Archive for the ‘cinema’ Category

Fargo And The Nobokovian World

If I were to equate the third season of Fargo with the world of books or those of an author, it would have to be Vladimir Nabokov. There is a growing playfulness in both works, the prose of the camera much like Nabokov’s own writing is achingly beautiful and yet ever so tight in its construction that there is little beauty captured for the sake of beauty itself. These are the signs of a self-effacing genius that has powered both works. A genius that revels not in the languishing of the eye on the pristine, powdered snow smacked with blood, but would rather spend time toying with the viewer as to how it got there. It begins as it always does with everything going perfectly till a stranger shows up.

But rather than meander on I find Fargo to be like nature and in Nabokov’s own words, “Literature is invention. Fiction is fiction. To call a story a true story is an insult to both art and truth. Every great writer is a great deceiver, but so is that arch-cheat Nature. Nature always deceives. From the simple deception of propagation to the prodigiously sophisticated illusion of protective colors in butterflies or birds, there is in Nature a marvelous system of spells and wiles. The writer of fiction only follows Nature’s lead.” The third season of Fargo captures deception in both nature and the art of story-telling itself.

Let me begin with a bit of context, while movies remain a source of entertainment, for most of us, I find them to be a remarkably accurate mirror of the human condition. So let’s take a long, good look at ourselves. This is the fourth piece in the “What the movies taught me” series. You can read the first part here, second one is here and thirs one is here.


 The use of the absence of motive as a device to create suspense

If there is one thing I believe, Fargo (the series) has perfected over three immaculate seasons is how the lack of a motive is perhaps the strongest plot device the thriller genre possesses. There is nothing else that comes close, there is a feeling that is invoked in the viewer when the rule book is tossed out and burnt in front of your eyes, each moment after that is the most important moment, each action after that is the most important action, each scene after that is the climax. That is not to say Fargo has no motive behind the characters, it does but they are of the dullest kind, financial greed, the display of power and love. But it’s the devotion to these motives that surprises the emotionally. Who ever heard of winning a card competition to gather runaway funds? Whoever heard of an accountant saving someone’s ass? David Thewlis is eating throughout the series but he is also shown puking all that he eats, suffering from Bulimia. Thewlis has said,

“The idea is bulimia in his life. He’s a man who is so ultimately in control of seemingly everything, and it’s therefore an expression of the one part of his existence that he’s not in control of, something that at times he loses control of… vulnerability.”

We’ve seen shows where actions are seen as absurd but one where the motivations are just as absurd as the actions there Fargo perhaps stands alone.


The randomness of violence as an existential plot point 

As far as I’ve known and watched cinema, which is quite limited, very few directors or writers get the concept of random violence. It is a dangerous thing to toy with, yet nothing holds a mirror to life in all its complex, chaotic glory as does random violence. It is a powerful blow that shakes the very foundations of our belief in God or a higher power, man’s search for purpose and the meaning behind things. The evident strain in all the Coen brothers work has been to dismantle this rather erroneous notion that everything happens for a reason, that there is quid pro quo, a karmic balance to life and the retribution of our actions always comes due. Their work has been a refreshing challenge to these notions and Fargo carries that legacy forward. The bill does not come due, there are no avenging angels interwoven into the fabric of life itself. The very last scene of the series makes that amply clear, David Thewlis tells the protagonist, that he will walk away from all of this, she tells him he won’t, the camera never reveals what does happen. But I’d like to believe he does. There is a certain amount of childish joy and mirth that Fargo offers to the viewer – there is comical timing built into the actions of violence employed, the means by which it is delivered in the series that are so entertaining. In many ways the idiotic brother is the viewer at certain points, unable to comprehend the machinations of his girlfriend unable to process the violence that has been meted out, all he can manage is the irrepressible chuckle that ensues at the farcical way in which things are done. The invisible hand of coincidence and fate that plays the role of the executioner in such slapstick ways that reality reveals itself to be a jester.

The non-discriminatory nature of choosing victims as story weaving tool

As a viewer, we have been programmed to look for connections. The magician presents a problem, the mind delivers the magic. As viewers, we have always had the Pavlovian response to deaths – how are they related? Who will be next? The payoff is our hypothesis is correct, a bigger payoff is when we are proven wrong. In a certain ironic way, mysteries provide more emotional payload when we unravel them wrongly. In many ways, we want to be fooled. But Fargo takes it to the next level. Here the victims don’t play by those rules, there is not always a death that serves to advance the plot in any way. In one particular surreal scene Nikki ends up in a bowling alley with Ray Weiss (The Wandering Jew) He lets Nikki hold a kitten he’s named Ray, implying that it’s her Ray reincarnated. Her reaction at the possibility of being reunited with her late fiance is dark, tragic and heartwarming at the same time. He asks Nikki to quote a bible verse when she brings the wicked one to justice. He assures her she’ll remember it when the time comes. Fargo has mythological characters bumping to lend a hand, a contemporary eerie version of Peter and the Wolf a musical symphony written for children. In many ways Fargo hammers home the point that death is inconsequential. It takes a hammer and chisel to the exalted pillar we grant to victimhood in the overall narrative of crime and fiction and brings it low.


The impotency of working people as a tool for recruitment by evil

Any good writer or director will tell you the fundamental drama ensues between the shades of grey, an out and out fight between good and evil is of little interest to anyone except for VFX, and special effect junkies, a group to which I also belong. Within the arsenal of recruitment tools that evil holds, Fargo adds a special weapon. A most potent one. Which is the impotency of the working class. Working within the system, the protagonist and her traffic cop bestie are thwarted by idiotic superiors, inefficient colleagues and red tape. There is a scene where David Thewlis pisses into a coffee cup and makes Sy drink it, it is delicious to watch, the brutal assertion of power. I think it’s a brilliant argument to make, join the dark side if you want to get something done, if you actually want to accomplish something, leave your mark on the world. The system that good is always entrenched in is self-serving, it serves no particular individual. Think of it as the Matrix a machine who is only driven by self-perpetuating as its prime and sole motive. But evil is independent, evil does not need approvals. There is a certain freedom it affords to those that are individualistic and all protagonists are individualistic. The seductive appeal of this stance is that at some level all viewers also believe they are individualistic themselves. It’s an insidious tentacle that evil reaches out with and it’s my favourite one so far.


The other worldliness of the setting as an additional cast member

I would be remiss if I did not mention the setting of the series. The environment is always a character in the Fargo series – whether they be aliens, hotel conferences, they are active. The third season has these tiny flourishes automatic, sliding door cameras that don’t work only for the protagonist. The alienation the snow offers its characters. The weather and the storm that forces characters to end up elsewhere, to kill the wrong people. The novel-robot sequence is so well ingrained into the narrative. That for a moment one forgets why it’s there, a self-referential mechanism, a mirror that the show holds up to itself as it remains a mirror for our own societies.

Lastly, there is another tell Fargo has that I quite love, the frustration of dealing with idiots. There is not a single season where that frustration does not play up to hilarious outcomes and dialogue. The incompetency of the individuals that hold up the standard bearer of crime and evil has never been so well articulated; Fargo remains a case in point for the display of humour rooted in reality for this precise reason. Life isn’t easy for those dedicated to evil and crime just as it isn’t for the rest of us.

As Nabokov puts it, “The job of a writer is to get the main character up a tree, and then once they are up there, throw rocks at them.”

 

ALSO MICHAEL STUHLBARG!
MICHAEL STUHLBARG!

AND
MICHEAL STUHLBARG!

– Percy Bharucha

(The author has been previously published in eFiction and eFiction India, Eastlit, Reading Hour, Gratis, The Madras Mag, The Ascent, The Creative Cafe, Invisible Illness, The Writing Cooperative, Bigger Picture, Hundred Naked Words, Be Yourself, Fit Yourself Club, Hopes and Dreams for the Future, Written Tales, Poets Unlimited and The Haven. He writes regularly on Medium and runs a bi-weekly comic strip called The Adult Manual. He also tweets infrequently at  @Sab_Bakwaas_Hai)

As we have done in the past, this year too we are trying to source the scripts of some of the best bollywood films of the year. As most of you know, the scripts of Hollywood films are easily available online, even the unreleased ones. But we don’t have any such database of Hindi or Indian films. So that has been the primary reason for this initiative. And it has been possible only because some of the screenwriters and filmmakers have been very supportive about it. It’s only for educational purpose, and much like the spirit of the blog, is a complete non-commercial exercise.

To read the scripts of best bollywood films of last few years, click here. In this post, we are sharing the script of Shubh Mangal Saavdhan.

Hitesh Kewalya

Shubh Mangal Saavdhan managed an impossible task – took a sex related subject and made it a middle class family affair. All thanks to its brilliant writing. Though it’s a remake of a Tamil film but only the plot points are same. Hitesh Kewalya’s sparkling writing gave a new flavour, setting, characters, and atmosphere to the same story. The best part – without being crass or vulgar at any point, it was one of the funniest film of the year. Who would have thought that dipping a biscuit in tea and Ali Baba-40 Thieves story could be interpreted sexually too.  Innuendos were never so family friendly!

Happy reading!

Film : Shubh Mangal Saavdhan

Director : R S Prasanna

Screenplay & Dialogues : Hitesh Kewalya

(gif via http://www.invisiblerabbit.in/)

These aren’t songs/albums which were necessarily released this year. These are songs/albums which I came across in 2017. There is no order, there is no ranking. I Just keep begging and turning to people I barely know to suggest me a song, even if it’s in a trailer or a song featured  on a TV show.  Because – me and missy is so very busy busy makin money!

There are also two long-ish albums/sessions embedded in the playlist which I am sure you will like.

And then there is my favourite dinchak list. Oh yes, it starts with  bit of love for selfie star and his team – a good song for running. Then we have some film and non-film songs. I am sorry about a certain song in the playlist but (Gujrati accent) ‘sorry, this had to be done, in all its auto-tune-ness, kasam odi ki. There’s also a song that has a line ‘Meri mummy nu pasand nai tu’ – what fun! We also got tesher on the track. Here we go, or (like I have learnt) – Yalla!

Orange Is The New Black – So there is some show like this but I don’t watch any TV, not on twitter these days, so I don’t know about most shows. One of the colleagues from work suggested a song and I liked it a lot. I like it so much that I forgot it exists. I think you know what I am talking about. Have at it, first song on the playlist. Also, I should start watching TV.

Krishna Das – From the album ‘One Track Heart – The Story Of Krishna Das’. The song is titled ‘Krishna Das Was Crying’ and it is not available on youtube. You can buy this fabulous album here  https://itunes.apple.com/in/album/one-track-heart-story-krishna-das-original-motion-picture/664306217 – The pain, longing and the merging of harmonium, sarangi and electronic guitar would leave you in the state of shunya. I have played this at home on repeat and slept because I wanted to wake up with this song in the background. I have left the song playing at home while I went out because I wanted to come home to the song, you get the picture.

The Tamashbeens – was doing rounds with some lovely Pakistani friends I have made here in Dubai. I love the mild ‘Amit-trivedi-in-his-early-days’ vibe the song has along with excellent wordplay…usmeinn log kyu hain haraaami? Featured here, is Duniya, the song. Also, what a kickass name for a group, isn’t it?

The Manta Ensemble  – Do explore this lovely band that explains itself as The Manta Sidhu Ensemble is a collaboration between some exquisite musicians, who have come together to play songs written by Manta, a Delhi based singer and songwriter. Versatile musical elements merging in a carefree environment, yet standing vulnerable in all their rawness – the music is for those with a taste for the easy-listening experience”. Apart from making my job easier by giving such a splendid intro, they also make some wonderful music. We have featured ‘Wild Flower’ here. (teach me how to sway when things don’t go my way….tu ru tu tu ru ru..)  

Ali Sethi – Well this one is pretty easy. Like I have always maintained, Ali Sethi should sing all the old classics in his style. The way he re-imagined and presented chann kithan* (delicate and hopeless in all his Sethi-ness), it’s pretty much ensured the playlist to be stuck on this for months. I fail to understand why Sethi has presented this song with absolute zero treble, to put it simply. Can we get a better audio quality of this Dear iTunes/Patari? I will pay in dollars, I am not kidding. A fabulous song!  On a related note, you would always find someone go ‘Oh, I have just started exploring Ali Sethi’, when you do, just hug them.

Fanoos – aaaaaaaae ha! What a brilliant way for a music streaming to create a niche without being ducks about holding you hostage just because you have a device made by them. With ‘Fanoos’, Patari.pk gave Zohaib Kazi a free run to explore and manipulate the sounds he collects. (Correction  – Zohaib confirms his project Fanoos was joined by Patari and not the other way round). We featured Zohaib here when we spoke of his brilliant album ‘Ismail ka urdu sheher’ (which you must explore if not already) and although the track Gulmit anthem remains my favourite, the other songs under Fanoos were brilliant as well. Here’s hoping Patari doesn’t stop. Chumma aapko, Patari waalon. Yes, it isn’t available on youtube legally. Head to Patari.pk immediately and ask yourself  what are you doing if you don’t visit Patari everyday. 

Rabab circles – The track we have featured here is called Makhaam/Nightfall. When they write a kickass description in their songs like ‘plug in your headphones and turn up the volume’, they truly make it worth your while. Listening to this beautiful track, I couldn’t help but picture little kids jumping up and down the stairs, not a care in the world. Here’s looking at you Circles.

A1melodymaster’s – Rashke Qamar – In some ways, the badly recreated track of Baadshaho is to be credited for this discovery. Yet again, something a dear Pakistani colleague shared with me in office. While the original track remains a favorite, if you are not in a qawwali mood, play this one and feel your senses dance.  The name is Khan, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.

Parvaaz  – When you are done ogling at the brilliantly shot video, do hear the song Colour White, which is quite good, especially the way the guitar merges with the singing towards the end, and tilts your senses towards the sound. I have been meaning to explore Parvaaz since sometime, thanks to @BhopaliLad, and am glad this year I could do so. Am sure this is a pretty old discovery for most readers of the blog but to those three people who didn’t know earlier – rush to their work, I implore you! 

Bombay Dreams – Confession – I made all my good friends buy this rather expensive cassette back in 2002 when this came out. I still have it. I still have it (said it twice because I have 2 units cassettes of the album).  I still love it, especially Bombay awakens sung by Dalip Tahil. I couldn’t find it on youtube, so allow me to share the song that I used to play in Hyderabad while thinking about Lucknow. Why am I mentioning this now? It is because I am loving this album again now. They have changed lyrics (And A.R. Rahman is absent on the microphone), but they have retained 2 of my favorite parts. One of them is –  The journey home, is never too long…you heart arrives before the train.  

Shruti Naik & Ashar Kazi – This stunning discovery keeps me going on the treadmill for the sheer passion of the duo. Featured here is their cover of Tamacun. There is a bit of Pulp Fiction nostalgia on their channel as well, head to it. I hope we hear more, much more from them! 

Jasleen Kaur Monga – Check her channel and do find her on oklisten.com as well. Such a clean rendition and what a voice! I hope to hear more, much much more from her. It is so comforting to hear someone do classical right, in the present age of cacophony, hashtags, filters and general bullshit. Featured here is her soothing ‘Saawan aaya re sakhi’ 

Rubab InstrumentalBya ke borem ba mazar featuring Gulab Khel on Rabab and Murad on tabla – This was a pure coincidence. I was asked to follow this channel by one of the many good souls in Youtube comment section. This is so soothing I had to include it here for you to explore, if you haven’t already.

Jeno w noto0 to 100, Quickly habibi!, I saw this song do some pretty amazing thing to suit-boot waale log (with prim and proper accents) on dancefloor. This is a riot (available for 15 bucks on iTunes!). Do hear it. If curious, you should read more about the dance form here  (only a matter of time I reckon that someone back home gets ‘inspired’ by this hook)

Abdul Kader – featuring – Rachid Taha, Faudel and (fukin) Khaled! –  If you are 90s kid, you will remember Khaled. Remember we putting our own words in this song and sing along loudest at the ‘Didi’ moment? Now, Faudel is responsible for inspiring a certain Indra Kumar film song but don’t hold it against him please. An algerian teddy bear and I connected a lot because I love this song. The energy, the vibe and the feels it gives you is just magical. Have a listen and put a ‘dekho’ to the song and soak the atmosphere of the concert, the days of no autotunes or prerecorded playback.

Tan Cani – by Alhoverah. So I have been keeping this song with me since two years or so. Yes, I do that, I don’t like sharing music normally. Cut to – A Spanish matador who reminded me of this song (when we were talking about music and I begged for him to tell me a song that he absolutely loves). I took it as a sign and here it is for those who haven’t heard it. There are hajaar versions of the song, I am sharing the one he shared with me, the one that I took as ‘ the sign’.

Other songs which I liked and played are embedded towards the end of the playlist, still let me mention them here –

Lost – Angad Katari

Udaan – Aditya Virmani

Bol ke lab – Harpreet – A version I felt that is better than what Shafqat Amanat Ali could come up on his Coke Studio outing for this season.

Long play

Mahogany SessionsConfessionI came across this movement earlier this year but I haven’t checked out other sessions because I am stuck on solid ground and this session as a whole. I hope you like it and if you are rolling your eyes because you already knew this then why o why did you not share it with us? 🙂 (Great music, as often as possible…isn’t this a delightful pledge?)

Solo and Indre – This came to me via a good friend. The link contains the entire album, which I must admit, works superbly in morning and afternoons if you are lazing around or driving with no particular destination in mind. I loved it, hope you do too. (From the channel – Senegalese kora player, Solo Cissokho, and Lithuanian kanklės player, Indrė Jurgelevičiūtė, met each other for their first duo recording. This is the first time these two instruments have been recorded together)

Daira’s Vipreet buddhi (The entire album is brilliant! I reviewed it on BBC and you can head to my blog for the link of the same. Google and read the track names for some fun!

Because the post is already too long, I purposely didn’t mention popular movements like Coke Studio Pakistan. You can listen to our picks of 2017 Cokestudio Pakistan here

* Some of us found couldn’t find the correct translation of this on the internet. So we tried to do it ourselves. You can read it here and thank the people directly on social media platforms who made it possible.

And here is the dinchak list. Yep. NSFW – the first song.

To quote Insomniac city again (am sorry!) – ‘I remember how Wendy once told me she loved New York so much she couldn’t bear the thought of it going on without her’ – > I feel the same about all the good music, good books, articles which I will never be able to explore. What I am saying is – Suggest me a song! We always underestimate what we have, so don’t think twice before putting it out. I am sure I haven’t heard *that* song which you are thinking about right now, may be you discovered it/them this year or may be before. Share and have a happy new year!

– Rohit

(P.S. – If you like to stay happy, fit and/or run like wind (With or without flaunting it on twitter, in your office, on your linkedin or on music related blogposts), why haven’t you explored Shivani Bhagwan’s youtube channel yet? No other dance channel comes close. No other happy channel comes close. Beautiful people doing bhangra with beautiful people cheering…what’s not to like)

As we have done in the past, this year too we are trying to source the scripts of some of the best bollywood films of the year. As most of you know, the scripts of Hollywood films are easily available online, even the unreleased ones. But we don’t have any such database of Hindi or Indian films. So that has been the primary reason for this initiative. And it has been possible only because some of the screenwriters and filmmakers have been very supportive about it. It’s only for educational purpose, and much like the spirit of the blog, is a complete non-commercial exercise.

To read the scripts of best bollywood films of last few years, click here.

From this year, we have also decided that we will be sharing the pictures of the writers, and not some random still from the film. Let’s have a good look at the faces who burnt their blood to fill the final draft pages. We should have done it earlier par jab jaago tab savera.

Amit (L) Mayank (R)

Amit Masurkar made his debut with a small delightful indie film, Sulemani Keeda, which perfectly captured the mood and feel of the bollywood writers surviving on the fringe. Mayank Tewari was one of the leads in this film. The duo came together for Amit’s next film, Newton – a challenging subject which required treading a tight rope as it balances different point of views. The biggest achievement of the script was that it explored every political and human angle related to the story but was never morose, dry or heavy. No wonder it has emerged one of the top favourites of the critics and was a commercial success, too.

We are sharing the script of Newton in this post. Happy reading!

Film : Newton

Director : Amit V Masurkar

Story  :  Amit V Masurkar

Screenplay/Dialogues : Mayank Tewari & Amit V Masurkar

 

 

To quote Stephen Witt, Listening to hundreds of new releases a year could lead to a kind of jaded auditory cynicism. Last year, I wasn’t expecting a lot, and the year was fine. This year, I wasn’t expecting much yet some albums surprised me (Thank God I have always been a cynic). We have picked  one song per album. We don’t care how the colour scheme of the films to which these songs belong, compliment the character as movie progresses. It is just about the music. Do suggest your favourites which aren’t in the list for I am sure I have missed some gems.

If you are in no mood to read, just scroll down to play the embedded playlist.

  • Badnaam jiya –  Sung by Rekha Bhardwaj and composed so well by Rohit Sharma, this track sounds earthy, retains the charm of a filmi thumri and sounds splendid. I loved the entire album of Anaarkali of Aarah, and it was a task to pick this one over Sonu Nigam’s mann bekaid hua, but I did, gladly so.
  • Tera junoon – From the film Machine (yeah! Have you heard about it?), composed by Tanishk, sung by the excellent Jubin Nautiyal, penned beautifully by Arafat Mehmood & Mohammed Irfan, the song ticks all the right boxes – understated, melodious and very well presented.
  • Humsafar – There are confusing words/lines in the song (Hai nahi tha pata?), still I love the hopeless romanticism in the song from Badrinath Ki Dulhania. Akhil Sachdeva, thumbs up to you!
  • Alvida –  I love this entire album and the keyboard of my laptop will tell you how conflicted I was between this and the magnificent ‘Ye Ishq hai’ (Arijit Singh), both from Rangoon. Gulzar, Vishal Bhardwaj & Arijit Singh. Alvida wins because Gulzar reminded us to question all goodbyes and everything there’s to a goodbye. Aye kahin tu khuda to nahi? – God bless you Gulzar saab!
  • Rozana – Oh the delight of listening to Shreya Ghosal in her normal pitch! Composed intimately by Rochak Kohli and such fabulous words by Manoj muntashir, this one is from Naam Shabana. I quite liked the way the song has been presented. She longs for her love, yet she is not weak because she longs for her love. Aate jaate yun hee, mere liye theher, Rozana..  Simply beautiful!
  • Maana ke hum –  There is a lovely moment in Insomniac City* when O says to Bill,  ‘I’ve suddenly realized what you mean to me: You create the need which you fill, the hunger you sate. Like Jesus. And Kierkegaard. And smoked trout.’ I feel the same can apply to ghazals as well. There are hajaar genres and then there is ghazalThis year, Sachin-Jigar flirted with ghazal-like film songs, and if you remember Sachin’s Kho dia hai (from Bhoomi), you would know what I mean when you hear it along with this fabulous song. I am, of course, referring to the version by Parineeti Chopra in Meri Pyaari Bindu. A contemporary presentation of ghazal in my view. I love Kausar Munir’s pen for what it has done in this song.
  • Phir wohi – I see Amitabh Bhattacharya, Pritam and Arijit Singh together and my heart races in anticipation. I love this song from Jagga Jasoos (JJ)and I felt alive when Arijit went ‘gham ka jaya‘. It felt like a rejoinder to the first song of Arijit which I loved – beprwah rang ka jaaya. Back to JJ, I love the entire album but now that we are picking one song per album for the post, I couldn’t go to any other song than this gem. Arijit Singh
  • Safar – Haan, so what was I saying about Arijit singh? Oh yeah…Arijit Singh, please never stop singing. For me, this is the song of the year, from Jab Harry Met Sejal. Pritam, Irshad Kamil & Arijit singh – I bow to you for this one. Did you notice the ‘jaana maine’ part from 3:00 to 3:02? I could give my cassette collection to Arijit Singh for that. (I desperately wanted to mention Hawayein and Ghar but I won’t because we are picking one song per album. You didn’t hear anything from me Ok?) If I could live in a song, I would live in this song, may be I do. 
  • Ek Chaand – Guitars by Sanjoy Das, pretty much everything else by Tony Kakkar, this one is from Loev. I remember pausing the film and immediately picking this song, and playing this everyday since then, and perhaps this won’t change. I am still conflicted what I like the most? The music, the singing, the film, the lounge where Shiv is shown in the last shot? Well Jaane do…iss baat pe phir kabhi baat kar lenge. The song conveys pain and hurt yet it doesn’t console, doesn’t even demand to be heard, it plays almost in the background. Do yourself a favor, pick up the full song because the youtube clip doesn’t have the full song. Best 18 bucks you will ever spend.
  • Barfaani – Written by Ghalib Asad Bhopali, composed by Gaurav Dagaonkar and sung by the sublime Orunima Bhattacharya, this song is from Babumoshai Bandookbaaz. The excellent arrangement of the song sounds so close to the ground on which we stand and the singing ensures the song burns that very piece of the ground, just splendid!
  • Hoshiyar rehnaOh yes! The beauty of listening to Neeraj Arya’s Cafe singing Kabir without dumbing it down or polishing it excessively! Enough said.From Baadshaho.
  • Kho dia – Penned by Priya Saraiya, composed by Sachin Jigar and sung by Sachin, this song took me back to explore the whole album of Hariharan titled Kaash. I love the ghazal-sque vibe of the song and I hope at some point of time, the unplugged version of this song comes out. From Bhoomi.
  • Nachdi phira – Ah! My secret superstar of the year – Meghna Mishra! I loved this album a bit too much and this song just didn’t let me move on, and hello again Kausar Munir! Impossible not to shower adulation listening to this kiddo going all teri nagariya, teri najariya and doing all this so effortlessly..too much! Lastly, Amit Trivedi – Thank you kood kood ke ! I said (Thank Yoooooou in falsetto, kood kood ke)! From Secret Superstar.
  • Na jaa – For some reason, I couldn’t find Asees Kaur’s version of this superlative song (from Jia Aur Jia) on youtube. I like both versions of this song which is basically a friend calling out her friend, her sakhee. When was the last time we heard a hindi film song touch this genre? Excellent music by Nisschal Zaveri and brilliantly penned by Raqueeb Alam.
  • O mere sanam – The answer to ‘What if Benny Dayal decides to floor us with a song so romantic it charms our pants off’? First things first, apart from Benny’s superlative yet understated singing (hear him say ‘varak‘ so perfectly!), what stood out for me are the excellent words by Shakeel Azmi. Girish G has composed this song for The House Next Door.
  • Tu bann jaa gali banaras ki – Yep, Shakeel Azmi with his murderous pen again! Composed by Rashid Khan and sung in two solo version by Asit Tripathy & Asees Kaur respectively for Shaadi Mein Zaroor Aana. Tujhe isskooter pe bitha ke main, tere saath hawa mein uda karoo – the way the song is presented comes across with a certain degree of purity and honesty, without being too self aware. It’s like a really cute kid who is indulging in all her** cuteness without caring if someone is filming her mischief. Please hear both the versions on my request. Everyone cries small-town-simplicity, if only half of them could make us live it. This one does it. Lastly, do check Shakeel Azmi on internet.

P.S. – I feel compelled to mention few more things here. 

Genres that Hindi film music touched this year which I absolutely loved 

  • Non manipulative kiddo love to her mum – Ammi from Secret Superstar
  • Teen love done right – I miss you – Secret superstar
  • A song for a friend, by her friend – Na jaa – Jiya aur Jia
  • Non manipulative comment on demons within – Hoshiyar rehna – Baadshaho
  • Classical done right – Babul morai – Poorna
  • Classical done right – Sunn bhavra – Ok Jaanu!
  • Scratch better than the recorded version – Main faraar sa (sung ONLY by Anupam Roy) for ‘Running Shaadi’. The writer of the film made me listen to it on his phone and i loved it. I don’t have it for he rightfully didn’t share it with me, but if you get hold of it, hear it, you will know what i mean.

*The entire book is filled with lovely moments. I am no book recommender, but do pick this one up, or not.

**Hashtag girlchild, Hashtag feminism

– Rohit

Trumbo And The Art Of War

Trumbo achieves what few others have, to fight with the purity of a radical and yet win with the cunning of a rich man. His words not mine. What I find fascinating is the use of irony, in its potent weaponised form.

Let me begin with a bit of context, while movies remain a source of entertainment, for most of us, I find them to be a remarkably accurate mirror of the human condition. So let’s take a long, good look at ourselves. This is the third piece in the What the movies taught me series. You can read the first part here, and second one is here.

I’ll wait for a moment while that cast list hits you. Deep breaths.

Trumbo is a autobiographical based on the life of Dalton Trumbo, a Hollywood screenwriter who is also an active member of the communist party of USA. Trumbo is one of the ten writers who is later subpoenaed under the allegations of furthering communist propaganda through his writings. He is later imprisoned for contempt of Congress and serves eleven months in a Federal Correctional Institution.

But even after his release the Hollywood Blacklist prevents him and several other communists and communist sympathisers from working in the industry. They’re disavowed by the studios and friends alike in the interests of protecting their own careers. Under struggling financial and familial circumstances, a freshly released from prison, publicly avoided Trumbo plots his revenge and the overthrow of the Hollywood Blacklist.

A Great Debate

At the heart of any good movie, I’d like to believe is a great debate. Whether that is internalised within a character or is played out between two or more. So it is too with Trumbo at its core lies a great debate between the idealist Arlen Hird and the rather pragmatic Trumbo. A debate that I find comes as close as possible within my rather limited knowledge of cinematic history, to the nature of victory and the means employed to fight within a democratic system.

There is a scene in the beginning of the movie that sets up the debate for what is to follow.
Hird: “… you know what it is, I don’t trust you … look I know what I am, I want this whole country to be different, top to bottom. If I get what I want, nobody gets their own lake.
Trumbo: “Well that would be a very dull life.”
Hird: “Yeah, for you not for the guys who built this. If I’m wrong, tell me, but ever since I’ve known you. You talk like a radical but you live like a rich guy.”
Trumbo: “That is true.”
Hird: “Well, I don’t know if you’re willing to lose all of this just to do the right thing.”
Trumbo: “Well, I despise martyrdom and I won’t fight for a lost cause. So you’re right I am not willing to lose it all. (points to family) Certainly not them. But I am willing to risk it all. That’s where the radical and the rich guy make a perfect combination. You see the radical, they fight with the purity of Jesus but the rich guy wins with the cunning of Satan.”
Hird: “Oh please, please just shut up…”

A man fighting only for his principles, for his staunch belief in doing the right thing, is willing to risk it all, his finances, his privileged position in society, his career and his family, but what he’s not prepared to do is lose it all. Employing whatever means it takes to keep them. I found this particular scene to be a great character reveal in all its complex layering. It also seems to be a particular form of irony that a man fighting on principle is willing to use the cunning of Satan to simply win. Irony has a major role to play in the movie as we shall further discover.

Trumbo is the thing grey line between characters and heroes written previously, while most are bound, straightjacketed within their archetypes to the point of boredom through countless repetitions. I talk of the Batman archetype, fights evil but won’t cross a line. Characters who will do what it takes to achieve their selfish goals.

Unprincipled ends call for unprincipled means.
Principled ends always call for principled means.

Else the disparity between the means and ends lead to a loss of viewer empathy for the hero’s struggle or an abandoning of belief in his cause. The unprincipled means are always introduced at a point of departure within the character arc. Suddenly the guy you’ve been rooting for, this good guy turns evil forced by circumstance he abandons the very reasons for which he is fighting and we will pity and the hero falls in our graces. Trumbo will have none of that, with his usual pragmatism and verbosity he remains true a businessman fighting for the good.

Result Vs. Ideology

It is a very fine distinction but one I believe merits drawing your attention to. In almost all fights and wars based merely on principle and ideology we have always witnessed the subordination of the result of the war to the dominant ideology that is the cause of it, in terms of a character’s priority.

Fighting the good fight has always been more important than winning the good fight. Tireless martyrs have sacrificed themselves on the altar of righteousness simply because of their stubborn refusal to do what it takes to win, they’d rather do what it takes to be right.
But herein lies the genius of Trumbo while he is a man fighting for principles he’ll be damned if he’ll allows them to interfere with his victory. Sample this scene from the movie:

Arlen: “…Studios, we should sue them…”
Trumbo: “Yes brilliant! Keep losing. Give all your money away to lawyers.”
Arlen: “I’d rather lose for the right reasons.”
Trumbo: “Why! It’s still losing, you lose, I lose, we all lose! Don’t you see that. And the whole goddamn country stays scared and dead…Arlen we can do this, we can beat them, we can win.”
Arlen: “I don’t care if I win.”
Trumbo: “Bullshit, everybody wants to win.”
Arlen: “No you want to win, I want to change things.”
Trumbo: “I want to win so that I can change things.”

I often think that while in these larger than life rebellions against the system, we might see a lot more victories on the side of the good if every man fighting the good fight wasn’t so damn hung up on fighting it the right way.

The answer to that of course isn’t violence but a more insidious way of collapsing the system but showing the hypocrisy or two-facedness of it. Something that I learnt from Trumbo.

The Nature Of Loss
There is no war without loss and every fight has its repercussions, it changes the people who go through it. Also tragedy in some form or another is required for a good plot anyways. Aristotle argued that tragedy cleansed the heart through pity and terror, purging us of our petty concerns and worries by making us aware that there can be nobility in suffering. He called this experience ‘catharsis’.

What is fascinating me for in Trumbo is the nature of the loss he undergoes. Since this is a true story it is stranger and certainly more enchanting than most fiction. While the most cliched way of dealing with tragedy in conflict is to show how the protagonist becomes in one way or another the very thing he is trying to destroy. A cop who becomes corrupt to see justice done, a doctor who falls sick to the very virus he is trying to eradicate, etc. But Trumbo is special the nature of his loss is the dulling of the very faculties that he depends upon for his livelihood, it is a betrayal of his passion for what he loves to do, write. In the context of his life story after being driven away from the big studios, Trumbo finds employment writing the low budget, low brow Kings Brothers. At the same time he has to write under pseudonyms, being unable to collect two Oscars for his ghost written scripts. In the midst of this there is this beautiful scene where Arlen becomes in many ways the voice of his own passion for writing calling for fealty towards it. After Arlen botches a script about an alien bonking a farm girl by filling it with political references, this is the scene as it happens:

Trumbo: “…What the hell were you thinking?”
Arlen: “I was thinking, it’s why I am a writer. To say things that matter. Remember that, I was a reporter. I was nominated for a Pulitzer. I fought in Spain and I know Ernest Hemingway. I actually know him and he knows me. If I walk into a bar in Paris, maybe not my name but I’ll get a wave.
And you, you won the national fucking book award. I mean what are we doing?”

“I mean do you, do you ever miss writing something, forget great just good. I mean you must have ideas still, right?”

Imagine being a portrait painter in Florence, one of the finest, one with the most generous patrons and then to be reduced to a position where you have to paint road signs, the guy who paints those square lines on roads to demarcate lanes, to make a living and even those are being criticised for not being straight enough. The dulling of the senses is a particularly painful experience.

To reduce the very thing that makes one unique, the very thing that is the foundation of one’s self esteem and standing in society to purposefully take a blunt file and file away at it, to reduce it to rather pathetic ordinary standards would require an extraordinary amount of strength.

And yet Trumbo soldiers on, because to him this temporary period of producing garbage is a path to victory.

Irony As A Weapon

Perhaps the most difficult thing in the movie that Trumbo has to encounter is to keep quelling the insistent voice of Arlen which also mirrors to a very large extent some of his own voices that the audience would expect his character to possess. Especially when they decide to write a script for Buddy Ross a producer who has given testimony against them in closed court.

Trumbo: “This is going to be a very big movie and if Buddy gets a good script.”
Arlen: “Which you’re going to give him.”
Trumbo: “No, which I am going to sell him.”
Arlen: “For money, ‘cos that’s why we did all of this, right, it was for the money.

Trumbo: “Why can’t you not see this, if we get one big movie, we can get all the big movies. And this whole rotten thing could collapse on the sheer irony that every unemployable writer is employed.”

What I find brilliant in the scene is the use of Irony as a weapon, perhaps the greatest weapon there is to destroy a system from within. There is no defence it allows for, in its expose of the hypocrisy of injustice in this case.

Since the movie I’ve been thinking of employing irony as a weapon. Using actions that bring about a deliberate, pervasive sentiment of irony so strong that it wins the fight in your favour. That is precisely what Trumbo teaches us.

We’ve heard of “become the change you want to see in the world”. But what Trumbo shows us is becoming, manifesting an irony, changes the world itself.

– Percy Bharucha

(The author has been previously published in eFiction and eFiction India, Eastlit, Reading Hour, Gratis, The Madras Mag, The Ascent, The Creative Cafe, Invisible Illness, The Writing Cooperative, Bigger Picture, Hundred Naked Words, Be Yourself, Fit Yourself Club, Hopes and Dreams for the Future, Written Tales, Poets Unlimited and The Haven. He writes regularly on Medium and runs a bi-weekly comic strip called The Adult Manual. He also tweets infrequently at  @Sab_Bakwaas_Hai)

What The Movies Taught Me – Part II

Posted: October 30, 2017 by moifightclub in cinema
Tags: ,
The lure of a simpler narrative

Why we’re all hoping, we’ll wake up one day in a better story
What the movies taught me – II


Let me begin with a bit of context, while movies remain a source of entertainment, for most of us, I find them to be a remarkably accurate mirror of the human condition. So let’s take a long, good look at ourselves. This is the second piece in the What the movies taught me series. You can read the first post here.


The Dark Tower Copyright MRC, Columbia Pictures

I recently watched The Dark Tower, a science fiction film based on Stephen King’s novel series. While the movie seemed a not-too-out-of-the-ordinary usual action fare, what surprised me was the familiar twinge of jealousy and regret at not being the protagonist. Hoping one day I too would be called forth to a greater quest of world-saving proportions. A feeling that’s pretty commonplace when you walk out of hero-quest movies as I like to call them. An ordinary, everyday human is displaced from his ordinary life and is told he has a higher order purpose, that he and he alone is uniquely gifted to fulfil. And in the balance of which hangs the fate of the entire world/worlds/universes we know of. Which got me thinking that apart from the lure of being a hero why exactly is it that movies of a similar trope have such universal appeal.


THE  LURE  OF  A  SIMPLER  NARRATIVE

I think a lot of what the movie represents is the lure of a simpler narrative. There is something primitively alluring about being a simple kid with a simple, singular objective of destroying an evil sorcerer who has unlimited powers, while your only ally being a grumpy cowboy who’s been poisoned by an alien-monster-scorpion hybrid is rapidly deteriorating while having an endearing addiction to getting high on sugar drinks. Sounds simple enough.

You Can Do It GIFs - Find & Share on GIPHY

Compared to figuring your life out, making rent, working insane hours and the weekends, coming to terms with the fact that there is going to be nothing new or amazing about what you do, dealing with a quarter life crisis, while undergoing therapy for existential problems/impostor syndrome, coming to terms with never being able to find true love- considering giving in to your parents and signing up for that matrimonial site, realising adopting a pet was biting off way more than you could chew, missing staying at home but having your pride, the exhausting act of maintaining a facade of absolute carefreeness and YOLO-ness while silently undergoing bouts of FOMO- being secretly jealous of most of your friends successes and binging on online content every spare moment of the day ‘cos escape. Yeah I’ll take defeating sorcerers any time of the day.


There is an innate amount of freedom in not carrying the weight of determining your own narrative.

Like in the movie Jake Chambers is called to fulfil his destiny. The path is laid out in front of him like a three course dinner. Small monster appetisers in an abandoned amusement park, main course consisting of poached Padick (the Man in Black) and for desert the joy of leaving his old life behind to perform the most important task in the world, protecting the tower. I mean what more could you possibly give an eleven year old apart from a trustworthy mentor, purpose and extraordinary shine. While the rest of us eleven year olds were choosing whether we liked doing math or art, scarcely aware of the long term career ramifications of our choices. I’d give up anything to have a path laid out for me to walk on. It’s hard to question your life or your career choices when your job is literally holding the universe together, keeping it protected from the darkness that surrounds it. The joy of such a singular objective appeals to some part of our reptilian brain that doesn’t revels in the joy of not having to process any complexity for a change. The lens of decision making is devoid of its usual navigation amongst the shady lanes of grey that ordinary adult life requires. Imagine Jake as an adult, all he has to account for is will this attack the tower> kill it, will this protect the tower>protect it as opposed to Jake the adult human going, what could I post on Facebook today to get maximum likes?


THE  APPEAL  OF  THE  SUDDEN  AWAKENING

There is an act of vindicated joy that we all empathise with, when Jake is shown his world is the dream and the mid-world he enters through the portal is his reality. There is that little bit of hope, inside all of us that this can’t be it that finds validation. That our lives cannot be just about doing taxes, choosing stationery supplies and ordering takeout. That somewhere beyond all this mundaneness there is a place where we are needed. A sort of Inception inspired deception that, this is a dream and all we need to do is wake up to realise we were meant for greatness all along. I’ve romanticised it as much as the rest of you guys.

Aww GIFs - Find & Share on GIPHY

“I was right! I always knew I was meant for more than this!”

There is also a certain amount of appeal that the spontaneity of the transformation holds. One moment Jake is in his room doing his “delusional” drawings, the next moment the monsters wearing human skin have come for him and he escapes to Mid-World. There is no gradual change here, the appeal I guess of such sudden transformation is that we believe they it happen to us. Right! We don’t need years of prep for it, there is no waiting time, the next moment the monster-skin-people could come for any of us. There is that deceptive hope that that moment could happen to any of us, because all it takes is a moment for the shift to begin and for the dream to end. The spontaneity of it, is proof of its probability and we begin to anticipate that moment. I’ve certainly started looking for scars behind earlobes.


DEATH  ALWAYS  WINS

Stuff like that always gets you thinking about what you’ve been upto all this while. And rather than course correct or work even harder its totally human to just put your feet up and go, “well I’m still dreaming, they haven’t come for me yet.” It’s just reassuring to know and live with the hope that any moment the dream could end and then, then we shall be truly awake and all of this, all of this will just fall by the wayside, as we embrace who we were truly meant to be, all along. When we shall throw away the cloak of mediocrity that hid our own powers all this while and show to the world who we truly were.

Hero GIFs - Find & Share on GIPHY


After all, the desire to be in a story is all that drives us.
The desire to wake up one day and know that life is the dream.

– Percy Bharucha

(The author has been previously published in eFiction and eFiction India, Eastlit, Reading Hour, Gratis, The Madras Mag, The Ascent, The Creative Cafe, Invisible Illness, The Writing Cooperative, Bigger Picture, Hundred Naked Words, Be Yourself, Fit Yourself Club, Hopes and Dreams for the Future, Written Tales, Poets Unlimited and The Haven. He writes regularly on Medium and runs a bi-weekly comic strip called The Adult Manual. He also tweets infrequently at  @Sab_Bakwaas_Hai)