IFFLA

The 13th annual Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles (IFFLA) is accepting entries for the 2015 festival, which will run from April 8–12.

- The final deadline for submission is January 16, 2015.

- To submit your film and more details, visit: www.indianfilmfestival.org

- Submission Fees

For Shorts and Documentaries below 40 minutes: $50
For Features and Documentaries above 40 minutes: $65

Submission fees are discounted by $5 if paying through Withoutabox. Films received after the final deadline will not be accepted.

- The fest has also announced a new partnership with Carpe diem Residency. IFFLA’s 2015 Grand Jury Prize winner for Best Feature will be awarded a participation at their artists-in-residence program, a retreat designed to allow artists, writers and filmmakers an opportunity to create new works in a stimulating environment. The winner will get to choose from one of these exciting locations for their residency: Almora, Rishikesh, Kerala and Spain.

- All filmmakers will be notified via email by February 27, 2015.

- Programming questions, please contact IFFLA Programming Coordinator: Brenna Galvin, bgalvin@indianfilmfestival.org.

Umrika-1-550x308

The Sundance Institute has unveiled the competition line-up for the 2015 edition of the Sundance Film Festival. The fest will run from January 22nd to February 1st, 2015. Out of 12,166 submissions, about 185 selections were made.

Prashant Nair’s film Umrika will have its world premiere in the “World Cinema Dramatic Competition” section. This section has twelve films from emerging filmmaking talents around the world which offers fresh perspectives and inventive styles. The film is produced by Swati Shetty and Manish Mundra. And here’s the official synopsis of the film -

When a young village boy discovers that his brother, long believed to be in America, has actually gone missing, he begins to invent letters on his behalf to save their mother from heartbreak, all the while searching for him. 

The film’s leading cast includes Suraj Sharma, Tony Revolori, Smita Tambe, Adil Hussain, Rajesh Tailang and Prateik Babbar.

Last year, Geethu Mohandas’ Liar’s Dice was in the same section of the Sundance Fest.

What happens you see a story on screen which seems like pages from your life? You hate it? You love it? Over to Navjot Gulati who writes about Amit Masurkar’s film Sulemani Keeda.

Sulemani Keeda

Disclaimer: I’m a struggling writer/filmmaker for over six years now, so I will be biased towards a film that tells my story, and in the process, will overlook its shortcomings because….

…I’m Vacuous Versova too!

So here it goes. I will now list some incidents which have happened with me or my writers friends lives as it is shown in Sulemaani Keeda. And this should be reason enough for you to not miss Sulemaani Keeda at any cost.

because This SHIT is REAL BRO!

The film is essentially about two friends – Dulaal (Naveen Kasturia) and Mainak (Mayank Tewari) trying to make it as screen-writers in Bollywood, where you really need one talent to be big – to be someone’s son/nephew. If you are an outsider, then all the best. Allah hi aapka maalik hai.

SPOILERS ALERT (But they hardly matter. Read it anyway)

Dulaal gets a call from the girl he is in love with, and she tells him, ‘I met someone’. Boom! His world comes crashing down.

Earlier this year, something similar happened with a friend of mine. He was madly in love with a girl and they were in a complex relationship where the girl would never commit to him, and keep giving him hope that one day they will be together as a couple. But then his world came crashing down just like Dulaal’s. One day she told him, ‘I met someone’, and life was never the same for him. He did use her as an inspiration in many of his stories just like Dulaal did.

The film has a hilarious appearance by Anil ‘Gadar’ Sharma and he sends Mainak and Dulaal to meet Gonzo Kapoor, the son of Sweety Kapoor, who wants to get launched in a film that is East European in sensibility.

Not long ago, a friend of mine was in a similar position. He was called to write the debut vehicle of a famous filmmaker of yesteryear who wanted to launch his son in a cool and contemporary love story (basically it involved a rich boy, poor girl and a college in Mumbai as the backdrop). I hope you get the contradiction – A cool and contemporary love story about a Rich Boy and Poor Girl. My friend was not talented enough to write it, so he said no. They did make it, and surprise – the film BOMBED!

Mainak goes to a party where he meets Oona from Poona, played brilliantly by Ruksaana Tabassum. She asks him to drop her home after the party. Mainak thinks he will finally get some action. But….

Aah, well. What follows next – A hot stud is waiting for Oona (from Poona) inside her house. Mainak’s dreams of getting laid are shattered. Yet again. I’m sure this has happened with almost every guy reading this.

The white handkerchief used as a metaphor for life.

Go hang out in any coffee shop in Versova, or Adarsh Bar, or even the (not so) new hangout of (wannabe) film people – WTF. You will find many out of work stalwarts who can change your life instantly with their pop philosophy, however they have not been able to change their own life.

Mainak and Dulaal are asked to go to a farmhouse to write the screenplay.

Farmhouse writing?

Yes? Yes!

This remains an unfulfilled dream. Once upon a time, a B-grade filmmaker of an unreleased film offered me to come to his farmhouse for fifteen days. He said lets finish the script and then he will take me to Aditya Chopra. Yeah. Right. I guess he meant in his dreams. In reality they won’t even let him cross the security gate of YRF.

Mainak and Dulaal have an argument with their tv-writer friends.

TV writers make a LOT of money but ALL of them want to write films. Film writers want to make a LOT of money but CAN’T write TV. #TrueStoryBro

Dulaal is asked, “which film have you written?” He says, “ek likh raha hoon..Aamir Khan kay liyein..bas milna baaki hai unsey”.

The identity of a filmmaker/writer in this B-town is only from the work that has come out. Spare a thought for thousands of us who have been working our asses off to get that one film made. And trust me, to have a solo film credit as a writer is nothing less than a miracle. After years of trying, one miracle happened in my life which is yet to get released. If there are no fault in my stars, hopefully, it should release next year. I wait that day when I can tell people that I’m the writer of that good film that you saw. And not only me. I’m sure everyone reading this is itching for such a thing to happen.

These are some of the similarities between the film and the life we lead.  However, our lives are not as funny as the film. Kudos to the writer-director Amit Masurkur and his team for making it look so real and yet so funny. The performances by Naveen, Mayank and Aditi Vasudev are exemplary. The writing is brilliant. Efficient direction by Amit. And yes, even the songs are really good. I love the one sung by Namit Das. It’s called the Colaba song. That’s so rare in a desi indi-bhindi!

To cut the long story short, Sulemaani Keeda is one of the best Indie films made in India, and it deserves your ticket money so that people like Shiladitya Bora (of PVR Directors Rare) can continue to support films made with heart and not just ones with big budgets and bigger stars.

(P.S – I know the film will have difficult show timings and high ticket prices but please do watch it. If you don’t have the money, ask me. I will book the ticket for you. I can surely spare 300 rupees from my hard earned money to make sure people see what we go through everyday :P )

Offer Valid for 10 tickets only, on first come first serve basis.

- Navjot Gulati

SKeeda

Placebo

Abhay Kumar’s documentary film, Placebo, just had its international premiere at the reputed International Documentary Film Festival of Amsterdam (IDFA).

And the good news is the film has also been nominated for Best Film in “Competition for First Appearance” category. It’s competing with Always Together (Czech Republic) by Eva Tomanova, Drifter (Hungary/Germany) by Gábor Hörcher and Mother of the Unborn (Egypt/United Arab Emirates) by Nadine Salib.

Here’s the first look teaser of the film

Synopsis

After witnessing an act of brutal violence, a film maker starts following the lives of four students at one of the prmiere educational institutes of India. However, as the camera starts infiltrating this complex mindscape of ambition and restless youth, a startling new reality begins to emerge – one in which an implosion is taking place. In this world, what can be the cure?

Credits

Written and Directed by: Abhay Kumar

Associate Director: Archana Phadke

Produced by: Abhay Kumar & Archana Phadke

Executive Producer: Miia Haavisto

Edited  by: Abhay Kumar & Archana Phadke

Consultant Editor: Deepa Bhatia

Sound: Micke Nystrom

Music: Shane Mendonsa

VFX and titles:Vijesh Rajan

Colorist: Sidharth Meer

Animation: Rajesh Thakarey and Troy Vasanth

So what do you do when you get to know that there’s a screening of Libaas? Well, only a Gulzar fan can tell you the right answer. So over to Mohit Kataria who tells us what exactly he did.

libaas_1988

Before you start:

Please don’t read this post as a film review post, it’s all about my personal experience with the movie Libaas and the way I got to watch it. I’ve never written any movie review before and I don’t think I even qualify for writing one (if there is any qualification criteria). You might also find it really biased as I’m a fan of Gulzar Saab and always wear a particular pair of admiration glasses while reading/watching/listening to any of his works.

Prologue

What do you do when you get any once-in-a-lifetime opportunity? You grab it with both the hands, right? That’s what I also did.

It all started with a Facebook post from a very dear friend and an ardent fan of Gulzar saab, Pavan Jha, that I came to know about Libaas getting screened in IFFI – 2014 in Goa on 22nd Of November. Then after a number of confusions, calculations and discussions later, I decided to go ahead and started making my travel plans. Then, I came to know about something called a delegate registration (I have already warned you about my credentials ), which was already into its “register-with-late-fee-phase”. Somehow got registered with some made up bio-data to prove that I was worthy enough to be a delegate there. I got an email mentioning that the confirmation will be done after some careful review of my bio-data. I waited impatiently for the whole day which was the last day for the registration, and by the end of the day, I got a confirmation mail asking me to pay to be a delegate. I followed the instructions and completed the formalities. Then it was time to book the tickets for travel. After doing some calculations, considering family, work, economics and time dynamics, I booked the flight from Bangalore, scheduled to reach Goa at 2 PM on the day of screening (22-Nov-14) (Libaas was scheduled for screening at 5:30 PM) and also booked first available flight from Goa the very next day (23-Nov-14). Needless to say, my only purpose of going through all this exercise was to witness something I really was waiting for ever since I started following and loving Gulzar Saab and his work – to get a chance to watch Libaas. And I never thought I would get an opportunity of a lifetime in this manner, to watch it with Gulzar Saab himself.

Experience

Before cutting through all the details of getting the passes (where Ashok Bindalji and IFFI organizers helped a lot), reaching the theater following Gulzar Saab, and finally settling down to watch Libaas, I would like to mention here that there were lots of people who wanted to get in and watch Libaas and the auditorium had a limited capacity of accommodating 280 people only. So one senior IFFI organizer (I won’t name him to get him into any trouble), took a call after consulting with Gulzar Saab and Vishal Bhardwaj, to allow people to sit in the gallery, on the floor, to stand on the gates, behind the last row and any other place wherever possible without making others uncomfortable. It got reminded me of the pre-multiplex era when it was a norm for any big movie. Isn’t it delightful to treat and watch the movie in the same manner we used to watch movies when it was actually made (in 1988)?

The stage was set by welcoming Gulzar Saab by the IFFI authorities, and then Vishal Bhardwaj presented the movie Libaas as the inauguration movie of retrospective: Gulzar. Vishal said that it’s an honor for him to present this movie, and spoke about how Gulzar Saab started his career as a poet and brought his poetry from paper to screen. Each of his movies are poetries on screen. He also briefly mentioned about the efforts at various levels that have gone in trying to get the movie released, including his personal efforts of 20 years which has gone in vain. Then he mentioned what it means to him personally, and for his whole family to be part of this historic event.

Gulzar Saab was visibly holding back his emotions, and he started on a lighter note saying, saying, “दोस्तो, मैं भी उतना ही curious हूँ फ़िल्म के लिए, जितने कि आप हैं. आप ने भी नहीं देखी फ़िल्म, मैंने भी नहीं देखी”, which rightly summed up the significance of the film. He was happy that the family and friends have come from all over to see this screening. You can listen to the whole discussion here. And then the magic started on screen. We were in for a very delightful treat for next couple of hours.

As you might know, the movie was completely based on Gulzar Saab’s own story Chaabiyaan which has also published later with the title Seema. There was wit, brilliance, intelligence and emotions written all over the movie. Each frame was flowing into the other one like the way water flows – at times like a river, sometimes like a silent lake and often like waterfall. It was a sheer pleasure to experience Gulzar Saab’s poetry for the next 137 minutes. The movie has four main characters – Sudhir Bhardwaj (a passionate theater director, played by Naseeruddin Shah), T.K. (a flamboyant businessman, played by Raj Babbar), Seema (an amazing actress who is also a not-so-happy wife, played by Shabana Azmi) and the theater which is the sutradhar which keeps tying all the running threads of the movie. It also has a handful of supporting cast who made their presence felt without shadowing the main leads. Not even a single character was out of place or not required. The story primarily deals with husband-wife relationship and a extra-marital affair, all in the backdrop of theater. While watching it, I could feel it was much ahead of its time (it was scheduled to be released in 1988), as was confirmed by Gulzar Saab in a post screening Q&A session that such things were happening at that time but were never shown in cinema. He dared to reflect what was part of society then.

Opening scene of the movie is in a theater, where Jamal Saheb (played by Utpal Dutt) is entering the theater while taking a look at the play being staged.

Utpal Dutt in Libaas

Utpal Dutt in Libaas

In the canteen, he is greeted by youngsters who are theater artists/aficionados and the scene establishes that Jamal Saheb is a great artist from the times gone by. He is not relevant anymore and is in a poor state. He has been replaced, so to say, by Sudhir, who is dominating the contemporary theater scene. In next few scenes, we come to know that for Sudhir, the first priority of his life is theater – the way he forces Seema to gargle every day in the morning, no matter what, and the way he keeps on talking about and enacting various scenes from his plays. One scene which nails it down clearly is when Seema asks Sudhir if she could get a hair-cut as she feels she would look prettier in short hair.  To which he replies, if she gets the hair cut, what would happen to all the characters she is playing in theater, and starts quoting each of the characters from different plays. All the members of his theater group love and fear him in equal measure due to his strictness while doing the rehearsals. A couple of times when Seema forgets her lines during the rehearsals, he yells at her, and at home, he tells her,

“खाना बनाना भूल जाओगी तो बर्दाश्त कर लूँगा, dialogues भूल जाओगी तो कभी बर्दाश्त नहीं करूँगा.”

Phir Kisi Shaakh Ne Phenki Chaanv - Libaas

Phir Kisi Shaakh Ne Phenki Chaanv – Libaas

Seema is already strained, and wants a break from the monotony of Sudhir being so hard on her as he always thinking about one thing – theater. That’s when T.K. enters the scene and their home. He is informal and is such a close friend of Sudhir that even Seema feelss surprised as she had never seen Sudhir being so comfortable with anyone, including her. TK’s flamboyant style of talking and cheerful behavior attracts Seema, and he gets attracted to her beauty. They all meet a couple of times and then while one relationship starts forming, other one starts breaking. On one side, Sudhir is always busy with his play rehearsals and on the other hand, T.K., a well versed businessman is always ready to meet her and pay attention to her.

Her loneliness and boredom from theater adds fire to the fuel, and before even they realize, the relationship becomes complicated. The high-point of the movie is a scene which has brilliance of Gulzar Saab written all over it. It was Gulzar Saab’s craftsmanship that he handled such a burdened situation in such a subtle manner. The treatment of the characters, the dialogues of this one scene leaves us completely mesmerized and catches us unguarded. The scene is when Sudhir decides to confront T.K. and Seema about their relationship. Seema and T.K. enter the house after spending some good time together, and they find Sudhir at home. T.K. tries to cover up his embarrassment by telling Sudhir that he was asking about him from Seema as Sudhir was very busy, they were not able to meet.

T.K. – और किस ड्रामे में busy हो आजकल?

Sudhir – “अ..अ..म.. आजकल… अ… एक personal से नाटक में ज्यादा busy हूँ.”

“ह.. ह.. मतलब..?”

“नाटक तो दूसरे लोगों का है, मैं खा-म-खां बीच में फंस गया”

“अम.. कुछ समझा नहीं यार, वो कैसे?”

T.K., though embarrassed, is still trying to appear innocent even though he is guilty of cheating Sudhir.

“क्या है के हमारे यहाँ… हमारे यहाँ, वो हैं ना… मि. मुखर्जी”

He looks at Seema and starts building the story.

“मुखर्जी? कौन?”

Seema asks, to which Sudhir replies -

“तुम मिली हो उन से, शायद याद नहीं है… मि. मुखर्जी में याद रखने जैसा कुछ है या नहीं मालूम नहीं… लेकिन अपनी पत्नी की वजह से वो.. अक्सर याद रह जाते हैं लोगों को…. बड़ी talented… और talented से ज्यादा ख़ूबसूरत पत्नी है उन की. अब ज़ाहिर है कि लोग उन की तरफ़ तवज्जो देते हैं, attract होते हैं. और ये कम्बख़्त चीज़ ऎसी है कि आदमी हो या औरत, पाँव तले की ज़मीन खींच लेती है. आदमी सोचता है, इश्क ही में ज़िंदगी है, बाकी सब तो फ़न, आर्ट, talent, सब सजावट की चीज़ें हैं. बहरहाल, मि. मुखर्जी का problem है, उन की पत्नी… वो किसी के इश्क में पड़ गई हैं या कोई है जो उन के इश्क में पड़ गया है….”

Seema asks, “तो problem क्या है?”

To which Sudhir replies, point blank, still keeping it indirect,

“तुम्हें नज़र नहीं आता?”

“नहीं मतलब… समझ में आता है लेकिन दोनों अगर एक दूसरे को चाहते हैं तो…”

“नहीं, नहीं, नहीं, नहीं… तुम उस लड़की के problem को देख रही हो, मैं मि. मुखर्जी के problem की बात कर रहा हूँ”

“उनका क्या problem है?”

“क्यूँ? याने… उन का कुछ है ही नहीं?…

उन का problem ये है कि उन्हें मालूम हो गया है… और जान लेने के बाद शौहर यानि मि. मुखर्जी क्या करे उस पत्नी का? चुप रहे? देखता रहे? होने दे जो हो रहा है? मुश्किल तो ये है कि कोई भी शौहर जान लेने के बाद ये निगल नहीं सकता”

Now T.K. intervenes,

“आख़िर मुखर्जी चाहता क्या है?” “चाहता क्या है, वो छोड़ो, क्या करना चाहिए उसे?”

“अम..ज़ाहिर है अगर उन की पत्नी, उन के साथ नहीं रहना चाहती तो उन्हें कोई हक़ नहीं है कि वो उस के साथ ज़बरदस्ती करें. After all.. वो अपना अच्छा-बुरा समझ सकती है, ऎसी कोई बात नहीं है…”

“हाँ, समझना तो चाहिए, सिर्फ़ ये कि जिस से वो प्यार करती है, क्या सचमुच प्यार करती है? यूँ ही उन्स में तो नहीं पड़ गई? ख़ा-म-ख़ां का infatuation तो नहीं है, जिसे वो प्यार समझ बैठी है?”

“आख़िर शादी-शुदा औरत है, क्या इतना नहीं समझती? इतनी mature नहीं होगी के…”

And that’s when Gulzar Saab’s intelligence of handling the complicated situations comes in full form.

Sudhir interrupts Seema at this point and says it straight,

“इतनी mature हो तुम? इतना समझती हो कि जिस राह पे जा रही हो, जिस के साथ जा रही हो वो झूठ-मूठ का कोई ड्रामा तो नहीं कर रहा है?”

At this time T.K. tries to escape saying this is personal matter between husband and wife and he is an outsider.

Then, as a matter of fact, Sudhir tells him,

“बैठ जाओ T.K., तुम भी कोई बच्चे नहीं हो… बैठ जाओ… देखो T.K., इन रिश्तों में कानूनी, ग़ैर कानूनी कुछ नहीं होता. कानूनन कोई पत्नी नहीं बनती, कानूनन कोई शौहर नहीं होता.Law has nothing to do with it. हम ज़बरदस्ती इन रिश्तों पर कानूनी मोहरें लगाते रहते हैं. आज तक, कोई किसी आते को नहीं रोक सका और ना किसी जाते को थाम सका है. और मैं ये कैंसर ले कर नहीं घूम सकता…. तुम ने ठीक कहा, अगर सीमा मेरे साथ नहीं रहना चाहती तो मुझे कोई ज़बरदस्ती नहीं करनी चाहिए, मैं नहीं करूँगा, लेकिन मैं इसे रास्ते पर नहीं छोड़ सकता. मैं तुम्हारा फ़ैसला जानना चाह्ता हूँ, तुम दोनों का फ़ैसला जानना चाहता हूँ… अगर तुम दोनों flirt नहीं कर रहे हो, एक-दूसरे को धोखा नहीं दे रहे हो, सचमुच एक दूसरे को चाहते हो, तो हाथ पकड़ो और निकल जाओ इस घर से.”

Seeli Hawa Chhoo Gayi - Libaas

Seeli Hawa Chhoo Gayi – Libaas

Even after Sudhir and Seema get separated and she remarries T.K., there is still an element of care and affection for each other.

T.K. and Seema are living happily, yet Seema is not able to forget her past so easily.

In one scene, where one evening she is sitting sad all alone on a yatch, T.K. comes and asks,

 “क्या हुआ… सुधीर का ख़्याल आ गया?”

“हूं..”

“इसीलिए तो तुम्हें शादी के बाद यहाँ ले आया. जानता था, अगर वहाँ रहोगी तो अतीत याद आएगा. अतीत बुरा हो तो सीमा, आदमी गर्द की तरह झाड़ दे, ख़त्म कर दे, लेकिन सुधीर जैसा… मुझ पर अंधविश्वास था उसे. जो कुछ हुआ, मुझे उस का अफ़सोस नहीं, बिल्कुल नहीं, बस यही है कि अगर तुम किसी दोस्त के यहाँ ना होती ना…तो अच्छा होता, क्यूँकि तुम जहाँ भी होती, मैं यही करता, I love you. मैं तुम से प्यार करता. I love you Seema, I love you.”

[Edit Note : While Mohit has written the climax in his post, we are not going to reveal what happens in the end, as we expect more screenings of the film soon and expect you to watch it someday, somewhere. We leave you here with Ravi Shastri Quote : All Three Results Possible ]

And the end credits roll over with the song

“तुम से मिली जो ज़िंदगी, हम ने अभी बोई नहीं,

तेरे सिवा कोई ना था, तेरे सिवा कोई नहीं…”

…Leaving everyone in the theater completely spell bound.

Gulzar Saab got a standing ovation which refused to die down for the next few minutes.

Epilogue

It had Gulzar written all over it. Gulzar the writer, Gulzar the dialogue-writer, Gulzar the lyricist and Gulzar the director. It was like various Gulzar competing with each other and attaining the pinnacle of expressions. The music of R.D. Burman was also a highlight of the movie as the melodies are so soulful, the film would have been definitely incomplete without such lovely songs.

From story perspective, it is really difficult to say what was wrong or who was wrong or whether anyone was wrong at all? This is the power of a sensibly told story on screen. We all know that Gulzar Saab has great sense of expression when it comes to relationships. He is the one who has given the words to all the emotions we have gone through at various points in our different relationships. He is no different here as well. Gulzar Saab has also given various references of past work of theater artists who have explored the complexities of husband-wife relations – Leo Tostoy’s Anna Karenina, Vijay Tendulkar’s Khamosh adaalat jari hai, Mohan Rakesh’s Aadhe-adhure. The film, even though made some 26 years back, is still relevant and I believe due to the nature of human relationships, will be relevant even after 26 years.

There are so many situations in the movie which could have been exploited with melodramatic scenes but he kept them subtle, and trusted the intelligence of audience he was catering to. Like after re-marriage, one day when T.K. is gargling in the morning, all of a sudden she gets reminded of Sudhir, who was always after her for gargling. She gets in that groove for a moment that she actually calls out her old maid’s name “दुर्गा…” and then she realizes her mistake. And when she calls up their family doctor (played by A.K. Hangal) asking him to visit their home for T.K.’s cough and cold, she forgets to mention to the doctor about his new life and husband. The doctor habitually visits their old home and because Sudhir is also suffering from the cough at the same time, he doesn’t find it surprising that Seema called him up. Subtle ways to show that the bridges are not yet burnt completely. The central idea of the story keeps coming back again and again in multiple ways.

During the post-screening Q&A we came to know that the climax which was shown in the film was not his choice but the producers insisted upon him to change the climax.

He wanted to leave it a bit open ended, which he couldn’t do in this movie, hence he made Ijaazat, another masterpiece on husband-wife relationship which he ended the way he wanted it to be.

Nobody dared to ask the question, “अगर लिबास release हो जाती फिर भी क्या वो इजाज़त बनाते?”  and I doubt if anyone who has watched Ijaazat would even dare to think it being non-existent from the filmology of Gulzar Saab. Nothing to compare but to give a flavor to the people who could not watch the screening of Libaas, in my opinion, it was at par (if not more) with Ijaazat in terms of exploration of relationships, writing, dialogues, songs, direction and music.

To sum it up, I would just say, no matter how many years the movie has spent in the laundry or dry-clean, this Libaas is still as crisp, clean and white as new.

 – Mohit Kataria

 

(Mohit Kataria is an IT engineer by profession, writer & poet by passion, a Gulzar fan by heart. He is based in Bangalore and can be reached at [kataria dot mohit at gmail dot com] or [@hitm0 on twitter)

(Pics & Videos by Ashok Bindal [ajbindal at gmail dot com], a close associate of Gulzar saab, based in Mumbai)

Retrospective Inauguration Video via Ministry of I&B YouTube Channel]

So after much hype (courtesy our friends Namrata JoshiAseem Chhabra and others), a few of us finally ended up joining them this time at the 3rd edition of the annual Dharamsala International Film Festival, up in the beautiful township of McLeodganj- and I’m happy to report that it did live up to the buzz, and I can’t wait to get up there again next year. It’s an excellently organized festival- with helpful signs all over town to guide you, autos hired to take you up to the main venue TIPA (Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts) and a wonderful, warm team of volunteers, some of who travel from various parts of India and the world to be part of this joyous little celebration of cinema up in the mountains, in a town without a single cinema theatre.

Clearly, the common thread among many of the films shown at DIFF was that they belonged to the genre I will call ‘cinema of social unrest’- and from what I hear, this was the case the year before as well. So there are many documentaries as well as fiction features about social and political movements, revolutions, human rights violation and conflicts of land, culture and identity. This feels especially apt considering Dharamshala itself is a place where you can distinctly feel the angst of displacement and the forced refugee status of Tibetans under the gentle, tranquil atmosphere of the town.

This year included a fairly interesting selection of films (you can check out the list here) as well as some interesting retrospectives, curated short film packages and masterclass/Q&A sessions with filmmakers such as Rajat Kapoor, Hansal Mehta, Gitanjali Rao, Q and Umesh Kulkarni. I’m afraid I did not manage to catch a whole lot of them- the main drawback of having a film festival in such a picturesque location is that you are conflicted whether to spend your time watching films or savor the sights around, not to mention visit all the charming cafés and eateries in the area. Still, here are a few notes on some of the films I did catch at the festival:

KILLA:

Killa

Avinash Arun’s debut feature is a gorgeously evocative and poignant film about friendship, loss and the resilient ability of children to deal with disappointment, displacement and even death. Killa is clearly a very personal film, and is shot and crafted with great love and sensitivity. It also features some unforgettable, textured characters brought to life with amazingly natural performances from Amruta Subhash, Archit Deodhar, Parth Bhalerao and a wonderful ensemble of young actors. This is yet another strong contemporary Marathi film about children, and definitely the one with most finesse out of the ones I’ve seen. I must mention here though that I haven’t seen Umesh Kulkarni’s acclaimed Vihir yet- interestingly, Avinash Arun cites Kulkarni as his mentor and a strong influence.

BRINGING TIBET HOME:

Bringing Tibet Home documents the deeply emotional and often funny story of New York-based artist Tenzing Rigdol’s audacious art project to reunite exiled Tibetans with their land, quite literally. After his father dies with his last wish of setting foot in his homeland unfulfilled, Tenzing decides that if Tibetans can’t return to Tibet, he will bring Tibet to them by smuggling 20 tonnes of native Tibetan soil to Dharamshala for a one-of-its-kind art installation. It was especially moving watching the film in Dharamshala- though it did also really make me ponder about what makes land itself so important to human beings. Maybe because I’ve never quite had roots anywhere, soil to me just feels a little overrated… ‘it’s just tiny little rocks.’

THE SQUARE:

This shattered my heart and blew my mind to bits. Jehane Noujaim’s The Square is the most devastating film I have seen in a long time and easily the best one I saw at Dharamshala. The film puts you right at the heart of a revolution inside Tahrir Square, with young, common people spiritedly fighting a fascist and fundamentalist regime in Egypt, spilling their blood and guts out for the hope of a brighter, free future even as they come to the crushing realization that courage and idealism aren’t enough to win their war against oppression. This is absolutely essential viewing- the auditorium was filled with tears and goosebumps in the end and the applause didn’t stop till the credits had finished rolling.

(PS: Also spotted in the documentary- Aida Elkashef from Ship of Theseus and a Vikramaditya Motwane doppelganger. I kid you not- the resemblance is uncanny. See if you can spot him. ;) )

OMAR:

Director Hany Abu-Assad cleverly sets a gripping tale of love, deceit and betrayal against the Palestine-Israel conflict. The film borrows sparingly from Romeo and Juliet and Othello to give us a heady mix of socio-political thriller and Shakespearean drama- and while a comparison might be a little unfair- I can’t help feel that Omar blends the two a lot more seamlessly and effortlessly than Vishal Bhardwaj’s Haider, which of course is very good in its own right. Adam Bakri gives a superbly charismatic performance as the protagonist- though admittedly, it’s hard to take your eyes off him anyway considering how jaw-droppingly good he looks.

TRUE LOVE STORY:

Filmmaker Gitanjali Rao showcased a great set of Indian and international animated shorts curated by her at DIFF (including her marvelous Printed Rainbow), and ended the session with her newest film True Love Story, which screened at the Cannes Critics’ Week section earlier this year. The film, originally scripted to be part of a feature film (alas, no one wants to fund quality animation films in India) begins as a homage to masala movies which is both affectionate and hilariously tongue-in-cheek- but in the end reveals itself to be a sharp social satire, using a real-life tragedy that made headlines a few years back (the court case is still on) to brilliant, scathing effect. The film is a visual and aural delight with its colorful evocation of Bombay’s sights and sounds through Bollywood tinted glasses, and hopefully it will make its way to a wider audience soon. And I hope some producers funding ‘indie’ films (which more often than not, turn out to be sub-par) see the potential in this medium and back Ms Rao’s extraordinary talent and bring more of her singular, unique vision to the big screen.

- Jahan Singh Bakshi

(Photos courtesy DIFF Facebook page, Mihir Pandya and author)

I’m going to refrain from telling you how earth-shatteringly strong (literally) I think Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar is.
Instead, having watched it on two of Mumbai’s IMAX screens, I’m going to offer you a simple comparison and tell you which screen offers us a better experience. And before you hardened film reviewers roll your eyes at how we call it an ‘experience’, I suspect you’re not going to want to contradict Nolan’s words when he says he designs every film of his—first and foremost—to be an experience.

But we digress.

It’s hard to come to a conclusion about which IMAX screen offers more, especially because you can watch Interstellar for the first time only once. And that first time is always special, irrespective of where one watches it. There’s also no better film to judge the screens on, because more than an hour of footage has been shot on IMAX cameras. And the other two hours has enough exposition and action to keep you fascinated.

The only way to get a 100% pure unadulterated comparison would be if I could wipe out my memory after the first time to start afresh, or perhaps clone myself for parallel time zone views—which sound like two famous movie plots on their own.

Without getting too technical, let me try anyway:

 

PVR IMAX (PHOENIX MILLS, LOWER PAREL)

My first time. Added to it was the thrill of watching it before Friday. So the comparison is already skewed, but there are cold hard facts difficult to ignore.
I managed to put it in perspective only after going to IMAX Wadala two nights later, but a few things stand out here. The sound—which is a major part of Interstellar being effective—is excellent here. It truly engulfs a viewer and takes us very near to how Nolan wanted it to sound universally. The sound design, which many find ‘flaws’ in, is elevated to another level here. This can also work against the larger-than-life images shown on a screen that occasionally feels too small for the environment it portrays. Where has that happened before? Gravity—yes, correct. Another IMAX experience (3D too), but it felt a bit underwhelming here. And that was my first time too. To be fair, no screen is big enough to watch Space on. Except, perhaps, space.
It goes without saying that the screen isn’t half as large as you expect most IMAX screens to be. This is a pity, because if there was ever a film created to be projected onto the vast night sky (which is still not large enough), this is it.
Having said that, I also have no other reference points for a fair comparison other than…

IMAX WADALA

I experienced ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ on this screen two years ago. It wasn’t even Nolan’s strongest film, but I remember being absolutely overwhelmed by what I saw. This is, in no small measure, because of the gigantic screen on which the digital (ouch) images are projected onto. It also helps that this theatre is designed to imbibe a frightening feeling of Vertigo into viewers, more like a vertically steep stadium seating system, which is layered upward and only adds to the overall experience. As a result, no annoying food-orders in front will ever distract you, unless it’s the same row. They’re either too high or too law to obstruct the view. There are times I literally bent forward and held onto the railing in front, afraid that I would drift off into a black hole. This is the nearest to adding another dimension to storytelling, and I would highly recommend this screen for Interstellar—even if the sound isn’t as vibrant as PVR.
If you’re someone who doesn’t prefer tilting your head to look at different parts of the screen (and this will happen, because of the prominent subtitles), this screen could be a tad problematic. Hence, getting a seat further behind makes sense, unlike me—who chose the third row from the screen before getting swallowed by the 5-storied screen. It added to my intoxication, definitely, but I also recommend holding onto somebody after the film is over. Injury, out of disoriented awesomeness, is a distinct possibility.

CONCLUSION

WADALA>LOWER PAREL*
(*subject to genre. An animated 3D movie makes for better and more immersive viewing at PVR.)

However, both are digital IMAX projections, so we’re already on the second tier of viewing comparisons. I’m off to now wallow in the third-tier experience to get a more complete picture—that is watching Interstellar on a regular multiplex screen.
If any of you would like an all-out thorough comparison, please feel free to sponsor my ticket to Hyderabad so that I can have the ONLY genuine 15/70mm IMAX experience in the country. Or better still, add to this post.

- by Reel Reptile aka Rahul Desai

(For more posts by Rahul, you can visit his blog here)