Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Movie round-up continues...

Euro 2008 Film Festival -- first 5 films:

Even though the Euro 2008 soccer tournament does not start until June 7, I wanted to start watching my film festival screenings this year. In my past soccer film festivals (World Cup 2006, Copa America 2007), I was often watching the films while the soccer tournament was going on. This created a hectic schedule as I was often scrambling to give my attention to both the films and soccer games. Now, I plan to watch all my films before the soccer tournament so that I can enjoy the footie games peacefully.

I will do detailed write-ups of the movies and my selection criteria in upcoming months. Unlike the previous two soccer film festivals, this time I actually have a plan for choosing the movies.

Films in order of viewing:

  • Daywatch (Russia, 2006, Director Timur Bekmambetov)

  • Edi (Poland, 2002, Director Piotr Trzaskalski)

  • Goodbye Lenin (Germany, 2003, Director Wolfgang Becker)

  • Sorry for Kung Fu (Croatia, 2004, Director Ognjen Svilicic)

  • Zelary (Czech Republic, 2003, Director Ondrej Trojan)

  • Indian stop-over: Independent Cinema vs Bollywood

    Parzania (2005, Director Rahul Dholakia): Rating 7.5/10

    Gujarat experienced its days of hell in early 2002. It all started with a burning of a train in Godhra. What followed was nothing short of a genocide like extermination but was labeled by the media as riots or Hindu-Muslim clashes. Then further revenge killings took place to counter the initial violent acts. But what was the truth? Who lit the train on fire? I didn't gather much from the news as the investigation was very biased and muddy. Then I luckily came across Rakesh Sharma's eye-opening 4 hour documentary Final Solution in 2004. I had to watch the film in 3 sittings as the documentary was not an easy watch -- the film slowly peeled off the layers of hate to reveal the pure evil that lurked inside the hearts of weak and corrupt men. Yes it is only men who could have thought of such disgusting acts of violence.

    Parzania revisits those dark days in Gujarat's and India's history. Just like Deepa Mehta's film Earth, Parzania uses a Parsi family to document the hateful acts (in Earth the 1947 Partition violence was shown through the eyes of a young Parsi girl). In a way using a Parsi family gives a neutral ground to observe the events as Parsi's are neither Hindu or Muslim, so they should remain unharmed. But there are no neutrals during the blind rage that exists and as Parzania shows, even the so called neutrals are caught in the cross-fire. Parzania also throws in another neutral observer in Allan, an American who comes to Gujarat to complete his thesis on Mahatma Gandhi. He brings some objective perspective to the madness and questions how the birth place of Mahatma Gandhi can be filled with so much seething violence. It was in fact such hateful ideas that led to Mahatma's assassination in the first place, so it shouldn't be a surprize that these poisonous ideas would start to hover over the streets of Gujarat.

    Kairee (2000, Director Amol Palekar): Rating 6/10

    Throughout the 1970's and 80's, Amol Palekar was a darling of both India's art house & commercial cinema and gave some memorable performances in such films as Chhoti Si Baat, Safed Jhoot, Gol Maal and Khamosh. I had no idea that he had turned to direction in the early 1980's itself as I never got to see his early efforts. I knew that he made some waves with his 1995 directed film Daayraa. But the movie only made the trips on the film festival circuit and did not make it out to my part of the world. The first Amol Palekar directorial effort I saw was his 2005 Bollywood film Paheli. Thanks to Palekar, Paheli was a wonderful movie directed with such care and tenderness, much better than the regular Bollywood studio fare.

    When I came across Kairee I grabbed it and was eager to see Palekar's effort. But this film was a huge disappointment. The story is told from the view point of a 10 year old girl who is sent to live with her aunt after her mother passes away and her uncle does not want to take care of her. As the innocent girl starts to discover the complicated world around her, she starts to mature and grow up a little. There are some tender moments in the movie, especially with the girl and her teacher (played by Atul Kulkarni) where the teacher encourages the girl to write and adapt with the tough world.

    Jab We Met (2007, Director Imtiaz Ali): Rating 8/10

    I love it when word of mouth sometimes propels a movie well beyond its expectations. Such is the case with Jab We Met. No one had any hopes from this Shahid Kapoor and Kareena Kapoor film. Even though I had loved Imtiaz Ali's first film Socha Na Tha (I watched that movie three times), I decided to stay away from his second effort as the movie looked like a typical love story (Ofcourse, I should have known better as I said that about this first film before I fell in love with it).

    But then I only heard good things about this Jab We Met. Friends and family raved about it. Well I decided to listen to them all and in the end, I am glad I did. The story is nothing new -- essentially something along the lines of Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge plus elements from other love triangles. But the strength of the film is the fresh screenplay and an amazing performance from Kareena Kapoor. Though I am not a fan of her acting, this was a role perfect for her talents. She acts with so much gusto and as the camera is focused on her face most of the time, she is completely at ease in delivering some fascinating dialogues.

    Also, some nice little touches by Imtiaz Ali. The film starts out with the lead character Aditya (Shahid Kapoor) not speaking a single line of dialogue for the first 8 minutes or so. Just by observing him, we can understand his gradual meltdown and suicidal urge. But despite his need to kill himself by jumping off a moving train, we can anticipate that he will eventually shout something because sitting across from him is Geet (Kareena Kapoor), a woman that never shuts up and keeps talking and talking, even in her sleep. Sure enough, once Aditya shouts back, the film moves into high gear of witty dialogues and energetic fun.

    Ofcourse, there are plenty of weak points in the movie. Besides the lead pair, the acting of others is average at best. The triangle love interest in the movie Anshuman (Tarun Arora) displays virtually no emotion while delivering his lines. Some of the production is quite sloppy as one can easily make out the fake trains and cars (seriously, is it that hard to get a decent crane shot of a moving car?).

    With both Socha Na Tha and Jab We Met, Imtiaz Ali has proved that there is so much scope that can still be explored in a framework of an Indian love/marriage story. Ofourse, it takes a talented writer and director to produce works which can be both fun and thought provoking.

    She's back!!!!!!

    "Madhuri Dixit is back". Only in Bollywood can 4 such words be used to promote a movie. But then again, Madhuri Dixit is no ordinary actress. No other woman has ever held such charm over modern Bollywood as Madhuri has. And in her 5 year absence, no new actress has been able to capture the energy of Madhuri. So she was sorely missed.

    Aaja Nachle (2007, Director Anil Mehta): Rating 8/10

    "Form is temporary, Class is permanent" (Unknown source, cricket quote?)

    Yes Madhuri is all class. Without her Aaja Nachle would fall apart completely despite having a strong cast of Konkana Sen Sharma, Vinay Pathak, Ranvir Shorey, Irfan Khan, Kunal Kapoor and Akhshaye Khanna.

    The story is written by Aditya Chopra so that means we get a village that can only exist in Bollywood -- despite all the complications, a little song and dance is enough to solve all problems. An ordinary stage is supposed to represent the highest form of art against the big bad soul-less mall that is going to take its place. But I didn't go to see this movie because of its story. I went because of Madhuri. And good to know that despite her age, she can still light up the screen with one smile. There is truly no one like her.

    So just like the movie story, is her return temporary? Who knows but maybe someone can write a story to place her opposite Amitabh Bachchan, a pairing that has still not happened.

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