Archive for September, 2012

September 25, 2012


If one ever wanted to see the invisible oppressive face the Man, this film makes one see ten distinct poses of patriarch power. A divorced mother navigates the Man’s world in her car while she drives her son to his grandmother’s house. It seems that the mother, in trying to convince her son to stay at her place or atleast listen to her, is trying to convince the childish faces of this Man’s world. The faces come in the form of a child, sister-in-law, a prostitute, a dejected friend, a rejected believer, a god-fearing old lady all reminding her limitations and audacities. This unsaid narrative organically translates itself into political talks between two view points of opposite sexes, subversive or sustaining, sitting alongside. Sometimes she contests; sometimes she conforms to achieve nothing, but, survival with dignity. This confident struggle comes out in her conviction to keep driving till the point both the views shut their mouth – who is the submissive and who is autocratic is left for the viewer to decide.

From a camera mounted on the dash board, the story is divided into ten conversations from the fixed point that rotates to see the woman and the faces, bringing in the world revolving outside her car. The strength of this style, for me, was the sheer simplicity with which it allowed me to paint the unseen world. It brought out the real hidden play of politics of sexes, without moving, and in literal sense also, from the point. If nothing, it makes you pick up the camera and capture the issues that you always saw but never comprehended. Ten, beyond a feminist point, is a humanist endeavour that one cannot prevent from indulging into.  Abbas Kiarostami in turning this complex phenomenon into simple pieces of conversations strips the chauvinist society naked. And the view isn’t live-able, but, surely imaginable.

September 20, 2012

Khamoshi (1969): a review

Asit Sen has directed a very strong script into a very good film.

Kamal bose is the real hero of this film for his pathos filled camera work that lights up each and every frame with an uncanny appeal that forebodes what will happen at the end. And this is the real highlight of the entire film, the degradation of a soul into becoming more pathetic by each day. It is as if her persona is fading into the realm of unreality, day by day. The camera goes from being wide and accommodating to being low-angled and tight. The symbolism of the medical cross and also the cage-like door inside which the patients are imprisoned, makes for a completely different reading of the film; One which is about the methods of treatment of mentally ill patients.

The melodrama characteristic of the era feels like a necessity to capture the changing emotions in their true colours. And in this endeavour, the film was immensely helped by Waheeda Rehman playing the nurse Radha with a steady demeanor. The other star of the film, Rajesh Khanna, is surprisingly understated as well. His character is a side kick to Waheeda’s and the result is a devoid-of-petty-clichés superstar film. Dharmendra is another star of the film. This faceless lover was necessary to establish the meaningless of love in Radha’s life and thus her deterioration to become just another patient at the end. One other name that deserves a mention is Nazir Hussain’s. He plays the doctor and is Freud, more or less, talking about treating traumas without electric shocks and operations. His character gives the film another dimension.

No comment on Khamoshi could be complete without mentioning two names – Hemant Kumar and Gulzar. The haunt of a mental asylum was accentuated through Hemant’s music and Gulzar’s lyrics. The emptiness of the alleys and staircases is like a trap, a prison from where there seems to be no escape. Even the one song beneath the Howrah is a throwback to the evenings inside the hospital (I might be reading too much into this though!).

Khamoshi deserves repeat viewing just for the sake of the beautiful frames and their lighting.

September 20, 2012

Barfi! – a review

The magic of cinema is so overwhelming that it captures all of us in a trance and deposits us into a world of utter incongruity and we say nothing. We never protest. And after a point, we even start believing that this ridiculous world is real. Barfi takes us into one such world. Here, train tracks run through markets, lamp posts are pillars of friendships, advertisements just inform, people are simple, and even the big city is noise-less despite its trams and a larger-than-life bridge. Such a world does not exist. It is not real. Yet we believe in it as we see it through the antics of the protagonist, Barfi. The fun of the first ‘chase sequence’ is a laugh that few recent Hindi films have managed to gift the audience. The hues of yellow and blue are ephemeral add-ons to the surroundings, and indeed moods. The film is so much fun and ‘feel good’ (as TOI reviewer puts it) that it almost becomes what it set out to, a masterpiece. But good things come to an end, certainly so in the context of Hindi cinema.
After a brief passage of interesting transitions from one period to another, the film loses its own track. The narrative is not the problem here; it is fairly easy to comprehend despite the frequent shifts. It’s the plot that lets the film down. The magical world created so adeptly and skilfully is shattered as soon as logic seeps in. There is no need to be too informative. When the film tries to answer hows and whys, it really becomes cumbersome. A film that started off by trying to explore the simpler side of humanity is forced to finish somewhat like a whodunit. How? Why?

The Hindi film audience is seen as one which does not really get a film until everything is laid bare in as many frames as it takes. But is it really necessary to get a film, more so a film like Barfi which is meant to be all about the feel of it rather than the plausibility? And to top it all, the dilemma of continuing with the humour amid all the tense situations that arise due to logic, overkills the Chaplin/Keaton act (The word ‘plagiariasm’ is being thrown around in social circles).

The master of suspense, Mr. Hitchcock, famously said, “Logic is dull”. Well, if it is dull for suspense then it surely is dull for a ‘feel good’.

September 16, 2012

Korczak: a review

It is very difficult to critique a sympathetic movie that is so engrossed in its story that it leaves little or no scope for feeling anything else. Not because there is nothing to criticize about the film, but mostly everyone would have liked the film so very much! And Korczak, by Andrej Wajda, is one such film. Viewed at the Cinephilia and Beyond series organized by Instituto Cervantes New Delhi, personal expectations were high, bordering glamorous. All coming to naught.
The film follows the story of a Polish father figure (equalled to Gandhi by Michal Malinowski) who went to his death in the gas chambers of Treblinka, accompanying the 200 orphans under his doting charge. The politics of this era have been over exploited in cinema and there is hardly any perspective or reference left unexplored, but that is not a deterrent to artists who get inspired and re-inspired in this post modern age to come up with something novel (Life is Beautiful being a case in point). Wajda has somehow failed to recreate the effect that his riveting and overwhelming Kanal did many years back. The detailing is immaculate and almost Hollywood-esque and the acting emotionally appealing. But the filmmaking leaves nothing much to the viewer’s imagination and is routine to say the least. The final sequence of the train bogey carrying the kids (destined to their deaths) getting unhinged from the rest of the chaos is simplistic and even naively romantic to an extent.
There needs to be a sense of optimism about tragedies but that does not mean it should take away from the truth, however dark and disturbing it may be.

September 11, 2012

Bhrashtamev Jayate (Hail Corruption)


Here is the cartoon that won Aseem Trivedi imprisonment in a case of sedition.

Unbelievable! A massive democracy like India can be forced to jitters by a mere drawing not only shows the insecurity of the State but rather ironically, it also gives hope to the millions of dissenters. At least there is a reaction to such expressions in India, unlike the USA where the powers are not at all bothered about anti-State creative comments, be it cinema, music or even cartoons.

September 5, 2012

F.i.g.h.t C.l.u.b

If you haven’t seen Kamal Swaroop’s cult classic Om dar badar, you still haven’t seen the best of Indian cinema. And if you are friends with him on FB, his wall is like a pandora’s box for visual art.

Tehelka Tv has been doing an interesting series called “Cinema & Me” where they talk to filmmakers of life, cinema and philosophy. The new video features Kamal Swaroop. Must Watch.

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