Thursday, July 21, 2005

Cinefan again: good things and bad

The temptation to rant is always stronger than the desire to give credit where credit is due. So let me get this out of the way first: I value the Cinefan festival, it’s done some great work and it’s even more important for the Delhi movie-lovers’ circuit now that IFFI has moved to Goa. I’ve seen some good and great films here (along with some terrible ones) in the past six years, films I otherwise wouldn’t have had access to - and free of cost at that. And about this year’s edition: things have improved after the first two days. Though I still feel bad about India Habitat Centre no longer being on the venues list, I have to concede that with Siri Fort (and its four auditoria) becoming a consolidated centre, Cinefan has acquired something of the ethos of a high-quality film festival - with people leaving one hall after a film finishes and rushing to another one, or to the media centre, or for a lecture/seminar/press conference, with everything within walking distance. These are positive developments and I’ll include them all in the fest-overview I’ll be doing for my newspaper, along with my rants about Neville Tulli’s silly speeches.

Having got that out of the way *turns off "Gracious Jabberwock" switch*, some organisational screw-ups are so blindingly obvious one wonders how they could ever have been implemented without someone in the planning committee keeling over in shock. Yesterday Ray’s Pather Panchali, the festival’s "centrepiece", was screened. It was fully anticipated that a huge, unmanageable crowd would show up and that there would be enough problems for the organisers anyway, with vast queues in place (and out of place) well before the screening time. The film was scheduled for 6.30 PM. So what diabolical scheduling, one must ask, permitted the screening of a 131-minute film (that’s 2 hours 11 minutes, for the mathematically challenged) in the same auditorium at 4.30 PM? So that by 6.45 PM incensed crowds, having waited for an hour already, were pressing hard against the auditorium doors with an almost equally large number of people trapped inside.

I won’t go on about this because given the disaster potential in this situation, surprisingly little happened. No deaths or anything. But you get the idea. This is as bizarre as it is annoying, because in past editions the festival has usually ensured a fair gap before the screening of a high-profile film. These are easily avoidable mistakes, one would think, and yet, and yet.

P.S. For some reason everyone who makes pre-screening speeches says Satyajit Rai (as in Lala Lajpat...). Everyone. It’s pronounced with a particularly lusty Punjabi inflection. I know not why this is.

P.P.S. Overheard during long wait outside auditorium, conversation between two young college-students, one of whom was playing Ray-expert for his uninitiated friend:

CS1: I believe this is the first film Satyajit Rai made?
CS2 (sagely): No no, I’ve seen Mahanagar and Sonar Kella before this.

Also overheard: man asking if this was where Paanch Patthar was being screened. Hmm. Sounds like a neat Feluda movie. Hidden treasure, location unknown. Five stones in strange formation.


  1. Bongs would also tend to pronounce it "Rai" as in Lala Lajpat with an aggressively Bong intonation.
    Assuming they didn't refer to him as "Manikda" of course!

  2. DD- Heh, that's true!

    (Though I'll bet all the 'o' sounds and 'aa' sounds in pather panchali came out pretty strange as well...)

  3. At the risk of being stoned by pucca Delhi-ites (like yourself!), I have to say that the exchanges you cite at the end of your post very aptly capture the essential philistine nature of 'most' Delhi-ites..

  4. SN: as the man said, everybody must get stoned (or five-stoned!)

  5. it is pronounced 'Rai', if written 'Ray'. Ray, Rai, and Roy are all various ways in which the surname pronounced 'rye' is anglicized.

    another friend said this cinefan has had some very good films, better than any previous edition. i really enjoyed a lot of stuff at the 2003 edition.

  6. Some ol' guy (damn blogger pseudonyms!): is it really meant to be pronounced Rai? Odd. I can understand foreigners saying "Ray" but why do all my Bong friends pronounce it that way too?

  7. Looks like quite a few of the commentators are bengalee. Genetically programmed debaters. Show them a Ganesha idol, and they'll start debating on the gestation period of African elephants.

  8. Did they screen the Satyajit Ray film that was banned in India?

  9. jabberwock: i have no idea: because they're so terribly anglicized that they've never realised that the name is rai? (actually, the same rai as in lajpat rai - it's a title given at some point to people who were zamindars, usually fairly minor)? i think that this happens/happened quite a lot; a word is anglicised in a particular way (in this case, one of three :-)), then people forget the original pronunciation, and read it as they would an english word (english being what it is, the same spelling can usually be pronounced two ways) - case in point: old colonial spelling of the river Yamuna = Jumna. Now This was clearly because it approximated the colloquial pronunciation of the river's name, so I suspect the first syllable was meant to rhyme with 'gum';, but over time, the brits forgot (as did many indians) and when they saw that spelling, they'd read it to rhyme with room, if you know what i mean.

    also, possible that people think they ought to pronounce it 'ray' when speaking in english. i know many 'rays' who say rai when speaking bangla but ray when speaking english. similar to people who say 'Baa-sew' for basu when introducing themselves in English, but Bo-shu when doing so in bengali. I suppose one ought not to say one is right and the other wrong, just that 'rai' is not wrong .. if people want to say ray, they are free to.

  10. 'tis rai (rhymes with 'hai', as in political demonstrator chanting 'hai, hai') actually. ray,also spelt rae (as in ray of light) or roy ( as in the first syllable of royal, are anglicisations. Like Robindronath Thakur becoming Ravindranath Tagore. Bongs being the genetically programmed anglophiles that they are, tend to use the anglicisation.
    @ DD,
    surprise, surprise- we actually don't make elder brothers of the world and its uncle. The average bong would say Shottojit Rai when referring to him. For people who are not public figures, but not acquaintances either, we use "babu" actually. as in joy-orjun babu :)

  11. I've been to Delhi only twice, on short holiday visits, but somehow, the crowds seem to be the most unruly and brash there. I don't know if this is really true of Delhi, but it's been my experience....and what's most remarkable is that the people being rudest and most pushy were obviously "educated". I thought it was just my luck to land up in places like that....but your description isn't too far away from that.

    That said......I just watched "Charulata" for the dozenth time last sunday, and each time I watch it, i discover new layers. "Shottojit Rai" was some movie maker...

  12. Ray rhymes with Jai as in Jai Arjun Singh. And just as Jai would take umbrage to being referred as Jay (as in rapper/hip hop artist Jay-Z), every self-respecting film buff should feel personally affronted on hearing people mispronouncing Manik-da's surname (it's not as if they are trying to get their tongues around Krzysztof Kieslowski for Chrissake!). That Paanch Patthar bit was hilarious. What will they call the other two in the triology: Upar Ka Sanskar and Upar Aa Jao To???!!!

  13. Joy (which is the Bangali pronunciation of your name), the Paanch Patthar comment reminds me of a doggerel clue in another Feluda story.

    Murho hoye burho gaach, haath gono bhaath paanch, dik paao thik thik jobabey

    Go ask His Duckness for translation!


  14. Tridib: BTW, I don't take umbrage when referred to as Jay (as I often am by PR people and colleagues), or for that matter Joy (which is what many Bong friends call me). So maybe the "self-respecting film buffs" should learn to lighten up too!

  15. This leech quietly watches the delude. Jabberwocky (or Joi Orjun Babu), you have indeed tickled a sensitive bone in the Bengali socio-cultural anatomy.

  16. Hi . Jai . I saw your article on . Me and a couple of blog friends of mine are organising a small scale blogging awards . The response that we have received so far is great . It would be our honour to have you on the jury to decide the winners .Hope to recieve a response from you
    Thanking you

    Saba Ali

    Blog :

  17. hey, what's this about a ray film being banned in india? had no idea anything he made was banned in india: quizman, which film are you referring to?

  18. Someol'guy,

    That was a standard quiz question back in college. Ray made a documentary film on the Chogyals of Sikkim and it was banned in India. I have no idea whether it was ever "unbanned". See this and this

    Anyway, it gives us an opportunity to use the controversial non-bong pronunciation of the director's name to declare that "The Chogyals" is under Ray-ban.

  19. Sikkim was never officially unbanned - and, as far as I know no decent print exists. Last I heard "Maladi"
    (Gayatri Chatterjee) was trying to resurrect one from the tatters and ruins of something at the Pune archives.

    It was a fuck-all documentary anyway - no one would have watched it if it hadn't been banned.

    @kaashyop: tumi ar aami hoyto taanke shottojit babu bolbo. Kintoo je shob buddhijibi maharathira taanr cinemaar bishleyshon korben philm phestivalley, taanra nischoye taankey "manikda" namey taankey ullek korben.
    (Eta ekabarrey alada byaparr jey hoyto taander shongey kauno deen Manik-babur shakkhaat parichoy chilonaa.)

    Translation for all and sundry :
    You and I might call him (honorific) Satyajit Babu but the intellectual stars (honorofic) who would analyse his movies at the film festival would undoubtedly refer to him (honorific) as Manikda.

    (It's an entirely different matter that they (honorific) may not have had any actual accquaintance with the man (honorific)

    In this context, let me tell the old story about Shantiniketan and its KULCHAR of referring to everyone as Dada/Didi.

    Apart from the hilariously incestuous implications of this when the hornier members of the BBU community are humping each other, it also causes occasional racially- crossed-wires.

    For example, two visiting Japanese academics were upset that nobody accorded them this honorific.

    One was named "Bokacho" and the other, Makacho.


  20. I learnt today that they refused to allow an elderly couple to enter because the old lady had a walking stick that she couldn't do without. It took one of the organisers to explain that life isn't a kung-fu flick where the old lady would suddenly go ninja on everyone, using the stick as a weapon. Sheesh!

    Plans for the last three days got cancelled. Saw two movies - 'Time Far Past' and 'The House of Sands and Fog'. Loved both of them. Didja see 'Stray Dogs'?

  21. ummm... anonymous, on the 'fuck all' banned in India Ray documentary Sikkim:

    I saw the movie in the summer of 2003 in Palo Alto, California. The print was perfect (property of the Ray Archives in the University of California at Santa Cruz, if I recall). It was a very good docu with some excellent shots of the mountains & some sly unobtrusive evidence of the all pervasive presence of the Indian army, with the obvious implication that the Indian military is quite well embedded in this 'indipendant' country. Yup, I can see why it is banned. Ray does the commentary in his impeccable English.

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