Archive for the ‘movie reviews’ Category

You have seen the film. You have read the reviews. You already know which side of debate you are on. We are late to the party. But we would still suggest that you read this Dunkirk post by Percy H Bharucha.

 

I wanted to just add a small note before I get into the movie itself. If we are to judge the skill of a moviemaker by what he adds to the medium, let us also be magnanimous enough to call it skill when he is able to subtract from the medium without compromising the quality of the visual experience.

First things first, let’s admit to the fact that Dunkirk is a movie unlike most other war movies. Which is where the comparisons to Saving Private Ryan, Hacksaw Ridge should ideally end. Those movies had an independent inspirational story line; there was a plot, which by the way is set during a war. Add to it the usual emotional heart tugging of the “true story”, and the fade to black and white montage sequences of actual war heroes. I’m not saying that’s bad or wrong but this isn’t that kind of movie. In a way the courage portrayed in the movie is mirrored by the courage of the director in embarking on a movie with truly no protagonist, no linear structure, the absolute lack of the usual narrative elements, and a rather odd penchant for sweater vests and turtlenecks. This is an experiment and like all things new should be encouraged. To quote Anton Ego, “…the new needs friends…”

This is movie making with blinders on, and it that respect Nolan perhaps does more justice to the actual event than any other historical movie so far. The evacuation is the story, the evacuation is the plot, the evacuation is the enemy, the friend, the love interest, the comic relief, the everything. There is nothing else to distract the viewer from the event.

 Allow me to list the clichés of a war movie, whose absence I thoroughly enjoyed.

There are no unnecessary amounts of blood, spurting from maimed limbs just to shock and awe the viewer with visceral depictions of bombing. There is no relentless barrage of gunfire, especially bursts of fire in the night for stylistic violence or whatever. No slow motion shots of people running around with stretchers, of shell cases flying. No unnecessary jerky first person POV camera movements to deliver “true immersion into the war front.” No unnecessary audio effects of showing shell shock or ear drums going mute after bombing. No black and white photos of sweethearts left home, no letters written but not posted to sons or mothers, no folding of the flags over coffins, no medic scene with man dying on stretcher. No Michael Bay-esque scenes of military swag with low angle shots of people walking in slow motion against the dying sun with their entourage carrying big heavy guns. No rousing speeches at the darkest moments of the film, no hope carrying banner, no heroic acts of courage glorified by technique or skill. Nobody to yell, “charge” or “fire” or any sort of witticism making fun of the enemy. There is no garish tugging of heartstrings, no vulgar exploitation of emotion, no trembling hands, no lone tear eking its way down a solitary cheek.

At this point you might say, “Percy, can we even call this a war movie?

Isn’t all of this required?”

The answer Nolan tells us quietly is a resounding NO!

That is the man’s skill; he still made it look effortless, he removes all the bells, the frills, and the whistles and still made you want more of the movie. This movie is about an event and in an era where movies pack love, fantasy, action, it is a welcome change to concentrate on one fucking thing.

Dunkirk is, possibly, in my opinion, the most authentic war movie there is. By that statement I do not imply historical accuracy, but perhaps the most realistic depiction of war there is. One of the opening scenes of the movie is a soldier looking for a place to take a dump. If that shit isn’t ‘real’, I don’t know what is. Nolan shows you that side of war that few movies touch on, the absolute chaos, the unsexy clumsiness and randomness of it. There is a fanatical detail to the idiosyncrasies of war, the fumbling with loading the gun in the initial scenes, the lifting of the hose pipe to drink water, the cracking of the fuel gauge, the accidental death of George before coming close to the battle, the soldiers blocking the stretchers as they are carried along the mole reluctant to let them pass, this is the day to day of war.

Most war movies are either; highlight reels made to glorify inspirational, individual acts of valor or the anti war, which focus on the senseless destruction it causes, and the uprooting of giant swathes of people unlucky enough to be caught in it. Nolan treads a fine line here. There is no cinematic glory or angst filter applied to his faithful retelling.

If there is one message he seems to be espousing is that wars are about survival. There is no winning or losing here, there is only survival. Surviving a relentless onslaught of chaotic destruction.

The beach turns into a black hole and we are dropped in the midst of it, through land, through sea and through air, all we see are attempts to escape it. The giving and taking of hope is a hallmark of Nolan’s films, but never before has it been employed so successfully. The moment of relief is short, so short it tears away at the viewer’s heart to have it snatched away so mercilessly. Nolan ensures that the primitiveness of his key emotion, survival is not to be muddied, diluted or tainted in any way through either treatment or narrative. The dialogue is sparse, functional, stripped down to the primitive, bare bone. There are no witty quips, no meme-worthy lines, no clever wordplay, no dying joke, no talk about brotherhood, Nolan moves the viewer through the frame and the silence of the spoken word.

But what Nolan does contrast this bleak landscape of destruction is with what I’d like to term the anonymity of courage. There are these little glimpses throughout the movie, of pure human endurance. But they are the blink-it-and-miss-it kinds. Understated, not trumpeted around there is no lengthy stay or pause for effect there is only the moment as it must have been. And yet it is this very anonymity of courage that adds so much to the movie. There are few names exchanged, there are no identifiers, there is only the anonymous soldier or civilian, blending in and out of the group as required. Perhaps a nod to the fact that war robs us all of identity, if that is intentional it is a masterstroke of filmmaking or maybe I read too much into it.

In the hands of a less skilled filmmaker or even perhaps a less courageous one, this would have been ruined. We would have seen the usual fare of a victorious score announce the arrival of civilian boats, scenes of soldiers hugging and crying with the civilians, exchanging mementos, shaking of hands, passing on of dead soldier letters, prayers being answered, etc. etc. But Nolan is unrelenting. Kenneth Branagh delivers two lines; one is waiting for the French and the other “What do you see? Home”, which are perhaps so historically inspiring from a humanistic point of view, and yet they are shot like any other lines in the movie. There is no close up, there is no heroic music, no posing, there is just the event. The wordless exchanges when the French soldier on multiple occasions saves Harry Styles. Mark Rylance delivers the line, “my son is one of you lot… died three months into the war” he is allowed no indulgence, there is no private moment of grief shared, no banal platitudes offered, just a matter of fact statement made with an implication of such sheer weight. The scene where the son hides the death of George from Cillian Murphy and the father approves wordlessly, such intense stuff yet delivered so functionally. Some tactless father son bonding ritual moment could have easily ruined this, but that is my point this movie is a case on restraint. And George, sigh, a moment of silence for George. The only official hero of the movie dies before he enters the war. If you think that the fact, that George goes blind before he dies is random, remember his lines, his talk about not doing anything worthwhile, how this war was his redemption. A part of me believes that Nolan would rather have him go blind than break his heart over the senseless chaos that war truly is. George died believing in his own myths about the glory and grandeur of the war they joined, a merciful death. But again I fear I might be reading too much into this. And I ask you how can you not be moved? Or perhaps we’ve confused delivery with dialogue. One can say the gravest things without a tear that should not take away from the gravity of their words. The acting is brilliant again by what is not done, what is not shown, the absence of that catch in the throat, the tremor in the tone.

There is little room for emotion when there is a gun pointed at your head, especially if it is an aircraft gun, let us not mistake the deliberate absence of over-the-top hysterics as the lack of emotion in the movie.

I will refrain from dealing with the technical aspects of the movie, the way it has been shot; better people than me have spoken of the incredible work done in those areas.

Lastly, this movie is about courage, the quiet kind, the kind that doesn’t require Wagner-esque scores accompanying it. And it takes courage to say ‘that’s all’ that needs to be there. Nolan has made a movie that will require of the emotionally bombarded palate, an effort to decipher, an effort to connect the storylines. Let us grant him that for the payoff is so worth it. I fear a lot of people have attributed their laziness and their need for over articulated storylines as a fault of the director.

Is the movie messy? Hell Yes, but then so is war!

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)

Most of us saw Lipstick Under My Burkha at last year’s Mumbai Film Festival (MFF). Since then, the film has been doing the fest rounds and winning accolades internationally. On home ground though, it has been the exactly opposite scene. Battle with CBFC went for long, and then the task to find a proper release and distribution partner. Ekta Kapoor came on-board and gave the much needed boost to make it look visible. The film is finally in theatres this friday.

Here’s our recco post on the film, written by Raj Kumari. It was written last year after the MFF screening.

No Male Rescuers

Lipstick Under My Burkha (LUMB) was one of the best films I saw at MAMI 2016 – a bold & honest take on female sexuality. All four protagonists are females (how often that happens in India?) so it can be easily said that it is about female sexuality but I felt at the deepest level it is not. And I am so happy about it being not so.

But still it shows the different perceptions about female sexuality in four different stages of a women’s life through four characters Rehana Saeed (a college girl), Leela (a young lady of so-called marriageable age), Shireen Aslam (a middle-aged married women) and Usha Bua ji (an elderly woman).

The film explores their desires, fantasies, and struggle to own their heartbreaks with such honesty and poignant sensitivity that it’s impossible not to see your own secrets in them.

And even after crossing so many slippery alleys of this topic of female sexuality and repression when it becomes very easy (and even cathartic) to take sides by providing a rescuer for these characters, this film allows itself not to take such a decisive stand and sticks to its POV of just being a witness. The film doesn’t rescue them, it just lets them be. The focus remains tight on the process of suppression only, and hence the core of sexuality comes out blazingly clear.

And what is it?

Sexuality is never about body. And more primarily about male or female body. It can not be. As it involves both male and female energies, whatever be the outer form of the body, male or female or any other gender. Sexuality is about being free, being open, being whole in your presence which generally manifests as being with your own body. And of course, this openness and freedom can come through wearing what you like, smoking, being explicitly exposing or demanding sex openly (some of the tropes repeatedly used/reinforced in our films to show a ‘liberated’ woman). But being sexually liberated is further about understanding that these are just few symbols of freedom against respective symbols of suppression. They ALONE are NOT freedom. Yes, they do serve till some deeper grounds of being open with the self is found. And the film attempts to take us to that depth too.

(SPOILERS AHEAD) 

It defines the core of freedom in the scene where Bua-ji owns her desires, and her ownership of them in front of all who used to respect her. She didn’t feel any shame, grudge or pity. She showed courage to assemble all of her torn, broken, humiliated self in her arms and took shelter in her bedroom calmly and with the same ownership. There were male oppressors but there was no male rescuer in the film, and this itself says how deeply mature the intent of the film is. I loved the film a little extra for this one golden aspect.

And in the last scene, how beautifully it showed that such a place of courage becomes a platform for all such courageous hearts to identify with their struggle. A platform to make mistakes, comparing your struggles with others, and finally seeing the commonality of self ownership as the final rescue.
Do watch it. And let us know what you thought about the film.

The World of Shutu

It’s always difficult to write about a film when it comes back home with you as a very palpable emotion. The conflict is between whether to talk about the film (like a semi-review, talking about the great crew and cast, plot, motifs etc.) or the memories & insights it triggered. Since it’s a quick & short piece written in the middle of a very tight schedule, mainly to excite the reader enough to go and watch the film, I will stay somewhere in between – a bit clumsy but functional.

We all have been Shutu at some point of time in our lives. I know I have been, for many years. Bullied, ridiculed, misunderstood, misfit and still trying to smile lest I should be seen as ‘sissy’. Fitting into this world of men is a constant struggle for men even. It’s a game whose rules we laid on our own and still laid them so tough that now we are having a hard time catching up. Why did we do this to ourselves? Why we continue to do this – trying to check items off a laundry list to pretend that we have grown up (from a male perspective only)? Why do we want to grow up? Due to social pressure or survival mechanism – like preys turning into predator?

Konkona Sen Sharma’s directorial debut A Death In The Gunj takes one to such places – beautiful and uncomfortable – places where innocent nostalgia meets the darkest memories. Set in 1979, it’s about a Bengali family with a severe Raj-era hangover on a quaint holiday in Bihar’s (now Jharkhand’s) McCluskieganj – a place with an equally severe Raj-era hangover. The family has many people and egos, a bunch of well-adjusted, seemingly non-threatening abnormals. And the family has Shutu (Vikrant Massey in a role of a lifetime) – the younger brother broadly seen as a silent-introvert type. The constant clash between the two worlds – one inhabited by the family with its bikes & muttons & drinks & pranks & love-games, and another in which Shutu sits by the window sketching frogs in an old diary – scrapes the paints off both of them. The delicate locking mechanism that had kept them together starts wearing off and the moment of truth, or whatever the grown-up version of that is, comes closer and closer.

The only bridge between the two worlds is Shutu’s teenaged niece Tani – already bored of the games adults play & constantly fascinated by Shutu’s scientific-poetic lonely view of the world. It’s not a coincidence that the bridge is a female ‘cos this is a film deeply aware of its gender politics (and at a couple of places, class politics too). Men behave like boys-behaving-like-men, women behave like women-seen-through-men’s-eyes, as two conflicted souls (Shutu and Tani) clutch at straws while drowning in the waters of such rigid definitions.

As a fat teenaged kid in the 90s, I loved watching cricket and I wasn’t bad at playing it too but nobody would select me in the team. My fatness and my academic bent (the tag of “padhaaku”) were a liability nobody was willing to carry. Even if selected in the team (the last to be picked), I’d not get a chance to bat or bowl. So I’d put all my efforts into fielding well. I’d kill myself to get that throw from the boundary right.

But still, just to show I am cool with this treatment, I would offer to play the umpire. That way, I’d get to be on the field at least, get to hold the ball at the end of every over (just for a few seconds before I toss it to the next bowler), and be treated with respect by both the teams. I’d apply myself to the task & be the most unbiased, observant umpire. Sometimes, I’d get to play a few balls or bowl an over – and I believe that became possible only because of the bridges I made as an umpire. But in the process, I lost something precious too. I lost my courage to openly cry in public. I lost my feminine side, or at least suppressed it for the longest time, to fit into this world of men.

And that’s why, when in one scene Shutu is the last to be picked for a game of kabaddi, his state of mind was so relatable that I felt like crying. I did not, yet again.

Varun Grover

*********************

For those looking for a quick list of reasons to watch (and watch you MUST):

  1. Konkona Sen Sharma’s assured, sensitive debut as a Director. Ace!
  2. Konkona Sen Sharma’s screenplay co-written with Disha Rindani (based on a short story by Mukul Sharma) is full of delightful dialogue & an eerie sense of impending doom.
  3. Rich texture and detailing. Made on a small budget but NEVER looks like it. Sirsha Ray (DOP) and Sidhharth Sirohi (Production Design) bring their A-game to the table.
  4. McCluskieganj’s wild charm has been captured so ethereally that you can smell the air, touch the greenery.
  5. The film has four languages (English, Hindi, Bangla, and Chhota Nagpuri) and all spoken with a natural effortlessness rare to find in Indian cinema.
  6. The brilliant original score and music by Sagar Desai (disclosure: I worked with him in ‘Ankhon Dekhi’) elevates and layers the film with great precision.
  7. One of the best ensemble casts in recent memory – Ranvir Shorey, Kalki  Koechlin, Tilottama Shome, Gulshan Devaiah, Jim Sarbh, Arya Sharma, Tanuja, and Om Puri (one of his last roles and what a delight he is!).
  8. Such well-etched and distinct characters – right from Ranvir Shorey’s Vikram to Kalki’s Mimi to Tilottama’s Bonnie to Gulshan Devaiah’s Nandu – constantly chattering, surprising and layering the film with their brilliant mannerisms.
  9. Vikrant Massey got the kind of role actors crave for and he hits it out of the park. Shutu is beautiful and heartbreaking.
  10. Every department has delivered and the best thing is – the sum is way greater than the parts. Do not miss this film.

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)

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.

la-la-land

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)

ae-dil-hai-mushkil-lyrics-title-song

SPOILER ALERT

First let me make it clear, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (ADHM) is about love not unrequited love. But I don’t want to talk about ADHM the film, as much as I want to talk about love. Not relationships, just love.

Just like Karan Johar (and many of us), defining love has been a pet preoccupation most of my life too. Having seen around me disastrous outcomes of the passionate / possessive kind of love and its long-term damage, I grew up wanting to avoid those kind of experiences. Passionate romantic relationships would leave you wrecked and changed for life – was the message etched in my head. Until I turned 21 and dutifully took charge, to define love once and for all.

Just like our man Karan Johar, I quipped in an epiphany, ‘Love is friendship!’

You see, I had just met the love of my life, the man I wanted to have children with and grow old with but neither our bond nor relationship fitted into the YRF model (any other model was either too outdated or too modern) and it was important to me that I define. Imtiaz Ali had not debuted then, otherwise he may have helped. Left to my own wits, I decided that the best and most enduring expression of love is friendship. And that is the best form for your romantic relationship to take, keeps the politics of love from infecting its beauty. Because the butterflies-in-the-stomach, sleepless nights, restless ardour and passionate sex kind of romance is mere gender role-play, political, skin-deep and temporary while long-lasting relationships are made of soul connect, on the basis of an equal companionship. My understanding of the emotional complexity of relationships and love then was limited to these polarities. The many faces of love were mere ‘types’ for me.

There was a gap of a good 15 years between me naming my chapter of love and watching Ae Dil Hain Mushkil. My Mughl-e-Azam level romance was behind me for good and whereas it did leave me wrecked and changed for life while I was at it, it wasn’t the passion or possession of love that did it. Rather, as I came to see, to some extent, it was a lack of it. Love as friendship was the culprit. That left me flummoxed. But not surprised.

There was something very familiar in the story I was not telling myself. The story behind the story of why I had forced love into the mould of friendship when I wanted more and different. I had faced it but with Alizeh I faced it again. I was Alizeh, without the experience, but with the knowledge of how deeply love can scar, hence friendship was the safest and best form of love. I was Alizeh who has fully filmy dreams but didn’t really believe they would ever come true while she really wanted them to. I was Alizeh who has felt so vulnerable in love that putting on a don’t-care-a-damn attitude is the best defense, the best way to protect herself from it again. I was Alizeh who believes only friendship lasts because she has seen love crumble in front of her eyes. Her helplessness at the altar of love, at once scared and wise was mine. So in fear, I scrambled to firmly place love in the safe universe of friendship. The only difference was, she did it after her first heartbreak, I did it before, to avoid one. She found her home and I was lost. But the fear of pain that spawned it was the same.

And it this very fear of pain Alizeh overcomes when she lets her last dream be fulfilled. She allows love back into her life but with the wisdom of experience. ‘I friend you’ she says to Ayan’s helpless ‘I love you’, telling him she accepts his love and wants to love him back just that her favourite form of expression is different. And Ayan accepts, not because she is dying and he is desperate, but out of a largesse that naturally comes out of deep passion. Suddenly, love becomes formless even though both remain adamant on its form. Because it is within Alizeh’s choice to return and Ayan’s acceptance of her as is, that lies the real expression of love, formless and boundless. It no longer matters what they say, their actions have spoken.

That is why, even though she is dying in the film, for me, she wins. And so does Ayan, even though he doesn’t seem to get what he wanted. Because love wins. They may not have had their love fulfilled in the way they wanted but they had their love returned. To be requited, love just needs love, itself, not form. It’s when we get lost in the form we miss seeing the love that is happy being outside. To me, the film’s end signified a fresh start to Ayan and Alizeh’s quest for exploring a different form of love, this time together and with more wisdom. Time would tell if they would find a meeting ground or conclusions, but in their acceptance of each other’s love was the acknowledgment of its formlessness. To my mind, her “I friend you’ didn’t seem like a stubborn quibble but simply a reiteration of not having to define love at all. Let’s keep it as undefined as a friendship is, and let it blossom. And take it from there, she seems to be saying.

But what had turned Alizeh off in the first place? It was the neediness of love, the soul-scorching neediness of love and not its heady passion that she had experienced. She had seen its destructive face, not its procreative desire. Maybe she mistook both but love wasn’t a happy place for her to be in anymore. And so for Saba. But for Ayan, this very attachment is the Holy Grail he was seeking. His heart has passed the flower pot test. And so has Tahir Khan’s. But Ayan is still struggling under the weight while Tahir wears it with pride, not as a badge of honour, but as something life-affirming because it keeps him connected to the one he loves even without her presence in his life. I have my love, if not her…he says, and we are back to the formlessness of love, one that doesn’t seek possession, one that doesn’t need validation by the others’, it is valid in itself by its own presence.

Among the four, we are left feeling that it is only Saba who remains unfulfilled. Is it because that she unknowingly craved again for the same form of love she had left behind? The small interaction with her ex-husband shows she has not forgiven or forgotten yet. That is why she is steering clear of love, it can only be no strings attached especially emotional ones coz the earlier form did not quite work. Just like Alizeh, she too is still yearning and it is this that draws her to Ayan but she doesn’t know that until later. And when she does, she sees she has been seduced by love in the same form again. She wants to give in but cannot see the same light in his eyes. Letting Ayan go seems the rightest thing to do to her. If Ayan has already given away his love to someone else does she have a right to ask for it? She moves away with dignity. Despite clinging to a particular form of love she unfetters her love from its demands without knowing. No longer possessive, her love protects them both as much as it hurts. She goes back to her home, poetry. A more sublime form of the expression of love? Does she really remain unfulfilled? Is love letting go?

I wish Saba’s character had been given more attention and screen-time for very selfish reasons. If the girl in me related to the awkward young girl in Alizeh, the woman in me empathised with the poised middle-aged woman in Saba. I was Saba, too fearful to give love a chance again. I was Saba, fooling herself she is strong when it was just a façade. I was Saba, with wounds still raw, inviting more wounds pretending she is trying to heal them, almost as a punishment. I was Saba whose pain had a certain stillness about it, it did not roar and burn. I was Saba who has now found letting go is as easy as getting attached used to be.

Her meeting with Alizeh in Ayan’s presence was one of the sequences in the film that seemed to be dealt with quite an intuitive hand, in writing, performance, and direction. There is a hierarchy, ever-so-subtle, where age and looks play a significant part but no politics. The girl in Saba (which Ayan’s attentions has stirred, him being younger) recognises the girl in Alizeh and the older and wiser woman inside her responds, she is not only graceful she is gracious too. Alizeh’s awe and awkwardness in front of Saba’s self-assured poise is not only a reflection of her own discomfort with her femininity (and hence love too, to an extent) but also the girl yet to acquire the wisdom of womanhood, looking at what she would like to grow up to be after a couple of years. Or something so unattainable she never hoped to attain it anyways. The scene lays bare everyone’s insecurities and strengths without needing to politicise them.

If the girl inside Saba hurts to see Ayan loving someone else the way she wants him to love her, the woman in her knows letting go is the wisest thing to do. Love will find a way, KJo said in one of his earlier (and lesser) films.

As is inherent in the human condition, there is a constant tussle between the possessive and transcendental aspects of love, aspects most films aspire to portray but fail at evoking. ADHM does not pretend to, caught as it is, despite its best efforts, in the limitations of its emotional language and landscape. But it does pit these aspects against each other fairly well. If love as passion (junoon) is transcendental for Tahir, for Saba it is possessive. If love as friendship is transcendental for Alizeh, for Ayan it is immaterial. He craves transcendence through possession.

Yet, in the end, it is Ayan who takes the biggest leap of faith in the film, out of sheer love; he simply cannot help it. In doing so, he opens a window within to a love that does not seek to possess, love that liberates. It is not difficult to imagine him, few years down the line, wearing it with pride, this new-found joy in the junoon of love, like Tahir does. It’s like he amalgamates everyone’s journeys, even though it is they who spur him on to his. His emotional journey is Alizeh, Saba and Tahir’s catharsis, bringing together four people happy to fly solo in love. I loved him for being helplessly passionate showing me its ok to believe in the junoon of love, that’s a form of expression too. But I loved him more for being the very vulnerable boy he was, almost saying is there any other way to love really?

What seems so brave in the film is the atypicality of the portrayal of love. It does not pretend to be grandiose, or lofty (like KANK) it’s rather earnest, the unabashed love for Bollywood adding an almost unconscious subtext of Bollywood romantic models to the film. It’s like we know what these kids have grown up on, setting the context of their influences, behaviour and beliefs, in a certain sense too. And in a wider sense encompassing all those film lovers and filmy lovers who brought up on Bollywood too, make films and love what it is – friendship, passion, commitment, relationship or plain confusion.

And probably that is why, inspite of myself, I was Alizeh, Saba, Ayan and Tahir, separately and all at once. I didn’t understand them, I just recognised them in me, struggling between having love and being it. And like all of them beginning to realise love is not a goal to be met, it is a state of mind and if Rumi were asked, ‘state of the soul’. And isn’t there something about non-separation there?

Love is coming home, whichever route you choose to take.

Fatema Kagalwala

And we have come to the second last day of the Mumbai Film Festival. Here’s quick wrap of all the films that we managed to catch.

If you are looking for our previous posts on reccos and reviews from Mumbai Film Festival, our Day 1 wrap is here, Day 2 is here, Day 3 is here, for Day 4 click here, and Day 5 is here.

For our notes on Movie Mela, click here. And click here to read about Cary Fukunaga session.

Nakom

The reason why I love attending film festivals is I get to see and learn about other cultures and countries. Kelly Daniela Norris and T. W. Pittman’s “Nakom” took me to a hidden rural town in Ghana and made me a part of their daily struggles. A simple story, on the lines of “Swades”, this is a very personal and sincere film. Story about going back to ones’ roots has been explored time and again but here, the filmmakers treat it in a very unassuming and simple manner. Truly an indie film with grainy night footage, non-actors performing to the best of their abilities, these flaws only add to the narrative to tell a very personal story about being torn between two worlds. Just wish the protagonist wasn’t so righteous and had some flaws in him. Nevertheless a gorgeous to look at with some great music. Here’s hoping this film gets a wide release so people can explore this side of Ghana. “Nakom” is probably a film that Ghana desperately needs.

Trapped

After the underwhelming “Lootera”, Vikramaditya Motwane has made one hell of a survival thriller in “Trapped”. What I loved the most was that it’s set in a metro like Mumbai where anything you can think of is available. Be it food, friends, enemies, dirty, crowd, empty nights and yet Shaurya (Rajkumar Rao) has nothing! Juxtaposing this mad city with the emptiness of a brand new flat was just a masterstroke. You can see the busy city, hear the noise but a call for help is useless! “Trapped” is also technically the strongest Hindi film this year. Motwane smartly uses aspect ratio to draw you into trapped environment and goes 2.35:1 during some really epic dream sequences. Everything here is just right, not more, not less and that’s the power of editing! Without a strong edit, a thriller is nothing. Too add to the awesomeness is the mind blowing score by Alokananda Dasgupta. Terrific stuff!

Mihir @mihirbdesai

My Life as a Courgette

Icares is sent to an orphanage after he accidentally kills his mother in an unfortunate yet hilarious accident. He meets a bunch of other orphans there and after some initial hospitality, he develops a bond with them, especially with Simon, the resident bully. Camille enters the scene after a few days and Courgette falls for her.
This gorgeously rendered stop motion Mary & Max-ish feel wali French language film is Swiss official entry for the 89th Academy awards. I’m so glad I ended my day with this after starting it with the eerie Hounds of Love. Had a huge grin on my face throughout the 65 minutes of this absolute cuteness overload.

– Avinash @filmworm85

Multiple Maniacs

On the surface, Multiple Maniacs is about Lady Divine and her motley crew, luring unsuspecting suburban folks to her show ‘The Cavalcade of Perversion’, the catch being the audience will have never seen something so ‘nasty’, so ‘filthy’. The show consists of acts such as ‘puke eater’, ‘faggots’ kissing and alike. At the end of the show, the unsuspecting audience is looted off their money and belongings on gunpoint.

Scratch a layer deeper, the film is about John Waters luring sweet suburban folks (yes, even us Mumbaikars) in to his own version of ‘Cavalcade of Perversion’. The film is like looking in to a mirror but only seeing a more grotesque version of your staring back. The film is truly twisted at its core. All institutions of our current day society such as education, family etc. are torn in to thither, but none as much as ‘Religion’. If you are even remotely religious, stay away from this, you have been warned. But if in case you have a thick skin, you are in for a bizarre treat which hasn’t aged a single day in the 46 years since it first released. Mr. John Waters, you have attention as well as our curiosity! P.S. Multiple Maniacs will be screened on Day 7 of at La Reve, Bandra. Do catch if possible.

– Aditya @TheRadiowala

Death In Sarajevo 

Danis Tanovic’s new film is an Altmanesque satire, a drama of ideas until it isn’t. Cash strapped and desperate, a hotel prepares to host a function commemorating the hundredth anniversary of the first World War while its meagre staff readies for a strike, while at the same time tensions flare between a Serb and a Bosnian woman interviewing him on the rooftop. The hotel becomes a fascinating backdrop for exploring worker rights and capitalism while Tanovic brilliantly uses the rooftop sequence to depict the dissonance between humanity and politics as the two warring parties display a subtle sexual chemistry. A prerequisite knowledge of European history, specifically of the Slavic countries, is recommended.

The Untamed

I didn’t watch Mexican filmmaker Amat Escalante’s Heli at last year’s MAMI but I heard people berating it while riding the elevator up to the screens, an old bearded man ranted about how it had gone too far. I never got around to watching it but a viewing of Untamed has all but ensured that I’ll seek it out.

It’s a bizarre lo-fi sci-fi domestic drama about a mother of two and her husband who is in an abusive affair with her gay brother. The science fiction elements mostly take a backseat to the human drama but when it’s there, it’s deliciously done, calling to mind Andrzej Zuwalski’s Possession, with its creature design and erotica. There’s some allusions to the misogyny and homophobia in Mexican society but I’ve little context for it. On some level, I’m in love with the film, but I’m not entirely sure why. It’s definitely not a film for everyone.

– Anubhav @psemophile

 

Trapped

This MAMI has been a bit of a disappointment in terms of the new works by revered and trusted directors. A lot of great filmmakers produced average to even abysmal works. Somehow, despite that, I hadn’t lost even an iota of excitement for Trapped, because Motwane has my unshakable faith.

Trapped is a very simple survival drama, simple as survival dramas go. I’ll divulge as few details as I can, since even a trailer has not come out and I do not know what can be a potential spoiler to you. The film boils down to this – a man gets trapped in his own apartment, due to his own carelessness and actions performed in desperation. He has to survive, and find a way out. This isn’t any apartment, it’s an apartment in an unoccupied building. The whys aren’t something I’ll get into, suffice it to say that nothing seemed contrived. The writing felt utterly grounded, the protagonist utterly relatable.

The greatest thing that the movie does is that by virtue of it being set in Bombay, it taps into a contradictory claustrophobia that all of us who’ve lived here have felt at some point of time. You’re just one person in a sea of people, and despite the sheer population and closeness with which we live, it can be the most daunting task to be heard, to be seen, to be found. Along with that, the film deals with a lot other fears that you or I may have while living in this city. The shut out balconies. Animals. The blind trust that everything will work as planned. In the end, and this is the truth which we all need to know, when the shit hits the fan, we have only ourselves to rely on to clean it all up.

The film is not at all lengthy, the pacing is solid, the editing practically flawless. Few moments feel ripe with tension, not just in terms of “what the fuck is going to go wrong next?” but also in terms of “oh my God what is this guy going to do next?”. If you’ve seen enough movies, you’ll start trying to predict all sorts of scenarios, and Trapped sometimes lands where the predictions land, sometimes it does not, but regardless of either case, it does not feel stupid or watered down one bit. You truly feel the basic survival instinct kick in, and the battle between surviving and already set fears. Forgive me for speaking in such abstract terms, any more specifics could ruin the film for you. I enjoyed it as much as I did because I knew NOTHING about it. The thing about survival dramas is that it’s set in such a confined space and it’s got such little space, it’s easy to lose track or momentum. Tedious flashbacks, slacking of pace, repetitive tropes, all of those are pitfalls which Motwane and team effortlessly and continuously avoid. There are parts where the humour isn’t obvious, but you laugh inside. And even more effortlessly, the story eases us back into the scenario of tension. There were quite a few instances where my balls were in my mouth, pardon me for the lack of a better euphemism. Anything said about this film CANNOT be complete without mentioning the hero of the hour and a half, Rajkumar Rao. The man has proven himself time and again, but I firmly believe that he has outdone himself. Have you ever screamed yourself hoarse? You know what your voice sounds like after that. This man has actually acted that out. You see a rabid survival instinct in his eyes develop gradually as the film progresses. In the sequences preceding the entrapment, you see the awkwardness, introversion, infatuation and pure love. And then you see the most basic human nature take over. It takes an immensely skilled actor to bring all of that into one character, and this film would’ve fallen like an unstable jenga tower had it not been for Rajkumar Rao’s acting.

I believe this film would not have been the way it is had it been set in any other city. This is a story of a man surviving in Bombay. In a hunger and thirst induced stupor, he hallucinates about how joyful it would feel to travel in a sweaty, crowded local train compartment again, how joyful it would feel to argue with a BEST bus conductor again, to jump into the sea at Chowpatti beach. The barricaded balconies, the “jugaad” that we are used to seeing and doing, everything forms an integral part of the story, or character, or both. Motwane made a coming of age film that was a masterpiece. Then he adapted an O Henry story and made it into a period drama. Now, he’s made a survival story that’s stripped bare, and yet, its not devoid of magic. That’s Motwane for you, and that’s Trapped for you. Trapped is right up there with Red Turtle for me as the best that MAMI has to offer this year.

Light Music

An experimental “Experience” of sorts, involving two 16mm projectors, to showcase the way sound is used in celluloid. This one was a half an hour long experience for the curious, for the die hard cinema lover. Seeing a 16mm projector in the flesh is beautiful, to say the least, but the best part about the whole thing was that the two projectors were kept opposing each other, one in each end of the cinema hall, and with the fog effects, the rays of the projectors felt like they were having some sort of a magical duel. Or maybe I’m just indulging myself here. The images projected were that of the soundtrack part of the celluloid. We were supposed to hear, as well as see, what the sound aspect of a film is, or was. However, after maybe 10 minutes, I got bored so I stepped out.

When Two Worlds Collide

A documentary about the battle between an indigenous community and the government for the Amazon, the atrocities that can and are committed in the name of “progress”, and the price some people are willing to pay for the greater good. It is a harrowing tale, no doubt. And it is ever relevant, as whatever be the struggle, the core of it is the same everywhere – standing up for what’s right. However, this documentary had some strong pacing issues in the start. By the time it picked up the pace, I’d lost interest (in the film, not the subject), so it wouldn’t be fair if I said anything more.

Achyuth Sankar

 (Pics – Varun Grover/Jio MAMI)