Posts Tagged ‘Paan Singh Tomar’

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.

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.

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Last time when we met Imtiaz Ali to discuss Rockstar, there were many conspiracies and accusations. But since some of you appreciated our effort, we thought let’s try it again. This time it was done in a bit formal way. Film was Paan Singh Tomar, guests were Tigmanshu Dhulia (Director) and Sanjay Chouhan (Writer). Location – PVR, Juhu.

To get more time for Q & A, PVR helped us by cutting down the time for commercials, making the interval much shorter and delaying the next show by few minutes. But even then we could hardly manage some 20minutes of interaction. Because even the next show was housefull and people were getting desperate to get in. So we quickly wrapped it up and went outside. Aha, back to the stairs. And a filmmaker really needs a cigarette in his hand to open up. Watch the two videos and you will get what i am saying.

I saw the film on friday morning with just 15 people in the theater. And then i saw it again on wednesday night. This time it was a housefull show. A good film finding its audience is a great feeling.

And many thanks to Anurag Kashyap, Shiladitya Bora and PVR Cinemas for making it possible.

Pics – Priyanka Jain

Videos – Sumit Purohit and Manu Warrier. Edit – Sumit Purohit.

And here are pointers to some priceless gems –

00:47 – I needed an actor who could give me more than just his dates.

03:33 – Hum log ab mombatti na uthayein, bandook utha le.

04:25 – Koi research fund karne ke liye tayyar hi nahi tha.

04:40 – Actually yeh picture Vikas Behl ke wajah se huyee hai………..aaj us aadmi ko (credit) nikal diya hai unhone.

05:45 – Mad woman in the mayhem – Boss, yeh main karoonga. (Jo Shekhar Kapoor ke film se kat gaya tha.)

07:03 – Irrfan ne apne paise aadhe kar diye. Maine apne paise aadhe kar diye.

08:22 – Meri kisi picture me itne zyada darshak nahi aaye hain.

11:20 – Hum sabse galtiyaan ho jaati hai.

13:20 – Aapke sanskaar bolte hain yaar.

18:16 – Is society me hero kahan hai yaar?

20:13 – Aaj bhi duno cheeks me ched hai uske, woh zinda hai.

And if you enjoyed the first part of the video, you must watch the second part of the video.

It started with Rockstar. We went to see the film and then came out, sat on the stairs of Cinemax, Versova and discussed the film with its director Imtiaz Ali for next three hours. If you haven’t read the post, it’s here. The idea is to create space and platform for discussion with filmmakers after we have seen the film. Pre-release buzz is all fine but we rarely get to hear them post-release.

Last time it was completely informal. This time we are trying to do it in a bit formal way and as always, with the help of filmmaker Anurag Kashyap who will also be there. The film is Paan SIngh Tomar, one of the best reviewed films in recent times. So here are the details…

Film : Paan Singh Tomar

Venue : PVR, Juhu

Date : Today (7th March, Wednesday)

Time : 8pm show. We are hoping it will get over by 10pm and we will have 1hour time for discussion as the next show is at 11pm.

Entry : Since it’s a normal screening and discussion will be inside the auditorium, do book your tickets.

Tickets : Rs 150. You can either get it from the counter or book it at www.pvrcinemas.com

And thanks to PVR Cinemas and Shiladitya Bora for all the help.

See you there!

We are desperate for comebacks. And we are quick to dismiss too. All it takes is just a status update or 140 characters.

When Tigamanshu Dhulia’s last film, Sahib Biwi Aur Gangster released, it was the usual hype on the social networking platforms. As if friends, family and colleagues were dying to put that “comeback” tag on him. The film had it’s charm but it was nowhere close to what it was made out to be. The usual suspects tried the same with Ramu and his Not A Love Story. To put it mildly, that was unadulterated garbage in every way.

But, this is what a comeback looks like – Paan Singh Tomar. Ironic that the producers (UTV) had to sell the film as “from the director of Sahib Biwi Aur Gangster”. May be it wouldn’t have got a theatrical release even if it wasn’t for SBAG’s success. The film has been ready for quite sometime (about two years). They sent it to few desi festivals in USA where the general feedback was “Irrfan is good, film is bad”. News started doing the rounds that UTV was planning to dump it on tv along with some half a dozen other films. Then SBAG happened. Some strings were pulled, a release date was quickly announced and without much pubilcity or promotions, the film was released.

Those who have seen both the versions of the film, they said that music has surely been changed. But how much can just the “background music” change the film? No clue, not sure.

I went to see the film FDFS. Just because of that actor called Irrfan Khan. Or just Irrfan. Seems he has dropped his surname. Good, we have too many of them in this industry anyway. When i entered the auditorium, it felt like it was going to be a private screening only for me – the luxury that makers provide to few critics to give a bloated sense of being important and score some brownie points. Slowly some dozen people turned up including a director whose film has recently released.

The film opens with Brijendra Kala, an actor who is a delight to watch – the desi Bill Murray who knows his deadpan too well. As Irrfan narrates his story to Kala, it goes into flashback and we get to see the story of Paan Singh Tomar. I have been often told that narrating a story to a character to get into flashback is the worst device in a film. But with two terrific actors in the frame, they make everything mundane look so interesting. There are just counted few scenes between the two, but that thing called chemistry, well, it’s found in strange places between stranger people.

I have always felt that the mark of a good director is in the casting of those actors who have just one or two lines to deliver. You go to watch a film because of the lead actors but you come back home with those “character actors” who steal the show. This is where Paan Singh Tomar scores again. Even Zakir Hussain and Mahie Gill are so impressive in such small roles. Though it seems Nawazuddin had more to do in the film and it was edited out later on.

Paan Singh Tomar is the Tigamanshu we knew, the one we wanted to see again after Haasil. The director who could take us to a new place, away from bollywood where he knows the terrain, its politics and dialect well. Written by Sanjay Chouhan with dialogues by Dhulia, it captures the sound and soul of that barren land with a dose of black humour – a rarity in this industry. So when i saw his other film Shagird, i could not believe it was the same director. From one extreme to other – how could one go so far? As a screenwriter who saw the film with us  said, this is Race for intellectuals.

Welcome back, Tigmanshu. It’s been long.

And Irrfan? Well, he can do anything. Just anything. No wonder he is the only Khan they know in the west. It’s our bad luck that he is born in a country and at a time when we are obsessed with the weekend numbers and 100-crore mark, and we don’t make films that can’t justify his talent. Forget films, we don’t even dare to put him on magazine covers. I hope and pray that in your next birth you get a better place which knows how to respect talent.

The actor doesn’t need lines, his glances pack a punch. In the scene where he comes to meet his son and asks him not to touch him, when his son leaves and he looks around, that glance stays with you long after you have left the theater. Much like that awkward hug with his son’s girlfriend in one of my favourite films of all time, Namesake. He is about to hug her, she is about to kiss, and then that slight bend, slow movement and a strange look on his face. He can play young, can play old and even a father of a young man in the same film. He can run and romance with equal ease.

Only weird thing about the film is that it leaves you with a strange vacuous feeling – Not sure how you react to the character in the end. It keeps you engaged through the film but doesn’t hit the spot in the end which you desperately want it to.The emotional hook? Or may be just a bit of empathy.

As for Paan Singh Tomar, in other part of the world the most famous runner’s mom told him that life was like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get. This side, we are sure about one thing – there’s no box, there are no chocolates and life is just a race which you must complete.

Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Paan Singh Tomar has been ready for quite sometime. And UTV has been sitting on it with no clue what to do with it. All kinds of reports were floating since a year or so. They sent it to few festivals abroad, intial reviews weren’t good, there was a plan to shelve it and then a direct-to-tv telecast. But with Saheb Biwi Ghulam’s success, it seems the film has got a new lease of life.

The problem is Tigmanshu Dhulia seems to be a completely unreliable filmmaker who can go any extreme – from a brilliant Haasil to a crapfest called Shagird and a SBG which is somewhere in between. If PST gets him back in the groove, we will be happy to be proved wrong.

The first look of Paan Singh Tomar is finally out. It stars Irrfan Khan and Mahie Gill. Have a look.

What’s wrong with the background music? There seems to be no sync between the visuals and the sound. What you don’t have in the visuals, you can’t compensate it with dhoom-dhaam-dhadaap. It looks tacky and nothing stays with you. Once over, you don’t feel like watching it again. Quite a disappointing trailer. If we still want to watch it, there’s only one reason – Irrfan Khan.

And here’s the official synopsis

Paan Singh Tomar is an untold true story of a simple farmer, a loyal soldier and a champion athlete who became one of India’s most dreaded dacoits!

Paan Singh was a small town lad who went on to win the steeplechase at the Indian National Games for 7 consecutive years! He broke the national record, a feat that was unsurpassed for 10 years! A series of life changing events however forced Paan Singh to give up athletics, pick up the gun and become the scourge of the infamous Chambal valley in central India. Filled with deep emotions and fateful twists, Paan Singh Tomar is a gritty, no holds barred action adventure set in the heart of India’s gangland, Chambal.

This is one film we are eagerly waiting for – Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Paan Singh Tomar starring Irrfan Khan & Mahie Gill. Some on locations pics of the film are out on the internet. Check it out.

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And here is the official synopsis of the film…

Paan Singh Tomar is an untold true story of a simple farmer, a loyal soldier and a champion athlete who became one of India’s most dreaded dacoits!

Paan Singh was a small town lad who went on to win the steeplechase at the Indian National Games for 7 consecutive years! He broke the national record, a feat that was unsurpassed for 10 years! A series of life changing events however forced Paan Singh to give up athletics, pick up the gun and become the scourge of the infamous Chambal valley in central India. Filled with deep emotions and fateful twists, Paan Singh Tomar is a gritty, no holds barred action adventure set in the heart of India’s gangland, Chambal.

And if you are more interested, click on the play button to check out how Irrfan Khan trained for the role…

And there is some more! Click here to read a damn kickass interview of Irrfan Khan, done  by GQ’s Iain Ball, on the sets of Paan Singh Tomar.