Holy Ship of No Amour

The week of watching some terrific some middling and some not even passable cinema, hopping from one screen to another, standing in queues, and making the ‘silence please’ Mexican waves (know that one, where one person’s phone rings mid-screening and somebody whispers ‘silence’, and somebody else whispers a bit loudly to the first whisperer ‘Silence’, and somebody else decides to ‘SILENCE YAAR’ the 2nd whisperer, and it goes on…?) is over. From the bourgeois-like life for a week (watching cinema, meeting beautiful people, and eating in South Bombay eliteria), I am back to Amol Palekar life. Just reached home after buying Kaddu-Lauki-Parval from sabzi mandi.

But this was a good year at the festival. So good that I can easily make a top-10 list out of the 20 films I watched. And I think at least the top 3-5 of these will stay with me for a very long time. Though such judgments of how-long-my-mind-will-keep-this-memory-alive are always tricky so let’s say, the top 3-5 of this list are the films that I hope stay with me for a long time.

Going with the format we first saw on ‘Philips Top 10’ 18-years ago, doing a countdown.

10. Kauwboy/Boudewijn Koole: Slice-of-life for the most duration, coming-of-age in some parts, and father-son dealing with a common tragedy in their own ways in some others. The most heartwarming film of the festival I think. Also a stress-buster in the middle of dark/depressing (After Lucia), slow paced (Taboor), or well-done but esoteric (Something in the Air) cinema generally found at the festivals.

Aside: There were many films this year dealing with father-son/daughter issues. The Hunt, After Lucia, Stories We Tell, Electrick Children, Beasts of the Southern Wild, and Rust and Bone among the ones I saw. Some coincidence, this.




9.  Rust and Bone/Jacques Audiard: Jacques Audiard’s last A Prophet was a prison-drama full of gore, shock, and characters more complex than differential equations and may be that’s why the simplistic one-tone characters in Rust and Bone made the film slightly underwhelming. But still, Audiard’s class shines through in the complicated relationships, a new take on unequal love, and the final act. More feel-good than anyone was expecting from this director, but having Marion Cotillard in your film and not making her smile is also a crime very few could dare attempt.

8. The Hunt/Thomas VinterbergWhen I saw it the first time, didn’t find it great. But for reasons I now have to find, it has stayed with me like only good movies can. May be it was too frustrating, the lead character’s losing struggle for truth, that I switched off, but the cold, it-could-happen-to-anybody feeling this film evokes is difficult to shrug off. Also, as CilemaSnob pointed out, very rare for a film to explore a child’s psychology behind a sexual abuse accusation. Children are not that innocent as they look, but they are also not that simplistic a sum of easy emotions too. They have secrets, unexplainable hurts, and layered psychologies at work, and this film tackles that portion, as well as a small town’s paranoia so well.

Was the little girl telling an absolute lie? Or did something happen to her, may be not by the man she accused but by somebody else? And why were other children telling the same story? Not everybody I talked to had so many unanswered queries about the story, but then, that’s why the film has stayed with me. It opens up if you think about it.

7. Beasts of the Southern Wild/Benh Zeitlin: The best of Hollywood (un)formula – Uplifting underdog story, backdrop of a new world’s exploration, narrated with vivid imagination, allegorical references, excellent background score, and performances that make your jaw drop. Also, director’s first feature, making it all the more special.



6. Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry/Alison KlaymanAi Weiwei is an artist in desperate times. And like all the great art of desperate times – his art is rooted in deep irony and impromptu sense of humor. His response to the Chinese reverence for Han Dynasty and rationalization of  every brutal act by invoking the great lineage/history they have (almost like Maratha politicians’ for The Great Shivaji) was this simple series of 3 photographs.  Like a veteran comic, he knows the power of symbols. One evening, as he is dining with his fans and volunteers at a restaurant table laid on the roadside, hostile cops (who want him dead) film him from a distance. His response? He tells his team to film the cops filming them, and continues eating at his own pace.

There are many more examples, and the film is full of them. But more than the examples, the film documents his essence, origin of his ideas (they mostly come to him in an instant, like a punchline for a tweet), and his response to some of the backbreaking hits the authorities have given him. A very important, but equally enjoyable documentary.

5. Stories We Tell/Sarah Polley: This one I liked a lot on the first viewing. But after the festival is over, am not very sure of the take-homes from this one. A very personal journey of Sarah Polley, turning the camera towards her family (VERY complicated family actually – mom married twice and probably slept with other men too), and trying to find the truth about her own parentage. She talks to her father, siblings, suspected real-fathers, wives of suspected real-fathers, and so on. She pieces together the domestic and romantic life of her mother who had died when Sarah was just a kid.

What emerges is both fascinating and complicated – and hence very cinematic. The best part though is her insistence on using her father (not the suspected one, the one she grew up with and for whom the news of her being from another man is going to be the most devastating) as the narrator of the story. The narration, written with lots of introspection and understanding, and delivered with no hint of ‘personal’, is the most innovative, irony-laden tool of the film.

4. Amour/Michael Haneke: You are a piano teacher, 70 years old. You go out to a concert with your husband. Enjoy it. More so, as one of your earlier pupils is playing. Come back home, sleep, and wake up next morning to have a lovely breakfast with your husband in a small sunlit kitchen, as you have been  having for the last 30-40 years probably. Sometime during the breakfast, your brain stops responding to stimuli. Your husband is baffled and you are in disbelief moments later when your senses reappear.

This is the beginning of the end. A life of million experiences is about to fold itself unto itself. From here on, every moment is a gift, every action a struggle, and every day the last of many. Michael Haneke’s Amour lives-in with such a couple, documenting their days, daily-diary style, and bringing us closer to the feeling of loss, recollection of memories (some, which may not have even happened but are registered nonetheless), and the last rites of a life lived moderately, a life lived like most of us do or aspire to do – simply, honorably, and lovingly.

It is heartbreaking at places, but not because of the drama. In fact, Haneke side-steps from the drama and focuses on the mundane, the tedious, and still manages to bring out the graph of slow decay in a masterly manner. The mood gets under your skin if you are patient and your phone is switched off, and stays for a long time.

3. Ship of Theseus/Anand Gandhi: I have been struggling with this scenario for some time now, this concept of duality. Not in a spiritual sense (that is still many years away I think) but in a very daily-life sense. Have been swinging between left and right ideologies, between Arundhati Roy and her detractors,  between hedonism of sab chaat lo/bator lo and nihilism of sab chootiyapa hai,  between the urge to document every travel trip through photographs/ticket stubs  and the need to live in the moment, and many other, similar conundrums. Anand Gandhi picks up three such stories of duality, set in three different worlds, and binds them together through the philosophical paradox of Ship of Theseus.

If that sounded heavy then yes, ambition-wise the film is this heavy. But the beauty is that the team has pulled-it off with great cinematic value in each frame and line of writing. The characters are talking a language rarely heard before on Indian cinema’s screen.  The language of loaded words and of a life lived in knowledge. The 3 stories – a visually-impaired photographer about to get new eyes, an atheist monk and stand-up comic cum lawyer sparring on about the relative value of an animal’s (and human’s) life, and a man with a new kidney having doubts about the legality and ethics of the transplant – explore one genuine doubt each (माकूल शक़  as KK Raina said in Ek Ruka Hua Faisla) about existence and mortality. If a film’s merit is in showing a new world with great authenticity and insight, then Ship of Theseus shows us three. And to top that, terrific performances, excellent background score, one brilliant song in Prakrit language, and consistently sharp photography throughout made this most-awaited Indian film of the year for me absolutely worth the hype.

2. No/Pablo LarrainWhat a beautiful premise – Under international pressure, General Pinochet of Chile allowed a plebiscite after 15 years of dictatorship in 1988. The choices were simply a YES or NO. The state controlled TV, as part of the agreement, had to run a 15 minute ad-campaign daily for both the options. Rene Saavedra, played by that face-of-million-emotions Gael Garcia Bernal, is a top copywriter who picks up the NO campaign and builds it in spite of all the threats, his own meek nature, a troubled relationship at home, and his doubts about the people he’s working for.

A historical documentation, an insider’s look at ad industry, an underdog story, and a personal drama all rolled into one – NO is flawless in its execution and writing. Shot on a Beta-cam, probably to match the look of the film with the actual TV footage of the ad campaigns and Pinochet’s speeches from the ’80s, the frames are burning most of the time, adding another layer of surreal and time-stamp on it. And the best part – the story is told with a lightness of touch, a wink and a nudge at places, and full blown satire at others. (Wait for the scene where a top govt. officer/bureaucrat is having an orange). Just my kind of film!

1. Holy Motors/Leos Carax: As the often repeated line goes – ‘The best cinema is the kind where the film starts after it has ended on screen.’ Cinema that inspires you to go home, google, and read everything about the plot analysis, director’s interviews and biography, writer’s previous works, and detailed reviews by renowned critics; Cinema that is accessible enough to engage but abstract enough to leave the final interpretation to the viewers; Cinema that is like an art installation – weird, unreasonable, extreme, and still (to quote a character from the film) “the beauty of the act” resonates.

Leos Carax’s Holy Motors is all this and much more. (I’d suggest you don’t read anything about the plot before watching it as the joy of discovering it will be much more then. So ideally, leave this page now. For the ultra-curious, the cat is dead from the next sentence onward.) A mysterious man, Monsieur Oscar, whose work-space is a limousine, goes around town, donning different make-ups and living a chunk of somebody’s life for a small duration. So for one assignment, he is an old beggar lady by the Seine in Paris, for another the anarchy man from the sewers (also featured in Carax’s short for Tokyo, Merde), and for yet another, father of an under-confident middle class girl. He has 10 assignments in a day, each of a different genre and character, some extremely weird, some extremely ordinary, and he lives each of them with the commitment of a successful suicide bomber.

But why is he doing this? Is Monsieur Oscar, the ‘life’ he comes back to in between two assignments, also one of the ‘roles’ that he is playing for this day only? Is every character in the film a similar on-the-move ’employee’ of some grand scheme, getting off his/her limousine and acting out a role for a duration? Why nobody dies, or only some people die at some of the times? There are many more queries, but they may reveal more of the stories hence not quoting them here. And to make things even more surreal – the film is a visual fusion-reaction. Right from the prologue (where a man pushes the wall of his home to find a hidden cinema hall behind it), to the futuristic ‘dance of mating’ sequence, to two ex-lovers walking dazed in a post-apocalyptic mall – it just gets more and more adventurous.

It may not have given me much meaning – but it’s the most blood-rush I will get at cinemas this year. That, and many pieces of an unfinished puzzle, made Holy Motors the best film at MFF this year.



MFF 2012 Diary – Day 5

This is going to be a quick post. I literally have a train to catch. Watched just two films on Day 5.

Amour/2012/Michael Haneke/France: 

– The film that came with hype bigger than any other in this festival. The day we came to know Amour is going to be at MFF, dil mein MFF ki izzat/aukaat badh gayi.

– The problem with films with big hype is that they always tend to underwhelm you. Like most people I know didn’t get as bowled over by Rust and Bone as I did when I watched it for the first time at Cannes. Film’s actual merit apart, I think in Mumbai it was being judged on the basis of excellent reviews out of Cannes (Peter Bradshaw had a 4-star review for it), and Jacques Audiard’s previous film A Prophet. I know filmmakers who complain that ‘fanboys’ go in with too much expectations and ruin the film for themselves, but I don’t think there is any way out of it. Reputation nahin hogi toh hum Haneke ya Audiard dekhne ke liye marenge hi kyon? And I think most of cinema lovers do keep mumbling to themselves ‘keep your expectations low’ while entering a big film. And so was I, while entering the theatre to watch Amour. 

– In spite of huge hype, Amour worked for me totally. It’s like a personal diary of a man dealing with the slow decay of a life of love, memories, music, and promises. It won’t move you to tears (there is no background score to aid that process) but it will, if you can connect, take you into a zone of silence and heartbreak. A mood that stays with you for a long time. (Will write a detailed post on this one too, after the fest.)

– Michael Haneke’s writing and cinema craft are a masterclass in themselves. What observations, what staging, and what performances by the lead pair. (None of it should surprise though. It’s Michael Haneke after all.)

Electrick Children/2012/Rebecca Thomas/ USA: 

– Shouldn’t have gone for an American film, I kept telling myself half-way through the film.

– Started off as a serious-toned, mystery or inspection into beliefs/religion.  Went into goofy comedy, and ended as a stoner film with the real possibility of Anupam Kher appearing and telling the leading girl ‘Bhaag Pooja Bhaag’.

– A girl thinks she is pregnant due to an immaculate conception with a music cassette and goes out in search of the singer. Great plot, but what an immaculate deception it turned out to be.

MFF 2012 Diary – Day 3 and 4

One thing I realized this time, thanks to the daily commute of roughly 4-hours to and from the festival venue. Watching a film festival is as much a measure  of your love for cinema as it is a test of your fitness. Running down the railway station stairs to catch Virar-Churchgate fast that is arriving in 1-minute, keeping your senses alert and combative till a seat is found in the crowded train (generally happens after initial 30-minutes of standing at the optimum place – somewhere in the middle of two rows so that you have double the probability of getting a seat), taking the 2-3 kilometer walks from Churchgate station to the venue, and of course keeping your legs folded and hands tied for the duration of the films. That’s why, people who look so enthusiastic on day 1 or 2 of the festival start dropping out by 3rd/4th day. Or start looking like one of the characters from depressing European cinema they are watching.

That’s why, if you don’t sleep mid-screening at least once, you aren’t doing a film festival right.

Digression done.

Day 3

Shameless/2012/Filip Marczewski/Poland: 

Festival’s centerpiece film Michael Haneke’s ‘Amour’ was cancelled in the morning. Theories abound – they couldn’t find the password to open the disk (apparently, password is sent just one hour before the screening to avoid piracy etc.), the file format they sent was unreadable, that they had a special screening for Tina Ambani and friends the previous night and didn’t realize the password is valid for one screening only. (Thankfully, Amour is screening today afternoon finally.)

So in the slot emptied by ‘Amour’, we headed for ‘Shameless’. And why not? The trailer and synopsis made it read like a juicy piece on a sex-filled drama about a brother and sister. In many ways, it can be thought of as a prequel to Steve Mcqueen’s ‘Shame’, again about a brother and sister having problems due to their unusual sexual ‘conditions’. The ‘troubled place’ Carey Mulligan’s Sissy talks about but is never shown in the film could be imagined as vaguely similar to this. But that’s the only good I could extract out of this film with so many coincidences, thin sub-plots, and sexually charged but never lighting up  mood. Ending, in true European cinema fashion, was abrupt and frustrating. So was most of the film too.

The Taste of Money/2012/Sang-soo Im/South Korea

This reminded me, above all, of DD afternoon show ‘Swabhimaan’ (the one with Rohit Roy, Kittu Gidwani, Manoj Bajpayi et al). A family drama about rich, perverted, crazy for power and sex people. Had a few moments of brilliance, but overall was quite self-serious and  at places, hilariously ridiculous. The worst watch in this festival for me. P.S. – It was the kind of film where in an emotional scene, it starts raining heavily.

Sunrise/1927/F.W. Murnau/USAHadn’t seen any film by this master of silent cinema – Murnau, and thanks to this rare opportunity by MFF, I got to see one of his best. So much visual experimentation in a 1927 film, and so original humor and slice-of-life moments (the two toughest things to write in my opinion). And Liberty Cinema, with its red carpeted staircase and red-leather finish chairs in balcony was just the perfect venue for this chicken-soup of a film.

Kauwboy/2012/Boudewijn Koole/Netherlands: 

The last film of the day was an easy watch. Jojo finds a chick Jackdaw fallen out of its nest, carries it home and pets it, while his always-angry-and-cruel single-father learns to love his son over the course of the film. It was that simple a plot, told with lots of humor, emotion, music, and slice-of-life moments. Very little could have gone wrong with this, and very little did.

(Am tempted to add – It should do well in close-knit-family oriented territories of Central and Northern India. First weekend collections should be good. The Jackdaw bird does a satisfactory job but could have done better in emotional scenes. Music was as per the need, and editing was good, but another 10-minutes shorter and it would have crossed 20-crores in 1st weekend.)




Day 4

Holy Motors/2012/Leos Carax/France-Germany:  How does one begin writing about this film? A film that is trying to break every convention, burn every book, and shake every belief about cinema in particular and philosophy of life and living in general. It starts with a dream-like sequence of a man breaking a wall to enter the balcony of a cinema hall, where people are watching a film while a naked baby and huge bull-dogs parade the aisles. And from here on, it gets more bizarre. But it’s the variety of bizarre that keeps you completely engaged (I had donated my senses and soul to the film completely, within initial 15-minutes), asking you to stay alert and try piecing together the information, and in return giving you visuals and events of such ambition that your brain’s g-spot is constantly in a rub.

Though for the best experience, I’d suggest you go for it without reading ANYTHING about the film or its plot (as I did) because most of the reviews do give out the philosophical connotations the film is hinting at. And that means some of the awe of discovering it for the first time is gone.

It reminded me of many things, from Hindu mythology to  reptile-race-aliens based science-fiction to Freud’s ‘On Dreams’ to this short film to one of my all-time favorite films, Charlie Kaufman’s ‘Synecdoche, New York’ – another crazy, inventive journey into trying to point out the loopholes in the normal understanding of why/how we exist. And in spite of all this apparent depth, the film is never heavy. In fact, it’s comical at quite a few places, and musical at quite a few others. Will write a detailed piece after the fest is done, and after I’ve watched it one more time when it’s out online.

The Hunt/2012/Thomas Vinterberg/Denmark: Ideally, nothing should have been watched after the high of Holy Motors, but the greedy festival junkies we are, chucking a film as hyped as The Hunt would have been out of character. Going with the image of Scandinavian cinema, this one too had a cold and dark feel to it. A man, accused of a sex-offense by a kindergarten kid, faces the witch-hunt from a small hunting-crazy town of Denmark. The film gets heavier and intense as it proceeds, but in spite of all its finesse (in almost every department), it failed to impress me much. May be I was still in Holy Motors zone, or may be it worked on too predictable lines of persecution and silence – I found it quite a middling, safe attempt. The last section and the epilogue are terrific though. Good enough to redeem the depressing-frustrating middle.

Something in the Air/2012/Olivier Assayas/France: Ghanta kuchh samajh nahin aaya. French version of ‘Hazaaron Khwahishein Aisi’. Set in 70’s France, featuring a group of students learning and unlearning the neo-communist movement. Bas itna hi samajh mein aaya. Rest of it was oppression-repression-dissolution-subaltern-minimalistic-bourgeoisie-mumbojumbovadapaav. Excellent production design, a couple of sex-scenes, and evocation of an era gone by were the only redeeming factors. I even stopped reading subtitles after the 1st hour and just spent time looking at the props and recreation of the 70’s France.














MFF 2012 Diary – Day 2

Disclaimer: I don’t think I’ve turned into that post-1990-born creature that thinks, reads, and writes only in English but since am short of time, decided to file this entry in English today. Not because I think (faster) in English, but because English typing is faster and as a related brain function, when you type faster, crisper words come to you. (Or so I think.)

Also, quick notes today. (‘Amour’ calls tomorrow morning.)

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry/2012/Alison Klayman/USA:

– Behind the iron curtain, there is an artist struggling to retain his freedom, and in the process turns his protest into art, and curtain into an art-installation.

– A very ‘upbeat’ documentary (mainly ‘cos so many frames are full of his artistic creations, and his calm, about-to-smile face) about  a very angry but very optimistic man that took a few years in the making, and hence capturing Ai Weiwei at very crucial moments in China’s recent history. (The 2009 Earthquakes, Nobel for Liu Xiaobo, post-Olympic demolition of his studio over his criticism of Chinese government).

– Hope they put it out online for free distribution because that goes totally with the spirit of Ai Weiwei.

– After seeing this and Michael Moore’s ‘Bowling for Columbine’, I started loving India more. See both of these to know what words like freedom, liberty, human rights, angst, and censorship may mean in different contexts, countries, and times.

– Also, the best advertisement ever for Twitter. They should just sponsor it and show it to the world. Ai Weiwei uses twitter like Gandhi used Satyagraha, and to great results. “Don’t retreat. Retweet.”

– Can your cat open the latch door? If yes, are you fascinated by it?

The Bay/2012/Barry Levinson/USA: 

– Another ‘found footage’ film with elements of creature-based horror and zombie.

– Goes on for too long after having made the point.

– Not a fan of found footage genre anyway. Also the most difficult genre I guess. Stripped of visual grandness, technical finesse, and controlled-environment drama (and most of the background score), Cinema is tough to please.

– More creepy and gory than chilling.

Rust and Bone/2012/Jacques Audiard/France-Belgium

– 2nd watch hence less satisfying but still, so many terrific moments created and captured so well.

– Marion Cotillard is that rare female – thinking man’s sex symbol as well as non-thinking man’s sex symbol too. She’s in top form in this, and is on top too in one scene.

– Audiard’s previous one ‘A Prophet’ was more gritty, more abstract and complicated too, but this one is fairly straightforward, on the verge of feelgood, and dealing with a less complex world/character(s). So yes, slightly less ambitious, but never mind, he still makes high-cinema out of the material at hand. Some of the best romantic repartee in a world of non-romantics is here, and in a way, this could be called Audiard’s attempt at interpreting a ‘romance drama’.

– Just like in ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’, lots of shadows and light-play, another subtle ‘homage’ to Malick may be?


MFF 2012 Diary – Day 1

फिर फेस्टिवल: 

यह निरा रोमांटिक सा आइडिया है, डायरियाँ लिखना. और मैं अब ३० पार करने के बाद ख़ासा रोमांटिक रहा नहीं. पर डायरी लिखना समय को पकड़ने की एक कोशिश भी है, जो लोग ३० पार करने के बाद ज्यादा करने लगते हैं. तो यह वो वाली डायरी है जो खुद को भरोसा दिलाना चाहती है कि इसकी असली value आज नहीं, आज से ५० साल बाद होगी जब हम ना होंगे, जब कोई इसे मुड़ के खोलेगा और इसे antique वाली इज्ज़त देगा.

इस ब्लॉग पर आखिरी पोस्ट पिछले साल के मुम्बई फिल्म फेस्टिवल की डायरी से ही है. साल बीता, लोग बिगड़े, देश पर और गर्त चढ़ी, और फिल्म फेस्टिवल वापस आया. आज सुबह तक सोचा था इस साल डायरी नहीं लिखूँगा क्योंकि इस बार फेस्टिवल का venue घर से बहुत दूर है…आने जाने में ही हर रोज़ साढ़े तीन घंटे बर्बाद हो रहे हैं तो लिखने के लिए अलग से समय कैसे निकले? लेकिन अभी अभी बस, १० मिनट पहले सोचा, कि समय तो उतना धीरे चलता है जितना तेज़ आप टाइप कर सकें. तो सिर्फ कोशिश है….जो आज है, कल हो सकता है ना हो.


Stories We Tell/2012/Sarah Polley/Canada : कम से कम एक उम्र में सबको लगता है कि उनका परिवार weird है. जिनको बचपन में लगता है, उनको बड़े होकर नहीं लगता (क्योंकि शायद वो खुद वैसे हो जाते हैं), और जिनको बचपन में नहीं लगता, उनको बड़े होकर लगता है. Sarah Polley ने अपने बिखरे से (महा-weird) परिवार को जोड़ने की कोशिश की है, अपने परिवार के हर सदस्य को एक ही कहानी अपने अपने निजी point-of-view से सुनाने को कहकर. Documentary और drama का इतना शानदार मिश्रण मैंने पहले तो कभी नहीं देखा. Sarah Polley और उनके पिता Michael Polley (जिनकी आँखें बहुत उदास लेकिन आवाज़ बहुत खनक वाली है) एक साउंड-स्टूडियो में हैं जहां Michael Sarah की दी हुयी एक स्क्रिप्ट अपनी आवाज़ में रिकार्ड कर रहे हैं. कैमरा चल रहा है, माइकल जो कहानी कह रहे हैं वो बाप-बेटी दोनों की है. लेकिन माइकल भी उसे ऐसे कह रहे हैं जैसे वो किसी तीसरे की हो. लेकिन धीरे धीरे और किरदार जुड़ते हैं, सब Sarah को Sarah की ही कहानी सुनाते हैं (“मुझे वो भी बताओ जो मुझे पता है, और ऐसे बताओ जैसे मैंने कभी नहीं सुना”, Sarah शुरू में ही यह निर्देश देती है), और आगे बढ़ते बढ़ते फिल्म memories, love, और closure पर एक अद्भुत व्याख्यान बन जाती है.


Beasts of the Southern Wild/2012/Benh Zeitlin/USA: बहुत चर्चे थे इस फिल्म के. Cannes फिल्म फेस्टिवल में Camera d’Or के अलावा ३ और अवार्ड जीते हैं और Sundance में Grand Jury Prize जीता है. मतलब जैसे कोई नामी पहलवान रिंग में आता है, वैसे यह फिल्म जमशेद भाभा थियेटर में आई. और शुरू के पाँच मिनट में ही पूरा मुकाबला जीत लिया. शुद्ध पॉपुलर सिनेमा की आत्मा (uplifting, underdog story), उसपर art cinema की तकनीक का चोगा (imaginative, allegorical, भयानक sound design और music), और चोगे में Indie Cinema की छोटी-छोटी जेबें. पत्थर जैसे बाप और 6 साल की, खुद को प्राग-ऐतेहासिक जीव मानने वाली बेटी की कहानी (हालांकि बहुत देर में पता चला कि वो बेटी है, बेटा नहीं) – जो उनके छोटे से टापू पर आये तूफ़ान के बाद का struggle ऐसे दिखाती है जैसे कविता कह रही हो. अगर थियेटर वाले बत्तियां जल्दी नहीं जलाते तो मैं अंत में और देर तक रोता.


Throw of the Dice/1929/Franz Austen/India-Germany: यह वाली सिर्फ इसलिए देखी क्योंकि Germany से एक Orchestra आया था जो इस silent फिल्म के साथ live music बजा रहा था. यह अनोखा अनुभव फिर कहाँ मिलेगा यह सोच कर हंसल मेहता की ‘शाहिद’ आज कुर्बान करनी पड़ी. और जितना सोचा था, उससे कहीं ज्यादा मज़ा आया. फिल्म अपने आप में बहुत सरल, और काफी मायनों में मसाला थी. जर्मन निर्देशक को हिन्दुस्तानी exotica बेचना था शायद…गाँव की गोरी बनी हिरोइन को अपने पल्लू का भी सहूर नहीं था (क्योंकि वो कोई एंग्लो-इन्डियन ऐक्ट्रेस थी), हाथी, सपेरे, आग खाने वाले कलाबाज़ वगैरह बड़ी देर तक कैमरे के आगे रहे,  राजा निरे ऐय्याश और प्रजा निरी stockholm complex की मारी. लेकिन असली खेल Orchestra का ही था. सिर्फ ८-१० तरह के trumpets, २ तरह के drums, और चिमटा-घंटी से उन्होंने जो समां बाँधा वो out-worldly था. एक तरह से फिल्म को कई जगहों पर reinterpret कर दिया उन्होंने. जहां सीन बहुत self-serious था, वहाँ orchestra ने ‘मेरे हाथों में नौ-नौ चूड़ियाँ हैं’ का एक version बजा कर परदे की कहानी को एक अलग layer दे दी.

और फिल्म ख़तम होने पर मिली तालियों से musicians इतने खुश हुए कि उन्होंने जाते-जाते एक ऐसी धमाल धुन बजाई कि १००० लोगों से भरा auditorium खड़े होकर साथ-साथ लगातार ताली बजाता रहा. पहले दिन का आखिरी अलौकिक राग!


कल क्या देखना है?: Ai Wei-Wei पर एक documentary है, Jacques Audiard की Rust and Bone है (जिसमें खूब भीड़ होने की पूरी संभावना है), और Takeshi Kitano की कान में पेचकस घुसा के मारने वाली Outrage:Beyond है.

10 types of people at Film Festivals

While waiting in queues or between films, I realized there’s a method to the kind of people who attend the film festivals (probably around the world.) This extrapolation comes with slight arrogance of a standup comedy and an equal measure of observation at two Mumbai film Festivals I attended in the last 2 years.

Here goes, the 10 types of people most likely to be seen at a film festival.

1. The Late Guy: This guy, generally an older man, walks in late. In every damn film. And not just 5 or 10 minutes late, sometimes an hour late. Which simply means he just wants to be seen walking out of a film, nodding his head, and telling fellow goers ‘kuchh khaas maza nahin aaya…but it could have been a great metaphor.’

2. The early leaver: As opposed to the late guy, this person walks out 10 or 15 minutes before the film ends. Again, in every damn film. Probably he is so smart that he has already guessed the end and decided it’s not worthy of his intellect, or he wants to keep the suspense alive FOREVER, or that’s his way of saying ‘I am not impressed’.

3. The Einstein Shastri: The man knows it all. And he believes in telling it all. While a film is running on the screen, he is directing a parallel film in his head, and speaking aloud, telling his friend how this scene is too long, how this character’s graph is all fucked-up, and how the film should just end now.

4. The Alien Intellectual: This guy looks like an alien, has spent half his life working at it, and frowns at anybody who goes to watch Hollywood films at the festival. Also, he is the first one to grab the sofa-seats at the back of the hall.

5. The angry journo: The journo wants preferential entry, the journo wants his free water bottle and coffee, the journo wants the organizers to manage the crowds, the journo wants the doors to be closed and movie to be started once he is inside, and the journo will fight for it.

6. The token white guy: Like in Hindi films, there’s a token white guy at Indian film festivals too. He walks around lost, keeps to himself, and is treated like a jury member even when he is not.

7. The token oriental girl with the token white guy: The oriental girl, generally holding a file that may, for all we know, contain Vijay Sales pamphlets walks around seriously, just a step behind the token white guy. She adds to the impression that the guy is a jury member, as well as the feeling that he walks really fast.

8. The fading or rising star: Only two types of stars attend a film festival – the 50-plus fading star or the under-25 rising star. Both have one eye on the schedule and another on people checking them out and going ‘Hey…that is the guy from JK Cement ad.’

9. The long haired dude: This guy has long hair.

10. The over-enthusiastic private film school student who knows shit: A sizeable number of this type actually. love talking in the lift, showing-off their film knowledge. (Actual conversation, overheard in a lift: “Yeh Wong Kar Wai kaun hai? Usko dekhte hain aaj.” “Hai ek chinky. Bhansali copy maarta hai usko.” “Bhansali ki maa ka…”)

MFF Diary – Day 4

फिर सुबह

आज सुबह-सुबह ऑटो वाले ने हड़का दिया. मैंने कहा जल्दी चलो फिल्म छूट जायेगी, तो उसे गुस्सा आ गया कि मैं सोमवार को सुबह ९ बजे फिल्म देखने जा रहा हूँ. जब मैंने कहा मेरा काम है फिल्म देखना तो भी वो नहीं माना. बोला फिल्म देखना काम कैसे हो सकता है. मैंने कहा मैं फिल्म देखकर उसके बारे में लिखूँगा. उसने कहा “फिल्म के बारे में लिखा कोई क्यों पढ़ेगा? फिल्म तो देखने की चीज़ है.” यहाँ मुझे Martin Mull या किसी और की कही हुई शानदार बात याद आ गयी कि – Talking about music is like dancing about architecture.

पर हम, फिर भी लिखे जा रहे हैं.

आसमान से गिरती गाय

Chinese Takeaway

Sebastian Borensztein की Argentinian फिल्म Chinese Takeaway के पहले ही सीन में आसमान से एक गाय गिरती है और एक नाव में बैठी लड़की उसके नीचे दब कर मर जाती है. अखबार में आने वाली इस तरह की खबरों को जमा करने वाला एक हार्डवेयर दुकान का मालिक हमारा नायक है. शायद उसकी ज़िंदगी पेंच-छर्रे-रिवेट बेचते बेचते इतनी बोरिंग हो गयी है कि freak accidents के रोज़मर्रा उदाहरणों से नीचे कुछ भी उसे मज़ा नहीं दे सकता.

यहाँ मुझे याद आया कि बचपन में गर्मी की छुट्टियों में नानी के घर यमुनानगर जाने का एक highlight ये भी होता था कि वहाँ हमें ‘पंजाब केसरी’ अखबार मिलेगा जिसमें पहले ही पेज पर कहाँ कौन सा बच्चा अपने गुब्बारे के साथ उड़ गया या कहाँ किस किसान ने २० किलो का प्याज उगाया या कहाँ कौन सी बुढिया मरने के ८-घंटों बाद फिर जिंदा हो गयी जैसी खबरें भर-भर के मिलेंगी. Morbid fascination बचपन में काफी ज़्यादा होता है. बड़े होकर वही अपने डर में बदल जाता है. मेरे साथ तो कम से कम यही हुआ.

खैर…फिल्म का नायक, जो दुनिया में एकदम अकेला है और किसी पुराने प्यार को भी वापस अपनी ज़िंदगी में आने से stonewall ही कर रहा है, इन खबरों को बड़े सलीके से संजो के रखता है. और एक दिन, ऐसी ही एक अजीब खबर उसकी ज़िंदगी में चली आती है. अर्जेंटीना में, सड़क पर उसे एक ऐसा चीनी शरणार्थी मिल जाता है जिसे स्पैनिश का आधा स भी नहीं आता. और उसके आने से chaos theory की एक ऐसी लड़ी शुरू होती है जिसमें एक उदास, अकेले जीवन पर meditation, एक निरंतर खोज, और दुनिया की randomness पर एक बहुत ही नया perspective एक-एक कर के सामने आते हैं.

Ricardo Darin, जिन्हें मैं South American इरफ़ान खान मानता हूँ, फिल्म को कई कंधे ऊपर ले जाते हैं. और सुबह-सुबह मुम्बई के खतम-ट्रैफिक से जूझने को अपनी आँखों से ही सार्थक कर देते हैं.

रंगीन अखबार 


जिसे कह सकते हैं दिव्य-योग….कि हमने सुबह देखी एक ऐसी फिल्म जिसमें बंदा पंजाब केसरी जैसे मसाला-अखबारों में से खबरें ढूँढता है और दोपहर को देखी एक डॉक्यूमेंट्री जो हमें एक मसालेदार, voyeuristic खबर के अंदर ले जाती है. Errol Morris की डॉक्यूमेंट्री Tabloid (ट्रेलर यहाँ देखें: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TWeQce0cZsE) एक ऐसी juicy tabloid story के अंदर कूदती है जिसमें sex, religion, crime, celebrity और emotional hook का बराबर मिश्रण है. ७० के दशक में, अमेरिका की एक छुटभैय्या ब्यूटी क्वीन अपने प्यार का पीछा करते करते ब्रिटेन आ जाती है. उसका प्रेमी यहाँ एक आधुनिक चर्च में पादरी बनने आया है. यहाँ से कहानी के तीन रास्ते खुलते हैं, जिनमें ब्रिटेन के २ Tabloids और लड़की, कहानी का अपना-अपना version बताते हैं.

लड़की उसका अपहरण कर के उसके साथ सेक्स करती है. लड़की उसका अपहरण नहीं करती बल्कि वो खुद अपनी मर्ज़ी से उसके साथ जाता है और सेक्स करता है. लड़की अपहरण करती है लेकिन लड़का इस अपहरण से खुश है.

लेकिन फिल्म इस मुद्दे पर नहीं है कि लड़की ने उसके साथ क्या किया. फिल्म उस सतरंगी दुनिया पर है जो इस तरह के कयासों पर टिकी है – पत्रकारों, फोटोग्राफरों, राखीसावंतनुमा सेलिब्रिटीज, इन सेलिब्रिटीज के आस-पास घूमने वाले parasites, और एक बहुत ही चुपचाप तरह से, इन अखबारों को ट्रेन में एक पाँव पर खड़े होकर, २-फोल्ड मारकर पढ़ने वाले हम जैसे लोगों से बना ये tabloid food-chain.

लेकिन ये food-chain ऊपर से नीचे वाला नहीं है. इसे food-circle कहना ज़्यादा अच्छा होगा. सब एक दूसरे को खा रहे हैं, और एक दूसरे को खाना ही इनका final product है…असली खबर.

बहुत ही चुटीले अंदाज़ में बनायी गयी ये डॉक्यूमेंट्री आपका विचार बदल सकती है कि डॉक्यूमेंट्री का मतलब है बोरिंग, समाज-सुधारक वक्तव्य. इतना मज़ा अच्छी-अच्छी बड़े बजट की मसाला फिल्मों में नहीं आता जितना इन सचमुच के किरदारों को एक ३०-साल पुराने २-कौड़ी के केस पर बतियाते हुए आता है. और फिल्म खुद कहीं से voyeuristic नहीं है – बस एक बहुत ही insightful, कड़क reflection है मीडिया और हमारे basic instincts पर.

घोड़ा दर-बदर

फिल्म की जगह-जगह तारीफ़ सुनी थी और कहीं पढ़ा था कि इसमें satire का element है, इसलिए देखने पहुँच गए. Suseenthrian की तमिल फिल्म Azhagarsamiyin Kudhirai (अड्गस्वामी का घोड़ा) लेकिन फिल्म के नाम पर धोखा था. ऐसी फिल्म किसी फिल्म फेस्टिवल में पहुँच गयी यही थोड़ा आश्चर्य है. मूल कथा अच्छी है…लेकिन उसे बनाने का तरीका ठेठ मसाला. एक गाँव के कुल देवता के मंदिर से लकड़ी का घोड़ा गायब हो जाता है तो उसकी जगह लोग एक गरीब का घोड़ा पकड़ के वहाँ बिठा देते हैं. उसके बाद वो गरीब कैसे अपना घोड़ा वापस पाता है और गाँव का खोया घोड़ा कैसे वापस मिलता है यही कथा है. लेकिन २ घंटे तक फिल्म इस मामले को छोड़कर हर दिशा में दौड़ती है. २ प्रेम कहानियाँ, ३ गाने, गाँव का एक casanova, तीन-चार fight scenes, और अंत में ‘तेरी महरबानियाँ’ टाइप घोड़े का मालिक को बचाने का एक्शन. और सब कुछ ऐसा loud कि सर घूम गया कसम से.

MFF Diary – Day 3


Suddenly missing writing in English, so today’s post in Bond’s language. Also, a day like this, where all the films watched were in English, all goes.


One strange thing I have done this fest (which I don’t think will go down well with veteran festival watchers) is to not even flip over the pages of the thick brochure to look at synopsis written by underpaid writing assistants for festival submissions. (Though if it’s a first film by an independent writer-director, fair chances are he himself has written it, before himself delivering the screener DVDs to the courier man as carefully as a basket of eggs.)

This bordering-on-paranoia refusal to read or hear anything about the film I’m going to watch has given me the slight edge of surprise when the film starts. Though that also means the decision of what to watch has been left on a close group of cinephiles. Fair deal, so far.

Weird People

Jesus H Christ

Dennis Lee’s Jesus Henry Christ. The name of the film gave me visuals of either a mob film or a character study of a radical. Don’t know why these two visuals but I was pretty sure I wasn’t going in for an easy watch for the 1st film of the day. But what rolled on screen was something entirely different. A mad comedy about a dysfunctional family of ‘freaks’. It was like Wes Anderson (one of my favorite directors from America) done to a higher note. Lack of time and the fact that this is a film about which the lesser you know, the more you’ll enjoy it, I will stop right here. Just watch it. It’ll be on torrents for sure.

Food porn


That’s how Kartik Krishnan recommended this film to me. “Food-porn hai…chal na!” But S.J. Clarkson’s British film Toast turned out to be a food-period-drama. Yes, that genre sounds random but that is closer to the essence of the film than food-porn or simple, clipped ‘drama’ the official synopsis would have told.

Story of a young kid of a sad family in 60’s Britain, whose only cheerful memories are building around food, Toast has flashes of brilliance every ten minutes or so. And in between, the film sometimes sags into pure repetition, kitchen-politics executed as sloppily as a TV soap, and British accent too hard to understand. But still, the brilliant parts are brilliant enough to ignore the rest.

Shuffle in your seat, sir

The third film of the day, whose synopsis (deliberately, I suppose) didn’t say much about what we are going to get into, was one of the high-points of this festival till now. A film that slips under your skin, and slowly tries to unbutton your multiple-nudities. The Monster’s Dinner, a Turkish film by Ramin Martin is set in a time and place which could be anywhere. “Everything is normal”, as the synopsis reads. A couple are waiting at their home for another couple to have dinner together. But slowly, and very steadily, the ripples start to form. The friends have entered the house with a chained-kid and he is taken to the kitchen table and tied there. Without a flinch or a look. Normally.

(SPOILERS AHEAD) Then the guests see the hosts’ neighbor being killed by cops in the street. From their windows. And joke about telling on their own neighbor and getting him killed. Normally. Then one of the two men excuses himself to go to the loo and masturbate. Normally. Then the kid is brought into the hall for a slapping ceremony. Normally. Then one of the men confesses, almost crying and justifying the trigger for such a heinous act, to having made a painting recently. Normally. You get the point by now, right? The film is like a top-10 list (like stand-up comics do) of ‘things that will happen in an apocalyptic world’. And here’s my disappointment – the film doesn’t go beyond lists. In fact, I can practically write the whole screenplay in the format I just gave above. A film, according to me, should unfold above enlisting. Once you get the ‘accent’ of the times these characters represent, nothing’s left to be discovered. (Spoilers end)

But still, films like these always validate a film festival’s existence. Something unseen, unexpected, unsettling, and brilliant (at least idea-wise). Watch it, whenever, wherever, possible, before the world becomes like the one shown in the film.


“The film’s over? But it just started?” That was our first reaction as soon as the Hollywood biggie and day’s last film, George Clooney’s The Ides of March ended. Brilliant cast, great performances, a taut as a new underwear’s elastic screenplay, and all that….but the film ended even before it started. Just one twist and that’s all. Won’t write more about this as it will get a major release aur sabko aur sabke uncle ji ko dekhne ko milegi.






MFF Diary – Day 2

फिर लेट 

आज रास्ते में हाथी नहीं मिला, बस सुबह अपना बटुआ ही खो दिया घर में कहीं. अब काश ऐसा होता कि कल चौराहे पर हाथी की जगह बटुआ मिलता और आज बटुए की जगह हाथी खोया होता तो दोनों दिन मैं समय पर पहुँचता.

सुबह-सुबह थप्पड़ 

The Slut

जैसे किसी को नींद से जगते ही थप्पड़ मार दिया जाए, ऐसी थी आज की पहली फिल्म The Slut. Hagar Ben Asher की इस्राइली फिल्म की पहली सबसे ज़बरदस्त बात तो यही थी कि ये क्लासिक slut with a golden heart की कहानी को पलट कर slut with a selfish heart बनाने की तरफ चलती है. एक ऐसी औरत जो सब कुछ चाहती है. ढेर सारा सम्भोग, अलग-अलग आदमियों का प्यार और उनके प्यार के अलग-अलग peripheral benefits (जिनमें अपनी दो बेटियों के लिए मुफ्त की मिली साइकल भी शामिल है) और सुबह सोच कर दोपहर को अपना बच्चा गिराने की आज़ादी.

लेकिन मज़े की बात यह है कि Slut शब्द का प्रयोग भी यहाँ इसलिए है कि ऐसी औरत को आम दर्शक सबसे पहले इसी generic category में रखेगा. तो एक तरह से फिल्म का ये शीर्षक उस औरत का सच नहीं, उसका वो perception बताता है जो हम आप घर ले जायेंगे.  फिल्म के अंदर कोई भी किरदार उसको slut नहीं बोलता लेकिन देखते हुए एक point आएगा (मेरे सामने तो आया था) जहाँ आपको लगेगा कि ये एक अच्छे-खासे आदमी से, जो उससे सचमुच का प्यार करता है, और उसके बच्चों को संभाल रहा है, धोखा कर रही है. बड़ी चालू है. (मुझे याद है मेरे एक जानने वाले ने तो ‘हज़ारों ख्वाहिशें ऐसी’ देखकर भी यही कहा था कि ये बस एक हरामी लड़की की हवस की कहानी थी.) और ऐसे point पर फिल्म आपको अपने moral system से मुखातिब कराती है. Uncomfortable करती है ये दिखाकर कि आप जो हैं और आप जो होना चाहते हैं, वो दो पहाड़ हैं और बीच में एक खाई है.

फिल्म की दूसरी शानदार बात – इसकी निर्देशिका Hagar Ben Asher जो तामार नाम की औरत की मुख्य भूमिका में भी खुद हैं. ज़बरदस्त मिश्रण था उनके चेहरे में थकान और explosive energy का. और एक बहुत ही undecipherable सा भाव जो फिल्म के अंत तक बना रहा और इसकी open-ending के सूत्र सा लटकता रहा.

और बाकी सब भी शानदार था. जब भी मौका मिले, ज़रूर देखें. (और खुद को परखें भी.)

नया देश, नयी कहानी


दूसरी फिल्म देखी Guatemala के Sergio Ramirez की Distancia (Distance). वैसे साथ गए ज्यादातर फिल्मचियों को ये पसंद नहीं आई लेकिन मुझे अच्छी लगी. Filmmaking थोड़ी कच्ची थी लेकिन कहीं भी नकली नहीं थी. कहानी भी ज़रा सी ही थी. एक छोटे से गाँव में एक बूढा अपनी २०-साल से खोई हुई बेटी को ढूँढने के लिए desperation की इस हद तक जा चुका है कि जब गाँव के पास एक जगह mass graves निकलती हैं तो वहाँ भी रोज़ चक्कर लगाता है और पूछता है कि उसकी बेटी के पिंजर मिले क्या. फिर एक दिन बेटी मिल जाती है. जिंदा. कहीं दूर के गाँव में. और बूढा किसान अपनी बेटी से मिलने निकल पड़ता है. बेटी से उसका मिलना फिल्म का अंतिम दृश्य है लेकिन अब बेटी उसकी भाषा तक नहीं बोलती. बूढा बेटी को उसकी ही बचपन की कॉपी देता है जिसमें बेटी ने अपने पिता की (यानी इसी बूढ़े की) कहानी लिखना शुरू किया था और पिछले २० सालों में बूढ़े ने उस कहानी को पूरा कर दिया है. (मैंने पूरी कहानी इसलिए दे दी यहाँ क्योंकि मुझे उम्मीद नहीं कि ये फिल्म कभी भी torrent पर आएगी.)

बेटी के गायब होने के पीछे Guatemala के दर्द की कहानी है. Military rule के चलते एक समय पर वहाँ बहुत massacre हुए और बेटी उसी बुरे दौर में बाप से छूट गयी. फिल्म काफी understated थी – काफी शांत सी. यही कहानी अगर hollywood बनाता तो शायद हर emotion स्क्रीन से कूद-कूद कर खुद ही हम पर आ गिरता. शायद यही कमी भी लगी सबको. जैसा कि moifightclub ने कहा – “फिल्म कहना बहुत कुछ चाहती थी, कहने को था भी बहुत कुछ, पर कहा नहीं.”

Generation Pop

देखने जाने वाले थे हमारे पसंदीदा Ricardo Darin की Chinese Takeaway लेकिन २ घंटा पहले पता चला कि वो कैंसल हो गयी. ज्ञानी लोगों ने बताया Generation P नाम की एक फिल्म है जो बहुत अच्छी होने की संभावना है. Wikipedia पर थोड़ा पढ़ा तो कुछ खास समझ नहीं आया. बस यही लगा कि हाँ किसी अच्छे novel पर based है तो arbit नहीं होगी. लाइन लगाने पहुँचे तो वहाँ अनुराग कश्यप दिख गए, तो थोड़ा भरोसा और बढ़ा कि शायद अच्छी ही फिल्म हो.

Che has a special appearance too

ये सब भूमिका इसलिए क्योंकि जब फिल्म देखकर बाहर निकला तो ऐसा लगा पार लग गया आज. जो फिल्म किस्मत से देखने गया था वही शायद इस फेस्टिवल की सबसे शानदार फिल्म हो. (कम से कम मेरे लिए क्योंकि मैंने असल में दो सबसे बड़ी फिल्में जो सब रंग-मिजाज़ के लोगों को बराबर पसंद आयीं, Michael और The Artist, दोनों ही miss कर दीं आज.) लेकिन बिना उन चीज़ों को बीच में लाये जो हुयीं ही नहीं, मेरे ख़याल से Victor Ginzburg की Generation P वो cinematic घटना है जो साल में एक बार ही होती है. शब्दों, विचारों, theories, statements, cynicism और subversion से ठूंस-ठूंस कर भरी इस फिल्म को बहुत आसानी से decode नहीं किया जा सकता. ऊपर से बहुत से references ठेठ Russian थे जिनको समझने के लिए लंबे समय तक रूस से दिल लगाना पड़ेगा.

लेकिन उसके बावजूद, जितना समझ में आया वो कुछ दिनों के लिए दिमाग खराब करने जितना काफी था. एक Post-modern novel पर एक बहुत ही जोशीली post-modern film बनाने की कोशिश की Victor Ginzburg ने और कम से कम मुझपर तो इस हद तक सफल हुए कि पूरी फिल्म में मैं या तो ताली बजाता रहा या अपनी सीट में उछलता रहा या मुस्कुराता रहा. Drugs-induced hallucinations को visual arts पढ़ चुके Victor ने कला की चरम तक फिल्म के narrative में इस्तेमाल किया है.

वैसे फिल्म देखकर सबसे पहली याद अनुराग कश्यप की No Smoking की ही आई. खास कर के फिल्म का अंतिम हिस्सा. लेकिन इसे सिर्फ brotherhood of drugs and subversion कहा जा सकता है, एक खास तरह की imagery और extreme pro-Individual कथानक – उससे ज़्यादा दोनों फ़िल्मों को जोड़ना शायद over-simplification हो जाएगा.

(इतना लिखने के बाद भी मैं वैसे अब तक फिल्म के बारे में कुछ बता नहीं पाया हूँ इसलिए अब कोशिश छोड़ता हूँ. बस फिल्म के दौरान मैंने जो notes बनाए थे उनमें से कुछ को as-it-is नीचे छाप रहा हूँ. इनमें फिल्म की lines, references, random snatches दिख जायेंगे. बाकी इस फिल्म को जानने का एक ही रास्ता है और वो है इसे आँख गडा के देखना.)

  • Legend of Ishtar
  • Fly agaric mushroom
  • “He looked like the final fragment of some parallel universe.”
  • Valhalla – heaven of Viking Warriors
  • (Death is when…) threads disappear but the sphere remains.
  • Tower of babel looked like an ancient multi-level parking lot.
  • “Man is wolf to man” “Also, man is wow to man” “Also, man himself is a wow in today’s times” “Hence, wow is wow to wow”.
  • TV is a modern-day human sacrifice altar.
  • “First class lord for first class people” (tagline for an ad for God’s repositioning in our market economy)
  • “Don’t worry about looking too stupid, worry about looking too smart.”
  • “Collective unconscious…” (drives the world)
  • “What’s your political view?” “Uhm…upper left.”
  • Inner tits.
  • Every politician is a TV show.
  • Pizdyet – the five legged dog.
  • 30 butterflies flew for eternity in search of their King Sembergh* never realizing Sembergh* means 30-butterflies only. (*Sembergh – Am not sure I got that name right.)


MFF Diary – Day 1 (updated)


जाग मुसाफिर, भोर भई…

वैसे अभी आधा दिन ही गुज़रा है लेकिन बीच में काम से बाहर निकलना पड़ा तो थोड़ा वक्त मिल गया सुबह की दो फिल्मों के बारे में जल्दी से लिखने का.

पहली फिल्म (१० बजे वाली) देखने के लिए कुछ मैं घर से देर से निकला और कुछ बंबई के ट्रैफिक ने अपनी काली शक्ल दिखा दी. बीच में एक भीड़ वाले सिग्नल पर, जहाँ हवलदार को खड़ा होना चाहिए था एक हाथी खड़ा था जनता से सिक्के बटोरने की जुगत में. सुबह सुबह हाथी को बीच शहर ऐसे कैसे घुसने दे सकते हैं ये सवाल सृष्टि में मैं पहला आदमी नहीं हूँ जो पूछ रहा है, लेकिन मेरे हिसाब से इस सवाल का जवाब ढूँढना ज़रूरी है.


मगरमच्छ का पहला शिकार

मेरी खुशकिस्मती से, फिल्म ज़रा देर से शुरू हुई. फिल्म थी Pierre Scholler की The Minister. Synopsis में लिखा था satire है इसलिए बड़ी उम्मीदों से देखने गया. Satire हम लोग कम ही बनाते हैं. बल्कि पूरी दुनिया ही कम बनाती है शायद. और क्यों कम बनाती है उसका कारण इस फिल्म के पहले सीन में ही है. जैसा कि कई प्रशासन के मारे पत्रकार और activist कह चुके हैं – राजतंत्र एक मगरमच्छ का पेट है जिसमें हम-आप जैसे दो कौड़ी के टिड्डे हजम हुए बिना ही गायब हो जाते हैं.

फिल्म के पहले सीन में इसी आधुनिक-कहावत को visual दे दिया गया है. एक निरी नग्न लड़की बड़ी अदा से चल कर आती है, और काले कपड़ो और नकाब वाले बंदोबस्त-कर्मियों के द्वारा सजाये गए एक कमरे में घुसती है. उस कमरे में एक बड़ा, घिनौना मगरमच्छ उसका इंतज़ार कर रहा है. लड़की अपनी टाँगे खोलकर मगरमच्छ को दिखाती है…और फिर धीरे धीरे उसके पेट में समा जाती है. यह सीन जितना shocking है, उतना ही अद्भुत भी क्योंकि इसको देखने के बाद वो कहावत सिर्फ कहावत नहीं रह जाती – एक possibility बन जाती है, literally.

The Minister

ये अजीब सा दृश्य असल में फिल्म के मुख्य किरदार Bertrand का सपना है. Bertrand French सरकार में ट्रांसपोर्ट मिनिस्टर है और उसकी ज़िंदगी में अब वो समय आने वाला है जहाँ उसको मगरमच्छ और नग्न लड़की, दोनों की ही भूमिका निभानी है. मेरे लिए फिल्म का असली hook, satire, वैसे काफी कम है. या इतना subtle है कि उसे keen observations कहा जा सकता है, satire नहीं. लेकिन बड़े गज़ब के keen observations हैं. जैसे कि किसी बड़ी दुर्घटना के बाद Minister की प्रेस कांफ्रेंस में कैसे उसकी tie का रंग भी उतना ही सही रखा जाता है जितना उसके बयान में sympathy और empathy का mix.  या bureaucrat-politician complex जिसमें दोनों को लगता है कि सरकार वो चला रहे हैं, सामने वाला तो चूतिया है.

Satire ना सही, लेकिन फिल्म बहुत गाढ़ी है. एक नयी दुनिया, वो दुनिया जो हम सबको चलाती है, के अंदर घुसती है और उसकी सारी खाल कुरेद-कुरेद कर दिखाती है. Bertrand का देश, बाकी के यूरोप (और India) की तरह, privatization vs. public sector debate से गुज़र रहा है और Bertrand को कभी दिल कभी दिमाग से इस खेल में अपनी चालें चलता है. तो एक तरह से फिल्म सिर्फ Bertrand की character study तक सीमित ना रहकर, The Minister as a concept/ideology को study करती है. बीच बीच में technical lingo की वजह से भारी भी होती है लेकिन इतने insightful तंत्र को जानने के रास्ते में ये छोटी दिक्कतें हैं.


बेला टार के घोड़े की हत्या

दूसरी फिल्म देखने गए (मास्टर कहे जाने वाले) Bela Tarr की The Turin Horse. लेकिन projection में कुछ दिक्कतों की वजह से subtitles कट रहे थे इसलिए अब शायद रात को screening दोबारा हो. जनता काफी गुस्से में थी और वाजिब भी है. (वैसे मुझे आजकल गुस्से में आए लोगों को देखकर हँसी आती है.) अभी सिर्फ १५-मिनट की देखी और visually खतरनाक है. पहले सीन में घोड़ा चलते हुए (single shot) तब तक दिखाया है जब तक उसकी थकान हम तक नहीं पहुँच जाती और उसके आगे वाले पैर आदमी के हाथ नहीं लगने लग जाते. सच में ऐसा ही लगता है. Bela Tarr के बहुत बड़े fan नीरज घायवान के हिसाब से ये फिल्म भी उनकी बाकी फिल्मों की तरह attrition (यानी की थका देने की हद तक visuals को निचोड़ने की कोशिश) को अपना style बनाती है. अब रात में देखेंगे तब बाकी पता चलेगा.


The death of Bela Tarr’s horse

Bleak, stunning, and murdered by MFF

The most bizarre and unfortunate thing happened with Bela Tarr’s The Turin Horse. The first screening in the morning was aborted (stopped 30-mins into the film) as they couldn’t project the film right. Yes. In a film festival, presenting one of the biggest draws of the schedule, they DIDN’T KNOW HOW TO PROJECT A FILM PRINT!

The film was rescheduled for a late night screening. We waited in queues for 45 minutes and when we got in – the first visuals on screen broke our hearts. They were playing it off a fucking DVD, with “TCR 1:20:20:14 PLAY LOCK” (the number being a running counter) printed at the bottom. Not only this, the print was much inferior, the screen darker, the sound almost a buzz, and suddenly, from what looked like a visual masterpiece in the morning started looking like (as Kartik Krishnan put it) – a state made documentary on how poor people boil potatoes. We walked out of the screening a second time in the day, this time hopeless and very angry. Ok, not as angry as amused that they’d play it off a screener DVD, the same copy that is already available on torrents for a month. I wouldn’t do such a thing to my best friends even.

And it’s as much an insult to the festival audience as it’s to the filmmaker’s work. No filmmaker, no matter how ordinary or great, wants his film to be projected wrongly. I have seen short filmmakers panicking for good quality headphones while showing their films to friends. (Recently, Terrence Malick sent out projection guidelines to screens across USA for his ‘The Tree of Life’.) And that is how it should be. Every frame, every little hint of a sound, has been put together after, sometimes, years of work and reason and deliberation. If even film festivals disregard basics – hope will soon fade out. Boo to the festival organizers and director! And of course to Cinemax Versova (though they care a rat’s ass, I’m sure.)

The prologue of The Turin Horse tells us about how the great philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once saw a horse being flogged badly and something snapped inside him. He went ahead and hugged the horse and cried like crazy. After 2-days of silence and illness, he lost his sanity forever. Though nobody knows what happened to that horse. (The film is story of that horse and its owner.)

After the depressing (alternatively laughable) state of affairs yesterday, it doesn’t seem too big a stretch to imagine Bela Tarr hugging and crying over his film being flogged by Mumbai Film Festival organizers.

कठो उपनिषद – कुछ भी

दोपहर में देखी ये फिल्म (कठो उपनिषद) जो सिर्फ इसलिए देखी क्योंकि मृत्यु से संवाद जैसा विषय मुझे आजकल बहुत खींचता है. Mid-life crisis का पहला sign है शायद. लेकिन फिल्म में देखने लायक कुछ मिला नहीं. ३ अध्याय थे. तीनों को एक-एक single-shot में लिया गया था. बस वही चमत्कार था. उसके अलावा लेखक-निर्देशक आशीष अविकुन्तक कुछ नहीं बता पाए. यम और नचिकेता के बीच का संवाद होना था जिसमें हमें मृत्यु के बारे में कुछ गहरे राज़ मिलने थे. लेकिन फिल्म समाप्त हो गयी और मिला corporate jargon जैसा ‘शरीर नश्वर है, आत्मा अमर है’. जो हमें तब से पता है जब से हमें शरीर और आत्मा का फर्क भी नहीं पता था.

Above us only sky – Beauty of loss

Sandra Huller was stunning as Martha

Jan Schomburg’s German film Above us only sky was one of those moments where you can actually feel the film slipping out of your hands, and be sad about it. For the initial 40-minutes or so – Jan takes us on an internal journey, a journey kicked off by the sudden suicide of a lovely and loving lady’s now-silent, now-normal husband. It’s the external journey, the lady’s trip to cope with this loss, that is either implausible or not expressed cinematically. The film frustrates, and not in the way bad films do, but in a personal way. Like when you see a friend going on a self-defeating trip. The abrupt last chunk didn’t help things either. Still, I’d watch it again for the magical initial 40-minutes.