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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Happy Birthday, Ewan!

Ewan McGregor is the birthday boy today! Hahaha.......
And here I am wishing him the very best, as I choose to gush about his greatness, the die-hard fan that I am, of this hugely talented Scottish actor.
Ewan McGregor, who turns 41 today, has acted in some of the most pathbreaking movies and has established his reputation as an actor of renown. He has bagged as much critical acclaim as popularity. His star appeal is largely because of the characters he has played on-screen, and not for his off-screen exploits which are known to provide some lesser actors an overnight popularity that is difficult to retain.

Here's a list of Ewan McGregor flicks
that I have seen till date:
Brassed Off
The Serpent's Kiss
A Life Less Ordinary
Little Voice
Rogue Trader
Moulin Rouge!
Black Hawk Down
Down with Love
Young Adam
Big Fish
The Island
Miss Potter
Cassandra's Dream
I Love You Phillip Morris
Angels and Demons
The Men Who Stare at Goats
The Ghost Writer
Perfect Sense

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Happy World Theatre Day!

Just the other day I wrote about cinema (well, most of my posts are on cinema, but my last post was more of a salute to the birth or evolution of cinema, thanks to the Lumière Brothers), and today happens to be World Theatre Day and here I am writing about my love affair with the stage. This has happened not by choice, trust me readers.
For most people, all over the world, theatre has been a prime form of self-expression, a source of entertainment as well as awareness and learning. For me, the exposure to theatre came late. As a child, I was only privileged to watching our school plays, and mostly I would not have an active participation in the same. Once my class-teacher had complained to my mother that while almost the entire class had been eager to audition for the play to be staged on the annual day programme, I had been reticent. Well, I was the shy guy, I hated the limelight, and could not imagine myself mouthing rehearsed dialogues on stage (although I used to regularly take part in the music concerts at the school auditorium.
The only connect with theatre used to be the airing of the plays each week on television or on radio, and some of the performances at the local soirées. But hardly that was the real deal, I was yet to wake up to the full blown magic of stagecraft.
It was in my late teens, that I fell in love with theatre, and that happened rather oddly while I started enjoying plays in the written format, as opposed to them being performed, which I hadn't been privy to. I pored over many of the contemporary plays of the American and British playwrights and even bought and studied plays written by the Indian masters like Badal Sircar, Vijay Tendulkar and Girish Karnad. Then, came the touring Shakespearean company who gave me a taste of the magic of Shakespeare's plays (till then I had not been able to enjoy any of the Shakespearean classics in their original form, unaided, and had only seen the recordings and film adaptations of some of Shakespeare's plays at the British Council and on television), and I fell for the same - hook, line, and sinker. I discovered to my amazement how madly in love with theatre was my very own city - Kolkata!
By the way, I must also mention yet another influential factor in shaping my regard for theatre. It was the privilege of witnessing the mammoth production of Peter Brook's 'The Mahabharata' - the filmed version of the stage play.
The Academy of Fine Arts, Max Mueller Bhavan, Rabindra Sadan, Sisir Mancha, Madhusudan Mancha and many such venues became my weekend haunts. I would take time out of my schedule of classes and tuitions and hop along with a few other theatre-enthusiast friends of mine to watch the latest stage productions of the theatre groups. Commercial or mainstream theatre's heydays were over by then, and the repertory companies had a tough time performing on a rotational basis at the thriving auditoriums. I shall never get over the fact that I did not get to see thespians like Shambhu Mitra, Tripti Mitra, Ajitesh Banerjee and Utpal Dutt perform live. However, the ones who regaled me were also to learn from and their performances have enriched me immensely as a viewer. I have been fortunate to watch the live performances of thespians and stalwarts like Badal Sircar, Kumar Roy, Rudraprasad Sengupta, Bibhas Chakraborty, Ashok Mukhopadhyay, Soumitra Chatterjee, Swatilekha Sengupta, Aparna Sen, Sohag Sen, Manoj Mitra, Usha Ganguly, and Saoli Mitra. Among the new-age actors and directors, Gautam Halder, Anjan Dutt, Kaushik Sen, Sohini Sengupta, and Suman Mukhopadhyay are just a handful of names who have had much influence on me. I feel privileged to have seen some of them from close quarters, honing their craft. Reminiscing about theatre, I can never forget Steven Berkoff who had come from London and had absolutely mesmerized me as he performed Shakespeare's Villains at an intimate gathering one evening.
I feel a tad guilty as lately I haven't been able to catch up with the stagings as much as I would have wanted to.
Theatre has prospered and evolved even with the apparent encroachments of consumerist culture that favours cinema and television more. Theatre's pro-active role is unique, its influence far-reaching, and its impact tremendous. The joy of performing in front of a live audience is unparalleled for an actor, and hence we see that actors who migrate to other forms return to theatre time and again. Nowadays, there is greater appreciation; there's greater exposure to world theatre as well. The number of training institutes have grown.
Across the world there are multiple specialisations to choose from at the diverse drama schools and training institutes that teach the basics of acting and stagecraft. Theatre still struggles for funding, and hopes for a better future. Ultimately, for an individual, theatre is not about a career or a profession. Theatre is a genuine passion that one can't let go whatsoever. On this day, I salute all such passionate individuals and theatre groups. Happy World Theatre Day!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

First show!!! First time!!!!

On this day, in 1895, at 44 Rue de Rennes in Paris, the Lumière Brothers screened 'Workers leaving the Lumière factory' - the first piece of cinema!
I think it is apt for us to look back at the inception of cinema, as we know it now, as the entire world has been focusing a lot of recent cinematic attention on 'The Artist' and 'Hugo' - both excellent movies on their own.
I had earlier mentioned 'The Artist', in listing my Oscar favorites for the year, it celebrates silent cinema and opens the eyes of the new-age film enthusiasts to this very genre from the past. I have written about my being charmed by 'Hugo' in an exclusive piece too. Recently, I read somewhere that 'Hugo' is Martin Scorsese’s cinematic love letter to Georges Méliès, the famous French illusionist and filmmaker. I loved the befitting tag.
We often neglect history. It's a shame. We must never fail to honour our illustrious past. The Lumière Brothers, Auguste and Louis, could not possibly fathom the ramifications of the cinematic explosion that was destined to happen, and their first screening - or rather the series of screenings which began - was not even meant for the general public (the first public screening was to take place in December that year, at the Grand Cafe on Boulevard de Capuchines, Paris), but history was made with the exposure to the filming and film viewing experience.
Movies have come a long way. Yet, they are still marvelled at. They still fill us with awe, admiration and amazement. The best of the films inspire us, educate us, enlighten us. And moving images or moving images are best interpreted, universally, as movies; they move us, emotionally. They affect us. They affect social changes even.
However, movies are now not just watched, they are consumed!
Movie-making has undergone a sea-change, or rather witnessed waves of changes, waves of revolution, one after the other. Cinema is one of the most dynamic art forms. Cinematic brilliance is honored and revered like never before.
The skeptics have foreseen death of cinema; well, it is yet to happen and is hardly foreseeable in the near future, although evolution has been the order of the day, it is the key to sustenance and survival after all.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Bhooter Bhobishyot: Plight of the Living Dead

Anik Dutta's debut Bangla feature film 'Bhooter Bhobishyot' is a delightful watch.

It is a tongue-in-cheek film about endangered ghosts of an ancient mansion.

Here, the ghosts of the age-old Choudhury Palace face the plight of getting ousted, as it is being eyed for a mall-cum-multiplex, thanks to the contemporary consumerist craze.

The crumbling mansion hosts unique specimens of the living dead, hailing from different era and from different socio-cultural backgrounds, making the colourful past come alive.

They have nowhere else to go, and apparently enjoy their stay at the derelict mansion.

Their abode lures film crew who find shooting amidst the decaying opulence lucrative.

It is an irritant for the ghostly souls - averse to the purported invasion of privacy.

They ensure that the place gets a haunted house tag and remains secluded in obscurity.

They also need to ward off the scheming villains eager to raze the building to the grounds.
I found 'Bhooter Bhobishyot' to be a thoroughly entertaining film. It does not pretend to be pseudo-intellectual, although the premise has multiple layers that will make one chuckle and relish the sardonic wit in the writing. The director deserves a pat in the back for the skilful execution of his novel concept, and the producers deserve some genuine appreciation for having braved to back a project which one would have easily relegated for the small screen, as many a novel idea are found to seek refuge only in the format of tele-films. After all, this is indeed a period of existential crisis for not just the film's ghost protagonists but also for the makers of cinema that chooses to digress from a much trodden path. Anik Dutta's film tries to blend the absurd, or the farcical, with the real. And he succeeds, mostly that is.
The ensemble cast is joy to watch. It includes (the list is really long) Parambrata Chatterjee, Sabyasachi Chakraborty, Anindita Bose, Bibhu Bhattacharya, Swastika Mukherjee, George Baker, Paran Bandyopadhyay, Samadarshi Dutta, Sumit Samaddar, Biswajit Chakraborty, Mumtaz Sorcar, Monami Ghosh, Kharaj Mukherjee, Saswata Chatterjee, Debdoot Ghosh, Srilekha Mitra and Mir. Some of the big names just have cameo appearances, yet each has contributed fairly to make their presence felt.

The teamwork of Indranil Ghosh (art direction), Abhik Mukherjee (cinematography), and ArghyaKamal Mitra (editing) has contributed immensely in creating the ambience and ethos integral to the narrative. The music (by Raja Narayan Deb) is apt and some of the situational songs are a breather (the best songs are however the zany ones featured on Samadarshi, playing Pablo-the-rocker). The spoofy takes on the constitutional inconsistencies of Bangali life, as well as the period-specific milestones that are casually referred to, have enriched the screenplay. The film could have been a crass comedy in lesser hands (although some of the innuendos could have been easily avoided) and a less nuanced tone could have marred the desired effect. I wish the film all the best, and I am keeping my fingers crossed that Bangali viewers (who do not necessarily equate a comedy with a laughathon) will love this breezy celluloid treat.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Happy Birthday, Aamir!

It's that special day........
yeah, you guessed it right......
it's Aamir Khan's birthday!

Aamir is busy giving the perfectionist's touches
to a project that's close to his heart......
Satyamev Jayate, his foray into television.

Also eagerly awaited is his next big screen release
Talaash - The Answer Lies Within.

Here's wishing him a very Happy Birthday
and all the best for all his forthcoming ventures.