November 30, 2009

A Reaction to Bollywood!!!

In an industry where mindless crap rides on the shoulders of over-hyped ‘star power’, it has always been extremely difficult for smaller films to make a statement. Worse, most of these small, ‘independent’ films are badly made themselves, not by the standards of their production values, which can be ignored, but in general. The promise that Hindi film industry will soon go through a revolution remains unfulfilled and the biggest reason is the lack of content. But once in a while, there is a film that makes you notice that spark yet again. And the optimist in you starts believing that the much-needed change is just round the corner. Lately we have had quite a few of such movies. And I try to catch all such movies in a theatre.

Earlier, that was not the case. Going to the theatres was rare and not having a laptop did not allow the luxury of following all the latest releases. During that period, many movies went unnoticed, mostly those that, ironically, lacked ‘star power’. One such movie was Waisa Bhi Hota Hai Part II, released in 2003. I finally saw it today and the least I would say is I was thoroughly entertained.

It begins with an eight-minute prologue called Waisa Bhi Hota Hai Part I, and ends with a one-minute epilogue called Part III. Between them lies the main body of the film, or the film itself. Before Part I begins we have a disclaimer:

“This film is a mindless work of fiction. The characters happen to be fictional, despite our sincerest efforts. The locations, however, are real. The story has been plagiarized from several films.”

And Part III ends with acknowledgements to Ram Gopal Verma, Ramesh Sippy, Mahesh Manjrekar, Takeshi Kitano, Quentin Tarantino, the Coen Brothers and the dancers and stuntmen in the film, and to “all those who provided their moral and immoral support.”

Although it is mostly a funny adventure, it is no great cinema. And the best thing is that it never intends or pretends to be one. Critically speaking, there are some moments which could have been written well and edited more crisply. For example, there is a track of a gang of Sardars, which is more irritating than the fun it provides. But I would still recommend it. Grab a DVD copy of it and enjoy yourselves. In spite of its inconsistencies, this movie is better than most of those being made in Hindi. As a title board in the end says:

“This film is a reaction to Bollywood.” Need I say more?

P. S. The director Shashank Ghosh’s next offering was Quick Gun Murugun (2009).

November 29, 2009

Figures of Cinema Speech: Zoomorphism

This new series, beginning with this post, would focus on how the Figures of Speech of the English language have been used in Cinema to enhance its connotative expression. I would try to keep the posts of this series as brief as possible.

Zoomorphism is a Figure of Speech that applies animal characteristics to humans.

Charles Chaplin's Modern Times (1936) begins with a shot of a flock of sheep that dissolves to a shot of a crowd of working class men emerging from a subway. The connotation is obvious.

November 28, 2009

Kanoon and Ittefaq: Law of Cinema or Plain Coincidence

In 1960, BR Chopra released his suspense-thriller Kanoon. It was mainly a courtroom drama that raised relevant questions on the judicial mechanism, with the subtext of a murder. This film is widely considered as the first ‘song-less’ Hindi talkie. I am not sure about that. But Kanoon, definitely was, and remains, one of the best films to be made in Hindi. Not having songs was one tool that ensured that we do not deviate from the track, making it more powerful than other thrillers like Teesri Manzil (1966), but that was not the only creative decision that resulted in a great film. The entire procedure adapted for the film contributed. The writing was flawless. There is hardly any second in the film that is not relevant, something that can not be said for most Hindi films. The performances are restrained and moving. Apart from Ashok Kumar, who is always powerful in any role he plays, we have an aptly cast Nanda who plays her part beautifully and we have a restrained, underplaying Rajendra Kumar, proving yet again that he was the director’s actor. The sense of purpose is so defined in the film that although it has Mehmood in a brief role, there is no comedy scene by him, something that was difficult to achieve in those days. Those were the days when even Guru Dutt used Johny Walker to add a comic relief to his otherwise intense films, which in my opinion was the only avoidable creative judgment made by him. And here we have Kanoon. I am tempted to say that aesthetically speaking it is one of the best flawless films in Hindi cinema history. The pacing of the film, the way Chopra plays with time is remarkable. There is a scene where someone’s letter in the courtroom proclaims that he knows the culprit and he would name him after five minutes. We actually sit through that time, which runs for close to three minutes and half, and the tension that builds is a cinematic achievement. The director’s use of light and shadow, of sounds and silence, and the way he goes into exploring the psyche of his characters – all is reminiscent of Hitchcock, no doubt. But after all each suspense film made in the world is and will be compared to the Master’s style as it was he who invented and defined this genre. Kanoon is Hitchcockian, but looks like a worthy project by a student of Sir Alfred. After all, we can not take the credit away from Sholay, although its striking similarities with the best of the Western films clearly prove what its ‘inspiration’ was. The only weak point in the film, although I was fine with it, is the revelation of the real culprit in the end. It is something that has been done to death and perhaps the audience today would not approve of that. But the path it takes to reach the end is an unforgettable experience in itself and I would recommend Kanoon to all.

However, in spite of being critically and commercially successful, it failed to set a trend. A film without songs is a weak proposition in this country and finds few takers. Nine years later, BR Chopra produced another song-less thriller, set more-or-less in a single night’s time. The film was the Rajesh Khanna starrer Ittefaq, and was directed by the younger Chopra – Yash Raj. Nanda featured again in this film and this time her character had a lot more to do and convey than the innocent girl of Kanoon. This film was made in Eastmancolor and the inherent suspense associated with Black and White was missing. But there were other deficiencies too. While BR Chopra’s camera plays with images in a subtle and layered way, Yash Chopra has made it too obvious and on the face. His fascination with the medium is what comes through in the first viewing itself, a trait not indicative of great cinema. And adding to that is the performances of the lead pair that appears unconvincing and over-the-top at least during the earlier part of the film. As the suspense is resolved and you think in retrospection, even that seems to be justified, but it does not essentially make you desire a re-watch, unlike Kanoon. Comparison in cinema is a useless and unreasonable exercise. But here, taking example from two films of the same genre from the same production house and within a span of less than a decade, each winning the Best Director Filmfare Award in their respective years, I want to insist on the essential ingredients of good cinema. This comparison clearly suggests that while Kanoon was an improvement over its script, Ittefaq was only saved by its writing. While the background score is one of the merits of the first film, it is disappointing in the second. The natural growth and assimilation of artistic expression that starts from the written word and moves to mixing, looping and score, which is celebrated through Kanoon, is unfortunately missing in Ittefaq. Although, Ittefaq remains one of the better films of Yash Chopra and Hindi cinema in general, and it also is recommended, comparing these two films reiterated my core belief. It is true that filmmakers have always defied convention and stretched the limits of the medium. But the importance of a cohesive, coherent cinematic vision, which begins from the paper and ends on the editing table, is a law of cinema. You can do away with it and still somehow put together a decent stuff through your inconsistencies, but that, perhaps, would not be more than a plain coincidence. Perhaps these words of Sir Alfred Hitchcock state the law I am talking of: there are hundred ways of doing a thing, but there is only one right way. Looking for and achieving that one way is the difference between great and not-so-great cinema.

November 27, 2009

Neecha Nagar: A Lost World

Long before the New Wave and the Parallel Cinema movements were born and recognized, even before the Italian Neo-Realism had had its influence on the cinema around the world, a young, passionate filmmaker from India made his debut film, a social drama, that went on to win the prestigious Grand Prix at the first Cannes Film Festival, scoring above Hitchcock's Notorious, Clement's Le Pere tranquille, and Cocteau's Le Belle et La Bete. It was the first film for which Pt. Ravi Shankar scored the music, following it up with such phenomenal works in several Satyajit Ray films. The filmmaker was Chetan Anand and the film, perhaps the most underrated jewel of Indian Cinema - Neecha Nagar (1946), a film that was never released in its own country and remains a forgotten masterpiece in the cinema consciousness of a crazy nation. A nation where today any International recognition is hailed with an embarrassing pomp by its media has almost always been oblivious to the first film to have achieved that.

The widespread belief that it was based on the play Lower Depths, by Maxim Gorky is as far from reality as close is the similarity between the titles of both works. Neecha Nagar is an expressionistic take on a realistic social problem, reminiscent of Lang’s Metropolis (1926), where a sub-urban town is divided into an upper Ooncha Nagar and a low-lying Neecha Nagar. Sarkar, an immoral, wealthy builder has ordered the diversion of a sewage drain into the Neecha Nagar that has caused widespread diseases and disrupted the lives of the poor people, to reclaim a land from a swamp where he intends to make buildings for his profit. How the people fight their own insecurities and fears and join hands against the wealthy builder is the story of the film. It was made during the last days of the British rule. During those days the British had imposed severe restrictions on films, esp. those with a strong social statement and acquiring film stock was extremely difficult. It was then that this group of enthusiasts, including an all-new cast, joined hands, almost analogous to the characters in the film, and made this film within an extremely modest budget. In fact, they had to use damaged and foggy stock, which the director Chetan Anand intelligently used to shoot the night sequences. But after the film was complete, the authorities did not allow it to be released. Some said it was ‘too ahead of its times’. Waiting for years, the print gradually got damaged. The director even wrote to Nehru to provide aid to preserve the print, but not much happened and the print was eventually lost.

Almost two decades later, cinematographer Subroto Mitra, who had worked on Ray’s Apu Trilogy, miraculously discovered a print of the movie at a junk store in
Calcutta. The print today lies at the Film Archives of India, Pune, and was used to create the video version of the film that is available today as a poor quality DVD, with flame-like flashes across the screen during the climax. However the film is a difficult watch today even if you choose to ignore the ageing of the print. The film, in itself, has aged too, its aesthetics appear outdated; its narrative requires patience to sit through its hundred odd minutes. The film that was once considered ahead of its times is now obsolete for the common audience. It could never get the audience it deserved and today it is important for historical and academic purposes only.

But if you watch it with all these considerations, Neecha Nagar is not a film difficult to appreciate. The first thing that hits you is the director’s treatment of the socially relevant, realistic issue. It is unique as Chetan Anand chooses to give it a flavour of expressionism, close to surrealism, esp. in its final sequences. The innovative use of montage, definitive and forceful camera movements, and the effective use of score and silence – the director’s maturity is as evident from these as it is from the way he has made his actors perform. In an era when melodrama
and theatrical body language was the norm, Anand’s actors, including the debutante girls Kamini Kaushal and Zora Segal, are restrained - a gaze tells a hundred words, a moment of silence speaks a thousand. And the tools he has used to create the menacing character of Sarkar adds a strong surreal feel to it – the statue of a monster in his office, the portrait of a demon half-hidden behind a wall, and the shot of a vulture dissolving into an up-angle close-up shot of his face. Then there is this scene when his daughter finds him awake at night, and as he walks to and fro in his room, she looks at his imposing shadow growing and diminishing with his motion. It is this imaginative blend of realistic acting and expressionistic technique – both ways ahead of his times that make this film an important cinema statement. It is indeed difficult to believe that it was his first work. Interestingly, he has not been credited as the ‘Director’ of the film, but has taken the credit for ‘Film Creation’.

Chetan Anand went on to make films that earned him further critical acclaim and occasional commercial success. But in spite of making films like Taxi Driver(1954), Haqeeqat(1964), Aakhri Khat(1966), Heer-Raanjha(1970) and Hindustan Ki Kasam(1973), he remained an underrated genius. Even his own brothers Dev and Vijay Anand overshadowed his poetic cinematic wisdom by their popular appeal. As the fate of his first film, Chetan Anand’s story remains an immortal echo in a lost world, perhaps waiting to be discovered by some another film enthusiast from the junk yard Hindi cinema has become.

P.S. To have a glimpse at the film, click here.

November 23, 2009

Paparazzo and Paparazzi: from Fellini to the dictionary

Paparazzi, as we know, is a word in common English usage. The Oxford Dictionary defines Paparazzo as a 'freelance photographer who pursues celebrities to photograph them' at moments when they are not expecting to be photographed. Paparazzi is the plural form. The etymology of this word is interesting, esp. for the lovers of trivia. In his 1960 film La Dolce Vita, on the Page3 society of Rome, Federico Fellini created the character a photographer named Paparazzo. He is the assistant to the protagonist Marcello and accompanies him in his trips around the city for seeking stuff for the gossip columns. (In a certain Italian dialect, this word resembles another describing a particularly disturbing and irritating sound like that of a mosquito.) Needless to say, La Dolce Vita went on to become one of the most celebrated films of all time, and the languages got a new word to describe a relatively modern phenomena. This cultural give-and-take has become an important contribution of cinema, the influence of cinema on the popular American novelists of 1960s and later being one common example. With this post I am starting a new section on this blog, From Cinema to Other Arts and Reverse, that will focus on the cultural exchanges of various art forms. What a word to begin the discussion, Paparazzi!

A Dream Land for Hobos and Bums

"The Big Rock Candy Mountains... where they hung the jerk that invented work..."

The Coen Brothers' O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000) begins with this wonderful song written by Harry McClintock. A tune that you will fall in love with at once and words that fit just so well with the mood of the film and the vision of a bum's utopia, this song is rightly called a Hobo Ballad. This link provides with a funny animation based on the song. Go, click and smile.

I am penning down the lyrics here:

One evening as the sun went down
And the jungle fire was burning,
Down the track came a hobo hikin'
And he said, boys, I'm not turning,
I'm headed for a land that's far away
Beside the crystal fountains,
So come with me, we'll go and see
The big rock candy mountains.

In the big rock candy mountains
There's a land that's fair and bright,
Where the handouts grow on bushes,
And you sleep out every night.
Where the boxcars all are empty,
And the sun shines every day,
On the birds and the bees,
And the cigarette trees,
The lemonade springs,
Where the bluebird sings,
In the big rock candy mountains.

In the big rock candy mountains
All the cops have wooden legs,
And the bulldogs all have rubber teeth,
And the hens lay soft-boiled eggs.
The farmer's trees are full of fruit
And the barns are full of hay,
Oh, I'm bound to go
Where there ain't no snow,
Where the rain don't fall,
The wind don't blow,
In the big rock candy mountains.

In the big rock candy mountains
You never change your socks,
And the little streams of alcohol
Come a-trickling down the rocks.
The brakemen have to tip their hats,
And the railroad bulls are blind,
There's a lake of stew
And of whiskey, too,
You can paddle all around 'em
In a big canoe
In the big rock candy mountains.

In the big rock candy mountains
The jails are made of tin,
And you can walk right out again
As soon as you are in.
There ain't no short-handle shovels,
No axes, saws or picks,
I'm a-goin' to stay
Where you sleep all day,
Where they hung the jerk
That invented work
In the big rock candy mountains.

I'll see you all this coming fall
In the big rock candy mountains.

- a song by Harry 'Haywire' McClintock
(first recorded in 1928)

November 19, 2009

The End

Just want to indulge a little and have some fun. There is this great thread at the Message Board of 2012, the movie, at IMDB. I present here the best of the lot:

Things we learn from 2012:

  • Barack Obama is older than what he appears, or he ages rapidly after the Nobel.
  • Showing some planets and sun flares at the beginning of your movie makes it seem scientifically possible.
  • Sony products will rule the world!
  • The London 2012 Summer Olympics will be held in December.
  • A Russian couple can have fat evil carrot top ginger twins.
  • Apparently there is a Russian version of Paris Hilton.
  • Top scientists have read novels that merely sold 120-something copies.
  • Camping sucks :)
  • Cars never start when you want them to, but they can outrun earthquakes that swallow entire buildings.
  • While a plane is moving down a runway, your family can see your small little hands coming up out of a crater
  • Bring your cars instead of survival gears at the boarding. After world is over, all the highways will be empty for you to break speed limits and gas will be cheap.
  • Find breast-surgery doctors to get a perfect body and a pilot when the end of the world comes. He will fly brilliantly even when pandemonium will reign like never before and take you to safety through every possible night mare of the sky. And the best thing is, he will die when he is needed no more.
  • When collecting animals for the ark, do not collect cows, sheep or pigs (animals that provide humans with food and clothing) rather save the giraffe and the rhino. Also, pick grown-up animals, because they are easier to
  • Solar flares and eruptions on the sun will lead to the destruction of everything on earth, even the reversal of the magnetic poles, but the satellite systems surrounding the earth will keep functioning to allow us to monitor the activity. You will have excellent cell phone reception.
  • The moment your father forgives for marrying a Japanese're gonna die.
  • If the Mayans were so smart, they'd still be around.
  • If you are religious, God wont be there to save you.
  • You do NOT freeze in sub-zero temperatures after crash-landing in the Himalayas, even if you're wearing a mini skirt or a monk robe
  • We are God's video game.
  • Although you have lots of very expensive military espionage satellites in space, you'll need a guy from India to tell you that another float wave is coming.
  • A Russian girl's whistle to her dog is louder than thousands of people screaming.
  • Have skinny kids, they are easier to hoist on the gate.
  • After having escaped every natural disaster to make it to your destination, you are liable to screw it up getting through the backdoor of a ship.
  • Even the arks that save mankind have "Made in China" written on them.
  • During the end of the world China still gets the record to have the maximum population.
  • If you’re about to get hit by a big wave and you’re near a huge Buddhist gong on top of a mountain.... Go for it man. Ring the hell out of that thing!
  • When you only have seconds to save the lives of everyone, you will still have time to hug, kiss, whisper, and finally slowly move apart while still exchanging words inaudibly with your ex wife.
  • Fate always mends broken families back together by killing the step-dad.
  • John Cusack is a fish.
  • The Chinese will take time out of building ships to install cameras all over the place inside said ships. Cameras that give you great closeups.
  • The former enemies of the US will all be confined to an ark together: Japan, Russia, and China.
  • You can easily go through the worst catastrophe without the need to take off your tie.
  • The world wont end. It will just break a little.
  • But the Taliban will definitely be wiped out.
  • Someone will always come along and save your ass in the end.
  • Always think.. "I'm the f**ng protagonist here, I'm the f**ng protagonist here" and you'll be wounds free!!
  • People will watch any movie regardless of how stupid and over the top it is, as long as it has lots of special effects.
  • Why have character development when you can have explosions?
  • Reading all posts in this thread would be a better way to spend two and a half hours than actually watching the film. But, then again, we all have to watch the film to create this kind of thread. Oh, the irony.

  • And here comes the best of all: Even the Apocalypse doesn't give a *beep* about Africa.


November 13, 2009

Hollywood: Chaplin, Spielberg, Tarantino, and Beyond

I was born just three years ago, that is me as reflected on this blog. It is true that I was a school kid when I decided to make cinema my career, but spending the first eleven years of my life at a small town in Bihar, with no satellite TV, and the next eight years in a boarding school where we could not even listen to film music, I was deprived of discovery of cinema. It was only three years ago, in October 2006, that with movies like Aanand, Aandhi and Pyaasa, I discovered it. Since then it has been the single most important work of my life, almost my raison d’etre. Today I feel fortunate enough to be able to develop a blog on cinema. Here, in this post, I am going to write about what little perception I have of the commercial film industry of America.

When it comes to entertaining, nobody does it better than Hollywood. This is a fact as true as it can be. American films are like the face of movie-industry economics and cine-technology. There are hundreds of films in each genre that can make your day, or your weekend. You want to have a good time, just rent a good Hollywood movie. One movie that instantly comes to my mind is Groundhog Day (1993). As I was watching it, I thought – no one does it better than them! And there is no end to such examples.

But what has really appealed me about American cinema is how certain filmmakers have succeeded in creating significant aesthetic developments in spite of their strong and dictating movie-economy. Citizen Kane (1941) is not only the greatest American movie ever, as considered by many; it is a technical and aesthetic water-shed in the history of world cinema. From Charles Chaplin to Alfred Hitchcock (a British who in his later years moved to Hollywood) to my personal favourite, Stanley Kubrick (an American who in his later years moved to Britain) to Woody Allen to Martin Scorsese, there have been contributors who have shaped the cinema of today. And then there have been the likes of Steven Spielberg who have set and re-set the rules and standards of commercial cinema and have made it an important part of people’s consciousness. There are many among the current breed as well, and some of them are very much on their way to become as great as to be counted among the greats I just mentioned. I would talk about those whom I appreciate the most.

I have nearly completed the films of five of my favourite American filmmakers. And apart from them I am really in awe of the Coen Brothers. I have not yet watched all of their movies and the day I do that, I would write a separate post on them. The five I mentioned above are:

David Lynch: The senior-most of the lot, Lynch has already had a career that places him right up there with other all-time greats. His films introduced me to the genre of surreal, psychedelic thrillers. I had hated Eraserhead (1976) like anything, and now I know how important a cinema-experience it was. And he has taken that extra step to prove that his genius is not merely cerebral. The sensitivity he portrayed in The Elephant Man (1980) and A Straight Story (1999) proves that he could very much have made great ‘normal’ movies. But he instead decided to make the films he wanted to – surreal, twisted, dark, and forever memorable.

Jim Jarmusch: Here is one modern American filmmaker with the most personal and unique style. His movies are like ‘trips’. The Jazz he uses, the (often) black and white frames he composes, and the cosmopolitan of characters his cinema is – he is one of the most underrated geniuses of the current breed. You think you have seen enough of Hollywood? See Jim Jarmusch. And the kind of films he had made as early as in the 80s make you feel – Oh, that was something new! And extraordinary too!!

Quentin Tarantino: I have had a love-hate relationship with Tarantino. His Grindhouse (2007) is easily one of the most avoidable movies I have seen. It took time for me to realize the greatness of Pulp Fiction (1994), but today I can watch it any number of times. I am a huge fan of Kill Bill (2003-04) and the song Bang Bang is something I can die for. Reservoir Dogs (1992) will forever remain the finest example of independent filmmaking. I thought Jackie Brown (1997) was OK, I could not help to expect a lot more. And finally, after an impatient wait, saw Inglourious Basterds (2009) in a theatre. They say he is repetitive. I agree, but have no complains. He has a way of doing things, he has a way of celebrating cinema, he has the ability to write the zaniest dialogues ever, and I love him for that. I have forgiven him for Grindhouse; he can afford to indulge once in a while. For the contribution he has made to commercial cinema with that 1994 gem is something he will always be honoured for. (Pulp Fiction is one of the biggest reasons why I do not find the Oscars credible enough). If he could repeat that originality, he would have shot to the league of the Kubricks. But he will be remembered for being Tarantino anyway.

Paul Thomas Anderson: PTA!!! There is this certain fluidity in his cinema; you seem like floating through his films. His characters and his score, among his other visual elements make you feel like you want it to go on forever. And with his last two movies – Punch-Drunk Love (2002) and There Will Be Blood (2007), he has shown signs of great versatility, and yet maintaining his singular, personal style. Looking forward to his next.

And now I name my favourite non-Indian filmmaker among the current lot. With a surrealism that has managed to cross cerebral barriers and made inroads into emotions and sensitivity, with a writing that fuses philosophies and legends and results into some of the most original cinema of recent times, with a vision that you only find in dreams and in the state of altered reality – pure, poetic, vivid, and intoxicating, a director who has always outdone himself and has also proved his ability to tell a story as simple as his last, the maker of Pi (1998), Requiem for a Dream (2000), The Fountain (2006) and The Wrestler (2008), Darren Aronofsky is the name I would choose from my three years of film-age. I feel he is the most worthy ascendant to the throne of Stanley Kubrick. Following his career would be like we followed the career of Sachin Tendulkar – seeing him arrive, make promises, fulfill them time and again and growing into the stature of a legend. Darren, you have to reach there. Waiting impatiently for your Black Swan (2010)…

November 11, 2009

The Real Reel

I consider myself fairly open to varied genres and expressions and tolerant enough to sit through any decent movie. So, I fail to understand why I never gave the Documentary its due attention and respect. And it is difficult to figure out further, how all of a sudden I find in myself a new fan of this genre. The technological basis of the art of the Documentary is not at all different from other expressions of cinema. Documentary too is cinema. And is an immensely powerful form of expression. I was late in realizing this; hopefully I’m not too late.

During the last few days I had the fortune of watching three documentaries. One of those was Unmistaken Child, on the search for the reincarnation of Lama Konchog, a world-renowned Tibetan master. It was the only of the thirty-four films I saw at the Mumbai Film Fest that left me choked and teary-eyed. I could not believe in it entirely, but was still deeply affected. Then there was this great documentary on the life of Ayn Rand – A Sense of Life. A life as great and as inspiring as hers is an amazing story in itself, but even the craft of this film was exemplary. And finally, today, I saw An Inconvenient Truth- Al Gore’s revelation of the subdued crisis called Global Warming. As it progressed, believe me, I felt I was watching a Horror film, only with this realization that it won’t be over as the movie ends. This is the impact of documentaries. Since it is real, and the medium of cinema manages to communicate it in the most realistic way possible, each documentary, provided it is well-made, manages to affect you deep within. And it leaves you enriched. You just feel wiser, if not more.

I would highly recommend An Inconvenient Truth to anyone who considers him or herself literate, cultured and/or sensible. Those who can, please take a copy from me. Or you can rent it from BigFlix. Others can download it from the net, and not feel guilty about it at all. Watch it. Re-watch it. And share it with as many as you can. Its poster reads: "By far the most terrifying film you will ever see."

A Gibberish Tribute To The Masters!

Here is this wonderful song from the recently released Ranjit Kapoor film Chintuji (2009), starring Rishi Kapoor. It was a sweet little film and I would recommend it to everyone. But the most exciting portion for me in this film was this tribal song featuring Sophie Choudhary. It was meant to be gibberish, but the director most interestingly used this situation to pay tribute to some of the greatest filmmakers of all time. It was pure fun. Just try to figure out the names:

Tarantino Vittorio Mizoguchi Coppola

Tarantino Wilder Capra Ozu Bertolucci Pekinpah

Fellini Visconti Oshima Coppola Coppola

Wyler Hitchcock Wajda Mizoguchi DePalma

Wyler Hitchcock Wajda Brian De Palma

Akira Kurosawa Vittorio De Sica

Akira Kurosawa Vittorio De Sica

Bertolucci Bertolucci Lumet Lumet

Bertolucci Bertolucci Oho Oho Oh

Sergio Leone Sergio Leone Truffaut Truffaut

Sergio Leone Sergio Leone Oho Oho Oh

Wyler Hitchcock Wajda Mizoguchi DePalma

Wyler Hitchcock Wajda Brian De Palma

Akira Kurosawa Vittorio De Sica

Akira Kurosawa Vittorio De Sica

Woody Allen Woody Allen B DeMille C B DeMille

Woody Allen Woody Allen Ohhhhhh

Milos Forman Milos Forman Godard Godard

Milos Forman Milos Forman Gooooo

Wyler Hitchcock Wajda Mizoguchi DePalma

Wyler Hitchcock Wajda Brian De Palma

Akira Kurosawa Vittorio De Sica

Akira Kurosawa Vittorio De Sica

And although the sound track does not include it, in the movie Rishi Kapoor's character adds another name in his roaring voice. The name is 'Satyajit Ray'.

Listen to the song to enjoy it better. Watch the video and keep smiling a big, wide smile. (here is the link ) Watch the movie anyway.

November 09, 2009

Mumbai 2009, Afterword: Down With Viral

Mumbai Film Fest ended on 5th November. For the next four days I have been sleeping. This strange viral attack has left me confined to my bed. There is no fever, but there is everything else. Don't feel like doing anything, least of all watching a new movie. Fellini's La Dolce Vita and Hitchcock's North by Northwest, among others, are waiting for me, the newest additions to the Movies folder on my laptop. But I feel saturated. If I actually have to watch a movie, I would rather choose one of the 34 I saw during the past one week. Would love to revise most of them.

34 films from nearly as many countries, in more than 17 languages. From Romantic Comedy to Thriller to Courtroom Drama to Documentary to Surreal Fantasy to Psychological Drama to Crime to Period Biopic - it was a complete experience. The award winners were:

The British film White Lightnin' won the International Competition for the first feature film of directors (Golden Gateway).

The Italian film La Pivellina won the Jury Grand Prize (Silver Gateway).

Adrian Biniez won the Best Director award for his film Gigante.

Edward Hogg for White Lightnin' and Paprika Steen for Applaus won the awards for Best Actor and Actress respectively.

A special Jury Award was given to Mark Gyori for camerawork and Gyorgy Kovacf for sound for the film Katalin Varga.

Road to Sangam won the Audience Choice Award while Sirta La Gal Ba (Whisper With The Wind) from Iraq received the Mumbai Young Critics' Jury Award.

Greek filmmaker Theo Angelopoulos recieved the honourary International Lifetime Achievement Award. Amitabh Bachchan was also awarded an honourary Lifetime Achievement.

In spite of watching as many films as I could, I missed three of the above mentioned films. They will now feature in my list of 'Badly Need to Watch' films.

Would like to mention Tatarak (Sweet Rush) from Poland; and Kan Door Huid Heen (Can Go Through Skin) from Netherlands. These two films affected me greatly. If cinema art for me has acquired new meanings during this week, these two films have made the most difference.

P.S. On my way back home after the festival, had three different encounters on the train. All of them were men under influence of alcohol and the drama they created was no less than any of the films I had seen. Hitchcock had rightly said that drama is life with the dull bits cut out. As I lie in my bed, down with viral, life and its drama continues. Hoping to join it ASAP...

November 07, 2009

Mumbai 2009, Day #7: Finally attached

All these days, I was watching movies with a certain detachment. Unlike my nature, I was subconsciously keeping myself at a distance from the characters I saw on screen. Perhaps that was the only way I could have finished 34 films in seven days. At the end of each day I was planning the next and hardly thought about the films I had just saw. It was a non-sentimental approach of celebrating cinema in a mad mad rush.

On the last day, however, after the last movie, I had this feeling - 'FIN' (as they say in French for The End). As I sat at Marine Drive, I recalled all the 34 movies and saw those characters standing there, looking at me. I just realized that I was going to miss them, and miss this experience. At that moment I felt what I had witnessed, their complicated lives and deaths and hopes and desires, from diverse cultures and belief systems. I felt then that my exhaustion is not merely physical but emotional as well. I felt drained. I longed for more of it, although I knew it had become physically impossible for me to watch one more movie. When it has ended, I finally find myself attached to it.

I spent the last day of the fest at Metro, and the movies of the day were:

The Last Thakur, a thriller from Bangladesh.

Singularidades de umarapariga loura (Eccentricities of a Blond Hair Girl), a Portuguese short-story, perhaps the only avoidable movie I saw during these seven days.

Complices (Partners), the closing movie for me, a French murder-mystery involving teenage crime and sexuality.

And the two movies which made the day special:

Tres Deseos (The Three Wishes), a Kieslowskian drama from Argentina. From writing to use of background score, this deeply psychological account of a married couple's weekend trip to Colonia reminded me strongly of Trois Colours trilogy. The tribute to Kieslowski was evident as Victoria talks about a scene from Trois Colours: Bleu. A definite re-watch.

Huacho, a neo-realistic take on the life of this rural Chilean family. It was honest, affecting, and beautiful. Although the pace was such that many left the theater mid-way. But I loved it.

It has been a beautiful week, one of the most beautiful of my life. The experience has ended. The hangover has merely begun. Gifted myself a red rose as I finally moved towards Churchgate station to catch the train to home... Life is beautiful! Cinema is forever!!

November 05, 2009

Mumbai 2009, Day #6: Genres and a Zombie

Chronic severe sleep deprivation. I look like a zombie.

Siete Minutos (Seven Minutes), a beautiful romantic comedy from Spain.

Sturm (Storm), an intense and gripping political thriller based on the atrocities caused to Bosnian Muslims by Yugoslavian National Army.

Junk food. I eat like a zombie.

Menteur (Liar), about this Belgian guy whose failure has turned him into an obsessive compulsive liar.

Katalin Varga; a Romanian drama: what happens when Katalin has to leave her home and her husband as he discovers her past and the truth behind their son.

I can't see it as I move about, but my face talks to me like a zombie.

Pick of the day: Sandali Khali (Empty Chair), a surreal Iranian fantasy discussing life, death, chance, and the responsibilities of the creator. Thought Iranian movies are all about simplicity. Not when the director is Saman Estereki. Met him. Says things are always between real and unreal for him. Took interest in my interpretation of his abstract stuff.

Performance of the day: Kerry Fox for Storm.

I am drowning, deep, down, going...

One more day. Just one more day! Will it be enough? Can anything be enough?

"Sex is overrated. I'm fine without it". (from Seven Minutes)

I am a zombie.

November 04, 2009

Mumbai 2009, Day #5: Bus, Taxi, Sprint and Eternity...

He: Tomorrow... How long does tomorrow last?
She: An eternity... and a day.

Mumbai 2009 is having a retrospective on the legendary filmmaker from Greece, Theo Angelopoulos. This film that I saw today features commonly in 'Greatest Films Ever' lists. The eight-minute long closing shot can definitely be considered as one of the best closing shots in cinema history. But this experience had a price.

Instead of the usual festival venue at Fun Republic, Andheri, this morning we started for Ghatkopar. Didn't know the route. Didn't know exactly how long it would take. The first bus we took broke down. 20-25 minutes got wasted. The other bus we took got caught in the morning traffic over the WE Highway. We didn't have time. Decided to take a cab. It took 160 bucks, but we reached the gate of the Mall precisely on time. As we entered, the guards told us that it was the wrong gate. We had no time left. And the mall is too goddamn huge. So, we had to sprint - it was the only way out. Ran all around the campus. Entered. Lifts not working. Rushed over the dead escalators and reached the third floor. All this while, we could not find any other delegate in sight. Is this a wrong address? - was out worst fear. But then we saw the poster of the film fest. And finally, as we try to rush into the theater, the security person says that the show has been postponed. We were 75 minutes before time!

While waiting for the first movie to start, knowing very well that tonight's last movie would not end before 11pm, we thought we our day was screwed. But it turned out to be perhaps the most fruitful day of my cinema experience. After the opening Greek movie, each movie that followed was special, each capable of making your day, giving you a high, and today there were five of them, back to back. Well, this indeed is a film festival.

Ausencia (Absence), a Mexican crime drama; Eastern Plays, the story of two brothers among the misguided youth of Bulgaria, that had bagged Best Film and Director awards at Tokyo, 2009; La Belle Personne (The Beautiful Person), perhaps the best teenage romance I have seen, perhaps because no one does it better than the French; and finally Andrzej Wajda's Tatarak (Sweet Rush) from Poland, an unbelievable fusion of real and fiction. Would like to mention Krystyna Janda's as the performance of the day, not only for the psychological layers she displayed as Marta, but for the spirit with which she played herself - Krystyna, the actor, suffering with the loss of her real-life husband, and shooting for this Wajda film. Confused on reading this? Many there were confused after the movie as well. Just take this - this film was awarded the Alfred Bauer Prize at Berlin 2009, the award which is given "to a movie which opens new perspectives in film art." This did just this. The eternity of these films made my day!

November 03, 2009

Mumbai 2009, Day #4: Finally Slept Through One...

Among my friends doing internship, stories of people sleeping in the operation theatre while holding the retractor beside the patient was common. The way the limits of my body are being stretched these days, I have started to believe those stories. Today, finally, I slept through an entire movie. It was a short one and so was my much needed nap. I feel guilty about that, but I should not. Finishing nineteen movies in four days is something remarkable in itself, I suppose.

And the four movies of today were so good, a definite rise in standards from yesterday's stuff. Goodbye Solo, was a Jim Jarmusch-like story about this taxi driver who develops friendship with a seventy-something man with secrets of his own. Den Peremozhenykh (The Day of Defeated) was a colourful satire set in the changing political scenario in Ukraine, where a death and the funeral guides us through the minds and mannerisms of these interesting characters of a small town, reminiscent of Fellini's Amarcord. The near-perfect Turkish film Uzak Ihtimal (Wrong Rosary) generated an unprecedented audience response on the sweet love story of Musa, a Musilm muezzin and Clara, a Christian nun. But for me the biggest high of the day was this psychological Dutch crime drama, Kan Door Huid Heen (Can Go Through Skin), a post-traumatic study into the mind of Marieke, which was achieved by the innovative use of montage and sound design. It taught me a thing or two. It was a movie I would love to make.

The actor of the day would be Nadir Saribacak for his restrained performance in Wrong Rosary. He underplayed it so well, he made it difficult to appreciate his performance. I am sure everyone in the audience loved him for being Musa.

November 02, 2009

Mumbai 2009, Day #3: Games For Survival

Perhaps I am trying too hard to connect the movies I watch each day under a common title. But the 'connection' was a little too obvious on the first two days, and was almost so today. Today's movies showed different aspects of human drive to survive: the best film winner at Rome 2008, Jang-e-Taryak (Opium Wars), about two American soldiers stranded in an isolated place with a local Afghan family displaying our inherent animal nature of struggle and survival; Bist (Twenty), an Iranian drama about how the owner's decision to sell his banquet hall is going to make things difficult for his staff; Los Bastardos, an insight into the lives of two Mexican manual labourers; and today's pick - La Pivellina, a sweet Italian film about how a two year-old, lost-and-found baby girl named Asia affects the lives of red-haired circus-worker Patti and those around her. Apart from these, we saw La Tigra, Chaco, a simple, warm love-story set in a small town in Argentina. The post-screening discussion with its directors added value to this honest attempt.

It has been three days. Fifteen movies. I am having hardly five hours of sleep per day. And the day involves traveling for hours and disrupted food habits. When I sleep, I dream about being there and meeting film personalities. I am getting insane. And there are four more days to go!