Wednesday, December 30, 2009

LUST FOR LIFE (1956)

“I put my heart and my soul into my work, and have lost my mind in the process.”
- Vincent Van Gogh


It’s a motion picture about one of the greatest impressionist artist of all time, Vincent van Gogh, based on Irving Stone’s best seller bio-novel. The film is journey of an artist covering various stages of his life and career as an artist. Van Gogh began his career as a clergyman without qualifications; he was deputed to a remote place of underprivileged miners’ where he learned the hard face of life’s struggle. There’s no point in preaching people without living their lives and Gogh did exactly that. He’s true Christian who was rebel against the conformist religion governed by certain hypocrites.

For him, frustration came in many forms whether it’s agony he felt with miners or the not getting love in return, even his conjugal relationship with widow became hard to survive without money. He’s an artist lost in his own world and soon he discovered the world of great Impressionist masters who made his work dwarf. Next he went to Paris in pursuit of excellence and imbibed new methods of bringing nature alive on canvas. Throughout Gogh’s journey there are two people who supported him unquestionably, one was his brother Theo and the other was his guiding light Paul Gauguin. It’s Gauguin who brought the art of abstract imagination to Gogh who just painted natural landscapes and portraits before. “Art is an abstraction, not a picture book,” said Gauguin to him. Both Gauguin & Gogh were much under Impressionistic influence but Gauguin surpasses it and turned towards symbolist imagination where Gogh’s emotional response always framed impressionism. Arguments run frenzy between both and he mutilated his ear with blade in suicide attempt and landed up in asylum where he pursued his remaining life while continuing his passion.

Kirk Douglas enacted Gogh quite maturely and he looks lot familiar to Gogh too; same can be said about Anthony Quinn who played his friend and guide Gauguin. It’s the similarity and paradox between both of their arts which shows two different art school legends. Douglas got Best Actor nomination but it’s Quinn who won Best Supporting Actor Oscar quite deservingly. The flat conventional narration seems quite dragging one, it would be better if Director Vincent Minnelli had brought some subtlety in its structure as film bears artistic theme instead of highlighting biographical details. But perhaps that way the film didn’t reach the mass audience.

Its must watch for all rising and amateur painters and those who want to witness close proximity to the impressionist world of Van Gogh.

Ratings-7.5/10

Monday, December 28, 2009

THE FOUNTAINHEAD (1949)

“I don’t build in order to have clients. I have clients in order to build.”
Have you met a man of unflinching integrity and absolute individuality in this opportunist world where submit or rule is the options to survive in conformist society? Here’s an architect who stands all alone against the whole world to prove his individual mind. It’s not hero alone who’s stand out character here. Here’s a heroine who’s seeking absolute freedom: to want nothing, to expect nothing, to depend on nothing. Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal and Director King Vidor had made alive the greatest all-time literary classic of Ayn Rand on this brilliant screen adaptation. It’s immortal landmark tale of uncompromised individualism on all stakes.

Architect Howard Roark has heard the voices of safety, convention, compromise but he’s the man of integrity like his solid structural plans. And he doesn’t mind sacrificing everything- even the women he loves or the project he blows when others interfere with his design to maintain his signature impression in the world of lockstep conformity. Here you are witnessing the life story of a man as solid as rock ready to fight a lone battle from beginning to end, from uptown office to granite quarry to court room finale with all his freedom of spirit and that’s his towering achievement.

There’s so many great moments and lines which I love so much. Here’s one of them. When a powerful architect met Roark and confessed that it’s he who’s responsible to destroy his career and fighting against him is the motive of his life, so what he’s thinking about him personally and Roark replied so subtly- “But I don’t think of you.” So subtle words!!! I haven’t read the original novel by Rand though having its copy since long due to its bulky 900 pages something size but now I’m so desperate to read it.

‘Has man any right to exist if he refuses to serve society?’ In order to know the brilliant reply consists with Ayn Rand’s individualistic philosophy watch the brilliant court room finale speech by Roark and you would become Ayn Rand fan. Its great words of wisdom about ‘Individualist against the collective’ that you love to contemplate time and again all your life.

It’s kind of a film which changes the way you look yourself and society.

Ratings- 9/10 (I resist to give it 10 since its Ayn Rand’s original book that deserves it)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE (1948)

“I know what gold does to men’s souls.”
It’s John Huston’s masterpiece classic. Yes, even after sixty years of its making it still hits us hard without highlighting any single genre. Call it film noire, call it adventure, call it western but beneath all these tags its film that probes deeper to the surface of human greed which corrupts human souls in pursuit of material prospects. It’s a great fable told in a visual form.

Two drifters meet a wise old prospector and started to chase their luck for the hunt of gold in the mountains. They decided to split their parts three ways but greed and suspicion take control among one of them which sets up paranoia. There are so many external threats in this venture like bandits, indifferent nature but the real enemy lies within human soul.

Humphrey Bogart had literally showed the corrupt soul of human greed with all little characteristic nuances. It’s another great film and character of his career. As wisest reliable old man Walter Huston was more than gold prospector; he’s friend, philosopher and guide for all. Watch his blasting laugh where he realized where all gold went finally and that’s where he uttered a great line of the film. I resist myself putting it here since it would be great spoiler for those who haven’t seen it yet. The climax was utter tragedy but the film ends with a hopeful full stop. And before it shows title of ‘the end’ watch that great visual final shot where empty sack of gold lies beneath throne. The movie has powerful structuring of plot, visually alive and superb performances which was hallmark of all Huston films.

In spite of the strong theme, Huston stick to the light and entertaining touch throughout the film, making it essential viewing for any classic lover. The movie won not only one but two Oscar trophies to John Huston as Best Director and Best screenplay writer. His real life father Walter Huston also got Best Supporting Actor Oscar trophy for the same film. Perhaps this is the only film in Oscar history which won father-son duo trophy for the same film.
A Must watch for all classic fans. It bears a mark of great film.

Ratings-10/10

3 IDIOTS (2009)

It’s hattrick time for Raju & Vidhu Company!!!
They again successfully hit the nail of entertainment for third consecutive time and gave another crowd pulling feel good film of the year. No matter if you have read/not read the Chetan Bhagat’s ‘Five Points Someone’, Hirani brings you a version packaged with three loose cannons, quirky humor filled with chill out gags and loads of fun and sentiments. Like his earlier Munnabhai enterprise here too he brings back those feel good moments of joy and cry which surely makes it blockbuster film at the year end.

Undoubtedly it’s Aamir who’s the most highlighted character and almost the USP of the film as expected. It’s film where without being anybody’s method skin he lets his own personal cool characteristics flow naturally with wit, fun, humor set in a motion on screen and my god he’s great charmer at this age…it’s wake up call for King Khan.
Aamir in his Rancho act looks lot younger than his debut QSQT and he retains his cap of ‘one film a year that sweeps all others’. Though Sharman & Madhavan performed well, they almost overshadowed by Aamir’s overwhelming highlighted presence. Kareena has not much to share except remaining ingredient of fair sex. But the great fun comes from debutant Omi who played Uganda-Pondicherry mismatch ranker of the campus.

Hirani has used many clichés of his earlier Munnabhai films here too and almost carried the whole film on same platform with emotional undertones. For example- ‘Jaadu ki Jappi’ and ‘Gandhigiri’ replaced by ‘All is well’, Boman again shows his idiosyncratic characteristics like earlier ones, Medical college replaced with Engineering one, ups and downs of college ragging, short cut names of side characters like ‘Virus’, ‘Millimetre’ and lots of sentimental moments. It’s here where film becomes so familiar and humor seems so predictable, stuffed and episodic ones. Emotional scenes of Munna-Cicuit camaraderie or father-son reunion are still closer to my heart where here they all seem quite flat and loose ones without much synchronization. There’s lot of chance for Hirani to use free play of everyday humor of campus life but he remains stick to his formulaic drama. These are the few points which made it ‘seen it all’ experience.

But above all it’s a film made to serve Christmas present of the season and I don’t want to do much post mortem of it by applying my head. It doesn’t fail to entertain either mass or class and there lies the whole purpose of this film. It’s rollercoaster ride of fun, humor and drama to savior with family and friends. It has all the ingredients to blow the screen and charm the audience.

Ratings- 7.5/10 (add one more if u sideline few critical remarks put by me)

Friday, December 25, 2009

AVATAR (2009)

So finally I manage to get the ticket and sharing my experience here…
Like everybody else my expectations were high from this film. It’s not due to its rave reviews which I read or the buzz it creating all around the world but because I love to watch Cameron films repeatedly any given day without counting numbers and he’s the man who gave us those magnificent screen experiences and he’s back after 12 long years major gap.

James believes in larger than life picture and filmmaking at monumental scale which comes with great price. He took great length of time in telling this magnum digital saga and burned around 500 million $ to sum it up. We visualized it in his earlier great films like ‘Terminator 2’ or ‘Titanic’ and he applied lot of creativity in creating the world of Pandora of his own imagination with revolutionary path breaking digital effects here too.
Opulently striking use of Blue, a different race, cross hybrid creatures of dino-dragon-horse varying to shapes and sizes, glowing plants, dense and mysterious forest and again a love story between two characters. It’s all there. Infact most of the film is almost photorealistic digital experience with spectacular achievement in terms of technological boon to Hollywood Cinema. But it doesn’t surpasses anywhere to the spellbinding experience to Peter Jackson’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy.

Where is that great Cameron hero? When Arnold said, “I’ll be back” in ‘Terminator 2’, we crave to watch him next or when Jack saves Rose against all odds or says “I’m the king of the world” in ‘Titanic’, we just can’t stop loving them for long time once we came out of cinema halls with ‘Wow’ feelings. Sorry Cameron, that feeling I seriously miss in your digitalized Jake/ Na’vi avatar.

Another disappointment comes in form of plot or story telling. It seems that James has used all his head in creating Pandora but not in the treatment of plot or screenplay which is so ordinary. Behind all those visual opulence he failed to raise the bar here. ‘Avatar’ bears lot of similarity with ‘Matrix’ in execution but ‘Matrix’ was more original and intriguing experience than Cameron’s this sci-fi adventure. With amazing spectacular special effects Cameron hasn’t delivered any higher message out of the box. Enough has been said about Men plus machine or Men Vs Machine and ‘Avatar’ doesn’t have anything special to add in this regard. It’s solely made with the purpose to entertain the audience like any other Hollywood mammoth productions which it serves and delivers to pull the mass target audience.

For me it’s quite disappointing experience of the year.
It reminds me that wise saying- “All that glitter is not gold.”

Ratings- 6/10

UP (2009)

It’s not only brilliant animation only but fine story telling with beautiful moral and memorable characters which makes the animation the dearest experience for all ages and Disney-Pixar team and Director Pete doctor have done great work here. These guys deserve salutation. There’s no doubt about its probability of winning Oscar for Best animation Film of the year.

In just initial few minutes the whole life of Carl Fredrickson from his wedding to old age sweeps us like watching those beautiful silent era films. Now he is a retired old gentleman living his lonely existence with fond memories of his wife’s unexplored adventure book. To fulfill his wife’s adventure dream he’s up on journey with his house tied with flying balloons. Above all what we miss the most when we’re out on adventure or travel trip for long? It’s touchiest moment of revelation for Carl to turn the pages of his beloved wife’s Adventure book which taught him a beautiful lesson of life that it’s life itself which is the best adventure. Helping others is the second adventure he materialized with company of Russel, Kevin and Dug in his journey to Paradise Falls.

Up is a fine animation film which balances sentimentality of story and adventure entertainment side by side and makes you believe that “Adventure is life.”

Ratings- 8/10

Thursday, December 24, 2009

PUBLIC ENEMIES (2009)

1933 is the 4th chaotic year of Great American Depression and it’s indeed a golden age of bank robbery which made John Dillinger the most sought after name in Chicago crime world. Government and Cops had wasted more taxpayers’ money in pursuit to catch Dillinger & gang than the money robbed by them. Director Michael Mann has almost done fine research and successfully captured and recreated the period of 30s with A grade settings & production value. Cop and thief thrill play is expected and Mann has delivered that too with almost forgotten Tommy gun action sequences.

Among actors Johnny Depp remains scene stealer and has delivered what we expect from an actor like him. Dillinger’s role surely suits his personality and he brought the character with all his behavioral temperament. I just googled the image of Dillinger and surprisingly Depp has much similarity on screen. Depp surely get nomination for Best Actor in coming Oscar. As smart and honest FBI cop Marvin, Christian Bale also maintained his character with whatever screen time offered to him. Marion Cotillard is beautiful actress but here she has nothing special to perform except being Dillinger’s girlfriend.

Mann’s this film is one of the keenly awaited films of the year and almost received mixed opinions from critics and viewers. Mann has credit of making some finest crime thrillers. The drama between lead players here isn’t as brilliant as ‘Heat’ or as intense as ‘The Insider’ but hey we forget that it’s action that speaks louder than words in gangster film. I can’t deny that it’s well made film of the year and one can’t neglect it.
Worth Watch.

Ratings-7.5/10

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

THE COUNTERFEITERS (German) (2007)

Based on true story of world war era Germany, the film focuses on one of the greatest counterfeiting attempts of the history. The film won Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in 2007.
Solomon Sorowitsch aka Solly was the best counterfeiter of currency. He’s the shrewd, sharp and the most wanted Jew of Nazist Germany because he can perfectly counterfeit anything-passport, documents, and bank notes of any country. When he got nabbed by Berlin cops, they offered him to counterfeit pound and dollar to survive. He’s specialist and gets above ordinary treatment from SS and his perfection of art was so astute that even official Bank of England after testing declared the fake notes as cent percent legal ones. Such a master craftsman he is! But soon he assigned task to counterfeit dollar and it’s during this task he felt the humiliation and oppressive tyranny from German officers.

Karl Markovics has really etched out the character of Solly with all his facial expressions and body language and it’s indeed watch worthy performance. It’s really well made film till the end. Well, I’m expecting some fine twist in the end as I almost forgot that it’s based on fact not fiction.

Ratings-7/10

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

ALBELA (1951)

Bhagwan Dada made whole India crazy with this musical blockbuster film of its time. May be it’s the only super hit he gave in his entire career. The credit goes to two Marathi Manus. The first one was Bhagwan Dada himself who’s all one man show here. This little unlikely hero not only acted brilliantly his part, but also wrote the story-scenes, directed and produced the film under his own productions. The other is song composer C Ramchandra, who gave perhaps the best score of his lifetime. Almost all tracks of the film are just immortal classics both in audio and visual sense. Whether its finest lullaby by Lata- “Dheere se aajari ankhiyan me”, “Mere Dil ki ghadi kare tik tik”, “Kismat ki hawa kabhi naram kabhi garam”, “Shola jo bhadke”, “Shaam dhale khidki tale” and absolutely audience favorite “Bholi surat dil ke khote”. The song sequences seems so cohesive and naturally synchronized that it’s hard to tell whether scenes were filmed first or songs!!!

The film is about Pyare, a man born to entertain others with his flair in act, singing and dance. Destiny makes a twist with his own career but not with his poverty stricken family. The film ends with happy note- a hero gets his family along with partner of his life and career. But more than story it is the sincere and entertaining effort of story telling with music which is the heart of the film.

Like great Chaplin or our own Kishoreda, Bhagwan Dada had natural flair for light comedy and dance with his own unique signature style. He’s so natural and effortless that it’s hard to separate his reel image from real image. It’s bloody difficult to enact and direct comedy or musical so naturally and though it’s always tragedy or drama which takes all prize and laurels from everywhere. Comedians of yesteryears never get their due in India, nobody considers comedian a serious or sincere actors like other tragic or romantic superstars.

Anybody’s heart missed a beat for Indian Venus Madhubala. Watch Gita Bali in this film and same can be applied to her too. She looks so fabulous & so graceful in every frame.
No exaggeration to say its one of the Best Indian Musical I ever seen.

Ratings-8.5/10

Sunday, December 20, 2009

ASHIRWAD (1979)

How about watching a scene where the loving father came to his home town to bless his beloved daughter on her wedding as unknown stranger amid a crowd of beggars receiving a token of charity from her hand! It’s visually one of the most literary cinematic moment for me.

Story, screenplayed, edited, directed and co-produced by Hrishida ,‘Ashirwad’ is a story of an unusual man named Jogi Thakur, son-in law of village landlord with a concerning and genuine heart of commoner. He loves two things in life. One is his little daughter Bittu and the other is common village people and their folk culture. He learns rhythm lessons from villager Baiju. Once in order to save Baiju’s daughter from rape, he commits a murder and lands up in prison for fourteen years. So many things happen in fourteen years.
Jogi Thakur is one of the character I cherish as long as I live. And that’s without doubt Ashok Kumar’s lifetime best emotional act. In certain song sequences, he imitated his younger and notorious brother Kishore Kumar’s free body movements quite unnatural and awkward for him. Two fine Bengali character actors Hrindranath Chattopadhyay & Abhi Bhattacharya also cast in unusual and yet memorable roles. The film also has presence of five or six years old Sarika as child actress and young Sanjeev Kumar.

Do you know who’s India’s first rap singer? It’s none other than loving Dadamuni aka Ashok Kumar. His ‘Railgaadi… song’ is associated with my fond childhood memories. I heard it so many times on All India Radio & Vividhbharati when I was li’l kid and today I still feel as a kid in grown up body.
Another touching cinema from great Hrishida.

Ratings- 8/10

Saturday, December 19, 2009

NAMAK HARAAM (1973)

Perhaps today’s generation don’t understand the poverty and food crisis of 60’s & 70’s when prices of basic things soared to unrealistic prices. It’s time when poor and middle class of India suffered survival hell under Nehruvian socialistic state. Even today we complain about rise in sugar and pulse price and petrol-diesel hike but this is not the same middle class which was there in post globalization stage. Perhaps the best thing that liberal economy of globalization has done is uplifting the middle class. Today any middle class educated youth can have job with MBA degree. Working for private company gives us an air of satisfaction with hefty salary and yummy pay packages. Imagine a time where some of the most intelligent and smart young men were sleeping without a morsel of food on Metro footpath and running pillar to post in search of job.
So we’re lucky because we’re not born in that era. Fine, but don’t you think it’s the easiest escape. Don’t you think we become too hedonist in this eat, drink and be happy culture. Because with money comes a feeling of being different in class and status. It corrupts human mind with snail pace and makes him indifferent in approach towards the class exists lower to them. Sorry for being too emotional but this is what my lasting feeling after watching this classic Hrishida film.

“Jisse kisi ka dukh, dard dekha nahin jata na…uska ilaaz wohi kar sakta hai. Uska vivek use is dukh, dard se moonh mod ke jane nahin deta,” said aged A K Hungal to Rajesh Khanna in the film. That is the scene which I would like to compare with Holy Bhagvad Gita’s conversation between Lord Krishna and Arjun in dilemma. Which other filmmaker can make such a refined and yet such simple cinema for audience than legendary Hrishikesh Mukherjee. Hrishida’s every film is concerning cinema of middle class which bridge the gap between an artistic and popular escapist cinema of entertainment.

Colored by the ideology of communism and class differences between capitalist and middle class, Namak Haraam is the story of two close friends, one rich another poor. Richer one guided by his father’s impulsive and arrogant, egoistic capitalist ideology hates poor class and feel severely humiliated when he has to confess ‘Sorry’ to one of the union leader working in his own factory. Khanna who initially come to aid his friend to win the game in his favor but slowly drama takes a different turn and strikes the right chords. He started listening the voice of conscience, which becomes chasm between two friends. Can friendship transform a person and bring a sea change in him? Who is real friend? Is he the one who remain your shadow and be convenient to you? Is he the one who is sharing cigarettes and drinks and life with you? Or he’s the one who shakes you from lumber and makes you better human being.

Two ruling superstars of era (Amitabh and Khanna) shed all their popular image conscious stardom and surrendered themselves to work with Hrishida and the result is one of the finest and memorable film of their career. After ‘Anand’ second time the credit to bring the finest side of these two actors goes to none other than our own Hrishida. And how can I forget Raza Murad’s act of kite selling drunkard poet named Alam. He has done number of films but it’s this one where he gave his consummate best.

Though the story was Hrishida’s idea, it was Gulzar who penned the screenplay and dialogues of the film and one feel the touch of both of these gifted artists.
Kishoreda’s three classy tracks ‘Diye jalte hai..’, ‘Nadiya se dariya…’ and ‘Main Shayar badnaam…”composed by none other than genius Pancham. The song picturisation is so natural and almost creates the essence to the story. Wow that’s what I called a true artist named Hrishida. Without being preachy or melodaramatic he made us felt the emotional chord of being human through his simple stories and characters familiar enough to our everyday middle class life and though seems so socially, economically and politically relevant to today’s time. That’s what I called ‘Touchstone Cinema’.

Like every Hrishida film, it has many memorable scenes and probing dialogues. Here’s few which I translated in English to cater non-Hindi speakers. When Amitabh’s capitalist father warned him in one of the scene and said, “As being no beggar and no rich, this middle class is very dangerous. We can’t rely on them. Most of the treachery and honesty happens from their side only. On one side they dream about making big and that’s why it is so easy to make them betray. On the other side, there’s one thing sticks to them and that is conscience. And that’s the reason why they become our enemy any moment.” It’s a brilliant and yet simple line I ever heard in any film revealing the deeper analysis of proletariat Vs bourgeois.
In one of the most striking scene Rajesh Khanna revealed to Amitabh while sharing a drink, “The value of this one premium single malt peg is equal to the food budget of a single worker family. We are starving atleast one worker’s family while drinking it.” How many filmmakers of today passed such a fine message in their cinema?

Ratings-absolute 10/10

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

MILI (1975)

If I have to choose only one director who’s every film I love to see innumerable number of times till I die, he is none other than beloved Hrishikesh Mukherji. Every time I watched any of his film for the first time or in repeat viewing I feel it as soothing experience to both my mind and heart and give me same refreshing feel of life full of sunshine. Like me, he made his millions of fans laugh and cry through breathing humanitarian cinema. His every film was such a fulfilling experience.

I watched Mili many times. The reasons are so many- Jaya Bachchan (one of the dearest Hrishida actress), Amitabh (untouched by his angry young man image and stardom), Ashok kumar (thespian of all character actors in India), Burmanda’s three golden melodies and Hrishida’s midas touch.
Funny, mischievous, sharp witted, sweet and lovable Mili is the soul sister of colony’s flat. His family members can even bet that she can’t remain mute even for thirty seconds. Such a vibrant and impatient chatter bird she is! She’s so dear girl to everyone and anyone who meets her for first time.The Company of Mili even cracked the hardest nut that purchased the room on terrace recently. Confronted with Mili, the masochistic self destructive drunkard slowly transforms into nice human being. And it’s this moment, he realized that she’s struggling with her life and has few days to live.

Though Hrishida’s earlier classic ‘Anand’ was quite similar in plot, this film serves quite higher purpose. Anand was more light hearted film which ends too darkly where Mili is more about fulfilling desires and wish of a dying person who has a few days to live. If Anand was humanitarian account of a doctor and his friendly incurable patient, Mili is heaving love story between a transformed soul and a girl which ends with quite hopeful positive ends. Hrishida kept it open ended to audience interpretation. The film has so many touching and memorable scenes- the sorry scene where innocent kids guided by their elder sister begging Amitabh to pardon them…simple and yet so touchy scene. Another where Amitabh tactfully proposes Jaya to marry him. Only Hrishida could bring smile and tear in a single scene like this. Or the one which touched me most- where Mili comes to see the stars with telescope and philosophize the life with relationship of stars and sun.

There’s no other actress who can carry such a natural performance as adorable Jaya Bachchan. She’s having so much grace in her full of life character. It’s Hrishida’s films where she gave her consummate best. Hrishida was like her second father. Other stalwart of Hrishida camp including Amitabh and Dadamuni too performed so believable characters. It’s still unknown by many that the maximum number of Amitabh’s films rests in the account of none other than Hrishida and all of them are just above compared to others who made him angry young man or superstar in 70’s and 80’s.

Ratings- 8.5/10

Sunday, December 13, 2009

ROCKET SINGH: SALESMAN OF THE YEAR (2009)

The difference between a boss and a leader: a boss says, 'Go!' -a leader says, 'Let's go! –E M Kelly

Business is not about meddling figures and graphs of closing sales or selling products and concepts but serve and deliver the customer what you promise. At the end of the day its happiness on the face of customer which makes your business prospers. For corporate world ‘Rocket Singh’ and his sales and service policy is next to impossible in today’s profit driven cut throat competitive market. Because what he’s doing is not called business as per his boss and partners. Though what he has done opens the eyes of his thirty years experienced boss and it’s a still a basic funda that he missed to learn in sales.

Here’s a slice of plot without any spoiler. Harpreet Singh is good for nothing just another graduate with 38% grade and he is dreaming about salesman. He faced interviews and got selected as trainee in an ensemble computer selling company. Unlike others, he is not ready to sacrifice his honesty or self for the sake of money or sales. To add insult to injury he even cracks the long relationship with a client. His life becomes full of insulting adjectives from all around and he conceives an idea of service and sales just unthinkable.

Three talented creative men delivered a product which is hard to resist. Director Shimit Amin is just redefining the various genres of Hindi cinema. His debut ‘Ab Tak Chappan’ was gripping and powerful ‘Cop Encounter’ film, the second ‘Chak De India’ is one of the few finest ‘Sports Film’ made in India and now it’s a film about ethics of salesmanship. Another major credit goes to Jaydip Sahani who not only conceived such a story but also penned praiseworthy screenplay and striking dialogues of the film. The third praise goes to rising star/actor who’ll surely and steadily rule the Hindi cinema and he’s making his presence felt with impressive acts one after another. Harpreet aka Rocket Singh is just like your neighborhood middle class young Sardarji on his scooty dreaming success.In his well nuanced act of nice guy, Ranbir is just perfect and real wise choice for this role. Apart of Ranbir, all the other actors, except Prem Chopra, are just unknown that I don’t know their names even but they all are just part and parcel of salesman’s everyday life- profit hungry boss, sales hungry and foul mouth manager, know it all smart ass office peon, seductress like desk girl, bikini babe obsessed lazy service technician and good for nothing MBA salesmen. They all seem real characters than anything else. A brilliant casting with equally brilliant story telling.

The film would be more fun if edited few repeated anecdotes. But keeping that one flaw sideline I must say that it’s one of the finest big surprise of the year. Immaterial to success or failure, it will surely gain cult status from audience. Buy this product…

Ratings- 8/10

MEAN STREETS (1973)

“You pay for your sins on the street, not in the church.”

A breakthrough film of one of the brilliant director-actor combination- Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro, which paved for some of the finest Hollywood films from this combo. The story revolves around the bunch of New York street side young men who wanted to make a way out of their aggressiveness from rough street crime to organized crime. The film coined a new chapter of rough city street life and directionless youngsters of 70’s. It’s bit dragging drama compared to other brilliant and better films by Scorsese but in 70’s, its quite out of the box experience for Hollywood.

The paradox of personality traits between two lead players is something striking in the film. Charlie (played by Harvey Keitel) is cool, internal and calculative risk taker while Johnny Boy (played by De Niro) is highly impulsive, short tempered shows the dichotomy of characteristic traits from both lead actors who’ve given memorable acts. Later Scorsese done role reversal in ‘Goodfellas’ where De’Niro played calculated criminal and Pesci shows more fire with his temperamentally swinging character just like Johnny Boy. The climax is pure Scorsese trademark-bloodshed, shoot out and car crash leaving characters to bleeding death.

Essential for Scorsese-De Niro fans.

Ratings-7.5/10

Saturday, December 12, 2009

SUSPIRIA (Italian) (1977)

The scary night full of incessant rain and thunderstorm welcomes Suzy as soon as she land up in Germany to learn dance from one of the world famous academy. The dance school is mysterious having weird looking characters and inmates and it becomes scarier for skeptic Suzy to survive. Don’t want to spoil such fine horror by revealing more, better you experience on your own.

Director Dario Argento reminds us that horror is above all experience to feel. Unlike other typical horror, the film switches gear to a mysterious masked world of killers which brilliantly set up the vibes of unpredictable horror. It bears somewhat resemblance to Polanski’s ‘Rosemary’s Baby’. But its exceptional value lies in its atmospheric horror of intense audio-visual shocks. The film bears absolutely brilliant background score for horror film. The use of color red is striking one- blood, buildings, nail polish, dresses, and shades of lighting. Why it’s not in IMDB Top 250 is question! It’s mandatory for all who love ‘horror genre’.

Ratings-8.5/10

Thursday, December 10, 2009

8 ½ (Italian) (1963)

“Happiness is being able to tell the truth without ever making anybody suffer.”

A car- rows and rows of cars on road- traffic jam- Everything is paused and still- cars, men inside them, their facial expressions everything- A man trying to move inside one car- we can’t see his face- it becomes hard for him to breath as he’s surrounded with fume inside the car- he tries to open the windows, doors but its almost jammed, locked- he’s feeling suffocated- a magic happens- he suddenly came out of car and starts floating up in the sky surpassing everything- somebody pulls the rope tied to his leg- the man falls in the vast sea- The surreal image dissolves into reality and a director wakes up from a dream.

Anybody who sees this first scene gets into altogether different world of magic realism where fantasy constantly blends with reality. It’s indeed a brilliant opening of this highly layered and complex film. Without doubt 8 ½ is ‘the best film ever made on film’. It won’t teach anybody how to make cinema but rather opposite. Fellini’s this unique groundbreaking masterpiece deconstructs the making of cinema and that’s why we often see it’s entry in critics and directors favorite film lists. Those who expect great plot, fine narrative story simple to digest with positive humanitarian ending will surely disappoint. Please don’t watch it because it’s film beyond all this. It’s film which I like to compare with ‘Art for Art’s Sake’. Here Art has nothing to prove or strive to achieve. I would like to suggest you to read ‘the preface’ of Oscar Wilde’s one and only novel written in his career- ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ (my all-time favorite novel) and you’ll know exactly what I mean by these words.

Guido is a successful film director and he doesn’t have remotest idea what his next film is going to be about. Producer has burned millions of money on sets and actors. Guido is stuck amid the ghost of his past life, the women of his life and his messy private life divided between his wife and mistress. He starts losing his grip on reality and the boundaries between his imagination, memory and reality dissolves into a single entity.

Camera speaks everything here. Scenes and visuals which are full of iconic, aesthetic, original, surreal, allegorical and memorable images that demand your unflinching attention if you have a heart of artist. One of the most elegant scene is that ‘Magician and Maya act’ where a trickster entertains the boring and read people’s minds with the help of that blindfolded old lady. He grabs Guido and the lady wrote ‘Asa Nisi Masa’ on blackboard. But what does that mean? CUT …and image transformed into the past childhood of Guido. It would be futile exercise to capture the essence of Fellini’s frames into words; they are insufficient to explain something so sublime and abstract.

It would be dishonest review if I don’t mention the alter ego of Fellini in the film- the one and only Marcello Mastroianni. 8 ½ is not possible without him because he’s the soul of Fellini’s this most private and autobiographical film of his career. His condition as film director Guido is more reflected by the characters surrounded to him. If you pay your ears to the voice of script writer, you’ll notice that Fellini had deconstructed the whole structure of his own film by using the script writer of Guido’s film as the voice of his critics. The script writer said Guido in one of the scene- “Your film is like series of complete senseless episodes…doesn’t have advantage of the avant-garde films, although it has all of the drawbacks…you are trying to solve a problem for which there’s no solution.” Guido hates him but in the climax we get some brilliant lines from same scriptwriter. Here’s the best one- “This life is full of confusion already that there’s no need to add chaos to chaos.”

I also love Luisa’s character (Guido’s wife) and she’s the strongest real women he faced in his entire life full of ladies. She’s real smart women and the only lady who knows Guido more than anyone. But Guido’s chaos lies in his preoccupation with all other ladies. Especially Claudia, who’s like mirage of salvation for him and whom we often see in those angelic close ups. What a heavenly face!!!

Fellini’s 8 ½ is arresting visual classic open to infinite interpretations in all possible senses. I watched it two times back to back since last three days since its not easy film to grasp fully in single viewing. Fellini is smart artist and he deconstructed his own filmmaking here and set a new grammar of filmmaking. It’s a film for anyone who wants to redefine his/her film watching experience. I’m changing the order of my favorite Top Ten after this experience. He’s like Shakespeare’s those wise idiots who claims that they know nothing and proves exactly opposite. He made a film on nothing (the director’s block) and turned out as so many things (masterpiece).
Only genius can do this.

PS- I’m no good at editing and too confused like Guido what to keep and what to remove from this mountain post on readers' disposal. By the way this review is a gesture of my tribute to great Fellini. Read it or discard it at your own pleasure…

Monday, December 7, 2009

LA DOLCE VITA (Italian) (1960)

“Don’t be like me. Salvation doesn’t lie within four walls. I’m too serious to be a dilettante and too much a dabbler to be a professional. Even the most miserable life is better than a sheltered existence in an organized society where everything is calculated and perfected.” 
– Steiner’s advice to Marcello in the film

Few films defined the masked face of high-society as honestly as Fellini’s this ageless satirical masterpiece. Marcello (played wonderfully by Fellini favorite Marcello Mastroianni) is a tabloid reporter living temporary existence in the shallow world of high-class society. He is a man of emotional paradox who loves to flirt with pretty dames, a part of his routine life. He dreams about creative writing but he’s so vague about it. He remains seduced by money, fame and prestige under the influence of decadent society where there’s huge vacuum of moral values and everyone pursues pleasure. He’s so much into the mud that even in the climactic moment of the film and his life; he couldn’t recognize the pure last hope of his life. One can’t think of any more realistic ending here. A beautiful symbolic metaphor by Fellini.

Modern man has become so much disconnected from the natural world and now he’s suffering from that conditioning only. In a way, Marcello is the great symbol of today’s modern, urban human condition trapped in absurd mundane life without any significance. He’s trapped in the world full of ‘eat, drink and have a sex’ kind of high society culture where everything is bizarre, duping and lacking any higher significance. Apart of Marcello’s old intelligent friend Steiner who commits suicide is the voice of pure soul for him. Marcello adores him more than anybody and he’s his idealized perfect version of what he wanted to be and we see plenty of irony when Steiner uttered anything in the film.

Fellini was an artist par excellence. Watching every frame of this B&W film seems like visiting classic portrait art gallery. There are so many indelible images which stay in my memory for long time. The initial helicopter scene with statue of Jesus flying over Rome, famous fountain scene of Anita Ekberg (can any dame looks so erotic and voluptuous as this Swedish beauty!!!), the candlelit procession at castle, the man who can move balloons with his music etc. etc. The cinematography and background score are just awesome. It’s Fellini’s distinct style of blending fantasy with reality which made him adorable filmmakers of world cinema. Though the film is nearly three hours long, I almost enjoyed every bit of its artistic bliss and love to watch it another and another times till I die.

The film won many awards including prestigious Palme d’or at Cannes and three Academy Awards including Best Director and Best story/screenplay. This is my second Fellini film after ‘Nights of Cabiria’, and am so desperate to see his puzzle like masterpiece 8 ½ next.

An exceptional classic beyond all ratings.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

BLOWUP (1966)

This film which won Grand Prix Prize at Cannes made Italian Director Michelangelo Antonioni on centre stage for this strikingly different and technically innovative stylistic film cut loose with open ending left thrown into audience’s lap. It’s completely innovative way to reverse and disillusion audience’s film involvement.

Thomas is young, hot, charming fashion photographer and his possessed with the world less prone to his artistic talents. Amateur wannabe models, routine photo shoot and ennui life. Surprisingly he shoots few snaps of a mysterious couple in a park. This leads him to interesting twist of his life since the woman watched him in park and demanded the photographs back. He smartly prevents her and soon witnessed another man, pointing revolver and probably a murder in the photographs. Like audience, he too is lost in knowing what exactly happened in the park. Whether it’s murder or not is revealed in off the hook climax but for the time being it awakens the artist’s creative instinct to know the reality behind his camera and he’s happy because he’s creatively doing something which challenges his talent. But soon his leads got stolen by the lady and he’s lost again in mystery until in final scene where Antonioni put his final motif behind the film. The end left me confused and it’s truly ambiguous that I feel cheated in first instance. Thanks to internet, I’ve read some interesting analysis which made me grasp the final Yorker by Director.
The highlight of the film is not plot but style. The film is visually aesthetic in color cinematography and has intoxicating jazz background score with some revealing bare it all scenes. And yep, David Hammings is real chap you love to watch. For me it’s hard to rank it as great film for its baffling ambiguity. I still don’t understand the logic behind the real dead body which Thomas witnessed in park???

Rankings- 8/10

Saturday, December 5, 2009

PAA (2009)

Doing different, unusual and challenging isn’t generally repertoire of Bollywood actors except South India’s crowning glory Mr. Kamal Hasan. We don’t expect it from commercial run-of- the mill actors but this year’s big surprise comes from none other than India’s most adorable entertainer/actor- Mr Amitabh Bachchan.
Meet India’s 12 years old, Progeria suffering ‘Glorious Basterd’, Auro. He will surprise you and make you fill all the roller coaster ride of all possible human emotions with his childish innocence, curiosity and sense of humour. After couple of commercial typecast roles, Big B has accepted really a tough and challenging role to carry on screen. Under the unlikely make up, overhead camera shots and changed voice modulations, he’s not having anything routine on his disposal to woo the audience and still he makes you smile and cry with your heart out. This is something we can’t expect from Big B and he surprised us with his act. Once again he sincerely deserves both audience and critical appraisal.

Director R. Balki is man of advertising and knows very well how to sell concept through idea. The day he claimed to make a film where Big B plays son and Abhishek plays his father just garnered enough curiosity and publicity much before he complete the film. I enjoyed his debut ‘Chini Kum’ for it’s simple and yet refreshing light hearted unusual love story. Without making much fuss, I must say that ‘Paa’ lives up to my expectations. Thank you Mr. Balki for this satisfying experience.

The story is just tale of reunion between father and son but more than story it’s presentation which rules your hearts here.Like his earlier film, this film too has all those light moments, funny one-liners, emotional underplay of feel good cinema. Along with Senior Bachchan, the Junior Bachchan too proved that he’s fine actor to look forward if offering intense roles. In his Rahul Gandhi like young generation leader role he displays fair interplay of facial expressions without being extra loud anywhere and balancing his character. Vidya Balan is not much likely choice for glossy glamour magazines and page 3 party pooper celebrities for her common girl next-door look but she’s wise choice for all sensible directors who expect an Indian face of strong woman(seriously missing in current bollywood). How many actresses can take up a challenge to be Big B’s mom on screen and then live up the character? Yes, she too deserves clap here. But the highlight of the film is Mr. Bachchan and all his fans will love to see him in this unusual avatar.

The reunion of both Sr. & Jr. Bachchan is the heart and soul of the film, though Balki could do it better if he skipped few drag moments in editing. The chemistry of both father-son is scene stealing. Maestro Illaiyaraja has composed some fine melodies, especially the theme tune. The interplay of Auro and his school mates, especially his close friend Vishnu is something we all love to laugh. Is that Balki who penned those cheesy lines!!!

Go and watch ‘Paa’ this weekend…it will surely make you laugh…and cry…without much disturbing your sensibilities.

Ratings- 8/10

Friday, December 4, 2009

THE BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN (Russian) (1925)

Two landmark and equally classic films made 1925 very special year in the history of cinema. Along with Chaplin’s eternal satirical masterpiece ‘The Gold Rush’, the revolution of Sergei Eisenstein’s experimental modern visuals shocked and surprised the world of cinema. Though both of these films and their directors were almost poles apart in their treatment and subject, they both acknowledged each other’s work. Chaplin claimed ‘Battleship Potemkin’ as his favorite one. However Eisenstein considered Chaplin as ‘just kid in his approach to cinema’ after watching his ‘The Kid’. But later he watched his ‘The Gold Rush’ and stated that the kid became mature now.

No propaganda film is as politically and visually striking and original as ‘Battleship Potemkin’. Made with experimental use of montages divided in five parts and based on rebellion plot of 1905’s Russian battleship by the same name, the film even today considered as one of the greatest film ever made. Vakulinchik, a rebel sailor sacrificed himself on Odessa and becomes a cause of uprising of proletariat workers against oppressive Tsarist rulers of Russia. The satire lies in ‘Killed for a plate of soup.’

Eisenstein brought power of striking images with classic use of montages, long shots, close ups and innovative use of light and shadow. One of the finest parts of the film- The Odessa Staircase sequence is landmark and unforgettable experience in cine history and it inspired many great filmmakers like Satyajit Ray, Coppola and Brian De Palma. Infact Palma paid fine homage to it in ‘The Untouchables’. Remember that shoot out sequence where a baby in a carriage falling down on steps while shoot out was going on.

It’s hard to digest the film for today’s generation who seek mere entertainment and watching silent black and white film made more than 80 years ago demands a hell lot of patience as audience of the day but Classic never fade in and fade out.
Essential for all serious cinebuffs.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

EASTERN PROMISES (2007)

David Cronenberg never makes a film which just remains as consumer item that you see for few hours and forget, rather it’s opposite. He’s auteur who covers boiling tension with those gory violent images and unusual characters which stays in your mind for longer time. This film is another proof of his talent. The plot revolves around the Russian mob in London trafficking prostitution. An underage girl was raped and died soon after giving birth to a child. Her secret diary written in Russian co-incidentally came to notice by a nurse named Anna. As she tries to explore the secret, she and her relatives got entangled in the intriguing sub plot of secret Russian crime syndicate named Vory V Zakone means thieves by the code.

The scene stealer of the film is Viggo Mortensen in his academy nominated leading role of Nikolai, the driver of Russian Mafia’s spoiled brat and he’s real fire crackle here. He really worked hard to absorb into the vein of character and without much exaggeration I must say that it’s his career best act with flawless and intense method act. It’s not often actors get such a powerful role and the credit surely goes to Cronenberg for discovering boiling actor inside him. Naomi Watts has fairly brought emotional subtleties to her character and she’s again fine casting along with other European actors.
Its contrast of cold bloodedness of crime with some of the body mutilated gory violence that’s striking about this film. The blood bath of violent climax with explicitly nude tattoo clad Viggo is one of the finest sequence that stays in mind much after the film is over.

Highly Recommended.
Ratings-8.5/10

Monday, November 30, 2009

RESCUE DAWN (2007)

Director Werner Herzog is always interested in telling individual human story confronting with inscrutable nature or established society. The movie is based on true story in the backdrop is Vietnam War of 1965. US flight lieutenant Dangler crashed his plane in hostile nature of thick forest in Vietnam. Soon he got captured by Viet soldiers and ended up with unthinkable torture of Middle Ages and jungle law. In a remote forest shacks he met five other fellow American POWs who were held from more than two years. Dangler is new but he’s smart and hopeful and soon they all start planning to escape. But they have to wait for rain to turn their plan in success. But did they execute it? Well better you see the film to know this.

There are few thrilling moments in the film in the first half; the second half shows the struggle for survival. Nature plays pivotal role in Herzog films. More than enemy it’s indifferent and inscrutable nature and puzzling jungle became looming danger for Dangler and others. Cinematographer Peter Zeitlinger explored some of the unchartered remote locales of Vietnam full of lush landscape or thick lost jungle. Shedding his celebrity image, Christian Bale gave one of the well nuanced performance of his career as Dangler. He lost considerable number of weight for this role to give its authentic touch.
Please keep in mind that it’s not movie about a physical warfare but psychological/survival warfare.

Ratings-7.5/10

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (1955)

It’s quite surprising to know that it’s one and only directed film by Director Charles Laughton. So disappointed was he by the poor reception of this film on its initial release both critically and commercially, that he vowed never to direct a film again, and he never did. The plot revolves around a killer obsessed with biblical vice and virtue and kills the seductive women who arouse men’s basic instinct. During his cell time, he came to know about hidden money of fellow jail mate who got death penalty. As soon as he released, he becomes well wisher to Ben’s widow and two orphan kids and rest is thing to watch.

With his suave charming personality and wearing tattoos of HATE and LOVE on his right & left hand fingers, Robert Mitchum successfully portrayed one of the classic cold blooded killer here and brought one of the interesting and memorable villain characters on screen. More than acting, it’s his body language which is striking. Undoubtedly one of his career best role.
Brilliant black and white cinematography of the film is something in sync with sheer visual splendor of Hitchcock or Wells films with few classic deep focus, extreme close up and long shots.

A fine watch for its combination of fable and film noire.

Ratings- 7.5/10

Sunday, November 22, 2009

KURBAAN (2009)

I have read two positive reviews about the film from two leading newspapers’ film critics; Nikhat Kazmi of Times of India & Shubhra Gupta of Indian Express. After watching the film, I feel cheated by their reviews; it would be better if I should rely somebody from our community than these so called reviewers.

The major problem with the film is it’s predictability of story penned by Karan Johar. Same can be said about Rensil De’silva’s screenplay and debut direction, Anurag Kashyap’s so clumsy dialogues. It is acceptably true that bollywood film is like a plate of all tastes and Karan exactly done that while dealing with the subject of Islmic fundamentalism driven terrorism and the role played by moderate and fanatic Muslim. We’ve seen recently ‘New York’ and it’s surely better film than this. He blended ingredients of romance to lure the audience with steamy scenes of on/off screen chemistry of Saif-Kareena, the setting of US to lure NRI audience and used almost all cliché of bollywood. But when both story & screenplay lack the strength nothing seems perfect.

Saif- Kareena tried to pull the film with whatever on their platter but you don’t identify characters when you end up the film. Vivek Oberoi failed to deliver something out of box with his helpless flat expressions and act. Om Puri is utter waste. They all seems so flat characters except Kiron Kher who saved the grace being in the skin of Afghani mother. The film neither sensibly highlighted the theme of its serious subject nor give us feel of watching some sleek thriller. I end up watching it as just a mediocre product.

Neither Hollywood nor Bollywood films focused the truth and root of Post 9/11 Muslim anger and atrocities while equally emphasizing voice of moderate Muslim. Surprisingly it comes from the most unusual country. If you have seen thought provoking pakistani film ‘Khuda Kay Liye’, directed by Shoaib Mansoor, you would know what I mean. Another recommendation is Oscar winning documentary ‘Taxi to the Dark Side’. Both of them are essentially recommended for all those who need deeper analysis of the subject.

Ratings- 5/10

EIGHT BELOW (2006)

This adventure entertainment of Disney pictures is based on truly unbelievable story of eight solid sledge dogs survived on their own for around six months under the worst winter weather of Antarctica. They all are honorable selfless animals, helping humans among rough circumstances in their expedition but when time becomes worst they moved to save their existence leaving dogs on their own to survive. Only one man is desperate to get them back and it’s too struggling for him to do it. Well, the film has some usual Hollywood cliché entertainment but the thing to watch here is dogs’ struggle for survival and their smart team work. Director Frank Marshall managed to bring the emotional bonding with slice of thrill, adventure and drama.

Ratings-6.5/10

Saturday, November 21, 2009

PICKPOCKET (French) (1959)

“The style of this film is not thriller. Using image and sound the filmmaker strive to express the nightmare of a young man whose weaknesses lead him to commit acts of theft for which nothing destined him. However this adventure, and the strange paths it takes, brings together two souls that may have otherwise never have met.”

Perhaps Bresson didn’t want to baffle the audience throughout the film to hunt for its theme and so before we see the first scene of the film, he clarified it in initial titles and that’s possibly the best to sum it up about the plot and theme. But he did it for purpose, so that the audience can concentrate on other aspects of this masterpiece.

Michel who started as obsessed pickpocket ended up as creative artist. Like ordinary pickpocket, he’s not stealing for money only but something higher than that. He believes it as higher art gifted to few chosen one.
Bresson had allowed action to tell the story rather than straight dialogues. The use of voice over is other device which explains us the motivations or internal feelings of characters. Like De Sica and Godard he also used non professional actors in the film. Initially Martin LaSalle as Michel seems expressionless to me but with innocence of face and gentleman like body language he finely managed to bring the character of naïve pickpocket in almost every frame.

I am so surprised to see the whole aesthetics of pickpocket by some smartest professional finger tricks done by these specialists. In fact some of them are so quick and baffling one that one has to rewatch the scene to understand their expertise of teamwork. Bresson’s film shows us some of the brilliant camera focus of extreme close up shots and it keeps the authenticity of his detailing. For me, watching this first Bresson film is demanding but it’s extremely satisfying and enjoyable too.
It’s ignorance to rate great classic.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

STROSZEK (German) (1977)

Watching this third Herzog film I must say that Herzog’s heroes are like directionless hermits. Herzog repeated unprofessional actor Bruno S. again after their appreciable teaming in ‘Kasper Hauser’ and teamwork again proves the magic. Bruno is again social outsider here like ‘Kasper Hauser’. In initial scene we come to witness his releasing from prison. He loves just two things in life- playing musical instruments and drinking beer. But soon he realized that life in Germany is full of hardships and brutal one, so along with his prostitute girlfriend Eva and an old neighbor they thought about starting new life in America-the land of opportunities. For them America is an unexplored mystery or a dream of freedom.

But soon disillusionment starts unsettling them in hostile land and they realized that life is severe and brutal everywhere and perhaps it’s more severe wasteland in America. Remembering the great visionary American poet T S Elliot his ‘The waste land’ here.
Bruno and Eva are physically safe in America and there is no local hoodlum who’s kicking them in their hometown but still Bruno is so unhappy. As Bruno explains to Eva in one of the scene that in Germany it was visible but here they do it so gentle way, and that’s much worse than it seems. That invisible chaos seems economical on surface but it’s deeper at mental & spiritual level. Only Bruno understands it and that’s lead us to that brutally dark ending part.

I’ve never seen final ten minutes in any movies as symbolically represented chaos of life as in this one. It is just a phenomenon. Those dancing/ piano playing birds, a shot in ropeway and circularly moving trolley will remain permanently imprinted to my senses. I became bit sleepy while watching it yesterday and miss the brilliant clue by Herzog in that final scene. I watch that scene again today prior to writing this post and it was Eureka moment. It is that line written on the backside of that ropeway vehicle in which Bruno sat last. IS IT REALLY ME! The clue signifies the futility of both driverless revolving trolley and trained performing birds. But for Bruno life itself is futile and he knew it damn well. That final scene was just something that you get from auteur like Herzog only!

Salute to this genius filmmaker.

Ratings- 10/10

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

UMBERTO D. (Italian) (1952)

Umberto D. is another masterpiece from the maker of highly inspirational Italian classic ‘Bicycle Thieves’. De Sica dedicated this film to his father.Umberto Domenico Ferrari is an upright senior citizen and good for nothing old man living last years of his life by selling few last valuables to pay the accommodation rent. He has no one to help him pay his heavy debt. No son, no brother, no relative. The only soul companion of his lonely and struggling existence is his pet dog Flike. What is the role of bicycle in ‘Bicycle Thieves’, here it is this dog. I’ve neither seen any man so desperate to get his lost dog back nor a man who loves a dog to this extent. His bonding with the dog is like two body one soul.

De Sica’s direction and his collaboration with writer Cesare Zavattini made post war neorealist cinema with simple and yet touchy aesthetics on screen. Like classic ‘Bicycle Thieves’ they did manage to structure the emotionally charged & compelling personal story that show the subtlety of human emotions under hopeless conditions. Shot almost at real locations and made with almost non professional actors. Carlo Battisti was a retired Professor and he played the lead role with utmost dignity of his character and he’s another great part of this film. His natural act and authentic expressions creates a permanent impression of character.

Visuals speak emotional sound in De Sica’s films and the film has so many tense and thought provoking scenes. The most heartbreaking scene is one where he mock practice to beg raising his palm and suddenly turns it down when a gentleman offering him few money; next he offered his hat to his dog’s mouth If he could beg, he can get good money to survive like so many but he don’t want to lose his self respect in his own eyes. Another where he said to his maid, “I’m tired”, and thinking about committing suicide. By all means De Sica made us felt these scenes. That’s the greatness of De Sica’s heart wrenching cinema.

Great films don’t require ratings of a novice critic. I’m too small to rate such films.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

DIKSHA (1991)

I watched the film during the golden era of DD when I was 14 or 15 years old and in the last scene I couldn’t controlled myself then, watching those emotional departure between Nana Patekar & little boy Nanni. I’m so speechless to watch it again after 15 years long gap and it proves its greatness.

Based on U R Anantmurthy’s Kannada story ‘Ghata-Shraddha’, directed by Arun Kaul and made with the financial support of N.F.D.C. & Doordarshan, the film is set in the time of early 30’s some southern village.
A Brahmin lost his five children after their birth and took a vow that if god bless him another child, he will surrender his life to God and make him true Vedpathi. It is emotionally so disturbing for eight or nine years sweet little Nanni to alienate from his parents, home and live a life in hostile new surroundings where he has to learn and unlearn something new from his strict disciplinarian Panditji (Manohar Singh) and bully classmates. Poor Nanni has to do his entire routine task himself at the tender age when he doesn’t know how to tie his own dhoti. He made two good friends here-One is Panditji’s widow young daughter and the other a lower caste orphan Koga (Nana Patekar) working as a servant to Panditji’s ashram who in return get the food remains. Working in Brahmin house, he also abstains himself from meat and alcohol unlike others of his caste. During Panditji’s absence, his young widow daughter in a weaker moment seduced by a local teacher and got pregnant. The lover is coward and not ready to accept his responsibility. Poor lady has to abort. Before Panditji back to ashram, the whole village Brahmins and folk come to know about this secret affair and forced Panditji to give a landmark decision.

Nana Patekar maintained his small but significant presence true to its salt with South Indian accent and characteristic body language. His act here is something which you won’t forget in your experience. Watch the scene where he shows his raw anger to long back Panditji. Manohar Singh, K K Raina, Vijay Kashyap and almost all other cast had acted their parts with utmost sincerity and dedication to their profession. But the most memorable character comes from the little boy.

The film portrays the conflict between a humanitarian Brahmin Vs a rigid hypocrite Brahmin. The film becomes tragic and raises so many disturbing questions, which is a sign of Anantmurthy’s powerful social reforming story & Kaul’s complete authentic adaptation. It raises many root questions in the end that social reformers have been asking from centuries- Who is ‘True Brahmin’ here? One who is Brahmin by birth that preaches religion and follows Holy Scriptures or one who is Shudra and follows the religion of humanity with all his nobility and selfless act?

Highly recommended to catch it either on torrent or original, I assure you don’t regret it.

Ratings-10/10 (…and there’s no exaggeration here, the film deserves at least this much.)

Monday, November 16, 2009

SARDARI BEGUM (1996)

If there is any male director alive who made the authentic portrayal of Indian women focusing on all its flesh and blood of individuality it’s Shyam Benegal. . Benegal is always interested in human stories and exploring complexities in them, but not provides judgments and answers. His most of the films have a strong individual and unconventional woman who breaks patriarchal and irrational social conventions and embrace her fate with struggle of life.

The film is an autobiographical account of once famous now extinct thumri singer named Sardari Begum. The film shares a lot of similarity with Benegal’s earlier masterpiece ‘Bhumika in its subject of professional performer woman. Benegal remains experimental in his narration techniques. The film shows us the accidental death of Sardari in first scene which is its end part and than we witness the journalist’s various encounters with the people associated with her life. Narration of Sardari’s early life portrayed in certain non linear flashbacks told by the people who remained part of her life as thumri singer from her early days in Agra to later life in Delhi. The second half becomes too dark and melodramatic one and that’s makes it less preferred one compared to Benegal’s early refined cinema.

Like most of his films, it is a film relatively with new cast and made on a tight budget.
The film had remarkably strong performance from Smriti Mishra and Kiron Kher, who played the younger and older protagonist in the film. Mishra received the National Award for Best Supporting Actress.
May be Benegal knew right from the beginning of his career that the root of Indian acting is theatre and not cinema and that’s why his films almost have flair casting as actors. Look at the list of these actors whom he theatre actors he ensemble for supporting casting of the film- Amrish Puri, Rajit Kapoor, Rajeshwari Sachdev, S. M. Zaheer, Jawed Khan, Shrivallabh Vyas, Ravi Jhankal, Surekha Sikri (fine natural actress who is currently showing her talent on television as Dadisa in “Balikavadhu’).

Only few directors of India gave such an authenticity to the prevalent cultural part in his films and this film is again shows the detailing. Northern Muslim culture, characterization, dressing and over all outlook of the film is so specific about time and space. The film also got the Best Urdu film of the year. The Indian semi- classical music is the heart of this film for the connoisseurs of purist who loves thumri, ghazal, dhrupad or dadra. Vanraj Bhatia almost remained long term composer of Benegal and it’s definitely has tunes whom you love to listen if you like soundtrack of ‘Umrao Jaan’ & ‘Bazaar’. The film bears so many fine artistic elements of expressions of Hindi cinema now almost extinct.
Recommended to all Benegal fans like me.

Ratings-8/10

Sunday, November 15, 2009

ZARA SI ZINDAGI (1983)

Seventies was an era when unemployment crisis was so palpable and corruption and favors of politicians ruled in job interviews. All those hopeless lost generation of jobless educated youth took solace as socialist rebel. They just smoke, do whatever is available and kill their time.

Written & Directed by K Balachander, the film portrays the life three jobless bachelors living strugglers’ life in Delhi's rented apatment. The film is woven with satirical humor and captures delicately the everyday reality of unemployed educated youth of that era. Some of the dialogues penned by none other than Gulzar are really so ironic and striking one to the scenes depicting reality. For example every time a man tries to post his application/postal order into the postbox, he heard sarcastic laughter sound inside the postbox. In another scene all three guys were sitting on road pavement with hunger in stomach and struggling for money and above them we see the huge signboard saying ‘Have you paid your Income Tax?’ Wow what a contrast!!! These are just few examples, there are many such brilliant sarcasm running throughout the film. Watch fake lunch scene full of overacting.

Where most of the Directors often highlighted or emphasized either the melodrama or light comedy while dealing with such a subject, K Balachander had kept the spirit of both of them alive in right proportions and that’s make the film a fine sensible and sensitive watch. Perhaps he would have made some more such films in Hindi!!!

Kamal Hasan has done a few films in Hindi and this one is hardly remembered by anyone but as a jobless struggler poet and hater of hypocrisy, he once again gave his well nuanced performance here. Perhaps a few people of today’s generation know about Marathi actor Nilu Phule who almost did the negative roles of street gambler, drunkard inhis career. Watch him here as for nothing scornful father and I bet that any other actor could do justice to it. Actress Anita Raj ruled in 80’s B grade revenge flicks of Dharmendra- Mithunda but here she too seems so natural and balanced. The only unfortunate parts of the film are its last half an hour which is quite stereotype and dragging one and the other is music. LP failed to score the magic of memorable melodies they composed in Balachander-Kamal’s blockbuster hit ‘Ek Duje Ke Liye’.

Recommended to all sensible cinelovers.

Ratings- 8/10
PS- Those who like to watch it can get the original vcd available in moser baer @ just 30 bucks!!!

AS GOOD AS IT GETS (1997)

Sometime I think that Jack Nicholson is better and more versatile actor than Pacino and De Niro. It’s unpredictability of character with all his myriad expressions that Nicholson knows better than both of them. Watch him here for example in his Oscar winning act of Melvin Udall, a real prick and a meanest mouth whom you love and hate at the same time. He’s obsessive compulsive novelist living lonely and unsocial existence. His next-door neighbor is hospitalized and he has to baby-sit his dog. His silent crush on Carol, a waitress got challenged and he keeps ruining every possible chance to be a normal decent guy until he realized what he really wants from life.

‘As Good As It Gets’ is special because it’s not routine romantic comedy but finely enhanced film which make you smile/laugh so naturally without being dark. The most wonderful part of the film is the chemistry between Nicholson & Helen Hunt and it is a thing to watch here. Both of them got Best Actor and Actress Academy Awards for this same film. Nicholson is sheer delight here and he’s the strongest reason why you shouldn’t miss it.

Ratings- 7.5/10

Saturday, November 14, 2009

THE ENIGMA OF KASPAR HAUSER (German) (1974)

“Don’t you hear all that horrible screaming all around you? That screaming men call silence?”

Meet a young man who was abandoned from birth and grew up locked in a dark cellar without any human contact or external world. He can barely do simple things: speak, walk, eat or dress himself. He knows nothing about what we called human civilization. One fine day he was left abandoned in a town; with a letter in a hand he was standing like a statue unaware about his innocent role playing in the world full of smart, civilized people. I won’t ruin the charm of this classic by saying more about the plot.

In my experimental search of world cinema’s auteur film makers, I would like to add the proud name of Werner Herzog and I must say I become fan of him after watching this gut wrenching film. It’s such a unique humanitarian and adorable film and Herzog without sermonizing told the story through the eyes of innocent Kasper. Unlike many films dealing with such enigmatic mysteries, it does not even attempt to explain the central mystery, but rather to see the world through the point of view of its protagonist and we come to know what a cruel but beautiful world it is!!!

Its revealing thing to know that the actor playing Kaspar Hauser, by almost a non professional actor named as Bruno S. was beaten by his prostitute mother when he was three in his real life, leaving him deaf and leading to his institutionalization, as a mental case, for a quarter-century. But Bruno S. is just striking one with all nuances and it’s the finest natural act I’ve seen in a long run, and I doubt whether any trained actor could do justice to it. Even there is so touchy part about Kasper’s being, his whole existence that frequently challenges the established social notions. Outwardly he may look like a savage or village idiot, but inside he is a soulful man of great tenderness and for us he’s still big enigma and Herzog left it to audience’s own interpretation like Reader Response Theory suggested by Allen Tate. Any fine day I would like to watch it again…and again…and again…

For those who’ve enjoyed David Lynch’s masterpiece ‘The Elephant Man’, it’s mandatory watch. It’s must for all who loves sensible, subtle cinema which introspects and boils many questions than feeds easy solutions or answers of enigma called humanity.

Ratings- 10/10

Friday, November 13, 2009

ENCOUNTERS AT THE END OF THE WORLD (Documentary) (2007)

Below the title, which more looks like a disaster movie, lies a wonderful documentary about the enigma of South Pole called Antarctica. Directed, written and narrated by Werner Herzog and shot by Cinematographer Peter Zeitlinger the documentary is just other worldly experience not to miss. I come to know from wikipedia that the entire film crew consisted of just two people- Herzog, who recorded all production sound, and cinematographer Peter Zeitlinger. The two went to Antarctica without any opportunity to plan filming locations or interview subjects, and had only seven weeks to conceive and shoot their footage.

It’s revealing to know that icebergs are not larger than the Titanic but it was even larger than the country which built the Titanic. There are monolithic icebergs with 150 feet cliff on surface and more than 1000 feet of ice just below the water line. It’s so huge that melting water can run the Nile River for 75 years. In this exploring journey we meet certain professional dreamers living a vagabond life we haven’t even imagined and they are enjoying every bit of it.

The mysterious sound of Seals under the ice water, the white landscapes, beautiful underwater visuals of frozen ocean and its aquatic life, a loner penguin, Mt Erebus volcano and the interviews of people who are really the dreamers living it in reality… the film has so many blissful visuals to remember. Some of them seem like unfathomable surreal dream.
Don’t miss.

Ratings-8.5/10

Thursday, November 12, 2009

CARRIE (1976)

Based on Stephen King’s best seller and Directed by Brian De Palma, the film is part teen movie- part horror show. Its supernatural revenge teen fantasy and at the centre of it is Carrie. She’s tortured low profile high school misfit with no confidence, no friends and nagging mother. In semi porn like very first scene Carrie while bathing realized her first period and knows about her secret power of telekinesis. If she can concentrate on something she can move it. When her psychotic mom and sadistic friends finally go too far, the vengeance strikes back with her special gift, cause frenzy of blood and fire on prom night.

Many critics regard it as one of the all-time great horror classic. Well I don’t much agree with it, though some scary parts and good performances it’s very predictable B grade film, except the last fifteen minutes of Brian De Palma’s tour de force. The last chilling shot is really so scary that anybody can miss the heart beat for the few seconds. That’s the real surprise of the film.
Both Sissy Spacek as Carrie and Piper Laurie as her mother were nominated for Best Actress and supporting actress. But more than both of them I like the act of Betty Buckley as Miss Collins, the PT teacher in her short role.

No harm in watching once though.
Ratings- 6.5/10

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

DEAD RINGERS (1988)

It’s not an easy film to digest for those who love plain vanilla entertainment. There are several reasons for it. One it’s an odd story of two identical twins diverse in their nature happens to be successful infertility specialists doctors. One is reticent, introvert and shy, the other is extrovert, seductive, professional. One is not good with serious ones; the other is not good with frivolous ones. They share everything internally and externally in their lives. It’s not straight thing since both of them sometime playing parts of each other and viewing it first time it’s quite harder to clarify who’s who? The most contriving part of the film is their identity of twin brother- Is it Beverly playing Eliott or vice versa? Trouble starts when a celebrity woman patient becomes a bed partner for both of them. One enjoys the company, the other fall in love. Soon Beverly starts losing his sanity and Eliott has to take things in his hands to save his brother. But he soon discovers that brothers who share everything also share madness and this leads us to twisted ties hard to fathom.

Director David Cronenberg’s ‘Dead Ringers’ is hard and bizarre psychological thriller. Although this personal chaos film didn’t win any Oscar, it won 17 International Awards & wide appreciation all around the globe. I haven’t watched much of Jeremy Irons films but his double role is really crackling one here. In both acts he just gave his consummate best. We have seen many double roles but here it’s too baffling case and credit naturally goes to screenplay, cinematography & direction. Another highlight of the film is weird instruments of surgery which constantly gives you horror feel.

I would recommend it for all who love to watch original, out of the box, disturbing psychological films. By the way Dead Ringers mean ‘an exact duplicate’.

Ratings- 8/10