Sunday, April 24, 2011

Homecoming

He will have you believe that if you haven't discovered cinema coming out of South Korea, Japan and Hong Kong in recent years, in particular the extreme cinema movement overseen by the likes of Takashi Miike (Japan), Park Chan Wook and Kim Ki Duk (South Korea), you don't take your cinema seriously. He will also tell you that the story doesn't sort of end there, that extreme cinema is not the entire body of astoundingly original work that's pouring out uncontrollably from these nations, that focusing wrongly on just the works of the few mentioned above will leave you with a blinkered vision of what actual, current Asian cinema has in store for us. He will take the name of the old master Takeshi Kitano (Japan), the (somewhat) new sensations Kim Ji Woon and Bong Joon Ho, Lee Chang Dong and Hong Sang Soo (South Korea) and Fruit Chan (Hong Kong) to convince you that there's much, much more than meets the eye. Lest you think that it's an Asian women fetish masquerading as Asian cinema fetish, he'll swear to you that the characteristics of these great filmmakers (particularly the more extreme ones) and their forays into taboo territories are not all that uniquely Asian and will supply you with the names of Michael Haneke (Germany), Lars von Trier (Denmark) and Harmony Korine (USA) whose works are equally unsettling and subversive.

But don't you pay attention to what Nanga Fakir has to say.

There's nothing, nothing in the world of cinema that warms the cockles of his heart more than a good, just good, not necessarily great, Hindi film. The average state of affairs somewhat saddens him, more so because every now and then he'll come across an Anjana Anjani which will have our titular young hero clench his tiny little fists, grind his teeth to powder and take deep breaths to rein in his violent side. This makes him worship anyone who shows the slightest promise whatsoever (insert names of Anurag Kashyap, Dibakar Bannerjee and Vishal Bharadwaj) and elevate them to pedestals no human should have a right to. Then comes the big crash in which the aforementioned deity fails to perform (insert names of Anurag Kashyap, Dibakar Bannerjee and (sadly) Vishal Bharadwaj) and NF switches sides in favor of more young, upcoming dark horses (like Amit Dutta, whose FTII thesis film Kramashah, is Om dar Ba dar, done right).

Where have the Basu Chatterjees and Hrishikesh Mukherjees gone? Does it have to be true that there is only the Shyam Benegal way and the Anees Bazmi way with nothing, absolutely nothing in between?

What about Shakti Samanta, Manmohan Desai, Chetan Anand, Raj Khosla? Were they actually any good? How about Raj Kapoor, V Shantaram, Bimal Roy, Kamal Amrohi? Were these good? And what do we mean by good? Should it be a nostalgic eulogy that'll be sung over the graves of these giants of the past or should they be hauled over coals too? Those suffering from Somnath syndrome (named after the notoriously-heard-to-please Somnath who will not deign to see a film if it's not an Emir Kusturica level production at least) show the middle finger to all such filmmakers of the past. Nanga Fakir is not so sure however.

Such thoughts led to our protagonist's return to the world of films (he'd seen almost no films for the past year and a half or so) where for the past few months he's been assiduously collecting films of Shyam Benegal, Raj Kapoor, the old and obscure stuff of Hrishikesh Mukherjee (who still remains NF's all time favorite director - in all languages, across all time periods - not necessarily for the 'art' in his movies (Somnath scoffs silently) but more for his warm, life affirming, taking-the-Buddha-like-middle-path, simple films), Raj Khosla and other commercial Hindi filmmakers of the past.

It's possible that he writes about his impressions as he sees such old Hindi films, not with the eyes of an entranced ten year old (which sadly, he's not anymore) but with those of an old hardened, jaded movie cynic (sigh, sigh, sigh). It's also possible that he won't find them worth commenting upon, or that he'll concede the argument to the Somnath camp and not have the heart to say anything anymore about it.

Anyway, let's start the commotion.

2 comments:

Tarun R said...

In now way related to the post, but you might like this:

http://www.economist.com/node/18584142?story_id=18584142&fsrc=rss

Nanga Fakir said...

Yes! Have been meaning to read this book for over half a year now.

Plan to do so in the near future though.