Posts tagged ‘Film’

June 30, 2013

Size does matter

I came across this fascinating video on how aspect ratio has evolved over the years and has shaped our movie watching experience.

Have you ever wondered if your movie going experience would be any different had you watched it in a different theater?  The answer seems intuitive right…of course it would be, sound systems, projection systems, screen dimension et all play a role in creating the experience.

With the onset of multiplexes and standardization this may not be as evident as it were in the past.

Do head over to and check out some of their other videos, they also have some very well structured courses on various aspects of film making.

Vimeo too has some amazing tutorials and informative videos on cinema.


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.

July 24, 2012

Review: Saving Face

ImageSaving Face, the Oscar award winning short documentary by Daniel Junge and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy is a film that touches the heart and leaves a deep seated helplessness in the soul. The film appeals to the logical, educated and ‘civilized’ human conscious for a sound reason as to why a hundred odd men in Pakistan, and many more across the world, think it acceptable to shower their female partners with acid, every year. Is it a mere act of patriarchal violence or is it something far more brutal? To be absolutely honest and blunt, a rape victim is violated both physically and emotionally, and it must be an arduous task to overcome the fear and inner emptiness. But having watched snippets of the lives of a few acid attack survivors through the film, how are these women to redeem their lives? They are not even given a chance to forget about their fates. The tragedy that their lives have become, stare at them daily. Zakia is strong willed and is ready to wring the courts of justice till she gets one up on her husband. Her willingness to file for divorce is in itself an act of bravado of a variety that only desperation can conjure. She supports her two kids, juggles the courts and the lawyers and is also hopeful of getting her face restored through surgery. Amidst all these sub plots of tremendous optimism there lays the truth; Zakia is fearful, and ashamed, of stepping out in public without covering her burnt face. On the other end of the spectrum is Rukhsana, a young woman in her mid-twenties who was not only subjected to an acid attack by the husband but was also slated to be burnt alive by a pint of gasoline and a few matchsticks. Her story is not one of courage but of cowardice. Rukhsana goes to a safe house, only to return back to her husband. For the sake of the kids, is the reason shared with us, but the real reason is a sense of defeat and an acceptance of life that is imprisoned by circumstances. To watch her cry is almost obscene. She has been cordoned off in her own house by a brick wall, so that she cannot even see her daughter. And the husband wants to conjugate as well, which leaves Rukhsana pregnant in the middle of her impending face reconstruction surgery. She is sincere in praying that her next born will be a boy who, by the grace of Allah, will bring back happiness in her world. All the fiction films of this world could not have managed to create such an ironic tale of suffering and hope.

In the midst of these two heroes, is the knight who goes by the name of Dr. Jawad. He is a loud mouthed, rich and professional UK-Pakistani plastic surgeon who, by his own admission, has become famous because he can make them bigger or smaller. The film bounces off him and creates an easy access for the viewers to get engaged with it. It is the doctor who cries on hearing the stories of pain, who calls the operation a party and who gives Zakia a high five on hearing that her husband has been awarded with a double life imprisonment. If he was an actor, he would have won an Oscar himself. But Allah definitely will have a few Oscars of His own lined up for him in the afterlife.

Saving Face has been lucky to have serendipity on its side. Many instances in the film could have been left out of the final edit if not for them being turning out so positively:

The Pakistani parliament passed the bill to increase the punishment of acid attack offenders to life imprisonment, unanimously; a rarity in politics of the region.

After a delay in the verdict, the court finally returns with one that favours Zakia.

And the most important one of all, Rukhsana actually delivers a healthy baby boy to keep her hopes of a happy life intact.

Tragedies that end on a happy note are rare but it feels tremendously good to see it happening on screen. If people are not moved by anything else in the film, they must surely be moved by these instances of fortune. If for nothing else, the film deserves an Oscar for celebrating life!

When I watch a documentary, it is a difficult task to critique the film, the art form. The most obvious reason for this is the fact that the subject of the film is real, its protagonists are real people and its settings are out of real towns and cities. In a sense, a documentary is the closest that a film can get to life itself; life in its most horrendous, beautiful, charming or sadistic avatar. And because the film is so real, the story takes over and I get totally engaged, absorbed, and even sympathetic at times. The film making and its paraphernalia are sidelined for a bit as the mood of the story takes over. Saving Face is no exception. Reality strikes right at the beginning, the opening shot of Zakia’s photograph taken before the attack sets the tone of the film, making it a story of longing of the days gone by. In some shots there is an obvious attempt to underline the grotesqueness of the faces that are to be saved. The camera angles highlight the scars by being oblique, moving from a mid-shot to a close up rather unannounced, almost voyeuristic. True, such acts of violence can never be completely undone. True, the faces were not appetising to look at. But sympathy victimizes the victim further and pushes them aside into a different group, othering them, to speak academically. The self conscious doctor gives the film a character that infuses jovialness and takes away from the pain ever so slightly. His caricature is the keyhole through which the audience (who are mostly of the same class and social background as him) peep into the lives of these scarred women. On occasions, the camera tries really hard to get inside the psyche of Zakia and Rukhsana, prompting the former to ask her daughter to recite a joke, and the latter to make decorative bangles. But these frames look made up, unreal. Maybe such films demand a different level of empathy from the film maker, one where the protagonists are not just subjects but a raison d’etre of the film. But the task of a film or any art really, is to initiate dialogue, and Saving Face has been successful in doing that, more so because of the Oscar win. Congratulations for that.

September 26, 2011

When Art Inspires Artists

The greatest excitement about art is the process of creating it. Yes. It is.

When that illusive bolt of lightning strikes; you know what hand gesture would give that missing edge to the character, or what blocking would elevate the play to a new meaning altogether, or even when you haven’t a clue about stuff, nature conspires to give you that perfect shot on camera.

I would call all this inspiration, in a sense, to keep going on. To keep at it. And above all, I think that such akaashvani tells you point-blank that you are an artist. Good or bad? Well, that’s subjective really. I believe that if you are conscious towards your art, you are good. I would be digressing if I go into details here.

What is this force, this power that clicks you towards genius? Is it an external power, a subconscious one or something naturally within? Art academicians, psychologists and others interested might answer this, but to practitioners one thing is evident, this thing keeps evolving. These moments of ecstasy increase as you live life; more plays in your profile, well read about something (one), worked with different people, seen more of this world and so on. But sometimes, for those tiny nanoseconds of your life, you stand aside this constant growth and just let it sink in. You get inspired, truly. You want to shout with joy. You are fanatic. You become a fan.

One such moment in my recent life was watching Satah Se Uthata Admi, a film by the great Mani Kaul. Oh, what cinema! Pure genius! It’s so difficult to take up a subject, dive right into it, manage to take the audience along with you, and still come out of it unscathed. No harm’s done. I mean, keeping the viewer distanced from the art is difficult in theatre itself, let alone a film. The film is about a Hindi writer, Muktibodh – I read some of his poems after watching the film, he wrote brilliantly. Being a biographical film, Satah is not your traditional docudrama. It is a fictional journey of a poet into his life, his friends’ life and a life that he imagines when engrossed in literature (his own and sometime Muktibodh’s). All these narratives are overlapping, no state remains isolated from the other. Reality of one segment is a reality of the other as well. There is no shying away from it. Some examples now –

A cup of tea kept at the bedside in the morning is left untouched. It appears again in another narrative, but this time inside a fridge, after all it must have gotten cold by now!

A tired looking Hindu teacher shares a casual walk back home with a maulvi inside an evidently Muslim colony. The next thing you see is the dawn of a new day with saffron clad young men on horseback entering the colony. And to make it just a tad celebratory (and ironic), there is a brass band playing (with no background sound! It is silent!) as the violence begins.

This and many more such ‘realities’ are brought in front of the characters in the film, Mani Kaul behind the camera and to an extent the viewer sitting in the auditorium, watching. This debate between reality and fantasy, practical and ideal, theory and practice…is the essence of this film. Should the artist go deeper within to create something or should he get inspired from the realities outside? I see that we are back to where we started. I guess some arguments are lifelong. Or maybe Mani Kaul understood it all, he knew the answer. I guess I will have to watch the film many more times to find out.

Trust me, you have to see it to get it. And you will get it. It’s a piece of cake, this film. The difficult part begins when you realize that this film is twisting your innards and making you think. And think. About things that are cruel, sad, happy, mundane.

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