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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Feeling penguiny

Have I gone delusional this summer? Am feeling all penguiny for sure!
Remember the movie 'Sister Act'? And that classic piece of dialogue immortalized by Whoopi Goldberg, "I am a nun! ..... I am a penguin...."?
I dig that!
As the heat is hitting the roof and the discomfort level is shooting up, my thoughts are that of the penguins, and not those birds for real, or their sweet made up tales that I grew up on, but the cheeky animated ones from the 'Madagascar' films...... ha ha ha....... here's raising a toast to them as they are gracing the television screens in America that a friend of mine updated me about. The Penguins of Madagascar, we need you here in India too........ seriously, are the channel honchos listening?

Sunday, April 21, 2013

'The Croods'

Unadulterated fun and extra special zing with the 3D effects make 'The Croods' a must watch family film this summer, with an extra emphasis on the word family!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Ani and Bonnie: Feasting on Bangla Cinema

It has been quite sometime that I have had an extensive chat with Bonnie which I felt like incorporating here, to share with my readers. Incidentally, just the other day Bonnie initiated a conversation that centered around Bangla films. For obvious reasons, the chat cannot be reproduced in entirety, but I have kept much of our original conversation that focused on some of the recent films.
Bonnie: You have been ecstatic after watching 'Shabdo', do you think it is the best film in these few years that Bangla cinema has been witnessing a resurgence of sorts?
Ani: Well, it is one of the best films for sure......
Bonnie: And you liked it more than 'Goynar Baksho' which has also released on the same day, and both being termed Poila Baisakh attractions?
Ani: You know, I do not believe in comparisons like that especially when two films are so difficult in terms of content and treatment......
Bonnie: Yes, they are different.....
Ani: And in appeal as well. 'Shabdo' is for the serious viewer, it's a bit classy, if I may say so.
Bonnie: I found 'Shabdo' to be really powerful, the way it makes a cinematic statement.....
Ani: I loved everything about it, right from the subject to the cast, and the handling of sound itself...... fabulous!
Bonnie: Okay, now what about dropping a few words about 'Goynar Baksho'?
Ani: 'Goynar Baksho' has been Aparna Sen's pet project that has been written and speculated about for quite some time. I have already said that it is a lovely transcreation of magic realism that is largely a success in the print format only. The nuances and the multi-layered treatment supersede the basic plot-points and make a feminist statement that Aparna Sen has effectively communicated in the best of her films. I am happy to note that the film is much better than the director's last offering, 'Iti Mrinalini'.
Bonnie: 'Iti Mrinalini' can at best be called pretentious and disappointing. Especially because of the universally appealing film by the same director prior to it..... 'The Japanese Wife'.
Ani: Many had started complaining that eminent directors like Aparna Sen, Buddhadeb Dasgupta and Gautam Ghose had become too repetitive and complacent.
Bonnie: I think the market dynamics are to blame as well.
Ani: Well, the truly creative makers should always rise to the occasion....... after all, they make films to communicate, to assert, and to connect. Their quality work is also an affirmation of cinema itself.
Bonnie: Look at the next generation of so-called serious or creative filmmakers like Anjan Dutt and Rituparno Ghosh, there is an over-indulgence that has been drowning their content.
Ani: I loved Anjan Dutt's 'Dutta vs Dutta', but I am indifferent to his Byomkesh films, which strike gold commercially.
Bonnie: Ditto for Sandip Ray's recent films which have been decent earners at the box-office but I'd rather not talk about them. I believe he is too good a filmmaker (and drawing a comparison with Satyajit Ray would be just pointless) to be doing mediocre Feluda films, or other thrillers.
Ani: I agree. What particular aspect of the spate of Bangla films do you like most, other than the simple fact that more and more people are watching them, many of them are giving stiff competition to Hindi films, the typical Bollywood products, in the theaters?
Bonnie: I am loving the variety.......
Ani: And it is a very recent phenomenon at that......
Bonnie: Yes, we have serious cinema, mainstream films, middle of the road entertainers......
Ani: We have romances, comedies, romantic comedies, actioners and dramatic films..... all viewed by the same range of viewers, some times they create a favorable buzz that generates more footfalls in the theaters.
Bonnie: The multiplexes too can't ignore the potential of a Bangla film with a saleable cast or with an interesting story, the showtimes allotted to Bangla films have hence multiplied.
Ani: True, but still the step-motherly treatment continues at places, there are tales of the air-conditioner being switched off during Bangla film screenings and some such horrors that one may come across online.
Bonnie: Oh no! That's ridiculous! We, viewers, cannot be taken for granted, Ani!
Ani: I know, but you have to accept that regional films are regional films, and unless we have a nationwide consciousness and urge to promote the regional fare, films made in many regional languages have to brave the biases and bite back with our content's edge.
Bonnie: What about the umpteen hits from down south (essentially Telugu and Tamil) that get remade in Bangla? Haven't they lost their sheen?
Ani: Yes, and no. Remember, it is the prerogative of certain production houses, and not based on a particular demand for Telugu/Tamil movies. Some of the remakes have failed to become box-office wonders that they were supposed to become, but a few have not done too badly. Personally, I am unimpressed by most, some wonder how I manage to sit through them....... hahaa.......
Bonnie: It's simply because you are a movie-junkie, what else?
Ani: I hate it when the dramatic potential fails to be reworked by means of a good script or a solid execution..... but I felt satisfied after seeing 'Bojhena Se Bojhena' which did justice to the original's high-end emotions. The songs were good too.
Bonnie: That brings us to the topic of soundtracks of Bangla films, recently they are a rage......
Ani: That has been happening for quite some time, it works both ways, the film's success is often guaranteed by the good songs and at other times the songs get an extra mileage because of being part of an interesting film, or even a potboiler.
Bonnie: People love dancing to the tunes as much as dancing has become a staple ingredient in the masala films.......
Ani: The gloss, the polish and the technical competence have ensured that the indigenous products do not look as bad as they used to a decade or two ago, when they were considered pale copies or poor man's entertainers. I am hopeful that the copy-paste jobs would themselves go extinct in the not so distant future.
Bonnie: Would that make room for the truly creative people in the industry, all the more?
Ani: Being a game-changer is not the cup-of-tea for most of us, I'm afraid.
...... As a quick wrap-up, let us name some of the other recent films that we liked.
Bonnie: Right. I liked 'Tawbe Taai Hok' for its daring to be poetic, 'Hawa Bodol' for its bringing in a lot of spirited moments that one can laugh and chuckle to, in the company of friends.......
Ani: I liked two other new-age zany romances, 'Maachh, Mishti & More' and 'Baapi Baari Ja'.
Bonnie: And as much as I felt sorry for the situational comedy 'Damadol' - it tries too hard, and falls flat - I loved 'Kidnapper' for delivering exactly what it attempted to deliver.
Tell me who are the fresh talents who excite you or who you would be backing in the future.
Ani: Film-making is an art that does not guarantee successes beforehand, one's previous works cannot be a guarantee to one's future success or consistency...... there are filmmakers who have time and again delivered and have thus lived up to the promise, I am not into names-dropping, and are hence considered viable or bankable......
Bonnie: And, it should be said that bankability of the kind you are referring to can only guarantee financial backing for their forthcoming projects; it is too expensive a craft, despite the promise of a greater reach, what with even solid suggestions to integrate the markets both in India and Bangladesh; making films is not a mean job, eh?
Ani: True. We can only be hopeful, we need to exploit - not in a negative sense though - the buoyant spirit that seems to boost film-viewing. At least, we can do our bit to promote fresh ideas, fresh talents, and most importantly good cinema. I always say, that one should watch Bangla films; one might even engage with friends and fellow enthusiasts in a bit of harsh talk, pan or praise, what the heck, but do make films thrive!
May the coming months bring a whiff of fresh air as we keep feasting on Bangla cinema.
'Tawbe Taai Hok'

'Goynar Baksho'

'Hawa Bodol'

'Maachh, Mishti & More'

'Baapi Baari Ja'


'Bojhena Se Bojhena'

'Dutta vs Dutta'

Monday, April 15, 2013

What maketh a superhero?

The fact that my last post on superheroes got a great response from my readers has led me to shed some more light on the topic.
Who is a superhero?
We mostly recognize our favorite superheroes by their attire, by the special look of theirs, of course. Although a superhero's costume may make identifiable or recognizable, instantly, costumes do not make a man, and as such a vibrant or colorful costume, often with a logo incorporated, cannot be a guarantee of one's being a superhero, can it?
Well, any hero who is a Tom, Dick or Harry may not qualify to be a superhero.
A superhero is simply someone who is born with exceptional, and rather unexplainable powers;
the powers need not be super-powers
but they need to be used for the greater good, unselfishly, heroically.

The selflessness of the superhero is of utmost importance.
A lot of obstacles, a lot of weaknesses are required to be overcome by a superhero, he might have to battle with his personal tragedies, has to grapple with personal tragedies and great personal losses, and yet he has to hold dear the cause of society, or his city which is faced with huge crises, he has to be willing to sacrifice himself for the cause, he has to have an unflinching desire in his model role-play as a savior.
My favorite superhero, many of my readers have wanted to know, had been Superman, since I was first introduced to superheroes - when I was a kid - by the Superman comics and the films (starring Christopher Reeve). But, later, I shifted my loyalty to Batman, the other immensely popular cape-clad superhero, largely influenced by the Tim Burton film (1989) and by the recognition of the fact that Bruce Wayne did not need any superpowers to become Batman; he used intellect and martial arts skills and was aided by wealth and technology to combat the villains, which was quite a style statement for my impressionable mind as a teenager.

Spider-Man captured my imagination much later. No wonder that the comic-books chronicling Peter Parker's grappling with adolescence, his emotional vulnerability, and his self-obsessions, along with his agility and super-strength, the transformation to Spider-man, have attained cult status. Even as an adult I could relate to the protagonist's yearnings and leanings. The trilogy of the live-action films starring Tobey Maguire became my instant favorites as I loved them all (2002 - 2007). The franchise has had a reboot with Andrew Garfield playing the superhero, and although I have a special soft corner for Tobey in the role, am hooked on the new take (the first film in this series, 'The Amazing Spider-Man', was released last year). Glad to have found Andrew Garfield fitting the Spidey suit to a T.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Nicolas Le Floch

It is a television series that has had me enraptured.
And it is in French, a language which I do not follow.
I have to rely solely on the subtitles, yet it is so very exciting!
Set in the shadow of the big and small events that characterize the history of 18th Century France, the series features Nicolas Le Floch, the fictional hero from the detective novels of Jean-François Parot, who happens to be the young Marquis of Ranreuil and Police Commissioner at the Châtelet. The tales are of sordid crime and passion, laced with intrigue and depravity, romance and mystery, and above all a historical grandeur of the times which were an admixture of the best and the worst.
Aired on TV5 Monde Asie, the Asian counterpart of the French channel, on Monday nights, the series has me wondering why the whole world isn't buzzing about its charm. Absolutely recommended, for adults only.