Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Best of the lot - through my eyes and hearts - Part 2

(Do read the 1st part before this to get the complete picture)...
Pather Panchali (1955) - It’s a poetry in motion. It’s a classic unfolded with all unknown beauties in front of dumb audiences. It transports you to the high of ecstasy, throws you out of gear with gripping reality and makes you cry with the characters. I have never come across any more such realistic portrayal in world cinema and to his credit Ray did this with minimum fuss or technology. To think that such a movie could be made in India is in itself a tribute to the great master and only he could think of such creation. If ever, a director were to be known as a single movie wonder then let it be a “Pather Panchali”.

Hirok Rajar Deshe (1980) – Another masterpiece from my favorite director. To create a whole movie in limerick and poetry is unthinkable and to top it with such subtle idea about politics, democracy, education and society is impossible even for god. But, he did it! He did it with utmost ease, with grand passion and with childish entertainment. You could find all flavors in this movie – from a children fantasy to a dictatorial politics. The story is genius and is ably supported by cast, camera, editing and background score. You can’t expect anything more from a movie than this.

Do Bigha Zameen (1953) – An ultimate and all time bollywood classic. I would be lying if I don’t mention this in my all time favorites. This Bimal Roy direction is a masterpiece in terms of the depiction of the characters, in terms of music, in terms of acting as well as in the eternal appeal of the story. If ever in India, the portrayal of poverty and fight of poor has ever been depicted, then this has to be a close winner (Even though “Sadgati” by ray, “Akrosh” etc come very close). The most famous scene from the movie is when Shambhu pushes himself to the limit pulling a rickshaw. The rider on the rickshaw offers Shambhu more money to pull faster because he is chasing (probably) his girlfriend in another rickshaw. Shambhu can not resist the temptation, and he keeps smiling in anticipation of getting more money. However, his wealthy customer is not worried the least about the lower class' plight. In this race, rickshaw loses a wheel and Shambhu is injured. However, through all these hardships Shambhu does not lose his righteousness, which is the moral of the movie. Shambhu's son steals money to help his father, only to be reproached by his father later. Shambhu's morality is the only thing that remains his own till the end.
And, if there is no morality left in the story then what is the fuss about the rest?

Seven Samurai (1954) – This is nothing but a sheer brilliance. First time I saw it, it came as a shock, thereafter every subsequent viewing has brought out some magnificent artistry of cinema, the capacity to narrate a story, the idea of the most fantastic background score, the love, the hate, the illusion and the fight for respect. To accommodate all this in a single movie, the director had to be brilliant, the editing had to be extraordinary and the grip over audience unflinching. To its credit it has all these. Even now, after so many have tried to imitate or beat it, Seven Samurai remains a totally gripping 3.5 hour experience. Akira Kurosawa is one of the gods of Cinema - men who seem to have been born to make films, who have it in their blood.
If ever, an example of total cinema has to be given then choose this one without semblance of doubt – such is the magnitude of this.

Autumn Sonata (1978) – Should I say that I should be proud that this was made in the year I was born? I take this as a gift of Bergman to me. Never before in my life did I imagine a movie with only 4 characters before this. I don’t know if “Morning Raga” comes as a close copy cat, but if that is then I must say bollywood should stop making such nonsense. Autumn Sonata is so intense in its emotions and so masterful in its presentation that the world of its characters—in this case an isolated, roomy parson's house in the south of Norway—absolutely overwhelms our senses and becomes for 92 minutes the only reality we can know. If ever, somebody has to be given a lesson of movie making, then just ask them to watch this – how to portray emotion, how to bring out the most unnerving ideas in reality and how with minimum dialogue and minimal characters we could have a masterpiece. The profundity of the writing, the acting, and the delivery of Autumn Sonata lies in its refusal, like that of a complex musical composition, to boil down to a single, unchallenged idea or emotion.

As good as it gets (1997) – This poor cousin of the famous “Titanic” has always remained close to my heart – for its simplicity, for its weirdness, for its magnificent ideas to portray love and emotions and above all for its daring idea of releasing it alongside a blockbuster yet coming out with flying colors. I vividly remember the poor crowd response to this movie in Calcutta and after watching this I could only pity those who have missed this. Sometimes, you need to go out of the conventional way of stories and technologies – because as a movie watcher I could only take the feeling and emotion out of the theatre, not the technology, not the acting and certainly not over the moon flamboyance. I have never heard a better way of proposing, I have never heard a better complement that a man or a woman could give to the other sex. How I wish I had such moments in my life!

As always, this might be the weirdest best 10 ever compiled, but in my mind they remain my best moments. They could transport me to the highs of emotions, to the depths of love and hatred, to the fantasies of childhood and to the darkest areas in life. If ever you don’t feel like being a character in the movie then it’s simply not worth watching for me. I pay for that connection, I thrive in that ecstasy and I would love to die in that dream.
That’s what a movie is for me.


Best of the lot - through my eyes and hearts - Part 1

Disclaimer: This post is totally inspired by some similar posts and ideas from well known public sources. Hence, any such unmistakable similarities in terms of ideas or subjects are totally intentional. However, any such attempt to list the personal likings is always fraught with contentious or dubious selections. Hence, all comments would only be viewed through that prism only. More such lists from others are welcome. Also please note that the list is not in order of merit as I don’t think it’s good to rank the best.
I am not a movie buff, at least I don’t consider myself neither knowledgeable nor qualified enough to list such things, but through this I would try to give an idea to what I do like and dislike in movies, why I am such a bollywood basher in most situations, and thereby why certain movies do qualify in my book as simply irresistible. Since, by perception (and mind you, “perception is everything”) I am a left leaning hence its quite natural that I place everybody at the same pedestal (classless society, you see) and so I won’t differentiate between bollywood, Hollywood or tollywood. This is about my own all time favorite top 10.

The African Queen (1951) – This movie has one of the simplest yet unnatural stories that I have ever come across. With two powerhouse performances from Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart, this seamlessly touches my heart as it explores the beauties of what I call situational love. Given that technology was minimal and story doesn’t fit in any line of division this mesmerizes with it’s portray of love, affection, love for country and cinematography. The background score is in sync with the mood while the dialogues are outstanding. Watching this, I feel that how I wish I was in place of Humphrey so that such emotions could be expressed. Alas! I can only enjoy the masterpiece and praise it through such posts.

Citizen Kane (1941) – This is another piece where you get engrossed with the flow of events, with the charming beauty of story narration. An expressionistic, fictional biography of the rise to power (and tragic fall) of a larger-than-life newspaper tycoon/publisher - Charles Foster Kane. A reporter is sent to investigate the significance of "Rosebud," the last word uttered by Kane (Welles), through interviews with various associates and his wife (Cotten, Sloane, and Comingore). With its bravura direction, broken narrative and flashbacks, and vivid performances, this is considered a modern masterpiece. Every aspect of the production marked an advance in film language: the deep-focus, deeply shadowed cinematography; the discontinuous narrative (in a screenplay co-authored by Herman Mankiewicz); the innovative use of sound and score; the low-level camera shots; the ensemble acting from Welles' Mercury Theater.

City Lights (1931) – What should I say for Chaplin! I am honored that at some point of time there was this genius in movie making, this man who never uttered a word on screen yet portrayed the most difficult expressions with utmost ease and entertained us lifelong. This film is a classic silent masterpiece (with sound effects). In the opening sequence, the urban misfit (his quintessential "Little Tramp" character) parodies 'talking' films. In the city, the tramp (Chaplin) falls in love with a blind flower-selling girl (Cherrill), and although poverty-stricken, he is mistaken for a millionaire. If love is what is depicted here, then I would die 100 times for such love. If this is not romance then what is!

The Godfather (1972) – No list of movies is ever complete without mentioning this all time classic. The drama, the dialogue, the script, the background score – you name it and godfather has it. Here is bravura, genre-defining, epic-length Mafia/gangster classic that evokes the mid and late 1940's period with powerful character development, lighting, costumes, and settings. The film follows the fortunes of the fictitious Corleones, a powerful Mafia family with its own family rituals and separate code of honor, revenge, justice, law and loyalty that transcends all other codes. If I were to ever acknowledge Al Pacino’s contribution to world cinema, I could stop only at Godfather. Even people do argue that the book is better in terms of story telling, I found enough evidence of a masterpiece in this creation.


Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Specially imperfect

Imperfection makes one special. At least that’s what my thinking of human beings has shaped up over the years. Even in the most unbelievable world of rules in physics – there are wonders when there are imperfections and deviations. Had it not been for a matter losing some of its mass, we won’t ever have realized the enormous power of atom. The issue of whether atom bomb is good or bad is a topic of another debate, but in the process of losing mass and being imperfect, even the tiniest atoms release huge energy. And that’s precisely my point – in allowing people to be imperfect we are only opening up the potential of that energy to come out.
As I look back to the past year or past so many years, I realize how much time we have wasted in being perfect, in trying to make others perfect – and in doing so we have lost on both counts. Even in our epics and history we have only seen imperfect characters – yet always frowned upon the idea of opening Pandora’s Box. In the quest of being and making perfect human beings we have sacrificed not only the natural mind, but also the sharpness of unfounded energy.
Probably that’s why I wish – To everybody, his/her imperfection.
Imperfection allows that patch of breathing space, it gives the possibility of cultivating an uncluttered mind – and by allowing people to be imperfect we are only recognizing the diversity that is humane. The idea is not to stop looking for improvement, but to stop worrying being imperfect. Should the respect for imperfection become mutual, we could possibly purify so much of bad blood.
History is full of such incidents. The great Asoka won’t have been the same without being imperfect in initial life, most of the artists are imperfect in their lives and so are many more examples. A rose is imperfect in its thorns, a lion in its attitude and a baby in its dreams. Just by being that much lenient in accepting people with imperfection, we could foster a world full of love and hope.
What is true for an individual, is true for a relationship, is collectively true for a society and for a country. To personalize each and every short coming in others is possibly a practice which we are better off without.
As the New Year dawns on our life – I would love to make only this small resolution to myself – lets thrive in imperfection. And like most other resolution this might also just remain on paper, but who cares? Ultimately, the enjoyment of the game is only being imperfect.