[The powerful finale from Greed, my favorite film]

Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Bald Patch

Seventy years ago, independence!
Hope, aspirations: New book stores
We read, we talked
Now, we have improved
Smart cities, smart online shopping, modernity
We will still have books
However, with a strand gone

The bald patch will remain.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Supermen of Malegaon and the Beauty of Little Bubbles

Supermen of Malegaon shows the craziness of film making. Malegaon is a small town which has muslims on one side, hindus on the other. Then, there are the people who have this other religion. They are the film making dreamers.

They want to make films, even if they don't know how to. The miracle is, they make the films and they are big hits in Malegaon and around there. They are remembered fondly. They have made Malegaon ke Sholay among other hits. Now they make Supermen of Malegaon.

This is essentially a making of the Supermen of Malegaon movie spanning a bit less than 60 minutes. There are a lot of things which keep going wrong. The camera drops into the pool, they don't have the necessary finances at times. They attempt to drop the Superman into the drain. A lot of comedy in different ways.

It is a lot more than just a making though. When Shafique Shaikh is selected for the role of Superman, the joy and elation in his face is real. The dedication of the people making the film in the little bubble is also very real.

Nowadays, a snobbish attitude persists. We see two traits in people and judge their entire personalities. Why can't we respect people for what they are any more? A hundred years ago, when cinema started, maybe it was made in this basic, rustic, comedic way like cinema is made today in Malegaon. Many years later, people might think the way the films were made today was ancient.

It is not about the processes though. It is about living in the little bubbles and enjoying the life for what it is, a pure joy, an experience. All the bubbles have their own beauty about them.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Barfi's Real Star is Jhilmil

 "The biggest mistake in life is to make no mistakes." - Said during the narration in Barfi.

In the first 45 minutes or so of Barfi, there are just a few glimpsed of Jhilmil, the character Priyanka Chopra plays. You can say that she is conspicuous by her absence. In the one substantial scene in this period, where Jhilmil is shifting homes, you can see that she is n afraid, timid girl. 

When she starts to join a song in a party, she is mocked. Perhaps, all her life till this time, she has been shunted and not allowed to grow. Jhilmil did spend time with her maternal grand father a fair bit too, so she wasn't completely dead in spirit, as it were. 

However, only after she spends time with Barfi does she start 'making mistakes', living and breathing. The fifteen minutes before and after interval when Jhilmil and Barfi spend time together are heart warming. The two have known each other since they were children. Only now does Barfi truly appreciate and realise Jhilmil in a way. 

Allowed to 'live', Jhilmil flutters and flies like the butterflies she is fascinated by in the woods. The differently abled people are as normal as any one else. In ways, they are more human as they are not polluted as much by the world which exists. They are human enough to pat goats in the head as Jhilmil does, not turn a blind eye like when we do when we see cows or horses being tortured on an every day basis. Priyanka Chopra was great in the role.

Set in the 70s, the film feels like a dream. It is as if you have been transported into a different world which we failed to notice and appreciate. Once you realize that, you start appreciating the differently abled even more so as normal people. That is all that is needed, really, for starters. 

Other pointers -
  • In the final scene, when an old Jhilmil is shown, she has an assured look to her in contrast to the 'able' Shruti played by Ileana D'Cruz, who has had a fractured life emotionally. Barfi and Jhilmil, one dying, the other, still very much autistic, need to give her support by touching her with their hands. Barfi and Jhilmil have lived normal lives. Barfi grimaces like most normal husbands would do perhaps when asked for a miniscule distracting task by Jhilmil while he is working in his old age. 
  • Ranbir Kapoor and Ileana D'Cruz have been superb. Without uttering a word, occupying the screen the most, Ranbir didn't make you feel words were lacking. Was pleasantly surprised how well Ileana, in her first bollywood film was able to emote facially, but then she has done many South films and is a star there.
  • Anurag Basu has made a perfect film. I disagree that in parts the film was slow. The casual flow added to the flavor. This is a warm broth to be relished sip by sip, not gulped down in a jiffy. For me, this is the best hindi film of the last 10 years or so.
  •  Earlier, Anurag Basu made Kites, which I liked despite elements of masala in it. Basu says the film was made 'democratically'. Earlier in the year, another excellent film, Kahaani was released. That was directed by Sujoy Ghosh, who had earlier directed the terribly Aladdin. Amitabh Bachchan, whose own son acted in Aladdin, said on twitter after watching Kahaani, what Sujoy was doing making films like Aladdin. It is amazing what happens people are allowed to flow.
  •  This film has repeat value for the film being as great as it is. However, you can watch it again the see more pointedly the homages which were paid to Buster Keaton, Chaplin and silent era in general. Barfi sleeping on the statue while it was unveiled is a tribute to Chaplin's City Lights, for instance.
 Update: Many portions of the film was lifted. While it does not mean the film wasn't good, it does take the sheen off a fair bit. Similar to after Black. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Tree of Life and Why I Loved It

The Tree of Life has been unanimously acclaimed as the best film of the year in almost all critics polls.

Terrence Mallick makes one film every 5-6 years and his films are big events even by Hollywood standards. It was one of the most anticipated films ever among serious film goers. Even 12-18 months before it was released, people were talking about what it might be.

Coming to why I loved the film brings forth the real reason why I love watching films: They bring to you new experiences which take your breath away. A lot of the times, the arguments for artistically inclined films have been about greater meanings than plot essentially. It was all irrelevant here.

The biggest credit for the film is how many memories of a life growing up it brings back. Siblings playing together, the mother reading from a book to the child, the child asking the mother which of the children she loves most, the children playing with the water hose pipe. Stuff like that.

And then, it is absolutely beautiful to watch. The twenty or so minutes which has shots of the universe forming are so brilliant, you get a rush of blood and are charged up by the time the sequence is over. Each shot is like a painting which you can post in your drawing room. Isn't life like that too? It is beautiful. It should be cherished.

The film ends with a message of love and it is indeed what one should aspire to give in this world. This is truly a great film.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

My Issues With Scenes From a Marriage

Scenes From a Marriage, the 5 and half hour television series, which became so popular, it was later condensed to form a feature length film, is widely acclaimed as a masterpiece. I didn't like the movie much though.

Firstly, as a piece of literature, it is brilliant. Liv Ullmann, who plays the female character, says in an interview in the special features of the Criterion disks that Bergman would never let any one tweak even minor things in his script. It had to remain as was written. They could improvise in expressions and acting but not in dialogue. It made me think, why not? You don't change what Shakespeare wrote when enacting it, even though the spoken language has changed. Why not Bergman. His script has the highest level as far as depth of dialogues go.

Coming to why I didn't like Scenes from a Marriage. Firstly, my biggest problem is that Bergman seems to have brought all the insecurities of a married life into this film. It is as if he jotted down the insecurities which could happen in a marriage and brought them all out. What was missing were scenes where they appreciated things which they did like about each other. There must be a few things. Maybe they did do it in the later film Bergman made, Saraband, where the two get together after many years but I missed it here.

The second aspect is the dramatic change which occurs. In the first scene during the television interview, the couple seem happily married. Then, the scene of conflict between their couple friends occurs and the sudden realization occurs that they cannot live on like this. This is where I disagree strongly. I believe things cannot go on suppressed for such a long time without any scenes of conflict and mutual realization that things are not that good after all. The first scene gave the impression that they couple were living a lie and despite their frustrations, they didn't realize the trouble living together was causing the other person in the relationship. I think couples do realize this with repeated issues which crop up and despite it you live together.

The third is a selfish reason more than any thing. The movie deals with what happens after the marriage of the couple breaks. Yet, it is named Scenes From a Marriage. What I would have liked to have seen is how the couple spent the 10 years together, living in sadness and anxiety. If Bergman had written that, I think it could have made a great movie by itself. This is purely a personal miff.

I did enjoy watching Scenes From a Marriage though. The five and half hours passed very quickly and you just couldn't stop watching. You want to see much more of Bergman after you see this. It is not for nothing that he is called a master.

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.