Saturday, 24 January 2009

Save the Green Planet, my sensory organs and a revelation..

Being a Communication student at University of Hyderabad endows one with some glorious opportunities. Getting to meet some stalwarts is one of them. Prof. Earl Jackson from Seoul University in Korea visited us this week to be a part of the visual culture programme that SN School is hosting. During his sojourn, he screened one of the movies that created a visual revolution of sorts in Korea called Save the Green Planet.

The protagonist of the movie is crazy in the world’s perspective. Five minutes into the movie he kidnaps a corporate honcho who he thinks is an alien who will endanger the whole planet and its species. The movie then went on for about ninety minutes to show the ruthless torture that our ‘hero’ (protagonist is definitely the better word) subjects the villain (?) to. From peeling off his feet skin to nailing his hands just like Jesus Christ, any cruel thing you can think of was executed in the movie. Technically well made; yes. But my eyes, ears and particularly heart were aching by the time the movie ended. I was wondering why anybody would want to watch such violence through a medium that is essentially meant for entertainment.

Prof. Jackson led a discussion after the movie and it was eye-opening. The over-the-top violence became the issue in discussion; he explained how Koreans as a civilisation are used to the violence depicted in the movie. A history of butchering, colonisation and oppression made them identify with it like they have experienced it themselves. It was not new to them as it was for me or any of my classmates who closed their eyes for most of the shots.

I then thought how wrong generalisations are. The one I made a paragraph above, for example. A medium that is essentially meant for entertainment. For whom? For us Indians, cinema equates to entertainment. (Possibly, for westerners too. There is no way we would have got this connotation for cinema from anywhere else.) For us, music and dance is an integral part of our cinema viewing experience (Agreed, this is not so for westerners). True, we too have had a past of aggression and oppression. But not of the degree that Koreans or Japanese have experienced. Rightly enough, their cinematic sensibilities are different too.

Prof. Jackson also mentioned that while it was a path-breaking film in Korea, it was a financial disaster. The interesting thing is that it was not because people did not watch the movie. The makers of the movie were so confident about their creation that they arranged a lot of free shows in the initial weeks of release for word-of-mouth publicity to develop. Sadly, all the people who were to watch it watched it then. Nobody bought tickets to watch the movie later. So that was a marketing strategy gone awry. Due to some weird policy in Korea, the talented director Jang Jan-Hwan who sank into a financial depression wasn’t allowed to make another movie.

As much as the movie left an image of hopelessness in me, it struck a chord with millions of Koreans. After decades of restricted film making freedom, Jang broke free with this film and it means so much to that nation. This revelation compensates for the disturbance that I experienced the whole evening after watching the movie.

I guess I will watch Slumdog Millionaire and instil back the hope in me. :) Can't wait.


tintu said...
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tintu said...

Hi..This post was a bit moving..
Is cinema just an entertainment media?Eventhough people say-"N0..its more of an informative media with many lessons to society,I feel atleast to common people it is an entertainer..:(..only an entertainer..!!!!!!
In my case,I like watching offbeat movies.still if `paadam onnu oru vilapam` and `swapnakkoodu` comes together on different channels, I would prefer 2nd one..:P.We can`t blame filmmakers for concentrating
more on commercial films.As long as audience taste remains the same,I believe,any producer won`t dare to comeup with an offbeat subject:(

Sharada said...

I have to agree with tintu up there. The cinema is yet another medium to spin magical yarns. Though only more dynamic and impact creating owing to its characteristics.
Is it really an entertainment medium per se? I wonder. Entertainment being defined only initially when the Edison cranked out the camera from his lab. It was new. It was amusing.

Today, there is a new breed of directors who wish to use this medium to a hilt. It has the greatest reach and the widest audiences.

Of course, there can be a more subtle way of depicting messages. Schindler's list or Mr and Mrs Iyer all talk about violence. They create unease and restlessness too. At a different level. In a different manner. No gruesomeness involved there.

Yeah, because one looks for relief and de-stressors from real life, cinema assumes the role of entertainment. Hence, commercial movies end up grossing thumbs-up.

What you are wondering here, is something I went through during the IIFK. What about happy cinema? What about a Happy Film Festival?