I’m in Pune. We took a bit of a luxury trip here. Stephanie, August, Bijoux and I boarded a midnight train in Begumpet last night and arrived this morning. By noon we were checked in to a swank hotel, very near the Film and Television Institute of India. Once we cleared the rush of transport hawkers outside Pune Junction station, things calmed down.
It was like a slow moving cinematic chase scene.
“Need a cab, sir?”
“Where are you going?”
“Where are you from?”
“Very nice taxi, very nice hotel, sir. Come, come. Come this way sir.”
Well, no. No. No. No thank you. I’m an unfortunate nicotine addict, and I’ve just spent the night in a cold room. First AC, while private, is not really worth it.
Politeness wearing thin, I explain my personal problems to one driver and asked that he give me a minute, or perhaps even a matchbox. He laughs.
“No.” He says.
“Alright,” I say and I push on towards the tunnel I can see running under the road. My escape route crystallizing, we push on. It is like passing through a magical portal. The irritation of the rail station hawking subsides and gives way to the normality of Pune the city. We walk through the market place, and no one gives us a second look. At the exit of the magic tunnel, one shop keeper asks from behind a shop of bags, “bags, sir?” I point to my back pack and he smiles. I smile, walk up the stairs and find a pan shop where I get a matchbox. A row of auto rickshaws are on the street. We give the location of the hotel, and the driver accepts. We pile in and he just reaches over and turns on the meter. There. Done. No haggling, no trying to tell me what a great distance we must travel to the hotel. Just “where are you going” and the meter lever. What a relief.
Sometimes, I remember my time as a cab driver in Madison, Wisconsin. I imagine myself arguing every fare from the ridiculous down to the reasonable. That would have made the job so incredibly stressful. It would be like being a door to door salesman everyday– except each door would present itself to you, and open up the troubles of each house at your feet to deal with.
Giant studios, equipment and stock budgets, a small batch system. Total production immersion.
I spent the afternoon of the second day in Pune lurking about in Studio 2 on the set of the second year dialog shoot.
Inside the studio, students have constructed a house, a corner shop and a cane field. Coming from a strong film school, I am burning with jealousy at the possibilities available at FTII. If there is any way to link our schools, I hope I to find it before I leave.
National Film Archive of India
Later, after I feeling like I had lurked about enough in Studio 2, I walked across the street to attempt a drop in at the National Film Archive. This proved to be a bit more difficult than I had imagined. I had to chalk it up to educational experience.
Once I managed to explain myself to the security, who thought it just hilarious that I should walk into the compound in the first place, I managed to get into the facility and meet an official. He was buried deep in his office, typing something on a computer that I could barely see behind the stacks of files. He motioned for me to sit, and completed his task. Here, like so many people in official positions, I feel for the man. I think from his responses to my inquiries that he believed I was there to complain. I wasn’t. I was just coming to visit and find out what the archive was all about. Unfortunately, what I got was a litany of excuses for why what he thought I was there for hadn’t happened yet, a monologue about the difficulties of creating a catalog of so many films (endless hallways of film cans line the back office corridors), and then, without so much as a good day, he stood up, and my visit was over. Which was fine. I had seen the place, heard about the films UWM was waiting to hear about (they will let us know), and come a little closer to understanding the system here.
After FTII and NFAI, it was decided that we should get out of the hotel and visit the local sights. From Pune, we hired a car and driver and set out for Lonavala. About an hour away, Lonavala is a sweet hill station where we visited a group of caves carved out of the rocky hill sides. The hills of Lonavala rise up suddenly from the plains, which each hill offering a vista of the surrounding country side. We first visited Karla Caves, a complex of Buddhist rock cut caves that date to the 2nd century BC. Winding up the hillside, along a shop lined rock staircase, one eventually comes to a series of caverns cut into the hillside.
I’m so glad we got made the trip. Pune is a nice city. We needed a break from our sleepy little Begumpet neighborhood, now that we’ve been here long enough to consider it such.
As is almost always the case, the sights to see are fascinating, whether they be the modern life of any city in India, or the incredible history enshrined in the heritage sites. They always make me consider the depths of time, and the wonder of this brief moment that we are here. It makes it easier to forget the tiny irritations of day to day haggling. Coming from a country which has so few of these types of hand-made wonders to remind us of the expanse of time, I wind up wondering if that contributes to a narrower point-of-view, focused more and more on the brief moment I mentioned, and less on the long haul beyond us.
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