Archive for August, 2013

Day before yesterday I watched the Bengali film, Aranyer Din Ratri – Days and Nights in the Forest (1970) online (on you tube). I rarely watch movies online but Days and Nights in the Forest was screaming at to me to be watched, thus finally I did and it was absolutely worth it.

Satyajit Ray's Aranyer Din Ratri (1970)

Days and Nights in the Forest
Days and Nights in the Forest, is a brilliant Indian art house movie to come out of the state of Bengal, India. Bollywood is famed for it’s commercial Hindi films, but when it comes to thought provoking art films, Bengal offers the best (Be it in their own language, i.e. Bengali, or in English).
Directed by the veteran Satyajit Ray, Days and Nights in the Forest is a very interesting character study of various young people of modern India (India of the late 60’s) within two social strata’s.
The movie begins with four well to do middle class men from Calcutta, Bengal, India; who travel up north to a forest, mainly inhibited by a tribal community, in the state of Bihar, on a holiday. Their plan is to enjoy themselves with alcohol and the local tribal women, and not bother to shave and live by city rules, and to avoid associating their own social circles, for those few days. But their hypocrisy is soon revealed, when early next day one of them spots two sophisticated ladies through his window. As he happily runs and wakes up his friends to share what he just witnessed, he states, one in a ‘sari’ and the other in ‘slacks’. This attire itself signifying the ladies’ higher social status as opposed to the village tribal women’s attire.
Thus, shunning all plans of disregarding city rules, the men shave and bathe to look more presentable to vie for the attention of the two more elegant females residing in the neighbouring lodge, rather than stick to their original intention of going wild in the wild.
The men, all clean and dressed, venture forth to introduce themselves, except for Hari (Samit Bhanja), who recently being ditched by his classy girlfriend (Aparna Sen), lusts for the affection of a mouthy tribal woman, Duli (Simi Garewal), instead. The others are invited by an older gentleman, Sadashiv Tripathi (Pahadi Sanyal) who happens to be the father and father-in-law of the two ladies in question; and soon Hari joins in as well.

Three very varied bold women
The four men in this movie themselves are quite varied characters.
Ashim (Soumitra Chatterjee) happens to be a bit of a flirt, yet a man with a conscience, and is especially conscious of how he is perceived by others; while we see Sanjoy (Shubhendu Chatterjee) who happens to be a poet, literary advocate and a bit of a leftist (in the late 60’s a lot of young modernist were influenced by communistic propaganda); then there’s Hari (Samit Bhanja), a somewhat brash and quite lethargic, yet straightforward, individual, who’s not so happy about the fact that a woman dared to dump him (i.e. his ex-girlfriend mentioned above, a nameless character played by Aparna Sen); and finally there’s Shekar (Rabi Gosh), who happens to be a jobless gambler and a bit of a comical character, a jester (more laugh at him, than with him, kind of jester), who seems to be the happiest of them all, with no conscience and not a care in the world, yet a good hearted character.
But the variations in the psychological characteristics of the three women, all bold feminist in their own way, is way more vast and not easy to decipher, neither for the four men nor us, the viewer, until towards the end of the film.

Sharmila Tagore as Aparna

Sharmila Tagore as Aparna

Sharmila Tagore plays Aparna, the daughter of Sadashiv Tripathi. When the four men enter the threshold of the neighbouring lodge and are introduced to her by her father, she politely says hello, but seems reserved and doesn’t seem interested in socialising with them. Instead she sits in a corner reading a book, while her father, sister-in-law, and little nephew entertain the guests. Yet she politely answers what ever questions the men throw at her, and then gets back to her reading. Here we see her being anti-social, but at the same time she’s not being rude either. Soon three of the men and her sister-in-law decide to play badminton. Aparna is left alone with Ashim, who seems to have developed an infatuation for her.
Her father asks her to show Ashim the unfinished building which she uses for her meditation and recreation. Ashim is in awe when he sees her library containing books as diverse as Agatha Christie mysteries to non fictional books like The Survival of God in the Scientific World, and of her good taste in music too (from her collection of vinyl records) which is as diverse as her taste in books, from classical music to popular music. He can’t seem to keep up with her level of intellect, and starts to develop an inferiority complex, and finds it difficult make her out. She seems kind, friendly and nice, yet aloof. Even when she tells him, that her mother and brother have passed away, she never betrays the how and why of the tragic circumstances that lead to their demise. She smiles, and shares her intelligence, but doesn’t openly display any sign of pain or unhappiness that she might be feeling.

The Three Female Leads

Kaberi Bose plays Jaya, a widow, a mother, Mr. Tripathi’s daughter-in-law, and Aparna’s sister-in-law. She seems fun loving, friendly, moved on with her life despite a past tragedy that beset her.
Simi Garewal plays Duli, a bold tribal woman, who seemingly willingly agrees to do anything the city folk want her to do for money, from cleaning house to other services.
All three women put up a bold exterior, without publicly exposing their true emotions of loss, longing and loneliness.

The Memory Game
I won’t divulge every single detail about the movie, and there are whole lot of happenings in the movie, but I would like discuss many essential aspects of the film. And the picnic sequence (especially ‘The Memory Game’ they play) happens to be one of the best and crucial scenes of Days and Nights in the Forest.

Days and Nights in the Forest (1970) picnic
After the four friends meet their new neighbours, they are invited by Jaya for the Breakfast the following morning. But owing to a drunken escapade the night before (a recurring occurrence in the life of the four men), they wake up too late next morning and find their breakfast sitting outside with a note. Embarrassed, the four friends apologise and invite their new friends to their place for a sort of picnic. Since Mr. Tripathi and his little grandson, on the insistence of the child, have already made plans to go and see the circus, just the two ladies attend.
At the picnic Jaya suggests playing ‘The Memory Game’, in which, apparently, Aparna is really good at. The Memory Game comprises of each individual stating a name of some well known personality; and as they go around each person has to say all the names said before and add a name of his or her own, without breaking the rhythm. The names have to be said in the chronological order. What is interesting is each name added by the said individual represents his or her own personality. For example Sanjoy, who veers more towards communist attitudes says names like Karl Marx, Mao Tse Tung etc etc… ; while Aparna, says names like Cleopatra, reflecting her own feminist intellectual non submissive roots, and Bobby Kennedy, famed for his advocacy for the African American civil rights movement, reflecting on her open-minded attitude. As the game goes around, people make mistakes and fall ‘out’, meanwhile Hari drops out loosing interest. Ultimately only Ashim and Aparna are left. Ashim, desperate to win is very careful, not wanting to seem inferior to Aparna, in front of whom he’s managed to embarrass himself a number of times. Detecting his fear Aparna, lets Ashim win the game. But, aware that she got out on purpose, it only adds to Ashim’s inferiority complex.

The Carnivalesque situation  
This segment in about the Carnivalesque situation of disruption and celebration that happens at the same time, literally, in the finalé of Days and Nights in the Forest.
After the picnic, by evening, they all go to the village Carnival that’s taking place that same day. This is where the films most climatic situation ensues. All the friends split and immerse themselves into the carnival. The comical gambler, Shekar, goes off to gamble away with his friends’ money; Ashim and Aparna separated from the group, walk off together, where we see Ashim’s torture at being constantly feeling inferior to Aparna, but here we also see Aparna share her more vulnerable side, which wasn’t easy to detect earlier. She confides in him about the fact that as a child she witnessed her mother burn to death, and that her brother’s death was actually suicide, leaving behind his wife Jaya and son. At the same time she confronts Ashim about his ignorance and indifference relating to the illness of the wife of the gatekeeper at the lodge the men are currently residing in. (Earlier in the movie, in more than one instance the gatekeeper mentions that his wife is ill). Aparna takes Ashim to a small hut, where we see the gatekeepers bedridden wife, and a child crying can be heard as well. Ashim admits he had no idea that she was in such a grave condition. Aparna points out their urban insensitivity. Despite spending three days at the lodge, and the gatekeeper more than once having mentioned his wife was ill, none of the four men bothered to find out how seriously ailing she was. Meanwhile we see Duli, the tribal woman, being dragged into the forest by Hari. Yet once there, she seems to be willing to satisfy his lust, so long as she gets paid. Here we learn that she too is a widow, and that her husband died due to a snake bite. Hari is seen threatening her, that he’ll hit her if she doesn’t see him again. She agrees without a fight. The sad thing is, she actually believes he has a right to treat her this way, not just because of her low cast, but also cause she is a woman. At the same time, Jaya takes Sanjoy home for coffee. Her father-in law and son have not returned. Whilst he’s drinking his coffee, Jaya has changed her clothes. We see, her dolled up, and in what appears to be a colourful sari (in this Black/white film), all decked up in jewellery. She tries to seduce him, and makes him feel her heartbeat, letting us see her longings and loneliness. Here we start to sympathise with her, seeing her unexpected weaker side. She laughs and cries at the same time. Sanjoy is shocked when she states her husband died by committing suicide. When asked why, she seemingly nonchalantly states, who knows? He must have had some problems.
Meanwhile, a man, who was falsely accused of stealing Hari’s wallet earlier in the movie, takes his revenge in the forest, after witnessing Hari’s escapade with Duli.

ON The Sets 1969 (Cast and crew on location)
Ultimately, By the end of the film, by the time the four friends head back home, we see them all changed. Each more mature than before, each individual having improved as a person after spending a few Days and Nights in the Forest.

All the actors are brilliant in their performance, especially Sharmila Tagore as Aparna. But the most unexpected exceptional role seen here is that of Duli, the tribal woman, by actress Simi Garewal.

An excellent movie. The last Satyajit Ray film I watched was Nayak (1966), and that was almost a decade ago. I loved that movie back then, but I think I like Aranyer Din Ratri – Days and Nights in the Forest (1970), even more.

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

D&NITF (70')

Modern India: 66 years old
Congratulations India for beginning it’s 67th year of Independence; for all their great achievements, and for constantly moving forward, overcoming many a obstacles on the way. Nehru’s dream lives on.

Indian Map and Flag

India is beautiful country, geographically shaped like a woman in Saree; an Indian garment of about six yards that’s draped around a woman’s body; with her left hand stretched out. And coincidences do not end there, as the head shaped continent of Jammu & Kashmir, somewhat resembles the head of India’s first (and only) female head of the country, the late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi (second longest serving Prime Minister of India); daughter of India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru.

‘At the midnight hour…’
On the 15th of August, 1947, Mother India woke up to a new Independent India. In my freshman year at Delhi University (back in 1996), I studied Nehru’s speech.
What an inspiring piece of literature it was. He speaks of the necessary amendments he made to flag. For example, he changed the middle insignia of the flag, from Mahatma Gandhi’s famous loom, to the Dharma Chakra, so that the country would constantly move forward. And it has always moved forward economically and industrially. Poverty is something impossible to eradicate in such a massive third world country, with an equally massive population. Yet the country has achieved a lot, despite it.
He explained why he didn’t have roaring lions, or any other emblems of royalty, depicted in the flag. Mainly because he didn’t want the country to be stuck in the dark ages. He wanted the country to be a democracy. Added to which he wanted the flag to blend in with the flags from rest of world, hoping to have an international appeal.
Nehru, a Cambridge University graduate, loved his country, but did not believe in a fake sense of Patriotism, nor false pride.
Couple of years and five months after the country achieved Independence, India became a Republic, on 26th January 1950. (See my post on India’s Republic Day from 26th January 2013)

New Delhi
The capital of India. A beautiful concrete city, where the best places of the city are up to grade with the standards of a first world country. Education standards are high. The medium of the language taught in majority of schools are in English, with students only having to study Hindi (India’s national language) in Hindi. That way they can understand both their national language as well as the worlds international language. Most School Uniforms, if any, tend to be shirt and trouser for both genders (Be it the Indian Shirt and Trouser or western), thus not differentiating between the two sexes, and it’s a more practical uniform. It’s rarely in schools/convents that they have a skirt or frock as a uniform for girls.
JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University) and DU (University of Delhi) are two of the most acclaimed Universities of the country, based in New Delhi; which houses a lot of International students (mainly from Asia and Africa).

Nuwan Sen’s  Historical Sense

Beatle News  # 19 : Best & The Beatles

Pete Best

Pete Best

  • 1960 – Pete Best joins The Silver Beats (earlier known as The Quarrymen; and soon the group would be known as The Beatles). Two years later, drummer Pete Best, would be ousted from The Beatles.

Pete Best’s maternal grandfather was an Irish Major, serving in British India. Thus his mother was born in Delhi, and he was born in Madras; British India. They moved to Liverpool, UK in 1945.
Best joined as the drummer to a band which comprised of Lennon, Sutcliffe, McCarthy and Harrison; on 12th August 1960. Later that month, they would re-name themselves as The Beatles. After playing with The Beatles for two years, due to George Martin of Abbey Road Studio’s, who felt Best was not experienced enough as a drummer for music recording sessions, Pete Best was reluctantly fired by Brian Epstein in August 1962. Ringo Starr joined the group later as the replacement for Best. Years later Martin expressed great regret, as he wanted an experienced drummer for the recording sessions only, didn’t expect Best to be eliminated from the group entirely.

  • 1963 – The Beatles start a week long residency at The Odeon Cinema, Llandudno, Wales, UK (Two shows a night).
  • 1964 – A Hard Day’s Night premieres in cities across the United States.

(see  # 15)
The Beatles USA

  • 1966 – The Beatles American tour begins with the band playing in Chicago, Illinois, USA. This would be The Beatles final concert tour.

Although a success, the 1966 US tour marked the end of the Beatles’ concert days. This concert coincided with public outrage, in the United States, against The Beatles, after a publication of John Lennon’s infamous quote on Christianity, about ‘The Beatles being bigger than Jesus’ . Soon after this tour, the band ceased to perform commercial concerts, instead devoting their time to creating new material in the recording studio.

A Hard Day's Night (1964)

This Day,

Nuwan Sen’s Music Sense.

Nuwan Sen & The Beatles ().



The End
Last night I watched an interesting French short film called The End (2011), on TV5 MONDE, directed by Didier Barcelo, where British actress Charlotte Rampling played herself. A fascinating 17 Minute drama.
Rampling one night discovers herself edited out from one of her old movies being shown on television. The film in question being He Died with His Eyes Open (1985). So begins her pursuit to find out why this has happened, and to locate her newer replacement, which leads her to a studio where a lot of classic film stars are being replaced with newer actors. Reason being, that there is no work for newer actors, and sequels and re-makes are useless, thus the best option is to update old classics by replacing talented geniuses of the past with the fresher less talented stars; in turn completely erasing off the mere existence of previous film stars.
A crazy yet scary phenomena, just imagine if this were to actually happen for real, we would never know what the greats luminaries; like Audrey Hepburn, Cary Grant, Elizabeth Taylor et al; ever looked like. It would be as if they never existed.
I loved the surrealistic ending, where Charlotte Rampling starts to dissolve into the atmosphere. She watches her own hand disappear and in a matter of seconds she vanishes into thin air. Her mere existence has been erased and replaced by a not so great virtual unknown as the new Charlotte Rampling.
Excellent short flick starring a great veteran. Love the movie. Love the concept.

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

In the year 1964, three very diverse and impressive musicals were released, around the same time, in Europe and the United States. Hollywood had the cinematic adaptation of the Broadway musical, My Fair Lady, Britain had the pop-musical, Beatle starrer, A Hard Days Night, and France had
Jacques Demy’s Les Parapluies de Cherbourg.
Each unique in their own way.

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg
Earlier this week I managed to catch Jacques Demy’s Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (1964); i.e. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg in English, on TV5 MONDE, thanks to the Agnès Varda – Jacques Demy film festival that’s been running on this cable channel, since early last month. A much awaited venture for moi, I had wanted to watch this Catherine Deneuve/Nino Castelnuovo starrer, for almost a decade now. So I was delighted; when I found out it was to be telecast last Tuesday. But to my disappointment, I realised that the movie didn’t contain any subtitles. Yet, I managed to understand the movie well enough, even though my grasp of the French language happens to be très très un peu (extremely limited), and I couldn’t understand majority of the dialogues (or rather lyrics) sung (as not a single word is spoken in prose, but just pure poetry). Yet, I understood the plot, the story, the emotions, et al. The only two necessary segments I really found difficult to comprehend was Roland Cassard’s (Marc Michel) long lament to Geneviève’s (Catherine Deneuve) mother, Madame Emery (Anne Vernon); and how Guy (Nino Castelnuovo) manages to come into money. But I read the synopsis of the story yesterday online, which managed to clear up that minute detail for me.

What a beautifully well crafted movie, with it’s brilliant cinematography, the use of bright colours (the fuchsia pinks, the blues, the bright yellows, the greens, et al), the settings, the streets, the whole mise-en-scène. I just fell in love with Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, a story spanning six years, where two lovers meet every evening in the brick laden streets of Cherbourg, and have to part when the male protagonist is drafted for the Algerian War. Meanwhile the heroine gets pregnant and rarely hears from her beloved, and her worried mother advises her to get married to another well-to-do kindly gentleman who is ready to accept her illegitimate child. Such a sad story told so beautifully, it pulls at your heart strings, to the extent that I re-discovered my romantic side, which I seemed to have lost within the last few years. Considering the fact that most love stories today are just mushy cheesy nonsensical meaningless hogwash; I really needed a classic romance such as this to be reacquainted with my romantic emotional side. I don’t want to give away the ending, but shall just give a hint with this famous Shakespearean quote, Parting is such sweet sorrow.

Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (NSFS)
Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, is definitely now amongst my favourite musicals from the 60’s (see my lists/critiques titled My Top 5 Musicals from the sizzling 60’s & 70’sThe Late 60’s (1966-1970) öö and The Essential 60’s (Top 60) on IMDB to see my other favourites from the 60’s), and one of my favourites among French films. My favourite French flick will always be the tragic epic Jules et Jim (1962), which is part of ‘My Top-10 all time favourite films’ (see my critique on Jules et Jim on my list titled Why I love …. on IMDB).

Catherine Deneuve
Catherine Deneuve
Catherine Deneuve happens to be one of my favourite French actresses. She was amazing in Roman Polanski’s Repulsion (1965), a psychological horror film I watched a decade ago. Repulsion was Polanski’s first English venture, where Deneuve played a beautiful young Belgian loner living in Kensington, London, and slowly going homicidally insane. I loved her in François Ozon’s 8 Femmes (2002), a musical crime comedy revolving around an eccentric family of women, their housekeeper and the new chambermaid. Set in the 1950’s, a man of a wealth is found dead in his large house, and all the eight women (including his wife, the wheelchair bound grandmother, his daughters and two domestics) are each a suspect and everyone of them has a motive. Deneuve played the wife.
I wasn’t that crazy about her role of a lesbian vampire in the Hollywood cult-classic, The Hunger (1983) though, where she is seen cavorting around in bed with Susan Sarandon. Both superb actresses, what they were thinking starring in such a cheap horror flick; beats me. Nor was I a fan of the movie The Musketeer (2001), where she played the queen. Of course I watched all these four Deneuve movies about a decade or more or so ago.
I still haven’t seen Luis Buñuel’s Belle De Jour (1967), which happens to be Deneuve’s most acclaimed performance till date, Demy’s own Peau d’Âne (1970), François Truffaut’s Le Dernier Métro (1980) and Christophe Honoré’s Beloved (2011); to name few.

Jacques Demy et Agnès Varda
Jacques Demy & Agnès Varda
I wasn’t that familiar with, though I was aware of, Jacques Demy’s fantastical colourful work. Same when it comes to Demy’s widow’s, Agnès Varda’s, cinematic wonders. I only got to watch three of Varda’s works last month, due to the Agnès Varda – Jacques Demy film festival, that’s been shown every Tuesday evening, since the second Tuesday of July, on TV5 MONDE, and which shall culminate with Demy’s Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (1967) this coming Tuesday. I really enjoyed Varda’s bio-pic of her late husband, Jacquot de Nantes (1991). Made in a documentary style, the movie chronicles Jacques Demy’s childhood to adolescence, and how real life influenced his cinematic marvels, with the real Demy in a cameo recounting his life story. The other two Varda films shown were, La Bonheur (1965); where the use of colour feels very Demy; and Cléo de 5 à 7 (1962). Out of the trio of Varda films shown I loved, Cléo de 5 à 7, the best. And of course Demy’s Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, the only Demy flick that’s been shown so far for this festival, is the finest piece of artistic cinema of them all.
Am really keen on watching the second Demy film, Les Demoiselles de Rochefort, to be telecast this coming week. It has a cameo by the great Gene Kelly, whose Singin’ in the Rain (1952) happens to be one of my favourite films from the 50’s (See my post The  in my blog, and my pictorial tribute to films of the 50’s, titled 50-50’s on IMDB).

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg poster 1964 NSFS

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense