Archive for September, 2013

There is a new twist in the tale. Film Federation of India has written a letter to Ritesh Batra after all the Oscar hullabaloo.

Read on.


(PS – What’s with ???)

Kenny Basumatary’s Local Kung Fu (with English subtitles) released this friday. Some of us had seen the film and quite enjoyed it. Here is a Baradwaj Rangan-ish bullet point movie recco post by Kartik Krishnan.
  1. Dash of Takashi Kitano humor and tribute to oranges-Andaz Apna Apna.
  2. Goon with the funny smile plastered on his face 24X7
  3. The 70 yr old grandfather who wields the stick with Kamal-Hassan-Thevar-Magan-ish dexterity.
  4. The superb tongue-in-cheek Guthka khaane se swasth ko haani pahunchti hai PSA cleverly forced in
  5. Candid out takes end credit sequence
  6. Fried Silkworms, Snail curry, rice pancakes ahhh the food
  7. The overweight Karate goon who sings Raagas
  8. Spirit of the cast and crew and a budget of less than a lakh
  9. Ekta Kapoor spoof
  10. Absolutely naturalistic performances
  11. The Number One U 18 goon – Bonzo !
  12. The energetic action sequences
  13. The girl with Assamese-Malayali roots
  14. The gallis and koochas of Assam
  15. The uncle who asks “You need to take a crap or something?”
  16. The music (Wish the songs were subtitled too) Sample this
  17. The Requiem-waala montage thrown in once or twice
  18. DLFG – Delhi Liberation Front For Gurgaon
  19. The stories told in each and every fight – kaun kispar kaise bhaari padta hai 
  20. The irreverence and non seriousness of it all – with the tone set from the the opening statement itself !
  21. The goons shaving & whiling away time when bikes enter in super slow motion!
  22. Even a small time thief fights back in Kung Fu-style
  23. The villain whose caller tune is the sound effect of kicks & punches
  24. No pretentiousness of an art film, No (ok, may be a little) filmy-pana of a commercial film
  25. The vision guts and passion of Kenny Basumatary who has acted, written, directed and edited the film

Do catch the film playing at the limited screens.


– To know more about the film, click here to read an old post by the film’s lead actor, writer an director Kenny Basumatary.

– For more info on the film, visit its Facebook page here.

– To watch its trailer, click here.

This one has come out of the blue. We had no clue about this film.

Official synosis

A quirky family entertainer for 8 to 80 years, pan India.
Ranvir’s fortune is in dumps and selling his ancestral land in Mumbai is the only way to survive & Kukreja who has put all on stake has to get this land to stay away from the wrath of a ‘bhai’ and also achieve his dream of becoming a builder eventually!
For both Ravir & Kukreja this plot of land means everything and has to be got any which way.
But the key to the land is Ranvir’s mama Madho Singh Rathore, in Mandawa. Since the will wasn’t made in Ranvir’s name, so Mama has to give the NOC. Ranvir has to get his Mama to Mumbai within a month & Kukreja has to stop him from reaching Mumbai.
We see the transformation of our protagonist Ranvir from a materialistic city youth to someone who is all for family & values & antagonist Kukreja from a ‘dalla’ to a gangster through this journey, which has some other real & funny characters as well.
In the 1st half the city goes to a village and in the 2nd the village comes to the city.

Little too much? Forget it, just watch the trailer.

Cast and crew

Cast : Vir Das, Deepak Dobriyal, Gulshan Grover, Kirti Kulhari & Yashpal Sharma
Director : Shekhar Ghosh
Music : Sonu Niigam & Bickram Ghosh
Creative Producer : Rajnish Lall
Release Date : 25th Oct 2013

Ashish R Shukla’s debut feature Prague is releasing this friday. Starring Chandan Roy Sanyal, Arfi Lamba, Mayank Kumar, Sonia Bindra and Elena Kazan, the film is pitched as a psychological thriller with an interesting theme – “Seeing Is Misbelieving”. And taking the central idea forward, the makers and fans have been making some interesting  and catchy posters of the film. Have a look.

Click on any of the poster to enlarge it and start the slide show.

– To know more about the film, click here for its FB page, and click here to follow it on Twitter.

Screenwriter and lyricist Varun Grover‘s script Maa Bhagwatiya IIT Coaching was selected for NFDC-TIFF’s ScriptLab this year. He not only went to the lab but also managed to catch some of the interesting films at the fest. So over to him for all the dope on the fest and some film reccos.


Thanks to NFDC’s script lab in association with Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), I got to attend this year’s fest (from 5th to 15th September) in Toronto. Though the first 5 days were devoted mostly to the script lab sessions (with our excellent mentors – Marten Rabarts, Olivia Stewart, and Esther van Driesum – who got the nuances and layers of our scripts so bang-on in spite of being from a culture far removed from ours), I stayed for 5 more days to watch cinema. And I think Toronto has been getting the best line-up of films for the last few years. Oscar season is close-by, TIFF Director Cameron Bailey’s film-hunting/sourcing skills are legendary, and TIFF doesn’t shy away from seemingly non-festival stuff like Gravity and The F Word (on two ends of commercial spectrum) – resulting in a film fest with so many options (with ample repeat screenings) that out of the 16 films I could catch, at least 10 were absolutely stunning and another 3 in #MustWatch category. And I missed at least 7 big films, in addition to many small ones, that I so badly wanted to see. (People’s Choice winner ‘12 Years a Slave’, FIPRESCI winner ‘Ida’, Cannes winners ‘Blue is the warmest color’ and ‘A Touch of Sin’, Richard Ayoade’s ‘The Double’, Reitman’s ‘Labor Day’, and Miyazaki’s last ‘The Wind Rises’.)

But what a smooth fest it was. Never seen volunteers this organized, informed, helpful, cheerful, and above all passionate for cinema! Most of them were students who chose to volunteer because for every 6 hours of work they used to get one movie ticket free. And then there were some who had been doing it for many years – and some (like this 80-year old lady scanning barcodes on our cards outside the venue) who loved being part of the buzz. Every volunteer inside the venue I went to (Scotiabank) knew which movie was playing on which screen, who had directed it, and what was the duration. And they would make a human-chain in the theatre gallery for really crowded screenings (like Gravity’s) so that no one jumps the queue. Met two young filmmakers while waiting in a queue who had volunteered at the fest 3 years ago and they said the recruitment for next year’s volunteers will start soon after this is over, and they prepare for close to 10-months for this level of professionalism.

So here’s the list of films I watched and my 2-line reactions to them:

fifth estateThe Fifth Estate (Bill Condon): Hugely underwhelming. No insights into Assange’s mind or workings or flaws, and more like a Madhur Bhandarkar attempt at cashing-in on the hype around the man. Wannabe Social Network, but with writing so clichéd that even Cumberbatch couldn’t save this one. And later I realized the director, Bill Condon, had made 2 Twilight films before this. That figures.

PrisonersPrisoners (Denis Villeneuve): Sirf naam hi kaafi hai. Villeneuve’s last (Incendies) was one of the best, most explosive film 2 years ago, and hence was really looking forward to this. Turned out it had (my fav) Paul Dano too in it, with (Prestige-faced) Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal. And what a spine-chilling film it was! Definitely among the top 3 I saw at TIFF. Villeneuve (with his writer Aaron Guzikowski) enters a David Fincher world but brings much more art-house sensibility (with a Korean psycho fetish angle) and Roger Deakins’ absolutely gorgeous aesthetics to it. Won’t talk about the plot as this film is best savored with a blank slate mind. Doubt we will see a better thriller this year.

Gravity (Alfonso Cuaron): This one was a safe bet – and it still managed to exceed my expectations. By around a 100 light-years. I don’t think I breathed for the 90-minutes it played. Best use of 3-D, green-screen, Sandra Bullock, and space debris yet in cinemas. Watch it on the biggest screen in 3-D please.

The-Strange-Colour-Of-Your-Bodys-Tears-posterThe Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears (Helene Cattet, Bruno Forzani): I don’t really know what I saw. 4-5 people walked out every 5 minutes and by the time the film ended, only 30-35 of us were left. Something that would make the much acclaimed mad-duo of Belgian cinema happy. Weirdia of the highest order. Lots of blood, nudity, absurdism, zero narration or attempt at it, but everything done with so much class and aesthetic value that difficult to dismiss it. Colors, mood, performances – all screamed ‘installation art’ of highest order.

R100R100 (Hitoshi Matsumoto): One of the best discoveries at TIFF. Directed by Japan’s most absurdist filmmaker and leading comedian, this was weird, funny, cutting-edge satire, and sexual fantasy in equal measures. Brilliantly, genuinely subversive. (And he called it R100 to take a swipe at censor boards who’d give it a rating ‘suitable only for 100-years or older’). Wait for this one!

Enemy posterEnemy (Denis Villeneuve): Yup, DV had two films at the fest. Both with Jake Gyllenhaal in a major role. He apparently shot them back to back and then edited parallel – and seeing how different the genres and mood was, he has to be having two separate brains to do it with so much perfection. Enemy, based on a Jose Saramago novel (yup!) though reminding me of a Satyajit Ray short story ‘Ratan Babu’, has terrific Melanie Laurent and Sarah Gadon giving company to Jake finding his exact double accidently, and is so moody that it feels like a tarantula spider creeping up your back. Just a bit underwhelming when compared to ‘Prisoners’, but is comparison even valid?

MoebiusMoebius (Kim ki Duk): You walk into a Kim ki Duk film expecting bizarre but this one, as far as I know, is bizarre level max he has ever reached. This one is bizarre level ‘eating a dick after cutting it’. This one is bizarre level ‘mom eating son’s dick after cutting it’. (No, it’s not a spoiler, just a warning. This particular sequence is right in the beginning of the film.) And it’s a silent film – completely silent. And it could have been called ‘Dick of Theseus’. And it was the funniest, goriest, sexiest, most disturbing, and thrilling, and taali-seeti worthy film I saw at TIFF. And somehow, Duk manages to push his Buddhist agenda through all this weirdness too. Takes a genius for that. Also among my top 3 there. Must watch if you can handle bleeding dicks.

Gopi GawaiyyaGopi Gawaiyya Bagha Bajaiyya (Shilpa Ranade): The only film at the fest that left me disappointed. Had high hopes with this one – and the art of the film is top-notch. Beautiful frames, decent level of animation, but where it faltered badly was in the dialogues and technicalities of animation. Lines written in clunky, orthodox Hindi and making the background out-of-focus to give depth (in a 2-D animation!) made the film look way tackier than it should have been.

QissaQissa (Anup Singh): A film based on partition, in Punjabi, starring Irrfan and Tillotama Shome and Rasika Duggal and Tisca Chopra! I was already sold. And though it deals with partition in a more symbolic, metaphoric, allegorical way – I was moved immensely by it. Many friends had issues with the logic and amount of suspension of disbelief it demands (basic premise of a father who brings up his daughter as a son without letting anybody else know is a bit of a stretch, yes) – but it still managed to disturb and involve me probably because of the magic realism zone it enters in the 2nd half. And also because of Rasika and Tillotama’s terrific performances. Probably it’s only me but I think the film gives a solid theory on why Punjab has the maximum cases of female foeticide/infanticide. (Qissa won the NETPAC Award at TIFF.)

Why_Dont_You_Play_In_Hell_Banner_4_25_13-726x248Why Don’t You Play In Hell (Shion Sono): Shion Sono of Cold Fish fame is a rockstar already and this film (recommended strongly by my script lab friend Nikhil Mahajan who wanted to watch all the films in Midnight Madness section, a section devoted to all the mad-horror-slasher-campy films, with titles like ‘All Cheerleaders Die’) came with huge expectations. And the first 15-minutes just raise your expectations to the skies. A spoof on Yakuza cinema of Japan, film sags a bit in the middle with spoofs being so subtle that it starts looking serious, but the last 30-minutes or so Sono comes back full-steam and blows your head. And the very last shot adds another magical layer to the entire film! Super-ambitious and super-welldone. (WDYPIH won the best film in Midnight Madness section.)

under-the-skinUnder the Skin (Jonathan Glazer): The creepiest film at TIFF, in spite of it being non-gory, non-gross. Scarlett Johansson plays an alien (nudity is there, perverts) and nothing much happens beyond a pattern (which may be a minor spoiler so avoiding), but the mood, location (cloudy, wet Scotland), Glazer’s solid craft, and Mica Levi’s trance-type BG score make it a super-juicy watch.

Half of a yellow sunHalf of a Yellow Sun (Biyi Bandele): Knew nothing about this film but then Aseem Chhabra recommended it and I found out it’s based on a novel by Chimamanda Adichie (always a big plus for me when a film is based on a book). And it was like a fulfilling novel – a sprawling, excellently recreated epic of 2 sisters and their 2 lovers in the middle of Nigeria-Biafra conflict of the late 60s. Would have been a strong Oscar contender in many categories if it didn’t have an all-black cast and ethos and history. And to make it even more worth it – Thandie Newton and flavor of the season Chiwetel Ejiofor (of 12 Years A Slave fame) hit it out of the park with their excellent performances.

Walesa, Man of HopeWalesa: Man of Hope (Andrzej Wajda): Another of my favorite genres – biopics. And this one is as solid as any I’ve ever seen. Based on the life of Lech Walesa, a man I knew nothing about except vague memories from GK books that he won a Nobel Peace Prize, the film is a bit too political-jargon heavy, but none of it stops it from being a great, engaging film with some godlevel period-recreation detailing. And the use of Polish punk-rock music as a thematic narration device adds so much to the mood of the era. Plus the main lead Robert Wieckiewickz has the charm and power of early Robert De Niro and the actress playing his wife (Danuta Walesa), Agnieszka Grochowska, had a face with so much beauty, pain, and understanding ki mujhe us-se pyaar ho gaya. Triple Ace!

ElanorThe Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby – Him and Her (Ned Benson): A mouthful of a title, a seemingly simple drama about a couple’s separation but dive into the film and realize it’s almost as ambitious as Gravity. Two films (of 90 mins each) showing the perception of events through husband’s and wife’s perspective – and so many layers added by just one more perspective to a particular event. And the best part – the film showed as Him-Her and then in another show as Her-Him (the order of perspectives reversed) and that changed the meaning of many scenes for viewers, including the climax. So in a way, it’s a film as well as a perception game! Interactive cinema done so simply. And I’ve not even started on how sensitive, brilliant, and insightful Ned Benson’s writing is. This one too, among my top 3 at TIFF.

ThouThou Gild’st The Even (Onur Unlu): Shot in crisp 35 mm black and white and great to look at, but kuchh samajh nahin aaya so walked out after 30 minutes. Read more about it here and go WTF.

The f wordThe F Word (Michael Dowse): Don’t even ask me why I went to see this one. (There wasn’t anything else playing at that time, mainly that’s why. Also ‘cos Dowse made the terrific ‘It’s All Gone Pete Tong’.) A standard rom-com, most likely to make profit if it releases during Christmas or Valentine’s Day, with some very funny lines, and some very average clichés, but done well. Zoe Kazan is excellent, crush-worthy, yet again after Ruby Sparks (which she by the way wrote too), and Daniel Radcliffe is stuck in that odd place/age where Kunal Khemu and Jugal Hansraj have already been.

528185_574243075956739_144188067_nThe 15th Mumbai Film Festival has just announced its lineup for this year.  The fest will screen over 200 films from 65 countries. Costa-Gavras and Kamal Hassan will be given the Lifetime Achievement Awards at the fest. Among the filmmakers, Asghar Farhadi and Leos Carax are expected to attend.

The fest will also have spotlight on Spanish, Cambodian and Afghan cinema alongwith retrospective of Costa Gravas and a special tribute to Leos Carax.

Dates – 17-24 October 2013

Venues – Liberty Cinema, Metro Big Cinema, Marine Lines are the main festival venues and Cinemax, Versova  as the satellite venue.

– To know more about the fest, click here for its FB page and click here for its Twitter account.

– For registration, you can go to its official website here.

Here’s the complete lineup of the festival

Opening Film

The Butler Dir.: Lee Daniels (USA / 2013 / Col. / 132’)

International Competition for the First Feature Films of Directors

The Rocket Dir.: Kim Mordaunt (Australia-Laos-Thailand / 2013 / Col. / 96’)

La jaula de oro Dir.: Diego Quemada-Díez(Mexico / 2013 / Col. / 102′)

Ilo Ilo Dir.: Anthony Chen (Singapore / 2013 / Col. / 96′)

Mamay Umeng Dir.: Dwein Baltazar (Philippines / 2012 / Col. / 75′)

For Those in Peril Dir.: Paul Wright (UK / 2013 / Col. / 90′)

The Japanese Dog (Cainele Japonez) Dir.: Tudor Cristian Jurgiu (Romania / 2013 / Col. / 85′)

The Plague (La Plaga) Dir.: Neus Ballús (Spain / 2013 / Col. / 85′)

The Strange Little Cat (Das merkwürdige Kätzchen) Dir.: Ramon Zürcher (Germany / 2013 / Col. / 72′)

Another House (L’autre maison) Dir.: Mathieu Roy (Canada / 2013 / Col. / 100′)

Medeas Dir.: Andrea Pallaoro (Italy-Mexico-USA / 2013 / Col. / 98′)

The Voice of The Voiceless (La voz de los silenciados) Dir.: Maximón Monihan (Guatemala-USA / 2013 / Col. / 92′)

Don Jon Dir.: Joseph Gordon-Levitt (USA / 2013 / Col. / 90′)

Fandry Dir.: Nagraj Manjule (India (Marathi) / 2013 / Col. / 103′)

Above The Cut

The Weight of Elephants Dir.: Daniel Joseph Borgman (Denmark-New Zealand-Germany-France / 2013 / Col. / 83′)

A Fold in My Blanket (Chemi sabnis naketsi) Dir.: Zaza Rusadze (Georgia / 2013 / Col. / 75′)

Giraffada Dir.: Rani Massalha (France-Austria-Germany-Italy / 2013 / Col. / 100′)

The Selfish Giant Dir.: Clio Barnard (UK / 2013 / Col. / 95′)

Five Years (Fünf Jahre Leben) Dir.: Stefan Schaller (Germany / 2013 / Col. / 95′)

Diego Star Dir.: Frédérick Pelletier (Canada-Belgium / 2013 / Col. / 91′) The

Amazing Cat Fish (Los insólitos peces gato) Dir.: Claudia Sainte-Luce (Mexico / 2013 / Col. / 88′)

Matterhorn Dir.: Diederik Ebbinge (Netherlands / 2013 / Col. / 87’)

Halley Dir.: Sebastian Hofmann (Mexico-Netherlands / 2012-Nov. / B&W-Col. / 83’)

Autumn Blood Dir.: Markus Blunder (Austria-USA / 2013 / Col. / 97′)

Burned Wings Dir.: Zheng Kuo (China / 2013 / Col. / 105′)

World Cinema

Closed Curtains Dir.: Jafar Panahi, Kamboziya Partovi (Iran / 2013 / Col. / 106’)

Shield Of Straw (Wara No Tate) Dir.: Takashi Miike (Japan / 2013 / Col. / 124’)

On My Way (Elle s’en va) Dir.: Emmanuelle Bercot (France / 2013 / Col. / 116′)

All Is Lost Dir.: J.C Chandor (USA / 2013 / Col. / 106’)

A Long and Happy Life (Dolgaya schastlivaya zhizn) Dir.: Boris Khlebnikov (Russia / 2013 / Col. / 80′)

Vic+Flo Saw a Bear (Vic et Flo ont vu un ours) Dir.: Denis Côté (Canada / 2013 / Col. / 90′)

A Castle in Italy (Un château en Italie) Dir.: Valeria Bruni Tedeschi (France / 2013 / Col. / 104’)

The Great Beauty (La grande bellezza) Dir.: Paolo Sorrentino (Italy / 2013 / Col. / 142’)

Mood Indigo (L’écume des jours) Dir.: Michel Gondry (France-Belgium / 2013 / Col. / 125’)

The Nun (La religieuse) Dir.: Guillaume Nicloux (France, Germany, Belgium / 2013 / Col. / 114’)

Michael Kohlhaas Dir.: Arnaud des PALLIÈRES (France-Germany / 2013 / Col. / 122′)

Grigris Dir.: Mahamat-Saleh HAROUN (France / 2013 / Col. / 101′)

Heli Dir.: Amat Escalante (Mexico / 2013 / Col. / 105’)

In The Name of (W imie…) Dir.: Malgoska Szumowska (Poland / 2013 / Col. / 97′)

A Touch Of Sin (Tian Zhu ding) Dir.: JIA zhangke (China-Japan / 2013 / Col. / 133’)

Gold Dir.: Thomas Arslan (Germany / 2013 / Col. / 101’)

Layla Fourie Dir.: Pia Marais (Germany / 2013 / Col. / 105’)

Young & Beautiful (Jeune & Jolie) Dir.: François Ozon (France / 2013 / Col. / 95’)

Blue Is The Warmest Color (La Vie D’adele – Chapitre 1 Et 2) Dir.: Abdellatif Kechiche (France / 2013 / Col. / 179’)

The Spirit of ’45 Dir.: Ken Loach (UK / 2013 / Col. / 94′)

Inside Llewyn Davis Dir.: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen (USA / 2013 / Col. / 105’)

The Immigrant Dir.: James Gray (USA / 2013 / Col. / 120’)

Only God Forgives Dir.: Nicolas Winding Refn (Denmark / 2013 / Col. / 90’)

The Face Of Love Dir.: Arie Posin (USA / 2013 / Col. / 92’)

Before Midnight Dir.: Richard Linklater (USA / 2013 / Col. / 109′)

Le Passé (The Past) Dir.: Asghar Farhadi (France / 2013 / Col. / 130’)

Bekas Dir.: Karzan Kader (Sweden-Finland-Iraq / 2013 / Col. / 97′)

The Canyons Dir.: Paul Schrader (USA / 2013 / Col. / 99’)

Short Term 12 Dir.: Destin Cretton (USA / 2013 / Col. / 96′)

Saving General Yang Dir.: Ronny Yu (Hong Kong-China / 2013 / Col. / 102′)

Killer Toon (Deo Web-toon: Ye-go Sal-in) Dir.: Yong-gyun Kim (South Korea / 2013 / Col. / 104′)

3x3D Dir.: Jean-Luc Godard, Peter Greenaway, Edgar Pêra (France-Portugal / 2013 / Col. / 70′)

Sunlight, Moonlight, Earth (Aftab, Mahtab, Zamin) Dir.: Ali Ghavitan (Iran / 2013 / Col. / 80′)

Tom at the Farm (Tom à la ferme) Dir.: Xavier Dolan (Canada-France / 2013 / Col. / 105′)

The Circle Within (Içimdeki Çember) Dir.: Deniz Çınar (Turkey / 2013 / Col. / 72′)

Wajma (An Afghan Love Story) Dir.: Barmak Akram (Afghanistan-France / 2013 / Col. / 85′)

Le démantèlement Dir.: Sebastien Pilote (Canada / 2013 / Col. / 111′)

Bad Hair (Pelo Malo) Dir.: Mariana Rondon (Venezuela / 2013 / Col. / 95′)

The Major Dir.: Yury Bykov (Russia / 2013 / Col. / 99′)

Stray Dogs (Jiao You) Dir.: Ming-liang Tsai (Taiwan / 2013 / Col. / 138′)

The Mute (El mudo) Dir.: Daniel Vega, Diego Vega (Peru-France-Mexico / 2013 / Col. / 86′)

Jealousy (La jalousie) Dir.: Philippe Garrel (France-Germany / 2013 / Col. / 77′)

Mr. Morgan’s Last Love Dir.: Sandra Nettelbeck (Germany-Belgium / 2013 / Col. / 116′)

Hush…(Suti) Dir.: Lukas Nola (Croatia / 2013 / Col. / 86′)

Burning Bush (Horící ker) Dir.: Agnieszka Holland (Czech Republic / 2013 / Col. / 240′)

The Fifth Estate Dir.: Bill Condon (USA-Belgium / 2013 / Col. / 124′)

Miss and The Doctors (Tirez la langue, mademoiselle) Dir.: Axelle Ropert (France / 2013 / Col. / 95′)

Locke Dir.: Steven Knight (USA-UK / 2013 / Col. / 85′)

Brahmin Bulls Dir.: Mahesh Pailoor (USA / 2013 / Col. / 96′)

Village of Hope Dir.: Boonsong Nakphoo (Thailand / 2013 / Col. / 72′)

The Armstrong Lie Dir.: Alex Gibney (USA / 2013 / Col. / 122′)

The Keeper of Lost Causes (Kvinden i buret) Dir.: Mikkel Nørgaard (Denmark-Germany-Sweden / 2013 / Col. / 97’)

Dallas Buyers Club Dir.: Jean-Marc Vallée (USA / 2013 / Col. / 155′)

New Spanish Cinema

Son of Cain (Hijo de Cain) Dir.: Jesús Monllaó (Spain / 2013 / Col. / 91′)

Picasso’s Gang (La banda Picasso) Dir.: Fernando Colomo (Spain / 2013 / Col. / 100′)

Combustión Dir.: Daniel Calparsoro (Spain / 2013 / Col. / 103′)

The Liberator (Libertador) Dir.: Alberto Arvelo (Venezuela-Spain / 2013 / Col. / 119’)

Celebration of Spanish Cinema

Viridiana Dir.: Luis Buñuel (Spain-Mexico / 1961 / B&W / 90′)

El verdugo Dir.: Luis García Berlanga (Spain-Italy / 1963 / B&W / 91′)

The Hunt (La caza) Dir.: Carlos Saura (Spain / 1966 / Col. / 91′)

The Spirit of the Beehive (El espíritu de la colmena) Dir.: Víctor Erice (Spain / 1973 / Col. / 97′)

Seven Days in January (Siete días de enero) Dir.: Juan Antonio Bardem (Spain-France / 1979 / Col. / 180′)

Volver a empezar Dir.: José Luis Garci (Spain / 1982 / Col. / 87′)

Lovers of the Arctic Circle (Los amantes del Círculo Polar) Dir.: Julio Medem (Spain-France / 1998 / Col. / 112′)

Your Next Life (La vida que te espera) Dir.: Manuel Gutiérrez Aragón (Spain / 2004 / Col. / 100′)

Welcome Mr. Marshall (Bienvenido Mister Marshall) Dir.: Luis García Berlanga (Spain / 1953 / B&W / 78′)

El barbero de Sevilla Dir.: Benito Perojo (Germany-Spain / 1938 / B&W / 90′)

An Andalusian Dog (Un Chien Andalou) Dir.: Luis Buñuel (France / 1929 / B&W)

Carmen (la de Triana) Dir.: Florian Rey (Germany-Spain / 1938 / B&W / 110′)

The Real Reel

Beyond All Boundaries Dir.: Sushrut Jain (USA-India / 2013 / Col. / 97′)

Brave Miss World Dir.: Cecilia Peck (USA-Israel-Italy-South Africa / 2013 / Col. / 97′)

Blackfish Dir.: Gabriela Cowperthwaite (USA / 2013 / Col. / 82′)

Who is Dayani Cristal Dir.: Marc Silver (UK-USA-Mexico / 2013 / Col. / 80′)

For I Know My Weakness Dir.: John Dentino (USA / 2012 / Col. / 100′)

Fatal Assistance (Assistance mortelle) Dir.: Raoul Peck (France-Haiti-USA-Belgium / 2013 / Col. / 99′)

Stop Over (L’escale) Dir.: Kaveh Bakhtiari (Switzerland-France / 2013 / Col. / 104′)

In the Shadow of the Sun Dir.: Harry Freeland (Tanzania-UK / 2012 / Col. / 84′)

Tales from the Organ Trade Dir.: Ric Esther Bienstock (Canada / 2013 / Col. / 82′)

Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer Dir.: Mike Lerner, Maxim Pozdorovkin (Russia-UK / 2013 / Col. / 88′)

The Only Real Game Dir.: Mirra Bank (USA-India / 2012 / Col. / 82′)

Little big People Dir.: Khalid Mohamed (India (English-Hindi-Marathi) / 2013 / Col. / 52′)

The Act of Killing Dir.: Joshua Oppenheimer (Denmark-Norway-UK / 2012 / Col. / 115′)

What’s Love Got to Do with It? Dir.: Rohena Gera (India / 2013 / Col. / 84′)

Salinger Dir.: Shane Salerno (USA / 2013 / 120′)

Celebrate Age

60 going on 12 (12 ans d’âge) Dir.: Frédéric Proust (France / 2013 / Col. / 89’)

Seventh Cat Dir.: Hiroshi Toda (Japan / 2013 / Col. / 77′)

Good to Go (Srecen za umret) Dir.: Matevz Luzar (Slovenia-Croatia / 2013 / Col. / 100′)

At the Crossroads Nondon Bagchi Life and living Dir.: Rajdeep Paul, Sarmistha Maiti (India (English-Bengali) / 2013 / Col. / 70’)

Barefoot To Goa Dir.: Praveen Morchhale (India (Hindi) / 2013 / Col. / 80’)

I’m watching over you (Je veille sur vous) Dir.: Elodie Fiabane (France / 2013 / Col. / 19′)

Arefi, the shepherd (Arefi, der Hirte) Dir.: Daniel Asadi Faezi (Iran-Germany / 2013 / Col. / 9’)

Oh, How I Long Dir.: Riyad Deis (Palenstine / 2013 / Col. / 39′)

Road to Disneyland Dir.: Jamil Hendi (Germany-Romania / 2013 / Col. / 33′)

Mohan Kaka Dir.: Aditya Gowtham (India / 2013 / Col. / 22′)

Shuruaat Dir.: Suresh Shelar (India (Hindi) / 2013 / Col. / 16′)

By Way of the Mountains (Par les montagnes) Dir.: Frédéric Aspisi (Fiji / 2012 / Col. / 44′)

Late Shift – Gunter Grass working on etching for “Dog Years” Dir.: Sigrun Matthiesen (Germany / 2013 / Col. / 20’)

Spotlight on Cambodia

Golden Slumbers (Le sommeil d’or) Dir.: Davy Chou (France-Cambodia / 2011 / Col. / 96′)

A River Changes Course Dir.: Kalyanee Mam (Cambodia / 2013 / Col. / 83′)

The Missing Picture (L’image manquante) Dir.: Rithy Panh (Cambodia-France / 2013 / Col. / 90′)

Red Wedding Dir.: Guillaume Suon, Lida Chan (Cambodia-France / 2012 / Col. / 58′)

Where I Go Dir.: Neang Kavich (Cambodia / 2012 / Col. / 55′)

Two Girls Against The Rain (Bopha Pitorng Chhomnas Tekpleang) Dir.: Sao Sopheak (Cambodia / 2012 / Col. / 11’)

Film India Worldwide

Jadoo Dir.: Amit Gupta (UK / 2013 / Col. / 90′)

Good Morning Karachi Dir.: Sabiha Sumar (Pakistan / 2013 / Col. / 85′)

Red Monsoon Dir.: Eelum Dixit (Nepal / 2013 / Col. / 88′)

Siddharth Dir.: Richie Mehta (Canada / 2013 / Col. / 96′)

Faith Connections Dir.: Pan Nalin (India-France / 2013 / Col. / 115′)


Bad Blood (Mauvais sang) Dir.: Leos Carax (France / 1986 / Col. / 116′)

The Lovers on the Bridge (Les amants du Pont-Neuf) Dir.: Leos Carax (France / 1999 / Col. / 125′)

Holy Motors Dir.: Leos Carax (France / 2012 / Col. / 115′)


Z Dir.: Costa Gavras (France-Algeria / 1969 / Col. / 127′)

State of Siege Dir.: Costa Gavras (France-Italy-Germany / 1972 / Col. / 120′)

Amen Dir.: Costa Gavras (France-Germany-Romania / 2002 / Col. / 132′)

The Ax Dir.: Costa Gavras (Belgium-France-Spain / 2005 / Col. / 122’)

Eden is West (Eden à l’Ouest) Dir.: Costa Gavras (France-Greece-Italy / 2009 / Col. / 110′)

Capital (Le capital) Dir.: Costa Gavras (France / 2012 / Col. / 114′)

Restored Classics

The Floorwalker Dir.: Charles Chaplin (USA / 1916 / B&W / 30′)

Blackmail Dir.: Alfred Hitchcock (UK / 1929 / B&W / 85′)

The King of Comedy Dir.: Martin Scorsese (USA / 1982 / 109′)

Downpour (Ragbar) Dir.: Bahram Beizai (Iran / 1972 / 128′)

Tokyo Story Dir.: Yasujirô Ozu (Japan / 1953 / B&W / 136′)

Time to live and Time to Die (Tong nien wang shi) Dir.: Hsiao-hsien Hou (Taiwan / 1985 / 138′)

All About Eve Dir.: Joseph L. Mankiewicz (USA / 1950 / B&W / 138′)

Experimental Films

A+ Dir.: NobuAdilman (Canada / 2012 / Col. / 6’)

Days of Future Past Dir.: Joe Hambleton (Canada / 2012 / Col. / 7’)

Pulse Dir.: Anuradha Chandra (India / 2012 / Col. / 23’)

Burning Star Dir.: Joshua Gen Solondz (USA / 2011 / Col. / 4’)

Serious Ladies Dir.: Susanne Sachsse (Germany / 2013 / Col. / 21’)

Play Life Series Dir.: Ella Raidel (Austria / 2012 / Col. / 11’)

Item Number Dir.: Oliver Husain (Canada-India / 2012 / Col. / 16’)

Artists Films

Nayi Kheti Dir.: Pallavi Paul (India / 2013 / Col. / 12′)

Iceboat Dir.: Neha Choksi (USA / 2013 / Col. / 10′)

To Dance like your Dad Dir.: Hetain Patel (UK / 2009 / Col. / 6′)

Narcissicon Dir.: Kiran Subbaiah (India / 2009 / Col. / 43′)

Forerunner Dir.: Sahej Rahal (India / 2013 / Col. / 13′)

People to be Resembling Dir.: The Otolith Group (UK / Col. / 22′)

Kabul Fresh 2013

Eye witness Dir.: Rafi Behroozian & Alka Sadat (Afghanistan / 2011 / Col. / 12′)

Driving Test Dir.: Mahbouba Ebrahimi (Afghanistan / 2011 / Col. / 26′)

A Time Called Oldness Dir.: Hamed Alizadeh (Afghanistan / 2013 / 22′)

End of Love Dir.: Ghafar Azad (Afghanistan / 2013 / Col. / 13′)

Life Imprisonment Dir.: Gholamreza Majedi (Afghanistan / 2013 / Col. / 4′)

One Wish Dir.: Mohamed (Aref) Abedin (Afghanistan / 2013 / Col. / 4′)

The Glasses Dir.: S Hussein Mousavi (Afghanistan / 2011 / Col. / 11′)

Kabul Ambulance Dir.: Taj Mohammad Bakhtari (Afghanistan / 2011 / Col. / 26′)

Amir and Sara Dir.: Jalal Hussaini (Afghanistan / 2013 / Col. / 16′)

India Gold 2013

Liar’s Dice Dir.: Geethu Mohandas (India (Hindi) / 2013 / Col. / 104′)

Crossing Bridges Dir.: Sange Dorjee Thongdok (India (Sherdukpen) / 2013 / Col. / 102′)

The World of Goopi and Bagha (Goopy gawaiya bagha bajaiya) Dir.: Shilpa Ranade (India (Hindi) / 2013 / Col. / 78′)

Virgin Talkies (Kanyaka Talkies) Dir.: K R Manoj (India (Malayalam) / 2013 / Col. / 115′)

A Silent Way (Ko: Yad) Dir.: Manju Borah (India / 2012 / Col. / 90′)

Monologue (Maunraag) Dir.: Vaibhav Abnave (India (Marathi) / 2013 / Col. / 92′)

Invincible (Ajeyo) Dir.: Jahnu Barua (India (Assamese) / 2013 / Col. / 116′)

Powerless (Katiyabaaz) Dir.: Fahad Mustafa, Deepti Kakkar (India-USA / 2013 / Col. / 84′)

Qissa: The Tale of a Lonely Ghost Dir.: Anup Singh (India (Panjabi) / 2013 / Col. / 109′)

Oonga Dir.: Devashish Makhija (India / 2013 / Col. / 98′)

Sunglass (Taak Jhaank) Dir.: Rituparno Ghosh (India / 2013 / Col.)

Mastram Dir.: Akhilesh Jaiswal (India / 2013 / Col.)

New Faces in Indian Cinema

Bakrapur (The Goat Vote) Dir.: Janaki Vishwanathan (India (Hindi) / 2013 / Col. / 82′)

Wild Berries (Kaphal) Dir.: Batul Mukhtiar (India (Hindi) / 2013 / Col. / 90′)

Sulemani Keeda Dir.: Amit V Masurkar (India-USA / 2013 / Col. / 90′)

Munsif Dir.: Umashankar Swamy (India (Kannada) / 2012 / Col. / 106′)

Dimensions Mumbai

Seat Down Dir.: Sachin Sanjay Kadam Share

Dir.: Abhiraj Rajadhyaksha

Monsoon Drive Dir.: Mohit Modi

The Zero Mile Storm Dir.: Jehanin Pajnigar,

Radhika Boontra Raah (Path) Dir.: Dhruv Dilip Datar

…Till Debt Do Us Part Dir.: Kenneth.A.Lawrence

To you both Dir.: Ridhesh Seipal

Jaun Kahaan Dir.: Ankita Mishra

Kabutarkhana Dir.: Markand Bhaskar Sawant

Jashn-E-Dawaat Dir.: Karan Asnani

The Handicapped Colony Dir.: Sameer Nerkar

In This City Dir.: Keyur Kajavadara S.

Crab Catchers Dir.: Prem Hessenkamp

Rickshaw Roko Mitra Mandal Dir.: Sristi Jain

Shukriya Mumbai (Thank You Mumbai) Dir.: NIkhil Gupta

Mumbai Cha Vadapav Dir.: Akshay S. Dhanavale

1992 Negative Dir.: Dixit Parkar

Mascara Dir.: Daria Gaikalova

Matryoshka Dir.: Mayank singh Addiction Dir.: Bhaumik Mevada

*Subject to change before the festival*

Since the last two years, FFI or Film Federation Of India has suddenly changed its stance. Earlier all the jury members used to be in the presser to announce the name of the film selected as India’s entry for the Oscars. Now, it’s all a big secret. And that’s quite baffling because nobody says why it’s a secret. More because none of the renowned film festival or prestigious film awards keeps its jury a secret. I can’t think of any. In fact, most take pride in announcing the names of their jury members. It becomes more important when a controversy like this happens – why can’t the members publicly endorse and fight for the film they picked to represent the country? I don’t have any answers.

So here’s the list of the 19 FFI jury members who picked “The Good Road”.

1. Gautam Ghose – Filmmaker, Chairman of the jury
2. Rupa Ganguly – Actor
3. Agni Mitra Paul – Fashion/Costume Designer
4. Sujoy Ghosh – Filmmaker
5. Onir – Filmmaker
6. Bharthiraja
7. N Shankar – Filmmaker
8. K P Kumaran – Filmmaker
9. Mahesh Kothare – Actor/Director
10. Suhasini Mani Ratnam – Director/writer
11. Indraneel Bose
12. Sanjay Verma
13. Kamlesh Pandey – Screenwriter
14. Ramadoss Naidu
15. Kavita Lankesh – Director/Writer
16. Vijay Patkar – Actor
17. Aarti Anand
18. Vidya Sagar – Music Director
19. C V Reddy – Filmmaker
Strangely, we spoke to at least six of them and all are repeating the same lines – it was unanimous decision to pick The Good Road. 19 people and all felt that TGR was better than everything else. or all have been told to say the same thing? Now that the names are out, am hoping at least some people will speak up why The Good Road is better than other films. Seriously, forget The Lunchbox. Just tell us what we are missing. They need to enlighten us and make us see what’s great about TGR. Some of the names are quite well known and they know much more about cinema than all of us. So it will be good to know what’s good in their books and why. Waiting.


Because that seems to be the only reason why none of us could speak out openly about our “best” film to be sent for Oscars in the Foreign Language category.

Now that i have seen it, let me say it loudly – The Lunchbox is Casablanca compared to The Good Road. I will come back to the film later. Let me also clarify few things first. I have been reading articles, posts and tweets on similar topic since last 3 days, and some of them are on such a wrong tangent. So here it goes.


No, it’s not white man’s approval. It’s not even the best function or festival as far as films are concerned. Some of the best American films and actors don’t even bag a nomination. So why are we getting jizz in pants about Oscars?

Because it still matters. Because it’s money, market and reach. Because one nomination (and win) not only puts the spotlight on the director’s entire filmography but the country also comes into focus. Because it opens every possible door for its lead actors. The examples are many. In the last few years only Chile’s No, Israel’s Ajami and Footnote, Algeria’s Outside The Law, Greece’s Dogtooth, Denmark’s In A Better World, Argentina’s The Secret In Their Eyes, Japan’s Departures and Denmark’s After The Wedding have brought so much attention to their country’s cinema just by being nominated. Same goes for actors. Who knew Matthias Schoenaerts before the Bullhead?

A Cannes win also has the power to do all that. Ask the Romanian filmmakers. But Cannes is not so mainstream, Cannes is French, and Oscar is Amreekan. You know the difference, and two shall never meet. One is purely about cinema, the other is more about box office. Btw, do auteurs eat big burgers?

That’s the simple reason why Oscars count. Not for any white man supremacy. In 2011, when Asghar Farhadi went on stage to collect his award for The Separation, almost everyone knew that it was not only the “best foreign film” but it was the “best fucking film of the year”. The white man supremacy and approval logic is so 80s. The world went back to all his films and he was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in the world by Time magazine in 2012. Difficult to believe that the journey started with “Nader and Simin” (title was changed later) getting the distribution fund at Berlin fest.

So do i believe in Oscars? NO.

An award ceremony which never did any justice to Martin Scorsese, how can they be fair?

Do i watch Oscars? YES.

The only day in the year when i get up early and see the rising sun. Why? Because Marty believes in it. Because it’s good fun to watch some of your favourite actors, directors, screenwriters, all under the same roof and still be so cool and candid. And because they still make it “look” professional. Some of the best talents never get their due but when they get, it changes everything. One nod is all it takes. That’s it.

Foreign Language Category & The Good Road

In the last few years, this has become one of the most toughest category. The number of submissions keeps on increasing every year. You are not just competing with the best of the Amreekan cinema but from best of the world. Last year it was a new record with 71 films. This year’s running list already has 45 films. Heavyweight Wong Kar-wai’s The Grandmaster is already in the ring.

Since FFI’s announcement on The Good Road came out, anyone having any doubts about it, the first question asked was have you seen it? And as far as i knew nobody except the FFI jury had seen it. So, before writing any post on it, i decided to watch the film, and am so so disappointed after watching it.

So far i was only arguing that it’s always about the “right” film at the Oscars, it’s not about the “best” film. Why get so holier than thou and sentimental about putting our “best” film?  Especially when Oscars is just another ‘market’ event that does wonders. Put the “right” film out, play according to the games, play it smart, and get a nod. Simple. Just look at the big picture.

Now, if i consider this is the standard of our best film which is being sent to the world audience, am sorry to say that people will laugh at us. Don’t believe me, go watch “The Good Road”. The film is easily available on dvds and #youknowwhere. It doesn’t even look professional. Except an idea and intention, it has nothing to offer. It’s boring, the production looks tacky, direction is bad, performances are inconsistent, and acting by non-actors look like non-acting only. The arid landscape and the use of music are the only things that work.

The only Oscars bait was a sequence involving young girls in prostitution racket standing on platforms surrounded by coloured tubelights. Haven’t seen anything like that on screen.

With “The Good Road” as our submission, what’s our chance at the Oscars? i think ZILCH. I hope am proved wrong but i doubt it.

And what i am most confused about is the sudden support for the film. As a friend pointed out, just because it has suddenly become the David in front of The Lunchbox Goliath with UTV, Karan Johar and Anurag Kashyap in its support? Strange. Very, very strange. Watch both the films and compare the merits.

More strange is the fact that not a single mainstream critic in this country bothered to review the film when it released – in theatres and on dvds. That says more about the state of film criticism in this country.

The Lunchbox

With The Lunchbox, many of us believed it had a *chance*. Yes, just a chance. And we have been shouting about it. It’s a tough battle there. But with Sony Classics having its US rights and many influential American voices already pushing for it after watching the film at Cannes, Toronto and Telluride, it had the right visibility factor going for it. Michael Moore, Ted Hope and many others tweeted about it. Aseem Chhabra has written more about it here. Also, The Hollywood Reporter and Indiewire, the two ends of spectrum, were counting it among the frontrunners. And am sure they know (at least little bit) more and understand their Oscars more than us.

It was just not the “right” film but it’s a much, much better film than “The Good Road”. Just ideas and intentions don’t make a good film, or a good road.

So what did the FFI jury saw in the film which i could not? Let me quote from this interview of Gautam Ghose…

The criteria is simple — we had to select a film that represents the country perfectly.

WTF! Represents the country perfectly? As in peacocks and elephants? Do they watch the Oscars? Not sure what it means (Can someone explain?). After watching the film, all i can say is that The Good Road represents us amateurishly. You all made us look tacky in front of the world. Forget The Lunchbox, any other film would have been better too.

Though just Irrfan Khan and Nimrat Kaur’s performances were enough to pick the film. These two are not just the best performances of the year in Indian cinema, but they can be easily counted as among the best ones in world cinema too. So I would sincerely like to smoke what the FFI jury was smoking. Anyone?

Because this was our chance. Because we needed it. We needed to tell the world that we do more than naach-gaana now. We needed to assure Sony Classics that you can look and pick more Indian films that can do wonders. You don’t need to wait for 10-15 years again. We needed to tell the world that it’s not just Iranians, Romanians, Koreans, Greeks and Australians, we are also heading in right direction. And this was the best stage to do it. We had a chance, a bright and fair chance. But what a fuck up! what a royal fuck up this turned out to be.

One more thing – who made the rules suddenly that FFI can’t disclose the names of jury members? I would surely love to know the names of those 12 or 15 or 19 people who thought The Good Road was better than The Lunchbox and every other film that was submitted for consideration. As far as i remember, when the jury meet used to happen in Mumbai, almost all the jury members used to present in the press conference to announce their choice. What happened suddenly in the last two years or so? Are they afraid to endorse the film publicly because their taste will be questioned? Someone enlighten me here too. Come on, come out, tell us you loved The Good Road. And as the saying goes, any festival selection or win always tells you more about the jury than about the film. I will still try not to judge you.


( PS – The only consolation is we are not the only morons. We have company)

UTV is on a roll this year. First, they gave a big platform to Ship Of Theseus, made it visible enough, and got screens for it even when Chennai Express was running. Second, repeat the same act with The Lunchbox. And now, they have picked up another terrific film – Hansal Mehta’s Shahid. The film has got a new trailer too. Have a look.

Some of us saw the film at Mumbai Film Festival last year, and can easily bet that it’s another “must watch”. It also has one of the year’s best and break out performance by Raj Kumar Yadav. The film rides entirely on his shoulder and he makes you believe that he is Shahid Azmi.

The film is scheduled to release on 18th October.

Official synopsis

“Shahid” traces the story of a slain human rights activist and lawyer Shahid Azmi. Set during the communal violence that was unleashed in the city of Mumbai since 1993. We see a remarkable tale unfold. From attempting to become a terrorist to being wrongly imprisoned under the anti-terrorism law to becoming a lawyer, a champion of human rights (particularly the Muslim minorities in India), “Shahid” traces the inspiring personal journey of a boy while following the rise of communal violence in India. The story of an impoverished Muslim struggling to come to terms with injustice, inequality and rising above his circumstances is an inspiring testament to the human spirit.

The cast includes Raj Kumar, Prabhleen Sandhu, Baljinder Kaur, Tigmanshu Dhulia, K K Menon, Yusuf Husain, Prabal Panjabi, Vinod Rawat, Vipin Sharma, Shalini Vatsa, Paritosh Sand, Pavan Kumar, Vivek Ghamande, Akash Sinha, Mohd Zeeshan Ayyub and Mukesh Chhabra.

If you follow this blog and twitter feed of our regular contributors, you know that we have been plugging, writing and tweeting about Ritesh Batra’s debut feature ‘The Lunchbox’ for a long, long time. The film is finally releasing this friday. Thanks to UTV and Karan Johar who came on board and made it happen.

And Dear UTV, for Ship Of Theseus, The Lunchbox and Shahid, sau khoon maaf (or Chennai Express maaf) this year from our side. Do continue the good work, or at least just the balancing act will do.

Over to Fatema Kagalwala who tells you why ‘The Lunchbox’ is a must watch and is easily one of the best films of the year.

Lunchbox copy

Cinema is a big lie. Loneliness isn’t as poetic as it pretends to be on celluloid. And nostalgia is a double-edged sword, its pain bitter-sweet but pain after all. Not many have the courage to show it as it is and we keep buying those lies, keeping the pretence going. Good things happen to good people in films but not real life. But who are we to conclude that? Definitely, not Ritesh Batra. Because, he is not pretending, nor bull-shitting us. He is simply throwing two situations, two people very real and painfully so, together and asking ‘what if’? And also, ‘what now’? And that is beautiful.

There is loneliness everywhere in the film. In every frame, every character. Accompanied by that unshakeably loyal bitch of a companion – longing. And along with it disillusionment, resignation and valiant attempts to overcome. In all the three central characters of the film played by Irrfan Khan, Nimrat Kaur and Nawazuddin Siddique.

I don’t know how to write a recco post without divulging too much. So free-wheeling it will be. In a Q and A, Ritesh Batra said there is a lot of nostalgia in every character, yearning for a time long past. And nostalgia is the step-child of loneliness, undesired yet cannot be shaken of. Always around to remind you the good times have long gone. But they needn’t stay gone. And as humans we will always wish for better times, strive for better times. And so do these three characters. Just like Georges in Amour. Or Salma of Lemon Tree.

How do you write about a film that you just liked and liked? No, there is nothing to dislike in the film. At least, there wasn’t to my eyes. Unless you are that guy who thinks old people and middle-class, married women with children cannot be protagonists of a film because their stories are drab. Had Ritesh Batra thought so, we wouldn’t have had Lunchbox, a deceptively feel-good film that goes just this much beyond feel-good, opening a world that is so ours yet painted with a warm, tender, home-grown, understated sensibility that till now we saw only in Iranian films.

So Irrfan Khan is an old man, Saajan Fernandes, who is about to retire from his job at the Claims Department in what I presume must be LIC, given it looks like a Govt organisation. He is a widower, childless, lonely and prickly like how the emotionally un-nurtured sometimes get. Work-wise he is punctilious, much respected and almost clock-work, again almost like how the emotionally un-nurtured sometimes get. He just might easily become Carl from Up in a few years. Or a middle-class Isak of Wild Strawberries.

One day, Saajan receives an unusually well-prepared lunch and then the next day a letter. He responds and a story grows out of those little bits of interactions that happen at lunch-time via a now-defunct medium – hand-written letters. The film packs such old-world symbols with aplomb, while just slipping them in casually. Letters, VCR with ‘Yeh Jo Hain Zindagi’ playing (Yes, sigh!), a song from Saajan; celebrating nostalgia with its characters and nudging us to try it too. Who knows we might like it too? And yes, I did. (Btw, is Yeh Jo Hain Zindagi on #YKW?)

The person on the other side of the letters is Ila, a young, middle-class housewife and mother, maybe in her late twenties or early thirties, who is already spent fulfilling the thankless responsibilities of a home-maker for a long time now. A few years older and she will become Francesca of Bridges of Madison County. But she isn’t there yet so she is conspiring with her neighbour aunty, present only in voice (the awesome Bharti Achrekar with her distinct voice), to win back the attentions of her husband, which, as they do, have eroded over time. Special lunches with special masalas are prepared in the hope that her husband will notice her again. But the first tiffin she sends him doesn’t reach him. Nor does the last. And by then it is too late. Maybe, that is better because what happens otherwise is what we want for Ila, not the dregs of a dead romance rekindled with wet wood.

And then there is Sheikh, played by that annoyingly smooth and frustratingly effortless actor Nawazuddin Siddique. An orphan who has come up on his own in this tough world and loves saying ‘Maa kehti thi’ because it adds ‘vazan’ (weight) to his quotes. He is looking for an anchor too and under his lisping, people-pleasing, yes-man, we see that vulnerable and achingly lonely man longing for someone elder he could call his own. He influences Saajan’s life as much as Saajan does his. (SPOILER – The scene where NS asks Saajan to represent him at the wedding may seem cheesy and clichéd but when Saajan actually does, the heft of emotion actually weighs you down. Suddenly, you realise this is what it meant to him. This is how much having someone you can call family can mean. By then, our Saajan has begun thawing too and we revel in it. SPOILER ENDS)

The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, if there is a film that personifies this, it is Lunchbox. Ila is trying to win her husband back through it, Saajan’s tough crust begins to melt in it and we also see Sheikh trying to woo Saajan’s confidence by his own culinary talent, but along with suitable pride he takes in his wife’s cooking. If at all food was a central motif in a film it was this. Nourishment. We all need it. Physical and emotional. After a point, the physical nourishment and the loveliness that comes with the excitement of change just becomes a symbol of emotional nourishment.

It is as tender as it gets, almost as tender as ‘Mary and Max’ was. The characters could just be Indianised versions of that touchingly, understated and very well-written film. The promises in Lunchbox are slightly more populist, a wee dream-like to really compare. But that is where it scores. In maintaining that thin line between selling dreams and mirroring reality while infusing hope. And if not for the ending, it could have killed the film, or dragged it down the much-beaten path of ‘potential thi, expore nahi kiya.’ Because, in the end, try as we might to resist it, suddenly it becomes our story, we are pulled in, by force. Forced to commit to it, engage with it at a deeper level because our own catharsis depends on it. How? Experience it and then we will talk.

I haven’t watched a movie on old age more painful than Sarah Polley’s ‘Away From Her’, which shows the pain of growing old in all its nakedness. Irrfan as Saajan is brilliant as he wears that pain as a daily accessory, treating it almost as a part of life. Yet, there is a balance in tone, where we never indulge in his sorrow vicariously, yet it touches us as we see him being rough with little kids and then staring longingly into other people’s houses, watching them eating noisily together. We worry what will happen to him now that he is retiring and from the looks of it, it seems he is worrying too. Just that his worries are masked with a longing he himself doesn’t want to admit.

Ila on the other hand has been brave enough to admit it. And brave enough to do something about it. She has a confidante in her neighbour aunty who has been taking care of her bed-ridden husband for fifteen years without complaint. And she has a mother who, instead of being in pain, feels empty and relieved, the day her husband dies. All she feels is hungry she says and it is a stunning metaphor of nourishment again. What comes out after the cork is removed on years of repression, years of living with an extinguished relationship? Maybe, Ila sees her future in her mother because, we surely do.

A lot of the film is editing. Ritesh Batra admitted it too. The stories of Saajan and Ila are inter-cut with an intuitive sense of excitement. It is all repetitive, everything the two do, they can’t help it, their lives are like that, mundane, boring and same always. What’s worse, ours is the same but the story-telling takes care of that, there is no boredom or ennui hitting us. Slightly mismatched voice-overs, visual exploration of possibilities and a sense of control in scenes showing Saajan and Ila alone transports the film out of monotony so much that the deliberately cultivated tedium becomes part of the fabric of the film without becoming an obstacle.

There is a refreshing un-self-consciousness about the film that is so rewarding, one is wonderstruck to know it is the director’s debut film. Irrfan Khan, we know isn’t a self-conscious actor, repetitive and uninspiring he maybe at times but never self-conscious. Nimrat Kaur isn’t either and it is a pleasure to watch two actors who know the meaning of restraint and understatement. Nimrat Kaur takes the staid and plaid Ila out of her very common characterisation and infuses so much warmth in her that we cannot but help root for her. All this without any manipulation. However, while the world was busy adoring Irrfan I gave away my awe and jaw to Nawazuddin Siddique. The man is something else. Would it be blasphemy if I say watch the film for him above all?

Mumbai is a silent character as well, looking on at its victims, as they grapple with their lives in this big, sprawling city of faceless people full of dreams waiting for a miracle to transform their lives. Do Saajan, Ila and Sheikh find theirs uplifted? Do their dreams find wings and their desires expression? Does loneliness consume them or release them to fly on? Is loneliness on celluloid different than it is for you and me? There is only one way to find out and that is by watching this delectable film this Friday. If only we got fare like this more often, we’d be feeding off the cinemas more often too. Here’s wishing Lunchbox a dream run at the BO.