Monday, December 30, 2013

Bombay Talkies

Not so typically Bollywood. 

Indian Cinema has completed its 100 years of history in cinema making. This massive industry so far has seen dozens of artistic gems and mainstream superstars. Indian cinema industry, this time, combines four young admired directors directing an anthology film to mark this remarkable history of Indian cinema.


Bombay Talkies (2013) is a four chaptered film directed by Karan Johar, Dibakar Banerjee, Zoya Akhtar and Anurag Kashyap respectively. The film strongly draws on impact of mainstream Bollywood in the life of commoners, and also plays lightly around homosexuality and transsexuality. 


Karan Johar’s directorial chapter commences the narrative. The story is about a happily married couple whose life is dismayed after introduction of a gay friend into the family. The chapter is no question a gay story, but it superficially touches on the issue and emotion. It is more concerned in giving melodramatic touches to the events using old Bollywood hits like ‘Ajeeb Dastan’ and ‘Lag ja gale.’ Starring Rani Mukherji, Randeep Hooda and chocolaty Saquib Saleem Qureshi, it is the glossiest of all chapters. 

Then follows Dibakar Banerjee’s promising tale about a failed actor struggling to earn his family’s living. Present time favorite Nawazuddin Siddiqui plays an ill fated actor occupied with earning basic requirements for his three membered family. He is not ever ready to settle with life’s sophistication to pursue what he wanted in life, until one day a realization knocks him. The narrative about a doomed theatre actor is based on Satyajit Ray’s short story ‘Patol Babu, Filmstar.’ Banerjee adopts the most artsy approach of all to convey his idea. 

Zoya Akhtar almost steps on the shoes of Karan Johar in recreating another tale about transsexuality. A kid is being forced to be grown up as a footballer, while in contrary he dreams to be an alluring dancer like Katrina Kaif (Sheela). Only son to an arrogant father (Ranvir Shorey), the kid finds it harsh to live his dream. He slips inside his sister’s garments and ornaments to enjoy being who he is. One day he discovers a way to tell to others what he wants in his life.  Zoya’s hints a feeble caliber in storytelling as she is mostly occupied with justifying each and everything. The plot carries a superficial gaze into the psychology of the issue.

Anurag Kashyap’s chapter ends the film with a witty statement- ‘achar ke bottle mein
murabba nahin rakhna chahiye’; meaning ‘never store a sweet inside a pickle jar.’ The story reminds of the folklores where a wise father dispatches his sons off into an obvious journey, but to unexpectedly make them realize of the need of rationality and intelligence. In the first impression, the story submits how strongly are general audiences obsessed with Bollywood superstars, but as the story nears for the termination, it rather proposes a mockery to reckless approach to life. The story retains a quirkiness, but does lack enough thrust to convince deep inside.

Bombay Talkies does embark away from melodramatic Bollywood, but it does carry some of the traits. Still a must watch.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Wordplay

Patrick Creadon sees a film inside crossword puzzle boxes.

If I ever attempted to solve any crossword puzzles, then it was during my secondary schooling. Whenever I played with it, it was exciting, but I was not a regular and passionate puzzler. Other than this, I rarely bothered to notice any crossword puzzles anywhere. Newspaper pages containing crossword puzzles were a part to flip straight-ahead. 

It’s strangely amazing that director Patrick Creadon saw something in crossword puzzles to make a documentary film about. He went on to making a film about a world thinking inside the box- referring to the tagline of the film preceding the title [Discover A World That Thinks Inside The Box: WORDPLAY].

Wordplay (2006) focuses on Will Shortz, editor of the New York Times Crossword, other crossword puzzle contributors, and the annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, founded by Shortz himself. Shortz is one passionate crossword puzzler among few having chosen crossword as the profession. The film randomly presents interviews with celebrity crossword puzzlers like Bill Clinton, John Stewart, Bob Dole and few more and reveals their insight into this game. The film also combines interviews of the participants of crossword puzzle tournament about their preparation and hope for the championship.

The most interesting part of the film is annually held crossword puzzle tournament where more than hundred Americans participate. From children to elderlies, everyone tries their luck to be crowned as the champion. The game is interesting, but not as easy. It demands one’s knack developed through thorough practice to play with words, and sometimes, dictionary might not be a help as well.


Film has a specific style of photographing interviews, activities and people. It is framed as uniquely as the puzzle game is.  It’s not a cinema, neither a TV, but a crossword puzzle. Photography completely empathizes with the spirit of crossword puzzle.

‘Wordplay’ carries a big significance as a film about minimalistic topic rather than as a film about crossword puzzle. At an age, where a dominating fraction of filmmakers go on to find stories in controversial sociopolitical contexts, marginalized issues and other casual human interest stuffs, Patrick Creadon thinks out of the box by seeing a film inside the boxes.

Amazing!  


Friday, December 20, 2013

About Elly

Saving the honour of Elly.

[This review may contain spoilers]

‘About Elly’ is my second film from the director of ‘A Separation’ even if A’Elly was his earlier work. The impression I had of director Asghar Farhadi was even heightened by About Elly.
About Elly (2009) starts with three families from Tehran driving to a seaside for a three day holiday. Only odd in the group is Miss Elly, invited by Sepideh. Elly is a nursery teacher to Sepideh’s daughter. Sepideh’s intention is to befriend Elly with Ahmad (Shahab Hoseini), who has recently split up. With people cleaning and adjusting their holiday home, the story only advances as a relaxed picnic. Making remarks on Ahmad and Elly doesn’t stop behind the back of Elly, to her embarrassment. The narrative progresses so mildly like a ordinary family adventure until it takes a catastrophic turn with a child drowned into the sea. The child is rescued, but to the greatest dismay of everyone, Elly disappears. The whole narrative turns ‘about Elly.’
Elly (Taraneh Alidoosti)
About Elly so authentically empathizes with human nature and emotions. Rather than constructing story around exaggerated twists, it builds up around spontaneity of emotions and actions. Naturalistic performance by actors leaves no room to suspect of any affairs as made up. The participation of the camera in the story makes matters more lively. 
Sepideh (Golshifteh Farahani)
The whole of Iranian society participates in the film as the traumas and troubles associate characters with their gender roles on grounds of their level of dominance and acceptance. Developing like a pursue into the disappearance of Elly, the story completely spins around to examine Elly’s commitment to her relation. 

Keeping aside the hope of digging up Elly, the story thus chances in changing the course to question one’s loyalty and morality. The film turns into a judgement about Elly’s character, and Sepideh, at any cost of physical harm, is all set to save the honour of Elly.   

Hats off!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner


Forgiver for mankind.

Atanarjuat: The fast runner (2001) chronicles an Inuit legend older than the Christianity. Director Zacharias Kunuk grabs and retells this legend passed through oral traditions into an indigenous motion picture. 

Adapted into a motion picture script by Paul Apak Angilirq, the film strongly draws on the known records of the island to craft the legend into a cinematic detail. Costume attires and residential manners are based on old sketches of these indigenous Inuits. 

Set in ancient Igloolik, the story is about rivalry over women, lust and family betrayal. Families share an igloo each and continue to survive amidst scarcity of food and harsh nature. Women look after house and children, while men hunt faunas and sled dogs to transport their commodities. Living in small herds, Inuits possess tendency for a strong bonding, but in the contrary are overtly ruled by lustful desires, and thus aroused rivalries.

Killings take place, families break, and a society is divided, and the story craves for a resolution. As in all legends, the story seemingly seeks for a hero to free his people from sorrows and sufferings. Unlike many prevalent tales, where hero is possessed by strong avenging spirit, Atanarjuat, the major victim of villains, rises as the forgiver with a timeless lesson to the humankind, completely departing from a predictable resolution. 
Atanarjuat, on whom the legend is based, is played by Natar Ungalaaq.  Atanarjuat is the fast runner in the Inuit community. This physical knack helps him survive a murderous chase inflicted upon him by evil spirited rival, Oki (Peter-Henry Arnatsiaq). 

The technical part of the film is kept lowly and humble. Extreme cold and iced location doesn’t seemingly promise one an easy technical run. Film is made in an extreme environmental limit. Camera corresponds this harshness by rejecting standard rules of smooth pans, tilts, or picturesque stillnesses. It can zoom into anything and anyone whenever the moments and feels ask to. Low lights and shadows, and the messy framings retain an intimacy with the essence of Inuit’s life.    

The epic tale of Atanarjuat is crafted with great attention to historical detail. Director Kunuk agonizes how coming of colonizer Christianity has been destructive to his people and their culture. This oral tradition of passing on legends didn’t flourish then because dancing and telling stories were almost banned. When he was born, Christianity had already split his community into two halves: Catholic and Anglican. Filmmaker’s principal motive here is to wake people up, and to show them in which world their roots come from [referring to his interview]. 

An entirely inspiring endeavour!

Monday, December 2, 2013

खासखास खुसखुस बजार

श्रीमान श्रीमती सुतेर
खुसखुस गर्ने सल्ला'
र,
चियाको कपबाट जन्मेर
माइकबाट हुर्किने हल्ला
मलाई मन पर्छ 


खोपडी फाटेर
गिदी तप्प तप्प चुहिएर

मगजी ढकन गुमाउन विवश
नग्नताले सजिएको बजार,
सस्तो लोकप्रिय़तामा
चम्केको मुहार
र, 
जाबो पचास थपडीको भरमा
सँसारको सारथी बन्न खोज्ने हजार,
यस्तो झिनो दुर्दशा बोकेर 
बाँचिरहेको यो बजार
मलाई मन पर्छ

......
मे २१, २०१३
राजन कठेत

Friday, November 29, 2013

Bullett Raja

A Dhulia's Dabangg. 

Tigmanshu Dhulia takes a complete wrong turn with an illogical and unsound flick 'Bullett Raja.' His attempt to Dabangg_ize Bullett Raja makes it a horrible craft. Known for his offtrack and semi commercial approach to cinema making, Bullett Raja gives an impression of an intentional commercial experiment.

Set against the backdrop of India's UP based political mafia world, narrative illogically
revolves around the urges for power and revenges. Killings and lies follow as the characters struggle for their dominance in the political and economic world.

Characters and plot loosely communicate with each other. Characters emerge like out of nowhere and they disappear like a tiny object. The film so easily deals against the mafia's potentiality and access in the society. The film introduces characters as big shots of the society and it assassins them like stray animals.

Raja Mishra (Saif Ali Khan) who turns into an infamous gangster from a commoner (just as the narrative develops his character) looks more a silly guy. Khan's funny screen presence does not pay to the Robin Hood attitude of the character. Sonakshi Sinha's role does not add anything in the story besides being the love interest of principal protagonist.

Music is meant to add thrilling feel to the story. Since the development of story is very dull and reckless, background music is just another agitating pill. Dhulia's attempt to craft Saif Ali Khan in the character of Singham and Robin Hood Pandey completely fails.

How Tigmanshu Dhulia farts at the face of his fans like me by presenting a worst film of his career- Bullett Raja! Bajadiya naa band baja!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Gap-Toothed Women

Hot stuff they say.

Les Blank's documentary film Gap-Toothed Women (1987) sets forward dialogues on the perception of beauty. Highly influenced by popular culture, and the interpretation of beauty moulded by glamorised films and magazines, our generation is forced to model themselves in the way a television exhibits a beauty.
The film starts with a gap toothed woman sharing her experiences as a gap toothed kid; how her parents traced the eater of forbidden cookies and chocolates with the help of her signature gap tooth marks left on these foods. Director Les Blank goes on interviewing a seemingly expert on the subject about gap toothed women's etymology. The expert illustrates the gap toothed Wife of Bath, referring to an old text. The woman was a highly lecherous image wandering about her desires.
Les Blank draws on to this text and few prevailing taboos about gap toothed beauties to interpret the general's attitude towards gap toothed women. But Blank bases his film largely around the recollections of his gap toothed female interviewees. Almost everyone of them went on to accept this feature with time, but they certainly didn't grow up feeling easy and comfortable about it. They were mostly engaged around the set standards of beauty and ended up not feeling good about themselves or hating oneself about her look. One even rigged her teeth, nose and hair together to mould these organs like ones she comes across in films and Tv. 
Society has linked gap teeth of women to the marks of amorous disposition. Such women are supposed to be extremely sexy; 'hot stuff' as one interviewee cracks joke. The film centres itself on arguing beauty as either what's lies in inside or is it just an outside skin. 
The significance of the film lies on its crucial take on a minimal subject- rather it wasn't a subject for non gap toothed ones until the film pointed it out.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Yartung [Nepali Times]

Festivities go on in Mustang even after the festival is over
Rajan Kathet in MUSTANG
 13 - 19 September 2013 #673
[read from Nepali Times]


In Mustang, the monsoon is almost over. As the clouds lift to reveal blindingly blue skies, visitors get ready to enjoy the biggest festival in Nepal’s trans-Himalayan region: Yartung.
But it is here in Mustang that the festival is celebrated with most passion, a fervour that wasn’t dampened this year even by the prolonged closure of Jomsom airport.
“Yartung is one big party,” explains Amchi Gyatso Bista, chairman and co-founder of Lo Kunphen medical school in Lo Manthang. “The rains are gone and after months of toiling in the fields, the land is ready for harvest, it’s the perfect time for celebration."


photo: rajan kathet [at khimkhar]
Festivities first start in Lo Manthang, where everyone from the royal family to monks and villagers gather at the centre of the walled town with their horses. The procession then advances to an open field on the outskirts, where tents ruffle in the afternoon breeze.
Like every year, there are tourists jostling to capture the moment in their cameras. After a fair amount of drinking, men and women perform the traditional shebru dance, but by far the most popular event is the horse race. Daylight finally fades and the procession heads back to town.
“During Yartung horses are possessed by a powerful racing spirit,” says Chekyap Gurung, 58, from Khimkhar village. “Even the lazier pack horses are rearing to go.”
Yartung is a travelling festival and it is held in Khimkar near Muktinath two days later, followed by Jharkot and Ranipauwa. The procession from Jharkot village is headed by the heir to its ancient royal family of Mustang. One man from each family heads to Muktinath temple on horseback and the procession eventually congregates at Ranipauwa, the tourist hub.
Eating, drinking, and merry-making culminate in different competitions involving horses. There are races and events requiring riders on horseback to pick up scarves with money inside. The biggest and the final competition involves an uphill horse race from Khimkhar to Ranipauwa and attracts competitors from as far as Manang and even the Nepal Army, and it brings to close this magnificent festival. Football and archery competitions are also held between the villages.
Yartung attracts visitors from all over and many Mustangis from Kathmandu and abroad travel home for the festival. Lodges are fully packed throughout Mustang during this period. “Tourists from Pokhara and Kathmandu have been calling for a week to book rooms,” says Tsering Gurung, a hotel-owner.
This culturally and economically important festival almost died out some years ago, it is to the credit of Mustang’s youth that it was revived.
“The older generation was not that excited about our festival,” reveals Chekyap Gurung, “but now, with the growing popularity of Mustang as a tourist destination, younger Mustangis are returning home to build their land.”

DOWNLOAD this issue of Nepali Times.pdf

*****

Friday, April 12, 2013

Exit through the gift shop

An art form is losing its prevalent definitions as artists seem imaginative enough to negotiate with any boundaries to express their obsessions. 

The most celebrated street artist Banksy’s first film Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010) beautifully hinders the accepted sense of documentary films with its ambiguity between reality and fiction.  Banksy, a leading artist with remarkable aptitude of street art, evolves into an important new generation filmmaker with this unique film. 
The film follows an amateur filmmaker named Thierry Guetta, a Frenchman living in America, obsessed with documenting everything with his video camera. As he encounters his cousin Invader, another phenomenal street artist of the time, his obsession finds a focus in street art. He hunts for other prominent street artists sooner to find himself close to Shepard Fairy and Banksy. Inspired from Banksy, the biggest of all, Guetta no later chooses his career in street art turning making himself an owner of million dollars overnight. 

Guetta, who is very much inspired from Banksy into street art and other mockery sculptors and graffiti, inspires Banksy to make a film about himself. Despite telling the story of this man and Banksy himself, the film puts street arts and graffiti into a superior height of activism. 

When Banksy stages Guetta (probably as a revealed face of himself) just like he makes pranks the corrupted system, the capitalist society, the brainwashing media and the brainwashed people through his art, the film itself makes mockery of the general notion about documentary films. Mr. Brainwash as Guetta names himself after turning himself into an overnight successful artist, the film brainwashes people of their accepted notions of art, especially documentary film. 

Cinematography is uneven and crispy consistent to the hasty and alarming spirit of the street art.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

बाटो मेरो जाम छ

photo by Bikram Singh (during Mokshya Shooting)

य़ता पनि काम छ 
उता पनि काम छ 
जानु पर्ने धेरै ठाम् छन् 
बाटो मेरो जाम छ । 

 उमेरले सियो बोकी 
घोच्न थालिसक्यो 
बाध्यताले हरेस चरेस 
कोच्न थालिसक्यो 
सबेर जागुँ आँखा मेरा 
खुल्न खोज्ने हैनन् 
दिउँसो हिँडु, आकाशमा 
डल्लै चर्को घाम छ 

 मैले गर्ने काममा खै 
 के छ, 
अरुको मा दाम छ 
जानु पर्ने धेरै ठाम् छन् 
बाटो मेरो जाम छ ।। 
:-D :-D :-D

(March 26, 2013.KTM)

Friday, March 22, 2013

My take on Prashant Rasaily’s ‘Kathaa’

We met for totally different purpose. And, I concluded the meeting by asking him to recommend me his best film from his country. His grinning was obvious because it was, for him, something unexpected that came out of my mouth. In the piece of paper I had placed before him, he wrote- ‘Man Bites Dog.’ For me this film was really groundbreaking yet SO SIMPLE  in its making. Kathaa is such one Nepali Language Film.
Of course there was an anticipation, but more than it, there was an actual need of a Nepali Language Film which would really be simple, cinematic, honest and most importantly beautiful. Kathaa has this everything finally. I’ve seen very few of Nepali films which I’ve appreciated for their attempt to goodness, but I had never loved them from the heart. This time I did.

In Nepali films’ context, Kathaa is a real offbeat. It has disregarded the usage of texts. Dialogue, which has always been used as one of fundamental weapons to move ahead the narrative, has been minimized. The film makes it clear that filmmaking profession, besides textual power, is also one’s strong intuition for human emotions, color and sound.  

It’s an experimental film and the director and the photographer must be applauded for making minimal use of artificial lights. Minimal use of lights gives a feel of lives the film is trying to depict. Photography is like a beautiful canvas. Filmmakers have taken risk, and now here they are, with something original. I didn't have any problem with the background score. It well synced with the visual. For me, Kathaa is a rich example to aspiring filmmakers.

Despite the foggy ambience of the film, uses of colors stand out as strong aesthetics of the film. Local livelihood has come out original. Use of local characters has localized the story. Saugat Malla is again exceptional. Usha Rajak surprised me because I had seen her only in Kusume Rumal-II and I didn’t dare to watch Eku. And, Timothy Rai is a real find. 

The storyline is very simple. Simplicity is amazingly beautiful most of the times. The story is really visual and all class of audiences can comprehend the beauty of this film. This film time and again reminded me of Devkota’s famous Muna Madan. The main plot coincided- please don’t think I’m accusing... it’s just that it reminded me of that famed tragic tale. This Sikkimish versioned Kumari- Kaancha did work best for me. The ending was bit lengthy. The last feel_good_scene where both principal protagonists share verbal words didn’t work for me. I didn’t feel good this time. ;-)

Our fascination and thirst for Iranian genre cinemas will somehow be quenched by this experimental work. Director and the mastermind Prashant Rashaily deserves a huge applaud for this notable creation. 

Photo Source: Kathaa FaceBook Page


March 22, 2013.
KTM.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

कहाँ थियौ भुन्टी


पहिले,
वर्षातहरूले सधैँ रुझाएर गए
पाइला पाइलामा चिप्लिएँ एक्लै
चिसो भुइँमा लमतन्न परी हिलोसरी भएँ
त्यहीँमाथी आकाशले गर्ज्यो
चट्याँङले हान्यो
झरीले पिट्यो
ए मेरी भुन्टी,
कहाँ गाकी थियौ तिमी छाता लिएर,
म लड्दा थामिदिने हातहरू लुकाएर !

म त खरानी घस्नै लागेको थिएँ
बमबम बोले बक्दै कमन्डलुको शिरानी भिर्नै लागेको थिएँ 
जङगल र पाटीपौवाको बाटो भौतारिनै लागेको थिएँ
रङ्गीचङ्गी पहिरन फुकाल्दै थिएँ
पहेँलो वस्त्र भिर्दै थिएँ
एक्कासी रोक्न आयौ मलाई धेरै धेरै आश दिएर
धन्न टप्कियौ टायममै आकाशभन्दा वेशी माया लिएर,

ए भुन्टी,
किन आइनौ पहिल्यै मेरो लागी माया लिएर !

ठीकै छ,
ढिलाचाँडो आउन त आयौ,
यो सालको झरी आउनै लाग्यो,
एक्लै रुझ्ने छुइँन यो पाली,
लड्न लाग्ने तिम्रो हात समाउँछु,
ओढाउँछ्यौ हैन छाता हरेक साल !
बाँचुञ्ज्याल !!

मार्च ७, २०१३
काठमाडौँ

Thursday, February 7, 2013

मैले बाँच्न नपाएको युग


म जन्मिँदा वर्षात सुरु हुनै लागेको थियो …. रे
घरका छानाहरू धमाधम टालिन सुरु हुँदै थिए….. रे
खेतबारीहरू तिनका सुकेका ओठ खोल्दै हाँस्न खोज्दै थिए …… रे
जब म जन्मेँ, मैले एउटा उराठ खडेरी गुमाइसकेको थिएँ
त्यो खडेरीमा अनिकालले हाहाकार मच्चाएको थियो ….. रे
भोकमारीले बटारिएका जिउका आन्द्रात्यान्द्राहरू एकमुठी अन्नको सपना बुन्थे …. रे
त्यो काल भोग्नुपर्दा मानिसहरू आफूलाई श्रापित ठान्थे ……. रे

तर, मैले त्यो युगसँग साक्षात्कार हुन पाईँन,
मलाई पेटिभित्रै जेनतेन जोगाइछिन् मेरी आमाले,
रुखोसुखो जे भेटिन्छ त्यसैले मेरो आहारा गराइछिन्,
त्यही रुखोसुखोमा मौलाउने धोकोले छोप्दैछ आजभोली,
एउटा कहिल्यै पूरा हुन नसक्ने गुनासो रहिरहेनछ मभित्र …..
अफसोच !!!

 .........
काठमाडौं 
(फेब्रुवरी ७, २०१३)