Hijacking Slumdog Millionaire

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I loved Slumdog Millionaire. I have written about it in this blog also. But the current Oscar frenzy about ‘Bollywood reigning the Oscars’ made me a little embarrassed.
First of all, why is Oscars so important to us? Is it ‘the accomplishment’ that an Indian film maker can think of? Will we be confident about the greatness of one of our films only if it get the Oscars? After making the story less culturally alien to others? Censoring the songs in that process? Stuffing Indian English in the mouth of actors like hot potatoes? Packaging ourselves in a way that is exotic but contextually irrelevent to ourselves? Ironing out the vast diversity to present an acceptable but unidimensional face?
Why Oscars has so much buzz? Because it holds the attention of a major proportion of the film lovers. Its about the movies that they have seen and enjoyed. The same thing cannot be said about Cannes. Its all about the ruthless money making brilliance of Hollywood.

Now coming to Slumdog Millionaire. The problem is not only that if you take best 20 songs of AR Rahman, ‘Jai Ho’ wont be among them. The problem is that our joy about recognition for him depends on his working in a film where western sensibilities will have to be satisfied. I am not talking about showing poverty when talking about western sensibilities. If we have poverty we should sublimate that in art, not hide it.

I am saying that I would have been more happy if ‘Black Friday’ or a ‘Paruthiveeran’ or an ‘Elipathaayam’ won an Oscar. Because they inform me. but SDM only entertains me. If the same film was made by the same crew but produced by UTV instead of Fox pictures, I doubt whether it would have had the same run at the Oscars. Thats what makes me uncomfortable about the whole thing.
Its not only about talent. Marketing, being under the umbrella of the big brother, peaking at the right moment, goodwill, buzz and plain old luck. You need all of it. Just like life.

Alls unwell that ends unwell

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He looked at me. The flight is on time.
‘I will call you after reaching there.’
‘Cool,’ I said.
I knew he wouldn’t. He knew I knew he wouldn’t. This would be the last time that we see each other.

‘Put on your coat,’ I said.
He had this habit of hanging it on his shoulders. Even in winters.
He put it on.

When did we start hating each other? Most probably it started after I skipped his wedding. He was angry. And I too was angry that he was angry. Because I thought he knew me. And he knew me too.
‘How long will you be in Delhi?’
He knew the answer.
‘I dont know,’ so I said.
He nodded. He knew I was angry.

Angry that I knew about this at the last moment. Angry because I had to see the astonishment on others’ faces when they realised that I didnt know about his plans. Angry for he still silently punishing me for something that I have said a long time back. Angry that he doesnt realise that it would not have hurt him that much if I talked like that all the time. Like many others did.
Announcement for boarding.
We shook hands.
‘Good luck.’ He smiled.
I watched him walk away. To dissolve in the crowd.
Then I thought- I should have said sorry.

Photo by Fraggle Rockstar

Dev D

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What can another story on Devdas do? I know the twists. I know the turns. I know the angst. But I was wrong. This movie has originality dripping through its pores.
I am not sure whether Dev D represents the new generation or not. Because if characterisation of the new Dev D is to be complete, he would not need a trigger of a ‘love lost’ to move down the ladder. And the new generation is lot more calculating and ambitious than Dev. But I like the defiance.
So what’s the most important innovation of Anurag Kashyap, scriptwise? The raw Delhi? The new Paro? Chanda? The reference to the recent news events? No.
Its the character of Dev. Its here AK hits the creative jackpot. Once the defiant, irritating, selfserving protagonist is established, the script literally writes itself. Everything falls in place itself.
When an upbeat ending was created, there is an inconsistency in the character of Dev. But it’s OK. I believe it did good to the box office collections. And now AK wont have to struggle again to make another Gulaal.

Syd Field frowns at Dibakar Banerjee

Originally published here in passion for cinema.com

Warning: Spoilers for Oye Lucky Lucky Oye, Slumdog Millionaire, Johnny Gaddaar, A Wednesday, Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi

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ACT ONE

The first 10 minutes:

None of my friends liked OLLO.
A: Whats this yaar? A guy steals. Then he again steals. And steals. Movie over.
Me: what else do you want?
A: Ek mazaa nahee aya. There is no specific story.
Me: What should have happened? There are lots of hit movies about a thief stealing a rusted crucible or a paper pin.
A: Nothing really happens in this movie.

Why would everyone feel like that? Here is a movie where novelty is dripping like sugar from gulab jamun and no one is satisfied with the story. But isn’t there a story? The middleclass aspirations. Backstabbing. Media hysteria. A subtle love story. Multiple cons. A prison escape. And another. Then why doesn’t it feel like a fulfilling story? Are there any elements missing for a satisfying story? Continue reading

Cosmetic psychiatry, art and humanity





Every one is unhappy at times. Some most of the times. Haven’t you seen people who never is able to set it off in a social situation or is always in ‘angst?’

Peter Kramer, a psychiatrist noticed that by prescribing flouxetine (an antidepressant) to people who doesnt have a well established depressive syndrome but nevertheless has ‘discontent’ improve drastically in their unhappiness. Kramer noted that “low self-worth, competitiveness, jealousy, poor interpersonal skills, shyness, fear of intimacy—the usual causes of social awkwardness” were transformed into “confidence, self-assurance and social comfort. ”

He proposes that why not use medications to improve the personality and well being? Why limit psychopharmacology to treat mental illness only? He argues that this ‘existential angst’, ‘melancholy,’ ‘gloominess,’ ‘pathos,’ ‘brooding;’ all of which has been associated with the transcedental nature of human beings may be due to some mild biological abnormalities in the brain. ‘Drugs, which are biological agents, appear to solve the difficulties of the discontent; therefore these difficulties must be biological in nature’.
An obivious counterargument is that most of the great contributions to humanity was by melancholic and choleric personalities. Their temperaments had produced things that are of a transcedental nature. Shubert’s brooding melancholy, Beethoven’s irascibility, Dostoevsky’s moral gravity, Lincoln’s sadness, Hopkins’ terrible pathos, Kierkegaard’s angst, or Pascal’s sense of vulnerability… If we make every one happy and in turn every one homogenous, growth of humanity would come to a standstill.
Continue reading

Snow

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Protagonist to leader of a relegio- political party:
”….The idea of a westernised solitary individual whose faith in God is private is very threatening to you. An atheist who belongs to a community is far easier for you to trust than a solitary man who believes in God. For you a solitary man is far more wretched and sinful than a non-believer….”

The relegious fanatic to the protagonist who is a liberal atheist:
”….You are a western agent. You are the slave of the ruthless Europeans, and like true slaves, you dont even know you are a slave. Not only were you brought up to look down on your traditions, you think you live on a higher plane than ordinary people. According to your kind, the road to a good, moral life is not through God or relegion, or through taking part in the life of the common people. No, its just a matter of imitating the West. Perhaps from time to time you say a word or two reproaching the tyrannies visited on the Islamists and the Kurds, but in your heart of hearts you dont mind at all when the military takes charge.
You cant make me drink wine. I refuse to be a European and I wont ape their ways. I am going to live out my own history and be no one but myself. Continue reading