The serious study of cinema remains a minority pursuit in India, confined largely to academics writing for other academics. Gaston Roberge’s Chitra-Bani (1974) was an exception; so is this book. Ujjal Chakraborty, a filmmaker, composer, artist and passionate film fan, has given us an excellent study of the aesthetics and mechanics of narrative cinema. This well-illustrated volume should be useful as a textbook in film schools, but its value for ordinary film enthusiasts is even higher.
Chakraborty takes the reader on a step by step tour of the entire process of film-making, exploring how the magic of great cinema stems from the conceptualisation of characters, the construction of dialogue, the design of sets and costumes, the selection of locations, the scaling of actors’ voices and even the utilisation of the natural contours of their faces. Every contention is illustrated, with examples from classic films by Charlie Chaplin, Akira Kurosawa, Jean Luc Godard and Satyajit Ray. Even those who know the films well would be struck by the originality of the analyses and their unfailing attention to subtleties, not to mention their lucidity and lack of pretentiousness.
Aspiring directors (or, for that matter, designers, editors and scenarists) would learn much from The Director’s Mind. Above all, it is a book for all lovers of cinema, one of those all-too-rare works that explains the secrets of the art without talking down to us or smothering us in techno-babble and jargon.