Robert De Niro, Crazy Mohan, Akira Kurosawa, A.R. Rahman, Martin Scorsese, Narain, Bimal Roy, Mani Ratnam, Dilip Kumar, Toshiro Mifune, Soumitra Chatterjee, Mysskin, Satyajit Ray and Kamal Hassan – could there possibly be a connection between all these artists? I’m sure some of you have already found it by simply unscrambling the names, as in: De Niro – Scorsese, Narain-Missykin, Roy-Kumar, Kurosawa-Mifune, Kamal-Crazy Mohan, Ray-Chatterjee, Ratnam-Rahman.

The above are rare instances of artist partnerships in cinema; artists working closely together over several films and discovering that they are artistically fused to each other. Other Kollywood artist pairs that come to mind are: Shankar-Sujatha, Gautham-Jayaraj, and Bharathiraja- Illayaraaja. Film, after all, is the most collaborative art and yet you seldom find the same people working together on more than one film. I think such collaboration is about how these filmmakers, lost in the impersonal machinery of Hollywood, Bollywood and Kollywood, are trying to make

filmmaking intimate, intense, and joyful. Satyajit Ray experienced this from the start because he worked outside Bollywood and was able to share his artistic sensibility not only with Soumitra Chatterjee but with most of his crew as well.

In the case of Scorsese and De Niro, I think it enriched their work - the long association with each other. Scorsese depended on De Niro to get quickly into a character and in turn De Niro gave Scorsese the kind of powerhouse performance that other directors seldom got from him. From working on nearly every film of Scorsese, film editor Thelma Schoonmaker knows exactly the tempo and rhythm that her director wants for each film. I think you can spot an artiste, a real artiste - in Bollywood, Kollywood or Hollywood- by looking at how closely he or she works with other artistes.

Jonathan Demme, who directed The Silence of the Lambs, always uses the same cinematographer- Tak Fujimato. David Cronenberg's cinematographer is Peter Suszitsky and his music composer, Howard Shore. While the Coen brothers (No Country for Old Men) have used music composer Carter Burwell for most of their films, David Lynch uses no other music composer except Angelo Badalamenti. And Scorsese's film editor is always Thelma Schoonmaker. If you listen to all the film scores of Carter Burwell they feel like variations on the same theme and so when watching one Coen brothers film, you are reminded of another.

Angelo Badalamenti's music score actually helps director David Lynch set up a certain scene or a particular mood - usually dreamy, lush and eerie. In turn, the composer uses Lynch's obsession with dreams to broaden his own work. He has come up with great tunes for "Twin Peaks" and "Lost Highway" but the motifs you hear in those two themes perfect themselves in the theme for "Mulholland Drive". In the same way that A.R. Rahman seems to understand what Mani Ratnam wants for each film. Here the soundtrack serves the film's story, theme and characterisation more than just the top ten songs chart.

But what makes these artistes want to work together? Once you've had a hit on your hands, it must be very attractive to get the hottest new actor or screenwriter or music composer in your next film. But Scorsese, for instance, decided to stick to De Niro and Missykin to Narain. They obviously worked well together and the combination was a successful one but there was more to it - they were hooked to each other artistically, they were obsessed about the same things. They shared and understood each other’s vision.

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