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IFFI 2017 Open Forum: Film personalities rue abuse of technology

TV director and consultant Syam GK said producers and filmmakers are abusing technology to economize on production, giving artistes no scope to perform.

Blessy Chettiar

The Indian Documentary Producers’ Association organized its first Open Forum this year at the 48th International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Panaji, Goa.

The topic — Are actors losing control due to changing technologies? — was passionately debated by French filmmaker Pierre Assouline, former senior producer of Doordarshan Syam GK, Odia film Khyanikaa producer-actor Swastik Choudhury, Bengali filmmaker Amartya Bhattacharyya, and Film and Television Institute of India faculty Deb Kamal Ganguly. The session was moderated by senior journalist Siraj Syed.

“Performing and fine arts require the human presence and touch," said Syed, setting the tone for the discussion. "Drama, cinema, writing, painting, dance, sculpting, all require the human touch and resonate only because of humans wielding the tools that impart them.”

Mentioning that his exposure to art began through theatre at a young age, Bhattacharyya said, “I have been a passionate actor. I don’t get to act in my own films anymore, and other filmmakers don’t want me because I am anti-conventional."

Bhattacharyya said actors have an important but limited role in cinema. "An actor must not take control of cinema," he said. "In a sense, one of the most popular industries of India, which I feel is an intellectually bankrupt industry, projects actors as faces of cinema, which is utter bullshit, because they don’t make cinema. They just add soul to a character defined by the writer and filmmaker.

"Now, if actors are getting replaced by technology it is another nonsense," he continued. "Technology is an extension of our faculties. The very core of technology is humans. The purpose of art is to humanize.”

Bhattacharyya, who also made Benaras: The Unexplored Attachments, shot the film on a budget of Rs5 lakh with a Canon 6D digital SLR camera. He advocated the use of technology as it would boost the industry but was wary of its abuse. “It can never substitute a human being. We are the makers of those machines,” he said.

On the same lines, Assouline said technology is a means to control commercial cinema. He said it should be used to tell a story, not to put actors on top.

Choudhury said, “About technology taking over actors’ jobs, there are two sides to the coin. When we make ourselves redundant in certain aspects, we leave it open to others to hijack our presence. There is always an opportunity to break conventions, to understand where we stand in the scheme of things. For example, as an actor I should evaluate my work. Is it adding any value to me as a person? If I just start contributing as an actor, it hardly matters. It is important to find associations, to look for opportunities that add to your relevance as an actor.”

Ganguly, a member of the FTII faculty in the department of direction and screenplay writing, had a different view. “Cinema as a stream has always been grappling with technology," he said. "Now we are talking about replacing the face of an actor. But we replaced the voice of an actor long ago. How have we coped with that? We need to make a distinction whether we are talking about cinema or every moving image under the same umbrella.”

Ganguly added that the idea of stardom is changing constantly.

Syam GK said that in his four decades of experience and observation, he had noticed two things. “Firstly, technology is very useful for an actor. Earlier, an actor never got a chance to watch his performance before the film was released or rushes were updated. Now, immediately after every shot he can look at his performance. This is a very good advantage for an artiste.

"Secondly, tele-serials are misusing this technology. For the sake of economics, while shooting, actors don’t memorize any lines. The AD would be prompting from behind, the actor gives the shot, and then dubs for it later. These people acting in serials will not get a chance to perform professionally because this is a misuse of technology."

When Cinestaan.com highlighted that advanced technology could add responsibility on artistes to perform better as their careers are under greater scrutiny, Syam said, “Actors are not misusing technology. It is the producers, filmmakers doing so to economize their production. They are not giving artistes the scope to perform. The other thing is, some of the artistes rush from one serial to the other and have no time. Technology can always be used by filmmakers positively. It’s up to the crew how they use it.”

Bhattacharyya ended the discussion saying, “There are numerous good uses of technology and no one can even dare to debate that. The only problem is the abuse of technology. We will use technology to its optimum level.”

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