The bit route to good cinema

Fragments on YouTube can lead you to full, satisfying films
Last Updated 24 January 2020, 11:37 IST

The Romantic poets were masters of PR. One simple proof for this is in the fact that they managed to deftly move their public towards an enthusiasm for incompleteness, for what they called the fragment. This was usually a jagged little bit of a poem spinning around with no clear address, from or to.

Sometimes the fragment was unfinished due to circumstance, like the poem Kubla Khan, during the writing of which Coleridge was dislodged from a laudanum-induced buzz of creativity by a mere insurance salesman.

Sometimes the fragment was artfully finished so as to appear unfinished, as in the case of Keats’ Hyperion.

Readers and writers alike seem to have been charmed by the fact that the poetic fragment had about it the cachet of the new, since it belonged to no definable genre, and required you to imagine some larger work that it could have been part of.

Fossil fragility and archaeological shards were, no doubt, little inspirations for this curious moment in literary history.

The fascination with incompleteness has never quite gone away — unfinished novels, symphonies, and films orphaned midway by the airlift of their auteur are all evidence for this.

Bangaloreans chech-cheh-ed for many months because Puttanna Kanagal died while ‘Masanada Hoovu’ was still in production. Dickens’ ‘The Mystery of Edwin Drood’, and Wodehouse’s ‘Sunset at Blandings’ continue to fascinate precisely because their authors were recalled to pavilion before completion, much more than they ever could have if they had been completed.

An allied curiosity, one we shall call sequelalgia, is equally all around us. It usually attaches itself to standalone books that seem to have so much momentum that some continuity seems warranted.

Since Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler didn’t quite walk away into a golden sunset, readerly curiosity eventually conjured an author to write the sequel, and then the actual windier sequel, however disappointing that may have been. Something similar happened to Daphne du Maurier’s ‘Rebecca’.

The Romantics valued the fragment, and may have somehow fed and sanctioned all these strange appetites above. But alas, what did we ever do before YouTube appeared?

For a long time, a film became real to me only after I had watched it five or six times. That straightforward desire underwent some modification when I could afford to own storage media — it had to be videocassettes and DVDs and then torrented files, and they had to be visited and relished many times.

A film tends to pass one by in a narrative whoosh. Such an experience is wholly unreliable as a way of figuring out whether you can continue to have a conversation with that film over and over again.

All this changed, when people began piling YouTube mile-high with jhalak videos. I find that there is something about discovering or rediscovering a film through these acts of clipping.

When you own a film, your memory drives you to revisit, but that pulse grows weaker perhaps because you are returning to the familiar. On YouTube, some other mind makes the clip, and binds it in coherence with other clips, or notice things you didn’t, and then the film is all new, and all ready to be yours again. The narrative frisson is risen again, and the world is newly a better place, and there is juice to the next five minutes, and then to the next.

I hated the Tamizh film ‘Paruthiveeran’ when it released. It was unusually bold in that it did not shy away from naming castes, and also in showing how caste boundaries were breached, and yet it chose to take that energy in no real direction but that of a terminal moment that was in equal parts spatter and sputter.

On YouTube, the film and I came to smoke the peace-pipe with each other. The songs were fun-fun-fun, but the most beautiful thing about the film was the bombaat verbal fireworks that kept erupting between Karthi, Saravanan and Ganja Karuppu. The film runs against a backdrop of unending aridity, geographically and otherwise, but this linguistic cloudburst, this Hogenakkalling of irreverence has to be taken in slowly, and separately, before the film can begin to speak its secrets to its viewer.

Dileesh Pothen’s ‘Maheshinte Prathikaram’, on the other hand, is a film with which love was first sight. But to slow down for the sensuous small pleasures of the film, I had to watch it in assorted bits.

Alencier Ley Lopez plays an exploding kadlekai packet of a human being named Baby, and his chemistry is with a greasily beautiful Soubin as the unfortunately named Crispy, but the verities of plot and milieu had blinded me to the work that had gone into these roles.

In other words, YouTube offers one’s internal film reviewer a necessary death, however magisterial that inner voice may be. There is such rediscovery, but fillum-tragic takes on a new meaning while you are searching ineffectually for a film.

I longed after ‘Ulidavaru Kandante’ for a couple of years because I had managed to miss it at film festivals and theatres. YouTube sharpened that desire into a kind of sweet but dizzying pain, because I had to content myself with clipping after clipping of tiger dances and entry videos before I chanced upon that film again.

I missed ‘Ganeshana Maduve’ in adolescence due to youthful tale-harate, but YouTube corrected it for me. I watched the film entirely on that medium, and vattara-love overwhelmed me across that not-so-perfect piecing together of multiple clips.

While looking out for ‘Kiragoorina Gayyaligalu’ because hopeless Tejaswi-love keeps full-mooning me all the time, I came across a clip of Prakash Belawadi in the role of a suit, spluttering and fuming like a Deepavali rocket that has forgotten to take off because some ladies have shown him hittin donne. My inner Kremlin collapsed faster than the Soviet Union at that moment.

For some reason, Kannada-clippers are fewer in number than those in other Indian languages. This has changed for the better over the last five years, but there are big silences on YouTube that need to be bridged.

I urge all Kannada film veekshakaru to dayavittu put more clips of Kannada films on YouTube keeping in mind the fact that daridra-slow viewers like me are many in number, and need to arrive at more love, and more sense.

(The writer is a professor at St Joseph’s College of Arts and Science, Bengaluru)

(Published 24 January 2020, 11:37 IST)

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