Thursday, September 06, 2007

5 September 2007: As Karnataka Turns

I’ve been watching some of the Kannada serials with Dr. Srivalli. Since I can’t understand most of the dialogue (I’ve only had two weeks of Kannada, after all), I focus on what I can see. Rarely does anyone smile, and each scene seems to be a family crisis of one sort or another. Each scene is much longer than in U.S. television. The actors remain fairly static in the scenes, except for an occasional entrance or exit. Characters are rarely next to each other, but are staged throughout the room, U2 style. Many shots are straight-on close-ups, often framed by a piece of furniture from a wacky angle. I’ve seen an indoor swing (long straight bench hanging from two fancy chains) in at least two different shows, and often someone is sitting on the swing. In one scene, the person not on the swing was framed by the swing chain as the camera slowly zoomed in. In another scene, a man leaned against a new-model Mercedes, while a woman sat on steps of a house across from him. Almost all shots of her were framed by the car, variously showing the model number, Mercedes hood ornament, etc. It was a very serious discussion about work. “I feel sad,” the man said in English. Sometimes in scenes, there are extra people in the room who don’t have any lines, but are just there for the reaction shots, invariably accompanied by what I like to call “crisis music” (especially that exploding music sound, you know what I mean), and in some shows by dramatic camera effects. If the news is shocking, this “reaction extra family member” will be shown in close-up looking from person to person. If the news is sad or embarrassing, the eyes will quickly be cast down and slightly to the side. If the tense discussion is ongoing, the reaction look may be widening eyes. Often someone will break down and cry. This usually signals that the half-hour is almost over, and the final 5 seconds will likely be without dialogue, but just reaction shots with a musical climax, with a freeze on one key face. The End. Tune in tomorrow for the next installment of…

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