Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Café Lumiere

We often went to the movies. The screen lit up and we trembled…But more often than not Madeleine and I were disappointed. The pictures were dated, they flickered. And Marilyn Monroe had aged terribly. It made us sad. This wasn’t the film we’d dreamed of. This wasn’t the total film that each of us had carried within himself...the film we wanted to make, or, more secretly, no doubt, that we wanted to live.
Paul, in Jean-Luc Godard’s Masculin‑féminin

Every time I travel back from college or randomly hop on a bus. I try understanding the subtle nature of how light and patterns reflect on our moods and affect our lives- consciously. I guess we are never aware of how much color is part of our lives. And at the same time, I try deciphering and comparing two distinct images from Cinema and Life. Sometimes, when I slightly tinge my pupil and look across; everything get’s out of focus and blurred at night. Cars, street lights, people, everything becomes an union of yellow, blue and red echoing a distinct similarity to the image we see on screen. Then there is a nature of presenting thing in “Dramatic time”, the cause and effect structure of how most films work. And at the same time representing the “Non-Dramatic” moments of our life, as a matter of fact most our lives are build on the latter moments. The high verisimilitude present in most films is definitely not how life unfolds, subjectively or objectively as if their exist something as objective realism, without confusing it with “Real Actual World”.

Their is something very special about, Bernando Bertuluci, The Conformist. It’s made up of intricately choreographed and crafted moments and each scene feels like a tableaux. The frame is well equilibrated with light, texture, space and the same time it’s very easy on the eye; pleasing and observable. In one memorable scene from the film, The Conformist is traveling with his Wife in a Train, and various degrees of yellow, orange saturated hues and colors reflect through the windows. I was more struck looking at those colors, and not with what was happening in the scene. Similar moments from Godard's Pierrot Le Fou echoed in my mind. Jean Paul Belmondo and Anna Karnia are driving, and a constant flux of street lights move diagonally across the windshield. Every since I have always wondered does such varying degrees of light formulate in our lives and is it even plausible.

I have always found that my life in Delhi reflects how a Hollywood film works, fast paced, lacks identity, simply full of blokes and cloaks and everyone moves at such rhythm and pace that they forget to live. Most of our lives here echo that of other- Meaning, the identities are so much counter balanced that it’s difficult to denote who belongs where. After having spend months without taking a break. I decided to travel back home. There is a certain luxury when it comes from traveling back or staying at home. The moments, gestures and the pace are completely opposite. The train journey back home is a special moment. I was relaxed and deep into reading Truffaut seminal Biography when shades of vertical rays of sun reflected through the window on my book for a moment- I kept reading. Then, within a matter of second, the yellow got richer and deeper, and I turned back and looked outside. I could see the sky covered in rich shades of soothing yellow and melancholic red- The Conformist flashed in my mind I knew such similar moments do echo in life. Perhaps, its such subtle moments that makes up the purity of image. What artist go out and seek, a certain divine force, which together makes what “Truth” and perception of “Reality” within a work and power of image stands for. The ability to blend and enter your heart and refine your sense, move you in certain aspect. Sadly, such moments hardly exist in the “Bollywood thrash” we are constantly feed with.

I stood outside in the courtyard basking the morning glory sun, and just gazed at the rhythm and pace with which people moved and things unfolded. Almost everything felt like plotless cinema. Jim Jarmusch was right when he said, “Life has no plot why movies should”. I often think of Yasujiro Ozu as a humanitarian and Anthropologist, his films showed the purpose and struggle of everyday existence- Documentation on living. His films even though made with acute degree of austerity could be broken into waves of everyday emotion, gestures, problems and feeling.

In 2003 commemorating the centenary of Ozu birth, Shochiku for whom Yasujiro Ozu made his films, commissioned a film to pay homage to the last Master. Hou Hsien Hou one of the greatest filmmaker alive today was hired to direct the film, and Cafe Lumiere was born. I saw the film at the 2007 Osian Film Festival and was overwhelmed the way the film progressed. There is such warmth when watching the film that you get a sense your living. It did have the elements of family, trains and a story set in a contemporary Japan, but the film was quintessentially Hou. It had his long takes, ellipses and beautiful framed scenes and a convoluted use of off-screen space. In the beginning of the film, we see a young girl talking to a woman off –screen while Hou’s camera remains static. Hou does not bother to reveal who the woman is and as the movie progress we don’t remember about the woman, it’s only later in the film when the young girl’s parents visit her Hou bothers showing the neighbor. By then most people have forgotten about her, and it’s such moments and dimension of progressive narrative that makes Hou one of the greatest narrative filmmaker alive as he often referred.

Café Lumiere is a beautiful film. Provided you know what you are looking for. On surface the film may seem so out of the world, as it’s broken and paired down to such distinct images, sound and characters that though they appear warm, but are somewhat reconciled within their obsession or image they have formulated. A similar distinction with the films of Yasujiro Ozu. Though their exist certain freedom and space within the frame yet one can feel a certain tension or self-restraint in this film of Hou, which though close to Ozu on the thematic and contextual level breakaway in it’s notion for concealing and reveling or out spoken resealed. Ozu fundamentally never moved his camera, they were always still, or even when it moved the composition did remain the same. However, Hou camera does reframe- pan, tilt so even though their exist a certain similarity in their mis-en-scene, but Ozu mise-en-scene had more vitality and rigor then Hou. Though, Hou film's especially the ones based on the rich and complex History of Taiwan is so layered and dense, that I remember the first time I saw the film I was lost.

Café Lumiere is a film which is very difficult to put into words. It’s like when you go on a holiday, one can easily express his/her feeling regarding the places and tourist destination one visited. But it would be hard to express if one by sheer luck or chance get’s to experience something more delicate. Something which was unplanned, as if it happened out of thin air. That is the magic of the film, lot of people might not understand that, a film about a young girl who is pregnant and decides to keep the baby irrespective of marrying the guy could be told in such non-dramatic fashion. Had this been a “Hollywood” or “Bollywood” film a lot of time and energy would have been spend dealing with the girl as a victim or victimized with chutzpah of emotions and kitsch to account for

Café Lumiere is delicate, warm, sweet, you can feel, breathe, rest, relax, walk, and run in the cinematic space. And even get lost. One of my favorite scenes in the film is when the father comes back home, and sits down to drink and watch TV. Hou Hsien Hou camera simply lingers on as he drinks and watches TV. There is something so special in this scene, which cannot be put into words. I guess, I find such mundane scenes very special. Whether it’s a Hong Sang Soo film where people group around to eat, or Hou Hsien Hou film where the camera lingers on too allow a person to observe and appreciate his own existence and cherish the small moments in his life. It really echoes with moments, time, lights, energy, gestures which I find really special. For eg: A simple act of drinking tea with friends, smoking a cigarette, walking on a lonely road, standing in your balcony, watching TV alone and many other such small moments in our lives which makes most of our “ Dead Time”, perhaps it’ such moments I seek in our Indian Films. And I’m sure they would come a time when we would be ready to stand up and make films which is attuned to our “Everyday realities” in the same breath and manner like our " Masters".

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Indian Directors- A Report Card.

On March 30th, 1955, Truffaut published in Art a tract entitled “The French Cinema short on Ambition,” wherein he suggested precise rating of the “89 French Directors of the day, whom he divided into five categories. I had just finished watching most, if not all, works of past and contemporary directors of Indian Cinema. This works range from the Avant Grade films of John Abrahm to Farah Khan pastiche 70s curry antidote, Om Shanti Om.

I, confess, I must have missed few noted Directors and a number of them from Telegu and Tamil Cinema- Since I’m yet to get familiar with a lot of film from South.. Yet, from whatever I have seen till date, which includes more than 500 Indian Films ranging across language and Directors from experimental to commercial. I decided to lay down the “Directors “according to the five broad categories laid by Truffaut.

The basic rule of thumb used to categorize this “Directors” was by looking at their body of work, their theme, constituency, personal stamp, mise-en-scene, honesty and Star Power. At the same time ,it was important to understand under what social and economic condition was the film made, this fact really helps in dividing an important line between truth and deceit.

Another important element in my classification was to understand whether this film represent or show anything about the era or milieu they were made. Can I relate it to anything I have seen in life or read in fiction? Does it belong complete to Cinema and if it does, What is the power of image? And how did the Director achieve it. Every film and its inherent theme could have a counterpart in World Cinema. So, I also looked ,and compared two films to understand where a Director lacks or shows a distinction from where the material could be copied or was it influenced. It also allowed me to put two pictures of the same theme and weigh it accordingly.

I was also interested in knowing and understanding under what economic condition and freedom did the “Director make this film” , was he backed by a studio to deliver the film or the money came from various Productions, each and every thing counts in determining who fits where.

I know their aren’t any hard and fast rules for finding objectivity as such, but all opinions are purely based on looking at the body of work from various angles as mentioned above. And I tried to bring out an accurate portrait where things stand today.

I suggest to all people who read the blog or post to send a feedback and suggestion so that we can really improve and create a certain discourse over the works and standing of “Directors” in Indian Cinema.

I have included few films along with the Directors name, due to my in -ability to understand HTML(As the blogger keeps giving an error) there will be a slight mis-match between the Director column and Films.




John Abrahm

Adoor Gopalakrishnan

Govindan Aravindan-

Satyajit Ray

Girish Kasaravalli

Ritwik Ghatak

Buddadeb Dasgupta

Mirnal Sen

Guru Dutt

Jahnu Barua

Kumar Shahani

Bimal Roy

Mani Kaul

Shyam Benegal

Agraharathil Kazhuthai, Cheriachante Krurakrithyangal.

Anatharam, Swaryamvaram.

Chidambaram, Kanchana Seetha, Pokkuveyil

The Apu Triology, Satranj ke Khiladi

Ghatashraddha, Thaayi Saheba, Dweepa

Megha Daka Tara, Ajantrik, Subarnarekha

Uttara, Kaalpurrsh

Khandhar, Bhuvan Shome, Ek Din Achanak

Pyaasa, Kagez Ke Phool.

Xagoroloi Bohu Door, Halodhia Choraye Baodhan Khai

Kasbha, Maya Darpan, Char Adhyay

Do Bigha Zameen, Madhumita, Bandini, Devdas

Uski Roti, Drupad, Idiot.

Nishant, Manthan, Bhumika, Ankur.

The Representatives of Quality



Rituporno Ghosh

Aparna Sen

Mani Ratnam

Prakash Jha

Vishal Bhardwaj

Anurag Kashyp

Sudhir Mishra

Raj Kapoor

Hrisikeh Mukherjee

Girish Karnad

Ram Gopal Verma

Chetan Anand

Basu Chaterjee

Nagesh Kukunoor

V Shantaram

Mehbooh Khan

Raj Khosla

Gautom Ghosh

Unishe April, Rain Coat, Choker Bali

36 Chowringee Lane, Mr& Mrs Iyer, 15 Park Avenue

Nayakan, Bombay, Dil Se

Gangajal, Aparhan.

Omkara, Maqbool

Black Friday, Paanch

Hazaaron Khwaishein Ais, Khoya, Khoya Chand.

Awaara, Mis 420, Mera Naam Joker, Aag

Golmaal, Chhoti Si Baat and Naram Garam.

VamshaVruksha, "Tabbaliyu neenade magane"

Satya, Company, Sarkar, Bhoot

Neccha Nagar, Haqeeqat

Dillagi, Chitchor, Choti Si Baat, Khatta Meetha

Dor, Iqbal.

Do Aankhein Barah Haath, Dr. Kotnis ki Amar Kahani

Aan, Mother India, Andaz

C ID, Who Kyun Thi?


Honest Commerical Film Directors



Farah Khan

Manmohan Desai

Rajkumar Hirani

Rakeysh Om Mehra

Madur Bandarkar

Mahesh Bhatt

Ramesh Sippy

Prakash Mehra

Yash Chopra


Farhan Akhtar

J P Dutta

Sooraj Barjatiya

Vijay Anand

Rakesh Roshan

S. Shankar

Manoj Kumar

Pradep Sarkar

Ashoutoush Gowarikar

Main Hoon Na, Om Shanti Om

Amar Akbar Anthony, Mard, Coolie

Munnabhai series

Rang De Basanti

Traffic Signal, Chandini Bar, Page 3

Arth, Janam, Naam

Sholay, Shakit, Buniyaad

Zanjeer, Lawarris

Waqt, Lamhe, Deewar

Hera-Pheri, Kaalapaani

Dil Chaatha Hai, Don, Lakshya


Maine Pyar Kiya, Hum Apke Hain Kaun

Gudie, Jhonny Mera Naam, Teesri Manzil

Krrish, Koyla, Koi Mil Gaya

Shivaji, Nayak

Roti Kapda Aur Makan, Kranti


Laagan, Swades, Jodha Akbar

Dishonest Film Directors.



Subhash Ghai

Vidhu Vinod Chopra

Sanjay Leela Bhansali

Karan Johar

Yaadein, Kisna, Taal, Pardes, Karz.

Misson Kashmir,Eklavya,.

Devdas, Black, Sawarriya


Semi- Ambitious Directors

Kunal Kholi

Pooja Bhaat

Virkam Bhaat

Mohit Suri

Sanjay Gupta

Nikhil Advani

Sidharth Anand

Shrish Kunder

Kabir Khan

Tanuja Chandra

Aditya Chopra

Anil Sharma

Anand Kumar