Archive for March, 2007

It’s Ram Gopal Verma’s latest film, and it had the tag of being an Indian version of Lolita. But, even while it must be given full marks for attempting to do something different, Nishabd still disappoints.

The best parts of Nishabd…
1. An attempt to do something different.
2. A mind blowing performance from the one and only inimitable Amitabh Bachchan.
3. A good performance from Jiah. She’s a talented actress, with attitude. Watch out for her.

The things that went wrong…
1. A weak script.
2. Cliche, after cliche, after cliche. That’s surely not the best way to tell an unusual story.
3. The lack of courage to explore an idea completely.
4. Ram Gopal Verma’s trademark skill as an Editor is sadly missing
5. RGV is also completely out of depth with a complex relationship – a spunky young woman and an unconventional (and much married) older man fall in love.
6. Finally, as in a lot of Hindi cinema, there is no falling in love. A man and a woman are just in love. And you better believe it 🙂 This is especially detrimental to this particular kind of film.


March 17, 1997

Posted: March 17, 2007 in Life and Living

March 17, 1997. It was the day my father died, and many things died with him.

It was around this time that I returned home and tried to get used to a house that no longer had my father. The house had people in it, and yet it had never been so empty.

It does not seem like 10 years since that day. Except perhaps for the gray hair that I now have on my head 🙂

My father and I had many dreams for the kind of person that I would be and the achievements that I would have. Some have been achieved, some still have to be.

I know that my father would be proud because
1. I completed my Bachelor’s.
2. I lived on my own, and I managed pretty well for many years.
3. I got back my father’s house, when no one thought I could.
4. I worked in organisations that were at the cutting edge of my field.
5. I pursued my Master’s at the London School of Economics on my own (this especially was something that my father really wanted).

He’d also probably have bragged about my bylines in The Times of India and Deccan Herald. Then, I guess he’d also have been happy to see that I still have long hair, am familiar with working on a computer, wear saris sometimes, am learning to speak Malayalam and manage my own car.

None of these things matter to me in the sense of defining who I am. But, I know that they probably would have made my father happy. Maybe, I’ll feel proud about the silly little inessentials too when I have a child of my own.

Who knows? These very same things may become symbols of my child having grown up.

Yet, I also know that my father would also have wanted more from me. He would have probably wanted me to:
1. Manage his business
2. Appear on TV more often 🙂
3. Be a little more extraordinary

I can’t say with certainty that my father would be proud of me if he were to return today. But, for myself, I am happy that I have always lived my life on my own terms. And no matter what, life has always gone on.

But, this is not just about the person that I have/have not become. It is also about celebrating a wonderful father and my best friend.

I miss him every time I achieve success. It’s never really complete because I have not shared it with him.

I miss every time the chips are down. I know that he would have moved heaven and earth to set it right for me.

The vacuum left by the people you love never really goes away. Anybody who tells you that it does, does not really know what they are talking about.

It is also true that nothing can replace the unconditional love of a parent.

If you’ve not heard of Shwaas before, you should have. This film, made in Marathi, was India’s entry for best foreign film at the Oscars in 2004.

The film, which is directed by Sandeep Sawant, tells the story of a child who is diagnosed with cancer of the eyes. His grandfather must take a decision to remove his eyes (this equals losing his eyesight for life) or let him die of cancer. The film tells the tale of the child’s journey. It is also the tale of the journey that his grandparents take with him.

While this is a good concept, the film is actually distinguished by unusual treatment. The director abandons the cliches and melodrama that accompanies a lot of Indian cinema. Instead, he tells the story with a sensitivity that is unusual even in the context of world cinema.

Abrupt, tense shots in the hospital are interspersed with scenes from the boy’s childhood in the village. I liked this technique very much because it makes the film a story of a child’s attempt to deal with circumstances that are bigger than him, and yet the film has that haunting beauty that we have seen in works like Iqbal.

The film’s fantastic conclusion celebrates life.

Shwaas is also an example of how good cinema (even when it makes it past the Indian selection board) does not always win at the Oscars. After all, two years ago Lagaan had been nominated at the Oscars. Don’t get me wrong, I think that Lagaan is a good film. It’s just that Shwaas is so much better.

The differentiator was that Lagaan was a big budget film and had the clout to lobby for attention at the Oscars. Shwaas did not. In fact, before the Oscars, the producers had small collection points at the malls in Mumbai to collect money to take Shwaas to the Oscars 🙂

It would have made an interesting story had Shwaas actually won. Either way, it pushes the boundaries of world cinema by just existing.

It’s been a week since we saw Apocalypto, and I’ve been thinking of it for different reasons.

All the reviews that I got said that it could be avoided, and yet when I saw the film I thought it was interesting.

It does not have the brilliance of Braveheart (of course, most of the Scots that I know tell me that Mel Gibson speaks with a horrible imitation of a Scotish accent, the film is not historically accurate and was shot in Ireland). But, it’s a better film than The Passion of the Christ. And there are also similarities between all these three works.

The similarity between these films lies in the high level of research that Mel Gibson indulges in for the landscape of his films. We see the beginnings of this in Braveheart, though my Scotish friends would disagree. It progresses in The Passion of the Christ, and is at its best in Apocalypto.

In Apocalypto, the actors actually speak in an ancient Mayan dialect and the film has been shot in the Brazilian rain forests. Close attention is also paid to re-creating the customs and landscape of a particular world. In a sense, this was also true of The Passion of the Christ.

But, Apocalypto also goes beyond The Passion of the Christ as it is more than a realistic depiction of a particular event, which is of primary interest to a Christian audience. It actually tells a story.

But unfortunately, the story that is the vehicle for this film is not as gripping as a film like Braveheart or Legends of the Fall (which is also the story of a lost world as told by Hollywood, albeit belonging to a different culture).

The film is also let down by the inability of the director to claim the film as his own. It’s always a view from on top. So, inspite of some outstanding performances from his cast, you turn your eyes away from the gore. But, are never completely moved by the story. This was something that Mel Gibson did manage to do in Braveheart. And it for this reason that Braveheart remains my favourite Mel Gibson film (inspite of what the Scots say!)

On Apocalytpo – there are parts that are brilliant, there are parts that are quite mediocre. But, if you like films that are well researched, then Apocalytpo is interesting. It is the re-creation of another world.

There were two interesting films among the Oscar nominations this year, and both of them were directed by Clint Eastwood. They were Flags of our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jimo.

The Battle of Iwo Jima is often regarded as a turning point in World War II. These two films are interesting because Flags of our Fathers tells the story of the six Americans who raised the flag at Iwo Jima and Letters from Iwo Jimo tells the story of that same battle from a Japanese perspective. So, when watched together, it would be like looking at two sides of the same coin.

We watched Flags of our Fathers over the weekend, and I liked the film very much.

While telling the story of World War II, it achieves the kind of impact that films like Saving Private Ryan just attempted.

The film uses the approach of the documentary drama genre, uses the heightened sense of realism that we saw in Saving Private Ryan. There is no attempt to shield you from the ‘massacre’ that is war. It is told as it is.

But, the similarities with Saving Private Ryan end there. For Flags of our Fathers does not have any stars of the calibre of Tom Hanks. But, that is also the film’s strength. When you think of Flags of our Fathers, you do not think of individual brilliance. Instead, you think of a film that tells the story of World War II.

The film has also been helped by excellent editing and scripting.It is a director’s triumph, with every loose end being tied up.

Now, I’m looking forward to watching Letters from Iwo Jimo. Will it really be a Japanese account of the famous battle?