July 22, 2014

International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerala 2014: Days 3 and 4

This has already been a special festival, and mainly because of the kind of fun I've had with friends, new and old. To be honest, until a couple of days ago I had not expected it could be so amazing to be here, and the reasons for that are not all directly related with the festival but what we are doing here with our time.

So, I did watch some more short fiction and non-fiction films. Also watched 'Non-Fiction Diary' (2013), a South Korean documentary by Yoon Suk-jung on the Jijon clan murders of 1994 and the Sampoong Department Store collapse of 1995.

The best film that I watched in these two days was Shabnam Sukhdev's 'The Last Adieu' (2013). Deeply personal and moving, this wonderful film about a daughter's reconstruction of her father's image for herself, a father with whom she had had a troubled relationship before he passed away when she was fourteen, left me touched and teary-eyed. And apart from this strong personal story, it also introduced me to life and the work of Sukhdev, one of the most path-breaking documentary film-makers India has produced.

And apart from watching these films, the trip five of us made to Kanyakumari and back will remain unforgettable for all of us. We hired a car and left Thiruvananthapuram around four in the morning, reaching Kanyakumari by six, minutes before the sunrise. Now that I think of it, it surely was magical and unbelievable that we were sitting at the southern most tip of the Indian mainland, where the three great seas - Bay of Bengal, Indian Ocean, and Arabian Sea met. Also, visiting the Vivekananda Memorial was very special for me personally. He was around 29 when he had reached this spot and had meditated here. To be there was homecoming of sorts. And then we returned to the capital of Kerala by one in the afternoon, around when Devanshu informed me about our win at Stuttgart. 'Tamaash' was one of the nineteen Indian short films there in competition and it won the award. This little film has given us so much, including this wonderful trip to the southern most tip of our vast nation. That it is a Kashmiri film seems romantically so apt as I enjoy my days and nights here in Kerala!

July 20, 2014

International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerala 2014: Day 2

The day started with the screening of 'Tamaash'. It was a good screening with respect to the projection and sound, but since it was morning the audience was thin and thus I was a little disappointed. We have increasingly realized that this film is best experienced with hundreds of people watching it together and that, unfortunately, could not happen here.

However, my day was made when I watched 'Katiyabaaz' (2013). Also known as 'Powerless', it is an engaging and entertaining investigative documentary on the power crisis of the city of Kanpur. It is directed by Deepti Kakkar and Fahad Mustafa who were sitting one seat away from Devanshu and me at the National Awards. I wish I had seen the movie back then so that I could tell them in person how amazing it was. And one thing that this film reaffirms is that good film, fiction or non-fiction, are made of great, unforgettable characters.

Also watched a couple of other short films, including my friend Hardik Mehta's 'Skin Deep', which I think was very well-crafted. Some of us filmmakers were also called to speak to the audience in a 'Face to Face' session. Looking forward to watching some more movies tomorrow and continue hanging out with some new friends I've made here. This festival has been fun! 

July 19, 2014

International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerala 2014: Day 1

Highlights of the day:

  • Screenings started in the morning, much before the official Inaugural Function, and I completely loved this. All other festivals I've attended have nothing but the Opening Ceremony on the first day.
  • Watched a couple of short documentaries made by up and coming Indian film-makers. Met some of them and made new acquaintances.
  • It was great to be joined by Hardik Mehta, a friend and film-maker from Mumbai who is here with his short film 'Skin Deep'. Also, a friend from AFMC visited me. 
  • The projection and sound is really good, as is the seating. Nothing is too fancy here, not much of show, but the real business - screening of films, is being done really well.
  • Watched Kamal Swaroop's 'Rangbhoomi' (2013), an entertaining and stylish documentary on Dada Saheb Phalke's days in Varanasi in the 1920s. It made my day!
  • The Inaugural Function was in the evening followed by dinner. It was great to meet Mr. Gauhar Raza, father of Sahir (our DOP from 'Tamaash'). He is here to talk at a conference on science in films.
Looking forward to the screening of 'Tamaash' next morning!

Must Watch Before You Die #41: The Piano (1993)

I'm in Thiruvananthapuram, attending the Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerala and it is late in the night. In a few hours, 'Tamaash' will be screened here. And I'm tired and need to go to sleep. However, I cannot have a peaceful sleep unless I do this thing I have to - recommend this beautiful and moving film I watched on the train, as a must watch. I will keep the post brief for obvious reasons.

What makes a successful film? I think the only essential ingredient for a powerful and popular film is 'characters'. If you have cinematic characters the audience can relate to and care for and who inspire the audience and earn their admiration, you may succeed as a film-maker. Most great films also have a very strong story weaved around these characters played wonderfully by the actors. Some of these great films also have beautiful camerawork and stunning visual design. But not all great film have all the ingredients fitting so perfectly that they leave you spellbound. What if a film told an unusual, yet relatable story of unforgettable characters and great performances from actors, using a location and setting that was an exotic treat where every frame was lit and composed so well that you wanted to create a million posters out of them, had dialogue rich in flavor and texture, used sound and music so hypnotically that you forgot time and space, and ended up being something that was not just a story, but also a poem, and a novel, and an emotional experience you would not want to end? And what if that film made a strong statement about the human condition, and our desires and their morality, with only the shades of grey to paint each character, big and small, so seamlessly and effortlessly that it left you intellectually and socio-politically shaken?

Well, 'The Piano' is one such film - an absolute triumph in every possible way! Watch it TODAY! And I'm sure you would like to revisit it several times in your lives. I definitely would.

July 13, 2014

#8: Puberty's Pictures

I have to start with an apology. It has been almost a year since my last post in the series ‘The Autobiography of a Romance’, which was developing into a favourite for most of you. It was procrastination, more than anything else. And I’m sorry for that. So here it is – the latest post in this very personal series. All those are not aware of it, please click here and read posts from down upwards. I really hope, you won’t be disappointed.

"For me, a normal man is one who turns his head to see a beautiful woman's bottom." - Bernardo Bertolucci's 'The Conformist' (1970)

There comes a moment in a boy’s life when he loses his innocence with his own hands, and quite literally so. Today, as a 30-year old man, I do not feel any hesitation talking about it. But seventeen years ago, when it happened to me, in the summer of ’97, it was confusing and scary, but also thrilling and unprecedentedly pleasurable. Today, that image of guilt-ridden misadventures of my little self, looking for privacy in a big, joint family in the summer heat appears almost endearing to me. I wish I could go back and have a talk of reassurance with the teenaged me and advise about having the most of that colourful period of sexual discovery. Back then I had no one to talk to, and for better or for worse, movies were my only guide, this time into the world of forbidden pleasures.

By now you know that I was in this ashram-hostel with no access to TV, or other means of entertainment. I hope you will not laugh with a sense of mocking if I tell you that the introduction to human reproductive system that was only suggestive and left a lot for imagination in our seventh-grade science text book was a big hit in our hostel. Some of us borrowed those well-illustrated manuals from the library for ‘higher studies’ and then the entire dormitory read the chapter on reproduction with more interest than any other topic from any other subject in our course. And we often took refuge in our own secretive acts of pleasure, taking help from newspaper cuttings, illegal magazines, and memories of what we saw on TV during vacations.

1997 was also the year when my Dad brought cable TV home. In hindsight, it can be argued that it was the sudden exposure to all kinds of content, including the unending parade on FTV, that triggered the sudden onset of my male menarche. There was this music channel, I don’t remember its name, that aired a show called ‘Shabab’ at 11 in the night. I had discovered it one night browsing the channels looking for something of ‘interest’. I had the reputation, and rightly so, of being very fond of studying books of all kinds, apart from doing my homework. So I, kind of, earned the right to remain awake until late night and study. Whenever I felt sleepy, I turned on the TV, and then went back to my studies – was the excuse I gave to my parents. The truth was that I kept watching TV all night, until either my eyes were dead tired, or my Baba caught and lectured me. So when I discovered ‘Shabab’, it was one of the most amazingly fulfilling discoveries of my life. The show was a collection of erotic songs from Hindi cinema. The three songs that always come to my mind when I think of it – and I will only hint at those to test your knowledge – starred Pooja Bhatt and Rahul Roy in one, Madhuri Dixit and Vinod Khanna in the second, and Dimple Kapadia and Anil Kapoor in the third. Today, these songs do nothing to me, and wouldn’t do much to today’s kids either, but back then they were scandalous and inviting and I couldn’t bat an eye-lid as they played on TV, on mute!

We also heard about movies like ‘Fire’ and ‘Kamasutra’ (both 1996) but never really got a chance to watch them. I also remember very well that Dad was disapproving of the stuff we watched on TV because we mostly watched trailers and songs of upcoming movies, some of it being lurid, and suggestive. Today, it is so common that perhaps most parents have taken it for granted. Back then it was not. And he used to voice it out to my Mom, his concern regarding what we watched. Mom always replied to him with supreme confidence in me. “Even when he is watching those dirty songs, he is only focussing on the making, the craft and the choreography and music. So there’s no need to worry!” She barely knew that in the very adjacent room, her good son was actually burning with desire!

Raveena Tandon was one of my sex goddesses. ‘Tip tip barsa paani’ from ‘Mohra’ (1994) has to be one song that turned me insane. And then there was this scene from ‘Aatish’ (also 1994) where she is showing off the scars on her body to Sanjay Dutt. Today it all looks so cheesy and cheap. Back then it was pure gold for me. I also particularly liked Pooja Batra who had obviously zero talent but an amazingly pretty smile and something irresistibly sexy about her. I never found Mamta Kulkarni that appealing, although she was a big hit among my friends. Perhaps it was because I hadn’t seen much of her. The famous Rekha-Akshay Kumar song from ‘Khilaadiyon ka Khilaadi’ (1996) was again something I had heard a lot about but couldn’t really manage to see until very late in my life. Strangely, Madhuri Dixit who had a very clean image was an object of my fancy because of two films she did with Sanjay Kapoor – ‘Raja’ (1995) and ‘Mohabbat’ (1997). The white sari she wore in the latter in a rainy scene with Akshay Khanna remained etched in my memory forever. Urmila Matondkar in ‘Daud’ (1997), Rani Mukherji in ‘Ghulam’ (1998), Karishma Kapoor in ‘Biwi No. 1’ (1999) and Sushmita Sen in ‘Sirf Tum’ (1999) were also maddeningly desirable for the little teenager I was. But the best among all these lovely ladies was, I wish you guessed it right, the inimitable and unsurpassable Sonali Bendre. She stormed into the imagination of that innocent boy I was with her dance moves in ‘Duplicate’ (1998). And then, in 1999, came the song that I undoubtedly consider the sexiest motion picture experience of my life, bigger than Sharon Stone’s ‘Basic Instinct’ – ‘Jo haal dil ka’ from ‘Sarfarosh’. To be honest, all the songs and scenes mentioned above have aged really poorly, but not this. It still gives me the same pleasure, albeit minus the thrill I had while trying to catch it in the hall of my house, the hall with four entrances where anyone could walk in from any direction, as it required a serious and meticulous vigil to keep enjoying these pictures on the TV without being caught and getting my reputation ruined forever. It is still intact, by the way. Guess, now that my Mom reads this blog post she will realise what I was up to way back then growing up under her proud protection.

July 04, 2014

The Protagonist Puzzle II

Recently, I watched Hitchcock's 'Psycho' (1960) for the second time, six years after my first watch. And like with most great movies, the second watch was better than the first. In fact, I could feel the horror so much more this time. And of course, there are certain sequences which are so well shot and edited that you can keep studying them again and again.

However, this post is not on the wonderful cinematic design of the film, about its masterful direction or performances. This post is intended to take forward the discussion I started with a previous post on identifying the protagonist in a movie. And let me tell you, this time I'm fairly confused.


The film starts with Marion Crane (played by Janet Leigh), a young not-so-conscientious girl, who runs away with some handsome cash belonging to her employer. Do we relate to her or care for her? I don't know. I think I'd care for her, and that too marginally, only because she is an attractive woman. She is like one of those characters from the classic Film Noir who is immoral but still the central character. So yes, whether we care for her or not, we follow her track and it seems she is the protagonist of the film.

She reaches a motel and decides to spend the night there. It is here, around 28th minute after it started that the title character, Norman Bates, enters the film. For the next twenty minutes, we stay with Marion, but increasingly get aware of Norman's dark and disturbed side. And around the 48th minute, Marion is brutally murdered by Norman's 'mother'. Here, the main character whom we had followed since the film began exits the story. Marion is dead. And one hour of the film is still remaining. So the character who was driving the story for close to one hour was not its protagonist?

For a little over the next ten minutes we stay with Norman and see him getting rid of Marion's body, evidently to save his 'mother' from the crime she has committed in a bout of insanity. It is tough for me to think like this because even before watching the movie for the first time, I knew that Norman is, in fact, the 'mother'. But for a viewer who is not aware of this, does Norman become the protagonist from this point, trying to save her mother? Perhaps. I am not sure.

Three more characters join us after this - Marion's boyfriend, her sister, and a private detective. None of them assumes so much importance as a protagonist should. And a little later, after the 'mother' has killed the detective, and the other two visit the local sheriff to discuss the matter, they get to know that Norman's mother has been dead for quite a while. Twenty-five minutes of the film is still remaining and I can imagine how this revelation must have affected the first audiences of 'Psycho'. Even today, I could feel a chill down my spine at this point, mainly because we have 'seen' the 'mother' and cannot believe that she does not exist.

In the final act of the film, Marion's sister and boyfriend go to the Bates Motel with the intention to talk to Norman and his mother and figure things out. Around this time, these two appear as the protagonists - we care for them, they are driving the story, and Norman, by now, clearly appears to be the 'antagonist'. The climax finally reveals the dead 'mother' and Norman dressed up like her, trying to attack Marion's sister, only to be overpowered in time by the boyfriend.

The last seven minutes of the film, and perhaps the weakest, is an explanation about Norman's condition. It is done in a way to evoke empathy for him, although we are still horrified by him. Then we see him, in a wonderfully composed frame, with his mother's voice over. He is there - the central character, the culprit as well as the victim. But is he or was he our protagonist? I just don't feel he was.

A few days have passed since this re-watch of 'Psycho' and I still don't know the answer. Perhaps this is one film where the classic structure of a 'protagonist's journey' or 'journeys of multiple protagonists' is simply not applicable. And this is an extremely rare case. Perhaps 'Psycho' is the story of the antagonist, the villain. Perhaps Norman Bates is like Shakespeare's Macbeth or Othello, and it is his story that we were told through this film. Only, the first half an hour does everything to make us feel otherwise.

June 23, 2014

Our First Film Poem: Ishq ki Ijaazat

You can click here to watch the first Film Poem Devanshu and I have created for online release. It is a four-minute video. And you can read the poem below. Let us know your reaction to it. Thanks.

इश्क़ की इजाज़त

दो इश्क़ की इजाज़त, इल्ज़ाम अब हटा दो,
हम ग़ैर हैं नहीं - ये एक बार तो जता दो.

पूछो ज़रा खुदा से जिसने हमें बनाया,
क्यूँ ख्वाहिशें अलग दीं, क्या रंग ये चढ़ाया?
और बोलते हो तुम कि हम क़ुदरती नहीं हैं,
तुम भीड़, हम ज़रा से, तो भीड़ ही सही है?
अपना सके हमें कोई दूसरा खुदा दो...

सदियाँ गुज़र-गुज़र कर करती रहीं गुज़ारिश,
न तुम बदल सके, न ये तोहमतों की बारिश,
फिर भी हमें हमेशा जो चाहते बदलना, 
इन्साफ ये कहाँ का - बस बात ये बता दो…

यूँ सहमे-सहमे कितने यहाँ छुपे हैं,
क़ायदों के पर्दों की ओट में रुके हैं,
ये क़ायदे उठा लो, बाहर हमें बुला लो,
हमको बराबरी की तुम आज इब्तदा दो,
हम ग़ैर हैं नहीं ये एक बार तो जता दो...

थी क़ैद कब मोहब्बत मज़हब के दायरों में ?
न क़ौम रोक पाई, न ज़ात टोक पाई,
न उम्र के फ़रक़ को भी आशिक़ों ने माना,
फिर आज तक हमें क्यूँ है रोकता ज़माना?
दो दिल ही जुड़ रहे हैं, दे दो दुआ इन्हे भी,
इस दिल के जश्न को थोड़ा अपना मयकदा दो,
हम ग़ैर हैं नहीं ये एक बार तो जता दो,
दो इश्क़ की इजाज़त, इल्ज़ाम अब हटा दो.

June 18, 2014

The Protagonist Puzzle

Okay. So, whether you believe it or not, I just watched the two Terminator movies, for the first time in my life. And let me admit it, I enjoyed them thoroughly. 'The Terminator' (1984) was enagaging and exciting. 'Terminator 2: Judgment Day' (1991) went beyond that. It was emotionally moving. And I think it is one mainstream, popular, genre stuff I won't mind watching again and again. This post, however, is not on my opinion about these two movies. It is an attempt to answer a very fundamental question - identifying the protagonist in a story. I hope some of my concepts will be tested and, in the end, consolidated as I discuss the issue below.


Who is a 'protagonist'? Simply speaking, it is the main character in a story. But this vague definition, 'main character', can be gravely misleading. Who is the main character in 'The Terminator'? Is the title character, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, the main character? And if he is the protagonist, then who is the antagonist? If we do not go into any definition, clearly, the Terminator in this movie is the antagonist, the villain - we fear him, we don't want him to succeed, we are glad when he is 'terminated' in the end. And if he is the antagonist, who is the protagonist? We have two more 'main' characters in the movie - Sarah Connor, the woman whom the terminator wants to kill, and Kyle Reese, the human resistance fighter sent from the future to protect Sarah. Before we try to solve this protagonist puzzle further, let us have some basic discussions about the features of a protagonist in a movie.

The word 'Protagonist' literally means 'the one with the main or primary agony'. In other words, the character whose conflict is central to the story and is of the biggest concern to the audience is the protagonist. The film is actually the protagonist's active and conflicted journey, pursuing something (which is often defined as his or her "want") and/or undergoing a significant change by the end. We care for, admire, and love the protagonist. We look up to him or her. The protagonist also drives the plot, by indulging in active, visible action, and by taking strong, irreversible decisions at significant moments in the film that become 'plot points'.

In 'The Terminator', Kyle Reese has a lot of traits of being a protagonist. He, unlike Sarah, is active in the story since the beginning, he is more dynamic than her and is pursuing a "want" (to save Sarah), and we admire him and trust him and look up to him (as does Sarah). He also takes several key decisions in the film and guides the comparatively passive Sarah, who is clueless about the happenings for the major part of the film. However, I believe, despite all this, Reese is not the protagonist. Sarah, despite being unaware of the main plot, being comparatively passive, and clinging to Reese for survival, eventually comes across as the protagonist of this film. We definitely care for her more than anyone else, and the film is her journey of discovering her importance and that of her unborn child. From being a usual and inconspicuous waitress in an LA cafeteria, she realises that she is a 'legend' and the only hope for mankind some 45 years from her day. By the end, she decides to take care of herself, and her child, and make sure that the hope lives on. It won't be wrong to liken her with the journey of Harry Potter in the first book of the series or of Neo Anderson in 'The Matrix' (1999). At times, we must conclude, the protagonist is not as active and dynamic as we expect them to be when the story begins. But by the end, he or she goes through a life-changing journey, and adopts the centre-stage, defeating the antagonist, with the help of a powerful secondary character. In my opinion, Sarah Connor is the protagonist of 'The Terminator', unless we settle down for a safer conclusion that both Sarah and Kyle Reese are the protagonists, as in most love stories. And 'The Terminator' is very much their love story as well.

'Terminator 2: Judgment Day' has four main characters. The film has an amazing twist in the 25th minute when we realise that the character played by Schwarzenegger is actually there to save the child - John Connor, and defeat T-1000, the advanced prototype liquid-metal terminator who clearly is one of the most menacing and strong antagonists in film history. Sarah Connor returns in the film as well and she is determined to save her child, John, for the sake of humanity. She is not only more dynamic, active, and controlling the course of the story than her character in the first film, but also in comparison with her son, John, who in this movie plays the 'Harry Potter' or the 'Neo Anderson' - a legend who has just discovered that he is way more special than he thought he was. Both Sarah and John are extremely endearing - we completely care for them and we admire them as they take key decisions in the film. For most part, I felt John is the protagonist, very similar in nature to his Mom's protagonist character from the first movie. But in the final act of the film, my opinion changed. I suddenly realised that the Terminator has been pursuing his want most actively in the film, fighting this invincible antagonist and having a journey of his own - learning common sense and colloquial speech, understanding emotions, and fulfilling promises. In the final act, he is almost destroyed, when he rises again, and overcomes the final and the most frightening conflict - the climax, where he saves John and Sarah, terminates T-1000, and most importantly, takes the most vital decision of terminating himself for the sake of humanity. In the closing moments when we see him going away, we may not have tears running down our faces like John, but we do feel a strong sense of gratitude and attachment with this machine that was our hero throughout the film. And the final image, of his fingers curling to form a 'thumbs-up' as his entire body disappears just locks it for us - a cinematic image that will live forever. Perhaps it was the trickery of the title of the last movie that caused this little confusion in me. But in 'Terminator 2', unlike the first movie, the title character is very much the protagonist, like in most movies.

June 02, 2014

Gurudev Uvaacha #6

"I am always watching movies... One of the nice things about my life, because I've done fairly well in cinema, it's kind of afforded me a chance to almost live an academic's life. And so my feeling is I'm studying for my professorship in the history of world cinema and the day I die is the day I graduate... A kick of study of some sort... I just explore it. And I just voraciously watch them, making notes on them, may be for a future book, may be for a future study, or may be for my own gratification."

- Quentin Tarantino at Cannes 2014

June 01, 2014

Greatest Canadian Films of All Time

I just finished watching Atom Egoyan's 'The Adjuster'. This is his fourth film that I watched and I must admit that now I am a huge fan of his work. Too bad I discovered him so late. While reading about the film, I also found something interesting. Let me share it with you below.

Since 1984, a list of greatest Canadian films of all times is compiled by the Toronto International Film Festival guys, every ten years. So, there have been three such lists so far. And the new list should be up this year. I have merged the three lists to come up with the names of 18 greatest Canadian films. As on date, I have watched only 7 of these (marked in bold). There is so much to do, as a film-buff!

  1. Mon oncle Antoine (1971/ Claude Jutra)
  2. Goin' down the Road (1970/ Don Shebib)
  3. Jesus de Montreal (1989/ Denys Arcand)
  4. Les Bons Debarras (1980/ Francis Mankiewicz)
  5. Les Ordres (1974/ Michel Brault)
  6. The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (1974/ Ted Kotcheff)
  7. Le Declin de l'empire americain (1986/ Denys Arcand)
  8. The Grey Fox (1983/ Phillip Borsos)
  9. The Sweet Hereafter (1997/ Atom Egoyan)
  10. Atanarjut: The Fast Runner (2002/ Zacharias Kunuk)
  11. Dead Ringers (1988/ David Cronenberg)
  12. J.A. Martin, photographe (1977/ Jean Beaudin)
  13. Pour la suite du monde (1963/ Pierre Perrault)
  14. I've Heard the Mermaids Singing (1987/ Patricia Rozema)
  15. Nobody Waved Good-Bye (1964/ Don Owen)
  16. Les Invasions barbares (2003/ Denys Arcand)
  17. The Adjuster (1991/ Atom Egoyan)
  18. La Vraie Nature de Bernadette (1972/ Gilles Carle)

May 31, 2014

#3 The Poet in Love

मेरे महबूब तुझे मेरी मोहब्बत की कसम,
फिर मुझे नर्गिसी आँखों का सहारा दे दे,
मेरा खोया हुआ रंगीन नज़ारा दे दे.… 
भूल सकती नहीं आँखे वो सुहाना मंज़र
जब तेरा हुस्न मेरे इश्क से टकराया था,
और फिर राह में बिखरे थे हज़ारों नग्में,
मैं वो नग्में तेरी आवाज़ को दे आया था,
साज़-ए-दिल को उन्ही गीतों का सहारा दे दे.… 

याद है मुझको मेरी उम्र की पहली वो घड़ी
तेरी आँखों से कोई जाम पिया था मैंने,
मेरी रग-रग में कोई बर्क-सी लहराई थी
जब तेरे मरमरी हाथों को छुआ था मैंने,
आ मुझे फिर उन्ही हाथों का सहारा दे दे.… 

मैंने इक बार तेरी एक झलक देखी है
मेरी हसरत है कि मैं फिर तेरा दीदार करूँ,
तेरे साए को समझ कर मैं हसीं ताजमहल
चाँदनी रात में नज़रों से तुझे प्यार करूँ
अपनी महकी हुई ज़ुल्फ़ों का सहारा दे दे.… 

ढूँढता हूँ तुझे हर राह में, हर महफ़िल में,
थक गये हैं मेरी मजबूर तमन्ना के कदम,
आज का दिन मेरी उम्मीद का है आखरी दिन,
कल ना जाने मैं कहाँ और कहाँ तू हो सनम,
दो घड़ी अपनी निगाहों का सहारा दे दे.…

सामने आ के ज़रा पर्दा उठा दे रुख़ से,
इक यही मेरा इलाज-ए-ग़म-ए-तनहाई है,
तेरी फुरकत ने परेशान किया है मुझको,
अब तो मिल जा कि मेरी जान पे बन आई है,
दिल को भूली हुई यादों का सहारा दे दे.… 
Shakeel Badayuni (Mere Mehboob, 1963)

May 12, 2014

Must Watch Before You Die #40: Enter the Void (2009)

I have taken more than six months to come up with this new recommendation as a "must watch", the last being 'Holy Motors' (2012), despite having watched several great movies in this period. But I am very glad while doing this because 'Enter the Void' fits perfectly into the idea that had made me start this series more than three years ago. If you have not watched this hypnotizing, stunning, dream-like, trance-like fim, you are seriously missing out on something. It is indulgance at its best, and watching it makes you feel dizzy, and ecstatic, because the pleasure it offers to your senses is extraordinary by any standards. Very early in the film is a brilliant play of light and sounds, reminding you of the Stargate sequence from '2001: A Space Oddyssey' and you really don't want it to end. Exceptional in its beauty, it may even inspire you to try hard drugs, if this is really what they make you experience. I couldn't tell, but let me confess honestly that I did ponder over the possibility of following our largely-invisible protagonist into the world of substance. I must be grateful to the rest of the film that not only, through the painful journey the guy experiences, kind of warned me against such an experiment, but also let me have a long, intimate glimpse of what a "trip" could be without any real danger. The film, is a trip. But it's also a wonderful meditation on the issues of death, afterlife, reincarnation, out-of-body experiences, incest, and love. You may not want to watch it with your kids or your parents, but you must watch this film, and it would be great if you could couple it with a mental state that suits it well. I will write briefly about my mental state as I watched it, before signing off.

I was in Devprayag. It is a small hill town seventy kilometers northward from Rishikesh in Uttarakhand. It is the place where the two major tributeries, Alaknanda and Bhagirathi, merge into each other to form the Ganges. I had reached there in the afternoon, and after my much-needed siesta, I went out to make a call to my brother to let him know where I am (The visit to this town was a part of an unplanned, several weeks long solo trip I had taken in the hills during this April). I had to go out as my phone had no network and I had to rely on the local phone booths. Hardly I knew that this phone call will become one I won't ever want to forget. Our first film, "Tamaash" had won a National Award and I was completely unaware of it as friends and family celebrated in joy unbound. After having talked with Devanshu and then my Mom, I returned to my little room, that overlooked the excited, noisy Bhagirathi. From my window I could see the moon rise from behind the hills, and could hear the water forcibly break the stillness of the town, and I slowly allowed the news to sink in. I cannot explain how liberating it was to realise that I, at that special moment, was completely alone, and utterly unreachable for anyone, with no phone or internet connectivity. Even if I wanted to, I couldn't have called anyone as the phone booths were shut. Even if I desired, I couldn't have read the congratulatory messages on Facebook. And it was in that moment of liberated and bissful solitude that I decided to pamper myself with this amazing film experience called 'Enter the Void'! Some film experiences go beyond their run-time. This, for me, was definitely one such experience. Magical. Mad. And infinitely memorable.