Posts Tagged ‘review’

(WARNING: Watch the movie first. May spoil it for you if you don’t.)

It feels a little strange to call a film titled ‘Andhadhun’ pointedly self-aware. But then if a Sriram Raghavan film won’t kill and resurrect irony a thousand times, then what will?

Just when the Nanas, Bahls and Kavanaughs of the world had you ready to throw yourself in the nearest gutter and die, there comes something so innocuous – a thriller film that ends up giving you hope about life. There is still some goodness left in the world and it’s all stuffed inside Sriram Raghavan’s film.

Wait, hope did you say? In a film full of darkness, little innocence and no redemption? What hope did I find in this universe of dystopia that is so dystopic it doesn’t even take its own dangers seriously? Enough so that I don’t get pimples due to all the invisible tension, you know!

Andhadhun is good for health
It is like anaar juice. You know, rich and full of texture and body wala juice that is actually just clear liquid. You drink and feel you are in heaven but the minute its over it is over. But you still relish it for a long time, that richness and the memory of the texture of the richness. It’s local but exotic at the same time, sweet and sour at the same time and dry and wet at the same time. Anaar juice is also very good for the liver, no?

And apparently, so are rabbits, full of vitamins and minerals. The vitamins and minerals of this film go far beyond the sharply written plot spiralling out of control every five minutes. Or so it seems because it never goes out of hand. The film merely teeters on the edge; as mercurial as Tabu’s performance, as lucid as Radhika’s and as fluid as Ayushmann’s.

What keeps it from teetering off the edge is the phenomenal love for the medium on display, the self-assured craft and the Raghavan moral universe that plays hand in glove with immorality as smoothly as the images, sound, music, words, places, people and performances play with each other; all the worlds he seems to understand equally well.

Such ingenuity cannot come without a distinct love and understanding of the medium and it cannot come without the accompanying genius of your team. Without K.U. Mohanan’s intriguing camera work, Madhu Apsara’s equally trippy and cheeky sound design and Pooja Ladha Surti’s shrewd editing, the film would not have been half of what it is eventually, a sheer treat of music and magic.

Such ingenuity also cannot come without a stronghold on the moral core of the story. Raghavan’s films may all be stories steeped in an immoral universe with equally susceptible heroes, where goodness doesn’t necessarily always get rewarded and evil isn’t always punished. Yet, they operate within a very clear and basic framework of right and wrong that never loses its focus, even when gutted and laughing at its own self.

A completely plot-driven narrative from start to finish, one then almost imagines Raghavan playing similarly with his film. Turning his hero from blind to not blind to blind to we-don’t-even-know-anymore, with a tongue firmly tucked in the cheek. Chuckling away at the absolutely delicious conundrum a murder-gone-wrong can become. Shoot the piano player! Shoot! No, not yet! Shoot! Missed! Run! Hit! Fall! Gotcha! No? Wait…What?! I want a time plus brain machine that can go inside SR’s head and tell me how it was working when he was writing this whacko piece of sheer art.

When the hat tipped and tipped
The film saves its tribute card for Chhayageet and Chitrahaar, very aptly personified as fondly remembered, dearly loved people now no more, with dates et al. (Oh yes, sir, yes!) All the love for Bollywood then flows freely as the thriller merrily turns itself into a musical tribute to Hindi films and films in general; noir in particular – SR’s pet territory. And here comes in Truffaut’s delectable, ‘Shoot The Piano Player’, a film whose language SR borrows from so gracefully and meticulously that he outdoes Truffaut at his own game in creating a unique piece of cinema at once tragic and comic, classical and unconventional, silly and smart but with the distinct impression of a directorial sleight of hand that is playing with his material as consciously as the film seems un-self-conscious while having a lot of fun himself. This is the real tribute, and it is delectable.

The film almost starts similarly, taking the noir trope of a gun chase set-up happening in some other universe and immediately cutting to the universe of the film. The chased in Truffaut’s film is the protagonist’s brother, a semi-central character that turns the film on its head, the chased in Raghavan’s film is a rabbit, a non-character that turns the film on its head. That’s how whimsical is his craft. And delicious!

Kent Jones in his piece on Truffaut’s film says it is a film, “in which all of his assorted gifts and preoccupations are in play and meshed into a uniquely idiosyncratic whole. The film offers powerful evidence of his love of American cinema and literature… There is that wonderful speed, a pleasure in and of itself, that amounts to a kind of worldview—actions, objects, places, and sensations glimpsed and seized on, almost spontaneously forming a vivid afterimage in the mind’s eye. And his high-velocity storytelling is intimately tied to the feeling of impending mortality, the sense of every given moment in time coming and going, never to return. As for surprise, Shoot the Piano Player is about as unpredictable from one moment to the next as any film I know.” Was he speaking of Andhadhun and Sriram Raghavan?!

Perhaps, it is the play of contrasts in the film that lends it its unpredictability and richness. Yoking seriousness with hilarity at every turn, the tonal quality of the film becomes a universally mocking one and freely so. This delicious mockery is directed at everyone, everyone is in on the joke, except the characters. That’s why as Simi’s character unfolds we revel in the knowledge she can never be Nurse Radha – part 2. I am assuming it is a play on Waheeda Rehman’s character in ‘Khamoshi’ (1970), that genteel, heartbroken woman yearning to love again. Lady Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, we say (not only coz it’s the perfect Tabu, the original Lady Maqbool) but until Dr Swamy calls her so we realise she is far away from that too; Simi is absolutely guilt-free, completely soul-less. But then, with the exception of Sophie and Akash, this entire universe is completely soulless. Even Bandu, that see-it-all brat, who quickly enough becomes the audience’s ally in getting to the bottom of this mystery-within-mystery. Until the film takes another crazy spin at interval.

Whose lens is it anyway?
The blind hero who was not blind has now officially turned blind. What is this seeing and unseeing business? It’s a smooth trick of genius-giri. We, as audience begin the film watching Akash’s story first through the innocent, naïve eyes of Sophie, then as we are wisening up to the antics of the film-maker he shifts our POV to a smarter lens, that of a precocious, oversmart Bandu. Just when we think we have caught up with him here too, the proverbial rug is off from under our feet and we are in the deep, dank, dark. Just like our hero. From then on and just like him, we are fumbling in the dark too, with all the secrets hanging around for us to grasp and unravel. Till we are back to being the gullible Sophie again left to put the pieces together. And we do, until a crushed coke can hits a rabbit handled stick and knocks that part of our brain that tells us when we have been played. Check-mated sir, and glad to lose! And that is why I disagree with every review that says the second half is weaker and loses steam. The second half in fact, is as perfect as the first, maybe even better, puncturing perfectly, all the balls of contrast constantly in air.

These contrasts play out on all levels, much like all the cinematic elements in the film, sometimes simultaneously, sometimes one after the other in rapid succession, moulding and remoulding the film as it goes. The permanent warm tone sets up an idyllic, small-town Pune only to open up into the brutality at its borders. Dramatic, operatic music punctuates dramatic scenes as well as turns them comic, and in the scene where Simi and Manu clean the traces of their crime as Akash plays away – tragi-comic (and brilliant!). The sound cuts, diegetic yet full of imminent danger, keep the excitement tingling as the film keeps playing with our senses and feelings. After a point, the musical bit in this ‘musical-thriller’ transcends from the world of Akash’s piano and starts creeping under our skin as it starts underlining the unfolding darkness, tragedy and comedy. I don’t think Beethoven himself could have thought of a better cinematic use for his 5th symphony. Very cheeky, but the classic ‘Teri galiyon mein‘ is now redefined for generations to come. And since we are talking about music, welcome back Amit Trivedi and Jaideep Sahni, it had been a while.

As the film draws to an end, you suddenly become aware of the smile on your face, pasted there with Fevicol for the past 2.20 hrs. You realise you are feeling happy and hopeful. You also realise you wanted the film to go on and on. Especially, since the ending is still open, still incomplete. But then as Sophie says, ‘Kuchh cheezein adhoori honese hi toh poori hoti hain.’

You get up, humming aapse milkar accha laga, bahut accha laga. And walk out giving out a silent, invisible bow. Ekdum liver se.

Fatema Kagalwala

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

*********************

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.

Amit Masurkar’s new film Newton had its world premiere at the ongoing Berlin International Film Festival. Here’s all the buzz about the film from the fest.

(click on any of the pic to start the slide show)

Finding humour in the tenuous nature of democracy might be a hard task on the global stage at present; however, in Newton’s darkly comic exploration of one official’s attempt to uphold the election process in India, it’s simpler than it sounds. The second film from writer/director Amit V Masurkar bows in Berlinale’s Forum section with a sense of chaos and absurdity, while remaining aware of the drama of reality. When the feature emphasises either extreme, it proves engaging viewing.

–  From Screen Daily’s review. Click here to read the full review.

– Rajeev Masand’s video-blog on the film –

 

Newton is a very important film, despite its satirical tones, laced with a lot of humour and irony. It is a film that should make viewers think about how important their right to cast a vote is.

– from Aseem Chhabra’s report on the film. Click here to read the full report

Newton is a brave attempt. Because it uses the feature film format to tell a story about on-going violence and exploitation and cynical political aggrandisement : anytime you hear the words Naxal, or Maoist in a film, it falls into the tried and tested formula. Newton breaks that mould, refreshes hardened tropes, and makes us smile and think. Really hard. Because what effects India Interior today will one day ripple over and claw its way into our complacent urban, mall-infested enclaves.

– from Indian Express. Click here to read the full report.

– Some tweets on the film:

(pics taken from Twitter)

by  मोहित कटारिया

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

 

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.

sairat-hero copy

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

It was suppose to be DC Comics answer to Marvel’s Avengers. But so far, the reviews of ‘Batman v Superman : Dawn Of Justice’ are more entertaining than the film. And if you have landed up from some other planet, you might have missed this video which is depressing and funny at the same time.

So what really happened? What does it mean for DC Comics’ next? Is there a way out? Have patience and read Anubhav Dasgupta‘s rant.

BatmanvSuperman

(SPOILER AHEAD. It’s fucking full of spoiler. Wait. You still haven’t seen it? Lucky you!)

On Thursday night, I sat down in a movie theater and watched Superman reach into Batman’s chest and rip out his heart. A child sitting in my row decided it was finally time to leave. I should have followed her out, but I stay put like the masochist that I am.

Batman v Superman is the nadir of DC comics. Not only is it a badly made film that made me question whether professionals  — some of them Oscar winners — were behind it, but it is an utterly reprehensible, indefensible piece of garbage that ruins the two most iconic characters in history to satiate the appetites of immature adults who constantly seek validation for their consumption of stories starring characters that were made for children.

Let’s call these immature adults “Batbros” because there’s only so many times I can type “immature adults” before I’m sick of the term.

Batman Begins was a great film that rejuvenated the Batman franchise, salvaging it from the campy wrecks of Joel Schumacher’s Batman and Robin. Christopher Nolan infused the character with a sense of pathos that made his trauma palpable every second of the film. He set it in a world very much like ours but also infused it with comic-book elements like fear toxins and a shadow cult of ninjas. Critics loved it, audiences dug it, fans were happy. It made enough money for Warner Bros to green light a sequel. Like Begins, its sequel The Dark Knight was a dance of reality and myth. Ostensibly a reaction to the American war on terror, Joker representing the chaotic boogeyman, something that Batman, standing in for Americans, simply could not understand. It was a massive, massive success and it still remains one of the greatest films ever made. But a collateral damage caused by it was the emergence of the Batbro. They identified with Batman’s seething libertarianism, his fascistic insistence on surveillance as an end to chaos and terror. They identified with an aspect of the character that was very much post-9/11 American White Male. What they thought they fell in love with was the darkness of the plot, considering it novel while being ignorant of the fact that comic books and comic book movies have touched upon dark themes before. I strongly believe that they do not recognise what makes The Dark Knight special and mis-attribute it to the grim mood of the story.

In the same year The Dark Knight came out, rival comic book publisher, Marvel’s movie arm put out Iron Man. Starring Robert Downey Jr as a genius pro-war one-percenter reformed into a superhero, it was talking about some of the same things as TDK but the approach was completely different. While TDK considered the war on terror a grim necessity, Iron Man criticised it while subtly commenting on the military-industrial complex and how corporations and militarism go hand in hand in a capitalist economy. The titular Iron Man, himself, is a much brighter character, who uses his wit and arrogance to mask his despair while Batman channels it into a life-force.

Spurred by the success of Iron Man, Marvel put out movies that existed in the same universe, done in the same style. Their continual successes culminated in Avengers, a movie that united Marvel’s heroes, which made ungodly amounts of money in the box office and millions more in merchandise sales.

DC floundered along, their one shot at a shared universe, Green Lantern, failing miserably. Batbros found solace in the Batman video games produced by Rocksteady, whose atmosphere vindicated their demand for immature darkness. The stages of the game looked grimy, the characters — save for Joker — wore constipated scowls and dressed in greasy coats. There was an unsubtle misogyny about how the game series treated its few women characters, animating their movements to make them look like they were continually cat-walking. What they got perfectly right were the mechanics of the game, the story, penned by DC Animated series alumni Paul Dini, and the voice-acting, which reunited DC Animated series alums Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill and Tara Strong.

DC comics’ only mainstream successes were the Nolan Batman films and the Batman video games so, when it was time to reboot the DC universe and rake in Avengers money, they decided to push the tone of both these sources on to their movie universe.

It’s been a fucking disaster.

Man of Steel was positioned to revitalise the Superman franchise for a generation and a fanbase of Batbros that thinks altruism is bullshit. Zack Snyder’s film was a character assassination of the highest order, corrupting the socialist bent of the original Superman to make way for an ill-advised objectivist interpretation. The parallels to the story of Moses (Superman’s creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster were Jewish immigrants in ’30s America) were ignored to force Christian symbolism on the character. Snyder misconstrued the power fantasy of Superman to be a physical desire rather than an ideological one. This Superman isn’t great in heart or spirit, but in physical strength. He spends the movie moping around, so crushed by the weight of his responsibility that he does nothing about it. In the third act of Man of Steel, a noisy, grey muddle that makes Michael Bay’s Transformers look coherent, Superman allows wanton destruction as he faces off against a mighty alien being. At the end of it, he manages to catch the alien in a chokehold and snap his neck.

Batbros lapped it up. It was a mainstream vindication of the maturity of a comic book character. Surely, there could be nothing immature about dodging an oil tanker and letting it destroy a building when you have all the power in the world to stop it, or destroying a man’s livelihood because he was mean to you inside a bar.

Strong visuals and a fantastic score by Hans Zimmer elevated it from trashiness into mediocrity and it made some money and sanctimonious too-cool-for-school audiences finally found Superman to be cool after he had snapped some guy’s neck.

Never mind the children as long as the adults are entertained.

The same darkness followed through in the comic books. After the DC line was rebooted, Superman traded in his red trunks, spit curl and charm for armour and an unpleasant scowl. He was, finally, cool.

Batman v Superman doubled down on this interpretation, creating a Superman who possesses all the maturity and angst of a spurned teenager. The movie antagonises him, pities him, hates him and the one time he’s about to explain himself, it blows everything up. Literally. Here’s a Superman who seems like he hesitates to save anyone who isn’t his mother or his girlfriend. Here’s a Superman who forgets all his powers to allow a contrived plot to unfold. Batbros were further vindicated by a Batman who scared the shit out of criminals, who straight-up murdered people with military grade armaments mounted on his vehicles.

Zack Snyder has hid behind the defence that he’s followed the comics to a t. I doubt he’s read a comicbook. I strongly suspect that he flipped through a few pages, looked at the art, skipped dialogue balloons when his ADD took over and thought it was the greatest thing ever. BvS plays like a visual greatest hits of comicbooks. There’s images from The Dark Knight Returns, Crisis on Infinite Earths and The Death and Return of Superman replicated with great accuracy. But here’s the thing. Comic books don’t work solely on imagery alone. The titular fight between Batman and Superman is lifted from The Dark Knight Returns, but it lacks any of the intelligence, any of the motivation behind the fight. The philosophical battle between the ideologies of fascism and libertarianism have been replaced by Bollywood movie-level scheming. But Superman and Batman fight and the screen’s so dark we can barely make out anything so it’s mature, r…right?

Superman dies, just like he did in The Death and Return of Superman, but I felt nothing. The comic book isn’t the best but when Supes bites the bullet, we feel something. His sacrifice in the comic is earned. But in BvS? Fuck no. There’s many ways Superman didn’t have to die, and we’ve spent so much time annoyed by his moping and selfishness that it doesn’t affect us much at all.

But, hey, Superman dies. What a ballsy move, right? Fuck no. Everybody knows he’s going to come back to life. The moment has no point, no impact, no nothing. It’s cheap, superficial imagery and grim to a pornographic level.

But hey, Superman dies so this is suddenly an adult mature film, unlike the Marvel movies where everything’s sunny and you can actually make out what the fuck is happening. Batbros finally had an adult superhero franchise to rally behind. Finally, they felt, we don’t look like kids anymore. Never mind that Batman and Superman stop fighting because their mothers have the same name, killing people is exceptionally mature and adult amirite?

Never mind the kid who is bored by the pointless pontification, blinded by the few splotches of colour that emerge from a dark, drab palette, terrified by the characters they were supposed to love. Batbros will hi-five each other all the way to the fucking bank.

Kids, meanwhile, will be reluctant to buy action figures from the DC universe, page through DC comics while Marvel will capture their imagination completely.

Marvel figures are routinely cleaned up at Toy aisles while DC’s figures enter the bargain bin because nobody cares about their characters.

Except for Batman, barely any DC comics sell routinely as much as their Marvel counterparts, despite the quality.

All this thanks to DC bending over to cater to a tiny subset of fans who want to prove that their superheroes are fit for adult consumption.

Alan Moore, the writer of Watchmen, Batman : The Killing Joke, Swamp Thing and other comic book classics, infamously referred to comic book fans as subhuman. He cited the crowds of adults lining up to watch Avengers. He wasn’t wrong in his statement but he was woefully wrong in his observation.

The Marvel films, while routine, are ostensibly for children, but have enough pathos and intelligence to satisfy adult viewers. They’re stories for children that work for adults.

The DC films, however, drip in darkness. They’re for ignorant people who think that anything meant for children demands no seriousness or maturity. There’s no joy in any of their characters or any of their exploits. Their films are grim to the point of hilarity. DC films are a child’s view of what an adult film is, they are the kind of films that Vincent Adultman from Bojack Horseman would insist upon watching. DC film’s are selfish appropriations of children’s characters by childish adults.

When Alan Moore called comic book fans sub-humans, this is what he was going on about. Not adults who dress up as Thor in line to Avengers 2 but adults who celebrate the image of Superman ripping someone’s heart out while the kids cower, confused.

Thing is, Warner Bros seems to hate these characters. There is a marked cynicism behind the DC universe driven by a begrudging need to make money off IPs they disdain. They heap their own ugliness, their cynical hollywood fear and nihilism into characters that were built to give hope. Superman needed to be brought down from his pedestal of ideological superiority to our ugly levels of angst and paranoia. By reducing the symbolism and ripe mythological gravitas to petty wannabe philosophy, they have greatly diluted the power inherent in the characters. A page in Grant Morrison and Frank Quitley’s All-Star Superman has famously saved people from committing suicides. I simply don’t see films from the DC universe coming close to doing that. They’re content with being ugly extensions of an ugly world. They’re not the mirrors to our society as they hope to be, but the cesspools of our collective subconscious. Saving cats is passé, destroying whole cities is in. Fuck the kids, our audience are ugly man-children.

Batbros are celebrating the latest ravaging of the Superman icon but I feel they’ll turn round. The film has been universally panned by critics, its glaring errors in basic filmmaking revealing the true ugliness inherent in the plot. People are catching on to their shit. However, if it makes any money, it’ll be a vindication of the Batbros’ stance. Warner Bros will double down on the darkness, ruining and ravaging every bit of innocence inherent in the characters until there’s nothing.

If you’re a DC fan, and remember the joy the comics or Bruce Timm’s animated series gave you, and you like the current crop of DC films, I strongly urge you to think about it. Our characters are far more important than your selfish enjoyment and loyalism. We’ve got to save them. We’ve got to make sure Warner Bros get rid of their pointless nihilism. Otherwise we’ll be looking at a bunch of movies about joyless freaks that encourage no emotion, no thought, no joy except for infantile vindication.

Batbros are celebrating the latest exercise in cynical destruction, but they’ll be proven wrong, when, years from now, their children will ignore their Superman toys for a miniature Iron Man.

Batman v Superman is Darkseid’s anti-life, pushing us into cynical acceptance of our grim mentality. We have to resist. We have to be better. This is more important than two rival companies. This is a battle for hope and for the future. And fans are their own biggest enemies.

Anubhav Dasgupta

(Anubhav tries to make good stuff. Besides cinema, he also likes comic books and cats)

Q’s latest film Brahman Naman premiered at the recently concluded Sundance Festival. Here’s all the buzz that the film generated at the fest – The fridge, the fish, and the fan!

Brahman Naman

– For Twitch Interview of Q and the cast, click here.

– Guardian has given it a three-star rating. Review is here

– Variety review is here

– Hollywood Reporter review is here

– Review on Twitch Film is here. Calls it a “fantastic facre”

– Netflix scooped up worldwide SVOD rights. Details here

– Interview on Film Companion where Q reveals that the film is really about caste system.

– Pillow Talk with Q and Shashank Arora (they are literally on the bed)