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Posts tagged ‘Cinema’

In a life time spent watching, loving and living cinema, which one do I like the most?

Movies have been an integral part of my life for as long as I can remember. It’s the case with most of us, and we all have our own tastes and preferences.

If I like a film, I watch it again and again. And if I don’t like a film in the first 20 minutes or so, I would never watch it in spite of what the reviewers say.

And of late, I have started a pretty decent collection of DVDs of films that are my favorites.

I truly believe that variety is the spice of life, so I pretty much love films across most genres, languages, and ages. Depending on my mood, I could be watching a slap stick Crazy Mohan film, or a profound Guru Dutt one, or a Tarantino blood gore. Sometimes I get involved and study the message, but mostly I just like to have a good laugh.

So, I thought I’ll share my list of most favorite films ever. It would be difficult to pick out a top 5/10 as such, but what was not difficult was picking what dessert I love the most in a table full of goodies. I would write about THAT one film, I would place above all as to my definition of the film that impacts me the most.

To start with, here is the list of my all time favorite films (my top 33, why 33? Because I like that number!), in alphabetical order:

  • 3 Idiots (Hindi)
  • 3.10 to Yuma (English)
  • Anand (Hindi)
  • Anbe Sivam (Thamizh)
  • Ardh Satya (Hindi)
  • Casablanca (English)
  • Chupke Chupke  (Hindi)
  • Crash (English)
  • Dark Knight (English)
  • Das Leben Der Anderen / Lives of others (German / English)
  • Edhir Neechal (Thamizh)
  • Gladiator (English)
  • Good Will Hunting (English)
  • Inglorious Basterds (English)
  • Kadhalikka Neramillai (Thamizh)
  • Kill Bill – Part II (English)
  • Lage Raho Munnabhai (Hindi)
  • Lakshya (Hindi)
  • Michael Madana Kama Rajan (Thamizh)
  • Mouna Ragam (Thamizh)
  • My cousin Vinny (Englsih)
  • Nayagan (Thamizh)
  • Nuovo Cinema Paradiso (Italian)
  • Psycho (Englsih)
  • Pyaasa (Hindi)
  • Scent of a woman (English)
  • Shichinin no samurai (Japanese)
  • Shiva (Telugu)
  • Shrek (English)
  • The good, the bad, the ugly (Italian / English)
  • The Shawshank Redemption (English)
  • Thillu Mullu (Thamizh)
  • Vita E Bella / Life is beautiful (Italian / English)

 Now the one I love the most, is a left field pick, and a film that moves me personally like no work of fiction has. It’s Guru Dutt’s Pyaasa. 

There are stories, movies, epics and box office hits. But to me Pyaasa is all that and more – it’s a masterpiece from a man who gave us many gems, died tragically young like most geniuses, and would have no idea a film he made 6 decades back could still strike a chord with so many people young and old. 

Pyaasa is the story of Vijay, a penniless, support less poet who struggles to make the world realize the beauty of his work. It’s the story of his relationships with the world,  and two women in particular, and his eventual reorganization and fame.

 If you haven’t seen it yet, get a DVD and watch it soon. (There is a Moser Baer DVD available in all stores across India). Its dark, sad, poignant, profound, subtle, leaves you worried if you get involved, but climaxes into something beautiful, hopeful and cheerful. In fact, Johnny Walker’s “Sar jo Tera Takrayey”, and the beauty in the climax are the only moments of genuine joy in a depressing story.

 Now, why do I love it so much? Here are some random reasons:

  1. It’s the story of an idealistic, honest, straightforward, talented man, fighting against the world, and coming out on top, but not spilt by the success. That’s the kind of man I would want to be
  2. It’s an Indian movie, and from one of the finest movie makers we have produced. Guru Dutt’s life and his tragic story, make the character so real
  3. A beautiful end that suggests that amidst all the dark and gloom, there is always a bright shining light. To an eternal optimist like me, it appeals tremendously, much as Shawshank Redemption did.
  4. The brilliant songs and their profound lyrics. They complement the film so bloody well.
  5. The usage of light and shade, close-ups that portray the deep thoughts of the characters…it’s almost as if I feel the characters alive. Destiny ensured that it was a black and white film, and I just can’t imagine it being as vivid with a modern color print.
  6. A Bollywood movie sans item numbers, rape scenes, masala dialogues, fights, lavish sets loud actors or lengthy dialogues, and full of subtlety. That’s the kind of movies we were capable of making 60 years ago.
  7. It tells me life is a zero sum game; for every jerk we meet in life, we have a true friend, and for every man / woman who betrays us, we manage to find a soul who loves us purely. There is a nice balance to it
  8. It’s a timeless movie. Would make sense and appeal eternally.
  9. The fact the Guru Dutt insisted on the climax as it is now, and ensured that Vijay does not compromise with the world for material reward, and chooses to be his own man.
  10. The message that true talent, self belief, and passion, ultimately wins over all other factors, no matter what the struggles are. To put in modern jargon – content is king! 
  11. It breaks all stereotypes for that period; some of these stereotypes still persist. For example, the character of Gulabo the hooker, is unlike any other portrayals of such people.

Ironically, it’s a film I would find to difficult to watch many times, because of the intensity. I would rather stick to a comedy for that, but then that’s the beauty of cinema – there’s always a story for every occasion and mood! But most people who review the film stereotype it as dark. It is for most parts yes, but I don’t think most of them get the raw and pure beauty of Vijay and Gulabo.

A very well written tribute to the film is from the TIME magazine, which included it among a handful of Indian films, as one of the top 100 films of all time.  

Read it at: http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1953094_1953146_1953989,00.html

 Cheers!

Vasu

P.S: I sort of like 33 as a number. It’s got two threes, and 0.33 is 1/3rd  or 33.33%. 0.22 is not ½ or 22.22 % 🙂

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The misplaced romantic notions of yearning for a dangerously flawed system.

I followed the celebrations to mark the 20th anniversary of the Berlin wall with great interest and curiosity. I remember reading about the fall of the wall (doesn’t it have a nice rhyme to it?) with eyes wide open, as a little kid who had never been outside his country. To me Berlin was just a cold, foreign land where people were white, large, and wore suits all the time. I was too young to comprehend the words Iron curtain, Communism, Cold war, etc. I saw thousands of people on TV breaking a wall…may be there were some kids my age there; perhaps it meant the world to them. (one of my German friends who is just a little older than me, confirmed that indeed meant the world to him) 

And here I am, a few hours train ride away from Berlin. You would think I understand the meaning if it all now. Well, mostly yes, but there are still un answered questions for the future. 

One of the most interesting, but worrying trends I have noted is a series of articles, interviews, and voices suggesting that perhaps the end of communism wasn’t such a terrible thing after all. Apart from the usual suspects from the maniacal Indian left, there were views from around the world on this topic.

 The arguments run roughly like this: 

  1. The free market driven majority of the world is in the middle of a terrible economic recession
  2. Colonialism and feudalism have given way to corporate imperialism, but the enemies of the poor remain in a different form
  3. The country that is bucking the global trend and emerging as an economic and political powerhouse, is a communist China
  4. So perhaps communism wasn’t such a terrible thing after all, and we should revive this romantic, utopian notion of communism. 

To me this is a dangerous trend. The fight between Capitalism & Democracy vs. Communism & One party rule has gone on for a long time, and has seen much bloodshed on either side in the name of ideology. Perhaps, I don’t have any credentials to talk about that. And capitalistic democracies have their share of massive problems and grievances too. 

But I just wanted to take the example of one film, set in Communist controlled GDR (East Germany) to highlight why this kind of thinking is dangerous. 

I had the privilege of seeing with English sub titles, the German film called “Das Leben Der Anderen” (The lives of others). It’s a strong recommend for each and everybody if you could get your hands on a DVD. 

Made in 2006 by a German team & cast, it was written and directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. It is the story of communist controlled East Berlin. During that time, monitoring of cultural performers / groups / writers in East Berlin, by Stasi was a norm. Stasi was the communist GDR’s state police that had complete authority over East Berlin. The film is really powerful, even if it showed the totalitarian excesses of the state in a very subtle way, and did not depict a brutal reality. But in spite of the subtlety, it managed to convey the message about oppression, lack of free speech, political manipulation, during the communist regime. It won the 2007 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. 

It’s incredible that Germany can look back at its troubled recent history, introspect, and come out with meaningful literature and cinema about it. This kind of candid and critical look at our history is not something we are used to in India. But, only somebody that has witnessed communist & totalitarian brutality can tell you how it chokes you at the best of times, and kills masses in the worst of times. Those who still worship Lenin, Stalin & Mao would do will to take notice of such stories. 

Yes, we are in the middle of a recession (we refers to a large section of the free markets & states, democracies of the world such as US, UK, Europe, India, Japan); yes, people have lost jobs even as the greedy prosper; yes, money and development does not reach a  section of the society.

 But, there are ways and means for us to express our anger, voice our concerns, fight our causes, and make our changes. China may have rapid growth, strong reserves, large dams, modern cities and infrastructure, and roads / train lines into remote lands.

But China is a black box, and a pseudo communist country. Its economic policies are capitalistic, and its control over the free speech of the people is communist. Thus, it combines the worst of both worlds. Nobody has any clue as to the millions displaced / left behind / brutally killed to achieve its development or for showing dissent. As for the Cubas, Venezuelas of the world, the less said the better. 

Totalitarianism of any form – left or right wing, curtails of free speech, and the absence of democracy, are evils that misplaced romantics that dream of an equal world tend to ignore for their convenience.

You cannot dream of correcting our current failures by going back to a failed and even more terrible system. 

Cheers!

Vasu

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