Archive for the ‘Golden Age’ Category

Love, trust and faith in directing

Beyond words, sounds. Beyond a blink, a sigh, a smile, a touch, a frown. Is there communication in absolute silence and stillness ? Is there communication in a sense of being ? Beyond just the simplistic scientific ideas of thought transfer and telepathy ?

I have often felt such strong communication in the presence of absolute Love and trust. Not with just vague ideas of words like ‘Hey I love you” thrown at each other , but love and trust that is focussed, active and eager at that moment. Which when combined together seem to bring our deeper selves out from our assumed physical containment, into an energy that mingles and entangles with each other. And that mingling leads to something more ethereal, more harmonious and ideas so limitless that words and gestures could not have conjured up.

I often do that when I direct. I ‘sense’ rather than speak about my relationship with actors. I actively try and create a sense of trust and bonding of love not only with my actors, but with everyone on the set. When the actors are performing, I am loosing my identity into them and creating so called ‘energy fields’ around the set so we all become part of a harmonious ‘moment’ urging for something to be created beyond ourselves but also through ourselves. And often in response they are doing the same.

Not only in my experience with actors like Cate Blanchet , Heath Ledger, Geoffrey Rush and Naseeruddin Shah, with whom I have had experiences where our souls have had the courage to be ‘naked’ in front of each other for that moment, our senses acutely alive to some deeper and often unknown aspect of ourselves in each other, leading to a performance where in hindsight you wonder in awe where and how it evolved so unpredictlably but yet so beautifully.

But also with musicians like Nusrat fateh Ali Khan and A R Rahman. With Nusrat most of the communication was done by him looking into my eyes and singing with tears flowing from both our eyes, having been transported to a realm higher than ourselves. I have been blessed by moments when such people that have trusted and loved me too.

Often producers have felt insecure that I do not look at the ‘Video Monitor’ judging the ‘shot’. I cannot. How do I trust a moment of absolute faith and maintain a connect of love and faith with my actors through a machine ?

But of course such love and trust is possible only after huge amounts of thought and dialogue between my actors and composers and scriptwriters. Before trust comes, there must be understanding. But at the moment of ‘creation’ it all has to be let go into the search for something beyond all that was said and discussed, into something unpredictable.

It’s the essence of all creativity, a huge sense of focussed discipline, followed by a complete letting go. Into moments of absolute faith.

Directing is so much like living. Love , trust and faith.

Elizabeth and Golden Age : Mythology and Melodrama

Question “‘you make a distinction in your audio commentary of “The Golden Age” between mysticism and melodrama (one being a product of the East and the other of the West). I wonder if you might elaborate on this for me’

Mythology are the stories that are buried deep inside ourselves, that struggle to connect our finite imagination to to that which seems or is infinite. Till science came along with logical reasons for lightening and clouds, they were part of our Myths (and often still are) with Gods letting forth a series of lightening strikes and roaring in anger. However all cultures in their struggle to comprehend infinite questions like the nature of the universe, the reason for our here, the miracles of birth , of death, of falling in love, betrayal and even possibilities of afterlife, have developed mythologies/stories to explain these. Often these migrate from Mythology into faith.

What differs between the West and the East is the openness of expression of such Mythic events. For example in the West you are taught to be silent and not to cry when someone dies, while in India we have ‘rudali’s’ that come to encourage to openly sob and express you grief. In this age of reason Western filmakers (for example) are often shy of expressing human reaction to such mythic events, calling it Melodrama – while films in the east tend to more expressive and accepting about ‘Mythic’ events and therefore the ‘Melodramatic’ nature of the presentation, the story and the performances. That sense of Myth then permeates all aspects of filmaking – the design, the costumes, the lighting and the shots. And of course the story telling.

In both Elizabeth and it’s sequel the Golden Age I realized that we were dealing with times before ‘the age of reason’ or the age of ’scientific temper’ had set into England. The Industrial revolution had yet to come, as had the proliferation of the British Empire. Arrogance of the mind and ego, led by conquest of the seas and manufacture had yet to set in. The tudor period therefore was to me what film critics call ‘melodramatic’ and I saw a culture largely in synch with it’s inherent mythic nature. After all Elizabeth herself was constantly relying on astrological predictions and had used ‘virginity’ as a mythic idea beyond the realms of the loss of the hymen.

So I brought my inherent Mythic sense to a film genre’ that was considered to be more much about Costumes, Royal and Court politics and (most of all) wit. And turned it around to look at it from it’s own melodramatic point of view. After all with intrigue and death always around the corner , and when life expectancy in the court was about 27, .how could you not be superstitious or mythic in your thinking ?

In Elizabeth it seemed to completely in synch with the writing performance etc. It was a woman moving from youth, love and childhood, to power, ruthlessness, monarchy but most importantly Divinity. Declaring yourself a virgin an then walking through the court, seperating yourself from the human form forever, and declaring your self Divine – in India she would have been called a Devi and still happens everyday. How mythic/melodramatic is that ?

The second one – The Golden Age – ran into difficulty. To my mind Elizabeth was now Divine,even if only in her own mid. How did she now comprehend herself falling n love ? being jealous ? Having sexual desire ? How does all of that affect your sense of Divinity ? Did she see her enemy Phillip as divine too ? All pretty mythic stuff – or you can call it melodramatic if you are a pure historian. And that’s where the film did not reach the expectations the first one had set up. There was an ongoing tussle between normalcy of a man/woman love story, as against the need to see it from a Divine perspective, Also between History and Mythology, which a lot of critics called Melodrama.

What I would say though is that any culture that is not in day to day touch with it’s own mythology, is a culture that will build tension and be open to exploitation – such as the rise of dangerous cults and creation of mythic evil figures to satisfy their need for connecting with their sense of mythology.

As I write this the news flashed that the next film in the Twilight series (Eclipse) has grossed an all time record of $ 30m in one night ! Now I would say a love story between a a young girl and a sexy vampire is pretty Melodramatic – or would you call it Mythic ?

Golden Age/Divinity/History/Desire

Once when I was discussing the film with Cate Blanchett I showed her a DVD that I, along with some really great artists, had created. I was looking to see if I could create a visual script rather than a written script. . I love music and visuals in a film and feel that a film needs as minimum dialoge as possible. Looking back on films of mine that have succeeded, I notice that in those I never struggled with long pages of dialogue. Anyway Cate Blanchett saw the Budha DVD and immedietly said ‘ U are trying to tell the story of Buddha through Elizabeth !! ….


Golden Age Diary

For those that want to know more about the process and ideas behind the making of Golden Age, I have started writing on the Golden Age diary on this blog again.

Letting go of Golden Age

Fro two years i waited for this day. I thought I would heave a sigh of relief. I would be free. I would go play, take a holiday, explore the universe again. Find myself again. This day, the day I finished Golden Age. And now that the day is here, I am in turmoil. It’s like letting go of my baby ? My baby ?How arrogant can I be ?


Golden Age Diary

Given the level of interest in the Golden Age Diary, I am setting up a sub blog for that. If your scroll up to the top of the page, please click on where it says “Golden Age Diary’ next to ‘Press Articles’. Thanks everyone.

Golden Age Diary

today is the first day of the shoots with Cate Blanchette who plays Elizabeth of course, and Abbie Cornish, who plays Bess, Elizabeth’s lady in waiting, who has an affair with Walter Raleigh.


Trying to listen to myself

Film making is so much now about fitting a square peg (a script) into a round hole (a schedule and a budget), that so much of my time on Golden Age gets taken up with production meetings, budget meetings, schedule meetings etc etc. Time now to shut my ears to the organizational noise and listen to myslelf. Get back in touch with myself.



A lot of people, including pim, ask me when Buddha is going to be made,


Golden Age Diary

The Golden Age Diary will be an open thread, in which I will post a diary as comments rather than posts. Viewers are welcome to post comments, and I look forward to haing your feedback.