{Of all lies, art is the least untrue - Flaubert}

Monday, January 31, 2005


Rashomon is story telling at its best. These 90 minutes unfold wonderfully and leave you wondering of what you have seen. How can there be a better way to suggest the truth is never absolute, we add our perspective to it, intentionally or otherwise. There is also an underlying tale of 'faith in humanity' which is so well intertwined with the narrative that sometimes it overpowers the narrative. Apart from it, Rashomon is an example of cinema that is not going to spoon-fed you or take sides or create bias. All the ends here are so beautifully 'loose' that you can feel associated with any of the four perspectives. And there is a extra curve to each tale, that is narrator's self-image and his/her image of others. There are essentially as many characters as the tales. All this is done to the incident that is so simple that it looks like a fable. Its my first Kurosawa movie, and I am under his spell already.

Rashomon is essentially repetitive as the 'same' tale is told four times, but you never get bored of seeing it again and again. The narrative is that strong and the performances are top notch. The performances by the bandit, the young woman and her husband stand out as three main characters of the story told. Also the addition perspective of woodcutter gives movie 'the fourth dimension'.

One interesting thing to note here is that you feel that they are same characters yet subtly different. You can see shades of helplessness, treachery, selfishness, loyalty in the same woman but she remains the 'same' woman.

One more thought which came to my mind while watching, it can be a silent movie. Sometimes you miss the subtitles and you loose nothing. We can give the credit to performances, imageries but at times you feel dialogues are superfluous.

Here is a 'dense' movie that has strong currents of morality, faith, self-image that flow underneath the plot that make it not only interesting but also fulfilling.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

8 1/2

The easiest way to write about 8 1/2 is to say that there is so much to write about it that I can't write. But this will be an 'Easy escape' and will dishonor 8 1/2's art. 8 1/2 is a classic art masterpiece. 8 1/2 is about a movie about a movie about a movie...8 1/2 is a film in a film in a film...These are all become clichés to describe 8 1/2. Let me try to write something about what I felt after 8 1/2.

I have read somewhere "Pearl is the oyster's autobiography" in reference to art produced by any artist ought to be autobiographical. And here is Fellini doing his bit. For me this is a unique experience because I haven't seen anything like it before. This is second Fellini movie I have seen. First was La Strada. There is a basic difference between the two. La Strada is from heart. 8 1/2 is from mind. Not to say that 8 1/2 lacks the soul but it will never make you weep. 8 1/2 works more on intellectual level, you can at best feel elated, elevated, awed by the masterstrokes.

8 1/2 begins with a dream sequence and it remains a collage of imagination and dreams and memories till the end. Its about
Guido Anselmi, a famous Italian director who has just given a big hit and is searching for some plot for the next movie. In all this process of imagination, inspiration and frustration he is facing problems because of the stupid demands and antics of his old cast and crew and his personal life turbulence. At last movie gets underway with practical no script and even Guido seems clueless of what is happening at times.

8 1/2 is not easy watch because of subtitles. The movie is verbose and at times two or more discussions are going on at the same time probably to show how much is going on the mind of director.

8 1/2 never aspires to show the directors as a creative genius not even a person who is going through a low phase. Guido is very human with all the weaknesses but basically creative at the core. There may be many interpretation of the wide varieties of woman (in looks and roles they undertake) shown in the movie. In the simplest understanding they represent the various women in Guido's life and in more complex interpretation as one 'type' of woman cannot singularly 'fulfill' all of man's 'fantasies'. In all these dream and fantasy sequences, there is some sort of truth which makes them non-perfect, and sometimes uninspiring for Guido.

8 1/2 is essentially a closed packed array of such self-indulgent fantasies and dreams with lot of figurative but having enough space for your train of thoughts to run through.


On Republic day, I saw Shwaas. Shwaas is not a great movie. It qualifies for a good movie but only on the margins. I found it too melodramatic and manipulative at times. A movie is made to stir emotions but should never do that at the cost of gaining sympathy. Sympathy is a feeling of distance and I will never like to have that feeling for lively Paarsha. I don't know Marathi so probably the impact is lost somewhere. Before you think I am speaking bad of the movie, let me make one thing clear that Shwaas is way above the usual Indian movie. It has its moments when it stirs you, where you 'really' feel for Paarsha but only a few times. Perhaps I expected more!

Almost everyone will be knowing the story by now, Its a simple story about a boy, his grandpa, his illness and his journey to its dreadful consequences. The story has a great potential and personally I would have liked Shwaas to enter more into the skin of characters, their internal trauma than showing their external traumas and difficulties. Shwaas do try for the former but the major share is given to the latter.

The flashbacks of Paarshu in village are great in terms of cinematography, showing the contrast of condition and serving a little narrate of how the illness started but they are overdone to generate emotions, and at such places emotions seems to be drawn from you rather than allowing them to flow freely.

As far as characters are concerned real hero is spontaneous Ashwin Chitale as the suffering kid. Arun Nalawade as grandpa is good. I must really applaud Sandeep Kulkarni for essaying the cliched part of doctor with great conviction. but everything done here is brutally destroyed by Amruta Subhash, who played an over-sympathetic social/medical worker. I can't say it was for her or the part played but she was unbearable.

All said and done, I need to remember that I was seeing a movie by a first-timer, who pulled all courage to gather 60 lakhs and able to make a thoughtful movie that is better than almost all bollywood-multicrore projects. Hope with all experienced gained, Sandeep Sawant will better him soon.

Monday, January 24, 2005

La Strada

If Shakespeare said world is a stage then Fellini tells us, its a circus. No, La Strada is not about circus but about the age-old 'formula' of 'Journey of Love'. But this movie is essentially a tapestry of emotions, so strong that you can take a dry-test of you tear glands. The second part of the second half grips you and jolts you till you weep along with Zampano's final breakdown. Here is the movie where heartbroken Zampano, the man with lungs of steel, weeps to his redemption.

La Strada has three life-like characters. Gelsomina, an ignorant peasant girl. Zampano, a chain-breaking nomad who buys Gelsomina. And Fool, a philosophizing clown, a charmer. The movie is about a journey that Gel and Zam take, Fool comes in between to change all. The intensity of this simple tale intensifies as it moves. Gel is trying to find love and her purpose. Zampano, is in grip is his anger and inability to express his emotion by any means other than thrashing others. Fool is a I-don't-care type clown who has his own philosophy of life.

Coming to Gel, who is a childlike-Chaplinlike character, a village girl just came to town, a person who is growing in a unfriendly atmosophere, a young girl trying to find her purpose of her pebble-like-existence, waiting to hear that someone loves her, even a little. This is one of the amazing performance from the female lead I have ever seen. Giulietta Masina shines all along the movie. She portrays the thin line between childhood and womanhood, more of a child but tending to be a woman. She is undoubtedly the life-line of the movie.

The most interesting character in my opinion is Fool, one who cannot help making fun of Zampano even if he is vaguely aware of its consequences. We all have a little bit of Fool in us. Gel is drawn towards Fool because of this carefree attitude towards life and of course his Violin songs. She even takes his advice to return to Zampano and almost breaks down when he collapses. He is the meeting point in the relation of Gel and Zam, Gel admires him, Zam loathes him.

Zampano is a hard character, who cared least about Gel. But his association with her changes him, thus showing his love for a woman who is apparently good for 'nothing' (Gel once asked Zam why he keeps her even though she is not beautiful and she can't even cook). Zampano realizes his love for Gel and decided to leave her for her good, not to met her again. One of the most intelligent move of the movie is to shift focus from Gel to Zampano towards end and closing the movie in a dark background of a beach where is Zampaono weeping out the emotions that he is never able to express to Gel.

La Strada signifies several things, the inevitable journeys we take in our lives, our relative difficulty or easiness to express ourselves, the times of our lives when we try to find our purpose, our tendency to be self-destructive, our innate loneliness and the lingering power of love. And the beauty of this movie is that it manages all brilliantly.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Travis Bickle

Travis Bickle was disturbed, anyway who ain't, we too join little armies in our deep little minds on daily basis. Travis wants to do 'something', rather anything whatever come his way. Travis was out spoken, which we all want to be, to some extent. Travis was lonely which we are all tending towards.

Travis is a universal character, a character which is so real that it hurts you. We embody him daily, we hate him, we love him, but we cannot afford to be indifferent. Can you be indifferent to yourself. Actually some people can even manage that. Travis also tried that.

While talking to all-know 'Wizard', Travis try to seek some advice and Wizard begins with 'A man takes a job, and that becomes what he is' and the crap about our existential reality. Travis replies back "I dunno, that's about the dumbest thing I've ever heard." Many of us have thought of saying it after similar ramblings but have just pressed our lips.

Travis is trying to do 'something' to 'utilize' himself. Their is no other driving force other than to find one. We too help ourselves in our 'victimization'. And we do it better than Travis, and there is nothing wrong in it. We have evolved to get purified by victimization, it really doesn't matter who do it.

In the pursuit to attach some 'meaning' to his life Travis do strange things like trying to 'assassinate' the presidential candidate and try to save a little girl from pimp. He becomes a hero because he succeeds in the latter case not the former. He did both the things with equal effort. His becoming a hero was a matter of chance not a matter of intentions. How true !

Travis is an interesting character to read because of the his spiral nature. Spiral is twisted in quite orderly way, and it may seem almost straight if you don't see deep within. Who knows Travis would have done another effort to be a 'savior' if the second one would have failed, repeating himself like a spiral. and we could have argued "what an uninteresting, repetitive character".

Monday, January 17, 2005

The Art of Mass Songs

Mass songs are songs of masses.This is the closest one can reach while defining them. Living in Hyderabad and keeping a distance from mass songs is hypocrisy at its best. Here you love them by default. You listen them at office, while you commute, you see people ready to dance to them. I must confess that I am under spell of some of them, and for the best since I don't understand the language, I cannot get the arguably shady and double meaning lyrics but the tone say all the unsaid and rest is left to rich imagination. You see, a true piece of art. They work best while reading docs, coding and likewise mundane work or while travelling. They charge you up not to work but to dance to them.

I have done some discussion (with local experts) and a decent research (it doesn't warrant much) on what can be classified as a mass song. There are cheap way to enter the mass song genre by directly referring to the 'unreferrables', but the true masters of art makes them such skillful mess that even those who understand the language can imagine to the levels of an ignorant. One of the common thing about mass songs it that they are based on beat based folk tunes. Deep research shows that it is always true leaving odd exceptions. Also as many may think that a overgrown aunty should be part of any mass song, it is not a must. Our research showed some songs which entered mass song genre without that, but just made to the its periphery. You need to follow certain 'standards' man. Some of the so-called mass songs donot even has a girl, now this is going too far and its dangerous for imagination. Art should not be that abstract.

And worst of all, some of juveniles may also think that mass songs are some folk versions of bollywood item-numbers. This is all disgusting shit by intellectuals who think item numbers can ever get the mass following like mass songs. Item numbers are unripe, yet stale crap but mass songs are ripe and 'full' affair. My research showed that Mass songs are typically composed to be played in autos, and the pace should match every turn of Punjagutta, Jubilee hill and Yosufguda and should be sung with a voice loud enough to be heard in crowded stops of Ameerpet. Mass Songs work best in shared autos, where the discomfort is almost taken away by the loud chords and the imagination involved. And there is one more thing that we found out in our research, ARR is not able to give any true mass song till date. As I said, you need to have some 'standards' !

Now listening:
Aa ante Amlapuram
Aahaa ante Aahaapuram
Ee ante Echchapuram
Neel kotti laga tar Andhra jano

Wong Kar-Wai's Movies

I missed to write about two of the Wong Kar-Wai films, I have seen. In the mood for love and Chungking Express. Wong Kar-wai is one of those directors who doesn't work with a script on hand (There is a anecdote about it too, he moved the location of In the mood for love from Beijing to Macau after Chinese authorities demanded to see the completed script, which the director didn't have). He starts with 2 to 3 stories and start making the movie and edit it in the end ( He shot about 3 hours of movie for In the mood for love and later on edited it to just 98 mins, actually if you see the deleted scenes it looks that at least one movie can be made out of it and the movie could have had the possibility of several endings on the editing table). Usually Kar-wai use 2 out of 3 stories in mind and take third one for the next movie. Sounds interesting.

Now coming to movies, Chungking express is one of those movies which are made of more than one stories and more than one main characters and there is almost no effort to connect them in any artificial way. Its a movie about the interactions we have in our day to day life and how many of them stay with us. How we react to similar situations. How we express love. How we deal with lost love. How we all connect with very common emotions in very uncommon ways. This film was shot in 23 days and the kinetic power of this shows on screen. You need to see this movie to appreciate it ( actually this is true for all 'good' movies). And this movie require an attentive viewing and with time you just gel with characters, showing all your vigilance to it. This a mix of style, music, like-you-characters and vibrant image. Go see it.

Now Wong war-kai is such a amazing film maker that he surprises with a volte face of genre. In the mood for love is all about mood. A simple story about love, the inability to gather the courage to express the feelings and the internal emotional drama of longing are underlying currents that make this movie so electrifying, even though the pace is like a cool breeze. Also the music is haunting to an extent that it almost synchronizes with every camera moment, every expression and to the emotional trauma faced/concealed by the leading pair. The peeping camera angles, the minimal (sometimes even faceless) characters and locations and the soulful music gives this movie what I can call an 'uplifting' experience. It is one of those things where the aftertaste exceeds the taste itself. It took 15 month to shot it, lot of which was sacrificed on editing table. But the final piece is nothing short of amazing.

There are lot more Wong Kar wai movies on my to-see list. I think next will be Fallen Angels.

The Panorama

Seen lots of movies of wide variety in past two weeks, almost ten, and I am sorta dipped in cinema world, not able to think anything out of it, not writing anything on blog. Scary was this experience, but an interesting one !

I must say I saw some great Cinema and can feel happy about it, if not content. I must thank one of my friends for helping me choose films and my film club for show Art with capital 'A'.

I started with Maria Full of Grace, a movie that puts a disturbing account of the thin line which humans cross to become animals. Its about humans employed as containers (called mules) to transport drugs pellets in their stomach from Columbia and US. After Requiem for a Dream, its another take on drugs and its very many horrifying facets.

Then came Chokher Bali (Sand in the Eye), second Ghosh's movie I have seen (The first was his first Unishe April), This movie doesn't resonate to the level of Unishe April but obviously a piece of art. The biggest flaw of the movie is miscast 'Binodini', not to say Ms Rai didn't try her best but you miss the true passion of 'Binodini' somewhat somewhere. Its a movie to watch for shining innocence of 'Raima Sen' and Tagore's story of human emotions. Usually Tagore's stories are difficult for me to comprehend. I suppose its about the basic human instincts and their inherent destructive nature and the more humane emotions and their purifying(?) effects.

I haven't seen many holocaust movie, and that I have seen are mainly American, so bought one holocaust movie from Germany Europa Europa, its not a great movie but a very interesting one though. Its doesn't show brutality the way we usually associate with holocaust movies.

And then there was the modern American classic, Taxi Driver, I have seen it before in bits and pieces. Its one of those movie where you enter into the character's mind and experience the tension he/she is going through. Robert de Niro has done a perfect act and his 'Travis Bickle' rules the movie all through. For all the movie fans, its is a must watch for the Scorsese pitch perfect direction, De Niro's portrayal of troubled 'Travis' and Jodie Foster's fresh act.

I also saw 3 movies in my Film Club. Lisbon story, Its a jungle out there and Silvester Countdown. All three are German movies. All the three movies were very different in style and content. Out of these, I was really moved by Lisbon story. Its a movie about a director who thought that there is nothing more left to show to world and his sound engineer friend who comes to his rescue. This movie all-in-all a collage of music, sounds, pictures and underlying philosophy. It had a strong voice without going over-the-board. Its a Jungle out there is intelligent comedy about generation gap. Silvester Countdown is a complex movie about even more complex relation between a couple, holidaying on Poland on New Year Eve.

So I saw some 7 odd movie that week, next week was less hectic as Film club was not showing anything and I came to office for some long pending and neglected work.

Previous week I saw 3 movies.

Friday was off for Sankranti, and I watched Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Its a movie about memories and about the 'sunshine' related to mildest of those memories. Its a romantic comedy which doesn't really follow any guidelines of the genre, if there are any! Eternal Sunshine celebrates romance in its most innate form, memories.

Next was Adaptation. Adaptation is not a normal movie, its about a screenwriter's frustuating and almost unsuccessful attempt to adapt a seemimgly unadaptable novel about flowers and passion. The title of movie is taken from Darwinian reference as much as from the adaptation of a movie from a novel. The screenplay of this movie is by Charlie Kaufman, the same guy who wrote 'Eternal Sunshine'. I liked it better than 'Eternal Sunshine'.

Next was one of the first Hollywood movie that I have ever seen, that ran over 3+ hours and to my surprise I lost track of time. Magnolia is a story about 10 characters loosely linked, about their pasts, about their presents, about confessions, about guilt, about coincidences, and about strong desire of being loved in the way they are. Magnolia can boost of one of the best ensemble cast and there are great performances from one and all. It is one of the best I have seen in recent times.

I was thinking of writing about my views on some of these movie in details, but was not able to choose which one to write about, so thought to write briefs about all. I sure will write in details about some of them later. But for now, its all I have.

Friday, January 07, 2005


I watched Swades last night. Before I went to Swades, I need to prepare myself, first thing is to leave behind the hatred for Shahrukh Khan and secondly to ignore extremes reviews to form any bias or prejudice and I must say it helped.

Its difficult to write about Swades as this movie is a moral science lesson but things here are done subtly that at times you resonate with those feelings and emotions. Also as per the demands of commercial cinema, sometimes it looks like that stuff is explained to level that it becomes prey of over-simplification or a few times even banality. I have been long thinking about the pace and the ending of Indian movies, here in Swades also, pace tends to go slow especially during the second half. The pace could be improved by some 'intelligent' editing with a dual benefit of not over-expaining things too, but again since the movie starts and goes on (for the first half) with a placid pace, any hurried look would have effected the mood of the movie. Now coming to the ending of the movie, and I feel quiet lost when I ponder on the alternate ending to cinema which fall inside that commercial bracket. But on the end part also, although expected we see a sense of fulfillment and hope which is so necessary to a movie that preach the same. I almost abhor preachy movies, but as I said earlier the moral talk in Swades is done in a rather 'equivocal' way. There are tinges of idealism and its obvious clash with realism, and there are some not so light hearted discussion on some holy-cow-topics like parampara and sanskruti. Swades has lot of emotions but almost all the times it never retorts to cheap melodrama or nationalism.

Plot here is simple. Swades is about an NRI returning India for some emotional hunger and journeying through it, transforming others and getting transformed. It depicts the state of India (particularly villages) in quiet unapologetic way. At times it looks that the movie is dealing with more issues that it can handle. The issues include NRIism ('returning to roots', 'unfinished responsibilities and the guilt associated'), poor infrastructure ( water, electricity, education), caste-system, enterprising, unity etc etc. And there is a obvious 'Lagaan' effect on the movie in the setting and some of the characters.

Of late, Shahrukh Khan has done good work, and looks like he can shed the SRK mask if he wish ( or may be if forced by the directors ). Shahrukh looks restraint, barring one or two scenes where we becomes his usual self. He delivers humor well. The best part of him comes during the rent-collection-journey. The images of waterboy counting coins is real and moving. And this journey is probably the best shot part of the movie.

As far as Gayatri Joshi is concerned, she looks very beautiful. But what annoys is her out-of-parlour look, with every fold of saree and every bit of lips, nails and hair perfectly done. This could have been toned down a little and I am pretty sure Gayatri would have not lost an iota of her charms. On the acting front, she has done a good effort, but just not managing her final break down scene that beautifully.

When we talk of Govarikar movie, we expect that other characters too are decently developed. They are not just say-and-go types. Here too we have Kishori Balal as very motherly Kaveri Amma and Daya Shankar Pandey as US-aspiring, Mela Ram.

I am filled with mixed feeling after watching Swades but the feelings are more for the movie. I shared some of the universal emotions and sometimes moved by the flashes of brilliance. Govarikar should be applauded for a sincere effort and making a thoughtful movie.

And how can we leave the music of the movie, like any ARR stuff, some of the songs will take time to sink in. My favorite is the shehnai version of 'Yeh jo des hai tera'.