Posts Tagged ‘Film Recco’

We have been tracking Abhay Kumar’s films for quite some time now. We had written about his short on the blog, and in earlier edition of MFF, when his another short was in Dimensions section, we had predicted his win too. Interestingly, this year he is back with a feature-lengh documentary, Placebo. And what a joy it is see a filmmaker making an impressive debut as he graduates from shorts to feature. One can easily spot some of the similar patterns in all his shorts and documentary.

And here’s Achyuth Sankar‘s review post on the film. This is his first post here.

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We’ve all thought about the question, “What are the few things you absolutely cannot live without?”. For me, and all of them in equal importance (I’m not going to write the obvious things like food, water, air, etc), they are cinema, and a few really wonderful and beautiful people, some friends, some family. Cinema figures that high in my list, as it does in the lives of more than a few people I know.

At 6:30pm today, in a house full screening at MAMI, I gave 90 minutes of my life to that cherished thing which I can’t live without, cinema. It was a documentary called Placebo. It’s about the one of the most prestigious colleges in India (not any IIT, I’d rather not get into any more specifics), where the filmmaker’s brother is studying. The brother gets into a serious accident, and during his recovery, the filmmaker decides to stay in his brother’s hostel and document the lives being led there, in an attempt to understand what led to that accident (I won’t be referring to it as an accident any more, it was a self inflicted hurt, severe hurt). He follows the lives of four people in the said hostel, seemingly without any greater aim. Sometimes, a story chooses its storyteller, especially when it’s a story that needs to be told, and that is what happens to the documentarian here. The lives he begins to document shape up to be a small, but essential picture about the lives of students who have chosen the path of the elite by joining there. People are pressurized, or they’re not. Sometimes, they stumble into the doorstep of a revered institution with lofty dreams, but to many of them, simply making it there summarizes their dream. What does one do after that? What does one do when they have no idea where to go? What guidance does one get?

I was contemplating, while driving back home, why do most of the absolute greats of cinema talk about serious things like depression, disconnect, alienation, fear. Why not happiness? The question has come up many times before, but no answer till today. It is because.. when things are good, when we are happy, we are already ready to share. But when things are going down the shit hole, not even a handful of us can talk about it and admit “Hey, I’m fucked up and I need help”. That’s why it is so much more potent, when a film talks about things that nobody likes to, wants to or knows how to talk about. Suddenly, we feel a resonance within that isolated corner of our mind.

That’s what Placebo is.

That slight resonance, which reminds us of the importance of our own feelings. But more than that, it talks about something a lot more. It’s a documentary, with the filmmaker going to a college to understand why his brother hurt himself as badly. But a story that needs to be told chooses its own storyteller, and this college, and the stories of all the students who’ve lived there, chose this filmmaker. One shocking suicide after another, and it’s no longer just about a personal exploration, it’s about all of us. All of us who’ve studied, who’ve felt pressurized. All of us who, I dare say, can’t even begin to imagine the true extent of desperation, where the phrase “give up” doesn’t mean settle for lower grades or go to a less reputed institute. All of us who have been lost, at one point or the other, looking at the sea of people around us filled with genius, as we catch ourselves wondering “How the fuck am I going to make a mark in all of this?”.

There is one particular part in the film, where a character says something along the lines of “We are all isolated. You’re here talking to me, but I’m isolated inside and you’re isolated inside. My words aren’t my exact thoughts. But only I understand my isolation. You know the fucked up part? You think you understand, but you don’t.”

Placebo is truly a story that begs to be told. You can see it evolve in itself. The original intent of the filmmaker wasn’t to talk about student suicides or the casual indifference of college management or depression. It was merely an investigation, a very personal one at that. But as the story begins to tell itself through the storyteller, you won’t care about the change of course. Because the story needs to be told, and we all need to let it.

Romanticism aside, it took (in the filmmaker’s own words) a 1000 hours of handycam footage and constant questioning of intent to bring out this 90 minute long story. 1000 hours, vs 90 minutes. To look for that story which has revealed itself to you, and to do it justice, that’s no easy task. Because it’s not something you’ve concocted in your head, it’s all there. It’s all already there. The loss of aim, loss of hope and dreams, the crisis of faith and loss of ideals, the pressure, loneliness and depression that we students face. It’s all there. We don’t know how to talk about it. This film just showed us how to.

There was approximately a 3 minute standing ovation at the end of the film, followed by a Q&A session. In it, someone asked the filmmaker about how personal the subject was, and how he could keep filming while everything was so close, especially since his own brother was severely hurt. The filmmaker said that whether we like it or not, when we hold a camera, it will create a barrier. That’s the price one has to pay for the story. You’re in it, you’re affected by it, but you’re still separated by that invisible inch.

Abhay Kumar is that filmmaker, and he stayed in the hostel of that college for two whole years, filming as much as he could. He and his partner in crime (his own words, not mine), Archana Phadke then spent another year finding the needle in the haystack, and all the other needles too, in order to tell this hard hitting story. If there is one thing, and absolutely one thing I can learn from this, it’s “Get a camera and go make a fucking movie. It takes a lot of effort, but what’s stopping you?”

Abhay, you’re honestly one of the best filmmakers out there at the moment. I haven’t made a single piece of cinema, I don’t know how it’s done, I’m no authority. But films mean a lot to me, you’ve just made it mean more.

Thank you so much.

Achyuth Sankar

(PS – You can watch Abhay’s shorts here (Just That Sort Of A Day) and here (Life Is A Beach)

(Born in Trivandrum and having spent his last 8 years in Bombay, Achyuth discovered his love for cinema here, thanks to affordable unlimited internet plans. His pass times are blowing up all his savings on purchasing Blu Rays, going for a morning show at some PVR, or eating good food and having a cold Bud. He moonlights (or rather, daylights) as a final year Engineering student, with a severe love for Harley Davidson motorcycles. He fell in love with movies after watching Good Will Hunting. The only thing he loves as much as cinema is his Labrador, Cindy)

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As Mumbai Film Festival is all set to start, we are back with our film recco post. But this year, we have not made our list. We have taken the easy way out – compiled the list of all the film reccos done by others. So here you go…

– Rediff film reviewer and festival programmer Aseem Chhabra’s pick – 10 movies you must see at MAMI (The Apu Trilogy, The Club, From Afar, Junun, Mia Madre, Placebo, Virgin Mountain, The Second Mother, Sworn Virgin, Youth)

– Mint Lounge’s reviewer Uday Bhatia list of 10 Films – by First time directors (Ixcanul Volcano, Land And Shade, Thithi, Cities Of Sleep, Interruption, Island City, The Head Hunter, Turbo Kid, Kaili Blues, Mina Walking)

– First Post reviewer Mihir Fadnavis on fest’s new segment,After Dark – a list of bizarre horror movies (Ludo, Stung, American Burger, Deathgsm, Tag)

– Fadnavis also has a list of 10 Films You Must Watch + Some More (The Forbidden Room, Mountains May Depart, The Lobster, Dheepan, Room, Taxi, Heavenly Nomadic, Tangerine, Ixcanul Volcano, He Named Me Malala)

– MAMI Chairperson and filmmaker Kiran Rao’s pick of 5 Must Watch Films (Dheepan, The Boy And The World, Blue, Mountains May Depart, Restored copies of Pyaasa and all Chetan Anand films)

– Writer and blogger Satyanshu Singh’s long list of film recco is here. Has info on many fest winners.

If you have googled the films and made your list, or found a good list than we haven’t mentioned, do let us know in the comments section. We will update the post.

And this list comes from Aniruddh Chatterjee, the self-declared biggest Korean movie fanatic on this side of the planet. Do read the post, and do watch the films. If you have come across some interesting Korean movies recently, do let us know in the comments.

Over to Aniruddh.

SECRET  SUNSHINE

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Jeon Do-yeon relocates alongwith her young son to the village where her recently deceased husband grew up. And tragedy strikes again. The film is not so much about the tragedy itself, as about its aftermath. Jeon Do-yeon’s performance is as raw and naked as it can get.

Note: Jeon Do-yeon won the Best Actress award at Cannes Film Festival for Secret Sunshine.

Lee Chang-dong is fairly underrated when it comes to the big league of Korean directors. His last film Poetry is an absolute gem. Do watch his entire filmography which includes Oasis, Peppermint Candy and Green Fish.

Secret Sunshine is now available on Criterion DVD/Blu-ray.

CASTAWAY  ON  THE  MOON

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A failed suicide attempt results in Jeong Jae-yeong play Robinson Crusoe in a conservation island in the middle of Han River. The only person who can see him is Kim Jung-yeon, an agoraphobic, who has shut herself in one of the city’s high rises.

Offbeat, quirky, bizarre yet immensely endearing take on romantic comedy.

PAJU

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The opening scene in the film sees Seo Woo traveling in a taxi through dense fog. From the first shot director Park Chan-ok is preparing the audience for the ride. Paju is about the complicated relationship between a young girl and her brother-in-law and complications that follow. Gorgeously shot by Kim Woo-hyung and a brilliant and emotionally nuanced performance by Seo Woo in her breakout role.

This is what we call a mood-piece!

TREELESS  MOUNTAIN

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A tender, almost meditative tale of resilience, while facing constant abandonment from family. Heartbreaking real performance from both leads, Kim Hee-yeon and Kim Song-hee.

THE  DAY  HE  ARRIVES

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Hong’s films are very Woody Allen-esque. His characters aren’t as neurotic as Allen but definitely immature and self centered fools. Beautifully shot in monochrome, highlighting the winter, the film is about Yoo Jun-sang, a retired film director, currently teaching film studies, and his encounter with friends, acquaintances and strangers over the next few days when he visits Seoul.

Note : Hong Sang-soo is criminally underrated when it comes to the big league of Korean directors.

He is a Cannes Film Festival regular with five of his films nominated for either Palme d’Or or Un Certain Regard. His film Hahaha won the Un Certain Regard award in 2010.

Do check out his filmography which includes Woman on the Beach, Tale of Cinema, Night and Day, Hahaha and the recent In another Country.

JUVENILE  OFFENDER

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A beautiful film about a couple of lost souls trying to fit into society, knowing it is difficult for them to change at all.

Terrific performances by Seo Young-joo and Lee Jung-hyun.

DANCE  TOWN

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The struggle of a North Korean refugee trying to cope with her new life in South Korea as she’s constantly under the radar of South Korean intelligence alleging her to be a spy.

Note : The final chapter in director Jeon Kyu-hwan’s town trilogy, other two being Mozart Town and Animal Town.

BLEAK  NIGHT

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Bleak Night is post-mortem of a suicide. Three high school friends, their loyalty, betrayal, guilt and despair leading to and post the suicide. Touches the important topic of bullying and violence in high school.

Yoon Sung-Hyun makes one of the most assured directorial debuts in recent times.

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We don’t have a culture of documenting our history.

We don’t have a history of making great documentaries.

We don’t have documentaries on our “real heroes”.

And this is why Shivendra Singh Dungarpur’s Celluloid Man is such an important film, which stands tall on those three parameters. It’s about a real hero who has documented our cinematic history, and it’s a documentary on his life and passion.

I had missed the screening few times in the past and finally managed to catch it recently. The name is P.K.Nair. His designation sounds even boring – Archivist. Sounds almost clerical – someone who archives stuff. What separates Mister Nair from his designation and the rest is just one thing – passion. And this film does complete justice to that man and his undying passion for cinema.

Chances are you might not have heard his name if you have not been to FTII or not friends with FTII graduates. He is the man responsible for National Film Archive Of India, popularly known as NFAI. Starting literally from scratch, P K Nair built it up slowly – reel by reel, can by can, film by film. No wonder that you ask him about a scene and he can tell you which reel and which can has it. Celluloid Man is his story – how he built NFAI, the way he travelled to various places in search of those rare films which most didn’t care about.

The film runs on two tracks. One traces Nair’s personal story – starting from Nair’s childhood in Kerala to how he wanted to become filmmaker and how he landed up at FTII and started NFAI. Some of the well known faces from FTII recount their younger days at the Institute and talk about Nair saab. And then you realise that his contribution is much more than just being an archivist. It’s about shaping up those young bright minds.

The other one is about building NFAI – this has intersecting anecdotes about collecting those precious films by travelling to remote places, and sometimes even opting for illegal routes for a greater cause. Dungarpur balances it well by scratching the uncomfortable surface too – was it one-upmanship, why NFAI is hostile to Nair now and such.

It feels bit long at the running duration of more than 2 hours (2:24 exactly i think, not sure which version is releasing), and the director’s sudden voice-over feels odd which doesn’t gel well with the film as the rest of it is through Nair saab’s words. But those are just minor issues in this mammoth task of documenting this important part of our cultural history so beautifully. If you are film lover, WATCH IT. If you are not, watch it just to know how to define Passion and Commitment.

The initial portions of the film is shot gorgeously, almost like a dream, feels some kind of daze. And then there’s a heartbreaking surreal sequence of silver being extracted from film reels by those who understand only commerce. The horror! Horror! i shouted in my head.

And this film could not have come at a better time. If there’s one person who needs to be celebrated at the occasion of 100 years of cinema, it’s Nair saab. If nothing else, at least this documentary serves that purpose. Thanks, Shivendra.

– The film is being released by PVR Directors Rare on May 3rd. Don’t Miss this one.

– To know more about the film, click here.

– DearCinema has a detailed review of the film from IFFLA. Click here to read.

(PS – My fav quote is about gym in FTII. I guess that says a lot about our current cinema too)

@CilemaSnob

In her twitter bio, Svetlana Naudiyal describes herself as Murphy’s favourite child. So over to the child who is just back from a country where there is almost no cinema culture and she was trying to make them understand what is the point of a film festival. Back to India and here’s her recco of the film Kshay, which has been doing the rounds of film festivals since quite sometime.

There is no local popular cinema in the theaters. The only theaters are the ones in the malls. From malls to pirated dvd stores – all you’d prominently see is Hollywood. I’ve just returned from Cebu City, so to say, the second largest city in Philippines. The townesque city is burgeoning with Malls, Multiplexes, BPOs and all possible American Chains. The city glistens, roads are well done, cab drivers never say no and their peso is better placed against dollar than the rupee. In this seemingly ‘developing’ state of affairs, local cinema has no ground beneath its feet. I get to meet a few Cebuano Filmmakers and see their films. Great work and talented, no doubt! But what do they do?

Cut to – my country, my crazy cinephile country.

Here back home, I see Kshay on the big screen, and I am moved by the mere thought that here someone can not only make the film they want to but also hope that it would see the light of theatrical release someday.

But is that why you should support it? Just because someone really struggled to make an Indie film and then eventually managed to get it to the box office?

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Kshay, as the very poetic title suggests, corrodes.

Corrodes the being.

Chhaya, a simple housewife, becomes strangely obsessed with an unfinished idol of Goddess Lakshmi. Her husband, Arvind, works for a reckless building contractor and struggles to make ends meet while reeling under the guilt of not being able to give Chhaya the life he promised to. Their lives are thrown in a downwards spiral as Chhaya slowly becomes oblivious of their circumstance and succumbs to faith turned into obsession.

It is not often that the frames and sequences of a film hover in your mind for long after you see it. They corrode the mind, resonate with life and create a surreal-real world of obsession, hopelessness and love. It’s beautiful how the textures, lights and score accentuate the psychological corrosion of Chhaya. Together with Arvind’s frustrations and the hopelessness a viewer sees in their situation, the film builds a strange tempo as it progresses; it might not be evident in the pace but most certainly so in the feeling it leaves one with.

Shot in black and white, the cinematography by Abhinay Khoparzi, is highlight of the film. The eerie absurdity of dreams, delusions, reality and the textures, all stand out in black & white frames. The background score is by director Karan Gour himself is the perfect companion to it. Rasika is unbelievably real as Chhaya and beautifully brings out her pain, coldness, obsession; Alekh complements her as much in portraying Arvind’s frustrations, hope and hopelessness. Even the small roles of building contractor and neighbour lady, are marked by really fine performances.

To me, story apart, Kshay also questions – questions faith, questions reason and questions the merciless set up we live in. It’s a world where WTC crash becomes table-top merchandise.. Exploiters continue to have their cake and eat it too.. Exploited barely find a way.. It’s a world of faith becoming obsession and obsession ending only in….

Coming back to the question – Don’t watch it because it’s another oh-so-poor-striving-for-support indie film, watch it because it’s good cinema, that totally deserves your time and money.

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– Here’s a preview of Kshay’s hauntingly gorgeous music –

Kshay OST – Home

Kshay OST – Everywhere

– And the trailer

– To know more about the film click here. And click here for the FB page of the film.

– PVR JUHU (Mumbai) will have one show running in the next week at 6:35PM. Don’t miss this one!

– And if our recco isn’t enough to convince you, here are some more reviews – Namrata Joshi of Outlook rates it 3.5/4, Karan Anshuman (Mumbai Mirror) has rated it 3.5/5 and Aseem Chhabra (Rediff) has also given it 3.5/5.

For small and regional films, social networking platforms can be quite a boon. If anything is good, one doesn’t need to worry about its audience. When people become your ambassador, you don’t need advertising or pr. I discovered the wonderful trailer of Bhooter Bhobishyot on FB and was instantly hooked. Have been following it since then and it’s finally getting a limited release in Mumbai today. So here’s a recco post on the film by Aniruddha Chatterjee. But first watch the trailer. Wish they had released it with subtitles.

Imagine this. Two ghosts, one a zamindar who got killed by the dacaits, and the other, a British officer who served in pre-independent India, are auditioning other ghosts to fill the zamindar’s abandoned mansion. This is because most old mansions and houses are demolished and turned to shopping malls and multiplexes by money hungry promoters and are ruining the culture and heritage of the city. So the ghosts all over the world, especially in Kolkata, are finding it very difficult to find a place to live in. Interestingly, even the ghosts are worried about their food, entertainment and security. The selections in the audition are made accordingly. This is the crux of debutant director Anik Dutta’s delicious bengali film Bhooter Bhobishyot.

Siraj-ud-Daulah’s trusted cook who gave his life in the Battle of Plassey, an Indian army officer who got killed during the Kargil war, an actress cum singing Kanan Devi-isque sensation of the 1940s who committed suicide after her producer boyfriend ditched her and married someone else, a Bangla rock band member who overdosed himself to death, a Bihari rickshaw puller who was killed due to reckless driving by a rich brat, a Hindu refugee from Bangladesh who was killed during partition, and a modern day city girl who jumped from her apartment terrace when her industrialist father refused to let her marry a Muslim boy – all of them get selected after the audition. The thread connecting all the ghosts is that they all died unusual deaths.

The ghosts sing, dance, romance, go to picnic, argue over hilsa and prawn, and when endangered, unite to fight against a promoter who wants to destroy Choudhury mansion and build a mall.

The script is unique and original, and is one of the most satisfying satirical comedies of late. The filmmaker takes a dig at everything that is Bengali – the intellectual filmmakers who only prefer Godard, Fellini and Ray, the pseudo communist rebel who thinks wearing Che Guevara t-shirt proves everything, the Dada and Didi of Bengali politics including the Rizwanur Rahman incident, and the everlasting fight between ghoti and bangal. It is refreshing to see usage of Spookbook, Facebook for ghosts, to find a suitable match for an item number.

Interestingly, the narrative is a tribute to Ray’s Hirak Rajar Deshe, as almost every character in the film speaks by rhyming their lines. The humour is subtle and situational. Literal and political references are plenty, and so it needs to be seen whether non-Bengalis find the humour appealing or not.

Another aspect that must be mentioned is the music. Raja Narayan Deb has created one of a kind soundtrack with influences from every genre possible – rock, pop, rabindra sangeet, jazz, folk or qawwali, and also from the different eras the characters belong to. (Click here to watch a terrific song medley from the film)

Also, it has excellent performances by the entire ensemble cast, but Sumit Samaddar as the Bangladeshi refugee and Swastika Mukherjee as Kadalibala, the actress cum singer of the black and white era, are the scene stealers.

Anik Dutta, the writer-director of the film is a renowned ad-filmmaker. This is his first feature film and for that he deserves every bit of accolade he is receiving for creating such an entertaining film.

Currently, the film is playing in theaters all over West Bengal. It’s getting a limited release in Mumbai on 27th April. Don’t miss it!

For more details, film’s Facebook page is here. For Bombay’s theatre listing, click here.

We first heard about Baboo Band Baaja when it bagged three national awards – for Best First Film of a Director, Best Actress and Best Child Artist. The film has been ready for quite sometime and it finally released last friday. Some of the theatres are screening the film with  subtitles. Here’s Mohit Patil‘s recco post for the film.

This is Mohit‘s first post here. When he isn’t busy attending engineering college, he worships Kaufman, Bhardwaj and Scorsese.In the very first scene in director Rajesh Pinjani’s Baboo Band Baaja, we are given a glimpse of the life led by Baboo (played brilliantly by Vivek Chabukswar) – that his family must bank on the deaths/births happening in their village in order to make a living. His father Jaggya (Milind Shinde) is a band player. Once a band party owner, he now earns a (rather lumpish) living by playing at modest wedding processions and cortegès. His mother Shirmi (Mitali Jagtap) works as a Bohareen – selling utensils in exchange for old, used garments. The story begins as Baboo finds his rucksack missing, and so does an endless struggle of this family to change things.

Jaggya wants Baboo to become a band member like him. The reason for this call isn’t a father wanting to see his son to be like him, but his presumption that there is no other way out. “We villagers are in no way helped by the technological advancements,” he argues, “All that has changed is the number of airplanes flying above our heads”. Throughout the film, we see his mother as a heterodox in a comparatively orthodoxical society. She wants to educate her son and goes to great lengths to earn money to buy books for Baboo, whose school master won’t allow him in without books and uniform. She’s elated when she gets a pair of khaki shorts in exchange for a larger vessel, which can be used as her son’s school uniform. And she is enraged when she discovers that the reason for her husband’s anger is the fact that Baboo has lost his rattle and not that he has lost his school bag.

One of the film’s biggest triumphs is that it sticks to its business and tells the story of the family’s endeavor with great simplicity and without diverting its focus towards “shocking the viewer with the appalling reality…” etc. I did find the emotions exaggerated at places with the lurid low angle shots of the school master punishing Baboo or the histrionics of the wily politician, and wished it weren’t as overstated, but it all works nevertheless.

Another very impressive thing about Baboo Band Baaja is that it has a very keen eye for detail. Not a single thing here seems unauthentic or out-of-place. Especially, the language used here, is pure gold. If you couldn’t buy the Hindi speaking characters in some of our recent urban rom-coms, or the characters not referring to Mumbai as Bombay or Bambai in Dhobi Ghat, you are bound to be more than satisfied with the language and the actors’ inch perfect dialect here. The instruments that the bandwallahs play in the film, the songs that they play, selecting the dress code for the grand wedding they are appointed for, the astute observations about the local life in Vidarbha… Discovering these rural life vignettes first hand is pure joy, so I’d rather not spoil it for you.

The characters are very well written, and the actors who play them are terrific for the most part, save for the school teacher who is baselessly portrayed as an evil baddie, as opposed to someone who is just doing his job. Watch Mitali Jagtap and Vivek Chabukswar speak through their eyes in one of the best moments in the film; the scene which has hardly any dialogue, in which Shirmi readies Baboo for school.

<Mild spoilers>

The film uses all its subplots, which rather smartly towards the culmination. There is metrical dichotomy in the way things fall back into place towards the end. The beautiful symmetry between the first and the last scene of the film more than made up for my feeling of redundancy after the final blow.

<Spoilers end>

Baboo Band Baaja is a simple, heartfelt story of what appears to be parents’ struggle to make things better, and turns into something so painful, it takes a piece of your heart.