Thursday, January 3, 2013

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thursday, January 7, 2010

the act of Acting

Even though I tend to admire acting as a skill, I realize I had never thought of the importance of a good actor whenever I fantasize about making a movie. [too many I's in that sentence. how much I struggle to write a sentence by minimizing the number of I's] The assumption always was that as a director I will be able to teach my potential actors to act through a scene. But now the realization dawns on me that I had underestimated the importance of a quality acting.
Unlike other skills the acting becomes perfect when you dont notice the acting, you believe what you see in front of you.. you forget the actor.. you see the character. Better the actor, the less you notice the acting.
Some actors come to my mind when I say that... Jack Nicholson, Anthony Hopkins and of course Morgan Freeman.. the acting is so perfect, the nuances so subtly expressed, that you fail to notice it sometimes, because it's so real. You tend to take acting so lightly.. they make it look so simple.. what I might call deceptive simplicity. The same feeling you get when you see a Woody Allen movie. The movie looks so simple and so life like.. you think its easy to make a movie.
Mentioning about the nuances in acting, what comes first to my mind is Red in Shawshank Redemption. There is this scene where Morgan Freeman comes in front of the parole panel to prove worthy of a parole. The short sequence when he enters the room and waits before he is asked to sit. The subtle expressions and mannerism which he lends to Red makes the viewer go through the same anxiety and anticipation which that character feels. Now that's acting.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Zest for life


I find myself writing about life again and again.. Ironically its not the zest for life.

Sometimes all that is left after a lifetime of misery and struggle, might just be a disillusionment. Time and again, endless generations have gone through and realised the same thing. But we think, or like to think our's might be different somehow. Even when the endless meaninglessness, the black nothingness stares in our face, we like to believe there is no elephant in the room.

But then, that realisation is one step short of leading a happy life. After all, it doesnt matter. We might as well just live happy when we are around. Suddenly, everything seems so trivial. Life isn't complex after all. You survive, you reproduce, you make sure they survive to reproduce. That's it in a nutshell. Suddenly wars seems to make the same sense as weddings. Not to misunderstand me.. I am not a violent person, I dont believe in hurting others, but nor do I believe in weddings.

Life doesnt have meanings.. I realise. Do I believe in talking to others, having fun ? Yes.. I do. That makes me not think about the meaninglessness, the nothingness. I dont care if it means nothing. All that matters is.. I accept that meaninglessness. In a way I am happy about it. No need to worry about consequences. Its like watching an action movie at the cinemas. We are so engrossed, we feel at the edge of the seat. We feel disturbed when the protagonist is trapped. The visuals are upsetting. But at such times, what is comforting is these things will soon be over. The tensions, the outcomes doesn't have to carry over to outside later. Its all over in that two hours. Whatever happens in that movie, in the story.. or how feel about it, is inconsequential.. to almost nothing. Ponderings over the story is different. I mean no real threat is left of it.

Similary life is now, you live it you die. I dont have to worry about the consequences. No god to judge me later. Its nothingness, non-existence after this. Death is certain and that is comforting.

Life is simple, Explanation is complex. Acceptance is simple, Dissection is complex.

Monday, December 15, 2008

A meaningful life..

Danny (2002)

Danny walked with the old lady he met in the nursing home.
"My existence is like someone said.. 'a life .. just like that'. When I see those birds flying high above
I think I want to be like them, keep flying high above like that. What is there down here.. people..
war.. jealousy.. troubles. weddings"
------------
When she left, she gave her address to Danny and asks for Danny's
"My address... this is it.. permanently"
------------
Danny passes away quietly. At his funeral a kid asks the old lady who he was.
"That's Danny. That's nobody !"

Thursday, September 4, 2008

wearing Masks


"We all wear masks"

The problem with realizing that we all wear masks is that, you cannot truly be comfortable with a person. No matter how nice he is to you or how sophisticated he sounds, you still know behind that mask there is another person. And even more disturbing is the fact that the very person who is judging that, i.e. myself is no way better and, at times worse than the person sitting in front of me. We are forced to live with an ugly realization that the entire civilization and our culture and our manners are built around this. An obsessive need to appear nice in front of others, we just can’t escape that.
There is an evolutionary explanation for it. We had to evolve this trait. Intelligence must have been some by-product of a mutation, which was positive without doubt. With this intelligence, my ancestors were able to create a mental map of the surroundings, things around him. With this map he could infer things which were critical for his survival. He was finally able to realize why the other ape was successful in getting those nice fruits, which tree he always picked, why he didn’t have luck with that female. Now comes the interesting part. In this map, he himself had to be an inclusive part.[ref] And that’s where the consciousness comes from. Once conscious, it was just a matter of time before he learned to present himself in the nicest way possible, even if it meant deception. After all with evolution, it was just the survival of the fittest. Gene is selfish indeed. [ref]
Now I have a logical explanation of a trait which I perceive as imperfect. Logical as it might seem, I hate that. I hate it’s a part of me. But then, what is the evolutionary explanation of me hating that trait. How does this contemplation affect my survival ? Does it have any value ?
That’s the beautiful mysterious aspect of evolution. Isn’t me contemplating this a part of the very evolution. There is just no escaping evolution. I hate to admire it. I feel so helpless. With all the free will I think I have, I am just another insignificant by-product of an eternal process driven by random factors.
Coming back to wearing mask, when I realize wearing mask is just a natural process, do I make myself the most amicable mask, completely hiding my inner self - the inner core where I feel the need to be above everyone, the inner core where I am willing to lie to make me look perfect, the inner core which is writing this by filtering the other nasty details as if to prove that despite all this self-deriding I come out clean - or to be more precise, the devil which lies in the details of an ugly core OR do I make one that shows through but opaque enough to be within the confines of social survival. It’s a thin line.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Line from 'Eastern Promises'


At times certain lines haunt you for days. The ending voice over from the movie Eastern Promises is one such. The russian girl who came to london looking for a singing career ends up being raped and later dead after giving birth to a child. The voice over of that character at the end goes like this...

"My name is Tatiana.. My father died in the mines in our village. So he was already buried when he was dead. We were all buried there.. under the soil of Russia. That is why I came here.. to find a better life"

Simple but disturbingly painful voice rendition leaves you sullen.. and crushed.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Life or something like it..

Far way from all this madness..
Away in the darkest corners, alone I sit..
Waiting for my time to come..
Gone will I be then..
For ever and for good

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Grave of the fireflies

Grave of the fireflies is a 1988 Japanese animation movie directed by Isao Takahata. Its the adaptation of a semi-autobiographical novel by Akiyuki Nosaka.



Grave of the fireflies tells the poignant tale of two orphans - 14 yr old Seita and his 5 yr old sister Setsuko - in the city of Kobe, Japan at the time of world war II. Eventhough completely animated the story telling is anything but dramatic. This is the animation equivalent of Italian neorealistic movies.


The movie starts with a Seita dressed in rags falling dead in a public place. The story is told in flashback by Seita’s spirit. Seita and Setsuko lives in the city of Kobe along with their mother at the time of WWII. Their father serves in the navy. When the first air raid strikes their mother stays in the raid-shelter and the kids run for cover. After the bombing, Seita along with the traumatized Setsuko searches for their mother in the devastated city. On the army’s announcement when everyone gathers at the elementary school nearby, Seita comes to know about his mother’s death. A visibly shaken Seita realizes he needs to take care of his sister, while hiding the news from the little one. Setsuko is told Mom is unwell and she will be able to see her only after a while. The kids are taken to their aunt’s place.


Understandably the honeymoon doesn’t last long. The aunt suggests that they trade their mom’s dresses in turn for rice to which Seita agrees while Setsuko now distraught from mother's separation declines (with little effect) to part with last of the things which kept her close to mom. Things get uglier when the aunt keeps a major portion of that rice to feed her own family (husband and daughter) and the kids are denied a full meal. Seita realises he needs to fend for his sister and himself. On little Setsuko's suggestion, the kids decide to live off a cave on the hillside which was used as a shelter from air raids. Taking with them whatever rice is left of their share, Seita and Setsuko packs to live a life of woodsmen on the hillside, something which will decide their fate later.


First day at their new place, Seita cooks rice for dinner and after that they set out to explore the surroundings. They catch hundreds of fireflies and put them inside the mosquito net over their bed. A happy Seita and Setsuko lies in the bed looking up at the fireflies inside the net and while Setsuko falls fast asleep, Seita is reminded of ship on which his father set out for.

In the morning, when Seita looks for Setsuko he sees the little one digging a grave for all the trapped-dead fireflies. An upset Setsuko tells Seita that aunty told her mom was dead and she is in a grave now. In one of the defining moments of the movie, Setsuko asks Seita
"Why do fireflies have to die so soon ?"
This seemingly innocent question holds the key to the theme of the movie at different levels, depending on how you see it. We will elaborate on that shortly.


They soon run out of the supplies they had. Seita tries to get some rice on credit from the farmer whom they used to buy. The farmer in turn refuses and advices Seita and Setsuko to swallow their pride and go back to their aunt. The subsequent decision of Seita to fight it out alone in the woods mark the turning point of the movie. Desperate for food, Seita resorts to stealing vegetables from a nearby farmer's field. One night he is caught redhanded by the farmer and handed over to the police. The police takes pity at the boy and releases him. When Seita comes to Setsuko who has been waiting outside the police station, he is humiliated, distraught and a pathetic figure. (This reminds me of the scene when the father comes to the son after an unsuccessful attempt to steal a bicycle in The Bicycle Thief).


Further ahead in the story Setsuko's health gradually fails from malnutrition. When she is taken to the doctor, he prescribes Setsuko one thing - food !!. Seita shouts in the clinic


"Where am I supposed to find food ?? "


Subsequently Seita comes to know that their father has 7000 yens in the bank. Light at the end of the tunnel. Seita rushes to the bank to withdraw money, where from the bystanders he learns that Japan has surrendered and all the ships (including the one on which their father was aboard) were drowned. Shaken, scared, upset Seita runs back home with the food on that rainy night to find his little sister lying on the floor in delirium from the illness.






In one of the profound scenes to follow, Setsuko shows Seita two mud balls and says she has prepared rice balls and have been waiting for Seita. Tears rolling down his face, Seita cuts a piece of watermelon, feeds her and asks her to sleep till he prepares the rice. Setsuko's voice over then says
"She never woke up again"




Afterwards we see Seita cremating Setsuko in a small straw basket along with her doll.
"After that I climbed down the hill and never went back to the shelter"


Then we are taken on a long shot where we see Seita's and Setsuko's spirit meeting and they sitting on a park bench on a hill overlooking the Tokyo city.

Credits Roll.



Afterthought
"Why do fireflies have to die so soon ?"
This question from Setsuko can symbolise the destruction of kamakaze fighter pilots or it can symbolise the untimely death of Setsuko and Seita - they themselves being the shortlived fireflies.

In this case, the story illustrates the peril of choosing pride over survival. When the farmer advices Seita to go back to his aunt, he refuses out of pride which ultimately seals their fate.
Also arguably this is one of the most profound anti-war movies. Rather than depicting the war-time life through the eyes of war heroes, this story depcits the devastation of war from the view point of a common man. As someone said 'No matter who kills most, in a war both sides always lose.' This is the reason why majority of the movie is based on the common man rather than saying anything about the war directly.

Watch the trailer of this masterpiece here..

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Suspension of disbelief (SOD)



“When Neo evades bullets in matrix, you don’t have any problem gulping it down your throat, but when Annan (Rajni) does the same thing why is it so hard to accept ?” asked my friend.
Any implausible act in the cinema demands suspension of disbelief from the spectator.

Suspension of disbelief is exactly what it sounds, suspending your disbelief. This is the theoretical approach to that aspect of enjoying art forms where we momentarily are willing to believe the unbelieveable. Problem with SOD (suspension of disbelief) is that depending on the premises of the story we subconciously reach differerent levels of SOD. When you start saying the story of an ‘advanced’ machince-controlled world where human beings are treated as mere batteries, the theme itself demands an incredulous amount of SOD. You can imagine you being in an SOD bubble, which bursts after the movie. Success of selling an idea to the spectator involves maintaining this bubble for the length of the movie in the least.
(more to come.... )

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Bridge to Terabithia


Bridge to Terabithia was a complete surprise. I was expecting something on the lines of Chronicles of Narnia. But the movie turned out to be totally different.



Jess, a school kid is not the most popular in school. Very talented but shy, Jess makes friends with a new girl, Leslie. After school they go to the nearby woods and they imagine that it is a land of magical creatures - Terabithia - where they are the rulers. Soon, Leslie dies in an accident in the river and Jess' life hits rock bottom. But later he realises to do justice to Leslie's friendship he has to live out his imagination, just like they used to do. He starts a new 'life' with his younger sister Mabel and rule over Terabithia happily ever after.






Eventhough there are some pretty good CGI shots in the movie, it doesnt rely on special effects to win the hearts of audience. This is a feel good movie in the end. Nice to watch. Child actors have done wonderful job in this movie, especially actors who play Jess and Mabel.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Woody Allen movies

Woody Allen movies tempts me a lot to try a hand at movie making. Thats the deceptive simplicity of his movies. What might look like a light-hearted movie actually carries its own philosophy and signature.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Hamoun


Hamoun is a 1990 Iranian film by the director Dariush Mehrjui. Unlike other Iranian movies, critics have noted that the film has an undertone of comedy. This is the story of a middle class man's struggle when his western life style comes in conflict with some of the orthodox views he subscribes to.
Protagonist is Hamid Hamoun - an executive at a leading import-export company, an intellectual who reads Søren Kierkegaard & Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance. His wife Mahshid - a budding artist in abstract painting - hails from a rich family but falls for the intellectual Hamoun. When his dream of becoming a writer seems to bear no fruit the frustration comes out often as abuse towards his wife. His simultaneous attempt to take a PhD too doesnt go well, the failure which he attributes to the disoriented state of their apartment. He believes the smell of turpentine from Mahshids art workshop which fills the place doesnt provide him with a suitable state of mind to continue his thesis. His frustration mounts coupled with jealousy when she gains recognition in her abstract painting.
Mahshid - once a girl who was very much in love with Hamoun - now finds him as a constricting force. Occassional physical abuse drains away her love for Hamoun. She gradually realises she doesnt love Hamoun anymore. Hamoun on the other hand believes they are still very much in love. After one of their regular fights she declares that she is leaving him. This comes as a fatal blow to Hamoun, who despite his frustrations is very much dependent upon Mahshid. Mahshid on the other hand strives for freedom.
The funny side of the Mahshid's immediate career success is that in her frustration of feeling constricted she once drops a paint jar on one of her canvases and that bloat is hailed as her masterpiece. Dariush takes a dig at the abstract painting here.
All the details above are revealed through a flashback when Mahshid talks to a psychiatrist about her unhappiness. The psychiatrist meeting turns out to be the coup de grace for the couple's troubled marriage. Hamoun's incapability to deal with this situation turns him into a complete wreck. He denies her divorce. Meanwhile his career hits rock bottom. Eventhough an executive at the company Hamoun is forced to go around and sell items as a regular salesman. Hamoun goes on searching for his teacher Ali - whom he admires a lot - to seek advice at this terrible juncture of his life, but in vain. What follows is the self destruction of Hamoun. He goes to his granny's place to retrieve a rifle which his grandfather had left. Unintentionally he meets his grandmother who on knowing his failed marriage asserts Hamoun is a poor wreck. Hamoun waits for Mahshid -who by the time lives a happy independent life- oppossite her apartment waiting for her to come home and appear at the window. After he misses the shot, Hamoun flees. Driven to the brink of madness he decides to suicide by driving over the cliff, but doesnt find strength. Finally he comes to the beach - shot which reminds me of last scene from 400 blows - where he tries to dig a grave for himself. And after a change of mind he walks into the sea and attempts a suicide. What follows is a dream-sequence (the film has numeral dream sequences owing to which the flim has been acclaimed as having a fellini touch). In the dream Hamoun is rescued and brought to a bunch of people - all his acquaintences and relatives- where he is assured that everything is fine now, his wife is ready to come back to him, the money he borrowed can be returned at leisure... everything which Hamoun had wished for. Hamoun all throughout his life has been dependent upon others despite his philosophical views. Hamoun is awakened from the dream to find out that he has been saved by his teacher Ali and brought back to the very world, the scary world from which he wanted to escape.




References
http://www.firstrunfeatures.com/hamoun.html
http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/hamoun/
http://movies2.nytimes.com/gst/movies/movie.html?v_id=119206
http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/films/films.php?id=9687

Monday, May 29, 2006

Dancer in the dark


I saw Dancer in the dark around 6 months back. Still when I think about that movie its makes me want to write about it... let more people know about it. Its one of the best movies I have ever seen.... This movie is definitely not for people who dont like sad stories. The movie is very depressing and you feel devastated after you watch it. You will cherish the frames for a long time. I am not ashamed to say here that I could not finish this movie in one stretch because this was one of the few movies which made me cry.
The story is of a single mother Selma, a Czech immigrant in US earning her living as a factory worker. She works hard to earn a living for her and her child Gene. Selma loves musicals and very often she slips into day dreaming even when she is working in the factory. The story starts getting uneasy when it is revealed that Selma is having a hereditary disease which is turning her blind day by day. She saves every penny for one thing.. to have her son operated to save him from it. The story takes a twist when her landowner and friend Bill, a town policeman desperately trying to make his spendthrift wife happy, discovers Selma's savings and steals it. Selma finding this out tries to get back the money and in the struggle Bill is shot. Selma is accused of murder and sent to jail... All this happens when she is slowly turning blind. Her friend Kathy recovers the money and plans to spend it for acquiting Selma, which she denies because she wants it to be used for hers boys operation. And in the end.. Selma is hanged.


Eventhough, the plot might seem as the storyline for a cheap sentimence drama.. you could be no more wrong. This is a masterpiece by Lans von Trier. Bjork as Selma does a brilliant performance I have ever seen. She makes you cry without ever being dramatic... even when she laughs and talks to Jeff, who likes her but she never reciprocates eventhough she likes him too. In one scene Jeff offers her a lift back home from factory
"Hi, Selma. If you're not going with Kathy,can I give you a lift?"
"I don't want a boyfriend. I--I told you. You're a really nice guy, Jeff, but...I just don't have time for a boyfriend. Not right now. If I wanted a boyfriend, it would be you, Jeff. I just don't want one right now."
She smiles all the way through this scene... but nonetheless the scene conveys the sad life of that young mother who have stopped living for her.
The movie is shot in a unconventional way of seeing through a hand held camera, shaking and panning recklessly. All the scenes have an orange tint which gives you an ominous feeling. But this is not the case with the musical scenes in the movie. The musical scenes are splendid in photography. This can be attributed to the general theme of the film. The normal scenes where you see through the shaky camera symbolises the unstability and pale hue of selma's life.... that is the reality.


The musicals are happening inside Selma's imagination when she slips into day dreams. The world is beautiful there.. behind every sound, be it the train passing over the bridge or the sound of the factory tools.. behind every sound there lies a rhythm. Eventhough this is the manifestation of Selma's imagination... this is all what she wants.. for her to be happy thats all what she needs... little dreams of a poor woman.

She is a devoted mother and at the same time there is so much of a girl inside her. There is this scene when she tells Kathy about the musical films.
"Isn't that annoying when they do the last song in the films ? Because you just know when it goes really big, and the camera goes out of the roof, and you just know it's gonna end. I hate that. I really hate that. I used to cheat on that when I was a little girl back in Czechoslovakia. I would leave the cinema just after the next to last song, and the film would just go on forever. It's lovely, isn't it?"
The last scene is heart wrenching. Selma have been strong all long.. but at the last moment she succumbs to the emotion, the fright of losing one's life. She pleads for mercy. When the jail personnnel puts the blinds over her head, she cries.. "Nobody told me about this.. I cant breath..."

Then Selma shifts to a trance like state where she sings her last song... Probably this is the only time in the movie where we are in the real world when Selma is dreaming. All through the movie the viewer is taken through the dream world and reality in turns.. but in this scene, the two paralles merge... The song reminds you of the dream world where as the visual is the harsh reality before Selma. This scene has such a profound effect, that all the happy dream sequences comes back to you and reminds you that there wasnt a moment of happiness in this poor woman's life save for her dreams. Selma is hanged to death, an innocent woman doing nothing more than trying to make a better life for her child.

Monday, March 6, 2006

Rain


Rain always made him want to talk to someone. It brought back so many memories. Down the memory lane, when life was simpler and concerns were less. Who would have thought the swaying coconut-tree tops in the rain would get etched on to the heart and would create a longing for the place where he grew when it rained now, a decade later. Every drop that hit his face reminded him of - the smell of sand when it rains fresh, drops that would trickle down the tip of the leaves, the look of mother nature after the rain, as though she had cleaned up the mess which they had made..
All the money, all the A/C, all the amenities couldn’t stand against the feeling he got when he set his bare foot on the earth, after the rain had quenched her thirst, she was again a virgin. He longed to go back where he belonged. A simple world... a small world... which nonetheless meant everything. When aspirations got higher, life took a back seat.

Monday, September 5, 2005

His Parents


He felt like crying.. Never had he thought of it that way. For the first time in his entire life,... he was at the brink of crying ath the thought of his parents. His parents, since their marriage had been living apart mostly and had a life together for two months in every year, only becuase they could have a good living, they could give their children good education... So his father worked aboard. They wanted their children to have all those things which they couldnt have. They lived for their children. Their mother cooked for her children, washed their clothes... served them before she had. All becuase, she loved them, she would sacrifice anything for them. When he was away, enjoying with his friends, she was worried for him when he would return and would return safe. She prayed for their children... and prayed only for her happiness through their happiness. Never had he felt grateful towards them for that... Now when sitting away and thinking of his childhood and rewinding each memory he could dig out.... he was realising, if it werent for them... he wouldnt be sitting here. He always had thought it was his hard work and toil that made it big for him.... and now he saw the whole thing in another light. A dim light, which reminded him of the characters that played a role in his story of success. The characters which chose to stay in the dim-light and see their son go higher and higher. His father... his mother... series of frames.... ran through his heart... He couldnt bear it any longer. He felt like crying... and at the second thought of how lucky he was to have such parents, he smiled through his tears. The magnificent hue of the setting sun seemed to spread all over the horizon and all over his heart bringing a new light into his life.