Archive for the ‘Special’ Category

So what do you do when you get to know that there’s a screening of Libaas? Well, only a Gulzar fan can tell you the right answer. So over to Mohit Kataria who tells us what exactly he did.

libaas_1988

Before you start:

Please don’t read this post as a film review post, it’s all about my personal experience with the movie Libaas and the way I got to watch it. I’ve never written any movie review before and I don’t think I even qualify for writing one (if there is any qualification criteria). You might also find it really biased as I’m a fan of Gulzar Saab and always wear a particular pair of admiration glasses while reading/watching/listening to any of his works.

Prologue

What do you do when you get any once-in-a-lifetime opportunity? You grab it with both the hands, right? That’s what I also did.

It all started with a Facebook post from a very dear friend and an ardent fan of Gulzar saab, Pavan Jha, that I came to know about Libaas getting screened in IFFI – 2014 in Goa on 22nd Of November. Then after a number of confusions, calculations and discussions later, I decided to go ahead and started making my travel plans. Then, I came to know about something called a delegate registration (I have already warned you about my credentials ), which was already into its “register-with-late-fee-phase”. Somehow got registered with some made up bio-data to prove that I was worthy enough to be a delegate there. I got an email mentioning that the confirmation will be done after some careful review of my bio-data. I waited impatiently for the whole day which was the last day for the registration, and by the end of the day, I got a confirmation mail asking me to pay to be a delegate. I followed the instructions and completed the formalities. Then it was time to book the tickets for travel. After doing some calculations, considering family, work, economics and time dynamics, I booked the flight from Bangalore, scheduled to reach Goa at 2 PM on the day of screening (22-Nov-14) (Libaas was scheduled for screening at 5:30 PM) and also booked first available flight from Goa the very next day (23-Nov-14). Needless to say, my only purpose of going through all this exercise was to witness something I really was waiting for ever since I started following and loving Gulzar Saab and his work – to get a chance to watch Libaas. And I never thought I would get an opportunity of a lifetime in this manner, to watch it with Gulzar Saab himself.

Experience

Before cutting through all the details of getting the passes (where Ashok Bindalji and IFFI organizers helped a lot), reaching the theater following Gulzar Saab, and finally settling down to watch Libaas, I would like to mention here that there were lots of people who wanted to get in and watch Libaas and the auditorium had a limited capacity of accommodating 280 people only. So one senior IFFI organizer (I won’t name him to get him into any trouble), took a call after consulting with Gulzar Saab and Vishal Bhardwaj, to allow people to sit in the gallery, on the floor, to stand on the gates, behind the last row and any other place wherever possible without making others uncomfortable. It got reminded me of the pre-multiplex era when it was a norm for any big movie. Isn’t it delightful to treat and watch the movie in the same manner we used to watch movies when it was actually made (in 1988)?

The stage was set by welcoming Gulzar Saab by the IFFI authorities, and then Vishal Bhardwaj presented the movie Libaas as the inauguration movie of retrospective: Gulzar. Vishal said that it’s an honor for him to present this movie, and spoke about how Gulzar Saab started his career as a poet and brought his poetry from paper to screen. Each of his movies are poetries on screen. He also briefly mentioned about the efforts at various levels that have gone in trying to get the movie released, including his personal efforts of 20 years which has gone in vain. Then he mentioned what it means to him personally, and for his whole family to be part of this historic event.

Gulzar Saab was visibly holding back his emotions, and he started on a lighter note saying, saying, “दोस्तो, मैं भी उतना ही curious हूँ फ़िल्म के लिए, जितने कि आप हैं. आप ने भी नहीं देखी फ़िल्म, मैंने भी नहीं देखी”, which rightly summed up the significance of the film. He was happy that the family and friends have come from all over to see this screening. You can listen to the whole discussion here. And then the magic started on screen. We were in for a very delightful treat for next couple of hours.

As you might know, the movie was completely based on Gulzar Saab’s own story Chaabiyaan which has also published later with the title Seema. There was wit, brilliance, intelligence and emotions written all over the movie. Each frame was flowing into the other one like the way water flows – at times like a river, sometimes like a silent lake and often like waterfall. It was a sheer pleasure to experience Gulzar Saab’s poetry for the next 137 minutes. The movie has four main characters – Sudhir Bhardwaj (a passionate theater director, played by Naseeruddin Shah), T.K. (a flamboyant businessman, played by Raj Babbar), Seema (an amazing actress who is also a not-so-happy wife, played by Shabana Azmi) and the theater which is the sutradhar which keeps tying all the running threads of the movie. It also has a handful of supporting cast who made their presence felt without shadowing the main leads. Not even a single character was out of place or not required. The story primarily deals with husband-wife relationship and a extra-marital affair, all in the backdrop of theater. While watching it, I could feel it was much ahead of its time (it was scheduled to be released in 1988), as was confirmed by Gulzar Saab in a post screening Q&A session that such things were happening at that time but were never shown in cinema. He dared to reflect what was part of society then.

Opening scene of the movie is in a theater, where Jamal Saheb (played by Utpal Dutt) is entering the theater while taking a look at the play being staged.

Utpal Dutt in Libaas

Utpal Dutt in Libaas

In the canteen, he is greeted by youngsters who are theater artists/aficionados and the scene establishes that Jamal Saheb is a great artist from the times gone by. He is not relevant anymore and is in a poor state. He has been replaced, so to say, by Sudhir, who is dominating the contemporary theater scene. In next few scenes, we come to know that for Sudhir, the first priority of his life is theater – the way he forces Seema to gargle every day in the morning, no matter what, and the way he keeps on talking about and enacting various scenes from his plays. One scene which nails it down clearly is when Seema asks Sudhir if she could get a hair-cut as she feels she would look prettier in short hair.  To which he replies, if she gets the hair cut, what would happen to all the characters she is playing in theater, and starts quoting each of the characters from different plays. All the members of his theater group love and fear him in equal measure due to his strictness while doing the rehearsals. A couple of times when Seema forgets her lines during the rehearsals, he yells at her, and at home, he tells her,

“खाना बनाना भूल जाओगी तो बर्दाश्त कर लूँगा, dialogues भूल जाओगी तो कभी बर्दाश्त नहीं करूँगा.”

Phir Kisi Shaakh Ne Phenki Chaanv - Libaas

Phir Kisi Shaakh Ne Phenki Chaanv – Libaas

Seema is already strained, and wants a break from the monotony of Sudhir being so hard on her as he always thinking about one thing – theater. That’s when T.K. enters the scene and their home. He is informal and is such a close friend of Sudhir that even Seema feelss surprised as she had never seen Sudhir being so comfortable with anyone, including her. TK’s flamboyant style of talking and cheerful behavior attracts Seema, and he gets attracted to her beauty. They all meet a couple of times and then while one relationship starts forming, other one starts breaking. On one side, Sudhir is always busy with his play rehearsals and on the other hand, T.K., a well versed businessman is always ready to meet her and pay attention to her.

Her loneliness and boredom from theater adds fire to the fuel, and before even they realize, the relationship becomes complicated. The high-point of the movie is a scene which has brilliance of Gulzar Saab written all over it. It was Gulzar Saab’s craftsmanship that he handled such a burdened situation in such a subtle manner. The treatment of the characters, the dialogues of this one scene leaves us completely mesmerized and catches us unguarded. The scene is when Sudhir decides to confront T.K. and Seema about their relationship. Seema and T.K. enter the house after spending some good time together, and they find Sudhir at home. T.K. tries to cover up his embarrassment by telling Sudhir that he was asking about him from Seema as Sudhir was very busy, they were not able to meet.

T.K. – और किस ड्रामे में busy हो आजकल?

Sudhir – “अ..अ..म.. आजकल… अ… एक personal से नाटक में ज्यादा busy हूँ.”

“ह.. ह.. मतलब..?”

“नाटक तो दूसरे लोगों का है, मैं खा-म-खां बीच में फंस गया”

“अम.. कुछ समझा नहीं यार, वो कैसे?”

T.K., though embarrassed, is still trying to appear innocent even though he is guilty of cheating Sudhir.

“क्या है के हमारे यहाँ… हमारे यहाँ, वो हैं ना… मि. मुखर्जी”

He looks at Seema and starts building the story.

“मुखर्जी? कौन?”

Seema asks, to which Sudhir replies –

“तुम मिली हो उन से, शायद याद नहीं है… मि. मुखर्जी में याद रखने जैसा कुछ है या नहीं मालूम नहीं… लेकिन अपनी पत्नी की वजह से वो.. अक्सर याद रह जाते हैं लोगों को…. बड़ी talented… और talented से ज्यादा ख़ूबसूरत पत्नी है उन की. अब ज़ाहिर है कि लोग उन की तरफ़ तवज्जो देते हैं, attract होते हैं. और ये कम्बख़्त चीज़ ऎसी है कि आदमी हो या औरत, पाँव तले की ज़मीन खींच लेती है. आदमी सोचता है, इश्क ही में ज़िंदगी है, बाकी सब तो फ़न, आर्ट, talent, सब सजावट की चीज़ें हैं. बहरहाल, मि. मुखर्जी का problem है, उन की पत्नी… वो किसी के इश्क में पड़ गई हैं या कोई है जो उन के इश्क में पड़ गया है….”

Seema asks, “तो problem क्या है?”

To which Sudhir replies, point blank, still keeping it indirect,

“तुम्हें नज़र नहीं आता?”

“नहीं मतलब… समझ में आता है लेकिन दोनों अगर एक दूसरे को चाहते हैं तो…”

“नहीं, नहीं, नहीं, नहीं… तुम उस लड़की के problem को देख रही हो, मैं मि. मुखर्जी के problem की बात कर रहा हूँ”

“उनका क्या problem है?”

“क्यूँ? याने… उन का कुछ है ही नहीं?…

उन का problem ये है कि उन्हें मालूम हो गया है… और जान लेने के बाद शौहर यानि मि. मुखर्जी क्या करे उस पत्नी का? चुप रहे? देखता रहे? होने दे जो हो रहा है? मुश्किल तो ये है कि कोई भी शौहर जान लेने के बाद ये निगल नहीं सकता”

Now T.K. intervenes,

“आख़िर मुखर्जी चाहता क्या है?” “चाहता क्या है, वो छोड़ो, क्या करना चाहिए उसे?”

“अम..ज़ाहिर है अगर उन की पत्नी, उन के साथ नहीं रहना चाहती तो उन्हें कोई हक़ नहीं है कि वो उस के साथ ज़बरदस्ती करें. After all.. वो अपना अच्छा-बुरा समझ सकती है, ऎसी कोई बात नहीं है…”

“हाँ, समझना तो चाहिए, सिर्फ़ ये कि जिस से वो प्यार करती है, क्या सचमुच प्यार करती है? यूँ ही उन्स में तो नहीं पड़ गई? ख़ा-म-ख़ां का infatuation तो नहीं है, जिसे वो प्यार समझ बैठी है?”

“आख़िर शादी-शुदा औरत है, क्या इतना नहीं समझती? इतनी mature नहीं होगी के…”

And that’s when Gulzar Saab’s intelligence of handling the complicated situations comes in full form.

Sudhir interrupts Seema at this point and says it straight,

“इतनी mature हो तुम? इतना समझती हो कि जिस राह पे जा रही हो, जिस के साथ जा रही हो वो झूठ-मूठ का कोई ड्रामा तो नहीं कर रहा है?”

At this time T.K. tries to escape saying this is personal matter between husband and wife and he is an outsider.

Then, as a matter of fact, Sudhir tells him,

“बैठ जाओ T.K., तुम भी कोई बच्चे नहीं हो… बैठ जाओ… देखो T.K., इन रिश्तों में कानूनी, ग़ैर कानूनी कुछ नहीं होता. कानूनन कोई पत्नी नहीं बनती, कानूनन कोई शौहर नहीं होता.Law has nothing to do with it. हम ज़बरदस्ती इन रिश्तों पर कानूनी मोहरें लगाते रहते हैं. आज तक, कोई किसी आते को नहीं रोक सका और ना किसी जाते को थाम सका है. और मैं ये कैंसर ले कर नहीं घूम सकता…. तुम ने ठीक कहा, अगर सीमा मेरे साथ नहीं रहना चाहती तो मुझे कोई ज़बरदस्ती नहीं करनी चाहिए, मैं नहीं करूँगा, लेकिन मैं इसे रास्ते पर नहीं छोड़ सकता. मैं तुम्हारा फ़ैसला जानना चाह्ता हूँ, तुम दोनों का फ़ैसला जानना चाहता हूँ… अगर तुम दोनों flirt नहीं कर रहे हो, एक-दूसरे को धोखा नहीं दे रहे हो, सचमुच एक दूसरे को चाहते हो, तो हाथ पकड़ो और निकल जाओ इस घर से.”

Seeli Hawa Chhoo Gayi - Libaas

Seeli Hawa Chhoo Gayi – Libaas

Even after Sudhir and Seema get separated and she remarries T.K., there is still an element of care and affection for each other.

T.K. and Seema are living happily, yet Seema is not able to forget her past so easily.

In one scene, where one evening she is sitting sad all alone on a yatch, T.K. comes and asks,

 “क्या हुआ… सुधीर का ख़्याल आ गया?”

“हूं..”

“इसीलिए तो तुम्हें शादी के बाद यहाँ ले आया. जानता था, अगर वहाँ रहोगी तो अतीत याद आएगा. अतीत बुरा हो तो सीमा, आदमी गर्द की तरह झाड़ दे, ख़त्म कर दे, लेकिन सुधीर जैसा… मुझ पर अंधविश्वास था उसे. जो कुछ हुआ, मुझे उस का अफ़सोस नहीं, बिल्कुल नहीं, बस यही है कि अगर तुम किसी दोस्त के यहाँ ना होती ना…तो अच्छा होता, क्यूँकि तुम जहाँ भी होती, मैं यही करता, I love you. मैं तुम से प्यार करता. I love you Seema, I love you.”

[Edit Note : While Mohit has written the climax in his post, we are not going to reveal what happens in the end, as we expect more screenings of the film soon and expect you to watch it someday, somewhere. We leave you here with Ravi Shastri Quote : All Three Results Possible ]

And the end credits roll over with the song

“तुम से मिली जो ज़िंदगी, हम ने अभी बोई नहीं,

तेरे सिवा कोई ना था, तेरे सिवा कोई नहीं…”

…Leaving everyone in the theater completely spell bound.

Gulzar Saab got a standing ovation which refused to die down for the next few minutes.

Epilogue

It had Gulzar written all over it. Gulzar the writer, Gulzar the dialogue-writer, Gulzar the lyricist and Gulzar the director. It was like various Gulzar competing with each other and attaining the pinnacle of expressions. The music of R.D. Burman was also a highlight of the movie as the melodies are so soulful, the film would have been definitely incomplete without such lovely songs.

From story perspective, it is really difficult to say what was wrong or who was wrong or whether anyone was wrong at all? This is the power of a sensibly told story on screen. We all know that Gulzar Saab has great sense of expression when it comes to relationships. He is the one who has given the words to all the emotions we have gone through at various points in our different relationships. He is no different here as well. Gulzar Saab has also given various references of past work of theater artists who have explored the complexities of husband-wife relations – Leo Tostoy’s Anna Karenina, Vijay Tendulkar’s Khamosh adaalat jari hai, Mohan Rakesh’s Aadhe-adhure. The film, even though made some 26 years back, is still relevant and I believe due to the nature of human relationships, will be relevant even after 26 years.

There are so many situations in the movie which could have been exploited with melodramatic scenes but he kept them subtle, and trusted the intelligence of audience he was catering to. Like after re-marriage, one day when T.K. is gargling in the morning, all of a sudden she gets reminded of Sudhir, who was always after her for gargling. She gets in that groove for a moment that she actually calls out her old maid’s name “दुर्गा…” and then she realizes her mistake. And when she calls up their family doctor (played by A.K. Hangal) asking him to visit their home for T.K.’s cough and cold, she forgets to mention to the doctor about his new life and husband. The doctor habitually visits their old home and because Sudhir is also suffering from the cough at the same time, he doesn’t find it surprising that Seema called him up. Subtle ways to show that the bridges are not yet burnt completely. The central idea of the story keeps coming back again and again in multiple ways.

During the post-screening Q&A we came to know that the climax which was shown in the film was not his choice but the producers insisted upon him to change the climax.

He wanted to leave it a bit open ended, which he couldn’t do in this movie, hence he made Ijaazat, another masterpiece on husband-wife relationship which he ended the way he wanted it to be.

Nobody dared to ask the question, “अगर लिबास release हो जाती फिर भी क्या वो इजाज़त बनाते?”  and I doubt if anyone who has watched Ijaazat would even dare to think it being non-existent from the filmology of Gulzar Saab. Nothing to compare but to give a flavor to the people who could not watch the screening of Libaas, in my opinion, it was at par (if not more) with Ijaazat in terms of exploration of relationships, writing, dialogues, songs, direction and music.

To sum it up, I would just say, no matter how many years the movie has spent in the laundry or dry-clean, this Libaas is still as crisp, clean and white as new.

 – Mohit Kataria

 

(Mohit Kataria is an IT engineer by profession, writer & poet by passion, a Gulzar fan by heart. He is based in Bangalore and can be reached at [kataria dot mohit at gmail dot com] or [@hitm0 on twitter)

(Pics & Videos by Ashok Bindal [ajbindal at gmail dot com], a close associate of Gulzar saab, based in Mumbai)

Retrospective Inauguration Video via Ministry of I&B YouTube Channel]

Emraan-Hahmi-in-Shanghai

Like the last few years, we are back with the wrap-up post of the year – things we discovered at the movies and the unanswered questions.

20 Things we discovered at the movies

1. Emraan Hashmi CAN act. From lips-that-have-kissed-every-co-star to buck teeth, this was the transition of the year.

2. A Don who asks for “permishan” and cries like a baby. He must be the one who goes to Mumbai, becomes “Mumbai Ka King”, but when he comes home, he gets slapped by his wife.

3. Kids as Kids – the charming Gattu and Sridevi’s son. Dear Balki, you don’t need to make them “sexy” or kill them. Ask Gauri.

4. Ranbir Kapoor doesn’t even need dialogues. At a time when every hero is going for southern remakes loaded with seeti-wala punch lines, he goes in the opposite direction. Barfi!

5. Raj Kumar Yadav is poor man’s Ranbir Kapoor. And i say this with much respect. Apologies if it sounds condescending. Unlike others he has no qualms about appearing in small roles (GoW2, Talaash, Chittagong) but he has so much honesty in his performance that he always leaves a mark. Wait till you see Shahid, you will feel he is Shahid Azmi. So betting my money on this guy.

6. All About My Mother – English Vinglish. Gauri’s Mother. Lyricist Swanand’s mom Neelambari voicing navrai majhi. Vicky Donor’s mom and her mother-in-law.

7. We were wrong about Tigmanshu Dhulia. See point no. 8 in our 2011 post. Plus, he is a terrific actor.

8. Pregnancy before marriage is a blockbuster idea. Kahaani. Vidya Balan.

9. “Slow and Steady” Raghvan can also go wrong. But Raabta has great repeat value.

10. Cliches can be fun too. We define our “cliches” and there’s a way to get it right. Punju. Bong. Marriage. Vicky Donor.

11. Sharman Joshi is not the next Shah Rukh Khan as VVC and company would have liked the world to believe. Also, VVC, Hirani and Co have started talking more about writing than the actual writing they do. Ferrari Ki Sawari.

12. A Don in his bare minimum can become the eye-candy for a bangalan. Talk about reverse commodification. Far far away from the days when gaon ki gori would go to the kuwan to pani bharo and get cheroed.

13. Deepika Padukone can act. Cocktail.

14. We knew nobody can beat Bhai-porn. Add Bhabi and you have the “Fastest 100 crore” orgasm – in just 5 days. Aditya Chopra knows where the money is.

15. Prakash Jha is the new Madhur Bhandarkar.

16. It took as more than two decades to prove Mohnish Behl and Sooraj Barjatya wrong. Ek Ladka aur ek ladki finally dost ho sakte hain. Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu.

17. Your friendly LIC agent can be a closet serial killer. Irony could not have been more delicious. Bob Biswas.

18. Sehar was an accident. Kabir Kaushik scores his hattrick – Chamku, Hum Tum Aur Ghost and Maximum this year.

19. Rab will make the jodi but Jesus will break it – Aditya Chopra’s Filmy Funda No. 786.

20. Aditya Chopra exists. Saw him at the last rites of Yash Chopra.

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10 Unanswered Questions

1. Who thought you can “Go For Gold” with Abhishek Bachchan, Sonam Kapoor, Bipasha Basu, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Bobby Deol, Omi Vaidya, Sikander Kher? Red and White Bravery Award nomination please.

2. What were they trying to do in Aiyyaa?

3. If it’s neither sequel nor franchise, what do you call them? Same name, new numbers. Bhatts? Murder/Raaz/Jism/Jannat – 2,3,4,5…..infinity.

4. Ekk Deewana kyun Tha?

5. What was Madhavan’s weight in Jodi Breakers? Especially when he goes underwater in his suit and is surrounded by bikini babes all round.

6. Why did Gulshan Devaiya say yes to “Hate Story”?

7. Who is still giving money to RGV to make films whatever-you-want-to-call-them?

8. What will be Madhur Bhandarkar’s next?

9. Did Aamir Khan count the average number of tears he shed in each episode of Satyamev Jayate?

10. Finally, Has Ishq In Paris released? (PS – Preity’s name is Ishq in the film)

Do let us know about the things that you discovered at the movies this year and the questions that baffled you.

I know nothing about editing. I don’t even understand how people get it by just watching films. But recently i read a wonderful piece on editing by Deepa Bhatia. I requested her if it can be shared on the blog so that it can reach more people. She agreed instantly and so here it is. Thanks to her, and hope you guys enjoy it as much as i did.

Deepa BhatiaDeepa has edited films like Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa, Thakshak, Dev, Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara, Taare Zameen Par, Rock On!!, Stanley Ka Dabba, My Name Is Khan, Ferrari Ki Sawaari, Student Of The Year, Kai Po Che, and has directed the documentary Nero’s Guest. Over to her – @CilemSnob

A media school requested me to put down a note on my process of editing for fresher film students. ‘A ready-reckoner sort of thing’, they said. Of course, I didn’t offer the short cut document they were looking for, but the idea set me thinking. Let me attempt expressing; if only for myself, the delicacy, the intricacy and the nuances of editing.

As I sit to try and articulate my thoughts, my know-it-all- son prompts, ‘joining?’ Having made his share of little videos, edited mostly on i movie, it’s a fair shot. But not good enough, I answer. My mother in long shot contributes, ‘Like Stitching?’ ‘Somewhat Mum…Stitching together a design (read scene) visualized by the designer (read director), darning over its flaws, cutting it correctly so it fits into the larger landscape of the garment. (Read film)’

Not bad, but still not bulls eye.  Agnes Guillemot’s description comes to my mind. “I discovered that cinema is music and editing is like being a conductor. I don’t invent the themes but I can produce orchestrations- I can adapt therefore I can edit.”

So there are shots, and each shot has multiple takes. To pick then, the right take, from the right shot and arrange it in that perfectly right way for the magic to happen.

That’s the moment I seek. A shot placed differently to change the meaning of the narrative. 6 frames off a cut and the moment transforms drastically. A sequence rearranged to create a new truth.

In the quiet of my empty editing room, my heart shrieks with joy.

The heart thumps at the discovery…a day well spent.

SEEING THE MATERIAL

The moment of ‘magic’ is within reaching distance of those interested in ‘listening’ to the material. More than the script, more than the director, it is the material that speaks. It reaches out, hoping you see it with care and attention, not missing a detail…a tear, a quiver in the voice, an actor trying something new, hoping you will catch on to his or her little secret, a camera lingering that extra second or a surprise shift focus that adds a delicious taste to the scene.

So the key lies in seeing. Really seeing with all your senses alive and focused. When that happens, the director usually appreciates the cut. ‘Great, that’s exactly as I saw it’.  Or ‘That’s more interesting than the way I saw it.’ That’s when you know that you saw with your soul and intellect in perfect harmony.

HARMONY AND RHYTHM

Harmony is of utmost significance.

Soul and Intellect.

Reason and Instinct.

Listening and Dictating.

Following and Leading.

It’s a tight rope. I often realize that, when I am guiding my young team through their scene cuts, and helping them achieve that harmony.  ‘You are ignoring the actor’s rhythm; you are imposing your own rhythm on the material. WHY ARE YOU NOT LISTENING TO THE VOICE OF THE MATERIAL?’ At other times, I implore, ‘didn’t you see the pauses are too much and the performance is lagging? USE YOUR SKILL AND BRING RHYTHM INTO THE SCENE.’’

Contrary advice because editing demands that you react differently to different kinds of material and give it form in response to its ‘personality’. Like parenting. As a mother, I know for a fact, no single rule applies to all children and all situations, so your ear better be on the ground. Listening when the child needs to speak, but speaking when it is his time to be quiet and listen.

Asserting, yet leaving room for dialogue.

A little of this and a little of that.

And in that delicate balance, lies the art of editing.

RUMINATION

And how will you find the magic? Craft helps, no doubt. Experience too wizens you. But, in the end, for me, it boils down to integrity. Integrity in watching the material, in seeking the truth from it, in devoting complete time to a project so the process becomes instinctive and not merely physical.  I am inspired by the devotion of classical musicians, and I believe editors must have the same quiet soulful relationship with the material.  If you are running from one editing ‘job’ to another, where is the time to ruminate, to mull, and to contemplate? Writing and Editing, the two ends of the filmmaking spectrum, that allow you time to think, we editors insist on rushing through.

When I lock the edit of a film, I often embark on yet another journey of watching and revisiting all the rush again. When a scene is edited, it is in the context of the script and of the film, as you know it then.

Once it is edited, it is an all-together different entity, a full-blooded  organism. You will be amazed at how you find bits of film that didn’t seem relevant at first cut or even final edit, that worm their way into the film. So processes are critical. Give yourself time to think and contemplate. It’s my golden rule: the answer to most cinematic problems lies in the rushes.

LATERAL VISION

The script makes an imprint. Then the material follows with its own voice. And yet, the editor must be able to see things differently, to be able to flip the visual on its head if the need arises, to relook at material all the time, with new eyes and new imagination. I call it the Little Prince approach. ‘Is it a hat, or an animal swallowed by a boa constrictor?’ Keep your heart and mind open to discover that.

SYNERGY

When you enjoy the material, and editor-director sensibilities match, that’s the film that’s going to work best.

When you sleep thinking about the film, and wake up, raring to go to the editing room, that’s the film that’s going to work best.

When your director respects that you have a point of view; that may or may not be his/her view, that’s the film that’s going to work best.

When you work like co-parents to protect, nurture and raise the child, without ego, without doubt, always, always aware, that the child is bigger and more important than anyone, that’s the film that’s going to work best.

I also feel it is important to develop your own relationship with the material. A director lives with his film for years. He starts with the germ of the idea; it simmers in his heart and mind, is then poured out into the script and finally filmed with effort, time and money. If you are to be of some use to the director, it is important to own the film as much as he does, to know it as intimately, so you can do your best for it. A mother can touch the head of her child and sense that the temperature is different from usual. She can sense that because she knows her child so intimately and deeply and dearly. This innate knowledge helps her sense something amiss and find the right and timely solution for her baby. An editor must be committed and sensitive enough to find the same deep relationship with the material, to be equipped to do the best possible to it, for it.

My son pops his head in and brings me back to base. ‘You started by wanting to explain what editing is. That hasn’t happened yet mum…

Why is it so important to explain what I do? Because very few, even in the business of filmmaking, seem to recognize it for what it is.

There are some simple ways of judging editing.

Anything short is usually good editing.

Anything fast too is good editing.

Anything with razzmatazz is of course good editing.

DAMN, IS THIS FILM WELL CUT OR NOT?

As an academic exercise, I looked into recent films that I liked and didn’t, and studied the critical response to them, particularly to the edit. The truth stares out clearly.

 Somehow, no one is able to separate the film experience from the editing. The two are deeply linked.  It’s easy to spot good cinematography, art direction, costumes, but can you ‘see’ an edit, beyond the film?

Almost never.

And so it follows, have you ever read about an editor being praised for a film that the reviewer did not like? It’s impossible! This facet of cinema is so deeply linked to the final outcome, to the way the film finally shapes up, that we, as editors must accept that burden completely.  Very recently, I edited “Student of the Year” for Karan Johar. One critic found it ’20 minutes too long’, while another said the editing was ‘fantastic’.  On Stanley Ka Dabba, one critic commented, ‘Let me warn you that Stanley Ka Dabba is slow. In places, the story seems stretched’ Another felt its ‘very-well sliced together…the pacing really works’

 ‘The truth is that their reaction to the edit is linked directly to their reaction to the film.

So can a bad film be cut well?

Or is every good film well cut?

I believe both are true. I believe if you like a film, or if it ‘works’, it means the editor has done the job well. The fact that a film comes together and the spell works, implies a good editor at work. (A recent example being English Vinglish, that I thought was beautifully edited by Hemanti Sarkar).

Being an editor, I often see the craft and emotional tenor in the work of some of my peers. Not a single review of Paa, for example, spoke of the breakthrough scene cutting, where jump cuts were used within a dialogue scene to create a certain pace and energy. Not many people appreciated the use of freeze frames in a film about speed and motion, a device Aarti Bajaj employed with great effectiveness in Paan Singh Tomar.

PROCESSES

In terms of processes too, some films fly out of you with very little effort. Rock On, for example, is really one the simplest films I have cut and we completed the edit in a relatively short time span.  Taare Zameen Par required more work and application because people in test screenings were resistant to its philosophy and we needed to get the balance of the edit delicately right to achieve a certain aesthetic portrayal, while telling a story.

Stanley Ka Dabba, in particular, was a labour of love. Certain processes were followed while filming, that defied conventional grammar, and yet we had to achieve a narrative that was acceptable to an audience. Amole and me spent many hours playing with footage; reinventing the story and its telling, and literally carved out the purest film possible from the material. Yet, I’ve rarely been complimented on its editing, the way I have been for say, Rock On. And yet in my mind, it remains my best work!

I’ve finally concluded that films that have form to fall back on are much easier to edit than stark plainer films. The editing is in the face, easy to notice and therefore easy to appreciate.

The hitch is when the film needs work on the table. That’s the time when director and editor need to recognize and accept that work is needed, reinterpretation is needed, a fresh approach is needed. It’s a very delicate process, for makers are deeply attached to their material. Editing out a chunk is heartbreaking. Editors must be deeply sensitive at such times and accept that the process will take time and effort. And sometimes you hit a deadlock because directors are too headstrong and sometimes, we ourselves, as editors lack clarity and vision. I try my hardest; I fight with my entire being if I am convinced something should go out of the film. I explain, try to convince, scream, shout, bully and finally beg and implore if I am dead sure! I don’t always succeed but I try my best.

I personally felt a sense on failure while editing My Name is Khan. We had some issues with the unfolding of the second half. (I took about a year to edit the film). We slogged to get it right and at one point, I felt that I had achieved the balance. My director was totally supportive of me shaping the film, and was completely open to shortening and re-interpreting, and yet I didn’t get it bang on. A dear critic friend met me and dug the nail deep. ‘I thought it was a super film, and then the Hurricane came’.

So obviously, we were unable to curb the excesses that bothered both critics and audiences and I take the blame completely. Somewhere, in working overtime to get the second half right, I lost objectivity and I feel it took a toll on the film. I failed on the one benchmark I set for myself. Make the film the best it can be. Whatever the material, whoever the director, make sure the film reaches its own ‘potential’.

In the end, the truth about editing lies buried in an editing room, known best to only the director and the editor. The director, of course knows the contribution and role of the editor, regardless of the outcome of the film. But it is the editors and the editors alone that know how committed and focused they were, how truthfully they engaged in the ‘process’ of editing. For in the process lies the fruit. In the effort lies the reward. And in a truthful approach, lies a good, peaceful night’s sleep… That you did everything possible to make the film the best it could be, without short-changing it, without judging it, without giving up on it, regardless of how good or bad it was.

If the title of the post doesn’t make any sense, please don’t blame us. We are also trying to connect the dots. Since we started the “2012 Rewind” series on the blog, we have been getting many guest posts on our blog mail id. This one comes from an anonymous account. And the writer wanted the same title for the post. If you are not familiar with allah duhayee hai, click here. So over to Mister Anonymous and his A,B,Cs of the year. or should we call him good ol’ Mr Screeny (here & here)?

(PS – It also includes a very embarrassing mention of the blog. Spare us. Had no choice, so letting it go.)

Chaalis Chaurasi

A – AgneepathCry cry cry itna cry karte kai ko hum. I expected to see a power packed revenge drama but got Hrithik’s cheeks shaking in slo-mo in bargain and Sonu Nigam’s melodramatic & painful song (Ab mujhe). Agneepath turned out to be Pursuit of Happyness masquerading as 300! But good to see Brijendra Kala and Pankaj Tripathi in meaty roles.

B -Barfi – Original or not, loved how they made the film such a meandering one. Quite an achievement to make the movie go all over the place and yet hold its own. And what visuals (though I believe the DoP was ‘instructed’ to reciprocate the referencing). And can all those people stop praising PC ? As Raja Sen says, she shouldn’t have played it full retard (ala Tropic Thunder)

CChaalis Chaurasi – No Sir. It is not good to make fun of Blueberry Hunt when you act in movies like 4084. Loved you smoking the pot in ZNMD, sleepwalking in Dirty Picture and even the marathi lines in Deool but sir why why why? Why 4084? And though you may be offended by me being offended at your selections, but sir, with humble hands folded, I concede “ANYBODY I CARE ABOUT IS MY BUSINESS!!!”

D3D wala D, Dheele वाला D. Disaster वाला plot, Dazzling visuals वाला Life of Pi. Dubbing वाला D. Shobhna ही ले लेते? या फिर Tabu से मद्रासी बुला लेते जैसे Kandukondein & Iruvar में किया. And Dhakkan वाला इरफ़ान who claims he is in the 1000 Crore league. Cummon Yaar. Even Naseerudin Shah never took the ‘League’ of Extraordinary Gentlemen seriously. But Richard Parker ने definitely नय्या पार करा दी sir.

EEditing. Did Aarti Bajaj (aided by the Background Score) save Pan Singh Tomar? Only those who had seen the early cut which premiered in 2010 would tell.

And another ‘Yeah’ for Namrata Rao for having edited Kahaani & Shanghai (one of my personal favs). I’m tempted to see Jab Tak Hai Jaan purely for her. No doughnut (but lots of dough) this year for Deepa Bhatia who edited SOTY.

P.S – Also Akiv Ali for Barfi. Now if only I can lay my hands on the script of the film.

P.P.S – Pure Promotion of the sexy mashup videos by Sumit Purohit. Do watch if here you haven’t

Fफर्जी Morality, फ्रॉड फंडे – FUCK YOU Censor Board for screwing up my movie watching experience with the Family Friendly Disclaimer “Ciggarette Smoking is Injurious to Health” in English & Hindi, everytime a character smokes on screen. Fuck you! You might as well, like William H Macy does in Thank You For Smoking, go ahead and ‘tastefully update’ history by putting a Disclaimer like “अनचाही संतान प्राप्ति से बचने के लिए, कृपया संभोग के समय, निरोध का प्रयोग करें” in the jaw droppingly gorgeous Roop Tera Mastana Song from Aaradhna. Hippo-Cracy की औलादें साले !

Gघोटाला (Dilliwai bhasha) or घोची (Bambaiyya) or what the hell happened (Universal). Why is Balki grating us with his irritating pun-figure-of-speech lyrics (Manhattan from Engish-Vinglish) in an otherwise Gauri Shinde film (which even has a marathi equivalent of Alay Payuthe Kanna in Navrai Majhi, or may be I’m glad we’re not made to suffer another Dhol Beats wala Punju Bhangra Folk song for that ocassion)? Why did Homi Adjania (ahhh Being Cyrus) make the infinitely regressive Cocktail? What gun did the industry to point to the takla sir of the very talented Naveen Kaushik (Rocket Singh) and force him to do what he did in KLPD & Ferari ki Sewari? Why does Naaser need to do a Rowdy Rathore (Pritam Pyare mein baincho kar kya raha hai woh? Aur kyun? What happened to Kabeer Kaushik (this time none of the Deols or Warsis were interfering were they?)? When will iRock Sid Jain stop uploading random photos and actually produce his 2nd film (with due payments to the crew) and actually ROCK a Shaadi ? Why did Sanjay Khanduri remake Ek Chalis and set it in Dilli (‘Balaatkar karwayengi‘ Jaats in Tempo seems so ridiculously relevant now in wake of the Dilli Gang Rape)? And of course, what happened with Agent Vinod?

HHaggaBai Halla machaye re – Loud maharashtrians who went Wakda (and as apna भाऊ invokeanand says, he has never heard the term in his entire marathi middle class life), there is something curiously wrong with Aiyya. Subtlety out of the window as a lavani would do away with sharam-o-haya. Kai chaleel? Tula mahatiyi hai ka? Or did you too like us went dreamam wakeupum? Agar batti ukhaadni thi toh Sai Paranjpe ki tarah ukhaadthey Bhau….Bhandarkar kyun ghola beech beech mein ? Raat ki Raani ki Gandha subah morning shift pe ‘differences’ le ke aati hai kya set pe?

Iइंकलाब. Independent Cinema. PVR Director’s Rare? A good initiative but 250 bucks for The Last Act at PVR Juhu (Reduced prices)? And wow Shahid, Ship of Theusus, Miss Lovely, Peddlers, and the released ones like Love Wrinkle Free, Supermen of Malegaon, Kshay.

बस यारों इन्तेजाम ऐसा हो की Inzamam-Style रिलीस हो बडे परदे पर. Ignoble या Ignorable तरीके से नही. कहीं ये इल्जाम ना लगे audience पे की इंक़लाब शुरू होने से पेहले Single Screen भाई लोगो ने उसे indoctrinate कर दिया है.

P.S – Dear director of the awesome looking Mizo film Khawnglung run. Can you please provide English subtitles for your film (Which is already uploaded on youtube by the way).

JJoker. How we missed him when we saw Bane in TDKR. TDKR was even more disappointing than the existential heist Inception. Probably for the first time, I didn’t want to see a Nolan film again. Although Skyfall made up for it to quite an extent with a (Bisexual?) Bardem. The rat story goes up there right there with the Jokers’s ‘Scars’ one. और साला क्या single shot intro है. If the father was a “drinker & a fiend” then, “Mommy was not good” in this one.

KKamal Swaroop‘s FB status. Even though it might take me a lifetime to appreciate his much ‘cultified’ Om Dar Ba Dar, the man’s FB statuses are legendary. And of course he shares some of the most mindfuck photos/articles you could find.

“ftii cinema began with bonga.met kudan today”

“if you are bad at every thing,.join films”

“The best firecrackers are always sold by people with 3 fingers.”

The stuff of nightmares! 15 Creepy Images of Ventriloquist Dummies

This bizzare photo

Kamal’s conversation with a certain Mr X filmmaker –

“Mr X. Aap 7 janmon mein film nahi bana sakte hain”

Reply from Mr X – “Agar aap filmmaker hain toh main filmmaker banna bhi nahi chahta hoon”

And because he is on FB & not twitter, you must be-Friend him even if you don’t follow him (Oh God!)

L Lingo, लेहजा, लिबास. Ishaqzaade’s ‘Musalli”, Kahaani’s ‘daknaam’, Vicky Donor’s Chadhdha, GoW’s ‘Kasai mohalla’ & ‘Kalkutta’, Shanghai’s handling of multiple worlds of lingo correctly and the mother of them – Pan Singh Tomar with the Chambal key ‘Mooda-Moodi’. Bhai Waah! Now if only a Vishal Bhardwaj written film had released this year as well.

M Maniratnam. Rangan’s Book. Hands down must read. Buy now! Read now. Even if it is non controversial and tries to read too much, but Rangan gets it 70% right (the subtext). The book is littered with trivia, insights, anecdotes, and gems like this

Rangan – How come the heroes in your films never use swear words ?

Ratnam – May be I save them for real life instead

N – Another Zimply south ‘controversy of sorts’ with the Kamal first calling the producer of NAYAGAN as ‘old school‘ and later the poor man retaliating by downplaying Kamal’s contributions. And eventually an extract from Ratnam’s book with Maniratnam saying “Kamal too didn’t expect much from the film”. Full on Rashomon in Rameshwaram.

O Obituary – (Mandatory Serious & Obligatory point) This year saw its fair share of filmy personalities passing away. Jagjit Singh, Pt Ravi Shankar, Jaspal Bhatti, Yash Chopra, Dinesh Thakur, AK Hangal, Ashok Mehta, Rajesh Khanna, Dara Singh, Mehdi Hassan, Achla Sachdeva, Raj Kanwar, Nikhat Kazmi, Anthony Gonsalves, Ravi, Joy Mukherjee and yesterday we lost Bobby Singh. RIP

Irrfan Khan (4)

PPAKAU – Every once in a while comes a world wide acclaimed BORING PAKAU JHELU film which wows everybody everywhere. If earlier it was ‘Uncle Bonhomee Who Can’t Remember The Film Title’ or Kinatay (the one QT loved and wrote this letter for), or Adaminte-Gareeb-Mallu-Abu, then this year it is AMOUR, hands down. Though it was well recieved even by the intelligent bloggers, critics all around, I however tend to agree more with this piece. ‘VAPID’ & ‘BANAL’ are right words for this film

And if there any Amour fans around, please do pass on my message to Mr Haneke – (NOTHING HAPPENS IN THE REAL WORLD?)

Q – ‘Q-tiyapa Hai‘ guys who do all those viral videos (TheViralFever led by Arunabh Kumar). It began with one on Roadies (must watch), Guide to Bollywood Balaatkaar and later created the Gaana wala song. Also in line are The Golden Kelas and The Bollywood Ghantas (hopefully the one for 2013 is better)

R – for all the Rajesh Sharmas of the year! (Bakwaas Na Kar Titu) from Luv Shuv (Along with an inspired Vinod Nagpal & restrained Rajendir Sethi); the often under utilized Anant Jog & Pitobhash Tripathy (in Shanghai), Jahangir Khan(Irrfan’s Dadda), Ravi Bhushan Bhartiya (his bhatija), the Corrupt Cop (Rajeev Gupta – who also apparently owns a mechanics shop in Delhi apart from being a Tishu regular since Dil Se, Charas, SBG) all in Paan Singh Tomar; Gauhar Khan in Ishaqzaade; Pankaj Tripathi in Agneepath (Cilemasnob‘s new Yashpal Sharma – who is good in every bad film), the entire cast of GoW; Sheeba Chadhdha (someone cast this woman in a big role now please) & Aditi Vasudeva (unrecognizable in Talaash, stellar in Do Dooni Chaar) from Talaash; – this year boasted of some awesome ‘chhipey huey actors’ performances. And of course Bob-Nomashkaar-Ek-minute-Biswas.

P.S – the heart goes out to talented actors like Ashraf-ul-Haque who unlike the Adil Hussains, Nawaz, Irrfan have been struggling since ages but are always relegated to Sujit Kumar type roles even in ‘art house’ films. One wonders who is the next Nawaz ?

SSci Fi film of the year – Rian Johnson’s Looper. After the disappointing Prometheus by Ridley Scott, the Brick director (No Brothers Bloom doesn’t count) made Joseph Gordon Levitt as the younger Bruce Willis, with both men in the hunt for each other, over a span of 20 odd years. Way more inventive than Inception, it goes for a repeat viewing. I’m sure there must be a logical flaw somewhere, I just haven’t found it. Reminded me a lot of Source Code (which was pretty good though more accessible).

And as the year ends, we are treated to the trailer of Shane Carruth’s Upstream Colour. The guy who made the mind boggling Primer on a budget close to 7,000$ 12 yrs ago, is now back. Even if this one disappoints, I’m sure it won’t be disappointing! If only we made better Sci Fi films than Ra-One & Love Story 2050.

T – Did the Twist destroy Talaash? Did the audience Talaash for a Thriller but got a Drama-Horror instead? There’s been a post on this already and I’ve met my share of rabid detractors of the film who yell at the ‘Ghost’ element in it. “Horror/Thriller बना रहे हो तो Horror/Thriller ही बनाओ ना. रोते हुए पती पत्नी की boring slow paced film क्यूं? क्या मॅर मॅर के रो रो के investigate कर रहा है Aamir?”

Does that imply that –

a)(Noir?) Procedurals unlike ‘Detective’ films, are tough to please to some of us? (Remember Manorama Six Feet Under? Police Adjective, MOM ya Anatolia toh marr hi daalenge humein?)

b)Never betray your ‘pitch’. The audience won’t forgive you. OR vice versa – we don’t like being betrayed by our film experiences.

UUkhaad Lo Jo Ukhaadna hai! Dev Saab often said it to the critics before releasing films like Mr Prime Minister & Chargesheet. Ed Wood simply picked up and moved on from film to film. Ram Gopal Varma continues to ignore us. We’ve beaten his films, lampooned his statements, had dispirin at his vodka fuelled twitter-isms (Samples below), and even pretended we don’t care. Yet the man goes onto make films as if nothing happened. Kudos sir. And I mean it with complete honesty & sincerity. You are a living example of how to continue doing work with a ‘Ukhaad Lo‘ attitude towards detractors. I hope someday someone makes a film on you with you delivering an Aviator-ish Climax, chastising everybody in the industry. Move over Pan Singh Tomar, Milka Singh & Mary Kom, you are the role model for us.

“A common man is a common man becos he thinks commonly nd thats why he very rightfully deserves to both live and die commonly”

“Was Gandhiji a gujju?”

“I rate Karan johar far far more higher than Mehboob khan v.shantaram Rajkapor guru Dutt and Bimal Roy”

“I honestly think either the mosquito or the cockroach should be declared as the national insect”

VVaalgey Tamil Vaalgey (Glory to The Tamils). The DMK rhetoric apart, this year two films made in the ‘commercial’ bracket by short filmmakers who regularly uploaded their well made shorts onto youtube, and somehow cracked into the Tamil Film Industry. Kadhalil Sodhapavudu Epidi (How to mess up in Love) by M Balaji, showed his short film (can be seen here) to Siddarth, who immediately decided to act and co-produce the short into a full fledged feature. Hopefully our Hindi Film Heroes can learn a thing or two.

Pizza, a horror-thriller by Karthik Subbaraj is even more audacious in it that it doesn’t have a single ‘known face’, and was made on a low budget. I can’t remember the last good Tamil Horror film. The film is out #YouKnowWhere with English subs. Do watch these films.

Karthik Subbaraj’s short films can be viewed here and M Balaji’s other short can be seen here.

W WTF Versova. The erstwhile ‘struggler Barista’ patrons have graduated to this place, and you will find tons of filmy people hanging out here at nights. And even among the ‘established’, you will always spot the ‘struggling established’ class here – the Sudhir Mishras, Abbas Tyrewalas, RGV, the not so famous Journos, ‘Bandiyaan’, and various well to do Chief ADs (advertising waley). A Mallu Beef Fry worth dying for, and general coteries of cake-painted-faces worth strangulating, that is if you can find space to do that!

X – The ‘XX’ chromosome. Female Power – Along with the two editor’s we have Reema Katgi, Zoya Akhtar (ok, ok, ZNMD was last year but she co-wrote Talaash), Juhi Chaturvedi, Urvi Jurvekar, Sneha Khanwalkar, (no Pooja Bhatt’s Jism 2 doesn’t count), Gauri Shinde. Call me a sexist but Kya baat hai!!! Can we get more such talented women in the industry ?

Yये भी बिकता है. This year saw the announcement/release of tons of ‘literature’ being picked up by movies. Life Of Pi (By Pandit Ang Lee), Reluctant Fundamentalist (Fodu Namesake aur Monsoon Wedding wali Mira Nair), Midnight’s Children (I-Am-Born-To-Sell-India Deepa Mehta), Kai Po Che (if 3 Mistakes of My Life can be considered Literature that is), Oh My God (Paresh Rawal co-produces another Gujju Play into a movie after the disappointing James Hadley Chase Maharathi), and the Realistic Shanghai (from somewhat slapstick Z). Here’s Cilemasnob‘s recco to all filmmakers – The Illicit Happiness of Other People by Manu Joseph. Btw, when is that film on White Tiger coming out?

Z – And finally ZehNaseeb – A self congratulatory, mutual mastrubatory, admirational clique wala Hi-Five to moifightclub for being the coolest Desi Film Blog of the Yr !

कांटो को मुर्झाने का खौफ नही होता,

और MFC का HAT हर एक फिल्म के लिये DOFF नही होता.

Lilaah!

Sam: [In the women’s dressing room] What kind of bird are you?
Sparrow: [Starting to point to the other actresses] I’m a sparrow, she’s a dove…
Sam: [Cutting her off] No. I said…
[Points to Suzy]
Sam: What kind of bird are YOU?
Suzy: I’m a raven.
what-kind-of-bird-are-you

I have stood in front of the mirror, pointed my index finger at my image, just like Sam points at Suzy in that delicious Wes Anderson film, and have asked the same question quite a number of time, using all kind of possible emotions. And whenever i think about the scene, it still makes me smile. Bit of Googling tells me that am not the only one who loves this dialogue so much. Though it’s quite difficult to dissect why such a simple line from the film has turned out to be one of my favourite quotes of the year and has stayed back with me for such a long time.

So i thought about doing a collaborative post on similar lines. Quickly mailed some of the friends/films buffs for a simple exercise –

1. Close your eyes

2. Think of all the films you have seen in 2012…released/unreleased/long/short/docu/anything

3. Think what has stayed back with you…impressed/touched/affected/blew

4. Write on it and tell us why.

And i didn’t tell anyone else what the other person was writing about. Got some very interesting responses on all kinds of films and i have put it all together in this collaborative post – 15 film buffs on 17 movies (memories) of the year. The post has turned out to be bit long but hopefully you will enjoy it. And it can also serve as a movie recco list if you haven’t seen the films.

@CilemsSnob

Joshua #TheActOfKilling

—–> Kushan Nandy on The Act of Killing

I saw this two and a half hour-plus documentary at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2012 and was blown away. Long after the film got over, after Joshua Oppenheimer spoke about it, even much after, weeks later, the film haunted me. It did to me what Incendies had done to me a couple of years back. But much more.

Never before have I seen a film or documentary, where, during the process of film making, the characters go through a life changing process. They metamorphosize into better beings, and this becomes a part of the actual film.

For example, what would happen if someone video interviewed Modi, his political associates or even the people who were the actual executioners of the 2002 Gujarat massacres? And they all accepted their crimes and celebrated this with glee? But suddenly, one of them changed, understanding the repercussions of what he had done?

Anwar, from The Act of Killing, is a person I will never forget. He had butchered thousands. But it was this documentary, and the process of filming it, that showed him who he actually was. He can’t sleep anymore, he stutters, he throws up. He will never be the same again.

And after watching this film, I wont either.

SRK JTHJ1

—–> Varun Grover on Shah Rukh Khan/Jab Tak Hai Jaan

Setting: 7 degree centigrade. Fog. Railway station. A small town in North India where Shatabdi/Rajdhani trains don’t stop.

My fingers are numb and typing out each letter is like feeling the power of it. For some strange reason, the 1st image from Cinema of 2012 that comes to my mind is SRK’s bike rising above the horizon as AR Rahman’s strings go crazy in the background. The theme music of JTHJ (the one they used in promos) it is. Call it the power of music, and it can’t be anything else ‘cos I didn’t even bother to watch the film, or call it my latent romanticism.

My friends from Lucknow – who were there alongside me, fighting for tickets outside Anand cinema hall in 1997 when Dil To Paagal Hai released – watched JTHJ on 1st day in Lucknow and sent me an excited SMS telling me – “Don’t believe the reviews. It’s as good as any Yash Chopra – SRk film you’ve seen. The crowd at Novelty loved it.”

The crowd at Novelty. I was that crowd once. My life’s biggest joys came from being that crowd. Especially on being among the select few who had the matinee show ticket on the 1st day. (1st show was for loafers, matinee was for civilized middle class.)

For Dil Toh Paagal Hai, our friends’ group of 5 was split into 2. Three of us got the evening show, while two fortunate ones got the matinee show. They were clearly the winners – getting to see Maya and Rahul and a new-look Karishma before us. Also they’d get to tease us on their way out, may be telling a couple of spoilers too. So we tried our best to avoid them as their show got over and we were allowed in.

But as it turned out – the theatre owner had cut the film by 15 mins in the 1st and 2nd shows. Apparently he didn’t think the Karishma outrage scene by the river had any merit. But when he saw the audience going crazy with whatever they saw in 1st two shows, he added the cut footage back. And we, the losers till just a few hours ago, were the 1st bunch in Lucknow to watch the entire film.

This scene, Karishma blaming God for complications in love, is almost the crux of Jab Tak Hai Jaan. Though that doesn’t explain why that image of SRK is the 1st that comes to mind. My nostalgia does.

Paan Singh Tomar4

—–> Varun Grover on Paan Singh Tomar

Now inside the train. Cozy and warm. Time to think clearly.

I can’t be a cinema buff by just noting down SRK/ARR as the lasting memory of 2012. But of course there are more. Neeraj Kabi’s intellectual-saint from Ship of Theseus, Denis Lavant and Kylie Minogue singing the existential song of the year (Who Were/Are We) in a post-apocalyptic shopping mall, Sridevi’s eyes full of tears (sprinkled throughout EV), Pi’s uncle swimming in what appears to be sky, the big-screen film print grainy look on Naseer’s face as he looks in the mirror half-seduced, half-confused by Bhakti Barve’s reflection in JBDY (which re-released this year), the spaceship landing smoothly in waters next to a dense mountain in Cloud Atlas, the sad, spent face of Dimple Kapadia at Rajesh Khanna’s funeral (in contrast to a 21-year old Dimple asking Khanna which color sari she should wear for the wedding reception party in the excellent BBC docu resurrected this year due to once-superstar’s death), Gael Garcia Bernal walking away silently, amused and (maybe) depressed amidst the emotionally charged crowds of his nation in Pablo Lorrain’s excellent NO, the trailer of Nikhil Mahajan’s ‘Pune 52’ (though the film didn’t live up to the high expectations and made the trailer look like a red herring), Faisal Khan’s eyes as he lets his gun go crazy on Ramadhir Singh while singer-composer Sneha Khanwalkar screams ‘Teri kah ke loonga‘ in the background……. and I can go on and on.

But one image that will shake me for many more years, the one that is so depressing that I haven’t seen the film again even though it is, for me, one of the best films of the year – Paan Singh Tomar’s sadness at seeing his worst enemy Bhanwar Singh dead. The man who had forced Paan Singh to end his international sporting career to become a dacoit had died. And instead of being relieved, Paan Singh was left purpose-less. The cries of Paan Singh, telling Bhanwar Singh’s dead body that he will chase him in another world and get his answers still give me chills. Those lines are the best lines of the year for me, resonating so much with the cynicism and depression of our times, where one fine morning, without any notice, all good turns into hopeless, impossible bad by the apathy of the system and resident evil of vengeful human kind we are, making Paan Singh Tomar the film, a kind of socio-political version of unrequited love stories.

Talaash

—–> @Anand Kadam on Talaash

This year we saw a gamut of movies from the hilarious yet fresh Vicky Donor, violently poetic Gangs Of Wasseypur,  and a mystery with a pregnant femme fatale  – Kahaani . But the movie that has stayed with me, which still sneaks into my mind and cuddles me, is a strange one. I call it a strange choice since this movie isn’t a great one (to be honest), and i didn’t think of it much when i watched it. But the grief stricken Shekhawat and his wife refuse to leave me. Talaash is like “Rabbit hole” with more guilt. When you lose someone very close to you, really really close, his or her or its memories sticks to you like a parasite, sucking every notion of happiness from you. You become a robot going through your daily chores with only one thing playing inside your head – how things could/would have been different. And when a small ray of hope or redemption comes into your life, even if it defies common sense, you cling on to it, not for a closure which comes later (or does it really comes) but for confronting the loss and accepting life as it is.

This is Talaash for me, not the twist, not Kareena or Aamir Khan, or the underbelly of Mumbai. And as i had said it earlier – A movie is never about its twist and if it is, it’s not worth it.

Kumki

—–> @Vasan Bala on Kumki

This year, I guess, without much fuss some low budget sleeper hits happened down south. Sundarapandian, Pizza, Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kaanom (a few pages missing in between). This year’s Paruthiveen-set-in-the-Jungles-with-an-Elephant marked the debut of Sivaji Ganeshan’s grandson, KUMKI! Breathtakingly shot. Directed by Prabhu Solomon, the guy who made Mynaa.

The film was earlier called “Komban” (Big Tusker). It’s about a mahavat and his “timid” Elephant Kumki, which is supposed to keep a wild elephant Komban from straying into the fields. The film is basically Kumki v/s Komban. It almost reads like a Pixar film, doesn’t it? BUT….Like any south RURAL “hit” this too has it’s rugged faced man with a toothy grin walking behind a shy girl “LOU STORY”, this one too has endless walks and shy glances and grins and predictably ends in a bloody tragic battle. An epic elephant battle! and it boils down to Computer Generated Blood and Dust (hmmm..ummmm). It’s a bona fide formula now, it’s a dream debut for any Star before he graduates into City “Criminal and Cop” roles, mouthing punch lines and beating up Telugu Villains. Loved the music though.

take-this-waltz04

—–> Jahan Bakshi on The Sarah Polley Double Bill : Take This Waltz & Stories We Tell

Sarah Polley delivered a double whammy this year with two diametrically different but intrinsically linked films. The first was Take This Waltz, her deeply sensual and feminine take on love, longing and those gaps in life that we try to fill in vain, and those questions about relationships that never have easy answers. Once you get over the affectedness: the overtly twee touches and some clunky dialogue at the start, Take This Waltz is in turns both superbly seductive and devastating. Michelle Williams once again, brilliantly owns her character and her mousy imperfection, and it’s clear that Margot could only spring from the mind of a filmmaker with a distinctive voice, and one who is a woman. And it contains two of the most exhilarating (musical) sequences I’ve seen at the movies this year.

In Stories We Tell, Sarah turns the camera on her own family with a brave, deeply felt documentary/personal detective story about her discovery of her real biological father, but more importantly, the meaning of family, secrets, memory and the very nature of storytelling. This must have been an impossibly hard and emotionally testing project to put together, but Polley pulls it off- life might be messy but Stories We Tell holds together very well as a rich document, revelatory in unexpected ways. Watch it when you can, and you’ll see where Take This Waltz comes from.

Shanghai-Movie-2012-Review

—–> Kartik Krishnan and Fatema Kagalwala on Shanghai

Kartik’s take

He gets to know that the system is rotten, that the investigation he was heading was flawed to start with from beginning, that beyond the scattered red herrings lay the actual ‘villain’, who incidentally is the same person who gave him the power & ‘support’ to start the investigation in the first place, that the ‘villain’ is the CM of the State.

So easy for any protagonist to become an Anna Hazare/Kejriwal in such a case, or to become a whistle blower and later face the inevitable martyrdom (ala the Satyendra Dubeys & Manjunath Shanmughams). What else can a cog in a wheel in such a scenario do? Pickup the gun like Eddie Dunford in Red Riding 1974 and blaze away? Become corrupt like Micheal Corleone or Ram Saran Pandey (Mihir Pandya has written an awesome article on Dil Pe Mat Le Yaar) ? Or run away into overexposed light like Vijay in Pyaasa? Should he accept defeat and get down to some other profession like learning Medicine (like KK Menon in HKA), or resign hopelessly like Vikas Pande in The New Delhi Times? Even Z didn’t have an answer.

He goes to the party and plays a ‘Prisoner’s Dillema‘ of sorts with his Paneer tikka-munching Boss and the other Powerful man. Eventually he somehow manages to ensure that the guilty get their comeuppance. But this ‘victory’ is hollow. As his Boss asks him “Yeh hai tumhari Justice?”, he gives a reply which was there in the promos but sadly cut out from the film – “Justice Ka Sapna Maine Chhod Diya Hai”.

And this was probably my moment of the year which is not there in the film, but there in my memory, for a long time!

Fatema’s take

The cutaway from Dr. Ahmadi’s murder to the item song. It was a stroke of brilliance. Not only technically, but as a comment on our conscience in itself. Physically it’s a jolt, meant to unsettle us and shake us up. We’ve just witnessed a murder we’ve seen hundreds of times before but what we expect to come next is NOT an item song. And so we sit up and take notice. Besides, there is the juxtapositioning of the two warring factions of the film itself, one (the ‘good’) killed like a dog on the street and the other (the ‘bad’) celebrating his decadent power in all its ugliness. And then there is that tenuous mirror to our own conscience – what’s our rtn to this cutaway? Are we glad we are back into an indulgent song-n-dance setting and away from boring Dr Ahmadi? Or gratified by our own lust? Or guilty about feeling so? Or disgusted to watch such sharp contrasts unfolding in front of us? Or do we feel the cut is an over-sighted mistake? That the director doesn’t know what he is doing? The answer to this is a huge part of our response to the film and to think AND achieve something like this is no less than genius.
Beasts of the Southern Wild - 6—–> Shripriya Mahesh on Beasts Of The Southern Wild

The movie of the year for me was Beasts of the Southern Wild. I saw it in Sundance in January 2012 at it’s premier. I knew very little about the movie going in because the filmmakers were careful about not even putting out a trailer before the premier.

It was instantly captivating. I love the world Benh Zeitlin creates. It is constantly surprising, always engaging. All the actors are local and that lends significant authenticity to the world (bigwig directors would do well to take note). It tackles such powerful themes, but all from the perspective of the little girl, Hushpuppy, played to perfection by the adorable Quevenzhané Wallis.

There are no long speeches about government control, environmental disasters or about the right to live freely in a manner you choose. No sermonizing. The visuals speak and the magical realism is very nicely done. The music (also composed by Zeitlin) and the the production design really elevate this movie.

And it’s a debut feature. It won the Camera d’Or and Sundance.

Since the film’s theatrical release, there has been a fair share of haters. But for me, it just worked. Eleven months later, I still think about it.

ScreenShotAlma
—–>Mihir Desai on Fjögur Píanó

There are times when I can’t put things in words, I feel the need to express and communicate in visuals. Visuals stick with me and this year one such visual experiment has been playing in my head for the longest time. Directed by Alma Har’el, the Sigur Rós music video, Fjögur Píanó.

Har’el, director of last year’s surreal documentary Bombay Beach creates this gorgeous portrait about the painful pleasures of love. The couple, addicted to each other only really ‘feel’ the pain when separated. The edit juxtaposes the bruises on the girl with the boy softly touching the butterfly. This image stuck with me and Alma Har’el’s quote sums it up so perfectly, “For me it’s about not knowing how to get out of something without causing pain to somebody else.” Without lyrics Alma Har’el has created this beautiful story which I feel was one of the best, cinematic experiences of the year. Due credit to Sigur Rós’ music that inspired Alma Har’el to create this world. Click here to watch the video if you still haven’t seen it.

Other Picks: Celluloid Man, Last Ride, Rampart, Once Upon A Time In Anatolia, Holy Motors, Your Sister’s Sister.

Supermen Of Malegaon

—–> Neeraj Ghaywan on Supermen Of Malegaon

At the surface it may be about the lives of people dreaming about film-making with empty stomachs and hearts full of passion, it could be about an accidental hero, about a world we have never seen but still seems so close. The director is never interested in milking the tragedy of the crew’s limitations, their poverty or the tragic loss of the lead character. Instead, she turns it all into a celebration of life, we smile along with the characters who are making the film, in a way we reflect upon our own personal constraints and learn to laugh at them. It is a comment on the Bollywood system of over-produced film-making, it is paying homage to films of the 80s/90s, it’s also a drawing lessons about how to keep going at it even when there is no hope, it is philosophical at times, it is laughing at itself too.

A film that is so simple in its structure and still speak at so many levels is remarkable. And above everything, it inspires you to take the plunge without thinking twice. When I saw the film, I wanted to get out of the hall and start shooting a film immediately. The biggest achievement of this film is that it goes beyond the confines of being a documentary and touches you more than a big budget fiction based feature.

 Koormavathara

—–> Ranjib Mazumder on Koormavatara and Makkhi

Be it a random blogger or a certified critic, everyone is Noah on internet and takes no time to float the boat of top ten lists. Like the middle-class father comparing his kids among themselves or with other families, we always manage to make a list of ten best films every year, irrespective of their debatable qualities. I am no exception.

However, when I was asked to contribute for this collaborative piece after shutting the eyelids, a bald man appeared in front of my eyes, riding a fly. So, here I am, writing (only because I have been threatened with sarcasm) on two of the most remarkable Indian films of 2012.

Koormavatara

It starts late at MFF 2012. I am almost certain that I would leave it midway because Hansal Mehta’s Shahid is right after it and almost everyone from my group is going for it. The film opens, Godse shoots Gandhi and my doubts evaporated in no time. This is the world of an old man, disinclined to show emotions and engrossed only in his mundane office work and his little grandson. A Gandhi lookalike, when he is approached to play Gandhi in a TV show, he vehemently opposes but gives in due to the greedy family tentacles. Gandhi, like the fourth passenger in Mumbai locals, slowly invades his life, brings him down to the level of helpless co-passengers. Like a master of swift attack, Girish Kasaravalli breaks down the middle-class system and releases the Gandhi in him, leaving him in the midst of incessant disintegration of his surroundings. Rajkumar Hirani’s Munnabhai MBBS was a joy to behold, but Lage Raho Munnabhi, despite a splendid screenplay, offended the adult in me, with its preachy attitude. Without making him God, Koormavatara makes Gandhi accessible showing the mighty repercussions it can have in a typical family in independent India. As far as breaking down the myth of Mahatma, this is the best we have seen so far.

Makkhi

With scenes dipped in liquid cheese, a boy constantly stalks a girl with trite expressions; Makkhi was loathsome in the first 20 minutes. I wanted that boy to just die. Thankfully he did thanks to the overdramatic villain, soon after I wished. Little shaky special effects took charge. And I witnessed the most inventive revenge drama this year. A fly killing a mighty man is simply an impossible idea! But the way this little soldier choreographs his action scenes in the concrete fort of the villain, you can’t help but root for an insect that you have always detested. The triumph of S S Rajamouli’s film lies in the sheer leap of faith. We are yet to have our Jaws, but this is the one that comes closest to the idea of a fantastically executed concept film.

Kahaani2

—–> Pratim D. Gupta on Kahaani

Parineeta did the same thing for me in 2005. Celebrate Calcutta! And how. It reminded me of the way Mira Nair shot Delhi in Monsoon Wedding and Taj Mahal in The Namesake, almost pausing the narrative to just soak in the sensuality of the space. You sexy! Also what Sujoy Ghosh did brilliantly was inculcate his love for cinema in the many myriad moments of the movie in a way that they never became copie conformes but rambunctious references that served those respective scenes just fine. From Satyajit Ray to Salim-Javed to Bryan Singer. And those eyes of Bidya Balan when she looks up in the twist-revealing scene before unleashing her real self. Eyes filled with hurt, vengeance and rage…Our own Beatrice Kiddo? Present please!

Ship Of Theseus

—–> Svetlana Naudiyal on Ship Of Theseus

I don’t see all films that release in the year (and I am kind of unabashedly arrogant about it; can’t spend moneys contributing to someone’s 100 crores or out of sympathies to so called indie/different films), so my opinion from the very beginning of it, is skewed. The indie film movement (or whatever there is of it) took a whole new leap with PVR Director’s Rare creating a platform for their release. And even though in my personal opinion, indie films are becoming the cinema equivalent of DSLR carrying people with so & so photography facebook pages (read opinion as – ‘people should be banned, either from making films or from expecting people to watch’), there have been moments of pure delight at the movies in 2012 than years before that, much thanks to the few Indie films that released this year.

Some of the favourites this year are Supermen of Malegaon (one of the best, a documentary so delightful, hard hitting and yet nowhere remotely close to being poverty porn), Kshay (for Chhaya), Gattu (for finally bringing to the screen an unpolished, bratty, clever, naive and most importantly, real kid), Shanghai (for creating that discomfort that exists in our world and we do not see) , Anhey Ghorhey Da Daan (for creating a cinema experience like no other, for delving into time space and making the silences speak)

The most favorite of all that I managed to see in 2012 would be Ship of Theseus for its language, for its being able to be so unique, so evolved in thought and yet not have an iota of pretentiousness and be accessible to just anyone. For the benchmark it creates not just for indie filmmakers but Indian cinema, in general. I am dying to point out and quote every single nuance I loved, but that should be saved for the film’s release. For the smallest of elements it picks and for the whole it creates. For repeating itself like a poem long after you’ve seen it. This is Cinema!!

anhey ghorey da daan

—–> Mihir Pandya on  “अन्हें घोड़े दा दान” (पंजाबी), निर्देशक – गुरविंदर सिंह

एका – कदमों का, कराहों का, नांइसाफ़ियों का, नकार का। एका – दुख: का, संघर्ष का, सपनों का, समता का। वही इंसानी पैरों का जत्था जिसकी मूक कदमताल में पलटकर मेलू सिंह के पिता शामिल हो जाते हैं। किसी अभ्रक से चमकते इंसानी इरादों का जत्था, जिसका सीधा मुकाबला समाजसत्ता अौर राज्यसत्ता के मध्य हुए भ्रष्ट समझौते से तैयार हुई दुनाली दुरुभिसंधि से होना है। किसी ख़ास दिशा में सतत बढ़ते चले जा रहे वे कदम कोरी भीड़ भर नहीं, वे जनता हैं। एक अात्मचेतस समूह। निर्देशक गुरविंदर सिंह की ‘अन्हें घोड़े दा दान’ के इस विरल संवादों से बने विस्मयकारी दृश्य में, जिसके अन्त में सरपंच की दुनाली के सामने गाँव के दलित फ़कत लाठियाँ किए खड़े हैं, अाप सोचते हैं कि अाख़िर वो कौनसी अात्महंता चेतना है जिसने उन्हें वहाँ साथ अा खड़े होने का यह गर्वीला माद्दा दिया है?

बराबरी का सपना। समता का सपना। यह खुद अपने में पूरा मूल्य है। गैरबराबरी के अंधेरी सुरंग रूपी वर्तमान के अाख़िर में न्याय अौर समानता रूपी किसी उजले सिरे के होने का यूटोपियाई स्वप्न। बराबरी स्वयं ऐसा मूल्य है जिसके लिए लड़ा जा सकता है, जिसके लिए मरा जा सकता है। अौर जिस दिन एक दलित दूसरे के लिए खड़ा होता है, एक शोषित दूसरे शोषित के हक़ की अावाज़ का साझेदार बनता है, वह सदियों से जड़वत इस सत्ता व्यवस्था के लिए अंत का बिगुल है। यह दलित चेतना सबक है जानने का कि हमारी देश के भीतर की तमाम पुरानी संरचनाएं कहीं गहरे बदल रही हैं। यह शोषित की साझेदारी है। यह दुख का एका है। वो बस एक फ्रेम भर है ़फ़िल्म में। गाँव के सरपंच की दुनाली के सामने डटकर खड़े मेरी पिता की उमर के ये निहत्थे भूमिहीन किसान। लेकिन इस एक फ्रेम में अक्स है मणिपुर की उन तमाम माअों का जिन्होंने अपनी उस एक बेटी के लिए खुद को विद्रोह में उठे जिंदा माँस के झंडों में बदल लिया था। इनमें अक्स है सशस्त्र सेना का सामना पत्थरों से करने का दम रखने वाली उस नौजवान पीढ़ी का जिनकी ज़बान पर बस यही गूँजता रहा, “हम क्या चाहते… अाज़ादी”। इनमें अक्स है खंडवा मध्य प्रदेश के उन किसानों का जिनकी सामूहिक जल समाधि ने एक बहरी सरकार को भी सुनने अौर अपना फैसला बदलने पर मजबूर कर दिया। अौर इनमें मेरी ही उमर के उन दो नौजवान साथियों का भी अक्स है जो रविवार की उस रात उस बस में इंसानी जिस्म की हदों के पार जाकर भी अंत तक लड़ते रहे, एक-दूसरे के लिए। बराबरी के उस अप्राप्य दिखते स्वप्न के लिए जो सदा ‘फेंस के उधर’ रही इन अाँखों ने अब देख लिया है।

So this was our list. Do comment and share your movie memories/thoughts/opinions of this year.

We’ve seen all kinds of reactions to Gangs Of Wasseypur… and like many would say, what good is a film if it doesn’t spark intense discussion and debate? But the reactions that are most interesting to see are in the form of fan art. Fan Posters is a relatively new trend here and we’ve recently had a whole wave of Bollywood and Indian movie inspired fan posters.

So here are some interesting ‘fanboy’ posters for Gangs Of Wasseypur… Take a look, and do send us your own if you’ve made any of your own. Enjoy!

The 10th, 11th and 12th posters are by Vijesh Rajan, Akshar Pathak and Abhinav Bhatt respectively.

The first 9  are by Neeraj Ghaywan… Who was clearly very bored during post-production for the film. And also the last one, dedicated to the 3 Womaniyas who were a major force behind the film and had to suffer much at the hands of a certain Mr K. Here they have their revenge. This one is our favorite!

(Update: Added Sumit Purohit‘s Minimalist Poster as well. Keem ’em coming!)

(Update 2: Added  अमित aka @hypnosh‘s fantastic new minimal poster. We love this!)

Gangs OF Wasseypur by Vijesh Rajan

Gangs Of Wasseypur by Vijesh Rajan

Gangs Of Wasseypur Minimal Poster by Akshar Pathak

Gangs Of Wasseypur Minimal Poster by Akshar Pathak

Gangs Of Wasseypur Minimal Movie Poster by Abhinav Bhatt

Gangs Of Wasseypur Minimal Movie Poster by Abhinav Bhatt

Gangs Of Wasseypur Minimal Poster by Sumit Purohit

 

Gangs of Wasseypur Minimal Poster by @hypnosh

 

Gals Of Wasseypur

Anubhuti, Shweta and Sneha. Hell yeah.

We all know about Miss Lovely, Gangs Of Wasseypur and Peddlers going to the Cannes. But apart from these three films, there’s a very important Indian film which will be at the festival this year – Uday Shankar’s 1948 classic film Kalpana. The restored print of Kalpana will be screened in the Cannes Classics section.
The other important films in the Classics section this year includes Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a time in America, Roman Polanski’s Tess, Spielberg’s Jaws, The Ring by Alfred Hitchcock, David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia and Runaway Train by Andrei Konchalovsky. Since we really don’t have a habit and culture of preserving our cinema, i was wondering how did this happen. Then through a common friend i got to know about ad filmmaker Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, who is instrumental in making it happen. I asked him to share his experience on the same and he happily obliged. Read on.

I’ve been attending a festival called Il Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna, Italy for the last few years. This is a festival of restored films and it really amazed me what fantastic work they were doing at the restoration lab in Bologna. They work very closely with the World Cinema Foundation (WCF) headed by Martin Scorsese, who have been doing remarkable work restoring films from all around the world. Last year one of the representatives from WCF mentioned to me that they had been trying to get an Indian film called “Kalpana” directed by Uday Shankar for restoration. They had been trying for almost three years to get the film cans out of India, but they had not been able to do it for various reasons and they had given up.

I had seen Kalpana at a private screening that I had paid for at the Archive in Pune and I knew it was an extraordinary film especially from the point of view of dance and the use of light. I promised the WCF that I would get the film for them to restore, but they were sceptical given their previous experience. Even I didn’t anticipate the extent that I would have to run from pillar to post for this.

I knew the Shankar family and that I was working very closely with the National Film Archive of India (NFAI) for my documentary on P.K. Nair called “Celluloid Man.” I met Amala Shankar (Uday Shankar’s wife) in Kolkata along with her daughter Mamata Shankar and daughter-in-law Tanusree Shankar . I had to request them to procure a legal opinion from their lawyer as there was some litigation regarding the rights of the film that needed to be clarified before WCF could go ahead with the restoration. After a lot of persuasion and several trips to Pune, the NFAI also agreed after I showed them a letter from Martin Scorsese stating that I represented the WCF in this matter and on the condition that I took the onus of sending the cans to Italy and ensured their return. So in a matter of a few months, I managed to send the film to Bologna from my office in Mumbai. In fact, I am responsible for the negative.

I’ve been hearing great reports on the restoration and the lab in Bologna worked round the clock to ensure that they could premier the restored version of Kalpana at the Cannes Classic section. The WCF have very kindly invited me and Amala Shankar for the premier and we will walk the red carpet at 6.30 p.m. on May 17 before the premier. Amalaji is 94 years old and she is thrilled to travel to Cannes and walk the red carpet to see the only film made by her husband in which she played the main role.

At Cannes I have also been invited to see the restored version of Sergei Leone’s “Once Upon a Time in America”. As I am a donor for the restoration of Hitchcock’s film “The Lodger”, the British Film Institute has invited me to a screening of their restoration of Hitchcock’s silent film “The Ring” with live accompaniment.

In the West, there is a strong culture of preservation and restoration of films that India completely lacks. This is a shame given what a great cinematic history we have. This is what inspired me to make my documentary “Celluloid Man” on P.K. Nair, the founder of the National Film Archive of India. Mr. Nair singlehandedly built the Archive. It’s thanks to him that film students from the Film Institute, Pune like me had the opportunity to see the work of great filmmakers like Ozu, Tarkovsky, Fellini, etc. My film is a tribute to Mr. Nair and his life’s work and somewhere I hope people will realize how important it is to collect and restore our films.

One of the main reasons, I pushed so hard for Kalpana to be restored is that I am hoping that other Indian films will also get chosen for restoration. As a matter of fact, the lab in Bologna wants to restore Ritwik Ghatak’s “Meghe Daka Tara” and have asked me to help them raise the funding. I am hoping the Indian film fraternity or corporate houses will come forward so we don’t have to rely on the West.

(PS – To know more about the film and why it’s such a big deal, you can read this and this post.)