yet convey the character`s thoughts.

0;48 Effective use of the co actor. Mohanlal follows the inspector with his eyes even though he`s not in the shot and hence makes the scene more dynamic. It could have easily worked without looking at the co actor but that small act added a huge amount of realism. It also brings about a shade of extreme vulnerability and confusion like that of a child which makes the audience more empathetic to the character. Eyes are going berserk by the way expressing his inner turmoil. Character thread maintained . Subtle bro ! Subtle :D

1;00 to 1;06 -  Govt officer(Murali) reminds him to control himself if God forbid it is his brother. Mohanlal slows down his actions by at least 10 times here . Keeping in mind the thread of the character, each move made seems to be an effort. If you watch his physicality in this bit it looks as if he is carrying a heavy weight on his shoulders, not metaphorically but almost literally ! His movements are slow, his breathing laboured . Watch the last second where you can see his fingers shiver too. The entire body is "in the moment" A pointer by the way , this entire video has not one word of dialogue uttered by him.

1;30 to 1;46 Looking at the photos. The tension in these 15 seconds is unbearable as Gopi`s confusion and heightened emotions reach their peak here. The body has almost caved in completely and the fingers seem to not be able to hold the weight of the photos. The face and the eyes project the fact that he can`t comprehend what is happening. This is what we call "in the moment acting". The actor is "there", has completely become the character and is living the moment in the character`s life as the character. The biggest plus point here for mohanlal is that he slowed everything down which brings maximum focus on every small move made and every move made was potent. As an actor he is still keeping the audience guessing because he hasn`t broken down yet, He hasn`t yet given in to the emotion. He is still keeping it at the "confused" phase and teasing the audience and hence increasing the tension and discomfort. This is where mohanlal is so good. He won`t do the predictable thing, especially when you want it. He is still maintaining the thread of the character from the beginning of the scene

1;50 to 2:26 And finally he gives you what you want. He lets it out. But only in the last few seconds.He lets go. By maintaining the numb body and slow actions he has created the environment for the dramatic change at the end when he breaks the thread of the Character for the scene and lets his body finally behave, his movements are not slow anymore, his body is not numb anymore. The last few seconds was such a dramatic change that the impact was stronger. Watch for the moment when he picks up the clothes (still slow and numb body) and then takes a deep breath before breaking that thread of the character in this scene to achieve the dramatic impact.

On a side note - Brilliant support by Murali(another gem of an actor) and Urvashi(known for her comic timing,she easily blends into this dramatic moment) and Subair as the cop.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Sairat : From K Jo to Kashyap !

Sairat DVD came out a few weeks ago and I got a chance to revisit the movie. The fact that the movie has broken records all over Marathi Cinema and even Indian Cinema is a known fact, but the movie also has it`s share of skeptics who do not necessarily agree with the unprecedented success of this movie. I was trying to understand why this movie became such a huge success and why it needs to be encouraged.

Our cinema, in this country is hugely very unreal in the way we present stories and sometimes our stories themselves are very unreal. Songs and dance have become a staple diet in the movies and have been reduced to a gimmick rather than adding value to the movie and the story. Dir Mani Ratnam has emphasized on the fact that songs and dance need to make sense in the way they are placed and shown in the story and it has always been a treat to watch them in his movies.

What Nagraj Manjule does with Sairat is he uses the same formula that is used to make poular popcorn cinema in Sairat albeit in a manner where everything makes sense. Let`s not forget the film has all the elements of Popular cinema like the larger than life song sequences, or the comedian with a comedy track, the usage of slow motion shots (120FPS and such), the villian, huge crowd sequences etc etc, but all this has been brilliantly woven into a very real context . I shall explain how

*Warning Spoilers ahead

Nagraj Manjule did not employ stars , yet he presented the 2 major characters like how a director presents a star, For eg: The slow motion intro - Remember the first shot of Parshya running in Slow motion with heavy background music towards Archi`s car. Compare it to the intro of Salman Khan in Bajrangi bhaijaan now. Slow motion check, background music check

Or the Formulaic way of introducing the heroine with a tease. The heroine Archi`s face is never shown in her first intro, The audience are teased but the big reveal never happened and when it did she was in a very sexy avatar wearing her partywear.

Nagraj Manjule used the formula but eliminated the stars. This has 2 advantages

1. Obviously the director has better control over the performances as he gets to dictate his terms according to his vision without it being compromised by a star

2. Secondly by taking in regular people and giving them the star treatement the director has immediately connected with the general population in the audience who would disconnect from a well groomed star but see these particular characters as one of their own. They see themselves on screen and presented so beautifully !

In the meantime the director has also established the comedians, the possible villians and the other basic plot points like the caste discrimination etc. He keeps blending the dreamy bollywoodesque sequences of the romantic track with the very real day to day functioning of the village.

The song sequences are presented in a larger than life manner mirroring the dreamy idea of love that the current generation of youngsters have that have been highly influenced by  popular commercial cinema. Hence he has his target audience hooked on as they are watching their idea of love being manifested on screen. Funnily the harsh realities of the bitter caste system in bittergaon (The village where the movie is set) is also being fed regularly to ensure the film doesn`t seep into pure commercial cinema genre.

He introduces a strong female character which provides a respite (at least in the film) for the growing unrest in the country and worldwide about gender discrimination and also brings about a fresh perspective. Watch out for the scene where Archi enters the class and takes her seat without taking her eys off Parshya even for a second. A bold female protagonist was the need of the day and "bam" , Nagraj Manjule provides you that. But he hasn`t forgotten his target audience fed on a staple diet of a certain type of films, Hence this female protagonist is still living a very done to death plot of a "Rich girl meets poor boy". He is introducing revolutionary ideas but in a 'language' that the common film going audience can understand.

He got Marathi Cinema`s best composers and gave them enough facilities to make their best track yet (hopefully) but he ensured all songs are never lip synced to maintain reality and not suspend belief. The only song that has been lip synced is Zingaat which has been treated as a seemingly popular song (probably some film song) in the movie, hence the protagonists seem to be mouthing them.

The comedy track - He has ensured a comedy track too with Parshya`s friend Langdya, but again effort was put in to make this fresh and unique. Case in point - the 'love letter' Langdya receieves from a girl. He even brought in a slapstick comedy element with the disability and the comedian has a small love track too !

The Villian - Archi`s brother and Father are highlighted as the villians but unlike Archi and Parshya who got the star like presentations, the 'villians' were presented in a very real scenario. There was nothing dramatic in the presentation, the Drama came from the mindset of the character and his actions. Stark contrast from the presentaion of Archi and Parshya. This kept the film grounded in reality. Case in point - when the brother slaps the teacher in fron of the whole classroom.

Finally we reach the interval point- At this point as Archi and  Parshya escape their enemies the film shifts gear completely and the larger than life presentation is completely turned around into a very real presentation

To illustrate further - The first half was presented 'almost' like a Karan Johar movie but the second half was treated like an Anurag Kashyap film. I say 'almost' because there were moments to break that illusion in between to establish the social fabric the characters live in.

The second half broke the 'dream' established in the first half showing the harsh truths of life and this was achieved by purely changing the style of filmmaking. From KJo to Kashyap !

Nagraj Manjule with this film showcased the romanticised notion of love and then breaks it to explore life after such a love dealing with issues such as incompatibility, infatuation vs love, disillusionment, stark poverty, loneliness, finding oneself, growing up etc. In doing so he has connected with both the youth who crave for the first half and their parents who have lived the second half. The film served as a common ground for both the sections of audiences. Let`s also not forget the caste disparity and honour killing like issues which is the basic foundation on which all this was done.

It also managed something very few films have achieved - a loyal fan base with the commercial cinema audience as well as the intelligent cinema audience.

Last but not the least. The heart wrenching climax. The reason for the success of a lot of malayalam and Tamizh films in the 80's - the sad ending. But the novelty of the presentation will haunt you for days here.

So to put it simply Sairat  was a film with  a lot of depth , rooted in reality showcasing the some of the real issues within the country but masked in the garb of  popular formulaic cinema. This is entertainment without leaving your brains behind !

On a side note : Sairat reminded me a lot of the malayalam films and Tamizh films I have seen in the past which perfectly blend commercial and sensible cinema :)

More such movies like these and slowly our audience`s taste for the kind of content in cinema will change, for the better !

Monday, December 14, 2015

Mohanlal : Scene breakdown

Mohanlal is an actor who has inspired me as an actor for years with his brilliance at his craft. One can see all the stuff you leant in acting school being put into action brilliantly by him, though he`s not a trained actor himself ( which doesn`t mean training is unnecessary. He is also trained albeit while working in films on his own. That takes some godly skills ).
        From the people who`ve worked with him to other sources I ve heard multiple stories of how he approaches a scene and  works it out. One can see that naturally and instinctively Mohanlal follows guidelines that bring naturality, shades , depth and a uniqueness to every performance.

One of the most important thing on camera and on stage is the ability to act just with your back (On stage it would be breaking the rule, but smartly and with good effect). In India broadly many people classify acting into expressions (facial), body language (attitude) and dialogue delivery. The fact that it involves much ,much,much more than that is oblivious to the general population and surprisingly to a good number of industry insiders too. Expressions without purpose, body language without a fully rounded character and dialogue delivery without a thought process mean nothing and all this is just scraping the surface of the art of acting. But Mohanlal is an actor who is beyond that.

He breaks down his scene (consciously/ sub-consciously ) so well that one can see it. Case in point the video below

The scene is from the Tamizh movie Iruvar (Dir :Mani Ratnam)

0:11 - Mohanlal enters the scene with a book in hand and wearing glasses. Mohanlal uses props effectively and when not provided even demands for them. This couldve been the director`s touch or the actor`s addition but the book and the glasses immediately bring in a sense of naturality to the whole scene portraying a normal day where the character was reading his book to be interrupted by his man friday. If he would`ve entered with out the book , it would take away from the dramatic value of the unexpected betrayal by his party to him which succeeds this moment which happens at 0:13 - He drops the book established a couple of seconds ago on hearing the news. . Also the little glance towards the crowd outside increases the curiosity and build up to the news that follows.

0:37 - From this moment onwards one can see only his back. A masterstroke from the director. Watch how his back is arched in disappointment and the pace is slow and a sense of helplesness really hits home to the audience when he rests his hand on the wall and the back continues caving dramatically till he closes the door. What adds more to the scene is the fact that before he turned his back , one could see disappointment in his face but the body was comparatively more defiant not wanting to show his disappointment to his people. But as he turns, his body begins to cave and before he can breakdown he would prefer to shut himslef away from the world ,

In hindsight it might look very minimal and not a big deal. But these small things matter a lot in efffectively convincing the audience and mohanlal knows just the right amount of of projection that is required to bring it out.

Another scene where mohanlal uses his back brilliantly is here -

Watch from 1;01 to 1;08 which is a shot from the front and watch him repeat almost similar action at the end from 5;04 to5;10 which a is a shot from the back.

The first one is due to an emotional reaction and the second one due to a physical issue. But both were an unexpected bodily response for the character. The similarity in action also ensured character continuity. Maybe that was not consciously thought of. But if your character is clear in your head all these actions would automatically follow.

Pure genius !

Thursday, September 24, 2015


बुझते दिए को तेल की बूँद जैसे
कड़ाके की ठंड में धूप हो जैसे
कड़ी बारिश में पेड़ के घने पत्ते हो जैसे
अकेलेपन मे तेरा एहसास हो वैसे 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

लौटा भी दो मेरा खोया वक़्त

लौटा भी दो मेरा खोया वक़्त,
लौटा भी दो मेरा खोया वक़्त,
जितना बचा, जीने दो,
जितना बचा, जीने दो.

उम्मीदों की पतंग जो उड़ाई थी,
तो कुदरत ने डोर ही काट दी,
गम की खाई में छलाँग लगाई तो,
ज़िंदगी ने कलाई थाम ली.

हर बंधन, वो रिश्ते, तोड़के,
अकेला, मंज़िल की आस में,
टूटे सपनों का हैं नक्शा हाथ में,
कदम हमदर्द की तलाश में.

नया रास्ता दिखने लगा,
नयी मंज़िलें आगे दिखीं,
अब ना कोई बैर हैं,
अपने हैं सब, ना कोई गैर हैं.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Phoolon ke rang se - My version !

One of my favourite songs is "Phoolon ke rang se" from Prem Pujaari with lyrics by the great Gopaldas Neeraj. I always wanted to do my version of the lyrics. Here goes(1 st para ) -

सागर के मोती,दीपक की ज्योति
ऐसी नज़र मुझको आए
कैसी ये सूरत,अजंता की मूरत
दिल से धड़कन तू चुराए

आँखें छुपाऊँ,या खुद छुप जाऊँ,तू मुझको ढूँढ ही लाए
तू पास आए, मन महक जाए, ऐसा भी दिन एक आए

हो पाके तुझको ऐसे लगे की, मुट्ठी में पानी समाए
सोती पलकों मे तेरा ही चेहरा मुझको क्यों नज़र आए
हाँ जिसको भी देखूं, उसमे तेरी छाया क्यों दिख जाए
सोती पलकों मे तेरा ही चेहरा मुझको क्यों नज़र आए.

I wish Neeraj ji gets to read this and would love to hear his comments on this, Good ,bad ugly, Whatever :)

Wednesday, March 5, 2014


हवा के तेज़ झोंके को झेल ना सका
कैसे कमज़ोर पंख हैं तेरे पंछी
तिंकों का घोंसला टूटा तेरा
कैसा कमज़ोर घोंसला रे तेरा पंछी
क्यों रोए तू अपने हालात से हार कर
ज़रा हंस के तो देख ले अपने हालात पर तू मगर
जीत तेरी मुट्ठी में आकर गिरेगी
हाँ, जीत तेरी मुट्ठी में आकर गिरेगी
ज़रा ज़ोर से पर हिला
हवा रासता बना ही देगी
बहती लहरों में फँसी कश्ती संभाल
किनारे तक खुद लहर ले ही जाएगी.

ज़रा ज़ोर से पर हिला
हवा रासता बना ही देगी
बहती लहरों में फँसी कश्ती संभाल
किनारे तक खुद लहर ले ही जाएगी मेरे पंछी