Song of the road- a year in the life of an Indian cinephile

When I started the blog about a year back, I didn’t know I would manage to maintain consistency, because all my previous efforts were eventually a letdown. I realized it was the easiest thing in the world to start a blog, but the hardest thing to maintain one. However, over the course of the year, the blog helped me get assignments under various publications. Yet, with every passing month, rather everyday, there is something more to learn and something more to improve & work upon. And I can see the difference when I look back at the articles I wrote months back.

All I can say that the coming year, things are going to be more exciting than this year. As for my favorite films in 2008, I have only included those films that had an official screening at a film festival or theatrical release in the country.

So folks, have a great holiday. See you people in 2009. Here are my favorite films, music and moments from the year and thank you for reading and feedback. It definitely helped a lot.

Favorite FILMS

5) Naalu Pennungal(Four women)- Adoor Gopalakrishnan

Four Women is a special film in all disciplines of the cinematic art form, whether you watch the film as an onlooker who is mere witness to the incident; a passer-by who hears about the incident; or an active participant( who takes a stand by looking into the incident( the mise-en-scene), each and every form would in turn be special, because the universal appeal this film holds. Not only expressing the nature regarding the treatment of women, but also how we humans behave, whether we stay in Kerala, New York or Paris. But the only difference is the slides of liberation and the mind set of the civilization, which though separates our linguistics and cognition, yet keeps us made of the same substance- earth, water, fire and air. Read Further

4) . Tokyo Sonata- Kiyoshi Kurosawa

For me, Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Bright Future, has one of the most beautiful endings in cinema. The camera(lateral/high) follows a group of Japanese youth who are aimlessly kicking boxes on the road, and the camera follows them for awhile before title card appears on the image, followed by a Japanese pop track. It's precisely at that moment I feel in love with the films of Kiyoshi Kurosawa. The journey from then on got only weirder, but also helped me understand the methods and techniques that put an emphasis on the mood to create drama, suspense and horror.

Tokyo Sonata is a family drama, where the sudden loss of a father's job, takes the film into a tailspin where the conflicts within the family gives rise to the central motif in his works: horror and suspense. The drama in the film is balanced with a very off-beat humor that comes across because of the hopelessness of the situation in which the characters are stuck. And it’s due to the sheer helplessness of not revealing a truth for the father; that gives rise to key plot development and suspense, while the action of not revealing builds up the horror within the confinement and boundaries of a family.

Kiyoshi Kurosawa films also put an undue emphasis on use of off-screen space, sound, and his composition. All three elements in mise-en-scene play an important role in shaping this film. That helps this film achieve a verisimilitude that it could belong to any family in the world, and with the global crisis upon us, such drama can be witnessed across the globe

3) The Secret of the Grain- Adellatif Kechiche

A family lunch gathering in Abdellatif Kechiche’s The Secret of the Grain reminded me of my joint family, and how every meal we shared was like a celebration: where ideas collided, views were exchanged and conversation of everyday objects and desires unified with social drama and politics. The essence of the movie ‘ The Secret of the Grain’ is the same- a story about a family, a story about a desire and a story about an individual hoping to bring meaning to his life. Slimane (Habib Boufares) is a Tunisian immigrant living in France; he is forced out of his job and decides to fulfill his dream of converting a dilapidated boat into a family restaurant taking the ‘secret’ recipe by his ex-wife — a fish couscous — and embarking on the journey with the help of his mistress’s daughter Read Further

2) Gulabi Talkies- Girish Kasravalli

Gulabi is no pin-up model, yet her smile still lingers in my memory even after the movie and the Osian film festival long ended. She seemed so rooted in the ethos of her culture that almost all her gestures in the film are universal in their portrayal and reflection on life. The way she ate, the way she talked, the way she walked and the way she behaved formed a ritual play of gestures and expression unlike any other. The foundation on which the film explores the duality of human behavior- setting a story of an individual against a large socio-economic and political scenario makes this a remarkable and a masterfully conceived film. This very theme also forms a major backdrop for the eleven odd films directed by the master Girish Kasaravalli. Read Further

1) GREED- Eric Von Stroheim

I knew this was not the full version, I also knew this wasn’t the version Von Stroheim had dreamt of making. Yet for a cinephile, watching his first silent film in a theater...the screening was more than magical. No word could express the joy I felt after the movie got over. Not only the expressions, gestures remains part of my memory but the whole film has stuck from that day on. The movie was not only about the character but also about inside of the character, an attribute of humanity that would never cease to exist.

Watch Online

Moments in Cinephilia

1) The Landscapes/ Camera in the films of Buddhadeb Dasgupta

Never before in recent years, have I longed, so much, to think about landscapes in our cinema, and Buddhadeb films made me think about our own topography and its relationship with us. I don't remember the last time I saw an Indian film where the camera movements were so exquisite that it made me fall in love with the motion. Nor did I ever see colors, stories , fact and fiction converse together in such poetic fashion.

While the mise-en-scene though uniquely Indian give glimpses of Tarkvosky and Bunuel, but gives an expression (allegorical) that has its roots in ethos of our own region.

Buddadeb Dasgupta is one of the surviving auteurs of Indian cinema and definitely one the overlooked celebrated masters of recent years.

Expect plenty articles on his films and works next year.

Budddhadeb Dasgupta on Cinema.

2) The tension of space and time in the films of Mani Kaul.

If the dynamic camera movement and deep staging made Buddahadeb's film more than exquisite, the films of Mani Kaul created a chaos inside me: they appeared from a place that is hard to describe. It had the minimalism of Bresson in terms of methods of acting, the patterns of putting the films together in a chaotic fashion seemed like a Ghatak influence, yet everything still felt new and fresh. Because beneath all his influences, a Mani Kaul film still remained his own unique identity, that was born from the conflict of his journey to take cinema to his roots. And create images that offer us an expression that comes from his ability to trace the origins and find a voice that is uniquely cinematic.

More on his works

Do lookout for a highlight on all his films next year.

3) The journey through spaces:- the camera of Max Ophuls

There is something about the dynamic camera movement that simply takes my breath away. Perhaps, the ability to open spaces; move through spaces, and the choice to become an active observer of an ongoing action. This and much more that can be explained and something that cannot be; at least for me, draws me towards this particular cinematic trait whether it flattens the space while tracking laterally or open spaces otherwise.

When I watch a Tarkvosky camera move I feel spiritual, and when I watch a Max Ophuls camera move I feel faith in the action, as the camera moves everywhere and captures everything, but in the most stylistic and systematic fashion. That I just cannot question the faithlessness of the action or narrative but move along with the action and become a witness to a semblance that is closest to our own reality.

Hoping, that I can get my hands on some of his final works to write a proper assessment sometime next year.

4) Reading two biographies on Godard and a copy of Sight& Sound.

Sight& Sound and the other film magazines are something of a luxury for me. I usually read it at the British library in Delhi, else flip through the pages at an upmarket bookshop. So to a get a copy of the magazine was a sheer pleasure, and that too on film criticism is something that I won't forget for a long time. I must have read each and every line with the same joy as I sit through watching a film. Maybe even more, because I was getting selfish so that the magazine is not over too soon.

The first pledge I took in college was trying to watch all films of Godard and have some form an understanding on his works. But now that I have finished college, the work is still confusing and there is plenty to explore and I guess that is the beauty of his films. So to receive a gift of two wonderful books on Godard was definitely a moment to remember

I know two book reviews are due!

5) The discussion at Passion for Cinema

The first time I saw censorship/moderation of support and comment was here. The first time I witnessed a hole in our so called " educated film class" was here. And also the first time I faced hostility for trying to say the right thing. It was here. Yet I think, that I cannot justify who was right or wrong. But continue to pledge that in the coming year...we are going to come with a clearer, stronger message and manifesto.

The Debate.

7) The year of Foreign films distribution in India.

Palador Pictures were the first people who acquired several foreign film titles and decided for a launch. However, UTV hogged onto to some of their ideas and set about muscling its way into distributing these films and a 24hr channel showcasing foreign films.

On the other hand, NDTV Lumiere distributes foreign films in select cities in the country, and this is something of a boon for cinephiles across these cities. So that one can finally watch some of their favorite films and auteur works on screen. Although, neither NDTV Lumiere channel or UTV have helped in fostering a growth of film-love or put an emphasis on tapping into different aspect of cinema.

The advent of these channels though is a boon to our generation- and to every Indian interested in World Cinema, but they should also consider hosting key shows that could help educate viewers regarding the medium per se. In the end, it's still a great thing that something positive has started in this domain.

However, my bet and respect is still with Palador because NDTV Lumiere and UTV still feel like businessmen, while Palador feels like a company that is interested in promotion and spread of good cinema and fostering film love.

8. All the link that are under ' The Zone' on the blog

I think no film school could teach you what a film can. Techniques can be taught but how to develop an ability to " see" as a cinephile is a life-long process of watching as Serge Daney had quite rightly put. So my year could not be complete without mentioning how much every link(blog/website on cinema) has helped me to see through various elements about the medium. Rather learn everyday and discover something new about cinema, and I know this life-long endeavor will continue whether as a cinephile or cineaste.


10. Black Mountain- Tyrants
9. Destroyer- My favorite Year
8. BeachHouse- Gila
7. Weezer- Pork&Beans
6. Air France- Collapsing at your doorstep
5. Frightened Rabbit- Keep yourself Warm
4. White Denim- Sitting
3. Animal Collective- Street Flash
2. Fleet Foxes- White Winter Hymnal
1. Bon Iver- Restacks.

ALUBM OF THE YEAR: A tie between Bon Iver- For Emma, Forever Ago and Fleet Foxes -Sun Giant EP/Fleet Foxes

Also, a mention at Catherine Grant's blog for ' Winds From The East'(runners-up) in list of the top A-Z blog of the year certainly helped to keep the passion flowing. Thanks to everyone who have offered their valuable contribution: Supriya, Deepak, Satyam, Suraj, Osiris 83, Anuj, Kshitiz, Shrut...folks without your support and appreciation I wouldn't be dreaming in an empty room- for a bright future- and towards our goals.

pic- Greed- Eric Von Stroheim
pic- Uttara- Buddadeb Dasgupta
pic- Fleet Foxes


Anonymous said…
Hey nitesh...nice work keep up the effort, btw...I also would recommend Wall-E that was released in India in 2008.
Anonymous said…
Haven't seen any of the films, haven't heard any of the songs!

But I could relate to the rejoicing over World cinema distro in India
The other day, I was skimming through the collection at a leading music/movie store - Race, Kidnap, Singh is Kinng, Boudu Saved from drowning, Jab We Met, Rules of the Game, Dil Chahta hai, Rang De Basanti, Shoeshine, 2001:ASO, Heyy Babyy, Through a Glass Darkly... - it was magical to see world cinema DVDs infiltrate our own.

RAN is available for 299 bucks, and the well spring edition earlier would cost about 2K!

Anyway, great going. To provide quality articles with consistency is not an easy task. Hope to read and learn more the coming year...
nitesh said…
Thanks for the comment Shashank and Srikanth.

I do agree Shashank...Wall-E deserves a mention. I think a Freudian slip on my part. :)

@ Srikanth...

I think the movies I mentioned should be available in the market. And so are the songs. So you could give them a shot.

I know and agree how amazing it feels to see these World Movies in the leading stores throughout the country. Even when I don't have to purchase anything and accompanying a friend I still go through the box-sets- just for the magic I guess.

Btw, What are you're favorite films of 2008?
Anonymous said…
Haven't seen many...

out of the very few, it has to be WALL-E, The Dark Knight, Gomorra and Tahaan...
Anonymous said…
Must check out Kiyoshi Kurosawa. Thanks for the recco

Had a busy year...did not watch a lot of movies...rented a few I missed last year..
Anyway, among those the good ones were

"Assassination of Jesse James by the coward Robert Ford".
"Wall-E" -- the first 45 mins or so. It had a Charlie Chaplin meets Mad Max kinda vibe, I was disappointed by the rest, standard Pixar stuff.
"The Dark Knight"
"Oye lucky"
"Burn After Reading"

Music - It was a mellow year, I just had a lot of Madeline Peyroux and Diana Krall in my playlist. All old albums.

Video Games - HATED the Wii, its a fucking gimmick. Waste of money.

Braid is kickass -- Bad writing though..
Re-runs of ICO, Morrowind, Neverwinter Nights.
Wanted to get my hand on Fallout 3 and a PS3 but went broke.

Bought a set of Bang (!) which has been fabulous, and wasted a lot of time on
nitesh said…
Thanks for the comment people.

@ srikanth, I need to get my hands on Gomorroh been looking forward to watch the film next year. Dark Knight was definitely one of the best Hollywood offering in recent years thanks to Nolan being behind the camera.

@ Osiris...good to see you back on the blog after a long time. I wanted to watch ' The Assassination of Jesses James in theaters here but couldn't so. Need to get my hands on Vanaja.
I didn't have a major console of my own so gaming was pretty dead for me to, but I do enjoy playing GOD of War and Pro Evolution
Soccer every now and then on PSP. And soon gonna crank up my old PS2 for some ROGUE GALAXY and Dragon Quest-8- two games that I been waiting to complete for some time now.
Anonymous said…
I have seen a lot of movies this year. Including the shitlisted ones, and some, that IMO were really entertaining to watch. Anyway, my favorite artist of 08 has to be The Ting Tings, closely followed by The Last Shadow Puppets & Four Tets.

As far as movie of the year goes, there are some strong contenders, namely TDK, Wall E, Slumdog Millionaire, Vantage Point, Appleseed: Ex Machina and a few more, but the clear winner here is Vicky Christina Barcelona. It's very appealing, very artistic, and Woody Allen impressed yet again.

Last but not the least, coming down to video games, it sucks there has to be just one GOTY. You know what? This is just difficult so I'll just skip it. Those which impressed include MGS4, Gears 2, and Red Alert 3.
Anonymous said…
Watch out for Dragon Quest IX...its DS exclusive so you might wanna get your hands on the hand held first.

I don't have a PSP but did play God of War on a friend's. Having played the previous two iterations on the PS2 it was nothing new but the power of PSP left me kinds overwhelmed.
Also, do check out Patapon (a rhythm based strategy game), I played the demo which was pretty kickass.
Next year the only summer flick Im waiting for is Watchmen. The promos look interesting so far. The sad thing is Zack Snyder would have dumbed it down for the mainstream audience, it might not carry the same moral directive as the graphic novel did.
nitesh said…
Thanks for the feedback Suraj and Osiris...lets see what is in store this year for all us. Hoping 2010 should open new avenues and possibliities for cinema.
Anonymous said…
I echo many of your sentiments here, Nitesh. Looking forward to more excellent posts. Happy New year.
Anonymous said…
All the movies I like are already listed here, nothing more to contribute to your collection... though "Taken" was also good. Liam Neeson has done some excellent work here like he did in K-19:The Widowmaker, another great movie.
nitesh said…
Thanks for dropping by to learn a lot through your writings. Hoping to be more active and participate in a discussion this year and, yeah, learn too.

Happy New Year.

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