How Hollow is the Cylinder?

08.23.09

By Shruti Tiwari

The conference room was jam-packed with interested students. It was an activity specially designed for them. In their routine classes, they learn about process of film-making and its technical aspects in fragmented details. This afternoon AATMA and Films4debate had brought them out of their classrooms for something which promises to be their chosen vocation. Dr. Akhilesh Singh introduced the coordinators of AATMA who explained why training for appreciation of arts is vital for a fuller existence. Some guests had also come including film-critics, journalists and professors from other discipline and institutions.

The film, a short documentary on issues related with bamboo, despite its relaxed pace kept everyone engrossed. The twenty five minute film seemed to end much sooner. The students were handed a questionnaire on the film and everyone started writing down their response. It is to their credit that none of the students seemed casual or disinterested. The questions dealt with communication of message and technical aspects that enhanced its appeal.

Dr. Akhilesh Singh set the ball rolling with his observation that the film did not establish a clear line of action for the people, despite presenting the problems related with bamboo pretty well. Karnika felt that the film hailed bamboo as ‘poor man’s timber’ while Pankhuri opined that it presented bamboo as an industrial alternative to timber. Bharat and several others agreed that the environmental message came out well as secondary concern. The issues were succinctly summed up by Prateek as promotion of (i) extensive use of bamboo, (ii) shattering related myths and (iii) raising awareness of bamboo as raw material for industry. Ritu Motwani bemoaned that though it was pointed out in the film that bamboo map and poverty map of India match pretty well, this was not discussed any further. Tarun agreed with the film that policies of government preclude bamboo industry from developing, but someone immediately pointed out that success story of a lady entrepreneur indicates governmental encouragement to the issue.

The students also marked certain areas as ‘grey’ and ‘fuzzy’. Tarun found that film fell short of depicting the effects of governmental policies and problems like flowering, on people related to bamboo industry. Purva found the ending abrupt because after such effective build-up, the audience expected a clear solution. Rohit felt that excessive close-up disconnected persons giving interview from background and mood of the film. Aayush seconded this opinion. This brought grunts of disagreement from many. Prateek remarked that neither was there any link to Jarwa-s, mentioned once in narration, in script nor in visuals. Runzhun felt that flowering of bamboo was again a superfluous issue mentioned without explanations.

Dr. Chandan Gupta, delighted with this opportunity of correcting his students refrained from making any immediate remarks. He introduced the technical aspects pointing out brilliant camera work by Nandan Saxena who is also the director of the film. This effectively removes any possible lack of communication between director and the cameraman. Students were at ease with technical aspects. They appreciated the angle and pace of the camera, though some did not feel comfortable with interviewees popping in and out of the frame. They all agreed that soulful use of flute enhanced the appeal of the film. Some were also charmed by the original chants of the natives trying to push rats out of the bushes. Kunal was moved by the chirping of birds; Rupak was impressed by the narration (by Jitendra Ramprakash). Someone found the shot of rat-tales quite forceful, but most students agreed that well-planned shot of bamboo being split by the lathe was most impressive. The discussion could have gone on and on, but Shri Dileep Gupte drew attention to the documentary being a film with limited goals. Almost everybody agreed that within this definition the film was complete. Dr. Chandan Gupta now pointed out that film like any other medium posses the ability to make specific communication, but like the others also has an existence beyond this limited role. One should not judge a film on delivery of information or outlining a plan or policy for action alone; how the filmmaker chooses to say is at times more important than what.

Kavita Bahl, co-director, wrote a measured script that accords this short production the fleeting quality which leaves viewers asking for more.

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One Response to “How Hollow is the Cylinder?”

  1. Kavita Bahl says on :

    We thank EMRC for screening our film. The purpose of making this film shall only be served if it reaches out to the people. Most documentaries are either zealously guarded by the commissioning agencies and they end up fungus-riden in cupboards, or, end up after a few screenings in the festivals.
    We have been lucky with Hollow Cylinder. It has been screened and awarded at a number of festivals. More importantly, it has been screened at Motilal Nehru College and the Law Faculty in Delhi University, Sri Aurobindo Institute of Mass Communication and Don Bosco Institute in Delhi, among others. Most of these screenings were not organised by us but by people who wanted to share this film with a wider audience.
    We are glad to know that the film was appreciated, both technically and editorially. We wish we could be a part of the synergy that was created!

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