Crossing an elegant white portico, I stepped inside a hall and grabbed a place at the corner. My stint with Wassup Andheri 2013 has already started. To begin with, I was served ‘Hot Tea Across India’ – a travel book that was passionately brought to life by its author Rishad Saam Mehta. He talked about the adventurous miles he sauntered and we smiled. He wowed us with the moments he had captured in his lens.
Next hour, I was taken to the world of Chanakya, Pataliputra and script writing. Dr. Chandraprakash Dwivedi sounded the clarion bell, requesting artists and audience not to blindly emulate history as it is being presented on screen. He rued the fact that anachronisms in TV serials on mythology and historical figures are because of our habit of typecasting every era. Being a script writer and a director himself he adroitly took us through the transformations that words go through when an actor takes over. You must mark his words: “Shabdon ko sambhalke istemaal karo kyunki unh mein jaan hoti hai” (Spend words judiciously because they have a life)
What came to my plate next was equally stimulating. It was a mere stroke of luck to catch Sukant Panigrahy live. Although world calls him an Art Director, he is into almost all forms of art and more importantly, he excels in all of them. From art direction in movies to making sculptures with a message of ecological and social wellbeing, Sukant is doing it all. And Gladly. With an unassuming tone and humility he presented a wide spectrum of work that keeps him joyfully busy. I retreated for the day with his last words running through my mind, “Art Direction is all about detailing no matter how unorganized people around you are”. I could sniff the relevance.
Next day was sunny Sunday, and what could have been a better way to start it than Rajat Kapoor (dapper he looked) talking to you. What was meant to be a workshop on acting, turned into a lesson on looking at life and deriving joy out of its uncertainties. He affirmed, “If you know where you are going, there’s no joy at all.” A 20-minute video on his making of King Lear (drama) looked such a heart-felt effort. Vinay Pathak’s masterly act as a clown who speaks gibberish language and Rajat Kapoor’s faith in experiments were most pleasing to audience’s palate.
What followed this hearty session is a poignant panel discussion on LGBT community. Gay Rights activist Ashok Row Kavi set the tone with a hard-hitting comment, “In India, you are always assumed what you are not.” A touch of optimism was sensed in Shobhna S. Kumar (publisher of Queer Ink) as she delivered on a prophetic note: “Books with gay and transgender protagonists are going to find more publishers in the coming days.” However, the session betrayed a pessimistic mood with the final touch by one of the panelists: “India is a closely monitored police society. One can’t choose one’s sexuality unless the individual becomes financially independent.
The day came to a wholesome end as filmmaker Sudhir Mishra opened his bag of wisecracks making the entire hall go berserk. As audience and the moderator questioned the stature of contemporary movies, he forthrightly posited, “We are not ready to take risks needed to make a great film. Our superstructure doesn’t allow us to take risks.” However, he didn’t forget to mention: “As a filmmaker, my job is to confront times”. The discussion that bordered on the limitations of Bollywood filmmakers, ended on a promising note as the director made a candid confession: “I’m not sure of my intelligence but I know that I am most alive when I am making a film.” That perhaps said it all.
Till We Meet Again!