Posts Tagged ‘Under the Skin’

The brief was the same this year. A mail was sent to the usual cinema comrades who write, contribute, and help in running this blog. Pick a film (released/unreleased/long/short/docu/anything) that stood out and has stayed with you, whatever is the reason. Since the idea was that we cover maximum films, so no two people were allowed to write on the same film. And nobody was told who was writing on which film. So here is the final list:

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shripriya mahesh on Love Is Strange

Love Is Strange is a quiet, contemplative, almost observational movie that follows two older gay men, Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina). After finally getting married, they are then forced to live apart when George loses his job. We follow their separate lives as they adjust to not being together and to imposing on those who host them. The awkwardness of small talk with family he doesn’t know well, the feeling of constantly being underfoot, the profound sadness at being separated from someone he’s spent his life with are all portrayed exquisitely by John Lithgow. The loneliness and dependency of old age are captured so perfectly that months after seeing the movie, I find myself thinking about Lithgow sitting alone in the kitchen or painting on the roof. The little moments stay with you and make this a special, intimate film.

shubhodeep pal on Drevo (The Tree)

I wrote about the Slovenian film Drevo (The Tree) almost three months ago when I watched it at the Mumbai Film Festival. A month later, by a curious turn of fate, I found myself in Slovenia. At the main train station in Ljubljana — where trains themselves look like art installations — I chanced upon exactly what I was looking for: a poster of Drevo, in its homeland. In Ljubljana, which has forever embedded itself as a colour in my memory — grey — I explored the scantily populated streets in the early hours of the morning and thought about Drevo, a film that has refused to leave me since I saw it first. Juxtaposed with the chilling backdrop of the movie — about a peculiar sort of honour killing in the Balkans — the Slovenia I saw felt harmless, almost inert. But this curious contradiction left me with two realisations: first, the power of imagination, which transcends reality despite all odds, lends colour to the most drab surroundings — as indeed it does to the child trapped inside his house, going endlessly around the courtyard on his bicycle, and imagining the world outside, out of his reach seemingly for ever. Second, the nature of reality itself is twisted: accidents become murders; a place of beauty houses ugliness; seemingly innocuous places house terrors. The films I watch inevitably take on a life of their own, outside the screen, moving me in inexplicable ways. For Drevo, this has never been truer.

shazia iqbal on Boyhood

After a dramatic scene where the mother (played by Patricia Arquette) walks out on her abusive alcoholic second husband, she tries to pacify her daughter’s tantrums and breaks down, we see a poster outside her son, Mason’s new classroom that says ‘You are responsible for your own actions’. Richard Linklater is the most remarkable filmmaker of our times who has cracked certain philosophical conundrums of life like most of the humanity hasn’t and makes stories to make sense of the same.

In a family where children are treated as adults, the boy (Ellar Coltrane) in Boyhood silently observes the intimate ‘in-betweens’ of life, post his parent’s separation, where the only constant is changing families, friends and houses. Linklater’s response is not anger, aggression and rebelling, typical of a quintessential coming-of-age story. He almost seems unaffected, unsure by wherever life puts him, and reasons it with confused curiosity only to conclude that growing old doesn’t mean having all the answers. Even during the most disturbing moments, the drama happens in a character’s head than outside of them. Which is why Boyhood, devoid of all sentimentality and melodrama is a path-breaking reflective piece of cinema, and to paraphrase the final line in the movie, it seizes you in its various moments. These moments stay with us accompanied by a daunting silence specially at the point where the mother breaks down saying ‘I just thought there would be more…’, which becomes the culmination of our collective expectations from life.

mihir fadnavis on Cheap Thrills

What if you found a guy in a bar who offers you ridiculous amounts of money to indulge in the most bizarre challenges? How far towards depravity would you go when the chips are down? Do you really care about right and wrong when defecating in your neighbors house gives you one thousand dollars? Debutant director EL Katz’s answers all your sickening queries in Cheap Thrills, a pitch black, hilarious, and audacious horror comedy that transcends the torture porn genre. As the crackpot version of Who Dares Wins unfolds on the screen Katz offers you a huge dose of guilty pleasure, and surprisingly, an even larger helping of social commentary, which sends over Cheap Thrills to this particular ‘best of 2014’ movie list. Katz also happened to direct the best segment of The ABCs of Death– couple that with Cheap Thrills and you’ve got a very interesting young filmmaker on your radar.

rahul desai on Mommy

Forget that director Xavier Dolan is 25 years old. Forget that this is his fifth full-length feature film. Forget that he is known as L’enfant Terrible in Quebec–where he has grown up, and perhaps the town that has made his films such throbbing, breathing, evocative chunks of heart.

Mommy is his finest; a wretched, energetic snapshot of time. It is about a single mother struggling to bring up her ADHD-afflicted 15-year old son, with the help of an enigmatic, stuttering woman next door. Somehow, somewhere, this is a rousing film; brutally honest escapism, grounded and battered into frames of all-consuming chaos.

Three souls combine to give us something more than just mere performances; they blend into their surroundings and suck us into their vortex of desperate love. None of them are quite in sync with society. They’re not ideal mothers, sons and neighbours. They’re misfits, but unapologetic and glorious. So uncomfortable, yet beautiful to watch. The cheesy pop collection chosen as an audacious score surprises with intent, and album-izes their lives in phases.The result of messing around with something as taken-for-granted as a screen aspect-ratio is not always pleasant, but Dolan gives us the cinematic moment of the year when it happens.

Mommy is best symbolized by this fervid Ludovico Einaudi piece, which incidentally amounts to the most exhilarating time-lapse imagery captured on film. Not because of how it looks or sounds, but because of where it appears, and because of where we hope it will take us.
Because it gives us light, and messes with our jittery minds, and because we don’t want to discover what happens next.

varun grover on The Wind Rises

Didn’t see many films this year and I can feel the emptiness in my heart. Among the ones I saw Dedh Ishqiya, Haider, Abhay Kumar’s docu Placebo (due in 2015), Avinash Arun’s Killa (due in 2015), and Nisha Pahuja’s The World Before Her were the most powerful and delightful. But the film that churned the cold corners of my existence and turned them into soft, frothy Malaiyyo was Boss Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises. An animated feature unlike any other I’ve seen (quite unlike earlier Miyazaki films too) – a period love story in the backdrop of early days of aviation industry in Japan. I can watch it again just for the stunning colors of sky in various frames, and once again just for the various sources of light shown and used. And then there is this flight of crazy fancy by Miyazaki in his last film. The film has the feel of a farewell letter – lots of meta references to Miyazaki’s own career and ambitions – and that makes it all the more poignant. Magical, and I mean it when I use the word, in every sense.

manish gaekwad on Under The Skin

The other night, watching Under The Skin, I was reminded of what Kiarostami had once said about the kinds of films he likes watching. “I prefer the films that put their audience to sleep in the theater. I think those films are kind enough to allow you a nice nap and not leave you disturbed when you leave the theater. Some films have made me doze off in the theater, but the same films have made me stay up at night, wake up thinking about them in the morning, and keep on thinking about them for weeks.” A little bit of that rubbed on us when i watched the film with a few friends.

Our senses were so dulled by what was happening in the film, that between switching it off, to leaning forward and peering at the screen, only sleep could have rescued us. But we kept staring, unblinking, intrigued by the mysterious nature of the film, discussing if this was any different than Veerana, where a pale white woman, lures men into her lair. IMDB pretty much sums it as, ‘A demonic woman uses her seductive charm to prey on unsuspecting men,’ and this could be said for Under The Skin.

While Veerana was obviously titillating giallo, Under The Skin is simply hypnotic; from the striking images to the creepy Ramsay upgrade background score. That divide between what is crass, and what is art comes here, when days after viewing, the images and sounds of UTS recur and crawl under my skin. What separates these two films is also what unites them in memory – if it is unforgettably etched, difficult to erase, then that’s what Kiarostami is getting at. Oh and he also made a film where all the action is inside a car with a woman driver talking to various people, quite like Scar Jo in Under The Skin. Ah, almost.

kushan nandy on Interstellar

Writing about a Nolan film is monumental. What can you write about a film directed by a man who is the greatest illusionist of all? The Alfred Borden of Cinema.

The standout moment of the film is when Cooper watches his teenage daughter suddenly turn as old as him. Stationed in the darkness of a spaceship, millions of miles away, he watches time slip out.

I felt like Cooper, sitting in the darkness of the theatre, watching time slip out. Remembering
the moments of life I skipped in an attempt to survive life itself. I wanted to savour and appreciate the remaining moments of life just like Cooper did.

It made me pause. It took me beyond Cinema.

Kubrick must be watching from up there. Proud.

sukanya verma on Aankhon Dekhi

When a 50-something family man of limited means and unfinished responsibilities decides to go the distance between method and madness, real and surreal, thought and practicality, there will be repercussions. To question the natural order of things, to argue, to protest is one thing but to make it a way of life is another.

Rarely does a Hindi film probe into its protagonist’s soul as nimbly as Rajat Kapoor’s brilliant Ankhon Dekhi. Told with tremendous thought and texture, Ankhon Dekhi’s parable-like profundity unfolds through Bauji’s unique metamorphosis (conveyed in Sanjay Mishra’s extraordinarily perceptive performance) following his resolve to believe only what he sees or experiences.

If one aspect of Ankhon Dekhi’s episodic narrative is concerned with the different stages of his idiosyncratic obsession and its impact on his big family, the other draws us into the authentic sights and sounds of his hectic, populated space in Old Delhi– rickety roofs, yellowed walls, poor plumbing, crumpled sheets as well as the multihued personalities of his claustrophobic neighbourhood among whom he eventually garners a spontaneous, unsought following.

Where many would solely focus on his quirk to generate ridicule and humour, Kapoor, even when proffering moments of ingenious wit (“Male menopause”) treats him with fascination and fragility. Bauji’s existential crisis may cause embarrassment to his supportive wife, darling daughter and reserved younger brother but he’s much too well meaning and mild-mannered to take offence. Even if they don’t understand his motivations, they never cease to care.

Absorbing, whimsical, intimate, awe-inspiring and evocative, Ankhon Dekhi doesn’t make claims of knowing better but faithfully documents a determined individual’s journey to seek answers unmindful of what the world dubs him– fool or fearless.

karan anshuman on Pride

Pride may not be the best film I’ve seen this year (that’d probably go to Tamhane’s Court) but it’s definitely the best formula (commercial? mainstream? sellout?) film I’ve seen all year. Having entered the Bollywood fray, these days I’ve newfound respect and appreciation for films that pull off the balancing act with grace.

Pride’s remarkable, still-relevant tale set in Thatcherian UK essays a comic love/hate standoff between exuberant London homosexuals and dour Welsh miners. This is a true, unlikely underdog story with heaps of emotion, humor, social and political insight, and a magnificent feel-good ending: the ultimate recipe for that sense of contentment when you walk out the theater. Pride would make Hirani proud (and is probably the ideal next subject for him) and other filmmakers scramble a search for similar real-life stories.

But for crying out loud, director Matthew Warchus, why didn’t you use U2’s Pride, my all-time favorite song, in the movie?

jahan bakshi on The Grand Budapest Hotel

As one sees more and more films, there’s this dreadful kind of inertia that sets in- and film experiences that arouse genuine joy and excitement rather than cold admiration become increasingly rare. Of late, the one thing I’ve longed for at the movies is for a film to really move and surprise me. With his last film, Wes Anderson managed to do both these things- and as the cliché goes- made me rediscover that elusive magic of the movies.

This one actually warrants that much-abused M-word: The Grand Budapest Hotel is a masterpiece. There is just so much happening in this movie on so many levels, it’s a minor miracle that it never goes off the rails- and major credit for this must go to Ralph Fiennes’ soulful and masterfully comic performance and Anderson’s astonishing control over his material and craft. Together, they make it all look like a piece of cake, quite literally.

An internet commenter put it perfectly: This is a beautiful pastry of a film- with chisels and sharp files baked into it. I expected to be delighted but was startled by the sadness and darkness at its core. Loaded with mirth, melancholy and a streak of the macabre, Grand Budapest Hotel is an ebullient comic caper that ultimately reveals itself as an elegy to an era long gone by (or perhaps one that only exists in the collective imagination of a few- such as Monsieur Gustave H himself). The film’s unexpectedly poignant, tragic ending stabbed me right in the heart- and in the sweetest way possible. Sorry Amazing Amy- this was the real cinematic twist of the year, darling.

PS: I recently realized that the two best films I saw this year: Grand Budapest Hotel and The Square (2013) couldn’t be more different- and yet, they’re both about essentially noble people fighting battles to defend the liberal ideals of human dignity and freedom from the looming dark clouds of fascism. This is Anderson’s most violent and overtly political film- not just as an indictment of modern barbarism, but because it puts forward the argument that maybe prettiness is political. If ‘a thing of beauty is a joy forever’- perhaps it’s also something worth fighting for.

fatema kagalwala on Clownwise

Very recently I was contemplating on the films that stay with me and I realised all of those films have been portraits of life seen through the prism of hope. Maybe that is why I jumped and clutched at Clownwise to write about. A story of a once-superstar trio of clowns now in the dusk of their lives trying to gather its strands, Clownwise made me happy, it had me literally smiling at its sheer joie-de-vivre of not only the world and its people, but of the writing and the making. It is this very vitality of thought and spirit of the world of the film and film itself that has had me charmed. The bittersweet tone of the film effortlessly carries through the dramas and dysfunctionality of the lives of the three men, now in their sixties, seeing them dealing with it all with a head held high and enough gumption to see it through till its logical end. Smart and sensitive at once, large-hearted and laughing at one’s owns pain, a little cheerful, a little sad, a little profound, a little reflective, and a lot of fun – now where do we get films like that often?

aniruddha chatterjee on Anubrata Bhalo Acho?

His wife, her husband, both terminally ill with cancer. All they do is come to the hospital, sit beside their respective spouses and give false hope. Life has become repetitive, mundane. They meet and fall in love. To have a film that deals with people in their 50s, married, yet daring to fall in love to heal themselves from the pain they are in, deserves to be applauded especially in a country obsessed with morality. While watching the film I was worried that the climax will be a cop out. That is where the film scores the most. Brownie points for taking the film where we as viewers will shudder to go. It has been more than two months I have seen the film. Yet, the shocking climax keeps on lingering in the mind.

kartik krishnan on Jigarthanda

A bunch of gangsters are seated somewhere in a banana ‘bhajji’ (pakoda) shop in Madurai, pulling one of the lieutenant’s legs. It’s Tea/Snack time with few goons sipping a quarter whisky in a plastic cup. It’s a setting straight out of Goodfellas with goons chilling out, joking.

The Gangster Boss – ‘Assault Sethu’ casually takes one last jibe at his lieutenant, spits out the tasteless bajji, orders the shop owner to put more masala and walks ahead. Does small talk with the dosa making chef and walks outside into the rain with a steel plate as cover on his head, behind the shady single screen theatre which, true to the nature of the film, has a Kamal-Rajni poster somewhere in the background.

Sethu walks ahead to the sarvajanik shauchalay where a cleaner does dua-slaam and ingratiatingly asks for some baksheesh, directing him to the 1st loo which he has cleaned just now, for his use of course. That is the power of a gangster. And that is all what a poor toilet cleaner can offer as obeisance to him.

Sethu replies cheekily – You should be the one paying me to crap in your loo instead.

Sethu walks ahead and is about to enter the designated loo when a Vomiting (presumably) drunkard, who under sober circumstances wouldn’t dare cross his path, dissuades him from entering his ‘territory’. The disgusted gangster moves ahead into another loo and the vomiting drunkard opens the door of the designated loo instead.

BAM ! BAM ! BAM ! BAM!

The door to the loo opens and the poor drunkard is shot to instant death by an Assassin from inside the loo who immediately calls up his Clients – “Hey. Sethu is dead. Hear this” – Bam ! Bam! Bam!.”

More bullets are fired into the dead body as Sethu who has just survived a hit by sheer luck, watches silently. The shirt pant wearing assassin continues on the phone -“Sethu seems to have lost a lot of weight”.

And then Sethu’s goons rush in to see – the cocky assassin boasting his kill – “Come on folks, take away your Boss’s dead body.”

Slowly, the assassin realises that he has killed the wrong man and Sethu is very much alive, standing behind him. He shoots at Sethu but his gun is empty. SHIT!

He is facing certain death and Sethu can kill him any second.

However, Sethu prefers to go and answer nature’s call instead of bludgeoning the assassin to death. Revenge can wait.

This long take sequence is laced with humor, violence, pop culture & unpredictability that is so omnipresent in Karthik Subbaraj’s Jigarthanda – a film which is much more than just a gangster flick. While some might have been disappointed by his debut film Pizza’s ‘cheat’, this one is a must watch. Yes it is long and a genre bending film again, but immensely rewarding.

neeraja sahasrabudhe on Court

न्याय (सामजिक, आर्थिक और राजनीतिक) पहला अधिकार है जिसे हम भारतीयों (“We, the people of India”) ने अपने संविधान के preamble में अपनी आवाम को दिया है। चैतन्य ताम्हणे की फिल्म ‘कोर्ट’ इस अधिकार, इससे जुड़े संस्थाओं व उन संस्थाओं और जनता के बीच के सम्बन्धों को समझने का एक प्रयास है।

कहानी की शुरुआत लोकशाहिर और दलित कार्यकर्ता नारायण कांबळे की गिरफ्तारी से होती है। इलज़ाम यह है की उन्होंने अपने किसी भड़काऊ गीत द्वारा सीवर साफ़ करने वाले कर्मचारियों को आत्महत्या के लिए उकसाया और इससे एक व्यक्ति की मौत को गयी। ये case तो एक बहाना है, हमें कोर्ट के अंदर ले जाने का। इस case के बहाने चैतन्य हमें उस कोर्टरूम के महत्वपूर्ण खिलाड़ियों के जीवन से परिचित करवाते हैं। मध्यम वर्ग की प्रॉसिक्यूशन वकील, नए पैसेवाले तबके के जज और व्यापारी वर्ग में जन्मे डिफेंस वकील। ऐसा करने से एक disconnect उभर कर आता है (जो चेखोव की इस कहानी की याद दिलाता है)। हालांकि डिफेन्स वकील कांबळे साहब के काम के प्रति संवेदनशील है, पर उनके जीवन के तमाम पहलु देख कर यह समझ बनती है कि बड़े सामाजिक बदलाव के लिए संवेदनशीलता या ज़रा सी मदद काफी नहीं है। ऊपर के तबके को जिस तरह के जीवन की आदत पड़ चुकी है उसे चुनौती देनी ही होगी और अगर उसमें ये संवेदनशील लोग साथ नहीं हैं, तो वे सब कुछ कर करा कर भी उसी शासक वर्ग को serve कर रहे हैं जो चाहता है कि आवाज़ें उठें पर उतनी ही जितनी दबाई जा सकें।

कोर्ट में चल रही कभी हास्यास्पद तो कभी झल्ला देने वाली जिरह के बीच एक दूसरी ज़रूरी बात उभर कर आती है। वह यह कि – ये सच है कि ये सरकारी दफ्तर, कचहरी वगैरह bureaucracy से लदे हैं और यहाँ काम करने वाले लोग न्याय की परिकल्पना या न्याय मांगने आई जनता के प्रति बिलकुल असंवेदनशील हैं, लेकिन न्याय न मिलने का असली कारण है कि नारायण कांबळे जैसे लोगों को, जिन्हे शासक वर्ग अपने रास्ते का काँटा समझता है, state न्याय देना ही नहीं चाहता। State चाहता है की वे या तो जेल में रहें या कचहरी के चक्कर काटते रहे। न्यायपालिका एक साधन है लोगों को डरा कर रखने का।

‘कोर्ट’ अभी हमारे समाज में हो रही घटनाओं के द्वारा एक अहम मुद्दा सामने लाता है। ये फिल्म हमें मजबूर करती है उन बातों पर सोचने के लिए जो छुपी हैं और सिर्फ कचहरी के न्याय-अन्याय तक सीमित नहीं हैं।

और अंत में नारायण कांबळे की तरफ से बोलते गोरख पाण्डेय:

हज़ार साल पुराना है उनका गुस्सा
हज़ार साल पुरानी है उनकी नफ़रत
मैं तो सिर्फ़
उनके बिखरे हुए शब्दों को
लय और तुक के साथ लौटा रहा हूँ
मगर तुम्हें डर है कि
आग भड़का रहा हूँ

mihir pandya on Killa

‘किल्ला’ देखना किसी रूठे हुए जिगरी दोस्त से सालों के अन्तराल के बाद मिलने की तरह है। इसमें उदासी भी है, उन बीते सालों की जब वक़्त हाथ से छूटता रहा अौर दोस्त की बेतरह याद अाती रही। इसमें बेचैनी भी है, उस पल को पकड़ लेने की चाहत जिसका सालों इन्तज़ार किया अौर अाज अचानक समयचक्र ने उसे सामने ला खड़ा किया है। इसमें ठहराव भी है, जब दौड़ती ज़िन्दगी में अचानक अासपास की दुनिया की तमाम गतिविधियाँ अापके लिए रुक जाती हैं अौर सब कुछ उसी पल में सिमट अाता है। अौर इन सबके ऊपर इसमें निस्संगता भी है, कि दोस्त के चले जाने से दोस्तियाँ नहीं जाया करतीं। कि वर्तमान से बड़ा कोई सच नहीं अौर वे तमाम स्मृतियाँ अतीत नहीं, दरअसल इसी गतिमान वर्तमान का हिस्सा हैं। हमारा हिस्सा हैं। कि ज़िन्दगी का नाम चलते रहने में है।

लड़कपन की दहलीज़ पर खड़ा चिन्मय (अर्चित देवधर) अपनी माँ के तबादले की वजह से ‘बड़े शहर’ पूना को छोड़ कोंकण के किसी छोटे से कस्बे में अाया है। ‘किल्ला’ की कथा हमें ग्यारह वर्षीय चिन्मय के जीवन संसार के भीतर ले जाती है। इसमें एक अोर है चिन्मय का अपनी कामकाजी माँ (अमृता सुभाष) से रिश्ता जहाँ पिता के असमय चले जाने की ख़ामोश उदासी घुली है, वहीं दूसरी अोर है कस्बे के स्कूल में चिन्मय के नए बने दोस्तों का संसार जहाँ बेपरवाह दिखती दोस्तियों में गहरे छिपी व्यक्तिगत प्रतिस्पर्धाअों अौर रूठने-मनाने के अबोले दायरों के मध्य वह ज़िन्दगी के कुछ सबसे महत्वपूर्ण सबक सीखता है। उमेश विनायक कुलकर्णी की लघु फ़िल्म ‘गिरणी’ अौर उनकी बेहतरीन फीचर फ़िल्म ‘विहीर’ की याद दिलाती अविनाश अरुण द्वारा निर्देशित ‘किल्ला’ मेरे लिए अात्मकथात्मक फ़िल्म है, लेकिन भिन्न क़िस्म से। यहाँ फ़िल्म सिनेमा बनानेवाले की अात्मकथा न होकर देखने वाले की ज़िन्दगी के किसी पीछे छूटे अध्याय का अात्मकथात्मक अंश हो जाती है। जिस कस्बे की यह कथा है, वह प्रतिनिधि है मेरी किशोरवय स्मृति में छूटे कस्बे का। इसे परदे पर देखने वाले हम सब इन्हीं बाहर से उनींदे दिखते लेकिन भीतर से खदबदाते कस्बों, देहातों को छोड़ अाज शहर के मेले में अा पहुँचे हैं। अौर ऐसे में ‘किल्ला’ का यह ‘पुनरागमन’ स्वयं हमारी स्मृतियों की कथा बन जाता है।

‘किल्ला’ जितनी उसकी कथा में है, उससे कहीं ज़्यादा उसकी गतिमान तस्वीरों में है, उसकी ख़ामोश ध्वनियों में है। पावस के महीने में मूसलाधार बरसते बादलों के बीच अविनाश अरुण कोंकण को उसकी अनछुई काया में टटोलते हैं। समन्दर किनारे बसा यह ठहरा हुअा कस्बा बारिशों के बाद जैसे एक नई हरी सघन पोशाक पहनता है। यह समन्दर की लहर के लौटने के बाद रेत के कोरे किनारे पर पहला पैर रखने की तरह है। उन्होंने किरदारों की भीतरी उदासी को परदे पर फ़िल्माने के लिए इंडोर दृश्यों को लट्टू की सघन पीली रौशनी में फ़िल्माया है अौर इस उदास पीले का विलोम वे बरसात, समन्दर अौर अाकाश के अासमानी नीले के साथ अपने अाउटडोर दृश्यों में रचते हैं। पानी स्वयं यहाँ सबसे बड़ा मैटाफर है। पानी ही यहाँ बाँधता है अौर पानी ही यहाँ किरदारों को बंधनों से अाज़ाद कर देता है। किरदारों के मन का बोझ जब पक जाता है तो वे भरी बरसात में छाता ‘भूलकर’ निकल जाते हैं, अौर मुझे चैप्लिन की कही वो बात याद अाती है जिसमें वे बरसात को अपना दोस्त बताते थे जो अाँखों से नमकीन पानी बनकर निकलते दुख को अपने अाँचल में छिपा लेती है। ‘किल्ला’ की कोमलता मुझे भाषा में कविता कहने वाले, सदा मुंह में छालों वाले किसी मितव्ययी स्वभाव पहाड़ी कवि की कविताअों की याद दिलाती है। यह उन फ़िल्मों की सूची में शामिल होगी जिसकी स्मृति को अाप फ़िल्म ख़त्म होने के बाद सिनेमाघर के अंधेरे में छोड़ने की बजाए किसी नवजात ख़रगोश के बच्चे की तरह नज़ाकत के साथ अपने सफ़री झोले में रख साथ घर ले जाना चाहेंगे।

sudhish kamath on The Interview

The stoner bromance that almost started World War III was smarter than most people gave it credit for and truly representative of our times. In fact, The Interview > Newsroom.

The world doesn’t give a shit about anything anymore.

One tweet, it’s mourning innocent kids being shot dead, the next it’s cheering a goal. Or a six. Aircraft lost. Sad face. Next moment. OMG! Eminem’s gay? Did you know McConaughey fucked a goat?

The guys behind Superbad, Pineapple Express or This is the End never intended The Interview to be seen as a symbol of patriotism. The film’s clever enough to take digs at not just American/global media priorities, it also portrays America as the country that is capable of making citizens shove a missile up their own ass (literally) to fuck with another country’s politics.

When the American “heroes” of the film believe they have the required statistics to corner Kim Jong-Un, he simply gives it back to them raising far more uncomfortable questions about the US and sanctions imposed that was driving them to the brink of despair.

Unable to deal with reasoning, the Americans go back to what they are best at.

Because trolling NOT reason, bullying NOT debate, is the only form of supremacy that the world recognizes today. Mediocrity connects with more people than intellectuals or custodians of high art do. No wonder then that the elitists, the critics and all the snooty uptight fuckers hate The Interview. As Skylark says: “They are motherfuckin peanut butter and jealous… They hate us ‘cause they ain’t us… You know what you do to haters? You just smile.” *pops Ecstasy*

sudhish kamath on Birdman

“You’re not important, ok? Get used to it.”

Only the greatest epiphany you would ever have.

That’s Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s Birdman in a line.

We lead dysfunctional – largely unsatisfying – lives and try hard for relevance and popularity that matches the self-importance in our heads. The film is full of precious little moments, a fucking brilliant drums score and cinematography so fluid and seamless that you can’t ever spot the cuts even if you try. A terrific ensemble that’s going to have a field day at the Oscars.

When Riggan (Michael Keaton) tries to reinvent himself as an artist, after having played a superhero earlier in his life (and continues to in his head), he has this superb conversation with his daughter who tells him about her days in rehab and an exercise they gave her. About drawing tally sticks.

She hands him a roll of toilet paper full of tally sticks. Each stick represents thousand years. And all of humanity has been around for what would fit in one slip of toilet paper, she tells him. The rest of the roll is how long the world has been around.

He hears out her perspective and wipes his hand with it accidentally. And he’s wiped out all of humanity, she jokes.

How good is Emma Stone! She’s even better in this scene here that pretty much seals her a Best Supporting Actress nomination: Click here.

There are just too many brilliant scenes to list – the one where’s locked out of his green groom in his underwear and has to make his way in public and get up on stage to not miss his cue or the one where Norton tells Keaton that popularity is the slutty little cousin of prestige when they go out to get coffee. But every single scene in the film is designed to tell us that in the larger scheme of things, nothing really matters. Nobody’s opinion really matters. Or as a sign in Riggan’s green room tells us: A thing is a thing, not what is said of that thing.

ranjib mazumder on Jatishwar

Jatishwar as a concept is brave and ambitious to say the least. As the film unfolds, it has the promise of a new classic. Traversing through different timelines and a story of reincarnation, it dares to bring back Anthony Firingee, a man of Portuguese origin and exceptional talent, who not only mastered Bengali but also composed songs in it to perform in public duels known as Kavigaan in the early part of the 19th century.

Kabir Suman’s music is so good that I can’t possibly to begin to imagine another music album in the last 20 years that can match the majesty of this work. Bringing back lyrical fights of nostalgic Bengal, Mukherji shoots it with beautiful tenderness. That’s the film’s biggest strength. Also the biggest weakness. Apart from Anthony’s story, you hardly care about modern day sappiness that the story brings along.

Mukherji is probably the most acclaimed filmmaker working in West Bengal today. And that speaks a lot about the current state of Bengali cinema. I find Mukherji brimming with new ideas in every film; flashes of brilliance in certain scenes but the sum of the parts never make an engaging whole. And that’s been my consistent problem with his filmography. I know I would be attacked by my fellow Bengalis for looking at Mukherji through a glass darkly, and I have tried hard to sum up my feeling for his brand of inconsistent narrative. And then I stumbled upon this paragraph by one of my literary heroes.

“From the moment I start a new novel, life’s just one endless torture. The first few chapters may go fairly well and I may feel there’s still a chance to prove my worth, but that feeling soon disappears and every day I feel less and less satisfied. I begin to say the book’s no good, far inferior to my earlier ones, until I’ve wrung torture out of every page, every sentence, every word, and the very commas begin to look excruciatingly ugly. Then, when it’s finished, what a relief! Not the blissful delight of the gentleman who goes into ecstasies over his own production, but the resentful relief of a porter dropping a burden that’s nearly broken his back . . . Then it starts all over again, and it’ll go on starting all over again till it grinds the life out of me, and I shall end my days furious with myself for lacking talent, for not leaving behind a more finished work, a bigger pile of books, and lie on my death-bed filled with awful doubts about the task I’ve done, wondering whether it was as it ought to have been, whether I ought not to have done this or that, expressing my last dying breath the wish that I might do it all over again!”

― Émile Zola, The Masterpiece

So that was our list. What’s your list? The films that stood out and stayed with you, and you won’t mind pushing the rewind button on it. Tell us in the comments below!

The National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) has announced the nine scripts selected for the second edition of the National Script Lab to be running from October 2014 – March 2015.

The first screenwriting workshop will be held from October 1217, 2014 at the Courtyard Marriott, Chakan, Pune, followed by two more workshops and 1 to 1 consultation sessions over the next six months.

Marten Rabarts- Senior Consultant, Training and Development, NFDC; Olivia Stewart- Producer of The House of Mirth, Brassed Off, and script consultant on The Lunchbox and  Rajat Kapoor, writer-director of the much acclaimed Ankhon Dekhi will mentor these scriptwriters one-to-one during intensive residential workshops over the coming six months

Also as part of the National Script Lab program, the screenwriters will be able to attend NFDC’s Film Bazaar 2014 (Nov 2024) to network and introduce their upcoming projects to both the Indian and international film fraternity attending the market.

This year the Script Lab has a special focus on Youth and Children’s stories which feature strongly in the following line up.

 The Selected Writers and Scripts are:

1. Konkona Sensharma – Death In the Gunj

The acclaimed actress and the winner of two National Awards has acted in more than 40 films in Hindi, Bengali and English language.  She co-wrote and directed a short called ‘Naamkaran’ (The Christening) and anticipates this script will be her first feature as writer director, following in a family tradition established by her mother the renowned Film-maker and Actress Aparna Sen.

 2. Ranjeet Bahadur – Oddball

The editor of Rajkumar Hirani’s 3 Idiots, Sudhir Mishra’s Chameli and Ruchi Narain’s  Kal  Ranjeet has done his Post Graduation in film at Satyajit Ray Film & TV Institute, Kolkata, and now turns his attention to writing his first feature.

3. Vicky Barmecha – Naadaan

Vicky has spent the past 2.5 years working as assistant director and postproduction supervisor on Anurag Kashyap’s upcoming Bombay Velvet. He is the older brother of the Udaan actor Rajat Barmecha.

 4. Neha Sharma – Under the Skin

Neha, followed up her filmmaking studies in Capetown, South Africa with the screenwriting programme at FTII Pune. Neha has written dialogues for the TV show Ladies Special and is in active development of several feature films and documentaries. She has honed her craft as an assistant director on films such as The Dirty Picture , Agent Vinod and many others.

 5. Piyush C Panjvani – Idgah

A  Film & Television studies  grad from St. Xaviers IOC Mumbai, Piyush is a multi award winning director/producer of Ad films , shooting around the world for such mega brands as Pepsi and Samsung among others. He is currently developing a documentary on Himalayan shepherds, and will base his debut feature film on a story by Shri Mumchi Prechan.

 6. Abhaya Simha – Bhamini

Based in Bangalore, FTII graduate Abhaya has written and directed three feature films in Kannada and one in Malyalam. His      first feature film, Gubbachigalu won the National Award In 2008 for the Best Children’s Film.

 7. Rigzin Kalon – Neki Kar Kala Kala

The writer-director-producer has worked on shorts, TV , documentaries and feature films, including Ngonsum  a feature set in Ladakh based on short stories by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Rigzin lives between Mumbai and his native Ladakh, where he is an active figure in the development of this regions emerging cinema scene.

 8. Ruchika Lalwani – A story of Two

Is the writer of Walkaway, an independent American film with Bollywood flair made and released in the USA where she studied Film in New York. Ruchika’s student short film, I’m Afraid I am Hitler was screened and awarded at many international film festivals.

 9. Sudhakar Reddy Yakkanti – Paperweight

An FTII Pune graduate in Cinematography, Sudhakar wrote, directed and shot the short film Ek Aakas, winnning the Special Jury, National Award and in 2010 his documentary short film Duel of Angels  was awarded at the prestigious IDFA in Amsterdam. He also shot Umesh Kulkarnis Deool which won Three National Awards, among a long list of other features as  a cinematographer.

(via press release)

Screenwriter and lyricist Varun Grover‘s script Maa Bhagwatiya IIT Coaching was selected for NFDC-TIFF’s ScriptLab this year. He not only went to the lab but also managed to catch some of the interesting films at the fest. So over to him for all the dope on the fest and some film reccos.

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Thanks to NFDC’s script lab in association with Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), I got to attend this year’s fest (from 5th to 15th September) in Toronto. Though the first 5 days were devoted mostly to the script lab sessions (with our excellent mentors – Marten Rabarts, Olivia Stewart, and Esther van Driesum – who got the nuances and layers of our scripts so bang-on in spite of being from a culture far removed from ours), I stayed for 5 more days to watch cinema. And I think Toronto has been getting the best line-up of films for the last few years. Oscar season is close-by, TIFF Director Cameron Bailey’s film-hunting/sourcing skills are legendary, and TIFF doesn’t shy away from seemingly non-festival stuff like Gravity and The F Word (on two ends of commercial spectrum) – resulting in a film fest with so many options (with ample repeat screenings) that out of the 16 films I could catch, at least 10 were absolutely stunning and another 3 in #MustWatch category. And I missed at least 7 big films, in addition to many small ones, that I so badly wanted to see. (People’s Choice winner ‘12 Years a Slave’, FIPRESCI winner ‘Ida’, Cannes winners ‘Blue is the warmest color’ and ‘A Touch of Sin’, Richard Ayoade’s ‘The Double’, Reitman’s ‘Labor Day’, and Miyazaki’s last ‘The Wind Rises’.)

But what a smooth fest it was. Never seen volunteers this organized, informed, helpful, cheerful, and above all passionate for cinema! Most of them were students who chose to volunteer because for every 6 hours of work they used to get one movie ticket free. And then there were some who had been doing it for many years – and some (like this 80-year old lady scanning barcodes on our cards outside the venue) who loved being part of the buzz. Every volunteer inside the venue I went to (Scotiabank) knew which movie was playing on which screen, who had directed it, and what was the duration. And they would make a human-chain in the theatre gallery for really crowded screenings (like Gravity’s) so that no one jumps the queue. Met two young filmmakers while waiting in a queue who had volunteered at the fest 3 years ago and they said the recruitment for next year’s volunteers will start soon after this is over, and they prepare for close to 10-months for this level of professionalism.

So here’s the list of films I watched and my 2-line reactions to them:

fifth estateThe Fifth Estate (Bill Condon): Hugely underwhelming. No insights into Assange’s mind or workings or flaws, and more like a Madhur Bhandarkar attempt at cashing-in on the hype around the man. Wannabe Social Network, but with writing so clichéd that even Cumberbatch couldn’t save this one. And later I realized the director, Bill Condon, had made 2 Twilight films before this. That figures.

PrisonersPrisoners (Denis Villeneuve): Sirf naam hi kaafi hai. Villeneuve’s last (Incendies) was one of the best, most explosive film 2 years ago, and hence was really looking forward to this. Turned out it had (my fav) Paul Dano too in it, with (Prestige-faced) Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal. And what a spine-chilling film it was! Definitely among the top 3 I saw at TIFF. Villeneuve (with his writer Aaron Guzikowski) enters a David Fincher world but brings much more art-house sensibility (with a Korean psycho fetish angle) and Roger Deakins’ absolutely gorgeous aesthetics to it. Won’t talk about the plot as this film is best savored with a blank slate mind. Doubt we will see a better thriller this year.

Gravity (Alfonso Cuaron): This one was a safe bet – and it still managed to exceed my expectations. By around a 100 light-years. I don’t think I breathed for the 90-minutes it played. Best use of 3-D, green-screen, Sandra Bullock, and space debris yet in cinemas. Watch it on the biggest screen in 3-D please.

The-Strange-Colour-Of-Your-Bodys-Tears-posterThe Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears (Helene Cattet, Bruno Forzani): I don’t really know what I saw. 4-5 people walked out every 5 minutes and by the time the film ended, only 30-35 of us were left. Something that would make the much acclaimed mad-duo of Belgian cinema happy. Weirdia of the highest order. Lots of blood, nudity, absurdism, zero narration or attempt at it, but everything done with so much class and aesthetic value that difficult to dismiss it. Colors, mood, performances – all screamed ‘installation art’ of highest order.

R100R100 (Hitoshi Matsumoto): One of the best discoveries at TIFF. Directed by Japan’s most absurdist filmmaker and leading comedian, this was weird, funny, cutting-edge satire, and sexual fantasy in equal measures. Brilliantly, genuinely subversive. (And he called it R100 to take a swipe at censor boards who’d give it a rating ‘suitable only for 100-years or older’). Wait for this one!

Enemy posterEnemy (Denis Villeneuve): Yup, DV had two films at the fest. Both with Jake Gyllenhaal in a major role. He apparently shot them back to back and then edited parallel – and seeing how different the genres and mood was, he has to be having two separate brains to do it with so much perfection. Enemy, based on a Jose Saramago novel (yup!) though reminding me of a Satyajit Ray short story ‘Ratan Babu’, has terrific Melanie Laurent and Sarah Gadon giving company to Jake finding his exact double accidently, and is so moody that it feels like a tarantula spider creeping up your back. Just a bit underwhelming when compared to ‘Prisoners’, but is comparison even valid?

MoebiusMoebius (Kim ki Duk): You walk into a Kim ki Duk film expecting bizarre but this one, as far as I know, is bizarre level max he has ever reached. This one is bizarre level ‘eating a dick after cutting it’. This one is bizarre level ‘mom eating son’s dick after cutting it’. (No, it’s not a spoiler, just a warning. This particular sequence is right in the beginning of the film.) And it’s a silent film – completely silent. And it could have been called ‘Dick of Theseus’. And it was the funniest, goriest, sexiest, most disturbing, and thrilling, and taali-seeti worthy film I saw at TIFF. And somehow, Duk manages to push his Buddhist agenda through all this weirdness too. Takes a genius for that. Also among my top 3 there. Must watch if you can handle bleeding dicks.

Gopi GawaiyyaGopi Gawaiyya Bagha Bajaiyya (Shilpa Ranade): The only film at the fest that left me disappointed. Had high hopes with this one – and the art of the film is top-notch. Beautiful frames, decent level of animation, but where it faltered badly was in the dialogues and technicalities of animation. Lines written in clunky, orthodox Hindi and making the background out-of-focus to give depth (in a 2-D animation!) made the film look way tackier than it should have been.

QissaQissa (Anup Singh): A film based on partition, in Punjabi, starring Irrfan and Tillotama Shome and Rasika Duggal and Tisca Chopra! I was already sold. And though it deals with partition in a more symbolic, metaphoric, allegorical way – I was moved immensely by it. Many friends had issues with the logic and amount of suspension of disbelief it demands (basic premise of a father who brings up his daughter as a son without letting anybody else know is a bit of a stretch, yes) – but it still managed to disturb and involve me probably because of the magic realism zone it enters in the 2nd half. And also because of Rasika and Tillotama’s terrific performances. Probably it’s only me but I think the film gives a solid theory on why Punjab has the maximum cases of female foeticide/infanticide. (Qissa won the NETPAC Award at TIFF.)

Why_Dont_You_Play_In_Hell_Banner_4_25_13-726x248Why Don’t You Play In Hell (Shion Sono): Shion Sono of Cold Fish fame is a rockstar already and this film (recommended strongly by my script lab friend Nikhil Mahajan who wanted to watch all the films in Midnight Madness section, a section devoted to all the mad-horror-slasher-campy films, with titles like ‘All Cheerleaders Die’) came with huge expectations. And the first 15-minutes just raise your expectations to the skies. A spoof on Yakuza cinema of Japan, film sags a bit in the middle with spoofs being so subtle that it starts looking serious, but the last 30-minutes or so Sono comes back full-steam and blows your head. And the very last shot adds another magical layer to the entire film! Super-ambitious and super-welldone. (WDYPIH won the best film in Midnight Madness section.)

under-the-skinUnder the Skin (Jonathan Glazer): The creepiest film at TIFF, in spite of it being non-gory, non-gross. Scarlett Johansson plays an alien (nudity is there, perverts) and nothing much happens beyond a pattern (which may be a minor spoiler so avoiding), but the mood, location (cloudy, wet Scotland), Glazer’s solid craft, and Mica Levi’s trance-type BG score make it a super-juicy watch.

Half of a yellow sunHalf of a Yellow Sun (Biyi Bandele): Knew nothing about this film but then Aseem Chhabra recommended it and I found out it’s based on a novel by Chimamanda Adichie (always a big plus for me when a film is based on a book). And it was like a fulfilling novel – a sprawling, excellently recreated epic of 2 sisters and their 2 lovers in the middle of Nigeria-Biafra conflict of the late 60s. Would have been a strong Oscar contender in many categories if it didn’t have an all-black cast and ethos and history. And to make it even more worth it – Thandie Newton and flavor of the season Chiwetel Ejiofor (of 12 Years A Slave fame) hit it out of the park with their excellent performances.

Walesa, Man of HopeWalesa: Man of Hope (Andrzej Wajda): Another of my favorite genres – biopics. And this one is as solid as any I’ve ever seen. Based on the life of Lech Walesa, a man I knew nothing about except vague memories from GK books that he won a Nobel Peace Prize, the film is a bit too political-jargon heavy, but none of it stops it from being a great, engaging film with some godlevel period-recreation detailing. And the use of Polish punk-rock music as a thematic narration device adds so much to the mood of the era. Plus the main lead Robert Wieckiewickz has the charm and power of early Robert De Niro and the actress playing his wife (Danuta Walesa), Agnieszka Grochowska, had a face with so much beauty, pain, and understanding ki mujhe us-se pyaar ho gaya. Triple Ace!

ElanorThe Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby – Him and Her (Ned Benson): A mouthful of a title, a seemingly simple drama about a couple’s separation but dive into the film and realize it’s almost as ambitious as Gravity. Two films (of 90 mins each) showing the perception of events through husband’s and wife’s perspective – and so many layers added by just one more perspective to a particular event. And the best part – the film showed as Him-Her and then in another show as Her-Him (the order of perspectives reversed) and that changed the meaning of many scenes for viewers, including the climax. So in a way, it’s a film as well as a perception game! Interactive cinema done so simply. And I’ve not even started on how sensitive, brilliant, and insightful Ned Benson’s writing is. This one too, among my top 3 at TIFF.

ThouThou Gild’st The Even (Onur Unlu): Shot in crisp 35 mm black and white and great to look at, but kuchh samajh nahin aaya so walked out after 30 minutes. Read more about it here and go WTF.

The f wordThe F Word (Michael Dowse): Don’t even ask me why I went to see this one. (There wasn’t anything else playing at that time, mainly that’s why. Also ‘cos Dowse made the terrific ‘It’s All Gone Pete Tong’.) A standard rom-com, most likely to make profit if it releases during Christmas or Valentine’s Day, with some very funny lines, and some very average clichés, but done well. Zoe Kazan is excellent, crush-worthy, yet again after Ruby Sparks (which she by the way wrote too), and Daniel Radcliffe is stuck in that odd place/age where Kunal Khemu and Jugal Hansraj have already been.