THE SEVENTH ART AND THE FRONT STALL

Architecture, sculpture, painting, music, poetry and dance are the six art forms. The seventh art is about light, sound and moving images. It is called cinema. Cinema is real. It is not mere fantasy. Martin Scorsese writes, whenever I hear people dismiss movies as ‘fantasy’ and make a hard distinction between film and life, I think to myself that it’s just a way of avoiding the power of cinema. Cinema is so special for some.  “Most creation myths start with darkness, and then the real beginning comes with light.” Cinema is an obsession; “you take one shot, you put it together with another shot, and you experience a third image in your mind’s eye that doesn’t really exist in those two other images”, writes Scorsese. Cinema is important. Some moving images can be really moving experiences. Cinema transmits the DNA of its time.  Those who like films are dormant filmmakers.  Filmmaking is a process. It encompasses contents, images, expressions, and language. It is a process that converts money into light, sound and motion in the hope that this will bring some money so that more light, sound and motion can be produced.  At the end of the day are images flickering on a wall”.

In the silent era, expression was the only language used in the movies. Language was added to make the film more expressive. If too much ‘language’ is added, it becomes a cacophony. Some movie makers know the language of filmmaking. They know the meaning of ‘judicious’ and ‘restrain’, whether it is in the use of language or light or sound. Actor is an important part of a film. We are grateful to the actors who know how not to become larger than the context. They know how to emote in the minimum possible space. A good director can see a particular sequence in the context of the whole film. A good director can describe a film much better, because he can see the whole of it much before it is completed. Frank Darabont has aptly described the feeling of a filmmaker: “The amazing thing about any movie is not whether it’s good, but that it got made at all.” Box office grosses can’t be the only criteria to judge a film. “Now, the cycles of popularity are down to a matter of hours, minutes, seconds, …”

Those who have seen films from the front stall know how exciting the ‘cinema chalo’ experience can be. One sits among people with smelly shirts, torn seat covers, filth, ‘paan’ spittoons, inborn talent for whistling and loads of enthusiasm. Someone very rightly said, “those in the cheaper seats clap, the rest rattle their jewellery”.  In the age of multiplexes, some of us miss those ‘cheaper six anna seats’ . Some of us miss the ‘silver jubilee’ and the ‘house full’. Watching a film in a comfortable hall is not always fun if it is empty.

“The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance limit of your bladder,” advised Alfred Hitchcock. I, therefore, must stop.

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