IN CAMERA Members of passionforcinema.com bond over the potent compound of cinema and industry gossip
In this Saturday series, we cover unusual groups. This week, Ketan Tanna meets bloggers who are mad about movies RGV is a favourite subject of discussion. They wonder what he will be up to next
On September 18, when Anurag Kashyap came across a YouTube video of his film Paanch, which has yet to be released in the market, the first thing he did was write a quick blog on passionforcinema.com.
The words tumbled forth. â€œI woke up this morning and got a mail from someone I donâ€™t even know…and I got so emotional. See how young I look…I sound like all those directors who say itâ€™s a different film… I was blabbering all of that. But made me feel so good,â€ gushed Kashyap. Reactions to this disjointed outburst came fast and furious from India as well as nonresident India, and at last count more than 82 persons had posted their opinion of Paanch and what they thought of the Censor Boardâ€™s craven decision to spike it because â€œit glorifies violenceâ€.
Kashyap, the scriptwriter of Satya, Kaun and Yuva, is not the only one who has bared his heart incoherently on the internet. Others from the film world such as Sudhir Mishra, Ramu Ramanathan, Shashank Ghosh, Pawan Kaul and Santosh Sivan are all part of a growing cyber group which calls itself passionforcinema.com or PFC. Apart from these famous names, the rank and file is made up of scores of regular Indians who eat, drink and sleep cinema even as they live out their stolid lives as software engineers, television journalists, accountants and doctors.
What started as a private blog by a Los Angeles-based Indian, Pankaj Sikka, who likes to go by the pseudonym Oz, has blossomed into an online community where geography is meaningless and chemistry is ignited by a potent compound of cinema and industry gossip. Launched in September 2006, PFC gets around 10,000 to 15,000 hits a day.
On a rainy evening, eight members of PFC gather at Cafe Mocha in Juhu to talk shop. The most talkative is Surendra Hiwarale, a bespectacled young man who has worked with Ram Gopal Varma on Ek Haseena Thi, Mr Ya Miss and Nishabd. Somen Mishra, a television journalist with a benign smile tries to moderate the discussion but gives up. Each member of the group has his own voluble take on what Indian cinema is and what it should be. Seated next to Mishra is Kartik Krishnan, an intense-looking software engineer with Accenture who hopes to one day be a fulltime director. So far he has only made a one-minute film.
The conversation flows effortlessly and topics are tossed around and discarded. Itâ€™s very much like an internet chat room. On the website, there is activity round the clock because the Great Indian Diaspora has infested time zones all over the world. â€œEverything is discussed from World Cup cricket to whatâ€™s happening in whose life,â€ says Mishra. The maverick Ram Gopal Varma is a favourite subject. â€œWe all wonder what he will be up to next,â€ chuckles Bala.
Another film-maker Ashish Shukla, says he used to be a die-hard fan of Sanjay Leela Bhansali until he joined PFC and found out to his disillusionment that â€œBlack was a remake of an American filmâ€.
To keep the site clean and spam free, volunteers act as editors. Currently under way is an online film competition called PFCOne. It is open to all. To participate one has to shoot a one-minute film and upload it. The winners get to work with the established members of the group. â€œThe competition is being held to encourage those who donâ€™t know anyone in Bollywood but still want to start somewhere. Mind you, the films will be judged by film-makers,â€ says Mishra.
Over the last year this cinema-crazy bunch has become a small family, with the attendant side-effects of love and hate. One blogger insists on sending DVDs of films not available in India to Hiwarale. When some of the films refused to play on Hiwaraleâ€™s DVD, the blogger sent him a DVD player. Yet, more than material gifts, it is the opinion of fellow bloggers that is most sought after. Words of praise are framed and hung on the bedroom wall. But itâ€™s not always about back scratching. Sometimes the knives come out. A blogger who is known by the handle R K lambasted Kashyap for his film Black Friday, saying that it lacked continuity and that K K Menon hardly looked like Rakesh Maria, the police officer who cracked the 1993 Mumbai blasts case. Kashyap, while acknowledging the lack of continuity, said they were severely crippled by financial and other constraints. â€œWe lied to shoot the blast. We shot in the middle of a residential area, cops breathing down our necks.â€ But he defended his choice of KK for the role. â€œOnly Maria himself would have looked more the part. I would say that to me his is the most brilliant performance in the film because the finest aspect of an investigating officer is his mind. The ability to slink into the background.â€
And, of course, there was the little incident at the Black Friday party when director Sanjay Gupta walked menacingly towards the group of bloggers. One of them, Kartik Krishnan, had made some unflattering remarks about Guptaâ€™s film Das Kahaniyan on another site. What happened at the party was described by Bala. â€œKartik is looking at him….sex on the beach…Sanjay Gupta picks a bottle and walks towards our table. â€˜Bhen**** kaun hai?â€™ Kartik and Sanjay Gupta are now face to face. Continues Bala, â€œWish I had 36 cameras placed all around to capture that moment in a 360-degree freeze frame…Sanjay Gupta put the bottle down. Kartik surprisingly had no reaction on his face. He was just looking at Sanjay Gupta. We just moved our heads from one face to another.â€
Later, Kartik found out that they had pulled a fast one on him. TNN