Archive for the ‘Documentary’ Category

Before you read this, let’s set the mood! 🙂 Just go and listen to the first 10 seconds of this (embedded below also) song. And then the next 10. And then the entire song, the verses as well.  And the interludes, especially the one at 3.08 sec.

It does something to you, right? Not at one place, but at thousand different places. Not one thing, a thousand different things. All those things carefully placed side by side or on top of each other or front and behind, all resonating against one another, the instruments and the senses they evoke, all combined into one rich, wild forest of music.

The first time I heard it, I went whoa, this is crazy! So carefree, so unique, so much banjarapan, so much more than Mehbooba mehbooba. I loved it! It was in cable TV times, CVO, I think. Had little clue who this R.D.Burman chap was, but knew he was somewhat special because Dad spoke highly of him and sister’s eyes began to shine when his songs played. Slowly, mine began too.

 

Manzil khoyi, dil bhi khoya milke aapse

That’s the thing with his music, it’s not about his prolificacy it’s about the richness that stays with you long after the song is over. Yet, on repeat listening, seems as fresh. So it feels it’s always been around yet it gives some new joy next time. Yes, it’s true, I must admit, of Chura liya hain tumne too, a song so ghisaoed that even Asha can’t make me listen to it anymore. But then sometimes, R.D. does, even today. I give in helplessly when the glasses start clinking mischievously. Ting ti-ding, ting ti-ding. R. D. is a sly musician, you know. Oh, did I say musician? I meant magician.

Years went by in the safe familiarity of his presence, never really actively sought though. The news of his passing had hit a dull spot, he wasn’t a potent memory, wasn’t attached to his music in my heart and mind yet. And then 1942, A Love Story happened. It rekindled all that sheer amazement I had when I heard Kaho kaise for the first time. Just that now I knew who this Burman chap was and promptly proceeded to fall in love with him; after his death and also much after I had fallen in love with his music.

Kaho kaise rasta bhool pade

It wasn’t until Jhankar Beats happened in 2003 that I actually realized this man is a cult in himself. And that he is still alive. Fourteen years later, watching that very fine documentary, Pancham Unmixed, reaffirmed this fact.

Just like R.D., this film seems to have been around me for the longest time. I happened to first know of it in 2009. I couldn’t watch it then, and it has crossed my path many times since and finally, like lost opportunities that are actually hidden boons, it fell in my lap the other day.

I’ve always wanted to understand the man and his music better but I didn’t go to know the technicalities of his music or the history of his life. I already knew what those who were closest to him thought and felt about him. So much is spoken of him everywhere you keep coming across these things all the time even if you are not looking. They are important of course, but yesterday I just wanted to feel the joy of knowing R.D., better, again. I wanted to feel that joy of familiarity and the joy of rediscovering him, again and again, just like I do with his music. Also watching old, favorite, Hindi films and film songs in NFAI gives an especially delicious, romantic kick. I went in smiling and came out crying.

Bahut door hoke bahut paas ho tum

I am a sucker for documentaries loaded with great artists and experts, especially Hindi film legends. Where else do you get to listen to so many great minds at the same time? There is a certain precision in their articulation and incisiveness in their observations that lends another dimension to the subject. The film is a huge knowledge base for R.D. Burman historiography but that is not the main reason it is important. There is something that binds the experts, friends, colleagues, and fans in the film and it is above the man or his music. It is the nature of their love for him; reverence, admiration, adoration, protectiveness, affection and a strange kind of happy-sad nostalgia of still feeling a man long-gone around them. It fills the film to the brim and I think it is this effusive romance of R.D. that makes the film far more valuable and memorable. It is this that I wanted to soak in and soak in I did, fully. It is this that told me that the man is still alive, and will remain alive now.

Actually, not exactly this. I had an inkling in June. A random FB post led to one song and that to another and for three whole days, I listened to these three songs non-stop, only three songs on loop, amazed yet again at the genius of this man. It made me so happy to listen to them I thought I will keep listening till I get bored. But it didn’t happen and I didn’t want it to happen either. There was this mad joy surrounding me and I was content to exult in it, the only thing I wanted to know, as always, was if the man knew how much happiness his music was still capable of spreading. Teer kya patthar bhi nahi haath mein dikhlane ko, kis ada se maare hain aapne deewane ko…And it all happened around his birthday and that was so maddeningly filmy I loved it even more. It was like he was around, taking me through the intricate, delicate joys of his music.

Koi mera…tujhsa kaha…

Pancham is a shared joy but a personal love, a very intimate bond, an individual connect each fan has with him, very similar but never the same. It’s like you will share your love story only with him, only he will get it. And get it he does, and how. And if you go to him when you have none he will give you one to dream about. A little like Shahrukh.

Those three to five days, as I was soaring up and down, in and out, this way and that on the tunes of O Meri Jaan, sharing love stories with RD, I kept thinking about the man who could do this. I got to know him much better through the film than the image I had created in my mind, it wasn’t different but it had holes. I had safely obscured his low phase from my mind. I had conveniently forgotten he may not have been as happy and happy-go-lucky as I like to imagine him. All of us want to remember him that way and the documentary affirms it loud and clear. My favourite image is him in his white shirt, white shoes, red muffler, red cap and sauve shades, sharing smiles of ever-lasting happiness with Asha Bhonsle, with just a hint of naughtiness as Katra katra plays in the background. That’s how I want to imagine he spent his entire life and is somewhere, even now.

Ek din bik jaayega maati ke mol

The image of the fallen R.D. still remains with me. A lot of the interviewees agreed he was ‘naïve’, and in his own words his ‘mind wasn’t understood well enough by those around him’. It was surprising but by the end of the film I knew he wasn’t naïve as associates think, nor a mad genius as fans want to believe, he was the most self-aware artist we will see.

And it is this self-awareness, more than his phoenix-like rebirth or a pied piper image, R.D. must have wanted to be known for, I think. Because only when your art is this self-aware can it flow so free, so fluid, so rich, so mysterious. Because only when your art is self-aware will you take great pains to stay with your melody and nurture it and nourish it, as Gulzaarsaab reminisces he liked to do, in Gulzar Remembers Pancham. Only when your art is self-aware will you blow bottles and trumpets with the same flair and only then will it be infused with that undying spirit of life, wriggling to be set free, that underlines every song of his.

The film introduced me to this R.D., scientist as much as an artist, maverick as much as disciplined, hero as much as human. I think it is possible that this very self-awareness told him that maybe he was too ahead of his times, and someday he would be understood better through his music. I think he let go early because he knew his music will live.

Tumne mujhe dekha hoke meherbaan

Almost 3/4th of the film is an effusive celebration of both the man and his music, detailed, descriptive, articulate and incisive – both in the observations and the weave of the film, the text and context, thematic relationship everything; bringing alive his persona and the palpable love for him. But when it comes to this part no one wants to acknowledge it, not even the film, it looks like. Suddenly no one has words; all that effusive articulation has evaporated. It is like even the film doesn’t know what to do…it lingers shortly, respectfully, on the wordless and graceful emotional moments, and leaves it in silence. As though gently laying a flower on R.D.’s memories in the same way Shammi Kapoor did on the memories of his beloved wife Geeta Bali, in that beautiful debut of R.D.’s … ruk gayi yeh zameen, tham gaya aasman… There was silence and stillness in the hall too.

It’s been three months and I still haven’t gotten bored of those three songs, life takes over from time to time but so does R.D., sometimes insistently, and I am happy to let him do so. After all, aisa sama na hota, kuchh bhi yaha na hota, mere humrahi jo tum na hote.

 Thank you for the music Panchamda 🙂

Fatema Kagalwala

the-unreserved

While watching Garath Davis’ film Lion last week, i was wondering why we don’t shoot the Indian Railways the way these firangi directors capture it in their films. Remember the thrilling sequence with the kid hanging upside down in Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire? Till 80s, we were still portraying the trains in our films. But now it’s limited to occasional chaiyya chaiyya or tap tap tippa.

And here comes an entire film set in our railways. Three friends – Samarth Mahajan, Rajat Bhargava, and Omkar Divekar embarked on a train journey covering a distance of about 25,000 km over a period of 17 days. They documented their stories on twitter too (click the thread embedded in post). Almost after a year, all these stories have turned into a film.

Here’s the trailer of the film

The film will be available online from 15th Feb.

amdavad-ma-famous

For some reason or other, we have been missing all the screenings of Hardik Mehta’s doc, Amdavad Ma Famous (Famous in Ahmedabad). The film has been doing the fest rounds and we have been reading a lot about it. And if you are in the same boat like us, here’s the good news – the film is out on Netflix now. Watch it.

Here’s a new trailer of the documentary

With Netflix’s acquisition for streaming this doc, hopefully it’s a start that will open more doors for good content without bothering about the length (short/full length) or format (non-fiction/doc). And that’s important because currently we don’t have any platforms where we can watch such films/docs.

Here’s Hardik Mehta looking back at the film’s inception and its journey so far –

Amdavad Ma Famous happened when I was in between assignments and quite restless with the AD life. I had assisted on Road Movie, Mausam, Lootera and Queen, and was desperate to explore my filmmaking skills. I’d directed a fiction short, Skin Deep. But what next? I didn’t want to sit around waiting for some inspiration or opportunity to strike; I just had to shoot.

So in January 2014, I thought of going to Ahmedabad to capture the old city pols (lanes) in stills, it wasn’t a commissioned assignment but a personal one, to rekindle the lost love of photographing a city.

Once there, I witnessed the euphoria that engulfs the whole city during the festival of Uttrayan. From six-year old kids to 60 year old seniors, everyone walking around with their eyes glued to the sky buzzing with hundreds of colorful kites. It was a surreal experience. It brought people from across age, class and community, on the same playing field, the terraces of old pol! That’s where I spotted Zaid. He was this skinny short boy in his gang, but his transformation into the leader of the pack when it came to chasing, catching and flying kites was fascinating. I asked him if it was okay if I shoot him. ‘Just don’t get in my way and stop me from chasing after kites!’ he quipped!

I had to catch up. I roped in ace cinematographer and dear friend Piyush Puty and we decided to follow him – see what it is like to be Zaid, running on the streets, scaling terraces, risking life and limb with single minded focus on his beloved kites!

We managed some great footage and cut a teaser, still looking for our story and funding. But with a little push from our friends, Puty’s enthusiasm and Producer Akanksha Tewari, we went back to Ahmedabad in 2015 with a bigger crew, a second unit cinematographer Harshbir Singh, location sound Pranav Kothi and Line Producer Nachiket Desai went back to Ahmedabad in 2015 with a bigger crew, a second unit cinematographer, and location sound. So for the 30-minute short, we shot for two years (2014-2015), following Zaid for three days each year during the festival of Uttarayan, and came home with some incredible footage.

But the edit was a bigger challenge in the film. It was during the five month process that I experienced how editing a documentary is like writing a screenplay for a fiction film. We had lot of visually appealing footage, but deciding what to keep out and the ‘right’ length of the film, was where I learnt (and grew) the most as a filmmaker.

I wanted to re-look at things I’ve grown up with, as if it was a story and I was trying to explore this fluidity of format when a real-life setting is presented as a narrative. I was lucky to have great advice from Nishant Radhakrishnan (Editor, Dhobi Ghat) and Vikramaditya Motwane (Director – Udaan, Lootera).

An insight that particularly worked for me was to edit the film like Zaid himself is telling his story to the world – his world through his eyes, using the craft, music and narrative true to his world.

Speaking of the learnings from Amdavad Ma Famous’ journey.

Firstly, the importance of good post-production – right from music to sound design to even a poster and film stills used for promotion, all of it matters and more so for a short! Because even a good short film can fall into the trap of amateur work if the post-production is not right.

For our film, we were sure to treat it as important as one would treat a fiction feature. I had an incredibly talented team – Alokananda Dasgupta’s music, Manoj Goswami’s Sound Design, and Arya A Menon coming on board as Producer, every bit contributed.

But my biggest learning has been the boldness to just go out there, get your hands dirty, shoot and make your film – The Werner Herzog rule. Duration, formats don’t matter, only the heart of the content does. And there are more ways than one to make your film reach out to its audience. There are global platforms willing to look at all kinds of content.

It was the same boldness that made us take our film to a global giant like Netflix, when no one was sure if they would even consider or take up a short doc like ours. Netflix showing faith in our content and picking it up has reinstated our belief in independent filmmaking. Thrilled to share that Amdavad Ma Famous is now streaming on Netflix, globally and continues its international film festival run.

I’m as much of an outsider as anyone wanting to make a film in our industry. I’ve seen talented ADs who keep waiting for producers and hovering around actors for the big break, but there is no point in wasting your life’s precious young years in Mumbai cafes. The big break will come, but when digital cameras have given us so much confidence and independence that it is an insult to this democratization of technology if you are not utilizing it in the meantime. There’s no point waiting your time, when your time is really now.

The Film Festival Journey:

We had limited exposure to the documentary festival circuit, and not many avenues to learn more from either. We started submitting the film and decided that wherever we get the first call from, we will take it up.

We started with Budapest International Documentary Festival, a fairly medium sized festival being put together by an incredible group of Filmmakers and film lovers. They loved the film and invited us to attend. That was the world premiere for us, and also our first win – we won the Best Documentary Jury Award at 2015 BIDF.

2015 Al-Jazeera International Documentary Film Festival, Doha, Qatar, was next and we won Best Documentary Jury Award there too. Followed by an amazing reception at 2016 MIFF, Mumbai where we won the Best Documentary and Best Editing Award. The double win at MIFF gave us a lot of confidence.

Of course, there were rejections from some prominent North American and European documentary festivals, but we kept at it. What really charged us up was the selection at HotDocs, Toronto and winning the National Award – Swarn Kamal as Best Non Feature Film for 2015.

As of now, Amdavad Ma Famous has travelled to film festivals spread across six continents over fifty cities and been lucky enough to pick up twelve awards on the journey too.

Hardik Mehta

Hardik Mehta’s documentary, Amdavad Ma Famous (Famous In Ahmedabad), bagged the National Award For Best Non-Feature film (Swarna Kamal) this year. Its next stop is the prestigious Hot Docs aka Canadian International Documentary Festival. The fest has put up the first trailer of the film.

Do check it out

AMFAnd here’s the official synopsis from the fest site –

Zaid is a playful kid with a love of kites that quickly spirals into an addiction. He starts skipping school, risking life and limb in traffic and trespassing on rooftops, all in pursuit of high-flying fun. Is he just being a kid—or is he becoming a criminal? A sublime social commentary on adult hypocrisy and childhood curiosity.

Crew

Director : Hardik Mehta
Producer : Arya Menon, Akanksha Tewari
Editor : Hardik Mehta
Cinematographer : Piyush Puty
Composer : Alokananda Dasgupta
Sound: Manoj Goswami
Website: https://www.facebook.com/amdavadmafamous/

 

junun

“जिसे जूनून ए मोहब्बत अता किया तूने”

मुझे कव्वाली से कुछ ख़ास लगाव रहा है। छुटपन में कुछ सुनी, अब याद नहीं कैसे कहाँ क्योंकि यादों पे बारिश की ओस जमी है। और बाद में तो ख़ैर शौक ही हो गया, इधर उधर सुन सुन के जैसे शौक बन जाते हैं। मैं आपको थोडा और अंदर ले चलता हूँ की क्यों मैं इससे इतना प्रभावित हुआ। दसवीं ख़त्म हुई थी, एक दोस्त का घर था जहाँ मैं अक्सर जाया करता था। “अबे ये सुन Stairway to heaven, इसे दुनिया का बेस्ट गाना माना जाता है”, इस तरह मेरा परिचय RocknRoll से हुआ। पिछले कुछ सालों से मेरा और कुछ दोस्तों का एक शौक रहा है, नए bands खोजना। और इसी का नतीजा है की एक दिन उसी दोस्त ने मुझे Radiohead के संगीत से मिलवाया। थोड़ी दिक्कत हुई इसे समझने में, पर कहीं न कहीं जुड़ गया मुझसे। Jonny Greenwood क्या चीज़ हैं यह मुझे PTA की ही THERE WILL BE BLOOD से पता चला। Shye Ben-Tzur के संगीत से मैं बिलकुल अंजान था, और जब मैंने उन्हें उर्दू में गाते सुना तो मेरे मन के सारे मेंढक मग्न हुए नाच उठे। मैं शायद आपको समझा न पाऊँ की क्यों मुझे कव्वाली पे नाचने के लिए जाम की ज़रुरत नहीं पड़ती, क्यों मुझे बिना नशा किये Pink Floyd सुनके अजीब ओ गरीब चीज़ें दिखाई देती हैं (और बेख़ुद कर देती हैं), क्यों मैं ISCKON के “प्रभुपाद प्रभुपाद” नाद पे झूम उठता हूँ, हालांकि न मैं उनके प्रभु को मानता हूँ न ही उन्हें। पर मैं यक़ीन से कह सकता हूँ की यह सब एक ही वजह से जुड़ी हुई हैं, मेरे विश्वास से की संगीत और सिनेमा खुद में पूरे हैं। उन्हें निरोध की ज़रुरत नहीं। आप संगीत को सिनेमा से मिला दीजिये और आपको एक पाक़ साफ़ फॉर्म मिलेगा। ‘JUNUN’ यही फॉर्म है।

मेरा मानना है की आर्ट को वैज्ञानिक की ज़रुरत होती है, पथ प्रदर्शन और नए प्रयोगों के लिए। मॉडर्न सिनेमा को जैसे मैंने जाना है, Paul Thomas Anderson मुझे इसके वैज्ञानिक मालूम हुए हैं। हर फ़िल्म एक दूसरे से जुदा, हर फ़िल्म तकनीकी तौर पे पिछली को पीछे छोड़ती हुई। शायद कोई फिक्स्ड स्टाइल न होना ही उनका स्टाइल हैं। तो मैं यह मानके तो गया ही था की JUNUN कुछ ख़ास होगी। Shye और Jonny Greenwood (Radiohead से एक अलग किस्म का प्यार है मेरा, उस band में सब individual genius भरे पड़े हैं) साथ में एक एल्बम बना रहे हैं, और PTA उसे फ़िल्म कर रहे हैं…अब इंसान बौराया नहीं ये सुनके तो दिल नहीं है उसके पास।

यहाँ हम जोधपुर के मेहरानगढ़ फोर्ट में इन कलाकारों को एक माँगणियार क़व्वाल समूह के साथ काम करते देखते हैं। मैं यह हलके में नहीं कहता, और मैं ये मानना चाहूँगा की मैंने काफी संगीत सुना है, पर मैंने ऐसा कुछ पहले कभी नहीं सुना। PTA के ड्रोन शॉट्स जोधपुर को एक नयी परिपक्वाता से देखते हैं। उनके हर फ्रेम में संगीत इस क़दर है की आप दोनों को जुदा करके नहीं देख पाएंगे। एक क़व्वाली, जिससे एल्बम का नाम मालूम हुआ है, ने थिएटर में बैठे सभी को उसी ताल पे ताली बजाने पे मजबूर कर दिया, उनमे से एक मैं भी था। सिनेमा और संगीत का संगम ऐसे बेकाबू कर देता है, मैंने अब जाना। 53 मिनट तक मेरे रौंगटे खड़े रहे, मैं इतना हल्का आदमी तो नहीं हूँ। बाहर निकल के नाचने का मन होने लगा। पर मैं नाच नही पाया, मैं कुछ हल्का आदमी हूँ। ख़ालिस तस्वीर जो होती है, उसमे आर्टिस्ट कहीं न कहीं खुद को बना देता है। यहाँ आपको एक अभिव्यक्ति दिखेगी जिसे आप PTA की पिछली हर फ़िल्म में देख सकते है, Shye aur Jonny के संगीत में देख सकते हैं, इन कव्वालों की ताल में देख सकते हैं। और यही जूनून है, यही मक़सद है, यही ख़ुदा है।

मैं बस इस बेमिसाल मेल को देख के, सुन के पागल सा हो गया, की मुझे अलफ़ाज़ नहीं मिले। अब आप कैसे बयाँ कर सकते हैं की कुछ चीज़ें आपके साथ क्या कर जाएँ ?

मैं तमाम उम्र शब्दों को चेहरा देते आया हूँ, हर शब्द मेरे ज़हन में एक तस्वीर उकेर देता है। अब मुझे कभी “जुनून” की तस्वीर नहीं बनानी पड़ेगी। मैंने उसे साक्षात देखा है। Shye, Jonny और मांगणियारों के संगीत में, PTA की नज़र से, JUNUN में।

कहाँ बुत गिरा, कहाँ चैन पाया
मैं कैसे सुकूँ को सहता हूँ,
बना फलसफा कुछ यूँ ही बड़बड़ाते
मुसलसल जुनूँ में रहता हूँ।

Bhaskarmani Tripathi

(Bhaskarmani Tripathi is a chronically depressed and दिलफेंक individual who wants to make his moments last. Has been called names more than he’s been called by his name, not that there’s anything wrong with it. Hates adjectives, loves Hindi and Urdu and Almost Famous. Believes Rock n Roll saved his life. Although never seen, this is one of his most favourite moments in cinema. Tweets at @bolnabey)

(You can watch the film at Mubi)

Now we have come to the last day of the fest. And continuing with our daily reviews and reccos, here are the notes from second last of Mumbai Film Festival, 2015.

Our Day 1 Wrap is here, Day 2 is here, for Day 3 click here, Day 4 is here and here is Day 5. And click here to read the post on Christopher Doyle’s Masterclass.

tag

Looks like this was my last day at MAMI as tomorrow is fully packed with deadlines and work-meetings. Always a sad feeling to see this week ending.  Kind of the same feeling i used to have when summer vacations ended during school.

And a good time to thank the people behind MAMI (including so many hardworking, lovely volunteers) for making it such a brilliant show this year. I know some filmmakers were unhappy with projection and tech issues but i don’t think in terms of management and movie options we’ve had a better year recently. A few things that worked big time for me this year:

– Hot Docs collaboration as well as other docs. The Pearl Button, Missing people, Junun, Monty Python, The Greenpeace doc, Sydney Lumet, Placebo, Fassbinder, Hong Kong Trilogy, The Arab Idol one.

– Half Ticket section. Did you know school kids were coming daily morning 8:30 am to watch films? And some really great films at play there.

 – The ticketing process. No SMS ka jhanjhat and very smooth handling by BMS people while delivering the delegate passes. Also the bags look lovely this year.
– Doyle Q&A and masterclass. Hope next year we have more of (crazy) legends coming to impart their madness.
Caught just 3 films today.

Junun By Paul Thomas Anderson

THE Paul Thomas Anderson last year filmed a documentary in (our) Rajasthan about a bunch of western musicians (Shye Ben Tzur and Jonny Greenwood) jamming for an album with local Managniyar singers (Chugge Khan group), a brass band (that band-leader Aamir is a magician), and some bawaal qawwals. The result is this most simple yet exhilarating documentary full of some stunning songs and visuals of the jamming process. It was almost like being in a live concert! BRILLIANT.

Sworn Virgin by Laura Bispuri

This Albanian film was a blind selection and it turned out to be very good. A slightly grim but always gripping look at female sexuality through a girl who starts living like a boy through a local village custom that would allow her an escape from the life of subjugation women have to face.

Monty Python – The Meaning Of Live by Roger Graef, James Rogan

What a way to end the festival’, I told myself as we were stepping out after watching this. Monty Python has been one of the huge influences of my life as a comedy writer, and to see this film about their reunion stage shows last year (which were the LAST TIME EVER they would get together) was an emotional journey. The finest, funniest men have still got their mojo and the film has great insights about comedy and performing live. (One of the original six, Graham Chapman is now dead so the reunion show was called ‘One down, five to go’. Haha.) The vintage footage from their world tours 40-years ago was a bonus. Of course this film is kinda niche, only for the fans of the group, but what a trip for the real fans!

Varun Grover

Schneider V/s Bax By Alex Van Warmerdam

Hitman V/S Hitman. Dead Pan Faces Delivering dark humour punches. In a very unusual lakeside universe set up by Warmerdam, he keeps shuffling the environment of the film from comedy to thriller without letting you know. Acting himself as bax, Warmerdam’s weird family This one has brilliant Performances and some unpredictably brilliant moments.

The Pearl Button‎ By Patricio Guzmán

Guzmán’s Pearl Button is a gem of a documentary. He connects nomadic indigenous ‎people living in water with political murders thrown in the same water. Both the subjects are very disparate and hence the documentary is somewhere a bit too ambitious. However, attractive images of water and equally intriguing discussions on Pinochet’s cruel documentary made the pearl button a gem worth watching.

Tag By Sion Sono

Sion sono’ love for undergarments continues in this upskirt horror. But there was more to this film than the usual mayhem. Tag is a completely pro feminist ‎action fantasy by Japanese legend Sino Sono. It was an experience to watch this film on large screen because it was way too extreme for the mainstream because in this gory madfest Mitsuko keeps tripping like Alice from wonderland. And she ends up attracting grindhouse style danger everywhere. Mitsuko later trips into keiko and izumi but still remains prone to danger.
‎The scene in the beginning where the wind splits the bus into two and the one where teachers start killing children with machine guns are complete Sion Sono signature styled scenes filled with excitement and thrill.

Tag has by far been one of the top films I have seen at the festival this year.

Victoria by Sebastin Schipper

Rest in peace, Birdman. The real deal is here. Victoria, a bank robbery thriller already sets hearts pacing as it is a 134 minute long single take. ‎Sounds like a stunt. Or a digitally manipulated virtual wonder but it is not. Victoria is an achievement. It is an exhilarating experience to watch this single take film across more than 20 loacations including some crazy nightclub scenes later leading to edge of the seat drama. The narrative is so tightly binded that the film moves from head spinning weird nighclub moves to composed and realistic scenes to breath taking robbery thrill. Actors, Cinematographer and others involved were in action for a continuous 2 hours and above.

There is no doubt as to why Sturla Grovlen’s name preceded the end credits in this mad mad mad film. Take a bow, Sturla. What presence of mind throughout.

Harsh Desai

We have been tracking Abhay Kumar’s films for quite some time now. We had written about his short on the blog, and in earlier edition of MFF, when his another short was in Dimensions section, we had predicted his win too. Interestingly, this year he is back with a feature-lengh documentary, Placebo. And what a joy it is see a filmmaker making an impressive debut as he graduates from shorts to feature. One can easily spot some of the similar patterns in all his shorts and documentary.

And here’s Achyuth Sankar‘s review post on the film. This is his first post here.

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We’ve all thought about the question, “What are the few things you absolutely cannot live without?”. For me, and all of them in equal importance (I’m not going to write the obvious things like food, water, air, etc), they are cinema, and a few really wonderful and beautiful people, some friends, some family. Cinema figures that high in my list, as it does in the lives of more than a few people I know.

At 6:30pm today, in a house full screening at MAMI, I gave 90 minutes of my life to that cherished thing which I can’t live without, cinema. It was a documentary called Placebo. It’s about the one of the most prestigious colleges in India (not any IIT, I’d rather not get into any more specifics), where the filmmaker’s brother is studying. The brother gets into a serious accident, and during his recovery, the filmmaker decides to stay in his brother’s hostel and document the lives being led there, in an attempt to understand what led to that accident (I won’t be referring to it as an accident any more, it was a self inflicted hurt, severe hurt). He follows the lives of four people in the said hostel, seemingly without any greater aim. Sometimes, a story chooses its storyteller, especially when it’s a story that needs to be told, and that is what happens to the documentarian here. The lives he begins to document shape up to be a small, but essential picture about the lives of students who have chosen the path of the elite by joining there. People are pressurized, or they’re not. Sometimes, they stumble into the doorstep of a revered institution with lofty dreams, but to many of them, simply making it there summarizes their dream. What does one do after that? What does one do when they have no idea where to go? What guidance does one get?

I was contemplating, while driving back home, why do most of the absolute greats of cinema talk about serious things like depression, disconnect, alienation, fear. Why not happiness? The question has come up many times before, but no answer till today. It is because.. when things are good, when we are happy, we are already ready to share. But when things are going down the shit hole, not even a handful of us can talk about it and admit “Hey, I’m fucked up and I need help”. That’s why it is so much more potent, when a film talks about things that nobody likes to, wants to or knows how to talk about. Suddenly, we feel a resonance within that isolated corner of our mind.

That’s what Placebo is.

That slight resonance, which reminds us of the importance of our own feelings. But more than that, it talks about something a lot more. It’s a documentary, with the filmmaker going to a college to understand why his brother hurt himself as badly. But a story that needs to be told chooses its own storyteller, and this college, and the stories of all the students who’ve lived there, chose this filmmaker. One shocking suicide after another, and it’s no longer just about a personal exploration, it’s about all of us. All of us who’ve studied, who’ve felt pressurized. All of us who, I dare say, can’t even begin to imagine the true extent of desperation, where the phrase “give up” doesn’t mean settle for lower grades or go to a less reputed institute. All of us who have been lost, at one point or the other, looking at the sea of people around us filled with genius, as we catch ourselves wondering “How the fuck am I going to make a mark in all of this?”.

There is one particular part in the film, where a character says something along the lines of “We are all isolated. You’re here talking to me, but I’m isolated inside and you’re isolated inside. My words aren’t my exact thoughts. But only I understand my isolation. You know the fucked up part? You think you understand, but you don’t.”

Placebo is truly a story that begs to be told. You can see it evolve in itself. The original intent of the filmmaker wasn’t to talk about student suicides or the casual indifference of college management or depression. It was merely an investigation, a very personal one at that. But as the story begins to tell itself through the storyteller, you won’t care about the change of course. Because the story needs to be told, and we all need to let it.

Romanticism aside, it took (in the filmmaker’s own words) a 1000 hours of handycam footage and constant questioning of intent to bring out this 90 minute long story. 1000 hours, vs 90 minutes. To look for that story which has revealed itself to you, and to do it justice, that’s no easy task. Because it’s not something you’ve concocted in your head, it’s all there. It’s all already there. The loss of aim, loss of hope and dreams, the crisis of faith and loss of ideals, the pressure, loneliness and depression that we students face. It’s all there. We don’t know how to talk about it. This film just showed us how to.

There was approximately a 3 minute standing ovation at the end of the film, followed by a Q&A session. In it, someone asked the filmmaker about how personal the subject was, and how he could keep filming while everything was so close, especially since his own brother was severely hurt. The filmmaker said that whether we like it or not, when we hold a camera, it will create a barrier. That’s the price one has to pay for the story. You’re in it, you’re affected by it, but you’re still separated by that invisible inch.

Abhay Kumar is that filmmaker, and he stayed in the hostel of that college for two whole years, filming as much as he could. He and his partner in crime (his own words, not mine), Archana Phadke then spent another year finding the needle in the haystack, and all the other needles too, in order to tell this hard hitting story. If there is one thing, and absolutely one thing I can learn from this, it’s “Get a camera and go make a fucking movie. It takes a lot of effort, but what’s stopping you?”

Abhay, you’re honestly one of the best filmmakers out there at the moment. I haven’t made a single piece of cinema, I don’t know how it’s done, I’m no authority. But films mean a lot to me, you’ve just made it mean more.

Thank you so much.

Achyuth Sankar

(PS – You can watch Abhay’s shorts here (Just That Sort Of A Day) and here (Life Is A Beach)

(Born in Trivandrum and having spent his last 8 years in Bombay, Achyuth discovered his love for cinema here, thanks to affordable unlimited internet plans. His pass times are blowing up all his savings on purchasing Blu Rays, going for a morning show at some PVR, or eating good food and having a cold Bud. He moonlights (or rather, daylights) as a final year Engineering student, with a severe love for Harley Davidson motorcycles. He fell in love with movies after watching Good Will Hunting. The only thing he loves as much as cinema is his Labrador, Cindy)