'There need not be a story'

'There need not be a story'

It doesn’t take much to get him to talk — just one prod and the words tumble out of his mouth. “Art is very important for society to sustain. People might ask ‘how is art important, it doesn’t help gain food, sort out quarrels or get money’, but what they don’t understand is that it helps you become a better human being. We think that if we have two flyovers and a shopping mall, we are developed, but we aren’t,” says Amartya Bhattacharyya, in a slightly frustrated voice.

The independent film director who is known for his unconventional and experimental cinema was in the City recently to promote his movie, ‘Capital I’ (the letter, not the number). Not only does he have strong views on the role of art in society, but also on the different kinds of narratives that drive the film industry in India.

He makes a clear distinction between storytelling and cinema when he says that the two need not always go hand-in-hand. “This is a common misconception in India. People are so used to watching stories that they forget the film itself. Most films that are popular have little cinematic effect and there’s no jugglery of time and space or mastery in the making. It’s not cinema or art, it’s just a story put in an audio-visual format and we gulp it down, calling it a brilliant film.”

While storytelling can be an important part of cinema, cinema is not equal to storytelling. It is, he says, the depiction of a story or rather, a depiction of a perception. “For example, I’m looking at you, and if I depict this in an audio-visual format, it becomes cinema. There need not be a story,” he explains.

This is why, according to him, the media plays an important role in pushing up experimental cinema. “The media has always been a powerful section of society but I think, it could do more, especially for people like us. If the writers are conscious of art and culture, it’s not hard to find talent. But most of the talent is unexplored, hidden and likely to die hidden if someone doesn’t cultivate it.” Talking about movie reviews, he notices the obsession people have for the script. “This is something we need to get rid of. If you see movie reviews, they are a synopsis of the story and not a review of cinema.” Instead of detailing the plot line, he suggests that the depiction of an idea be examined.

Amartya’s film, ‘Capital I’, strays away from a linear narrative and is an existential psychodrama that doesn’t have a set script. Comparing his process of writing a script to modern art, he says that filmmaking can be a way to express your thoughts without a clear narrative in line. “First of all, my film is not based on a theme and you can’t pinpoint a story. I just started writing... I’d sit in a closed, dark room and express myself.

Whatever I wrote became my script. There was no conscious effort to make it a story, the process was instinctive.” This is the purest form of art, he adds.

The ‘story’ revolves around a mysterious and unknown artist and the transformation of a young girl who finds herself trapped between a real relationship and her imaginary lesbian partner (sound familiar?).

He quickly says that it is not a ‘lesbian film’ as some have termed it. “This has a cyclic narrative as well. There are layers to the film and they rotate in concentric circles. It’s not an easy film to grasp but it opens up a lot of doors for thought.”

Which is why he adds that every Indian must watch it — “Because it will help unlearn many misconceptions that we have already learnt. It’s not only an unconventional film but also an ‘anti-conventional’ one. I’ve broken almost all contemporary rules of traditional cinema.”


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