Posts Tagged ‘Recco’

The World of Shutu

It’s always difficult to write about a film when it comes back home with you as a very palpable emotion. The conflict is between whether to talk about the film (like a semi-review, talking about the great crew and cast, plot, motifs etc.) or the memories & insights it triggered. Since it’s a quick & short piece written in the middle of a very tight schedule, mainly to excite the reader enough to go and watch the film, I will stay somewhere in between – a bit clumsy but functional.

We all have been Shutu at some point of time in our lives. I know I have been, for many years. Bullied, ridiculed, misunderstood, misfit and still trying to smile lest I should be seen as ‘sissy’. Fitting into this world of men is a constant struggle for men even. It’s a game whose rules we laid on our own and still laid them so tough that now we are having a hard time catching up. Why did we do this to ourselves? Why we continue to do this – trying to check items off a laundry list to pretend that we have grown up (from a male perspective only)? Why do we want to grow up? Due to social pressure or survival mechanism – like preys turning into predator?

Konkona Sen Sharma’s directorial debut A Death In The Gunj takes one to such places – beautiful and uncomfortable – places where innocent nostalgia meets the darkest memories. Set in 1979, it’s about a Bengali family with a severe Raj-era hangover on a quaint holiday in Bihar’s (now Jharkhand’s) McCluskieganj – a place with an equally severe Raj-era hangover. The family has many people and egos, a bunch of well-adjusted, seemingly non-threatening abnormals. And the family has Shutu (Vikrant Massey in a role of a lifetime) – the younger brother broadly seen as a silent-introvert type. The constant clash between the two worlds – one inhabited by the family with its bikes & muttons & drinks & pranks & love-games, and another in which Shutu sits by the window sketching frogs in an old diary – scrapes the paints off both of them. The delicate locking mechanism that had kept them together starts wearing off and the moment of truth, or whatever the grown-up version of that is, comes closer and closer.

The only bridge between the two worlds is Shutu’s teenaged niece Tani – already bored of the games adults play & constantly fascinated by Shutu’s scientific-poetic lonely view of the world. It’s not a coincidence that the bridge is a female ‘cos this is a film deeply aware of its gender politics (and at a couple of places, class politics too). Men behave like boys-behaving-like-men, women behave like women-seen-through-men’s-eyes, as two conflicted souls (Shutu and Tani) clutch at straws while drowning in the waters of such rigid definitions.

As a fat teenaged kid in the 90s, I loved watching cricket and I wasn’t bad at playing it too but nobody would select me in the team. My fatness and my academic bent (the tag of “padhaaku”) were a liability nobody was willing to carry. Even if selected in the team (the last to be picked), I’d not get a chance to bat or bowl. So I’d put all my efforts into fielding well. I’d kill myself to get that throw from the boundary right.

But still, just to show I am cool with this treatment, I would offer to play the umpire. That way, I’d get to be on the field at least, get to hold the ball at the end of every over (just for a few seconds before I toss it to the next bowler), and be treated with respect by both the teams. I’d apply myself to the task & be the most unbiased, observant umpire. Sometimes, I’d get to play a few balls or bowl an over – and I believe that became possible only because of the bridges I made as an umpire. But in the process, I lost something precious too. I lost my courage to openly cry in public. I lost my feminine side, or at least suppressed it for the longest time, to fit into this world of men.

And that’s why, when in one scene Shutu is the last to be picked for a game of kabaddi, his state of mind was so relatable that I felt like crying. I did not, yet again.

Varun Grover

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For those looking for a quick list of reasons to watch (and watch you MUST):

  1. Konkona Sen Sharma’s assured, sensitive debut as a Director. Ace!
  2. Konkona Sen Sharma’s screenplay co-written with Disha Rindani (based on a short story by Mukul Sharma) is full of delightful dialogue & an eerie sense of impending doom.
  3. Rich texture and detailing. Made on a small budget but NEVER looks like it. Sirsha Ray (DOP) and Sidhharth Sirohi (Production Design) bring their A-game to the table.
  4. McCluskieganj’s wild charm has been captured so ethereally that you can smell the air, touch the greenery.
  5. The film has four languages (English, Hindi, Bangla, and Chhota Nagpuri) and all spoken with a natural effortlessness rare to find in Indian cinema.
  6. The brilliant original score and music by Sagar Desai (disclosure: I worked with him in ‘Ankhon Dekhi’) elevates and layers the film with great precision.
  7. One of the best ensemble casts in recent memory – Ranvir Shorey, Kalki  Koechlin, Tilottama Shome, Gulshan Devaiah, Jim Sarbh, Arya Sharma, Tanuja, and Om Puri (one of his last roles and what a delight he is!).
  8. Such well-etched and distinct characters – right from Ranvir Shorey’s Vikram to Kalki’s Mimi to Tilottama’s Bonnie to Gulshan Devaiah’s Nandu – constantly chattering, surprising and layering the film with their brilliant mannerisms.
  9. Vikrant Massey got the kind of role actors crave for and he hits it out of the park. Shutu is beautiful and heartbreaking.
  10. Every department has delivered and the best thing is – the sum is way greater than the parts. Do not miss this film.

Nobody knew Nagraj Manjule when his debut feature, Fandry, released. It got rave reviews and made it to our “Must Watch” list. Our recco post on Fandry is here. But this time there was lot of expectations from him as Sairat is his second feature. He delivers and how! Here’s our recco post on the film by Dipti Kharude.

The film has released all over with English subs. Don’t miss.

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As I write this, I’m listening to the heady soundtrack of Sairat. The feeling of being in a music video with a bright Dupatta fluttering behind is hard to shake off. That is the naivety of love and that is our good, old desi way of spinning a yarn. We have perhaps forgotten that song and dance can make important contributions to the narrative of our films. They can accentuate agony and ecstasy, introduce characters, and allow them to express themselves in a way that would sound contrived as dialogue. In that vein, Ajay-Atul are to Sairat what Irshad Kamil has been to Imitiaz’s films, and more. (They have composed the music, written the lyrics and sung songs for the film).

In Sairat, the boy gets a song, the girl gets another and then there’s a duet. The last song, which is a prelude to the ugly turn of events is also a subtle nod to the Romeo-Juliet balcony scene where the protagonist, Archie, daughter of the powerful upper caste Patil is dancing in the veranda upstairs and Parshya, a fisherman’s son from the Pardhi community is dancing outside the house. This, like many other visuals establishes a hierarchy without screaming ‘caste’. Manjule uses this dreamy narrative to set us up. He pulls us in with promises of hackneyed romantic epics only to shows us the realities that were missing in films like QSQT and Saathiya.

Films are not about issues but about people living their lives. Good stories are the ones where the theme is subliminal. Sairat doesn’t go gently into the night, though. Manjule’s fiery outrage is muted in the first half only to smack us in the gut at the end. Its triumph lies in the fact that Manjule doesn’t depend on an art house aesthetic to create this impact. He relies on mainstream cinema to do the job.

In the most familiar tropes, he manages to question norms.

It is refreshing to see a girl in a rural set-up drive a tractor and be the knight in shining armour spouting quips like “Marathit samjat nai, tar English madhe sangu?” (If you don’t understand what I’m saying in Marathi, should I repeat it in English?) If the first half were a Bhai film, she would be Salman. Manjule subverts by making Sairat more about the heroine’s quest than that of the hero’s. This film makes you revise your image of small-town/rural girls. They want to take agency over their own lives. The female gaze in Sairat is not the terrible flip side of the usual hetero male gaze, which typically fetishizes women. It is like a celebration of female desire.

He creates joyous moments in the hinterlands of the Solapur district of Maharashtra. This milieu is almost conspicuous by the lack of it in Bollywood – a ladder to climb the makeshift pavilion during a match, the privileged son cutting his birthday cake with a sword, a lady barging unapologetically on the field during a cricket match and yanking her son away to keep watch over the livestock and the unfurling of a courtship against the backdrop of wells and sugarcane fields.

In Sairat, the issue of ‘casteism’ is not at the forefront but its consequences are. The privilege of being the daughter of an upper caste strongman empowers Archie to be badass. Despite the entitlement, Archie endears with her rebellion. She is unabashedly flirtatious and brandishes a raw frankness. She reprimands Parshya for referring to his physically inadequate friend as ‘langda’, in jest. Manjule is interested in dismantling many other structures where the contours of discrimination may change but the hierarchical outlook stays the same. It is this advantage that Archi struggles to relinquish in the second half. Once she frees herself of the power that comes with privilege and strives on an equal footing with Parshya, she evolves.

While doing all of this, Manjule does not strike a single false note. Archie may have valiantly used a gun while escaping but that doesn’t prepare her to drink unfiltered water. The scene where Archie and Parshya quench their thirst after disembarking the train is telling.

In the gritty second half, the main characters come undone with their frailties. Even the charming Parshya succumbs to his insecurities. Slow motion sequences are traded in for rapt stillness and silences. They begin to realize their happily-ever- after dream and are even economically empowered to buy a flat in a more egalitarian city.

Apparently, class inequality is surmountable but it is the caste inequalities that cast a long shadow.

SPOILER ALERT

Honour killing is a common narrative but Manjule draws you in and makes you drop your guard. You can sense the robust command over his craft when you laugh during an awkward scene just before the ghastly climax.

ALERT ENDS

The more diverse ways we have of telling mainstream stories, the more likely audiences will find something that speaks to them. What better way to spur a discourse?

Dipti Kharude

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Knowledge is acquired.
Art is inherent.
Knowledge solves complexities.
Art gives birth to those very complexities.

There is a whole scene dedicated to this Knowledge V/S Art (Vidya V/S Kala) debate in Katyar Kaljat Ghusli — and it is easily my favourite part in the movie. A musical maestro’s protege aches for knowledge. The knowledge that can hone his skills, set him apart. But he completely overlooks the fact that even without the knowledge, what he already has within him — the raw art of music — is far more valuable.

Anybody who has grown up in a typical Marathi household has heard their mothers and fathers sing Ghei Channd Makarand. It won’t be blasphemous to say that it is our equivalent of a Bachchan or Tagore poem, if not as widely popular. So when the film adaptation of the cult musical, Katyar Kaljat Ghusli, was released, all of us got a call from home urging us to go see what a spectacle it is.

And I’m happy to report that it has lived up to the hype. The plot is simple: Pt. Bhanushankar of Vishrampur (Shankar Mahadevan) discovers Khan Sahab (Sachin Pilgaonkar) in one of his mehfils and brings him back to his town. But Khan Sahab’s talent always ranks below Pt. Bhanushankar’s, and a fierce sense of competition starts to rise within him. Competition culminates into sabotage and Pt. Bhanushankar loses his voice as a result of a vicious scheme. As Khan Sahab settles into the comforts of the palace and new his designation of the Royal Singer, Pt. Bhanushankar’s protege, Sadashiv (Subodh Bhave) enters the scene to win his mentor’s honour back.

The most interesting thing about Katyar… is the use of music. It feels as important to the anatomy of the film as a limb (props to writer Prakash Kapadia, who has emerged as the master of the Indian epic. His next is Bajirao Mastani). While most films about music add songs just to authenticate the genre (here’s looking at you, Aashiqui 2), Katyar’s music takes the narrative forward and keeps you glued to your seats even through songs. While Ghei Channd will always remain a favourite, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy’s Sur Niragas Ho and Yaar Illahi could easily become the next generation’s favourites.

I may be at a disadvantage, having not seen the original musical, but my father tells me that the film was about 80% true to the source material, which is not a bad percentage at all. The dialogue is dense with beautiful lines about music, art, the value of commitment, envy and the evil in one’s heart. Shankar Mahadevan appears to be surprisingly comfortable in his role and Subodh Bhave — with his ability to be believable as Anybody — is honest. Sachin Pilgaonkar has walked away with the lion’s share of compliments, but I can never shake the feeling that his brand of acting is similar to Aamir’s — where, with each movement and each gesture, he wants you to know just how good he is. Frankly, he overdid some scenes, but let’s not focus on that.

The good thing is, the movie has released with subtitles and, for once, the person who has done the subtitling deserves a pat on the back. They have masterfully turned colloquial Marathi phrases into English lines, and successfully translated the humour when required.

Yes, the plot is predictable and spoon-fed to viewers, but if you’re in for a true musical with hair-raising compositions embedded into the story, and the magic of simple storytelling as well, this is your pick.

Nihit Bhave

(Nihit Bhave is a freelance writer based in Bombay. Was Features Writer with Hindustan Times’ Sunday magazine, HT Brunch until recently)

Raanjhanaa(Has SPOILERS)

Like most Bollywood films these days, Raanjhanaa is completely two different films packed in one – pre and post-interval. One is the “politics of love” and the other is “lovers in politics”, and there’s a big difference between the two. As the initial reactions and reviews started pouring in, the verdict seems to be unanimous – first half is fun, the curse of 2nd half strikes yet again. As i stepped into the theatre, i was ready for it. But as i came out of the theatre, i realised that i belong to that minority group which liked the second half more.

First half is easy, you know the tricks, you have seen it many times, love stories in small towns and galli mohalls is not new. It’s charming and easy to like. There’s no way one cannot not like it. Some might argue that it’s stalking and glorification of it, then let me say that you have never been part of any small town love story. It’s stark reality. That’s the way it happens. If you don’t know a friend who has cut his wrist or drank kerosene (sleeping tablets is for metroes), the film might seem a bit stranger to you. But what stood out for me was how ruthlessly selfish the lovers are. Sonam (Zoya) knows Dhanush (Kundan) loves her. And so she uses him in every possible way. It’s the same with Kundan, who knows that Swara (Bindiya) can do anything for him. And he uses her blatantly. It all seems fun and jovial on the surface but scratch it and you realise how cunning their acts are. It’s the politics of love. Their love might be pure but the tricks aren’t.

Some even might point out the physical equation between Kundan, Bindiya and Murari. How can you hit her? i would say this is what “camaraderie” between friends is all about, without being aware of one’s gender. And in the scene when Bindiya says kewal mere baap ke hi kapde phadega, and Kundan backs out, you know that she isn’t the shy kind. If she had protested, these guys would have backed out long back. It’s part of the game, of growing up together.

Now, the second half seems like a completely different film.  A death, and the childhood romance of Benaras moves to ambitious student politics of Delhi. Kundan doesn’t know why he is there. He is lost. He is not sure what to do with his life. He has tried every possible option. Is he still chasing Zoya? Yes. Kind of. Does he know why? No. Has he any more hopes from her? No. The simple chasing the girl routine turns into a heavy cocktail of ambitions and emotions. Let’s see how. So Zoya aspires to fulfill the ambitions of her dead lover (Abhay/Akram). But slowly it looks like all these dreams will come true only through Kundan whom she hates now, whom she holds responsible for Akram’s death. It’s a difficult choice to make. Can she accept Kundan now? And even if she does, the world will curse her for being selfish and opportunist who forgot her lover after his death. Between love, life and dreams, she is confused with no easy way out. And then comes an opportunity to turn it all over and conquer it all. She opts for it too but the guilt is too heavy to bear.

Kundan is caught in a similar situation. He is aimless, he is just tagging along and is getting lucky wherever he puts his foot, except in love. And when it all comes to the conclusion, he realises that even if he wins everything, he has lost the only thing he ever wanted from life – love. So what’s the point of living? Someone who can slash his wrist so easily, he has no fear of death. The monologue in the climax wraps it up beautifully. Lovers always claim to be ready to die in love. But only few dare to do it. And very few directors and writers dare to opt for such uncompromised end for a love story. Nothing else was possible. All credit to writer Himanshu Sharma and director Anand L Rai for going the whole hog. And this is exactly why i liked the second half more. It’s complicated,  and the makers went for the unusual choices. I think first half is easy to write, and easy to like. Second half is damn difficult to write from the point when Dhanush lands up in Delhi not knowing what to do. I could hear the writer’s voice there – what to do with this mujhe-bus-Zoya-chahiye character? He (character and writer) really doesn’t know what to do now.

Raanjhanaa2

Now, the running joke. In a scriptlab where Sriram Raghavan was our mentor, we used to joke that whenever you are stuck at any page, just put a gun in that page. Sriram will like it for sure. Here the formula is slightly different – stuck on the page, opt for the blade. Not once or twice, but three times. Woah!

Interestingly, the entire film is one long montage cut on back to back songs. You can exactly count the numbers of the scenes where the characters talk. But the flavour of the real locations and the terrific acting by Dhanush, Swara Bhaskar and Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub makes it look perfectly smooth. Also, it might be a smart decision keeping Dhanush’s dialogue delivery in mind. They have justified his character, and his hindi diction is weird but it’s not jarring to ears. So a big credit must go to its music director A R Rahman. His music is the thread that holds this complicated tale of unrequited love together. Sonam seems to have improved a lot from her previous films but her dialogue delivery is still irritating. And Kumud Mishra is always quite pleasant to watch onscreen.

I never bothered to watch Rai’s earlier films. But going by Tanu Weds Manu (i like it and TERRIFIC album) and Raanjhanaa, i think Imtiaz Ali has some competition finally. Especially if it’s matters of hearts in small towns. And Dhanush, welcome to bollywood.

Watch it. And if uncomfortable, take off your “metro” shoes.

@CilemaSnob

This post is bit late. But here’s Mohit Patil‘s notes from PIFF, 2013. And as his twitter bio goes, he loves films and scotch. For films, the recco list is here. For scotch, you can ask him on twitter.

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First things first, this was the most awesomely organised edition of PIFF. They not only made sure that we got to watch great films from around the world, but also end up learning the basics of film projection before the fest concluded. For most of the screenings took place only after someone from the audience helped the projection operator with his job – like explaining what subtitles are, helping him change the aspect ratio, explaining the difference between the original audio track and the Director’s Commentary, telling him that talking on the phone in the projection booth is bad manners etc.

Anyway, here’s what I thought of the films I saw at the Pune International Film Festival 2013 –  The old ones and the new ones, the shorts, the documentaries, feature films, everything.

[ Title (Director, Country, Year, Section under which the film was screened) ]

Epilogue (Amir Manor, Israel, 2012, Opening film):

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(Another short paragraph and I’ll be done with the rant, I promise)

I was in a terrible state of mind when I saw this one. They delayed the screening by an hour, then started the film without subtitles, and then after half the delegates had walked out disappointed and about half an hour of hunting for a PIFF authority (and eventually finding none) began the film. Only to allow the projectionist to talk (read: shout, yell, scream etc.) on the phone for a full 45 minutes.

I came across this review by Leda Galanou which nicely sums up what I thought of, from whatever I could grasp of this mess of a sceening of a fine little film.

Story Of A Love Affair (Michelangelo Antonioni, Italy, 1950, Retrospective) :

                                          “Giovanna separated us in life… And in death…”

This debut feature film of the Italian master Michelangelo Antonioni is as entertaining as it is a meticulous study of its characters stuck in a labyrinth of guilt, paranoia, wild lust and reluctant pragmatism, and a theme common to quite a few Antonioni films – characters replete with material needs but craving for emotional/spiritual solace. The film throws basic noir elements at us right from the beginning, where a private detective investigates about a certain Paola Molon for her rich suspicious husband, ironically causing Paola to meet and eventually start seeing her former lover after years. And what follows is a dark, incisive Hitchcockian trip.

The Fifth Season Of The Year (Jerzy Domaradzki, Poland, 2012, World Competition):

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The opening 5 minutes of the film are highly misleading. It opens with a picturesque long shot of the sea, sunset and a boat enters the frame, all this accompanied by a quaint piano; followed by a close up of a kohl eyed woman playing with a cigarette lighter; the kind of opening which prepares us for a film blatantly art-house in nature. The rest of the film, however, is nice fluffy entertainment: a romcom-cum-roadtrip movie, and a very likable one. The charm lies in its simplicity and although it doesn’t really offer anything you haven’t seen before, it’s the fine strokes Domaradzki paints the characters with, largely aided by the actors that made this one work for me. After one film  screening full of sulking and another one which was a great film, but a tiring watch too, this film came as a whiff of fresh air.

Kaliya Mardan (D.G.Phalke, India, 1919, 100 Years Of Indian Cinema) :

The film by Dadasaheb Phalke based on Little Krishna’s mischiefs in the neighbourhood and his endeavor to conquer the giant snake Kaliya was the first Indian film to employ special effects. While Ms.Mandakini Phalke steals the show as Krishna, and the film might be historically significant with respect to Indian cinema, it was a bit of a slog and didn’t really work for me. Full film is available on youtube here.

Duvidha (Mani Kaul, India, 1973, 100 Years Of Indian Cinema) :

Duvidha is based on the same Rajasthani folk legend as Amol Palekar’sPaheli. The story has been narrated through voice-over, allowing the haunting imagery to take over the film, and how! The dialogues are minimal, the frames mostly consist of reds and whites, the camera is mostly static and the actors do little but stare at something or someone. And Kaul incredibly employs this hyper de-dramatized style to amplify the eventual pay off. You can watch the entire film on YouTube here.

(P.S. Since Paheli treats the story as a wicked comedy-cum-romance, an approach completely different than Kaul’s, I’m salivating at the idea of Vishal Bhardwaj making his version of Paheli. Anyone?)

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 Short Films – Live Action shorts by students:

Allah Is Great (25 min, A foreigner in a politically tense region and his Indian cab driver): The film quite smoothly shepherds us through the journey of and the conversations between the foreigner, who’s  here for a conference and his cab driver who’s a die hard film buff, a bade dilwala, and ardently religious. I’m still unsure of the purpose of the inclusion of one of the subplots here. And the film makes me appreciate the ending more than I would have on paper.

Back Against The Wall (14 min, A girl desperately wants the attendant at a shop to know something) : I’d be spoiling it for you if I say anything about the story. All I can tell you about are the performances and the atmosphere, and both are very good here.

Last Calls (22 min, A 17-something girl dials the numbers last dialed by her departed sister) : Wow! This one hits all the right notes. Has a very strong emotional core and terrific mood too. Completely different tonally and structurally, but it reminded me of another favourite of mine, Vihir.

(This was the last of the short films section. Over to feature films.)

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Rose (Wojciech Smarzowski, Poland, 2011, World Competition) :

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It’s Summer of 1945 and we are in Masuria, a German territory before the war but granted to Poland afterwards. The war is the backdrop and the emphasis is on the two main characters living together under brooding circumstances. Shot in greyish-greenish quasi-monochrome, the film doesn’t shy away from showing us the horrific consequences of war – personal lives shattered by macro-level political moves, but instead of going for kitschy manipulation, it wisely and effectively uses these as devices to develop the relationship between Rose, the widow of a soldier and his colleague who happens to stay with her.

Celluloid Man (Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, India, 2012, 100 Years Of Indian Cinema):

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The first “Wow!” of the fest. The 164 minute documentary traces the life and work of one of arguably one of the greatest contributors towards Indian cinema not as a filmmaker but as a film archivist : the founder of National Film Archive of India, P.K.Nair. The film begins with a vivid image where we see P.K.Nair juxtaposed against  a scene from Citizen Kane playing on the screen behind him. And the film before us, much like the film playing in the background, builds a fascinating sketch, mostly through interviews, of a towering personality. Through a series of interviews with some important figures of Indian parallel cinema, with each giving insight into Mr.Nair’s life – how he would acquire films from the archives abroad or from the families of the early pioneers, some admitting with a smile and a coy pride that some of their films exist today simply because of Mr. Nair’s relentless and unbiased passion for film preservation. Interspersed with footages from classics, and talks with Mr.Nair himself about his childhood memories with cinema, his “Rosebuds” and how cinema became a part of him and vice versa; the film is a tribute to a man who Indian cinema owes its history to, a fascinating trip to the early cinema, and an important film asserting the importance of film archiving in a country that boasts of its cutural prosperity. What’s more, the screening took place at NFAI and was graced by Mr.Nair’s presence.

The film is scheduled for release in March.  Click here for the teaser. 

Short Films – Legends We Remember:

I Am Twenty (S.N.S Sastry): This epic docu-short was made in 1967, when independent India was exactly 20. Through a series of interviews with the then-20-year-olds hailing from diverse cultural backgrounds and strata and holding diverse interests and ambitions; the film serves as a sprawling essay on the then past, present and future of India with respect to personal, professional, societal, and cultural spheres through its youth; their dreams and their fears, their interaction with the country, and their take on the varied phenomena India was going through then.

Explorer (Pramod Pati):

Pramod Pati’s exceptional Explorer(1968), a highly abstract experimental short can be said to be a hefty companion piece to ‘I Am Twenty’. If Sastry used conversations with youngsters as a device to present a comprehensive picture of India, Pati shows India torn between past and future, science and religion through a mosaic of random, sequentially rhythmic shots using elemental components of cinema: camera movements, the sounds accompanying every shot and swift focus shifts dexterously.

You can watch the film here.

(P.S. Some other films by Pramod Pati are available on Youtube. Here are the links: a) Trip/Udan   b) ABID c) Claxplosion d) Six, Five, Four, Three, Two. )

(Essential reading: 1) A superb exhaustive essay on ‘Explorer’ by Just Another Film Buff

2) Excavating Indian Experimental Film by Shai Heradia 

3) Pramod Pati – The Cinema Of Pra-Yoga, Of Swa-Bhava by Amrit Gangar)

Arrival (Mani Kaul):

Through incessant shots of jam-packed crowd and of the action of eating (consuming), Arrival is a cold, stirring look at the exploitation of life to cater to industrial needs. And even here, Kaul lets the visuals do the talking and the technique is used to maximum effect in one of the most chilling moments of the film, when we’re given a detailed visual account of sheep being brought in, unpeeled and slaughtered, treated like objects; cut to shots of labourers who, much like the sheep, are mere pawns of a much larger commerce.

Daastan-E-AlamAra (Chetan Mathur):

This short uses some 30 stills from Alam Ara that have managed to survive (the film itself is not available anymore) and employs a lyrical narrative written by Kaifi Azmi and sung by Jagjit Singh (citation needed) to plot the story of India’s first talkie. Sounds interesting on paper? Well, the film, sadly, is pitiably insipid.

Khilonewala (S Sukhdev):

The disappointing ‘Khilonewala’ begins with saccharine event when a bunch of children gather around a Khilonewla and he makes faces and sings for them. It was after an assortment of goons (Amrish Puri in multiple roles, to underline the fact that crime has no class or religion) encircle the Khilonewala that the film begins to get unbearable. You can watch it here.

Mandi (Shyam Benegal, India, 1983, Tribute – Ashok Mehta) :

Mandi (Market) satirizes the interpersonal relationships between people directly or indirectly associated with a brothel when a social activist decides to eradicate prostitution from the town. For me, it was darkly funny with some sharp observations and  ironies, but ultimately vacuous.

I.D. (Kamal K.M, India, 2012, Indian Cinema Today):

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Another Indian Wow! Here, we have a taut, nuanced thriller that transcends the limitations of the “quest to find someone’s identity” sort of films and presents a complex and intriguing portrayal of obsession, and the ambiguity and elusiveness of one’s “identity” as our protagonist gets sucked from her laidback life shot sharply in robust colours into the dusky blue-tinted world of digression. I was quite impressed. The film is produced by Resul Pookutty and Rajeev Ravi, and I don’t see a reason why it shouldn’t find a release. Don’t miss it when it does. And be warned, the official trailer floating online contains a spoiler.

Blow Up (Michelangelo Antonioni, USA, 1966, Retrospective)

Thomas, a fashion photographer spends most of his time clicking the most glamorous “birds” (sic) in the business, who he is fed up of being with. He clicks informal photographs of a couple in a garden and spots a man with a gun hiding in the bushes when he develops them. He visits the garden the next day, finds the corpse lying there and soon intrigue turns into obsession. The film rightfully doesn’t even care to tell us any more about the murder and Antonioni’s Blow Up is really a solemn rumination of its central character’s emotional solitude and his dire pursuit of the feeling of having done something remarkable. For me, it served as a languid companion piece to the somewhat dynamic Taxi Driver. And it’s the muted final scene of Blow Up that takes it to an all new meditative high. Mind Blown Up.

My Father’s Bike (Piotr Trzaskalski, Poland, 2012, Global Cinema)

My Father’s Bike, a delicately crafted family drama with not one, but two sour father-son relationships at its core. The film, instead of judging its characters, gives us a warm coming-of-age picture of a family with its members innocuously flawed and imperfect. In other words, human; but unforgivably so among themselves. And there’s some very good acting at display.

With You, Without You (PrassannaVithanage,Sri Lanka/India, 2012,Global Cinema)

With You, Without You, based on Dostoyevsky’s short story “The Meek One”; designed and scored in blues making us feel the gloominess; is a tenderly composed and deeply moving film about a personal relationship ruptured irreparably by politically influenced deeds of the past.

Night #1 (Anne Emond, Canada, 2011, Global Cinema)

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Night #1 could well be described as a darker, more Bergman-esque version of Before Sunrise. Oh, and quite brilliant. Through their profoundly bleak yet romantic monologues, the two characters open themselves up to each other, revealing their true inner fractured selves after a one-night stand.

Laurence Anyways (Xavier Dolan, France/Canada, 2012, Global Cinema)

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Initially, I was sort of put off by Dolan’s music video like style and wasn’t sure what to make of certain sequences. It was after some pondering that the film started to grow. The film tracks over a decade of Lawrence Alia’s life and relationships and remarkably makes us sense not only the protagonist’s physical transformation but her emotional journey as well. And with a lot of heart.

Liv & Ingmar (Dheeraj Akolkar, Norway/UK/India, 2012):

Note: I’m fully aware that it’s unfair to opine about a film one hasn’t seen completely.

Implication of the Note: I walked out.

This utterly frustrating documentary about the off-screen relationship between the legendary Ingmar Bergman and his muse-cum-wife Liv Ullmann makes some terrible choices: it chooses peripheral cutesy over insight, shows us random shots of pretty landscapes which make no sense whatsoever in context and intersperses that with clips from Bergman’s films which are so literally synonymous (and thus redundant) with the lines spoken (by Liv Ullmann in the interviews) that it insults the the medium of cinema itself. I myself am a Bergman fanboy but I can’t even give ‘Liv & Ingmar’ the least respectable pass(?) a film can get, that “it’s strictly for fans.”

Heck, even ‘Mohabbatein…’ was less schmaltzy. Cons of going for a film without watching the trailer. Sigh.

80 Million (Waldemar Krzystek, Poland, 2011, World Competition) :

Beginning with dense details and lots of jargon about a confrontation between communists and the opposition in Poland, what we find here is a rather entertaining heist movie about a group of Solidarity activists who conspire to withdraw 80 million of the Union money from a bank before their account would be blocked. And it was refreshing to see a film that declares that it was “based on true events” only in the end credits.

The Adventure (Michelangelo Antonioni, Italy/France, 1960, Global Cinema):

Much like Antonioni’s ‘Story Of A Love Affair’, we have a couple madly in love but separated by the dead, by their conscience. And much like a theme common to a lot of his films, it is a study of the emotional isolation of its characters and the complexity of love.

Clip (Maja Milos, Serbia, 2012, Global Cinema):

The disconcerted Clip is crammed-to-the-point-of-rupture with scenes of hyper-explicit sex (so much so that it has little else to offer for most part) and often tested my patience. It’s only towards the end that the film begins to work as an unruly depiction of the wayward, disturbingly nonchalant and shallow youth of urban Serbia. And all those scenes, which had seemed showy earlier, start making sense rendering the film with meaning. A one that takes forever to arrive at its point? Yes, and may be no. May be, the indulgence is the point here. May be the director wants the film to be a metaphor for its characters. Boy, that was repulsive in parts, often repetitive, but ultimately trippy. And a special mention for Jelena Mitrovic, who is absolutely terrific as the disillusioned, riotous Jasna.

Chidambaram (Govind Aravindan, India, 1985, Retrospective):

The imagery and expressive silences render the languidly paced Chidambaram effectively with the meditative quality it was supposed to have.  Aravindan explores the personal spiritual journey of Shankaran battling his own conscience.

There should be a film festival equivalent of  jet lag – let’s call it filmfest-lag, or just fest lag. Many of us were in the same state in the last seven days. Get up, forget the newspapers, run, catch the 10am show, one more show, quick lunch, another show, or squeeze in office hours in between ( for paapi pet-waale), run back for evening shows, stand in queues, do some jugaad, try to catch two more evening films, and if the body and mind survives, go out for dinner with your gang of usual suspects and return back home with a dead body to start the same cycle all over again the next morning. And if you are a film buff, there’s no other way to enjoy a film fest. This was a week in fast forward mode, at least that’s what it felt – the fastest week in this calendar year.

With the main venue being shifted to NCPA, we, the poor suburbanites, had to travel a lot. But the good part was Tata Theater’s 1100 seats. So once you reach there, one thing was for sure – you will get in. INOX started ticketing system to sort things out but it was more of a headache. We will try to cover the fuckups in a different post. The aim was to see four films everyday. But with so much traveling and paapi-pet responsibility, had to miss two days of the fest. Quick reviews/reccos of the films i saw in the last seven days.

After Lucia : A father and a daughter trying to come to terms with a tragedy in which both were involved. They start their life in a new place, both pretending to be strong but get into situations which go out of their control and ends on a very unsettling note – the baggage of guilt. It gets scary when you are not sure about right and wrong but take a drastic step to justify it. Brilliantly written, acted, and directed, the film starts randomly – a man leaves his car in the middle of the road and walks away. And slowly, over the next one hour you connect the dots. The last shot – a man with a deadpan face and…well, that will be spoiler…is going to stay with me for  long. Must Watch.

Beasts Of The Southern Wild : Aha, another father-daughter story. There is magic, there is fantasy and there’s harsh truth of life and survival. This one is quite an ambitious debut film which creates a terrific new world which is rarely explored on the big screen. A sense of community, that pull of your own land even when the physical “land” doesn’t exists, or it’s all submerged underwater, still you want to return – this one touches upon many interesting themes, see which one works for you. This is what you call a daring debut! Must Watch.

Throw Of Dice : This 1929 silent film was screened with live orchestra and it was my first time in such a screening. Though it was hard to see one musical instrument on-screen and hear the sound of something else, it was quite a unique experience. While the film was rated “Universal”, i kept on counting the number of smooches – three for sure. Where are we now?

Shahid : The first 40 mins or so of the film made me quite restless. All i saw was montage which looked disjointed, not sure where the story was going, and the background score was repetitive and loud. Maybe there was some problem with the projection too. But once it settles down, it flies and how! The best scenes of the film are without any background music – the court room and family scenes. Raj Kumar Yadav is there in almost every frame of the film and he makes you believe that he is Shahid Azmi. A top notch performance, he holds the film together, and am willing to bet my money on him. The strength of the film is the way Shahid is portrayed – it’s not black and white, sometimes you are with him, and sometimes you are not sure about him, his intention or his work. Welcome back, Mister Mehta!

Like Someone In Love : The film has been getting some cold reviews so far but i still took a chance. Early morning show, and a Japanese old man who is not sure what to do with a hooker. With a slow pace that i was prepared for, i was feeling so sleepy that i could have gone to bed with the old man too. I thought it’s better to walk out and get ready for the next one.

Miss Lovely : WOW! The film has brilliant written all over it and in every department. But it’s not an easy watch because Ashim uses the story/plot as merely a prop here. It’s documentation of a time, of a world that deserves much more attention, and it tries to slowly soak you into it, sometimes to the point of suffocation. Money, nudity, sex and exploitation in those smoke filled dingy rooms – it all looks so real that you can even get the stench. It’s indulgent. It’s cocky. It doesn’t want to follow the convention and ends with a brilliant sequence where blood is not scary. Get into this world if you are interested, otherwise don’t even walk in. Easily one of the best directed films in India in the last few years. Must Watch.

From Tuesday to Tuesday – A rape happens, someone sees it, that someone is into bodybuilding and he tries to sort out the lives around him – all in seven days. Just another film that you can easily skip.

Rust & Bone – Aha, this was disappointing. Or maybe i was expecting too much from it. Two lonely people find comfort in each other but their problems and priorities are different. Few sub-plots here and there which really doesn’t contribute much and it ends up saying or showing almost nothing new. On the other hand, this is what i call “cinema for gender equality” because both the male and female leads are hot and sexy and there is ample nudity – time for some good ol’ eye-gasm.

Shameless – A film on incest which sounds like another one on the same topic – Shame. And as Varun mentioned in his post, this was like prequel of Shame. If Shame was minimalistic in his approach with European sensibility and mostly about character sketches, Shameless was completely amreekan in its approach. If you have seen Shame, don’t bother.

The Wall – I knew what i was getting into – a women goes to a jungles and leads a lonely life surrounded by a dog, a cow and a cat. She writes her diary everyday and we get to hear her thoughts on daily life, death, company – philosophy through voice-over. That’s it. Yes, that’s it. Looking at the scenario here, i do wonder if the biggest achievement for these films is that they get made! We love to call it “meditative” genre and sometimes you feel like trying that. The film can also be described as vegetation porn – you either watch so much green onscreen to soothe you eyes or you turn vegetative watching all that for 2 hours. For me it was the former.

Kauwboy – A kid, his father, a jackdaw and a tragedy. Simple things, simple joys of childhood and an effort to simplify life – aha, if only it was all that simple. The director handles the kid and his story with so much empathy that you wonder if it was all written or he just handed the bird to the kid and started following him. Beautiful.

The Hunt – A teacher is accused of molestation by a kindergarten kid. We all know the truth but the kid doesn’t know or understand anything. So? The film started a debate on Twitter because few people thought it’s a simple story of prosecution. I felt that’s NOT the film, it’s about kids psychology, how it works and how the family can change things accordingly – it’s blood scary. Must Watch.

Paanch Adhyay – Film reviewer Pratim D Gupta makes his debut with this bengali film. Though the film has some nice moments and Pratim tries to play around with the structure as well, the film doesn’t really gel well. The second female lead has a squeaky voice which makes things worse and the love story with her feels weak and unconvincing. The songs create a good mood but too much use of the same tunes in background makes it look forced and jarring.

Electrcik Children : A Mormon teenager gets pregnant and thinks its because of a song she heard on a tape. And so begins the search for the singer who has sung the song. The premise actually sounds much more interesting than the film. This is more of a journey film rather than a destination one. And the journey seems short and fast because of the liberal dose of funny moments and dialogues.

Beyond The Hills : Another disappointment. But this one is again brilliantly directed. It slowly builds up a scary scenario as two teenage girls tries to find some comfort in their lives which is all about poverty, loneliness and strict rules of a Monastery. Problem is it takes too long to makes its point and keeps on moving in loop. This one needs patience. On a lighter note, it felt like Gossip Girls set in a monastery. Gir1 wants sex. Girl2 wants Jesus. Rest of the girls are having fun trying to figure out the drama.

Ship Of Theseus : Another desi, another true blue indie, and another WOW! Anand Gandhi’s debut feature is ambitious, assured, and tackles some heavy philosophy on life, death and moral dilemmas but without being pretentious. The first story feels weak compared to other two. It slowly unravels the three stories one by one but never bores you. Also, it’s remarkable that how without any known actor in its cast, it manages to pull it off so smoothly. The background music is unlike other desi stuff and is subtle and haunting. The “humane” factor at its core stays with you for long. Easily one of the best desi debut films. Must Watch.

Pune 52 : Was eagerly looking forward to it because of its trailer. But first things first – trailer is NOT the film. Liked it in bits and parts but as a whole it felt like two films trying to fit into one. It’s more about a married man who is detective rather than a detective who also has wife.  Girish Kulkarni and Sonali Kulkarni holds it together though some of the sequences are suddenly so abrupt and out of the blue. The makers are still working on the film.

Holy Motors – Popular opinion at the fest was that bizarre is the keyword here. But if you scratch the surface and connect the dots, it’s not that bizarre. The treatment makes it look so weird but it’s more of a symbolic representation of themes and thoughts which has been put together like a mixed media art installation. Or just google and read a bit, it will all make sense. It’s great fun till it lasted but don’t think it’s going to stay with me for long. This is cinema of audacity. Must Watch.

(PS – Wanted to start the fest with Sarah Polly’s Stories We Tell. Since that could not happen, i thought at least the header should have some bit of it.)

And what all you saw? Please do let us know your reviews/reccos in the comment section.

@CilemaSnob

Indian cinema turns 100 this year. And there’s a great film currently playing in the theatres which celebrates this magic of cinema. It’s a small film which you might not have heard about because it has no ads on tv, no chartbuster songs on radio and no hoardings to boast about. The film is Supermen Of Malegaon (SoM). And indian cinema can’t get a better homage than this documentary made by Faiza Ahmad Khan.

The film has been doing the festival rounds since last few years. But good or bad, we don’t watch docus in theatres. We don’t even release them to give it a chance. Thanks to PVR Directors Rare, SoM has got a limited release across few PVR properties. Make sure you watch it. And if you have any doubts, we are giving you not one or two, but 50 reasons to watch it. And since “crowd-funding” for indie films is in vogue these days, we crowd-funded this post to go with the same spirit.

Do watch and do contribute your reason in the comments section. Will start with mine.

1. Because Vijay and Ravi can finally move on. Mere paas ma nahi, cinema hai! It has one of the best, unrehearsed and unscripted scene between two brothers – one consumed by the addiction called cinema and the other……well, watch it. Poignant.

2. If you watch or love or make cinema and you miss SoM in theatres, you’d miss the cinema equivalent of finding the G-spot – @varungrover

3. Because 1hr of supermen of malegaon is more fun than 2hrs of Spiderman – @ronyd

4. Because even Brando would be appreciative of Jor-El and the ‘method’ here – @krnx

5. Because it blurs the line between fiction & docu. It was more entertaining than a commercial Hindi feature –  @ghaywan

6. Because SoM doesn’t sell itself on sympathy like the recent “indie” filmmaking fad – @auteurmark

7. Because these people have not collaborated on the film : Samir, Sajid, Bhansali, Shetty, Bellary, Ekta, RGV, Bhatts, Kohlis, Kapoors – @mihirfadnavis

8. Because it’s a better (hate the term but…) Love Letter to Cinema than ‘The Artist’ or ‘Hugo’ could ever be… @jahanbakshi

9. You’ll laugh a lot, being fully aware that there’s a lot of grimness in the tale as well. Its a unique feeling   @RangbadluGirgit

10. ‘Pairon ki bediyaa khwabo ko bandhe nahi re..’ Madhyam ki garibi sabse badi prerna kaise banti hai @koripaati

11. See Pic

12. Why else do we watch films ? To get entertained ! And entertained you shall be !! – @z_maahir

13. Location is not Switzerland and the lead would not look like a million bucks even with plastic surgeries STILL SoM is Beautiful – @humHeroine

14. Superman with a 24″ waist. A costume that involves rubber chappals. A film that is inspired and inspiring – @ashish_mehta_

15. Because it celebrates the simple human notion that if you are passionate about something then no one can stop you. There is always a way around. Always. Equipments, technology, know-how, resources etc just don’t matter. As long as you want it badly enough – @ghantaguy

16. You should watch SOM because it will make you pick up a camera and shoot – @varunvarghese

17. Bolchaal mein itne achhey Urdu shabd bahut dinon baad sun-ne ko miley – Rakhi (on FB)

18. That cinema by all other names would still be magical! – Suhel Banerjee (on FB)

19. Kyuki bhai ise ‘naa dekhne ka’ ek bhi reason nahi hai ! Puneet Sharma (on FB)

20. Which was the last film you saw that you wished you could see more of? – @gyandeep4a

21. For one poem Chand. Just that is worth the ticket money – @shubhas

22. Because it gets over in about an hour and you won’t get bored. Forget all the irony and the film about a film business blah blah – Swati Trivedi

23. Kyuki aisi filme dekhkar khud se ye sawaal poochhne ka man karta hai…. Ab to bahana banaane chhod de, ja aur kuch man ka bana !!!! Puneet Sharma (on FB)

24. It makes us feel that good filmmakers still exist. Faisal Numan (FB)

25. See pic

26. The one reason that counts – it is paisaa vasool – Vinay Jain (FB)

27. Simple. Because its one of the best films you will see this year –  Anant Raina (FB)

28. Because it makes you smile. The passion for Cinema in India is equivalent to religion. This 60 minute beauty inspires everyone to do something even if you cannot afford it – Abhinav Bhatt (on FB)

29. kyonki yehi Cine-Maa hai!! – Nitin Baid (FB)

30. “Life is full of sorrow, so it is very important to dream. No one should ever stop dreaming,” says the narrator of #Supermen of Malegaon, the funniest, sweetest movie I have seen in a long time. The writer in the movie says things like “Most of the films you see is only 20% output. Imagine being a writer and having to live with 80% of the angst. It’s hard. But it doesn’t stop you.” In an age of multi-crore promotion budgets for glitz, here is an honest movie with a soul, a story of dreams and passion, a movie that you won’t see ads and promos of, as they have no money for them. It’s playing at PVR Juhu at 6.20 pm. I am going back for the lines. Who is coming? – Lalita Iyer (FB)

31. Because tragedy brings out the best comedy – @ronyd 

32. Because it completes the Unique distinction of having watched Superman, Spiderman and Batman in the same year – @nitinnair81

33. Because its a RICH film made by POOR people which you get to see in a POSH theater for CHEAP price. Rs 110. Pvr Juhu. 6.20pm – @navjotalive

34. Because despite it being a documentary avoids all the docu cliches and still becomes accessible for just about every man jack who likes movies – @mihirfadnavis

35. See pic

36. Have you ever seen a superman wearing naadewala kachha and slippers, and ppl wiping their face with his red cape? @thepuccacritic

37. Because, in fact more than Hazanavicius’ film, Supermen Of Malegaon could actually be called ‘The Artist’ and *earn* that title – @jahanbakshi

38. As a filmmaker, it made me want to get out and start shooting my first. Thoroughly inspiring! @ghaywan

39. Not everyday you see a film where the hero is flying on one hand and paddling on a float in the river the next min @HumHeroine

40. FUN ke beyond, sach aur jhoot se pare , ek khula maidan hai.. Superman Of Malegaon tumhe waha milega @AmritaThavrani

41. Well, one reason is definitely that writer, Farokh. He had more personality than half the film industry combined –  @pradeep_smenon

42. Because it really does take supermen only to make films – Malhar Salil (on FB)

43. Because if you believe in your dreams, it can happen. Passion for cinema = SoM = Simply Superb!!  – Himanshu Vora

44. Without a VO, the film is spoken from the residents’ pov which makes it experiential than being a hawk eyed narrative – @ghaywan

45. Because some guy in a small town made his film Undaunted by BO, ratings, festivals,100crs or twitter trends. And that’s rare – Vasan Bala

46. Because it’s the best rated film of the year. See pic

47. The writter in Supermen ka Malegaon, Hamid Faroghi – Kya bhaari awaaz aur kya personality, jab bhi koi baat kehte the toh har baat me ek gehri baat hoti thi! – Yogesh Dube (on FB)

48. It just made me extremely happy and uplifted. Not even hint of manipulation, morality or design. They just let it be..the protagonists just do their thing only because they love doing it, not to prove anything. Only complain was it ended too soon – Apan Singhal

49. Because it celebrates that aspect of a film which most of the people have just a surface-level idea of – filmmaking itself. – Gyandeep Pattnayak (on FB)

And here’s the most important reason…

50. To support PVR director’s Rare so that it can continue to bring more such quality cinema to you – @ShiladityaBora

So what’s your reason for not watching it?