April 23, 2011

Must Watch Before You Die #10: '8 1/2' (1963)

Most 'must-watch' films are great. Some are really unique in their intent, approach, and achievement. Almost all of them are unforgettable. And then there is '8 1/2'...

Many filmmakers are great. They defy the genres and develop their own cinematic expression. Some of them truly earn the reputation of artists. They dare and they do. And then there is Federico Fellini...

A film about the making of a film, and that film is the film itself. Aptly described as "a self-reflexive modernist art-film fairy tale" by Marilyn Fabe in the book 'Closely Watched Films', '8 1/2' is the best way cinema could celebrate itself... It is outrageous, and it is sheer magic.

"I thought my ideas were so clear. I wanted to make an honest film. No lies whatsoever. I thought I had something so simple to say. Something useful to everybody. A film that could help to bury forever all those dead things we carry within ourselves. Instead, I'm the one without the courage to bury anything at all. And now I'm utterly confused... I wonder why things turned out this way. When did I go wrong? I really have nothing to say, but I want to say it all the same."

April 18, 2011

Must Watch Before You Die #9: ‘Chicago’ (2002)

I remember that evening, one of the many horrifying ones, during the fresher term of my AFMC life. The seniors were hell-bent on ‘orienting’ us during that period of six weeks. And twice each week, we could escape the post-dinner session with seniors – Tuesdays and Fridays – they were movie days. In the Open Air Theatre of our college, movies are still screened twice each week. But during the fresher term it was more than a movie theatre – it was the place where we could sit with dignity and relief, and smile. Even back then, movies were what relieved us from our everyday trauma. So, I remember that evening when ‘Chicago’ was screened, and I was anticipating something wonderful – it had won the Best Picture Oscar a few months ago. I remember being disappointed – nothing in the movie made sense to me. Back then, not many English movies made sense to me.

‘Sound of Music’ was perhaps the first Musical I really enjoyed. Three years into my college life, I had already discovered cinema. I wondered – why doesn’t Hollywood produce more movies with songs and dance – they did it so well! My review of that film was perhaps my first User Review on IMDB. I showed that movie to my mom. I kept watching the songs repeatedly. I downloaded the lyrics and sang along. I still do.

So later, after having loved ‘All That Jazz’ and ‘Sweeny Todd’ and ‘My Fair Lady’, I was looking forward to watch ‘Chicago’ again. This time, I was sure, it would be magical.

And magical it was. It has been close to one month now, since I watched this Rob Marshall film for the first time. And my brother and I keep revisiting it again and again. I watched a portion of it in altered sense of consciousness this Holi, and what a trip it was! But all this while I kept wondering – whether I should recommend it here as a Must-Watch. I really wanted to, but my mind cautioned me – recommending ‘Chicago’ would mean recommending a whole bunch of musicals. After all, the critic world-over rate many other musicals above it.

But when I found myself revisiting the movie compulsively, so much so that it started interfering with my writing; when I kept humming the songs for days altogether – even during the World Cup euphoria; when Renee Zellweger’s charm started chasing me even in my dreams, and I obsessed myself with the plans of making a Musical, how could I keep listening to the sterile logic of my dominant cerebral hemisphere? So here it is - my first recommendation in months – ‘Chicago,’ a movie that you will fall in love with. And I don’t care how many Musicals I end up recommending on this blog.

“I’m a star. And the audience loves me, and I love them. And they love me for loving them and I love them for loving me. And we love each other. And that’s ‘cause none of us got enough love in our childhoods.” – Roxie Hart in ‘Chicago’

April 13, 2011

Deserving Winner

It has been really hectic all these days. There were so many things I wanted to write about, but just could not get the time. I wanted to write about a conversation I had with Kundan Shah a few weeks ago. I can summarize that as: “Do not cater to the audience. But respect them.” I wanted to write about Sudhir Mishra’s ‘Dharavi’ – that I managed to catch on big screen, and which is definitely one of the better Hindi films you will see. And I wanted to write about the best birthday gift I have received in a long time – a 9-movie collection, all Satyajit Ray films.

But yesterday was such an important day that I forced myself to find time and write these words. As mentioned in a previous post, I had been mentoring the making of a 3D film, a non-fiction visual poem on the town of Vrindavan. Yesterday was the award ceremony. Our film stood 3rd and won the Best Editing award. (The only other awards were Best Cinematography and Best Film). The winning team is going to have a trip to Hollywood and I was a little disappointed. But in the end, I think they were the deserving winners – ‘Goli Aatam’ – a Tamil film about a little girl who challenges a bunch of boys in a game of marbles.

But there is more news. The organizers have selected one film to be sent to Panasonic Japan. And that is ours. More than anything, we are proud of the movie we made, and are glad to be part of an experience we will never forget. Some of the readers of this blog contributed in the making. I must thank them for everything they did.

After the award function, I went to watch ‘The King’s Speech’. And despite my awareness about the movie’s subject, it moved me deeply. I was amazed by ‘Black Swan’ and dazzled by ‘Inception’. And I really appreciated ‘The Social Network’ and ‘True Grit’. But ‘The King’s Speech’ in my opinion really deserved the Best Picture Oscar. Cerebral entertainment is great, and a difficult thing to achieve. But being able to appeal to the heart is even more difficult. And more often than not, they do it by keeping things simple. Two winners – ‘The King’s Speech’ at the Oscars, and ‘Goli Aatam’ at Panasonic Dimensions, just reinforced that.

Here are the links for you to have a glimpse at the competition, and what we did there:

And here is a Triveni that closes the chapter for me, and opens others:

एक अवार्ड फंक्शन में हार मिली आज;
अभी चाँद तले मरीन ड्राइव पर बैठा हूँ।

और क्या-क्या देगा ये शहर मुझे - ये ख़याल है...