Archive for January, 2014

what’s the best thing about 2014 so far? Well, a new A R Rahman album is already out. Hallelujah! And over to our music man Rohwit for some musing on maestro’s music.

So the periodical excite-fest for music lovers (Also known as AR Rahman’s new album release time) blessed us early this year. Lyrics are penned by Irshad ‘dependable’ kamil and Kash-Krissy

Patakha guddi – A lot of techno and synth sound accompanies the electric duo of Sultana and Jyoti Nooran who are fierce to say the least. The arrangement is not complex. As has been his habit off late, AR Rahman keeps the ‘hook’ of the song almost non existent. The song just flows and sways you in the process. The words of Irshad Kamil are no less Patakha, mind you. If you see people forming a ‘train’ on the dance floor to a 2014 film song, this would be it.

Maahi ve* – AR Rahman on the microphone again. The song gives you a feel as if it was to be (tune wise) a part of the album ‘Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na’. No doubt this is a long drive song with a simple and ‘sticky on lips’ tune. It also gives out that feeling when (no matter how fucked up things are), you want to believe, everything is fine just because the special someone is with you.

Kahaan ho main* – is sung by Jonita Gandhi. The arrangement and the overall presentation of the song (at least when you hear it) doesn’t sound like it will fit into a film that has a truck driver and a kidnapped village girl in the lead. The extensive use of keyboard lends a very hoity-toity character to the song in context of the film. Would be interesting to see how this pans out on the screen. The song is hummable in a very ‘1990s sung by Kavita Krishnamurthy’ way. Also, the overall feel has a very ‘Meena Kumari complex’ feel to it.

Wanna mash up* –  In the days when anything ‘hep’ has to include ‘kaan-faad’ dubstep, ARR avoids the overuse of the same and gives us this vrooming piece of beauty! Kash, Krissy and Suvi Suresh have jointly penned this bombshell of a song that is guaranteed to take you back to ‘You either HATE it or LOVE it’ times of AR Rahman’s music. It teases and tempts in ways we thought were never possible with A R Rahman at the helm (Lemme dominate your body! Ahem!) . Oh the calls of ‘BOY!’ Hell with the context of the film, give me this any day! All Thumbs up on the way the song ends/climaxes! No pun intended.

Sooha Saha – Zeb and Alia Bhatt jointly present this delicate song with superlative arrangement by Rahman. Don’t worry if at times you feel someone will go ‘Kya bataaaon maa kahan hu main’ from Luka chupi. Thank God that Zeb hasn’t allowed herself to be ‘Rahat-Fateh-Ali-Khan-ised’, so you can expect something new from every song she chooses for our films. At times sounding like a doting mother, Zeb lends so much depth to the song! Alia Bhatt does a good job in adding the innocence to the song. The violins towards the end is a touch of genius. A song जो सीधा कलेजे को छूता है.

Patakha Guddi (AR Rahman) –  Many a times, I have felt that AR Rahman and Sachin Tendulkar have been put under so much pressure that they stopped having fun at work. This song is where we hear AR Rahman going bezerk! Excellent Prasanna gets mad on electric guitar towards the end in a song that is layered unlike it’s female version. Don’t get fooled by the subdued start that the song has. It is explosive by the time ends! Kudos to Rahman for attempting Punjabi and double kudos for his ‘naam rab da naam sai da’ chanting. You don’t get Goosebumps, You get Goosemountains!

Implosive Silence* – is sung by Jonita Gandhi. Kash and Krissy have penned whatever there was to ‘pen’ in the song. The arrangement remains hauntingly simple. The song appears to be sung in reverse (or treated like that). Let’s accept it, we do look forward to an ‘instrumental’ piece in A R Rahman’s album. We have been treated like royalty since ‘Bombay theme’ days and this piece here does the same and goes a step forward. Top class composition and top class atmosphere. Too much feel without words, trademark Rahman!

Tu Kuja –  a traditional song sung by Sunidhi Chauhan gives out a trance like feel from the beginning that stays throughout. An old composition in which Irshad Kamil has added Hindi words to make it relatable. Arrangement wise, the song sounds cluttered, and you are left with the feeling that it should have been sung by Rahman himself. It’s not a bad song, just that in comparison to the level of the album, it pales a bit.

Heera* –  is an old writing by Saint Kabir that has been presented by Rahman in his trademark ‘grand’ style with enough Violins to make you cry with pleasure. Shweta Pandit has sung this in an almost whisper like fashion which compliments the overall feel of the song (For a second, we thought it’s Tulsi Kumar who is singing…o the horror!)

Irshad Kamil is ‘Vishal-Gulzar’-ing with A R Rahman very fast and that’s such a delight to witness.

We have always believed that an album has to compliment the overall feel of the film. While we don’t know how the ‘hoity-toity’ numbers would compliment the feel of the film, we give a thumbs up to this album!

You see the *mark ahead of songs? Those are the songs we feel are a bit hoity-toity under the context that has been set by the teaser/trailer of the film so far.

AR Rahman saar, you remind us of the worldspace tagline…There is so much to listen (when you are at the helm!)

What we couldn’t understand – What’s with the sound quality of the album? ARR is known to be very careful around the same but this album sounds just like the old fake Jai-Mata-Di-cassettes which were a cheaper alternative to HMV cassettes. We understand T-Series owner said that he doesn’t need good musicians to sell music, but, sir, are you sure of what you are selling?

We have always tried to spread the good word about various crowd-funded projects through our blog. Here’s one more film which looks interesting and you can contribute to its making.

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Film

Lajwanti (The Honour Keeper) directed by Pushpendra Singh has been selected for the 44th edition of the Berlinale Forum, a section of the Berlin International Film Festival that showcases independent, artistic filmmaking with a disregard for convention. Berlinale Forum will screen twenty-eight world and eight international premieres this year.

Official Synopsis

A group of women, in their daily long walk to collect water, recite songs and exchange words that reveal their hidden desires. But, one day, when a crazy dreamer whose only passion is collecting doves crosses their path, one of them, Lajwanti, starts a journey that will take her out of this closed world. She leaves the group when she cannot tolerate their banter and starts walking the long distance alone.

The silence and determination of the man with the doves becomes a curiosity for her and she decides to find more about him. But when the man does not show much interest in her advances, she feels betrayed by her beauty. Her dreams change from being driven by fear to dreams of courage. The veil starts disappearing and a new world opens to her. Will she overcome her dreams driven by fear to keep the honour of that man’s dream rather than that of the society? Will she be able to undo her social conditioning and find her true self?

Trailer

Filmmaker

An alumnus of the Film &Television Institute of India, Pune and Berlin Talent Campus, Pushpendra began his career as an actor playing one of the leads in AmitDutta’s Venice award winning film ‘Aadmi Ki AuratAur Anya Kahaniya’. He then went on to assist AmitDutta on his next feature ‘Nainsukh’ and the latest ‘SattviSair- The seventh walk’. He has also assisted Anup Singh on his award winning feature ‘Qissa- The ghost is a lonely traveler’.  His other credits include acting in the German feature ‘Asta Transfer’ directed by Maximilian Linz which is in its post-production and in the theatre with Barry John on his Honey Trilogy.

Currently he teaches at the Film & Television Institute of India, Pune. Lajwantiis his first feature film as a director.

Why they need the funding

– You can contribute anything between Rs 99 to 50,000. So far the film has managed to collect just 20% of the funding it needs. So do contribute to its making. Lets make it happen.

– Click here to go to its Catapooolt page where you can read more about the film and can make your contribution.

If you are regular reader of the blog, you probably know his name. Neeraj Ghaywan is part of the editorial team and is a regular contributor to the blog. So it’s a great news for all of us. Yay! Yay! Yay!

Sundance Institute and Mahindra today announced the winners of the 2014 Sundance Institute | Mahindra Global Filmmaking Award, in recognition and support of emerging independent filmmakers from around the world. The winning directors and projects are Hong Khaou, MONSOON from Vietnam/UK; Tobias Lindholm, A WAR from Denmark; Ashlee Page, ARCHIVE from Australia; and Neeraj Ghaywan, FLY AWAY SOLO from India.

– Each of the four winning filmmakers will receive a cash award of $10,000, attendance at the Sundance Film Festival for targeted industry and creative meetings, year-round mentoring from Institute staff and creative advisors, eligibility to participate in a Sundance Institute Lab, and ongoing creative and strategic support from Sundance Institute’s renowned Feature Film Program.

More details about the winners and their films –

Hong Khaou / MONSOON (Vietnam/UK): Two young men visit present day Vietnam, and are confronted with the war’s ramifications nearly forty years after its end.

Hong Khaou’s debut feature film Lilting premiered in World Cinema Competition at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.  The film stars Ben Whishaw and Cheng Pei Pei. He is also the director of three short films, including Spring, which premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, and Summer, which premiered at the 2006 Berlinale. This year, Hong was named one of the Stars of Tomorrow by Screen International.

Tobias Lindholm / A WAR (Denmark):  The major of a Danish unit in Afghanistan faces the consequences of his actions in the aftermath of his most dangerous mission..

Tobias Lindholm graduated as a screenwriter from the National Film School of Denmark in 2007, and has collaborated with Thomas Vinterberg as co-writer on Submarino and Oscar nominee The Hunt. In 2010 he wrote and directed his first feature film in collaboration with Michael Noer, and in 2012 he wrote and directed the critical acclaimed A hijacking.

Ashlee Page / ARCHIVE (Australia): With the help of a supercomputer, an isolated 16-year-old girl grows plant life on Saturn’s moon Titan in the hope of one day restoring Earth’s ecosystems. But when an unexpected accident leads her to the moon’s surface, she discovers evidence that her mission is a lie and that her life is in danger.

Ashlee Page is an Australian writer and director. Her multi-award winning short The Kiss screened at Busan, Clermont-Ferrand, Palm Springs and Tribeca film festivals. Her most recent work is on the film compendium The Turning, adapted from the novel by Tim Winton. Archive is her first feature film.

Neeraj Ghaywan / FLY AWAY SOLO (India): Four lives intersect along the Ganges river: a lower-caste boy in a hopeless love, a daughter torn with guilt, a father sinking in greed, and a spirited kid craving a family, all yearning to escape the constrictions of a small-town.

Neeraj Ghaywan worked with Anurag Kashyap on the veteran director’s two-part opus Gangs of Wasseypur and as the second unit director on Ugly.  His short films as writer-director include Shor and The Epiphany. Shor won the grand jury prize at three International film festivals.

– The script of Fly Away Solo is been written by Varun Grover.

– You can watch Neeraj’s short films Shor and Epiphany here and here. And click here to read a post by him on the making of Shor.

– Also, Love.Love.Love, a short documentary directed by FTII student Sandhya Daisy Sundaram, won the Short Film Special Jury award for non-fiction at the ongoing Sundance Film Festival. More details here.

Still haven’t seen Om Dar-B-Dar? Want more reasons? Well, listen to Anurag Kashyap, Imtiaz Ali, Amole Gupte, Kiran Rao and Resul Pookutty to understand what the film means to them and why.

And here’s Rajat Dholakia on its music madness

ODBDT

Avinash Arun’s directorial debut, the Marathi feature film Killa (The Fort) will have its world premiere at the upcoming Berlinal International Film Festival. The fest runs from February 6-16, 2014.

The film is selected in the Generation Kplus competitive category. IT stars Amruta Subhash, Archit Deodhar, Parth Bhalerao and Shrikant Yadav. Avinash has also shot the film.

Official Synopsis

Killa deals with the universal conflict of migration, and how it impacts the lives of people, especially children. The story revolves around a young boy Chinu who finds it difficult to adjust to his new surroundings where he has migrated to, after his father’s death. But gradually he makes new friends and gains more confidence.

Produced by Madhukar R Musle, Ajay G Rai, Alan McAlex under the banner, Jar Pictures and presented by M R Filmworks, the film was a part of NFDC Film Bazaar’s Work-in-Progress (WIP) Lab in 2013.

There are few other Indian films at this edition of Berlin Fest. Gaurav Saxena’s Rangzen will also have its world premiere in Generation Kplus. Imtiaz Ali’s Highway and Papilio Buddha (India/USA) directed by Jayan Cherian will be screened in the Panorama section. Lajwanti (The Honour Keeper) directed by Pushpendra Singh has been selected for Berlinale Forum which is for avant garde, experimental works, essays, long-term observations, political reportage and yet-to-be-discovered cinematic landscapes. Also, Berlinale Talent Campus has selected 3 Indians – Producer Sanjay Shah, documentary filmmaker Nishtha Jain and director/screenwriter Dipesh Jain. More details here.

Are you done with watching Om Dar-B-Dar? No? what are you doing here? Go, watch the film and then come back to this post. If you have seen the film, you can read this post by Varun Grover to clarify all your doubts. Read? Got it? Your mind has opened up a bit? Great. Now watch these 3 videos where Kamal Swaroop talks about the film and his idea of sense and nonsense.

Thanks to Deepti DCunha, she recorded these videos when the restored version of the film had its premiere at Rome Film Festival in November, 2013.

The video quality is not great but the audio is clear and we can promise that it’s worth it. So do watch.

Kamal Swaroop’s cult film Om Dar-B-Dar has been restored and its finally in the theatres. Don’t miss it.

DON’T .  MISS.   IT.

And we are going with the mood of the film, so recycling an old post by Varun Grover which was written 3/4 years ago. Don’t worry, it still reads new just like the film and its ideas. If you have seen the film and are still wondering what the real story is, this post got all your answers.

ODBD

Death and mythology in a small town

बबलू बेबीलॉन से, बबली टेलीफोन से  (Bablu calling from Babylon, Babli listening on telephone)

Om Dar-B-Dar.  Om here and there. Or more precisely, Om here and there, helpless. That’s the name of a film I first heard about around 10-years back. It sounded like a typical wannabe ‘Indian Parallel Cinema Movement’ film of the 80’s. Though the ‘movement’ never went beyond the occasional film festival screening in India then (and now, much later, beyond the difficult-to-find DVDs in malls with bad architecture and heavy security) – it did give the otherwise angry-for-no-reason 70’s and colored-clay-pot strewn 80’s some credibility. Shyam Benegal, Govind Nihalani, Basu Chatterjee, Mani Kaul, Kumar Shahani and with a much lighter hand, Sai Paranjape made cinema which was sometimes as local as a small stretch of highway in north India (Uski Roti (Our Daily Bread), Mani Kaul, 1970) or a residential chawl in a Bombay suburb (Katha (The story), Sai Paranjpe, 1983). In fact, they were the only people making cinema with a very strict sense of time and place – love letters which started with a date and place on top.

But then, art cinema movement too had groupies trying to pass off as the real rockstar. Films with dim lights, grim faces, and half a social issue (invariably leftist in thought) would instantly be termed as ‘parallel’, get the government of India funding, and be sent to film festivals abroad. Om Dar-B-Dar sounded like that kind of film, especially after one article I had read which described the film as some kind of existential study into the life of a teenager in a small town of Rajasthan.

Watching it recently for the first time, I realized, it is anything but me-too. Or even close to ‘art cinema’, as we know it. It exists in a league of its own. And though that may not be intended as a high praise, but that’s the only way it can be described.

मिथ्या है संसार – माया है संसार  (The world is a lie – the world is an illusion)

Kamal Swaroop, a scientist with DRDO (Defense Research and Development Organization) of India, turned a filmmaker, graduating from FTII, Pune, to debut with Om Dar-B-Dar. He calls his only feature film to date a kind of spoof on ‘art films’ of the time. “If anything, I wanted to make an anti-intellectual film. I didn’t want to make a film on some social issue or sad people. I just wanted to make a film about a small town”, said Swaroop in a personal interaction after the screening a few months ago. Having stayed in Pushkar in Rajasthan, famous for its annual Hindu mela (fare), probably helped him nail the setting of the film. His love for science and mythology admittedly helped in deciding the next two important aspects – the central character of teenaged Om and the basic conflict points in the story.

But is there a story in Om Dar-B-Dar? Kamal Swaroop insists there is – though the group with which I watched the film was clueless. Swaroop calls it bad conditioning – looking for story and only story in cinema. He says cinema is not necessarily mass communication, it can be a personal expression too; a painting or a poem. Though many were not convinced, Swaroop claims that the film, when screened in small villages of Rajasthan, was completely ‘understood’ and enjoyed by the simple villagers. Reasons being – less conditioning and more connection to the vibes and idiosyncrasies of a small town.

Next question – does the film have a form, a structure? Swaroop’s crisp answer – even deform is a form. What about accessibility? Comprehension? Head and tail? Again – Swaroop’s answer – why should cinema be objective? Why a film should be only one of the two things – I got it or I didn’t get it?

That raises some very valid debate points – story, form, and accessibility in cinema. Indian cinema, traditionally has been a story-driven exercise in videography. Starting off with mythological tales in the 30’s and 40’s, and evolving into equally simplistic good vs. evil (Hero vs Villain) cinema of the 60’s and 70’s – there is a long and deeply ingrained history of accessible stories pushing ‘cinema’ more and more into the ever-expanding space of ‘mass-media’. Rumor has it, two of the greatest films of Hindi cinema (Mughal-e-Azam, Guide) had their endings tweaked to accommodate popular tastes. (Anarkali being given a safe passage by the emperor and rains arriving on Raju’s death respectively).

The third aspect – form or structure, was also rarely played with in popular cinema, with the most adventurous of the lot taking the ‘flashback’ route as the only standout narrative element. It can be noted here that most of the art cinema movement films too had a strong focus on story-accessibility couple – they differed majorly in the structure/form department. In addition to having more realistic settings and acting, they succeeded in creating a new cinematic-clock for themselves – a form where time moves slower and hence more details are visible, and vice versa.

And here lies the most distinct element of Om Dar-B-Dar – cinematic clock, here, moves as fast, if not faster than a regular commercial Hindi film while the other two aspects (story and accessibility) are given the least respect. In fact, it would be much enjoyable to watch it as 20 short films (a lot of them very funny, and an equal number completely nonsensical) about Om’s family and friends, stitched together with music, surreal dreams and a mythological back-story. So, for the math-minded – ODBD is an anti-art, anti-commercial film moving at the pace of a commercial film and having the details of an art-film.

टैडपोल से हम (We are like Tadpoles)

After the film screening is over, and after heated debates on whether it can even be called a film in the first place are done with, Kamal Swaroop smiles and asks whether anybody still wants to know the story. A few hands go up and Swaroop relents.

(SPOILERS) Om, a teenager, is blessed with a magical power and he can hold his breath for any desired duration of time. This results in him putting up a show at the holy place of Pushkar (ascribed as the only heaven on Earth in Hindu mythological texts), where he goes inside water and holds his breath. Once, to protest against Brahma, the Hindu God credited as the creator of the world, who has decided to remove the ‘heaven’ status of Pushkar, the locals decide to put up a non-cooperation movement against Brahma. The only non-cooperation they can do to Brahma is to stop breathing, as that’s the only gift he has given. But since Om’s natural tendency is to not breath, for him, the non-cooperation would be the act of breathing. At the time of protest, Om happens to be inside the pond where he puts up his show. He breathes, to support the non-cooperation, and dies. (spoilers end)

But then, one has to watch the film many times to get this story – and as I said, there are at least 20 more stories, all equally layered, and delivered at a crazy pace. At times, it looks like an MTV Production, with the kind of visual liberties, caricatures, and abrupt cutting involved. (No wonder, Swaroop later helmed the launch of Channel V in India, playing a crucial role in defining the ‘funky’ auro-visual space it’s known for now.)

 कसप (How do I know)

In a crucial scene in Hindi novelist Manohar Shyam Joshi’s ‘Kasap’, the male protagonist’s naada (thread of pajamas) gets stuck in a knot in front of the girl he is wooing. In Om Dar-B-Dar, a similar thing happens when a young man is about to start making love to his girlfriend. Funny, sad, frustrating, and deeply observational at the same time – moments like these make ODBD a watch to remember.

Whether it’s a film with story, structure, accessibility, or (latest buzzword) ‘take-homes’ is a debate worth drunken nights with friends. The film released in 1988, and has been getting buzz (positive, negative, both) at regular intervals. Though that doesn’t guarantee a great, path-breaking, or cult status to any work of art (or mass-media) – it surely means there are enough cinema crazies in the world.

As for whether you will like it, the only answer is ‘कसप’.