The religious significance of Vijayadashami is well known, the day is also known as Vidyarambham when young ones are initiated into the world of letters. In my school days Ma used say that you'd learn something today as it is an auspicious day, at least do your homework. I've carried on that ritual to this day – not because I'm overly religious or something. It just makes me feel good to read or write something new. So, this year I picked up Conversations with Mani Ratnam by Baradwaj Rangan. And, one of the most interesting passage I read that day was:
This shift from paper to film, this metamorphosis, is the chemistry that makes or mars a director. That was the first day, and by the third or fourth day I remember telling Balu Mahendra, 'I want to run.' And he said 'Don't worry, I felt it the first day when I started directing a film.' He said that the disillusionment would pass soon, and he was right – in the sense that you slowly start learning that this transition from paper, from the abstract to reality, is your coming to terms with a different medium, that you have to rediscover everything in this medium. You actually reinvent your ideas on film.
There has to be a leap from paper to screen. That's the job of a director – to elevate what's in the script to the next plane. You have to put in an effort to bring in other elements to make it alive. That is the key – to make it alive, to make it magical. You have to take the elements around you and invest them in that scene. You have to be able to draw the actor into that particular moment, so that he will bring something of himself into the character he is playing. It is like shedding one skin and taking on another. The most difficult thing in the first phase was this transition. And then you discover that there are some things that you cannot write and can only capture. Whatever you write, the magic of capturing the moment, a face, an expression, a bit of light, a movement – and you really discover that while making films. You discover that those are the things that really elevate a scene on the page to the next level.
As I'm grappling with a story idea for a film for the last few months, having virtually no idea about how to put my vision on to the paper and then transposing it on the screen, I feel that this passage may prove to be the guiding light for me.
Here is an old post about Baradwaj Rangan's interview with Rajiv Menon.
PS. I've completed reading almost hundred pages of the book (upto the chapter covering Anjali) till now.
PPS. Sorry, if this post sounds dated as Vidyarambham has become history now and Diwali is upon us. But it is better late than never, na?