Archive for the ‘Hollywood’ Category

Salman Rushdie recently wrote a column championing the film, Lion. If you haven’t read it, click here. As the Oscar buzz builds up for the film, we asked its India Casting Director Tess Joseph to write about her experience working on the film.

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Since that afternoon in early June 2014 when we began casting for Garth Davis’ Lion to February 22nd, 2017, today, standing here at the at the Academy Awards Nominees dinner, it has been an unbelievable journey.

It began with a story, the unbelievable yet true journey of Saroo Brierley who found his mother after being lost for 25 years. The task was not easy, we had to find a Little Saroo, possibly 5-6 years with talent, stillness, depth and innocence. We also needed to find his teenaged brother Guddu, a nurturer and who would evolve into a beacon through the story, and a host of other characters. The casting processes were happening simultaneously: Kirsty Mc Gregor (Casting Director) and her team looking for the older Saroo while we searched for the younger one.

One thing was clear, this casting was not going to happen out of the hub of all things films in Mumbai – the suburb Versova or any audition room across the city. We needed to go back to our basics at India Casting Call, something we had done for Life of Pi and SOLD, we had to go back to school. We also needed the children to travel to Australia as part of the shoot so paperwork to support a passport application was imperative. Kirsty McGregor and I were on the same page from the moment we began: if my task of meeting and conducting workshops with classrooms full of children in India was daunting, Kirsty had to review each and every single audition in a language she didn’t understand. We did this together with almost choreographed synchronicity.

I had a team that was a force to reckon with – Karishma Mathur, an actress and drama teacher helmed the project alongside me. Her love and patience for working with children can beat anyone hands down. My young casting associates Aishwarya Amin and Bhawan Jha were invaluable. Then there was Vaibhav Gupta, who would go on to becoming Sunny Pawar’s acting coach on set and an integral of the film and production. We also had colleagues in Pune and Delhi helping us extend our search for the perfect Little Saroo. I will say, pick your team wisely, each one must balance the other and contribute something unique and valuable to the process.

Always, we tried out all the scenes as a team. Sometimes, I see audition tapes where Karishma is curled up like Little Saroo or Bhawan is desperately searching for Guddu. When your team has experienced the characters and the scenes, they understand on which moments the scenes pivot, they understand what it takes; they are always aware and looking for that during the auditions.

For this film we were working through schools with classrooms full of children. We used storytelling and games to observe the reactions of the kids. Each team member would pick potential candidates. We never shared who we thought might be right because that creates bias. With children the only way to unleash something special is patience and being completely non-judgmental. Don’t dismiss someone because you think they are not “right,” give them a chance and who knows they might surprise you.

Abhishek Bharate, who plays Guddu in the film auditioned with us on 7 June 2014 – if you have a good filing system it’s never hard to find anyone who has auditioned for you. Looking back at the tapes from that day I noticed something very special. Abhishek who lives between Pune and Mumbai had come in early that morning. He finished his audition quickly and he was on the top of our list from the start. But the thing that shines from that day was that Abhishek stayed for almost the whole day playing Guddu to so many younger boys who had come in. At one point when I asked him, “Don’t you have other things to do?” he replied, “No Didi, this is good. I get to do the scenes in different ways… I like it.” It’s that spirit that even Garth mentions about Abhishek, his generosity as an actor and to Sunny. A glimpse of that generosity was seen way before, even when he came for the audition. It is rare to see any actor offer what Abhishek did and I guess that is what made him the one actor I was willing to fight for if it came down to him and another actor. As a Casting Director, I feel you get to pick one actor who is worth fighting for on every film, someone you will come in with more than one reason to support because they bring more than just talent to the film.

Casting Saroo’s mom, also, was a moment of serendipity. We had many significant and amazing actors audition for the role but, even now, when I play back Priyanka Bose’s tape, there is magic. Garth and Kirsty did not know of her but when they saw her audition they felt it too – magic. Maybe, it was Priyanka’s own experiences as a mom that brought truth to the scenes, maybe it was her sheer determination, maybe we will never know what exactly she brought into the room that day but with it she ensured that no one else would play Kamla.

The entire India cast — be it Nawazuddin Siddique, Deepti Naval or Tannishtha Chatterjee— all came on board after reading and believing that there was something special about this story. They all had short yet pivotal roles and Tannishtha’s role evolved from a rewrite.

We were not only looking for a lot of young talent for Lion, my team was also pretty young. Aishwarya was all of 20 years and without her we would have never found Sunny. He was discovered in her school in Kalina from hundreds of students who auditioned. Sunny came to us after we had screened about 2,000 children from across three cities. We had shortlists and hopefuls, and Sunny was one among them. Kirsty, Karishma and I loved his face. He had soulful eyes, a certain stillness and husky voice. It was not until the September workshops did Sunny come alive as Little Saroo with help from acting coach Miranda Harcourt, who was assisted by Vaibhav and Karishma. I remember Garth’s face when we were looking at pictures of Sunny with Abhishek. Garth was in love. The team was heading next to Pune and Delhi for final workshops and callbacks but we knew we already had one solid choice for Little Saroo – Sunny Pawar.

I find it strange sometimes that we pick out “preparation for a film” as an exception to the rule. We rave about an actor making physical changes or building his body. Preparation is key to any film and it’s the little things that count, like requesting a school to allow Sunny or Abhishek to not cut their hair or reminding them to be careful about what they eat. These are things that every actor must do.

Similarly, the casting process demands time, a method and a great team. When you do have all three, you find Lion cubs with roaring performances like Sunny’s, Abhishek’s, Keshav’s and the many amazing children who are part of the film.

And in my case, I also find myself mulling over this whole process with a smile pasted silly on my face at the Academy Awards Nominee’s dinner, dressed in the fancy red and gold Sabyasachi ensemble, staring at the text message from my friend back home informing me that I am the first Indian casting director nominated for Casting Society of America’s Artios Awards for Best Casting and also one of the first (Indian casting director again) to be invited to the Academy Awards Nominee’s Dinner for extraordinary contribution to a Best Picture Nominee. I am not too sure about that heavy accolade but it definitely feels magical to be appreciated in La La La.

We are bit late on this, but here it is – our recco post on Damien Chazelle’s new film, La La Land. It’s written by Percy H Bharucha.

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La La Land is a movie devoted to a single word – ache.

The ache of Nostalgia.
The ache of a city like L.A.
The ache of dreams unfulfilled.
The ache of lost musicals and movies.
The ache of love lost.
The ache of what could have been.
And the ache of time spent apart.

As a child I used to watch musicals with my grandfather. My introduction to Hollywood was An American In Paris, Singing In The Rain, Easter Parade, Hello Dolly. Those were my first movies and I loved them dearly. As I grew up, so did Hollywood. Things got complicated for all of us and I yearned for a movie so simple, so removed from reality, that it wouldn’t want me to return from it.

La La Land brings back that ache for all of us. It brings with it a refusal to detach from its world. It is astonishing to watch a movie where the failures of the characters seem yours. The viewer takes that emotional burden upon himself just as I did. I rooted for them to fail, yes I did. Just to embrace the feeling it would bring. To feel through them.

There have been movies of recent that have relied on catering to a sense of wonder whether through visual aesthetics or intellectual curiosity, but La La Land is different. It holds itself to a different pedestal, though shot beautifully, it holds itself to the standards of emotion. Few movies have had such an impact on me. It has brought my pen out of hibernation This article is driven by personal catharsis, as much as it is, about this movie being an influence. I write this, as words tear themselves eager to be set on paper.

La La Land reflects a choice every one of us has had to make at least once in life. The choice between love, between relationships we share with ourselves and our dreams. I am glad, for once, there is a movie that prioritises dreams over love, the self over the other. Too many movies are tied to the illusion of the characters walking away with it all. La La Land is fierce enough to show its wounds, our wounds, the costs we pay to be at peace with ourselves.

Which brings me to the last part of the movie, the ache of what could have been, that’s reflected in the alternate flashback between the couple when she walks into his bar. It brings with it the realisation, of the characters being fully aware of their own losses, the pain they’ve endured and so is the viewer too, aware of what he has given up. No one is spared the pain of knowing the ideal, the best case scenario and yet the brilliance of this movie lies in how willingly I, the viewer, could embrace that pain, the burden and the ache the characters bring with them, as my own.

Like a wounded bird we nurse that emotion only because it’s been a long time since any of us felt this strongly about anything at all and even the emotion of absolute loss is better than feeling nothing at all.

La La Land offers an escape from the dark abyss of emotional numbness, it makes us ache in places we didn’t know were capable of expressing emotion. And the final proof of its own success is that a film that reminds us of these aches, becomes an ache by itself. La La Land makes us ache, and departure from the movie is no less painful than the character’s departure from each other.

I wish there was more heartbreak to be felt.

Percy Bharucha

(The author is a Young India Fellow, and has been writing since he discovered he couldn’t draw. He has a full time job in advertising and hopes to keep it that way. He has been previously published in eFiction and eFiction India, Asia Lit, Reading Hour, Gratis and The Madras Mag. He infrequently tweets @Sab_Bakwaas_Hai)

Sin Nombre, True Detective, Beasts Of No Nation – These three titles on a cv are enough to impress anyone, even the ones who are difficult to please. Thanks to Mumbai Film Festival, filmmaker Cary Fukunaga is one of the guests at the fest this year. Filmmaker Zoya Akhtar was in conversation with him. We are hoping that the video will be out soon. Till then here are some interesting notes from the session of CARYFUCKYEAH! (the way we like to say it)

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It was suppose to be DC Comics answer to Marvel’s Avengers. But so far, the reviews of ‘Batman v Superman : Dawn Of Justice’ are more entertaining than the film. And if you have landed up from some other planet, you might have missed this video which is depressing and funny at the same time.

So what really happened? What does it mean for DC Comics’ next? Is there a way out? Have patience and read Anubhav Dasgupta‘s rant.

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(SPOILER AHEAD. It’s fucking full of spoiler. Wait. You still haven’t seen it? Lucky you!)

On Thursday night, I sat down in a movie theater and watched Superman reach into Batman’s chest and rip out his heart. A child sitting in my row decided it was finally time to leave. I should have followed her out, but I stay put like the masochist that I am.

Batman v Superman is the nadir of DC comics. Not only is it a badly made film that made me question whether professionals  — some of them Oscar winners — were behind it, but it is an utterly reprehensible, indefensible piece of garbage that ruins the two most iconic characters in history to satiate the appetites of immature adults who constantly seek validation for their consumption of stories starring characters that were made for children.

Let’s call these immature adults “Batbros” because there’s only so many times I can type “immature adults” before I’m sick of the term.

Batman Begins was a great film that rejuvenated the Batman franchise, salvaging it from the campy wrecks of Joel Schumacher’s Batman and Robin. Christopher Nolan infused the character with a sense of pathos that made his trauma palpable every second of the film. He set it in a world very much like ours but also infused it with comic-book elements like fear toxins and a shadow cult of ninjas. Critics loved it, audiences dug it, fans were happy. It made enough money for Warner Bros to green light a sequel. Like Begins, its sequel The Dark Knight was a dance of reality and myth. Ostensibly a reaction to the American war on terror, Joker representing the chaotic boogeyman, something that Batman, standing in for Americans, simply could not understand. It was a massive, massive success and it still remains one of the greatest films ever made. But a collateral damage caused by it was the emergence of the Batbro. They identified with Batman’s seething libertarianism, his fascistic insistence on surveillance as an end to chaos and terror. They identified with an aspect of the character that was very much post-9/11 American White Male. What they thought they fell in love with was the darkness of the plot, considering it novel while being ignorant of the fact that comic books and comic book movies have touched upon dark themes before. I strongly believe that they do not recognise what makes The Dark Knight special and mis-attribute it to the grim mood of the story.

In the same year The Dark Knight came out, rival comic book publisher, Marvel’s movie arm put out Iron Man. Starring Robert Downey Jr as a genius pro-war one-percenter reformed into a superhero, it was talking about some of the same things as TDK but the approach was completely different. While TDK considered the war on terror a grim necessity, Iron Man criticised it while subtly commenting on the military-industrial complex and how corporations and militarism go hand in hand in a capitalist economy. The titular Iron Man, himself, is a much brighter character, who uses his wit and arrogance to mask his despair while Batman channels it into a life-force.

Spurred by the success of Iron Man, Marvel put out movies that existed in the same universe, done in the same style. Their continual successes culminated in Avengers, a movie that united Marvel’s heroes, which made ungodly amounts of money in the box office and millions more in merchandise sales.

DC floundered along, their one shot at a shared universe, Green Lantern, failing miserably. Batbros found solace in the Batman video games produced by Rocksteady, whose atmosphere vindicated their demand for immature darkness. The stages of the game looked grimy, the characters — save for Joker — wore constipated scowls and dressed in greasy coats. There was an unsubtle misogyny about how the game series treated its few women characters, animating their movements to make them look like they were continually cat-walking. What they got perfectly right were the mechanics of the game, the story, penned by DC Animated series alumni Paul Dini, and the voice-acting, which reunited DC Animated series alums Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill and Tara Strong.

DC comics’ only mainstream successes were the Nolan Batman films and the Batman video games so, when it was time to reboot the DC universe and rake in Avengers money, they decided to push the tone of both these sources on to their movie universe.

It’s been a fucking disaster.

Man of Steel was positioned to revitalise the Superman franchise for a generation and a fanbase of Batbros that thinks altruism is bullshit. Zack Snyder’s film was a character assassination of the highest order, corrupting the socialist bent of the original Superman to make way for an ill-advised objectivist interpretation. The parallels to the story of Moses (Superman’s creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster were Jewish immigrants in ’30s America) were ignored to force Christian symbolism on the character. Snyder misconstrued the power fantasy of Superman to be a physical desire rather than an ideological one. This Superman isn’t great in heart or spirit, but in physical strength. He spends the movie moping around, so crushed by the weight of his responsibility that he does nothing about it. In the third act of Man of Steel, a noisy, grey muddle that makes Michael Bay’s Transformers look coherent, Superman allows wanton destruction as he faces off against a mighty alien being. At the end of it, he manages to catch the alien in a chokehold and snap his neck.

Batbros lapped it up. It was a mainstream vindication of the maturity of a comic book character. Surely, there could be nothing immature about dodging an oil tanker and letting it destroy a building when you have all the power in the world to stop it, or destroying a man’s livelihood because he was mean to you inside a bar.

Strong visuals and a fantastic score by Hans Zimmer elevated it from trashiness into mediocrity and it made some money and sanctimonious too-cool-for-school audiences finally found Superman to be cool after he had snapped some guy’s neck.

Never mind the children as long as the adults are entertained.

The same darkness followed through in the comic books. After the DC line was rebooted, Superman traded in his red trunks, spit curl and charm for armour and an unpleasant scowl. He was, finally, cool.

Batman v Superman doubled down on this interpretation, creating a Superman who possesses all the maturity and angst of a spurned teenager. The movie antagonises him, pities him, hates him and the one time he’s about to explain himself, it blows everything up. Literally. Here’s a Superman who seems like he hesitates to save anyone who isn’t his mother or his girlfriend. Here’s a Superman who forgets all his powers to allow a contrived plot to unfold. Batbros were further vindicated by a Batman who scared the shit out of criminals, who straight-up murdered people with military grade armaments mounted on his vehicles.

Zack Snyder has hid behind the defence that he’s followed the comics to a t. I doubt he’s read a comicbook. I strongly suspect that he flipped through a few pages, looked at the art, skipped dialogue balloons when his ADD took over and thought it was the greatest thing ever. BvS plays like a visual greatest hits of comicbooks. There’s images from The Dark Knight Returns, Crisis on Infinite Earths and The Death and Return of Superman replicated with great accuracy. But here’s the thing. Comic books don’t work solely on imagery alone. The titular fight between Batman and Superman is lifted from The Dark Knight Returns, but it lacks any of the intelligence, any of the motivation behind the fight. The philosophical battle between the ideologies of fascism and libertarianism have been replaced by Bollywood movie-level scheming. But Superman and Batman fight and the screen’s so dark we can barely make out anything so it’s mature, r…right?

Superman dies, just like he did in The Death and Return of Superman, but I felt nothing. The comic book isn’t the best but when Supes bites the bullet, we feel something. His sacrifice in the comic is earned. But in BvS? Fuck no. There’s many ways Superman didn’t have to die, and we’ve spent so much time annoyed by his moping and selfishness that it doesn’t affect us much at all.

But, hey, Superman dies. What a ballsy move, right? Fuck no. Everybody knows he’s going to come back to life. The moment has no point, no impact, no nothing. It’s cheap, superficial imagery and grim to a pornographic level.

But hey, Superman dies so this is suddenly an adult mature film, unlike the Marvel movies where everything’s sunny and you can actually make out what the fuck is happening. Batbros finally had an adult superhero franchise to rally behind. Finally, they felt, we don’t look like kids anymore. Never mind that Batman and Superman stop fighting because their mothers have the same name, killing people is exceptionally mature and adult amirite?

Never mind the kid who is bored by the pointless pontification, blinded by the few splotches of colour that emerge from a dark, drab palette, terrified by the characters they were supposed to love. Batbros will hi-five each other all the way to the fucking bank.

Kids, meanwhile, will be reluctant to buy action figures from the DC universe, page through DC comics while Marvel will capture their imagination completely.

Marvel figures are routinely cleaned up at Toy aisles while DC’s figures enter the bargain bin because nobody cares about their characters.

Except for Batman, barely any DC comics sell routinely as much as their Marvel counterparts, despite the quality.

All this thanks to DC bending over to cater to a tiny subset of fans who want to prove that their superheroes are fit for adult consumption.

Alan Moore, the writer of Watchmen, Batman : The Killing Joke, Swamp Thing and other comic book classics, infamously referred to comic book fans as subhuman. He cited the crowds of adults lining up to watch Avengers. He wasn’t wrong in his statement but he was woefully wrong in his observation.

The Marvel films, while routine, are ostensibly for children, but have enough pathos and intelligence to satisfy adult viewers. They’re stories for children that work for adults.

The DC films, however, drip in darkness. They’re for ignorant people who think that anything meant for children demands no seriousness or maturity. There’s no joy in any of their characters or any of their exploits. Their films are grim to the point of hilarity. DC films are a child’s view of what an adult film is, they are the kind of films that Vincent Adultman from Bojack Horseman would insist upon watching. DC film’s are selfish appropriations of children’s characters by childish adults.

When Alan Moore called comic book fans sub-humans, this is what he was going on about. Not adults who dress up as Thor in line to Avengers 2 but adults who celebrate the image of Superman ripping someone’s heart out while the kids cower, confused.

Thing is, Warner Bros seems to hate these characters. There is a marked cynicism behind the DC universe driven by a begrudging need to make money off IPs they disdain. They heap their own ugliness, their cynical hollywood fear and nihilism into characters that were built to give hope. Superman needed to be brought down from his pedestal of ideological superiority to our ugly levels of angst and paranoia. By reducing the symbolism and ripe mythological gravitas to petty wannabe philosophy, they have greatly diluted the power inherent in the characters. A page in Grant Morrison and Frank Quitley’s All-Star Superman has famously saved people from committing suicides. I simply don’t see films from the DC universe coming close to doing that. They’re content with being ugly extensions of an ugly world. They’re not the mirrors to our society as they hope to be, but the cesspools of our collective subconscious. Saving cats is passé, destroying whole cities is in. Fuck the kids, our audience are ugly man-children.

Batbros are celebrating the latest ravaging of the Superman icon but I feel they’ll turn round. The film has been universally panned by critics, its glaring errors in basic filmmaking revealing the true ugliness inherent in the plot. People are catching on to their shit. However, if it makes any money, it’ll be a vindication of the Batbros’ stance. Warner Bros will double down on the darkness, ruining and ravaging every bit of innocence inherent in the characters until there’s nothing.

If you’re a DC fan, and remember the joy the comics or Bruce Timm’s animated series gave you, and you like the current crop of DC films, I strongly urge you to think about it. Our characters are far more important than your selfish enjoyment and loyalism. We’ve got to save them. We’ve got to make sure Warner Bros get rid of their pointless nihilism. Otherwise we’ll be looking at a bunch of movies about joyless freaks that encourage no emotion, no thought, no joy except for infantile vindication.

Batbros are celebrating the latest exercise in cynical destruction, but they’ll be proven wrong, when, years from now, their children will ignore their Superman toys for a miniature Iron Man.

Batman v Superman is Darkseid’s anti-life, pushing us into cynical acceptance of our grim mentality. We have to resist. We have to be better. This is more important than two rival companies. This is a battle for hope and for the future. And fans are their own biggest enemies.

Anubhav Dasgupta

(Anubhav tries to make good stuff. Besides cinema, he also likes comic books and cats)

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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

Sumit Saxena is after me. Every time i call him, he asks me if i want to watch Mad Max again. Because he wants to watch it one more time. He has already seen it 11 times. Yes, you read that right. Why? Here you go.

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Early nineties की बात है. 96 के वर्ल्ड कप में काम्बली अभी तक रोया भी नहीं था शायद. मैंने कुछ ही महीने पहले “प्रतिशोध की ज्वाला” पढ़ी थी और सुपर कमांडो ध्रुव की कॉमिक्स मेरी favorite थी. “Favorite” से याद आया कि करीना की रिफ्यूजी अभी तक रिलीज़ नहीं हुई थी.
एक दोस्त जिसके पास बैट था, तीन खूबसूरत बहनें थीं और पिताजी के पास राजदूत थी, उसकी birthday में एक रेनोल्ड्स का फाइटर वाला पेन गिफ्ट व्रैप करके ले गया था. इस उम्मीद में कि, कुछ महीने बाद मेरी birthday पे अपनी राजदूत की इज्ज़त रखने के लिए वो एक बढ़िया सा gift लेके आएगा. उसके नाम के आगे ठाकुर भी था. जातिवाद की उतनी समझ नहीं थी तब, पर फिर भी ठाकुरों की इज़त से उम्मीद थी. (रेनोल्ड्स का फाइटर जावेद अख्तर ने अभी तक किया नहीं था शायद, पर यादें chronology का ख़याल नहीं करतीं. जावेद अख्तर से याद आया, बाबरी मस्जिद तब तक गिर चुकी थी, लेकिन पोखरण का ब्लास्ट अभी तक नहीं हुआ था. शायद! Chronology कि गलती 96 के वर्ल्ड कप के साथ भी शायद की हो मैंने)

केक कटने के थोड़ी देर बाद, केक जिस मेज़ पे कटा, उसके नीचे मुझे “ग्रैंड मास्टर रोबो” मिली, Pioneer के ऊपर. (Pioneer भी गलती हो सकती है, शायद Pioneer तब तक बंद हो चुका था; Forhans की तरह. मंजन और अखबार की तुलना यहाँ पे सिर्फ एक इत्तेफाक है.)

मैंने केक लपटने के तुरंत बाद ग्रैंड मास्टर रोबो लपट ली. २० रूपये की कॉमिक्स थी, किराये पे भी ३ रूपये प्रतिदिन की पड़ती . पिताजी की UP 32 1513 प्रिया को यह गंवारा नहीं था, राजदूत के ठाठ प्रिया वालों को नसीब नहीं होते. मैं सटासट पन्ने पलटता गया. ग्रैंड मास्टर रोबो अपने लेज़र वाली आँख से परछाइयों को गला रहा था, ध्रुव बिजली के तारों पे मोटर बाइक भगा रहा था, “अग्निमुख” नामक एक जीव बिजली के तारों से बिजली सोख कर अपने शक्ती बढ़ा रहा था.

११ पन्ने ही पलटे थे की UP 32 की बिजली शायद “अग्निमुख” ने चूस ली.

केक की बुझी हुई मोमबत्तियां फिर से जलाई गयीं, साथ में पैट्रोमाक्स भी. केक का second round चल रहा था, पर मैं केक की मोमबत्तियों के सहारे ग्रैंड मास्टर रोबो पढने में ज्यादा व्यस्त था. मुझे यह भी लग रहा था की अगर केक दोबारा नहीं खाऊं तो शायद यह लड़का मुझे अपनी कॉमिकस बिना किसी कॉमिक्स के exchange के पढने दे.

पूड़ी – सब्जी, पैट्रोमाक्स की रौशनी में छन के तीनों बहनों के हाथों, किचन से बाहर आ रही थीं. बहनों में अब दिलचस्पी नहीं थी और पूड़ी – सब्जी में भी नहीं. सोचा की खाना तो घर पे भी बना होगा, इससे पहले कि सब खा के उठ जाएँ, 62 पन्ने खत्म करना ज्यादा ज़रूरी है. “शान्ति” देखते देखते खाने कि खराब आदत पड़ गयी थी, काफी धीरे खाता था; भरोसा नहीं था कि खाना ख़तम करके पढ़ पाऊंगा.

सब खा के उठ गए, अपना return gift लेके चले भी गए और मैं एक चौथाई बची हुई केक कि कैंडल के नीचे अभी भी, भूखा, 59 वें page पे अटका हुआ था. “कुछ खाया भी नहीं तुमने”, कहके राजदूत वाली आंटी सता रही थीं. एकेले कमरे में अब सिर्फ मैं और मेरे दोस्त की तीन बहने बची थीं, जो मेरे निकल जाने के बाद ही खाना खातीं, वोह तीनों लडकियां भूखी नज़र से मुझे और मेरे हाथों में पलटती हुई “ग्रांडमास्टर रोबो” को देख रहीं थी. मैं बेशर्मी से पढ़े जा रहा था. 59 वें पन्ने पर “अग्निमुख”, transformer पे अपने हाथ जमाये बिजली सोख रहा था. उर्जा के लालच में वो बिजली सोखता रहा और आखिरकार फट गया.

उसके फटने के साथ ही कमरे में बिजली आ गयी.

बिजली के आते ही मेरा बेशर्मी से उस कमरे में बैठके बचे हुए पन्नों को पलटना मुश्किल हो गया. “थैंक यू आंटी, मैं चलता हूँ. मम्मी इंतज़ार कर रही होंगी.” तीनों बहनों को मैंने bye बोला , रौशनी में उन्हें देखते ही ख्याल आया- “एक से भी बात नहीं की मैंने आज शाम, कॉमिक्स भी नहीं पढ़ पाया- Shit!” (Shit शब्द भी मेरी vocabulary में नहीं था तब शायद, memory और chronology!!)

पर उनके घर से बाहर निकल कर जब तक मोहल्ले की सड़क पर पहुंचा, तब तक बहनों, केक, पूड़ी – सब्जी को बिलकुल भूल चुका था. याद था तो सिर्फ 59 वां पन्ना जहाँ उसे Pioneer पे उल्टा पलट के चलाया था.उनके घर से निकल के अपने घर की तरफ चलना शुरू ही किया था कि बत्ती फिर से चली गयी.

शायद, “अग्निमुख” कॉमिक्स में अभी भी जिंदा होगा-ख्याल आया.

१५ मई को जब “Mad Max” देखी, तो बहुत सारी बचपन कि कॉमिक्सों की याद आई. खासकर ग्रैंड मास्टर रोबो कि याद आयी. मुझे उस लड़के का नाम याद नहीं आया, न ही उसकी बर्थडे. पर जो भी कुछ याद आया सब गलत chronology के साथ याद आया, क्यूंकि 7000 दिन गुजरने के बाद, दिन यादों में भटक जाते हैं. मुझे ग्रैंड मास्टर रोबो पढने का रोमांच और अधूरा छोड़ने का दुःख याद आया. मुझे यह याद आया कि उसकी बहनों ने तब तक खाना नहीं खाया, जब तक सब खा के चले नहीं गए. और यह याद आया कि अग्निमुख के हाथों को ट्रांसफार्मर पर चिपका हुआ छोड़कर जब मैं बाहर आया था , तो बत्ती फिर से गुल हो गई थी, और पूरा मोहल्ला post-apocalyptic हो गया था.

– Sumit Saxena

(Sumit is an IIT graduate who loves to tell stories in all possible formats. On second thoughts, he would say fuck IIT, make it “a storyteller who loves to tell stories in all possible formats”)

In our Sunday Shorts, today we are featuring Whiplash. The short film which was the pitch for the feature by the same title. This is also directed by Damien Chazelle.

Based on his own experiences, Damien wrote the script and it made to Black List of 2012. He then turned his script for feature length film into a short film script. The short was screened at Sundance Film Festival, got rave reviews, won the Short Film Jury Award, and the feature got funding as well.

Made in less than $5millon budget, and shot in just 19 days, the film went on to bag three Oscar Awards this years.

Click here to read a feature on Damien’s journey to the Oscars with Whiplash, his second feature film.

Tip – ShortFilmWindow