Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Film Club

A student of Mahadevi Birla World Academy - Mihika Poddar (Class 12) speaks about her experience in the film club which she has been part of since Class 9


I remember the very first day that I entered the film club, having a vague conception and little knowledge of what it would be like. That day, I did not know that it was a start of something great, something that would hold so much significance in my life, something that would change who I am.

I won’t be exaggerating when I say that being a member of the film club has changed my thought process, my ideas, my ideals, it has changed me.

This is one of the very few schools that gives us the opportunity to be a part of a Film Club, to be exposed to cinema in a way that is not possible elsewhere, to redefine oneself.

No, there are no ‘masala ’movies and tubs of popcorn to munch on, which is what cinema today has been reduced to. The Friday night releases that each one of us eagerly waits for, only to blow away money in multiplexes, and encourage films that promote violence, anti-social activities, foul language and reduce women to mere sex objects, do not constitute cinema. This is what the club helps you realise. Seeing; Being exposed to films from different countries, in different languages, depicting different people, that in the true sense have the capacity to stir you, would make you realise the disgrace that our favourite Bollywood Rom-coms and thrillers are to a form so pure, so unique and effective. Cinema is perhaps the most powerful tool today, used to instigate, to move the masses. Over the years we seem to have forgotten its true essence, how it was the same tool used by Hitler and how it has played a huge part in the development of modern urban cultures. Sitting in a dark room in front of a gigantic screen with high end sound technology, which has your undivided attention, has a profound impact on your brain.

After seeing documentaries like Anand Patwardhan’s ‘War and Peace’, that bridges the hyped and propagated India- Pakistan LOC, I realised how it is all just a political agenda that turns a cricket ground into a warzone, when individuals, people, of the two countries are anything but dissimilar. Classics like Charlie Chaplin’s ‘Modern Times’ are a slap on the face of today’s comedians, who showcase comedy at the expense of discrimination and ridicule. ‘Skin deep’, critiquing the widely accepted idea of portraying women as mere sex objects was an eye-opener that exposed mainstream movies that are ‘hot’ at the expense of all that womanhood stands for.

I remember seeing Babak Payami’s ‘The Secret Ballot’, a movie about an independent woman in burqa, who goes to a remote island to collect ‘votes’ and the unspoken feelings that she develops for a native, and at the beginning thinking to myself how slow and boring it was, not realising when did I get so engrossed in the film and it had my undivided, unflinching attention. It took me  time, being accustomed to see 30 minute pizza deliveries to realize that the pace of real life WAS slow, and that real, everyday life is a far cry from what we are shown today, clothes being changed every 10 seconds and people coming back from the dead.

Had it not been for the film club, I would not even have thought of, let alone seen Japanese, Chinese, Iranian, even Russian films. Some without subtitles. I then realised that it is not always about the words, but the emotions, the theme, the work that goes into the exact filming of each scene, each shot, and when you find that connection with the character, you will understand him, without words, without subtitles.

It is astounding how just a play of light and sound can so well depict a culture, a way of life, each one different and unique. The viewer enters that virtual world; he is a part of it.

Films like ‘Waiting’, depicting the atrocities in Kashmir or ‘Tales from the Margins’, which shows the exploitation by the army in the North-east; they don’t trick you into believing something, they don’t propagate a viewpoint. All the do is show you both sides of the coin, and let you take your stance, mould your beliefs, and chose your allegiance.

The club gives you an opportunity to view otherwise inaccessible, world renowned films, giving you exposure to a wide array of cultures and real life instances. But being a student, even that wasn’t the most fascinating part for me. What I most eagerly looked forward to every week was the ‘discussion’ that took place after each movie, the exchange of ideas and conclusions, the confab of interpretations; that have made such a big difference in what I do and how I think today. I call it a discussion, not a lecture . It is so. You voice your opinions, you state your views, you have a platform, unlike any other, to express yourself, something that even our secular, socialist,  democratic country fails to provide.

I now realise the irony in these great films like ‘Rashomon’, ‘Battleship Potemkin’, ‘Citizen Kane’, being one of the best ever made , when not even a handful know about their existence.

Filmmakers like Anand Patwardhan strive for the country, fight with all they have, without sponsors, without producers, without media, without any support to make these timeless pieces of art, that contain within them the future, the destiny of a community, of our community.

While the censor board does not think twice before exposing you to films that make you insensitive to violence, hateful of minorities and offensive to ourselves, meaningful, worthwhile cinema has to find its way, only to a handful of viewers, only after these unsung, unheard heroes, fight over years to get them passed, only so that a counted few can see it?

The film club has changed this, is changing this and will change this, but not without you and me. I remember looking forward to every Friday, when we would have our class, and I truly would have been a different, a lesser person, I would have missed a chance to open my eyes to an unknown world, if that first day I hadn’t stepped into that room. The Film club is something that has helped me be what I am today, and stands for all that I believe in.

Mihika Poddar

Mahadevi Birla World Academy


A picture of the children during one of the film viewing sessions at the school Film Club - Mahadevi Birla World Academy
Photo taken by Raksha Rakyan - 10 E, Mahadevi Birla  World Academy

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