Vihir : The Review

11 PM... 
one of those days when you want to watch a movie that just flows like a river... you ask her half-heartedly if she has any suggestions... she comes up with a weird name "Vihir"... you have heard the name... "no.." you say... not in that mood... and you go back to your minesweeper... nothing comes up in your mind... except Sooraj Ka Saatvan Ghoda... which you have already seen 10s of times .... and which happily provides you a refuge when no other films you think would .... "Lets see.... Vihir"... she repeats as if it is a new suggestion... it is getting on your nerves now... "forget it" you say and get back to your game....  and then suddenly there's this sound, as if it is coming from a river flowing nearby, reaches you.... it's not the river.... but is equally pleasing .... you feel as if you are hearing Ananda Shankar's Tanusree... but its not.... you look at the movie that she has already started....

4 AM... 
she has gone to sleep.... you are still watching the movie... you have played and replayed the scenes... again and again... your eyes are moist.... you want to cry.... the film ends.... and all you want to do is to cry !!!


Directed by Umesh Kulkarni, Vihir is a film about two teenagers who are cousins-cum-friends... it is a film about their journey to seek the meaning of death... and it is about their search to find the hidden answers of life... it is this hide and seek of life and death that the film has portrayed outstandingly well. And what an astonishing way to portray this thru the game itself...

The film starts with Nachiket, Sameer(Samya) and the exchange of letters between the two... Nachiket, the elder of the two, has finished his 10th and is puzzled by the way the world works with it's idiosyncrasies... he seeks the answers of things which are somewhere between the layers of physics and spirituality.... he wants to find the universe's center of energy... he wants to feel the moment when the energy changes it's form... Sameer, on the other hand, has no interest in physics or for that matter studies. His interest lies in swimming... for him the highs of the life lie in doing a care-free backstroke under the cloudy sky... The common thing that brings a shine in their eyes is the chance to meet and spend time together during their aunt's upcoming marriage...


All the sisters have reached their parents house with their children weeks prior to the wedding to help the family prepare for the wedding.... the children use this time to play the game of hide-and-seek.... while all the children are trying to hide: Nachiket, instead of hiding in some dark corner, sits right in the veranda quietly, when asked by the aunt he explains... he cannot be seen as he is invisible. Later on, when the game ends he is asked by Sameer the reason for not hiding.... he explains that the one who is seeking tries to find in all the dark corners but is oblivious to the things that are visible to his eyes... and hence if you don't try to hide... the seeker will not be able to find you as no one looks at the things that are visible to eyes. He tries to explain to Sameer that being invisible is not being not there but ... being invisible is looking at things but not perceiving them to be there.... It is at this point that Sameer sees a spark of the struggle that is going inside Nachiket.... neither the ability to grasp such a theory nor the wish to understand it further Sameer gives up the topic calling it complex physics.

while the family is engrossed in the preparation, financial and other difficulties of the sisters and the bride's reluctance to marry, Nachiket and Samya see the things from their newly found perspective which is the first tragedy of their adolescence... they are at a weird cross-roads of life where in they understand that the life is not as simple as the game of hide and seek or a bedtime story....  they also don't have the maturity to understand the worldly ways and the logic behind it.... it is this mid-way between two worlds that intrigues them, especially Nachiket. Although quiet on the outside, there is a battle that has started within him.... it is even worse for him as he feels away from the family and the worldly things that he does not agree with...

Meanwhile in-between the continuous bustling at the home... Nachiket and Samya visit the village well to swim and keep visiting it. During one such visit, Nachiket talks about running away with the wind... Samya, crazy about his elder brother, quips that he would catch up with him wherever Nachiket would go.... Nachiket tells him how disturbed and suffocated he feels in the world and how he would like to run away from everyone and everything and be free like the wind... Samya is angry towards his brother and the best friend, as he can not imagine his life without Nachiket.... he also can not understand the things on life, death and being invisible... for him it is just the complex physics which is on the verge of taking his best friend away from him....

Samya leaves the village for a short visit to his city for the swimming competition.... he returns back only to find his cousin, mentor and best friend Nachiket leaving everybody behind... but he has not run away.... he has drowned in the same well that they used to visit and talk in.... its here that samya's long journey starts.... he can not understand the fact that Nachiket is no longer with him to talk to or to write to.... it even disturbs him more that he could not understand what Nachiket meant when he perceived it to be complex physics.... the only clue he has is that Nachiket was disturbed and felt suffocated by the world around him... and he wanted to run away like wind being invisible...

... and thus begins Samya's quest to find the answers that his big brother took away with him. It is an incredible mourning and pain inside Samya that keeps questioning the reason behind the death and life... the movie reaches its climax when samya runs away from the home to seek nachiket not in some dark corner of his gloomy existence but in the most visible places his eyes could never see....  the second half of the movie has another actor to it in form of silence... have never seen silence being used so well in a film before... it is a deafening silence of the struggle within Samya... and at the same time it is an extremely quiet residual of the world that Samya is left with, after Nachiket's departure.... it is this journey that he has to make alone.... in the end this film is not about the eternal spark Nachiket had... but it becomes Samya' journey from darkness to brightness

I will leave it to the readers (if at all there are any) to find  whether Samya catches up with Nachiket or not.

The film is a visual treat... the angles that Sudhir Palsane has used not only makes you a part of the film but also brings emotions by making the audience a member of the vast maternal family... there are countless scene which will take your breath away.... the initial one where in you are taken into the house is fascinating.... it is the first scene that actually sets the tone of the entire movie.... you will feel as if you have been whisked into the game of hide-and-seek.... one of the high point in cinematography is Sudhir's ability to capture the distant scenes... the camera is deliberately away even in some of the scenes which show Sameer and Nachiket's emotions... I am sure the crew would have known that the viewer would be flowing in the emotions that they want to bring out.. the usage of the distant angles for characters using the well, the family yard, the trees, the vast barren lands makes the invisible character of the rustic village to life...

The music by Mangesh Dhakade is exceptional. The silence within the film and the music has been used as the master stroke... they have just melted with the script....  I guess the credit of it goes to the writers Satee Bhave, Girish Kulkarni(who also plays the uncle in the film splendidly) and the director.


The film has Mohan Agashe, Sulabha Deshpande and other actors... however, it is the chemistry between Madan Deodhar and Aalok Rajwade playing Nachadada and Samya that brings the film to life.... in fact it has been shot so well you will feel the director has put cameras on actual locations with actual people...


One of the best films I have ever seen... Simply superb... wish I could be invisible and go back to the streets of my childhood again... hope the wind carries me with it... and hope it hides me well.



.... and yes I was an ass to ignore this gem.... I saw this more than a year after it released.... would have been decades had "A" not pestered me.....
Thanks Sudhish Kamath and Amrita for sharing such a treat !!!

Read more...

Alien



He looked at the reflection in the mirror...

The eyes were red. He couldn't remember whether they ever were white. The face looked haggard. The mirror, as per it's habit, returned the truth back to him. The water droplets were slipping down his face to the lower parts. The shower hadn't helped. He could still feel the fatigue hovering around him like the silence he was used to. For a moment or two, he thought of turning the shower back but then decided against it.

He pulled the towel and wiped his face clean. He looked at the scars on his body and remembered the days he used to feel ashamed of the disfigurements. A smirk came on his face. Now to look back, he thought, those were the normal days.
He dreaded the last step. He always had. To open, enter and face the outside world.

He gave the last look at the tired reflection and sighed. The face looked similar but it wasn't his own.
They had won... They had finally converted him.

image courtesy : Pradyumna Sarkar 

Read more...

Quests and Careers


... around two and a half months back... I met these wonderful people.
I described the idea to mentor the Java Freshers batch to Bhairav...

foolishly, It seems we have taken up the idea to "correct" everything which is going wrong...
Listed all the things which usually go wrong in the learning programs and how the IT organizations have become "large-scale" factories for programmers. No new ideas crop up... and even they do... they are silenced by "we-know-it-all" jerks...

anyway... we did try...
All of them have graduated with excellent scores. Within a day or two they will be lost in this rat-race of deliveries-appraisal-salary : the life.... and there awaits a cruel world outside.

a lot of them would be sucked into the crazy circus... but if a few... if just a few can question the rules... wouldn't it be all worth?...  because we have taught them to ask questions... Haven't we?

Read more...

Hindi Cinema : 10 Years... 10 Films



Before I start another of my countdown, Let me clarify, this certainly is not the list of 10 best films of the decade. I would rather tag it as "10 Hindi Films of the decade I would like my grandchildren to watch". The list is of 10 films which attracted me the most from 2000 to 2009. I wish I had also seen films like Amu, 15th Park Avenue, Firaaq, Paanch, The Namesake and many others before writing this blog... (disclaimer : loooong post)











10 : Pinjar (2003) : Blame me for being extremely nostalgic, but I am a sucker for period dramas especially on partition. May be it's my Sindhi blood and may be I worship Gulzar too much. Pinjar is a heart-wrenching tale of a girl who gets entagled in the worst disaster of our history, the partition.


When you compare it with M S Sathyu's Garm Hawa, Pinjar might not stand anywhere, still every time, I watch this movie, it gives me goosebumps. It's a fantastic movie with brilliant performances from Urmila Matondkar, Manoj Bajpai & Priyanshu Chatterjee. After Maachis, this was one movie with a lot of brilliant scenes. Take the scene where Rashid(Manoj Bahpai) tells Puro(Urmila) how his heart has somehow found solace by the loss of his burnt down farms by her brother. However, my favorite remains the last one in which Puro runs to find Rashid, Initially her tormentor and then her soul-mate.


Expectedly, the film didn't do well and Chandra Prakash Dwivedi hasn't made any films since. But I hope he does, as I know just like me, many others have adored Pinjar.








9 : The Blue Umbrella (2005) : Back in my school days, we used to have a week of celebration as Children's week every year. A cinema hall in the city used to show-case children's films for all 7 days in the morning show, and we, as children, used to get free passes for these films. Strangely, many of the films that we saw were not "children's" films, rather they were movies with child actors. I am not sure whether I need to put The Blue Umbrella as children's film. My problem is with the new films. We either come up with animation movies or movies with tons of special effects. To be sell-able the movie must have something extra-ordinary. I don't sincerely have a problem with these things. However, it doesn't leave any space for a simple story. 


I am glad Vishal did come up with one. The Blue Umbrella  is a story of a small village in Himachal where Binya is the apple of the eyes for the villagers because of a marvelous umbrella she possesses. The film revolves around a shopkeeper, the richest person in the town, and his scheming ways to have the umbrella.


The film excels due to a simple and endearing story (by Ruskin Bond) and brilliant performances by Pankaj Kapoor & Shreya Sharma. There is a scene in the film where Nandu  is dealing with his injuries and the dilapidated shop after being outcast from the village. The girl visits him to buy some toffees. It brings an expression on his face which nobody else but Pankaj Kapoor could have produced. It's a shame nobody else (but Vishal) has used his skills to this extent lately. It's a gem, not to be missed.





8 : Sehar (2005) : Directed by Kabeer Kaushik, Sehar is a film about the police force and the way it tackles organized crime. The movie, instead of following a usual action-thriller-emotion genre, deals with it's subject purely on the technicalities. This was one of the reasons, the film failed and to my utter disgust didn't even have a show in some of the big cities. The distributers/theatre owners just refused the film before even we could decide it's fate. None-the-less, this has been one of the bravest films ever to be produced. My sincere salute to the producer/director of the movie for coming up with such an honest film. 


Sehar follows SSP Ajay Kumar(played by Arshad Warsi)'s Special Task Force which has been assigned to deal with Gajraj Singh and in general the organized crime in UP. The film is set in the 90's when mobile phones were new and the entire force was unaware of the technicalities. Ajay Kumar enlists the help of a Physics lecturer, Prof. Tiwari (played brilliantly by Pankaj Kapoor). The entire story has been told as a flashback from the professor's perspective. It would be wrong for me to compare Sehar with Ardh Satya, but I can not help myself, and believe me, this movie does justify the comparison. To this date, It has been the best performance by Arshad Warsi, in my opinion. Sadly, Kabeer Kaushik hasn't repeated the spark that he showed in his first film.





7 : Black Friday (2004) : Before I even start writing about this one, let me lament again(as in my earlier blogs) that this movie could certainly have brought an Oscar nomination, if not the award itself.
Every time, I dream about making a film, Anurag Kashyap's struggles pull me back. His fault, he came up with two wonderful movies which didn't go well with our government. Yes, in the name of religion & region our leaders are supposed to kill innocents, but in the name of Cinema, you can not portray the same on celluloid. 
So, even before my capabilities as a movie-freak are considered, I concede the defeat. I simply do not have guts to struggle. Better be a blogger.
Black Friday depicts the real-life events of the Mumbai Bomb Blast of 1993 which claimed over a thousand lives. The film is based on the book by Hussain Zaidi. The script is tightly bound with the book (and yes, it is strange in Hindi Film Industry). The movie has endearing performances by almost everybody (& it does have a lot of actors) topped by Aditya Shrivastava. It's a miracle, Anurag pulled it off in the industry. A lot of cinephiles actually started understanding all the aspects of Cinema after knowing about Kashyap's plight. 



6 : Munnabhai MBBS (2003) : If filmmakers like Anurag Kashyap & Dibakar Banerjee introduced us to new genres & styles of film-making, Rajkumar Hirani did the other way round. He took us back to the golden old days of film-making when we had clean and endearing stories by Hrishida


Munnabhai series is, in true sense, a first of it's kind series of films in India similar to Shrek & Ice-age. Munna & Circuit are the stooges we had always missed in our cinema. Both the movies in the series are enjoyable to the hilt because of the endearing acts from Sanjay Dutt & Arshad Warsi. These movies are like Pani-Puris.... you are always ready for the next as soon as you finish the one in your hand. So keep serving...







5 : Gulaal (2009) : Well I know, one would not agree with my selection for Gulaal ahead of DevD and Black Friday. However, this being my list (for my grandchildren), I have the right of my own guilt-pleasure, and this being one of them.


Although questionable in a lot of selection criterias, this certainly is a movie which has remained my favorite of all Anurag Kashyap movies (I am yet to watch Paanch). Unlike the tightly bound script of Black Friday, Gulaal gave Kashyap a vast ground to play with and to build the characters. And boy-o-boy, he does have a knack to build them... I am sure, it is easier to do so when you are also a good scriptwriter and a wonderful casting director. 


Gulaal is the story of college politics in a fictional city of Rajasthan. Two gangs are at loggerheads to gain the control of the university. Both of which are being controlled by two warring scions. The story revolves around a commoner who gets involved in the mud and how he is used by each of the gangs. The movie is a class in itself. It is a must for every dreamer like me who adores cinema. It is amazing to see how Kashyap has come up with such wonderful cast & crew.  Characters like Prithvi Bana, played by Piyush Mishra who also happens to be the Music Director of the movie, and Bahrupiya are the actual masterstrokes which provide the dark undertone of the movie. The music is outstanding. 


The film is about politics. More so, It's about self-indulgence of a film-maker. And who am I to complain, as long as it gives my dose of cinema.... Kashyap... Take a Bow.





4 : Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi (2005) : (excerpts taken from one of my earlier blogs). Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi is a film about youth and what defines it: Ambition, Love & Dreams. The film is about three friends who study in the era of the beginning of the naxal movements. Siddharth - An energetic student who dreams of a marxist revolution & equality in India. Geeta- A girl for whom life is nothing but love, towards Siddhartha and his morals, and finally Vikram- an ambitious go-getter who lusts for power and money and loves Geeta. Their persona is a reflection of their upbringing. Siddharth being from an upper class hasn't ever worried about his own bread n butter so he does about others. Geeta, from a middle-class family, thinks about a peaceful life and a husband in Siddharth. Vikram, on the other hand has suffered because of his father's Gandhian philosophy and hence is always after money. They all go their separate ways after their dreams and how they turn out to be. Film has a wonderful cast of Kay Kay Menon, Chitrangada Singh & Shiney Ahuja.


This is a wonderful film by Sudhir Mishra and is mildly similar to his earlier film, Yeh Woh Manzil To Nahin, which is impossible to be found. 







3 : Khosla Ka Ghosla (2006) : Khosla Ka Ghosla did in Hindi Film Industry what Fargo did in Hollywood. This small budget film came and conquered the industry just the way Fargo did. Khosla Ka Ghosla is a brilliant example of how a film should be made. The first and foremost of it is the script. For this, I think both Jaideep Sahni & Dibakar should be commended. The film has a wonderful script, nice characters, actors that fit the characters(and not only SRKs, AKs, HRs & Akkis for every lead role) and the use of locales & sets that fit the entire story line. 


The film is about a middle class family in Delhi. KK Khosla, the patriarch of the family, has bought a piece of land in Delhi investing all his savings. However the land-sharks usurp the land. The film shows the family's struggle to get their own land back and their own individual struggles. Every scene from the movie is tragic but hilarious. Notice the performance of Boman Irani and you'll notice our own Al Pacino. Some time back, I had reviewed "It's a wonderful Life" and had written that the characters of Bert & Ernie actually gives a better understanding of George's character. The same way, It's the character of Munjal that is so brilliantly written, it makes you understand Khurana.


Dibakar, in one of his interviews, said that the film's heart is in the character of the land-shark Khurana. For me, it lies in the characterization of Kamal Kishor Khosla and his pal Mr. Sahni. Anyway, I think I'll go by Dibakar's view because as Mr. Sahni put it "Bhenchod, Yeh Zamana Hi Compromise Ka Hai" !





2 : Maqbool (2003) : I read somewhere Maqbool is Macbeth meets Godfather. In fact, Vishal Bhardwaj himself also acknowledged that the film is his adaption of Macbeth. It has taken the inspiration from the bard's play however it is the most "original" adapted screenplay that comes to my mind. 


The film starts with the mafia don Abbaji and his adopted muse Maqbool. The film shows Maqbool  & Nimmi's betrayal of Abbaji and it's final outcome. Vishal's script has converted the three witches in the corrupt police officers who play the comic officers cum astrologers. Again, Pankaj Kapoor stills the show by his powerful portrayal of Abbaji. Such a wonderful actor he is. He is present in around 10 scenes only but you will feel it during the entire movie. 


I wish Omkara would have been of the same class. Ajay Devgan messed up the character of Othello. Every time he needed to show emotion, he looked constipated. But I believe, one can't help it. I myself mess it up every time I try to cook Poha at home.



Coming back to Maqbool, this is truly a marvel to be cherished by connoisseurs.


1 : Mithya (2008) : Again an act of pure self-indulgence from my end. However, if I have to choose one movie from the entire decade (2000 - 2009), It would certainly be Mithya. 


Directed by Rajat Kapoor, Mithya is a story of a struggling actor VK, played by Ranvir Shorey, who has the same face as of a mafia don. All VK wants to do is to act and fails. So what if an actor loses his memory and is told that he is a Don. Just like the characters of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind where the perennial lovers end up finding each other in their lost memories, an actor in VK does play the role of a Don which he is not. 
The film is a masterpiece with a wonderful cast & extremely haunting background music. 


This is one film, I am not sure how to categorize it. However, just like Raghu Romeo, it is another of Rajat Kapoor's mystery which I might find an answer to in coming years...
... as for Ranvir, this has been his best performance till date... same for Neha & Brijendra Kala.





... There are other movies too which I just loved in the past decade like Waisa Bhi Hota Hai Part II, Raghu Romeo... but I think If I have to give 10 to my children and then theirs, It would certainly be the ones I mentioned above...


(Courtesy : All the photographs are taken from Google and digitally modified by me. Kindly let me know for any violation I may be doing)

Read more...