Production

PRODUCTION HISTORY

Development for English, August began in 1990. Confirmations for limited pre-sales, the participation of the French network La Sept Cinema, the French External Affairs Ministry and the S.D.C. along with the production and credit history of the Producer/director green-lighted pre-production in early 1993.
The film was shot on location in the south Indian state of Andhra Pradesh with an entirely Indian cast and crew in Fall 1993.

By late October 1993 elements needed to start editing the film in New York were put in place. Support from Avid Technology Inc. made state-of-the-art non-linear editing facilities available to enhance both production quality and turn-around time.


PRODUCER’S DIARY

ANURADHA PARIKH -- PRODUCER

'Shit! I wish my name was Keith or Alan. They get the girls and the guitars....'

"Agastya Sen, the protagonist of the film is like most urban Indians today. Affluent, public school educated, western in thought idea and lifestyle and part of an elite who walk the corridors of power. An elite quite removed from the cultural traditions within the country and more comfortable with their western counterparts. Not knowing how to deal with this persistent and confusing duality.

English, August is about contemporary India. An India liberated from the shackles of the British and yet bridled by forces of the neo-colonialists. The world of English, August impels us to confront India in more of its entirety- it is not the mystical land of the orient with elephants and dark skinned natives, or the terrain of nostalgia: turbans, robes, jewels and kingdoms; but one with a bursting presentness, hurtling into an unknown future. The film is about diverse streams and counter-cultures, living and warring with one another. The film addresses this new reality; a reality of language, situation, character and circumstance, denied or largely ignored by earlier films. Humour and satire are the two central forces in the book which find a cinematic equivalent in the film and counterpoise Agastya's sense of dislocation.

Experiencing the India of English, August is experiencing many planets in one country. English, August does not attempt to isolate certain experiences within the Indian landscape, but presents them as they co-habit simultaneously. The experiences are not ironed out or homogenized but are allowed their effervescence. It's time we had a look at India- moving away from the Oriental mysticism, fantasy and nostalgia; away from endless tales of poverty and exploitation; onto a contemporary, vibrant exploration of what it means to be a young Indian today."

DEV BENEGAL -- THE DIRECTOR ON THE FILM

"While working on English, August we were up against a lot; a book which people said could not be made into a film, the wall that arises when you mention the word India, the problems viewers have appreciating and in some cases comprehending the intricacies of this culture. In terms of cinema- the grand tradition of Indian filmmaking characterized by Satyajit Ray and others who follow his style, the India seen in the films of the Raj and by the Raj and of course the soft focus views of Merchant-Ivory. I felt strongly that a lot of them seemed a dated conception of this country- a conception of India which the west is comfortable with and does not want to change.

English, August is about change.

How do we- the post colonial generation, born into a free Indian take part in universal culture and yet come to terms with the Indian way of life. The issue of cultural displacement within your own country is disturbing and moving. Yet it brings up immense humorous possibilities. Is life only the "real thing" when you wake up to Kellogg's and go to MacDonalds for lunch? While writing this film I was continuously reminded of Kubrick writing Dr. Strangelove. The situation was dark, the predicament grim, yet every scene ended up on the wild side. There is humor in English, August but also an underlying savageness to the film- a darker side which informs this reality.

Humor is the Indian way of survival.

Experiencing the India of English, August is experiencing many planets in one country. English, August does not attempt to isolate certain experiences within the Indian landscape, but presents them as they co-habit simultaneously. The experiences are not ironed out or homogenized but are allowed their effervescence. English, August celebrates this difference and quite clearly positions itself opposed to any attempts- currently at work in the politics of right wing parties in India at homogenizing cultures, tradition and religion.

It's time we had a look at India- moving away from the Oriental mysticism, fantasy and nostalgia; away from endless tales of poverty and exploitation; onto a contemporary, vibrant exploration of what it means to be a young Indian today."


CINEMATIC STYLE

Anuradha Parikh, Producer, Production Designer on English, August:

"The duality of August's life is reflected in the use of temporal juxtaposition; composition and movement; color and sound. August's past, in Delhi, filters into his world in Madna. A conversation; a question or an interaction trigger memories of family, friends, school, fragments of music and sounds. Agastya lives in more than one world; the present constantly interrupted by the past."

"The camera reflects the intensity of modern day India, which is anything but slow. It hyperbolizes style in constant movement; changing points of view, circling and swooping to emphasize the dialectic between August's private and public worlds."

"The tension that exists between August's public profile and inner sanctum of imagination are reflected in the use of color and sound. As a polite poker-faced civil servant, August's world explodes into a hot palette of Indian colors. From intense orange to a glowing lime green- bright, rich, dense in the devastating heat of Madna. The sheer cacophony of radios blaring popular songs mixed with the unrestrained horns of local traffic become a background tapestry of confusion threatening to invade and take over his life."

"In direct contrast is August's private world. The glare is less blinding and when filtered through magenta and blue colored glass windows, light becomes more ambiguous and mixed. We are drawn into a secret and intimate world swathed in an amber glow of summer moonlight and are privy to his introspections- both erotic and disturbing. The raucous sounds of Madna recede temporarily to the start of a new day."

"The work of a production designer is not recognized in Indian films. For English, August I was keen to find the right cinematic equivalents to the book which could translate into a compete experience on screen. A Production Designer creates the conceptual map for a film, working together with sound, picture, music, colour, space, movement and time."

Anuradha Parikh brings her background as an architect and visualizer to create the mesmerizing colour palette and haunting look of English, August which was recognized by the jury at Turin when it awarded the film the Special Jury Award for it's "refusal of banal images, the research of an original style and of new images that go beyond the achieved results."

SOUNDTRACK & MUSIC
D. Wood, Vikram Joglekar; Original Music Score & Sound Design

The soundtrack is a complex fabric of August's memories interwoven with crude reminders of his present day life in Madna. To protect his own state of mind, August clings desperately to the few momentoes that he can bring to Madna. Cassettes of Pink Floyd, Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, Queen, Traffic, Bach and Vivaldi are links to his world. They are like flags; reminding him not to lose his individuality in the confusing and absorptive swamp of Madna. An ensemble of western and Indian instruments and passages form the musical bedrock of the soundtrack that is not linked directly to characters. The composer D. Wood with his training in Western Classical music and Indian Classical music has put together an ensemble of Bansuri (Indian Flute), Fretless Bass, Indian Percussion's and Electric Guitars to create the haunting sound for English, August