April 19, 2014

True to the Image

The immortal image of the star-director 'Guido', played by Marcello Mastroianni, from Fellini's "8 1/2" is the official face of this year's Cannes film festival, arguably the greatest on this planet. And the recently-announced list of movies to be screened there in the third and fourth week of May shows how the festival has lived up to all expectations, bringing several star-directors under the same roof.

Imagine Jean-Luc Godard, Atom Egoyan, Ken Loach, David Cronenberg, Mike Leigh, and the Dardenne Brothers in competition for the highest prize of the festival - the Palme d'or. And there are more names to this list. Michel Hazanavicius is coming with his next film after 'The Artist'. Tommy Lee Jones has a film he just directed. Then we have Bennett Miller ('Capote', 'Moneyball'), Olivier Assayas (with his fourth Palme d'or nomination; his last film 'Something in the Air' had won awards at Venice 2012), the 25-year old Xavier Dolan with his fifth feature film (all his four films, including 'Laurence Anyways' and 'Tom at the Farm' have won awards at Cannes or Venice), Naomi Kawase (had won Camera d'or in 1997 and this is her fourth Palme d'or nomination since then), and Nuri Bilge Ceylan (five of his films, including 'Distant' and 'Once Upon a Time in Anatolia' have won awards at Cannes and Berlin).

The latest films by Zhang Yimou and Olivier Dahan ('La vie en Rose') are being screened out of competition.

And then we have Wim Wenders, Rolf de Heer from the Netherlands (with seventh film at either Berlin, Venice or Cannes), and Ryan Gosling with his directorial debut among the eighteen films in the Un Certain Regard category. This list also has the sole Indian film, 'Titli' by Kanu Behl.

Meanwhile, I am planning my own "Cannes in Andheri 2014" film festival that will start once I get back to Mumbai.

April 08, 2014

The Most Scandalous Film I Have Watched?

A Lars von Trier film does not shock me any more. It seems I have accepted him as an unapologetically provocative film-maker and am willing to watch anything he creates, and mostly he offers something much more than just blood and gore and graphic nudity. There have been films like 'Eraserhead', 'Dogtooth', and 'Cannibal Holocaust', which have been very disturbing to watch.Then there are films which are made to cash on their sensational content without any real merit. But to watch an acclaimed master like Nagisa Oshima make 'In the Realm of the Senses (1976)', a film with endless and tiring unsimulated sex and hardly any plot movement or character development, was very shocking for me. And then the climax is graphically so repulsive that I really think this is the most scandalous film I have watched. Please watch it only if you have the gut and the spirit to forgive and forget.

P.S. Have been travelling since the first week of March. Hence no post all this while. Really missing writing on this space. Wish I could multi-task more effectively.

February 17, 2014

Berlin in Andheri 2014

The recently concluded Berlin Film Festival awarded the top prize to the Chinese film, 'Black Coal, Thin Ice' (2014), making it one of the most eagerly awaited films for cinephiles all across the world. The third film by director Diao Yi'nan has also placed him as another film-maker from China whom the world will be following.

Meanwhile, in the last few weeks I had my own 'Berlin in Andheri' film festival, watching all kinds of films, and discovering some new film-makers - previous awards-winners. The 18 films that I watched as part of this year's festival are the following. Some of them are available on YouTube.

1. Opening Film: Child's Pose (2013/ Romania/ Calin Peter Netzer) Won Golden Bear and FIPRESCI Prize in 2013. Watch it for the portrayal of a conflicted mother-son relationship

2. Cul-de-Sac (1966/ UK/ Roman Polanski) Won Golden Bear in 1966. Watch it if you are a Polanski fan

3. Show Me Love aka Fucking Amal (1998/ Sweden/ Lukas Moodysson) Won Teddy Award for Best Feature Film in 1999. Watch it. Just watch it.

4. Elite Squad (2007/ Brazil/ Jose Padilha) Won Golden Bear in 2008. Watch it if you want to see a foreign-language film that is as stylish and accessible as the best of Hollywood. And then watch its sequel, which is also in IMDB Top 250 currently.

5. Gloria (2013/ Chile/ Sebastian Lelio) Won Silver Bear for Best Actress to Paulina Garcia and two more awards in 2013. Watch it for its brutally honest take on growing old without a partner.

6. I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK (2006/ South Korea/ Park Chan-wook) Won the Alfred Bauer Prize in 2007. Watch it if you want to see something crazy, funny, and sad at the same time.

7. The Nasty Girl (1990/ West Germany/ Michael Verhoeven) Won Silver Bear for Best Director and two more awards in 1990. Watch it if for the quirks. Watch it if you liked 'Amelie' (2001). 

8. Masculin Feminin (1966/ France/ Jean-Luc Godard) Silver Bear for Best Actor to Jean-Pierre Leaud and two more awards in 1966. Watch it if you liked 'Breathless'.

9. Peacock (2005/ China/ Changwei Gu) Jury Grand Prix in 2005. Watch it for its compositions and camerawork.

10. The Broken Circle Breakdown (2012/ Belgium/ Felix Van Groeningen) Won Panorama Audience Award and Label Europa Cinemas Award in 2013. Watch it for the way it blends music with tragedy.

11. The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (1974/ Canada/ Ted Kotcheff) Won Golden Bear in 1974. 
Watch it for the performance of Richard Dreyfuss.

12. Early Works (1969/ Yugoslavia/ Zelimir Zelnik) Won Golden Bear and Youth Film Award in 1969. Watch it if you are interested in socialist ideology and/or the form of cinema.

13. Offside (2006/ Iran/ Jafar Panahi) Won Jury Grand Prix in 2006. Watch it if you are in love with football, or Iranian cinema.

14. The Road to Guantanamo (2006/ UK/ by Mat Whitecross and Michael Winterbottom) Won Silver Bear for Best Director in 2006. Watch it for the way it blends drama with documentary.

15. All Things Fair (1996/ Sweden/ Bo Widerberg) Won Special Jury Prize in 1996. Watch it for its sensitive portrayal of a forbidden love.

16. Sweet Emma, Dear Bobe (1992/ Hungary/ Istvan Szabo) Won Jury Grand Prize in 1992. Watch it for its powerful images, especially the opening and the closing shots.

17. Adaptation (2002/ USA/ Spike Jonze) Won Jury Grand Prize in 2003. I was tempted to recommend it as a "must watch before you die". Watch it to figure out why. And also, why I didn't recommend it.

18. Closing Film: Sophie Scholl - The Final Days (2005/ Germany/ Marc Rothemund) Won Silver Berlin Bears for the director as well as for the actress, Julia Jentsch. Another film on the Resistance against Nazis. But extremely powerful and involving.

February 10, 2014

Thank You, my Blog!

I am generally not comfortable using the space on this blog to upload pictures about Devanshu and me receiving prizes or attending film festivals with our film. But something happened last evening that forced me to do this. And I am not talking about the three awards that we won last evening. Please allow me this indulgence, and read on...

In the year 1994, the documentary that won the Golden Conch at 'Bombay International Documentary Film Festival' was "Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media" by directors Mark Achbar and Peter Wintonick. Twenty years later, in February 2014, the festival, now known as Mumbai International Film Festival (Shorts, Animation, Documentary), had Mark Achbar as the head of one of its juries. Peter Wintonick had passed away less than three months ago and the festival began with a homage to him. "Manufacturing Consent" in these twenty years had already become one of the most famous documentaries in the world.

At the award function, the Mark Achbar led jury was also responsible for the four awards in the Short Fiction (National Competition) category. And three of those awards came our way, for our little Kashmiri film, Tamaash, the awards for Best Cinematography (Sahir Raza), Best Sound (Yatin Dabhi, Manoj Sikka, and Abhishek Bhattathiri), and Best Film. It was incredible and overwhelming, and perhaps the best part about it was something I could not experience - my family could watch the program live on National TV back home!

At the dinner after the awards, Mark and his wife gracefully approached me to congratulate me for the film. "Now I can talk with you", he said. We had a long chat, about our film, other films in competition, about the brother-duo in Devanshu and me, about how the Coen brothers work, and about the three years his wife had spent in Bombay as a kid way back in the 60s. However, the biggest and most pleasant surprise for me was when he said, just after the first line, "So is it you who writes the blog, or is it your brother?"

I was staring at his face with wide eyes and a shocked smile, wondering how he got to read my blog. "After watching your film, one of the jury members looked you up on Google. And he shared your blog with us. We read your post on 30 things you learnt while making a short film." It is a post more than two years old. Even I didn't remember if it were exactly 30 lessons and hence was not sure if it was this blog he had read. But then, mentioning the name of the blog made it clear.

Am I exaggerating when I say that this was perhaps as memorable a moment for me as it was going up the stage and winning the awards? This blog has been a sacred space for me, to talk about my love affair with the movies, and until now I have not actively shared it with people. But to know that Mark Achbar and other jury members came here on this cyber space and went through some of my articles is humbling and inspiring at the same time.

Thank you, my dear blog! You have been the source of very special joys!

February 07, 2014

A 50-Min Video Discussing 'the Greatest Film Ever Made'

If you have watched 'Citizen Kane' and wonder why it is considered the greatest ever in the history of cinema, may be this 50-minute video may answer some of your questions.

I have not spent so much time studying any other film. Despite that I learnt some new things about it in this brief and well-made video. Honestly, the three-hour lecture I get to take on this film, as a part of the course for the BMM students, is one of my favourites. I don't know if it is possible to determine the greatest among all films. But as long as they say it is 'Citizen Kane', I don't mind!

January 23, 2014

Cinema Lessons by Akira Kurosawa

"I want to make movies, beautiful movies. I've pursued that goal for more than 50 years, close to 60 years now. But I don't think I've yet fully grasped what a movie is."

These words by the master film-maker start this wonderful 80-minute film that covers several aspects of Kurosawa's film-making. An enlightening watch, I hope it does teach you important lessons in film-making.

January 19, 2014

100 Greatest Indian Films: A List by NDTV

After CNN-IBN's list of the 100 greatest Indian films, following is a different list by NDTV. Sixty Hindi films feature in this list, and hence it is very different from the CNN-IBN list. Of course, the validity of such lists will always be debated. However, it can be interesting to see which films feature in both lists. There are forty-nine of them and I have marked them in bold. And yes, as on date, my score on this list is a not-so-impressive 62/100. What is yours?

  • Raja Harishchandra (1913/ Silent/ Dadasaheb Phalke)
  • Achhut Kanya (1936/ Hindi/ Franz Osten)
  • Sant Tukaram (1936/ Marathi/ V G Damle)
  • Neecha Nagar (1946/ Hindi/ Chetan Anand)
  • Awaara (1951/ Hindi/ Raj Kapoor)
  • Do Bigha Zameen (1953/ Hindi/ Bimal Roy)
  • Shyamchi Aai (1953/ Marathi/ P K Atre)
  • Pather Panchali (1955/ Bengali/ Satyajit Ray)
  • Devdas (1955/ Hindi/ Bimal Roy)
  • Aparajito (1956/ Bengali/ Satyajit Ray)
  • Naya Daur (1957/ Hindi/ B R Chopra)
  • Kabuliwala (1957/ Bengali/ Tapan Sinha)
  • Pyaasa (1957/ Hindi/ Guru Dutt)
  • Mother India (1957/ Hindi/ Mehboob Khan)
  • Harano Sur (1957/ Bengali/ Ajoy Kar)
  • Mayabazar (1957/ Telugu/ K V Reddy)
  • Jalsaghar (1958/ Bengali/ Satyajit Ray)
  • Madhumati (1958/ Hindi/ Bimal Roy)
  • Apur Sansar (1959/ Bengali/ Satyajit Ray)
  • Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959/ Hindi/ Guru Dutt)
  • Sujata (1959/ Hindi/ Bimal Roy)
  • Meghe Dhaka Tara (1960/ Bengali/ Ritwik Ghatak)
  • Mughal-e-Azam (1960/ Urdu-Hindi/ K Asif)
  • Saptapadi (1961/ Bengali/ Ajoy Kar)
  • Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (1962/ Hindi/ Abrar Alvi)
  • Subarnarekha (Bengali/ 1962/ Ritwik Ghatak)
  • Bandini (1963/ Hindi/ Bimal Roy)
  • Mahanagar (1963/ Bengali/ Satyajit Ray)
  • Charulata (1964/ Bengali/ Satyajit Ray)
  • Guide (1965/ Hindi/ Vijay Anand)
  • Nayak (1966/ Bengali/ Satyajit Ray)
  • Aakhri Khat (1966/ Hindi/ Chetan Anand)
  • Padosan (1968/ Hindi/ Jyoti Swaroop)
  • Bhuvan Shome (1969/ Hindi/ Mrinal Sen)
  • Delva Magan (1969/ Tamil/ A C Tirulokchandar)
  • Aranyer Din Ratri (1970/ Bengali/ Satyajit Ray)
  • Samskara (1970/ Kannada/ P R Reddy)
  • Anand (1971/ Hindi/ Hrishikesh Mukherjee)
  • Uphaar (1971/ Hindi/ Sudhendu Roy)
  • Sharapanjara (1971/ Kannada/ Puttanna Kanagal)
  • Swayamvaram (1972/ Malayalam/ Adoor Gopalakrishnan)
  • Pakeezah (1972/ Hindi/ Kamal Amrohi)
  • Garam Hava (1973/ Hindi/ M S Sathyu)
  • Ankur (1974/ Hindi/ Shyam Benegal)
  • Rajnigandha (1974/ Hindi/ Basu Chatterjee)
  • Deewar (1975/ Hindi/ Yash Chopra)
  • Sholay (1975/ Hindi/ Ramesh Sippy)
  • Manthan (1976/ Hindi/ Shyam Benegal)
  • Moondru Mudichu (1976/ Tamil/ K Balachander)
  • Shatranj Ke Khilari (1977/ Hindi/ Satyajit Ray)
  • Ghatashraddha (1977/ Kannada/ Girish Kasaravalli)
  • Bhumika (1977/ Hindi/ Shyam Benegal)
  • Amar Akbar Anthony (1977/ Hindi/ Manmohan Desai)
  • Junoon (1978/ Hindi/ Shyam Benegal)
  • Gol Maal (1979/ Hindi/ Hrishikesh Mukherjee)
  • Bhavni Bhavai (1980/ Gujarati/ Ketan Mehta)
  • Aakrosh (1980/ Hindi/ Govind Nihalani)
  • Elippathayam (1981/ Malayalam/ Adoor Gopalakrishnan)
  • 36, Chowringhee Lane (1981/ English-Bengali/ Aparna Sen)
  • Chashme Buddoor (1981/ Hindi/ Sai Paranjpye)
  • Arth (1982/ Hindi/ Mahesh Bhatt)
  • Shakti (1982/ Hindi/ Ramesh Sippy)
  • Moondram Pirai (1982/ Tamil/ Balu Mahendra)
  • Umbartha (1982/ Marathi/ Jabbar Patel)
  • Ardh Satya (1983/ Hindi/ Govind Nihalani)
  • Masoom (1983/ Hindi/ Shekhar Kapur)
  • Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro (1983/ Hindi/ Kundan Shah)
  • Saaransh (1984/ Hindi/ Mahesh Bhatt)
  • Paar (1984/ Hindi/ Goutam Ghose)
  • Paroma (1984/ Bengali/ Aparna Sen)
  • Nayagan (1987/ Tamil/ Mani Ratnam)
  • Ijaazat (1987/ Hindi/ gulzar)
  • Mirch Masala (1987/ Hindi/ Ketan Mehta)
  • Pushpaka Vimana (1987/ Silent/ S S Rao)
  • Halodhia Choraye Baodhan Khai (1987/ Assamese/ Jahnu Barua)
  • Salaam Bombay! (1988/ Hindi/ Mira Nair)
  • Parinda (1989/ Hindi/ Vidhu Vinod Chopra)
  • Roja (1992/ Tamil/ Mani Ratnam)
  • Bandit Queen (1994/ Hindi/ Shekhar Kapur)
  • Unishe April (1994/ Bengali/ Rituparno Ghosh)
  • Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (1995/ Hindi/ Aditya Chopra)
  • Kathapurushan (1995/ Malayalam/ Adoor Gopalakrishnan)
  • Thaayi Saheba (1997/ Kannada/ Girish Kasaravalli)
  • Satya (1998/ Hindi/ Ram Gopal Varma)
  • Sarfarosh (1999/ Hindi/ John Matthew Matthan)
  • Vanaprastham (1999/ Malayalam/ Shaji N Karun)
  • Lagaan (2001/ Hindi/ Ashutosh Gowariker)
  • Dil Chahta Hai (2001/ Hindi/ Farhan Akhtar)
  • Dweepa (2002/ Kannada/ Girish Kasaravalli)
  • Munnabhai MBBS (2003/ Hindi/ Rajkumar Hirani)
  • Maqbool (2004/ Hindi/ Vishal Bhardwaj)
  • Shwaas (2004/ Marathi/ Sandeep Sawant)
  • Swades (2004/ Hindi/ Ashutosh Gowariker)
  • Iqbal (2005/ Hindi/ Nagesh Kukunoor)
  • Taare Zameen Par (2007/ Hindi/ Aamir Khan)
  • Chak De! India (2007/ Hindi/ Shimit Amin)
  • Harishchandrachi Factory (2009/ Marathi/ Paresh Mokashi)
  • 3 Idiots (2009/ Hindi/ Rajkumar Hirani)
  • Paan Singh Tomar (2012/ Hindi/ Tigmanshu Dhulia)
  • Gangs of Wasseypur (2012/ Hindi/ Anurag Kashyap)

January 18, 2014

"Inside Llewyn Davis" (2013) by Joel and Ethan Coen

The soundtrack of "Inside Llewyn Davis" is playing on loop on my machine as I type these words. After an underwhelming first watch of this film last October, and reading its screenplay, I went to watch the final show of its very limited public screening last evening, despite a sprained foot. By the time the movie ended, I knew what my screenplay review is going to be like. And I knew that it had to start with this very honest confession: had it not been a script by the Coens, I would have rejected and ridiculed it. Reasons? Please read on.


If you have to write a film on the folk music scene in New York in the 60s, why would you not choose Bob Dylan, or other successful musicians? Why would you write a film on failure and hopelessness? And then you choose to depict one week of this singer's life, a week of an odyssey that, in words of Ethan Coen, takes him nowhere. Why would you take the risk of attempting such a story?

The answer to these questions is the filmography of the Coen Brothers, a filmography that has constantly tried to push the envelope with their themes, content, and aesthetic. Joel Coen says that failure for them is definitely more interesting a theme than success. And if cinema can dare go beyond what can be easily depicted, you do not have many film-makers who can be trusted to successfully do that. Finally it all makes sense to me. How do you show that "nothing is happening in someone's life", if you have significant plot movement? Also, from the perspective of the protagonist, a lot has happened in this one week: discovering and then trying to handle the pregnancy of his friend's wife he has been sleeping with, taking a crazy trip to Chicago and back, deciding to join the merchant marine and failing to, and eventually getting thrashed by a stranger outside the cafe he just performed at. This last incident is what had inspired the Coens in the first place, the idea of Dave Van Ronk, on whom the lead character is loosely based, getting beaten up by a stranger. Why would that happen? Who would do that? It was this that set them to write this film. And, well, they did find their answers. Didn't they?

Because this "nothingness" might not be the conventional stuff of movies, but is very much a part of artists unwilling to compromise, and going through an unending series of failure and disappointment. Llewyn is not the only artist suffering in the film. The elderly woman whom he insults during her performance is also one of the crowd of such failed artists. And it is her husband who thrashes Llewyn the next night. What led to Llewyn's outburst the previous night is the film. Of course, like all their previous films, characters remain the strongest aspect of the Coens' writing. Every single role, including those who appear for merely seconds, has been crafted with amazing and amusing attention to delicious details. And the spoken lines, those lines that you enjoy reading on the script, appear so much more impactful when they come alive on screen through these wonderful actors! To add to this, is the almost intimidating richness of the back-story. We writers know how tempting it is to not dwell much on the back-story and focus only on the main plot. The biggest learning from "Inside Llewyn Davis" for me is to realise yet again the importance of a writer's hard-work on the back story.

The scene descriptions that the Coens use are generally sparse, although never "unfilmable". The language they use is not English, but "American", pleasurable and inimitable. The most striking stylistic feature of the screenplay is to see how the writers have completely given up the convention to use scene headings. They neither use "EXT/INT" nor do they mention the time of the scene ("DAY/NIGHT"). They simply write: "HALLWAY" or "GAS STATION", and at times even "LLEWYN AT REGISTER" or "FULL NIGHT".

However, the script maintains pretty much a structure in three acts, including a major "page 17 plot event" (when Jean reveals her pregnancy to Llewyn) and a "resolution" of its own. After the futile trip to Chicago, Llewyn finally gives up and decides to join merchant marine. However, thanks to the character of his sister seeded earlier, he fails to. Everything going wrong continues to go wrong and this only means that destiny won't let him leave the music scene. The apparently circular structure of the screenplay, by smartly opening and ending with the same scene, reinforces this endlessness Llewyn is caught in, a cycle he cannot escape. There are portions in the script, like between pages 61 and 75 that cover Llewyn's car ride with Johny Five and Roland Turner, that appear a tad too long. I don't think deleting as many as ten pages from this portion would have lessened the impact of the film. Although even in such sequences, you never give up hope. You get this feeling that something is going to happen, in every scene - almost the sentiment Llewyn would feel every single morning, only to be disappointed again.

I was already convinced of the merits of the script as I read it a couple of days ago. But while watching the movie last evening something caught my attention, and has been bothering me since. It is the use of the cat in the plot. Joel Coen says that they were worried at one point about the film lacking any plot, and hence they "threw the cat in". However, I am increasingly believing that the cat is more than a MacGuffin, added to give more than just a "sense of plot movement". If we see the script chronologically, it opens with the cat, that lands on the chest of Llewyn and they have an eye-contact that almost "connects" them. As Llewyn leaves the house, the cat leaves with him, and eventually dangerously jumps out of the window of Jean's house. Has it something to do with Jean's disgust toward Llewyn, and the fact that both are not welcome here? Later, Llewyn spots the cat as he is arguing with Jean at a cafeteria. He thanks Jean for that, not knowing that this is not only a different cat, it is also a female. The Gorfeins find out that it is not their cat only when Llewyn has finished insulting them and spoiling their evening. He then carries this cat, down to Chicago, "not knowing what to do with it". But then, he abandons it, almost cruelly, in the car when the cops take Johny Five away. What does this lead to? Llewyn's final disappointment, when Bud Grossman coldly rejects him after giving him hope. On his way back, Llewyn accidentally injures a "small animal", described in the script as "a badger- or ferret-sized creature", and visibly feels guilty for that. Immediately after this, Llewyn gives up - and decides to join the merchant marine. Finally, when Llewyn goes to the Gorfeins, he surprisingly receives a warm welcome, despite last time's incident, and then he gets to know that the very same morning, their original cat had "found his way back". It is also now that we finally get to know the cat's name, although question regarding its name had come up at least twice earlier in the script. The cat is called Ulysses. Next day, just before the final scene, Llewyn spots on the street a movie poster - "The Incredible Journey", bearing the illustration of a cat with two dogs, and the tag-line "A Fantastic True-Life Drama."

I have not read Homer's "Odyssey", the protagonist of which is called Ulysses. But Wikipedia says it has the themes of temptation, disguise, identity, exile, and most importantly hospitality, where travellers and beggars often knock on strangers' doors hoping to find a place to stay. Knowing the Coens' love for weaving such details in their works, can we discard this all as coincidence, or should we try to find more meanings into the text? After all, the Greek name of Ulysses was "Odysseus", which meant "trouble", referring to both the giving and receiving of trouble in his wanderings. Isn't the cat, Ulysses, then very much a zoomorphism of the protagonist, Llewyn Davis, himself?

January 17, 2014

Top 10 at Oscars 2014

Like last year, I am presenting the list of the ten movies you must try to watch before the Oscar Awards function to have a good sense of what's happening out there, to comment whether a certain winner deserved the trophy, and to generally have more fun watching the live show, that is to be held on our Monday morning of 3rd March. You have about six weeks to watch these ten movies. I am sure, like me, you must have already watched at least 2-3 of these. Click on the titles to watch their trailers:

1. '12 Years a Slave' (9 nominations, including Picture, Director, Screenplay, and three acting nominations) This is only the third feature by the British director Steve McQueen, after the Camera d'or winning debut 'Hunger' (2008), and the heartbreaking gem, 'Shame' (2011). I have watched 'Shame', am about to watch 'Hunger' and am eagerly waiting for '12 Years a Slave' to release in India. McQueen, in the last five years, has clearly emerged as the director to look for.

2. 'American Hustle' (10 nominations, including Picture, Director, Screenplay, and four acting nominations) Chances are you would have watched David O Russel's two films that preceded this: 'The Fighter' (2010) and 'Silver Linings Playbook' (2012). This year, it is the only film whose chances for the Big Five are still alive, an enviable distinction that only three films have achieved until date in the history of the awards ('It Happened One Night', 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and 'The Silence of the Lambs'). 'American Hustle' releases in India today and should not be missed.

3. 'Blue Jasmine' (3 nominations, including Screenplay, and two acting nominations) I am including this Woody Allen film in the list for two reasons. One, Cate Blanchett has already won a Golden Globe for her role and would be a serious contender for the Best Actress Oscar. And more importantly, its screenplay is in competition as well. The film, however, will not be released in India, after Woody Allen refused to add the "Smoking Kills" caption to its print. Guess, downloading it is the only option now. Sad, but true.

4. 'Captain Phillips' (6 nominations, including Picture, Screenplay, and three post-production nominations) When I had watched the press screening of this film, I wasn't expecting it to eventually earn a Best Picture nomination. Today I feel more thankful to the Sony guys for inviting me. This film, again by a British director (two 'Bourne' films, 'United 93'), was released in India in October last year, and is definitely a big-screen movie.

5. 'Dallas Buyers Club' (6 nominations, including Picture, Screenplay, and two acting nominations) Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto have both won the Golden Globes for their performances in this film by the Canadian film-maker Jean-Marc Vallee. McConaughey has been the find of the year for me ('Mud', and the awesome two-scene appearance in 'The Wolf of the Wall Street'). I already feel my sentiments would back him for the Oscar. I am yet to watch 'Dallas Buyers Club' and hope it releases here soon.

6. 'Gravity' (10 nominations, including Picture, Director, and almost all technical awards) This 3D sensation is still playing. Watch it at Imax if you haven't yet. We were definitely expecting it to bag some of the technical awards, but Alfonso Cuaron's Best Director win at Golden Globes has also made him a favourite here. Will the Mexican director ('Y Tu Mama Tambien', 'Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban' and 'Children of Men') finally and formally complete his win over Hollywood?

7. 'Her' (5 nominations, including Picture, Screenplay, and two music nominations) Spike Jonze's fourth film in fourteen years (after 'Being John Malkovich', 'Adaptation', and 'Where the Wild Things Are') has already earned him the Golden Globe for Best Screenplay. He is also in the running for 'Best Song', whose lyrics he has co-penned. Waiting for its release in India.

8. 'Nebraska' (6 nominations, including Picture, Director, Screenplay, and Actor) Alexander Payne has already won two screenplay Oscars ('Sideways' and 'The Descendants'). If you add 'Election' to the list, 'Nebraska' is his fourth screenplay nomination. The film is yet to release in India, and hope it does despite not boasting of very popular stars, and despite being a black and white film.

9. 'Philomena' (4 nominations, including Picture, Screenplay, and Original Score) The 79-year old Judi Dench will be hoping for her first Best Actress Oscar in her fifth nomination (She won the Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in 'Shakespeare in Love'). British film-maker Stephen Frear's 'The Queen' had won it for Helen Mirren seven years ago.

10. 'The Wolf of Wall Street' (5 nominations, including Picture, Director, and Screenplay) In all probability, Scorsese will lose the Director Oscar for the sixth time (he has won once for 'The Departed'). But will Leonardo DiCaprio finally win one? Arguably the most deserving mainstream actor yet to win an Academy Award, DiCaprio's chances are good after the Golden Globe win. The film is still playing at a theatre near you. I loved most of it. If you do not take your morals too seriously, chances are, you too will.

I will get up early that Monday morning to catch the Awards live. Seven of the above-mentioned movies have to be watched before that! Cheers!

January 14, 2014

A New Season

Filmfare has just announced the nominees of its popular awards section and has disappointed again after some brave decisions they took last year. The BAFTA nominations were made last week and the Golden Globes were awarded yesterday. "The Wolf of Wall Street" and "Inside Llewyn Davis" are already released in India. 'American Hustle' is coming this Friday, and other top contenders at the Oscars should follow soon once the Academy announces the nominees in a couple of days from now. 'Dedh Ishqiya' has raised our hopes after a disastrous 2013 for Hindi cinema. 'Miss Lovely' is about to be released and its critical and, more importantly, commercial success will be more than welcome. Kamal Swaroop's avant-garde cult film, 'Om Dar-ba-dar" is finally making it to the big screen after more than 25 years. Amidst all this, I am celebrating my very own 'Berlin in Andheri Film Festival 2014', as we wait anxiously for this year's first major festival to kick-off in Berlin next month.

A new season of experiencing the fresh lot of movies has begun. Have you fastened your seat-belts yet?

January 11, 2014

A Poem from 'Gloria' (2013)

I’d like to be a nest if you were a little bird.
I’d like to be a scarf if you were a neck and were cold.

If you were music, I’d be an ear.
If you were water, I’d be a glass.
If you were light, I’d be an eye.
If you were a foot, I’d be a sock.

If you were the sea, I’d be a beach.
And if you were still the sea, I’d be a fish, and I’d swim in you.
And if you were the sea, I’d be salt.
And if I were salt, you’d be lettuce, an avocado or at least a fried egg.
And if you were a fried egg, I’d be a piece of bread.
And if I were a piece of bread, you’d be butter or jam.
If you were jam, I’d be the peach in the jam.
If I were a peach, you’d be a tree.
And if you were a tree, I’d be your sap…

And I’d course through your arms like blood.
And if I were blood, I’d live in your heart.

January 02, 2014

#2 That Beautiful Thing Called Love!

हम ने देखी है, उन आँखों की महकती खुशबू
हाथ से छूके इसे रिश्तों का इल्ज़ाम ना दो
सिर्फ एहसास है ये, रूह से महसूस करो
प्यार को प्यार ही रहने दो कोई नाम ना दो.…

प्यार कोई बोल नहीं, प्यार आवाज़ नहीं
एक खामोशी है, सुनती है, कहा करती है
न ये बुझती है, न रुकती है, न ठहरी है कहीं
नूर की बूँद है, सदियों से बहा करती है.…

मुस्कराहट-सी खिली रहती है आँखों में कहीं
और पलकों पे उजाले-से झुके रहते हैं
होठ कुछ कहते नहीं, काँपते होठों पे मगर
कितने खामोश-से अफसाने रुके रहते हैं.…

Gulzar (Khamoshi, 1969)