Walong (Hostels 4, 9 and 14)
PAF review – “Walong”
India beats Pakistan, goes on to win the world cup in style; then PAFs like “Golden Quadrilateral” and “Walong”, what more can you ask for in a week? If the judges thought “life was easy” after watching “Golden Quadrilateral”, “Walong” is surely going to put them in huge trouble. Hats off to the team of “Walong” for pulling off such a performance. Many would have sacrificed the “moment of glory” of India winning the world cup for this PAF, living up to the core message of this PAF: “sacrifice and fight till your last breath” !! Let’s take a closer look at the performance.
The centre stage prod was good, more importantly it was different. Creating mountain-like structures with a big cloth is not that difficult, but to create a mountain where people will stand and fight is not at all easy. But one disappointing thing was that the mountains were not built in accordance with the script. There weren’t any ridges or narrow gaps where the soldiers could have taken positions during the war which was the climax of the PAF. As a result the war scene looked a little kiddish. The backdrop was good but not extraordinary. The most “out of the place” thing placed in the backdrop was a big eagle “frozen” in one corner of the stage. Why would one paint a living (moving) creature on a backdrop?
It seems court room scenes are mandatory for this year’s PAF season :P. Though I really liked the idea of keeping the court room in the center as most of the screenplay had to happen there, the FA work done on the court room walls wasn’t up to the mark. I really appreciated the smooth transitioning of the main stage to court room and back, but at the same time felt that the finishing of the prod could have been much better. I mean why use transparent tapes when one can use glue to stick papers? And even if you are using transparent tapes for some reason, don’t put laser moon on it because when moon throws light from such a height, all the reflection (of those tapes) goes straight into the eyes of the audience, making the prod look untidy. Another issue is that the right hand side stage wasn’t used at all. I don’t know if keeping the left hand side prod more towards center was done intentionally to avoid the big light post of quadrangle. In any case, it was good as it was clearly visible without any obstruction which is generally not the case with side prods. The light house and the bunkers made from pillow filled sacks were nicely built. Overall a very good effort by the prod team, but it definitely had some scope of improvement and utilization.
Script and Direction:
Like the last PAF, I did read about “Walong” before coming so that I could see how well the script team justified the facts. Must say, the script was to the point and gripping till the end. Alternating between court and army camp scenes was a good idea. The initial humour content was too scripted and was not very impressive but at certain places it was effective. The introduction scene of soldiers, the Bengali soldier scene about his wife’s photo and some dialogues here and there brought out good humour. The last scene at court and the poem towards the end was good as well.
The initial parade was just superb. Done in almost complete sync, the variety in the gun stunts were just amazing. The timing of the movements with the sound track was the icing on the cake. The waves taken by the army men with their guns was brilliant as well. In scripts where all characters look the same it is difficult to bring out the individuality and hence connect with them. Same was the case with last PAF, with all actors in the same uniform, of the same age and at the same place. Thus the idea of making one of them Bengali, one Punjabi and one nautanki was a good idea to separate out their characters. Most of the intense scenes in the court room and on the war front were well scripted and directed. But what was majorly disappointing was the war scene at the climax. It could have been much much better. It seems not much thought and creativity had gone into it, except the rope-way skill which was executed nicely. The best part of the scene was the firing guns which made the scene look very real. But I still feel that this scene had a lot of potential and could have created a lot of impact. There was no strategy shown, no conversation, no definite plan of attack from either side. Another thing why was the video screen placed so far away from the audience. There was so much space left in the left hand side quadrangle. And to add on it, they used the minimum font size possible, especially in the last video. The text wasn’t visible even with my 15x DSLR zoom lens. What’s the point then? But overall the PAF was able to deliver a good impact with their script and direction
Acting and Voiceover:
Acting team did a decent job and never let the scene go loose. “Saagar Sen saagar se” was good. Awasthi did a good job as well and the two lawyers also justified their roles. Voice overs were decent but frankly speaking, could have been better. Certain voices could have been more authoritative. The Bengali voiceover in the army base scene was good and sounded authentic but during the court scene it lost its essence. The voiceovers for the two lawyers were decent. But I think all the English voiceovers could have been a little better. Nevertheless, a good effort by the voice over team.
Overall the music was good and supported the dram well. The use of bottle sound in the OC, on which the drunken jawaans danced was good. The flute player was just superb. But I would say the flute was exploited a lot. I could hear the same kind of music for a lot of scenes. Also the OC (for the drunken dance) could have been better as it didn’t reach the crescendo. It was good but it didn’t reach that point where I thought it would, making people go crazy with it. The re-creation of Vande Mataram was good and lifted up the climax scene. One of the small pieces sung towards the end of the PAF was very nice, with vocalists doing a very good job. At some places I could separate out the music from the dram. But overall the music was good at most of the places and conveyed the emotions.
Choreography for most of the sequences was wonderful. The first sequence which depicted the rigorous training of the soldiers was nicely choreographed and executed. The screenplay plugged in between brought out the impact even more. The last flip before the dance ends was amazing. The UV sequence was also carried off well with some good fundaes being employed. I really liked the unconventional costume of UV dance. What they missed was that the white chart paper behind (used to cover the extended main stage) was glowing and one could see the movements clearly. And yes they put off the UV light before anyone could read the conclusion. The third sequence of drunken army men was a little out of place and also lost its impact because of average composition and losing sync (may be because there were too many dancers). The “badnaam” step and mockery of other institute dancers were good but were appreciated by a very small targeted audience. Sushant’s expressions and energy was amazing as usual. The last sequence which depicted the court martial of the lead was the best part. Body language in a contemporary dance is of utmost importance and they had it the way it should be. Vinod was outstanding and even the other dancers were in good sync and attitude. I just thought that a parallel screenplay of the dram could have looked better. I was a little confused to see that everyone except Mr Awasthi was there in the court. Later someone told me that a short scene where he steps forward and delivers some dialogues was missed due to a light / sound putch. But all credit to dance junta to pull off the end well. One thing that could have been better was the last screenplay in red moon light during the last voice over. See either you show your struggle and pain in a way that we can feel your pain or just be completely frozen; anywhere in between would just make the impact fade away, which was precisely the case here. But still, commendable effort by the choreo team.
Lights and Costumes:
Lights, as everyone observed, went out of control at many places. But if you observe closely there were two kinds of mistakes they were making. One was wrong timing of the lights, which I think is really punishable. Anyone can see whether or not the prod has been set up, then why can’t the light team? Moon in most of the cases is used as an add-on light. If it is, then there is no need for the moon guy to switch on the light first, because he being at a distance might not have the idea of prod set up and hence let the light box guy, who is sitting right at the quadrangle, put the parking lights on and then you can give the moon over it. But that didn’t seem to happen in this PAF. The second kind of goof up was a little strange. Even when the court scene was in progress there was flickering of the main stage lights. Generally when you goof up with lights, you don’t end up with a flicker. You either put it on by mistake and you shut them off immediately. Also when you are already into one scene why would you play with lights at a completely different venue where there is nothing happening or about to happen? This made me think that there was a technical issue rather than poor handling. However after the PAF someone told me that there was some technical issue with lights; I don’t know whether it was completely true or not. But as far as my observation goes, there should have been a technical problem with the lights.
Costumes or should I say “costume” was good as all of them had just one kind of clothes on. Not innovating when you do have the scope, calls for some negative marks, but in this case they didn’t have much freedom. The costumes for UV dance and contemporary were good. The reddish tinge added to Chinese soldiers’ dresses was a good attempt to avoid confusion. I don’t know how difficult it was to arrange so many similar costumes and guns, but anyways they did what was required. I guess they won’t mind being generous to leave this trophy for other PAFs, but end up bagging the big prize : )
In a nut shell, the overall impact of the PAF was really good. With tight script and direction, this would definitely give the last PAF (GQ) a run for their money. No doubt that decision for almost all trophies would be a close call now. But having said that, I would like to repeat what I said for the last PAF. Even this PAF is not invincible and one can definitely push them back. Looking forward for the last PAF of the season. If the last PAF also brings about the same impact and energy, no doubt PAF 2011 season would be one of the best PAF seasons anyone would have witnessed. Cheers to you all and IIT Bombay!
Prod: 8 / 10
Music: 8.25 / 10
Dance: 9 / 10
Acting: 7.5 / 10
Voiceover: 8.5 / 10
Lights: 6.5 / 10
Costumes: 7.5 / 10
Script: 8.5 / 10
Direction: 8.5 / 10
Overall: 8 / 10