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The Curse of the first PAF

Sameer Mishra’s name stands tall when one talks about PAFs here on insti. Sameer has been scriptwriter-director of PAFs such as ‘Golden Quadrilateral’ (2011), ‘Arthur Road’ (2009), both of which won by a mile. He was also involved with setting the premise of the PAF ‘Prime Minister’ last season.
Sameer has been involved with The Viral Fever (TVF), an entertainment group which has brought hits such as ‘Gangs of Social Media’, and ‘Roadies: Sab Q-tiyapa Hai’.

As brilliantly as the review is written, InsIghT stresses that the opinions in this article are Sameer’s alone, and is in no way endorsed by the PAF Committee or InsIghT.

(In “tantrik” voice) Legend has it that no team in the recallable history (read last 10 years) of PAFs has ever won the competition whilst being the first PAF of the season. Its not like people have not tried enough, many have lost their reputation (read posts), glory (read girlfriends) and even lives (read grades) trying to do that, big names have come and gone, strong teams have tried it on, but none of them have ever been able to do, what people now call, the impossible. There are many stories related to the first PAF, some say that it is cursed, others say… oh well, they too say it’s cursed, anyway… so people say that its cursed and hence thou shall not even try to win it. But wait. Isn’t that a superstition. Wasn’t today’s PAF about the same issue? Oh crap, haven’t I learned anything from it. Shit shit shit. Lets start all over again. Ahem Ahem.
So the PAF season began today with the PAF of Hostel 3, 7, 13 and 14, a team which seems to be an ardent follower of Shakespeare. You see, they took the “what’s in a name” concept too seriously and named their PAF ‘Satrangi’, a name which had nothing to do with the theme of the PAF. In-fact they have taken it a step forward with “What’s in a story, what’s in a plot, just put in some jokes and you have done a lot” 😛 . What the hell, I again start to joke! Come on man, this isn’t done… be serious, control yourself.. but wait.. why should I , they didn’t control themselves.. they cracked jokes throughout the PAF, even during the serious scenes.. they took names and mocked many insti junta, which means that they have a sense of humor and won’t take the review in a bad taste .. after all they expect others to be sporting, so they must be sporting themselves.. isn’t it? So be it.. lets continue like this …

Well I think ‘Satrangi’ followed the path laid down by many Bollywood or more specifically, Sajid Khan and Salman Khan films. It was, as they say, a “no brainer”. Keep your brains at home if you want to enjoy it. And many people want exactly that kind of entertainment. That’s why all their films are blockbusters and very popular among masses, and so was this PAF. Most of the people laughed on the crass jokes and thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Unfortunately (for me, not for them) I don’t belong to that section of the audience and hence most of the films which I like are either flops or average hits 😛 . Anyways lets move on to the details

Script and Direction
The script of this PAF, if not anything else, was funny. The jokes, although a little distasteful, were able to make the audience laugh. The humor was neither situational, nor even intelligently scripted, but was opportunist. It took advantage of the audience’s instant and natural reaction on hearing a familiar name or event and also of the current sentiment of the campus post elections. Most of the scenes were there just for the sake of humor and were not taking the story forward. The characters were not well sketched and their stories didn’t have any graph. Scenes were lengthy and the lack of screenplay made them boring at times. The latter half of it, specially the last monologue, where it tries to be a little serious about the issue was not well written and lacked the gravity and power it should have. All and all the script was unable to justify the theme and deliver an impactful message.

Coming to the direction, I think it was inconsistent. It varied from “good” in some scenes to “poor” in others. The few sparks of brilliance in direction could be seen in the scenes like the demolition of the palace, which was well thought off and left a good enough impression and the introduction of mosque with the authentic “ajan” and “tajia” , followed by the scene where the ‘maulavi’ harasses ‘Badri’. But apart from these scenes, the rest of the PAF didn’t have either a clear vision or direction. The prod was not utilized properly by the director and almost 70% of the PAF happened in the quadrangle without any backdrop. In most of the scenes the actors were doing nothing at all, they were simply standing or sitting and miming with some arbit hand movements and gestures. The director could have engaged them with some work like ‘playing cards’, ‘sipping tea’, ‘hawking animals’ etc. These things not only make the scenes more interesting to watch but also make them more realistic. Thus, overall the direction of the PAF was not impressive and lacked maturity and experience.

Acting and Voiceovers
It is said that an actor is as good as the director. And as the PAF had poor direction, so obviously, not much can be expected of the acting team. The actors were energetic, sometimes too energetic, but were not convincing. Their actions were too repetitive and at most of the times, they were clueless as to what they should do to emote the dialogues better. Apart from ‘Badri’, none of them were able to get into the skin of the character. The only commendable job from the acting team (barring ‘Badri’ who used a collar mic and delivered his own dialogues) was that they were able to maintain the sync with the voice over team.
The voiceovers team, as expected, was good. They had variations, fluency and clarity. They were able to deliver the jokes and punchlines with proper intonation. The voice quality and voice projection was good too. However, none of the voiceovers stood out, but they were all up to the mark and the effort of the whole team is appreciable. Badri’s dialogue delivery was impressive too, he played his character with conviction and gave a decent performance in the last monologue.

Lets divide prod in to two parts, the basic structures and the FA. As far as the structures are concerned, they didn’t have many. The biggest 3D structures which they had were the ‘vidhayak’s’ house and the mosque, neither of which were very extensive or extravagant but were stable enough and solved the purpose. I think the lack of big structures was due to lack of time which is very common and a genuine problem with the first PAFs. But I wont criticize them for not making such structures as they made what was required and didn’t waste their energy, time and money to make unnecessary structures.

As far as the FA is concerned, it was very neat and imaginative. The walls of the ‘vidhayak’s’ house were not simply painted in one color. It had the detailing which was required and looked good. The palace was nice too and gave the illusion of 3D backdrop. The FA of the mosque, although lacked detailing, but was good enough, considering the number of scenes to be performed there. The only place where the FA people faltered was in maintaining the color continuity of the backdrops. But overall it was a decent effort from the FA team.

The choreo team was big but still in sync. Most of the sequences (except the ‘tantrik’ choreo, which looked like an impromptu performance) were good as a dance performance but were not able to leave any impact because of their irrelevance and placement, which is not at all the fault of the choreo team. They choreographed the sequences well and performed them without many putches which is a commendable job. But where they lacked was the innovation and variety in their sequences. The first choreo on “bharat mata ki jai” was good but didn’t look impressive because of the unimaginative costumes. The idea of the ‘web choreo’, although not very new or original, but was still nice and was executed well. The ‘boy dancing like girls’ choreo was funny in a vulgar way. The track of the ‘mosque choreo’ could have been better and I would have enjoyed the ‘blind fold choreo’ more if my whole attention was not on that one dancer in the front row who didn’t care to wear the blind fold. Overall the choreo team didn’t contribute much to the overall impact but did a decent job with what was expected of them by the direction team.

The music team didn’t have much to do either. I think they had only one Original Composition, which came in the end and was a decent composition. But apart from that, they were not asked to do much in the PAF. The scenes were mostly of similar nature, so it was tough for the music team to make different music for each of them. They had very less emotions in the scenes to play around with and were crippled by the constant humor being bombarded by the dram team. So in my opinion, if the music of this PAF was not impressive, it was not their fault but of the dram team which didn’t gave them any sort of range or variety in the scenes.

Lights and Costume
After watching around 20 odd PAFs and doing 4 PAFs myself, I have realized that good lighting in a PAF is a myth. No one has ever achieved it in the past and no one will ever achieve it in the future as well. And how can they, when the light setup is given to them just one day before the PAF. And please don’t get me started on the ‘moon’ (the central spotlight), that sonofagun arrives on the evening of the PAF and throws such tantrums during the performance that it becomes almost impossible for the poor guy, who has just met him an hour ago and is now supposedly in-charge of him, to handle him without any putches. So this PAF too suffered from the horrors of the light setup and the darned moon but I will still appreciate them as the number of light putches were just 20 or 25, which is still not much 😛 (what, don’t you believe me? Watch ‘Ramleela’, the 2010 PAF, and you’ll understand 😛 )

Coming to the costumes, I think they didn’t have the money to rent them from Andheri and were lazy enough to go to Nalasopara to get them cheaply. Very few costumes were used in this PAF. The villagers were wearing kurta paijama which they must have jugaadofied from their hostel-mates, and they didn’t even have a ‘gamcha’. The dancers were wearing whatever they wanted to or black chunnies. I couldn’t understand the rationale behind the dancers wearing T-shirts and capries/jeans in a PAF based on a village where everyone wears traditional Indian garments, neither was I impressed with the black garments, all the dancers in every other choreo worn. Costumes were a big letdown in this PAF.

There were two videos used in the PAF. The first one used in the very beginning to project a live puppet show was not properly visible. The screen was installed too far from the audience and it was too small. I was sitting right in front of the judges and was not able to make out a thing that was happening on the screen. I think there was no need of showing that puppet show on video. It would have been better visible and would have left far more impact if done live with bigger puppets. The second video was the introduction of the ‘vidhayak’ in WWE style. The video was impressive with sleek editing and the background music supporting it was nice too. It was a funny and innovative way of introducing a character but added very little to the overall impact because neither did they use it to introduce all the major characters, which would have made that a part of the storytelling nor was it used to introduce the protagonist of the PAF. However the idea of the video was nice though it failed to leave any mark.

Overall, it was an average PAF. It was very less ambitious right from its conceptualization to execution. Although that’s understandable, considering it was the first PAF, but obviously that’s never taken in to account while judging a competition. Nonetheless it was a decent opening to the PAF season and I am hoping to see a lot better performances in days to come.

Script – 6/10
Direction – 6/10
Acting – 7/10
Voiceover – 9/10
Prod – 7/10
Music – 7/10
Dance – 8/10
Costumes – 5/10
Lights – 7/10

Overall – 7/10