Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Charulata:The Lonely Wife

The closing scene of the movie shows Charulata and the trust-lost Bhupati, hesitantly reaching out to each other, just when the camera freezes, showing us the uncertainty.That's how uncertain I feel, writing about this beautiful film,which has put me in a complete loss of words.

After madly having hunted for a Satyajit Ray film for quite a long time, I finally managed to get my hand over this classic.Based on Rabindranath Tagore's short novel "Nastanirh"(The Broken Nest), this 1964 Bengali film is a masterstroke by one of India's most celebrated directors.

The story is set in late 19th century Calcutta. Charulata/Charu(Madhabi Mukherjee) is an intelligent bored lonely upperclass housewife.Bhupati(played very well by Sailen Mukherjee), loves his wife, but is engrossed in political work and his own printing press.To give her company, he invites her brother Umapada(Shyamal Ghoshal) and sister-in-law Manda(Gitali Roy).In the meanwhile,a happy-go-lucky Amal(Soumitra Chatterjee), Bhupathi's cousin also arrives.Charu and Amal share similar interests in literature and poetry, and on Bhupati's request Amal starts mentoring her, so that her talent in writing wouldn't go wasted.But Charu soon starts harbouring other feelings for Amal.

It is so difficult to write about a film like this, which is so simple yet so complex. Satyajit Ray brilliantly plays with just the basic human emotions so well, nothing overly dramatic. Its the silences that speak more in this movie. The first few minutes of the film, of how Charu observes the outside world through the window using her opera glasses,barely has any dialogues in it.It's just beyond words.It leaves you dumbstruck.

The kind of contrasts he creates within the film and between the characters, are so obvious, yet shown with subtility.The film is so modern in its outlook,making it relevant even in such times.Even the references he makes to Bankim Chandra, show his eye for details.The camera work (Subrata Mitra) throught the movie is exemplary.Satyajit Ray also gives music for the film, which is another highlight.

The beautiful Madhabi Mukherjee as the intelligent, lonely, childless wife,Charulata, plays her part so well, that you believe she is actually Charulata.The kind of chemistry Soumitra Chatterjee and she share is brilliant.

Satyajit Ray considered this film as one of his best and the one with least defects.This classic of a movie should not be missed.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


What is it that makes us watch some movies over and over again?
Why is it that sometimes after a dreary depressing day, we seek the reel world to escape?

Medical research has proven that cinema therapy is one effective tool to cure depression. Those random images on screen woven together to form a canvas to paint a story have an infalliable formula of feel-good inherent in it!

Take for instance the timeless Balachander flick 'Ethir Neechal'. The tale of a struggling yet ambitious errand boy and his ultimate triumph in life still inspires us, while simultaneously making us double-up with laughter at its interwoven comedy track!

'Life is Beautiful', although dealing with the holocaust, is one movie that makes us cry at the brutal nature of the human mind while at once showing us to what extents we can stretch our strengths to survive.

So what is it that makes these movies a sure-shot cure to replenish our hope every once life deals them a blow?

Movies have this innate ability to make us take a break from reality and portray the very same reality in a way that the make-believe seems more real than the existent reality. This surreal space where we connect with the players on-screen is where the director plays with our mind and gives us the impression that the recorded thing going on a piece of canvas cloth, with some story enacted by random people is what is happening then and there. Our worries get suspended, our responsibilities-tossed in the air. For a while, reality gets redefined. And in that time-space, when a director portrays a tale that showcases the ultimate triumph of the human spirit, it touches some part of our soul and it feels good!

This triumph of the human spirit is served not just with a simple direct narrative but with some extra doodling of ideas on reel- comedy, action, drama, music, dance etc. Comedy makes us laugh our hearts out. ‘Thillumullu’ proves us that point! Bruce Lee flicks tell us why we love it when the baddie gets bruised! Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, through its breezy romance sweeps us off our feet. Mr.And Mrs.Iyer, Mouna ragam, Paasa Malargal, Abhimaan speak volumes about the drama of life. Dance and its gusto in movements and the emotion-churning ascent and descent in music somehow leave a joyous footnote to the proceedings.

With popcorn or without your cold coffee, sprawled in your favourite couch or standing in the aisles of a crowded touring talkies, in that short span of a few minutes or hours, what is going on in screen somehow does something within you and makes you smile. They may just be puppets danced around by a story-tellers’ hand, but they tell us a tale so very like our own- hardships, struggle, heartbreaks, tears and the ultimate quest of success and smiles. Ah.. feels good!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

For you, a thousand times over.

Marc Forster's adaptation of Khaled Hosseini's tale of friendship and redemption,The Kite Runner is good, but not great. It isn't as overwhelming as the book, nor do you feel the way you would for the characters as you feel for them while reading the book.

Spanning two decades,the story begins in 1970's Kabul. Its about how Amir ( Zekeria Ebrahimi/Khalid Abdella), the protagonist, seeks redemption for something wrong he did. Something wrong he does to his best friend Hassan by being a coward.Of how the truth is not spoken of,and how time deepens the scar more and more.

If you've read the book, comparisons are just inevitable.With movies adapted from books, you always anticipate certain things, and when they don't live up to your expectations, you feel disappointed.Marc Forster tries his best to cram in as much as possible in a 2 hr movie, but it somehow lacks a certain depth. The conflict that Amir goes through lacks conviction. Amir(kahlid Abdella ) and Soraya's(Atossa Leoni ) relationship looks a little superficial and forced. And the last few minutes of the movie are just too hurried. But that doesn't mean the movie isn't worth watching.

The movie is shot beautifully( Roberto Schaefer).No one would believe that most of the parts supposed to be Afghanistan are actually shot in China.Very authentic. Even the dialogues, most of it being in Dari Persian. The whole kite-fighting tournament, is brilliantly choreographed.'ll understand when you see the movie. It has some really good background score by Alberto Iglesias.

The boy (Ahmad Khan Mahimdzada ),who plays Hassan, fits his part so well.He's everything of how you would imagine Hassan to be. Same with Homayoun Ershadi who plays baba. The other actors play their parts efficiently.

But if you've never read the book, you'll probably love the movie. A good effort, but just if the film had that 'something' in it.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

MATHILUKAL........(spoiler ahead)

If irony,love,simplicity and satire born from sheer experience can together form a movie,we get 'Mathilukal'.

This 1989 directorial masterpiece of Adoor Gopalakrishnan takes us through a brief episode in the life of Vaikkom Mohammed Basheer-the celebrated storyteller of Malayalam.Mathilukal or walls ,is based on an autobiographical novella of the same name by V.M.Basheer.

The movie is about Basheer who is serving time in the Travancore jail for,as he puts it,desha droham(anti-national activities).So this political prisoner,in the pre-independence era,walks across the gates to his cell and adeptly settles in the dreary abode.His relentless humor and philosophical frankness helps him befriend everybody,from the inmates to the warden.

Simple details like his softly adamant nature in pursuing 'theyyila' tea leaves,how he meticulously uses his limited supply of beedis and matchsticks(which he readily gives away to a prisoner who was going to be hanged,as an act of condolence) and how he walks down the corridors imitating the siesta-time snoring of fellow prisoners,are well brought out by Adoor.

When the short period of his sentence is prolonged,Basheer falls into deep despair.He did not get his long-awaited freedom for which he planted rose bushes and waited.All the other political prisoners except him were released.The Beypore sultan(as he is fondly called),however, grins and bears it and feeds his disappointment to the paper through ink.

It is not long before his solitude is romantically punctured by Narayani,a voice from the other side of the insurmountable wall facing his cell which separates the female prisoners.The blossoming love is portrayed through sensuous dialogues and exchange of little nothings thrown across the wall.The only media of communication are their voices,which walls cannot bar, and the dry twig which Narayani throws up in the air as a signal to Basheer whenever she can steal a few moments to talk to him.

The movie takes us hand-in-hand with Basheer literally because we see it through his eyes,we see only what he sees.The inmates are never shown unless he is there talking or looking at them.Even Narayani and the other side of the wall is not displayed.He never meets his lover and so do we.

Thus love makes even the bleak prison homelike for Basheer and he looks forward to everyday there.But as the lovers plot to somehow meet,fate steps in and hands Basheer his release order.Instead of being happy,he is torn by the irony.
"You are free",says the warden.
"Freedom!Who wants freedom",retorts Basheer.
Thus telling us that freedom is when we are allowed to choose.

And so he is forced to leave Narayani behind without even the mercy of a farewell.The poignant tale of love ends with a scene showing the dry twig going up and down against the sky from the other side of the Mathil(wall).

Kudos to Mammooty for the excellent portrayal of Vaikkom Mohd. Basheer and to KPAC Lalitha as Narayani-this would be the only movie in which an actress has acted so well, solely through her voice.The hilarious dialogues portray deeper meanings and makes the movie a gripping watch.The other members of the cast like Thilakan,Murali,the late Karamana Janardhanan Nair,Ravi Vallathol etc gave commendable performances for the limited screen space they had.

Adoor Gopalakrishnan wanted Basheer to be there at the first screening.What an immensely touched Basheer told after the lights came on stands true for Mathilukal.......
........"Not a dull moment".

Anoodha Kunnath

Sunday, February 3, 2008

khoya khoya chand

Sudhir Mishra's tribute to the golden era of Hindi cinema falls short of becoming a classic. Only if he wasn't too lost trying to re-create the era(which he does brilliantly.), and concentrated on the screenplay.

The film follows the (so called) turbulent relationship of Nikhat(Soha Ali khan) and Zafar(Shiney Ahuja). Of how the aspiring actress Nikhat is saved from the manipulative superstar Prem kumar (Rajat Kapoor) by upcoming writer Zafar, and how in the meanwhile they fall in love.Of how Nikhat begins trusting Zafar, and how their relationship grows, goes through ups and downs, is what forms the story. There are lots of references made, mostly noticeable are the one's made to actors of 50's.
The film is interspersed with some really brilliant photography by Sachin Krishn, but only if it had a brilliant story supporting it.Every little detail in the film-from the costumes to the hair do's to the sets or even Ameen Sayani's voice on the radio played in the background, seem to be painstakingly done, but only if it wasn't for the characters meandering and mouthing vague dialogues of which even they are not fully convinced of. Shantanu Moitra's music is good, but nothing memorable, barring a couple of songs. Especially the title track, thirak thirak..and o re paakhi..
Soha Ali khan does a good job, in parts, especially in the first half. But she just isn't convincing as the fading star, who takes up to alcohol in the later parts.Shiney Ahuja is ok.Its the supporting cast, which does a better job. Especially Sonya Jehan as the fading starlet. Or even Vinay Pathak as Zafar's friend, who gets him to write for a film.
The film captures all the little nuances of a bygone era, beautifully. Of how movies were made then,of the kind people in the film industry, the stars and the mysterious lives etc. The movie isn't too bad, but not that good either.