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


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.


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'
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
जाबो पचास थपडीको भरमा
सँसारको सारथी बन्न खोज्ने हजार,
यस्तो झिनो दुर्दशा बोकेर 
बाँचिरहेको यो बजार
मलाई मन पर्छ

मे २१, २०१३
राजन कठेत