Archive for the ‘reviews’ Category

The well-intentioned, naïve, and dangerous smugness of Thappad.

New-age urban-liberal-feminist Bollywood is where women’s issues go to die.

Domestic Violence has been ‘dealt with’ in a popular Hindi film last weekend. How Thappad depicts it, what solution it suggests, is now part of the popular imagination. Tick. One more issue has been covered. No other film on this topic will be made for a long time. I think this is why the male dominated industry is now ‘allowing’, facilitating this new wave of ‘women oriented’ films – they are confident of the superficiality with which the issues will be ‘dealt with’. After all, this superficiality is made possible only by the mediocrity that they fathered and propagated.

The trailer promises it to be about You. Who ‘me’? Yes, there are common experiences as women, but surely, the writer is aware that even gendered values are determined by class, caste locations?

Writers’ lack of understanding of political and historical reality, the inadequate representations are often defended by the fraternity from any discourse by saying “This is the story we choose to tell.”

But wait a minute, you have made it for public consumption. You are saying it is the story of Indian women. But, it is Amrita’s story.

Amrita who is constructed as an emotional, vulnerable girl, and presented as a physically attractive, fragile body. A commodified domestic woman created by capitalist patriarchy is copied on to her page by a woman script writer.

Thereby, deleting the ‘inspiration’ part of the project.

This characterization, instead of empowering, makes a woman viewer feel inadequate. Not even one slap. See/this pretty girl does not take shit.

Unlike you.

The film does not show how to resist/protect against/survive violence, but shows that certain women do not have to take even a fraction of what is part of your everyday life.

One has learnt not to question the absence of say, a Muslim woman, or a middle-class working mother, but in a film about a slap – about a violation of physical self – surely one could also see a different kind of body, one not so fragile face?

Films in a popular space cannot shirk from the responsibility of varied representation.
If the film ignores difference, THE OTHER CAN NEVER BE REPRESENTED.

One token subplot – the only way the character and the writer can access the other half- enter, the domestic help!

The writer deigns to take a disdainful look at lower socio-economic class household. A working class couple that performs underpaid hard labour, and has complex, shared, survival strategies to feed their children is not granted any intelligence or grace in their marital intimacy by the film. The violence among the poor is shown as meaningless, crude, repetitive, almost comic as opposed to a one-time, almost accidental incident, but one that leaves the heroine’s vulnerable face with a permanently hurt and traumatized expression.

I remember that other domestic help (played by Ms. Hattangady) in Arth (1982. Dir: Mahesh Bhatt). This woman is also a victim of domestic violence. But the situation is problematized by her material struggle for a better future for her daughter – “English medium school”, a life unlike her mother’s. The violence is reversed when the Bai kills her husband – brought about by the unforgivable act of stealing the money that she has been saving for her daughter’s school admission.

In Thappad, in a beautiful conversation with her mother-in-law, Amrita suggests that the older lady start cooking classes. Something to keep the old lady engaged I suppose – closest the film comes to talk of a job from our protagonist.

Amrita, who, with a full time domestic help,and the whole day left to her after the cuteness of the morning routine, did only one hour work in her neighbor/friend’s house in the entire day!

Materialist feminism though, is not touched upon by the new urban feminist film projects because materialism feminism questions, along with patriarchy, also capitalism.

Which, is not allowed, I suppose, because the urban liberal feminist projects, are themselves, a part of capitalist production and distribution structures.

But if not livelihood struggle, surely sexuality can be allowed? Thappad does not attempt to question any of the sexuality issues that surround intimate partner violence.

In Thappad, not for a moment do we see sexual desire between Amrita and Vikram. The love she feels for him, does she miss him at night? Adult, sexual love – not the rather corny list of domestic tasks – feeding parathas at the car, handing him his wallet etc – that poor Amu has done for the family out of love! Love, as in love between two young people who are in an intimate co-habitation? Is there a moment, in all those days of separation when she is conflicted between anger and desire, or both simultaneously?
For example, what would the writer of Thappad say if I put it to her, that there is an interplay of fear, hurt and desire in marriages fraught with violence?

No, not because ‘those women have no choice’ in contrast to the repeatedly asserted ‘choice’ that the urban upper class artists seem to have, or because the women are masochistic(this is another malady that’s going around – this quick pseudo-psychological labelling of complex social phenomenon), which they are not.

Oh come on, don’t tell me you have never hummed Billie Holidays’ “My man don’t love me” ha ha!

Jokes apart, if those women are masochist, so are all of us, every time we are engaged in consensual lovemaking in our beautiful relationships of equality, for heterosexual intercourse is violent in the very nature of the act.

What if there is, really a connection between sexual desire and violence in not only the minds, but also real lives of some victims/resistors/surviors of intimate partner violence.

Violence as an experience, seemed to me to represent a point of intersection, of trajectories of hurt, touch, love, fear, hunger, and shame.” (On Bodily Love and Hurt, V. Geetha – A Question of Silence: The Sexual Economies of Modern India (ed. Janaki Nair, Mary E John)

Not just desire, but the hurt body itself does not disturb the pretty visuals. There are of course, to be no visibly broken/bruised parts – the main thing is the just-one-slap of course – but not even a slightly swollen face, or in the praised performance, perhaps just the feeling of her tooth with her own tongue while speaking in the post-slap scenes, or reaching out to close her ear – as people who have just been slapped tend to do, due to injury to the tympanic membrane – the ear drum. Nothing. Just the hurt expression, and the almost infantile insistence, repeated ad nauseum beginning at the trailers – Can’t hit. No fractures (not literally, darlings) to the impeccable appearance.

The violence almost not-there, and so the punishment.

“If she charges you with domestic violence, you will be in jail”

Not to worry, Vikram, the script will not put you in jail. Jail is to be filled with certain communities, certain classes- even the possibility of you, well-heeled you going there has never been dreamt by the script.

After the Love Actually kind of showing how everyone ended up, there is an emotional poem.
Supposed to be empowering, it in fact valorizes paternal protectionism. Amrita begins her single life, in a new flat, but under the nurturance and support of her father, and will now fulfill the dreams that father once had for her.

I remember the last scene of again, Arth (1982. Dir: Mahesh Bhatt) where Pooja (Ms. Azmi) lifts up her adopted daughter – a girl who, like Pooja, is an orphan. Pooja is beginning a new life, now taking responsibility for the life and future of another person.

Amrita, on the other hand, makes a point.


Nadi (Dr. Manasee Palshikar) has done her M.A (Gender, Culture and Development) from the Pune university, and has completed the course in Screenplay Writing from FTII, Pune.

(click on any pic to start the slide show)

Vasan Bala’s Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota (The Man Who Feels No Pain) became not only the first Indian film to be featured in Toronto International Film Festival’s Midnight Madness, but also the first Indian film to get the Grolsch People’s Choice Award in the same segment.

Here’s Vasan’s acceptance speech at TIFF…

 

And this is how the film was introduced by the Midnight Madness curator Peter Kuplowsky. So much fun!

Here’s all the early reviews from TIFF:

Writer-director Vasan Bala’s wild and wacky yet also warm and fuzzy fable about a resourceful young man who transcends ostensible physical limitations to become a two-fisted, swift-kicking hero likely will prove to be an irresistible crowd-pleaser on the global fest circuit, and in international release on various platforms.

Review on Variety by Joe Leydon

But those getting superhero fatigue should not worry, for along came an Indian superhero origin story inspired by every action movie on the planet that’s so funny and meta, Deadpool is crying of jealousy. This is The Man Who Feels No Pain.

Review at Bloody Disgusting by Rafael Motamayor

Through the tongue-in-cheek humor and mind-blowing action, the makers of the film manage to capture the crowd-pleasing essence of a masala film, without any of the problematic aspects of the genre. In a time where every Bollywood movie is eager to teach and preach, ‘Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota’ takes you back to the time 7-year-old you broke your leg trying to leap into a flying kick. But instead of yelling at you for being an idiot, Vasan Bala gives you a mat to cushion your next fall and a bottle of water to keep you hydrated.

Review at BizAsia by Sahar Junejo

His film, whose title toys with Amitabh Bachchan’s 1985 Mard, summons many adorable tropes of Bollywood and superhero films — bachpan ke dost, dadaji as teacher-mentor, mother’s murder and a haunting chain, limping and one-legged martial arts masters, evil villains — but each one has its own dancing, subversive curlicue that twists and twirls the cliches, making them funny, cool, with oodles of street cred.

Review by Suparna Sharma

– Review at NowToronto by Norman Wilner

I will not reveal the end of the breakout Telugu film, Arjun Reddy, coveted for a Bollywood remake with Ranveer Singh expressing keen interest. But it suffices to say that somewhere in the first half when the narrative glamourizes a bad boy, I knew that the end would make or break the movie for me. Touted as the modern-day Devdas, Arjun Reddy is the story of how a surgeon grappling with anger issues starts sinking into a black hole of alcoholism and drug abuse after his college sweetheart, Preethi gets married to another man.

At the risk of stoking the AR funs the wrong way, I will clarify that I love seeing despicable characters on screen with their flaws, front and center. I am interested in the people they emerge as, at the end of their grueling journey (what is technically speaking, the character arc). And yes, my criticism comes from context and not just a sense of righteousness. Arjun Reddy, (hereinafter AR) with his great looks and cringe-inducing attitude can keep you hooked, thanks to the immersive storytelling and Vijay Devarakonda’s fiery performance. Of course, there is the heroine who is willing to endure silently to transform this hotheaded guy with a heart of gold into a worthy man, setting the stage for a toxic love story. One would argue that these ideas ought to be presupposed and accepted in the framework of the films of the region. But with some of the refreshing departures that the film makes with a new cinematic language, I was led to expect more. The sparks of brilliance hold more possibilities, that the film fails to explore with its climax.

Arjun’s character is a bundle of contradictions. He stakes a claim over his junior in college, Preethi by threatening other junior students to stay away from her and turn their gaze on other girls. He almost bullies the timid Preethi into spending time with him. When AR interrupts her in the middle of an antakshari game to plant a kiss on her cheek, it is evident that he has thrown consent out of the window. But we shortly see that Preethi is the one who makes the first move when it comes to making love. Well, scriptwriting is the art of manipulation, after all! Her quiet adulation of a senior with a clout in medical college, who adamantly looks out for her, then does not seem so misplaced.  In one of the scenes, Arjun even asks Preethi to speak to her parents as a ‘woman’ and not a ‘teenager’. You have to credit the smart writing for the mixed feelings it provokes.

A raging alcoholic but also an impeccable surgeon, he brooks no dissent. He also lambasts a man for objectification of women and in the following scene we see him chasing after his maid out of fury but the clever placement of scenes depicts AR as someone who has anger issues but is not necessarily a male chauvinist. The chronology suggests that an evolution may be in order but we don’t witness a character growth in that direction. Despite many contemporary touches, the film refuses to address his aggression as an ailment. It is revered as machismo, instead. So much for ‘heralding’ a new chapter in Telugu cinema.

Unlike most Indian films plagued with the curse of the second half, the film comes into its own in the second half when the protagonist nosedives into devastation. The focus is entirely on his gradual descent into a whirlpool of ruin.  The film pulses with an unpredictable fervor. You are left wondering what will make AR hit rock bottom. Enduring his eccentricity almost becomes a visceral test. The filmmaking is slick with its exquisite long takes and rousing background score. I expected it to stomp over tropes and give us a raw character study of an antihero. I even stopped watching it as a love story. In a telling instance, AR’s grandmother speaks of how suffering is personal and that he needs to hurt. There is much to suggest that his tale would not meet the Devdas fate but would conclude with an imaginatively bleak streak. Alas! It is in the sudden and unconvincing subduing of the ferocious AR that the film completely lost me.

The impossibilities of AR’s character are wisely cushioned with the character of Shiva (Rahul Ramakrishna), AR’s steadfast friend who holds a mirror up to him. In one of the best scenes in the film, Shiva confides in his father about the frustration of dealing with his doggedly dismal friend. He lends the much needed sardonic humour to the film. It is rare to see a supporting character being drawn to the fore from the periphery. A scene which would have otherwise been considered as exposition does the job of offering the lens of empathy to viewers. In the same vein, another character in the film calls him a ‘free spirited individual in a democratic world.’

It’s a rare joy to see an anti-hero meet his grotesque fate and rise above it or get crushed under its weight. What Boss Getty says in Citizen Kane comes to mind, “He’s going to need more than one lesson. And he’s going to get more than one lesson.”  But this anti-hero turns into a hero. All his self-defeating means stand vindicated. And a passionate character study becomes a conventional love story. Perhaps the audience is not ready for this bitter pill but we can still revel in the unconventional narrative style of the film and the acting smarts of Vijay Deverakonda.

– Dipti Kharude

(Dipti has quit her corporate job and is having fun dipping her toes in a ton of stuff like binge watching TV and web series, doing movie marathons, gallivanting, and writing about her escapades. She tweets @kuhukuro)

 

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.

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)

Even if you ignore the hyperbole in the header, you shouldn’t miss the show. BBC’s Planet Earth II has come at the end of the year, and it straight goes to the top of my list. You probably have already seen this video of snakes chasing baby iguana, it went viral few weeks back. This is Mad Max on steroids! If this isn’t the best of the year, I am not sure what else can top this one.

And if you are addicted to gifs, you must have seen the funny gif of the bear scratching its back on the tree, too. That’s also from the same show.

I love reading year end lists. To see who has discovered what that i might have missed. And these days it’s more difficult to keep track as we are bombarded by content in different forms across various platforms. Strangely, i didn’t see too many people putting the show on their list. I quickly did a search on my twitter feed, too. Hardly any mention. And that’s why this post.

This show comes ten years after the original one was aired. A decade is a long time. Shooting technology has advanced, more natural habitats have been destroyed,  and David Attenborough is 90 now.  But what the show has achieved this time is unparalleled. Shot in 40 different countries, with crews making 117 filming trips, this is the result of four years of hard work.

The series is divided into six episodes – Islands, Mountains, Jungles, Deserts, Grasslands, Cities, and a compilation titled, A World Of Wonder. As you sit down to watch the first episode, you wonder two things simultaneously – what an ambitious show this is, and how the hell have they managed to shoot all that. Remember the docu, March Of The Penguins? This one is like a march in every sequence.

It’s breathtakingly immersive as the narrative glides from one sequence to other. Set to Hans Zimmer’s music, it’s the story of survival in extreme conditions. The story is the same in ever sequence – either struggling to find food to survive or a mating partner to produce babies. But shooting in the extreme conditions, and looking for elusive animals, interesting patterns, funny behaviour, rare breeds, and heart-stopping footage is what makes this show great. Add to that Attenborough’s voice-over. That’s not all, the shooting Diaries at the end of every episode tells you how they achieved those amazing shots.

The show has received some criticism for the way it has shot/put together some of the sequences by using archival footage in few places. But you will find genuine emotion when you watch it. I was on the edge of the seat cheering for the baby iguana to survive.  A sequence where baby tortoise struggle to survive or the one involving penguins on Zavodovski island is heartbreaking. It also makes you realise that as humans our life is such a luxury compared to these animals who struggle everyday just to survive. As predators turn prey in few seconds, it’s frightening to navigate through the wild.

Episode 4 and 5 seems bit weak compared to the first three. Maybe because of the terrain it explored. But the show gets its groove back in the last episode, Cities. Remember the picture of Leopard that was caught on cam in Mumbai, that sequence is in the last episode. Almost every episode has sequences from Indian terrain. As i try to rewind all the six episodes, too many astounding moments come flashing back – sloth looking for a mate in an island, bobcats diving into snow, wasp attacking eggs of glass frog, birds flying miles just to collect water for their babies, sequence of langurs, bowerbird with a red heart, and ibex climbing mountains, to name a few. Watch it. Because when nature is the showrunner, every drama is dazzling. This is the unscripted stranger things.

@notsosnob

(ps – watch it only in the best video quality. It’s out #ykw if you can’t find a legal streaming site)

(pps – it’s the only show that my cat watches, too. completely mesmerised.)

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