Sunday, December 30, 2012

Cinema of Awakening -Pan Nalin

Cinema of Awakening
Was Buddha a filmmaker?
What was he thinking when he said:
“Each one of us sees the world through the frame of his thoughts.”
 Or was he a screenwriter?
 “Words can burn. Words can soothe. Use them wisely.”
The very process of sitting in the dark and watching a shadow play is a sign of an open heart, an open mind and an open soul. Spectators, humble and venerable, throw themselves in the lap of filmmakers. They, sit there ready to receive.
But rare are the filmmakers who would recognise and respect that openheartedness of those “chained to their chair in the darkness” as Plato predicted them in The Republic.
What is to be in control of all senses of millions of human being, while they sit in that darkness for two to three hours?
To entertain does not mean that one should proliferate our ignorance. It also does not mean that one should only propagate moral or meaningful cinema.
All genre, all stories, all epics must be told. Must be shown. But how?
Only with an awakened soul.
Only through an awakened mind.
While making movies an honest filmmaker will often reach a trance like level, that’s the reason they are often considered egocentric or insane.
Selfishness is necessary to create a story for other souls.
Creation of the film might be a totally selfish act. But projection of the film is totally a non-selfish act. The filmmaker is naked in every which way in front of his spectator when the light simmers down.
Bodhisattvas are born to help others achieve enlightenment.
True Filmmakers are born to help others inspire and entertain.
Consciously or unconsciously, several filmmakers have taken path of Buddhist awakening through their works; Teshigahara, Tarkovsky, Godard, Bae-Kung, Shindo, Antonioni, Michael Mann…
What is to be awake while making movies? To be awake is to be honest. To be awake is to be aware. To be awake is to be able to perceive life in its true light. To be awake is to have compassionate understanding of nature of things and beings.
In Woman of the Dunes (Suna no Onna), when Hiroshi Teshigahara’s camera travels over sand dunes, then over the sand soaked, perspiring body of a woman. Sand has found a new home that of a lustful body. Sensation created is that of a very understanding mind. Two characters trapped in a deep hole, maybe forever. What Teshigahara manages with these two human beings and their longing -it continues to echo in hearts of millions till today.
In Godfather, Al Pacino character looses his daughter in a shoot-out. Coppola takes away all the sound from the scene as the father begins to howl, scream and cry. Thus he creates an emotional space for spectators to feel the loss. We are moved, we are touched… but in silence. This powerful scene had such an impact that since then filmmakers have repeated (or copied) it in hundreds of movies all over the world. But if Coppola was not ‘awake’ -this moment would have been lost as a mere melodrama.
Dreyer in La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc creates a transcendental world, once you are in it; you are there till the end –mesmerized by haunting images and hypnotised by unbearable silences. Pain of Jeanne of Arc is so real that you can almost touch her tears.
All these filmmakers, like many awakened souls, took enormous joy in creation of their cinema. Buddhism believes that all emanates from joy and returns to joy. To film is to find joy in every aspect of filmmaking; to find joy in writing, to find joy in directing a sad scene, to find a joy in playing a demon or divinity, to find a joy in showing a film. In the end, all must return to joy. Because joy is both, the knowledge and the bliss.
Bliss is what transcends beyond. If each filmmaker begins to be honest with the self, then the self will disappear. An act of blissful filmmaking is selfless because beyond that lies a cultivation of an awakened mind.
And cinema of an awakened mind always finds souls -that connect.
It is that very connection gives birth to classics.
Cinema of an awakened soul has rarely failed to entertain or inspire. Those films are archives of memories of humanity. Those films are our spiritual wealth. Those films are our eternal festivals. A celebration of life.
The play of shadows and sound, light and darkness has deep relation to the meditation. The concentrated soul, sitting in the dark cinema hall, is soft and flexible because there is a notion of surrendering. And when one surrenders, one is able to touch the joy of action, humour, fear, thrill, sorrow, romanticism…. One is detached from the rest of the world, like a curious child, one is back to human basics –laugh, cry, feel… They sit there ready to receive. It is up to each filmmaker what would he or she do with each of that soul, chained to their chair in the darkness, waiting to be enlightened.
-by Pan Nalin

Personal Quotes
Acting is an act of self realization but in an other self then yours.
Working with actors is to understand non-actor within them. Working with non-actors is to understand actor within them.
If Cinema is a manifestation of our life than keep dialogs to minimum or avoid the over-use. Ninety percent of our life we spend in silence, we live in silence.
Invention of the tripod was the best thing that happened to the photography and worst to the cinematography.
We all meet to celebrate life and depart to create memories.
Image is seen by eyes. Sound is seen by mind. Together the images they form are seen by soul.
Do not act to tell stories but act to create a true-self. All true-self have true stories tell.
One and only instruction to actors: Do Not Act.
To my cinematographer friends: one of the best quality of light is to travel through clouds... use it, life is not only sunshine!
Children are like animal and animal are like children. If by nature, you do not posses qualities to be patient then never cast them.
Feeling is seeing. Feeling makes process of seeing complete.
Do not tell divine stories with human camera angles.
Time, sometime, exists just off the frame because there is Space!
If light is space and form then darkness is time. When we watch movies, sixty percent of the story is told by light and forty percent is by darkness.
Lighting creates gravity, darkness creates anti-gravity. Correct combination of both could create time.
Anti-gravity image is lighter. Tripod is 'heavy' for the image as it creates right-side-up notions. As a kid half the world I saw was upside down.
Image is light but cinematic images are light and darkness. So, do not light the scene, light the darkness.
Empty the frame, because void is to be filled (maybe with mind). Void is nothingness. Nothing is Zero (Shunyata) but add zero to any number and its power increases tremendously. Add "void" to actors, spaces and time to enhance their power.
Empty the frame, cause presence of 'someone' or 'something' lies in its absence. Make absence presence.

View From The Top (from Times of India)
Indian Cinema missed the train?
One hundred plus years ago, filmmaking came to India right after Lumiere Brothers did their historic Paris screening “ the train arriving at station” -then why India missed the train? Why do we stand alone on a platform?
In the age of net and jet, it’s a fashion to be global; software, biotech, gurus, ganjas… everything has export potential. But as far as our movies are concerned, tycoons have spread a false myth that Indian Cinema is booming abroad. Lets not make a mistake of translating what is fashionable novelty as our success.
Cinema came to India rivalling folk traditions. Then talkies killed the traditional performing arts but those forms were reborn in movies giving very much needed Indianness with songs and dance. This trend was further exploited by making movies which help people escape the daily grind to a dreamlike world where heroes can beat up fifty thugs and conquer a beauty in a wink. Where rich fall in love with poor, innocents are given justice…  A perfect world with perfect Maa, perfect Beta and perfect Bahu. Until here it was fine, India was adapting, adjusting, exploring.
Then came imitation of Hollywood. Our “innovative” industry went as far as branding its name as Bollywood. Its like calling Narayan Murthy, Nill Mates. The sad part is that the industry seems proud to be branded as Bollywood.
Indian cinema needs to do much more then that to be global. There are many roads to cross, many bridges to be built… and several to be destroyed.
If India has mythology bigger then mangas, sagas bigger then star wars, legends larger then lord of the rings; then why do we still look to west for imitation?
Why Hong Kong, Japan or South Korea does not face that problem?
Because, they try to be as much original as possible, both in their story and style. They can do what Hollywood can’t –experiment and invent. In last few years alone, loads of titles from these countries were released worldwide with massive critical and commercial success. Many of these movies were re-made as Hollywood blockbusters. Today Hollywood agents are scanning Asian festivals like Pusan and Bangkok to find next great idea, which they can remake. Does any one know of any Indian story or film being remade in Hollywood?
The truth, harder to digest, is other way round  –hundreds of Bollywood movies are direct imitation of Hollywood movies –Not to forget, Hollywood is tremendously suffering from lack of original contents. Last year only 6 % percent Hollywood movies were from original scripts, the rest were remakes, adaptations, sequels, prequels… Should Indian film industry’s role model be Hollywood?
Movies with song and dance are part of our existence they are here to stay but why do they fail to become universal? How can the director of the most commercially successful super-hero Indian movie can proclaim on a national TV channel that he made first part of his new film “little naïve and stupid” because that’s aimed at villagers and countryside. Isn’t that a shocking state of affaire? How little we know about our countryside? How we take it for granted that because we are urban, we are intelligent!? It is believed that any Indian village with population of 500 to 1000 people is capable of narrating one million stories. Then why do we have to remake South Korean “Old Boy”? If we do not understand Hanuman, how can we let a movie-poster scream “India’s first super-hero” across India?
Whether we like it or not it is Bollywood who REFUSES to let the Indian audience grow. India is totally ready to receive all kind of cinema -stories that entertain, inspire and educate.
Ages ago people neither ate Tadka Dal in Kerala nor Idli in Bhatinda. It’s all about developing a taste. Movies are not about medias, malls and multiplexes. Hong Kong action flicks are remade in Hollywood and have redefined the whole genre. Perhaps Indian cinema can reinvent itself like Japanese have done. Japan has beautifully integrated their mythologies, superstitions, beliefs and created originals cinema. Success of Japan’s ‘Anime’ (animated features) shook up the Disney. Japanese movies are ages ahead of their Hollywood counterpart. Japanese horror movies are far more innovative -and has reinvented the genre. If that Japanese “taste” spreads like their Sushis, it will destroy Hollywood’s monopoly. Thus US studios invested hundreds of millions of dollars in Japan to control the local giants so that ‘taste’ does not spread worldwide.
In short, If Italian invented neo-realism in cinema, German -the expressionism, French –the new wave; what did Indian cinema invent? Bollywood?
Indian cinema will be only global if it takes deep root in the Indian soil and then grows like a Banyan Tree sprouting other roots in other countries. Then that’s a giant banyan tree with roots spread all over the globe but soil and soul is Indian. A view from the top of any such tree will be universal.
Making global cinema demands honesty, demands profound perception of human life, demands an open mind, open heart. Ages ago our stories were universal, if not a child in Indonesia would not be watching Ramayana today. Our stories were timeless if not Tibetan would not be reciting Tantras.
If the Indian Cinema goes “Hollywood way” by becoming “Bollywood” then we are likely to witness a complete cultural disaster –only thing that will matter is how to get people inside the movie hall –once they are in, who cares?
- by Pan Nalin (as published in Times of India's View from the Top)
Why Samsara?
I went to school called life and taught myself, cinema.

I always knew that I wanted to make movies, even before I saw one at age of eight. I lived in a very small and poor village in Suarashtra, next to a railway junction where many trains stopped but only to exchange passengers. My village was nobody’s destination. As a kid I sold tea on this unique railway platform. I would often sit on the rail track, waiting eternally for train to arrive, staring at the shadows of five empty cups of tea hanging from my fingers. I would animate my fingers and imagine all kinds of shadow-play.

Today, in Paris, I sit in front of my MacBook Pro, I am staring at my five fingers on the keyboard, and a tiny caret blinks on the screen, keeping pace with my heartbeats. A noisy iPhone keeps vibrating. An air-ticket to Goa, few papers and a cup of tea lies next to the laptop.
So much has happened between two cups of teas.

And all happenings in our lives are result of our desire and destiny. Samsara is the story of desire and destiny. Samsara is the story of celebration of life.

While making documentaries I was seeking realities. I had filmed destinies and desires, as they are, not how they existed in my imagination. Desire often rises in Samsara, the world, where we live. I am living all kinds of desires like all beings. My desire to tell the story of Tashi and Pema came from my imagination and my imagination probably came from what I had lived. In one way or another we returned to reality. We returned to life.
For me, to tell their story was also to control their destiny.
I can play god for 135 minutes at the rate of 24 frames per second.

Samsara is the world; inside the monastery and outside the monastery. A monk, Tashi who leaves the monastic life and becomes farmer, to live a worldly life. But Pema possesses qualities of a great monk while living in the world.
We all at one or another point of our life are tempted to change things, escape or leave everything behind and go somewhere.
Samsara for me has always been the story of that somewhere.
Pan Nalin
20th November 2012
Pan Nalin, a level headed director with an unusual approach and style, comes across as a very down to earth person with no airs despite the fact that his film SAMSARA has bagged more than 30 international awards and witnessed a spectacular reception worldwide. From making several documentaries (The latest one being AYURVEDA-Art of the being), short silent films and animation films, he's done it all. A tete-a tete with the very dashing man himself...
I decided to move out of my village to pursue my dreams
It has been quite a struggle I must say. I was born and brought up in Saurashtra, Gujrat. My parents were illiterate but always encouraged me. I used to draw and paint. Like most kids I grew up watching mainstream cinema. I decided to move out of my village to pursue my dreams. I studied Fine Arts and Visual Communication and got selected by the National institute of design that took me to Baroda. I've had my share of ups and downs in life. The National film development corporation (NFDC) had rejected some of my scripts. I had to learn English since I wasn't fluent enough. I used to work in a printing press at nights. I have also worked with Christian missionaries. Durga Khote gave me her 16mm camera and I stared making documentaries. I always wanted to make original films. My film KHAJURAHO starring Kitu Gidwani took me abroad.
SAMSARA is a spiritual romantic love story
It's a spiritual love story that takes place in a unique setting of Ladakh, in the Himalayas. SAMSARA is a quest - a man's struggle to find spiritual Enlightenment. The film is basically about choices, a pursuit of spiritual awakening. A Buddhist monk falls in love with a beautiful young woman and is caught in a catch 22 situation. It's like a web of choices that one has to make at some point of time in his/her life.
I have never believed in the concept of a target audience
I have never believed in the concept of a target audience. Infact whenever I make a film, I never think of targeting a particular set of people. I concentrate on the story, as I believe it's one of the most crucial aspects of filmmaking. Incidentally people from all walks of life have loved my film. Young college-going crowd in Taiwan have really liked the film. Be it Latin America, Europe, Peru, Columbia, Switzerland etc my film has been universally acclaimed.

SAMSARA in India
SAMSARA will be released on 23rd June 2006 in metros Mumbai, Bangalore etc in the first round and in Kolkatta, Pune, Ahmedabad and Chennai etc in the next week. It will also be screened at a film festival held in Delhi.
Shooting in Ladakh was quite an uphill task
Shooting in Ladakh was a huge struggle for me. Ladakh has extreme conditions and to obtain the rights and permission from several departments like army and defense was quite an uphill task. It is a very unique, remote and isolated area with no sign of human beings around. Ladakh was just the apt landscape for shooting SAMSARA. No other landscape would have done the same amount of justice as Ladakh. Besides SAMSARA is the first film to be shot entirely in Ladakh at an altitude of 15000 feet.
My own quest for learning made me direct SAMSARA
It was not like I was dying to make a film. I was very happy making short films and documentaries until a great story touched me and that's how I made the film. It was more out of my own quest for learning and personal experiences coupled with a chaotic phase in my life that made me take the plunge.
My expectations are sky high
My expectations are very very high. My film has no stars, no songs but yet there is some kind of positive energy within me. Even if 20 people come and watch the film, I'm sure they'll send another 40. I have already witnessed an amazing, heart-warming reception in over 60 countries. Actually my expectations have already been fulfilled. People like Pravin Nischol (of Entertainment one), Manmohan Shetty, Ram Gopal Varma, and John Matthew Mathan have appreciated my work saying that they've never seen something like SAMSARA before. They congratulated me and thought it was incredible. Infact my source of inspiration and 80% of my cast and crew is from India.
VALLEY OF FLOWERS is a different love story
I'm in the process of giving this film some finishing touches. It's a very different love story since it expands across 2 centuries. It initiates in the early 19th century and ends in modern day Tokyo. It's about the chief of a bandit gang played by Milind Soman who falls in love with a mysterious woman played by French Chinese actress Lena Jampamoi (that's what she calls herself) and will release on July 16.
Bollywood films not on my agenda
I am not very keen on directing Bollywood films, atleast not in the near future. I mean there's no harm in directing one but I feel Bollywood restricts you in some ways. Having said that I might do it if I come across the right script, right moment in future.

Pan Nalin: Interview of an award winning film maker

12 years in a small village Khijadiya, study in Baroda and now living in Paris, France. He has directed award winning film Samsara which earned him 120 crores. Later he made films such as Valley of Flowers, Buddha and a special documentary Echo of Eco. Apart from this, he has made many other documentaries, written stories and so on. Originally known as Nalin Pandya and now known as Pan Nalin has a story to tell to all those who has a dream!
Pan Nalin is probably the only Indian screenwriter to be twice invited to a prestigious Screenwriter’s lab Equinoxe along with top Hollywood screenwriters like; Ron Bass (Rainman..), David and Janet People (Unforgiven, Blade Runner…) Jim Hart (Dracula, Contact, Lara Croft), and Shane Black, (Lethal Weapon, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang…) among others. Legendary Diva of French Cinema Jeanne Moreau headed the writer’s lab.
Recently, he was in Rajkot for the launching of book ‘Hats off Zindagi’ of a very young and enthusiastic writer Prof. Jayesh Vachhani. We had a golden opportunity to spend some quality time with him.
Excerpt of the Interview
Q.: Welcome to SpeakBindas. What tips you would like to share with upcoming film makers who have less experience but more passion, who are eager to start making short films? How do they finish the process without being frustrated?
First and most important thing that every film maker should keep in mind is to develop the clarity about the theme on which they want to make a short film. Due to internet, DVD etc. borders are being vanished. There are such film makers who simply upload their work on Youtube, that’s it. They don’t have any further goals in the field.
They should focus on the direction. And once decided, they should work hard for the same. These days, there are various forms of this field such as animation, 3D animations, live action, documentary, commercial and non-commercial films, television series etc. At the same time, they need to check whether that theme does match to their personality or not.

Q.: By looking at you, one comes to feel of spirituality that you’re carrying with. Your first film Samsara itself is a spiritual name. What’s the relationship between spirituality and Pan Nalin?
Spirituality is in our culture. I came to realize that let it be any kind of story, understanding of spirituality in it has great importance. For example, the latest highly successful commercial film Avatar has the spiritual angle in it. Likewise other films such as Star Wars and Matrix too have the spiritual concept.
But often, people do confuse spirituality with religion. I don’t believe in it at all. I believe that spirituality can exist equally in Christianity, Islam and Hinduism. Those who are highly religious, sometimes, there is no spirituality at all in them and to reverse to it, those who are not religious at all, are highly spiritual. This is actually hard to define. It’s indeed a matter of sadness that the gap between spirituality and religion is increasing day by day.
Q.: A lot has been talked about the success of your films. They have been internationally reviewed positively. One question I would like to ask on behalf of struggling film makers that was there any event of frustration during your film career? How should one overcome the same?
Frustration is a part of the package. And when I decided to become a film maker I knew about it. Many things can not be achieved without it. Severe frustration, severe struggle, severe disappointment comes around in the process. And even after working so hard, we are not sure about its result. It’s a hard question, but in general, I can say that it’s of very much importance to keep the balance of stress level. It depends on how much belief you’ve for what you are doing, how much confident you’re about the same. And when frustration is higher than the belief, people do leave the filed.
And the kind of projects that I do work on, there are more chances of receiving frustration. I think it’s easier to make a film taking couple of known stars having few songs.
When I left my home for my passion, my father asked me “If you’ve two paths ahead of you, one quite easier and the second very tough, which one will you chose?” To which I replied “the tougher one.” And he said “Now you’re ready to go ahead.” This is quite a simple logic. Every youngster should learn to handle frustration. This is common for every field. Particularly, when it comes about film line, upcomers have more attraction towards its glamour and they tend to forget the hard work it requires too and hence sometimes ends up with frustration. To create a dialogue, a script, to create the characters, find the matching actors, get work from them, shoot the film etc. it’s all about concentration. During the shooting of ‘Valley of Flowers’ sometimes, at a time there used to be total 600 people involved in. Hence, so much to manage making sure your concentration doesn’t get diverted. After the shooting comes editing, music and mixing. By the time, the film is ready to be released; film director has watched it more than 500 times. Director of blockbuster film Avatar, James Cameron has watched it for 3000 times.
Q.: You’ve made Samsara, Valley of flowers, Buddha, Echo of Eco and many other documentaries and short films. Now what?
I usually work on multiple stories at a time. My attraction is always towards good stories. Recently, I’ve written a Horror story for a producer based in Bangkok. I’m not directing it though. I am also working on a Martial Arts film ‘First Warrior’ which is an action packed film. I am also working on a tragic comedy film. Hence, many a projects are going on in my mind and in practical. Like you mentioned about Echo of Eco, I was one of the 30 film directors from the world who were invited to make a documentary, by COPENHAGEN Climate Conference 2009. By going through the list, I was literary amazed finding my name from INDIA among the world renowned directors from the world. I left everything else and started doing that documentary. I think, because I’m involved with multiple jobs at a time, I can manage my frustration.
I will also start working on a story by Saadat Hasan Manto which is based on the partition of India – Pakistan in 1947. The story is like, during the partition some chose to live in India, some in Pakistan, what about the mad people? It is a comedy cum tragic film.

Devang Vibhakar with Pan Nalin
Q.: Are you passionate about acting?
I have done some drama and theatres earlier. But when you become a film director, when you write a story, you need to do the acting backstage. When I do write a script, I get involved in moods of character and that is when I need to do acting myself. During the acting workshops of film, I participate in it and play the different characters to support the actors during the rehearsal process.
In Hollywood, no actor has time to do the research for acting. Hence, script has to be very specific, defining every scene. So being a film director, I’ve to do more acting than an actor!
Q.: My last question to you is that, you were born in a small village Khijadiya of Gujarat and now living in France. You’ve traveled the world over. So what collective message you would like to share with us?
Short message is that believe in what you do. Believe with total confidence no matter what you do, let it be music, film or even agriculture. And enjoy doing it. I feel that otherwise you shouldn’t be doing it. [Interview by Joginder Tuteja]
Thursday, July 06, 2006
As internationally acclaimed SAMSARA sees a release in India, its director Pan Nalin is all excited to share his experiences about the making of the film. In Part I of this into 3 part interview, he also talks about his film making journey and the reception it has received.

Pan Nalin? Isn't it an uncommon name for an Indian?

[Laughs] Well, my full name is Pandya Nalinkumar Ramniklal. It so happened that the name was so long for the West that they rechristened me as Pan Nalin. Not that I really cared as long as I got the right films to direct with good funds coming in to help me survive! In Europe I had been making number of short films and documentaries and each time I was credited differently. But then finally things got became hot for me and from Pandya Nalin I became Pan Nalin!

We have heard a lot about you from the West. Now can we know a little more about you for the benefit of Indian audience?

See, first and foremost I want to credit my teacher Mr. H. Patel, a well known faculty member, for where I am today. He is the man who introduced me to world cinema. He guided me to film club that had host of movies that were not readily available elsewhere. Luckily there were number of other actors/actresses from different streams whom I accompanied for watching these films. What I observed was that number of these films were purely director driven that was quite inspiring.

SAMSARA is said to have generated a lot of buzz globally. Do you want to elaborate?

Yes, the film has traveled around 30 countries in last 5 years and all this while people have been quite supportive of the film. Response from the distributors has been quite positive too and during all this years the film has got a lot of mileage. People have been asking a lot of questions and have also commented that it has been a learning experience for them. Number of screenings have happened worldwide and the response has been simply spectacular. The film has been shown in countries as diverse as Thailand, Denmark, Switzerland, Korea etc. and what I have heard is that audience has been bowled over by the sheer power of story telling. In fact there have been people in Germany who have even gone to an extent of writing books on the film.

Wow, that indeed sounds like a long enough journey. Doesn't it become redundant for you to continue talking about the film with different people for such a extended period of time?

Well, I have now got back to my making my next film since 'SAMSARA' has taken its life. But yes, it is not redundant for me since every time the film has been released in a new country, it has taken a new form through a new publicity design. The film has not taken a single identity as the distributors have opted for a new design for a specific country. If one looks at the film's release in Korea. the response was simply overwhelming. If you talk about Toronto, there was an instance of people crying over my shoulders. The best part about this entire journey has been the "audience choice awards" that I have received. Now that's something that I hold over and above the critics/jury awards since the audience award comes straight from the heart. Look at countries like Australia, Peru and Switzerland where the film has supposedly evoked memories for number of people.

Any specific instance that you wish to cite about the global response?

Ya, there has been one interesting and heartwarming incidence that I can recollect. After the screening in Korea, there was a Q&A session that happened. We soon ran short of time but people just wanted the conversation to continue. Since the situation was uncontrollable, we decided to continue the session at another point nearby but in no time the crowd of around 50 odd enthusiasts gathered there as well! What I heard from them was that watching 'SAMSARA' was like living a different life altogether for them. If you go there, you would find that the film has almost taken a cult status. In Bangkok, there have been case studies that have been made around the film. It has been extremely touching experience for the people out there and they have found the film to be extremely relevant in every sense. When I look back at all of this, I feel that it was a huge struggle to make the film but then it was absolutely worth it. Now over the period of time the film has stayed on inspite of its release way back in 2001. The film is now seen by global audience through DVDs with special collectors' edition out. It's only now that the film is now being shown on Indian screens.

With just an overwhelming response from the audience, have you ever tried to sit back and ponder over the actual reasons behind its global appreciation?

I believe the film's strength lies in its simplicity. Let me narrate you an incident. When I decided to be a film maker, I was told by my mother that if you are really set out to do so, tell a story that an entire village can listen to. If you can hold the attention of country side people then you can win the world. And the crux of this should lie in the fact that the story should be simple. Now if you look at SAMSARA, it is about making choices. I have narrated the film in such a manner that I have allowed the spectator to decide the end. There is nothing intellectual about 'SAMSARA' and the film has its strength lying in the power of silence and less dialogues. My thought is, since our life is so full of silences, why to have a 3 hours film with non-stop chatter. After all it's a simple love story about choices. That's a trait that is common amongst every individual. So many time we find ourselves asking this question, "Whom should I love, whom should I stay with, which is the job I should choose?" When in love, you also wonder that if my girl goes to Thar desert would I still accompany her? Or would I be better off by living in my A/C car? Now these are simple conflicts that I have based my film on. And this is what has helped the film moving people. They have been made to think that how much do choices dictate our love, condition our mind and govern our lives!

Interesting. Please continue!

The male protagonist of my film first falls in love with a woman and then later finds himself falling in love with another girl after 7 years. Just like 'Siddhartha', he too decides to leave his wife and son in sleep. But then there is a twist in the end that I would like to hold on as it has an element of suspense to it. Let the audience decide about the end by themselves as they would be bowled over by the climax!

To be continued
In the concluding part of this exclusive conversation, Pan Nalin talks about the target audience he has in mind for SAMSARA, the chances of films success in India and how language is no bar when it comes to narrating an interesting tale!

Since the film has been shot in Laddakhi language, don't you feel that English may have been the more appropriate language for the global audience?

I agree that shooting the film in language would have resulted in easy finance. But that would have resulted in the film loosing its authenticity. After making 'SAMSARA', I feel proud about the fact that I have broken the language barrier. Also, since the film has lot of silences, it is not all that difficult for a common man to comprehend the proceedings on the screen, regardless of the language. Moreover shooting itself was not that difficult since my assistant director understood both Laddakhi and English, hence making my job easier. As the film has traveled globally, it has been dubbed in languages ranging from German to Spanish. If you ask me about whether acting in a foreign language was difficult for the actors then let me tell you that we actually had a workshop prior to the film's shooting where we worked on "HOW NOT TO ACT?". That's because the idea was simple - no one had to ACT!!

What kind of target audience did you have in mind when you started working on the film?

To be honest, I didn't really think about any target audience. I believe a good story always gets its audience, regardless of the language and the country it is shown. Now if you see, the audience in Korea and Hong Kong mainly comprised of 30 years and above audience whereas in Germany the crowd was anything from middle age to youngsters. Now if youngsters come and watch my film I know that I have been able to make a mark since the youngsters, especially the college going students are the toughest to convince! Here in India, I have shown the film to bigwigs like Praveen Nishchol, Manmohan Shetty, Ram Gopal Verma and others and it has been heartening to see a positive response from them. See, if you look at the 'The Passion Of Christ', do you think that there was any target audience? Overall it's a very tricky situation to get into since a good film is that good film which is released at the right time. Now have a look at a Troy or a Sahara. They were so heavily publicized with all the right combination in place. But everyone knows that they were disasters. You can bombard people with promotional campaigns and make them enter the theatres but what happens when they come out of the theatres? Ask the very same people if they actually enjoyed watching the film? Now tell me did you really enjoy MI III inspite of all the promotion and an initial that the film took? I can narrate an incident when I had gone to see Alexander in a London theatre and the reactions of people coming out of the theatres had to be seen. They literally were storming out of the theatres. This is why I maintain that success is a big myth!

What are the chances that you fathom for SAMSARA in India?

I just hope that multiplexes will give the film a longer run and word of mouth will catch up. When it was released in Italy, it was barely in Top-20. After 6 weeks it rose to number 14 position while by 7th week it was next only to SPIDERMAN. Also in Hong Kong the similar graph was seen as it moved up the charts at the end of every week, something which is so very against the trend. In fact I wish to state that my film has never opened in Top-10 in any country and has always caught by word of mouth. This is why I feel that multiplexes should give the film a longer run because if you give a chance to people to watch a good movie, they will definitely watch it.

For a subject like SAMSARA, didn't you have any run with controversy?

Yes, that's something bound to happen when you create a film like this, primarily because religion always brings with it some controversy. Luckily Buddhism brings with it quite some tolerance and hence we never had any major problems. Also when you walk out of the theatres, you realize that there was nothing really to worry or feel offended about. In fact in Thailand the Censors were earlier not allowing the film's screening but when people got an option to vote for the film's screening, there was an overwhelming response. Now when I look back at the way people have reacted to the film, I realize that 90% of them have given it thumbs up. Yes, there were accusations that the film was packaged to suit the West but I choose to ignore that because if that was the case then why was the film appreciated in places like Vietnam and Korea? People have right to say what they wish and I also know that someone somewhere has been hurt by the story too. I am aware that some people follow Buddhism in such a fanatic manner and they don't want to change, hence the resentment for the film. But yes, no one has come and told me on my face that they didn't like the film. In fact in Canada, Tibetans have done a charity show of the film and invited me while in Germany some Japanese monks have written books about SAMSARA.

What are your final thoughts as the film has now released in India?

I just hope that people at least come and watch the film. I am willing to open heartedly hear what they wish to say after the screening. I want SAMSARA to open up a way for other films to follow since India is a great ocean of stories and has enough room for huge number of subjects to be filmed for screens. I am not saying that let crossover films be the flavor of the season but make those films which come straight from the heart and you would be amazed to see how tremendous they turn out to be!

OK, shifting the topic a little, which was the last Indian film, not necessarily in Hindi, that you thoroughly enjoyed?

Oh, I absolutely loved Rajnikanth starrer 'Chandramukhi'. I believe some of the scenes from the film would go in the history books, and I mean it! I especially love the parts where he does the same stunts with a nicotine chewing gum that he would normally do with a cigarette. Why do I love the movie? That's because the movie doesn't follow any logic and reasoning and still manages to drive home a point. That's why films coming from Manmohan Desai were interesting too and Amar Akbar Anthony tops my list of favorites!

Why Classical Music?

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Why classical?
Why on earth should you give classical a go? Here are 5 good reasons to start listening:
  • It’s richer and more rewarding than popular music – Classical takes a much longer time to “get” than popular music, which is intended to be picked up quickly, by the widest possible audience. It takes just a listen or two before the melodies of most four-minute songs from the radio become embedded in your head, and then you’re stuck whistling Baby One More Time all day, and cursing Britney. It doesn’t take long to understand a piece. Classical takes far longer to parse. It can take five or six listens before you even begin to hear recurring melodies, but the more you listen the more you understand. It just doesn’t “wear out” like most popular pieces do after repeat listens, in fact it gets better.
  • It’s an intellectual challenge – Popular music tastes good to everyone, classical is an acquired taste. You have to put some serious effort into it. Thats true for other artforms as well, but for some reason people seem to give classic literature or great paintings a more serious go than they do classical music.
  • It’s more varied than you realize – You might have heard people claim that different composers sound totally different, but you might well also not believe them. I didn’t. It’s true though. If you try listening to pieces composed in 50 year steps, starting from Bach and ending at Adams, you’ll probably find something which appeals to your tastes. As you listen more and more, those tastes will expand like crazy.
  • It’ll make you sound impressively cultured – Okay, so this one is a bit cheap, but it’s true. There’s something extremely satisfying about hearing a song playing in the background and casually remarking: “Ah! The Mendelssohn Violin Concerto!” to your group of friends. It’s nice to occasionally be a bit of a smug bastard.
  • It’s cost effective – Classical recordings are often half the price of popular CD’s, especially if you buy them used. You can often get multiple CD sets for around ten dollars. Additionally, the quality of the music is uniformly great. Do you ever feel ripped off when you shell out fifteen or twenty bucks for a new album, only to discover that seven out of the ten tracks on it suck? Well, that pretty much never happens with classical.

7 steps to get started
So you’re eager to stop reading, and start listening to some music? Here is the quick-start guide to getting into classical music.
The most important thing to remember: It will take many, many listens before you understand a classical piece in the same way that you do popular music. When you’re just starting out you’ll have to listen to a piece all the way through around six or seven times before you start to make any sense of it. That’s fine, it’s totally normal. It’ll probably be when you are just about to give up that a certain little run up on the strings, or a blast on the brass will stand out and actually have a consistent melody! Don’t give up!
Select some music - Obviously the first thing you need is a piece to listen to. There are several approaches to take. Some people will prefer to choose something they are already familiar with, such as Beethoven 5 (da,da,da,dum) or 9 (the Ode to Joy). You might instead decide to read up on the characteristics of certain periods or composers and choose a recommended piece. In general it’s a good idea not to try something really difficult (like the atonalists) because you’ll probably just be horribly put off classical music for another five years. A safe choice would be a solid romantic (not in the sense of gooey and girly, but in the classical music era sense) symphony, for example Beethoven 7, or Mendelssohn 4, or Tchaikovsky 6.
Choose your recording – Once you decide on the piece, you need to actually get a copy of it. Get a good performance. If it’s horrible it’ll be roughly equivalent to listening to a popular piece over bad radio reception, and with the equalizer settings randomly changing. The biggest problem is that this won’t be obvious when you first start listening because you won’t yet know what the piece is “supposed” to sound like, it’ll just be a lot blander, and it will be way harder for you to “get” sections of it because they won’t stand out like they should. Don’t fret too much though, there are a lot of excellent recordings, and price does not necessarily imply quality. For example, one of the cheapest labels, Naxos, is also one of the consistently quality ones. I’ve put together a list of recommended recordings to start with here.
Listen (a lot) and learn (a bit less) - Now that you have your recording, listen to it endlessly – at work, on your iPod while walking, in the shower, everywhere. Listen to it six or seven times before even considering giving up your classical music jaunt. Listen to it all the way through, no cheating – it’s a journey and the movements need to be heard in that order. Read the liner notes if you have them, if you don’t, Google for the name of the piece along with “program notes” which should give you examples of the pamphlets they hand out at concerts for the piece. These might go into way too much detail for you with crap like: “…he modulates to the subdominant in the exposition…” but don’t stress over these parts. Just get a feel for what kind of emotions and story the composer is conveying, and maybe what was going on in his life when he wrote it.
Gather your thoughts - Now that you’ve listened to the whole piece through seven times you’ve probably begun to understand the prominent melodies, hopefully this kind of came as a surprise. You might have noticed that instead of meandering around and doing lots of pretty-pretty stuff — which is kind of what most people expect — the music actually deliberately goes somewhere, and tends to return back to where it started. You also might notice that these long, complicated sounding movements actually just contain two big, important melodies.

Listen more selectively - Probably the tunes are finally sticking in your head in the same way that popular pieces do. Probably there are certain sections which are starting to sound good, while the rest is still a mystery. That’s awesome! Listen to the movement with the good bits by itself a few times. Then try listening to the whole thing through. You’ll probably start to like the bits you didn’t like before, and everything will kind of fill in around the sections that initially caught your attention. Don’t worry if you don’t like the whole symphony though, you’ll always like certain movements more than others.
If it sucks (but it won’t), try again - If you really can’t stand it, it if just sounds cheesy or predictable – try it once more, but with a different era. If you chose something romantic (Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Mendelssohn, for example), try Bach instead, or Stravinsky.
Now that you’ve learned how to start, you can look at the playlist for beginners, or you can start getting a feel for what the different composers sound like. Good luck!
Pieces to start with
Here is a list of pieces for you to start with if you want to get into classical music, but are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of composers and pieces available.
If you’re just starting out there is no point to listening to every single Bach organ work, you should just be getting a feel for what you do and don’t like. This list will help you do exactly that, without getting bogged down in the details. For each of the major eras in classical music, from Baroque to Contemporary, I’ve listed one or two pieces which really represent that period.
Everybody likes different styles. For example, it took me about two years of listening before I could bear to listen to the late romantic stuff. If you listen to everything in this list you’ll have a really good idea which styles get the blood flowing, and which make you yawn, and then you can expand from there.
Baroque Era (1600-1750)
Bach – Brandenburg Concertos
Bach is the superstar of the Baroque period, and the Brandenburg Concertos are one of his most well known, and most respected pieces. They are a varied bunch of relatively short (compared to the more elaborate and lengthy concertos in later eras) but perfectly formed little beasties. They demonstrate the technical precision and cleverness typical of Bach, and Baroque music in general.
Classical Era (1730-1820)
Mozart – Symphonies No. 40 and 41
These are the last two symphonies of Mozart, and show off his always perky, pretty, and elegant melodies. They are catchy too, see if you can avoid whistling the final notes of these after hearing them a couple of times.
Early Romantic (1800-1850)
Beethoven – Symphony Nos. 5 and 7
Choose the 5th for a heavier, more in your face experience. You’ll have certainly heard the first few bars about five thousand times already, but the rest of it (especially the third and fourth movements) are golden. It’s a classic example of Beethoven’s ability to mesh delicate, introspective music (3rd movement) with boistrous, glorious, triumphant excess (4th movement). On the other hand, if you’d prefer listening to something totally unfamiliar, symphony number 7 is lighter, more fun, much more rhythmic, and chances are you haven’t heard any of it before.
Middle Romantic (1830-1870)
Mendelssohn – Symphony No. 4 “Italian”
Liszt – Hungarian Rhapsodies (especially No. 2)
The Mendelssohn piece is a reasonably conservative but fantastic piece. It’s got bounding, driving rhythms, beautiful orchestration and melodies, and a cyclic ending that finishes with a transformed version of the start of the whole thing. The latter is wild, crazy, over the top romantic piano at it’s best. you might know the rhapsody No. 2 from the Tom and Jerry cartoon “Cat Concerto

Late Romantic (1850-1910)
Tchaikovsky – Symphony No. 6 “Pathetique
Brahms – Symphony No. 4
Dvorak – Symphony No. 9 “From the New World”
Tchaikovsky is exceedingly sweeping and heart-stringy. Brahms is a little more serious, cultured, grand and imposing, especially the excellent last movement. Dvorak is more rhythmic, more jazzy, more modern sounding. All of them are big-R Romantic: big, emotional, expressive.
Atonal (1910-present)
Berg – Violin Concerto
The atonalists (Schoenberg, Berg, Webern) didn’t believe in scales and keys (Like A minor, B flat, etc.), and they gave every note equal importance. Unsurprisingly this makes a lot of their stuff very hard to enjoy, unless you are being all scholarly (or pretentious) about it. Although it does sound very interesting. This piece, however, is a unification of their techniques with “regular” tonal composition. It’s a painfully emotional effect, especially if you read about the circumstances it was composed under.
Modern (1900-1975)
Shostakovich – Symphony No. 10
Prokofiev – Piano Concerto No. 2
Stravinsky – The Rite of Spring
These are all great examples of how many modern composers pulled back a bit from the extremes of the atonalists. They kept tonality, but pushed at its boundaries. Shostakovich uses melodies which are morbidly stuck between keys, Prokofiev makes it sound like someone is hitting the wrong notes (but, you know, in a good way) and Stravinsky caused riots with the primeval rhythms of the “Rite of Spring”. The first is big, touching, driving, sarcastic and sly. The second is similar but more percussive, and in places more playful. The third is wild and syncopated.
Contemporary (1975-present)
Adams – Chamber Symphony
Schnittke – Viola Concerto
And he we are today. This is music composed in the last couple of decades, and it is very far from the stereotypical ideas of classical music. The former is nothing like a traditional chamber symphony: it’s a self-described marriage of atonal music with Looney Tunes cartoons. The second is one of Schnittke’s many attempts at unifying “low” and “high” music. He’ll switch from very classical, to ridiculous fairground music, to Psycho style stabs over just a handful of bars, while being horribly, wonderfully, screechingly microtonal (playing the spaces in between “regular” notes).
Common Complaints
There are a bunch of reasons that you might get put off listening to classical when you first start. Some things seem like a really big deal initially, but before long you’ll adjust and get used to them. Here’s a list of some of the most common problems you might encounter when first starting to listen to classical:
  • Understanding a piece isn’t trivial – It takes much, much longer to get familiar with a piece compared to almost any other form of music. Lady Gaga makes sense about 5 notes into a song, but Berg will take about twenty listens before you even begin to get it. This is probably the hardest thing to deal with when starting with classical.
  • Remembering melodies is really hard- Alright, with some composers this can be much easier then others (Mozart is pretty easy, Shostakovich can take many more attempts). Popular songs are designed to zap directly into your head – you can pretty much hum a melody as soon as you’ve heard a couple of bars. Classical melodies are way longer, and there are often a whole bunch in a piece so it’s hard to keep track of them.
  • The amount of stuff going on is overwhelming – There are sections where you’ll have the violins playing one melody, the cellos and violas a different melody, the basses playing an accompaniment, the winds and brass doing something else, and the percussion accompanying all of them at once. It’s hard to keep track of it all, but after a while you’ll be able to mentally filter out each individual section.
  • The dynamics can be extreme – That is, things go from loud to quiet really quickly and dramatically — dynamics is the technical term for that. Most non-classical stuff pretty much stays at one volume, with maybe a couple of stops and starts thrown in for dramatic effect (like that one song by Garbage). Classical will go from pindrop quiet to eardrum-busting loud before you even start to twitch your fingers to the volume control. Initially you’ll probably get really frustrated by this and be constantly adjusting the volume. I know I did.
  • The pieces are so loooooong – Well, yeah, but so is an album. The difference is that classical pretty much has to be listened to all the way through, whereas you can usually jump around between songs on an album. You can definitely listen to individual movements at first — although you’ll lose the full force of the piece — but even some of those can pretty hefty.
  • The music sounds too cheesy – Some romantic stuff is excessively lush (Rachmaninoff… we’re looking at you) and I also find that kind of thing pretty tough to get into. Some of you will, or already do, love it. I prefer it when…
  • The music sounds too dissonant – Some modern stuff is full of weird combinations of notes which you will initially think sounds like garbage can lids clanking/cats wailing/people dying. You may or may not get used to this.
  • The instruments all sound the same – It takes a while before you can easily pick apart what you are hearing, and until you get enough exposure to orchestral textures, things tend to kind of blend together. Listen to a few quartets (well, not too early on perhaps… small scale pieces are a bit harder) and you’ll be able to tell the strings apart much better.
  • The violins sound too shrill – It could be a bad recording… or it could just take a while to get used to. The idea of a violin concerto, or – god forbid – violin sonata freaked the hell out of me at first.
So you’re not alone if you have issues with any of these, but don’t let them put you off the music because they won’t be a problem for very long.

7 Reasons Nerds Should Listen to Classical Music
Are you a nerd? Chances are that if you clicked this link then the answer to that is a proud “hell yeah!”. Well I am too, and one of my most surprising nerd revelations was discovering that classical music is a perfect musical genre for people like us. I didn’t work this out until I was about 23, and until that point pretty much had no idea of all the delicious geeky goodness contained within.
If you’re like me then you’ve probably listened to quite a few classical pieces, but haven’t ever really, really gotten into them — at least not in the same way as your favorite non-classical pieces of music. Here are 7 reasons why if you are a true nerd you should seriously consider giving classical music a more serious listen:
1. We love discovering and understanding how things are put together. Classical music is a perfect genre for this – each piece is written in one of many basically standardized forms, sonata form, trios, rondos, theme and variations, and so on. However, these forms are stretched and contorted and copied and pasted into very different beasts by each composer. Understanding what they’ve done, and why, is a lot of fun.
2. We like classifying stuff. Each piece can be a sonata, or symphony, or concerto, or oratorio, or something else entirely. Each composer’s output is indexed with opus numbers (or something else if they’re extra special) and each piece has its own home key. Understanding what all this really meant and referred to was a huge part of the experience for me.
3. We love hearing new music. One of the reasons that online music sharing has taken off to such a magnificent extent is the innate attraction we seem to have to music. On pretty much any forum you’ll find dozens of threads devoted to people trying to find new music recommendations based on their current tastes, and hundreds of responses to those requests from people eager to spread their favorite groups to others. We are very open to hearing new pieces.
4. We enjoy an intellectual challenge. Nerds are the kind of people who will do math for fun. This is an area in which classical music kicks arse, compared to most popular music. A symphony is a story. You can listen to it as background music (which is probably what most non-classical people do when they hear classical) or you can try and follow its themes and motivation all the way through. While this is blindingly hard at first, it’s amazingly satisfying after you listen to a piece ten times and suddenly it jumps out at you. It’s a very similar feeling to when you finally “get” a physics or math proof.
5. We already have some exposure to classical. You often see posts on classical boards in which people will refer to music which they really like from the soundtrack of a computer game. Symphonic scores are also prevalent in films disproportionately popular in online world (e.g., the Lord of the Rings, Star Wars), all of which sneakily lead people toward the world of classical music.
6. We like having long and detailed discussions/arguments about stuff. Particularly when there is the potential to show off esoteric facts about arcane topics. Classical music is really fertile ground for this. We can argue about whether Beethoven’s Op.130 string quartet is better with or without the Grosse Fugue as the last movement, or why on earth there are all those enigmatic Wagner quotes at the end of Shostakovich’s 15th symphony, or… well, you get the idea.
7. We like open source stuff. You can walk into a music library and pull out a full orchestral copy of any of Beethoven’s (or anyone elses) symphonies. You can follow along while listening and discover all kinds of subtleties in the piece, or you can write your own software to analyze it or synthesize it. Anyone can put on a performance of a piece, and sell it, without fear of getting their asses sued off. In fact, one of the most satisfying things about classical music is being able to hear many different interpretations of a piece.
If you’re ready to start understanding how symphonies work, and who you like best out of Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, and the rest of them,