Raincoat – Lost Love

WARNING: MILD SPOILERS

If you have read O. Henry’s “The Gift Of The Magi”, you will have an idea of how Raincoat is going to turn out. For those who don’t, it will be interesting to see the turns this story takes. Rituparno Ghosh is able to weave visual magic from this premise and gives us one of the more understated romances in Bollywood. Ajay Devgn and Aishwarya Rai play these characters in the past and the present with a real tenderness and almost a sense of innocence. I kept wondering why this film did not do well at the box-office. Could it be because of the pace of the film or the general feel of Raincoat? Whatever the reason may be, the real success of the film lies in the performance of  Aishwarya Rai. She’s at times heartbreaking and heartwarming.

The scenes where she’s trying to hide her actual life from Devgn finds her delving deep into her repertoire of emotions and coming up trumps. Ghosh seems to be more interested in reactions than actual actions. His camera focuses on actors responding to what’s happening around them. At times, Raincoat feels like a play and this is evident in the way certain dialogues are delivered. But all of this adds up to a story on lost love, broken dreams and the yearning for a better life. Though the film is set in Calcutta, we do not get to see famous locations from the city. But through the descriptive dialogue, we get a sense of the place Neeru (Aishwarya Rai) lives in. This adds to the magic of the film’s visual language.

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This is one of the defining images from the film for me. The candle lights up her face and we can see just how weary she has become. In the beginning of the film, Mannu (Devgn) tells her that he wants to see her in the light but she is hesitant. Perhaps she is ashamed of what she’s become and especially as this the life she used to reject Mannu with in the first place. All these are emotions one would expect to come bubbling over but Ghosh isn’t interested in doing that. By focusing more on the pauses between the emotions, Raincoat is able to tell us so much about these people.

You and I might not react the way these people do but that is precisely what makes Mannu and Neeru unique. Even after so many years, they still feel like children who are keeping secrets for and from each other. Devgn is brilliant at handling Neeru like a baby especially once he realizes that things are not quite the way they seem. His little smiles here and there fill the screen with a tinge of sadness yet there is a sense of hope that remains. Above all, Raincoat is proof of how logic can go out of the window when it involves someone we love/loved. Would these people like to be together? Definitely. But like Neeru says, if God wanted us to be together we would have been married already. Sometimes that’s the way life is, us reacting to what happens. It won’t always be as tender as Raincoat but sometimes magic can happen like it did here.

Until next time, bye.

 

Tamasha – Fighting For Love

Imtiaz Ali is in my opinion one of the most interesting filmmakers working in India today. If there is one quality that sets him apart, it is his unique way of looking at people and their perceptions. All of his films so far deal with love but they look at different kinds of love. Some modern, some traditional and a few somewhere in between. Today, I’d like to take a look at a scene from Tamasha: the one that leads up to the “Agar Tum Saath Ho” song.

If you were to convince someone to watch this film, show them this scene. What Deepika and Ranbir bring to the screen transcends acting. They become Tara and Ved and all traces of the star in them vanishes. The setup is that Tara has come to apologize to Ved and Ved does not really know how to express his emotions. There’s one particular line that sums up the whole scene. Tara says:

‘Koi complex hoga tumhaare andar, jisko maine touch kar diya…’

This acts as the trigger point as it angers Ved. His tone changes and the anger is visible in Ranbir’s eyes. It all comes to a boil when Ved says this:

‘Mujhena is waqt bilkul bharosa nahin hai ki main kaise react karoonga…’

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Here is a man who is unsure of what he feels it comes out as anger and frustration. On the other hand we have a woman who is sure of what she wants to say and feel. She is concerned, worried about this man but also in love with him. It is a cocktail of emotions that is tough to deal with for her as well. She doesn’t want to let him go but he has to escape this situation as he himself says. Tara just wants to be with him but it is not possible at that moment. The shot of them lying head down with tears on their faces is one of the most soul crushing shots I’ve seen in recent times.

The perfect bookend to this scene arrives in the form a classic track by AR Rahman. “Agar Tum Saath Ho” is such a beautiful song on it’s own and when it gets added to the visuals, it becomes an unforgettable treat. This is the power of Imtiaz Ali, someone who takes a look at a situation and sees how different people would approach it. Tamasha was an under performing film at the box office when it released and that is a shame. We deserve to see more diverse love stories and as long as Imtiaz Ali is around, we have hope.

 

Ustad Hotel – To Grandfather With Love

Ustad Hotel is a special film for a number of reasons. While all of us have something that we like, I’d like to talk about my personal connection to the film. In many ways, the film is about the bond between a grandfather and his grandson. This is the aspect of Ustad Hotel that appealed to me the most. From a very young age, I have been very close to my grandfather and seeing the bond between Dulquer and Thilakan filled me with so much joy.

There are a lot of themes that the film touches upon including Sufism, Altruism and the role that food plays in our lives. But this relationship is the beating heart of the film for me. Without the bond between Faizi and Kareem Bhai, the story wouldn’t move the way it does. Any scene with the two can be picked out and looked at but I have chosen one that is quite close to my heart.

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It is the scene they share on the beach where Kareem Bhai teaches Faizi the importance of love in any aspect of life. Seeing this scene brings back so many memories of time spent with my grandfather. Listening to old Hindi songs, making tea at midnight after watching a cricket/football match are all moments that come flooding back when I see Faizi and Kareem Bhai. The black tea or ‘Sulemani’ that they have encompasses all that the grandfather wants to teach his grandson.

This refers to the fact that we must include a little bit of love in whatever we do as that is what it makes anything better. I’m not totally sure if I have said something about Ustad Hotel in a coherent manner but sometimes that’s the way emotions work. They take hold of you and make you feel even when you don’t want to. I would like to thank Anjali Menon for writing a story that will forever be etched in my heart and mind.

Until next time, bye.

Jersey – The Sound Of Victory

There are many things to admire about Gowtham Tinnanuri’s second film Jersey. The biggest compliment I can give the film is that they have taken a tried and tested template and presented in a fresh way. Yes, we do know what is going to happen but the way it happens is nice to see. A big part of this is due to the performance of Nani and there is one scene in particular that will stay in the minds of people for a long time. For a man who spends most of the film in a restrained manner, the outpouring of emotion at the railway station is a joy to behold. We scream with Nani and we are happy for him like we have achieved something. That is the power of good cinema.

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In that one stretch of action, we can see so many things being said about the society we live in. People who suppress their emotions will strongly relate to that scene and given the way society has conditioned us, I wouldn’t be surprised if that was most of us. Here is a man who has achieved something that no one thought he could, yet somehow he has managed to do it. In the grand scheme of the film, we know that he is going to do this but it is exhilarating to see the outpouring of emotion from Nani. Jersey works because it has an inherently realistic tone that is spiced with some cinematic elements. The train scene could be considered by some to be cinematic but I think it is one of the more realistic parts of the film. I myself have wanted to scream in anger or pain but haven’t been able to. Perhaps I should start going to the railway station more often. The train scene comes at a crucial moment in the film helps ground the film in reality. From then on, what happens is just part of the journey and we are happy to be along for the ride.

Until next time, bye.

Fear Of Fitting In

Among the many movie genres, the teen movie has been in my opinion, one of the more divisive types out there. A lot of these films are not very realistic or at least, they don’t feel that way. This is where Eighth Grade is different. Instead of showing us the dark side like some films choose as a form of realism, what we see here is just how awkward life is at that stage of life. The script by debutante director Bo Burnham and the flawless performance by Elsie Fisher, ensure that the film is relatable all along. The 8th grade in particular van be very challenging as it represents a transition in our lives. You are on the fast track to your teenage years and the various challenges that come with it. It can be difficult to deal with all this and technology has added to that. Ultimately, it all comes down to our need to fit in and the film explores that emotion beautifully.

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This face in the picture above, is the one that defines the film. We see Kayla on her YouTube channel and she seems a different person but in the outside world, she’s shy, awkward and just wants to, (you guessed it) fit in. This is an emotion that is not just felt during your younger years, it can be felt no matter how old you are. The grass always feels greener on the other side. It looks like those people are having more fun than you. It feels like those people have more interesting lives than you. Honestly, that can be true or false but it is hard to be objective about that. For this, I would like to reply with a quote from an Indian film. It goes like this:

In life, there will always be something better than what we have, but there is no use in changing ourselves to get the other thing.”

Until next time, bye.

 

Believe The Hype

WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS VERY MILD SPOILERS

Sometimes when a film is being praised by a lot of people, there is a tendency for us to dismiss it. This is because when we watch it, we are challenging the film to impress us and to be honest, that is the wrong way to see a film. So, when I decided to see Pariyerum Perumal I had already heard a lot about it and was excited to see it. The one thing I can say about the film is that it lived up to the hype and then some. Dealing with such a heavy subject such as caste and equality can be a tricky topic but debutante director Mari Selvaraj pulls it off with astonishing ease. The script has a maturity that one would associate with a seasoned filmmaker. By refusing to give any easy solutions, the film manages to stay away from cliches that we might get in a film like this. It is easily one of the best films of the year.

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There are many things about the film that stand out and this includes the performances and the music. Is the film flawless? That is for you to say. Kathir does an incredible job as we get to see someone who is helpless, brave, proud, vulnerable, happy, sad etc. It is tough to make acting seem natural but both Kathir and Anandhi do such a good job with their ‘love’ story and it is bound to put a smile on your face. Whether this film is going to bring about a change in society is secondary as the fact that we are talking about a social evil, is the true triumph of the film. When you see this film, you understand that a message does not have to be delivered with a sledgehammer but a glass of tea is all that it takes. That reference will be understood only by those who have seen the film. Its just my way of telling you to watch it and perhaps you too will celebrate it.

Until next time, bye.

When Words Don’t Matter

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD

There are many things to admire about the 2003 film, Lost In Translation. The film won its director, Sofia Coppola an Oscar for its screenplay, that is an indicator of how good the film is. It has an amazing performance from Bill Murray in one of his most sombre roles. Ably supported by Scarlett Johansson, the film manages to rise above the usual romantic comedy and it becomes something that is enduring. This is quite unlike the romance that we usually see on screen. What I want to talk about today is the final scene of the film. It has become famous for how it leaves these two characters. It is also notable that the moment I’m referring to was improvised by Murray. A moment that is not suited for people who want everything to have closure. However, it is perfect in my opinion and I would like to explain why.

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Just before they part ways, Bob (Murray) and Charlotte (Johansson) meet to share one last moment. Then comes the shot where Bob whispers something into Charlotte’s ear. Now, if you belong to the group of people that wants to know what was said, I don’t agree with you. The very fact that we don’t know what is being said, gives the scene so much more power. It allows us to interpret it in so many ways. Perhaps it was something silly or maybe it was something profound. Either way, we are left with an absolutely memorable moment. We tend to believe that words are what matter but at times, it is just the act of being around each other that gives us happiness. These two people could go anywhere from here. I feel the reason that the film ends on this note is because, not every story needs an end.

Until next time, bye.

A Great Film?

Have you ever had this feeling while watching a movie, thinking that it is good, but it could have been so much better. That is exactly how I felt when I was done with Hostiles. It has all the hallmarks of a great Western. We have a fascinating protagonist, absolutely gorgeous camera work and some thrilling moments filled with action. While reading up on the movie, I was surprised to see how little the movie was marketed. This is a little strange when you have a genre that has always been popular and also, a star who has immense critical and commercial appeal.

In a film like this, what matters is the way in which the story is handled. Here, I believe more emphasis was placed on the characters. This is fine if you were making a shorter film but given the length of Hostiles a little bit of urgency would have surely helped. In some ways, these are the moments where you feel frustrated with a film. Yes, it is nice being with these people and getting to know them but sometimes, you gotta move on. You can sense the potential of it being a classic but it doesn’t reach that level.

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The above image is one of the many instances where Christian Bale shines with his acting ability. Bale is someone who has incredible range with his emotions and he shows a different side to it here. I saw some similarities between his work in this film and The Dark Knight trilogy. The brooding, dealing with grief are all there, except in this case, it is much more restrained. So, the moments where he does let his emotions out makes it mean something.

This could become a film which becomes better with age as many films do. That is the way with certain films because, we become less critical of older films. One thing that director Scott Cooper should be lauded for is commenting on the effect that war and violence has on people. The fact that this is done within the realm of a Western, where glorification of violence is a common occurrence, is even more appreciable. We can sense the horrors that these people have seen and that makes us care for them. So in the end, you have great characters but a film that falls just a little short of greatness.

Until next time, bye.

 

Love Blossoms

The Apartment has one of the most sweetest love stories that I have ever seen. A major reason for that are the performances of Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine. It is genuinely heartening to see the way their love blossoms. From the beginning till the very end, there is a gradual progression. Nothing seems forced or hurried as the film is paced correctly. It is safe to say that the film’s reputation as one the greatest of all time, is well and truly deserved. There are many aspects of life that the film comments on but I feel that its most profound statement is on our need to be loved. Just the mere thought that someone likes or loves us, is enough to be cause for celebration. Today, I would like to talk about one scene in particular. It is when we see the two characters together in the office lift.

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In this frame alone, we learn so much about these two people. The way they feel about life can be perceived from this one image alone. MacLaine’s Fran does not like the way life is treating her. And while Lemmon’s Bud feels the same way, he does not show it. His attitude towards life is much more upbeat than that of Fran. Even when things are not going his way, he does not lose his cool. This is a valuable trait for anyone to have. As for Fran, initially it looks like she is not doing what is right for her. But over the course of the film, we learn more about her and why she is the way she is. And through this, she earns the viewer’s empathy and sympathy. A lot of love stories do not work for me because I feel disconnected from what’s going on. This is not the case with The Apartment. And for that alone, I would recommend all of you to watch it irrespective of whether you like love stories.

Until next time, bye.

The Fight For Power

Iruvar is without a doubt one of the finest films ever made in India. It is a perfect mix of art and entertainment that is sure to leave one feeling awestruck at its brilliance. There is so much to talk about with a film like this. One of them is the historical significance of the story it depicts. And if you know anything about the history of Tamil Nadu, you know how important the two protagonists are. Today, I would like to focus on one scene in particular. It is the scene where Mohanlal’s character goes to the office of Prakash Raj and asks to be made a minister. In other words, it is for the fight for power. Not only is it key to the development of the story, the two actors are able show what acting is in just a few minutes.

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This expression, I feel, is acting at an incredibly high level. What we see is a man who has his pride damaged but does not want to show it. He did not expect to be rejected for the minister’s post. The scene also manages to show the distance that has grown between the once great friends. Where we usually see them close to each other, the table in the metaphorically shows the distance among them. Though there is only one expression in this picture, the whole scene has the both of them portray a range of emotions with such subtlety that you may miss it. This is not an easy thing to do.

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A fascinating aspect of the relationship between Tamizh Selvan and Anandhan is the love and respect they have for each other till the very end. Though their political ambitions end up making them rivals, they remain friends rather than foes. There is a constant shift in power throughout the film. At the end, one feels that Tamizh Selvan’s monologue shows the feeling of powerlessness. Without his friend, he feels lost. This is how the movie ends but we all know how real life turned out to be.

Until next time, bye.