October 26, 2010

Mumbai 2010 Day #4: Ruins and Regrets

A family of husband and wife with their kids, twins. A tragedy. Father dies. Son and Mom go on to live a life of poverty. Daughter is adopted by a rich family. Decades pass. In the end they reunite, again due to a similar tragedy. Add to this some subplots like: pre-marital pregnancy, lonely mother at home as son is away working, the new daughter-in-law complaining of the house being small, and all, and all. What looks like a summary of popular Hindi cinema cliches of the 60s is China's Official Entry for the Oscars this year, Feng Xiaogang's 'Aftershock'(2010). Easily the weakest movie this festival. I don't know why there was such a demand for this film, so much so that it had to be re-screened at 10.30 in the night. China's last year's entry, 'Forever Enthralled' was such an amazing film, and even that couldn't be shortlisted in the top five. I don't see any hope for 'Aftershock'. By the way, the friend sitting next to me claimed he heard some sobs during the movie!

Mikio Naruse's classic 'When a Woman Ascends the Stairs'(1960) tells the story of a virtuous bar-woman and her journey through customers' infatuation and the desire to live a better life. Naruse is not as popular as other Japanese masters, but after this I would like to watch more of his films. I was very tired when the film started and could not pay much attention to it. But it slowly engulfed me with its beautiful emotional appeal. Also, I don't think I have seen a Japanese film of that era with such a formal grammar of shooting and edit. Very impressive.

I was called for an important meeting. So I could watch only three films today. But thank god I watched Mrinal Sen's 'Khandahar'(1983). The film made my day. Easily, one of the best Hindi films you are going to see, starring Naseeruddin Shah, Shabana Azmi, Pankaj Kapoor, and Annu Kapoor, this film is also a mesmerizing visual experience, shot at a vast landscape of ruins. Three city boys visit what was once the palace of a royal family over a weekend. And they meet a girl living with her paralyzed mother, both waiting for a man who would never come. Like the old building, slowly awaiting its death, this mother-daughter duo's indefinite wait is not very different. Eventually, time will take them away, and we won't be able to do anything. This film was chosen as one of the ten best films released all over the world in 1983-84. I am not surprised. Watch it if you want to experience the rare gems of Hindi cinema. I feel proud again.

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