24 March 2017

Mies Vailla Menneisyyttä (2003)

The Man without a Past
Directed by Aki Kaurismaki
Starring: Marku Pettola, Kate Outinen, 
Sakari Kuosmanen, Esko Nikkari, Tähti
Within the first ten minutes into Aki Kaurismaki’s ‘Mies Vailla Menniesyyttä', the eponymous protagonist (Markku Peltola) has stepped off a train, fallen asleep on a bench, been mugged and beaten within an inch of his life, and is laid up in hospital where some kind soul has taken him. When he wakes up, it is with no memory of who he was. Or is.

20 March 2017

Leap Year (2010)

Directed by: Anand Tucker
Starring: Amy Adams, Matthew Goode, 
Adam Scott, John Lithgow, Kaitlin Olsen
Last week, blog reader (and fellow conspirator when it comes to movie-watchalongs) Shalini sent me a list of films that are meant to chase away the blues. One of them, she said, had leads who were ‘gorgeous and talented; bonus: the movie is set in Ireland’. Since one of the ‘gorgeous leads’ was Amy Adams, I had no difficulty in convincing my husband to watch this film with me. I forbore to mention to him that Shalini had categorized the film as a ‘chick flick’; what’s more, she had mentioned that the film had been critically panned. So we settled down to watch a rom-com, not exactly the genre that my husband is enamoured of – but I assumed, correctly as it turns out, that he would be willing to watch Amy Adams read from a phone book. I’d also assumed, incorrectly as it turned out, that since my movie watching had been rather splintered these past weeks, we wouldn’t watch the whole movie at one stretch.

Onwards then, to the most predictable rom-com in the history of rom-coms...

16 March 2017

Ascenseur Pour L'échafaud (1958)

Lift to the Scaffold/Elevator to the Gallows
Directed by: Louis Malle
Music: Miles Davis
Starring: Jeanne Moreau, Maurice Ronet, 
Georges Poujuly, Yori Bertin
Last year, during the Indian monsoons, I’d written a post on the Rain in Ten Moods – focusing on scenes from Hindi films. You see, things happen in the rains in films. In the comments, my husband had posted a scene from a French film, where the lead protagonist is wandering around the streets of Paris on a rainy night. 
I’d not heard of the actress or the film, so, aghast at my ignorance, my husband decided he had to remedy matters. Of course, it took him a year to obtain the DVD and a few days to convince me to watch it.

12 March 2017

Deux Jours, Une Nuit (2014)

Two Days, One Night
Directed by: Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne
Starring: Marion Cotillard, Fabrizio Rongioni
In one pivotal scene in the film, the protagonist gets a call. It’s a colleague. We, the audience, only hear one side of the conversation. What’s interesting is the play of emotions on the protagonist’s face. In the space of a minute or so, we get to see desperation, humiliation, hesitation, diffidence, gratitude, relief… it’s a compelling scene, and when it’s over, we have gone through the wringer ourselves.

20 February 2017

Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day (2008)

Directed by: Bharat Nallauri
Music: Paul Englishby
Starring: Frances McDormand, Amy Adams, 
Lee Pace, Tom Payne, Mark Strong, 
Shirley Henderson, Ciarán Hinds, 
Christina Cole
My husband had an unexpected holiday this past Friday and I decided to play hooky myself; since our son was in school, we could go out for lunch, catch a matinee, and be back home by the time he came back from school. Alas for best laid plans, I woke up to find the universe revolving around me. So instead of lunching outside, I curled up on the couch with a cup of tomato soup and a couple of slices of home-made bread, and asked my husband to look for something appropriately lightweight on Netflix streaming. I wasn't in any mood for a serious film. 

As he was browsing through the available 'comedies' (apparently Kal Ho Na Ho and Dilwale are comedies), we were struck by the title of this film. Both of us had vague recollections of having heard the name before, but we didn't know anything about it; but it starred Frances McDormand, whom we both like, and my husband is in love with Amy Adams (amongst other people), so we settled down to watch the film. 

16 February 2017

Good Night, and Good Luck. (2005)

In a nation terrorized by its own government, one man dared to tell the truth
Directed by: George Clooney
Starring: David Strathairn, George Clooney, 
Robert Downey Jr., Frank Langella, 
Jeff Daniels, Patricia Clarkson, Ray Wise

 Once upon a long time ago, I so badly wanted to be an investigative journalist. Now, films about good journalism fascinate me. Especially true stories.

Anyone who’s reading the news knows the state of my adopted country. It’s not hidden from the rest of the world. As the US faces its most divisive age in years, people who know their history hark back to another dark period in the country’s history.

8 February 2017

Phagun (1973)

Directed by: Rajinder Singh Bedi
Music: SD Burman
Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri
Starring: Waheeda Rehman, Jaya Bhaduri, 
Dharmendra, Vijay Arora, Om Prakash
Before we watched Satte pe Satta together-apart, Blog reader Shalini and I had watched Phagun, because she said she wanted to discuss that film with somebody. Phagun puzzled her, she said. So we decided to deconstruct the puzzle to see if we could make it less puzzling. As with Satte pe Satta, the watchalong was interspersed with several exclamations, many, many, many comments, much swooning over Dharmendra, irreverent (and irrelevant) musings, spoilers, etc. [Shalini’s comments in red. Mine in green.]

3 February 2017

In Praise of Waheeda Rehman

She is one of my favourite actresses of all time. Her beauty, her grace, her immense talent, that ability to be completely natural on screen – have all been rightly extolled throughout her career. Unassuming, but known to speak her mind, she has gracefully removed herself from the arc lights, and has no regrets about ‘losing’ fame and recognition. Waheeda Rehman. Immortalised forever as the eponymous ‘Chaudhvin ka Chand’ in a film that was not so deserving of her talent. I have written about her before – a post on what I think are her best roles, a review of her conversations with Nasreen Munni Kabeer, reviewed some half a dozen of her films… she also makes regular appearances on my song lists.

29 January 2017

Masoom (1982)

Directed by Shekhar Kapur
Music: RD Burman
Lyrics: Gulzar
Starring: Naseeruddin Shah, Shabana Azmi,
Jugal Hansraj, Saeed Jaffrey,
Urmila Matondkar, Aradhana
The 80s were generally considered the nadir of Hindi cinema. It's when films became kitschy, loud, and spontaneously combusted in a riot of colours, pots, flowers, props... However, amidst all that noise and mayhem and violence, there were quite a few films that stood out for their quiet simplicity, excellent stories and direction, capped by great acting from the cast.  

Masoom is one of them. Director Shekhar Kapur's debut film as a director, the film was an adaptation of Erich Segal's Man Woman & Child. I had already read Segal's Love Story by then (What can I say? I was a precocious kid.), and had been thoroughly underwhelmed, and knowing the story of this film didn't endear it to me. Neither did its star-cast. I was barely a teen then, and the Naseeruddin Shah-Shabana Azmi didn't really appeal to a kid who was besotted by Amitabh Bachchan. 

However, we were wrapping up life in Bangalore (then), and for some reason, I remember, Gandhi, released earlier was still playing, and my sister wanted to watch it. Having been fed on a diet of Gandhiji throughout school, I was bored as hell, but wanted to watch Rambo-First Blood, which had just released in Bangalore, because my now-husband had recommended it. (Yes, he was not always a film-snob!) So we, partners-in-crime, decided we would 'suffer' through each other's choices. So we watched them back to back. And then noticed Jugal Hansraj in the posters for Masoom. So we decided we had to watch that as well. (Yup, that's how we chose which films to watch.)

So we duly made our way back to Majestic, and stood in line for the tickets, as the crowd surged around us. It was playing to full house every show, and the lines snaked through the lobby from the ticketing window to the compound outside. As we waited, we watched the patrons of the earlier show coming out - everyone suspiciously red-eyed. 'Uh oh,' I thought to myself, 'one of those!' I looked at my sister and she had the same look on her face. But we had been standing there for nearly an hour, there wasn't another movie we wanted to watch, and we had come to watch a movie, and by God! We were going to watch one... so we stayed. 

I'm so glad we did.

10 January 2017

My Favourites: 'Kaun Aaya?' Songs

Hindi films are full of rhetorical questions to which everyone, including the people asking those questions, know the answer, and I find them amusing. Sometime back, I wrote a post on what I called ‘Where are you?songs, in a bid to answer one such question. It struck me that there were a few other existential questions that need answers. One such question is ‘Kaun aaya?’ The answer is obvious, of course (and the characters on screen know who has stolen their heart, resided in their soul, made them laugh…), but they ask (sing) the questions anyway.  

Well, I thought it might make sense to explain these songs to my readers [patting my own halo] so I began my research, my quest for the rhetorical, the unanswerable, the inexplicable...
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