It depicts a violent chase that resembles a battlefield in which a king’s army is mindlessly running for the kill.
In the beginning of the film, you see the camera focusing on the red sky and the beams coming out from several torchlights on the ground. There’s tranquillity felt during this scene. Here, Director Lijo Jose Pelissery gives importance to the ‘colour red’ and ‘the torchlight’ as you see how these two metamorphose into something ferocious. As the movie progresses, while the colour red takes the form of flesh and blood, the torchlight gives way to fire.
Turmoil is something that has found a place in Lijo’s previous films like Ea.Ma.Yau and Angamaly Diaries. You can witness that in Jallikattu too. There’s a commotion in a village and the men, with vehement rage, are running after a buffalo. A ‘mountain’ of men (yes, you see a throng of men forming a mountain) not only go after an animal with rage but also go after each other. The film’s storyline makes you question whether, as humans, we have reached a stage where we, with our sagacious minds, have fully understood the significance of coexistence. It makes you understand the importance of living together in harmony. The film assesses the evolution of humans and checks whether or not the modern-day humans have evolved and grown into a more intelligent and compassionate species than the Early Humans.
Jallikattu is terrifying and engrossing. Prashant Pillai’s tense background score is the film’s biggest asset. Whether it’s the tick-tock sound like that of a clock or some demonic noises, Prashant’s score amplifies the fierceness of the movie. Gireesh Gangadharan’s brilliance in his cinematography tricks makes the movie even more horrific. You see the closeups of burning fire with intermittent blackouts. Or, the camera quickly moves closer to a fruit hanging from a tree and comes to an abrupt stop. The rapidly changing scenes showing a wooden stick being sharpened or meat being chopped off (with Prashant’s music in action) is splendidly stitched together. Even the continuous uninterrupted shots like a man going from room to room and talking to different people are immersive.
The film is not out-and-out grim. Lijo has made sure that it has its share of humour as well. For instance, a street food seller calmly walks on the road as an irritated villager, trying to catch the buffalo, pulls him aside. And, in another scene, while a group of men are having a serious discussion on the roadside, they get irked by the drunkards who are carelessly yelling and dancing on the streets.
The trio of Sophie (Santhy Balachandran), Antony (Antony Varghese) and Kuttachan (Sabumon Abdusamad) give the film a taste of romance and lust. Even though it is for a short while, Lijo ensures that it is noticeable in the midst of all that violence and rancour.
Jallikattu doesn’t follow a central character as such. But there are certain individuals who are closely followed to delineate the beast coming out from the humans. (The rivalry between Antony and Kuttachan arrests you).
Jallikattu is also a bull-taming sport in Tamil Nadu but the film chooses not to depict it in any way. Unlike the actual sport, this film depicts a violent chase that resembles a battlefield in which a king’s army is mindlessly running for the kill. Here, not only a buffalo subjected to cruelty is unbearable and painful but the representation of sheer loss of humanity and compassion is staggering. Not only an animal welfare activist but even the human rights activist will find it hard to witness what this film has to offer. Such is the greatness of Lijo as he gives this film a thoughtful outlook.
The film festival showcased many interesting films. This piece contains reviews of some of them.
Sometimes you go to a cinema hall, watch a film and come out a better person than you were just a few hours ago. Such films teach you, disturb you and even inspire you. More than anything else, they turn out to be a wealth of knowledge. Open Frame Documentary Film Festival 2019, which concluded recently, had many such films on offer. Some films touched upon issues that you knew about but never understood the gravity of the matter. Some films spoke about things that you never knew about and changed your whole perspective concerning those things.
Thankfully, I was able to catch some of those beautiful films that were screened in this event. I admired the work of every other filmmaker whose films I could watch and they all were very enlightening. It was a never-seen-before experience.
Rang Mahal (Palace of Colour) is picturesque and colourful. Here, both ‘beauty’ and ‘change’ are the constant figures. Directed by Prantik Basu, the film narrates the stories on the origins of life. The stories take different shapes much like the changing colours of rocks of nearby hills. While the narration keeps a check on your imagination and fantasies, the multihued houses and hills make for a beautiful sight. The long pauses in the shots, whether the camera is focussing on a tree, a mountain, or a house, act as meditative moments and have a calming effect.
Door/Homehas disturbing and noisy shots of a housing complex being razed. With it, the film shows that the glorious history of a city now lay in ruins. Director Varun Ram Kurtkoti explores the changing identity of Dharwad. The city once housed great musicians and writers of Karnataka. As the years have gone by, not only have these great artists vanished, but even the entities like the houses, that reminded the city and its people of the forgotten glory, are getting wiped out. The representation of the city’s identity shift, or one can say its ignorance of the great past that it has had, makes you more concerned and distressed. The best shots in the film come when the camera shows the window of a house against the pitch dark surroundings.
‘New’ and ‘old’ are the elements that come together in Somewhere Nowhere. The duo of Directors Reema Kaur and Shashank Walia not just make you reminisce a city’s forgotten history but also the evolution of the city, the amalgamation of modern-day city with its old self and the significance that its old self has in today’s world. The film sticks to capturing funnier sides. A random guy suddenly shouts inside a historical monument just to feel the echo and for no particular reason. Another guy, with his goggles on, poses for the camera in different ways against a beautiful backdrop that looks immensely weird and humorous. But such instances make you seriously ponder over the relevance of such historical monuments or places the city carries in this day and age (or if it carries any such thing at all). The city has somehow found ways to thrive in a changing world.
The Outside In, directed by Hansa Thapliyal, is an impressive take on dolls. The film has this innate quality of bringing the dolls to life. Each of them is created in such a way that they look like being in a real-life scenario. They may be watching TV. They may be harvesting crops. They might just be sitting near a table with a cup of tea. Every doll tells you a story. The faces of the dolls are devoid of eyes, nose or lips. The makers of the dolls hope that different onlookers would identify different personalities. Some would see a jovial face and some would sense the agony inside them. The CGI works make for engrossing visuals in some instances and Hansa makes sure the dolls don’t lose the sheen by being a Toy Story characters.
Mod Bhaang (The Ebb Tide) had its Director’s Preview screened. The fishermen community, in this film, reflect upon their aspirations and the activities related to fishing. Director Renu Savant makes you understand the life of fishermen. The film asks you to delve deeper and think if these fishermen are forced into fishing or if they have dreams of pursuing a different career. It also doesn’t dive deeper into the declining population of fish which is happening due to various reasons such as overfishing, climate change, pollution, among others. But it does make its point clear and make us think about it more clearly which we, in our fast-paced city life, might not have ever pondered over.
Starring Sharmila Tagore, directed by Umang Sabarwal, is all about grit and resilience of an actor who made a name for herself against all odds. The film documents the journey of actor Sharmila Tagore in the Indian film industry and uncovers both the stumbling block and the taste of success that she had in her fantastic film career. Through Sharmila’s story, Umang emphasises upon the significance of women empowerment. Sharmila is a testament to the successful life of an ‘independent woman’. If she can do what she wants to do and make herself stand apart from the rest, any woman can think different, dream big and achieve glory. The film is an inspiration to all the women who are still kept under certain boundaries.
Priya Thuvassery’s My Sacred Glass Bowl focuses upon the “cultural deception” when it comes to the virginity of women in India. The predefined norms, a lot of women have to adhere to, take centre stage. The significant issues related to myths and restrictions surrounding pre-marital sex vis-à-vis women, delineated in the film, are staggering. Here, while the men are never questioned about their “purity”, women are put on a test to prove their virginity. (People being ignorant about the causes of vaginal bleeding during intercourse is a big concern too). The film also asks you if the habituation to sexual intercourse can be used against a woman in a sexual assault case. It also makes you raise the question of whether or not a woman, who, with her consent, has sexual intercourse regularly, should be deemed as a person of questionable character.
Person With Desires is a beautiful film by Swati Chakroborti that asks you to believe in yourself, be mentally strong, be contented and stay happy. The film is about a differently-abled person who seeks normalcy and merriment when people see him as nothing but a “vegetable with blinking eyes”. There are times when we see a differently-abled guy and think of him as a piteous person. We tend to talk to them with the utmost concern. We tend to believe that differently-abled persons always need sympathy and compassion. Swati, through this film, throws light on such perceptions and makes you realise that he or she is a fellow human being and are not devoid of simple pleasures such as friendly conversations or even the desire for sex.
In The Mood For Love sets out to show different couples in the LGBTQ+ community in India and their stories. The duo of Directors Sandeep Kumar Singh and Aakriti Kohli are on a mission to prove that same-sex romance is “ordinarily extraordinary love” and that love is “genderless”. They make you realise what’s it like to be from the LGBTQ+ community and be in a relationship. You can sense the romance between them. You can see how they have adapted themselves in a society where being homosexual is still considered inappropriate by many. Ultimately, the film succeeds in bringing out the fact that how simple and natural it is when same-sex people are in love and are even living under the same roof.
Desire?, by Garima Kaul, deserves a big round of applause. You can’t stop trumpeting forth the praises of this film as it talks about a subject that is scarcely heard of (or, as a matter of fact, never heard of by many). It uncloaks the experiences of persons who are asexual. (Simply put, someone is said to be asexual who has no desire for sex.) Garima poses several questions through this film. She asks if someone should ever talk about sex with an asexual person or just keep it out of the equation. She further gives a clearer picture of the absurdity that one creates by failing to show an understanding and compassion towards a fellow human being and resorting to mock asexuals or homoromantic couples. The film acts as a proof that delineates that being asexual is not a defect of any kind. To someone, who doesn’t think being asexual is not problematic, the film shows the middle finger wearing a black ring.
On And Off The Records, directed by Pratik Biswas, takes us through the evolution of Hindustani Classical music in India over a hundred years. We gaze at the transition that takes place not only in the music production and distribution industry but also in the way musicians adapt themselves. The film is a musical treat. It makes you go back in time and relish some of the greatest Hindustani classical songs. (It’s saddening that such captivating music is mostly forgotten.) Music is an art and it should be presented in its truest form. The film makes you wonder if the change, that the music production and dissemination went through, stopped the musicians from expressing themselves freely or if it helped them reach more audience and allowed for more innovation.
Rehearsals For Tomorrow is Ein Lall’s extraordinary effort in capturing the change which the contemporary dance in India is going through. Here, the choreography has taken an interesting shape. Contemporary dance is taught and performed in a way that the thoughts spill out of one’s body. The synchronisation in the dance is peaceful to watch. The creative methods of expressing melancholy as well as mirthfulness through new ways are spellbinding.
Coral Woman is Priya Thuvassery’s latest film. You need to launch forth high encomiums for this eye-opening film. It is about a woman who, with utmost sprightliness in her countenance and highest gaiety in her manner, goes out in search of beauty and experiences dejection when she finds out that it is not at all how she believed it to be. She sets out in the hope of witnessing the dainty corals and ends up discovering various environmental threats that are also affecting corals. The beautiful underwater creature is now on the decline and is fast getting eliminated from the face of the Earth. The film highlights the significance of corals and its relationship with fish. You keep a grave countenance almost throughout this film as it uncovers the shocking revelations related to environmental degradation. There is a definite urge-to-do-something felt to save corals and our Mother Earth in particular.
Janani’s Juliet, directed by Pankaj Rishi Kumar, is about a theatre group and their efforts in taking inspiration from a real-life couple for their play. While adapting William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet for their play, the theatre group not only try to depict the battle between love and hate in their story but also focus upon the caste discrimination and gender equality. While the theatre group conceptualises an Indian version of Romeo and Juliet, the actual story of the real-life couple runs parallely. This intrigues you to know more about that real-life couple and whether or not they are happily living together in spite of threats from family members.
Ash Is Purest White presents a bold and strong woman who comes out of trouble on her own
Bin (Fan Liao), the mob boss, and Qiao (Tao Zhao), his girlfriend, have come to a place from where they can have a clear view of a volcano. Qiao enquires Bin about the purity of volcanic ash. This brief scene, which is both serene and thoughtful, is so brilliantly placed by Director Jia Zhangke. It explains the metaphorical title of this movie. More than the explosive eruption of a volcano, it is the softness of ash that is felt in this movie. Ash Is Purest White (Jiang hu er nü), which tells the story of a relationship between a gangster and his mistress over a long period of time, does not have too much of violence per se. It has more of separation, loss, betrayal, sacrifice, and despondency.
The film creates a nexus between ‘travel’ and ‘change’. Whether it’s on a bus, a car, a motorcycle or even a ferry, the characters are always on the move. You feel the brilliance of Jia Zhangke as you sense the change in the life of characters each of those movements brings with them. For instance, Bin and Qiao are travelling by car and suddenly a brutal fight ensues. (Giong Lim’s background score, with just drum beats, stupendously increases the intensity attached to the scene). The incident spells the separation of Bin and Qiao. And, it’s a motorcycle ride that allows them to meet each other again. In another scene, Qiao’s father is standing on the roadside as she boards the bus. He looks perplexed and distressed (His sad countenance touches you). This is a brief scene. But, later, you realise that this is also the last time she saw her father before his death.
You admire Qiao as a person. She is the embodiment of great mental strength. She is not only strongly committed to Bin but also ready to sacrifice her life for his well-being. In spite of that, it hurts you to see that she doesn’t get the same love in return. She is left all alone and confronts the hurdles all by herself. (In a scene, she expresses a great shock after finding out that her money has been stolen by a woman. When she goes out and enquires people about that woman, it moves you to see her dejection. Even a guy, considerable force, brushing his shoulders against hers, make you feel for her.). It’s the Tao Zhao’s terrific performance that makes the Qiao character even more powerful. Fan Liao isn’t far behind. He gives the Bin character the three shades – Style, meanness, and loneliness. He is the leader of the pack at first. He, later, avoids Qiao even after everything she did for him but does express compunction for doing so. He winds up in the wheelchair with no one to take care of him except for Qiao.
Qiao is a character dedicated to all those women who have showered all their love upon the man they love, left everything behind, and even sacrificed a lot to help him get out of trouble only to be deserted by him in the end. Jia Zhangke beautifully paints this character in Ash Is Purest White and presents a bold and strong woman who comes out of trouble on her own.
Karthik Muthukumar, who is the Director of Photography, is a master at work. There are plenty of attention-grabbing shots at the seashore.
(Screened at Regional Film Festival 2019, Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan, New Delhi)
Singaram (Mysskin) says that mother sea, who has taken away life, will give something in return when she has calmed down. He is a local fisherman and is referring to the Tsunami that once took away many lives in his village (including his loved ones). He is living with his niece, Anandhi (Preeti Karan), and a young nephew. He believes that one day he will be able to cross the sea. Singaram is hoping his current situation will get better. Being a strong patriarch, he’s earnestly trying to find the right match for his nephew. Kattumaram (Catamaran), directed by Swarnavel Eswaran, is a metaphorical title that is remarkable for its deeply ingrained meanings. In this, there is always a belief that good-heartedness and good times will prevail and difficult times will be long gone by. Like Singaram, the film empathises with the LGBTQ+ community.
Singaram has different shades of character. And Mysskin is so good to bring out all of them with perfect aplomb. Although Singaram is a patriarch, he is also benevolent, caring, loving, understanding and supportive. (He offers money to someone showing utmost care in his countenance or even scolds a man for abusing a woman and thinking her as someone of a questionable character). Anandhi is a school teacher. (Preeti Karan’s voice is so beautiful and you can’t get enough of Anandhi dictating a lesson to the students). As Kavita (Anusha Prabhu), a photographer, enters the frame, the story takes a different shape and acquaints you with the blossoming romance between her and Anandhi. Whether it’s a romantic moment or an emotional sequence, P. Bharani Dharan’s melodious and captivating background score accentuates the feelings associated with the scenes to a whole new level (Can remind one of the legendary composer Isaignani Ilaiyaraja).
Easwaran is interested in intelligently bringing out the lesbian connection in the film. The school’s name, where Anandhi works, is Vaanavil (which means Rainbow in Tamil). You see the school board out on the street with its name and those seven colours. (Is it to signify the Rainbow Pride Flag?). Easwaran is not trying to show you the sexual relationship between lesbians. He wants to delineate that it’s deeper and meaningful. (Kavita emotionally talks about her past and her ex-lesbian partner’s ill fate). Moreover, the film is set in a village where one’s sexual orientation is strictly judged by certain prejudices. Being caught as a lesbian would draw furious reactions from every corner of the village.
Karthik Muthukumar, who is the Director of Photography, is a master at work. There are plenty of attention-grabbing shots at the seashore. The locked-down shots, for instance, are mesmerising. (While the stationary camera is gazing at the tides by the seashore, the film depicts a family in high spirits at one instant and in immense anger in another. In a different scene, a flickering light approaches towards the camera while the surrounding is engulfed by darkness. As the light comes closer to the camera, a transwoman is revealed.) A long shot shows a man’s dilemma and his empathy for a widow. There’s also a medium shot which shows peacefulness and merriment. (You see Anandhi sitting on a wooden plank by the seashore, a cool breeze touching her cheeks and the top layer of sand moving with the wind). In a closeup, the camera closely captures a crab moving through the sand while, in the distance, men are playing a Kabaddi match at the night time and a bright yellow light is streaming from a street bulb. Even a combination of a long shot and a closeup works big time. (You get a longshot where pretty looking Anandhi, who is all dressed up, is standing by the seashore. And then, in the closeup, Anandhi turns behind, with the hair falling all over her face due to the blowing wind.)
Several other instances invoke tranquillity. A long shot, with the camera placed near the field, shows Anandhi riding her bicycle in the distance. Or, you see the camera focussing at two coconut trees against the blue sky.
Amidst the serious tone of the film, the film does have chucklesome instances. A family indignantly walking off and hurling abuses at Anandhi for rejecting their son seem funny. Singaram threatening a police officer for molesting Anandhi is both stylish and humorous.
The film does have no sexual activity related to a lesbian relationship. But it shows glimpses of different people deriving sexual pleasures in different ways. You see a transwoman involved in oral sex. You also see religious woman, alone at home, is seduced by a man for sex. In a way, the film resorts to represent a slice of life. A boy and a girl meeting each other, getting married, leading a happy life to get the approbation of the everyone else is considered to be a norm by many. But when someone doesn’t end up leading a similar life, is questioned, thrashed and even ostracised.
Director Jabbar excels at the realistic portrayal of hatred and discrimination.
(Thanks to India Habitat Centre for screening this amazing film)
An implacable hatred builds up inside you against all those who have made a fellow man walk around with an earthen pot around his neck and a broom around his waist. The former was to avoid even his spit falling on the ground and keep the earth ‘pure’. The latter was to sweep away his own shadow. This is the ‘caste’ atrocity we are talking about. Director Jabbar Patel decides to display all of this through pencil sketches right in the beginning and states clear his motive of portraying disturbing pictures to set the right mood for the film. (It’s a brilliant idea to highlight that through pencil sketches as they produce an eerie feeling). ‘Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar… The Untold Truth’, English-language National Award-winning Indian film, documents the oppression faced by the so-called low caste Hindu citizens of India in the hands of high-caste ones. It was Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, belonging to low-caste himself, who emerged as a beacon of hope for all those who endured years of suffering (and still do). He took up the responsibility of bringing about a massive social reform across the country and imagined a “caste-less” and “class-less” Hindu societies in India.
Ambedkar is one of the greatest heroes in the history of India. So, he deserves a special introduction scene. And Jabbar makes sure of that. You see the camera focussing on eyeglasses placed over an open book and a pen beside it. Slowly it moves closer to it and comes to a stop. Then comes Mammooty, who plays Ambedkar, into the picture. He sits in front of that book and puts on his glasses. (Mammooty’s remarkable acting skills brings Ambedkar back to life).
Director Jabbar excels at the realistic portrayal of hatred and discrimination. The film exposes the ill-treatment the low-caste Hindus are subjected to. No matter what heights he reaches in his life, he will always be called ‘untouchable’ and will be oppressed. (In spite of being the senior person in his office and highly educated, Ambedkar had to bear the brunt of caste system as he was forbidden from drinking water from ‘common’ jug). Some remain silent and accept the boundaries set up for them. Others, like the social reformer Ambedkar, defy the orders and jokingly tell them to “purify” the things after touching or using them. Purification mechanisms do exist, as the film highlights, that are also written in ancient Hindu texts. Even the non-Hindus are aware of this caste system as they resort to discriminatory remarks. (Not surprisingly, Ambedkar even goes on to say that caste system in India is worse than what the African slaves had to go through).
The film shows that it was never easy for Ambedkar to do good for ‘his’ people. There was abuse, financial problems, and discrimination all the way. His wife Ramabai (Sonali Kulkarni) had to confront “loneliness” and “hardships”. There was even a tussle between Ambedkar and Gandhi (Mohan Gokhale) as more than the need for “stability of government”, Ambedkar stated, it is important to abolish the discrimination based on caste and creed. The film raises an important question – Is embracing a different religion the answer to escape the oppression? (Ambedkar went on to embrace Buddhism and encouraged others to choose this path).
You do need the acquaintance of good people to deal with the problems of life. Ambedkar had them too. That is why Ambedkar was able to get financial support for his studies. He also had a friend in college who stood by him and encouraged him. In India, such atrocious cases, as the film presents, where a low caste Hindu is not even touched or not allowed to enter the temple or adjudged a sweeper or manhole worker by birth, are still prevalent. Ambedkar’s vision of a casteless society is possible only if we, as a good human being, join hands and show compassion to a fellow person without ever resorting to discriminatory acts on any grounds.
Pink is one of the greatest courtroom dramas that you will ever see. It is focussed and heartrending.
“You know how it is” says a male office boss with a sorry look. “Yes, I do know how it is” replies a crestfallen and shocked Falak (Such a brilliant performance by Kirti Kulhari in this role). A fake, indecent photo of hers has been doing the rounds in the whole office. She has felt greatly humiliated by this as she never did any of this sort in the first place. The scene showed how painful it is for a woman when she is wrongly accused. Pink is Director Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury’s answer to misconceptions that a lot of men have vis-à-vis women. The film is a masterpiece which shows what a woman goes through when she is harassed, molested, sexually assaulted, and is forced to accept the cruel world without raising questions.
Pink is one of the greatest courtroom dramas that you will ever see. It is focussed and heartrending. It sarcastically explains women’s safety manual that has instructions on the Dos and Don’ts for the women so that men don’t get the false idea of their consent for sex. It’s Deepak Sehgal (A spellbinding performance from Amitabh Bachchan for this character), a lawyer, through which the film presents its case and that too with such perfection (Not to forget the arresting act by Piyush Mishra who plays a lawyer as well in this film). The film shows you how Deepak defends the case for three women – Minal (Taapsee Pannu’s fantastic act for this character makes you really feel the agony), Andrea (herself), and Falak – on whom the complaint has been filed stating that they solicited some men and ended up causing grave injury to one of them (The soliciting part is so tremendously portrayed that it hurts you to see these women being shown in a wrong light).
The film highlights a male chauvinist society where women are made the scapegoat in a lot of problems. (Falak’s unsympathetic boyfriend presumes that Minal is a girl of questionable character. In response, Falak, with utter sadness, says that she hoped to receive some warmth from him and not advice.) The film shows that there are men who still consider women as weaker sex (A guy, in a cafeteria, says to Falak, “Tum vaise bhi ladki ho” (You are anyway a woman)). It also hurts you when Pink makes you realise that even a “natural human behaviour” of women is perceived wrongly by some men. Or, even her choice of living with her friends and not with family is put under the scanner.
But again it goes without saying that this world is also replete with good people. There are male characters in the film who stand as a pillar of support to these women in times of distress. Andrea’s boyfriend comforts her and applauds her for being “brave”. The landlord Kasturilal (Vinod Nagpal) remains supportive to these women and never doubts them.
With so many different layers in the film, you never actually get to see the sexual assault incident happening until the closing credits. But the incident is talked about with such intensity that just imagining it makes you feel pity for the girls who suffered. The music does its trick too to match the mood of the film (Kaari Kaari song, in the composition of Shantanu Moitra, sung by Qurat-ul-Ain Balouch, comes twice in the movie and blends beautifully well with the emotional scenes).
When I first watched the film back in 2016, I felt that the importance of the film and its relevance to the real-world situation was sky-high. I watched it again recently as a Tamil remake of this movie – Nerkonda Paarvai – thronged the theatres last week. Pink still felt so fresh and riveting. This story demands such a remake. It needs to be told in different languages. Pink is not just a great story on consensual sex where a simple “no” from your girlfriend, wife or even a sex-worker forbids you from having sex with them. But it is also told in a way that it engrosses you, thrills you and astonishes you all at the same time.
Mission Mangal does justice to one of the most influential and eye-opening achievements in the history of space research.
Rakesh Dhawan (Akshay Kumar) and Tara Shinde (Vidya Balan), the lead scientists supervising India’s historic Mars mission, have taken inspiration from home science, managed to get the necessary approvals and the resources, and incorporated everything in the rocket science that they know so well. Mission Mangal (Mission Mars) is Director Jagan Shakti’s ambitious and meticulously written project that not just feels sweet but also tastes bitter. Jagan knows that we are apprehensive of the fact that the success of Mangalyaan (Mars Orbiter Mission) drawn accolades from the entire globe and we may have doubts whether the film will resort to more of glorification than the struggles. Jagan makes sure that Mission Mangal is not that sort of a film. He lends it an equal share of both the moments where we don’t just feel dejected by the failures, embarrassments and difficulties but also feel proud and rejoice over the triumphs.
There is ‘hope’ in the background music (composed by Amit Trivedi) as it perfectly enhances the spirit of being alive in the mission. You feel astonished by the intelligence of the scientists in whom, amidst every other obstacle, sparks innovative ideas while cooking Puri or looking at people protesting against plastic dumps in the ocean or even while staring at a picture of sailing craft on a throw pillow. When you think about India and its space programs, the very first name that may come to your mind is Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam. The film does honour him. And when it does, it may give you goosebumps. Even the close shots of the rocket when it is being set up on the launch site or smoke engulfing a part of it or the hopeful faces of scientists were so brilliantly shown (All credits to the cinematographer Ravi Varman).
Akshay gives the mixture of seriousness, staying-calm-under-pressure and mirthfulness to Rakesh’s character. But it’s the hilarity that works so well. In a humorous scene, he calmly enters inside a poorly maintained building, calls it Mars, finds the availability of little water and even claims the presence of life. He even asks a guy to place a television over his head. And when a guy asks Rakesh if this is Mars department, he says, “Hum bhi yahi soch ke khade hain” (We are also standing here thinking the same). Also watch out for Akshay’s Tamil-language speaking skills in the film.
The women in this movie always take the centre stage and are as much an important part of the film as the real women scientists were for the success of this Mars mission (You also have to appreciate the wonderful ensemble cast with each of them raising the bar higher when it comes to performance). You are also not alien to the personal lives of these characters. You do care about them. Outside of this mission, they have their own problems to take care of. You root for Eka Gandhi (Sonakshi Sinha) and her colleague Parmeshwar (Sharman Joshi) to be together. Tara’s amazing calmness while managing her husband, son and daughter speak volumes of Vidya Balan’s stupendous act. The sadness and disappointment in Varsha (Nithya Menen) are noticeable when her mother-in-law angrily scolds her for not getting pregnant. The driving lessons taken by Kritika (Taapsee Pannu) are chucklesome. You feel the agony of Neha (Kirti Kulhari) when she is denied a house for rent as she is a Muslim (While there is a work going on to find habitable planets in the space, some of us belonging to the ‘most intelligent’ species on Earth still follow a divisive design).
Of course, there is always someone who tries to close all the doors and be pessimistic about everything. There is Rupert (Dalip Tahil) in this film to do that. Dalip fantastically lends that villainous feel to this Rupert character. But the determination of Tara and a ‘change’ in the attitude of the scientists (one of the loveliest sequence where scientists realise why they chose to be in the field of science in the first place) ultimately spell the victory. Well, the film could have done without a weird fight sequence inside a train or a scientists-jovially-dancing-to-the-tune-of-a-song (Probably, the only two things that didn’t work for me). But, other than that, the film does justice to one of the most influential and eye-opening achievements in the history of space research.
This is an unprecedented style of filmmaking in the Indian Cinema and, definitely, a work brimming with brilliance.
(Thanks to Jagran Film Festival Delhi 2019 for the screening of this gem of a film)
In this film, death is imminent. And it doesn’t befall characters because of natural causes. It’s because the actions of the characters do not get approval by the masses. They do keep going for a while with little support. But, eventually, they succumb to a tragic end. Director Kabir Singh Chowdhry’s Mehsampur intends to explore the life of a Punjabi singer named Amar Singh Chamkila through Devrath (Devrath Joshi) and trace the events that resulted in the assassination of Chamkila.
Chamkila had more haters than supporters for the controversies he gave rise to. It was in Mehsampur where he breathed last. It is the enigma surrounding his death that propels Devrath, who is a filmmaker, to traverse difficult terrain and find everything about Chamkila at all costs to make a film on him. As Devrath goes about his business, you keep your options open and keep pondering over if the film is a documentary or a docu-fiction as it never settles on to one. This transition which Kabir lends to this drama is something that you really have to experience yourself. This is an unprecedented style of filmmaking in the Indian Cinema and, definitely, a work brimming with brilliance.
The film gives you a psychedelic experience. You randomly get to see flashes of old, blurred, muted videos of Chamkila performing on a stage. Sometimes, it looks like the camera was being vigorously shaken while a few of the scenes were being shot. There are noisy, eerie visuals of a combine harvester moving through a field of crops (When this combine harvester appears again towards the end, it’s astonishing to realise the significance of this seemingly-irrelevant-noisy-shot-at-first). There’s a guy singing at a bar and, weirdly enough, as he tries to express his emotions through the song, you can’t help but think if he’s drugged.
The interviews that Devrath conducts with people who knew Chamkila were not short of sidesplitting comedy instances. You see Devrath asking a guy to repetitively act like a drunkard throwing a stone in a busy street. You see him getting annoyed by a singer as she, instead of telling him anything about Chamkila, starts singing a song instead. Devrath, also, doesn’t stop from recording everything when he has got an opportunity to interview someone. So, when he interviews Lal Chand (a guy who survived and escaped from Chamkila’s assassination scene), he can’t help but take a close-shot of Lal Chand’s inner thigh on his camcorder from the ground level.
Only thing that didn’t work for me was the character arc of Manpreet (Navjot Randhawa) with whom Devrath has had a sexual relationship. But the praise must be given to the scene where intercourse happens between the two which was so realistically and perfectly shot arousing the sexual feelings inside you.
Even though this Manpreet’s character plays a bit of a spoilsport at the later stages of the movie, Director Kabir’s extraordinary filmmaking skills come to the fore and mostly overpower the dampness created by that character. Mehsampur is a change that you need amidst the swarm of poorly executed, mundane big-budget films. It’s the never-before-seen thingy. Kabir makes sure that you have one more example at hand to show the world why movies are one of the greatest forms of art.
It’s the Utsav Banerjee’s intelligent screenplay along with Nikunj’s vision that makes this one of the greatest films I have ever seen.
(Thanks to 10th Jagran Film Festival Delhi 2019 for the screening of this remarkable film)
The power of the longest dissertation is in its in-depth coverage. Sometimes even a small piece of writing can be more meaningful and insightful than a longer counterpart. Director Nikunj Rathod’s Chalne Do (Keep Going) is a 42-minute feature film that, considering its short running time, comes bundled with plenty on offer. Nikunj’s brilliance comes to the fore when we start realising that the number ‘two’ is deeply ingrained in the film in different forms and makes it all the more impressive.
To begin with, the entire movie is in black and white colours. The title of the film has two words- ‘Chalne’ and ‘Do’. And these two words don’t appear on the screen together. ‘Chalne’ appears first and after a few scenes, ‘Do’ comes on to the screen (When ‘Do’ does make an appearance, you marvel at its timing and the relevance it accompanies with the film’s story). The use of Schrödinger’s cat, a thought experiment that shows two different possibilities, amazes you when you understand its relevance with the film’s narrative. There are two titular characters in the film – Saathya (Ruchita Tahiliani arrests you with her exemplary performance in this character) and Roop (Rahaao lends an engrossing act in this role).
As the film tries to establish a relationship between Saathya and Roop, their two different sides get uncloaked. Saathya is trying to create a balance between her reel life aspirations and real life. She, in a scene, says that there’s a good person as well as a bad person dwelling inside everyone but people only see you as either a good or a bad person. As the film goes on to reveal two such different shades of Rahaao, you wonder at how marvellously Nikunj has shown Saathya, who’s in need of a companion, has failed to notice the negative side of Rahaao. When you think of it, the literal meaning of Saathya (which is, a companion or a friend) and Roop (which is, a form) aptly suit the respective characters (Hats off to Nikunj).
The romance between Saathya and Roop, as they go out for a walk on a rainy night and stick close to each other under an umbrella, is beautiful to watch. The tricks played by Saathya, in Roop’s presence, is seductive. The best moment, in this love angle, comes when Saathya is standing on the beach and Roop slowly walks towards her. The camera captures her from the ground level so that the full moon in the night sky is visible (Ah! What a sight that makes in this black and white setting).
It’s the Utsav Banerjee’s intelligent screenplay along with Nikunj’s vision that makes this one of the greatest films I have ever seen.
You acquiesce to the brilliance of Dhillon’s superlative writing and allow the film to unfurl the answers to your questions all by itself.
As the film begins and accreditations to the cast and crew appear on the screen, you get to see origami made out of newspaper cut-outs. Each of them accompanies itself with grim headlines about rape or domestic violence by men against women. Reading such headlines (for instance, a father burnt her daughter alive) unsettles you.
Director Prakash Kovelamudi’s Judgementall Hai Kya isn’t exactly a film about a woman suffering under male dominance or violence. It’s a complex story that traverses different paths and confuses you in the process before finally presenting a ‘big reveal’ (Be prepared to be amazed when that happens). It’s about a woman trying to save another woman from the grasp of a man who is disguised as a different person. It’s also about a man trying to save his wife from falling prey to false claims of another woman. There’s a constant pursuit of finding the real accused who killed an innocent woman. Amidst all of this, there are women in the film who fall victim to a man’s cruelty as he burns them alive and enjoys their shrieks.
The two main characters in the film are Bobby (Kangana Ranaut) and Keshav (Rajkummar Rao). Bobby has a mental disorder called “acute psychosis” as a doctor explains in the film. Bobby’s so-called boyfriend, Varun (Hussain Dalal), explains, in layman’s terms, that she has “complexes” in her mind. Ever since she was a small girl, she has shown particular attention towards helpless women being bogged down by men’s brutality. It is this propensity towards women’s sufferings that makes her collect newspaper clippings on such news and make origami out of them. She winds up meeting Keshav as he, along with his wife (played by Amyra Dastur whose sensual scenes, in particular, with Rajkummar Rao were outstanding), rent a house of which Bobby is the landlord. Keshav’s character doesn’t give you a clear perception of what he’s like. Sometimes he is shown to be a good husband who is affectionate towards his wife. But you also get to see him doing peculiar things, which even Bobby notices, and make you believe he might not be a good person and hiding a villainous side of him. Things start turning topsy-turvy when Bobby gets “obsessed” with Keshav. She not only develops a feeling of lust towards Keshav but also gathers doubts if he’s intending to kill his wife.
The film, then, leaves you startled, as the events that follow tests your ability to guess who’s the killer and who’s the saviour. Well, the credit goes to Kanika Dhillon’s fantastic writing, of course, for lending the film this absolute power of surprising you at all instances and never allowing you to settle down or have a sigh of relief. You always juggle between your assumptions based on different evidence that the film produces at every stage. After a while, you acquiesce to the brilliance of Dhillon’s superlative writing and allow the film to unfurl the answers to your questions all by itself. In short, just let Bobby do the judgement. The amazing background score and the horror-film-like feel makes the film even more thrilling.
The comedy instances involving Varun and Bobby were especially hilarious. Varun, in a scene, tries to convince Bobby that it’s about time they get married and have sex. Bobby replies childishly saying that they are doing exactly what married couples do, that is, buy groceries together. Varun also constantly complains of being “used” by her. He, evoking gales of laughter, reveals that the condom, he had in his pocket for so long with the hope of having sex with her, has “expired” without being used.
There are some minor loopholes felt in the film. There’s a character called Megha (Amrita Puri) who is pregnant in the film. She has escaped a life-threatening situation and lost her husband. But she doesn’t show any kind of consternation in her countenance (She calmly says thanks to Bobby). In another scene, Bobby, after an attacker slits her wrists, gets admitted in a hospital. She escapes from the hospital and all of a sudden, despite her poor health, manages to appear at Megha’s doorstep, in an outfit, that represents an Indian mythological figure. There’s another scene where Keshav is being interrogated by a couple of policemen. Keshav dissuades them from charging anything against him. His efforts of proving his innocence before policemen, where he bewails the loss of his wife, feel superficial and devoid of emotions as if the whole act is purposely done for the audience to catch something uncanny there. Don’t bother if you see policemen failing to notice that. A film that has so many unexpected turns could have done away with such an attempt. With that being said, the film’s narrative is so abundant with surprises and mind-boggling scenes, these little loopholes seem trivial. The film can’t have made such an impact if not for exemplary acts from Rajkummar Rao and Kangana Ranaut. If you are in the mood for a rollicking, engrossing, funny and a mind-blowing film, then Judgementall Hai Kya is for you.