Archive for the ‘Movies and Cinema’ Category

Two books and a movie

September 4, 2011

Girish Karnad recommends Stages of Life by Kathryn Hansen:

Hansen opens the book with a crisp history of the Parsi theatre. But it is her magisterial review of the critical literature on the ‘form’ of autobiography and in particular of the significance of autobiographies written by theatre artists that poured out during this period, that makes this volume invaluable. Having just written my own autobiography (in Kannada), I found her analysis of the various attempts at defining ‘Indian autobiography’, and, in the process, of arriving at an ‘Indian’ notion of the Self, illuminating and provocative.

The book is a typical product of Permanent Black, beautifully designed, impeccably edited and a delight to hold and read.

Gopikrishnan Kottoor recommends the Oxford Anthology of Bhakti Literature:

Schelling’s book is a treasure-house with remarkably well studded interiors. Two omissions disappoint: Bahinabai (Maharastra) and Puntanam (Kerala). Bhakti poetry, innate to Indian poetics, will continue to plume and fascinate. Schelling’s Oxford anthology is not just a beginning. It is an event.

T M Krishna recommends Binna Shadja, a documentary on Kishori Tai:

What makes this film very special is that Amol Palekar has been able to get Kishori tai to discuss and describe her philosophy of music and her idea of creation, in the most honest and uninterrupted manner. The conversations are the life of the film. We almost feel like she is talking to us, completely personal and intimate. The greatest relief is that we do not have an over-voice describing anything. This is truly a great offering to this living legend.

As a musician some of the most arresting moments are when Kishori tai talks about music. Her description of the svaras , their form, character and their completeness when understood as a creation and not a technical tonal position and their relationship with the Raga is almost like describing the relationship between the antaratma and the paramatma . This philosophical connection cannot be missed in the way Kishori tai describes svaras and ragas. Equally stunning is her description of the note Shadja . The crafting of this note where the Raga takes ownership of it, giving it an unique character, is beautiful. She calls it the “Omnipresent, all-encompassing note”.

A time to read and a time to watch a movie! And they both are here.

Note: I know how to locate the two books; however, even though I understand that the DVD of the documentary got released in New Delhi, I do not know where to get a copy. I would appreciate any pointers in this regard.

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Intimidated by the Swedes and Danes

March 5, 2011

Bharadwaj Rangan:

For the longest time, I was intimidated by Swedes. What kind of people were these that their cinema yielded only the Bergman oeuvre? Even we had art filmmakers, forbiddingly grim craftsmen like Ritwik Ghatak and Mani Kaul, but we had, at the same time, channels of escape in the works of Manmohan Desai and SP Muthuraman. But these Swedes – didn’t they crave mindless escape? Just how formidably intelligent were they? Did they tuck in their children with bedtime readings of Kierkegaard? (Yes, he was Danish, but this entire essay could be reconfigured to accommodate the Danes as well, those glacial cousins of the Swedes, given that the moviegoers of Denmark, to our eyes, appeared to be weaned singularly on Carl Dreyer’s masterworks.) And just how depressed were they? When the phrase “dinner date” translates to meatballs followed by a screening of Persona, did the couple stand a chance for happily-ever-after?

Enthiran: a must-see!

October 5, 2010

We watched Enthiran yesterday.

I liked it a lot — especially, the scenes wherein Rajni takes the form of Chellaaththa and loses his avatar as fast as he attained it to the awe and bewilderment (repsectively) of the ladies clad in yellow and with neem leaves in hand! And, my daughter is still going around asking “Who is this Chellaththa?”

And, the Machu Picchu song (with Llamas, and Kilimanjaro and Mohanjadaro in the lyrics — by the way, there was electros, protons and somewhere wasabi too in the lyrics of some of the the other songs from the movie — yaaru thalaiva antha kavignar — kalakkittaare!) was, oh! so…. lovely.

I would have preferred the second half to a be a little bit shorter; but, as one of my friends reminded me, may be we are too old for this kind of special effects and fight sequences.

On the whole, a must-see movie; have fun (Here is where I punch air with my index finger and say dot)

Here is another fan (and a friend of mine) going crazy about thalaivar — and, as far as his belittling the contributions of Ash to the movie, like they say in my parts, the kid did not know what it was talking about — so, forgive it!

Learning from Rajini

September 6, 2010

The title of Baradwaj Rangan’s Tehelka piece says it all:

WHAT BOLLYWOOD CAN LEARN FROM RAJINI

Links: a movie, a reflection on careers, and “Software is dead: long live the software”

July 20, 2009

[1] Mark at Cosmic Variance recommends a movie:

Projects like this don’t change the world on their own, of course. But as part of a common goal of bringing a passion for science to the public, and allowing them to see that its practitioners and enthusiasts are drawn from all walks of life they play an important role; not only for science, but for our increasingly science-dependent society. It doesn’t hurt that Shaha is young and good-looking, but what shines through is his infectious energy and enthusiasm for science and the important role of skepticism. And that’s what I hope anyone watching this film takes away.

[2] The most recent, and must-read post of Bruce Eckel begins thus:

I’ve taken Robert McKee’s screenwriting workshop a couple of times (didn’t get it all the first time around). One of his maxims is “when you’re stuck, do research.” Mostly that’s meant reading books on management (primarily software management) but also general business books.

While at the library, a book practically fell off the shelves. Never one to ignore signs, I checked out Alan Webber’s Rules of Thumb. He was one of the founders of Fast Company, the only magazine I’m still (voluntarily) subscribed to (I keep meaning to resubscribe to Wired, though). The magazine stimulates my thinking and opens my horizons.

Rules of Thumb is subtitled “52 truths for winning at business without losing yourself.” It has that “bathroom reader” appeal, since each point/chapter can be absorbed in a short time and stands alone from the rest of the book.

I got stuck at point #6: If you want to see with fresh eyes, reframe the picture.

[3] Intimation of the death of software:

I was utterly floored when I read this new IEEE article by Tom DeMarco (pdf). See if you can tell why.

My early metrics book, Controlling Software Projects: Management, Measurement, and Estimates [1986], played a role in the way many budding software engineers quantified work and planned their projects. In my reflective mood, I’m wondering, was its advice correct at the time, is it still relevant, and do I still believe that metrics are a must for any successful software development effort? My answers are no, no, and no.I’m gradually coming to the conclusion that software engineering is an idea whose time has come and gone.

Software development is and always will be somewhat experimental. The actual software construction isn’t necessarily experimental, but its conception is. And this is where our focus ought to be. It’s where our focus always ought to have been.

If your head just exploded, don’t be alarmed. Mine did too. To somewhat reduce the migraine headache you might now be experiencing from reading the above summary, I highly recommend scanning the entire two page article pdf.

I guess it is a good reading list for a Monday morning. Have fun!

A cultural analysis of Bollywood directors and their direction!

January 18, 2009

As usual, Bharadwaj Rangan has some very interesting things to say:

It’s becoming increasingly apparent, with each passing year, that Bollywood today is populated with a raft of writers obsessively weaned on the masala movie. I’m not talking about pompous, masala-wannabe outings like Ghajini, which take themselves so seriously, you’d think they’d set out to recreate King Lear. I refer to the true masala movies of yore – the ones where scenes of comedy and drama and action jostled together for space and were integrated in such a rudely slapdash fashion, the logical viewer would end up with whiplash while tracking the course of the narrative, moment to preposterous moment. These weren’t the efforts of filmmakers so much as flimflam-meisters, determined to hoodwink an undemanding audience with a procession of vaudeville vignettes (or closer to our culture, nautanki items).

With the gradual arrival of directors who grew up worshipping Hollywood and European cinema – all that depth, all that meaning, all that gravity, all that class – the disreputable masala movies (namely, our grindhouse fare) died a well-deserved death. But absence, clearly, makes the heart grow fonder, and these writers today, despite their relative refinement in matters of cinema, appear to miss the tawdry pleasures of their childhood. And because we’d laugh them out of a living if they attempted to revitalise those moribund filmmaking traditions, they’ve devised a workaround that requires, above all else, the tongue to be pressed firmly against the cheek. They make masala movies that wink at masala movies, gleefully getting their hands dirty and yet distancing themselves from disrepute with hipster layers of ironic detachment.

Nikhil Advani’s Chandni Chowk to China is so crammed with nudge-nudge memories from the masala era that you could entertain yourself simply with a guessing game about the various references. Isn’t the device of Deepika Padukone playing good-and-evil twin sisters a nod towards Sharmila Tagore playing good-and-evil twin sisters in An Evening in Paris? Isn’t that why the evil twin here is named Suzy, which was the name the earlier evil twin went by? And when Suzy also goes by the nick of Meow Meow, is it a jokey dig at the French actress Miou-Miou, who perhaps fanned the adolescent flames of one of the writers? And maybe, like most young lads from a certain time, they were fans of Zeenat Aman as well, for what else explains the invocation of chanchal-sheetal-nirmal-komal?

The “Dancemaster G9” gadget is no doubt a tip of the hat to Mithun Chakraborty (who plays a smallish part here), but could the archvillain’s name (Hojo) hark back to, of all things, the Mandrake comics? (How cheeky, then, that the antagonist is named after a chef in a film where the protagonist is a cook.) And how could anyone who grew up in the seventies not see that Hojo is played by Gordon Liu, who burst into our consciousness as the awesome star of The 36th Chamber of Shaolin? And how could a fan of the earlier James Bond adventures not chuckle at Hojo’s choice of weapon (a killer bowler hat) and the cheesy-nifty gadgets like a Chinese-to-Hindi translator? (As this device is introduced, a roomful of scientists burst into a song along the lines of the eighties’ Bajaj ad that went Jab main chhota ladka tha.)

The big question, however, is whether memories alone can make a movie – and the answer, based on the evidence of Chandni Chowk to China, would have be, well, perhaps every now and then.

The review also taught me a new word 🙂

Deepika Padukone, surely the fullest figure that’s ever been poured into a cheongsam.

Like me, if you are floored by cheongsam, here is the wiki entry on the word. Have fun!

Bharadwaj Rangan in the New Year!

January 11, 2009

Bharadwaj Rangan is not very happy with the very first offering of Bollywood this year — Kaashh .. Mere Hote! While I commiserate with him and agree that it might not auger well for the year in terms of quality of movies, at least for reviews like the one that he has written, I guess they are worthwhile; here are a couple of samples!

And that we’d be treated, in this day and age, to one of those romantic interludes where the heroine squeals, “I hate you, I hate you,” when she really, really luurrves her man?

We’re used to films that treat the audiences like morons, but Kaashh… Mere Hote may be something of a first – the characters, themselves, treat one another like morons. The heroine asks, at one point, “Kya?” Then, cleverly intuiting that the hero needs more prompting, she adds, “Kya hua?” Finally, just to make sure the essence of her communication doesn’t get lost in translation, she tosses in an option in another language, “What happened?” But this is nothing compared to Rajesh Khanna’s fourfold declaration of his vision impairment. “I’m blind. I can’t see. Main nahin dekh sakta. Main andha hoon,” he yells, as if offering multiple choices to a contestant on a game show. In that vein, we too shall declare: This film is no good. It’s bad. It sucks. Total bakwaas hai, boss.

Have fun (and, bookmark his blog).

A work of art

December 11, 2008

That is how Uma describes the latest movie Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!

Dasavatharam (not quite a review!)

July 13, 2008

Watched it yesterday. Not much to say except that Kamal Haasan’s biggest problem is that he does not seem to find any talent which will do justice to what he has in mind for different characters; of course, it might even be true that there are not many actors in Indian movie land who can do as great a job as Kamal in portraying Vincent Poovaraghan, or Krishnaveni, or Balram Naidu, or even Rangaraja Nambi. But that certainly does not justify his doing all these roles and more (some of which could certainly have performed better by others); if we take this to its logical end, why make Napolean don the Kulothunga Cholan role? In fact, why not do a one man movie, in which, all roles will be played by Kamal himself? Also, did not find the computer graphics very great; nor did I find the fact that a trained chemist will not be able to name the common name of NaCl amusing. May be better than the usual Tam-movie fare, but very disaapointing overall.

Sex, City and Crystal skull!

June 11, 2008

Excerpts from Sex and the City and The kingdom of crystal skull (where else?):

Page 4

INT. CARRIE’S APARTMENT

(CARRIE is typing on her MacBook Air.)

CARRIE: (V.O.) Every year, thousands of women move to New York hoping to find two things: love and the crystal skull. After 20 years, I had finally found love with the man of my dreams, but he still hadn’t asked me the big question. The one every New York woman wants to hear: “Will you find the crystal skull with me?” I had to wonder: Was it all just a myth? Or could a New York woman really ever have it all: work, love, and a skull given to us from an alien planet?

(A CGI dove flies by and takes up the whole screen.)


Page 20

INT. FIFTH AVENUE PENTHOUSE

(BIG is making CARRIE dinner.)

BIG: Welcome to our new home, baby.

CARRIE: It’s beautiful. But I think I’m going to keep my old apartment.

BIG: What do you mean, baby?

CARRIE: I mean … I would have no legal rights if anything happened. We haven’t even found the crystal skull, yet.

BIG: (Laughs.) Is that what you want, baby? To find the crystal skull, baby?

CARRIE: Are you asking me to find the crystal skull with you?

BIG: Sure, baby. I mean, if that will make you happy, baby. I only want to be with you, baby. I just want it to be us, baby. The skull doesn’t matter to me, baby.

(CARRIE smiles, looks down.)

BIG: Baby, let’s find the skull together.

(BIG and CARRIE kiss. Two CGI doves land on the terrace and wink.)

Absolutely hilarious stuff (and there is more where it came from)!