Monday, June 16, 2014

The War Cinema!!!

Not sure why but I've always liked world war movies – maybe I discovered this interest in days when I used to read a lot about holocaust. No, there is no animal inside me. But there was a time when reading about Hitler interested me and slowly I delved into reading about holocausts and gas chambers and concentration camps and all that.
What I learnt was that if ever there was a limit to human cruelty, it didn't exist.  What I also learnt was that amidst all the darkness, one can always find a few who bear the torch of good.
While Hitler is a character which always interested me, I slowly moved on to watching movies of his time – the world war movies. Once I almost exhausted movies in English, I moved on to German, French, Polish, Algerian and other languages. I am still not done with.
While there are a few names like “Enemy at the gates”, “Schindler’s List” which even I had heard off way before I picked up this hobby, I have watched a few not so famous ones as well. Here is a brief list of my favorites.
Empire of the Sun – I was nearly an hour into the movie when urge to find out a few more things about the movie couldn't be suppressed any further. Wiki told me that it was a Spielberg movie which wasn't really a surprise to me. Only he can make children act and make it look so real. I was more interested in finding out the name of the kid who acted as Jim, the protagonist – his acting just didn't look like acting. It looked so real. If I was moved by his acting, I was surprised to find out his name – Christian Bale.
You will find many war movies which will be full of guns, bullets, blasts, bombs, tanks, aircraft and all that one can think of war. You will find very few movies about the stakeholders who are least talked about but are nearly most impacted – people caught in the war.
Based on JG Ballard’s novel with the same name, Empire of the Sun is tale of a kid who gets caught in the war. From his life of affluence, he falls flat in to the dark and cruel world of war camp. Jim, the kid played by Bale, gets separated from his family at the start of Second World War and only manages to meet them once the war gets over. The period between these two events are all about Jim’s survival instincts to make him last one more day in the camp, the innocence of his childhood which refuses to die down, the cruelty around him and his eyes full of dreams which have nothing but fighter planes.
Empire of the Sun is a must not miss movie for everything one can like about a movie. Watch it for Spielberg’s direction, Bale’s acting, the pace of the movie and the emotional ride it provides. Watch it for the sake of cinema which thrives on the habit of venturing out to a new world.
Flags of Our Fathers/Letters from Iwo Jima - Every coin has two sides. That’s what Clint Eastwood tells us through these two movies. Flags of Our Fathers is the American version of battle of Iwo Jima – fought between US army and Japan at the far end of Second World War. The movie shows how valiantly US army fought the battle which required sacrifices of gigantic magnitudes, how fierce Japanese soldiers were who looked always ready to die in the name of nation and how atrocious was Imperial army in committing the war crimes.
The movies is in English. It shows American side of the coin and even though director has made all the attempts, does look a bit bias. It does leave you wanting to hate Japanese.
If you are done watching Flags of Our Fathers, please move on to Letters from Iwo Jima – the Japanese side of the same coin. By the time movies ends, your emotions after watching Flags of Our Fathers are completely reversed. The movie shows that the same Japanese soldier who looked a fearsome killer in the first movie was equally scared of death, was equally reluctant to leave his family to move to war front and was equally human. Oh yes, human is the word.
One incident stands out to showcase the purpose of the movie – to show two opposite sides of the same coin.
There is a scene in Flags of Our Fathers where a US soldier goes missing and his badly mutilated body is found couple of days later – the soldier’s body is nearly unrecognizable. “How cruel the soldiers of imperial army must have been” is what you think after seeing this. Cold blooded torture is what you assume.    
The same scene shows a different colors in Letters from Iwo Jima. The Japanese are shown to be totally scared and frustrated of the battle and as soon as they get hold of US soldier, they kill him out of frustration – no cold blooded torture. While they are killing him, they themselves are scared to every possible extent.
Like the end of the movie, this scene also leave you confused – which side to choose. Or maybe, that’s what the purpose of movie is- to leave you confused and let you choose the side. The message movie gives is – you don’t choose sides in a war, it is always the war against everyone else.
My Boy Jack – I had heard Rudyard Kipling’s name and knew that he was one of the prefixes in English literature in last century. But that’s about it. The reason I got interested in this movie was Daniel Radcliffe. While I had seen Rupert Grint in Wild Target, I had seen Tom Felton in Rise of Planet of Apes, I was yet to see Daniel in a non-Harry Potter movie.
As it turned out, My Boy Jack is a simple yet highly emotional movie about Rudyard Kipling and his son who went missing/believed to have died in First World War. The movie is adaptation of a play with the same name which itself was inspired by Kipling’s poem with the same name – My Boy Jack.  The poem portrays the pain of a father who lost his son in the war. The movie shows build up for this – how a myopic Radcliff is so desperate to join armed forces to serve the nation in the need of its hour, how it is a matter of pride for Kipling for his son to join armed forces, how women in the house keep a strong face in front of wishes of the men in the house but keep praying secretly that their wishes never come true. It shows the pain Kipling and his family goes through once news of their son goes missing breaks out, how a desperate mother refuses to believe that her son has died and keeps up the candle for her search and what a great writer Kipling must have been to encapsulate so much amount of pain in just few words of the poem – My Boy Jack. Oh yes, do watch it for David Haig’s acting.
There are a few more which are must watch – The EmperorThe Bridge on the River Kwai A Bridge Too FarDas Boot 
Watching World War movies is fun – not just the action but plethora of emotions they carry is worth the money. And all of them have one message which I like the most – message carrying hope. And yes, they do carry a lot of history with them. This is something I have always wondered – having fought and won so many wars after independence, it is a shame that India’s kitty of war movies is almost empty. Maybe it’s the love stories which needs to vacate this kitty first.   

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Monsoon!!!

Before the shameless days of Aa Saari Raat Besharmi Ki Height and the likes, erotica in Bollywood had a common trigger – rain.
Quite often, it was the rain which changed the mood of the scene from platonic love to manifestation of it – lust. Quite often, it was the rain which let the audience know that even though movie was strong proponent of the theory “love just happens”, in reality love has to be made. Quite often, it was the rain and the scenes/songs in it which became the selling points in movie’s posters.
Quite often, male and female protagonist would find themselves (just the two of them) in a secluded place with thunderstorms threatening an Armageddon. It is then when lightening would strike, female protagonist would suddenly try finding shelter in male’s arms, they would sing a song and just before audience hoped to see some action, two flowers would be shown fighting with each other. 
There is a similarity between movies those days and current state of affairs – we waited for rain back then, we are waiting for rain now. Well, at the onset of monsoon, let me take you back to some of my favourite rain songs – the days of rain, dance, plain chiffon saris and the unmentionables.
Yellow, yellow. Dirty Fellow (the Tip Tip Song, Mohra) – For all those who have spent adolescent years in 90s, Tip Tip Barsa Paani ofMohra has to be in one of the top songs if not the topmost song. Ravishing and bootylicious Raveena Tandon clad in a plain yellow chiffon sari, showing off curvaceous body and numerous sensuous swells – the song had it all to make you drop your jaw. As it happens, Raveena crank/prank calls Akshay Kumar to a secluded location to lure him with her dance and Maans. Somewhere at the middle of the song, Akshay’s loses control – it is the moment he starts laughing. For some strange reason, Akshay Kumar always laughs in such scenes – he is yet to disclose the reason behind it.
Forget the video, even audio of the song is awe inspiring. High pitch voice of Udit Narayan gives the song a new life – not that it was lacking before his arrival at Da da da da dooba dariya mein, khada main saahil par. Alka Yagnik has been at her mellifluous best.
This song, ladies and gentlemen, was to that year what Baby Doll is to year 2014.
Red Riding Hood (Jaane do na, Saagar) – Oh we are back to Akshay Kumar. This time he would just be a reference. Jaane do Na fromSaagar was filmed on Akshay’s mother in law and Ranbeer Kapoor’s father. Okay, to simplify it – on Dimple Kapadia and Rishi Kapoor. This isn’t exactly a rain song but much better than a lot of such songs. I just loved the way song was filmed – proves that camerawork isn’t just about lights, magic can be done with shadows too – shadow of the swimming pool along with it is filmed, shadow of people in the song, shadow of Dimple’s hair, shadow of Rishi’s about to explode tummy. All the shadows worked their magic to give the song a desired effect. So much was the play of shadows that one is left wondering – if Dimple’s sari was red or it was the shadow of Rishi Kapoor’s lips which looked so red as if they were painted.
Bleed Blue (Kaate nahi Kat-te, Mr. India) – If ever there has been a singer more versatile than Late Kishore Kumar, I would really like to listen to him. There wasn’t a single human emotion which his magical voice couldn’t express in more than one ways. He, in one single word, was a genius.
With due respect to their greatness, in the days of Sari clad Lata Mangeshkar and Gajara wearing Asha Bhoshle, playback singing did lack a bit of glamour. A few new names did appear only to disappear at a rapid pace. That’s why Alisha Chinoy is important. She brought back the glamour in the art of playback singing.
Mr. India’s Kaate Nahi Kat-te was her debut song. The blue chiffon Sari that Sridevi wore, the rustic setup, the red colour which was used to see Mr. India and eventually the rain – this was the song of the decade. Ending of the song was exactly like it should be for such songs – you wish if it had lasted a bit longer. The husky voice of Alisha saying “Love you, love you”, Sridevi’s expression of being left wanted for more of you-know-what when Mr. India leaves her to fight Mogambo’s bad guys and slow dimming of light – the perfect ending ensured that song was epitome of perfection.
Purple Haze (Baarish Ka Bahaana, Yalgaar) – Sparks had to fly when a politician romanced an accused in the case of Mumbai Bomb Blasts. Fly they did. Those were the days when SanjuBaba sported long hair, had a few muscles and was on his to stardom. 1993 was still a year away. Those were the days when Nagma still had a figure to put on a two piece bikini. For some strange reason, colour of Sari in this song and the colour of bikini she wore later in the movie – they were same. Why? Go figure. But the song had its moments.
The song most likely to figure in this list – Roop Tera Mastaana, missed out for not really being a rain song. A rain song must have three things – lightening, thunder and a wet Sari. Presence of rain in the song is always an added bonus.  

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Soap Operas!!!

Oh yes, we are men. We aren’t supposed to watch or follow daily soap operas. We are supposed to detest them and detest we do. We are supposed to be cricket crazy, soccer maniac, political enthusiasts and we are all that.
But to the surprises of women, we are humans too. We are peaceful creatures who don’t like bitter gourd. To maintain peace and avoid bitter gourd, we agree to compromise – it is when Sasural Simar Ka takes precedence over that nail biting tense match between CSK and MI. With regular supply of these soap operas (or serials as we fondly call it) thrust down our throats, we do follow them.
I am no different. I have had my share of soap operas. Never ending or at least most of them have been. I am sure some of them will surely outlive me. Today I am going to talk about some of the soap operas I have followed. Since words have a habit of finding their ways to places you don’t want to, I must add I did NOT follow these soap operas, serials, forcibly just in case these words manage to find their ways to my wife’s ears. I followed them all with smile on my face, hunger in my stomach and hope in my mind – hope the cricket match wouldn’t get over by the time this crap got over.
Ek Hasina Thi – No, this is not a small screen version of Subhash Ghai’s classic Karz or Himesh Bhai’s classified Karzzzz. While Karz was an edge of the seat thrilling piece of work, Karzzz was an in-the-bed soporific work of (f)art. Maybe that’s what so many Zs signified in the end of its name.
But yes, Ek Hasina Thi is about revenge – a bit of Nirbhaya case, a bit of Jessica Lal. It has a bit of Bahaar Aane Tak, a bit of Pyar to Hona Hi Tha. It has a bit of everything.
I must say – star cast is good.
People do all kinds of things to look younger than they are. Vatsal Seth - playing Shourya Goenka, had to age many years, gain weight, tan a few shades and wear strange coloured contact lenses to look old. For some reasons, even the gorgeous Sanjeeda Seikh, playing female protagonist Durga Thakur, has put on contact lenses. Maybe it was a case of buy one get one free. Simone Singh seems to wearing a quilt all the time to ensure she looks bulky enough – after all she is playing mother of a twenty something. I remember Kishwer Merchant as a school girl in Hip Hip Hurray. Seeing her play mother of another grown up makes me feel old. It is only when I see Ayub Khan, I feel a bit younger. New characters keep appearing. Old characters haven’t yet started disappearing.
All in all, a decent watch if you don’t have an option worth fighting for the remote. Till now it has been gripping. Not sure how long it will last – to be gripping. The serial will last forever as we all know.
Pyar Ka Dard Ha Meetha Meetha Pyara Pyara (PKDHMMPP) - Nope. That’s not a song. That’s the name of a serial. Problem with such serials is in their names. Assume they start at 8:30 PM. By the time they complete announcing the name of it, its 8:40PM. Since at the end of each episode they’ve to announce – “In the next episode of Pyar Ka Dard Hai Meetha Meetha Pyara Pyara”, they need to begin announcing at 8:50PM. So there is really not much time to show real content – oh yes, they need to manage a few ad break as well. One cannot really fault the producers if such serials last a lifetime. Blame lies with the idiot who gives them such names. Even the abbreviation of the name sounds like a South Indian political party.
Coming to the story – being a product of Rajshri Production, it had a bit of Vivaah, Ek Vivaah Aisa Bhi, Hum AApke Hain Kaun, Hum Sath Sath Hain, NAdiya Ke Paar, Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon etc. For complete list, please click here.
Story has gone like this so far. Pankhudi and Aditya meet each other because someone in their family thinks they could be a good match. Initially they don’t like each other, then they do, then again they don’t like each other, soon they do – after a few months of chaos, they finally get married. Conspirators keep doing their job. Something happens to Pankhuri – she dies. Or so does everyone but the viewers of the show think. As always, viewers are right. Pankhuri reappears. Is she Pankhuri or result of that night few years ago when her dad got too drunk? Only next few episodes lasting a few months can tell. Or maybe producers will take a secret SMS poll to decide.
Why should you watch it? Well, I cannot think of a reason.
Diya aur Baati Hum- A story of achievers. An educated, wannabe IPS gets married to an illiterate Mithaiwala. First, wife helps husband win some international cooking competition where he wins by cooking Phephle. Then husband helps wife become a commando cum IPS.
While on duty she puts on police dress and gets busy catching international terrorists, political conspirators and local goons. While off duty, she puts on all her jewellery and colourful Saree to work in kitchen. Bollywood legend Rekha played ideal Bahu in Bahurani. She played a perfect police officer’s role in Phool Bane Angarey. In Diya aur Baati Hum, Deepika Singh has played both the roles perfectly in the role of Sandhya Rathi. Such is the perfection in Anas Rashid’s role as her husband that he might well have played the wife and nobody would’ve noticed.
The serial is full of drama, emotions, international issues, morality, Phephle and pictures of sweets – male protagonist owns a sweet shop. The serial is strongly recommended for those who either are diabetic or hovering around the boundary line – you aren’t allowed to eat sweets but watching won’t harm. That’s something you would get to see a plenty here.
Mahabharata – I would love to talk at length about this serial but would rather play safe in these dark times. Religious sentiments are fast becoming like a woman’s feelings - they don’t really need a reason to get hurt.
While there have been many attempts to recreate the magic of Mahabharata on TV, none could beat BR Chopra’s masterpiece.
But this one is different.
Maybe it’s the HD version. Maybe it’s the cinematography. Maybe it’s in the detailing. But this Mahabharata broadcasted on Star has surely exceeded BR Chopra’s Mahabharata in every sense. This one is surely worth watching.
I have no doubt that Mahabharata is the greatest story ever written – books can be and have been written on small parts of the bigger plot. What I have always liked about Mahabharata is that every character has its shades of grey – quite like real life. Every act of good has a selfish motive behind it. Every act of evil has a nearly justifiable reason behind it. Mahabharata doesn’t choose for you – it tells the tale and let you choose. Producers have covered this aspect well.
While Mahabharata has infinite number of characters, I always found three characters most important – Bheeshma (the right on the wrong side), Shakuni (who kept wrong on the wrong side) and Krishna (the one who makes you choose right from wrong). If nothing, watch this serial for these three characters.  Special mention for Praneet Bhatt who has done a wonderful job as Shakuni.
Well, there have been a few more in the list but I would rather end it here. After all, unlike soap operas, I would rather keep readers away from most painful thing to do while reading – wait for it to end.