Posts Tagged ‘film’

 

“Tagore-on-an-acid-trip” – that’s how Qaushiq Mukherjee, or Q, as he is popularly known, has described his latest film, Tasher Desh. We discovered Q with his last film Gandu which still remains unreleased in India. And we have been following all his work since then – shorts, music, documentaries.

Here’s the director’s note on his new film which is set to release on 23rd August in Mumbai and Kolkata. It’s based on one of the popular musical dramas of Rabindranath Tagore.

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Since I was five, Tasher Desh has been on my mind. It’s that fantasy that I always knew I wanted to touch. That elusive texture of human existence, devoid of transient truth. Reality is indeed transient; shifting all the time yet every civilization holds on to its truth till whatever time they can, always leading to antagonism and discontent. The cycle of time makes sure that periods of extreme confusion and chaos happen to alter realities, and we are at the thresholds of such a time.

Tagore wrote Tasher Desh as a mythical utopian expression against the backdrop of a violent turbulence. India was in the process of forming an individual and collective identity. Shaking off a history of oppression and forging a modern society. Tagore saw it as an opportunity perhaps, to tell a story removed so far from reality that it forced the listener to be objective. Modern society is marked by one overwhelming human condition. Of melancholia or depression. Slowly becoming one of the most important issues of our daily reality.

Depression is a symptom of a gloom caused by social system and its invariable ability to isolate individuals.

The film is not about the narrative of the fairy tale. It is but a reflection of how I see the world right now. As it was then, when the piece was written, the world is in a flux. India is changing radically, along with the politics of the world, and these changes are essentially driven by system driven violence. My storyteller, therefore, is a lost soul. Unable to deal with the cacophony of his circumstances, he dives into the fable, as if to save himself. The characters of the fairy tale are all extensions of the storyteller, and the story itself has a life of its own. Every story is the same. And it is always the telling that shifts the paradigms.

In the film, it’s his story that helps the storyteller overcome his ennui and to take a decision that would change his life.

The prince is depressed, because the storyteller is. A deep isolation caused by the sense of loss, of one’s self. Stagnant and paranoid. Stuck in a space and time that is almost a cocoon, with the appearance of a prison. While the storyteller is confined within the two parallel railway tracks, the prince is in his palace, a hopeless fortress, as it seems to him.

Tasher Desh is also about belief and magic. The oracle, the fairy watching over our prince, is needed because impetus is external. This is what connects us to the world outside our mind. Instead of drawing inspiration from the mundane reality, the storyteller as the concerned friend of his protagonist invokes the fairy. The prince’s transformation is immediate. Touched by the power of illusion, he suddenly begins to realize that his emancipation is in movement. He needs to go away. One of the most important things holding him back was his broken mother. He comes out to his mother, and then dives into his fantasy. The storyteller also jumps the wall of his reality.

It could be argued that social governance and its monotheistic, patriarchal nature cause collective depression. Tagore’s utopia is bizarre, with masked beings, strange rules and social paranoia of change. The cards in the film seem to have lost all human tendencies.

When the prince and the friend meet them. But the prince, newly liberated, is impatient to try out the power he has been given. A demi god now, devoid of intrinsic human folly, he delivers the message to the ace of hearts.

The storyteller travels the path he has often traveled in his fantasy, and when he arrives at the palace of his dreams, he finds her. The ace of hearts, a widow living in the shadows of a ruined structure. Mystical, magical, she is the one he was waiting for. Suddenly he has someone to tell the story to. Get it out of his soul. The widow and the ace of hearts merge in his story, and a revolution begins.

Tasher Desh symbolizes the triumph of a pagan form of ritualistic cleansing through love and identification of the self, in a postmodern society. it’s a vision of the man cleansed pure by the woman, and the seed of identity being sexual in nature. The ace of hearts takes away the storyteller’s attention, at the same time making his story more palpable, more intense, and more romantic. The film turns a sharp corner therefore, and begins to intensify on finding that one point, the spark. It’s a feminine revolt that the story narrates now, no longer a tale of male neurosis. A non-­‐violent revolution fuelled by love. In utopia. Tagore was a pure romantic, and i have tried to place his sensibilities in the confusion of our time. a violent world without any screen violence. A fairy tale without any fabrication and frills. I have tried to find the unreal right beside me. All the art properties in the film were objects we can find easily. The locations were live. The look, inspired heavily by Japanese forms, from kabuki to manga, had to be basic. There are no visual effects used, apart from layering two or three visuals together, to find an image that allows all the realities to exist together, form a relationship. And a video game reference that was done with video moshing, a very low fi technique. The idea was minimalist. Within that apparent reality, we would try to find the sublime. The magical.

The film is a musical. Following an ancient oral form, we have retained the songs as they were, written eighty years back. Associating with some of the finest musicians across the world, I have tried to place the sound of Tagore’s time with the current ones. The words of the songs, so eloquent, emerging from a romantic poet of the highest standard, are actually lines for the characters that sing them. With the use of music, the reality is broken time and again, but every song contains a message so intrinsic to the character, one can lose one’s self in them. Sound and colour play crucial roles in the film, creating the environment and the tension of the spaces explored.

Tasher Desh is an experiment in form and structure, using one of the most popular scripts of India’s recent history. I wanted to remain as faithful to the original idea as I could, and then use my treatment to bring the seed of the story out of its stagnancy, caused by the sterility of my culture. It is a story about revolution after all, and magic, and I strongly believe in both.

Q

What’s Tagore’s Tasher Desh is all about

A king banishes the older queen and his son to a palace where they lead a life of luxury and decadence. An oracle whispers the secret words to the prince and he leaves the palace with his friend, the merchant’s son. Their boat sinks and they arrive at the land of cards where the inhabitant cards are governed by a military regime. The prince and his friend get caught and bring about a change in the women cards with music and prophecies of love. The woman cards revolt. The king surrenders and the prince finds the meaning of life.

What’s Q’s Tasher Desh is all about 

Once upon a time, there was a storyteller. In a lonely railway station, somewhere in Kolkata, he spoke to trains. He wanted to tell a story. It was not a new story. But for him, it was the only story to tell. Inside the darkness of his mind, his story unfolds, a kaleidoscope of fantasy.

Once upon a time, there was a prince. a victim of his destiny, he was banished with his mother to a dark and distant prison palace. Here he grows up, without hope, without a future, with his mother drowning herself in alcohol. His depression countered only by his friend, the merchant’s son, who argues that it was indeed the prince’s choice to remain locked in. realizing the extent of his despair, the friend invokes the oracle. A mysterious figure, the oracle passes on a message of liberation. The prince realizes that he is indeed a prisoner of his mind. He takes a decision, to leave. He has a final moment with his mother, who lets him go. The prince takes hold of his destiny, and sets off on a voyage with his friend, searching for an adventure.

The storyteller begins his journey as well, leaving the city, and traveling to a ruined palace, which is where we had found the prince. Here, he encounters a strange woman, a widow, living alone, as if waiting for him to turn up. He is mesmerized by her, and soon, begins to tell her the story. She is his muse, the one who he was waiting for. Finally having found the listener, the storyteller launches into an even more intense narrative.

Shipwrecked on a paradise island, the prince and the friend encounter a strange culture. The islanders are all soldiers, who call themselves the cards, and live by a code of rules that outlaws any human behavior. Before they know it, an aggressive party of the islanders, holds the visitors captive. Presented at court, and having angered the cards by defying their court customs, they are pronounced guilty, and banished. But before he leaves, the prince asks for a last word, and takes the opportunity to whisper the same message of liberation he received from his guardian angel to a few of the card women. The result is chaos. The women are completely shaken, and soon the land of cards sees dissent for the first time.

– For more info on the film and release schedule, click here for its FB page.

The Act of Killing

This was long before Tehelka had done any expose. I think the year was 2006. A junior from college had gone on to become a yogi of sorts – a spiritual guru who over the next few years would gather a bunch of powerful politicos as his disciples and put an Orkut profile photo showing Narendra Modi reading Time Magazine with him, in his Yogi costume, on the cover.

I had shifted to Bombay to become a writer and his phone call started with respect for this ‘brave’ decision of mine. Over the next few phone calls during the week he told me about his vision for India and his love for cows, both quite reasonable, and I listened out of curiosity and courtesy. Then, after his self-praise ran dry after multiple ejaculations over 4-5 days, he came to the asli mudda.  He wanted me to head the national cultural wing of some organization/movement he was launching soon, in association with Bajrang Dal or VHP (my memory fails). I asked him what are his views on allegations on these organizations being responsible for Gujarat riots, and pat came his monologue which came back to me right after I started watching Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Act of Killing.

He said of course it’s a matter of pride and an act whose time had come. It’s a happy situation that we still have youth who can put their lives on line for their nation. He said he is in fact sitting with two bhai jis who murdered a few people, including a pregnant lady and her child, with their own hands. Sensing my shock he said he and bhai jis can explain everything if I meet them in person just once. And then he handed the phone to one bhai ji when I cut the call in horror. College junior/Yogi called back saying he can understand the fear of rationals over such acts but he is sure that once I know the full story, I will not just accept but hug and applaud these people who murdered muslim women and children on the streets. A more heroic me would have gone to the cops or some TV channel, but I just cut the phone and never took his call again. (He called a number of times over the next month or so.)

This nonchalance puzzled me, kept me awake for many days. I rationalized that he might have been bluffing only, or trying to test me on something. It was too difficult to believe that people could boast about their crimes so easily, that too to almost strangers.

While watching The Act of Killing, in which gangsters hired by Indonesian military regime to kill more than 15 Lakh alleged ‘communists’ in the country revisit their acts with pride and glossy rationalization, I kept swinging between the two extreme emotions. One was the feeling of shock at this bizarre scenario – gangsters were told to re-enact the murders in whatever cinematic genre they want to and they obliged by enthusiastically recounting the methods, madness (sitting on a table placed on victim’s neck and jumping while singing), and ‘reasons’ (“God hates communists”) behind via many genres including musical, war film, crime drama, and comedy. The other was the feeling of familiarity – the feeling of having lived among such people, known them (and we all have known them in India who say ‘Sahi kiya Modi ne!’), and hence feeling no shock at this kind of behavior. It was like looking into the future if we have a Hindu-Military regime someday. The same guys I spoke to on the phone might be calling me   again to write songs for the film they would be making to celebrate their own acts of 2002.

So yes, there was a third feeling too. Feeling of ‘Is it okay if I laugh at this scenario?’ Very few films can put you in that space, that uncomfortable space between humaneness and detachment. I did laugh in a few scenes, in spite of being brain-shocked by it.  It was farce performing cunnilingus on reality.

The story unfolds through Anwar Congo and his sidekick Herman Koto. Anwar was a gangster (he says gangster means a ‘free man’) in 1965 and killed more than 1000 people in his ‘office’ by his own admission. He loved watching movies, looked like Sidney Potier, and ran the ticket business of cinema halls, and hence appears most earnest about this project presented to him by Oppenheimer. His sidekick, a present day gangster, clearly has acting ambitions as he puts his soul and direction skills in this fractured, b-grade production they are making. The film keeps switching between extremely violent and surreal recreations of 1965 killings, present day life of these gangsters (sometimes watching and critiquing their day’s work like big stars would), and moments of serene silence. And the silences are the most uncomfortable, as they should be.

Is there some moral redemption at the end of this “high-fever dream”? I don’t think there is much. Though director in an interview said of Anwar and his friends’ casual justifications for killing while recreating the scenes as their “desperate attempt to justify what they have done,” and thus, we see their ultimate humanity. If they have to cover it, they must know they have something to cover. In the recognition is the humanity. But redemption is not what the film seeks to achieve. Its attempt, in my opinion, is a much simpler one. It just wants to push these bad men into doing something decent (making cinema), and us into doing something bad (watching murder in a lighter vein, almost like they watched when they committed them). A two-way documentary, in a sense.

Not for the faint-hearted, but this is as explosive a mix of documentary, cinema, human condition, and horrors of prejudice as you will ever see. GUT-WRENCHING is an understatement.

– by Varun Grover

Bidesia In Bambai

“Bidesia in Bambai” is a story of music, migration and mobile phones. Ah, that sounds interesting – the title and its description. And what a gorgeous poster too. Not sure what exactly i was googling when i landed up on this blog. Just found out on Film Divison’s FB page that the first trailer of the film is out. Have a look.

For a better view, you can go directly to its vimeo page here.

Here’s more on the film (from the director’s blog) – Migration is the predominant theme in the music, and the phone is a recurring motif. Mobile phones are also used to circulate the music. And it’s the only way to stay connected to the mothers and wives back home in the village. This film follows two singers in Mumbai who occupy extreme ends of the migrant worker’s vibrant music scene, a taxi-driver chasing his first record deal and Kalpana, the star of the industry.

Film details – 86 minutes/2013/ Bhojpuri and Hindi/ with English subtitles/ INDIA

Screening – The film will have a screening in Mumbai on 20th July. You can follow the FD FB page for venue and other details. Hopefully they will update later on.

If you want to know more about the film, copy/pasting her latest post from the filmmaker’s blog

Bidesia is Bhojpuri for ‘the one who leaves home’. One in four migrants in Mumbai is Bhojpuria, a people from the north Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Bambai is their name for Mumbai/Bombay.

The bidesia in Bambai, like most recent migrants in this ‘global city’, inhabit the precarious edges of Mumbai. Along with his meagre belongings though, the impoverished migrant brings with him a vibrant musical culture.

Bhojpuri pop music is produced, circulated and performed in the crumbling sites that is home to the bidesia in the big city. Migration is the predominant theme in the music, and the mobile phone is a recurring motif in the songs. Frequently sexually charged, at times religious, often lyrical and occasionally political, the migrant is both the subject of, and the audience for this music. The musical landscape he inhabits mobilises notions of masculinity; gives form to his identity; makes tangible his desire for a place in the city; and evokes his longing for home.

This feature-length film attempts to make the migrant visible by celebrating the musical sphere that he inhabits, in a city that renders him illegal and unwanted.

– Click here to go to Surabhi Sharma’s blog.

Poster/Trailer courtsey – Surabhi’s blog.

I got to watch the film on Tuesday. This was amidst too much hype, too much expectation, pressure to like/dislike instantly, and too eager to react. By that time reactions from the film fraternity had already started pouring in. And as a member of the crew told me during the screening, honestly, it’s impossible to make out anything from the pre-release screenings. Also, if one has read the script, one might be reacting differently from others.

In terms of reactions, Lootera has turned out to be strangely divisive films. The reaction of critics and audience going in extreme directions is quite obvious for most films these days. But here the critics rating varied from 2.5 to 5 stars. I can only think of Dev D which went further extreme and got ratings from 1 to 5 stars, and everything in between. But strangely, the audience reaction have also been extreme with Lootera. To give an example, as this twitter friend tweeted – “In our theater, about 15 ppl walked out. And about 15 broke into applause at the end. Strange. Didn’t think Lootera would be so polarizing.”

Anyway, after watching the film i told Motwane that i will mail my reaction, all in detail. Can’t react so quickly. And VM has responded to the criticism. Much thanks to him as most filmmakers in B-town run away as soon as their film releases. Also, thanks for agreeing to make the mail public.

Actually we wanted to do a post-release Q and A with him and his DoP Mahendra Shetty. But as the joke goes, Sonakshi is spreading her Lootera disease quite fast. So me and few others have been coughing like her since the film released, and hopefully these few answers are better than having absolutely nothing else.

Lootera

What worked for me

– as i told you i loved the second half. I loved the way it’s shot, so dark ( i hope it’s visible in theatres with bad projection. i remember problems with Kaminey, Gangster), the mood it creates and almost meditative in its space and silence. it’s GORGEOUS!

– as expected from you, it’s very well directed. well mounted, well captured.

– acting across the board is good, from leads to small roles.
– the pace is slow or leisurely which goes well with the mood and setting. good you didn’t hurry anywhere – consistent through out.

– the romantic village portions with so much brightness was looking tacky to me in the trailers. Thankfully it doesn’t feel so in the film. Right rustic touch with a FabIndia colour palette , if i can say so 🙂

– BEST part – you didn’t hit the excess notes for melodrama, perfect balance, didn’t even try to cash in on deaths on screen. That’s GREAT!
i was actually waiting to see if you will go Bhansali way with the father and friend’s death 😉 but you didn’t even go close there. Smart! and smartly handled.

what didnt work for me (and VM’s reply below each point)

– i think people will love the 1st half more but i didn’t feel that romance or passion in the first half. i am not sure why. or was it the heavy  background that you were using to make the point which was distracting me.

VM : It’s the same issue I have with the script in it’s current form. Though when I tried to think back to my original intention when writing the screenplay, it was pretty intentional to make it a love story that wasn’t quite a love story. It’s wasn’t supposed to be the achy type of love story and wasn’t supposed to become that way at all, even towards the end. I always wanted a lightness to the film throughout. So can’t say whether this is better or that. It is a flawed screenplay. Willing to live with that.

– actually the sound design at two places in 1st half was very odd, i felt. when the father starts narrating the story to Sonakshi in the beginning, the music suddenly fades in and goes so high. It was very out of place. i know you might be trying to make the easy connect with the sound so that it can be used in 2nd half with Sonakshi and tree. But it was too loud and so suddenly.

VM : The intention wasn’t to connect the music with the second half. It was a background piece. Maybe it was too loud. Didn’t seem that way when mixing it.

– similarly the use of that old hindi song that goes through all the montage when they are at the site and many such odd things, as in not romantic stuff but the song goes on, and just stops with the news of zamindari over. again very out of place.

VM : It stops with the zamindari news because that’s where the plot changes a little bit. And it feels loud because it’s mono and it cuts through the rest of the dialogue. Something we discovered too late and only at the final mix stage. No matter how soft we had it, it cut through,

– why so much grainy footage in 2nd half?

VM : Aesthetic call that me and (Mahendra) Shetty took. We both like grain and purposely went for a high grain stock. Wanted to give an aged, period feel without making it glossy or sepia tinted. In fact, there is more grain in the injection scene in the first half, which is just an under-lit scene. Mistake on our end.

–  And this might be nitpicking – when he climbs the tree, and the climax sequence – when he is walking, she is coming out of the house – at few places one can see the (VFX) jugaad – foreground and background not in sync especially when Ranveer is walking towards the police, the light, the things you have cheated – i mean it’s nice but not pitch perfect. similarly with snow and when he falls from the tree, you can make out it’s fluff. maybe if you are watching minutely then only.

VM : If you’ve seen the making video, you know what we had to go back to shoot snow sequences in summer with fake snow. Which means VFX work. Work that we have shot on grainy film, without green screen, with handheld camera. It’s the worst kind of situation for a VFX team and under the circumstances, they did an amazing job. The whole tree climbing and shoot out is VFX created. There are shots and mattes and snowflakes that make me cringe every time I see them but it’s just something we have to live with. Will do better next time.

– Basically, overall another good film. But you are so strong at filmmaking aspect, the craft, why tell a bollywood story. I hope you go beyond it now that you have done your conventional part. a more non-conventional/interesting/out of box idea/tale to match up to the talent of your craft.

VM : So the indie world thinks i’m telling a bollywood story. And the bollywood world thinks i’m too indie. You think this is conventional, they think this is too out of the box. So I can’t win…

Fact is, I went to tell a story that I believed in, warts and all. I can make all the excuses in the world about not having enough time to fix the script before shooting because we only had two months of pre-production blah blah but it’s pointless. This is the film I chose to make and I stand by it. Nobody knows and feels and understands the flaws of the film better than I do but that’s a discussion for another day.

I don’t want to get stuck making 4 crore films for the rest of my life because that’s what happens in this industry. It gets very easy for them to slot you into a ‘type’ of filmmaker. For better or for worse, this film was my attempt to break out of that.

– Posted by @CilemaSnob

(Pic courtesy – Lootera FB page)

Baandhon is the first Jahnu Barua film to get a multi-city release outside Assam. Thanks to PVR Directors Rare. For cities and show timings, do check the poster below. And here’s Pradeep Menon on the film.

943271_470624503025894_1991809589_n

The media, social and otherwise, has been abuzz with the latest Hindi release; an exciting, talented director’s sophomore feature, one that is making critics and audiences alike gush over gorgeous frames, celebrate the coming of clean cinematic craft, and most importantly, reminisce about romances of the days of old.

Indeed, sometimes one can’t help but feel that, in this day and age, we’ve all forgotten how to fall in love. We’ve forgotten what it is like to drown oneself in that heady rush of a new romance, embrace unbridled passion today like there isn’t a tomorrow and push the limits of rational behaviour in the pursuit of real life moments that make us feel like we’re living a movie.

But here’s the thing about romance – it always dies away. No question about it. So what remains then? What happens when you spend years, or even decades, with a person? Hopefully, once the romance, the passion and the giddy joy of the other’s company gradually ebb away, what you’re left with is respect, stability, comfort, and, if you’re extremely lucky, a lifelong friendship.

That, precisely, is what Jahnu Barua’s ‘Baandhon’ (“Waves of Silence”) is about. On the surface, it appears to be about the complex relationship shared by a married couple; a man and a woman who’ve spent nearly their entire life together. But if you really pause to think about it, it is quite simple. Their love has evaporated perhaps, but they are left with the next best thing – companionship.

Baandhon spends more than half its run-time soaking itself in a single fight between an aged husband and wife; a couple that has already been bereaved of its offspring, and is now solely alive for their grandson, who studies in IIT Mumbai. However, right from the outset, we know that this fight isn’t for real. They’ve done it to death umpteen times before, and it is perhaps the only thing that keeps them going on a daily basis. One ticks because the other is.

But, before we even see the couple for the first time, we are told the date of the fight. 26th of November 2008; a day that sent waves of silence of its own, all around the country. And immediately, you know that this is a story that is always going to end in some sort of a tragedy.

Barua, then, with his decades of filmmaking experience and multiple National Awards, chooses to douse his narrative in such minimalism and sparseness that not only is there never a twist, but there also isn’t even the anticipation of one. The terse inevitability of the path the film traverses is always writ large over the goings-on, and yet, Baandhon gently attempts to reaffirm faith in humanity while admitting that somewhere along the way, humanity has failed.

Reminiscent more than once of Mahesh Bhatt’s ‘Saaransh’, yet largely steering clear of some of the harsh questions and issues that Bhatt’s film raises, ‘Baandhon’ roots itself in economy of craft and storytelling. Even the background score of the film tries its best to camouflage itself behind the visuals; so rare for Indian cinema today, which nearly always attempts to elevate every emotion with over-the-top mood music embellishment.

There isn’t an overt attempt at displaying craft or technique here. Baandhon could easily have been a play. It is set mostly in Guwahati, before the climax, if I can call it that, shifts to Mumbai. Yet, there is no attempt to give the film a texture that sets it in a particular time or place. It could be happening anywhere, at any time. The 26/11 backdrop gives it a real world context perhaps, but even that could just as easily have been a fictional human tragedy that only needed Mumbai to be the place it occurs in. This of course, is clearly intentional on Barua’s part. If you’ve watched ‘Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara’, you know that he’s fully capable of creating a perceptible flavour of place and time.

Baandhon also has no solutions on offer. In fact, it hardly asks any questions. All the film does is give us a brief window of a few days, into the life of a man and woman who, after 73 years of their life, have only each other, even if their journey brings in their path a few kind souls who unselfishly look out for them. It is in these side characters, the ones that attempt to show you that humanity has hope after all, where the film really falters. Our cynical selves will find it hard to swallow the genuine goodness that the peripheral characters go out of their way to shower on our protagonists.

It doesn’t help that most of these side characters aren’t particularly well performed either. Even Bina Patangia, who plays one half of our couple, has an adorable character to fall back on, but her performance itself is mostly functional. Only Bishnu Kharghoria, who plays the husband, truly manages to turn in a memorable performance.

Despite some almost naïve writing and characterization, it is in its silences and pauses that Baandhon’s honesty shines through. This honesty draws you in and makes you want to sit right next to the couple as they deal with loss. Yet, just before your hand reaches out to caress them, you realize that they still have each other. And as you draw your hand back and walk away from them, all you really tell yourself is that perhaps that is all one needs – another person to fall back on, forever.

( To read more posts by Pradeep, you can check out his blog here)

This one is a brief  (and spoiler free) recco/review of the film. We happened to catch this at a private screening and quite enjoyed it. Here’s the post containing the trailer and the short story on which it is based on. The film releases on 12th July. Here are two small reviews by Kartik Krishnan and Nusrat Jafri.

BA Pass3

Ajay Bahl takes us through the narrow lanes of Pahadgunj and the badi badi kothis of Kamla Nagar/Rajpura/DU in his adaptation of Railway Aunty by Mohan Sikka (one of the many stories in the must read book Delhi Noir). The days are lazy with the freshly served wahi-purana-Rajma-Chawal-wali-Punju-Middle class Dilli-Roohafza sherbets-Cokey Coley; while the nights are neon lit with all kinds of depraved creatures on the prowl (Beer se naha kar Gaddi chalane wale Jaat, Rishwatkhor Thulley – you know the ilk). Such is the world the characters of BA Pass inhabit.

The story is fairly straightforward in the Noir ballpark. This ‘Postman Always Rings Twice‘  begins with the very talented Shilpa Shukla playing the seductress with zestful ferocity and oomph, charming the young & unsuspecting Shadab Kamal, who then delves deeper into the behind-the-parde-wala world of Kothiwali aunties residing in posh Delhi colonies. Money is tempting; Sex with ‘experienced’ married (lonely) women is irresistible, and a combination of both is a potent enough mindf**k for any below average BA/B Com/B Sc student. Not only is he struggling to make ends meet with two younger sisters (and their troubles) but is also feeling suffocated in a not so pleasant rishtedaaron ke ghar mein PG environment. Slowly but steadily, the pyaada goes onto becoming the wazir but not before he traverses through the netherworld, with the transition punctuated by clear daylights transforming into rang birangi tubelit hazy nights.

This erotic drama boasts of arresting performances by the supporting cast right down to the junior artists. While the ‘Bijis’ & the ‘Chachis’ add color to the story, the benevolent gravedigger Johnny (played adequately by Dibyendu Bhattacharya – though may be a Vinod Nagpal or M K Raina might have taken the role to another level) and the ever reliable Rajesh Sharma (once again pitching in with a bravura 3-4 scene performance) stand out. Shilpa Shukla nails Sarika Aunty to perfection and hope she gets meaty roles like this in Bollywood. One wishes however, that the pivotal performance by the sincere Shadab Kamal had been a little more nuanced and multi layered as opposed to the two note one. Also may be the film could have gone one a tangent than in the somewhat predictable direction, but that is perhaps a limitation imposed by a faithful adaptation of the short story.

But a special mention for Ajay Bahl (the Director – Dop – Producer) who’s done quite an impressive task of faithfully adapting the story and embellishing it with realism and drama. It is to his credit (along with the enthusiastic production design) that the film (considering the subject material at hand) steers away from B Grade/Kanti Shah/tacky-pulpy/Low budget ‘gareeb’ film territory and that there is enough foregrounding/back grounding in the frames to lend an aesthetic richness to the film. Definitely looking forward to the director’s next.

Kartik Krishnan

Ajay Behl’s Erotic Noir film, BA PASS is based on Mohan Sikka’s short story “Railway Aunty,” which was published in Delhi Noir. And true to the tagline of the book, B A Pass is indeed the story of “Darkness and Despair.”

Mukesh, is a young, shy, small town boy, who moves in to live with his Bua’s family in Delhi, after tragedy strikes home. He is burdened with the responsibility of two younger sisters, with whom he longs to re-unite. He runs errands in the house and plays chess in a graveyard at leisure. Until Mukesh meets the flirtatious Sarika “Aunty” at his Bua’s kitty party, and his rollercoaster ride of sex, life and deceit begins. Their surreptitious affair and dealings go on till Sarika’s husband walks in on them. Things go out of control and life reveals it’s ugly teachings to Mukesh.

When I saw the promo of the film, I was captivated. It looked classy and well made, even though the amount of sex in the promo itself was a bit concerning. Films made on such shoe – string budgets, can easily look tasteless but B A Pass is aesthetic to say the least.

Ajay Behl, donning the cap of both the Director and the Cinematographer takes you into the world of Mukesh, the naïve, and emotionally vulnerable boy. In a perverse world that not only exists but also flourishes behind the veneer of boredom that middle class lives project. It takes us into the mysterious world of Sarika, who is not only fiercely attractive but has desires that break the hypocrisy of our middle class notions of modesty. Shilpa Shukla, adds power to the character with her is impressive performance. She has gotten into the skin of the character and not let inhibitions get in the way. Rarely seen in Indian films.

Sex is a big part of the film.  Seeing purely from the growth of Mukesh’s character, it goes from initial lust driven to fulfilling the quirky requests of Sarika, to hilarious script narrations with one of the other women clients! But never once is it lewd.  The scene when Khanna, (Sarika’s husband) walks in on her and Mukesh, gave me goose bumps. It was scary and real in equal measures.

Behl has captured a middle class Delhi of colonies and gullies. One that is aspiring and ruthless at the same time. He uses sound and silences beautifully. Shadab Kamal, is raw and his performance as the lonely, timid and vulnerable boy, is very good. Though at some point I felt the transformation in his character didn’t surface too well. Supporting cast members, Dibyendu as the graveyard caretaker and Sarika’s husband are all fantastic.

I loved Bibiji, in the scene (it’s in the trailer too!) when she says “vo dayan hai” to Mukesh, she is brilliant!

Mohan Sikka’s short story ends quite metaphorically; Behl’s screenplay leaves Mukesh with even fewer choices.

If Noir has it’s roots in German Expressionist Cinematography, BA Pass has it’s in Neon – Realistic Cinematography (If I may be allowed to coin a phrase!). This is the Pahargunj we saw in Dev D, but only more asphyxiating, garish, neon lit, and yet real. Tough lessons for this BA Pass.

Nusrat Jafri

Faith Connections

Remember Pan Nalin? Samsara, Valley Of Flowers? He is ready with a new documentary titled Faith Connections. And its trailer has come online. Have a look.

And here’s a note on the film –

“Faith isn’t faith until it’s all you’re holding onto.”

Filmmaker Pan Nalin travels to Kumbh Mela, one of the world’s most extraordinary religious events. There, he encounters remarkable men of mind and meditation, some facing an inextricable dilemma; to embrace the world or to renounce it. FAITH CONNECTIONS explores such diverse and deeply moving stories as a young runaway kid, a Sadhu, a mother desperately looking for her lost son, a yogi who is raising an abandoned baby, and an ascetic who keeps his calm by smoking cannabis — all connected by one faith against the spectacular display of devotion.

pizza

S-P-O-I-L-E-R—-A-L-E-R-T

i finally saw the film that i have been reading and hearing about for a long time. A Tamil film called Pizza which became a surprise hit and its remake right has been sold in many other languages including Hindi. That made me more curious. I knew that it’s a horror film. If you are told otherwise, it will be a spoiler. And that’s sad in a way because then you wonder if the film is so weak that if you tell the real genre to which it belongs, it wont work? Imagine if you always knew that it’s a thriller, and not a horror film. Would the film still work? Am not so sure now. Take Talaash, i think it works best when you know the spoiler. (Post here) And as a friend said it here – A movie is never about its twist, and if it is, it’s not worth it. Pizza is badly handicapped on that front.

Directed by Karthik Subbaraj, the film starts on quite a thrilling note. Almost like one of those found footage films. A bunch of guys trying to trace ghosts in an old building and everything is recorded on a handy cam. As it gets more exciting, as the so called ghosts are about to appear, you realise that this is not the real film. It’s a film inside the film which is playing on tv and the lead characters are watching it. You can brand this as cheating, or, you might overlook it because of the thrill that it provides. I guess the director set the tone of his film with this sequence. The way you react to it, my guess is you are going to react to the film in a similar way once it ends.

I was thoroughly enjoying the film till the interval. And i kept wondering how are they going to close it because it looked like a difficult task. Well, it turned out to be KLPD. Because the director cheats us not once, but twice actually. First time when we are hearing the ghost story. It’s in one flashback. Almost the first half. And second time when the lead character is trying to act scared, pretending to be spooked – breathing problem, blood on his back, someone in the loo. Even if you are willing to take the first instance as film making tool, what about the second one? The second one makes you completely believe in the first story and kills all your doubts.

So you enjoy the thrill so much that you don’t call it cheating, or maybe you even call it so but overlook the fact once you know the reality. Why? Because it was worth it. Or you brand it as pure KLPD, cheating and childish. There’s nothing right or wrong, it’s just the way you react. And so the question in the post because i felt it was cheating. You might be completely fine with it. Do let us know in the comments section.

I am guessing you are still with me and are reading this post because you have seen the film already. Otherwise it won’t make sense as am not explaining everything in detail. And remember Kahaani? Lot of us criticised Sujoy Ghosh for that one scene where Vidya is talks about her husband and we get to see her “fake” story in flashback. Unlike others Sujoy was honest enough to participate in a discussion with us after its release and gave us his version. You can check the entire discussion here.

I still believe that the character might be talking about his/her story but it’s the filmmakers choice how he is showing it to us. We are not peeping into the character’s head like Being John Malkovich. Now, if we criticised Sujoy for that one scene, imagine an entire film based on such a scenario. Pizza is exactly that.

Once you are inside the theatre, one completely trusts the filmmaker. Saying and showing things with the help of a character and making us believe in it is the simplest thing inside that dark room. And then you turn around and say that it was all false, well, those were my favourite games in kindergarten. Not anymore.

Interestingly, when i asked people on twitter to rate the film on a scale of 1 to 5, most people rated it between 2.5 to 5. So clearly am in minority. Or, maybe am growing old. I prefer human stories more than thrill pills now.

Or i can try a better one. Since i was talking about his closing lines in the last post, and most probably someone will soon say “The Usual Suspects” while discussing this post, so here’s a quote from his review of the same film – I prefer to be amazed by motivation, not manipulation.

@CilemaSnob

Thanks to filmmaker Sujoy Ghosh, we had put out the script of Kahaani here. And here’s an interesting post by one of our readers Deepanjali B Sarkar where she compares the script with the film. And also keeps a check on the timeline – what happens where, at what time, and for how long. Over to her.

Kahaani2

KAHAANI

I’ve now seen Kahaani several times, the last time with the script in hand, provided by this blog. Here are some rapid notes I made – mainly on the pacing and plot points (which is what makes it such a gripping film). Sharing it – in case others find it useful. Have listed the run time at which each plot point takes place.

So here goes

  • Hook – introduced within 10  mins: taxi driver says it’s for the first time that he has driven someone to the police station straight from the airport. Add to that – that she is pregnant.
  • Dramatic premise – husband missing: approx. 15.45 mins. Vidya files missing complaint in Kalighat police station. This sequence is packed with information (set up/clues) that will come into critical use as the thriller unfolds (pay off):
    • Husband worked in National Data Centre. Later we get to know the main suspect Milan Damji is an employee of National Data Centre, as is Shridhar, the IT head who assigns Bob Biswas, the hired assassin, his targets.
    • Vidya is a firewall expert. Crucial in her gaining access to IT head’s system, which leads them to IB head, Bhaskaran.
    • Vidya has a dizzy spell when asked to sign the missing person report. Pay off – she never left behind any fingerprints.
  • First red herring: Mona Lisa Hotel. Approx 20 mins.

By the way – had a question here. Did her husband actually stay here? Or how did she know of the decorative piece, the peacock? If he didn’t why this hotel in particular? Because it didn’t keep any records of its guests?

  • Second red herring: Arnav’s uncle’s house. 31 mins
  • Third red herring: Arnav’s school. 31.30 mins
  • Fourth red herring: Kolkata immigration
  • First clue! Milan Damji; Second clue – Bombay blood group. When Vidya meets Agnes Demelo in Mocambo. 35 mins
  • Bob the Killer introduced. 35.58 mins
  • First murder – Agnes Demelo. 37.29 mins
  • Khan – crucial link in plot – introduced. Being from the IB, he will lead Vidya to _____. 38.24 mins. 40 mins
  • Capt. Bajpayee introduced. The Kahaani actually starts with him training three agents. Introduced at 40.07 mins
  • Plot thickens! Vidya remembers that Khan refers to Damji by first name. So he must be familiar with him though he claims not to know him. 44.22 mins
  • Khan inducts Rana into the case (audience doesn’t know of it as yet)
  • Bob’s 2nd assignment: Retrieve Milan Damji’s file. 49.52 mins
  • Third clue! Identity of Milan Damji – from old records of National Data Centre. 50.23 mins
  • Pre-interval climax! Vidya pushed into metro tracks. 55.55 mins
  • NOW – Backstory. 57.38 mins

But why will Bhaskaran approach Bajpayee when he himself is the kingpin of the entire operation?

  • Vidya voices audience’s doubts. Missing from script. (1) Arnab has deserted her (2) Arnab and Milan are one and the same (3) Arnab has been targeted because he looks like Milan Damji.
  • Turning point: Jis din Milan mil jayega, us din, Arnab mil jayega. So hunt on for Milan Damji. No longer for Arnab.  59.07
  • Transition scene: Missing in script. Lovely touch of the playful side of Vidya. The two are travelling in a tram, she accidentally kicks Rana. He touches his forehead (pranam). She is intrigued and playfully kicks him again…and again!
  • Fourth clue! Milan Damji’s house – tea glasses from tea stall outside. Boy at tea stall remembers man with brass corners briefcase. This is the FINAL LINK to Bhaskaran. 1.03 hrs
  • Clue – follow up- Bombay blood required by Milan Damji when he was admitted in Ekbalpur Nursing Home.
  • No records of Milan Damji in Ekbalpur Nursing Home. Next —> Police Informer
  • Kumartuli – locate police informer. Nice touch – Vidya slips, Rana holds her hand. 1.06 mins
  • Police informer – Pal asked to locate who needed Bombay Blood in Ekbalpur Nursing home and why. Pal refuses to help. Vidya pleads, appealing on behalf of her unborn child. Vital leads acquired only because she is a helpless pregnant woman. Police wouldn’t have been able to extract the information. 1.07 hrs
  • Police informer Pal talks of shoot-out. Next clue – doctor who treated Milan Damji. Bob receives next job – kill Doctor Ganguli. 1.09 hrs
  • Vidya finds details about the shoot-out from Kalighat police station computer records

Rana’s attraction to Vidya grows (proximity as she bends over him to look at computer records)

  • Scene 142: Set up that will lead to the Denouement —> Vidya cleans table. Cleans it off her finger prints
  • Scene 143 – 145: Shoot out explanation by Rana. National Data Centre provides IB agents with cover/double identities
  • Scene 146 – 147: Poltu points out man with Briefcase -> Shridhar. 1.14 hrs
  • Scene 148: Bob’s next job -> Vidya. Shridhar, the Chief Technology Officer of Data Centre scans Vidya’s photo and MMS’ it to Bob
  • Scene 149: Nice touch. Bob is shining his nails when he gets his next job. He looks exasperated and the way he says to rickshaw valla – turn around, it looks as if he’s been given an errand to run to the fish market before leaving for office!
  • Scene 150 – 151: Dramatic scene. Chase! Bob chases Vidya. Kills innocent passerby. Rana chases Bob. Bob is run over by a truck. 1.16 hrs
  • Scene 154: Track Sridhar, handler of Bob/CTO of Data Centre. 1.19 hrs
  • Scene 155:   IP address of sender of MMS to Bob
  • Scene 158:  Sridhar signs out. Set up: peon carries three glasses; visitor’s book is out
  • Scene 162: Sridhar figures out his computer is being hacked. 1.23 hrs
  • Scene 163 – 166: Sridhar runs to his chamber. 1.25 hrs
  • Scene 167 – 168: Shridhar chases Vidya. Fight between Rana and Shridhar. Vidya kills Shridhar.
  • Scene 169: Khan arrives on scene. Says he wanted Shridhar alive to lead them onto Damji.
  • Scene 170: False denouement: Khan tells Vidya she had been used as bait to lead them onto Damji because no one suspects a pregnant woman. TURNING POINT: Khan asks Vidya to hack into Sridhar’s computer to find out who is the kingpin of the entire plot. 1.28 hrs
  • Scene 171: Not present in script. Panchami-idols come at night. Vidya watches a Durga idol. Charulata shot: from window to next window she follows the idol atop a truck. Ekla chalo re song plays in the background. She is readying herself for the final slaying of the demon – Milan Damji. Scene ends with close up of Durga’s lion on beheaded head of Asura Mahishasura and Goddess being bedecked with jewellery. She is being empowered.
  • Montage: not present in script. Vidya trying to hack into Sridhar’s computer to get info about kingpin; sashthi, the first day of Durga puja; women in white and red saris; Vidya cleaning her room meticulously; Vidya calling Bishnu for hot water; Puja in full swing – aarti in evening, dhunuchi dance; Vidya looking at parents with their kids at puja pandals; 1.32 hrs
  • FINAL CLUE! Vidya finds a code in Sridhar’s computer she can’t decipher. Rana realises it might be a phone number. Turns out to be Bhaskaran’s old number. Khan asks Vidya to call Bhaskaran – rest in script.
  • Scene ends with call from Milan Damji. Final link in the chain. (Nice touch – Khan forced to plead with Vidya “please help me”)
  • Pal, the informer warns Rana that Damji is back in the city and will kill Vidya. (didn’t see the point of this bit of information. Audience knows Vidya is in mortal danger). 1.38 hrs
  • “Upping the ante” as they say! Rana begs Khan to call off operation as Vidya’s life is in danger. Khan locks him up. Mocks him – don’t love the wrong person. 1.39 hrs.
  • Pre-climax: Vidya wears red-white sari. She breaks down. 1.40 hrs. Bishu quietly leaves his transistor behind for Vidya
  • Countdown to denouement: Rana escapes (OC helps him). Rushes to Mona Lisa hotel. Told Vidya has checked out. Notices something about Bishu (we still don’t know what)
  • Montage of Durga Puja at Triangular Park. POV of Vidya as she looks at the sea of faces around her trying to guess who might be Milan Damji
  • Shindoor khela: set up for Vidya’s final escape – climax
  • Scene 183 – 185: Milan Damji – jo ab take k kahaani tha. CLIMAX – Milan is killed by Vidya

•    Scene 187: 3 mins –    Denouement 1.50 hrs: Arnab’s school is actually Bishnu’s school; she used to regularly dust her room; She never signed – first time at police station when she was asked to sign missing report, she fainted; at Mona Lisa hotel she refused to sign because register was tattered; She killed Sriharan before IB could get to him; She knew as Khan himself would say, no one would suspect a pregnant woman searching for her missing husband

• Scene 190: Flashbacks. Pyrrhic victory: Vidya realises she had truly started believing she was pregnant and that she would find her husband. 1.53 hrs

• Scenes 191 – 193: Bhaskaran arrested. 1.56 hrs

  • Voice over – Goddess Durga comes to vanquish evil and then leaves; Candlelight remembrances

Notes:

•  Scenes 84 – 87: Deleted

– Vidya meets Rana at his home. This scene is replaced by a scene in front of Kalighat Police station. Vidya sees women in red border sarees going to Kalighat temple and remembers her conversation with Arnab.

– The change of location works – more colour. Also, home would have been too intimate. Would have struck a wrong note – why should Vidya visit him at his home?

IMPORTANT: missing from script – Rana says Milan Damji does not exist. He is just a kahaani

And some additional notes I made

  1. The plot moves because Vidya is pregnant – leading to disclosures. OC says husband got her pregnant and is absconding. IB – Khan reiterates the same. Emphasis on her as a victim of a domestic case. No one takes her missing file report seriously. Rana is of course chivalrous and concerned.
  2. Fun side of Vidya, making her endearing. Our empathy increases: Teases Bishnu about his radio; Gentle with Poltu; Mocks Rana. About his name. Mocks him when she makes him pick locks, twice (Data Centre Office; Damji’s house); Kicks him in tram.
  3. Rana’s growing attraction towards Vidya. Very economically dealt with. No dialogues: Concerned. Caring. Always worried she might hurt herself as she bends down, climbs stairs. Holds her hand. Intrigued, charmed by her playful side when she deliberately kicks him in the tram. Admires her tenacity. Admires her knack with children. Glowingly praises her maternal instinct.  When Vidya bends over him as she checks computer records – he is acutely conscious of his attraction towards her. When Vidya gets to know from Khan that she is being used as a bait she is appalled. Asks – her life, her child’s life was at threat. Immediately Rana says nothing would have happened to her – because he had taken up the case solely to ensure she was safe. Khan gives an amused, meaningful glance at Rana. He knows Rana has fallen for Vidya. Gifts her a sari, on behalf of Arnab. Genuinely cares for her.
  4. Detailing in sets:  (a) Calender of Sri Ramkrishna in Kalighat Police station (b) Trinamool Congress emblems on walls of North Kolkata when Vidya goes to locate Milan Damji’s house (c) Aalna or clothes stand typical of a Bengali house in hotel room
  5. RD Burman influence: Songs being played on radio in several street sequences; Song played on car radio when Sridhar realises his computer is being backed is Lekar hum deewana dil.

(For more posts by Deepanjali, you can check her blog here)

WHY?

The world needs to know. Anyone?

Here is the trailer.

And here’s the answer

Tip – Sumit.