In search of silent communication in cinema

Posted: May 15, 2012 in Cinema techniques

One of the memorable sequences in Gulzar’s Parichay was towards the end, when the patriarch Grandfather (Pran) realizes that love exist between his grand-daughter (Jaya Bhaduri) & the hero (Jeetendra). The scene was so effectively portrayed with Jaya maintaining a telling ‘silence’ when Pran had asked her a question or two about Jeetendra. This scene shows how dialogue can be dispensed with in the cinemas & still be able to convey exactly the same feeling/statement what could have been done with usage of dialogues.

In ‘Andhi’, Gulzar used a background song ‘Tere Bina Zindagi Se Koi” on the two main characters, Sanjeev Kumar and Suchitra Sen, in a particular situation. The thought process of the protagonist was effectively conveyed through this background score.

In ‘Chak De’ an early sequence which depicts anguish of losing a hockey match is effectively conveyed with the strain of musical notes and images, drowning out the boos and roar of the crowd.

The silent films of yesteryears, from Chaplin to the works of Buster Keaton, communicate effectively to audiences. Enhanced visual imagery embedded in a silent frame have been used to communicate with the audience 9The opening shot of Buddhadeb Dasgupta’s DOORATWA.

Recently in Bollywood Ramgopal Verma’s SARKAR uses sparse dialogue, dinly lit frames and muted communication techniques to build the haunting mood of this ‘Godfather’ inspired film. In Dibakar Banerjee’s OYE LUCKY, LUCKY OYE sequence of ‘stills’ have been used intermittently, while a series of soundless images punctuated by a twinkle sound appears as a rather unique and effective narrative technique. The mood and color of the film oscillates between bright and dark, so apt for a film based on the character of a sharp mind criminal.

Imaginative camera techniques have been used to convey the mental state of the protagonist. In the film BHUVAN SHOME, Mrinal Sen and cameraman K.K.Mahajan uses a close up and thereafter a long shot and repeat the pattern iteratively creating an impression that the protagonist Suhasini Mulay is happy 

on a swing.

In Ritwik Ghatak’s SUBARNAREKHA, Ishwar, one of the village teachers, depressed over his lowly status as a migrant, runs into a college classmate, now a wealthy businessman and who offers him a job. Note how the angle on Ishwar shifts dramatically across the reverse shot at the moment he is offered the position:

SUBARNAREKHA is rife with such angular shots and effectively communicates with the audience in conveying the Director’s thought behind the frame.

In his first movie Sandhyaraag (1977), Assamese film Dr. Bhabendranath Saikia uses some scenes that depict how cinematic language can be used at its best. In a particular shot, two sisters return to a village and goes to a village shop for some snacks. Long shot: There is a big tree near the shop. Next shot: same place, but now the tree is leafless, highlighting time gap Next shot: The two sisters in shabby clothes discussing they have run out of money they saved by working as maid. Two minutes unfolded many events without use of any words like all great films do.

Symbolism can also be used to communicate the progression of the story. The smashing of an ant in his hand by Gabbar communicated the killing of a village lad (Sachin) in SHOLAY, while the extinguishing light of a diya has been used as a symbol to show the death sequence of Pahari Sanyal (father of the heroine Sharmila Tagore) in the film ARADHANA. In BARIWALI, Rituparno Ghosh  beautifully conveys the loneliness of Banalata (Kiron Kher) and her attraction towards Deepankar (Chiranjit.) Deepnakar’s entry in the film appears in the following fashion. The current goes off in the house, & there appears to be some problem in the power switch board.Deepankar who comes to meet banalata for the first time, sees banalata struggling with the switch board & says he will fix it and oolah he brings light into the house and banalata’s life.

In BAISEY SHRAVAN, Mrinal Sen makes the famine enter silently, and one must give credit to Sen that he never shows the famine physically. Just as he had established the war with the shot of a passing convoy and a flying aeroplane, he conveys the famine in the film by one long shot – villagers moving to the city in search of food.

Again in SHOLAY, the wordless romance between Amitabh and Jaya is sheer poetry and gives it a sublimal quality, and any insertion of dialogues between them would have diluted the beauty of the unspoken love portrayed so effectively.

In his book OUR FILMS, THEIR FILMS, Satyajit Ray opines that introduction of sound in cinema took away some of its universality and introduced an element of regionalism (An Indian New Wave, Pg 83).

In the film AAKROSH directed by Gobind Nihalani, Om Puri in a pivotal role doesn’t speak a single word throughout the movie. Yet he conveys so much with eye expression that it ought to rank as one of the greatest performances given by any actor in the Indian cinemas.

Aravindan’s Pokkuveyil captures the life of a young poet who is increasingly finding it difficult to confront the harsh realities of life. Consequently, he is compelled to seek refuge in fantasy and day-dreaming. What is interesting about the film is that it has very little dialogue; the director relies on the creative use of visual registers and colors to narrate his story in cinematic terms.

(To be continued)



2. Satyajit Ray, Our Films, Their Films, Orient Longman, 1976 ISBN 81 250 1565 5




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