Tuesday, August 31, 2010

IKIRU (Japanese) (1952)

“I can’t afford to hate people. I haven’t got that kind of time.”

Bow my head to the Master again. Akira Kurosawa’s ‘Ikiru’ is a moving and engrossing experience for me and a kind of film which makes deep impact for a long time. If ‘Rashomon’ and ‘Seven Samurai’ are the two giant pillars of Kurosawa accomplishment, ‘Ikiru’ is one of the finest breathing document of humanity ever made by him. Beyond all intellectual baggage he told the simple story in its fine sublimity proving it the best humanitarian film of his career. On the contrary this is quite unique Kurosawa film abstained from everything which made him famous in his long glorious career. No samurai! No Toshiro Mifune! No action or moving shots! No Shakespeare! Instead it’s a simple and too slow film about an ordinary man and perhaps the longest Kurosawa film with duration of around two and half hours and yet it manage to touch all the right chords at right place.

Much before we witness the protagonist we see the X ray photo of protagonist’s stomach cancer as film begins. Next we follow an old man Watanabe working diligently as chief of Public Affairs Department along with other useless bureaucratic employees avoiding their duties and passing their time in gossips. It’s during one of his visit to hospital check up; we witness the first brilliant scene of the film, with many to follows. At hospital he meets an unknown patient explaining him that if doctor tells one that it’s mild ulcer, he’s lying and next he starts explaining the exact symptoms of stomach cancer who won’t live longer than six months. We witness the expressions of shock and fear of death on the face of our protagonist closer to the camera who’s still unaware about his illness and yet much before his visit to Doctor, he knew damn well the most unfortunate truth of life. In the next frame he’s facing the doctor to know his diagnosis and the doctor responded him as suggested by stranger.

Back home he faces his unconcerned and selfish son Mitsuo and his wife who’re interested in his retirement money. Flashbacks of life’s journey meet the chilling unshared silence of death and its loneliness. He tries to set alarm as per routine before sleep and suddenly throws it furiously and thinking his remaining time left to life. As he’s trying to sleep, the camera pans on the wall showing his certificates of recognition for his distinguished civil service, seems so futile against sobbing old man in his bed. What a scene!

Next morning he left the home and office surprisingly. In a bar he meets a drunken writer with whom he shared his ill fate. It is also memorable scene where the writer said- “Misfortune teaches us the truth…we humans are so careless. We only realize how beautiful life is when we chance upon death. But few of us are actually able to face death; the worst ones know nothing of life till they die. You were a slave to your life, now you’re the master… Greed to live is not vice but virtue.” Next he shows him a beautiful metaphor of life and death in form of vending machine liberating silver ball. Along with writer friend he starts enjoying drinking, visiting night clubs and a company of women. But soon fade up with them all. The next day by chance he spares a day with a young employee girl of his office and helps her to fix her resignation.
The next day he meets the same girl in a restaurant; another soul stirring scene shows the final phase of human desire ends with fine metaphors of toy bunny and rebirth. As he finally realizes that he should live for larger cause, no matter how small cause is. He surprisingly returns to his office and ultimately devotes rest of his life to build a park in underprivileged locality against all bureaucratic odds and hurdles. I envy the last day of his life. So content is he with his life- sitting on swing, singing a song under falling snow waiting to embrace his death.

For the old man the achievement of life not lies in his fellow collegues’ comment in his absence that he didn’t miss a single day of work in his office for thirty years nor does it lie in his Government Certificates but in small and kind gesture of humanity that makes him feel happy, justifying the utility of his existence. Takashi Shimura is permanent entry in my favorite screen character along with Carlo Batisti of Vittorio De Sica’s ‘Umberto D.’ co-incidentally released the same year. Like Batisti, his face expresses volumes of expressions and Kurosawa captured all of them with all not to miss close ups.

Despite its sadness, ‘Ikiru’ is ultimately not just a film where death of protagonist becomes just routine emotional purgation for the audience like many of its popular clone films. Kurosawa and Shimura gave it valuable height by making it one of the most positive film about life. Kurosawa gave a brilliant message for every living being- To achieve anything abstract like satisfaction, love or happiness in the most inner space of one’s soul; one has to suffer in life. Just like all the moods and shades of life, suffering too is the united part of life and not contradictory. A selfless suffering returns the immense happiness difficult to measure compared to any sort of momentary happiness. I don’t get the point why Master stretched the last one hour too long with nonlinear flashback running parallel to the static scene; is he tried to show in those multiple perspectives and repercussions post Watanabe’s death or pointing fingers towards the corrupt degenerative bureaucracy of postwar Japan of those days?

By all means a film one must watch before die.
PS- An interesting anecdote about how Hrishida inspired to make ‘Anand’?

While visiting Cannes Film Festival for the first time with the entry of ‘Do Bigha Zameen’, Director Bimal Roy and writer-editor Hrishikesh Mukherjee met Satyajit Ray who was surprised to see them. He insisted both of them to watch Kurosawa’s ‘Ikiru’ and the rest is the history. Hrishida is one of my all-time admirable Indian directors and ‘Anand’ is surely well made Indian adaptation but the focal point of the original is lost in too dark and emotional second half.



Sunday, August 29, 2010

YOJIMBO (Japanese) (1961)

A Samurai drifter named Sanjuro visits a lawless town divided between two opposing gangs. By playing smart bystander he pitted one gang against the other, to get rid the village of both. But matters start taking different turn when he helps freeing a woman killing six. Unosuke, the man obsessed with a revolver slaughters rival gang members sniffing the truth he severely injures Sanjuro. He escapes and recovers in a temple but he must face Unosuke. Would his skill and wit be any match with a revolver? Kurosawa’s this classic gave birth to the first installment of Sergio Leone-Clint Eastwood’s most famous spaghetti western ‘A Fistful of Dollars’. Along with the main plot, there’re many frames clearly lifted from this original.

Toshiro Mifune once again brought to screen his exciting presence as Sanjuro keeping the fun and action part of his Samurai act in ‘Seven Samurai’ as Kakuchiyo. Kurosawa’s long Hollywood inspiration of John Ford’s western is felt in execution of some of the scenes but his technical flair of using slow motion for dramatic flair running parallel to engaging action, multiple camera angles for same action, use of natural weather to enhance mood and feel etc. are inspirational for many great directors. Like true Japanese Samurai, he was hard task master and the mad perfectionist who spent endless hours and efforts to achieve the effects as per his vision. His excellence is surely a legacy unparalleled that live forever.

Ratings-8.5/10

THRONE OF BLOOD (Japanese) (1957)

One of the brilliant and breathtaking screen adaptation of Macbeth by Akira Kurosawa in his signature Samurai tradition. Valiant captain Washizu blinded by ambition, driven by his wife Asaji’s instigation and spirit’s prediction murdered the warlord Tsuzuki, seize the kingdom and then starts the psychological damnation full of inescapable guilt, paranoia, betrayal, bloodshed leading it to the final ruin. Kurosawa almost faithfully kept the essence of Bard’s one of the great tragedy in all key scenes- prophecy by haunted spirit, Lady Asaji’s ear poisoning, Miki’s frightening ghost image at celebration party, Lady Asaji’s attempt to wash the bloodstain of her hands and absolutely awesome climax where finally as per the prediction of the spirit, the cobweb forest literally begins to move and comes to Cobweb Castle determining the doomsday of the protagonist.

Great directors breed great collaboration with their favorite actors where both contribute and correspond something unparallel to world cinema. Toshiro Mifun’s collaboration with Kurosawa turned him into an iconic star status of Japanese cinema. Undoubtedly he’s amazing actor with his gifted dramatic and hysterical expressions which he carried as Samurai. His extraordinary death scene stuck with arrows all over body is truly unforgettable image. The grand epical visuals captured on canvas with natural light are always aesthetic treat for any Kurosawa fans. The haunting atmospheric elements of mist, thunderstorm and heavy rain in B&W frames shows his penchant for expressionistic shots. “For me shooting only means getting something to edit”, said the auteur.

Ratings- Does it need when Kurosawa combines Shakespeare?

Friday, August 27, 2010

NISHANT (1975)

Benegal extended the feudal oppression plot of his debut ‘Ankur’ in larger canvas. The film tells the story of a feudal Andhra Pradesh village of 1945 where an oppressive zamindar and his good for nothing three sons exploits underprivileged peasants. It’s dark and lawless portrayal where landlord father and sons exploit the peasants’ women at night as if their own property. A newly arrived school master’s wife was kidnapped and raped by landlord’s sons and was kept as mistress. Helpless and frustrated school master fails to get support of any villager to get justice. Gradually along with a priest he builds the slow unrest and in a dramatic turn uncontrollable mass revolt against the tyrant and his family.

But unlike impressive ‘Ankur’ the film lacks Benegal’s control on many things. The personal story of earlier film builds the drama with conflict and contemplative contrast but here it’s all missing so terribly. The plot is weak, narration is slow, stretching and repetitive, melodrama and performances seem rather too filmy and commercial. There’s many loopholes including the chaotic ending. He failed to get sublime performance from all the actors and almost repeated their characters- Shabana is again an exploited woman, Sadhu Mehar again as exploited innocent drunkard and so is the rest.

With ‘Nishant’ Benegal brought Amrish Puri to screen as an archetypal tyrant face of evil whose presence remained mandatory in all Benegal films till his death. Benegal made him a man you love to hate. He’s found most impressive in Benegal’s ‘Suraj ka Saatwan Ghoda’- one of my favorite Benegal films along with ‘Bhumika’. ‘Nishant’ has fine cast of Shabana Azmi, Girish Karnad, Naseer, Anant Nag, Mohan Agashe Satyadeb Dubey and introduced Smita Patil but Benegal made all of them so flat. In his debut ‘Ankur’, there’re less characters and all of them have shades of grey unlike this second film where every one is either too black or too white which made less room for character development.

One of the weakest Benegal film for me.

Ratings-5/10

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

ANKUR (1973)

In his ‘Our Films their Films’, Satyajit Ray commented about four films and the filmmakers of Indian parellel cinama. One of them is debut film of Indian parallel cinema’s great contributor- Shyam Benegal, the other three are Sathyu’s ‘Garam Hawa’, Shahani’s ‘Mayadarpan’ and Mani Kaul’s ‘Duvidha’. Benegal wrote the story of the film almost a decade ago when he was in college. An underprivileged young woman conceived the child (the seedling) of his feudal oppressor which ended with an exclamation of open ending. The film not only remains the seedling of the plot but also as one of the seedling of Indian parallel cinema.

Benegal didn’t have depth of Ray but he has fine sense of directness of narration and detailing in his cinema with the strong team which could envy any of his contemporary art filmmaker. Dialogue and script help by Pt. Satyadev Dubey, camerawork by Govind Nihalani, Music by Vanraj Bhatiya and fine company of Film Institute and NSD’s talented actors. Benegal managed to get the best of them in many of his films in the first decade of his career. Its debut film of Shabana Azmi too and she won the National Award that year for her sublime act. However she looks quite urban but faithfully expressed some of the complex and subtle emotions; too difficult to carry for a fresher. Watch the heartfelt cry with hidden guilt of betrayal when sees her husband back. Anant Nag is not a refined actor like Naseer and Om but he completely fits into frames as a weak, coward, arrogant city man who surrenders his career to his patriarchal landlord father. He’s the misfit and good for nothing man who’s trying to look after his feudal field and killing time sleeping, smoking cigarettes, listening gramophone, reading magazines, roaming and ogling at local untouchable maid in an isolated farm.

Benegal ended the film with a punch hard to resist. He brought the fate and psychology of the characters in the climax- the selfish landlord who’s trying to hide his guilt and sin with oppressive violence on innocent deaf and dumb underprivileged man, a suspicious housewife noticing witnessing her husband’s real face, a pregnant woman running to save her husband and above all the impressive last frame where the kid throws a stone to landlord’s glass window before the screen turning into red and fades out.
Indeed a seedling of Indian Parallel Cinema.

Ratings-8.5/10

Monday, August 23, 2010

GARAM HAWA (1973)

M S Sathyu’s ‘Garam Hawa’ is arguably the best and moving Indian film ever made on the subject of 1947 partition. The condition of a partition torn Indian Muslim is never shown with such restrained and convincing manner in any other Indian film so far. Without being preachy or didactic anywhere he narrated the most painful tragic chapter of Indian history focusing on a Muslim family of Agra in the time of partition. An aging shoe factory owner Salim Mirza is the face of Indian Muslim who has unshakable faith in God and reluctant to live and die in Agra-his homeland after partition. But slowly one by one all of his family members either leave the homeland or the world. And amid all this time of communal frenzy and identity crisis he’s facing terrible loss not only in business but also the most personal one when his beloved daughter Amina being ditched twice by her prospective grooms commits suicide. Ultimately heartbroken Mirza makes up his mind to leave his native town in a horse cart. The movie ends with the optimistic ending.

Sathyu’s minute observation and depth is found in many subjects. Whether it’s Indian Muslim’s displaced dilemma at partition time or the face of the volatile time which gave birth to discriminating reality of minority and majority narrowing social consciousness; Sathyu with his restrained command eschew any sort of unnecessary ingredients of political stand, melodrama, song or gloomy violent portrayal. Infact there’re lot of light moments, portraying quite deaf grandma and off course the secret romance on terrace. The authentic portrayal and characterization of extended joint Muslim family and brilliant framing of Agra’s internal streets incuding Agra Fort and Taj also deserve praise.

The most remarkable part of the film is Salim Mirza played by Balraj Sahni, one of the gentleman actor of his time. Undoubtedly this is his career best performance came in the ending part of his career. What a natural and restraint actor!!! In fact never ever I’ve seen any actor acts so effortlessly natural in his character on Indian screen. In most of the scenes Sathyu kept the camera steadily focused on the expressions of Sahni’s face which speaks louder than words. One has to watch his other two gem of performance in Bimal Roy’s Neo-Realistic ‘Do Bigha Zameen’ and Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s one of the most personal favorite ‘Anuradha’. The most sentimental part of the film is the portrayal of father-daughter relation nicely supported by Mina Siddharth Kak. The film has almost gathered many IPTA artists- actors including Sahni, A K Hangal and many others, Kaifi Aazmi who penned the screenplay (based on short story by Ismat Chugtai) and sharp dialogues in impeccable Urdu along with Shama Zaidi who later works with Benegal in most of his projects.

Few scenes stays in memory for long- the grandma revisiting haveli in doli reminiscing her past prior to her death, second time heartbroken Amina trying to see herself with red bridal sari in mirror prior to suicide and above all the last where poignant Mirza leaves the town in the horse cart. Its pity to Indian Cinema that such a masterpiece is still unavailable in VCD/DVD till day.
Thanks a ton to dearest community buddy Abhishek Prasad for sharing the link of this long unavailable masterpiece.

Ratings- 10/10

PS- In July 2003 exactly thirty years after release of the film, M S Sathyu in an interview published in Times of India (unavailable on net), said as follows about his film:

The film was a watermark in my career. It’s hard to say why it has the sort of cult appeal it does. Perhaps it is because it is a social comment but stops short of being a political propaganda. Perhaps because it is about assimilation and not division. I feel a sense of achievement because the film is moving but not a melodrama.

Garam Hawa took a lot out of my friend Balraj, one of the best actors India has produced. He had suffered a personal tragedy a year before the film, his daughter had killed herself. Like Salim Mirza in the film, Balraj was very close to his daughter. In the movie she commits suicide too. I shot the father-daughter sequences in the manner of Balraj Sahni’s relationship with his daughter: cruel of me but that makes the relationship very touching in the film. Balraj gave a consummate performance-controlled, very effective, just like the film itself.

Source- The Most Memorable Films of the World (From the diaries of the film societies)
By H. N. Narhari Rao (Prism Books Pvt. Ltd. Banglore)


Saturday, August 21, 2010

AKALER SANDHANE (Bengali) (1980)

Is the movie camera the most apt instrument to record reality?

It’s not a close ended question to answer simply with ‘yes’ or ‘no’. It demands broad explanation and introspection. Here is a brilliant film which not only tries to answer the question with fine critical eye but also shows us the ironical and penetrating truth of relations between cinema and reality in Indian society. Mrinal Sen’s this critically acclaimed masterpiece is ‘the best film within film’ intermixing different layers of reality. A film unit landed to a remote Bengali village to shoot a film on Great famine of 1943. It was one of the darkest phase of Bengal which killed more than fifty lakh people. The film unit is led by an idealistic art filmmaker who wanted to make a film with social commitment, but there are many impediments. One of the heroines left the film with her tantrums, a strange thing happened while filming one of the scene and then the search of heroine in village created hatred for the film unit since she has to play a role of a lady who sells her skin to survive. Ultimately agitated by villagers and advised by an old headmaster, the director and the film unit have to pack up and leave the village. For the director, the fantasy to capture the reality ended and he has to shoot his dream project in make believe and artificial world of studio.

Sen with his self indulgent and experimental style narrated the contrast and gap between the world of privileged and underprivileged and their binary opposed world of reality. For urban film crew, the famine lies in those journalistic photographs full of skeleton like faces and figures but for the rooted villagers it’s part of their worst existential reality. Sen who’s preoccupied with theme of famine and ruined buildings brilliantly used both of them in this film. There’s many sparks of irony too. Make believe reality of cinema transformed the reality of a local woman named Durga and the reality bites to the film crew especially the director and heroine. One of the village folk said quite satirically, “They came to take pictures of famine and sparks off another famine.” But the brilliant explanation come in the end from the saner old headmaster.

The film has fine company of restrained Bengali actors like Dhritiman Chatterjee who plays the director, Dipankar Dey, Radhamohan Bhattacharya in a small but significant role of old headmaster and off course Smita Patil as a sensible heroine. The film received National Awards for Best Film, Best Director and Best Screenplay and prestigious silver bear at Berlin Festival. Sen was surprised for getting award for screenplay, as he confessed once that almost 60% of the film was improvised and written on location.

Undoubtedly one of the Best Bengali film and the masterpiece by Mrinal Sen.

Ratings-10/10

Thursday, August 19, 2010

PIERROT LE FOU (French) (1965)

“In the end, the only thing of any interest is the paths people take. The tragic part is that even when they know where they’re going and who they are, everything is still a mystery. And that mystery forever unsolved, is life.”
A line from Pierrot’s Diary

It’s not plot, theme or subject that matters while watching Godard films, it’s disjointed but refined artistic ideas juxtaposed in its experimental execution to cinematic medium that makes him unsurpassed Master than rest of the auteur. Pierrot Le Fou is one of as creative masterpiece of Godard as his ‘Breathless’. Though there’s tone of satire on modern society, pop-culture, consumerism, mechanical mindsets, insensitive media, there’s also dark humor filled with experimental fun and sarcasm played by two brilliant characters- Jean Paul Belmondo as Pierre/Ferdinand and JLG’s beautiful muse Anna Karina as Marianne.

Both characters here living life like a dreamy-imaginary characters of novel; roaming on beaches, forest and road. They’re born drifters, con couple and yet two poles apart figures odd in tastes- one is crazy about books, the other is about music. And it’s brilliant chemistry between two. Belmondo is absolutely amazing especially when he plays trick games to get money from Americans. Whether it’s Vietnam War or Russian commies- two absolute American obsessions of those days; JLG just enjoyed poking fun to them. Humor continues to surprise you even in scenes of life or death situations or climactic bizarre art death with dynamite stripe tied on face. Anna Karina is the beauty beyond myths and JLG bloody well know how to exploit it without showing her skin in any of his films.

One has to watch this Godard film for its sheer beauty in visuals. Undoubtedly it’s a beautiful cinematography by his loyal cameraman Raoul Coutard. But at the same time, the beauty in framing is not only just camera, it also lies heavily in brilliant use of natural and artificial fluorescent colors in backdrop, dressing, objects and as matter of fact even on face. There’s some classy reasonable lines in the film. In one scene Pierrot said to Marianne-“You never have ideas only feelings.” To that she replied, “That’s not true, there are ideas inside feelings.” The narration and dialogues of the film are filled with characters’ nonlinear inner stream of consciousness sometimes showing us absolute contrast. Perhaps with repeat watch I would grasp some of them quite clearly.

Satirical, humorous and beautiful…need to sum up more!!!

Ratings-10/10

GENESIS (1986)

For Mrinal Sen, it’s the most ambitious film of career made under Indo-French collaboration that failed miserably to catch attention either at home or abroad. For Sen it was great personal shock as he gathered the great crew to make this film. Hindi Parallel cinema’s three brilliant actors- Naseer, Om Puri and Shabana Aazmi, a foreign cinematographer and Pt. Ravishankar to score background music. And yet the film failed to get distributor and till day remains unreleased in Indian theatres except festivals.

Surviving a severe draught, a farmer and a weaver reached totally abandoned and cursed village in desert and settled there and started life. The two are solitary company and only a merchant visits them to get woven cloth and in return gives them things essential to survive. There’s absolute harmony between them until a destitute woman enters into their world. They start desiring her and demanding more from life but soon the dream turns into nightmare. The film was shot in remote non-existent site of Rajasthani village with cast of just four players and minimalist approach. Sen, whose most of the films are heavy with Marxist ideology wanted to make a film with universal theme for international audience and so he combined Samresh Basu’s short story with biblical allegory.

Sen mixed the biblical theme of creation and destruction with Marxist angle. Eve here has an extra Adam, the merchant here is an allegory of the serpent and money is perhaps the forbidden fruit. But the problem here does not lie in the fruit but desire to own which breeds possessive instinct and that’s what makes equality and harmony just conceptual theory in Marxist reading. Thematically it’s a powerful film but Sen miserably failed to give it full justice on screen. While juggling too many objectives, he ultimately ended making a mediocre art film. The plot is flat, editing is shoddy, the characteristic tension is missing and in fact he failed to get the full potential of all three lead actors. Though haven’t seen any of his Bengali films, I admired his ‘Bhuvan Shome’ so much but this one is quite disappointing affair.

Ratings- 6/10

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

THE GHOST WRITER (2010)

For every Polanski fans his every new film is the moment and as said by one of his loyal fan he never disappoints his audience. Absolutely true. Well the plot of the film bears slight resemblance with his earlier Depp starrer ‘The Ninth Gate’. A willing writer hired with hefty sum to complete an autobiography of controversial Former British PM Adam Lang. It’s troubled water for the writer as he has to complete his predecessor’s task who committed suicide prior to complete the book. Is it suicide? Lang is in controversy again, this time from whistleblower of one of his close aid in past. Soon the ghost writer discovered the secret documents of his predecessor leading him to one intriguing link to another.

Polanski’s this much awaited latest offering is absolutely intriguing political thriller. From very beginning it leads us towards slow enigma. Like the ghost (nameless) writer we also become unsure who to trust when the quest for hidden truth introduced us certain unpredictable characters. The film was shot beautifully and both Ewan McGregor and Pierce Brosnan acted their parts so wonderfully. In fact it’s first time I felt that Brosnan is a fine actor shedding his Remington Steele and 007 image. Though the end is quite predictable and Hollywood like but Polanski’s treatment and his command over the medium makes it compelling watch nevertheless.

Ratings-8/10

Sunday, August 15, 2010

PEEPLI [LIVE] (2010)

Sorry this isn’t happening new age film. Unfortunately the film is more disturbing and hurting personal experience for me rather than entertaining or concerning one. A journalist turned debutant writer-director Anusha Rizhvi has literally ruined the subject of farmers suicide and made a farcical mockery of culturally rooted real India living in small villages. It seems that the film is made for urban audience to have a funny and tongue in the cheek look by lampooning and spoofing the people who lived below poverty line. Rather than highlighting and giving weight to the poor farmer who’s going to commit suicide and his family, the major part of the film hammered us with the farce of excess and exaggeration created by TRP mongering TV media, concocted political circus and above all that loudmouth old age mother lying on bed, giving enough laughing moments to urban audience.

Satire works when film drags you into the character or treatment and strikes you at heart emotionally but rather than satire Aamir and Rizhvi have made a film which is high on hyperbole to tickle urban audience in the name of new age cinema by showing hyperbole reality. Satire works in few frames but the excessive one sided picture and too much exaggeration made the film disturbing mockery of rural culture. When public around me laughing out loudly watching live over dramatized coverage and analysis of Naththa’s natural excretion, it’s hurting me so badly. What a shame!!!

Talking about acting, the film utterly wasted brilliant theater actor like Raghuvir Yadav, appeared on screen after long. Any of his earlier films are far better as films and that’s why in whatever limited role he played it fits his character so naturally. Rajpal Yadav look-alike Omkar Das Manikpuri as Naththa fits in the frame like a real character but poor fellow has nothing much to do except showing his unspoken expressions to camera. Being journalist, director Rizhvi has given much footage to the rivalry of two reporters. Again spoofing English speaking urban reporter Barkha Dutt and Hindi speaking Dipak Chaurasia. Naseeruddin Shah’s presence is suitable cameo but the amalgamated cast of late Habib Tanvir’s theatre is natural and impressive, especially the characters played by local opportunist Bhaiyaji and local print media reporter Rajesh.

There’s just two scenes which let me felt the noble and concerning one. The first is showing the skeleton like man digging his own grave and the last fast and shaky journey bridging the two compartmentalized India- culturally rooted rural to the happening urban, barren village farms to urban skyscrapers luring the middle class to have flat of their own with lucrative hoardings and taglines. But besides these two, the film is hurting one on many accounts. One has to read ‘Everybody loves a good draught’ written by freelance journalist P. Sainath. It’s well researched and brilliant journalist piece of writing neither just reduced to statistics but making you felt the heart of darkness of BPL India still waiting for development after sixty three years of Independence.

Sorry for being too emotional but rather than burning your bucks on this, watch Satyajit Ray or Shyam Benegal’s social reforming cinema or buy the copy of above said book on this Independent day to understand the real rural India from more closer, more realistic and more concerning perspective.

Ratings- 5/10

Friday, August 13, 2010

THE PIANIST (2002)

“I always knew that one day I would make a film about this painful chapter in Polish history, but I did not want it to be based on my own life. As soon as read the first chapter of Wladyslaw Szpilman’s memoirs, I instantly knew that The Pianist would be the subject of my next film. I knew how to tell it. It was the story I was seeking; in spite of horror it is a positive account, full of hope. I survived the bombing of Warsaw and the Cracow ghetto and wanted to recreate those childhood visions. It was also important for me to stick as close to the truth as possible and avoid Hollywood style make-believe. I never have done, and don’t intend to do, anything autobiographical, but making ‘The Pianist’, I could use the experiences I went through.”
Roman Polanski

Polanski’s this masterpiece is undoubtedly tribute to his homeland and the time which brought chaos to Poland. Movie opens in 1939 Nazi-German occupation of Warsaw and we witness a gifted Jew pianist Szpilman playing Chopin on piano amid chaos and bombardment outside. A sudden blast broke the window and next we witness the horror of war where Szpilman and his Jewish family have to bear the burden of surviving in hard times without money, food, water and home. They have to survive in fenced and walled jewish ghettoes where any moment German Gestapo shoot them for no reason at all. Luckily it’s the pianist who survives with help of few jewish friends and a german officer.

The film has many scenes reminds you Neo-Realist Italian cinema of De Sica. Polanski abstained putting his personal comment on any particular angle on holocaust, shows us the general picture with a man who is witnessing the physical, psychological and existential chaos all around him and yet luckily survives. Its Polanski’s detailing of war’s horror at personal and general level which makes it a fine human document of war-drama. However at the same time, it’s very unusual Polanski film hardly bears any resemblance with his earlier films in theme and treatment and yet he managed to make a film with all possible humanity like his personal story.

The film is shot brilliantly by Pawel Edelman and there are many scenes which stays in memory-i.e one where Szpilman witnessed the exterminated other half of ghetto watching the ruined buildings all around. Adrien Brody’s restraint act is his best till day and surely deserves a trophy of Best actor that year. He maintained the individual part but his artistic stand remained totally absent throughout the film until the few last minutes when he plays piano on insistence of a German officer. But that was moment and I don’t regret much when I see the rolling titles. No film compels you to pay your ears and eyes as ending titles starts rolling on screen but surprisingly Polanski made us felt the power and the magic of music till the last ending title.

Undoubtedly a great film which pays Polanski his long due Oscar trophy of Best Director but still I firmly believed that he deserved it more for ‘Chinatown’ than this most popular one.

Ratings-9/10

Thursday, August 12, 2010

KNIFE IN THE WATER (1962)

Though not as great as his ‘Apartment Trilogy’ and other masterpieces; Polanski’s this breakthrough low budget film shows the spark of his talent. The thin plot is like reading an open-ended short story consists of three characters at disposal. A mid age arrogant husband and his young beautiful wife accompanied the company of a na├»ve young hitchhiker in their weekend pleasure boat ride. It’s attitude which gives tension on the boat. The object of tension here is off course hitchhiker’s knife but at the same time it’s also lies in the company of bikini clad dame and her desirable skin. The film is shot beautifully in black and white frames and the fine background score reminds me Scorsese’s ‘Taxi driver’.

Polanski in a quite subtle way abstained the film from any unnecessary violence or melodrama, the trouble is more personal and psychological. It’s ‘Repulsion’ released next to this, brought Polanski’s talents as an auteur who got grip over the medium which he exploits brilliantly throughout his career.

Ratings-7.5/10

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

THE AMERICAN FRIEND (German) (1977)

Among all other German New Wave directors, Wim Wenders’ cinema stands distinct in two parameters. His cinema combines the elements of Hollywood entertainment and European Art filmmaking and yet structurally and thematically it shows the huge dichotomy between the two with his independent style. His visionary sense of showing beautiful framings of urban landscapes and streets is just matchless. One can consider cities as the characters, themes or subjects of the films. Both Hamburg and Paris breathes here as live as two brilliant actors Bruno Ganz and Dennis Hopper.

‘The American Friend’ is intriguing, allusive and thrilling experience. I will simply ruin the film if I talk about plot here as story remains mere shadow while watching Wenders films; it’s less narrative and more and more visual experience that stays in memory. Among great director-actor combination, I would like to add Wenders and Bruno Ganz just like his German contemporary Werner Herzog and Klaus Kinski. Ganz is anything less than excellent in his character. He so naturally kept intact the intrinsic trauma, psychology and the existential dilemma of his character guided more by emotions than mind. Dennis Hopper is terrific company to Ganz, with his cowboy attire and complex characterization. Robby Muller’s camera work is another strong reason why anybody should watch this film. His camera work is the eye to witness Wenders’ sublime fascination for cities, landscapes and road juxtaposed with the running thread of existential theme.

Ratings-9/10

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

TRAINSPOTTING (1996)

A group of hopeless junkies indulged in drug, junk, alcohol, casual sex, violence and all sorts of unthinkable shit. ‘Trainspotting’ is disturbingly dark, violent, irritating and hard hitting film that it reminds me ‘A Clockwork Orange’. Though the film isn’t as great as Kubrick’s masterpiece, it’s absolutely compelling watch. Its peeping into the world of obsessed junkies. The junkies here have distorting but memorable identities whether its James Bond flick obsessed ‘Sickboy’, the weirdest and destined loser ‘Spud’, violent psycho Begbie played brilliantly by Robert Carlyle. He’s the fire on screen whether it’s pool table mess or violent show at the bar in end and above all Ewan McGregor as Renton ‘Rentboy’ in one of his most memorable role of lifetime.

Danny Boyle kept his directorial punch with brilliant opening, fast narration, jump cuts and matching psychedelic punk and pop soundtrack keeps you hooked to the film. Technically Boyle is meticulous here with absolutely crisp and gritty editing and screenplay, brilliant sound mixing, background score and camera work. Boyle has shown the filth and ugliness of world with hypnotic images and point of view of the addicted junkies who go any limit to get their dose. Ohh, that mindfucking scene where Renton drives into the most disgusting toilet in Scotland or stealing drugs, forging the prescriptions and trading drugs with patients. Though film lacks any moral stand, it shows the screwed up aftermath under that great kick.

Just shites it…Boyle’s best.

Ratings-8.5/10

Sunday, August 8, 2010

AISHA (2010)

Call it ‘chick flick’ or ‘rom-com’ but I enjoyed it compared to all other films released from couple of weeks just for its fresh characterization, treatment and honest attempt of story telling. The movie is based on Jane Austen’s classic ‘Emma’, where a clever, arrogant, rich and twenty something heroine convinced that she understands the world better than anybody else. She tried to rule over her social circle with her own whims and fancy of match making (quite obvious and wonderful theme only Austen knows how to tell). But she’s fallible where love is concerned and her failings to settle others affairs put her into many misunderstandings including one in her own case.

Though it’s not the best ‘Emma’ on screen, it’s really fine Indian adaptation by debut director Rajshri Oza. Sorry it’s not family drama if that’s what you mean but the film having many rushes of fun where misunderstanding runs ahead than romance. If anybody enjoys watching popular teen series called ‘Gossip Girl’! There’s are many messed up situations of breaking and making with rushes of fun especially in the character of behenji type girl of Bahadurgadh. The fun is not loud but natural and there are moments when even heroine messed up proposing her beloved on a stage in a party. What I dislike is overhanging show of designer clothing and products. Another show off is the portrayal of Delhi elite enjoying all the luxuries of life all the time.

Perhaps Sonam Kapoor fits here quite perfectly; it’s absolutely her film with complete makeover not only in stunning look but in refreshing acting too. The film has wonderful company of cool Abhay Deol and he’s just as perfect as everytime. The other bunches of actors are freshers from VJ Cyrus Sahukar to Ira Dubey.

A refreshing entertainer and a well made chick-flick …enjoy it with your girlfriend or just alone.

Ratings-6.5/10

ONCE UPON A TIME IN MUMBAAI (2010)

“Beyond all myths lies Mumbai’s greatest betrayal.’

Well the line appears in the film as movie ends. Rather than calling betrayal, it seems more like stupidity. Director Milan Lutharia made one fine film in his career till day and that is ‘Taxi No 9 2 11’ but this one is all style show or romanticizing the gangster myth where the plot is near zero. The film garnered much publicity for white and white clad Ajay Devgan playing Sultan Mirza (in real Haji Mastan) on screen and for its 70’s look of Mumbai underworld. But except character’s dressing nowhere I find the framing of 70’s Mumbai; except once where we witness the Queen’s necklace from a high rise. It’s another stereotype gangster film where rather than intriguing gangsters we find romancing gangsters, rather than shocking violence we got dialogue violence and rather than intriguing insider story we got abrupt patches. It’s film where not only Ajay but everyone is throwing some catchy one-liners here and there to pull the mass audience.

I doubt whether Lutharia had done any research on Haji Mastan and the rise of Dawood or just knows as much as us with the help of google and wikipedia. He messed up with film by making it too good gangster Vs too bad gangster myth. White is maybe symbolic but where is the grey shade of characterization. Ajay is impressive but for him it’s like playing what he knows best, Randeep Hooda is surprise and comparatively good in the first half. And hell yeah, it’s Imran Hashmi who screwed the film. He’s real misfit and too irritating to watch with his typecast characteristics. It would be better if Hooda had played his part.

Watch RGV’s ‘D’ instead if you haven’t; and you’ll agree that there’s surely a method, effort and research of Verma even though he made the film too average compared to his brilliant ‘Satya’ and impressive ‘Company’.

Ratings-5/10

Thursday, August 5, 2010

KAIREE (2000)

Directed by Amol Palekar and based on famous Marathi writer G. A. Kulkarni’s short story, the film is a story of a ten years old girl visiting her Taanimausi’s home after her mother’s death. It’s different world for the girl who enjoys and struggles to cope up with new home, cane in hand teacher and bullying schoolmates. Taanimausi’s brute husband is just horrible. But she has a Mausi with a heart of gold. Both childless Taanimausi and the girl share touching moments of child’s innocent joys along with corrupt face of adult world. Intimacy and bonding of Taanimausi helps the girl to create her own way in a long run.

From the very first scene Palekar narrated and showed the film from the uncorrupt and innocent world of ten year old girl played so naturally by Yogita Deshmukh. Its meaningful film made with fine sensitivity maintaining sublime emotions. The setting in a remote and natural Maharashtrian village works as rejuvenation where the simple and innocent joys of life lies in sleeping under a banyan tree, touching finger to touch me not plant and sorrows lies in losing possessed old coin, unable to watch peacock, missing ice gola outside school when others enjoy it. It’s difficult to bring the essence of regional short story in film but Palekar is artist and he made a film which brings genuine smile and tears to your eyes without letting you know. It rediscovers the inner strength of woman helping her to mould a beautiful tomorrow in our patriarchal and male dominated society.

Shilpa Navalkar’s act as Taanimausi is one of the most natural act I have ever seen. It seems like she breathes the life to writer’s imagination. Notable to mention the supporting cast with almost all strong Marathi actors- Atul Kulkarni, Mohan Gokhale, Upendra Limaye and with a special appearance of Sonali Kulkarni.

Highly Recommended for all alternate cinema lovers.

Ratings-8/10

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

MANTHAN (1976)

“I don’t know if cinema actually brings about change in society. But cinema can certainly be the vehicle for creating social awareness.” – Shyam Benegal

Perhaps that what Shyam Benegal has done throughout his career as filmmaker; making brilliant parallel films with flame of social reformation. Here is a filmmaker who dedicated his cinema to deglamorise and real India resides in villages. Here’s again he achieved what we called an unbelievable filmmaking. The film was made with two rupees each donated by 500,000 farmers of Gujarat. The idea and inspiration surely came from Dr. V. Kurien, the architect of India’s Milk Co-operative.

Manthan is microcosmic picture showing the transformative phase of rural India, evoking the rural development and sees the possibilities of new dawn in co-operative movement. What happens in the film is the inspirational phenomenon of Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation, Anand which creates a brand ‘Amul’ a proud name for entire India. Co-operative here used as symbol of bridging gap between rural and urban India with a new structure challenging the existing communal and class power politics and changing the conservative village mass in a new role model.

The protagonist Dr. Rao is an idealist of Nehru’s socialist India. He is veterinary doctor appointed by Government with his team to a remote village of Gujarat to establish dairy co-operative. It’s a village without primary health centre, public lavatory and perhaps state transport. The village folk are divided by conventional class and communal bifurcation. His initial efforts considered hostile by illiterate and poor villagers with minority stronghold. But slowly he wins the good will with awareness campaign. The seeds of ideal co-operative harm the rooted interests of village headman and local dairyman who concocted a plot to kick this man either by hook or crook. Shyambabu unlike conventional idealist ended the film not in the favor of the outsider and the protagonist Dr. Rao who became victim of great Indian bureaucracy. It’s insider rebel who keeps the flame of reform. It’s a big message if one thinks quite closely that an outsider can ignite the spark provided that the spark is one of insider.

Benegal formed a strong casting team; the likeminded torchbearers of parallel cinema -Girish Karnad, Smita Patil, Naseerudin Shah, Amrish Puri, Sadhu Mehar, Mohan Agashe, Anant Nag and Kulbhushan Kharbanda( the only misfit in the company!) All retained their characters so realistically especially Smita Patil fits perfectly in frames and her act as real Rabari woman. Her raw sensuality is just unmatchable compared to any other Indian actress. The day I saw her ‘Bhumika’ (another Benegal film), she became my one of favorite Indian actress of all-time. And again a wonderful Naseer as indifferent and rigid face of rebel dalit, he’s the man to watch as always. I can still go on and on praising Shyambabu who ‘Buzzed off’ the star system in the time when Bachchan Mania was ruling at the box office. He not only made such cinama but gave us the most gifted actors to Indian cinema- Naseer, Smita, Shabana, Om Puri, Amrish Puri grew and shaped their talents more and more his films.

The film deservingly won two National Awards for Best Hindi film and Best Screenplay and sent that year to Oscar for best foreign film section. But more than that the real pride of ‘Manthan’ lies in becoming the mouthpiece of NDDB (National Dairy Development Board) when released and helped to invoke and create more such co-operatives across India. It was again a film viewed by UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) in many under developed and developing countries across the world.

Ratings-8.5/10

PS- A big thanks to dearest friend Pratik Modi for gifting this unavailable Benegal film from long. I’m looking forward for the documentary ‘Operation Flood’ made by Benegal, if available.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

GREEN ZONE (2010)

The film is based on 2003 Iraq war when Saddam fled from the country and whole Iraq was occupied by US military. Chaos brooding over the civilians surviving without basic amenities. A Military officer Ray Miller and his team third time returns empty handed regarding WMD links given by the military intelligence. He met a local man leading him to get Saddam’s General Al Rawi. After lot of chase Miller met the General and knows the shocking truth that there’s no WMD at all and it’s his own reliable sources which led the country to war with distorting information. The war is ended and US established puppet Government but at the same time it gave birth to another cancer.

The film is partly based on facts but there’s no exaggeration as now we all knows the dire facts of Bush administration. The movie is intriguing and gripping in the first half but soon it becomes quite routine chase and thrill drama. Mat Damon is what he’s in Bourne series. Camera has captured brilliantly the ruined buildings and landmarks of Baghdad.

An average watch.

Ratings-6/10

Monday, August 2, 2010

THE WOLFMAN (2010)

The original version was made in 1941 and it was a huge success and gave birth to many of its clones generally in B grade horror flicks. Hollywood is crazy about Lycan, Werewolf, Dracula myths and we’ve seen many of them many times. The full moon day, the curse, the damned turning into wolf man, gypsy myth and love as ultimate solution. The film has company of three fine actors- Anthony Hopkins, Benecio Del Toro, Hugo Weaving but the real heroes of the film are production designer, cinematographer, visual effects director and make up crew. Visually its stunning film but the film fails to bring the freshness in plot, story and treatment. The Wolfman reminds you watching King Kong, Godzilla and Dracula films and that’s make it quite mediocre one in the end. Though watching it on bluray rip is just great visual treat.

Ratings-5.5/10

ALICE IN WONDERLAND (2010)

Lewis Carole’s this dream classic deserved to be made on screen from long. One can only expect it from Disney and director Tim Burton who gave us some of the enchanting entertainers for all ages. With 3D graphics and amazing animation he created all those wonderful characters alive- White rabbit, Dormouse, Dodo, fat Tweedle brothers, smoking caterpillar Absolem, Cheshire cat, Bandersnatch, wicked Red Queen, dethroned White Queen and above all the most lovable Madhatter who helps Alice to reach his goal. But creativity doesn’t lie only in showing great animation!!!

The major problem of the film lies in poor casting of Alice. She seems so wooden and expressionless in entire film. Taking liberty with the original is considered good if you kept the essence of original intact but Burton’s wonderland seems more like dark underworld of Red Queen showing Alice as savior for poor White queen (another pathetic casting of Anne Hathway!!) Rather than showing the world of innocent imagination, curiosity and magic, he gave us adventure film like Narnia or Harry Potter films. Johnny Depp delivered as we expect as he’s one of the amazing fellow to watch on screen always.

Burton fails to deliver the innocent essence and charm of Carole’s original fantasy. Advice to read the book if you haven’t than watching this quite contrived version.

Ratings-5.5/10