Friday, October 2, 2015

The Court of Satire

Expectation
It’s been long that I have been contemplating to watch the much acclaimed ‘Court’. With my personal experience with the daily grind of the court, I had a hint of what story was to unfold. I thought it to be a man’s adversity heightened by the apathy of the courts and endless and meaningless trips for hearings. The last film that moved me to splinters with its thought-provoking theme and unabashed realism was Masaan. Directed by a debutant Neeraj Ghaywan, Masaan captured the quintessential small town and the lives of its characters embroiled in a series of ill-fated events. I anticipated a similar drama laced with pricking realism.

Court
The Court is light years from the larger-than-life escapist dramas and claims to create a genre in itself. It is not a Marathi, Hindi or English movie. The movie surpasses the boundaries set by language and the subtexts of socio-cultural differences of people. It is raw in its essence and greatly captures the fleeting experiences of the ordinary lives in the suburbs.
The hero here is the master craftsman himself Chaitanya Tamhane. Although not very well versed with the dynamics of film making (although I would love explore that prospect someday) but from the wide shots of a middle class kindergarten, an ordinary household  to a court room that is gradually emptied and fades into obscurity the film has succeeded in capturing the tangible reality on screen.
Narayan Kamble, a LokSahir (people’s poet), through his confrontational songs voice corporate invasion in the form of malls, aggrandized consumerism, exploitation of the working class and also the pitiable plight of that dejected part of the society that is left do manual scavenging.
The film mirrors the issues that are very much seen around today. There are hues of casteism, extremism, societal regression and the traces of the trifling xenophobia of a metropolitan towards outsiders. Although none of these are out there jarringly, the creativity lies in the perceptiveness of Tamhane who subtly juxtaposes these issues in an unobjectionable way.
This chronicle of a simple yet rebellious street artist is also a reflection of the stark reality that obliterates any hope for the righteous and those raising their voice against various social concerns. Be it disapproval from the courts or the general lack of interest by the masses, the activists’ fate here is very much condemned.
Comic by Manjul
 Kamble, the defiant poet has been framed over flimsy charges under section 306 (abetment of suicide) after a sewer worker dies while working in a sewer. What follows is a witch hunting of the activist. The absurdity of the functioning of the politico-legal system is exposed grandiosely.
The attempt of lynching or suppressing dissent is brusquely represented. The hyper-realistic depiction of the series of incidents, from court trials to the intricately woven regular lives of the defendant and the public prosecutor is remarkable
.
Reflections
Curiosity had me do a Google search on 'ChaitanyaTamhane', he turned out to a 28-year-guy from Mumbai. Interestingly he began writing the script for court at the age of 24. This is evidently a genius at work. Honestly, I feel the youth have tremendous energy, intellect and yes boundless imagination.  The novel script and the movie making here puts a lot of ‘instant’ social causes at shame. A group of young people decide to make a court room drama, their efforts sum upto a much more profound and thought provoking cinema. It is an effort that is self-effacing yet hard hitting on many grounds. This movie leaves you thinking for hours. After a week of binge watching Pedro Almodóvar and Majid Majidi, the universality of the ‘Court’ much like the European and Iranian films is amazing.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Nebraska : An ode to old age

"Just watched Nebraska, one of the finest films to have released this year. Again, I am awfully thankful to my insatiable hunger for good cinema. Well, this is the best thing that happened after the refreshingly melancholic account of a downtrodden folk singer – Inside IlewynDavis by Coen Brothers. Films dealing with real people and circumstances always tend to leave you dumbfounded with severe existential questions. Right from hearing about Nebraska on the television, to reading about it on IMDB, I had a feeling that this is something that I would feel for a really long time."


Life is all about chasing dreams that may or may not be accomplished; the joy lies in embarking on the journey. We all love to dwell on our temporal whims and fancies to get away with the existential issues that worry us at every turn of our lives. Loving and being loved is what life is all about. Doing well for others knows no limit. Nebraska, beautifully scores for depicting the unconditional and purely detached notion of love. Detachment in modern day seems divine, while the world is rushing towards material prosperity; we are left to do little with love that is unattached. Every action is propelled by self love, Nebraska is a subtle reminder of love that is detached, and beyond superficial pangs of showering love for the sake of own good.
The movie revolves around a septuagenarian’s pursuit of prize money of a million dollars. Old age as it is always looked upon as degenerative and vile is one of the main motifs in the film. The youth buzzes with vitality and vigour, with all kinds of aspirations, frolic and fun; however it seldom touches upon some grave yet essential questions of life i.e. life, old age, and death. Old age is a phase, which none can escape, but none of our chat room conversations, and yapping would acknowledge the inevitability of it.

“Knock it off! We all are going to get old”
Ageing can be fun too

I am not up to too much on what we do when we get old, but more or less on reworking our ideas about old age. In times when there are cases of elder abuse reported world over, millions of elders die due to insufficient medications and while several elders are suffering from depression and neglect by kin, there is certainly a dearth of dialogue between the young and the old.  This is no academic dialogue, but rather a much more humane, mankind to mankind acknowledgement of solidarity regardless of age. There is certainly a need to think about what we do for them, and in we fail to do for them as our successors. Parental love is wonderful, devoted, and passionate, today amidst the unsettling chaos of materialistic pursuits, how often do we stop and think about our own ability to love back our elders the way they loved us. Films like Nebraska evoke all those guilty feelings that eventually seem much needed to retain harmony alive amidst this disarrayed web of self-interests that confound the feelings of love and detachment.
No welfare talks, but on a serious note, Nebraska is a movie that needs to be felt. The film is brimming with the idea of detached love - a son willing to turn all the odds to fulfil his ageing father’s wish, even though being resolutely aware of its futility.

The Movie

Bruce Dern as Woody Grant
In the first scene, we see Woody Grant, a tall lanky old man, around 75 years of age; trail obstinately alone on a highway. He walks with a haughty gait; his awkward disposition appears funny. On being stopped by a patrolling officer, he casually tells them the reason they find him walk relentlessly without worrying about the cold, is that he is on his way to Lincoln to fetch his prize money. A couple of minutes later as the opening credits end, enters the son David Grant – a thin handsomely pale man - himself broke after the certain end of a confused relation. He picks up the father from the police station, afterwards it’s a journey filled with a colourful palette of emotions. David goes out of his way to put an end to his father’s flight of delusion, by actually taking him to Lincoln.

A still from Nebraska
The movie spells magic in its monochrome frames. To an extent the extravagant use of a monochrome frame for the film works in the favour of its underlying theme – the decrepitude of life as it ages. It in a way deconstructs popular notions of old age. Life is what we make of it, while most of our future plans include a rewarding career of our choice; earning millions; making merry; and plans of eventual resignation to nothing i.e. a life in the comfort of welfare schemes and medications, precisely a life wheezed out of aspirations. Woody is a man who spent a lifetime serving others, busying himself with routines of life for years, he probably missed on a lot many things like; securing the future of his children, and wife; and more irrefutably his own will to make his life the way he wanted it to be. Men and women in their old are quite convinced of their doleful state, which inadvertently leads them to a state of nothingness, where they are gripped in mundane chores till they die, however, Woody’s character in Nebraska seems to defy all these social norms, his perseverance is quite motivating, especially for people who think they gave up trying at a very early stage in life.
June Squib as Kate Grant

Woody is done with his life; his apparent end is nearing, less time, some more self-commitments to be fulfilled. Even though certain of the apparent doom, all his conscious efforts are directed to the pursuit of a prize money – a million dollar. The million dollar sweepstake here is conceivably a metaphor for an unfulfilled longing. His old frail frame is degenerating, and this does not hinder his significant personality, with a heart of a prudish kid. His measured words and obscure humour, and brash assertiveness add to the mirth in the narrative. The film sways between sardonic humour, and significant moments, where the viewer is compelled into introspection. The stark contrast between the idealist Woody and his pragmatic wife leads us to interludes in the narrative that are pleasantly humorous. JuneSquib's part as Kate Grant, the wife, a woman who is illustrated as a practical counterpart to the whimsical protagonist, occasionally dwells on fancies of her own kind. Needless to say the wife too is a character that is incandescent with confidence. Kate Grant is hysterically funny. She comes across as a brash women, who is robust about her past, and do not hesitate to be loud and reproachful. She has one of the most important scenes, where a completely humane side of her personality is revealed to the viewer.

Will Forte as David Grant
Beyond all the beauty of the narrative and the crisp finesse of the monochrome frames (breathtaking photography), Nebraska is a father-son movie. David, the son, notwithstanding his personal loss (the recent break up), is the pacifier between Woody and his ever antagonizing wife. David is the sweet reassurance that there is hope in every faltering bond, be it due to ageing, or physical and emotional discord. His tolerance of Woody’s delusion seems to grow from his everlasting unconditional love for his father. Acceptance of his own inadequacies and the inconclusive fate of his father’s quest make David the real good-natured man. David constantly assures that it is perfectly harmless to put aside work, life, and chores, for the happiness of your loved ones, regardless of what they may or may have not done for us. Nebraska directed by Alexander Payne is a humanist film the deals with real people; all the characters are presented in their natural impervious self.


Nebraska is a life journey, which compelled me to write my own thoughts upon watching this timeless marvel. I duly hope that it touches millions, and reaps awards and acclaim in galore, as personally I feel films celebrating life - with all its assiduous attempts at making it worth living, ought to be treasured.

Friday, August 16, 2013

"Smile"


I lost it to the wobbly winds, 
And scathing rains,
Moments of silent restraint
Fly-by-night sorrow, 
Forlorn times of uncertainty,
Despondent strolls in the lobby
Staring at the roof – mute with an air of whispering,
Waiting for the emissary of light,
Talking to the indifferent placidity of the walls,
Whilst waiting for the apostle of grace

Glad I found it now!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Midnight's Children

As I turn to the last page of Midnight's Children, am aroused by a certain pathos that the journey of Saleem Sinai, which held me on tenterhooks, is finally over!

As Rushdie’s Midnight's Children plays around the foreboding nature of destiny, similarly it was in my destiny to read this book at the turn of my 24th year. Somewhere in 2008, I was gifted a marvel called “Midnights Children”, little did the person know that I might be reading it exactly after four years.

Midnight's Children, tells the tale of Saleem Sinai, one of the twin born on the midnight of 15th august 1947, the other being a cataclysmic nation gripped by a plague of conflicts. It skilfully critiques the infant nations (India, Pakistan and Bangladesh) in the teething phase of finding its sovereignty.

A panoramic narrative, with lots of chutney, love, conviction, denial, nose and knees, sorcery, ghosts, innuendos on the exploits of the government, language riots, gods, snake charmers, and curious characters.

The language is complicated, and the multiplicity of ideas certainly makes it more difficult to explain the book to others, there is something for every reader. This allegorical narrative is further embellished by lush imagery.

A book that will never cease!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Delirium


Woke up with an overwhelming melancholia;
Soaked in an endangering thought,
Of losing my sense of being,
Tough choices are drowning the self,
A state of helplessness;
With all relations going awry
Today seems to be in a quandary;
Quite oft, I feel the need to wake up no more,
With piles of blank sheets; to be filled with wails
Cry Cry Cry
And fill my sockets with delirium..

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Woes


Getting lost has always been a fantasy
Now years after,
At this juncture,
Where obvious aim seems discolored,
With mind and soul leading nowhere,
Ambitions seem inconclusive
Toil Toil Toil...
Seems to be the only words ringing deep inside
But for how long,
Quite unsure of that
Anxiety, fits and bouts of emotions,
All have submerged the self
There is nothing much to do here,
The fallen man knows
Nobody cares,
After all
Its about a life worth few pennies.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Rapacious love!


There lay two naked bodies,
On the moor,
Where the grass, succumbed
To the ecstatic manoeuvres,
They were two bodies,
Dipped in yellow hues
Soft hair on their silky skin,
 Jingled and bellowed
To the tunes of the mischievous wind,
Her laughter tossed in the mellow sunlight
Of the evening
He breathed fire, a frolicking one
A blissful union that will last a lifetime,
Blessed by the elements of nature

The Departure

At 1pm behind the cathedral,
I shall lay to rest
Yes today is my funeral
I passed out at 2 in the midnight
My dog was the last,
To bid me farewell
Unsoiled by the misfortunes
I endured, my final breath
Was not chained to
Writhing pain,
Nor was I sombre at the last moment

Gratitude - my girlfriend Suzy,
With all the bittersweet moments
We shared;
My callousness;
Her lust-centric vigour
Whatever ill we survived;
Suzy arranged for my adieu;
She surmised,
A short event would do,
To erase me from the
Uncountable minds,
I infested in my lifetime
Her consolation couldn’t
Meet the comfort,
Offered by my cigarettes,
And the bottles of Ron Castillo;
Who held me up in times of ordeal

They took me to the morgue,
An hour later,
I lay there naked, inside an ice cube
At the crack of dawn,
They laid hands on my numb,
Nubile body
With finesse they decked me
Lain in a cushioned teak casket,
I was taken to the cathedral

After the minister's mutterings
They took me to the final spot,
There was a sea of faces,
All mourners,
No admirers
Clouds ready to shower sorrow,
Lest it mattered
I was lowered to the ground,
to rest eternally
away from the earthlings

PS - Excuse this overtly random stuff(also the typos if any), it came to my mind while I was battling boredom and loneliness on a lazy sunday!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Iran: Women, Films, and A Separation


In a land where, acting is categorized as a decadent cultural practice; actors are forced to unreasonable conformity and women actors follow the Islamist edict of maintaining the stringent code of conduct; it is an avant-garde to make cinema portraying real Iran.

Iran’s film industry is known for its strife against the fundamentalism and the ever-changing decree related to the depiction of women affairs in films. It is astonishing to see that in a nation which is still driven by religious fanaticism, filmmakers are attempting to make remarkable films conforming to the obstinate laws that govern it. 


Iran as a nation has frequently witnessed movements related to women rights. Cinema seems to be a practice; especially a respite to the prevalent rules that demarcate women’s existence. If we observe; the recent times have made cinema a yardstick to measure the social, political, cultural and economical progress in Iran. The filmmakers through their innovative depiction and portrayal of realism in an innocuous manner have made their voices heard, and also at the same time kept the moral watchdogs at bay.

Women characters on screen are evidently entangled between the intertwining state regulations and socio-cultural limitations. If we look at the history of women actors in Iran; theirs is the most deplorable position. The societal norms albeit stern and contentious; filmmakers are driven more by a strong passion, to make cinema a medium to voice their apprehensions in the muddled state.

Even today, the appearance of uncovered women on screen is strictly forbidden. A woman’s interaction with men other than husband, father, brother and son is not allowed. Under this overbearing religious dogma, making a full length cinema featuring women is a difficult job. The filmmakers’ skills lie in following a non-confrontational narrative style of expression. Female characters were however bound by the persisting religious and social demands. Their characters are restricted to secondary roles.  Even through the secondary characters; mainly that of mothers, sisters and wives and women, they were unable to depict their part realistically, owing to decree that limit their interaction with the opposite sex. Even the slightest idea of suggestive sexual attraction was considered decadent and threatening; and hence got omitted in most of the cases.


 A Separation 


A Separation by Asghar Farhadi is winning rave reviews across the globe. The film which portrays the predicament of a middle class Iranian family at the verge of annulment has won immense acclaim and prestigious recognitions from critics and viewers alike. The latest achievement to the films credit is the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film 2012.

The film is a representation of the conflicts between hope and the dismay that clouds the present life of the lead characters. It begins with a colossal disappointment in the marital life of two young middle class Iranians, Nader and Simin.  It is a stark imagery of the current social, economical, and cultural scenario in Iran.

Simin bears the responsibility of the well being of the family and wants them to move out of Iran to provide a bright future to her 12 year old daughter Teremeh. Her husband, Nader, disapproves the idea of fleeing Iran for a better place; he reasons his disapproval of the flight with the degenerating condition of his old father afflicted by Alzheimers. The couple separates; leaving the daughters life in a disjointed situation.

A Separation implicitly depicts the abject realities of life. The gulf that divides the privileged and the underprivileged is shown in the light of a disagreement. Simin while leaving her husband’s home hires a home maid, Razieh who is 3 months pregnant, to take care of her husband’s home, which also has his ailing father, and their daughter. On Razieh’s first day at Nader’s house; she is duty-bound to clean the old man who urinated in his pants. Before cleaning the old man, Razieh – perplexed and apprehensive, like any other woman would have been in her position; calls up a cleric, to confirm whether if it was unlawful of her to clean a “na-mahram”(a man other than, husband, brother, father and son). This particular scene evokes the moral dilemma during the time of adversity; the film has several scenes, where we come across the confrontation between the two impossible choices - between religious ethics and humanism. As the film progresses, a certain unpleasant event compels Nader to push the home maid out of the house, causing an injury that results in an abortion. This results in a chain of events. The film is an intense narrative, which needs the viewers full focus to decipher the intricacies that this (if I can call it) thriller poses.

The major themes in the film are family loyalty, religion, economical inequality, migration, class division, and troubled-relations. The film also in a way satirizes the much debated “veiling of women”. It subtly evokes the irrationality behind the dress code, and this is pretty evident when the protagonist claims his ignorance to the fact that the home maid was pregnant, and this he attributes to the chador(fabric to cover the body, similar to purdah), which makes it difficult to determine the physical traits of a pregnant woman. The Koran is a re-occurring aspect, as the victim of the crime is a deeply religious woman, who experiences a conflict between moral imperatives at various junctures in the film.

Farhadi’s A Separation, doesn’t boast of technical brilliance or a phenomenal cinematography, as most of the film seems to be shot under hand held cameras. The unsteadiness of the shots particularly adds to the mystifying effect that this intense film exudes.

All the actors have been exceptionally gifted when it came to depicting their complex yet realistic characters with ease and utmost conviction.
Rating: 3.5/5

* The introduction is the result of my extensive reading about Iran and this is my first Iranian film. Gratitude to my MA program, I am glad that they prescribed Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi, as it has made me perceptive to women centric issues.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Artist - A Review

The Artist boasts of a stellar star cast, and most of them unknown to this end of the world. The movie was a light romantic comedy with top notch performances from the entire cast, and nothing seemed out of place. Especially the first 20 minutes seemed picture perfect, an almost Utopian world with a happy man; so flamboyant in style; walking up and down with an air of finesse in his antics. The film has a linear narrative, with an amazing direction and choreography

The movie beautifully etches the trajectories of two individuals who sail through both ups and downs in their respective careers. About the performances, Jean Dujardin a relatively fresh face to me added an élan and charisma to George Valentine, the thriving star of the silent films. Dujardin, based on my friend’s inputs, is a household name in France, as he was a part of a host of TV shows, and is reckoned to be one of the best comic actors of his generation. Djuardin’s fascinating portrayal of the vivacious star makes the entire film even more captivating. He is sublime in depicting the king of the silent films, who offers small little expensive tokens to make up with an ever badgering wife, as well as undergoes a traumatic phase owing to his downfall. His dapper look brought back the memory of Gene Kelly from Singing in the Rain, a musical, again based on the transitional phase of a silent film production company to a talky.

Another major lead is Bérénice Bejo, a surprisingly refreshing performance. Bejo lives through Peppy Miller, a young dancer who admires Valentine to an extent that she harbors a certain platonic love for the aging superstar. The chemistry between Djuardin and Bejo is startling. Bejo adeptly pulls off both the diva Peppy Miller, as well as the aspirant young dancer; who sashays with exuberance. Both the leads render and endearing performance, their light-hearted camaraderie on the screen is invigorating. The surprise package in the film is the amazingly adorable dog, Uggie, whose frolics add to the feel good factor of the film.

The imagery used to re-create the silent era is breathtakingly stunning. The superb cinematography enlivens the black and white frames. Personally, I was a bit skeptical about the whole idea of a black and white silent film made in the 21st century; nevertheless the vintage air of the film inundated my skepticism.

After being conditioned with films encompassing epic dialogues and metanarratives; watching this film without dialogues was a brand new experience, The Artist, as a whole reverberates, without dialogues. The costumes were a commendable effort, as it provided a perfect setting for the time frame the film intended to capture. It’s really a treat for those who love vintage clothing and accessories. Hazanavicius’ The Artist bears a superficial resemblance to Kelly’s Singing in the Rain, as it was a musical. Yet the tap dance sequences and background score reminds you of Kelly’s masterpiece.

As we know simplicity is not as simple as it seems; this applies to The Artist as well; the film turned out to be a fine product owing to its intricate detailing, and fine craft. However, there were some usual clichés and predictability in the film, but owing to the vintage aura that this silent film endorses; one can ignore the trivial glitches.

Rating: ***/5

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Torrent


A torrent that torments me;

Encircles me,

Gushes through my limbs;

Wanes my will

Licks my hair – the promiscuous maul

The vaporous blue stream, keeps afloat my soul

Wafts over the soft hair on my delicate body,

Unable to shroud the despair;

I succumb to the homicidal tempest...

A Nymphs Malady


Once a nymph, so beautiful,

Was born to a king, a self-centred a despot

The king loved his beautiful offspring,

But more he loved his kingdom, acquisitions

The nymph, as she grew taller, swallowed her mother;

A generous, gentle lady

The king, promised to straighten the moon;

To please the beautiful daughter,

But his lust for the Sun’s glory,

Overpowered his desire to please the nymph

The king who beatified his daughter;

Cast off the mother; his soul mate,

Into a dungeon of desolation

The king’s insatiable desire to triumph over the world;

Was the cause of his fate

The nymph was named the prince of the kingdom;

For such was the love of the king that he, overlooked

His male progeny

The babe rose to fame, started to pursue her dreams,

And the king; yet again got dismantled;

Owing to the disillusionment he suffered;

After witnessing the harsh realities

The king, defeated, worn out, died

He left behind, the ill-fated queen; and the sons; de-limbed by the

Haughtiness of the nymph,

The nymph, in a fit of rage, hurled words fenced with barb wired

With loathing, at the poor queen

Who ascended to heaven;

She made the sons work; and spared none in the kingdom;

She raised high, breathed fire

Burned all she could at a glance.

She still longs for a prince,

Her atrociousness is widespread among all the folks;

The queen, up in the heaven, and the fellow siblings

Pray to the lords! To forgive their beloved, the once revered nymph.