Sunday, 7 December 2014

What Do Elizabeth Ekadashi and Mockingjay Part I Have in Common?

Elizabeth Ekadadashi is the sophomore effort by Paresh Mokashi - the director of the acclaimed, India's nomination for the Oscars 'Harishchandrachi Factory' and Mockinjay is the first part of the 'epic' finale to the dystopian Hunger Games trilogy. One's a regional Marathi film and another's an unnecessary tentpole flick only created to extend the finale and rake in more money for the studio. I happened to see them both on the same day. I enjoyed both. The former surprisingly because I find Paresh Mokashi's direction a little to treacly for me. What struck me though how both the films use intercutting to build their narrative. 

Intercutting is when the film cuts two disparate scenes together. Either to create something visually striking or to just take the action forward.

In Mockingjay, Katniss becomes the mouthpiece of the 'revolution' against the dictatorial 'Panem/The Capitol/The name isn't the point'. We see her shooting a video at her hometown  home, the now rubble-ridden, carpet-bombed District 12. She's only making the video to put a spanner in the antagonist Capitol's plan which is using her now captive BF Peeta in making positive videos. So far the director Francis Lawrence has been doing a rather tame job with his second outing on the franchise. Then he mixes things up. He shows Peeta's video being broadcast first, he's on a tirade asking the 'rebels' to stop. That's when Lawrence cuts to Katniss' video of her home, how she's describing how cruel the Capitol is and the entire video is accompanied to this brilliant James Newton Howard composition. And believe me you, it looks magical. I mean not the rubble, the effect feels magical. The movie then uses intercutting again for great dramatic impact. But nothing comes close to this, the illusion Capitol wants to put out and the harsh cruel reality Katniss to the tune of what sounds like a real 30s depression-era public strike song.

Now let's get back to the Marathi marvel at hand. Elizabeth Ekadashi deals with Dnyanesh, a little wunderkind with a big problem on his hand. His father's no more, his mother's the sole breadwinner. When her sweater making machine is taken away because she can't pay the loan on it, they have to make a hard decision - get it back by selling his father's hand-built bicycle Elizabeth.

I like how the director never mopes too much on the fact that Dnynaesh's poor mother has to clear her debts on the very machine through which she ekes out a living. Now when the very machine is taking away from her, how can she actually go around and 'make' money, then repay it? What an awful vicious circle! But we are to talk about intercutting, so let me get back. I like that you've been paying attention so far.

Elizabeth, not the Queen of England but the bicycle is Dnyanesh's only link to his now deceased father. His family lives in squalor but for the little kid, that bike is indeed a treasure. As a filmmaker, Mokashi has to get this point forward as quickly as he can. And since his film has a run time of a mere 90 minutes, he has to get an early start.So right in the credit rolls of the movie, we see the Lord Vitthal's idol being given a thorough wash. And these shots are intercut with shots of Dnyanesh giving his beautiful bike Elizabeth a good scrub. Point made in less than 5 seconds. For little Dnyanesh, his bike is next to God. 

Hats off to the makers of both of the movies choosing to trust the intelligence of their audience and showing things instead of spoon-feeding them.

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