Jabeen graduated from the FTII in 1995, majoring in Film Editing.
As a child what were your early influences towards cinema? Art, literature, graphics, photography?
I have a very clear memory of the first movie I ever saw in a theatre, The Poseidon Adventure. I was about three years old. I knew that it was about a sinking ship because my aunt had told me the story in advance; but I was barely able to decipher the images on the screen and the American accents sounded like complete gibberish. I literally didn’t understand a single thing while watching. Still, the experience seems to have gotten imprinted into my mind forever. Talk about the power of cinema.
Mostly, like all children growing up in the 70s and 80s, I watched the Sunday evening Hindi movie on Doordarshan. Occasional trips to the theatre were made for films that my parents thought were age appropriate. Adventure and wildlife type Hollywood films. Amar Akbar Anthony, but not Sholay when it released. Later on, there was this series of teen romances launching various movie star sons. I didn’t care for Kumar Gaurav or Sanjay Dutt (Love Story and Rocky), prefering Sunny Deol and Jackie Shroff (Betaab and Hero). Alongside, there were the ‘parallel cinema’ classics of the 80s – when I recall those films now, I realise that Shyam Benegal was the giant figure there, although at the time I wasn’t interested in knowing about any filmmaker. Movies were fun, but just a regular part of life that I didn’t think much about.
The other arts, not so much, but literature has been the biggest influence for me while growing up. I’ve always been an obsessive reader – school library period, comics stolen from my older brother, pulp novels from my father, tattered books bought cheap from the corner raddiwala and that wonderful, now forever lost place, the neighbourhood ‘circulating library’. I wasn’t a topper otherwise but I usually got the highest marks in the class for the English exam. My 10th standard teacher was convinced I’d be a writer. In college, naturally, I chose to major in Eng Lit and loved every second of it.
I became interested in cinema and filmmaking mainly while studying mass communications after graduating from college. I joined the SCM course at the Sophia Polytechnic, intending to pursue a career in journalism after I finished. It was a very intensive one year, driven by a passionately committed teacher, Jeroo Mulla, whose own first love has always been cinema. In her classroom, we went through a kind of ‘World Cinema 101’ – a 16mm projector was set up every Friday evening and we watched films specially brought in from the National Film Archive. That was my introduction to Eisenstein, D. W. Griffith, Kurosawa, Bergman, Godard, Truffaut, Resnais, Satyajit Ray, Ghatak, Orson Welles, Chaplin (as more than a slapstick comedian), Kubrick, and also the classic documentary films: Flaherty, Basil Wright, Bert Hanstra, Dziga Vertov… we watched a film a week for that one year, each followed by a detailed session of analysis.
I realised by the end of it that my love for literature and writing actually brought me much closer to cinema than to journalism, although that too came easily enough in terms of skill. The best of cinema, for me, is like the best literature; crafting stories and communicating ideas; sharing a view of the world.
Read the rest of this entry »