Wednesday, 29 February 2012

The Artist - A splendid ode to a bygone era

For all of you who are reading this and  have not yet seen the modern classic yet, please do.

Calling it an experiment , like a lot many people did, would be a great disservice to the makers of this splendid movie. 'The Artist' is sure to go down in history as a must-watch. For those who want to study films, for those who pursue cinema relentlessly, and also for those who just watch movies because they just like to. If you're wondering why a silent film, the movie not only answers it, but makes you fall in love with the medium. it's clearly a product of a thinking director, where everything in the scene has a story to tell.
To be fair there is little of substance happening in 'The Artist'. It tells a fairly conventional and frankly kind of cliché story about rags to riches to rags. 'The Artist' isn't really about anything other than pure emotion. It's a sentimental film designed to really invoke a response in it's audience and it does it beautifully.

The film tells the story of George Valentin (Jean Dujardin), a silent film actor megastar who withers away into obscurity when the introduction of "talkies" meets monumental popularity. Movie extra Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo) is a star on the rise who's admiration for George's work runs much deeper than the film's they share.

Jean Dujardin, largely unknown to the world, looks like a cross between Clarke Gable, Rock Hudson and Cary Grant.  Armed with a very charming smile and towering presence, he nails it as a megastar of the bygone era. He does such a splendid job, that it is almost impossible to think of this movie without him.   He is superbly supported by Bérénice Bejo, who plays a sprightly extra who goes on to become a Hollywood pin-up girl.
Both of them bring wonderful works, reaching that exact point of theatrical exaggeration and intimate detail the best actors from that period possessed. We tend to watch old films almost like involuntary comedies, full of apparatus expressions and excessive melodrama, but the actors were testing the limits of the new medium, and their best exponents (such as Buster Keaton, Lillian Gish and Lon Chaney) discovered the balance which was perfectly captured by Dujardin and Bejo.
Then, there is Uggie, who is Jean’s dog. If only the Academy had an award for an animal, he would have been the first choice.

Director and screenwriter Michel Hazanavicius made a brilliant work at capturing the atmosphere, rhythm and texture of mute cinema. He deserves more than a pat on his back for crafting a movie which is deeply reverential of the world of movie making, in addition to stimulating the sense of joy in all of us, making it irresistibly charming and appealing to the modern audience.  In this era of slam bang actioners, cacophonous explosions, VFX laden spectacles, remakes and sequels and of course the ubiquitous 3D, it takes extreme gumption to make a silent film that celebrates the old magic of movies.

Three aspects (amongst many others) that stand-out are:

Music score - The movie may not have dialogues, but it has a rousing soundtrack. After Jean, the music lends itself as the most important character in the movie. Every scene, each emotion is amplified beautifully by Ludovic Bource’s Oscar worthy score.

Cinematography - Hitchcock used to say that the silent movies were the most perfect state of the cinematographic art. The cinematography is gorgeous. Guillaume Schiffman makes love to the beautiful production design through his camera. The movie was shot in the 1.33:1 "Academy ratio," just as in silent-film days, since director-writer Michel Hazanavicius considered it 'perfect for actors' because it gives them 'a presence, a power, a strength. They occupy all the space of the screen.' 

Subtle placements / plot-points  - The titles shown on posters and outside cinemas often mirror the plot - for example, "The Thief of His Heart" is visible as Peppy tries on George's coat, "The Lonely Star" when George sadly crosses a street and "Guardian Angel" is the Peppy Miller film visible just after the auction. The 3 wise monkeys George's desk are a constant reminder of his aversion for all things sound. The staircase scene symbolizing George’s downfall and Peppy’s raise is worth it’s weight in gold.

This movies sets a precedent and creates a strong example for aspiring film-makers. This amazingly detailed, nuanced, visually brilliant film was shot is 35 days flat!!!

Some very interesting trivia about the movie. (Those who are yet to experience it, please skip this as it may contain spoilers)

# The movie was originally shot in color, then converted to black and white.

# There is not a single “Zoom shot” in the entire movie because zoom technology did not exist in the movie’s time period.

# The first spoken word of the film is 'cut', while the last spoken word is 'action'.

# All the dance sequences were performed by the actors themselves through heavy rehearsals.

# Peppy Miller does not have a single audible spoken line - despite being a talking superstar.

# The role of Jack the dog was actually played by three matching Jack Russell Terriers: Uggie, Dash and Dude.

 Go ahead, treat yourself to this classic. It is highly recommended.

Was it worthy enough to win the Best picture oscar? YES

Is it worth watching? YES. TWICE :)

Monday, 13 February 2012

The problem with Rom-coms

I have a problem  with rom-coms. I have consumed whatever Hollywood and the Indian film industry has churned out in the past, including the current favorite “Ek mein aur ekk tu". 
I do not call myself a discerning critic, but I have my own reservation towards most of these films.

Maybe, I have enjoyed these movies because I have successfully separated these movies from reality. What do I mean, you may ask?
 I mean, I do not know or have come across guys who have won over a women with a grand romantic gesture or have confessed their love at the altar when the girl is getting married to somebody else.
I also do not know of a guy and a girl who keep hating each other for 5 years then get married in the most absurd way.
Not all guys are cute like Imran khan and have abs like Bradley Cooper nor do all women look like Katherine Heigl or Meg Ryan…..

Before I go any further, I ask myself a basic question…… Do romance and comedy go together ? Food for thought.

These rom-coms are adult versions of fairy tales that follow a simple formula – boy meets girl, girl hates boy, they are together, something gets in the way – interval – more things get in the way, boy starts liking girl, boom, and they live happily ever after. Rom – com is probably the most predictable genre of movies one can watch. One look at the 30 sec promo, we know the pot and how the movies gonna end!! This has remained true forever.
Funny thing is that this works. Script-writers across the globe know about the golden rules of coming up with a successful rom–com. The main character must be relatable and appealing, there must be obstacles to their union, and these obstacles must be overcome so that they can get together at the end.

THERE… I have repeated myself in the same paragraph. I feel, all rom-coms have the same plot with maybe a dozen variations that have been around since the invention of motion pictures.

Ok. Let us move over the “plot / story”.  Let us come to the biggest pitfall of this genre. The idea of finding “The one”. “The one” is always presented to be someone who complements the other person, someone who has what they lack and, therefore, can offer it to them. So, you have movies which feature a women who is free spirited, bold and fun while the man is shy and quiet or the man is a Casanova, not willing to settle down, and the women has her mind set on marriage more than anything else. All these variations have shaped all the films that were to come, and are still coming.
It’s the idea that love is about finding “the one,” that it’s all about that chance meeting that happens through that hook up in just the right way and if you could just find the right person, that love would just happen.
Love is everywhere. Love is a mouse-click away or a glass of whisky away. The day our genius script-writers get this right, the sun shall rise from the west.

For years, men have been complaining about their wives and girlfriends forcing them to sit through romantic comedies. If you throw in a couple of fart jokes or make the leading guy a stoner, guys will lap it up. The there is also a new sub-genre that people have come to love these. The BROMANCE genre. I largely hold Farhan Akthar responsible for this. He has smartly got the male audiences in on the romance fest. But is that it? Nope. I do not  spend exorbitant amount of money to watch two people doing the same thing that they have been doing for ages.

Here are some myths that these movies propagate :

Not having number / address is ok. True love shall rule.
You just know he / she is the one.
Change yourself (read cosmetic surgery), he / she will fall head over heels over you.
Love changes him.
Waiting till the girl is almost married and gate-crashing into her wedding works

The rom-coms that I like are the Woody Allen type movies (read Manhattan / Midnight in Paris) or Ek mein aur ekk tu or 500 days of summer. The relationships are complex, exciting, and, most importantly, do not involve only two people who are, somehow, meant to be together. Instead, people break-up, or come together not because they change in some significant way but because they find someone who can stand their  flaws and can live with them. And the ending does not imply that “this is it” for the two characters.
Instead, life goes on as it did when the film started and the protagonists may have been lucky enough to have experienced glimpses of true romance, with its flaws and all, and keep going. That sounds, and seems on film, much more romantic to me than formulaic and predictable plots based on impossible expectations.

It’s bad enough for people to hold up romantic comedies in general as models for their own lives, whether they do it consciously or not. But if they’re basing their romantic expectations on current rom-coms, I fear for the future of our society.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

What is it with men & porn??

As if watching people fight and throw slippers at each other in the Parliament house were not enough, 2 Karnataka ministers have upped the  ante by watching porn on their handheld devices when a session was going on!!!
Holy S#$& !!! Some people voted for these guys. Scary. It would have been scary even if they would have been reading Chacha Chowdhary or Archies, but watching porn in an assembly house is carrying things way too far.

Long before the .xxx websites and playboy magazines existed, men were trying to sneak peeks of nude women. Men have always been driven by visual sexual stimulation. I think, as far back as art is found, we find porn. So why is it that men are so driven to see women in the buff??
Why does all of this pain women so much? Because women want to be loved and cherished for who they are as persons, not for the sexual release they offer men. The opposite of love is not hatred. The opposite of love is to use someone merely as a means to an end. This is what lust leads men to do and use women rather than love them.

Never in Human history has pornography been so readily available and on demand that it is today. This is largely due to internet. Nobody remains untouched by it.
Pornography is not only bigger business than ever before, it is also more acceptable, more fashionable, more of a statement of cool.

At it’s most basic level, pornography answers natural human curiosity. 
Adolescent boys (mostly) want to know what sex is about, and porn actually demonstrates the mechanics.
It begins like a rehearsal for the real thing. Lost in a world of pornographic fantasy, men can become less inclined, as well as increasingly less able, to form lasting relationships.

The reason why men ( after a lot of deliberation, I write only men and not people) like pornography is almost as varied as the men who like it. Here are a few reasons I could think of....

Reason 1 # - POWER

Pornography allows men to escape into an alternate universe where there are endless beautiful (debatable) women who want them and wish to gratify their every sexual need. While invoved in this type of fantasy, men are no longer vulnerable to women they love and NEED - they can get their needs met with any of the many women available. Men are simple in a way - if a women is ready to use the power she has over men in a sexually generous way, she can very easily make him feel loved. Men may not like to admit it, but they ARE dependent on women.
However, when watching porn, they are independent and at that moment, that is what they get.
Of course, independence is not real, but at times fantasy must do!!

Reason 2 # - IT IS A QUASI DRUG

Do not think most men are aware but, when they do watch porn they do not feel anxious. The brain goes into an altered state.  Men get anxious about a lot of things - women, money, work. Men, often come to rely on porn to escape anxiety. Porn is just like Archies or Dennis. Always young, always new, always beautiful and it's free. Just like substance abuse, men do not know why they use porn. They just know they cannot stop, and end up feeling depressed and shameful. But whether porn is used addictively or recreation ally, it acts as a powerful anti - anxiety drug.


Visual stimulation works for men in a way it does not seem to work for women. Clearly men are turned on by visuals of women than women. Pornography industry takes special efforts in making porn look awesome and attractive. High resolution photography and internet has resulted in some fine quality porn that gets sampled across the globe. The latest tech does not only make life simple but also makes porn look great. Visuals  / videos of people indulging in sexual acts has a far more powerful effect on men than reading. Some men are not affected by porn but some become compulsive about it.

Today, we live in an increasingly sexually tolerant culture. A generation ago, things were radically different. Today, we are comfortable with almost any kind of sexual arrangement people can think of. Porn is as close as your computer or handheld device. 

There are pros and cons to this. For the lack of a better line, i say that I cannot think of any particular advantage, the negatives exist. Just like any other freedom, pornography, if not used in discretion or properly, may wreck one's life. When it affects person's ability to function in a relationship r affects their productivity & happiness, they should seek help!!

More on politicians surfing porn -


Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Anxiety strikes again

Disclaimer : Most of you who have read my earlier blogs Noise in my head and Affair with insomnia,  would find this post on similar lines. Yeah, I know, it is dark and negative, but this is a state of mind!!

The noise in my head refuses to cease
Lying awake in the middle of the night,
I wonder what is wrong with me?
What is it that the Doc did not spot?
She said “You are fine”,
But I keep worrying all the time……

Could someone explain,
Because I just do not know..
Why is it always at night that my thoughts run a riot?
Anxiety creeps into my head and strangles my throat,
I try to fight, I fight to control it,
But it will just not go…

It was not supposed to be like this,
My mom did not warn me about this,
Hands under my head, I look at the darkened ceiling,
Wondering what is the truth and what is the lie,
What? Who? Why? So many questions,
High and dry, I gasp for breath,
my own shadow is strangling me,
I wish this anxiety wave will die…

I’m holding on to my past I can do nothing about,
I count my sins, drown in guilt and hide in fear,
I shut my eyes only to stare at the abyss,
My mind is confused wondering where to go,
just want to get out of this horror show..

I see the clock ticking away,
I think my mind is playing games inside,
I’m like this inside me, but look normal on the outside.

Thursday, 2 February 2012


I woke up in the middle of the night
I saw myself sleeping,away to glory,
dreaming, oblious to the world.

I felt endlessly free,
I felt no pain,
There was no despair,
for I was not down there.

I was no longer burdned by life,
from the constant fear
of loosing my near and dear,
from the all the noise and pollution,
free from seeking endless solution.

There is no darkness here,
only light..
I can feel peace here,
as there is nobody to fight.
There are endless valleys,
full of flowers and trees,
As i walk by these alleys,
I feel weightless.
I smile to myself, as I'm fateless.

I walk down and tell myself,
Hey there, do not just survive,
Live, otherwise, you are not alive.
I saw myself smile in sleep.

I smiled,
I love my  afterlife…..