June 23, 2014

Our First Film Poem: Ishq ki Ijaazat

You can click here to watch the first Film Poem Devanshu and I have created for online release. It is a four-minute video. And you can read the poem below. Let us know your reaction to it. Thanks.

इश्क़ की इजाज़त

दो इश्क़ की इजाज़त, इल्ज़ाम अब हटा दो,
हम ग़ैर हैं नहीं - ये एक बार तो जता दो.

पूछो ज़रा खुदा से जिसने हमें बनाया,
क्यूँ ख्वाहिशें अलग दीं, क्या रंग ये चढ़ाया?
और बोलते हो तुम कि हम क़ुदरती नहीं हैं,
तुम भीड़, हम ज़रा से, तो भीड़ ही सही है?
अपना सके हमें कोई दूसरा खुदा दो...

सदियाँ गुज़र-गुज़र कर करती रहीं गुज़ारिश,
न तुम बदल सके, न ये तोहमतों की बारिश,
फिर भी हमें हमेशा जो चाहते बदलना, 
इन्साफ ये कहाँ का - बस बात ये बता दो…

यूँ सहमे-सहमे कितने यहाँ छुपे हैं,
क़ायदों के पर्दों की ओट में रुके हैं,
ये क़ायदे उठा लो, बाहर हमें बुला लो,
हमको बराबरी की तुम आज इब्तदा दो,
हम ग़ैर हैं नहीं ये एक बार तो जता दो...

थी क़ैद कब मोहब्बत मज़हब के दायरों में ?
न क़ौम रोक पाई, न ज़ात टोक पाई,
न उम्र के फ़रक़ को भी आशिक़ों ने माना,
फिर आज तक हमें क्यूँ है रोकता ज़माना?
दो दिल ही जुड़ रहे हैं, दे दो दुआ इन्हे भी,
इस दिल के जश्न को थोड़ा अपना मयकदा दो,
हम ग़ैर हैं नहीं ये एक बार तो जता दो,
दो इश्क़ की इजाज़त, इल्ज़ाम अब हटा दो.

June 18, 2014

The Protagonist Puzzle

Okay. So, whether you believe it or not, I just watched the two Terminator movies, for the first time in my life. And let me admit it, I enjoyed them thoroughly. 'The Terminator' (1984) was enagaging and exciting. 'Terminator 2: Judgment Day' (1991) went beyond that. It was emotionally moving. And I think it is one mainstream, popular, genre stuff I won't mind watching again and again. This post, however, is not on my opinion about these two movies. It is an attempt to answer a very fundamental question - identifying the protagonist in a story. I hope some of my concepts will be tested and, in the end, consolidated as I discuss the issue below.


Who is a 'protagonist'? Simply speaking, it is the main character in a story. But this vague definition, 'main character', can be gravely misleading. Who is the main character in 'The Terminator'? Is the title character, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, the main character? And if he is the protagonist, then who is the antagonist? If we do not go into any definition, clearly, the Terminator in this movie is the antagonist, the villain - we fear him, we don't want him to succeed, we are glad when he is 'terminated' in the end. And if he is the antagonist, who is the protagonist? We have two more 'main' characters in the movie - Sarah Connor, the woman whom the terminator wants to kill, and Kyle Reese, the human resistance fighter sent from the future to protect Sarah. Before we try to solve this protagonist puzzle further, let us have some basic discussions about the features of a protagonist in a movie.

The word 'Protagonist' literally means 'the one with the main or primary agony'. In other words, the character whose conflict is central to the story and is of the biggest concern to the audience is the protagonist. The film is actually the protagonist's active and conflicted journey, pursuing something (which is often defined as his or her "want") and/or undergoing a significant change by the end. We care for, admire, and love the protagonist. We look up to him or her. The protagonist also drives the plot, by indulging in active, visible action, and by taking strong, irreversible decisions at significant moments in the film that become 'plot points'.

In 'The Terminator', Kyle Reese has a lot of traits of being a protagonist. He, unlike Sarah, is active in the story since the beginning, he is more dynamic than her and is pursuing a "want" (to save Sarah), and we admire him and trust him and look up to him (as does Sarah). He also takes several key decisions in the film and guides the comparatively passive Sarah, who is clueless about the happenings for the major part of the film. However, I believe, despite all this, Reese is not the protagonist. Sarah, despite being unaware of the main plot, being comparatively passive, and clinging to Reese for survival, eventually comes across as the protagonist of this film. We definitely care for her more than anyone else, and the film is her journey of discovering her importance and that of her unborn child. From being a usual and inconspicuous waitress in an LA cafeteria, she realises that she is a 'legend' and the only hope for mankind some 45 years from her day. By the end, she decides to take care of herself, and her child, and make sure that the hope lives on. It won't be wrong to liken her with the journey of Harry Potter in the first book of the series or of Neo Anderson in 'The Matrix' (1999). At times, we must conclude, the protagonist is not as active and dynamic as we expect them to be when the story begins. But by the end, he or she goes through a life-changing journey, and adopts the centre-stage, defeating the antagonist, with the help of a powerful secondary character. In my opinion, Sarah Connor is the protagonist of 'The Terminator', unless we settle down for a safer conclusion that both Sarah and Kyle Reese are the protagonists, as in most love stories. And 'The Terminator' is very much their love story as well.

'Terminator 2: Judgment Day' has four main characters. The film has an amazing twist in the 25th minute when we realise that the character played by Schwarzenegger is actually there to save the child - John Connor, and defeat T-1000, the advanced prototype liquid-metal terminator who clearly is one of the most menacing and strong antagonists in film history. Sarah Connor returns in the film as well and she is determined to save her child, John, for the sake of humanity. She is not only more dynamic, active, and controlling the course of the story than her character in the first film, but also in comparison with her son, John, who in this movie plays the 'Harry Potter' or the 'Neo Anderson' - a legend who has just discovered that he is way more special than he thought he was. Both Sarah and John are extremely endearing - we completely care for them and we admire them as they take key decisions in the film. For most part, I felt John is the protagonist, very similar in nature to his Mom's protagonist character from the first movie. But in the final act of the film, my opinion changed. I suddenly realised that the Terminator has been pursuing his want most actively in the film, fighting this invincible antagonist and having a journey of his own - learning common sense and colloquial speech, understanding emotions, and fulfilling promises. In the final act, he is almost destroyed, when he rises again, and overcomes the final and the most frightening conflict - the climax, where he saves John and Sarah, terminates T-1000, and most importantly, takes the most vital decision of terminating himself for the sake of humanity. In the closing moments when we see him going away, we may not have tears running down our faces like John, but we do feel a strong sense of gratitude and attachment with this machine that was our hero throughout the film. And the final image, of his fingers curling to form a 'thumbs-up' as his entire body disappears just locks it for us - a cinematic image that will live forever. Perhaps it was the trickery of the title of the last movie that caused this little confusion in me. But in 'Terminator 2', unlike the first movie, the title character is very much the protagonist, like in most movies.

June 02, 2014

Gurudev Uvaacha #6

"I am always watching movies... One of the nice things about my life, because I've done fairly well in cinema, it's kind of afforded me a chance to almost live an academic's life. And so my feeling is I'm studying for my professorship in the history of world cinema and the day I die is the day I graduate... A kick of study of some sort... I just explore it. And I just voraciously watch them, making notes on them, may be for a future book, may be for a future study, or may be for my own gratification."

- Quentin Tarantino at Cannes 2014

June 01, 2014

Greatest Canadian Films of All Time

I just finished watching Atom Egoyan's 'The Adjuster'. This is his fourth film that I watched and I must admit that now I am a huge fan of his work. Too bad I discovered him so late. While reading about the film, I also found something interesting. Let me share it with you below.

Since 1984, a list of greatest Canadian films of all times is compiled by the Toronto International Film Festival guys, every ten years. So, there have been three such lists so far. And the new list should be up this year. I have merged the three lists to come up with the names of 18 greatest Canadian films. As on date, I have watched only 7 of these (marked in bold). There is so much to do, as a film-buff!

  1. Mon oncle Antoine (1971/ Claude Jutra)
  2. Goin' down the Road (1970/ Don Shebib)
  3. Jesus de Montreal (1989/ Denys Arcand)
  4. Les Bons Debarras (1980/ Francis Mankiewicz)
  5. Les Ordres (1974/ Michel Brault)
  6. The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (1974/ Ted Kotcheff)
  7. Le Declin de l'empire americain (1986/ Denys Arcand)
  8. The Grey Fox (1983/ Phillip Borsos)
  9. The Sweet Hereafter (1997/ Atom Egoyan)
  10. Atanarjut: The Fast Runner (2002/ Zacharias Kunuk)
  11. Dead Ringers (1988/ David Cronenberg)
  12. J.A. Martin, photographe (1977/ Jean Beaudin)
  13. Pour la suite du monde (1963/ Pierre Perrault)
  14. I've Heard the Mermaids Singing (1987/ Patricia Rozema)
  15. Nobody Waved Good-Bye (1964/ Don Owen)
  16. Les Invasions barbares (2003/ Denys Arcand)
  17. The Adjuster (1991/ Atom Egoyan)
  18. La Vraie Nature de Bernadette (1972/ Gilles Carle)