Tuesday, January 22, 2008

When Guru Dutt in Kagez Ke Phool comes to meet the Producers who wants him to make movies their way- and refuses, the scene, the light, the camera, the emotion and the acting lifts and arrest a person to an enchanted level, not only the emotions can be felt in the throat, but also in the mind and soul, this is the power which the Indian Cinema possessed. And now we severe lack. Turn on any movie from last year, and sit throw them and not one image would be enchanting as it used to be, they will appear just an image, like any other, no purpose, no weight just their to act as filler. All camera movement will be the same, from one director to the next, it does not matter who is the director, after all in India anyone can direct a film, actually everyone is directing a film this days, and it’s another rich man’s option. Everyone is a filmmaker, but not one of them understands the power of creation.

Cinema today stands for Storytelling; a notion largely popularized by Hollywood and diction of our industry, however, a silver lining separates Hollywood and Bollywood. Even though both woods produce a large number of junk, but lot of movies coming out of America and sold by the Studio’s, sister bodies and Independently, are innovative and stylistic in their usage of mise-en-scene, which allows a degree of authenticity and brings freshness to the power of an image, not only that the expressive use of mise-en-scene, as a stylistic device, but to convey the story in a new way and bring out new meaning which makes the work fresh to look at, even though the matter is rehashed, and since the dawn of American Cinema they always have had innovators and entertainers; Howard Hawk, John Ford, Nicholas Ray, Stanley Kubrick, Martin Scorsese, PTA are all innovators and entertainers, which our Industry severely lacks.

I have yet to see a montage opening sequence which could rival that of Do Annakeh Barah haath in our cinema, the moment the movie begins it arrest you and never leaves you till the final credit roll, a movie made in 1949 talking about prison-reforms, with precise use of montage and long takes is un heard in our cinema today. Even back them song and dance existed, watching the prisoners sing along with V Shantaramn “ Ah Malik Tera Bandeh Hum” transposes you to a different realm altogether, the lyrics are meaningful, the sequence important, and above all it exist because it’s supposed to, not out of purpose, and over the year’ this sense of purpose has been lost.

There is no personal stamp over any work of a director, in short no identity. A work of art has a style and every style is based on unity, and this unity is of the individual, and this individual is missing in our Cinema today. Even the so called pseudo auteur like Sanjay Leela Bhansali leaves no mark or no stamp, huge sets and big canvases does not create a world, even John Ford canvases were huge, but he knew the relationship of an individual to his surrounding and the role of canvases, which is somewhat not translated in the works of people like Sanjay Leela Bahansali.

Once upon a time, yes it feel like a fairy tale, our scripts were written by people like KA Abbas, Abar Alvi who with the likes of master filmamkers as Raj Kappoor, Guru Dutt took Indian Cinema to a new heights, today more than anything our scripts has gone down the drain, for every good film or good script which the entire Industry of audience will scream, we have thousand useless films and works being made. Indian Cinema is thriving today thanks to an audience who is hungry for films, however, our works have detriotried over the years, and regional cinema and few great filmmakers are marginalized to the film festival or art house circuits.

When I freeze a close-up of a Bollywood film today, and on the side freeze another close up taken by Guru Dutt, I realize how much the industry has gone down. Anyone who will witness this shot and reverse shot will see the difference between the power of two distinct images, one emotes without saying a word, the other does not even serve the purpose with words, image and sound both failing to lift the purpose of cinema itself, it just exist in vacuum, simply floating and moving, with no direction or purpose. Perhaps, I have a deep longing and nostalgia for a moment long gone, how unfortunate it is, that our Industry acts as if the past never existed, as if Guru Dutt, VShanatram, Bimal Roy, Raj Kappor, and people like Satyajit Ray, Mirnal Sen, and Ritwik Ghatak don’t exist at all.

Why is that we have not used the lesson taught by our forefathers? Everyone today screams out that he is an individual, but turn any work by a director or an actor today, he appears the same every film; overacting, bad directing and believing what he/she is doing is next to goodliness.The same could have never been said for Raj kappor, Nargis, Dilip Kumar, Ashok Kumar, Madhubala, Guru Dutt, Vijay Anana,d Dev Anand, Chetan Anand and numerous other great’s who touched our emotions and made us laugh and sing. Even comedy film has become a cheap stable of utterly, useless mindless junk, filmmakers tend to believe that we have forgotten, that film like Padosan, Golmaal and Jaine Bhi Do Yarron existed, every genre today which is thrown at us wrapped in a new packet, has been exploited and perfected by out master filmmaker of yesteryears.

If entertainment is the key today then why don’t we have people like Mamohan Desai not only his movies showed us how to entertain but allowed the entertainment to be packaged well, he packed a punch, and his guts packed a punch, his movies as entertainment packed a punch, this punch this drive too is missing from our all out entertainers. Even Subash Ghai’s pot boiler had the elements of a great entertainer, it was masterfully constructed even though their lay deep holes in narrative, which showed it’s weakness, but he weaved a magic out of it, character depth, magical score and above all a work which fits the bill of what an entertainer should be, sadly over the years Mr Subhash Ghai leads the gang of people who lost the plot of making movies, even if it was meant to entertain us. And during the early 70’s and 80’s the Parallel Cinema thrived which gave the Indian audience an option- “A choice”. This choice too has been dead and gone, and Bollywood today dominates our mind and conscious like a dictator would do, feeding us and making us believe that what we watching, listening, witnessing is the greatest gift given to us, nothing like that exist anywhere in the universe, and the only thing and place which reminds me of such suffocation is, North Korea.

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Killers are here.


A review of Killer-7

On the stroke of midnight, I had a real hangover. It was headstrong; it hurt my head hard. I got up, put down the controller, and removed the Killer -7 disc from my console. I had been playing this game continuously for more than three days. I had an inner calling or desire to finish this game, I really did. What did I get from spending three nights playing one of the most fun- idiotic- psychotic- headstrong-frustrating, which slaps you, hard in the face game? Challenge. It stimulated an inner zeal, and I had a sudden urge to accomplish the impossible (Yeah, playing through the game seemed like an uphill task). Mind you people, I really was not having an emotional connection, and if some of you really experienced an emotional connection with those cold-blooded- hard-hitting assassin. It could be called a “Fairy Tale”.

It is only after completing the game one does realize the true greatness of this game. Hideo Kojima says that a “videogame story” is not really a story that needs to be told so much, as it is something to keep the player pressing buttons and advancing the flow. He says the he told the story of Metal Gear Solid-2 the way he did, simply because that kind of a story could only be told in a videogame. The same bar holds true for Killer-7. I had a hard time trying to follow the story. It may seem coherent at first, but it really get’s absurd and perverted. The story talks about WW2 politics, democracy, suicide, homicide, terrorism, kidnapping, slavery etc .You name the most perverted stuff, and it’s present in the game in some form or the other. I realized such a story, which is an amalgamation of all things weird could only be told through such an interactive medium. However, when the game breaks the notion of empowering the gamer, with freedom, liberty, and non-linear approach to accomplishing a goal or task, the pure meaning of video games becomes misnomer. Suffice to say, the game simply overlooks this factor. Nevertheless, it was sheer inquisitiveness on my part for the story and the characters, which prompted me to stick to the game.

Killer-7 is a very confined and predetermined game, where you cannot do what you want. You can only do as much as the game requires. Nothing more, nothing less, there is no complex puzzle, no extra layer of cheesy stuff. The game follows a simple rule of the thumb; hear spooky chuckles- Get ready shoot and move ahead. People proclaim how coke liberates them as individual, and they are magically transformed into a new person; the new person is an alter ego of oneself. The same fundamental holds true for Killer-7. The game let’s you control seven cold hard assassins, who are alter ego of a man in a wheel chair called, Harman Smith. Harman Smith is the leader of this seven nation army. The most unusual and weird thing about Harman Smith is that he carries an extraordinary powerful sniper canon, in spite of being confined to a wheel chair. On the other hand, each of the alter egos of Harman Smith has their own unique characteristics as an assassin. They have their unique set of arsenal to blast asses around. Whether it’s Gracian, Dan, Kaede, Coyote, Mask De, or Con Smith each of them are stylish gun –wielding-butt-kicking-bastard, except one sun-of-a-gun, Kevin. He is a man of no words, he let’s his knives do the talking; beside he has this unique ability to turn invisible. This made his really unique. I really liked the choice of switching between characters. Further, it does not guarantee your chances of immorality. Moreover, if Gracian Smith is killed it’s game over folks. With the weirdest and offending sound, you will ever hear in video games. The adventure part or let us just say moving around in a predetermined path is done mainly in third-person, while shooting is first-person. In the beginning, it is frustrating and confusing; however, if you manage to hang on there, it becomes second nature.

Like it or not, but you often bump into the two most unique and weird people in the game- Iwazaru and Travis. Iwazaru is man in red clad jump suit, whose real purpose I could never figure out, he was there as guide, mentor or just there for the spooks I don’ know cause he rarely spoke anything useful. Unbelievably, Travis is the first person whom Harman killed, and against all odds, he is there, trying to explain you the plot, which in the Japanese version of the game was difficult to follow. In spite of the audio being in English, it was very distorted and hard to follow. Surprisingly the soundtrack really shines, in fact, it really helps you get into the mood, and the mix of styles used perfectly suits the whole atmosphere. I am no graphic whore. But for most people the biggest draw was the graphics It’s nothing of Splinter Cell, Final Fantasy or Metal Gear Solid kind of. Instead, all the characters have low-polygon models, which are not very detailed. Nevertheless, it’s the incredible use of shadows, which really makes the game shine. Furthermore, the unconventional approach is perfectly suited for a game like this; beside it really creates an engrossing atmosphere.

The creators of the game, Shinji Mikami (Producer) and Suda 51(Director) knew it would be love or hate relationship with this game. Suda 51 is more like the artist type, he is the Tim Burton of Japan, as Hiroyuki Kobayashi had mentioned in one of his interviews. His vision for the game certainly breaks the law or tradition of game, which makes the game unique, weird, and somewhat creepy. It feels more like a never-ending orientation of contemporary art. The game is more like an art. Its does let you make your own conclusion on the work and your thoughts on the game, however, when it come to really viewing it one does from the artist perspective. After all, it is his vision, his work, and Killer-7 operates in the same fundamental.

In spite of all its unconventional approach, ambience, and methodology it is definitely refreshing. Beside in a market filled with sequel, prequel, GTA Clone, WW2 shooters, Rooster Updates Sports Games. Killer-7 is unique and exciting videogame.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Directed- Emir Kusturica

The two times Palm D Or’ winner quipped, “I always hope that I’m not so bad”, at the party held after the remarkable screening of the film, at the Cannes Film Festival, and the Serbian flair of trumpet, horns and songs played while the crew and well wisher danced to the tune; the movie had ended with a standing ovation. Underground is unlike any other film I have seen, it’s got the humor and flair present in movies like Life is Beautiful and Dr Strangelove, and at the same time it’s got a mix of documentary and fiction like none other movies based on the horror of war, it’s a cross between tragedy and comedy, basically the movie is a tragicomic satire.

Where Life is Beauitful and Dr Strangelove fails the movie succeeds, what movies like Saving Private Ryan, Schindler List wanted to achieve this movie achieves, and where Communism and Capitalism clash this movie deals. Underground is a tale about two friends, and their journey through World War II, and beyond. It’s a tale which not only shows hope, horror and aspiration what war brings to the world, but above all the movie really highlights the evil of human emotions and human folly, the movie is even more relevant today then when it was released. The relevance is not in highlighting the horrors and showing war in all glory, (Perhaps Steven Spielberg could have learnt a thing or two from this movie, and not go all out in creating theatre out of war), but in highlighting human hypocrisy. When Marko convinces his buddy to stay in a cellar for 15 years, and goes about changing his own tales of war. While creating a history out of lies; personal glory over truth, and it’s at this precise moment, when hypocrisy of the human soul out lives the truth, the movie shatters the faith and belief of karma.

The movie is a political allegory, it gives us a sense of history, a feeling of being present with the central characters; Marko, Blacky and Natalijia, and really outliving their tales in a special way, the journey from supporting the resistance against the Germans, as they bombed Belgrade, and invaded Yugoslavia to the final image of reaching a place where brotherhood and feeling sublime into truth, fittingly a close replication of heaven, a similar image echoes in my head of Godard’s Notre Musique, where the Gates of Heaven are Guarded by the US Marines, and it’s a lush green place, where people play, dance, sing and read.

As I sat watching the movie it made me question the relevance and the meaning of war, without the philosophical quipping of The Thin Red Line, the movie presents the horror of war, and evokes question through imagery, which are a mix between reality and the fragments of reality, while fiction and documentary go hand in hand- Shots of Mako and Natalijia are played with archival footage of bombing of the city, and final rise and fall of it’s great leader, Josip Broz Tito, leader of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. What really makes this movie a masterpiece is allowing us to be part of it, yet leaving the decision in our hands, the freedom of choice, which movies don’t offer. The choice to understand and comprehend the horror, the hope and the laughter of it’s central character, Marko, Blacky and Natalija or simply ignore and laugh, assuming your blindfolded. How many movies based on such themes offer us the choice, definitely not Spielberg’s movies based on the World War-II, however, the one movie which resembles or is similar in it’s illustration is Stanley Kubrick Dr Strangelove, both movies deal with the similar theme and using intelligent humor, peculiar characters and detached plotlines

Every character in the movie feels real, by which I mean one can feel as if the person is living next door to you, as the acting is nothing less than fantastic, yet they don’t allow the systematic motion of empathizing with them, a certain kind of Breachtian cloak is put over them, they make you laugh, they make you feel the inner turmoil, and evil of human emotion, yet identifying and going in their shoes is what they don’t allow, never before characters in film seemed so close yet so faraway.Perhaps the only person who achieved a total detachment from the faces, and body language of actors was the master Robert Bresson, whose models(as he called them), acted with a certain sense of dry, stoic facial and body gestures, yet when they moved and breathed in his space, the result was breathtaking, another key element in the movie which influences the mise-en-scene is the music of the movie, the movie has a very mesmerizing and captivating band which plays along the entire time in the movie, as a matter of fact, when I paused the movie halfway through for a snack, the only thing which played in my mind was the music, it was not catchy like a Britney Spears song would be, but it was more like how musical composition would work on your brains after continuously listening to it for hours.

Emir Kusturica
weaves a magical film from a play and novel by Dusan Kovacevic, taking each of the characters out of the boundaries of the written text to image, he transposes a fable and documentary, fable in a way the narrative and it’s set of character inhabit and move in the given frame of space and time, and documentary in the representation of those characters on the foundation of history; truth and fiction come alive in this movie- when Marko is seen being part of Tito new Yugoslavia one can witness a moment when the time freezes and outwits the film image, digital versus imagery. I was a 11 year old kid when this movie released, and today when I witnessed this work at 21, without any clue of the history of Yugoslavia, and Tito about whom I had read in the History text books, as a key figure in signing the NAM movement, I realize how important the movie is not only telling us about the world as it stands today, but showing how we humans really are, and the only lament I can think of are the words of William Wordsworth, when the movie drew to a close and the whole ensemble of cast are slowly broken away from an island.

“What man has made of man”.