Article, Review and Q&A Session of ‘Baavra Mann’, a Documentary on the life of Director-Scriptwriter Sudhir Mishra, Directed by Jaideep Varma (Part 2 of 3)

The film is produced by Saturday films, which is the director’s own Production Company and the sole financer of this film (as revealed during the Q & A session). Shot on a shoestring budget of 5 – 6 lakhs, Baawra Mann explores different aspects of director-scriptwriter Sudhir Mishra’s life and works through interviews with cast and crew of his earlier films, friends, acquaintances, contemporaries and Indian Ocean (considering Jaideep Varma’s previous documentary Leaving Home was about this band).

GRADE: CC / 40%

Summary: Baavra Mann is a languorous overload of interviews shot in patterned middle-shots with little music, little dramatic impact and a lot of talk.  Together these voices drown out the Jaideep Varma’s own voice as the documentary’s director.

Baavra Mann is a languorous ovBaavra Mannerload of interviews with Sudhir Mishra, actors, writers, producers and composers who have worked with him, theatre personalities, professors, contemporaries, friends and acquaintances, parents, uncles and even ex-wife, shot in patterned middle-shots with little music, little dramatic impact and a lot of talk. Together these voices drown out the director Jaideep Varma’s own voice, and we wait restlessly in our seats wanting to know the story Varma is trying to convey. Alas, he remains silent, and his story indefinite.

To make a documentary on the life and works of Sudhir Mishra is a challenging task. Firstly, Sudhir is a wise man, a very wise man. He has answers for most of the questions, especially the simple ones. There isn’t much self-doubt or insecurity in this man, and even if there is, he hides it behind a convincing façade. Vulnerable moments seldom show on his countenance. He has a no-nonsense attitude, a downer for cameras. Secondly, it’s odd to release or rather screen (as corrected by Jaideep Varma during the Q&A session) film on Sudhir Mishra in 2013. Why? Because his previous film Inkaar underperformed at the box office and wasn’t a critical darling either. Neither was Sudhir Mishra involved in any major kind of controversy unlike his Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi star Shiney Ahuja. His personal life isn’t under microscopic scrutiny of film reporters either. Why hear about a guy who isn’t heard or talked about like say Karan Johar or Rituparno Ghosh? Thirdly, even if his life is documented, is it really worth at the present moment to screen it at film festivals, release special DVDs etc? Isn’t this kind of material, based on a guy whose fans are only those who’ve watched his movies, better suited as a DVD bonus feature? I have the answer to the third question, a simple one that too – YES.

There is no director’s stamp in this documentary, which is especially needed if the subject is Sudhir Mishra because we don’t hold a distinct opinion about him. Does Jaideep Verma wants us to look at this man and his films differently? Does he want us to empathize with his attitude on cinema? Or does he want us to simply lament lost times in general, his lost films in particular? We find ourselves lost here because none of the questions posed to Mishra generate anything more than superficial interest. His failed marriage with Sushmita Mukherjee, for instance, begins with Sushmita talking about his work, then their marriage, then the reason for its failure (where both take the blame themselves for a change instead of pointing accusatory fingers). The last segment is edited using poorly cut split screen effect; first Sushmita speaks on the left side, then Sudhir on the right, then Sushmita, then Sudhir. Did he pour his personal failures as recurring motives in his films? I’m not sure again, as there are so many voices to speak that we fail to recognize and remember whose words matter.

We have interviews with people who only speak a line or two then disappear. We don’t really know what Mishra saw in his muse

English: Chitrangada Singh at the Audio releas...

 Chitrangada Singh (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chitrangada Singh, who has starred as the lead in Hazaaron Khwahishein Aisi, Yeh Saali Zindagi and Inkaar; I would’ve wanted to hear that. And what did Sudhir think about Shiney Ahuja’s arrest? Did he have conflicts with actors on sets? We won’t know all that as the film rarely takes us to a set or a stage. Instead, a considerable time is given to Sudhir travelling to places like Bombay, Jaipur, Sagar etc and talking about ‘Being a Bambaikar’, ‘Jaipur ki Meethi Boli’…

More importantly, the film fails to answer whether Jaideep Varma’s preconceived notions about Sudhir Mishra prior to making the film altered during the process. Instead, there’s a scene of him peeing in the fields. The documentary takes itself too seriously yet does not ask serious enough questions and doesn’t know when to relax. Even the moment of levity is jarring. Add monotonous, repetitive editing technique to the pyre and what you have are the reels of Baavra Mann burning. And I prefer to stay silent than stop this fire.

 

Article, Review and Q&A Session of ‘Baavra Mann’, a Documentary on the life of Director-Scriptwriter Sudhir Mishra, Directed by Jaideep Varma (Part 1 of 3)

 

(I do not own any rights to this video)

 

A private screening of documentary feature ‘Baavra Mann’ was held at Surya Palace hotel yesterday from 6:15 pm. Hurrying with the event pass obtained from Mr. Tony Kirkham, my father’s friend cum client who was one of the organizers of the event, I reached dot on six fifteen and was inside the hall, proud that I’d made it in time for once (the last time I had many heads turning as I dashed in about ten minutes late during an interactive session on alternate cinema; however, I’d like to mention here that nobody else except I asked any question relevant to the subject of discussion). The hall quickly filled up, and I took my seat after greeting Mr. Tony who, surprised by the hormonal changes in my body, exclaimed “You look like a man now! How time flies!’; the last time we met, it was a year before when I’d visited his office to ask for sponsorship, which he generously gave.

 

The leniency of Indians regarding punctuality did not just limit to lower or middle-class Indians but affluent Indians too, as nothing popped up on the medium-sized screen until 6:35 pm (6:15 pm – 6:45 pm was allotted for introductory remarks by the documentary’s director Jaideep Verma, at least on paper i.e. the event pass). It was at 6:45 pm that visuals began appearing on screen, however it wasn’t the documentary that was playing but a short clip on my city Vadodara. One by one, interview style close-up shots to middle-shots of entrepreneurs and the event’s organizers played as they praised the art, culture, values and lifestyle of Vadodara. Frankly, nobody paid attention to the first video because of the great Indian bustle (which involved people greeting one another like they’re blood brothers and blood sisters who are meeting after years of separation by some Berlin Wall-like thing) which eventually subdued during the second clip, which was about business opportunities and entrepreneurial freedom in Vadodara. “To hell with Barodian self-congratulatory hymns, just begin the film! Mera mann baavra ho rahaa hai (my mind is getting restless!)!” I thought.

 

As soon as the clips faded away, a thirty-plus bespectacled guy in a natty black waistcoat and finely ironed pants appeared on stage to host the main event finally. After usual words of praise for director Jaideep Varma, Impact Index (don’t ask me what this is. The name is scribbled in my notes for some reason), Sir Jadeja, (clueless here again; apologies for my awful memory) hotel Surya Palace, and Cognito of course (main sponsors; I learnt from dad later that the host held a higher-level position at Cognito), he went on to invite the man-behind-the-movie himself, Mr Jaideep Varma. I didn’t know anything about him except whatever was mentioned on his pass, and so like any other person, I judged him first based on his outward appearance.

 

Sudhir Mishra

Sudhir Mishra (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He looked quite young, at least from where I was sitting, for a director who is making a film on the life and times of veteran parallel cinema director-scriptwriter Sudhir Mishra. I expected a grey-haired guy with a Mishra-like austere and scholarly look but got a bespectacled geeky-looking slightly-burly fellow in an oversized tee-shirt. He reminded me of a friend of mine who lived for two months at my neighbor’s house and came to my home everyday diligently… though uninvited (sometimes I’d wake up and find him in the living area watching television; if this were USA, he’d be charged for trespassing. Nice fellow, though).

 

Introducing himself as the ‘guy who made ‘Leaving Home’ documentary on the band Indian Ocean, and a former employee at an advertising agency’, Mr. Jaideep Varma then proceeded to call filmmaking as an ‘entrepreneurship’ involving team-building and execution; as Vadodara teemed with prospective entrepreneurs (absolutely true), he hoped to see more Barodians entering filmmaking in the future and coming up with new innovative ideas. He ended his introductory speech by saying that his film was not just a biopic also threw light on various other things, which he could not explain coherently for fear of spoiling the film. A surprising statement he added right at the end was that “he did not believe Mr. Sudhir Mishra had made his best yet”, but concluded by saying that “the film was not pessimistic. I hope you’d understand”. Hopes were high indeed because I was keen on how this documentary treated a scriptwriter-director who was not among the most well-known names in

English: The official movie poster of Hazaaron...

Movie poster of Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

the industry yet a force to be reckoned with. I’ve only seen one film of his, that too in bed when I was down with Hepatitis-A about two years ago; it was called ‘Yeh Saali Zindagi’ (This bloody life) and I liked it for the most part. And I knew he had made ‘Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi’ (A Thousand Desires Like These), a highly acclaimed film and ‘Inkaar’ (Denial), a mildly bashed film. Why would Mr. Varma choose to document his life, which is hardly the talk of the town? Especially after Inkaar, which quietly faded into oblivion? Why did he not choose Mr. Karan Johar, for example, whose personal life was constantly in news? Is he or is he not gay? With Sudhir Mishra, there were no such burning questions to be resolved.

 

The film began.