Tag Archive: film


Mai May Movies 2019!

Like I did, back in Year 2015 & 2016, I decided do a Blog Post on all the films I saw within this Month of May, 2019!!!!!

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The

Feature Films

The Front Page (1931)

Watched on Sunday Afternoon, 12th May 2019! Downloaded Film!

A Downloaded Movie, downloaded way back in July 2017! Have a load of Downloaded films, from July 2017, am yet to see!

The Front Page (1931) is an interesting satire centered around the Press. Earl Williams (George E. Stone), a Caucasian/white American man and supposed Communist revolutionary, claiming innocence, is convicted of killing an Afro-American cop, and is to be hanged. The court press room, situated right next to the gallows, is waiting to cash in on the latest, and cover the hanging of Earl Williams. Sometimes we see how desensitized reporters can be; for them it’s just the next story. But when the convict escapes, and is found by reporter, Hildy Johnson (Pat O’Brien); who’s about resign, get married and leave for New York, from Chicago; yet keeps getting roped in by his conniving editor, Walter Burns (Adolphe Menjou); and when Hildy Johnson realizes that Earl Williams is innocent; Hildy is hell bent on proving Earl Williams’ innocence. Of course, for Hildy, it still is the latest scoop, but he wants to save an innocent man’s life as well. A hilarious comical take on the world of news-reporters, based on the play, The Front Page, by two ex-Chicago reporters, Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, which was 1st staged on Broadway in 1928!

This 1931 pre-Code comedy, is a premake of Howard Hawks’ His Girl Friday (194O), minus the ‘Girl Friday’, as intended in the original Broadway play (a play I haven’t read yet). But His Girl Friday is far more an enjoyable romp than The Front Page. Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell had great chemistry in the 194O classic, as a formally married couple having to work together, and the wife, Hildy (Russell); in lieu of the male Hildy (gender swap) from the original story; constantly getting pulled in by her editor/ex-husband (Grant) and the candlestick phones that keep ringing off the hook, even though she wants to get away and get married to someone else. His Girl Friday is among the greatest comedies ever made. Reporting is in their blood, the love for the job, for both (female) Hildy in His Girl Friday and (male) Hildy in The Front Page. The Front Page‘s Hildy is actually named Hildebrand Johnson, and ‘Hildy’ is short for Hildebrand, an affectionate nickname.

Though The Front Page, directed by Lewis Milestone, is not pure excellence (not just compared to His Girl Friday, but in general); it still comes really close! A Near-Excellent, brisk, fast paced, romp with witty dialogues; that is a must watch; especially for fans of film and literature!!!!! This movie was nominated for a trio of Oscars (‘Best Picture’, ‘Best Director’ & ‘Best Actor’ – for Adolphe Menjou) at the 4th Academy Awards! Lewis Milestone had already won two ‘Best Director’ Oscars. One for Two Arabian Knights (1927), in the ‘Comedy’ category, and the other for one of my favourites films on World War I, a pre-Code anti-war film, All Quiet on the Western Front (1930).

The Front Page is a near-Excellent comedy!!!!

My Rating: 9/10!

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La Chienne (1931)

Watched on Sunday Night, 12th May 2019! On TV5MONDE!

Directed by Jean Renoir, La Chienne (1931) is about a depressed married man who falls for a streetwalker (the title, the English translation of which reads as ‘The Bitch’, is a reference to her character; a character that is both conniving and foolish) and has a clandestine affair with her. Lulu (the streetwalker played by Janie Marèse) however uses the man that loves her, Maurice Legrand (Michel Simon), for the man she is in love with, her pimp, Dédé (Georges Flamant); who in turn uses her using Legrand, for his own personal gain. Legrand’s artworks are sold by Dédé making Dédé rich; and leaving Legrand a penniless vagrant.

A really good socially critical look at human relationships, showcasing how selfishly people use one another for their own benefits! La Chienne might not be an excellent French film by Renoir, yet it’s a very good thought provoking movie, with a brilliant concept. The finalé is both tragic and comic, at the same time. The satirical state of fate of mankind.

Actress, Janie Marèse, who played Lulu, was tragically killed in a car accident, soon after the filming wrapped up. Marèse’s real life lover, and her co-star, Georges Flamant (who debuted as Dédé, in La Chienne) was recklessly driving the car. He survived the accident, but his career was seriously damaged by the press.

La Chienne, released few months after Marèse’s death, was director Jean Renoir 2nd Sound film (as in with synchronized sound)!

My Rating: 8/10!

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Drums Along the Mohawk (1939)

Watched on Monday, 6th May 2019! Downloaded Film!

John Ford’s very 1st movie made in Technicolor, Drums Along the Mohawk (1939) was the 1st movie I watched this month (another Downloaded Movie, from almost two years ago).

Produced by Darryl F. Zanuck, this Historical story, is about a newly married couple who make a new home close proximity to White settlers at Mohawk Valley on the New York frontier and find themselves at the heart of the American Revolution of 1765 – 1783.

The Year is 1776, the newly married couple get roped in by Mohawk Valley’s settlers who’ve formed a local militia in anticipation of an imminent war against them, by Tories (British loyalists) and Tories’ American Indian allies. Soon war ensues, with women and children lending a helping hand. A crucial point of the plot is the Battle of Oriskany, a pivotal engagement of the Saratoga campaign, which was one of the bloodiest battles of the American Revolution. A small group of Brits, travelling south from Canada, invaded the Mohawk Valley as a diversion. Fort Stanwix, that was besieged, is depicted as Fort Schuyler in the film. Fort Stanwix was renamed Fort Schuyler in 1776, only after the battle. Plus, Britishers hand in the war, has been toned down, it’s practically non-existent. Apparently there are lot of minor inaccuracies. Especially, due to the brewing war in Europe at the time, Ford didn’t want to show the British as villains, as the Brits were fighting against German Nazis, the modern day villains, in a modern day war.

Though lacking in historical accuracy, the movie does manage to capture the essence of the American Revolution, through retelling of a small deviation branch of the war. Thus, it’s still a really good movie, led by Henry Fonda and Claudette Colbert. The colourful cinematography is breathtakingly beautiful, and the movie was nominated for two Oscars, including for ‘Best Cinematography’ (in Colour), to Ray Rennahan and Bert Glennon, at the 12th Academy Awards, held in 1940. Ray Rennahan was also nominated, the same year, for ‘Best Cinematography’ (in Colour), alongwith Ernest Haller; for (1939), for which Rennahan and Haller, won!! With the exceptional Gone with the Wind, in competition, it’s obvious that Drums Along the Mohawk didn’t have much scope. None the less, it’s still a really good movie.

My Rating: 8/10

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The

Short Films

Dream House (1953)

Watched on Friday, 10th May 2019! Online on YouTube!

Dream House (1953) is a short Indian English-Language Film, starring Ashok Kumar and Meena Kumari. An advertorial film from Dunlopillo, UK (a popular brand for pillows and mattresses in India at the time; which Kumar happens to have in his stylishly decorated home). I came across this beautifully filmed short flick by fluke, that Friday night! Shot inside Ashok Kumar’s house, with cool contemporary Indian interior design (love the décor), as Meena Kumari visits (for they’ve been rehearsing for director Bimal Roy’s Parineeta (1953) a.k.a. The Fiancee; based on a book by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay (sometimes credited as Sarat Chandra Chatterji), a beautiful novel; of which the English translation I read quite recently, maybe ’twas a year or so ago); this quick, less than 3 minutes, short film, is really worth checking out; especially for lovers of Indian cinema; specifically lovers of Bollywood classics from it’s golden age. It was lovely to see a barely 20 year old, Meena Kumari, in a colour film; back in the early 50’s. Seen her colour movies from later on (60’s & early 70’s); but never seen her in colour, when she was so young. Though she’s a good actress and was known as the tragedy queen, back in her hey days, am not a great fan of hers; unlike her contemporaries; like, Nutan, Nargis, Vyjayanthimala, Waheeda Rehman and Madhubala (to name a few Hindi Film actresses of the 1950’s & 60’s, that I adore). But I do admire Kumari in the movies she’s worked in. So it’s not like I dislike her, just not a starry-eyed favourite of mine. Young, Meena Kumari, looks elegantly beautiful in this advertorial short, in a red saree, with a fashionable high-collared blouse!

My Rating: 8/10!

Stars of the Foxy 50’s: Madhubala (1933-1969) and Meena Kumari (1933-1972)
LEFT: Candid shot of Madhubala (51′)
RIGHT: Meena Kumari in a scene from a movie (57′)

Feature Films

Mr. & Mrs. ’55 (1955)

Watched on Tuesday, 28th May 2019! Online on YouTube!

Guru Dutt’s Mr. & Mrs. ’55 (1955) is a hilarious farce, that works well to a certain point, but soon goes downhill.

The movie starts off with Pre-60’s Independent-minded Feminist, Seeta Devi (Lalita Pawar), holding a meeting on petitioning the courts to pass the Divorce Bill. Her secretary informs her, showing her the latest newspaper headline, that the Divorce Bill shall be passed. It’s a woman’s right, if she needs to separate from a bad husband/marriage! Meanwhile her niece, not yet 21, Anita Verma (Madhubala) has secretly gone to see a Tennis match. She has a major crush on Tennis player, Ramesh (a Guest Appearance by Al-Nasir), who does not reciprocate. As Anita tries to escape her aunt’s secretary, who has come to find her at the Tennis match, Anita bumps into a lazy wayward man, Preetam Kumar (Guru Dutt), who at once is smitten by her. Soon, we see Anita turn 21, and is to inherit her late father’s fortune; but according to his will she has to get married within a month of turning 21. The independent-minded aunt isn’t happy, the young girl with a crush on a tennis player, is. But when Ramesh turns down her proposal for marriage, she is crushed. Yet, the fact he plays Tennis is what she truly loves, not necessarily the player. If he didn’t play her favourite sport, she wouldn’t be so crazy about him. The aunt decides to buy a groom, who’ll agree to a divorce, once Anita inherits everything. Who does the aunt rope in, but none other than the jobless cartoonist, Anita accidentally bumped into early on in the movie; beloved, Preetam Kumar. The name ‘Preetam’ in Hindi means beloved.

The movie is laugh out loud hilarious, and the characters have been placed perfectly. Less than a year into Independence, the modern Indian progressive minded city’s educated and elite are beautifully showcased. The movie has some memorable songs, some not so; mostly picturized around Guru Dutt and/or Madhubala. But my favourite number is the comical song, “Jaane kahan mera, jigar gaya ji”, themed around the supporting characters played by Johnny Walker and Yasmin (a.k.a. Vinita Bhatt); during a lunch break at a clerical office. Hilarious, melodic and fun. Mr. & Mrs. ’55 starts to waver when Preetam kidnaps his wife and takes her to his village (today, that would be considered harassment, in itself). In the village she meets Preetam’s sister-in-law (played by Kumkum), who shows how a woman’s place is in her husband’s home, doing all the chores, having kids and taking care of them. An acceptance of domestic violence against wife as being the norm, is mentioned. So basically women have no rights. Cringe worthy. Let’s say it’s village mentality; but soon Anita, who falls for husband during this excursion (lets say a Stockholm syndrome of sorts) starts to feel the same way, and Seeta Devi, with a brain of her own, is shown as the villain of piece. Seriously?? Guru Dutt!?!?! This is when the movie starts to falter. Of course, this pre-second wave feminism, feminist, Seeta Devi, is shown to be a bit of an extremist; hating all men; but instead of providing a moderation, director Guru Dutt has brought out a narrow minded concept that the Indian woman’s place is at her husband’s feet. The other archaic extreme, with a false sense of patriotism. That’s when it disappoints. Mr. & Mrs. ’55 was considered a movie of societal relevance, back then. But it gives such a false message. So, out of the over 21⁄2 hours film, the 1st hour or so is brilliantly excellent, and continues being enjoyably fun for the most part for the next half hour, but falls short towards the last hour.

The 50’s housewife concept existed in the west too (the famed American Dream); but it’s not something artists/open-minded intellectuals condoned. Hollywood never glamorized portraying women to stoop so low. It’s as if, if anyone’s seen Mona Lisa Smile (2003), Julia Roberts’ free-thinking Art Professor were Seeta Devi, and she was shown as the villain of the piece. Mr. & Mrs. ’55 also reminded me of another Bollywood movie, that we watched a kazillion times as kids, Chhoti si Mulaqat (1967). It didn’t fare well with 60’s audiences either. But even though it did seem to some extent pro-wife’s place is at her husband’s home; it wasn’t this extreme, and was actually a very good plot and a near-Excellent movie. It dealt with child marriage, the mental dilemma of the bride as a grown up when she’s reminded of it, as she is about to wed the man she loves, and the modern Indian woman of the 60’s. Her mother is a very progressive woman; against whose knowledge the daughter was wed as child. But in a sense, to some extent, the movie does portray the mother as the villain of the piece. Yet, the plus side is, when the daughter (mostly out of curiosity) defies her mum, and decides that she should be with her husband (a husband she never knew); the husband turns out to be the man she falls in love with as an adult. Luckily! So all’s well, saved by a thread. At least, in the case of Chhoti si Mulaqat, her husband didn’t remain a village idiot, he grew up, studied, became a modern open-minded individual and came up to her standard; and earned his place, in her heart and her social circle. In Mr. & Mrs. ’55, Guru Dutt’s character is still pretty narrow-minded, even though he is a good guy and truly loves her. She definitely deserves better. It ends with the feeling, she’ll be his ideal Indian wife (like his sister-in-law), though it’s doubtful she’ll have to endure physical abuse by Mister ‘Beloved’. But the movie overall isn’t bad, just not great; ruined by that foolishness of where a woman’s place lies; and to some extent a hint against divorce and the Divorce Bill, itself.

In India, before 1955, divorce was not recognized by the Hindus, as according to the Hindu religion marriage is sacrament and not a contract. But with the codification of the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955, both men and women (of Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh and Jain, faith) are equally eligible to seek divorce. In Muslim societies, anywhere in general, the husband could divorce his wife for no reason, without a hitch, while for a wife it wasn’t an easy task to get a divorce, in some cases, not at all. The Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act of 1939 made amendments for Muslim women in India to obtain divorce, comparatively easier. Christian marriages were (and still are) governed by Victorian era implemented, The Divorce Act of 1869, Parsis by the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act of 1936, and Inter-racial/religious marriages The Special Marriage Act of 1954! The Hindu Marriage Act in 1955, was implemented on 18th May 1955. Mr. & Mrs. ’55, released the same year, was an acknowledgement of Modern India’s Hindu Marriage Act in 1955, from which the title of the movie was derived. But unfortunately, the hints on the fact that women should succumb to their man’s needs; even though the man in the movie is not a bad man, is still a bit too of an archaic mentality, even for that time. To show that women should succumb to blindly follow traditional values, is a major step backwards. A pity, such a fun flick, with such witty dialogues.

Guru Dutt’s character is a cartoonist, and the cartoons shown in the film were by R. K. Laxman; a style of drawing I recognized instantly, as I watched the film. In one scene, we see a hand drawing a caricature of Lalita Pawar, Guru Dutt and Madhubala. That’s obviously R. K. Laxman’s unaccredited hand. R. K. Laxsman’s creations were another plus for me.

Thus, Mr. & Mrs. ’55, was only averagely good, that too mainly thanks to the hilarious performance by bewitching beauty, Madhubala; and the brilliant, Lalita Pawar. Worth checking out. Even though the latter part, with it’s backward concept, along with the ending, sucked. Mr. & Mrs. ’55 was one of earliest Hindi movies to show an airport reunion, which was done to death, in much later Bollywood films.

Last movie I watched this month (May 2019).

My Rating: 6/10!

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Postscript:

All three stars mentioned here, Guru Dutt, Madhubala and Meena Kumari, died way before their time. Nicknamed, Tragedy Queen, Meena Kumari; who fought off depression and alcohol abuse, finally succumbed cirrhosis of the liver. She fell into a coma and soon left this world, on 31st March 1972, aged 38. The egoistic Guru Dutt; a truly great filmmaker (he has a better filmography than Mr. & Mrs. ’55) unhappily married to Geeta Dutt, and suffering from an Othello syndrome, finally committed suicide on 10th October 1964, after a couple of failed prior attempts. He was only 39 years old.

Born on Valentine’s Day, 1933, Madhubala, at a young age found out she had a hole in her heart (Ventricular septal defect), and won’t live that long. She completed many of her films by 1959, before her illness aggravated. She continued working while suffering through her illness, but by 1966 she was too weak, and could not finish her project, Chalak, co-starring Raj Kapoor. Chalak never saw the light of day. Mostly bedridden from weakening bones and spewing blood, she tried her hand at film direction. However her directorial debut with, Farz aur Ishq, was not meant to be. Ultimately succumbing to her illness, she died on 23rd February 1969, shortly after her 36th birthday; during the pre-production of Farz aur Ishq. Madhubala was admired in both senses, as a sex symbol of 50’s Bollywood (she was called Marilyn Monroe of Hindi Cinema), as well as one of the finest actresses of her time (she too has a way better résumé than Mr. & Mrs. ’55). Madhubala, also almost made it to Hollywood. Both, Life magazine’s James Burke, and American Film Director, Frank Capra, were impressed by her looks and work. James Burke clicked her pictures in 1951, and captioned them, “The Biggest Star in the World – and she’s not in Beverly Hills”. Frank Capra offered Madhubala a break into Hollywood and true international fame, but her father, worried about his sickly daughter travelling so far, politely declined the rich offer of her earning American dollars. Her Hollywood dream ended, then and there. Sad, none of them lived to be 40! Tragic!

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The 70’s

Feature Films

The Last Detail (1973)

Watched on Thursday, 23rd May 2019! Downloaded Film!

The Last Detail (1973) is a sad road trip where two Navy Chasers escort a kleptomaniac to prison. The young man is sentenced for 8 years, for the petty crime of stealing just $40! Good concept, sad story, but such a dull paced movie, it truly was a bore. The only saving grace were the acting talent roped in, including a virtually unknown Randy Quaid, at the time. Jack Nicholson is really good, as always, but did he really deserve to win a ‘Best Actor’ award at the Cannes Film Festival??????

Very Bad! Feel like dozing off, just writing about it.

My Rating: 3/10!

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The White Buffalo (1977)

Watched on Thursday, 9th May 2019! Downloaded Film!

A Western-cum-Adventure film produced by Dino De Laurentiis, The White Buffalo (1977) is another boring waste of time, made in the 70’s decade, that I saw this month. I’d say stay away from this film as well, though it’s not among the worst films ever made. This silly flick is actually beautifully shot in Colorado with it’s snow capped Mountains! What brilliant Cinematography!

Kim Novak has a small role it it! In a sense she’s the only interesting character, besides that ‘White Buffalo’ itself.

My Rating: 4/10!

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This Decade (2010’s)

Documentaries

Roger Vadim with 3rd wife, actress, Jane Fonda; seen here along with her brother, actor, Peter Fonda, in a water taxi in the Venice lagoon, in 1967

Room 237 (2012)

Watched on Saturday, 11th May 2019! Downloaded Film!

Room 237 (2012) is an analysis, with varied speculative theories, behind Stanley Kubrick’s Horror classic, The Shining (1980). Some interesting views through use of symbolism in the movie, but most are crazily extreme. The story of the cinematic version of The Shining (as the original story was a novel written by Stephen King, which apparently differs a lot from it’s cinematic adaptation; and in fact one theorist points out how Kubrick purposely kills off King’s vision, and hints on it in The Shining) metaphorically representing the Holocaust, and the Genocide of American Indians, makes sense, to some extent. BUT, the Apollo 11 Moon landing footage was fake, and directed by Stanley Kubrick (a ridiculous theory I’ve heard of from way before this movie was made), is going way too extreme. Of course, this crazed theorist, who compares the Kubrick’s Horror flick, to a 3D chess set, with various levels, states that he isn’t saying that the Moon Landing didn’t happen, just that the footage was fake. Quite ridiculous, with no factual proof to back his theories, and there won’t be (I sure hope not!). Capricorn One (1977) was a movie about a similar concept of a hoax. A film about NASA faking a Mars mission. In Minions (2015), there is a funny scene, where a Minion stumbles upon the set, where Stanley Kubrick is filming the Apollo 11 Moon landing; an obvious nod to this crazy documentary. The Apollo 11 Moon landing happened on 20th of July, 1969 (see my post The Greatest feat of the Space age: The day humans conquered the moon from July 2013). This year marks it’s 50th anniversary!!!!

So basically, Room 237, is a bunch of Kubrick crazed film fanatics, with unnecessarily extreme analysis, reading way too much into the classic psychological horror movie. Don’t expect an intelligent insight into The Shining, these are just mere observations. None the less, Room 237, is not a bad documentary. It’s average fare at the best. Check it out if you like, it’s watchable after all; especially if you are fan of . YET, watch Room 237, with a beach full of salt, a pinch won’t be enough!!!

My Rating: 6/10!

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Vadim, Mister Cool (2016)

Watched on Sunday Late Night, 26th May 2019! On TV5MONDE!

Vadim, Mister Cool (2016), chronicles the life of Roger Vadim, step by step, perfectly spending just enough time on each stage of his life! From him as a Film Producer/Director/Screenwriter, to a husband, a family man, his success and his downfall. Roger Vadim was notoriously known for sexploitation of his beautiful wives/life partners; but much as he himself feels, in a sense he liberated them from the confines of anti-sexual notions. This was before the sexual-revolution of the 60’s. And each wife/partner left him, once they made it as a sex siren, but becoming something far greater in the end. Yet he did give them that necessary push. 1st wife-Brigitte Bardot (a.k.a. B.B.), partner – Catherine Denueve and 3rd wife – Jane Fonda; all started off as sex symbols of the 50’s & 60’s, under him, and went onto do great work, as actresses, as well as in other fields. B.B. later became an Animal Rights Activist, Deneuve, one the greatest actresses of French Cinema, and Jane Fonda a political activist against the Vietnam War, Nixon administration as well as a fitness guru and actress of very influential American films. At the start of this year (on 4th of January, 2019), I saw Jane Fonda in Five Acts (2018), on HBO On Demand; a brilliant documentary with Jane Fonda herself speaking about her life and life choices. And of course, she speaks of her sex-siren days as Vadim’s wife, as well.

Both Roger Vadim’s success and downfall are credited to French New Wave Director, François Truffaut, who use to be a film critic for the Cahiers du Cinéma. Truffaut, though initially a fan, was mainly critical Vadim’s sexploitation of the fairer sex. But say what you may; whether Roger Vadim help liberate his women from societal pressures of the past, or was a notorious exploiter of women’s sexuality; he was a doting father. He not only adored his kids, but was a hands on father who took care of them. A stay at home dad, role reversal, while his wives went away for work. He was a feminist, in every sense of it. And his women admired him, and some are truly grateful for helping make their career, or at least give them a start. A push in the right direction. Roger Vadim was truly a fascinating personality.

Vadim, Mister Cool, is a Brilliant Television documentary, and great insight into a man’s life, both professional and personal. Loved it! This documentary was shown soon after Carré 35 (2017) ended, on the same cable television channel; TV5MONDE!

Excellent TV Documentary, one of the Best!!!!!!!
My Rating: 10/10!

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Carré 35 (2017)

Watched on Sunday Night, 26th May 2019! On TV5MONDE!

A very personal documentary, by actor, Éric Caravaca. This is the first documentary Caravaca directed. In Carré 35 (2017) Éric Caravaca speaks of a sister, he never knew existed. A sister that died before he was born. Researching his roots, his background, Éric Caravaca discovers his parents life in Algeria and Morocco, of a birth of sister, with autism and a congenital heart defect (back then known as Blue Baby Syndrome), and her ultimate death that his parents hid from him and his brother. This was before Caravaca’s parents came to Europe, and erased the life they had before, including burning all photos and film footage they had of his elder sister, Christine. The parents never spoke about her. Christine was buried in ‘Carré 35’, the French part of the cemetery in Casablanca, Morocco. Caravaca’s mother had never visited the grave. Having suffered a lot, she didn’t want to reminisce on her past. Towards the end of the documentary we see her finally visiting her baby girl’s grave.

A really tragic story where he interviews and (as his mother feels) interrogates his parents, and other relatives, trying to get the truth behind the secret history of his family’s hidden past. Heart-rending! Rather than doing an analysis of a film that in itself is an analysis of Éric Caravaca background, I’ll simply say, its must watch. Carré 35 was part of a series of Special Programs shown on TV5MONDE, in connection with Festival de Cannes 2019 (I couldn’t follow this year’s festival properly). Éric Caravaca was nominated for L’Œil d’Or (Golden Eye) Award, for Carré 35, English Title- Plot 35, at the 70th International Cannes Film Festival,held in May 2017.

My Rating: 8/10!

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Short Films

Uuquchiing (2018)

Watched on Tuesday Night, 14th May 2019! On TV5MONDE!

This short film was telecast soon after Chouf (2016) ended, on TV5MONDE itself.

Uuquchiing (2018), the title means ‘Blue Fox’ in the Inuit language of the Alaskan/Canadian/Greenland Eskimo. The movie is akin to The Butterfly Effect (2004) where a young Evan Treborn (Logan Lerman as the 7year old Evan & John Patrick Amedori as the 13 year old Evan) suffers blackouts and no memory of what happened during his blackout. Similarly here,in Uuquchiing, we see Camille (Johan Libéreau) having no recollection of how he got from one place to another, with no memory of what happened in between. But sadly this short film has such an abrupt sexual ending and no explanation of what happened and why?, it just left a bad taste in the end. You wonder what it was all about!?!?!

My Rating: 3/10!

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Feature Films

12 Years a Slave (2013)

Watched on Monday, 27th May 2019! Downloaded Film!

One of the finest films ever made. Steve McQueen has proven he’s one of the greatest filmmakers of our generation, with this Oscar winning epic masterpiece, 12 Year a Slave (2013). Finally got to see this movie. Had wanted to see it since it came out in 2013, and was even more interested when in won the Oscar for ‘Best Picture’ at the 86th Annual Academy Awards. Managed to download it almost two years ago, and finally, saw it this Monday. I still have so many films, downloaded close to two year ago, from back in July 2017.

The movie follows the true story of Solomon Northup (on whose book this movie is based on), a free Afro-American man from New York State; who conned into travelling to Washington,D.C., and then drugged by two white con-men, and sold into slavery, from where he was sent to work in the plantations of Louisiana, in the deep south. This was in 1841! For 12 years, Solomon Northup (played with excellence, by British actor of Igbo Nigerian decent, Chiwetel Ejiofor) suffers and struggles to keep himself alive through all the atrocities perpetrated on him by a sadistic slave owner (played by Michael Fassbender, another performer of excellent talent). Northup finally gets a chance to tell his story to a good Samaritan, a Canadian laborer and abolitionist, named Samuel Bass (Brad Pitt) when Northup accidentally, by luck, mentions he’s been to Canada. Such a tragic story.

Lupita Nyong’o, has a small, but crucial role in 12 Years a Slave; for which she won the ‘Best Supporting Actress’ Oscar. Been a fan of Nyong’o since she won the prestigious Golden statuette, even though I hadn’t seen any of her films, including 12 Years a Slave. I liked her personality that shone through, whenever and wherever, she was either interviewed or photographed. But, I wondered whilst watching this, as good as she was in this movie (and she definitely deserved the nomination); was she the best that year?? I actually liked Jennifer Lawrence’s performance in American Hustle (2013) much more, who was nominated in the same category as well.

None the less,12 Years a Slave, is among the greatest Hollywood films ever made. It was so long, the film ended way past midnight; it was like 00:40 am, when it finished, and around 1:00 a.m. on 28th May 2019, when I finally went to bed! ‘Twas totally worth it!!

Pure Excellence!!!!! The Best Movie, I saw this month!! May 2019!
My Rating: 10/10!

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Postscript:

Speaking of the following year’s Academy Awards, am surprised Abdellatif Kechiche’s La Vie d’Adèle (2013), English Title: Blue Is the Warmest Color, was not even nominated in the ‘Best Foreign Language’ category at the 2014 Oscars!!!! In fact both lead actresses, Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos, deserved to be nominated in the ‘Best Actress’ category as well (as neither was a supporting character), if not share a win. Blue Is the Warmest Color, won Palme d’Or at the 66th Cannes Film Festival, held in May 2013. For the very 1st time in the competition, both the lead actresses were awarded the Palme d’Or, along with the film’s director, Abdellatif Kechiche. 12 Years a Slave is definitely a brilliant bio-pic, and I loved it, but I feel this French film, was slightly better.

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Chouf (2016)

Watched on Tuesday Evening, 14th May 2019! On TV5MONDE!

Chouf (2016) literally meaning to “look” in Arabic, is a French film set within the drug cartels of Marseilles. In a Godfatherique style (à la The Godfather, 1972) the lead character, Sofian (played bu namesake, Sofian Khammes), a young man with a genius brain, an intelligent student, comes home for the holidays; and when a loved one gets shot, his whole world changes. In this case, unlike the The Godfather, Sofian joins the drug network to avenge his brother’s death; leaving behind his family and the progressive life, with a good education, he had hoped to be part of. His brother was a local gangster, a drug dealer, and is killed by another member of their secret network. We see Sofian getting dragged deeper and deeper into a life of crime, with no scope of an exit, as he tries to find out who was responsible for his brother’s death.

A really good movie, by Karim Dridi, who does not shy away from realistically showing us life in the French ghettos of Marseilles. Plus, the film, to some extent predictably, shows us how difficult it is too get away and lead a normal life, once someone gets deeply immersed into drug gangs in the brutally dangerous slum areas of Marseilles. Dridi’s Chouf, was released under the Special Screenings at the 69th International Cannes Film Festival held in May 2016.

Chouf too, like Carré 35, was shown as part of a series of Special Programs telecast on TV5MONDE, this month, in connection with Festival de Cannes 2019!!!!

My Rating: 8/10!

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Rutabaga (2018)

Watched on Monday, 13th May 2019! Online on iflix!

Director, Julien Botzanowsk’s horror flick, Rutabaga (2018) seemed to work till a certain point; but then it got ridiculously silly! The end was so stupid. Yet, I did like Botzanowsk’s naturalistic film direction as well as the acting talent roped in, including Julien Botzanowski, himself. But the movie itself was a waste of time, for me.

Interesting to note, 11 days after I saw and tweeted about it (as I tweet about every single movie; the Great, the Bad, the Hideous); I got a message, as a comment here on my Blog, by the director/lead actor of the movie (see my About page), thanking me. After all I did mention, on my tweet as well, that I liked his technique and talent, though not a fan of the cinematic outcome. This is not the 1st time, I got comments from the films directors; twice before two young french directors (Rocco Labbé and Sylvain Bressollette) wrote to me, once I blogged about their short films (see my Blog Posts, Portraits de Maîtresses: Rocco Labbé’s take on Charles Baudelaire, Le Ballon de Rouge (2012/2014) and Young Directors on my BLOG from December 2013, June 2014 & October 2014 respectively). Amazingly all three film directors happen to be French! What lovely, down to earth, good people to write to an odinary blogger/twitterian, like me. None the less, Rutabaga, was not a good movie; but again, Julien Botzanowsk is one to watch out for. Wishing him the best!

My Rating: 1/10

La Révolte des Innocents ()

Watched on Tuesday, 21st May 2019! On TV5MONDE!

Really good movie, based on a real incident!

Théo Frilet plays The Brave Judge, the English title of, La Révolte des Innocents (2018) though not the literal meaning. Set in France, in 1911, in an institute that’s gets a stipend from the government to educate poor children. The kids are not given an education, instead they are made to work, abused and exploited, by the keepers! The story is based on Louise Soliveau and Alexandre Landrin, who’ve been renamed, Joséphine Poliveau (played by Julie Ferrier) and Armand Sandrin (played by Bruno Debrandt) in this television movie. When a 10 year old child dies, under their care; the rest of the kids revolt. When the revolt is reported, this incident slowly starts to shed light on what has been happening at Les Vermiraux, the institute. A young judge, Emile Guidon () takes action and against all obstacles, facing lot of objections, keeps on going till the perpetrators, whose ill treatment and negligence led to the death of a child, are brought to justice.

This is a really good insight into a real life Dickensian Boarding house run by ruthless money hungry bigwigs that abused innocent children!  La Révolte des Innocents, ended past midnight; but just some minutes onto 22nd May 2019!

My Rating: 8/10!

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Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

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“The most precious jewels you’ll ever have around your neck are the arms of your children”

– Juhi Chawla
 Former Indian Beauty Queen, Bollywood Star, Actress & Activist
   (Born in 1967)

Pure Innocence: Young Juhi Chawla

Juhi Chawla, on holiday with her Family (husband & kids)

Juhi Chawla, in contemporary (mid-20th century onward) variations, of her traditional Punjabi Attire (Salwar Kameez)
LEFT (& two inset): Worn in a more elegant and glamorous style (with or without the shawl)
RIGHT (last two): Worn in a more casual sense (with or without shawl)

Nuwan Sen n’ STYLE
Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense
NSFS ()

When I saw this tweet yesterday afternoon, from my favourite Bollywood actress (from the 1990’s), I though I should do a post sometime, quoting her. And then, when I saw it was her 51st Birthday today; I knew I had to do a quick Blogpost.

My father and my (then teenage) sister, were lucky enough to meet Juhi Chawla, when she visited Sri Lanka, in the late 1990’s. This was during my Delhi University years (so ironically I was in India, when Ms. Chawla came to SL). My sister, totally in awe (Lucky kid!!), did ask Ms. Chawla for two autographs, and sent me one. Recently, Juhi Chawla re-visited this country, for a local function, with a bevy of Bollywood stars.

Wishing Bollywood’s Sweetheart, a very HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!

All the best, please never stop acting, and continue your great activism!!!

from
Nuwan Sen (NSFS)

Welcome!!!!!

The ❝October Birthdayz❞ Blogathon begins today

Actress, June Allyson, was born in the month of October (101 years ago), and I was born in June 😊 (the month, that is)
PIX: June Allyson on her Birthday, flanked by, husband/film director, Dick Powell (L), and co-star/young virtually unknown actor, Jack Lemmon (R); during the shoot of You Can’t Run Away from It (1956)

So Day 1, of the The ❝October Birthdayz❞ Blogathon, is finally here, and it’s my sister, Sachinta’s (a.k.a. Sachi) 38th Birthday. Spoke to her early morning (rather, face-timed her on What’s App), though it was still yesterday in the United States, where she resides. So Happy Birthday li’l sis, this is for you (at least inspired by this month being your birth month 🙂 )

Some photographs, of the Birthday Girl, reminiscing days gone by :-

Childhood

Sachi, on her 5th Birthday (20th October 1985) Cake: Our Mother’s Aesthetic Creation
PIX: At Home, Sri Lankan High Commission Residence, New Delhi, India

Sachi & I, Winter of 85′ (December 1985) On the way back to New Delhi from a trip to the “Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary”, in Bharatpur, State of Rajasthan, India

Mum & Sis, Horse ride in Nainital (March 86′)
During a trip to Nainital, a Himalayan resort town in the Kumaon region of the Northern State of Uttarakhand, India; in the Spring of 1986

In our Teens

Sis & I (Year 1993) in front of Tiny’s grave, at our mother’s ancestral home, in Kegalle, SL (Me just having turned 18, Sachi still 12)
Tiny was Mum’s pet dog, back in the 60’s & early 70’s. He died about a year after she married and left for New Delhi, India

Sis & I, In Ambepussa (Kegalle District) On the way to Kandy, SL (Year 1993)
Me, aged 18, Sachi is yet to turn 13

In her Twenties (in the 30th year of her life)

Sachi (aged 29), on holiday in Paris, France
PIX: Spring of 09′ (13th April 2009)

In our 30’s

With My Parents & Sister
PIX: At Sachi’s MBA Graduation Ceremony, in Adelaide, State of South Australia, Australia (7th November 2014)

With Sachi, the day before she left for the United States of America (the last time I saw her in ‘real life’ so far)
PIX: Me, still aged 39 (a month & 21 days away from turning 40) At Negombo Beach, SL (1st of May, Year 2015)

So here are the Participants, for Day 1, of the The ❝October Birthdayz❞ Blogathon, with their contributions :-

A Very Big Thank you, to my fellow bloggers, Michael, Rebecca and Gill, for their contributions for Day 1 of the The ❝October Birthdayz❞ Blogathon.

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense
Nuwan Sen n’ Style

Immaterial of how accurate the facts from Sanjay Dutt’s life depicted in Sanju (2018) are, as a movie, this cinematic adaptation works flawlessly. Especially thanks to Ranbir Kapoor’s brilliant performance, as actor, Sanjay Dutt. Kapoor encompasses the essence of Dutt jr. to perfection. He feels Sanju, in every way possible, not just thanks to the prosthetics and make-up (although they do help), but the way Dutt moves, talks, his mannerisms; Kapoor manages to capture the Dutt persona, with excellence. Amazingly, Ranbir Kapoor is not a fan of method acting; denouncing great method acting skills of the likes of classic method actors, Marlon Brando, James Dean & Amitabh Bachchan to Aamir Khan & Leonardo DiCaprio (from more recent times); but Kapoor feels like he’s turned himself into one, to become Dutt, inside out.

Am generally not a great fan of Ranbir Kapoor (with his stale jokes, unfunny idiosyncrasies and a boring on-screen personality), but when he wants, he has proven himself capable of doing good roles; with movies like Barfi! (2012) – another excellent movie (a movie that almost made me a fan of Ranbir Kapoor), Bombay Velvet (2015) – an average fare (veering towards bad than good), yet Kapoor is quite good in his role, and now with Sanju (2018) – Ranbir Kapoor’s best role to date. If he follows this with similar good film choices with a good script, he’ll be going places.

Ranbir Kapoor belongs to Bollywood’s film royalty, the “Kapoor” clan. He is the fourth generation of Kapoor’s to grace the screen, along with his successful cousins, Karishma (also credited as, Karisma) & Kareena Kapoor (stars of the 90’s & noughties, respectively). Ranbir Kapoor is the great-grandson of the renowned theater & film personality, Prithviraj Kapoor, grandson of the legendary, Raj Kapoor, and son of chocolate boy hero of the 70’s & 80’s, actor, Rishi Kapoor. Ranbir Kapoor’s mother too, is a well known Bollywood actress, 70’s superstar, Neetu Singh. AND if young Kapoor comes in more movies, like Barfi! and Sanju, he’ll definitely make the family name proud. The sad thing about young Kapoor, is not that he comes in bad films, but sometimes he takes on some really really cheap roles. Box office failures are fine, critically bad movies, are fine too; but so long as he stops doing really cheap ones, even if he doesn’t have good movies to his name, at least he won’t be looked down as a lowly cheap comedian. Look at Barfi! it was mostly a comedy (an ode to great comedians like Charlie Chaplin and Donald O’Connor), but there was nothing cheap about it. So if he loves comedy, he ought to do more of it, without being cheap and tasteless. He is such a good actor, when he wants to be. AND he’s proved himself, with his portrayal of; a member of another family belonging to another Bollywood royalty, the second generation of the Dutt’s, to grace the silver screen; Sanjay Dutt (a.k.a. Sanju).

The Women in ‘Sanju’s’ Life (the reel & the real)

Manisha Koirala as Nargis Dutt

When it comes to women in Dutt jr.’s life, who best to start with, but his graceful mother; Mother India herself, Bollywood superstar of the 50’s, Nargis. Nargis, was a talented actress and a beautiful star, of classics like Andaz (1949), Awaara (1951), Deedar (1951), Shree 420 (1955) and (her most notable) Mother India (1957), to name some. It’s during the shooting of Mother India, when during an accidental fire on the set, actor Sunil Dutt (who was playing her wayward son, in the movie) ran in and rescued her. Both sustained injuries, and film was halted. Dutt was hospitalized, and Nargis nursed him to back health, and they soon fell in love. Eventually they got married, resulting in Sanjay Dutt’s existence, his controversial life, which in turn inspired a magnificent movie. If the sets of Mother India, never caught fire, during a shoot of a fire scene (both were professional actors, and neither used stunt doubles), Sunil Dutt and Nargis might never have happened (a Hindu-Muslim love story of the late 50’s), and Sanjay Dutt would never have been born. Sadly, Nargis Dutt, succumbed to cancer, and died at the young age of 51, in 1981 (less than a month away, from her 52nd Birthday).

Manish Koirala, a brilliant actress of the 90’s & early noughties (who has actually worked with actor Sanjay Dutt, as well), does an incredible role, as a middle-aged Nargis Dutt. Back in 1994, when 1942: A Love Story (1994) starring Koirala alongside Anil Kapoor, was released; there was this famous umbrella scene which was reminiscent of a scene from the song Pyar Hua, Ikrar Hua… from Shree 420, beautifully showcasing an on-screen romance between, Raj Kapoor (Ranbir Kapoor’s grandfather) and Nargis (off-screen too, Raj Kapoor and Nargis were known to be lovers, and were in a long term relationship, back in the late 40’s & early/mid-50’s, but as he was a married Hindu man, not willing to leave his wife for this beautiful Muslim actress, he was madly in love with, Nargis finally broke it off. This was before Mother India happened, and fate took a different route). The fact is, back in 1994, everyone spoke of how the Nepali born, Manisha Koirala, felt a lot like Nargis; especially thanks to that red umbrella scene, at the start of the song, Rim Jhim Rim Jhim from 1942: A Love Story. And almost 2½ decades later, we see Koirala play, an older version, of the renowned actress of 50’s Bollywood.

Manisha Koirala does not feel like Nargis in Sanju. But she essays the role with grace and elegance, and one can imagine, a middle aged Nargis being just as beautiful, kind and elegant. The few scenes with the Mother and son (a mother, who tries to hide her ailing health from the son; and a drugged out son, who witnesses his mother’s death, but is unaware of whether what happened moments before she died, was real or was he hallucinating – something Dutt jr. would regret for the rest of his life) are truly heart rending.

Manisha Koirala, herself, is a cancer survivor. She mentioned how difficult it was to relive the trauma, while playing another person, and that too such a well reputed actress, suffering through cancer.

Sonam Kapoor as Ruby

Adorable Sonam Kapoor, does a touching portrayal of Sanjay Dutt’s girlfriend of the early 80’s. In the movie, the character is fictionalized, and named Ruby. Yet, it’s obviously based on actress, Tina Munim (now Tina Ambani), who was his beautiful girlfriend, at the time. We see Ruby and her parents ridiculed and suffer, at the hands of Dutt jr., again and again. Young Dutt, is so heartless, even when Ruby’s father (a comical cameo by Boman Irani) dies, he has no feelings for Ruby’s family, but his own selfish desire to own her.

Even, when his friend convinces Ruby (as she is about to marry an NRI, as per her parents wish) that Dutt truly loves her, and she leaves her fiancé to marry Dutt jr., Sanju is way too drugged and enjoying an acid trip at home. He has sold the ‘mangalsutra’ (a necklace that an Indian groom ties on the bride’s neck, during an authentic Indian wedding ceremony) he made for her, with a Penguin (Ruby’s favourite bird), for drugs. She had been waiting for ages at the registrar’s office to get married to him (in a civil marriage). The scene where she confronts the drugged out Sanju, inquiring where her ‘mangalsutra’ is, and the drugged-out Dutt insultingly puts the toilet seat on her neck, breaks your heart. How much more can she take? She of course, comes to her senses and breaks up, but feels no animosity towards him. Did young Tina Munim really go through so much, because she loved him?? It’s hard to say, how much is fictional, how much real; but young love can be blind, blind to their partner’s faults. Kudos to her for braving up, and finally leaving him. Which Munim actually did, and she later married Anil Ambani, son of Indian business tycoon, Dhirubhai Ambani; whose life inspired the excellent epic movie, Guru (2007) starring Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai.

The song Mein Badhiya, Tu bhi Badhiya…, from Sanju, which was originally picturized with Sonam Kapoor (and I had seen, and loved the retro 60’s/early70’s style song on Youtube), had been edited. The first bit of the song is there, but the entrance of Sonam Kapoor, driving into the studio, and consequent dance sequence, are not in the movie. The rest of the songs aren’t that entertaining. Except for “Kar Har Maidaan Fateh“, which has a deep meaning dealing with with Dutt’s victory over his drug abuse, Dutt’s surreal LSD fueled trip with “Ruby, Ruby” and the fun filled, Mein Badhiya, Tu bhi Badhiya…, the rest songs from the soundtrack are not that great or memorable, and quite unnecessary. The few classic tunes hummed by various cast members are interesting, and nostalgic.

Sonam Kapoor, happens to be one of my favourite actresses of today. Initially, I loved her as a fashionista (see my post Bollywood’s young Fashionista turns 29 today from June 2014), and since watching her brilliant role in Neerja (2016), a movie I got to see on the big screen, she’s gained more of my respect as a film artiste (also see my post TEN (Plus+2) Movies released Last Year from January 2017). Sonam Kapoor is the daughter of Anil Kapoor, star of films like Mr. India (1987), 1942: A love Story (which I spoke of earlier), and of course the Oscar winning British Film, Slumdog Millionaire (2008) – which propelled daddy Kapoor towards Hollywood fame and international appreciation.

Dia Mirza as Manyata Dutt

Dia Mirza does a decent enough role as, Manyata Dutt, Sanjay Dutt’s second official/third unofficial (explanation further down) and current wife. Dia Mirza was an Indian Beauty Queen, who went onto win the title of Miss Asia Pacific 2000. She later appeared in quite a number of Indian films, but wasn’t that great a success, besides being quite a capable actress. Even here, she doesn’t have much of a role, but she still manages to make it her own, and be noticed, as the ever supporting wife. Sanjay Dutt has two little children (twins) from his current wife (i.e. from Manyata), and an older daughter from his first marriage. Dutt was married to actress, Richa Sharma, in the late 80’s. They married in 1987, and within two years she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Dutt and Sharma separated, apparently sometime after the diagnosis. She died in 1996, in her parents home, in the United States of America. After a major court battle, the custody of their child was handed over to the maternal grandparents (i.e. Richa Sharma’s parents). Dutt’s eldest daughter still lives with her maternal grandparents, in New York, USA. Soon Dutt was involved with model, Rhea Pillai, with whom he had a long-term relationship, who stood by his side, during his first jail stint. In fact, Rhea Pillai was his second wife, through a temple marriage (which makes her his second wife, in an unofficial/unregistered sense). But they went their separate ways/divorced in 2008. He married his third wife (officially/registered second marriage), Manyata Dutt, in 2008, itself. She has been standing by her man through thick and thin, since.

Both, his first wife, and his unofficial second wife, are missing in this bio-pic, Sanju. The movie does mention, he is a notorious womanizer, and has slept with 300 odd women, including prostitutes; but portrays him in a monogamous relationship, since his marriage to Mayanta Dutt (which might be true). Yet the film fails to even mention his first two marriages, let alone that he has an older daughter, from his first marriage. Not to mention how many illegitimate kids, he might have spawned.

Manyata Dutt, celebrated her 40th Birthday, on 22nd July 2018.

Anushka Sharma as Winnie Diaz

Anushka Sharma plays Winnie Diaz, a fictional writer, who is roped into write Sanjay Dutt’s biography. Such a person, apparently never existed. It’s through her eyes, we mostly see Dutt’s life unfold, as she does her research. Though fictional, she is an interesting addition to the movie, where she records different aspects of Dutt’s life through different interpretations, by an interesting array of people. But, it’s mostly Sanju’s character that narrates the story (flashbacks into the 80’s & 90’s), and the rest is shown in real time.

Karishma Tanna playing a slut

Karishma Tanna, plays the love interest of Kamlesh Kanhaiyalal Kapasi (Vicky Kaushal), a village idiot and Sanju’s best friend, who is still a virgin. Through jet lag, Kamlesh Kanhaiyalal Kapasi falls asleep, and Sanju (being the notorious playboy who self-admittingly has slept with over 300 women) screws Pinky, with no hang-ups whatsoever. What a jerk?? He might be a playboy, BUT at least, in this context, he ought to have though of his friend, who has been there for him throughout. Sure, the woman is a slut, herself, and has no calms of sleeping with her boyfriend’s best friend, who also happens to be an actor; but Dutt could have walked out, for the sake of his friend. What’s worse is, Dutt jr. has no conscience, he does not feel bad for his friend, for hurting his best friend. Dutt feels devoid of any feelings, in this instance.

It’s hard to say how real the character of Pinky is, but Karishma Tanna most probably portrays, any random slut, responsible for Dutt’s arousal. Yeah, the bugger is so innocent, right???

The trio of actresses playing Sanjay Dutt’s two sisters

Three virtually unknown actresses, play Dutt’s sister’s (the two daughter’s of Sunil and Nargis Dutt). In real life, Namrata and Priya Dutt played a major role in their brother, Sanjay Dutt’s life. Especially Priya Dutt, who was there supporting him, throughout his prison years, along with their father, Sunil Dutt. But the two sisters are hardly noticeable, and have practically no dialogues. Blink, and you’ll miss them.

Back in November 2010, during a visit to New Delhi, India, I came across this non-fiction book, Mr and Mrs Dutt: Memories of our Parents, written by Namrata Dutt Kumar and Priya Dutt. A wonderfully written book, about their family life, struggles and what not. A really interesting biographical read with a spread of a stunning collection of Black&White photographs (colour photographs have been printed in Black&White, for a monotonal viewing pleasure). The fact it was written by Sunil and Nargis Dutt’s daughters made me more interested in reading it, and it was truly worth it. A keepsake. Sadly, more prominence hasn’t been given to these two girls, in the movie, especially Priya Dutt.

‘Sanju’s’ Two Male Anchors

Paresh Rawal as Sunil Dutt

Paresh Rawal, plays the ever worried father, Sunil Dutt. Worried about his wife’s deteriorating health, worried about his son’s drug addiction and later jail terms. Rawal, feels nothing like Sunil Dutt, but he does a good enough role of a worried father. Any father, worried about his son’s life. He doesn’t play Sunil Dutt, but he plays a concerned father, beautifully.

As much as the movie is about Sanjay Dutt, it is also about Sunil Dutt. The great bond between a father and son, and the father’s never ending trials and tribulations for the sake of his wayward son. Sunil Dutt comes across as a saint, and in a sense he was. Both Sunil and Nargis Dutt were known for their humanity. And humanity is the religion they preached to  their kids, even though Dutt jr. didn’t adhere to their preaching.

Though we see the father going out of his way to save his son, in various instances, one crucial fact is missing. To get bail for his son, through an opposing political party ruling the state of Maharashtra, at the time, Sunil Dutt, a Congress party politician, did not contest in Mumbai’s next election. That’s just one of the things he had to forgo, for the sake of his son.

The scene where Sunil Dutt, a Hindu, mentions he was threatened by an underworld Muslim don, when he wanted to marry Nargis, a Muslim; is bogus. As Nargis was in a long-term relationship with Raj Kapoor, a Hindu, and that too a married man, long before she met Sunil Dutt. Plus, the Bombay (now Mumbai) underworld was not that powerful in the 50’s, when Sunil Dutt and Nargis got married. In fact, Haji Mastan (whom Dutt refers to in the movie), gained power only in the 60’s & 70’s. Haji Mastan’s life was inspiration behind, the Bollywood movies, Deewaar (1975) and Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai (2010).

Vicky Kaushal as Kamlesh Kanhaiyalal Kapasi

It’s hard to say, who Kamlesh Kanhaiyalal Kapasi is based on, but he is way too good a friend for Sanju. Various sorces attribute the character to be either Dutt jr.’s close friend Paresh Ghelani, or actor Kumar Gaurav. I don’t know much about this Paresh Ghelani, other than the fact that he is a close friend of Sanjay Dutt’s. So it’s hard to say, whether the fictional character played by Vicky Kaushal is based on him or not. But Kaushal’s character is definitely not based on Kumar Gaurav. True, Kumar Gaurav too is a close friend of Sanjay Dutt’s. Yet, Kamlesh Kanhaiyalal Kapasi comes across as an unsophisticated village fool, with a good heart, and genuine personality. Kumar Gaurav too might be known to have a good heart and down to earth personality, yet he was a highly sophisticated young man, and 80’s film star, and is truly a sophisticated mature gentleman, today. Gaurav, son of Rajendra Kumar (Rajendra Kumar played the other son of Nargis, and brother to Sunil Dutt, in Mother India) married Namrata Dutt in 1981 (and since then she goes as Namrata Dutt Kumar). Gaurav and Sanjay Dutt had a falling out, when Gaurav married Dutt jr.’s sister, but they regained their friendship, and Gaurav too stood by his brother-in-law, throughout his prison term. So like Sanjay Dutt’s sister’s, Gaurav doesn’t have a part in the movie, in fact he is missing altogether, more like Sanjay Dutt’s first two wives.

Though we see Dutt jr. being a good, though somewhat troublesome, friend; in real life Sanjay Dutt is known to have put several friends in trouble, to the extent of them getting arrested along with him.

The Verdict

There are lot of discrepancies in the movie, on the facts from Sanjay Dutt’s life, which has led to criticism of whitewashing Dutt’s image (after all the film was directed by Rajkumar Hirani, a close friend of Sanjay Dutt). Which could be true, as despite all his flaws, he comes out a troubled human with a good heart, whom we sympathize with. But if you had never heard of Sanjay Dutt, didn’t know anything about his life, and watch this movie; immaterial of the source material being fact or fiction; you’d love this. And that’s how a film ought to be judged. A movie should be able to stand on it’s own merit, it doesn’t matter that it’s based on a book, a play, a real-life incident, et al. No harm in doing a comparison, with your knowledge of it’s source material, but what truly matters is, how well it works as a movie. So, although mostly fictionalized, with removal of key characters and moments applicable to Dutt’s life, is a pity; overall it’s an amazingly well made movie. And I loved it.

Sanju (2018)
My Rating: Excellent – 10/10 !!!!!

I watched Sanju, on Thursday, 19th of July, 2018, at the Liberty Cinema.

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

The 8th Annual SAARC Film Festival, celebrating films of South Asia, came and went; and I got to see some films, ranging from excellent masterpieces to pathetic waste of time flicks. Below are my take on the movies that I got the chance to see, my experience of the festival, as well as my ratings for each.

JANAAN (2016)

Janaan (2016) is a Pakistani commercial film, aping the the styles of the Bollywood masala rom-com, with done to death love triangles, heroes and villains, the battle of good versus evil, tragedy and triumph. Though beautifully filmed, capturing the spectacular landscape of Pakistan’s breathtaking Swat valley; with equally beautiful people with flawless skin (not just the younger generation, but all three generation encompasses flawless beauties, male and female, with sharp features, and perfect healthy figures), speaking the very refined and poetic languages of Urdu (national language of Pakistan) and Pashto/Pushto (language specific to that region of Pakistan), with glamorous costumes; due to the cheesy story line and mediocre acting talent, the film disappoints.

The story is pretty simple. A bewitchingly beautiful girl, who’s been living in Canada for 11 years, revisits her ancestral home; and encounters love and sadness, happiness and tears, romance and tragedy, the good, the bad and the ugly; all the melodrama of a commercial movie scene. The Pakistan film industry’s commercial cinema needs to up their game. These directors don’t need to go out of their comfort zones to make Art Films, if they don’t want to (though Pakistan has a few good artsy films; one that comes to mind is Ramchand Pakistani,2008, starring Indian actress Nandita Das); but with a perfect screenplay, superb actors, and catchy tunes; even a mediocre story could turn out to be an enjoyable movie. Look at Bollywood movies; why are they successful, despite most movies coming out of the Indian commercial Film Industry made in Hindi (India’s national language) being crap; because the few good commercial movies they make are brilliant. Though am a bit of an Art House snob; I do love a good commercial movie; which includes Bollywood movies. The likes of Awaara (1951), Mughal-E-Azam (1960), Tere Ghar Ke Samne (1963), Teen Devian (1965), Guide (1965), Amrapali (1966), Anand (1971), Haré Rama Haré Krishna (1971) a guilty pleasure, Abhimaan (1973), Chupke Chupke (1975), Arth (1982) which happens to be my favourite Bollywood commercial movie, Nikaah (1982), Rang Birangi (1983), Sadma (1983), Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa (1994), 1947: Earth (1998), Yes Boss (1997) another guilty pleasure, Guru (2007), Aamir (2008), 7 Khoon Maaf (2011), Barfi! (2012), Kahaani (2012), Haider (2014), Mary Kom (2014), Neerja (2016), etc etc Dot Dot Dot …. What’s brilliant about these movies, are not just the unique story lines (in some cases), the catchy music, the costumes, the cinematography et al; BUT good film direction (which I noticed Jannan actually has) and great performances (the main flaw of Jannan, besides the story). Thus a good director and great acting skills are the two key elements for making a good movie. The rest are secondary. Of course, though Bollywood is mostly popular for their commercial ventures, India does have some really good Art Films in Hindi as well, like Ankur: The Seedling (1974) my favourite Hindi language Art Movie, Junoon (1979), Kalyug (1981), Utsav (1984), Saaransh (1984), Mirch Masala (1987), Salaam Bombay! (1988) which was nominated for an Oscar, Raincoat (2004), The Blue Umbrella (2005), Stanley Ka Dabba (2011), The Lunchbox (2013), Masaan (2015), Aligarh (2015) to name some. Of course, India is not just Bollywood; there are lot a regional film, from various Indian states, in regional (and foreign) languages, from English and Urdu, to Indian languages ranging from Punjabi, Bhojpuri, Assamese, Malayalam, Telugu, to Tamil and many more. India is a massive country, with an equally massive population; with a vast array of racial, religious, cultural differences from state to state. Bengali Art Films coming out from India’s State of West Bengal, be it in Bengali or English (or bilinguals) are the best. Other Indian-English language films tend to be superb too. Last year’s The Hungry (2017) was a brilliant modern re-telling of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus.

I’ve heard about a new Pakistani movie, called Cake (2018). Really looking forward to checking it out. Sorry Azfar Jafri, your Janaan, was pretty bad; despite having made a whopping at the Box Office. Though I commend you for the excellence in direction, cinematography, editing and the beautiful costumes.

MATA NAM AHUNA (2015)

This Sri Lankan short film from Nadya Perera, was a waste of time. A total drag. Not to mention politically incorrect and tad racist. Nadya Perera had worked as crew member for the Sri Lankan/Italian film, Machan (2008), an averagely good movie, directed by Italian director, Uberto Pasolini, and much loved by Lankan audiences. Mata Nam Ahuna (2015), English Title – While You Slept (2015), is Perera’s second short film. The movie deals with a brothel catering to male Chinese construction workers here. The prostitutes are local girls who cater to these Chinese men’s needs. Once an actual young Chinese girl is brought into serve the men, a girl fears for her job. Slowly her inferiority complex and insecurity takes over and she tries to become Chinese, inside out. A good concept, but what a bore. The movie was only 24 minutes, but I felt I sat through that flick for an hour, at least.

Plus, they’ve got the facts wrong. True there is an influx of Chinese workers coming into the country post war; but Chinese labour is nothing new. And brothels are nothing new in the country. This movie gives the impression that such places are a necessity today, because only Chinese men have such sexual cravings. There have been brothels in Lanka from time immemorial, including the bringing in of prostitutes from abroad. Although the premise of the movie was good, bringing in foreign workers, means less work for locals. Yet, it’s not just post-end of war; it’s been happening since way before.

This was the second worst movie, I saw at the festival.

Jaya Ahsan & Abir Chatterjee, in a scene Bisorjon (2017)

BISORJON (2017)

This Indian Bengali movie was THE best movie I saw at the Film Festival this year, but sadly it was shown “out of competition”. Beats me, why????

With brilliant character sketches, a heart-rending story, and superb performances, Bisorjon (2017), English title – Immersion, is a must watch, for all film lovers. The story is about a Muslim man from West-Bengal, India, who washes into Bangladesh; where a Hindu Bangladeshi widow, saves him, protects him, and takes care of him. The irony of the circumstances is even more intriguing, as India’s state of West-Bengal is a predominantly Hindu region (though Islam is a fast growing religion in that state), and Bangladesh is a Muslim country, with a tiny percentage of Hindus, and other religions. Thus the biggest irony is, the fact that an injured Indian Muslim man, has to pretend to be Hindu, in an Islamic country, as he is living under the roof of a Hindu widow, and her ailing father-in-law. Plus, though they speak the same language (i.e. Bengali); the dialectics differ. So as not to get caught by the Bangladeshi forces, as he is an Indian residing in Bangladesh illegally, she teaches him to speak in her dialect (i.e. the Bangladeshi version of Bengali; or Bangla, as they call it). This beautiful slow-paced love-story without any romance is made with perfection, by director, Kaushik Ganguly. Slow does not have to be a bore, and this is anything but. The suspense of the story keeps you glued, and the exchange of dialogues are unmissable and amusing. It’s the dialogues, the expressions, and beautiful performances, that keeps the story going. The cast is just as brilliant, as the films direction; and the director too plays a significant supporting role in the film. The best work in this Indian movie, was by Bangladeshi actress, Jaya Ahsan (pronounced Joya Ahsan).

Jaya Ahsan plays Padma, the selfless widow; who gives and gives, and sacrifices, without really expecting anything in return. Seeing what a saintly human being she is, one can feel content, that there is still scope for humanity. Her character is uniquely complex. She loved her husband, who died due to alcohol abuse. She spends her time taking care of her, weakened with age, father-in-law. The discovery of a near dead man, re-ignites her dormant passion for a male companion, in her heart and soul. She doesn’t necessarily fall in love with this handsome stranger; but seeing him in her husband’s old clothes, she falls in love with the essence of her husband, that brings back memories, through this stranger. She had submerged all human feelings of desire till now. But this strange Muslim man, from another country, re-kindles her desires for a male lover. Yet, their friendship is purely platonic, and the stranger, Nasir (played by actor, Abir Chatterjee) doesn’t reciprocate. He has a girl, waiting for him back home. Even though he admires and cares, for this Hindu widow, he doesn’t feel any lustful desire for her. But neither does she feel any lust for him, but more for the memories of her husband, brought back to life, through Nasir’s clothing and smoking the cigarette brand that Padma’s husband use to smoke. As she inhales the cigarette smoke puffed out by Nasir, her heart pounds for her dead husband, in this new human avatar. She resides with contentment and misery through this unrequited love. She doesn’t want things to change, and rebuffs the affection of the village headman, Ganesh (played by film director, Kaushik Ganguly). The ambiguity of the character of Ganesh, makes the film more intriguing; as sometimes he feels like the sly villain of the piece, horny headed, helping the widow, with an alternate agenda; and yet, on the other end, his affections for her seem genuine, and he is very protective of her. His sidekick Lau (Lama), provides the comic relief, in the movie.

Then comes the movie’s climax, the day Nasir has to escape (by now we know Nasir is a thief, who trying to escape the cops, jumped into the river, on the day of immersion of the idol of Durga, and got wounded). Padma’s father-in-law is dead, she has no where to go, except maybe back to her parents. Yet, it won’t be easy for Nasir to leave, undetected, with the border patrol. Thus, Padma’s biggest sacrifice. She agrees to marry Ganesh, if he helps Nasir get back through the river, on the day immersion. She comes home, shedding her white attire of a Hindu widow, dressed like the Durga herself. We see the agony she is going through, she drinks, she smokes; and Nasir breaks down on learning of her ultimate sacrifice.

The scene so tragically beautiful is done with exceptional brilliance. Jaya Ashen is superb, your heart goes out to her. For all her affection towards Nasir, she does get one thing in return, his seedling. Initially, with all the border problems, I assumed the movie was set during the Bangladesh war of liberation, in 1971. But then I saw mobile phones, so realized it’s set in the modern day (village attire doesn’t give away the time period, as those traditional styles hardly change). Yet, the mobiles were somewhat older, in style and technology. Which made sense later, as we see Padma married to Ganesh, with a six year old kid. A kid with Nasir’s birthmark on his back.

The finalé is beautifully done, with the camera zooming into the, now dilapidated, house; where Padma and Nasir consummated their desires, resulting in the conception of a child. A child, Ganesh calls his own. Symbolic of the void left behind, by the man that brought back human desires into her heart. A man, that is dead to her, metaphorically (but lives through the son they created, that one night); unlike her husband’s death, literally, which left her with nothing.

The best Indian movies tend to come out of the state of West Bengal (as I mentioned earlier), and Bengali Cinema has brought out some of the best directors ever, including Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak, Aparna Sen and Rituparno Ghosh, to name some. In fact, Aparna Sen’s The Japanese Wife (2010), based on a beautiful short story, by Kunal Basu, happens to be my all time favourite Indian movie (see my post, Photograph no.5, from six months ago). Having seen Kaushik Ganguly’s, brilliant tribute to the veteran Satyajit Ray, that was, Apur Panchali (2013), and now Bisorjon, Ganguly can be added to these Bengali greats. Last month, director, Kaushik Ganguly, announced that he is making a sequel to Bisorjon.

Indian Film Director, Kaushik Ganguly, announces that he is making a sequel to Bisorjon (2017), as Bangladesh Actress, Jaya Ahsan, looks on; at an event (April 2018)

POORNA (2017)

Based on a true story, Poorna (2017), is Rahul Bose’s second foray into film direction.

Malavath Purna (a.k.a. Poorna Malavath) is an Adivāsi girl from Telangana North, a state in Southern India, who became the youngest girl to scale the highest peak of Mount Everest, at the age of 13 years and 11 months. She, till date, is the youngest girl to have done so. She reached the peak on the 25th of May, 2014. Adivāsis are a tribal community (which differs from regions to regions), that make up a small population of South Asia. Majority of them, are scattered around India. Though Adivāsis are a lower caste, considered primitive, they are not considered impure, by higher Indian castes of India’s Hindu population. Thus, not to be confused with the caste of Dalits, who sadly are also known as “Untouchables”. Unfortunately these caste systems still prevail, in modern India.

Bose’s Poorna, is a bio-pic on this famed young mountain climber. AND a brilliant movie at that. Young Aditi Inamdar, does a marvelous job, as the protagonist of the movie, in her debut performance. The movie demonstrates the trials and troubles faced by this young girl, coming from a lower social background, where child marriage of younger girls to older men, is still the norm; and how she defies social stigmas, overcomes problems after problems, from family issues, training, to the actual ascend onto the Himalayas.

These impressive inspiring tales are nothing new, and there are plenty of films made on sportsmen/women and adventurers. But this is still a wonderfully made movie, that too on real life person. Added to which, this story is about a tribal girl who beats all odds, and triumphs against adversity. If it were any other Indian or other well to do girl, the triumph would have been hers alone; but the fact an Adivāsi girl reached the peak, at such a young age; is an inspiration to the entire Adivāsi tribe. It’s a push forward for the entire community. Thanks to her, young Adivāsis have scope for getting away from monotonous lifestyles, and making something of their lives. Of course, Poorna, has the luck, and help comes in the way of Dr. Praveen Kumar (Rahul Bose), who see her potential and never stops encouraging her, and other children like her. Added to which Poorna’s mentor, her elder cousin sister, supports Poorna, and pushes her forward, despite having no hope for herself. In the end, it’s the memory of her cousin that helps Poorna achieve what she sought out to do.

More recently, in July 2017, Malavath Purna, scaled Mt. Elbrus, the highest peak in Russia, and the European continent.

With Bangladesh Film Director, Tauquir Ahmed, at the 8th SAARC Film Festival 2018 (26th May 2018); post the screening of Poorna (2017), and just hours before the screening of Ahmed’s film, Haldaa (2017)

Tauquir Ahmed gives a small speech, before the screening of his movie, Haldaa (2017)

HALDAA (2017)

Shot around the scenic river Halda, in Chattogram, in southeastern Bangladesh, depicting the lives of fishermen and their families; Haldaa (2017) is a movie with breathtaking cinematography and a lovely story. The story deals with repression, both of fisherman, due to industrial pollution and at the hands of pirates, and women, living under a patriarchal society.

Nusrat Imroz Tisha plays Hasu, a daughter of a troubled fisherman, who is forced into a marriage with a rich older man, against her will. She is the second wife, of this wealthy villain; whose first wife hasn’t borne any children, and is still married to him. One interesting point shown in the movie, is the symbolic representation of killing of the “Mother Fish”, or pregnant fish. It’s not only shown as a superstition, considered wrong to kill a pregnant fish, but also shown with a realistic aspect too, that of the breeding of the fish. If you kill a pregnant fish, the number of fish in river would reduce, which happens to be the main livelihood of those living along these banks. The Halda River, of Chattogram, is the only pure fish breeding center in Asia. When Hasu’s father kills a “Mother Fish”, it upsets both the father and daughter, later when a “Mother Fish” from the Halda River, is sent by Hasu’s husband, she refuses to cook it, and when guests arrive she throws the cooked fish to the groud, in demonstration. She is badly beaten by her husband. Unlike the first wife, Hasu, is a bold woman, and not afraid of her man. Since post marriage, she shows no signs of getting pregnant, people talk about her being sterile like the first wife. Killing of a “Mother Fish” was a sign. But she eventually does get pregnant, but it might not be her husband’s.

This shows a bold village feminist, who refuses to lose her identity; as her mother-in-law, Surat Banu (Dilara Zaman) asks Hasu, while Banu lies bedridden, after a fall, to call her by her name (instead of calling her mother). A tear-jerking scene, as Banu points out, how women lose their identity, as a daughter, daughter-in-law, wife, mother, mother-in-law; and their names vanish along with their identity. Surat doesn’t call her younger independent minded daughter-in-law Bahu (daughter-in-law), as is the custom; but by her name, Hasu. Surat admires Hasu for her braveness, and gives her the household keys, instead of the elder Bahu. This makes the, nameless and conniving, elder Bahu, not so happy.

Nusrat Imroz Tisha is superb as Hasu. With director Tauquir Ahmed’s (a.k.a. Toukir Ahmed) beautifuly filmed movie, and few awesome performances, and a touching script, it’s no doubt a great film from Bangladesh. Yet, the overall experience of the movie was average fare (among international standards). Though I didn’t think it was among the greatest films ever made, there were lot elements of the movie, I loved. The last scene, when just Hasu and her husband are left in the house, with the unexpected twist in the end, was gracefully executed. ’twas just sublime. Tauquir Ahmed, at the post screening , mentioned that he made two versions of the movie. One a commercial venture, for Bangladesh audiences, and the other, an art movie, for the international distribution (the one we saw); which he called the “director’s cut”. It would be interesting to see both, and do a compare and contrast, though no doubt, the version we saw, was the better one.

The next day, this film was awarded four trophies, including ‘Best Film’ at the SAARC Film Festival award ceremony. Though I didn’t think Tauquir Ahmed’s Haldaa, was the best film, am glad it was given the recognition, instead of some undeserved movie. It definitely deserved the win for ‘Best Cinematography’, no doubt about that. A big congratulations to director, Tauquir Ahmed. And all the best with your next project.

These three feature films have beautiful titles with beautiful meanings. Bisorjon/Bishorjan (pronunciation differs according to Bengali dialects) means immersion, as the English title suggests, and is based on the custom of immersing the idol of Durga into water (the ocean or a river), during the famed Durga puja festivities in, certain parts of India, and Bangladesh (this festival plays a vital role in the movie’s plot). Poorna or Purna, meaning fulfilled, is the name of the protagonist, and is based on the life of Malavath Purna, a young Indian mountaineer. AND Haldaa, is the river Halda, in south-eastern Bangladesh, on the banks on which the entire premise of the story is set in. Though not as great as Bisorjon and Poorna, Haldaa is the best film from Bangladesh I’ve seen; and there is scope for Bangladeshi Bangla films to catch up to International standards, akin to great European and other Asian Art House Films.

Nusrat Imroz Tisha, dressed in bridal finery, as Hasu, in Haldaa (2017)

THE WATERFALL (2017)

Seated right at the front, like Bertolucci’s “Dreamers” (i.e. like the trio of lead characters from Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Dreamers, 2003), I was one of the first to absorb this short film, before it reached the rest.

Like wasps attracted to a hornets’ nest, people thronged into the cinema, including Colombo’s so called elite. It was as if these uncontrollable crowds were from a remote village with a high level of illiteracy, or people from slums. Such a rowdy crowd for a short film. No, they were there, for the next film, a Sinhala feature film; but these losers came in early afraid to lose a seat for the next movie, Bahuchithawadiya (2018). Not that most of these people care for films at a festival; but a free viewing, that too of a Sri Lankan film, brought in the worst crowds possible.

Anyway, Lipika Singh Darai’s The Waterfall (2017), is an Indian-English language short film. Having worked on documentaries, this was first venture into a fictional movie. It’s a beautiful movie about a city boy from Mumbai, who visits his ancestral home in a scenic hill station, in the state Odisha (formerly known as Orissa). He spends his time enjoying the natural wonders of the village, missing in the city, with his cousin. In particular, there is this one waterfall, that he has great admiration for. Soon he learns that the waterfall is drying up; and urbanization is ruining the surrounding nature. It affects him, and villagers, profoundly; but it doesn’t seem to bother his cousin (who resides there), and other well to do people of the village.

Beautiful little story, about the effects of climate change and construction projects. Averagely good.

BAHUCHITHAWADIYA (2018)

This crude caper is a crapper. And yes, I was still seated right at the front.

What a pathetic waste of time. Ridiculous acting, the actors are thinking of their dialogues then saying it. With long pauses between dialogues, how artificial and unrealistic it looked. What a bore!! These “tele-drama” style acting ought to be obsolete by now (Sri Lankan soaps have been known as tele-dramas, since the invent of these distasteful Sinhala television series’, back in the 1980’s. Lankan’s till date stay glued to the idiot box watching such nonsensical shows, thus their brains are just as slow and narrow).

Even though the premise of virtual acquaintances and promiscuous youth was (though not unique), an interesting area to turn into a cinematic experience; the pathetic execution of the plot, and specifically the fake acting talent roped in, made the viewing unbearable. This was the last movie of the festival. Heavy Sri Lankan egos might not like my take on the film (as they feel they have to love films made in their own country); but me having no false pride, or fake sense of patriotism, nor any brainwashed attitudes of loving everything, just because it’s Sri Lankan, have to say it; Sri Lankan movies are not up to the standard. Gone are the days of Lester James Peries (Rekava,1956, Gamperaliya,1963), Sumitra Peries (Ganga Addara,1980) and Tissa Abeysekera (Viragaya,1987); yet these greatest Sri Lankan films mentioned here, still were average fare (internationally speaking). In more recent times, only director, Prasanna Vithanage (Anantha Rathriya,1996, Pura Handa Kaluwara,1997, Silence in the Courts,2015) comes to mind as local films worth checking out; yet even his movies are only averagely good (but brilliant in Sri Lankan terms). One main reason is, though these were/are good directors; the acting skills even of the best actors here, do not match up. And in Bahuchithawadiya, the acting talent is amongst the worst ever. Added to which, Bahuchithawadiya, is among the worse films ever made, anywhere; and THE worst movie I saw at this year’s festival. Even though, this was given an award for ‘Best Sound Design’; I feel there were better films that deserved the said award.

THE SAARC FILM FEST EXPERIENCE

The poorly organized SAARC Film Festival, with it’s totally mucked up schedule, started on the 22nd of May, 2018. Practically any event in this country, tends to be badly done; yet, this years SAARC Film Fest, was definitely comparatively better than the previous year’s (which was held only six months ago, in November 2017). I couldn’t go the first two days, especially due to the bad weather, and various other reasons. On the third day, 24th of May, I went. I really had a keen interest in seeing this 13 minute short film from Bangladesh, Daag (2017). The story is set during the Bangladesh war of liberation, in 1971; where a woman marries her rapist. I thought the premise was interesting. Already stressed out, as I was leaving for the fest, due to inhumane cruel people of this country; not to mention being stuck in a terrible traffic for close to 2 hours, I missed the short film. So I sat down to watch the next movie, Janaan (I’ve spoken of above). After the disappointment of sitting through the cheesy romance, and going through the stress of the day; I felt too tired to watch the rest of the films. Otherwise I would have seen the next two at least, the local Sinhala film, 28 (2014), and the Indian Marathi movie, Kshitij: A Horizon (2016). Kshitij: A Horizon, is the movie I really wanted to watch, for I could watch the Sri Lankan film, rented on cable TV, or if shown on a local channel. So, on my ‘Day 1’, Janaan, is the only movie I watched. Next day, I went early enough, and caught the short film Mata Nam Ahuna & the feature length film, Bisorjon (spoken about them above). The schedule being changed there was a Maldivian horror movie next, 4426 (2016). Initially I thought of checking it out, even though it didn’t really interest me, but still going through the weariness of the day before, I decided I needed to go home and rest. The next day, the last day of screening, on Saturday, 26th May; I went in the morning, to catch most of the movies. Still, when I reached there the short film, Kalo Meghar Vela (2018) a.k.a. The Cloud Boat, from Bangladesh had already started. So waited outside, and went in to catch the next movie, but happen to see the last bit of Kalo Meghar Vela, as it ran longer than scheduled. The next was Poorna (spoken of above). Post that, I did not see the next film, another commercial venture from Pakistan, which I heard skipped. Technical problem!!! Technical problems are nothing new at film festivals here, it always happens, and that too specially at the NFC (National Film Corporation); where these festivals mainly tend to take place. Added to that the seating is really bad, so congested, there is not enough leg space, for even a person of average height (and am 6ft, 2½”). Anyway, next I went in for Haldaa (spoken of above), which too had a technical difficulty (the sound wasn’t clear), so we ended up watching it on Blu-ray, projected onto the big wide screen. Post that, saw the next two/last two films, The Waterfall & Bahuchithawadiya, seated right in front, as mentioned.

I didn’t go for the award ceremony next day, on Sunday, but am glad the main awards were given to more deserved movies, unlike last year. Hope the organizers of this film festival do a better job, next time around. Even though badly done, am glad these rare festivals occur; as such films don’t really come to cinemas, in this aesthetically depressive country. There is no real understanding, nor an interest for, the arts, in general, in Sri Lanka. But it’s good, they have film festivals here now. After all, there were only two Colombo Film Festivals (back in 2014 & 2015) a festival, funded by the Japanese, and that died pretty young; and this was just the “8thSAARC Film Festival (which I hope shall continue, thanks to the help of other South Asian countries). None the less, looking forward to the next film festival, and preferably a more well organized one.

MY RATINGS (Set of Seven):-

  • Bisorjon (2017) – The Best – 10/10!!!!!
  • Poorna (2017) – The Next – 10/10!!!!!
  • Haldaa (2017) – (higher) Average Fare – 6/10!!!
  • The Waterfall (2017) – (lower) Average Fare – 5/10!!!
  • Janaan (2016) – Pretty Bad – 4/10!!
  • Mata Nam Ahuna (2015) – One of the worse short films ever – 1/10!
  • Bahuchithawadiya (2018) – The worst film at the festival – 1/10!

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

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The Mean Season (1985) is a pretty impressive thriller, which showcases the talent of actor Kurt Russell in an equally impressive measure. Directed by the quintessential 80’s film director from Canada (born in Australia), Phillip Borsos; who died too young (he was only 41, when he left this world); this Hollywood modern classic, encompasses some of the best traits of the 80’s decade. From technology, to style, the realistic feel; I felt the decade of my childhood run through my veins, with nostalgia. It’s not necessarily a masterpiece, but still an enjoyable piece of post-noir crime caper.

Set in Miami, Florida, USA, in July 1984, during Florida’s notorious “mean season”; the hurricane season that runs through the coasts of the US state of Florida, during the humid summer months (June to September); the movie is a about a reporting journalist, Malcolm Anderson (Russell) working for The Miami Journal (a fictional newspaper) and an (initially unnamed) sociopath (played by Richard Jordan). Exhausted with the never ending crime coverage he has to endure, Anderson is ready to quit and leave for cooler climes, to the more scenic US State of Colorado. A young teenage girl, Sarah Hooks (Tamara Jones), has been killed; and Anderson is given the assignment to cover it. He reluctantly agrees. Once he writes about it; he gets a call congratulating him, by the young girl’s killer. Soon a vocal relationship develops between the journalist; who’s in a dilemma (on one side he wants to genuinely help catch the killer, feeling for the families of the victims; and on the other, the scoop, nabbing the story of a lifetime is an opportunity no journalist wants to let go); and the serial killer, yet to commit more crimes.

Now the suspense begins. Kurt Russell, proves himself as an actor, in a decade Hollywood was infested with run-on-the mill blockbusters, B-grade actors, and cheesy catchphrases like “I’ll be back” (The Terminator, 1984), “I feel the need…, the need for speed” (Top Gun, 1986) and “Nobody puts Baby in a corner” (Dirty Dancing, 1987); to name a few. Soon an unbreakable bond begins, with each having a fascination bordering on homoeroticism for the other. Which in today’s terms, would be categorized as, a “Bromance”!! But this isn’t the typical bromance. For the journalist; he waits in anticipation, to hear from killer, the killer’s latest confession. Meanwhile, the attention loving murderer can’t wait to call the journalist, and letting him know about his latest victim/s. But when the reporting journalist starts to get more attention; not just because of his swell writing skills, but also ’cause he is the only person to be in touch with the killer; added to which the journalist appearing on television, with a hint of him venturing into Pulitzer Prize territory for his articles; is when the “Bromance” starts to turn sour. The killer isn’t happy. He wanted fame, through his newer killings (as we find out later that he had killed before, and confessed, and nobody believed him; thus he is duplicating the killings), and sought the help of Malcolm Anderson for it; but instead Anderson is making a name for himself; mainly just by association. True, Malcolm Anderson is great writer; but if the killer didn’t contact him, Anderson would’ve left Miami for good, and his byline could have gone into oblivion.

The killer finds the best way to get back at his “Bro”, by going after Anderson’s Achilles heal; going after his lover, a schoolteacher, Christine Connelly (Mariel Hemingway).

Kurt Russell and Richard Masur in a scene from The Mean Season (1985)

The Mean Season, is beautifully filmed. One of most beautiful, albeit pretty morbid, scene happens to be murder of an elderly couple. Though the murder itself isn’t shown, the murder’s description of it, along with Anderson’s imagination, shows how his use of a pillow, created an aesthetically spectacular scene, as the pillow feathers fall down like snowflakes. He mentions how he stood there watching this horrendous artistic creation of his.

What is more impressive, about this movie, is the realism aspect. Unlike the CGI blockbusters of today, where computer graphics overpower and ruin the entire premise of a film, instead of helping them (you’ve seen one, you’ve seen ’em all); these films sans CGI, have an element of realism; with neither being overtly realistic nor disconnectedly artificial (though they might be out and out fictional). Of course, the film was based on a novel, In the Heat of the Summer, by a veteran Miami Herald crime reporter, John Katzenbach; who based his book on his own experiences as a newspaper reporter. Director, Phillip Borsos, spent time studying people at work at Miami Herald, he consulted them; and actually filmed on location, at the Miami Herald, with actual staff seen in the background. That’s one of the best things about the movie, the fact the press environment wasn’t recreated in a studio; but filmed in an actual press office. It was very generous of the Miami Herald to let them film there, despite being a very busy newspaper (what newspaper isn’t busy).

Crime & Journalism: Two scenes from The Mean Season (1985), with Kurt Russell (Russell is seen with Andy García, in the picture above). The movie was filmed on location, at the actual “Newsroom” of the Miami Herald newspaper.

Phillip Borsos, recalled later, that in April 1984, the day he, along with his crew, arrived at the Miami Herald; a man suspected of being a serial killer, killed himself, during a confrontation with the cops; “it seemed as though there were about 500 reporters in the office, and everybody was going insane” (quote mentioned in Wikipedia’s The Mean Season page).

Proof of the pudding, is in the preparation of an actor for a particular role, he or she, is to convincingly play. AND actor, Kurt Russell, followed around veteran American journalist and Mystery novelist, Edna Buchanan (who was working at the Miami Herald, at the time) along with Miami Herald‘s photographer of the time, Tim Chapman. And it paid off, as this no doubt is one of Russell’s better character roles. Similarly, Richard Masur, to prepare for his role as the editor of the fictional newspaper, The Miami Journal, spent several days at the Miami Herald‘s city desk.

One of the main flaws of the movie, for me, was that the revelation of the killer’s identity came too soon. It would have been better, if his face was revealed only after he pretends to help Christine Connelly, and we find out she’s been kidnapped. Post that, the revelation of the killer’s name, Alan Delour, came at the appropriate time. The thing is, when Delour, pretending to be a substitute teacher, pretends to help Connelly; we already know she’ll be kidnapped, as we know this is the killer. The other flaw, though a minor one, was the casting of Christine Connelly herself. Though Mariel Hemingway, had nothing great to do in the movie, anyway, she feels a bit out of place. In a way, it goes well with role, as Connelly wants to leave Miami, but only stays on for lover, Malcolm Anderson. Yet, Mariel Hemingway’s acting ability seems pretty limited, even for a side supporting role of small caliber. She’s an average actress; neither good nor bad. But surprisingly this average actress seemed perfectly cast in the brilliant Manhattan (1979), a Woody Allen (Black & White) masterpiece.

Mariel Hemingway in The Mean Season (1985)

Mariel Hemingway definitely looks good though. Richard Jordan is superb as the creepy voice over the telephone; but once his face is revealed, a tad too soon, it starts to go downhill a bit. Plus the done-to-death scene, when we feel all’s well that ends well, but made to realize it’s not over yet; is a tad too predictable. Still it didn’t ruin the movie for me, for most part, it really went well. It could’ve been greater, with certain changes. The one to watch out for, the icing on the cake, happens to be a fresh faced, young Cuban born, Andy García; as a good cop with a sly grin, Ray Martinez. He oozes with boyish charm in this movie.

Kurt Russell and Mariel Hemingway in The Mean Season (1985)

Though not a great movie; with it’s blend of the hurricane season (i.e. Florida’s notorious “mean season”), crime and journalism; The Mean Season, reminded me of some great suspenseful films set in Florida; the likes of Key Largo (1948), Absence of Malice (1981) and Manhunter (1986), to name a few. It also has classic-noir elements of films of the 40’s; an almost Hitchcockian feel; tied in with an investigative journalism style seen in movies like, His Girl Friday (1940), All the President’s Men (1976), Absence of Malice (mentioned above) and The Paper (1994), to name some. Even though this modern classic might not be a movie that has aged well, unlike the other movies mentioned above, it’s not exactly outdated. In fact, it’s quite a good insight into the workings of the press, press of the 1980’s decade. Plus, this would be a great guilty pleasure for die hard Kurt Russell fans. Pretty Enjoyable fare!!!

The Mean Season (1985)
My Rating: Pretty Good – 7/10 !!!!

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

This Blog Post, is my contribution to the, THE KURT RUSSELL BLOGATHON, hosted by Gill of Real Weegie Midget and Paul of Return to the 80s!!!!!!

Thank you Gill & Paul, for letting me take part in this cool Blogathon.

Nuwan Sen

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Film Director, N. Padmakumar, standing next to a poster of his debut fictional movie, at the 21st Busan International Film Festival; in Busan, South Korea

Hari Aziz; as the name (Hindu first name & Muslim surname) itself suggests; is a mixed breed. His father is from Northern India, with Muslim roots; and his mother from South India, darker in complexion, with Hindu roots. Thus, Hari Aziz is a hybrid of a mixed race couple. Since both his intellectual parents are agnostic in nature, he has nothing to worry. They live quite a posh life, in Mumbai, India. Yet, when financial difficulties arise, we watch them getting poorer and poorer, moving into middle class housing, to even worse lower income apartments, as they descend deeper into the real India. Real, modern-day, independent India, infested with small minded archaic mentalities, extremists ideologies, thuggery and violence.

Directed by Padmakumar Narasimhamurthy, A Billion Colour Story (2016) is beautiful Indian-English language movie, shot brilliantly in Black & White, which ironically turns into colour, when the most colourful personality of this tragic tale is shot dead. I had never heard of Padmakumar Narasimhamurthy, until day before yesterday, when I watched this art movie. This is his debut feature film, he released a documentary in the summer of the same year; in the middle of the Year of the Sweets, in June 2016. A Billion Colour Story was released, later, in Autumn, that year.

With an amazing array of unknown, yet superb naturalistic acting talent, with brilliantly penned out characters, and an equally brilliant script (which too was written by Padmakumar Narasimhamurthy); this movie is a must watch. Out of all the actors, it’s the child actor, Dhruva Padmakumar; playing 11 year old, Hari Aziz, the narrator of the film; to look out for. He’s a lovely character – intelligent, very mature (in a world full of immature adults); yet shy and bashful, when a young girl, Sophia (Keya Kalyan), asks him whether he’d like to be her boyfriend. He blushes adorably. He’s a self sufficient, and trustful, kid; that his parents need not worry about. Brought up in an open-minded environment, he’s given the necessary freedom a child deserves. But of course, that doesn’t mean he is neglected. He’s showered with well endowed love and affection, and truly spoilt, to the core. No harm in spoiling him, he’s not a brat, far from it. He’s a really smart, good-hearted, kid. He knows everything there is to know about the world, thanks to his curiosity to find out about anything he hears, on his own smart phone. He doesn’t abuse the net, wasting on unnecessary hogwash, but uses his phone as it’s namesake suggests, smartly. This was Dhruva Padmakumar’s very first film appearance, and the only credited role, till date.

Vasuki, Dhruva Padmakumar and Gaurav Sharma; in a scene from A Billion Colour Story (2016)

Hari Aziz’s father, Imran Aziz (Gaurav Sharma), is lovely person. An open-minded personality, a great husband, a loving father; practically perfect. But all humans are flawed creatures, some more than others. He is a pragmatist, yet not practical. A clash of terms, let me explain. As I stated, he is a very open minded individual; not a religious person, fights against formalists – extremist attitudes, fights for justice, but is somewhat blinded by his love for his country. Despite everything going wrong, as they lose money, sink into poverty, and see inhumane attitudes, surrounded constantly with negative energy, pulling them down (it’s very hard stay afloat and positive in such a society, and I know from personal experience of having associated Sri Lankans, all over the world, and still constantly having to go through it, in this country of my own unfortunate roots, full of Lankan egos); his belief in humanity, that India is a beautiful country full of beautiful people, survives. True, India is a beautiful country; with some amazing people, but when there is so much animosity towards their inter-racial union, from both sides; he ought to have been somewhat less saintly, and a bit more intelligent. His, this, blind faith, brings about a stressful ruination of his happy life, to the extent of an imminent danger, not just to himself, but friends and family. Though am not familiar with Gaurav Sharma’s work, he seems to have starred in quite a few unheard of Hindi Films, that are critically declaimed. Yet, just because he starred in some bad movies does not necessarily mean he is a bad actor. He was superb in A Billion Colour Story; and he essayed the role of a modern man, with Muslim roots, with blind love and hope for his country, struggling to survive in a formalist, narrow-minded, society, to perfection.

Hari Aziz’s mother, Parvati Aziz (played with perfection, by a little known, South Indian actress, Vasuki); is, like her husband, yet another intelligent, modern, optimistic and very progressive individual; yet she has no blind faith in India. She loves the country, as much as her husband, but she is well aware of it’s conservative backdrop, that will never accept their interracial union, nor ever want to change for the better. She’s aware of the people’s simple minded nature, stuck in their archaic brainwashed ways, that will never learn to think for themselves. Their is no hope, and it’s not even worth trying to educate and improve such people. A total waste of time and energy. No use preaching to fools. Yet, she supports her husband unconditionally. She’s more practical than her husband. A superb wife, with a brain of her own; and the perfect mother. In this sense, the trio of family members are lucky to have each other. The perfect, free-thinking, modern family. And, they are lucky to have a great group of like minded friends. But yet, they have to deal with everyday, unnecessary stressful problems; due to self centered, inhumane people. The more they are pulled down, into living around such a cruel ignorant society; the worse life gets.

Director, Padmakumar Narasimhamurthy, seen here with his son, child actor, Dhruva Padmakumar

The family strives through heavy patience, surviving and surviving, until one day tragedy strikes. That’s when they lose all hope, and decide to leave the country (we learn earlier on that the couple met in Australia, whilst studying there). But just as they are about to leave, a ray of new hope comes there way; but at what cost. It’s too late, no matter what they do, the best thing about their life is no more; and they’d have to live with that guilt consciousness for the rest of their lives. No matter what, they’ll feel in their hearts, it was their own fault.

It’s a beautifully made, sad, heart-rending, story; told wittily through the eyes of a child. The only big flaw, was the film’s producer, Satish Kaushik’s, cameo; as a fictional film producer, named, Chopra. The scene itself, might not have been that long. YET, it drags on a bit, that it brought a “break in the continuity” of the story (a similar statement is used later in the movie); and those few minutes felt like an hour. Post that scene, the film itself felt a bit dull, for a little while (maybe due to the aftermath of that scene, making me lose interest a bit). Then it caught the pace, and moved on smoothly.

Satish Kaushik is notorious for his not so great directorial work, on Bollywood comedies and melodramas; as well as acting in them. Yet, he is a good writer, for he did co-wrote the dialogues, of one of the most notable comedies of Bollywood ever, Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro (1983); and of course he had to act in that too. And with A Billion Colour Story, he’s proved himself as a producer as well. His first (co-)production was, Mr. India (1987); a pretty good children’s film; with Anil Kapoor (an international star today), the late Sridevi (who recently died in a drowning accident), little Aftab Shivdasani (a not so well regarded Bollywood actor, as an adult star), and of course, yours truly; Satish Kaushik, as a character called “Calendar”. But he was fun in that.

Besides the stellar performances; not just by the lead trio, but also the supporting cast; including, Neha Chauhan, Swapnil Ralkar, Sumit Suri, Shashank Karmarkar and Rashmi Somvanshi (not familiar with any of them, but loved them in this film), to name some; the movie is shot spectacularly in Black and White (as I mentioned earlier). Nothing in life is Black and White, not even in a Black and White picture; there are always shades of grey. And this film itself is a great study of human psychology; the black, the white, and greys that blur the lines in between. The man responsible for the symbolic cinematography is none other than the film director, Padmakumar Narasimhamurthy, himself.

Dhruva Padmakumar, the child star of A Billion Colour Story, is the son of the film director, Padmakumar Narasimhamurthy (a.k.a. N. Padmakumar). No harm in a bit of nepotism, if they can get the job done; and Dhruva Padmakumar is a very talented young man, who does a wonderful job in the movie. With eloquent English, he narrates with pure poetry, and acts with a natural ease, making his realistic character, very relatable.

A Billion Colour Story (2016)
My Rating: Near Excellent – 9/10!!!!

N. Padmakumar’s next venture, supposedly, will be set in Sri Lanka; set against the religious and racial conflicts of this country; based on a short story by him. That would be interesting, and am really looking forward to checking it out.

I watched, A Billion Colour Story, on 2nd of May, 2018; rented on Peo TV (our Cable operator).

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

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NSFS

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Today happens to be, the great humanitarian, ‘s, 89th Birth Anniversary !!!!!!

Nuwan Sen’s Movie Trivia!!!!

Remembering the late Shashi Kapoor (1938-2017); on his 80th Birth Anniversary!!

Shashi Kapoor was no doubt the most versatile and International celebrity to come out of India. An actor, director and Producer; who not only worked in Bollywood films (both Art & Commercial); but worked in regional Indian films; Indian English-Language Film (in fact he was the first star of the renowned Merchant/Ivory Productions; before they went onto make British gems), as well as British movies!! And he was a renowned stage artiste as well; who formed the famed Prithivi Theatre; fulfilling his father’s, Prithviraj Kapoor’s, dream. Added to which, he had a good reputation; as being one of the nicest people ever. A charming, kind-hearted, friendly personality; and morally superior to most people, in general. Shashi Kapoor died on 4th of December, 2017. He was 79 years old!

I’ve posted this quote, from one of his Bollywood films; Silsila (1981)

Hum gayab hone waalo mein se nahi hai … jahan jahan se guzharte hai jalwe dikhate hai … dost toh kya, dushman bhi yaad rakhte hai

….which in English roughly translates to ….

We are not ones to easily vanish; …. wherever we go, we show them our charm; ….. that not only friends, even foes shall remember us

…. and that quote truly sums up, what this charismatic celebrity is to his loved ones and fans alike. True to any great personality, they’ll never be forgotten; and shall live on forever, through people who admire them. RIP Shashi Kapoor, Stephen Hawking, Sridevi, and other greats people we lost in recent times.

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

Call Me By Your Name (2017): The Perfect Picture

A very pure form of storytelling, brought out by Luca Guadagnino, Call me by your Name; is one of the greatest English Language movies to come out of this century. The innocence, the romance, the sensuality; Guadagnino seduces his audiences into a heart-rending love affair; with the 17 year old Elio Perlman (Timothée Chalamet), his desire for the much older archaeology scholar, Oliver (Armie Hammer); and the Italian landscape. In the past, I’ve spoken about Why I love, films like Roman Holiday (1953), Jules et Jim (1962), Annie Hall (1977); et al; on IMDB!! The purity of the realistic, natural feel of these tear jerker romances, and sad, yet beautifully told love stories, with a mature understanding of human emotions; immerses you into these movies, empathizing with the characters; and being deeply involved with their intellectual conversations; understanding, and accepting their bonds, along with their eventual separations or tragic rides to death of their romantic flings (either metaphorically or literally). The style also reminded me of the Art Films of Éric Rohmer; especially Pauline à la Plage (1983); English Title – Pauline at the Beach (which was, also a coming of age story, released in the year Call me by your Name is set in); and Rohmer’s famed “Tales of the Four Seasons” series of films.

Everything about this movie is uniquely brilliant. The story/narrative (based on the novel by André Aciman); the script/screenplay by the renowned James Ivory (collaborated with Luca Guadagnino and Walter Fasano); the music/soundtrack by Sufjan Stevens; the cinematography by Sayombhu Mukdeeprom; film edit by Walter Fasano, the film direction by Luca Guadagnino; – They all come together to bring out something pure and touchingly sublime.

From the artistic title credits, at the beginning; which look like chalk on board (most probably a shout out to the 80’s, when chalk was still used on Blackboards; by the 90’s schools slowly transitioned to Whiteboards with gel markers) with pictures of Hellenistic sculptures showcasing the beauty of the male form; to the finalé, with the burning fire in the cold winter reflecting on Elio’s crying face (like an allegory of his burning desire; being submerged with an unbearable depression of lost love); as the end credits roll; with Sufjan Stevens lending his vocals to the melonchonic Visions of Gideon; this movie completely encapsulates the audience emotions. Though the movie might have ended, the deep impact it leaves us with, stays on for days and days. It feels so real.

Regardless of it being a love story between man and a boy; the emotional turmoil, of experiencing first love, is something every human being can relate to; immaterial of his/her sexual orientation and racial/religious background. It’s a great coming age story, of two gay men; shown in such a naturalistic and non-judgemental manner; it makes one believe in love and romance. The best line of the movie is delivered by Perlman Sr. (i.e. Elio’s father), played by Michael Stuhlbarg; towards the end of the movie. Such an understanding parent, who doesn’t condemn his son’s act of love, with a much older man. Both Elio’s father and mother, Annella Perlman (played elegantly by British born actress, Amira Casar); are very accepting, modern, open-minded individuals; who trust their teenage son’s maturity; yet cuddle and shower him with love kids desire from their parents. Age has nothing to do with maturity. There are so many fully grown immature adults in the world; incapable of intellect, deep though and understanding. Here we see a teenager, along with his caring parents; who are highly mature and sophisticated, in dealing with emotional problems with dignity.

Speaking of elegance and dignity; the Perlman’s definitely are a very privileged family; yet they aren’t obsessed with materialism; even though their superior taste in the world of arts is well acknowledged. They are well in tune with nature and their natural surroundings around the beautiful Villa, in the region of Lombardy, in Northern Italy; that they reside in. We see Elio and Oliver (an American Jewish visitor for the summer, working as an assistant to Elio’s father) exploring the natural countryside, cycling, swimming and dancing. Added to which, we see Elio as a book worm and a lover of classical music.

From the music, to the cinematography, the atmosphere created within; the entire movie seduces us, without necessary showcasing graphic sex. The much talked about peach scene, has a naïvety entwined with it’s sensuality; as erotic as it is, it’s also a touching moment. Elio’s desire to penetrate Oliver is obvious (as it’s led to believe Elio is on the receiving end), the touching of the soft skin on the peach, exploring the hole atop, it’s aesthetically sensual without being cheap and vulgar; yet Elio feels humiliated when Oliver teases him for it. Innocence, eroticism and misery, all rolled in one; making one feel sorry for Elio.

Nature and the aesthetic male nude, play a crucial role in the movie. There is a scene where the archeology professor (i.e. Elio’s father, mentioned above) takes Elio and Oliver to see the ancient Kouros statues that have washed up close to shore, at Lake Garda. Elio and Oliver admire the statue of the male form in all it’s beauty; later the Professor tells Oliver of his admiration for the bronze kouroi, the aesthetic male nude of the bygone era; an understanding of artists’ affections for the youthful male body (which practically was like an understanding, and acceptance, in part of the professor, of Oliver’s love for the Professor’s fully developed young son). And then there is a scene where we see Oliver’s naked physique standing in the dark, from behind, standing at a windowsill; and his beautiful body looks like a Hellenistic works of art, discovered at the Lake Garda, itself. Armie Hammer was 30 years old, and in marvellous shape, when he did this role. The then, 21 year old, Timothée Chalamet, is very believable as a 17 year old Elio, who looks 15. Yup, Chalamet; is capable of portraying an even younger teenager, if he had to. What is more impressive is the fact, that both these actors are actually heterosexual; yet they play their on-screen homosexual romance with such ease, it makes the movie entirely more believably brilliant. And the atmosphere created with the landscape and background score; helps us cherish their beautiful May/December romance, admiringly.

Speaking of music, Call me by your Name also has a great soundtrack; especially with Elio being a musical prodigy of sorts. We get to hear Elio’s own renditions of maestros of classical music, the likes of Bach; and the way Liszt might have played Bach. Added to which there are some beautiful modern day songs, like Sufjan Stevens Mystery of Love and the very 80’s Love my Way by The Psychedelic Furs (from their 1982 album, Forever Now). Speaking of the 80’s; as I mentioned earlier, this movie is set in the Summer of 1983. Yet, Luca Guadagnino manages to make the 80’s feel very today. In other words; instead of making the 80’s, vintage; without making the setting a blast from the past; Guadagnino transports us, the audience back; making us feel as if we are currently living in the 1980’s. It feels like the present. The movie unravels in front of our eyes, as if it were happening, at this moment. Not in a nostalgic sense.

Teenage angst, sexual awakening, first crush; these are coming of age themes; all humans can relate to (whether it’s a love for an older person; where the adult reciprocates; or whether it’s a painful experience of unrequited love). Elio, in one sense, is a very lucky teenager; he not only falls in love; but his love with an adult is consummated (without marriage, of course). Added to which, he has very understanding parents, who give him the freedom teenagers desire, without suffocating him; at the same time, they are there for him, when he needs them the most. When Elio, heartbroken, calls his mum to come and get him; his mother rushes to his aid. The father, consoles the heartbroken child, advising him, not to stop feeling human emotions; because of the pain of losing his first love. Yet, we do sympathize, with Elio. The moment, he whispers “Elio, Elio, Elio” (reminiscence of a romantic moment they shared, where they called each other with their own names; “Call me by your name, and I’ll call you by mine”); to his ex-lover over the phone”, pulls at your heart strings. And Elio sitting and staring at the fire, the emotionally devastated state he is in, when he finds out, Oliver is getting married to a woman; is heartbreaking. Similar, yet so different, to the silent; not speaking a word, yet facial expressions betraying their emotions; type ending from Roman Holiday. That Peck & Hepburn love story is till date, my all time favourite movie; and Call me by your Name, no doubt is my favourite gay themed love story; and amongst my favourites from this century.

This artistically told delicate romance, made with a small budget; has been nominated for 4 Oscars. From ‘Best Motion Picture of the Year’, to ‘Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role’, to ‘Best Adapted Screenplay’, to ‘Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Song)’ for Mystery of Love; all the nominations are deservedly so; yet it is sad, that Luca Guadagnino, has not been nominated for his superb film direction. Call me by your Name, should at least bag the top prize, for ‘Best Picture’; if not for all four. Yet, I highly doubt, Timothée Chalamet, would win the ‘Best Actor’ trophy; as the academy tends to look at the Body of Work as well (which is absurd, as there is something called a ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ for that); but anyway, I felt Gary Oldman did a slightly more brilliant role (of playing past British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill), in Darkest Hour (2017). Besides Call me by your Name and Darkest Hour; the only other ‘Best Picture’ nominee I’ve seen is, Dunkirk (2017). All three films are superb in their own right; but Call me by your Name, definitely deserves the coveted Oscar statuette, THE most. No matter, how great, the rest of the films nominated are; I highly doubt, that any of them come close to the unique masterpiece that is Call me by your Name!!!!!

Call Me By Your Name (2017)
My Rating: 10/10 !!!!!!!!!!

I first watched Call me by your Name, last month, on 11th January 2018, streamed online, on a useless website, with a pathetic copy of the film (the quality was soooo bad); BUT the movie was totally worth it. The fact I fell in love with this movie, despite watching it in such bad quality; says a lot about what a great movie it is. So I wanted to re-watch it, on a better quality. Earlier this month, I downloaded a copy of the film, from another site. It took 7 hours or so; felt like the whole day. To see, it was a 30 second clip, stating, to watch the full movie, go to some website!! I was infuriated, and utterly disappointed. Then, on 22nd February 2018, I downloaded it from the site I started downloading films, for the first time, last year (see my post Mardi-Gras, Movies-Gay from March 2017). Initially Call me by your Name was not available on the said site. It took only a couple of hours, and I watched it for a second time, then and there. The quality of the downloaded version was crisp and clear (sadly just the English subtitles for the French and Italian segments were not available; but I can make out some phrases in French, anyway ’twas not much of an issue). The film was worth re-watching, in better quality. It’s sad these great movies are rarely shown in Cinemas here; even then they don’t last for more than a week (watched Darkest Hour, at the Cinema; which lasted only one week). I’d love to re-experience this movie, away from the Laptop; and on the big wide screen someday. Until then ….

Later!!!!!
Nuwan Sen
(Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense)

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Photograph-V

On Facebook, I was challenged; on the 1st of November, Year 2017, to post a Black&White picture per day, without posting any people, and no explanations, yet it had to do with my life. This was a 7 day challenge, that ended today. Whilst, the rest of the photographs are pretty self explanatory (to some extent at least), this is a picture, which is very personal, and has to do with my childhood on wards, till date. It does not simply depict my love for Books & Films!!!

So here is an explanation for this picture, I posted on FB, for Day V (i.e. 5th November 2017) :-

So past 4th midnight, I thought of posting something uniquely personal for Day V, of the B/W photography challenge. I started taking out the close near dear reads and views, from my shelves, and set them on my bed. It was already next day, with 9/10ths of a moonlit sky shining above the wet clouds outside. At 00:55 am, 5th morning, I took the snapshot. Yet, ’twas a pity, I won’t be able to explain it. But today morning, after posting the last picture of the challenge, I went back to this. And decided, I can’t explain it on FB, but I have a Blog, where I can.

So the picture; let us start with Audrey Hepburn. So, as many of my fellow bloggers and close friends are aware, that Hepburn happens to be my all time favourite actress. I’ve been a fan of hers since I watched My Fair Lady (1964), as a little kid, back in the mid-1980’s. I wanted to grow up and marry her, and remember asking my mum, how old Hepburn was (of course I realized Audrey Hepburn was somewhat older than me, but what I didn’t realize at the time was that this musical, set during the Edwardian era, was made long before I came into existence). Anyway, Audrey Hepburn starred alongside the suave gentleman, Gregory Peck, in ROMAN HOLIDAY (1953), which happens to be my all time favourite movie. I watched this in the summer of 1994, just before my 19th Birthday, whilst living in New Delhi, India. Plus, 1994 was the best year of my teenage life (coming of age in Shit Lanka was a nightmare, so it was a refreshing change to go back to India in 94′, after a hellish six year stay in monstrous Lanka. And now am back, going through a lot of stress due to being stuck in a narrow minded extremist country like Shit Lanka. Been here for just over eight years now. Getting anything done in SL is a hassle, including trying to work on this simple blog-post without unnecessary disturbances and distractions). Anyway, even though a fan of Hepburn since childhood, it was once I watched ROMAN HOLIDAY, I truly fell in love with Hepburn. AND soon both her debut movie; about a Princess walking around the scenic architectural delights of ancient Rome, in modern day Italy, as a commoner, having an accidental fling, a tragic love story set in 24 hours, this B/W tearjerker romance that pulls at your heartstrings; along with Hepburn herself, became my all time favorite movie, and actress, respectively. I was simply smitten by her charmingly naturalistic acting. In 2003, after handing in my final dissertation titled “Marriage on Hitchcock Films: From Rebecca to Marnie”, for my MA in International Cinema, at the University of Luton, Luton, UK; I treated myself to an Audrey Hepburn Box-Set of Video Cassettes, which included my all time favourite, ROMAN HOLIDAY. The cassette cover that can be seen on the picture above.

Having mentioned Hitchcock, many of you know Alfred Hitchcock is my all time favourite director; and that REBECCA (1940) happens to be my favourite Hitchcockian classic. Thus, when I was studying his movies, doing an out and out psychoanalysis of varied character sketches, from his best period of Hollywood movies (his first 25 years in Hollywood) for my final dissertation of 25,000 to 30,000 words; I bought some of his movies, and rented others, in Oslo, Norway (as that’s where I resided, during my final semester, as I had no classes; thus working full time 5½ days a week, and concentrating on my dissertation on Saturday evenings and Sunday the whole day; I was exhausted). The video tape of REBECCA which can be seen above was one of movies I bought. But there is more of a history I share with Hitchcock’s REBECCA. I fell in love with this hauntingly magnificent tale of woman living under the shadow of her husband’s dead first wife; when I first saw it as a kid, in the mid-80’s. So this most probably was my all time favourite, till I watched ROMAN HOLIDAY, almost a decade later. Around that time, at school, The British School, in New Delhi, India, we had to write a film review. REBECCA being fresh in my mind, I remember writing my very first film review, on this noirish perfection by Alfred Hitchcock, aged 11; whilst I was in Senior-I. Later, aged 12½/13, I read Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca (on which the Hitchcockian masterpiece was based on). And this so called women’s book, my very first piece of Adult Fiction, instantly became my all time favourite novel, and it remained no.1 till aged 20, I read the English translation of CITY OF JOY, a French novel by Dominique Lapierre. I bought the book of CITY OF JOY (pictured above) in 1994, though I read it later. And from the age of 20, till now (I’m 42 now), it has remained my favourite novel. BUT, am currently reading Arundhati Roy’s latest novel, THE MINISTRY OF UTMOST HAPPINESS (pictured above as well), since I located it at the end of August 2017 (yup, am a very slow reader; and it’s not like I get to read my book every single day); and THE MINISTRY OF UTMOST HAPPINESS seems to be fast becoming my all time favourite. That I’ll know for sure, once I finish reading it.

From Novels, to non-fiction; FREEDOM’S DAUGHTER: LETTERS BETWEEN INDIRA GANDHI AND JAWAHARLAL NEHRU 1922-1939 (also pictured above), edited by Sonia Gandhi; happens to be my favourite text of non-fiction; which I read in my mid-20’s. When it comes to print media, there seems to be a major Indian connection. It’s just a mere coincidence. But still, even though with unfortunate Sri Lankan roots, that constantly try to pull me down into the mud with them, I was born and brought up in New Delhi, India. And I had a pretty good childhood (maybe not necessarily a great one, as I was badly bullied in school, it was still better, than when we ventured south into an inhumane and war torn island). Thus having such a strong Indian connection (altogether spent 17 years of my life in New Delhi, 12½ years in row); and a soft corner for my Birth city; plus being a movie maniac; I cannot, not add, my favourites in films, to do with India. My favourite Indian movie, is a Bengali/English bilingual Art House Movie, from the state of West Bengal, directed by Aparna Sen. I bought the DVD of THE JAPANESE WIFE (2010), which can be seen above, along with Kunal Basu’s book of Short Stories (one of which happens to be the basis of this movie), when I visited New Delhi in November/December 2010, on holiday. This was a holiday I took to India, after a break of 9½  years. Aged 35, I thoroughly enjoyed the short story, of The Japanese Wife, as well as the movie. Having watched Indian films throughout my life (especially Bollywood movies, though I happen to be a bit of an Art House snob), it’s amazing how Aparna Sen’s cinematic adaptation of THE JAPANESE WIFE, ended up becoming my favourite Indian movie ever. But having been brought up on Bollywood commercial cinema, I cannot not point out my favourite commercial Hindi Film, from Bombay (now Mumbai) from the state of Maharashtra, India. Mahesh Bhatt‘s ARTH (1982), the DVD of which can be seen above as well. ARTH; which I actually first saw as a kid, and few times later; is a reel life adaptation based on Mahesh Bhatt‘s real life extramarital affair with actress Parveen Babi, who suffered from schizophrenia. A tragic beautiful mind, that soon left the film industry once her illness was out in the open, thanks to this excellently made movie. died under mysterious circumstances, in 2005 (see my post related to her Death Anniversary from January 2013).

Speaking of extramarital affairs and coming back to short stories, I read Anton Chekhov’s THE LADY WITH THE DOG (pictured above), an adulterous love story, when I was 15. This Russian romantic short, happens to be my all time favourite short story, till date (du Maurier’s The Apple Tree, comes a close second). My favourite novella (a text too small to be a novel, yet way too long to be considered a short story), happens to be Truman Capote’s BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S (pictured above as well); which I bought, and read, in 2009, whilst living in the most beautiful city in the world, Paris, France. Fell in love with this beautifully written piece of prose, a quick read (Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange, happens to be next favourite novella, and I love Kubrick’s surreal adaptation, from 1971, of the book, as well). The movie version of Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), which also happens to be among my favourite films, directed by Blake Edwards, also stars my all time favourite actress, Audrey Hepburn.

So, I’ve come a full circle, from Hepburn to Hepburn!!!! Almost like a of .


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Bookish Nuwan (NS)