Monday, July 6, 2009

Starting with the proposal

i successfully finished my pre diploma jury a few days back and have to work on an independent film now. i have an idea in mind and wanted to share it with you. i've attached the proposal, it's a brief description of what i have in mind and only describes the starting of this project. please tell what you think about it and if there's anything that i can read or watch that will add to the ideation

Creative brief:
To explore the thoughts, dreams, the struggles, and anxieties of a woman brought up in a small city in rural India and married (or living) in an urban city space and finding an audiovisual expression for the same. My exploration will be about a girl and her becoming a woman, a bride and a wife. I want to explore the different sets of values attached to these stages in a woman’s life in a traditional Indian context. Also I want to explore notions of ‘sanskar’ (values, ethics), purity & impurity and various other unspoken laws that a woman is subjected to - understanding the need for these and exploring their relevance and their alternatives in the context of today’s India.  

Research questions:
The seed of this project is a small temple in Pilani, Rajasthan. As I realized later, it’s one of the many satimata temples in India. My mother’s side of the family is a firm believer in the goddess or the force of this temple and her permission is sought before any major decisions are taken in the family. What puzzled me was why people still believe in worshipping the image of a woman being burnt alive on her husband’s pyre. What does this image signify subconsciously for us? What is the ideology behind this practice and how has it sustained itself for so long? Following this trail of thought and the origins of sati, I want to explore the concept of a marriage and what it brings with itself for a woman. By many, it is described as a second birth for a woman. For me it is a disturbing thought and I want to explore the thoughts of a girl right before it. Again exploring the transition of a girl into a woman, a bride and wife. Alongside this I want to explore the notions of a modern woman and the various values attached to that image. In this, I particularly want to explore the values that are clashing with the traditional value set created for a woman. The most contrasting values are about a woman’s independence, the role of caretaker, family values, her freedom, beauty and being an individual. At the same time I feel that it is not a choice between these value sets that a woman has to make. I feel she has to adapt to both as and when required and is convenient for her family. The film will be about this struggle between living the old values which are subconsciously embedded in her and freeing herself of these as there is a gradual decline in the need for these in the urban landscape.

This will be a non-fiction film, though I’m open to fictionalizing in the later stages of the shoot if need be. To start with, I want to shoot my family and their space. I feel this struggle is intrinsic to a lot of women, girls, including me in my family and the struggle for me as a filmmaker will be to translate this into images for the film. For the beginning, I want to shoot on an everyday basis, trying to create quick video sketches to aid scripting. The script will be a plan of what I want to shoot including the time, place, person and the activity I want to shoot. If I’m interviewing then it will be a list of questions that I want to ask. If it’s a space then it’ll describe what I feel about that space and what I would like to capture in the shots that I take there. 

This is not an exhaustive list, as I will keep adding (or deducting) from this list as I progress with the script and the research.
Oxford publications book ‘From the Margins of Hindu Marriage’
Lindsay Harlan Book - ‘Sati - A Blessing & A Curse’
Prem Sagar’s - Vikram Aur Vetaal
Old Hindi films – Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam, Sujaata, Devi, Bodhi Vriksha
My grandmother, Rajkumari Singhal and her house in Hisar,
Haryana Satimata temple, Haryana
My Mother, Seema Gupta and my house in New Delhi
My Aunt and her daughter, Chetna, their house in New Delhi
Handycam and DVX 100  

Learning outcomes: 
Through this film I want to improve my camera work, both skill-wise and conceptually. I would like to be open to what the camera shows to me and be able to shoot accordingly. It is an attempt to create the portrait of this woman - her dreams, her thoughts and her world from what she does on an everyday basis. I hope to see her mundane world in an imaginative, creative way and be able to express what I perceive in that reality in my filmmaking and the final film. The process of scripting hasn’t worked very well for me in the past so I for this film I want to experiment with different ways of scripting within the limitations and context of this project. Lastly, I hope the process of this film familiarizes my family with the kind of film making I’m interested in and helps them to accept me as a ‘film maker’.

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