Posts Tagged ‘reviews’

LOVELESS

We as an urban global world have slowly found arrogant comfort and convenience in being lonely and loveless. I am certain that when the world will be dying, we will be busy waiting for a youtube video to buffer.

These were my first thoughts after coming out of the cold, edge of the seat, apocalyptic, eerie, and devastating piece called Loveless by Andrei Zvyagintsev (Leaviathan and The Return). This is a burning symphony on the spiritual disaster of a failed marriage as Andrei uses lifeless streetlights, streets, cold Tarkosky forests, and empty abandoned buildings to document the remains of a ruined marriage. Unlike most of the movies I have seen, the first time we see a couple arguing over who does not want to keep the child over the usual debate of who would love to take the custody. The couple going through the failed marriage along with modern Russia seem busy in loveless intimate acts, selfies, luxurious apartments, status, money, freedom and, sleep while their child goes missing from their house. As Nietzsche quotes, “They do not want to know the truth because the truth would break their illusions” The couple are forced to run around abandoned buildings, hospital beds, make phone-calls, reach out to neighbors, and deal with bureaucratic cops – and they do so with the zeal and enthusiasm of a dead octopus.

In one of the most heart-wrenching sequences of the film, the police, search party, and the father of the lost child are seen searching an eerily- in-ruin abandoned building in the middle of the forest which used to be the missing kid’s spot. The shots of this building by Andrei’s regular cinematographer Mikhail Krichman are metaphorical of the loveless state a disastrous marriage can take. Cannes Jury Prize winner Loveless is an essential film to watch. The film will has morose impacts on your mood – as Marcel Proust would put it “Happiness is beneficial for the body, but it is the grief that develops the powers of the mind.”

ASHWATTHAMA

We all have grown up listening to the stories about the warrior Ashwatthama still being alive, though, not as a result of being immortal but rather as curse given to him by Krishna. According to legend, Krishna was angry with Ashwatthama for killing Pandava’s sons. He decided to curse Ashwatthama to avenge the destruction of Pandava’s lineage – hence cursing him with an unending life of pain and suffering. Krishna cursed Ashwatthama with terrible leprosy that would haunt him for 3,000 years. Krishna further stated that Ashwatthama would not be helped by anyone or provided food or shelter.

Now imagine a young 9 year old Ishwaku, who is growing up on this story, and suddenly is burdened with equal pain as Aswatthama is in the legend. Francois Truffaut meets Satyajit Ray in Pushpendra Singh’s Ashwatthama – a surprise gem in the India Gold section of Mumbai Film Festival this year. Pushpendra Singh inter-cuts between the painful reality of the kid’s existence after the loss of his mother with folk songs, cultural narrative of Rajasthan and Madya Pradesh, Ishwaku’s dreams, imaginations, and search for Ashwatthama who is supposed to be living in abandoned ruins of the village. The myths, religion, and customs of the village shape devastating childhoods for the kids living here. The plight is shown with rich impact through an almost black and white lifeless atmosphere. Pushpendra Singh looks completely in control of this film as every shot of the film is rich and haunting aided by cinematographer Ravi Kiran Ayyagiri. A few rare moments of imagination of the kid explode with color on screen, bursting into the suppressed desires flowing with the mind of Ishwaku.

Although, the influence of the likes of Truffaut, Kiarostami, and Ray are evident; the film still is one of the most authentic, pure, rustic, and, genuine coming of age movies I have ever seen. The film is filled with melancholic nostalgia – especially if you have spent your childhood days loitering around in vast landscapes and nights spent imagining the stories from your family storytellers.

ZOO

“Death is not the greatest loss. Loss is what dies when you’re still alive”, said Tupac. Tupac and Notorious B.I.G.’s sour turned friendship is a severely heartbreaking tale for upcoming rappers. This tale has its fair share of influence on the underbelly of Mumbai slums.

Aspiring rappers from these slums, Prince Daniel and Yogesh Kurme are dreaming to become an epic rap duo like Tupac and Notorious B.I.G. However, Prince is also certain to not let their friendship turn sour like it happens in the former story. Little did they know that the landscape they are trying to survive in is filled with drugs. Messi played by Rahul Kumar (Millimeter from 3 Idiots) aspires to take over his elder brother’s drug empire inspite of having a potential career in football. Messi’s brother played by Shashank Arora is a drug seller who supplies ‘sugar’ to a city running deep on these white lines. This also includes Shweta Tripathi’s character who has not stepped out of house since months owing to a past incident. Her life is filled with PS4, online food deliveries, coffee, and delivery of sugar. The lives of all these characters somewhere or the other end up with drugs taking away the best of them.

However, in the process of showing this degradation due to drugs, Shlok Sharma gives us some really fresh scenes like Shashank’s character playing a dumb waiter at a coffee shop, Prince and Yogesh singing probably the most hilariously obscene rap lyrics ever witnessed in an Indian film, or Messi doing a Robert De Niro like mirror scene. The rotting drug filled contemporary Mumbai underbelly has been captured with complete accuracy by Shlok Sharma in this film completely shot on an Iphone. The narrative of Zoo fills much more complete than it did in Vasan Bala’s Peddlers. Having disliked Haramkhor, Shlok Sharma’s Zoo was a pleasant surprise for me.

MACHINES

Rahul Jain’s Machines aims to empathise us with the sub humane working conditions in textile factories of Gujarat, India. It raises the same old questions of wages, standard of living and, the work life balance which is absolutely missing in the lives of the workers documented. However, Machines is shot in a meditative fashion, allowing some of the shots of the Machines to make you really wonder who the slaves are – Machines or Men themselves?

The cinematography of the film is breathing with sweat, chemicals, dirt, and life in these factories. These breathing shots allow you to experience life in these windowless rooms. Men bathe, eat, work, and live around chemicals as if they are living out of a suitcase in Tokyo. In one of the most subtle yet painful shots, a man is seen entertaining himself by resting his feet on a machine which is in full throttle action, the vibrations of the machine are music to his tired musceles which are being massaged in the process.

Rahul Jain succeeds in creating an immersion point for the viewers through sight, sound, and smell through shots of the nightmarishly sludgy company rolled around in profits while their workers survive on peanuts. The 70 minute film is a visual treat which raises no new questions but still immerses is in the textile toil of carried by the workers. The final scene of this movie is a stunning blow where a group of workers surround the camera and start asking the intentions of the film being made. The sound design on the film is commendable as a musical treatment comes together through the various noises of the factory creating an invigorating track of sorts which leaves you thinking.

NOTHINGWOOD

“ No Hollywood, No Bollywood, We are Nothingwood; we have no money and no resources. Qayamat is here (end of the world) but my Ishq-e-cinema (love for cinema) is forever. “

Father of 14 kids in the worn torn Afghanistan; Salim Shaheen is the prince of Afghanistan’s film industry where cinema itself has been banned by the Taliban. Sonia Kronlund documents the extravagant and tour de force director Salim Shaheen while he is shooting his 111th movie which is an autobiographical affair on his own transition from being and Army General to being the Badshah of Afghan Cinema. Salim Shaheen and his crew’s energy is as infectious as a film crew finishing their student project. The passion of Salim Shaheen for films over bullets reeks out of all the statements, songs, visuals, which are beautiful woven together in this documentary.

In one of the most job dropping yet hilarious scenes, a chicken is sacrificed on the sets of the film to showcase spilled blood in his new film. This scene is a testimony to the love and passion for cinema which is harboured by Salim and his team. With almost no resources and funds, Salim has been making films since decades. A huge fan of Bollywood actors Dharmendra and Manoj Kumar, Salim started by making lip sync videos by singing to the famous Indian songs. Today, his movies are seen by people across the sides of Taliban and Police.

This film is an ode to film makers, a love letter for people who are so wildly passionate for cinema that they can do nothing else with their lives. A retired army general turned filmmaker Salim shows us that passion is all you need for making a movie, rest is and always will be upto the destiny. This film will leave you cheering in the end for Salim’s relentlessl and infectious energy.

– Harsh Desai
(Tweets: @iamharshdesai
Senior Partner, Lowfundwala Productions http://www.lowfundwala.com)

With its premiere at the ongoing Toronto International Film Festival, more good news coming in for Konkona Sensharma’s directorial debut, A Death In The Gunj.

The film will open this year’s MAMI Film Festival which will run from October 20th -27th, 2016. The film’s cast includes Vikrant Massey, Ranvir Shorey, Kalki Koechlin, Gulshan Devaiah, Tillotama Shome, Jim Sarbh, Tanuja Mukherjee, Om Puri and Arya Sharma.

Here’s TIFF’s Cameron Bailey on the film –

ADITGHaving made an indelible impact on Indian cinema with her work in front of the camera, renowned actor Konkona Sensharma (Talvar) makes her debut as a writer-director with this tense family drama.

It’s the late 1970s, and just outside the quiet Indian resort town of McCluskiegunj, a family gathers in their country home and prepares to ring in the new year with old friends. On the periphery of the family’s focus hovers the young man Shutu (Vikrant Massey), an innocent attempting to navigate a world that’s unkind to his sensitive nature.

Shutu would rather spend time with his friend’s young daughter than engage with the adults, but he is eventually drawn into the messy realm of mature emotions and desires. Relationships in these close quarters begin to simmer and strain, and Shutu struggles to define his masculinity and sense of self — even as the atmosphere becomes suffused with lust and mystery.

Sensharma was a star of Indian Parallel Cinema, the movement made famous by the likes of Satyajit Ray and Mrinal Sen, and her directorial approach shares a realist sensibility with the work of those directors. Shot on location in Jharkhand State, the film is deeply steeped in a sense of place; Sensharma’s camera captures the natural beauty of the family home’s surroundings as she patiently lets her Chekhovian story build to its dramatic and tragic conclusion.

——

For more stills and trailer of the film, click here.

The early buzz from TIFF is great so far. This review calls it an assured debut. Journalist and film programmer Aseem Chhabra is also quite impressed by the film. See his tweets.

We can’t wait to catch it at MAMI.

Kanu Bahli’s Titli premiered at Cannes Film Festival in Un Certain Regard section. Here’s all the buzz from the Cannes.

(click on any pic to start the slide show)

An enjoyable, character-driven Indian yarn about an emotional family of criminals gets better as it goes on…. Behl shows talent directing a largely non-pro cast, situating them carefully in the squalor of their Delhi surroundings. The family’s cramped apartment is the theater of many domestic dramas but also symbolizes the close ties that bind everyone together, like the humorous intimacy of their noisy tooth-brushing.

All the technical work is top quality. Namrata Rao’s editing keeps the rhythm flowing, while sound effects and music (uncredited) are used to great effect to pump up the mood.

– From The Hollywood Reporter. Full review is here.

To Behl’s credit, as wretched, repulsive and disgusting as his characters often are, it’s impossible to ignore them, because there is a spark of human grace even in the least appealing ones. His cast, mostly consisting of inexperienced actors, instill lots of fiery passion  in their respective roles, with a couple of remarkably intense scenes between Arora and Raghuvanshi standing out among others.

– From Screen Daily review, it’s here.

– Screen Daily interview is here.

– Film critic Anupama Chopra tweeted about it

– A Variety feature on “Titli’s challenges” is here.

– To know more about the film (synopsis, cast, crew, poster, trailer), click here.

(pics from various sources)

Roger EbertTalking about Roger Ebert, or Ebert saab, as i like to call him, you wonder where to start. It’s quite a daunting task. In the last few years whenever i have read anything written by him, i have always wondered only one thing – how much he writes? No, really – HOW MUCH HE WRITES? He doesn’t eat, drink, or speak, but he keeps on writing – reviews, blogs, books, tweets. No wonder he has left behind such a huge legacy for cinema lovers. Google him and you will get to read so many great articles about him. Search on youtube and there’s so much to watch – him, his shows, interviews, appearances.

With twitter, a different kind of fun began. He never replied to me but you could tag him, tweet to him and troll him. Many times people told me to that look at the old man, how can you troll him? But I always looked at it him in a different way. Why should we have “old-man-who-cant-eat-cant-drink-cant-talk-bechara” attitude towards him? Let’s look at him “normally”. The way we behave with anyone else whom we respect. Am sure he didn’t mind because he also behaved in a similar way – to make it look all normal. Like us, he would happily keep on trolling Mitt Roney non-stop for many days. Once he even tweeted a link to the piece which blamed him for killing film criticism. Like his “your movie sucks” posts, his tweets were fun and snarky. And sometimes controversial too. Aha, he was just like us. At least on twitter. Oh, and like us he pissed off many people too. Remember this post?

I don’t exactly remember when and how i started following his reviews but it’s surely been many many years ago. Though ironical that this blog is named after one of the movies that he never liked. And he kept defending his stand many years later too. I often wondered why, and trolled him every time he wrote or mentioned something about Fight club. A great movie is worth a good fight, right? At least a twitter fight.

Over the years i realised that when he wrote about his life, or life in general, that’s where you could see the real magic in his writing. Things that you have observed, experienced, but could never articulate in words, he did that with much ease and in simple words. And maybe that’s why his reviews had the rare quality of “empathy”. Someone who could sense something so profound in mundane things, how could he not sense that in cinema. “Perceptive” could easily be his middle name.

I also noticed that he always kept the best lines for his last para. Sometimes the review would read like a fairly simple one – the plot, what’s good, what’s bad, and then he would sum it up with a statement that will keep you hooked. You keep on going back to those lines in every discussion about that film. Something that other reviewers rarely managed. It’s like putting a human face to the review. And then sitting close to him, holding his pulse like a good doctor, looking into his eyes, and telling him that let the world misunderstand you, i got you. So am going to quote some of his last lines/para from some of my recent favourite films which have stayed with me for a long time. All because of that humanist touch.

As a friend struggles to come to terms with his abrupt separation and tries to find a reason to justify it, the last two lines of Blue Valentine review never sounded so true.

I wonder what kind of script conferences Cianfrance had with his co-writers, Joey Curtis and Cami Delavigne. They were writing about something ineffable, a void, a need. This wasn’t a story with convenient hooks involving things like, you know, disease — things stories are familiar with. It was about inner defeat and the exhaustion of hope. I’ve read reviews saying Cianfrance isn’t clear about what went wrong as they got from there to here. Is anybody?

From We Need To Talk About Kevin

Eva often looks like she’s in a state of shock. Her body can’t absorb more punishment. She is the wrong person in the wrong life with the wrong child. Is her husband as zoned out as he seems or is that only her perception? As a portrait of a deteriorating state of mind, “We Need to Talk About Kevin” is a masterful film. Swinton told me of a line in the script that wasn’t used, wisely, I believe. After you see the film, think about it. She asks Kevin why he didn’t kill her. His reply: “You don’t want to kill your audience.”

The pure epic last line from Jero Dreams Of Sushi review

Standing behind his counter, Jiro notices things. Some customers are left-handed, some right-handed. That helps determine where they are seated at his counter. As he serves a perfect piece of sushi, he observes it being eaten. He knows the history of that piece of seafood. He knows his staff has re??cently started massaging an octopus for 45 minutes and not half an hour, for example. Does he search a customer’s eyes for a signal that this change has been an improvement? Half an hour of massage was good enough to win three Michelin stars. You realize the tragedy of Jiro Ono’s life is that there are not, and will never be, four stars.

And that simple and profound statement for Herzog in “Into The Abyss” review

Opposition to the death penalty, in part, comes down to this: No one deserves to be assigned the task of executing another person. I think that’s what Captain Allen is saying. Herzog may agree, although he doesn’t say so. In some of his films he freely shares his philosophy and insights. In this film, he simply looks. He always seems to know where to look.

From   Drive review

An actor who can fall in love with a love doll and make us believe it, as he did in “Lars and the Real Girl” (2007), can achieve just about anything. “Drive” looks like one kind of movie in the ads, and it is that kind of movie. It is also a rebuke to most of the movies it looks like.

From Inception review

The movies often seem to come from the recycling bin these days: Sequels, remakes, franchises. “Inception” does a difficult thing. It is wholly original, cut from new cloth, and yet structured with action movie basics so it feels like it makes more sense than (quite possibly) it does. I thought there was a hole in “Memento:” How does a man with short-term memory loss remember he has short-term memory loss? Maybe there’s a hole in “Inception” too, but I can’t find it. Christopher Nolan reinvented “Batman.” This time he isn’t reinventing anything. Yet few directors will attempt to recycle “Inception.” I think when Nolan left the labyrinth, he threw away the map.

From Revolutionary Road

The direction is by Sam Mendes, who dissected suburban desperation in “American Beauty,” a film that after this one seems merciful. The screenplay by Justin Haythe is drawn from the famous 1961 novel by Richard Yates, who has been called the voice of the postwar Age of Anxiety. This film is so good it is devastating. A lot of people believe their parents didn’t understand them. What if they didn’t understand themselves?

From Man Push Cart review

Bahrani was inspired by “The Myth of Sisyphus,” by Albert Camus, the story of a man who spends his life pushing a rock up a hill, only to see it roll down again, and only push it back up again. Well, what else can he do? “Man Push Cart” is not an indictment of the American economy or some kind of political allegory. It is about what it is about. I think the message may be that it is better, after all, to push the cart than to face a life without purpose at the bottom of the hill.

From About Schmidt review

“About Schmidt” is billed as a comedy. It is funny to the degree that Nicholson is funny playing Schmidt, and funny in terms of some of his adventures, but at bottom it is tragic. In a mobile home camp, Schmidt is told by a woman who hardly knows him, “I see inside of you a sad man.” Most teenagers will probably not be drawn to this movie, but they should attend. Let it be a lesson to them. If they define their lives only in terms of a good job, a good paycheck and a comfortable suburban existence, they could end up like Schmidt, dead in the water. They should start paying attention to that crazy English teacher.

From The Savages

“The Savages” confronts a day that may come in all of our lives. Two days, actually, the first when we are younger, the second when we are older. “The Ballad of Narayama,” a great Japanese film, is about a community that decides when a person has outlived any usefulness and leaves that person on the mountain to die. It seems cruel, but even the dying seem to think it appropriate. Better that, after being healthy and strong once, than to be reduced to writing on walls with excrement.

Lars And The Real Girl

How this all finally works out is deeply satisfying. Only after the movie is over do you realize what a balancing act it was, what risks it took, what rewards it contains. A character says at one point that she has grown to like Bianca. So, heaven help us, have we.

 If we can feel that way about a new car, why not about a lonely man’s way to escape from sitting alone in the dark?

The Squid and the Whale review

These kids will be okay. Someday Bernard and Joan will be old and will delight in their grandchildren, who will no doubt be miserable about the flaws and transgressions of Walt and Frank, and then create great achievements and angry children of their own. All I know is, it is better to be the whale than the squid. Whales inspire major novels.

There are many such other reviews with some great lines. These were just few of those which were on top of my mind. If you got a favourite one, do post it in the comments section.

And talking about last few lines, let me end this post with last lines from his essay on Death which he wrote for Salon. He surely knew it all – life, cinema, and his death too. It’s eerie. You can read the entire piece here.

Someday I will no longer call out, and there will be no heartbeat. I will be dead. What happens then? From my point of view, nothing. Absolutely nothing. All the same, as I wrote to Monica Eng, whom I have known since she was six, “You’d better cry at my memorial service.” I correspond with a dear friend, the wise and gentle Australian director Paul Cox. Our subject sometimes turns to death. In 2010 he came very close to dying before receiving a liver transplant. In 1988 he made a documentary named “Vincent: The Life and Death of Vincent van Gogh.” Paul wrote me that in his Arles days, van Gogh called himself “a simple worshiper of the external Buddha.” Paul told me that in those days, Vincent wrote:

Looking at the stars always makes me dream, as simply as I dream over the black dots representing towns and villages on a map.

Why, I ask myself, shouldn’t the shining dots of the sky be as accessible as the black dots on the map of France?

Just as we take a train to get to Tarascon or Rouen, we take death to reach a star. We cannot get to a star while we are alive any more than we can take the train when we are dead. So to me it seems possible that cholera, tuberculosis and cancer are the celestial means of locomotion. Just as steamboats, buses and railways are the terrestrial means.

To die quietly of old age would be to go there on foot.

That is a lovely thing to read, and a relief to find I will probably take the celestial locomotive. Or, as his little dog, Milou, says whenever Tintin proposes a journey, “Not by foot, I hope!”

@CilemaSnob

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

Vasan Bala’s debut feature Peddlers premiered at the ongoing Cannes Film Festival in the International Critics’ Week section. This post is to track all the buzz from the Cannes – pics, videos, interviews, reviews and more.

PICS

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Latest REVIEWS

– An early review in French is here. Rated it 3.5/5 and to sum it up – I think this is a young director who can go very far if he continues this way.  (Thanks to Google Translate)

– Bikas Mishra of DearCinema.com has reviewed the film here. Bikas is also on the Critics Week jury this year. To quote the last line few lines, Sidharth Diwan’s restless camera adds amply in capturing the life in the megapolis. Prerna Saigal’s editing is worthy of a special mention.

Vasan Bala’s Peddlers marks a very promising debut. I would be looking forward to his next.

– Another French review is here. To quote from the review, Bombay shines here in all its ambiguous charms , angles sometimes hard, dry, and always flattering that one has rarely seen. ( Again, via Google Translate).

– The Hollywood Reporter’s review is here.

– Film critic Christain Jungen tweeted his rating 3.5 stars. And calls it an atmospheric gangster movie from Mumbai, half Hollywood halfway Bollywood.

– Saibal Chatterjee reviews the film for The Sunday Indian. Click here. To quote from the review, Vasan Bala is clearly a talent to watch. The way he handles the characters, paces the narrative, uses music and creates the dark and disturbing backdrop against which the film plays out reflect the kind of grasp that augurs well.

The deft touches that he brings to the table lift Peddlers well above the level of run-of-the-mill gangster flicks. It isn’t, to begin with, a gangster flick at all.

– Another French review is here. This one is mixed.

UPDATE – 23/05/2012

– New French review which rated it 15/20 and to quote, That said, the director shows a sense of rhythm and creativity in the staging that might interest the Jury of the Camera d’Or. Peddlers is an Indian film that has nothing in Bollywood and is the work of a director in search of gallons, but already talented.

– To quote another review, Peddlers is located in-between a relative novelty in Indian cinema, somewhere between the sweet and colorful to a Bollywood film and the roughness of a gangster movie. Efficiency is “quasi American,” but the exceptional photography and the use of music we bring in a definitely Indian.

Latest NEWS/FEATURES

– The Hollywood Reporter interview is here – on How ‘Peddlers’ Reflects the Indie Spirit (Q&A).

– In Variety’s Spotlight on India cinema. Click here.

– VIDEO – Excerpt from Rajeev Masand’s interview for CNN IBN. Click here.

– Another interview is here.

– Another report in Hollywood Reporter – Indian cinema moves beyond bollywood.

We will keep updating this post as more reviews and features come out.

Click the play button to see the video of the screening and presentation.

Pics Courtesy – Siddarth Diwan (Film’s DoP), TheLostFilmCritic, Rajeev Masand

It started as a twitter discussion. As always, we were accusing Anurag Kashyap of following the mantra “It’s All About Loving Your Friends (and their films)”. Later on, we found out that AK had told Imtiaz Ali, yeh film aapse kahin zyada mujhe samajh me aaye hai. Or something like that. Well, now how do you react.  Since i don’t have a memory chip inside me, the quotes here are not verbatim. Have tried to present the essence of the thought.

Back to AK. As AK was continuously defending Rockstar, and even claimed that there have been more than 10 Rockstar-converts so far. Those who didn’t like it the first time or had problems with it, went again, and they liked it much more the second time. AK told Jahan to go and watch it again, the second time, and he will pay for the ticket. I asked for one extra. AK offered 8 extra tickets so that 10 more people who had issues with it, or hated it when they saw it the first time, can go and watch it again. It was FCFS and all the tickets were gone in seconds. Well, i think i was the only one who liked it a lot when i saw it the first time. I could understand all the criticism for the film but it was Ranbir and Rahman who made me buy it completely.

Kashyap sent the tickets in next one hour and offered more – Imtiaz Ali will also be there after the film to take on every kind of question/criticism. Word spread fast and more people wanted to join in for the post-screening discussion. I was skeptical. It’s 9:30pm show. By the time it will get over and we will come out of the screening, it will be 1pm. Raat ke 1 baje? Yaar dost toh theek hai, anjan logon ka kya? If Imtiaz doesn’t turn up, am not going to offer my ass to them. I blamed it all on Kashyap. Yes, AK has promised that Imtiaz will be there.

Film got over. I came running out because the show was running late. Imtiaz Ali was there. As promised, Kashyap delivered. And what’s more, got some rolls and biryani too. I thought there will be 10-15 of us. We sat down on the stairs outside Cinemax. And soon there were about 30-40 cinema lovers who sat there for the next three hours discussing Rockstar, its structure, music, dubbing, casting, love, guilt, and life in general.

So 3hour long discussion in one post? And we didn’t record anything. Let me try. Will just go on typing as it comes to my mind. Try if you can make out any sense from this rambling.

AK started the discussion by saying that we will discuss Nargis Fakhri for the first 20mins. We can discuss everything else later on. Priority.

IA : It was difficult to find a girl who could look the part and do the talking too. Also, whatever you do with Ranbir, it’s difficult to play him down. So it became more difficult to find someone who could match upto him. When Nargis joined the set, one of my ADs felt the same that you guys are talking about it. But slowly it worked out. I feel that it will happen the same with Nargis.

AK – Do you know how was Waheeda Rahman described in her debut film? Believe it or not, as a maid.

But, really? A new face who could deliver the lines?

IA – It’s difficult to explain here, not sure how to do it but in a romantic film you are always looking for that soul connect. For that magic to happen and come out on screen. I felt it did happen with Nargis.

Navjot pointed out about her voice which is dubbed and other female actors who played the role of Nargis’ relatives.

IA – We tried it with three dubbing artists. It just wasn’t working. Mona dubs for most heroines and i wanted to try someone new. But nothing worked and when Mona did, i thought it was working. So went back to her.

About casting of other female characters, he just smiled and ran his fingers through his hair locks.

i was dying to ask him about his cinema template of ‘Cool and confused lovers will travel a (physical) distance to realise their true love’ which i wrote about it here. Does he realise it when he is writing?

He smiled and said, it’s my shortcoming. I just don’t realise it at all. Never do. May be it happens sub-consciously but it ends up like that.

So how did Rockstar started?

IA: Muazzam, who was with Whistling Woods, i was trying to help him for his film. And he had a story where the character feels that dil tootene pe hi sangeet banegi, i really liked it. Asked him i can take it forward and write it. He said, since nothing is happening, i can go ahead. Then he came back and said he is making it. So i abandoned it. Then again it went to and fro for few years and nothing happened till i decided to make it. The earlier version was quite bad and different from this one. ( IA wanted John Abraham for the film then).

And the narrative structure? why so?

IA : It was written  like it. Two reasons. I felt this character is a star, so it would be good to have some kind of mystery around him, take him away from others, what happens to him, when it happens, how it happens, the narrative style gave me that choice to play around him, take him away, add mystery, distance to him. So you will say that it’s used more in the portions when he is becoming or has become Rockstar. Also, i tried reading it straight. It was becoming boring, monotonous. I thought let’s go with it. So all the scenes were written like it. And at many places it was economical thing to do. Like the sequence where Heer is introduced, boys are talking about her, following her, she is still performing on stage. The sequence is inter-cut with scenes where they are falling for her.

Her death? It seems very simplistic solution to do it.

IA : (thinks for sometime) It was always written like that. Always. Not sure how. Also because it was Heer-Ranja story in a way. So it went in the same flow.

Prague? What’s this fascination to go out and get the firangis to dance on desi music?

IA : i travel a lot and lot for musical stuff. In many of the European countries that i have been to, i have met many musicians who have very distinct Indian roots. That gypsie musicians who have roots here. Also, when he goes there, he is making music with them. Its their music also, their vocals too, he is picking up the music and creating his own sound. It never seemed out of place to me.

Through out the discussion, it was difficult to control Kashyap and Ali’s fanboy Navjot who were too eager to share their versions of all the answers. Kashyap explained how he has been to so many concerts outside India where he was the only member in the audience who was sleeping through out and there were foreigners who were completely into it. With music it happens. I nodded my head, been to one such Himesh Reshammiya concert in London. Oh, occupational hazard. But those were mostly NRIs.

But it’s easily one of Rahman’s best album.

IA – You guys can’t believe how embarrassed I was doing the recording. It was only Rahman in the studio and I was sitting behind him and Mohit Chauhan was in the booth. I suddenly get up, put the mic on and tell Mohit that saar, aap note ko hit nahi kar rahe ho. Yeh ho nahi raha and blah blah. And then as I come back to my seat, I realise that Rahman saab was sitting there, but he just doesn’t say anything. He asks, Mohit, ready? And we record again. Just like an operator. And i was so embarrassed, i could not believe what i was doing. It’s Rahman. And i am telling the singer what to do. And i did it again, i just could not believe. Rahman is in a different space. It’s always ‘inclusive music’ for him. He will take everyone together and move ahead. Unko chor diya toh dham se giroge, kahan giroge iska koi bharosa nahi. But if it happens with you and you know what you want, he is just magcial.

Kashyap also spoke a lot about his experience of working with Rahman. The absolutely no fuss guy and blah blah.

IA : i was just playing the 40min long version of Kun Faaya Kun and other songs where Rahman is just jamming, it takes you to a different state of trance. i was playing it at home and everyone was so into it.

WAIT! What? 40min version of Kun Faaya Kun? Please please please, is it possible to release it somewhere.

Imtiaz said he will talk to Rahman about it and will try his best to release it. Rahman fans, spread the good word and let’s try to get it out.

One issue lot of people had was with the character – the Rockstar. He doesn’t smoke, no drinks, no drugs, all clean. That’s not what Rockstars do, right? I am sure you must have thought about it and it’s the easiest thing to do.

IA : Many musicians whom i have seen from close quarters over the years, i have realised that the daaru-drug is not the reason. The intoxication part is not the substance, it’s the music, it’s the mood, it’s the state of being. That just becomes a good and easy way. So it was deliberate attempt to avoid it. To look at it from a different angle.

So love is his drug.

And everything else. That’s the only thing he has.

As beautifully written in this piece on Rockstar. May be the best piece. Not very long ago when the first trailer of Rockstar came out and as always, we, the ever curious souls were debating what to expect from the film, Kashyap sent a direct message on twitter saying that it’s this generation’s Pyaasa. As always, i took Kashyap’s words with a pinch  bowl of salt. But when i saw the film i realised what he meant. It’s mere samne se hata lo yeh duniyatumhari hai tum hi sambhalo yeh duniya….yeh duniya agar mil bhi jaaye toh kya hai. But then, its already too late, you can do too little. As Jordan says in one of the scenes, mujhe nahi banna bada. aur kuch nahi hai mere paas. He doesn’t fit into the family, in their space or their profession. His friends don’t fit into his space anymore. He is just a label for them, a brand, a photograph to show off. Aha, lets get back to Imtiaz.

And his rage. Media? No issues. No politics.

He is a singer from Pitampura. He has no politics. He has no issues. Ganwar hai woh character. Music hi hai jo hai. But slowly he is losing it all. No emotional support. Family gone. Girl gone. Music not happening. He is breaking down. Sukoon nahi hai ab. Keeda hai andar. Woh kuch nahi samjhta hai jo uske aas-paas kya ho raha hai. Woh sab incidental hai.

And Tibet. ( Pls note i don’t remember the exact words. Whatever i can remember, trying to put it together. So kripya in quotes ki baal ki khaal na nikale.)

IA said that like many of us, he also belong to Mcleodganj Lovers Club. He is aware about the Tibet issue, the different viewpoints within the group, who is asking for what, their student politics, how it is related to Delhi politics.

IA : But when i went to Censor Board, i got to know the exact official stand of the Indian Government. So when they told me, i thought if we blur it, i had no clue that it will become such an issue. Because people didn’t notice there are bigger issues in that montage. There are Kashmiris there and some more people. I wanted to make it a bigger montage with others too as if the sadda haq song becomes an anthem for every kind of right that people are asking for. Also, there are Tibetan flags all over, people in the song. And i felt that it’s not related to the character directly, he is not endorsing anything, its the song that’s been used by everyone. Never realised it will turn into such. May be, if i hadn’t blurred it, nothing would have happened. But i have been getting so many messages from Tibet associations that they are happy to see it there. It conveys what’s there.

The other call which i was skeptical about was of bastardizing Shammi Kapoor’s memories. I was feeling very odd about it. Because when we started our promotions, during that time he died. I was so worried that we would be accused of using him. But thankfully that didn’t happen.

And the end. Not to endorse the sad ending, commercial compulsion.

IA : It was never any commercial compulsion, not at all. I felt that when she is gone, for him, he would like to have those memories.

But it would have been great if there was no happy montage when the credit roll starts. We could have come out of the theatre with that feeling of “incompleteness”, as described by Kashyap.

IA : May be, but that’s the way i felt. It’s their field now. Away from anything.

But i love those visuals when they are dancing madly with those bright back lights.

And what else?

Aha, there was more. Have put everything i could remember. Those of you who were there, please keep on adding in the comments section.

So after watching it twice, i feel that Rockstar’s biggest problem is it’s title. Because that sets up expectations of a different kind. In one of the script labs that i attended, remember Sriram Raghavan talking about the title of the film. That’s the first pitch where you sell the film to the audience. Creativity is a different beast but when the film is going to the audience, every small step matters. So this Rockstar is unlike others. Forget drinking and drugs, he doesn’t even go for sex when offered on a platter. Remember the scene with Aditi Rao. This Rockstar knows only love.

After watching the film, a friend wrote on his FB wall, Imtiaz bhai, aur bhi gham hai zamane me mohabbat ke siwa. But, i guess, Imtiaz would say, par us aashiq ka gham toh sirf mohabbat hi tha.

(PS – Those of you who are thinking that Kashyap could bribe us with movie tickets, discussion session with Imtiaz, rolls and biryani, well, don’t make us and our cinema look so cheap. You can try with us next time. And who better than a movie buff like Kashyap to understand it. Plus, this is not the first time that Kashyap has done something like this. He has done bigger and better things, and not only for us, just for one reason – cinema. We just don’t shout out from rooftop every time. And am sure this will not be the last time even though we love or hate his films 😉 For some of you, it might be a completely impossible thing to understand. But then, as someone said, the only difference between life and cinema is that in cinema everything has to make sense, and in life, it doesn’t. )

(PS1 : This post is not to justify anything. Not to try to convert you. It either works for you or it doesn’t. And every stand is fine. We wanted a dialogue, an open discussion to hear the filmmaker and there are hardly few filmmakers who are open to criticism. And even lesser number of those whom we would love to hear. So, thanks to Imtiaz Ali and Anurag Kashyap.)

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Pics : Sumit Purohit.