[The powerful finale from Greed, my favorite film]

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Separation

The latest masterpiece from Iran, Asghar Farhadi's A Separation shows how terribly complex the Iranian society is. In that, it is honest and true. Not every one would be interested in what happens in Iran though. What makes this film great is that it could have been a story about Kashmir or Afghanistan or even late 18th century France before the French Revolution.

Usually, a situation of crisis is shown with crafty story telling techniques. If you want to show how the British were terrible when they ruled India (as many films pertaining to the freedom struggle tend to show), you show some of them beating feeble Indians or some one sporting a nasty look like Captain Andrew Russell in (the wonderful) Lagaan. It pushes forward the story but is often manipulative, or the easier route.

Focusing on just a family or a small number of people is also nothing new. From art house films to hollywood blockbusters like The Titanic, all have done it. However, it is usually done with some strong back ground scores or losing objectivity some where down the middle. Again, to forward the story, easier ways are adopted.

There is little dramatic affect in this film. The first scene establishes the two want to separate because of not any domestic hostility or because of each other but they do want to separate because Iran is not viable any more for the mother to bring up her child and the father cannot leave his own ailing father. It is daily, real and yet not overtly dramatic situations like these which are highlighted. Financial and social constraints means a wife lies to her husband for not any devilish intent but because she wants to earn money.

The second, more poorer family shown has the man very agitated a lot of times. The scary part is the male protagonist in the film, Peyman Moaadi playing Naader, could become like this other family in 5-7 years time emotionally and financially as laws prevailing are redundant enough to enforce fines or be behind bars as it does on Naader despite no real faults of his.

Where the people's freedom is curtailed by imposition of too many religious, social and every other rules, their life keeps deteriorating if they decide to live on in that place. Some, like Naader can't leave though.

The separation of a family for no real fault of theirs leaves an impact. How many such families have been separated? How many more people have go to hell daily as they try to lead normal lives? It is a point well established through the film.

A Separation is Iran's Nomination for the Foreign language category for the Academy Awards. With Iranian directors Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof jailed in recent times, this film gains special significance and I wouldn't be surprised if it wins the Award itself. It could easily win on merit itself though given it is far better than some of the previous oddball selections the Academy tends to pop up in this category.

Monday, December 5, 2011

When Style Was Celebrated

Dev Anand is gone. So is Shammi. There is another, silent death though, which has occurred slowly but surely. As Indian cinema, certainly bollywood, aspires for more realism, the style icons of today's generation are  scoffed at by the classes.

When and why did this happen? If we look to the 70s, some one like Shashi Kapoor was appreciated. Amitabh Bachchan is often criticized by the film people of his generation for not doing more classy films. Note for instance this video of Naseeruddin Shah where he observes Bachchan made no great film, for what's it worth. While this can be argued and debated upon, what cannot be argued is that Bachchan was real in his acting. You could feel his pain in Kabhie Kabhie, his anger in Zanjeer and his honesty towards his craft in his comic capers for instance.

Was it Bachchan then from where the shift occurred in appreciating style like we used to? If Govinda and Salman Khan were from another era, would they, along with selling tickets, be given more love and not scoffed at for their mannerisms? I wonder.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Lack of Standards on Indian Television

Sex sells. So I am not surprised the promotional of The Dirty Picture, biopic of Southern star Silk Smitha is suggestive. I am fine with that in fact. My qualm is with the standard of Indian television not being regulated enough. I am not sure there is any standard to be honest. As far as India is concerned, the only taboo is nudity on television and film.

Every thing else is fine. Whether it is models and actresses dancing like bar girls would dance in a night bar in Mumbai or violence or cheap jokes in the name of comedy in 'laughter shows', which never tend to bring laughter. If any voice is raised, like the censor board tried to stand up and remove the word 'saali' from the movie title Yeh Saali Zindagi, a ruckus is created about freedom being curtailed.

18, even 15 year olds are fine to decide but children below 10/12 years are impressionable. There has to be acceptable standards and clearly demarcated rules beyond nudity. We live in the internet age but the internet is for the parents to regulate.

What one hears on the radio or sees on the tv cannot always be regulated by parents though. Aamir Khan has to be appreciated here. He made a film on toilet humor with a lot of slang words in Delhi Belly. However, in the promotionals for his film, he made people aware of what it was and did not use even one abusive word without the beeps. It served the dual purpose of promoting the film and letting sanity prevail.

Live bathing, Iss Jungle Se Mujhe Bachao
It is left to producers and distributors of the films and shows regarding how the show the content on television. We need an overhaul and stronger regulations though as television reaches far more people than a movie does. People go to a movie theater once in a while but most families watch the television on a daily basis.

The scenario is unlikely to change without some powerful people from the business itself  understanding the importance and taking firm action as an industry as a whole.