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If Audrey Hepburn were alive today, she’d be 90 years old! Just imagine! It’s hard to even fathom; a post WWII, modern, youthful, energetic, fun-loving and fashionable, foxy 50’s generation; that gave us stars like Audrey Hepburn, Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, Grace Kelly, Marlon Brando, et al; would ever grow old! And sadly most of them didn’t; and some died way way way too young. The era of cool! I remember it like it were yesterday, when we heard of Hepburn’s demise in January 1993, at the age of 63. I was 17 years old. Where did the 1990’s go?? Am already in my 40’s, and it’s Audrey Hepburn’s heavenly 90th Birthday, today!

To mark her 90th Birth Anniversary, Audrey Hepburn’s Birth place, Brussels, Belgium; is holding a special exhibition, titled Intimate Audrey, which began earlier this week; which includes contribution from Hepburn’s older son, Sean Hepburn Ferrer (who put together this exhibition).

I wish I was in Europe, right now. If any of my fellow bloggers/Hepburn fans are in Europe these days, and happen to be in Belgium, do check it out! From whatever media I’ve come across about the exhibition, it looks amazing. The exhibition includes the green “Vespa Farobasso” scooter she rode, in Roman Holiday (1953), my all time favourite movie; Hepburn’s own fashion drawings & humanitarian writings, and the Oscar statuette awarded posthumously for her humanitarian work.

A screen legend, a style icon, a kind human with a Big Heart!!!!!! My all time favourite actress!! Great personalities never really die! They live on, through us, their greatest fans, forever!!💓

❤ Hepburn ❤

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

 

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Hollywood sweetheart (of the last two decades of the last century) Meg Ryan, was no doubt one of the Queens of Romantic Comedies of the 1980’s & 90’s, alongside Julia Roberts and Sandra Bullock. AND Ryan definitely came in THE BEST Rom-Com, of the 1980’s decade (and my favourite romantic comedy, from that particular decade, and among my personal favourite Rom-Coms, ever), When Harry Met Sally… (1989).

The Genre known as ‘ROMANTIC COMEDY’

The genre of the Romantic-Comedy, or more popularly known as the ROM-COM; should not be confused with silly notion of bad B-grade films, known as chick-flicks. A Rom-Com, surpasses those narrow minded extreme sexist attitudes of “Dude films/chick flicks/gay films (when used in a derogatory sense)”. Today, this century you don’t really get good romantic comedies. Most chick flicks, which are merely meant for giggly headed teenage girls, tend to ape the genre of Rom-com, but aren’t exactly Romantic comedies. Similarly, silly waste-of-time action packed films that tend to be dude films; aren’t really epic war/superb science fiction/crime/mystery/psychological thriller/horror/sports flicks (all movies have “action” in them, not just dude films with loads of special effects, meaningless violence, and little else). Great Romantic Comedies tend to go beyond gender, and are meant for a broader audience (ironically the broader audiences are limited to a narrow population of more open-minded individuals, with a good understanding and great taste, and true love for the cinematic art form). Films like It Happened One Night (1934), Sabrina (1954), Ariane – Love in the Afternoon (1957), Some Like It Hot (1959), The Apartment (1960), Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), Irma la Douce (1963), Annie Hall (1977), One Fine Day (1996), My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997), Notting Hill (1999), are more than just chick-flicks. These are some of the great films that come to mind, when I think of Romantic Comedies. These are great Romantic Comedies, that can be enjoyed by anyone with good taste. At the same time, if you looks at the list, you can also sense the decline of the Rom-com genre. As much as I love the three 90’s Rom-com, mentioned above, they are no where as great as their predecessors. I feel the best Rom-coms came in the 50’s and 60’s; and in other various decades there were one off great Rom-Coms. Like for example; in the 1930’s decade, It Happened One Night, is a uniquely excellent Romantic Comedy to have been made; and when in comes to the 70’s & 80’s, decade, When Harry Met Sally… and Annie Hall, happen to be the two great Rom-Coms, to come out. Annie Hall was of course, even more unique, ’cause it was an Art House Romantic Comedy. Notting Hill, my favourite Rom-Com from the 90’s decade, even though nowhere near as great as the Rom-Coms, of the previous decades, happens to be the last great Romantic Comedy, made till date. Today, movies made as Rom-Coms, are merely chick flicks, a poor excuse for the enjoyable Rom-Com. With the exception of Prime (2005), which happens to bit an Art House Romantic Comedy, and comes close to the level of the 90’s Rom-Com. But that too, it’s thanks to the supporting role by brilliantly versatile Meryl Streep, that I enjoyed the movie so much, when I watched it over a decade ago. So basically, a good Romantic Comedy (and just because a movie is based on Chick), does not make it a Chick-Flick (Juno, 2007, is about a smart chick, that doesn’t fall into category of the silly chick-flick; for it’s superb piece of a satirical drama, penned down by Diablo Cody and directed by Jason Reitman).

So Meg Ryan, luckily walked into the world of Cinematic Arts, when Romantic Comedies, still had a high standard. AND she appeared in one of the best Rom-Coms, ever made, When Harry Met Sally…!!!!!! Pure Excellence!!!!!!

Carrie Fisher & Meg Ryan in a scene from When Harry Met Sally… (1989)

When Ryan became Sally…

I wish I could’ve re-watched When Harry Met Sally…, before working on this Blogathon. But unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to watch a single Ryan flick, specifically for this Blogathon. So like in quite a few previous instances, I’ll have to be completely dependent on memory. The character of “Sally” was loosely based on the film’s screenwriter, Nora Ephron. Yet, Ryan makes it her own. Unlike the moody, cynical character of “Harry” (Billy Crystal), Sally happens to be a very optimistic, direct, honest, fun loving, adorably a tad eccentric and cheerful character, who knows what she wants, and isn’t afraid to ask. The scene in the flight (if I remember correctly that’s where it takes place), where Sally orders some food, and specifically mentions how she wants it; metaphorically it reflects on her personality, showing how aware she is of how she exactly wants something done, without causing people trouble (for example, even in my case, when I order a Muffin or something which comes with ice-cream, I ask them to put it on the side, or if that’s too much trouble for them to comprehend, I’d rather have it without ice-cream, ’cause I don’t want my sponge getting soggy, and nor am I that crazy about ice-cream; same when it comes to Paper Dosa, I ask them to give me the potato masala on the side, rather than it stuffed inside; though I like other kinds of Dosa’s, Crêpes or Wraps, with filling, the wafer thin Paper Dosa tends to get soggy with a filling, and looses it’s unique crispiness).

When it came to the fake orgasm scene, it was thanks to Meg Ryan, it took place. The original script had no such scene, just the two discussing how women are good at faking an orgasm, but Ryan came up with idea actually doing a fake orgasm scene. AND she nailed it. Now it is one of the most infamous scenes in film history. Plus, it was filmed in an actual restaurant. The famous line, at the end of the scene, “I’ll have what she’s having”, is quipped by director, Rob Reiner’s, mother.

The best thing about the movie is the close friendship shared by the two lead characters. The movie basically is a study exploring the age old question, whether men and women can be just good friends. The answer is yes, they can. BUT, it also shows, how sex can ruin a good friendship. Which is so true. In any friendship, between the same sex or opposite sex (also depending on ones gender and sexual orientation), if either the two friends have sex with each other, or have sex with their best friend’s partner, sex could ruin a really good friendship. In this case, since it was a friendship between a straight male and straight female, the fact that they had sex with each other, is what ruined the great bond they had. Though, since this is a Romantic Comedy, they realize they are both madly in love with each other, and get back together, in a romantic sense. BUT in real life, this might not necessarily be the case. So the the main lesson actually is, not to sleep with a good friend, or their significant other (again depending on the gender and sexuality of you and your close friend).

Of course, the basis of a good relationship is also a good friendship, understanding and a mutual respect for each other, another fact this movie showcases, especially through the interviews at the end. But at the same time a meaningless sexual moment/one night stand is capable of destroying a truly good friendship.

Ryan & Hanks

Tom Hanks, who turned down the role of “Harry”, in When Harry Met Sally…, no doubt was the best co-star to compliment Meg Ryan’s perky characters in Rom-Coms (even though Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan had brilliant chemistry in When Harry Met Sally…, which too attributed to it being such a Rom-Com masterpiece). Meg Ryan shared a great on-screen chemistry with Tom Hanks, and appeared in three movies together. Ryan & Hanks, is a rare combination, and it would lovely to see them work together, again.

Meg Ryan & Tom Hanks in Joe Versus the Volcano (1990)

The pretty good, but far from great, Joe Versus the Volcano (1990), saw their first pairing together. The best thing about this movie is, it showcases Ryan’s talent, through three very varied characters. This movie is more of a farce, encompassing elements of Romantic and Screwball comedies; but not an all out Rom-Com. Especially as the romantic character comes in much later in the movie, with the third character (who happens to be the smartest and main character of the movie) played by Meg Ryan.

The near-excellent Rom-Com, and first movie of them together that actually is a Romantic Comedy in every sense, Sleepless in Seattle (1993), is their best pairing to date. The most beautiful concept of the film is the fact, that the two don’t truly meet till the very end, and each has fallen in love with other, through a mutual little friend.

The pretty good, again not so great, You’ve Got Mail (1998), re-unites the two, in the internet age. Another proper Romantic Comedy, about two people poles apart and bitter business rivals, who fall for each other.

Although, none of these three films (though Sleepless in Seattle really comes close) are out and out excellent movies, but the pairing Ryan and Hanks, their enjoyable roles, make these movies, fun to sit through. It’s thanks to their great acting ability, and perfect chemistry, that Joe Versus the Volcano and You’ve Got Mail, didn’t end up being bad to just average films.

Other Works & The New Century

Meg Ryan, besides appearing Romantic Comedies; some other Rom-Com’s include, Prelude to a Kiss (1992), French Kiss (1995), Addicted to Love (1997), Kate & Leopold (2001); has proven her acting capabilities through serious roles as well as other comedies.

In the Romantic Comedy, Addicted to Love, she co-stars alongside Matthew Broderick, to seek revenge on their exes who are having an affair. The flick is really enjoyable thanks to Ryan. Similarly Kate & Leopold (2001), a romance through two centuries, co-starring Hugh Jackman, as an 19th Century Duke, who falls (literally) into the 21st Century and falls (metaphorically) in love with a contemporary woman; is fun to sit through thanks to Ryan, as well as the disoriented seeming Jackman. Prelude to a Kiss (1992) and French Kiss, are two Romantic Comedies of hers, that I haven’t seen.

Serious Moonlight (2009)

When it comes to non-Romantic Comedies, she has done some amazingly brilliant roles. Be it, the heart-rending excellence, When a Man Loves a Woman (1994), the near-excellent, D.O.A. (1988) which stars her then husband, Dennis Quaid, Restoration (1995) and Serious Moonlight (2009), to the very good, Courage Under Fire (1996), the pretty good, I.Q. (1994), or the averagely good films like, The Presidio (1988), City of Angels (1998) and Proof of Life (2000), she is a natural, no matter how big or small, the role. Even in her minute role in Top Gun (1986), she makes sure her character is well noticed.

Of course, with the exception of When Harry Met Sally… (which I’ve watched quite a few times), I’ve seen all these movies eons ago, way back in the 9O’s and early noughties. The most recent Meg Ryan movie I saw was, Serious Moonlight, that too was like 8 year ago. Serious Moonlight was again a really enjoyable comedy (though quite underappreciated), mainly thanks to Ryan’s cuckoo performance, as well as her co-stars, Timothy Hutton, Kristen Bell and Justin Long.

Today happens to be, Meg Ryan’s 57th Birthday. Wishing Hollywood’s (80’s/90’s) Sweetheart, a very Happy Birthday. And all the best in her future endeavours.

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

This Blog Post, RYAN & ROM-COM, is my contribution to the, THE 3RD ANNUAL MEG RYAN BLOGATHON, hosted by Paul S of Pfeiffer Pfilms and Meg Movies (in celebration of Meg Ryan’s Birthday)!!!!!!

I’ve been very ill, and am going through a lot (both physically and mentally exhausted). BUT, as I promised to take part in this Blogathon, I somehow wanted to get it done today. I started writing in the late afternoon, and didn’t stop, till now, 9pm (2100hrs) in night. Glad to have managed to work on it, even last minute, with everything going on.

Thank you Paul, for letting me take part in this beautiful Blogathon.

Nuwan Sen

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 .


#‎NuwanSensFilmSense
Bookish Nuwan (NS)

Quoting Parveen Babi

 

The essence of spirituality lies in being a good human, and following, good, positive principles
– Parveen Babi
     (1949 – 2005)

 

Parveen Babi with Shashi Kapoor, in the late 70’s, on the sets of Kaala Patthar (the film was released in 1979)
The Film was based on the Chasnala mining disaster of 1975

Amitabh Bachchan & Parveen Babi in a scene from Deewar (1975)
This tragedy was loosely based on the life of notorious Indian gangster, Haji Mastan

Parveen Babi with her (then) life partner, Kabir Bedi, in ROME, in 1976

Lovers in Rome: Kabir Bedi and Parveen Babi, in 1976

Amitabh Bachchan & Parveen Babi, in the biggest Bollywood blockbuster of 1977; Amar Akbar Anthony
A comedy about three brothers, brought up in three different faiths; Hindu, Muslim & Christianity. The Big B and Babi starred in a number films together, and all of them super-hits

Pink n’ Blue, I Love You
Hema Malini (dressed in pink) in the titular role, of Raziya Sultan (1983), along with Parveen Babi (in Blue)
This bio-pic is based on the life of Queen Razia Sultan (1205 – 1240), the only female to ever rule the Delhi Sultanate; and this was one of the rare Bollywood commercial films to tackle Lesbianism (although the lovers were shown in a purely platonic sense, it was well hinted)

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense
#‎NuwanSensFilmSense
Nuwan Sen (Quoting Quotes)

The Cassandra Crossing (1976)
the-cassandra-crossing-1976A train travelling from, Switzerland to Sweden, is re-routed to Poland; which will have to pass through a disused bridge; once American authorities learn that a deadly (pneumonic plague) virus is spreading on board! An excellent piece of guilty pleasure starring the who’s who of the cinematic world, taking you on thrill ride, across the scenic landscapes of Europe. Love this movie!!!!!

Sophia Loren

Sophia Loren

The Movie & I

When I first watched The Cassandra Crossing (1976), as a 12½/13 year old, in the late 1980’s (1988/89 – more probable that it was in 1988), on the telly, the only star of the film I was aware of, was the lead actress Sophia Loren (for I had a vague memory of having seen her in epics like El Cid (1961) and The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964), when I was even younger; plus had heard her name, many a times, in the children’s film, Dream Girl (1977); where a playboy is teased whether he is on a call with ‘Sophia Loren’, as he speaks to his grandfather; a movie we watched as kids, a kazillion times, back in the 80’s & early 90’s). Of course, by now, I have seen so many movies of her, but The Cassandra Crossing, was my proper introduction to her, for that’s when I really got to know, who Loren was. Late last night, I re-watched, The Cassandra Crossing, on youtube, almost three decades later. The quality, not so good, the movie, totally worth it. And today, I practically know majority of the glamorous star cast, of The Cassandra Crossing. Besides Loren, the movie stars, Richard Harris, Burt Lancaster, Ingrid Thulin, Lee Strasberg, Ava Gardner, Martin Sheen, Lionel Stander, O.J. Simpson, Lou Castel, Alida Valli, Ann Turkel, John Phillip Law, Ray Lovelock, Thomas Hunter and Stefano Patrizi; to name some. There was also, an averagely OK, Bollywood disaster movie, with an ensemble cast, roping in the who’s who of the Hindi film fraternity, similar to this, called, The Burning Train (1980), which I watched in the 1990’s. Unless you are fan of Hindi movies, in general, stick to The Cassandra Crossing. The Cassandra Crossing, also reminded me of Sidney Lumet’s Murder on the Orient Express (1974), based on an Agatha Christie novel; which too roped in a great star cast, of the 70’s, but set in the roaring 20’s, in another train journey bound to travel across Europe. Murder on the Orient Express, was yet another Excellent movie, I got to watch, around 15 years ago, in my late 20’s!!! Of course, Murder on the Orient Express, is neither a thriller, nor a disaster film. It’s a murder mystery, set within the confines of a snowbound train.

Behind the Scenes: Ava Gardner, Martin Sheen & Sophia Loren; on the sets of The Cassandra Crossing (1976)

Behind the Scenes: Ava Gardner, Martin Sheen & Sophia Loren; on the sets of The Cassandra Crossing (1976)

My Analysis & The Characters
(Spoiler Alert)

Despite critics panning it down, with an average rating of almost 7/10 (which is a pretty good rating), on IMDB; The Cassandra Crossing, is actually a very enjoyable fare!! The 70’s did have quite a few famed disaster films, but none like this. This has double the pleasure, being a hybrid of a thriller as well as a disaster movie. A thriller about people trying to steal a biological weapon, harboured by the Americans, and the American authorities, to cover up their asses, trying to kill off thousands of people travelling in a train, carrying the said deadly virus, plus a train heading for derelict bridge, that hasn’t been used, since post World War – II. The thrills are never ending, the mesmerising Swiss landscapes please the eyes, the background score, hauntingly brilliant, and a very stylish international star cast, adds to the enjoyment. In addition to which, minus modern day special effects, overpowering and ruining the movie, as is the case of most thrillers of today, this is a great guilty pleasure to sit through.

Sophia Loren and Richard Harris, play a twice divorced couple, who re-meet on a train bound for Sweden; in The Cassandra Crossing (1976)

Sophia Loren and Richard Harris, play a twice divorced couple, who re-meet on a train bound for Sweden; in The Cassandra Crossing (1976)

The movie is no doubt a Sophia Loren vehicle. She looks amazing as ever, and is brilliant as a witty best-selling author, a two-time divorcee (to the same man, who also happens to be on board, as well), whose hunches are never wrong, and heroine of the movie. Richard Harris is superb as a neurosurgeon, and playing (the twice divorced) ex-husband to Loren’s character (the two together have perfect chemistry, and the characters feel, madly in love and hate, with each other, as real-life celebs, Richard Burton & Elizabeth Taylor, were at the time). Harris’ character is shown trying to save lives of infected patients medically, as well as, trying to save the train from impending doom, along with his, two-time, ex-wife. Interestingly, Harris’ real life wife, Ann Turkel, plays a young hip woman, in a small role, along with many other more famous stars playing really small, and hardly noticeable roles. It’s pity, an actress like Alida Valli, seems to be wasted in a movie, where anyone could have played such an insufficient character. I didn’t even recognise her, until she took her spectacles off.

Clockwise from Top-Right: Ray Lovelock, John Phillip Law, Stefano Patrizi, Ann Turkel and Alida Valli, in small supporting roles.

Clockwise from Top-Right: Ray Lovelock, John Phillip Law, Stefano Patrizi, Ann Turkel and Alida Valli, in small supporting roles.

Yet, the massive star cast is superb, in their respective roles. BUT the best role goes to Ava Gardner, playing a creepy old lady (a wife of a prominent arms dealer), with a young lover, her boy toy (played by Martin Sheen). She is ecstatically humorous, she brings in the comic relief in this otherwise tense drama. Sheen’s character, we initially assume, is suffering from an Oedipus complex; but in reality, as we find out later, he’s a drug trafficker, who just uses the older woman, to pass through customs, without being checked. O.J. Simpson, is a cop, in the guise of a priest, on the trail, of this drug trafficker. Nobody is who they seem. Something which is hinted at the very beginning of the movie, when a trio terrorists, rush into a medical facility, dressed as two attendants, trolleying in a patient.

Burt Lancaster, John Phillip Law and Ingrid Thulin, in a scene from the film.

Burt Lancaster, John Phillip Law and Ingrid Thulin, in a scene from the film.

Burt Lancaster, plays the villain of the piece, as a U.S. Colonel (Military Intelligence assigned to the International Health Organization (most probably a fictional organization, represented, in lieu of the WHO; World Health Organization), in Geneva, Switzerland). He has the least amount of action credited to his character. He is so good in his role, that he is quite convincingly hateable. As he is mostly confined to a room, it’s his facial expressions, body language, and dialogues that have to do all the work. Ingrid Thulin, who is stuck inside the room, with Lancaster, is even better in her role, as a firm humanitarian medical head.

The bridge known as the ‘Cassandra Crossing’, plays a significant supporting role as well. The way the bridge is shot, in a threatening manner, and showcased, on and off, as the train is being re-routed, it appears like a menacing beast, waiting to devour this oncoming train and it’s passengers. The last scene with the parts of the train crashing through the bridge (again without modern CGI) is real showstopper.

The movie blends in all the suspense that make a great thrilling achievement; blending in all the necessary action, chills, thrills, heroism, shootouts, government intrigue, you name it, along with a good plot; making this unrealistic flick of catastrophe, with an almost realistic scenario, very plausible.

Richard Harris & O.J. Simpson in a scene from The Cassandra Crossing (1976)

Richard Harris & O.J. Simpson in a scene from The Cassandra Crossing (1976)

The Background

Most of the interior scenes were shot in Cinecittà, a large film studio in Rome, that is famed for being the hub of Italian cinema. With beautiful cinematography, the location shots were taken in both France and Switzerland. The steel arch bridge depicted in the film, as the notorious “Cassandra Crossing”, is actually the Garabit Viaduct, a railway arch bridge spanning the River Truyère, in southern France. The Garabit Viaduct was built between 1880 and 1884, by Gustave Eiffel, the man behind Paris’ iconic, Eiffel Tower.

The movie flopped badly in the United States, but still made money, thanks to Japanese audiences flocking to the cinema’s to catch the movie. It apparently did well enough, in Europe, as well. Though it flopped in the USA, the movie was critically praised, for it’s beautification through Ennio Guarnieri’s cinematography, as well as, Jerry Goldsmith’s superb musical score.

The Cassandra Crossing, was directed by Italian born film personality, George Pan Cosmatos. A director, whose other works I haven’t watched yet, nor do they really interest me much, thus this movie is an exceptional case. This, no doubt, is his best work. The film was produced by Carlo Ponti, Sophia Loren’s husband. This British-Italian co-production, is an underrated gem. A must see, for film fanatics!!!!!

The Cassandra Crossing (1976) – Pure Entertainment!!!
My Rating: 10/10!!

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense
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trumbo-the-reel-trumbo-family

Exactly 15 years after the tragedy, that shook America; with the destruction of the New York Twin Towers (World Trade Centre), along with various other attacks, and a horrendous number of casualties; I watched this movie, set during, another tragic period in American history. The notorious blacklist (of a community with apparent communist sensibilities, back in the late 1940’s & 50’s, which included the Hollywood 10)!!! Great Hollywood personalities were not allowed to work in the United States, and imprisoned due to false accusations made against them. The movie was Trumbo (2015), a bio-pic on the famed screenwriter, Dalton Trumbo; which, as I stated above, I watched on September 11th, Year 2016 (on HBO Signature)!!!!!

The real life Trumbo family

The real life Trumbo family

Post-war 1940’s, was a very dark period in American history. Thousands of men and women were blacklisted, lost their jobs, and weren’t allowed to work, and many succumbed to suicide. Among those blacklisted were famous Hollywood personalities, including 10 screenwriters (who were subpoenaed to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, regarding alleged Communist propaganda in Hollywood films), known as the Hollywood 10. This was all due to, their, rebellious, yet non-violent, non-revolutionary, communist beliefs. Communism, is, no doubt, a false sense consciousness; but, none the less, these American communist at the time, were apparently harmless, and imprisoned, just due to their extremist beliefs. There was no secret Soviet Russian agenda, to overthrow the American government, by those that were blacklisted. No “Cambridge Spies”, among them. Amongst the falsely accused, Hollywood 10, was Dalton Trumbo, the famed screenwriter, who secretly wrote award winning screenplays, for movies like, Roman Holiday (1953) and The Brave One (1956), without taking credit for them, during the blacklist investigations. He also wrote ridiculous ‘B-movie’ scripts, under pseudonyms, especially for ‘King Brothers Productions’, for money, as he wasn’t legally allowed to work at the time, and had a family of five to support (as a father of three children).

Diane Lane & Bryan Cranston as Cleo & Dalton Trumbo, in a scene from Trumbo (2015)

Diane Lane & Bryan Cranston as Cleo & Dalton Trumbo, in a scene from Trumbo (2015)

Trumbo, is a superb film, and Bryan Cranston was brilliant as the titular character. A very touching portrayal of the Trumbo family, in times of crisis. The movie depicts how the blacklist affected the whole family, and how they all supported him, at times hating him, for his anger and indifference towards their lives, and the way he took them for granted; but at the same time understood the stress he was going through, working in secret. Diane Lane plays Cleo Trumbo, the wife that supported him throughout his life. This bio-pic is a must watch. And Cranston definitely deserved the Oscar nod, with a ‘Best Actor’ nomination, at the 88th Academy Awards, held earlier this year, but it’s a pity he didn’t win (though am not sure, whether he was the best male performance, as I haven’t seen three of the performances out of the five that were nominated; yet he no doubt deserved the trophy more than Leonardo DiCaprio). I love Leonardo DiCaprio, who’s a superb actor, but as I stated in my posts, Oscar White and Femme Fashion @ Oscars 2016; The Revenant (2015) is not the movie, I wanted him to win an Oscar for (as he’s done even better work, previously); but yet when he won, I was genuinely happy for him, for, no matter what, he was still superb in The Revenant, and felt he most probably was the best from last years lead male performances. But after seeing, Trumbo, I feel Bryan Cranston was so much more better, that Cranston definitely deserved the coveted Oscar statuette more, comparatively. Generally, am not a huge fan of Cranston (not that I disliked him, just wasn’t crazy about him either), but after watching him in this touching bio-pic, I have a new found respect for him as an actor.

Helen Mirren as Hedda Hopper

Helen Mirren as Hedda Hopper

The real Hedda Hopper

The real Hedda Hopper

Speaking of great acting talent, this movie had an interesting cast, playing various famous personalities, such as Louis B. Mayer, Sam Wood, Edward G Robinson, John Wayne (though David James Elliott felt nothing like Wayne), Kirk Douglas (neither did Dean O’Gorman feel anything like Douglas, except for the cleft in his chin), J. Parnell Thomas, Otto Preminger, et al, from the golden age of cinema. BUT, the most notable role was that of Helen Mirren as Hedda Hopper. I’ve known Hedda Hopper to have been a notorious gossip columnist the film industry dreaded at the time; but little did I know what a nasty woman she was. She definitely had a personal vendetta against many celebrities during  the ‘McCarthy’ era, including Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and  Dalton Trumbo, among others. Helen Mirren is simply marvellous as the nasty old witch, that Hopper, seems to come off as, in Trumbo. Also worth mentioning is the role by John Goodman, as Frank King, the ‘B-movie’ producer, of ‘King Brothers Productions’ notoriety. Goodman, is hilarious as King, who is aware that he makes bad movies, and knows the idiotic audience, that flocks to see his movies. Thus King is reluctant to take in a prestigious writer like Trumbo, not wanting Trumbo to waste his talent, on the crap the King Brothers make. Yet, what a kind heart King has, for he understands Trumbo needs the money. So basically Trumbo has to degrade his writing skills to write silly scripts for brain dead audiences, luckily he’s not credited for these movies either. Watch out for King’s eccentric reaction, when he is asked to fire Trumbo, by Hopper’s allies. It backfires badly for Hopper, a hilarious sequence, in a movie about a very serious issue.

Father & Daughter at work; Elle Fanning & Bryan Cranston, as Nikola & Dalton Trumbo; in a scene from Trumbo (2015)

Father & Daughter at work: Elle Fanning & Bryan Cranston, as Nikola & Dalton Trumbo; in a scene from Trumbo (2015)

Another notable role, was that of young Elle Fanning, who played the older Nikola Trumbo, the eldest child of Dalton Trumbo. Her character is the only one, who dares to speak up to her father, against his unfairness towards his family, yet always helps him out. There are a few, very touching moments between father and daughter, in the movie. A smart young child, who’s advise the father ultimately takes, in a very crucial moment in his life, towards the end of the film. The family’s support towards Dalton Trumbo, is beautifully showcased, and their close bond, perfectly examined. A bond that almost died, due to Dalton Trumbo’s stress, of working in secret, affecting his relationship with his children. The Bathtub played a very important role in Trumbo’s life, as well. That was his refuge, his workplace, and felt angered when disturbed. Many men use the loo to read, Trumbo used the tub to write.

A sculpture of Dalton Trumbo in his bathtub; based on a photograph from 1967; in Grand Junction, Colorado, USA.  The Bronze artwork was unveiled in October 2007.

A sculpture of Dalton Trumbo in his Bathtub; based on a photograph from 1967; in Grand Junction, Colorado, USA.
The Bronze artwork was unveiled in October 2007.

Though Trumbo is brilliant flick, it has been criticised, for certain misrepresentations of certain people and events. Actors, Louis C.K. and Roger Bart, play two fictional characters based on, not two individuals, but various famous personalities; like Lester Cole, Samuel Ornitz, Dore Schary and Walter Wanger, to name some. But more specifically, classic actor, Edward G. Robinson (played by Michael Stuhlbarg), is portrayed as betraying his friend, Dalton Trumbo, and others, by naming them as communists before the HUAC (House Un-American Activities Committee). G. Robinson never named anyone, friend or foe, as a communist. Trumbo was also criticised for showcasing Dalton Trumbo, as a martyr, whilst in reality, this famed screenwriter was supposedly a brutal supporter of Soviet-style communism, advocating the nightmare regimes of; the then leader of the Soviet Union; Joseph Stalin, and; North Korean dictator; Kim Il-sung. Added to which, the real life Trumbo showed support to suppress the freedom of Speech in the United States. The film was also condemned for it’s positive outlook towards Communism, as if it were just another political party, without representing it’s truly tyrannical and hostile nature.

Michael Stuhlbarg as actor Edward G. Robinson in Trumbo (2015)

Michael Stuhlbarg as actor Edward G. Robinson in Trumbo (2015)

Politically and historically speaking, the film has it’s flaws, no doubt about it. Yet, despite all the criticism Trumbo garnered, as a movie, it’s still a very brilliant piece of the cinema arts. Fine acting, superbly scripted and brilliantly directed, a cinematic masterpiece; and one of the best films to come out of last year, Year 2015!!!!

A scene from Trumbo (2015)

A scene from Trumbo (2015)

One of the most touching scenes in the film, is when Dalton and Cleo Trumbo, see Dalton Trumbo’s name being credited for writing the screenplay, for Spartacus (1960), on the big wide screen; as they watch the movie. With the crediting of Dalton Trumbo, as the writer for both, Exodus (1960) and Spartacus, in 1960, marked the end of the Hollywood Blacklist. Dalton Trumbo died on September 10, 1976, aged 70. Posthumously, in 1993, a new Oscar was made, for his win for ‘Best Screenplay’ for Roman Holiday, and awarded to his wife, Cleo Trumbo. She passed away, at the age of 93, in 2009. Later, their son, Christopher Trumbo, dying with cancer, requested that his father receive full credit for his work on Roman Holiday. Christopher Trumbo died in January 2011, aged 70; the same age as his father, when he passed away. In December 2011, Christopher Trumbo’s wish was granted; the ‘Writers Guild’ finally credited Dalton Trumbo with the screenplay, for the tearjerker romance/love story, from 1953, Roman Holiday. Finally, almost 60 years, after it’s release. Roman Holiday happens to be my all time favourite movie. Watched Roman Holiday just before turning 19, in June 1994, for the very first time. And have seen it a zillion times more, within this century. I still have the video cassette (VHS) of this classic love story, in working condition, in my private collection. And Trumbo, is yet another great film, about the man behind my all time favourite movie.

Trumbo (2015)
My Rating: 10/10!!!
Pure Excellence!!!!!

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense
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Remembering Audrey Hepburn on her 87th Birth Anniversary
Nuwan Sen

Can you guess which Birthday cake represents which Audrey Hepburn Film?

Some My Favourite Audrey Hepburns films through Birthday Cakes

Last year, in June 2015, for the Blogiversary of ‘Silver Screen Serenade’, I sent a post (an Audrey Hepburn Cake quiz), as it coincided with my 40th Birthday, on 22nd June 2015. But She didn’t post it on the 22nd itself, but on a latter date. Anyway, today, I thought, I’d re-post the same cake quiz, for Audrey Hepburn’s 87th Birth Anniversary, on my Blog. None of the bloggers at ‘Silver Screen Serenade’ were able to guess which ‘Audrey Hepburn’ movie, each cake represented. Let’s see, how many of the cakes, my blogging community will be able to get. Hopefully all. 😉
Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

P.S. Do check out the original post, from ‘Silver Screen Serenade’, from Last Year.
I’ve re-blogged it below!!

Blogiversary Bash 2015: No Nonsense with Nuwan Sen

Silver Screen Serenade

Even Audrey is impressed by this party. Even Audrey is impressed by this party.

Happy Monday to all you fine folks! Erm. Maybe “happy” is too strong a word for a Monday. Tolerable Monday? Whatever the case, I’m here to make your Monday infinitely better with yet another splendiferous guest blogger for my Blogiversary Bash. Who is this splendiferous guest? Mr. Nuwan Sen from No Nonsense with Nuwan Sen!

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Adelaide & Hahndorf

Cowboy Down Under Hahndorf, Australia

Cowboy Down Under
Hahndorf, Australia

On the 2nd of November, 2014, afternoon, I left Colombo, along with my mother, sister and brother-in-law (my sister’s husband), for a trip to Australia. We flew in a well spacious Emirates (code-share with Qantas) flight, to Singapore, and from Singapore in a congested Qantas Flight (with good enough service though) to Sydney, and from Sydney in a, comparatively better, domestic, Qantas flight to Adelaide. Thus, after almost two days of travel, we arrived in Adelaide on the evening of 3rd November, 2014. I was half dead, by the time we reached Franklin Central Apartments (where we had rented an apartment for the duration of our stay in Adelaide) in the city centre, after all I hadn’t had a wink of sleep in the three flights to Adelaide from Colombo.

It was nice to be back in Australia after 6½ years, though it was my first time in Adelaide. Back when I was living in Sydney (New South Wales), between June 2006 and June 2008, I had covered most of the Australian Eastern coast, from The Great Barrier Reef, Cape Tribulation, Cairns, Kuranda, Townsville, Magnetic Island et al up North East (Queensland), to Melbourne (Victoria) and the Great Ocean Road tour through Bells Beach, The Grotto up to see The Twelve Apostles, South East. But this was my first time in the state of South Australia. And I’ve never ventured towards the Western territory of Aussie land till date. Plus, this was also the first time I travelled down under with my family. My sister and father, had visited Australia (Sydney), back in September-October 2011, but this was the first time for my mum and my sister’s husband. And the first time for all of us in Adelaide (SA).

On the Emirates Flight I watched most of Boyhood (2014), and latter part of it in the Qantas Flight to Sydney. I mostly read Ben Okri’s The Age of Magic in the flight to Sydney, a book I bought at the Singapore (Changi International) Airport, whilst on transit. Coincidentally, it was a novel related to travel. A philosophical look at a train journey from Paris, France to Basel, in Switzerland. I couldn’t complete it though. In the third flight (Sydney to Adelaide), I tried to watch Magic in the Moonlight (2014), a Woody Allen flick, which I switched off, as I was too tired.

On 4th morning, though still a bit tired, I started to feel better, and we headed off to Hahndorf. An old German town, founded in 1838, by Captain Dirk Hahn, in the suburbs of Adelaide. Hahndorf literally means Hahn’s Town. I fell in love with the small European Town, and it’s friendly atmosphere. We walked around the streets, had a great lunch at ‘The Hahndorf Inn’. I even had some beer. Being a person who doesn’t enjoy drinking, especially alcohol, it was a pretty big deal. The last time I had any alcohol was six years ago. So it’s that rare I’d taste alcohol. I am not anti-alcohol, I just don’t enjoy drinking, I never did. Otherwise I have a sweet tooth and love desserts, and most of the ones I love have alcohol in them. Thus it’s not for any moral or religious reason that I don’t drink, but simply ‘cause I don’t like to. Beer even less so, as I generally give more preference to sophisticated liquor, like wine, cherry, champagne, and chocolate based liqueurs. But I can’t go to a German inspired habitation and expect to taste classy drinks and not taste their Beer. Otherwise, in lieu of beer, I ought to taste nothing at all. Along with the Beer we had a great pork based meat platter. The three of us really enjoyed it, and my vegetarian mother, enjoyed her Pretzel Bread appetiser.

Strawberry Fields, Hahndorf, Australia.  (L-R) My Sister, My Mum, My Sister’s  Husband.

Strawberry Fields, Hahndorf, Australia.
(L-R) My Sister, My Mum, My Sister’s Husband. PIX: Nuwan Sen

The highlights of Hahndorf, were being able to see a Museum related to Sir Hans Heysen (a German born, Australian, pastoral artist, that I wasn’t that well aware of) at the Heritage Museum & Art Gallery (which was also the information centre for the town), and of course the strawberry picking. My mum, did the most picking, and I the least 🙂 . Hey, I was busy taking pictures of the beatific strawberry fields, not that I didn’t pick any strawberries, I just picked comparatively very little, while she filled up a whole box. Of course my sister did the second best, but I doubt her husband did much picking either. I saw him ordering everyone around more and less picking. Ha!! None the less we did have fun. Next day Mum & I went to the shops, at Rundle Mall. That evening my father joined us in Adelaide. He left SL, two days after we did.

With Matthew Flinders, in Adelaide, Australia.

With Matthew Flinders, in Adelaide, Australia.

On the 6th, it was my day, my lone day. Thus the lone wolf, scavenged through Adelaide, towards ‘The Art Gallery of South Australia’. On the way I saw some interesting sculptures/statues/busts of famed people, including Mary Lee; a 19th century, Irish-Australian, social reformer and a feminist of the suffragist movement of South Australia; and Matthew Flinders (pictured above), English navigator and cartographer, the first person to circumnavigate Australia and identify it as a continent. The art gallery wasn’t that massive, and housed very little amount of works, compared to many a galleries I’ve visited in Europe, Asia and Australia itself. There were very few famed Australian artists, the likes of Grace Crowley, Sidney Nolan and Martin Sharp. But one of my favourite Australian Artists, Brett Whitely (see my post Beatle News #8 …& Brett Whiteley), was missing. Of course I’ve seen some of his works earlier, at ‘The Art Gallery of New South Wales’, in Sydney, when I use to live there (2006-2008). And I had seen a Sidney Nolan Exhibition, in early 2008, at ‘The Art Gallery of NSW’, as well. But I wished more Ozzie artists were hung at ‘The Art Gallery of South Australia’, as well. They did have some European works too, including Impressionist artist, Camille Pissarro, whose works I had seen at the Museé d’Orsay in Paris, France, when I lived there back in 2008-2009. There was also an interesting exhibition of etchings by G.B. Piranesi. Plus a post-post modernism exhibition by recent artists, using cut glass and lighting. Post the Art Gallery I checked out the ‘University of Adelaide’ and visited the ‘South Australian Museum’ briefly. All in proximity to each other. Along all these walks I met some really interesting people to talk to, which I hardly get out here. After the Museum closed I headed back to the Rundle Mall, and shopped for some books at Dymocks , and then headed to the cinema. Palace Cinema. And ended up watching Fury (2014), starring Brad Pitt and Logan Lerman. After the movie, it was late night, I walked back, met some French and German Rickshaw wallah’s. Had a nice chat with them as well. T’was a nice long day, by myself.

Cowboy in a Rickshaw With a German Rickshaw wallah

Cowboy in a Rickshaw
With a German Rickshaw wallah

On the 7th was my sisters MBA graduation ceremony (from the Australian Institute of Business), the main reason we went Down Under, in the first place. The Ceremony took place at the Adelaide Town Hall, and there was formal dinner post that at the Gallery on Waymouth. My sister did her degree in Colombo from AIB, but she had her post-graduation ceremony down there. Gallery on Waymouth was an interesting, purposely Kitsch style, Art Gallery style, café, with a Graffiti wall at the side entrance. Inside, I loved a couple of works inspired by Andy Warhol and an old Australian Matchbox cover, by an unknown artist, bringing Pop Art to the 21st century and giving it an Oz twist.

MBA Graduation Ceremony @ Adelaide Town Hall (Left to Right) Me (Nuwan Sen), My Dad, My Mum, The Post Graduate (My Baby Sister - Sachinta), The Chairman of AIB (Prof. Selva Abraham), and Sachinta's husband (Umesh).

MBA Graduation Ceremony @ Adelaide Town Hall
(Left to Right) Me (Nuwan Sen), My Dad, My Mum, The Post Graduate (My Baby Sister – Sachinta), The Chairman of AIB (Prof. Selva Abraham), and Sachinta’s husband (Umesh).

On the 8th of November, 2014, we left Adelaide for Sydney. On this Qantas flight, I was planning to check out Magic in the Moonlight (2014), which I couldn’t on the way to Adelaide. But this Qantas flight didn’t have any screens per seat. Thus I lounged back in my chair and got back into reading Ben Okri’s The Age of Magic.

Nuwan Sen n’ Travel

Yesterday, Sunday morning, I watched Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (2013), the best commercial Hindi Film of last year, on Star Plus. An excellent Bollywood movie, despite it’s few flaws, some more relevant than others.
The Flying Sikh picBhaag Milkha Bhaag is a biographical film about the famed Indian sportsman Milkha Singh, nicknamed ‘The Flying Sikh’. The movie starts off with the 1960 Rome Summer Olympics, where while leading the 250m race he slows down assuming that his pace could not be sustained, and looks behind at his fellow competitors, which causes him to lose the medal, as he comes in fourth. This scene is interjected with him turning around as a child, while on the run, and seeing his father being beheaded. Soon the Indian press is on heat, as to why he turned around, and his pictures are being burnt on the streets of India.

From here the movie tells us about Milkha Singh’s painful journey from escaping to India, from being murdered along with his family in Pakistan, during the partition of 1947, to him growing up with hoodlums, to his love affairs/flings, him joining the army and ultimately representing India at many international athletic events. The majority of the film is set throughout the 1950’s, and ends with him winning the gold medal in the ‘India-Pakistan Friendship Games’ of 1960, for which India’s, post independence, first Prime-minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, persuades Milkha Singh to set aside his memories of the Partition era, and commit to the race. When Singh wins the race, it is General Ayub Khan; Pakistan’s dictatorial President (second President) of West & East Pakistan, who became President through a coup (Pakistani coup d’état of 1958); who proudly gives Singh the title of ‘The Flying Sikh’.

The Flying Sikh Left: The Real Milkha Singh Right: Farhan Akhtar as Milkha Singh in the movie

The Flying Sikh
Left: The Real Milkha Singh
Right: Farhan Akhtar as Milkha Singh in the movie

As a film, it’s beautifully made by film director, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra. Considering the fact that am not a great fan of his past work; like Aks (2001) and Delhi-6 (2009); with the exception of Rang De Basanti (2006), which too was just an OK movie, though with a great concept, for me; I think Omprakash Mehra has brought out one the best films ever made in Bollywood till date. With beautiful cinematography, art décor, the setting of the 40’s and 50’s, though not to perfection, he has brought out a brilliant venture, that he’ll be remembered as one among the greatest film directors ever. Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, is a movie that could have easily made it’s way to the ‘Best Foreign Language Picture’ category at the Oscars this year. India has submitted many a movies to the Oscars since 1957, but only three have made the cut, been nominated for, ‘Best Foreign Language Picture’; Mother India (1957), Salaam Bombay! (1988) and Lagaan (2001); and out of the three, only Mother India and Lagaan, happen to be commercial ventures, while Salaam Bombay! is a pseudo-realistic art house venture; all made in the Hindi language.

Actor Farhan Akhtar, who too am not generally a great fan of, as an actor (he’s a good director), does a marvellous job as Milkha Singh. Akhtar doesn’t just portray Milkha Singh, he becomes Milkha Singh. Farhan Akhtar solely carries the whole film on his shoulders. His love interests in the movie have supporting roles; Sonam Kapoor as Biro, whom he falls in love with early on in the film; Australian actress Rebecca Breeds as Stella, the granddaughter of the Australian technical coach, with whom he has a one night stand and subsequent fling, during the 1956 Melbourne Summer Olympics; and ultimately Pakistani singer-cum-actress Meesha Shafi, as the Olympic swimmer for the Indian team, Perizaad, who finds herself being attracted to Milkha Singh, but he doesn’t reciprocate. What’s interesting is the main love interest in Milkha Singh’s life is omitted in the movie, his wife Nirmal Kaur. Milkha Singh met Nirmal Kaur, captain of the Indian women’s volleyball team, in Ceylon in 1955. The couple married in 1962. The film only goes up to 1960, thus it’s obvious his romance with his wife isn’t shown. But director, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, could have shown the first time the two meet each other, hinting at the fact that this would be the future Mrs. Milkha Singh.

The Flying Sikh romances Down Under Farhan Akhtar as Milkha Singh and Rebecca Breeds as Stella, Singh's fling during the Melbourne Summer Olympics of 1956

The Flying Sikh romances Down Under
Farhan Akhtar as Milkha Singh and Rebecca Breeds as Stella, Singh’s fling during the Melbourne Summer Olympics of 1956

Divya Dutta, a superb actress I have great respect for as an artiste, does an excellent job, as Isri Kaur, Milkha Singh’s elder sister, who brings him up on her own, while being abused by her husband for paying more attention to her brother than him. Taking the Hitchcockian road, film director, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, has a cameo in the movie, as a pilot, in a comical intervention scene.

The basis for the movie, on Milkha Singh’s life, happens to be from Singh’s autobiography, The Race of My Life, co-written along with his daughter Sonia Sanwalka. Am really keen on reading this book now. Singh sold the rights for the film for just one rupee, and inserted a clause stating that a share of the profits should be given to the ‘Milkha Singh Charitable Trust’, which was founded in 2003 with the aim of assisting poor and needy sportspeople.

Milkha Singh was the only Indian male athlete to win an individual athletics gold medal at a Commonwealth Games, until this year, Year 2014. Singh also won gold medals in the 1958 and 1962 Asian Games. Besides representing India in the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne and the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, as shown in the movie, he also took part in the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. In the Rome Olympics, though Singh came fourth, as he eased off while running, as mentioned earlier, and shown in the movie, he broke the Indian National Record, of 45.73, and held it for almost 40 years. He was awarded the Padma Shri, India’s fourth-highest civilian honour, in recognition of his sporting achievements.

The Swaying Sikh Farhan Akhtar as Milkha Singh and Meesha Shafi as Indian swimmer Perizaad, dancing down-under Set during the Melbourne Summer Olympics of 1956

The Swaying Sikh
Farhan Akhtar as Milkha Singh and Meesha Shafi as Indian swimmer Perizaad, dancing down-under
Set during the Melbourne Summer Olympics of 1956

The Film won seven Filmfare awards, earlier this year, including the well deserved awards for ‘Best Film’, ‘Best Director’ and ‘Best Actor’. But it also won for ‘Best Lyrics’, the ‘R D Burman’ Award, for ‘Best Costume’ and for ‘Best Production Design’. I do not necessarily agree with these awards. Though good, there were other films, with better songs, like the beautifully versed song written by Gulzar, for the house warming party, from Ek Thi Dayan (2013). And when it comes to ‘Costumes’ and ‘Production Design’, what about Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela (2013), which had some magnificent costumes, brilliant  art décor and superb cinematography (See my post Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela: A Pleasant Surprise from earlier this year). Even though I don’t agree with the latter lot of awards it won, I do agree it is the best film of year 2013. Bhaag Milkha Bhaag also won the National Award for ‘Best Film’.

A wonderful movie, really worth checking out.

Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (2013) My Rating 10/10!!!

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

Hundred years ago today, on the 18th of July, 1914, was born a heroic personality, who’d end up, not just being a champion road cyclist, but also a war hero, who’ll save the lives of, as many as, 800 to 900 Jews, during the second World War, Gino Bartali.

Gino Bartali in 1936

Gino Bartali in 1936

The Cyclist
Gino Bartali was born to a small farming family in Ponte a Ema, Florence, Italy. He grew up in a deeply religious family (of the Catholic faith) in Tuscany. By 13 Gino was working in a bicycle shop and started racing around the same time. He started racing professionally in 1935 when he was 21. By 1936, he was an Italian champion. When he got married; on 14 November 1940, the wedding being blessed by Pope Pius XII (who held office from 1939 to 1958); Bartali donated his bicycle to the Pope. Gino won the ‘Giro d’Italia’ three times, in 1936, 1937 and 1946, and the ‘Tour de France’ twice, with a gap of ten years, in 1938 and 1948. Gino stopped racing when he was 40, after being injured in a road accident.

The War Hero
During the Second World War, Gino Bartali, helped a lot of Jews by carrying false (non-Jewish) identifications for the Jews that were being persecuted under Nazi oppressed Italy, during the Italian Social Republic, which had become a puppet state of Nazi Germany during that period. He carried these falsified identifications, messages and other documents, to the Italian Resistance, by rolling up and hiding the papers, in the saddle seat post and head tube under the handle. Bartali cycled from Florence, through Tuscany, to Umbria, Marche, and sometimes travelling as far away as Rome, all the while wearing the racing jersey emblazoned with his name.

Through Pope Pius XII (and the Archbishop of Genoa and the Franciscan Friars), Gino Bartali, helped Giorgio Nissim, a Jewish accountant from Pisa, help save 800 Italian Jews escape during the war, by carrying out forged documents and needed photographs. Gino used to leave Florence in the morning, pretending to train, rode to a convent in which the Jews were hiding, collected their photographs and rode back to Nissim. Gino Bartali used his position to learn about raids on safe-houses as well.

Gino Bartali, on suspicion, was taken ‘Villa Triste’ in Florence. The Sicherheitsdienst, intelligence agent of the SS, and the Italian RSS office, and questioned Gino, threatening his life. Luck was on his side, when one of the soldiers turned out to be a fan of the cyclist, who intervened and saved Gino’s life, just as he was about to be tortured.

Gino, a devout catholic, continued to secretly help the Jews. In 1943, he led Jewish refugees towards the Swiss Alps himself. He cycled pulling a wagon with a secret compartment, telling patrols it was just part of his training. Gino also hid a Jewish family in his cellar, by doing so saved their lives.

In year 2000, Gino Bartali had a bypass surgery yet died of a heart attack on the 5th of May, Year 2000.

Last Year, having gained great respect, for his efforts to aid Jews during World War II, Gino Bartali was given recognition, with the title of Righteous Among the Nations. There is also Piazza Gino Bartali, in Florence, in his honour.

Nuwan Sen’s Historical Sense
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