Archive for the ‘film review’ Category

Amit Masurkar’s new film Newton had its world premiere at the ongoing Berlin International Film Festival. Here’s all the buzz about the film from the fest.

(click on any of the pic to start the slide show)

Finding humour in the tenuous nature of democracy might be a hard task on the global stage at present; however, in Newton’s darkly comic exploration of one official’s attempt to uphold the election process in India, it’s simpler than it sounds. The second film from writer/director Amit V Masurkar bows in Berlinale’s Forum section with a sense of chaos and absurdity, while remaining aware of the drama of reality. When the feature emphasises either extreme, it proves engaging viewing.

–  From Screen Daily’s review. Click here to read the full review.

– Rajeev Masand’s video-blog on the film –

 

Newton is a very important film, despite its satirical tones, laced with a lot of humour and irony. It is a film that should make viewers think about how important their right to cast a vote is.

– from Aseem Chhabra’s report on the film. Click here to read the full report

Newton is a brave attempt. Because it uses the feature film format to tell a story about on-going violence and exploitation and cynical political aggrandisement : anytime you hear the words Naxal, or Maoist in a film, it falls into the tried and tested formula. Newton breaks that mould, refreshes hardened tropes, and makes us smile and think. Really hard. Because what effects India Interior today will one day ripple over and claw its way into our complacent urban, mall-infested enclaves.

– from Indian Express. Click here to read the full report.

– Some tweets on the film:

(pics taken from Twitter)

mfc-mami-v3

4 days down, 3 more to go. So this post is about all the films that we saw on Day 4 of the Mumbai Film Festival. If you are looking for reccos and reviews, our Day 1 wrap is here, Day 2 is here, and Day 3 is here.

elle
Hounds Of Love

Ben Young’s debut feature HOUNDS OF LOVE, about a couple that kidnaps and kills wayward teenagers together meet their match when one victim recognizes the fracture between them, is one of the greatest genre films I’ve seen this year. The film plays out like a relentlessly thrilling version of Fede Alvarez’s Don’t Breathe, with the setpieces substituted for drama, depicting a very textbook situation of domestic abuse and gaslighting. The framing is gorgeous throughout coupled with some truly inspired music choices and there’s some magnificent acting by Emma Booth and Stephen Curry as the serial killer couple.
I think the meagre similarities it has with Don’t Breathe is the reason the producers haven’t been marketing it much, but it is an absolutely stellar thriller and Ben Young has announced himself as a talent for us genre fans to keep tabs on. Must watch.

The Similars

I went into this Mexican film by Izaac Ezban completely blind, knowing nothing about it except for it being science fiction. A loving Twilight Zone, 70’s B Horror homage, the film plays it straight for the first forty or so minutes before a completely bonkers twist changes everything. This film has basically a single visual gag, probably conceived by the director while he was high, and milks it to death. But it mostly works every time they play it simply because of how absolutely bonkers it is. The script is absolutely wacko, but oh so clever. It has a beautiful internal logic that always makes sure you’re involved and always keeps you guessing. Highly recommended for scifi and horror geeks.

– Anubhav @psemophile

The Untamed

Twisted, trippy, hypnotic and an absolutely insane experience. “Heli” director, Amat Escalante backs a strong, suspenseful family drama with an alien invasion twist. A very smartly written story about a dysfunctional family and how they get further destroyed after a comet attack. Unlike his previous film, which was an extremely graphic representation of the Mexican drug war, here Escalante keeps his style very simple. The writing here is very strong and at no point do the visuals over power the story. With a basic approach like, lock-off frames, subtle and almost desaturated colours, minimal yet very ambient score Escalante manages to keep us on the edge throughout. A twist at every stage, constant change of dynamics between characters prepares you for the big reveal. A new kind of horror!

Barakah Meets Barakah

A rom-com from Saudi Arabia that may not be a new story for us but if one looks at it contextually, the filmmakers have pushed the envelope to make a statement about censorship and freedom of choice. For example, there are pixelation jokes which turns real when you realise a lot of it was not done for the film but that’s how advertising is over there and that’s a big part of the narrative. Director Mahmoud Sabbagh keeps the tone consistent which makes this film easy to watch. Right from the first slate, he is constantly making a statement but in a comedic way. “Barakah Meets Barakah” is a breezy, satirical rom-com that should be the last film you watch at MAMI to gear you up for “Ae Dil Hai Mushkil”.

Mihir @mihirbdesai

I Called Him Morgan (Kasper Collin, 92 mins)

If you read more about Lee Morgan – a famous Jazz trumpeter who was shot dead by his wife when he was only 33 – you might get a completely different picture from what this documentary paints. Somewhat shaken by the film – which is a bit too long by at least 20 minutes – I delved a bit deeper into his life. One of the most popular long reads about the case is subtitled: “Lee Morgan’s young life was stopped short by a toxic romance with a woman who saved him, then shot him dead.” If, however, you watch this movie, you’ll come away with a conflicted, yet sympathetic view of Helen Morgan, Lee’s wife who shot him in a moment of madness on a harsh winter night in New York. (It was snowing so badly that the ambulance could get to him only after an hour.) If you love jazz, this film not only paints a fine picture of the life of young Lee Morgan — famous so quickly, and then gone so soon — but also of “Black classical music”. But most of all, this documentary works because it serves to re-steer the narrative in a kinder, more complex direction than that of the “bitch” who killed the most famous trumpeter of the century.

The Salesman (Asghar Farhadi, 125 mins)

Let me begin by saying that The Salesman has the most misleading IMDb summary ever. Second, the presence of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman in the background is a mere contrivance that finds reflections in the lives of the protagonists. Ultimately, I found the movie to be about troubling and complex moral questions that have no clear answers: the ‘duty’ of a husband in ‘being a man’ and avenging an assault on his wife vs the wife’s agency in wishing to forget it or forgive the assaulter; the uncomfortable undertones that suggest the woman has fared worse than is being admitted; how to deal with an unlikely assaulter who seems to have little agency of his own. As in Farhadi movies, the woman is not a pawns or bystander, but a plot-mover. The movie somewhat falls prey to its director’s reputation — as well as to the presence of actors who have worked with Farhadi in the past. Unlike what you might hear from many fest-goers, it isn’t actually a bad film — or even a weak one. In fact, if you haven’t watched a Farhadi film before, or have watched only a couple of his best-known ones (I am one of those), this film manages to lend many moments of quiet musing.

Shubhodeep @diaporesis

Elle

Paul Verhoeven’s Elle is a fucked up fantasy thriller of a raped women looking for revenge. Michèle is the CEO of a leading video game company, who is raped in her house by an unknown assailant, whom she tracks down and they are both drawn into a curious and thrilling game.  It is a courageous character study of a woman who refuses to be a victim. In our extremely misogynist society, a sexually assaulted woman is alienated; emotionally, mentally and physically. Verhoeven takes all such retrogressive ideas, puts them in a bag and throws them out of the viewer’s reach. He subverts stereotypical behaviour of a raped person and instead puts the women in command to avenge the attack against all manipulative forces. This is that rare progressive film where the character treats rape as an accident. No izzat, aabroo bullshit. Where have we seen a woman pleasuring herself a few days after being assaulted. Silently and with a lot of inner strength, Elle made me feel powerful.

– Shazia @shazarch

Rape revenge comedy – the phrase may sound incongruous but in the hands of an able director, all things discordant find a  coherence. This is the case with Paul Verhoeven’s new film, Elle. Bold and bizzare, the humour only elevates the film. Verhoeven delights in unsettling the audience. You will find yourself laughing throughout and then uncomfortably questioning your beliefs/assumptions about assault/rape victims amongst many others.  Something as serious as the act of rape that we see at the onset slips into the background but we see its implications like that elephant in the room. The indestructible Michelle makes for a terrific character study – psychotherapists would have a field day deconstructing her. Isabelle Humpert delivers an electrifying performance. Not an easy watch, it is difficult to embrace its ironies. You might take a while to truly process if Elle is an empowering film. One line will stay with you for long, ‘Shame isn’t a strong enough emotion to stop us doing anything at all’.

Dipti @kuhukuro

The Unknown Girl

One word to sum this film up is “disappointing”. The Dardenne brothers are known for their dialogue heavy, slow moving character dramas that work so well because of the emotional tension flowing right from the start. The premise of this film is extremely intriguing and ripe with potential – a doctor goes around looking for the identity of a Jane Doe who died so that she can give her a burial and notify her family. Why was it disappointing? The extremely slow pace, the lack of tension. The intrigue was there, but the urgency, the sheer need that propels a character to do what she does, that barely came across. I found myself struggling to stay awake.

Hounds of Love

An Australian film about a serial killer couple whose MO was to pick up one girl at a time, a girl who’s walking alone in the streets, and then kidnap her, torture her and dump her body. The film does have predictable tropes, that of emotional abuse, that of a dominating man and a submissive woman. The plot is straightforward, and if you’ve seen enough films, you’ll see the ending coming. What you won’t see coming is the way the story is told, from its excellent framing to its brilliant use of slow motion, and most of all, its even more brilliant use of music in pivotal and spine chilling moments. Bolstered by brilliant performances all round, this film is an example of fine horror filmmaking.

Elle

Paul Verhoeven’s return to prime form, the less said about this film, the better. It is as mindfuck as mindfuck gets, with the main character herself voicing our thoughts, “This is twisted, isn’t it?”. Twisted doesn’t even begin to cover it. If I mention anything about the plot, it’ll just take the surprise away, because there are so many of those sprinkled throughout the film. Isabelle Huppert shines through and through as the titular character, and while this film deals with the topic of rape, I doubt whether any film has dealt with the topic the way this film has. This film spins a whole new definition of “twisted”, and it does so effortlessly. Fine filmmaking indeed.

Achyuth Sankar

Lost in Paris

A cute little slapstick, the kind that are rarely seen at festivals. Fiona travels from Canada to meet her aunt Martha in Paris but loses her luggage in a freak photography accident. How she finds (or doesn’t find) Martha, is the rest of the simplistic film about. Charlie Chaplinesque and vaudevillian, some of the gags are excellent and the overall good-natured love story is a heart candy.

The Salesman

Farhadi saab is back with another domestic thriller but this time the results are mostly middling. Or are we too used to his style by now and expect more surprises now? In any case, the depth of his last 4-5 films was missing from this one, in spite of his lead performers giving God-level output yet again.

Neruda

Pablo Larrain is in the middle of a fucking wide purple-tinted patch of his artistic vision and NERUDA has the gene-code of all the daring such patches bring. Shot on digital (the only grouse), about a state cop chasing the ‘commie’ poet in Chile, the film evolves into a strange beast of its own – a mix of poetry, novel, memoir, and alternate history. The poet and his ideals stand in stark grey zone, while the half moron, half idiot cop becomes the idealistic centre of the story as it proceeds. Imagine Narcos minus drugs plus poetry, and written by Marquez. Absolute, emphatic win.

वरुण @varungrover 

I Called Him Morgan

About the life and times of the Martin Luther King of hard bop- Lee Morgan, his relationship with his wife Helen and eventual death, this docu should’ve been a 20 min film, instead of the 90 min affair it was. There’s just not enough material. I’d rather this had been a doc about the Jazz music, or as they like to call it “Black classical music”, of the era.

The Similars

This campy, laugh out loud funny, ajeeb sin city-esque horror sci fi is a great film, and you don’t need to know anything else about it. There’s one more show of the film on 5 day. Watch!

Hounds of Love

Nobody makes genre films and then puts a spin to it, like the Koreans and the Autralians. Ben Young’s Hounds of Love one such distressing drama that is brilliantly made. Subverting the usual nihilist tale, by focussing on domestic abuse in relationships and treating its characters, good or bad, with uncanny empathy is what makes Young’s film stand out. Brilliant cinematography and soundtrack, stunning film.

Bhaskar @bolnabey

417 Miles

Mumblecore about two friends meeting each other after college — one went on to make films, other pursued his US dream. Plot points come in expository manner; they talk about things just for the sake of talking in a mumblecore film — not asking for profoundness but there’s nothing much to hold on. Few scenes are thought well (on paper) and the road trip takes you to quite serene locations but it is shot like a film school project. Low-budget issues, I know, but should that be the reason to give a leeway? Only if the film had scored in the content department…  And, oh, there’s also a tribute to the legendary PFC blog.

Autohead

Mockumentary involving a film crew following an aggressive and sadist Mumbai rickshawala. The politics of the film is quite debatable but the film is so self-aware. The filmmaker – subject interaction/intervention makes it walk the fact-fiction thread line, and the actors play along that line brilliantly. Solid, confident direction.

Barakah Meets Barakah

The opening slate of the film about the pixellation done in the film is the most hilarious joke in the film. Saudi Arabia’s Oscar entry is a satirical take on the religious censorship in the country. The scenes where the protagonist compare the liberalism of the state over the years feel little forced in and borderline preachy. Also, looks like the film goes for an easy resolution with a slight contrivance. Still, likeable fun.

Anup @thePuccaCritic

 

Nobody knew Nagraj Manjule when his debut feature, Fandry, released. It got rave reviews and made it to our “Must Watch” list. Our recco post on Fandry is here. But this time there was lot of expectations from him as Sairat is his second feature. He delivers and how! Here’s our recco post on the film by Dipti Kharude.

The film has released all over with English subs. Don’t miss.

sairat-hero copy

As I write this, I’m listening to the heady soundtrack of Sairat. The feeling of being in a music video with a bright Dupatta fluttering behind is hard to shake off. That is the naivety of love and that is our good, old desi way of spinning a yarn. We have perhaps forgotten that song and dance can make important contributions to the narrative of our films. They can accentuate agony and ecstasy, introduce characters, and allow them to express themselves in a way that would sound contrived as dialogue. In that vein, Ajay-Atul are to Sairat what Irshad Kamil has been to Imitiaz’s films, and more. (They have composed the music, written the lyrics and sung songs for the film).

In Sairat, the boy gets a song, the girl gets another and then there’s a duet. The last song, which is a prelude to the ugly turn of events is also a subtle nod to the Romeo-Juliet balcony scene where the protagonist, Archie, daughter of the powerful upper caste Patil is dancing in the veranda upstairs and Parshya, a fisherman’s son from the Pardhi community is dancing outside the house. This, like many other visuals establishes a hierarchy without screaming ‘caste’. Manjule uses this dreamy narrative to set us up. He pulls us in with promises of hackneyed romantic epics only to shows us the realities that were missing in films like QSQT and Saathiya.

Films are not about issues but about people living their lives. Good stories are the ones where the theme is subliminal. Sairat doesn’t go gently into the night, though. Manjule’s fiery outrage is muted in the first half only to smack us in the gut at the end. Its triumph lies in the fact that Manjule doesn’t depend on an art house aesthetic to create this impact. He relies on mainstream cinema to do the job.

In the most familiar tropes, he manages to question norms.

It is refreshing to see a girl in a rural set-up drive a tractor and be the knight in shining armour spouting quips like “Marathit samjat nai, tar English madhe sangu?” (If you don’t understand what I’m saying in Marathi, should I repeat it in English?) If the first half were a Bhai film, she would be Salman. Manjule subverts by making Sairat more about the heroine’s quest than that of the hero’s. This film makes you revise your image of small-town/rural girls. They want to take agency over their own lives. The female gaze in Sairat is not the terrible flip side of the usual hetero male gaze, which typically fetishizes women. It is like a celebration of female desire.

He creates joyous moments in the hinterlands of the Solapur district of Maharashtra. This milieu is almost conspicuous by the lack of it in Bollywood – a ladder to climb the makeshift pavilion during a match, the privileged son cutting his birthday cake with a sword, a lady barging unapologetically on the field during a cricket match and yanking her son away to keep watch over the livestock and the unfurling of a courtship against the backdrop of wells and sugarcane fields.

In Sairat, the issue of ‘casteism’ is not at the forefront but its consequences are. The privilege of being the daughter of an upper caste strongman empowers Archie to be badass. Despite the entitlement, Archie endears with her rebellion. She is unabashedly flirtatious and brandishes a raw frankness. She reprimands Parshya for referring to his physically inadequate friend as ‘langda’, in jest. Manjule is interested in dismantling many other structures where the contours of discrimination may change but the hierarchical outlook stays the same. It is this advantage that Archi struggles to relinquish in the second half. Once she frees herself of the power that comes with privilege and strives on an equal footing with Parshya, she evolves.

While doing all of this, Manjule does not strike a single false note. Archie may have valiantly used a gun while escaping but that doesn’t prepare her to drink unfiltered water. The scene where Archie and Parshya quench their thirst after disembarking the train is telling.

In the gritty second half, the main characters come undone with their frailties. Even the charming Parshya succumbs to his insecurities. Slow motion sequences are traded in for rapt stillness and silences. They begin to realize their happily-ever- after dream and are even economically empowered to buy a flat in a more egalitarian city.

Apparently, class inequality is surmountable but it is the caste inequalities that cast a long shadow.

SPOILER ALERT

Honour killing is a common narrative but Manjule draws you in and makes you drop your guard. You can sense the robust command over his craft when you laugh during an awkward scene just before the ghastly climax.

ALERT ENDS

The more diverse ways we have of telling mainstream stories, the more likely audiences will find something that speaks to them. What better way to spur a discourse?

Dipti Kharude

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*LOTS of spoilers*

“Hello Jack, Thanks for saving our little girl.” says Joan Allen upon seeing her grandson Jacob Tremblay (who play Jack so astonishingly that you want to cleave through the screen and smother him with hugs and kisses) for the first time in a hospital. This line defines the heart of the film. How a 5 year old kid saves his mother’s life. That is what the film is about, not about their heroic escape from the clutches of a psychopath.

A kid that came into being 2 years after his mother became a sex slave, and had been held captive for two years. He talks to the inanimate objects in the room (Good morning ‘lamp’, Good morning ‘sink’, Good morning ‘chair’), talks to his imaginary dog, does stretches with his mother to keep his muscles agile, listens to the ‘Big Rock Candy Mountain’ that his mother sings for him, makes toys with egg shells, and celebrates his birthday with a cake without candles, and stares out of the skylight where aliens live. That is what he’s been doing for 5 years until one fine day his mother decides that its about time he escaped. The instructions are clear – “Wiggle out, jump, run, somebody.”

He is scared shitless coz he literally has not seen anything out of that room and he is 5 years old! His world was a small room with a bed, wardrobe (where he was supposed to hide when ‘Old Nick” visited Mom, the name aptly refers to the devil as I read somewhere), a bathtub, a chair-table and a TV with bad reception. He literally is not aware that there exists a world outside these four walls full of trees and dogs and people and oceans and endless earth, which is round, he later gets to know confounded by the fact that if it is, why we don’t fall off. So when Mom tries to tell him the truth, he screams. (a scene he had the most difficulty performing)

She was all of 17 when this happened, she tells him, when she was tricked to fall down down down this rabbit hole. She tells him of Grandma’s house with a backyard and a hammock. He understands her story, coz he is five (Jacob was actually 7 at the time of the shoot) now. He is a grown up boy capable of understanding complex things, is what she makes him believe so that he can escape. And the moment he does, your heart, along with Mom’s, skip a beat. You literally want to run and save that kid from this monster driving the truck. Jack’s eyes, the moment he comes out of the carpet, are going to haunt me for a long long time.

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Ideally, this is where a conventional film would have ended. The kid escapes, saves his mother with the help of the police, and they live happily ever after, but that is where this film actually starts, and post their escape it is an intense emotional rollercoaster ride that leaves you gasping  for air by the time it ends.

“You’re gonna love it.” She tells him.

“What?” he asks.

“The World” she says.

But what she didn’t know that will she be able to love it?

“I am supposed to be happy.” says Joy (Brie Larson, I would not mind you taking that trophy home, at all.) to her mother at the beginning of a heated argument. She doesn’t know how to deal with her freedom. Everything has changed, from her own family to the world around her. People moved on, life went on. Living for 7 years in a contained space with a crushing hope that one day you might be able to look as far as your eyes can see instead of an impenetrable steel wall four feet away can leave you with severe PTSD. Plus she is worried about her child. She wants him to play with toys and connect with people, of which he is not capable of, not yet. Her mother and step father (Tom McCamus, a brief but wonderful cameo) are patient. They know he will come around, but Joy is impatient, and her interview with a news channels doesn’t really help things.

This film, in terms of narrative, explored an unchartered territory. We are used to seeing the victorious (or sometimes failed) escape of our heroes and that’s when the credits starts to roll. We are not used to seeing these people getting assimilated in the world again, and that’s where the magic lies. Showing us the struggle of Joy and Jake getting used to ‘space’ is where Emma Donoghue’s screenplay shines bright. For Jake, it’s easier coz he is still ‘plastic’ (read moldable) as per the doctor (“I am not plastic” he opposes in Ma’ ear) but Ma is not plastic, and she has to deal with not only her own loneliness but Jake’s as well.

The world is too much for Jake. He can’t handle this vast expanse of nothingness around him at such a tender age (“There’s so much of place in the world. There’s less time because the time has to be spread extra thin over all the places, like butter.”). He, at multiple times, asks if they can go back to the room coz he misses it sometimes. They do visit it one last time before saying their final goodbyes. “Say Bye to the room, Ma” tells Jake to Ma, and Brie Larson lets out an almost silent “Bye Room” under her breath. This time they don’t see the Room as the world they inhabited for 5 years but as a cell stripped off of everything that could have reminded them of their past. The flush, Jack’s ocean with boats and ships is gone, and so is the bed and mattress on which they used to sleep. The door is ajar, and the kitchen is ruined. This cathartic visit ends their ordeal coz Room literally doesn’t exist anymore.

The film leaves you emotionally drained with wet eyes and a runny nose but happy. Happy to have witnessed such an incredibly moving parable of an inexplicably strong bond between parent and child. This film rests at top with “Mad Max” and “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” (another tear jerker) as my personal favorite from last year, and I don’t think any other film would be able to come close because I don’t think any other film will be able to have as much soul as these three.

Would like to leave you with this featurette that should tell you how amazing a chemistry these two share, even in real life

Go watch it for the kid, we don’t get to see such prodigies that often.

–  Avinash Verma

Q’s latest film Brahman Naman premiered at the recently concluded Sundance Festival. Here’s all the buzz that the film generated at the fest – The fridge, the fish, and the fan!

Brahman Naman

– For Twitch Interview of Q and the cast, click here.

– Guardian has given it a three-star rating. Review is here

– Variety review is here

– Hollywood Reporter review is here

– Review on Twitch Film is here. Calls it a “fantastic facre”

– Netflix scooped up worldwide SVOD rights. Details here

– Interview on Film Companion where Q reveals that the film is really about caste system.

– Pillow Talk with Q and Shashank Arora (they are literally on the bed)

 

Tamasha

तमाशा देखकर निकला तो उलझन में डूबा रहा | इम्तियाज़ की फ़िल्में पसंद आती रहीं हैं,तो इस बार ऐसा क्या हुआ कि बाहर निकल कर उत्साह की जगह निराशा थी | जहाँ सब तमाशा की तारीफ़ में डूबे थे,किसको और कैसे बताऊँ कि फ़िल्म मुझे अच्छी नहीं लगी | यह जैसे ख़ुद में अपराध-बोध जैसा था | फिर सिलसिलेवार सोचना शुरू किया तो पाया कि फ़िल्म कई बातें सिर्फ़ ऊपर-ऊपर से करती है और निकल आती है |

या तो यह इम्तियाज़ की ज़िद है कि मैं कहानी दोहराऊँगा और उसे कुछ अलग रँग देकर पेश करूँगा और साबित करूँगा कि एक ही कहानी अलग-अलग तरह से दिखाने पर भी वह सफल फ़िल्म हो सकती है | इस की भूमिका वे फ़िल्म के शुरूआती बीस मिनट में बाँधते हैं | यह जैसे फ़िल्म शुरू होने से पहले उनका उद्घोष है कि दुनिया में सारी कहानियाँ एक ही तो हैं,तब फिर मुझपर यह इल्ज़ाम क्यों ? यहीं वे अपनी कहानी के लिए एक बचाव ढूँढते नज़र आते हैं | यही बात वे शुरू से अपनी हर फ़िल्म में कह रहे हैं | “इक्को एक कहाणी बस बदले ज़माना ” |

उनकी नायिका हमेशा की तरह एक बोल्ड और सामाजिक ताने-बाने के ऊपर की एक लड़की है जिसे बकौल इम्तियाज़ “हुस्न की गलियाँ ” दिखें या ना दिखें से कोई दिक्कत नहीं | वह दुनिया घूमती है,अपने फ़ैसले लेती है और इस विचार से कि दोबारा शायद नायक से मुलाक़ात ना हो,ऐसे में अपने दिल की सुनने से नहीं चूकती और देह की बनी-बनाई परम्पराओं को लाँघने के बाद आज़ाद महसूस करती है | फिर प्रेम उसको कमज़ोर बनाता है और अंत तक आते आते वह इस बात से संतुष्ट है कि वह एक सफल पुरुष की प्रेयसी या पत्नी है |

कहानी मूल रूप से नायक के भटकाव और एक लड़की के प्रेम से गुज़रते हुए खुद को पा लेने की है और यहीं फ़िल्म सबसे कमज़ोर है | हाँ यह सही है कि प्रेम हमारे अंतर्मन को छूता है और कई सारे बदलाव करता है | कोई हमें इस तरह पहचानने लगता है जिस तरह कभी किसी और ने नहीं पहचाना हो | प्रेम भीतर घुस कर हमें उधेड़ता है और हमारा असली रूप हमारे सामने ले आता है जिसे हम ख़ुद सालों से नकार रहे होते हैं | यह हम सहज स्वीकार नहीं कर पाते और ऐसे में वह इंसान जो यह सब कर रहा होता है,उसे भी हम उतना ही दोषी मानते हैं जितना ख़ुद को | जिस तरह हम अपने दुश्मन रहे होते हैं,उसी तरह वह इंसान हमारा इतना अपना हो जाता है कि अपना दुश्मन लगता है |

हम जो करना चाहते हैं,जब वो नहीं कर पा रहे होते,तो क्या हमारा बर्ताव वैसा होता है जैसा फ़िल्म के नायक का था ! उसके लिए फ़िल्म कोई विश्वसनीयता नहीं पैदा करती | वेद के अपने बॉस के साथ के सीन्स,यदि कोई फूहड़ फ़िल्म होती तो मैं हजम कर लेता,लेकिन यह इम्तियाज़ की फ़िल्म है और यहाँ वह अपनी पकड़ खोती है | वेद की छटपटाहट अपने सपने को ना जी पाने की है या तारा के प्यार के लिए है,यह भी साफ़ नहीं है |

वेद और तारा मिलते हैं और उसके बाद के तीन-चार साल तारा के कैसे बीते यह तो हमें पता है लेकिन वेद ? वह एक नौकरी में है और तारा से प्रेम में है या नहीं,यह कहाँ दिखता है | तारा के मना कर देने के बाद की जो चोट है,वह प्रेम में ठुकराए जाने की है या उस ज़िन्दगी को ना जी पाने की जिसकी झलक हमने कोर्सिका में देखी थी |

आप दिखाते हैं कि वेद ने आख़िरकार अपने मन की सुनी और फ़ैसला लिया और फिर सब ठीक हो गया | ऐसा कहाँ होता है जी | वह तो शुरुआत भर है | जीवन तो उसके बाद शुरू होता है | फ़िल्म ना तो वेद के बचपन पर ठहरती है जहाँ से उसके संघर्ष की जड़ें पकड़ में आती और ना ही अपने मन-मुताबिक ना जी पाने की स्थिति से उपजे रोज़ के संघर्ष पर |

“जब हम प्यार में होते हैं तो कितना हिस्सा असली होता है और कितना सिर्फ़ हमारे दिमाग़ में,हमारी कल्पनाओं में | जब सब ख़त्म हो जाता है तो सिर्फ़ कल्पना बचती है जो धीरे-धीरे दिमाग़ को खाती है और इस ज़्यादा सोचते रहने से ही उपजता है दुःख | प्रेम यदि एक यात्रा है तो दोनों की,एक की नहीं | हमारा नायक एक ऐसा आदमी है जो अपने बारे में सब जानता है और फिर खुद अपने हाथ से निकल जाता है |उसको पता है कि अब तक उसने खुद को संभाला है और अब उसकी लगने वाली है | वह जानता है कि वह अपने हाथों से फिसल कर सब कुछ तोड़ देने वाला है और इस बर्बादी के बाद जो सामने आएगा वह असली होगा जबकि वह जीवन भर इसी टूटन से बचता-भागता फिरता रहा | आख़िर में आप उम्मीद लगाते हैं कि अब कुछ होगा और वेद अपने परिवार वालों को एक कहानी सुनाता है और जो दिक्कत सालों से नहीं सुलट रही थी,वो यूँ हो जाता है मानो इतना ही आसान था | “

कुछ बातें जो कचोटती रहीं …

-वेद ने तो तारा के सहारे ख़ुद को खोज लिया, तारा को कौन खोजेगा ?

-जब तारा और वेद दोनों ख़ुद को खोजेंगे, तब वे अलग हो जाएँगे |

-स्त्रियाँ कब तक पुरुषों की मरम्मत के लिए उपलब्ध रहेंगी | क्या हमारी फ़िल्में उनको भी भटकाव में जीने की आज़ादी देंगी |

-क्या यह ऐसा नहीं था कि हाँ तुम अपने सपने जीयो,तुम्हारे लिए तो मैं हूँ | मेरा सपना तो तुम हो |

-क्या मन की सुनकर फ़ैसला भर ले लेना सफलता का पैमाना है | यहाँ तो कितने हैं जी जो मन की सुनकर ठोकरें खा रहे हैं और लगातार मेहनत कर रहे हैं |

-क्या ऐसी स्थिति जैसी वेद की है,वह यह हक देती है कि आप आसानी से बदतमीज़ी करें | या तो फ़िल्म इसे विश्वसनीय बनाती |

यह सारी बातें सिर्फ़ इसलिए क्योंकि फ़िल्म इम्तियाज़ की है | मुझे इरशाद कामिल के गीतों की फिर तारीफ़ करनी चाहिए और दीपिका के अभिनय की भी | अभिनय की कई परतों को रणबीर बस सतह से निभा ले गए |

तमाशा एक अच्छी फ़िल्म है,कालजयी या जादुई नहीं |

– Pradeep Awasthi

Kothanodi

There I lay my head on the pillow, snuggled into my blanket ready to surrender to the world of talking animals and strange beings my mother was about to conjure for me. It was delicious.

Then one day, I found my sister reading a 1000 page fat book with tiny font and pictures. Strange, I thought. In my world only children’s books (or textbooks and magazines) had pictures and never in tiny font. Tiny font was ‘meant for grown-ups’ territory, one to be stayed away from, so boring. But curiosity got the better of me and I went down the rabbit hole a-la Alice and landed in a wonderland of rolling peas, talking trees and 3/6/12-headed dragons. It was a much-to-be-thumbed Book of Ukranian Folk Tales.

None of it was incredulous; magic never is when you are a kid. Just curiouser and curiouser. It was a real world, with real people living in real houses and doing real things, but that world was full of strange phenomena. It brought magic right onto my doorstep. These weren’t Disney’s amusement park-like fairylands visiting me, but home-grown magic churned like butter from daily life with all its shades intact. Kothanodi – River of Fables is something like that.

It opens on the darkest tone possible. A man is burying a living infant in a mysterious forest full of strange, eerie sounds. Wails and whispers are all around, suggesting something sinister is on. And you are intrigued to know more. This seems like more than a fable, more than folklore, you say, when suddenly an elephant apple comes rolling along. It is following a woman, carefully, loyally. A loving father is taking leave of his young daughter as a suspicious-looking step-mother looks on. A python is stealthily being caught in the forest and next thing we know it is being welcomed into a household to be wedded to a human girl. The setting is tribal, somewhere deep in the interiors of Assam, along a river that carries the fables from the shore of one house to another, from one mother to another.

A narrative connect of four mothers weaves four different folktales into one solid film. The screenplay is based on events and characters described in popular Assamese folk tales compiled in the anthology ‘বুঢ়ী আইৰ সাধু’ or Grandma’s Tales, by Assamese literary luminary Lakshminath Bezbaroa, and first published in 1911 (source: link). Each story soaked in the ethos of its space and time, flows in and out of each other.

The mother-daughter thematic motif makes it tempting to dig deeper to look for hidden sub-text of social comment, only to find it is a formal element instead. This realisation dawns as the film draws towards its unique and dreadful conclusions and with it takes away the pressure of decoding it, replacing it with the pleasure of magic realism.

The joy of the film lies in its naturalistic setting and use of melodrama to suitably evoke earthy, home-grown environs of tribal India where witches and teachers, merchants and snake-grooms, mothers and talking dead bodies, live together. The emotional decibel of the film is tuned in balance, with a heightened measure of melodrama where required (in Tejimola and snake-groom stories), and controlled where necessary (the elephant apple story and buried babies stories.) The play then, of the baby burying scene (which plays out in all its eerie glory), cutting in between stories to unsettle the mood a bit, lest the fable become a dream removed from reality, becomes interesting. The joy of a fairy tale is in its mirth and that of a fable in its mystique, while folklore is rooted in common, realistic setting. The more rooted the setting the more absurd and mysterious does the magic seem. Yet, surprisingly more real. You can touch it, almost. And in River of Fables we don’t question the magic, we just let it happen, like we did when we saw it when we were young.

Perhaps, the biggest achievement of the film is bringing magic into the adult, mainstream language back by seizing it from children’s territory to a very adult world and adult problems and demystifying it by laying bare its darkest shades, without sugar-coating, something we don’t encounter often in children’s fables or popular folklore. And here the film does not differentiate or take sides with white or black magic, rather treats it like yin and yang. Exactly how it is. I hope this isn’t reduced to an over-simplified argument of fanning superstition.

The film would have been lesser if not for the gravitas that Adil Hussain, Urmila Mahanta and Seema Biswas lend to their characters and the story. They carry the inter-woven, longform narrative with assured grace and control that is a pleasure to watch.

Certain portions of the film, especially the eerie sequences, do have a tacky, under-done feel, partly in budget, partly in design and partly in imagination. Yet, it does not become a hindrance in enjoying an otherwise delectable fare much like that other gem in the same genre ‘Goynar Boksho’.

I lost my Ukranian folk tales book to a raddiwala because parents mistakenly thought I was too old to be interested in them anymore. River of Fables lessened the ache a little.

Fatema Kagalwala