Saturday, September 1, 2007

Oh the fun!!

Is this not funny? I ASKED myself.

Um, no.

Came the voice from within.


I was watching something on screen. People with red and gold dakshini imitation costumes were dancing. And right in front was Salmaan Khan who did not have a clue who were dancing what behind him... he danced in his own "what's-my-age-again?" style.... and people were sort of putting in there two cent's worth to see him dance.

Men from Hollywood can't do Bolly. Can't.

In case you are wondering what movie this was, I think the following picture would clarify.

Ah well, where were we.

(NO) Direction : Willard Carroll, sir, what were you trying to do? We do not need to promote Bollywoodi to the Firang, nor do we want to see a firang trying and failing in what works in India and for Indians. Please STICK to your own kind, sir.... In a very Racist manner, this particular comment is made. NON-INDIANS cant DO Bolly.

On the other hand, Indians can do Holly in Bolly manner. Just take a look at this particular baby. Oh, sorry, Babyy. The word suggest the importance of numbers.... and the numbers score!! I was pretty impressed by the film.


I dont know. It worked. It really worked. I felt the babyy, I felt the three desperate men who were trying to take care of her. It felt nice, to see a good plot (Three Men and a Baby) made Australian-Indian and the formula worked. The music was nice, the plot was quite watertight, and the kid was absolutely OOLIKIMITTICHHANALEBAABAA.....

And well, Vidya Balan. Boys, see what a full, "bholuptuous wooman" is like... Oof. What grace! Gives the women of India a feel of happiness.... someone up the Bolly heaven goes Balle when he sees our curves, and does not get turned off by the bumps and grinds.

So there you see? Woman in black has a lot of exposure, but woman in red saree still raises a man's blood pressure. No contests whatsoever.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Chung King Express

Here is another gem by Wong Kar Wai, the master stylist from Hong Kong.

The story or, rather, stories of this film talks about love-- true love, abruptly-ended love, unfinished love, doomed love, happy love, disturbed love... a whole lot of them. It delineates how a relationship is built up and how it is broken. How two persons, all of a sudden, come closer, and then, eventually, drift apart leaving a permanent mark on each other's memory. How time, our very own individual time, is shaped through our memories-- memories of love, affection, relationship.

But the real beauty of the film lies in the extremely rich visuals; the superb camera-work and the typical Wongish blend of music with the striking visuals. These alone hold together the two apparently disconnected stories. Sometimes the scene is blurred except for the main character; sometime there is intentional time lapse between shots; sometimes the crowd around the character move at a faster pace while the character moves in slow motion. I must also mention the exceptionally beautiful use of mise-en-scene in the film. Wong Kar Wai creates multiple screens within a single shot by cleverly using shadows, mirrors or glass objects. The characters, sometimes, exist at two different places at the same time or same places at different time. Often, the time-gap between two shots are deliberately missing (you will feel as if it is the continuation of the same shot, but actually it is the same place at some other time), giving you a vertiginous feeling of timelessness. And, of course, as I’ve already mentioned, there is this unforgettable mix of music and visuals. In a particularly striking scene in the second half of the film, when the protagonist makes love to his girlfriend, an airhostess by profession, in the background we hear the usual safety instructions announced in an aircraft, interspersed by a romantic song.

Last but not the least, is the acting. Who will forget the icy beauty of Bridgitte Lin or the quirky extravagance of Faye Wang? Faye Wang instantly reminded me of Audrey Hepburn in “My Fair Lady” (later, in an IMDB review, I’ve read the same comment!).

Overall, it is but a thorough feast for eyes and mind!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Last Life in the Universe

Another film…another time…another space… Pen-Ek Ratanaruang’s film deals with an introvert, obsessive compulsive Japanese, Kenji, who is working as a librarian in the Cultural Centre of Japanese Embassy in Bangkok. The film starts with Kenji reflecting in voice-over about the total absence of motivation for his desire to end his life. At the same time, he meticulously arranges the set for his latest attempt. We see a noose hanging in the passageway, so that his body can be discovered easily, a pile of books to stand on and to kick out finally under his feet. But this sincere attempt goes awry as the doorbell starts ringing incessantly. Opening the door, Kenji is greeted by his smart-aleck brother, a crude-mannered yakuja. He is now trying to hide from his mob boss after getting into some trouble with him. The disturbed Kenji returns back to his daily chores and goes back to his office. That day, in the library, he briefly catches the sight of a girl browsing through the racks. He is overwhelmed by her presence, her attire of a school-girl. But after a momentary meeting of glances, Kenji looses the sight of the girl. That very evening, while he is contemplating about another fresh attempt of suicide, jumping from a bridge, the girl emerges again, this time from a car, after an animated quarrel with her sister. The girl is hit by a passing car and, injured badly, admitted to a hospital. Kenji also accompanies the mentally-devastated sister, Noi, to the hospital. Few days later, there is a shoot-out at Kenji’s meticulously arranged flat. On that same day Noi comes to his office to give him his bag which he has left in the hospital. Kenji, reluctant to go back to his flat, pervaded by stench and decay, clings to Noi and goes to her house. Then their fates start to get intermingled.
The beautifully crafted film is an attempt to portray the seclusion and alienation that the modern man faces in the claustrophobic cityscape. Kenji embodies the humane attempt to reach out, to connect which, at the end, probably fails. The whimsical and childlike presence of Noi, in contrast with Kenji’s meticulously ordered self, depicts the yearning to break free from the order of things, from logic, from the overtly predictable existence and probably from the inescapable grip of destiny. This futile attempt is surrounded by brutality, by violence, by death…
The film has some unforgettable moments, woven by the director in surrealistic manner, some inherent and carefully maintained ambiguity, interchangeable presence of Noi and her wounded sister in the house, the erotically charged atmosphere within the house, a book called “The Last Lizard in the Universe”, a possible identity of Kenji as a yakuja himself, and an unforgettable ending which is, probably, not the ending but actually the starting point towards understanding the film, the text…

Friday, July 27, 2007

Moments of Innocence

I’ve just finished watching Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s “Moments of Innocence” (aka “Nun Va Goldoon” or “Bread and Flower”). The storyline is disarmingly simple yet engagingly intricate. Makhmalbaf, in his youth, about 20 years back, was a member of some radical revolutionary party. During the Shah’s regime, he stabbed one policeman in an attempt to snatch his gun away. He employed his cousin, with whom he was in love, to distract the policeman by asking the time. The policeman fell in love with that girl and wanted to give her a potted flower. Taking advantage of his momentary distraction, Makhmalbaf disarmed him. The policeman never knew that the girl was actually a decoy.
After 20 years, that same policeman, now retired, approaches Makhmalbaf, the director, and asks for a role. They together then decide to re-enact that same incident in its entirety. They choose the actors who will play their “younger versions”. But, the very process of reconstructing this simple event in great details starts to change the event itself. The former policeman now comes to know about the girl’s real identity and, feeling cheated, wants to take revenge. “Real” characters involved in that incident, now tries to reconstruct their pasts in their own way.
The film is basically about the filming of this very re-enactment. We see the policeman, concerned about his role in the film, coaching his “younger self”. Makhmalbaf also, in turn, talks to his “younger version” and finds out, quite amusingly, that this boy is also in love with his cousin, just like Makhmalbaf 20 years ago. The re-enactment part has been shown from the perspectives of both Makhmalbaf and the policeman (the reader can remember “Rashomon” or “Midaque Alley” in this context).
The film attempts to show the hyperbolic relationship between ‘past’ and ‘present’ and the tension that exists between them. It depicts how memory is enriched and amplified with the passage of time, how the memory is reconstructed and how the memory is changed by the very act of reconstruction. Also, it hints at the duality of Art/Life or Cinema/Reality.
The original title of the film (“Bread and Flower”) refers to the two objects that played an all-important role in the “actual” event. Makhmalbaf hid his knife under a flatbread and the policeman was ready to offer the potted flower to the unknown girl. In other words, these two objects actually determined their destiny at that time. They assume importance in the recreated version also. The film actually ends with a beautiful freeze shot of the two protagonists offering these two objects to the young girl and thereby trying to come in terms with their disturbing pasts in their own fragmented manner.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

'If the real world is full of magic, the magic world could also be real.'

My relationship with Harry Potter has been a long one.

A trying one.

A winding one.

A crippling one.

A loving one.

What began as a school-girl’s bleary eyed fantasies over glasses of milk, ( I read ‘ Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ when I was 12, sleepy, and for some reason inexplicably happy) finally culminated into a night-long emotional extravaganza last week.
Passion, really, does not follow regulations.
I rather prefer it that way.
My opinions about anything to do with Harry potter are grossly partial, romanticized and extremely larger than life. Review, thus, is a tall order. Gushing, though, is not.
'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows' opens with the usual scene in Privet Drive and ends in the King’s Cross Station - 9 and 3 quarters. Ordinary magical stuff? Well, people had had their dose of speciality in the 600 odd pages between. Unlike most of the previous books, where Rowling starts slowly in an almost drowsy pace, and THEN builds up the tension to culminate into a stupendous finale, is missing. In the seventh and the final installment of the phenomenon that is Harry Potter, it is action from the word go. Broomsticks whizzz, curses fly, voldemort swoops and injured people tumble down to the haven that is The Burrow – all within the first few chapters.
Setting out to answer all the other questions which peppered the earlier novels, Rowling, however masterfully creates situations, events and characters so excruciatingly alive that she ultimately manages to maneuver the story away from the tiring question-answer session it very well might have become. It answers questions, but at its own pace. And on its way, it breaks certain stereotypes, for good. Dumbledore is subtly brought down(he is NOT the very normal, very talented , squeaky clean headmaster any more), Ron gets shades of grey, and well…the culmination of every thing magical manages to create one of the most misplaced and misjudged characters on this side of the magical fence.

“I have spied for you and lied for you, put myself in mortal danger for you.
Everything was supposed to be to keep Lily Potter’s son safe. Now you tell me
you have been raising him like a pig for slaughter—”
“But this is touching, Severus,” said Dumbledore seriously. “Have you grown
to care for the boy, after all?”
“For him?” shouted Snape. “Expecto Patronum!”
From the tip of his wand burst the silver doe. She landed on the office floor,
bounded once across the office, and soared out of the window. Dumbledore
watched her fly away, and as her silvery glow faded he turned back to Snape,
and his eyes were full of tears.
“After all this time?”
“Always,” said Snape.

Deathly Hallows is a bloodbath. Perhaps more than was necessary. Check.
It is overtly mushy at times. Check.
Certain parts of the plot lack conviction. Check.
There are some loose ends. (e.g. Harry’s presence during Snape’s death was a huge co-incidence. Yet the plot hinged enormously on it.) Check.
The ending seems rather rushed and not befitting a phenomenal 10 year old saga. Check.
Ron’s reaction to the horcrux around his neck seems straight out of Lord of the Rings. Check.
The magic is there no more. Checkmate.

Because that is precisely what there is. Magic. In intense quantities. Loose ends notwithstanding, Rowling still manages to tell us a story which makes us want to forgive her for all her flaws. Because through dark and gloom, the story is one which never gives up on its hope. ( I love the scene where Neville, the underdog forever, comes out to fight, even after seeing Harry’s dead body). Because it points out that throughout it all, the important things are not spells and chants, but the ‘magical’ emotions of love, friendship( Luna’s bedroom ceiling was a wonderful touch) and well, hatred(Voldemort-Harry relationship. Hatred is needed sometimes)?Because at the end of the day, the books spell out a world tantalizingly close, but not really close enough. A world people can find, if they just look beyond what is ordinary.
A decade long journey ends in this book. Khattam shud.
But the magic doesn’t.
Because magic is a powerful word.
A powerful world.

The scar had not pained Harry for 19 years. All was well.

p.s. it is intensely difficult to write something about Harry Potter without giving away the key elements in the plot. I have tried to, but failed miserably.

p.p.s. there are lots more I want to say. Like how the entire Pure Blood brouhaha reminds me of the Third Reich, like how the wizarding world’s relationship with the centaurs and merpeople and goblins and house-elves remind me of a colonial history long past, like how the apparent heroes are not always heroes all the time (James Potter is an arrogant ass), like how a plot which hinges on an unrequited childhood love (which makes me teary-eyed no doubt), is perhaps a teeny bit impractical. But well, I shall reserve these for some other day.

p.p.s. Well, I change my mind. Childhood though it may be, love is, quite ALWAYS, impractical.

p.p.p.s. What started out to be review ended up being a gush-fest. Much apologies once again.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Kagemusha : A late masterpiece

I have watched "Kagemusha" on my laptop only a few days back and still was lurking around Nandan II in the afternoon for a special screening of the film yesterday. The only reason was that I was quite desperate to see the brilliantly colorful war film on big screen. And what a treat it turned out to be!!

The film opens with quite a lengthy scene where a Japanese warlord Shingen, his brother Nobukada and a thief who looks exactly like the lord sits on the floor. The three people are dressed identically, sitting postures almost same and lip movements rarely discernible when they speak. Through this long shot the camera stays stationary and Kurosawa successfully hints at the confusion that will be unfolded regarding the true identity of the lord. The double is trained in the ways of the lord and when Shingen dies in a battle, the kagemusha replaces him to baffle the enemy warlords. He does extremely well, both on battle and home fronts and continues to baffle the enemy for three long years.
Kagemusha is predominantly a war-film. But as the film progresses, it evolves into something much more than a simple war epic. The inner conflicts of the kagemusha, depicted very well in a wonderfully colorful surrealistic dream sequence sets up an undertone of existential dilemma. The kagemusha is after all a shadow of the lord, only for three years. And then when it is to be announced that the lord is no more, what is to happen to him? As Nobukada puts it aptly, "The shadow of a man can never stand up and walk on its own.". Indeed in the end, the kagemusha follows the Takeda clan to the warfield much like a shadow and collapses as the whole clan goes down.

The film boasts of some wonderfully crafted scenes. Kurosawa seems to have mastered the color medium as well. The vibrant and often astonishing set designs provide a great spectacle for the viewers. From the black silhouettes against the red and purple backdrops on the warfields to the golden and brown interiors of the castle, the film is a visual feast. Especially on a big screen. And this very fact makes us overlook one of the biggest flaws of the film, its pace. Kurosawa builds up the atmosphere in a snail slow pace. The film often seems to be moving around the same point and one cannot but feel that a bit of editing would have done well. But then, the wonderful lead performance and the stunning imageries makes up for everything.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Om!!! Bong!!! Chong!!!

Are the 'Bongs' always trying to re-invent themselves? Always seeking the unseen, the inexperienced?

Last time Aporajito dekheo thik ei proshnota i matha e ghurpak khachilo, ar shei shomoy er poristhitita o ei proshnotake ar o ektu chagiye tulechilo, karon ami nijei boshechilam BFI er auditorium e.

Shomoy palteche, Apu o palteche. The once rustic Nishchindipur has now become the urbane Kolkata. But the urge to seek, to strive have not receded a bit. So Anjan Dutta's Apu embarks on yet another journey...this time to America, the land of opportunities, the land of dreams. The neo-age Apu though remains Aporajito but it comes with the realisation of the stark realities of a fast-paced American life.

Bong Connection has basically re-stated the basic classification of the Bengali speaking clan.

They can be defined under 2 labels - Bangali and The Bongs. May be there is a 3rd category which can be named 'Chong', such as Rakesh who has compromised a lot and now has made himself believe that he is nothing but a second class American citizen.

Are the 'Bongs' the confused lot????

Dutta gives the answer and it is 'yes'.

The educated and potential section of the clan go to abroad for a better life as Kolkata looks like a sinking ship to them, but once in abroad the only thing they can do is talk/crib about Kolkata in such a way that restricts Kolkata within the mere periphery of Ilish mach, Jyoti Basu (whether the secret behind his almost immortal life is Johny Walker or not), Victoria Memorial, Traffic Jam, Posto, Roshogolla followed by similar and dissimilar mishtis.

On the contrary Andy is completely enchanted by the quintessential Bengali folk songs, Baul gaan and comes all the way from New York to Kolkata to pursue his passion only to be left disheartened and disillusioned at the end. He leaves with a notion that "ei lyadhkhor bangali der kissu hobe na." Where as a confused Apu returns with a feeling, " Ei ABCD ra spoilt ar na ghar ka na ghat ka."

The film is definitely entertaining, but at the end as I stepped out of the cinema hall and tried to wrench myself away from the crowd lined outside Priya I somehow felt a sense of entrapment. Entrapment of desire (those never to be fulfilled), dreams (unfathomable), worldly charms and most importantly the varied expectations of the folks.

Despite of SPE, Raima's urbane attire, Fluries and ever changing hairstyle, his love for baul songs, a displaced and misplaced Andy could not become a 'Bangali'. Similarly Apu uprooted and then placed among the NRIs could not mingle with them despite the conscious efforts from the 'jamai-hunting Bongs', the brat-turned-salwar-clad-Rita, the homophobic, almost-Americanised Garry and Haas, the Bangladeshi cabbie, who hopes to go back to his daughter someday.

The bottom line is no matter where we go, what we do, we are eternally trapped between the ever rising IT waves and frantic search for one's muse, between the Jack Daniel gulping Bong ghettos in America and the bhadraloks in Kolkata who still haven’t moved out of the Tagore time warp.

Once a Bong/Bengali always a Bong/Bengali and also remember you can always take the Bong out of Kolkata but never the Kolkata out of the Bong.

P.S - The music is good... shudhu pagla haoyar badal din er shuru te uuuuuulaaa uuuulaaaa ta shune mone hochilo ei bujhi elo Rakhi Sawant!!!


We have come across them. Words, images and visions. We have formed opinion about them. And have destroyed them.

We have changed them. We have changed.

Within this circular interaction of ours with our reflections, there are brief mossy plains in time, where we sit down and may be for the inquisitives of the future, scribble our presence.


And I have seen scraps flying with the wind to unforeseen oblivion.

Anything we have read, observed or experienced; here is a library of misplaced thoughts.

Review recess, would you call it? So be it.