Saturday, February 26, 2011

Amdavad ka Pyar- Uttarayan Day 2

These photographs were too beautiful to pass up the opportunity to post them.  I was in Ahmedabad during Uttarayan to celebrate with my friend Prashant the completion of his latest feature film- Patang which I hear was very well received in the Berlinale this year. Read my previous post on my 4 day experience with the film crew and cast in Amdavad.

On the second day of the kite flying festival, Uttarayan,  I wandered through the streets of Raipur Khadiya walking into Pol house enclosures. Closely looking at the details of the exquisite woodwork.  The rich history of the old city, the gorgeous crafts all comes alive in these old ancestral homes. My friend Jai Thakkar has written a beautiful book called Naqsh in which he has painstakingly studies, sketched, drafted these gorgeous carvings and details and the overall heirarchy of the Pol architecture. The book not only has wonderful images but also is beautifully designed- great collection for the libraray.  We visited the miniature Kite Museum which was run by this lovely organization called Vaarso. It was great just wandering through the old city. My mind was alive with memories of days spent in CEPT when we would grudgingly step into the old city. Over the years, we opened our minds to wonders of these streets. Just when it started to feel like home, it was time to move on. For me- I left the country. Coming back after 10 years to my favorite city, I could not help observe how calm its residents are in all this excitement. Happy to welcome you into their homes, their lives, try a chikki here, chat with a couple of kids there, sit with the pujari of the temple while she undoes a mess of dori and for me- I made shy eye contact with many style bhais on the roof top ready to start a second day of the kite flying madness. I again shadowed Gopal of Mumbai Paused, watching him in action, as he chatted away with the various people, photographing them, listening to their stories. People start to comfortably pose for the camera as you make it more about them and not just a random click. We went to this very tall building, to see the view of the city below. It was absolutely beautiful. It seemed to be tallest building in the old city. The random overlapping grids of the streets, the chaos of the old city, layered with the colorful kites in the sky, speckled with people on rooftops, music blaring, merging into familiar Bollywood songs blending, the chatter, a general air of celebration and joy.

As I make this post, I read online that today on Feb 26th, Amdavad celebrates 600 years. So sharing with you this wonderful city at its best-

See the Picture that Gopal clicked here
I also made a drawing for Prashant of the view of the rooftop we were flying kites on. I did not document the final sketch but Gopal clicked a pic of me starting to draw.
Maybe Prashant can scan me a copy so I can put it up here.

Monday, February 14, 2011

"Ahmedabad ka Pyaar"- Patang and Uttarayan

On a very cold night in Chicago, Prashant drove me home after a magical Kathak performance. We talked about music, Chicago, the South side, the Kathak dancers of Kadamb from Ahmedabad and Prashant's upcoming film Patang. He described a scene in the film that is etched in my memory since. A simple first kiss between the protagonists Bobby and Priya. But Prashant needed to capture the first kiss in its authenticity. He wanted a young man who had never been kissed. He found his actor, his Bobby in a local Gujarati actor. He wanted to capture that look of surprise on the actor's face, that intimate moment after the kiss, he tastes his own lips, the question mark on his face, the moment of passion, all in one real moment to be captured in one take because the first kiss ever cannot be rehearsed or reshot or retaken on a take 2. Simple.
Prashant was editing then, from his study in his parents home in Chicago. The walls were an installation of post it notes that covered every surface. I was allowed to watch very little of the work, however we talked more about the film. Patang had consumed his existence. He worked on it alone, editing for hours, days. Many times exhausted and too tired to work. But he marched along. Finally in its last few months, Prashant moved to New York to finish the final edit, work on the sound and everything else that needs to be done when you are making your first feature film, your life's work, a work of love... and proudly I can say a masterpiece.

A few months back, after I moved back to Mumbai, I got a message from Prashant saying its almost over. It will be ready in time for Uttarayan of this year. He wanted to first share his film with the people he had worked with in Ahmedabad.  He asked me if I would join the celebration. I would not miss it for the world.

And so finally after 6 years since its inception, Patang was screened in a private gathering of a few hundred people in a movie theater in Raipur a tiny neighborhood in the old city of Ahmedabad.  Everyone who showed up for the screening had been attached to the film in some way. The local actors, the children, the local crew, the asst directors, the producer, the costume designer, the sound folks, the title sequence folks, the parents, the friends from around the globe, and Prashant's family. It was a mixed crowd, languages and accents were the highlight of the gathering. It was a festive mood. A collective energy of anticipation. We all piled in to watch the film. The children all sat quietly. There were a few words spoken by Prashant before the film. This Chicago south side boy of Indian origin spoke in an accented Hindi the most beautiful few words presenting Patang to the people who made it with love- with love that he recieved from them, what he calls- 'Ahmedabad ka Pyar'. Prashant was welcomed amongst the Amdavadi people like a son who has come home after many years, a hero and he is one. Everyone wanted to be close to him, a hug, a tearful story, they were all his friends and kin. I was very proud of him. It was side I had never seen before but I knew it existed.

As for me, I loved the film. Its wonderfully crafted, a beautifully heart warming story told with such subtlety and emotion. The colors are gorgeous, every shot is overlapped with layers- layers of the old city of Ahmedabad, the people, the movement, the bazaar and of course of the energy of the kite flyers and the kites. The build up of the characters and their relationship with each other both love and hate reaches its zenith and then slowly calms down- like a kite soaring high that is cut and then gently floats- this way and that way till someone finds it and lovingly mends it and proudly owns it. I guess you will have to wait to watch the film for yourself.

The photos you will see below are a collection of images of the four days of celebration that I was a part of with the film crew during this Uttarayan. Two years ago, on the cold Chicago night I had never imagined that I will meet and become good friends with the "never been kissed before" actor, the super talented and handsome Aakash Meherya. Aakash, at this very moment is at the Berlin film festival participating in the world premier of Patang.

My friend, Gopal of Mumbai Paused and The Indian Road Romeo, was invited by Prashant and Jaideep (the producer, the other partner, who made things happen, who kept all accounts, who also lost his mind a bit in the process) to photograph the four days of festivities. Check out his fantastic photos here and on his facebook page. I shadowed him closely and managed some cool photos myself. I hope I have captured the spirit of love, fun, play, community, sharing, hope, and just what the Gujaratis would say- Jalsa in these photos. 
From the Patang screening at Raipur, the kite market and the festivities on the rooftop.

To Prashant with all my love and hope and prayers. Good luck!

The children who acted in Patang.

Prashant catching up with the kids
Prashant's dad and uncle
Sujata (costume), Anurima, Kristin Fey

Just before the screening
Getting ready for his speech

The Kite Market: Sunglasses, cowboy hats, glowing devil horns, and of course kites. The frenzy, the excitement - the night before Uttarayan. Oh and the kite temple where the soothsayer saw my future. Yes that happened.
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Capturing Gopal
Devil's horns
The kite temple
The soothsayer who looked into my past and gave me a glimpse of my future. He told Gopal that he is a ladies man.

Complete excitement
Last minute dori preparation
Close to midnight and still smiling
Not the Dallas Cowboys exactly.
 Check out Gopal's click here and here

This family who had a street side fafda jalebi stand insisted that we try their food. They kindly nourished our famished souls with fafda served with green chilies, papaya slaw followed by yummy sweet jalebis.
And finally the two days of kite flying (yes I did take many many pictures).

Party on our rooftop
Absolute Jalsa
There was one...Prashant.
Was joined by three others
then two more..
and another two

Prashant and Anurima siblings
Once again two more
The whole lot of them
And the party begins...
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The Chinese lanterns

The stunning sunset

The fire works!
And more
Irene and Bhavik- new friends
The night, the party carries on...
The beautiful official poster for the movie now screening at the prestigious Berlin International Film Festival - the Berlinale. The photo of the hand by MS Gopal and designed by Prashant.
The Patang Screening times at the Berlinale:
Feb. 12 at 16:30
CineStar 8

Feb. 13 at 20:00
Cubix 9

Feb. 14 at 15:30
Cinemax X6 (Press)

Feb. 15 at 22:30

Feb. 17 at 13:45
CineStar 8

Goodluck Patang!