Monday Morning Questions Post Post-Holiday!

Oops, totally forgot about this until a commentator reminded me.  Put it down to the turkey-coma I am still in after Thanksgiving.  Oh well, it’s up now! (previous posts here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here)

As always, feel free to ask me anything you like, from the personal (“do you find Shahrukh sexier now or in the 90s?”) to the specific and technical (“what is the significance of two characters wearing the same color?”) to the general discussion starters (“Is the 3 star system that Indian film currently has healthy or unhealthy?”)

 

The only rule is that you let me answer any questions first, just because that way it is the most fun for me.  And this whole blog is just about me having fun!

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23 thoughts on “Monday Morning Questions Post Post-Holiday!

  1. OK, here’s my question. When viewing film credits, I find the non-cast job titles confusing. Many seem to overlap. Please sort out the following

    Writer

    Dialog

    Screenplay

    Background Music

    Music

    Lyricist

    Director

    Action Director

    Thrills

    and, Banner?

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    • The first 3 go back to the idea of a “bound script” and oral tradition in the film industry and blah blah blah. The first person to come up with the idea for a film is the “writer”. Often this is the director of the film, who is also the producer. He thinks “Hey! What about a movie with an alien making a differently-abled young man into a superhero?” And then he goes and “narrates” his idea to a bunch of different people, money guys and movie stars and directors (if he needs another director), until he gets the official greenlight. Or else he is the guy who gives the greenlight, like Aditya Chopra saying to his underlings “I think we should make a movie about food”. And at some point in there, they hire an actual person to sit down and figure out how this idea goes from just an idea to a full movie. That’s the “screenplay”.

      The “screenplay” middle bit didn’t always exist before. Often it would just be a general idea in the head of the director, and they’d start making the movie and assume all the pieces would fall into place somehow along the way. This leads to huge leaps of creativity, and also huge savings of budget. Because you could just change the plan for the film as needed depending on what resources are available to you. But now film is all “professional” and everyone says you can’t start shooting without a script, blah blah blah.

      And then the “dialogue” comes right at the end. Because India is multi-lingual, and the Hindi film industry is really really multi-lingual, it takes specialists to come in and write good Hindi dialogue. It used to be that the great Urdu poets would do it, now it’s just anyone with a vague grasp of Hindi (since English is more and more common in the film industry). The “idea” person may not have the language skills, or writing ability, to come up with great dialogue. And the new “screenplay” person is almost certainly writing in English, not Hindi (because the “screenplay” software programs are all based on English script). So you need a 3rd person to come in and give it that polish and great dialogue.

      “Background Music”, that’s the music that plays over the action scenes or love scenes or whatever, just like it would in a Western movie. In the West, this is a very specific skill set that people train for for years and years and get awards and blah blah blah. It’s not nearly as old or as respected a position in Indian film, but it is still a job that exists. And they are starting to give credit for it, instead of just having it be some nameless person in charge of sampling various bits of music to create emotions in dialogue scenes. When I say “sampling”, I really mean “stealing”. For instance, the Last of the Mohicans background theme which pops up all over the place in Indian film.

      “Music Director”, that’s the person who actually wrote the songs. Often the “lietmotifs” from the songs will form the backbone of the “background music” as well, the love scenes will have a sample of the love song in the background, etc. This goes back to why “background music” used to be kind of an ignored skill, the Music Director came up with all the themes, and then the background music was mostly just those themes cued up in the background of scenes.

      Lyricist is Lyricist. This is another place that those great Urdu poets used to slide in. Some of the most beautiful modern Hindi/Urdu poetry ended up as film lyrics from the 40s all the way through the 70s. There are still some old school lyricists around from that tradition, noticeably Gulzar and Javed Akhtar. But there are also some pretty dumb lame lyrics floating around now too, ones where it hardly seems worth it to even give them a film credit. But it is still an important category, because there are those times when the Lyrics aren’t just things for the characters to pretend to sing, but true art in their own right.

      Director is director. And also often producer and scriptwriter. In fact, you can kind of assume that if someone is listed as “director”. that also means the came up with the film idea, even if they aren’t listed as “writer”. It’s part of the job description for a director in India, they come up with the film idea, pick the stars to act in it, costumes, sets, promotion strategy, it’s really everything. In America/Hollywood, a director is more like a hired gun, the studio finds the script, the stars, and locations, and at some point in the process also hires the director. Sure, once the director is hired, he has full authority. But he is brought in much later in the process in America than in India.

      “Action Director” is the guy who comes up with the action set-pieces for the film. Sometimes that’s the same as the regular director, sometimes it isn’t. This is much closer to an American idea of a director, he’s brought in for a specific task, given parameters and budget limits, then he picks his team and shoots his bit, and then leaves. Since almost all movies include a fight scene somewhere, and “Action Directors” are almost as important as choreographers. You need to bring in a specialist to really make those scenes pop in your film.

      “Thrills” is the stuntman. It can also sometimes be a step on the ladder towards “Action Director”. Ajay Devgn’s father, for instance, started as a stuntman and then moved up to Action Director. Most starts do their own stunts, so they like to make sure there is a big deal made about them getting the “Thrills” credit separately from their acting credit.

      “Banner” is the production house that is officially taking the lead in sponsoring the film. It’s different from “studio”, because it’s not about providing the funding or resources. It’s just about kind of “adopting” the film, promoting it through the industry, finding someone else to fund it and getting people to star in it, etc. etc. If the film does well, the “Banner” gets credit for good judgement and story-spotting. And it makes some money, along with a bunch of other studios and other funding sources. If it does poorly, it loses face in the industry. And also money, along with a bunch of other people. But when you say “Film is produced by the Blah Blah Banner” or “Being made by the Bloop Bloop Banner”, that means they are the ones that are the face of the film.

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  2. I think this is all related to employment in India. At the toll booth going over the bridge from Bandra to central Mumbai there are 3 sometimes 4 people taking the toll: one to hand you a chit, one to take the chit, one to pay money to and one to wave you through. I actually love the fact that they have a writer and a dialog.

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  3. Is there any movie that you really enjoyed and when you watched it ten years later, you were surprised to realize that you don’t even understand why you liked it in the first place?

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    • Oh man, that’s a good one! The problem is, I can almost always find a reason to like a movie. So I never really go from liking it to not liking it. But I can find different things appealing as time goes on, I suppose. Hmmm. Well, just randomly because I happened to see it on my American DVD shelf, Lethal Weapon I guess? The first time I watched it, I remember really liking Mel Gibson’s cool jokes and puns. And then going back to it later, I just found them kind of tedious. Still liked the movie, obviously, it’s Lethal Weapon! But no longer found Mel Gibson so groundbreaking. I guess because I’d gotten older and met more people and seen more movies and knew that they were kind of old jokes.

      Conversely (still staying on my American DVD shelf), I enjoyed Speed the first time I saw it, and then I happened to catch it on TV years later, and it is FREAKING BRILLIANT!!!! The pacing, the twists, the editing-just in terms of structure, it may very well be the greatest action movie of all time. Totally didn’t see it the first time I watched it (when I was 10), but going back to it at 22, there was just so much more to appreciate!

      Okay, I feel like I should give at least one Indian example. Hmm. Hmmm hmmm hmmm. Oh! Here’s one! Yeh Tera Ghar Yeh Mera Ghar! It was the first Priyadarshan movie I ever saw, and I thought Suniel Shetty was brilliant, and Mahima Chowdry was vibrant, and the script and the songs were the cleverest I had ever seen. And then I saw a bunch of other Priyadarshan movies and realized his scrips and songs and characters are always clever. And I saw some more Suniel Shetty and Mahima Chowdry movies, and realized that they really aren’t that brilliant or that vibrant.

      One final counter example, a movie I saw once and then came back to 10 years later, expecting to be disappointed, and instead found that it was exactly as good as I remembered: Jhankaar Beats. I saw it way back in college, thought it was hilarious and heartwarming and human and all of that. Came back to it a few months ago, expecting to see it on a deeper level and all that, now that I was 10 years wiser, or else to realize that I had given it too much credit then. But, nope! The movie is exactly as good as I thought it was, and so sort of “human” that you don’t need any special knowledge or maturity to appreciate it.

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  4. That’s interesting! I don’t think I’ve really had an experience where I totally hated a film when I watched it a a long time later. I did have experiences where I only liked a couple of scenes in the movie opposed to the entire movie.
    At this point, when I re-watch movies from years ago I realize that I totally missed a plot point. For example, when I watched Boys as a kid, all I thought the movie was about was that a bunch of friends moved out and started a band because the hero and heroine’s parents didn’t let them get married. Now after reading your review and thinking back about the movie, I realize how much I actually missed!

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    • I love that about Indian movies especially, how they try to appeal to all ages and work on multiple levels. It makes them a lot more fun to watch with a family or a group. But it also means you can keep coming back to them and seeing different things as you age into a different “level’. I’m actually a little jealous! You get to experience movies as a child and then completely different as you age. I didn’t find them until college, so I missed out on a whole level of appreciation.

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  5. I’ve been busy, so I missed last question post. Here I am again. )))

    Are film promos (like song promos or dialogue promos) available in the Internet only, or are they also shown on TV?

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  6. How do you feel about the two newest guys that are soon going to be introduced by Sajid Nadiadwala and Aditya Chopra respectively.

    Suniel Shetty’s son, Ahan. Honestly, he looks like a mix of Sooraj Pancholi and Athiya Shetty :/

    Is this Armaan Jain’s brother?

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  7. What do you think about the two new guys that are going to be launched soon by Sajid Nadiadwala and Aditya Chopra respectively.

    In my opinion, he looks like a mix between Sooraj Pancholi and Athiya Shetty. And wasn’t Salman going to launch this kid?

    Is this guy Armaan Jain’s brother? Apparently he was an assistant director on Ae Dil Hai Mushkil.

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    • I think Salman tweeted some supportive stuff about Suniel’s son, I still have the impression that he is in the background supporting him, even if he’s not the producer on the launch film. And completely agree, I looked at him and went “It’s just Sooraj Pancholi again!” My biggest opinion on him is just based on who’s launching him. Sajid and Salman are fine, but they aren’t Yash Raj. They can spot a promising youngster and give him a launch, but they don’t have the kind of machinery to really test him out in advance, and then make sure the launch follows through with a massive promotional campaign and additional roles in other films and so on and so on. It’s really just “well, he seems good enough to get this one role in this one movie.” It’s not that big of an endorsement.

      But Yash Raj and Aditya Chopra, they’ve got a whole system! If they decide to launch somebody, there was a whole testing period in advance because this is a big commitment for them. So I’ve got a lot more faith in who they pick out. And in the intelligence of actors who chose to go through that testing period with Yash Raj instead of taking the easier faster path. Like, say, Armaan Jain. He just took the first launch he could get and then promptly disappeared. Much smarter to wait and get the best possible position.

      Also, I feel so bad for the Jain boys! I remember from Armaan’s launch, he had to constantly remind people he was a Kapoor, just as close to Raj Kapoor biologically as Ranbir. They should really just do like Prateik and change their last name for the launch so everyone knows who their maternal family is.

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