May 31, 2014

#3 The Poet in Love

मेरे महबूब तुझे मेरी मोहब्बत की कसम,
फिर मुझे नर्गिसी आँखों का सहारा दे दे,
मेरा खोया हुआ रंगीन नज़ारा दे दे.… 
भूल सकती नहीं आँखे वो सुहाना मंज़र
जब तेरा हुस्न मेरे इश्क से टकराया था,
और फिर राह में बिखरे थे हज़ारों नग्में,
मैं वो नग्में तेरी आवाज़ को दे आया था,
साज़-ए-दिल को उन्ही गीतों का सहारा दे दे.… 

याद है मुझको मेरी उम्र की पहली वो घड़ी
तेरी आँखों से कोई जाम पिया था मैंने,
मेरी रग-रग में कोई बर्क-सी लहराई थी
जब तेरे मरमरी हाथों को छुआ था मैंने,
आ मुझे फिर उन्ही हाथों का सहारा दे दे.… 

मैंने इक बार तेरी एक झलक देखी है
मेरी हसरत है कि मैं फिर तेरा दीदार करूँ,
तेरे साए को समझ कर मैं हसीं ताजमहल
चाँदनी रात में नज़रों से तुझे प्यार करूँ
अपनी महकी हुई ज़ुल्फ़ों का सहारा दे दे.… 

ढूँढता हूँ तुझे हर राह में, हर महफ़िल में,
थक गये हैं मेरी मजबूर तमन्ना के कदम,
आज का दिन मेरी उम्मीद का है आखरी दिन,
कल ना जाने मैं कहाँ और कहाँ तू हो सनम,
दो घड़ी अपनी निगाहों का सहारा दे दे.…

सामने आ के ज़रा पर्दा उठा दे रुख़ से,
इक यही मेरा इलाज-ए-ग़म-ए-तनहाई है,
तेरी फुरकत ने परेशान किया है मुझको,
अब तो मिल जा कि मेरी जान पे बन आई है,
दिल को भूली हुई यादों का सहारा दे दे.… 
Shakeel Badayuni (Mere Mehboob, 1963)

May 12, 2014

Must Watch Before You Die #40: Enter the Void (2009)

I have taken more than six months to come up with this new recommendation as a "must watch", the last being 'Holy Motors' (2012), despite having watched several great movies in this period. But I am very glad while doing this because 'Enter the Void' fits perfectly into the idea that had made me start this series more than three years ago. If you have not watched this hypnotizing, stunning, dream-like, trance-like fim, you are seriously missing out on something. It is indulgance at its best, and watching it makes you feel dizzy, and ecstatic, because the pleasure it offers to your senses is extraordinary by any standards. Very early in the film is a brilliant play of light and sounds, reminding you of the Stargate sequence from '2001: A Space Oddyssey' and you really don't want it to end. Exceptional in its beauty, it may even inspire you to try hard drugs, if this is really what they make you experience. I couldn't tell, but let me confess honestly that I did ponder over the possibility of following our largely-invisible protagonist into the world of substance. I must be grateful to the rest of the film that not only, through the painful journey the guy experiences, kind of warned me against such an experiment, but also let me have a long, intimate glimpse of what a "trip" could be without any real danger. The film, is a trip. But it's also a wonderful meditation on the issues of death, afterlife, reincarnation, out-of-body experiences, incest, and love. You may not want to watch it with your kids or your parents, but you must watch this film, and it would be great if you could couple it with a mental state that suits it well. I will write briefly about my mental state as I watched it, before signing off.

I was in Devprayag. It is a small hill town seventy kilometers northward from Rishikesh in Uttarakhand. It is the place where the two major tributeries, Alaknanda and Bhagirathi, merge into each other to form the Ganges. I had reached there in the afternoon, and after my much-needed siesta, I went out to make a call to my brother to let him know where I am (The visit to this town was a part of an unplanned, several weeks long solo trip I had taken in the hills during this April). I had to go out as my phone had no network and I had to rely on the local phone booths. Hardly I knew that this phone call will become one I won't ever want to forget. Our first film, "Tamaash" had won a National Award and I was completely unaware of it as friends and family celebrated in joy unbound. After having talked with Devanshu and then my Mom, I returned to my little room, that overlooked the excited, noisy Bhagirathi. From my window I could see the moon rise from behind the hills, and could hear the water forcibly break the stillness of the town, and I slowly allowed the news to sink in. I cannot explain how liberating it was to realise that I, at that special moment, was completely alone, and utterly unreachable for anyone, with no phone or internet connectivity. Even if I wanted to, I couldn't have called anyone as the phone booths were shut. Even if I desired, I couldn't have read the congratulatory messages on Facebook. And it was in that moment of liberated and bissful solitude that I decided to pamper myself with this amazing film experience called 'Enter the Void'! Some film experiences go beyond their run-time. This, for me, was definitely one such experience. Magical. Mad. And infinitely memorable.

May 08, 2014

Straight from the Heart of an Incorrigible Film-Buff

"How do you feel after winning the National Award for your very first film?" In the past few days I have been asked this question several times, and I find myself struggling to come up with an answer. As always, I want to answer it honestly, but doing so will sound incredible, and may dampen the spirits of my well-wishers who definitely are several times happier than me or Devanshu. What the award means to me, the film-maker, is something that cannot be answered briefly, as there are several perspectives to be understood before coming to that. But what it meant to me, the film-buff, to be a part of that function last Saturday is something I would love to share here. We can start by sharing a little trivia that it was the 101th anniversary of the birth of Indian Cinema when this evening at Vigyan Bhavan became a joy forever for me. Now, let us start from the very beginning.

It was February, 2010. Devanshu and I had gone to watch the first show of 'LSD: Love Sex aur Dhokha'. The lead of the second story was also there, among the handful of audience, with his friends. It must have been a proud moment for him. We loved his work and greeted him after the show. He acknowledged our compliment with utmost sincerity and humility. Since that day, he appeared in several films, and somehow, Devanshu and I kept bumping into him at different places in this city, without really introducing ourselves to him. In the next four years, he became Rajkummar Rao, earning unending praise for his several performances, and finally a National Award for Best Actor. Last Friday morning when we reached the airport, we saw him boarding the same flight. Of course, he recognized us as the two guys who keep meeting him randomly, and a "hello" was effortless. But then he was glad to know that we too are going to Delhi for the awards. After the flight, we were taken to the hotel in the same car and we saw the trailer of his upcoming film 'City Lights', again by Hansal Mehta, the director who made 'Shahid' that won them both their National Awards. The film buff in me was so happy for them, and for 'Shahid', that they won this honour. And I was happy for Geetanjali, who won Best Actress. The world has hardly seen her yet, and at the very beginning of her career this award will definitely be a tremendous encouragement and boost. Add to this, several well-deserved awards won by some of the films I truly loved. Met Bishwadeep Chatterjee who won the Sound Design award for 'Madras Cafe' and had a wonderful chat with him. 'Fandry' won Best Child Actor and I told Somnath Avghade how much I loved his performance in his film. He was there with his Dad all the way from Sholapur. Also met Nagraj Manjule, the director, and thanked him for his powerful first film. "I am eagerly awaiting your next", I told him. He smiled his gentle, calm smile. I was more demanding with Anand Gandhi, when I congratulated him for winning the biggest award of the year, Best Film for 'Ship of Theseus'. "All of us are going to have extremely high expectations from your next film. We are dying to see what the author in you has to offer now." I was so happy to see him receive the award with his producer Sohum Shah. Rajeev Ravi winning the Cinematography award for 'Liar's Dice' and 'Miss Lovely' winning for Art Direction also made me feel great about the award list. Of course, whatever clips we saw of other regional language films that won awards that evening filled me with sincere respect and admiration for all those film-makers whom I didn't know or whose works I had not seen. But to be in their company was special.

Ever since the short film 'Kush' won the top prize at Venice 2013, I had been wanting to get in touch with Shubhashish, the young director of the film. It was special to meet him and I told him how thrilled I have been for him since Venice. Meeting Ruchir, the director of 'Mandrake, Mandrake' and Kavin, its cinematographer, was like making new friends. These young film-makers will be big names tomorrow and I will proudly cheer for them. Saurabh Shukla won the Best Supporting Actor for 'Jolly LLB' and I made my Dad meet him who has been his fan since he wrote and acted in 'Satya' (1998). I also told him how that film had affected the fourteen-year old me and how it remains a personal milestone in my life. He most gracefully posed for a photo with my family and signed an autograph for my ten-year old cousin.

However, despite all these wonderful moments and interactions, the biggest high came from the Masters being there, and being awarded on the same stage. The almost overpowering humility of Jahnu Barua and Girish Kasaravalli, both winning their tenth and fifteenth National Awards respectively was the single most important learning for me during my stay in Delhi - to understand how important it is to stay grounded despite all achievements. I wish it were easy! As of now, I can only say that sharing the award with Mr. Kasaravalli was a matter of unthinkable pride for me. Also was special to talk briefly with the spirited Kamal Swaroop. I can't wait to show Tamaash to him, especially because he understands the Kashmiri language. And then, the biggest moment of the evening, was to watch Gulzar Sa'ab receive the Dada Saheb Phalke Award. Teary eyed, smiles on my lips, I clapped incessantly, with hundreds others sitting there, and then rose to give him a long standing ovation. During that moment, clearly, he had overshadowed the President of India in receiving appreciation from the audience. And then he talked. And he talked about Bimal Roy and S.D. Burman, and Salil Choudhury and Pancham Da and A.R. Rahman. Both Devanshu and I were beaming with pride and were overwhelmed with emotion. Whatever we achieve in our lives from here will have its importance, but not many moments will come close to this. Let it go down in history that when Gulzar Sahab received the highest cinema honour of this country, Devanshu and I were physically present there, feeling proud and inspired and humbled, and very, very special.

Thank you jury and the officers at DFF. Thank you the I&B Ministry and thank you honourable President of India, for giving us such wonderful joys to me and my family. It will remain special, all our lives.