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cinema cinema: hindi cinema:tamil

WAIT RA! WHAT ARE WE CELEBRATING?

Dada Saheb Phalke

On the third of May 1913, Dadasaheb Phalke showed his film Raja Harishchandra at Coronation Cinema, then Bombay. It was a silent film.

Sometime in April 2013, a 24 hour news channel brought out a list of 100 greatest Indian films ever made. The introduction to this slideshow spectacle was humble and apologetic; like how they wished they could include more films and that this hundred were selected due to lack of space.

So basically the greatest 100 films we ever made are finally decided not on merit, but based on space availability.

Although the intention of this piece is not to find fault in the noble minds who put out this list, but where else can we express our irritation other than our very own blog.

For the past few weeks, every channel and publication had its own set of experts trying to come up with a sort of comprehensive list of the greatest Indian films, the list aforementioned had 40 Bollywood films or the Hindi film industry counting ‘Pushpak’<on the sides of which the description reads as such “Directed by Singeetham Srinivasa Rao, the film is a silent black comedy. This Hindi film tells the story of an unemployed young man”> Look buddies, you may take me for a lingual separatist but how did a silent black comedy become a Hindi film? It is not a Hindi production even.

We are not against Bollywood films and we welcome the josh in which you have suddenly realized that this cinema of ours is worth celebrating, and we are not even going into the credibility of these movies you have selected. But what we are irritated about is “oh shit we have to include at least one film from this language so as to look fair” attitude, and it is not for the Tamil films for which we are ranting.

To each his own cinema.

By virtue of being a vast and multicultural nation, we understand the difficulties and tensions in creating a sort of all inclusive list, so even 100 Bollywood films in that list would have been fine with us and so on for other regional languages(if you had the time and space).

So from all the above mentioned ranting, we have come to a decision that these celebrations are nothing but time fillers, empty commemorations that mean nothing; and this includes the southern media too, besides some stray specials the south has not shown much enthusiasm in celebrating this century. Whether this is indifference reciprocated? No one can say.

But what are we celebrating, really?

‘To Each His Own Cinema’ was a commissioned anthology film celebrating sixty years of the Cannes Festival, where filmmakers were invited to present a film as a sort of love letter to the screen, needless to say that none of our filmmakers were featured; while the far east and the middle east got many nods.

All right, you do not want to be judged from the foreign eyes and you will wish to stand in your incomparable emerald palace. You do not want to be compared, but what is the respect you give to your own films?

The fact that Raja Harishchandra to this day remains a partially lost film (only few reels are available) is just one of the many examples of the respect with which we have treated our filmmakers and films.

But shouldn’t we celebrate?

Yes,and much like that chocolate ad; you only need a reason. We could have celebrated even 47 years of Gemini Circus or some such thing.

But our only request is don’t make shitty lists like “100 best films”, “100 best scenes in 100 years” and “100 best rain drenched heroines” and the like, don’t fool yourselves. Every Indian can make 100 such personal lists and be happy about it.

And no polls, please.

Go and celebrate, we are not stopping you. If this celebration opens to you another door through which more visionaries and movies are discovered, then there is point in celebrating. But we don’t think any cinematic discovery of that sort will happen with rest of India hidden behind Bollywood’s screaming arc lights.

Categories
cinema cinema: hindi

THERE IS SOMETHING IN THE WATER

https://i1.wp.com/media2.intoday.in/indiatoday/images/stories/talaash-350_101812072223.jpg

TALAASH (2012)

We walked in, just in time to catch Reema Kagti’s name being flashed with the grim yet jazzy “Muskaanein Jhooti hai”; the song which also accompanies a certain TV spot of the film which has a full mouthed and in night gown Kareena dancing to the song in a jazz bar with revolving doors with all the movie’s characters, evoking the both the Bombay of the past and the classic Hollywood thriller, which is what it intends to do.

The night club song does not feature in the film, meticulously shot and high on style, it has no place in the film but then gives you an idea of what to expect from the film.

Which makes me wonder, whether little said the better is the right approach for a thriller?

Aamir Khan plays Inspector Surjan Shekhawat, who is assigned the case of a dead Bollywood actor, whose car crashes into the Arabian sea, but like any protagonist in a quest, he has his own problems which began with the drowning of his son. The inspector has internalized his problem and along with his disturbed wife Roshni (Rani Mukherjee) paint a picture which resembles the first few minutes of ‘En Bommakutti Ammavukku’, the pain of losing a child to water, ultimately ties itself with the case of the drowned actor.

An interesting subject for a thriller, but the writers do not seem to be interested in strengthening the process of investigation but more on establishing the pain felt by its protagonists, it is also to be noted that the inspector is not shown as fast thinking Indian Sherlock Holmes but a very human Mumbai Police officer. This makes the storyline or the case involved look simple; which is how probably real cases work. There need not be knots within knots just to prove the prowess of an investigator, I totally agree but the point of ‘big reveal’ is lost if you can see the ending from long distance. So that is perhaps why, I couldn’t take much from the film or to say it in other words Talaash did not create the effect that Yuddham Sei (also a film with a troubled police officer) had on me.

Or because the tagline of the film is, “the answer lies within” it should be seen not just as a thriller but also a sort of personal struggle. It is quite impossible to discuss the story further without giving away much of the plot.

And yes it is amazing how Zoya Akthar and Reema Kagti went from Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, that itself warrants Talaash a watch, also there is Kareena Kapoor and Nawazuddin Siddiqui(Two more reasons).

<click on the picture above to listen to the song, yes technology>

Categories
cinema cinema: hindi

OUR MAN FROM SAROJININAGAR

While I try desperately to come up with a title which references a another spy film, the extensive research tabs on my browser count up to five, if only Sriram Raghavan would also write his own review he would have come up with titles, multiple variations of ‘Never say never again’. But he keeps it simple here, a direct reference to a 1977 film which I know I can watch entirely on you tube.

But why do the directors take so much trouble in showing us from where they get their ideas from?

Agent Vinod begins with a Sergio Leone-esque dry land, where our man is captured in a rogue Afghan prison, much like the opening of Golden Eye in which Bond plays buddy cop; in Agent Vinod there is Ravi Kishen who keeps popping up acting more like Kato more than Sean Bean, so they prepare to give him a special appearance credit along with Gulshan Glover who walks in white like a man who has come get back some loaned money.

A Russian don gets killed and with him a secret known to the secret world as ‘242’ changes hands, our man who walks into RAW headquarters and has fleeting joke with an Indian Moneypenny is briefed briefly about the same. Thus begins his crash cruise through the world aided by an attractive Pakistani agent(Kareena Kapoor) going by many names. Will thewarring countries come together in saving the world? Or will they lose themselves in the process?

Reading through what I have typed in so far, I seem confused as to how approach in writing a piece on Agent Vinod.(I detest the word review, and how could a personal opinion be passed off as judgement) Should I indulge in length about the ‘Raabta’ sequence a clear homage to Scorsese or should I take a few critic like jokes on the wig of Ram Kapoor or the pony tail of Prem Chopra?

I truly enjoyed the film, with my minimum understanding of Hindi seventies pop culture I think I managed quite well, and I cannot speak on behalf of those who grew up on those films.

That brings us back to the original question of in-jokes and references/homages. Some things worked out quite fine, like calling a character after Indian model and Star Trek voyager Khambatta or the ‘Rakkamma Kayyathathu’ playing in the background while Vinod bashes up a Tamil, sometimes it doesn’t work or I hope to appreciate at a later age, Chaplin playing on the big screen at Riga. Wait was it Morocco? Through the course of the film Agent Vinod so many countries that you wonder that the makers will have trouble creating countries for the sequels (like Kamal and Sujatha attempted with Salamia in the much under-seen and derided Vikram).

Sometimes length is an issue.

As for the acting, I thought it was quite good considering the subject metter; Saif blends in as Agent Vinod and Kareena is adequate in the emotional scenes. Nobody expects Daniel Craig to accumulate nominations for playing Bond, so we should leave it at that.

And I take this opportunity to pass on some fact as advice to Sriram Raghvan, not that he doesn’t know. Here goes:

The man who made New York New York ultimately went on to make Goodfellas.

Sometimes you hit, sometimes you miss. It is OK.

 

 

Categories
cinema cinema: hindi

THE REVENGE OF THE SACRED FEMININE

KAHAANI(2012)

 

For generations movies have sidelined or to say side-billed the heroine, in a way it is a proud moment when Vidya Balan’s name appears boldly in a typewriter font preceding the title.

Vidya Balan lives up to her name playing the heavily pregnant and equally resolute Vidya Bagchi whose actions of lifting her oversized sunshades reminds us of a knight who does a similar act before entering the arena, the arena here in Kahaani is the life throbbing city of Kolkata to which the computer professional Vidya comes to find her lost husband Arnab Bagchi.

Kahaani is packed with details, packed is the right word to use because you might lose an interesting bit while searching for underlying popcorn in the dark. You have been forewarned that the brilliant writing will keep you glued to screen and the characters that inhabit those words. Parambratha Chatterjee and Nawazuddin Siddiqui require special mention amidst the robust cast who travel along with Vidya Bagchi on her quest until it all ends in a mythical climax.

But the final praise shall rest on director Sujoy Ghosh and his team of writers who have conceived a truly different film both in styling and content, in the time of inconsiderate romantic comedies.I counted upto six people involved in the writing of the film and the last time I saw so many names was in Shahrukh Khan’s much derided Ra.One, but this time the writers have won with some help from the divine feminine.

So what is wrong, if people can make stories for the Khans they should be able to make stories for the Balans, as long as the writing is good we will not complain.The writers have won. The writers have won!

Surely they should have listed Kolkata/Calcutta in the cast. Surely.

 

KAHAANI

Director: Sujoy Ghosh

Cast: Vidya Balan, Parambratha Chatterjee, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Saswata Chatterjee.

Music:Vishal-Shekar

 

Categories
cinema cinema: hindi

Rubber Men in Leather Suits

If there is any book by the name “How to make a blockbuster”, Farhan Akthar will have no need for it. I assume to know the contents of such a book and I can extend my assumption to Akthar.

But he is definitely at an advantage compared to my position viz behind the dusty screen of my aging computer. He has the weapons of nostalgia and homage, and he employs them to its full potential.

In his latest Ocean’s 11 meets Mission Impossible which accommodates healthy bits of Italian Job, Die Hard and the styling of the recent Bond and Bourne films cleverly titled Don2.

The rolling ticker at the right bottom of the screen indicates the country and the city in which the story is set. Don, Asian drug kingpin now eyes the European market and in an opening sequence mirroring the underworld meeting in many a gangster films, his Caucasian counterparts wish him dead.

I will not complain for I did not expect any artistic interpretations of the heist/crime/action genre. The movie only delivers what people expect it to be and it is fairly intelligent in doing so, if you have not seen the aforementioned movies.

It would be fair to slot Don in the Vikram category (remember the 80s Indian Bond starring Kamal Hassan?), an Indian trying the ropes of the west. I enjoy Vikram, every time they show it on TV(which is not much), it is just the notion of some ‘our-man’ playing a spy/agent/smart thief doesn’t go down well with certain people, but enjoyable nevertheless.

Don2 has the all the best plotlines from the best action movies and the problem is that it tries to recreate them in its own pace, only for brief moments in the later part of the movie that there is some respite before everything falls flat like a true Bollywood film to fistfights and kicks.

I do not think I am entitled to find logical loopholes and I didn’t spend much time trying to spot them, it is only the ‘we have seen this before, show us something different’ feeling that makes watching Don 2 not only difficult but quite impossible.

 

Yes yes, they are still maintaining the same dialogues. I can only be satisfied with my assumption that this movie was made in well meaning nostalgia and not with a motive to fool an audience out of their memory.