Sunday, April 24, 2011


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.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


Saat Khoon Maaf (Seven Murders Forgiven) is a stupid, third rate film that is so bad that you're almost embarrassed for Vishal Bharadwaj. The story is uneven, the plot nonsensical with no motivation for things turning out the way they do. The acting, on the whole, is uniformly bad and hammy. The so called twist ending is so absurd that it's actually supremely comical - a fitting, disastrous end to an egregious film.

So what if Ruskin Bond has a cameo of sorts at the end? So what if the film is peppered with big names all through? So what if the story movements in the film are (with the filmmakers trying too hard to be clever) juxtaposed with interesting little tidbits from contemporary Indian history? So what if it's a Vishal fucking Bharadwaj production?

The only saving grace of the film is Annu Kapoor - absolutely brilliant in his ten minute cameo as the lecherous police officer Keematlaal - head over heels in love with Suzanna (Sunaina). Him and the technical aspects of the movie - excellent cinematography, photography, special effects and shot composition all through.

It's not enough though. What's up with you VB - the genius behind Makdee, Maqbool, The Blue Umbrella and Omkara? Have you gone the way Anurag Kashyap seems to be going - all style and no substance? Will you break my heart too?

Will you?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Miniscule Musings

  • Nanga Fakir has joined the ranks of those who consider The Wire to be a masterpiece of unimaginable proportions. As he watched the sixty odd, one hour long episodes over a period of ten days, he was totally taken in by the tight story-arcs, efficient, compact and unwasted movements in direction and screenplay; and the overarching theme of institutionalized dysfunction and disillusionment. As befitting a series focusing on the macro level, societal behavior of public institutions, character development takes a back seat to story progression and to the charting of the course of the lumbering bureaucratic behemoths' trajectories. Yet, there are gems of fascinating character sketches in the form of Omar Little and Bubbles - the Robin Hood stick up man and drug addicted informant - that make the series not just intensely edifying (which it so is) but thoroughly enjoyable as well. As someone coming from a cocooned, obscenely well educated, privileged background, NF cannot comment on the realism of the tales of drug trade, institutional corruption or the Baltimore slang - things for which the series is famous for - but the understated, subtle, very believable and extremely plausible characters and stories that slowly populate the five seasons (with the minor omission of the character Brother Mouzone and the irritating Greek background music whenever The Greek and his team are featured - a very overlookable-on-the-whole, minor annoyance) seem to resonate oddly long after the watching experience is over.
  • After the very funny initial forty minutes, Love Exposure degenerates into a very uneven, not-very-well made film that dies a simpering, lame Bollywoodish ending. However there are some things that do save the movie from being a total waste of four hours (yes! four) - the kung-fuish art of tosatsu (up skirt photography - which although done in a very over-the-top and funny manner, should come across to most women as extremely offensive); its savagely funny attack on Christianity that even Richard Dawkins cannot top; and the delectable, absolutely adorable Hikari Mitsushima (pictured here) as Yoko chan. On the whole, a disappointment, however.
  • In Dogville, Lars von Trier takes the idea of minimalism to a whole different level altogether. Not only does he do away with most conventions of movie making, he also does away with the idea that you need to have sets, props or other such bourgeois artefacts. Instead of houses, we have chalk linings delineating the boundaries of such aforementioned houses with labels "X's house" written on it. Instead of shrubberies, we have vague chalk markings indicating the boundaries of the same. There are no doors, but the actors walk, talk, behave, open, close and enter through them as if they were there. Anything not absolutely essential to the story (a door's just a door, a shrubbery just so - mere ideas in human minds - not essential at all. Apparently.) is erased and left for the viewer's imagination. It's actually more a play than a film. But whatever it is, is beside the point since the end product is wonderfully deep and absolutely brilliant. Bravo Lars! Bravo!

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Resigned Epicureanism

An excellent, excellent piece in Slate on Woody Allen and his oeuvre. Essential reading for all his die hard fans.

How's this for an incentive? An excerpt.

...Felix (I'll use his surname to avoid confusion) says he's attracted to "emotionally disturbed women," and that's not an exaggeration. The depth of his perverse inclination becomes clear when he approaches a woman looking at a Jackson Pollock drip-painting, and asks what it means to her. She answers: "It restates the negativeness of the universe. The hideous, lonely, emptiness of existence. Nothingness. The predicament of man forced to live in a barren, godless eternity like a tiny flame flickering in an immense void with nothing but waste, horror, and degradation forming a useless bleak straightjacket in a black absurd cosmos." She's just the kind of woman Felix has been looking for, and he asks her what's she's doing Saturday night. "Committing suicide," she responds. Unfazed, he counters: "What about Friday night?"

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Because a picture is worth a thousand words redux


Australia. Pakistan. Sri Lanka.


Ah revenge! Thy taste is so sweet!