Kolkata-You Humbled Me!!

On the afternoon of 15th of June, Friday, I was a little worried. The notice board outside says, if at least 20 people doesn’t turned up, the show will be cancelled. And a 1:30 pm show in a hot & humid afternoon, on a working day, is not the most ideal time for our Assamese film Xhoixobote Dhemalite/RainbowFields  to start its journey in Kolkata’s Nandan  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nandan_(Kolkata). To make the matter more complicated, our PR guy for Kolkata ditched us big time – there was almost no coverage of the release in Kolkata till then. What more, I had couriered the posters of our film from Mumbai one day before my departure, thinking it will be up in the complex at least a day before the show. Big mistake, the posters are lost in transition, with the different city brunches of the courier company trying to solve the mystery.In short, Mr Murphy had proclaimed his undying love for me all over again. Continue reading “Kolkata-You Humbled Me!!”

Fight Scenes in Films: And How We Constructed Our Fights For Local Kong Fu 2

I write this after a successful show of my second film, Local Kung Fu 2, at Fun Republic in Andheri (W), Mumbai, organized by 1018mb.com. And I somehow get the feeling that I would never want to make anything that I can’t sit and watch and laugh at with a bunch of people in a theatre. That’s my drug: hearing people laugh. If strangers who’ve paid money to watch are laughing, even better. If it’s kids who’re laughing, better still. Because kids aren’t diplomatic. They won’t fake laughter or a polite chuckle to please you. When kids laugh during your film, you know you’ve succeeded. (Unless the film was supposed to be a tragedy)

I’d say fight scenes have evolved in five stages:

  1. The period Kung Fu films and Western films before the 80s. Western films had mostly basic punches to the jaw, and Hong Kong martial arts films looked a lot like dance. They were fun when we were kids, but seem thoroughly unrealistic now.
  2. Bruce Lee. Nothing I can add that fight fans don’t already know, except that on watching Enter The Dragon now, I can tell that the makers really had no clue where to put the camera to capture certain techniques.
  3. Jackie Chan & Jet Li. Jackie Chan will be the greatest forever, I think. The odds of all his qualities of being super-athletic and super-funny coming together in another person are well, very very slim.
  4. Scott Adkins & Tony Jaa. These two guys have brought amazing gymnastic abilities to their fights. Everyone’s seen Ong Bak and Tom Yum Goong. Every martial arts fan has seen Undisputed III and II. If you haven’t, do check them out. I’ve been saying for a long time now that Scott Adkins would make the best Bond. He’s British, he’s a good actor, and he can do action like no one else can.
  5. Donnie Yen. Now here’s someone who’s really evolved with the times. Donnie Yen’s starred in his fair share of flying-around Kung Fu films, but he’s also learnt modern, realistic fighting, picking up Judo, Jiujitsu, Wing Chun and applying them in some of the best fights in the modern era, prime examples being Flash Point and Special ID.

Faking it with hyperediting and earthquake cameras

The most irritating thing about many fights today is that when the actor doesn’t know martial arts or can’t be bothered to practice enough, they make up for it by shaking the camera around and cutting 6-7 times for even a simple punch and fall. In other words, if you can’t convince the audience, confuse them. One remarkable exception in Hollywood is Tom Cruise’s fights in Jack Reacher (the first one). Camera steady and at a distance, so you can clearly see what’s happening, and several moves in one shot, instead of several shots for one move.

And every fight fan should watch Haywire, directed by Steven Soderbergh and starring women’s kickboxing champion Gina Carano. Superbly choreographed, realistic fights with all the elements of modern fighting including Jiujitsu; clean, steady camera work; and they actually turn off the music in the fights, so even that extra masala is not there and you can appreciate their genuine intensity.

A curious thing is that films in the 70s and 80s always showed fights in wide, clear shots. No trying to create fake intensity with shaky cameras. Some time ago, I happened to see a couple of Amitabh Bachchan fights from the 70s, and noticed that even though the fights look quaint by today’s standards, the camera was always at a respectable distance for us to see things clearly.

How we choreographed our fights for Local Kung Fu 2 

All the best fights have a storyline. There is a graph that generally goes through feeling each other out, then the hero might win a few exchanges, then the villain gets the upper hand, hero almost loses, hero figures out a weakness, and hero defeats villain. Generally speaking. Sometimes it could just be one guy bashing up a bunch of guys in a one-sided contest. It’s up to the choreographer and director to figure out possible variations and how to bring freshness into the fight.

Utkal Hazowary, lead actor in LKF 2, is a teacher of Wing Chun Kung Fu and also has a wide repertoire of Taekwondo kicks, so those would be his primary fighting styles. I, on the other hand, am not as flexible as him, plus I’ve been practicing grappling for a couple of years now, so I decided that my primary fighting style would be wrestling. Most people don’t realize this, but the wrestling-style fighting arts (like Brazilian Jiujitsu, Sambo and Judo) are the most practical for real-life fighting. In real fights, people don’t stand at a comfortable distance and throw kicks and punches. There’s grabbing and shoving and headlocks – which one at the very least needs to know defenses against.

In the climax, Utkal has two one-on-one fights with Bibhash’s and Uncle’s characters. Since both of them have been Uncle’s students, they were all familiar and comfortable with each other’s moves. I let them choreograph as they pleased, then reviewed what they’d composed and tweaked it to suit the storyline within the fight and also add some funny moments. One of the biggest laughs in the film comes when Bibhash grabs Utkal’s leg and takes him to the ground, and Utkal uses every free limb to attack him.

Most of the time, the choreography of a fight itself dictates which angle to shoot from and how many moves can be taken from that particular angle. For instance, a punch from one angle could look like it hit, and from another angle it could be very obvious that the fist is a foot away from the target.

We tried to keep shots to include as many moves as possible, but if move number 9 was a little dangerous, we’d only shoot till move number 8 and take 9 in a separate shot. This especially held true for Montu’s gymnastic-style kicks. In fact, we did a lot of R&D before the shoot begun on what would be the best and safest camera angles for some of his amazing kicks. You can’t do these on set. Not only are the potentially dangerous, they involved accuracy from both fighters and camera, and there is also a physical limit to how many takes of a gymnastic shot a fighter can do without getting fatigued to the point of making an error.

Choreographing the final fight between me and Montu was quite a challenging and interesting process, especially because our on-screen fighting styles were poles apart – mine was stick-to-the-body wrestling and his was Muay Thai and Taekwondo and tricking. I spent a lot of time learning and practicing freestyle wrestling takedowns, and how one could make an entry against a striker. Over several sessions of choreographing and rehearsing, we managed to put together a fight that’s representative of both our styles. (Although, when I look back now, I’ve learnt quite a bit more about wrestling and I can see many newbie mistakes I made.)

 

Making an action film is no joke. There is NO way in hell you can give an actor a 3-week crash course in martial arts and expect them to pull off an action film. The moves will look utterly fake and unconvincing and will have to be disguised by lots of stunt doubles and shaking cameras and hyperediting. Much better to take a fighter who’s trained all his life and surround him with decent actors, which is what the Ong Bak and Tom Yum Goong films did with Tony Jaa.

Here’s a music video from Local Kung Fu 2 which includes bits from the making of the film-

Local Kung Fu 2 can be watched online at https://www.moviesaints.com/#!/movie/local-kung-fu-2

And if you would like to have a big screen show in your city, contact http://www.1018mb.com/

-Kenny Basumatary

Note: Kenny Basumatary is an actor, musician, writer and director. Local Kung Fu 2 is the sequel to his first directorial venture, Local Kung Fu (2013).

Regional Cinema: What Prevents it from Reaching out to a Wider Audience?

Lijo Jose Pellissery’s recent Malayalam film Angamaly Diaries has become an online favourite over the last couple of weeks or so. Thanks to screenings supported and promoted by filmmaker Bejoy Nambiar, people at 1018mb went on to organize a few screenings of the film in Mumbai. And there are already a couple of screenings lined up later this month. One has seen audiences thronging these screenings, this includes members of the film fraternity as well as media circle, and nearly everyone has only good things to talk about the film. It also helped that Lijo Jose Pellissery himself and a few others from the Angamaly Diaries team have been present for these screenings, indulging in a Q & A with the audience later on.  This is not the first time that something like this is happening. It has happened in the past with Lijo’s own Malayalam film, Amen (2013). Once again it was thanks to a screening arranged by Bejoy Nambiar that people started talking about the film.Continue reading “Regional Cinema: What Prevents it from Reaching out to a Wider Audience?”

The “417 Miles” Diary

When Mainak and I met in the summer of 2014 for one of our casual lunches, I arrived at the little hole-in-the-wall Nepali joint with the biggest question on my mind: will I eat the aloo-puri or the mixed vegetable curry with rice? Both were so damn delicious, it was always tough to choose one over the other. Moreover, those were the only two vegetarian dishes, so not like I had much choice. It was still a puzzling one though. When I left the little hole-in-the-wall Nepali joint, however, I had an even bigger question on my mind: what the hell’s wrong with Mainak, and why does he want to make a movie about two people talking to each other in a car about life?Continue reading “The “417 Miles” Diary”

Aashmani Jawaharat: A Panorama of Independent Film Scenario in India

The term independent film was first heard back in 1919. That year four of the leading figures in American silent cinema (Mary Pickford, Charles Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, and D. W. Griffith) in a protest of the autocracy of the studio system, formed a group called United Artists, which became the first independent studio in America. Independent films have come a long way since then. There have been films on very low budgets, without stars and without support from any major studio. Many a significant feature-length as well as short film has been made via such low budget and independent productions. They have made the low-budget filmmaking to be recognized internationally. The latest important development in this arena has certainly been the concept of crowd funding.

In this method, a filmmaker puts up his creative project in front of the common people, who contribute according to their capacities to raise the fund for the film. Though a novel method, there is a constant challenge to make ends meet in this, which may jeopardize the entire project at any point of time.Continue reading “Aashmani Jawaharat: A Panorama of Independent Film Scenario in India”

Local Kung Fu Movie Review: 'Fun'tastic!

Local Kung Fu - Movie Review
A glimpse of the thrilling action from the film without ropes

There was somehow a false notion in my head that indie film-making in India is all about making a serious point. This was until last year when I saw Software Hardware Kya Yaaron and realized that there are a few who are willing to take the indie route to tickle our funny bone.  But Kenny Basumatary’s Local Kung Fu was even a bigger surprise. I had read about this film being made and had also seen the trailer. I had never believed that an action film can be made in an indie budget. Hell, even the ‘100 crore entertainers’ end up with tacky action, what chance does an indie film have? But I saw the trailer and was mighty impressed by the action sequences, not so much by the humour. But I have learnt not to take the trailers at their face value and hence went in for the screening of the film with zero expectations. Probably, that is why the film made an even greater impact.Continue reading “Local Kung Fu Movie Review: 'Fun'tastic!”

The Untitled Kartik Krishnan Project: Fascinatingly innovative!

A thought that came to my mind after I finished watching The Untitled Kartik Krishnan Project(TUKKP) was how in the world did the director feel that this film would get a release in the Indian market. Even a film like Pan Singh Tomar took two years to hit the screens. And Mr.Srinivas Sunderrajan was expecting his film made in a budget of Rs.40000, with all unknown actors and a plot so bizarre to get a release! PVR Director’s Rare, in that respect, has been a boon to filmmakers like Sunderrajan who dare to tread the off-beaten path and also to those movie goers who crave for something more than the Rowdy Rathores and the Bol Bachchans.Continue reading “The Untitled Kartik Krishnan Project: Fascinatingly innovative!”

Kshay Movie Review: An absolute must watch!

A still from the film

 

The one advantage of an indie feature, amongst the many difficulties mainly related to resources, is that it need not compromise on content. There would be no studio to force you to make changes in your script or even worse, include an item song in your film. Even a Dibakar Banerjee film wasn’t spared from the latter. Karan Gour who is the producer, writer, director, editor and also the music composer of Kshay(Corrode), has made full advantage of the creative freedom that an indie film permits.Continue reading “Kshay Movie Review: An absolute must watch!”

Changing Face Of Indie Cinema

Last weekend I watched Mod. I felt really sad for Nagesh Kukunoor, the guy seems to have lost it. He has become the RGV of indie cinema. Wonder what happened to his naughty side that we saw in Hyderabad Blues, the enthusiasm we saw in Rockford and the seriousness that was depicted in 3 Deewarein!

But this post is not about Mod or its maker, Kukunoor. Its about the changing face of indie cinema, which is independent no more. The economics of movie making has got the better of story telling, the good soul has been traded for a good body and the angst has been replaced by anxiety of seeing the movie do well in BO. Independent film makers are being lured by production houses, thereby killing the very concept of indie cinema.Continue reading “Changing Face Of Indie Cinema”