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)

Still reading Interstellar? Done with all these? Welcome to the Club Nolaniana. And remember Haider from our ‘Haider on Haider‘ post? Well, he is back too.

InterstellarHaider

Beware, this post is rife with spoilers.

“The Bolt Beings are closing the Tesseract!”, warns TARS as Coop finally figures out how/what/why he is in the Tesseract in the first place. The reference to the Tesseract got me really excited, and not just because it’s one of my favorite bands (ha ha), but because it was my first introduction to begin to be able to fathom a higher dimension. It took me back to Carl Sagan’s soothing yet captivating voice in one of his original Cosmos episodes where he, patiently, explains different dimensions, Flatland style. This part of the film, the third act (or in Nolan terms, the Prestige), is the make or break part of the film. This separates the people who are absolutely going to be blown away by the film from the ones who will cringe at this representation of the inner workings of a Black Hole beyond the Event Horizon.

The third act was my favorite part of the film. To be honest, when he enters the Tesseract I actually went ‘Oh, come ON!’ in disbelief and disappointment. But, giving Nolan the benefit of the doubt, I wanted to wait. And I’m glad I did, because, this is the part where they had all the liberties with the science stuff. Because, as Romley puts it, no one knows what’s inside a Black Hole.  And, in my opinion, they did a beautiful fucking job with representing it. They, obviously, could have done much more and explored that unknown more. But that could have bordered to the complete extremities of the unknown and could have very easily turned into some pseudo-scientific psychedelic pedantic mumbo jumbo. Also, this was akin to the representation of the ‘higher beings’ in Contact who communicate with Jodie Foster through a vision of her dead father. And, hey, if Carl Sagan is cool with that representation, then it’s more than good enough for me. Although I don’t agree with him, after the screening, my boss put it quite funnily. He said “It was really nice how they tied it all together in the end and explained the story, even though it was SO fucking stupid”. That really cracked me up.

Throughout my childhood, my parents (especially my mother) slyly inception-ed me into falling in love with astronomy. I didn’t grow up on a diet of Goosebumps, Eragon and Harry Potter. I was fed heavy doses of astrophysics and space exploration encyclopedias, of which I understood absolutely nothing. But, my parents succeeded, since the first book I ever purchased out of my own will was “Can You Hear a Shout in Space?”, a lovely little book answering a lot of FAQ’s on space travel. I was set to become an astronaut. Dominic Cobb aint got nothing on my mom.  That is, until a sad afternoon in February 2003. The Columbia Space Shuttle had burnt up and disintegrated on re-entry and the world lost seven heroes. My mom walked into my room where I was probably building the nth spaceship with legos, and gave me a sad shake of the head. “Not happening bro”, she said (I’m paraphrasing). My interests dramatically shifted after that, and Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll happened (minus the sex and drugs, I was 11 for crying out loud!). I started playing music, since my mom had a guitar lying…. Holy shit this woman has pretty much manipulated me into who I am. I need to have a serious talk with her. Astronomy took a back seat, now it was about barely passing exams and playing music. That is, until my last two years of high school where my Higher Level Physics optional topic was Astrophysics. And to date, that and Literature have been the only two courses I have ever given a fuck about. It instilled the same sense of wonder in me, that I would have staring into the storm of Jupiter in one of those encyclopedias as an 8 year old. I wanted to do something; I wanted to excel at this one thing, to have a purpose to at least doing ONE of my IB courses with any real conviction. And I did, I scored a perfect 7/7 on that paper. That also triggered me into undertaking one of the dumbest decisions of my life, studying Aerospace Engineering at university.

Astrophysics you idiot! Not Engineering! That’s what you should’ve done!  Ask me why? Because I figured, to be practical and to be ‘financially stable’, engineering would be the way to go. And hey, it’s Aerospace, so it’s kind of related right? What an idiot. Here I am, five years later, still degree-less, a lot more cynical, and giving up all hopes of ever making any money, by deciding to become a filmmaker. Maybe this is the bolt beings punishing me for not dreaming anymore.

This is why Interstellar is such an important film. I never, ever, ever, cry watching films. But I managed to shed a few solitary tears while watching Interstellar. Not because of the emotional high points of the film (which Nolan has beautifully crafted), but because of an inexplicable feeling of being overwhelmed by everything. “This is my childhood! Why did you take it away from me!” I wanted to yell out at imaginary villains. When the truth is that the villain is inside me.  I was the one that started chasing after green eyed girls, rather than asking someone in my Calculus class “But how are infinity plus seven and infinity equal? Yeh kya hai???”. I was the one that stopped living a normal human life after a terrible heartbreak and locked myself in a room with a laptop and a high speed internet connection and just watched film after film after film. I forgot what the Tsiokolvsy’s rocket equation was, I forgot why we need to add a J2 perturbation to some orbital equations, or even what the names of the crew members of Apollo 14 were.  And I am absolutely not alone in this. There are countless versions of myself all over the world, and especially in India, who are conveniently shoved into boxes of engineering/medicine/law at a very young age. Financial security and ‘respectable job’ take precedence over talent and wonder. I know it’s too late for me now, but why can’t we let the newer generations dream a little more? Just a little more, before we bolt and rivet them into mechanical versions of themselves, set to serve one giant master. One giant wheel to be a cog in. All of my heroes from the space exploration world were from the 60’s/70’s. None from the 80’s.90’s or 2000’s. That is fucking sad. Who am I left to be inspired by? Someone who’s contribution to the world is measured by what his/her net worth is? Fuck. That. I refuse. I’d rather look up to a filmmaker like Christopher Nolan, who creates, even if fictional, worlds and stories that expand minds and inspire the glint of wonder behind our stone set eyes.

The film does not come without its flaws, of course. But what it left me with is much bigger than any miniscule anal thought I had during the film (“Heh, nice impact toughness on the ceramics of that ranger, am I right?” *wink wink*). The film is much, much bigger than the sum of its parts. And it has a LOT of delectable parts. Watch it, and be inspired. Let it talk to the ethereal child in you.

It’s time to stop fearing the unknown. It’s time to embrace the fact that it’s much more wondrous to NOT know, than to create a meaning that is convenient for us. Such is the beauty of science, it doesn’t judge. And it does not require you to believe in a certain god or be of a certain color or caste. It just requires you to question everything, especially what science itself brings forth. And it’s inclusive. You don’t have to be a genius. If I can be adequately interested in it and understand it, anyone can.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes from one of the greatest human beings that ever lived. Find out who it is, if you don’t know already.

“The significance of our lives and our fragile planet is then determined only by our own wisdom and courage. We are the custodians of life’s meaning. We long for a Parent to care for us, to forgive us our errors, to save us from our childish mistakes. But knowledge is preferable to ignorance. Better by far to embrace the hard truth than a reassuring fable. If we crave some cosmic purpose, then let us find ourselves a worthy goal.”

 – Haider Hussain Beig

(Haider Hussain Beig is a 23 year-old filmmaker based out of Netherlands. When he’s not alienating close friends with painful film gyaan, he dabbles in Aerospace Engineering. You can check out his stuff here)

So the wait is over. And the movie of the year is in theatres. For Christopher Nolan films, to watch or not to watch is never the question. And if you belong to the same tribe, you are at the right place. And more so, if you love reading countless pieces about a film that you love. But only counted few films and filmmakers give us the luxury of doing “Everything you always wanted to know about” posts. Cuaron’s Gravity was the last film we did a post like this.

We are trying to make this one the definitive post on all reading material on Nolan and Interstellar. Welcome aboard!

Nolan

Before Watching

Three must-read articles on Nolan and his cinema -

Caine told him, “I’ll read it and have my driver bring it over tomorrow.” But Nolan, who is notoriously secretive about his projects, said he’d stay and wait. “He had a cup of tea with my wife while I read it,” Caine told me. “I said I’d do it. Then he took the script away, and I never saw it again.” (Nolan defends his predilection for secrecy with the good sense of one of his paternal figures. “We all want to unwrap our Christmas presents early,” he told me, with a tone as sympathetic to childlike curiosity as it was firm in its tut-tutting advocacy of the greater pleasures of deferral. “But we all know we’ll be disappointed if we do.”)

- From NYT’s The Exacting, Expansive Mind of Christopher Nolan

The name of his production company, Syncopy, is the word for the temporary loss of consciousness caused by loss of oxygen to the brain, and all his films, to some extent, use the tropes of the detective film or heist movie to dramatise the twists and turns of consciousness.

- From Guardian’s long read Christopher Nolan: the man who rebooted the blockbuster 

And in contrast to the frantic last-minute reshoots of so many big-budget movies, Mr. Nolan’s work is reliable. He delivers films that are remarkably close to what he originally pitched to his backers. They come in ahead of schedule and under budget. Last April, a time when many summer releases were still far from complete, studio executives saw Mr. Nolan’s first cut of “Interstellar”—nearly identical to the one hitting theaters now.

- Ffrom WSJ’s Why Hollywood loves ‘Interstellar’ director Christopher Nolan

- The Physics Refresher You Need To Read To Understand ‘Interstellar’ (No Spoilers). Click here

After Watching (SPOILER ALERT)

- Plot of Interstelar – Read if you are still lost and confused about the film’s plot. In “Prologue and Epilogue: The Fifth Dimension and the Bookshelf at the End of the Universe” and “Love is Science, and Vice Versa”

- The Science of ‘Interstellar’ Explained (Infographic) – All about wormholes, black holes and space-time

- The Spaceships of ‘Interstellar’ Explained (Infographic). Click here

- What Is the Fifth Dimension in ‘Interstellar’? Click here

The one place where I am the least comfortable is on [a] planet where they have these ice clouds. These structures go beyond what I think the material strength of ice would be able to support. But I’d say if that’s the most egregious violation of physical law, they’ve done very, very well. There’s some artistic license there. Every time I watch the movie, that’s the one place where I cringe. I don’t think I’ve ever told anybody that.

- Kip Thorne’s interview is here - Physicist who inspired Interstellar spills the backstory—and the scene that makes him cringe

One of the older women, Murphy Cooper, is played by the actress Ellen Burstyn. But the rest are not actors. They are interview subjects fromFrom Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan’s 2012 documentary “The Dust Bowl,” and they are speaking about their experiences in that real environmental catastrophe, rather than a fictional cataclysm.

- How Ken Burns’ surprise role in ‘Interstellar’ explains the movie (click Here)

- A spoiler-filled look at Interstellar’s ending | Den of Geek

What is Nolan’s secret?
He has his tea in his pocket that he drinks all day. He has a coat with a big pocket and in it, a flask of tea. He drinks it all day. That’s his secret.

- Michael Caine’s interview is here. On Interstellar, Christopher Nolan’s Secret, and Drinking With Dylan Thomas

I said, Steven, if it was a contemporary space exploration film, it would be about 15 minutes long. And it would consist of the they all go in to the Appropriations Committee and quietly die, right? We don’t do that anymore. It’s fucking done. We peaked. In the years when the anthropologists come down, they’ll find a little polyester flag in the Moon and they’ll say, fuck, they almost made it. Right?

- Writer Jonathan Nolan’s interview is here

- “Academy Conversations: Interstellar”, followed by a new featurette and a bonus video of Nolan introducing his first film “Following” at the 1999 Rotterdam Film Festival. Click here

- Some interesting trivia on the film’s making #InterstellarHangout – Cast LIVE from Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum

- Christopher Nolan’s Favorite Shot, and How It Reflects What His Movies Are Really About. On Slate

- Interstellar’s Black Hole Once Seen As Pure Speculation. Fifty years after the term “black hole” was coined, audiences and scientists remain captivated. Here

- The plot of ‘Interstellar,’ in 10 TED Talks. Click here

- NASA | Caltech: An Interstellar Conversation – How is it possible to do it in reality (Panel of Astronomers, Physicist, Engineer)

CRITICISM

21 Things in Interstellar That Don’t Make Sense -  On Vulture

What the movie gets wrong and really wrong about black holes, relativity, plot, and dialogue – by astronomer Phil Plait.  On Slate

Nolan2 It’s showtime, folks! Come to the Master!

(Pic courtesy – via FB. Whoever created it, please come forward and take the credit. Jejus still loves you :)

FPRSI POSTCARD 100914

Film Heritage Foundation has announced its first major initiative to save India’s cinematic heritage – Film Preservation & Restoration School India – to be held from February 22nd -28th, 2015 at Films Division, Mumbai.

Film Heritage Foundation is a not for profit organization set up by filmmaker Shivendra Singh Dungarpur in 2014. Recognizing the urgent need to preserve India’s cinematic heritage, the foundation is dedicated to supporting the conservation, preservation and restoration of the moving image and to develop interdisciplinary educational programs that will use film as an educational tool and create awareness about the language of cinema.

This is a pioneering initiative of Film Heritage Foundation in collaboration with Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation, Cineteca di Bologna and L’Immagine Ritrovata.

Film Preservation & Restoration School, India

- The school is set up in collaboration with Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation, Cineteca di Bologna, L’Immagine Ritrovata and FIAF.

- Date : It will take place from February 22nd – 28th, 2015 in Mumbai. This is a unique project that is being done in India for the first time.

- The purpose of the school is to address current issues surrounding film preservation and restoration including practical training of current restoration and archival best practices by a faculty that includes some of the leading international experts in the field.

- The week-long course itself will consist of lectures/presentations followed by interactive sessions with experts on film archiving and preservation from the foremost archives and studios around the world, screenings of restored classics and ten modules on film restoration including hands-on training in the latest techniques that will be conducted by a technical team from L’Immagine Ritrovata, a state-of-the-art film restoration lab that has restored landmark films of Chaplin, Fellini, Ozu and Ritwik Ghatak amongst others.

- Application forms are available online on the website: www.filmheritagefoundation.co.in

- The deadline for submitting the application form: November 30th, 2014

- Participation Fees : Rs. 50,000/- plus applicable service tax for Indian students. 1000 USD plus applicable taxes for overseas student. (The fee includes lunch and two tea/coffee breaks with snacks every day from February 23rd – 28th, 2015. The fee also includes a closing dinner at the end of the school)

- Scholarship : A few scholarships will be available for deserving students. Selected canditates will be notified.

- Selected applicants will have to start with online preparatory material that will be made available to them from January 14th – February 18th, 2015.

- More details  in the Application Form and on the website.

-  Contact : Film Heritage Foundation 707, Arun Chambers, Tardeo Road, Mumbai – 400 034. India

Contact person: Mr. Jayant Patel
Email: fprsi_app@filmheritagefoundation.co.in

Tel: +91 22 67367777

- This will be the first step for a long-term goal to create an indigenous resource of archivists, conservation and restoration experts that will work towards protecting India’s cinematic heritage.

Martin Scorsese’s Letter Of Support

Details, Collaborators, Preservation Facts

Mumbai Film Festival is over, but the hangover remains. And so here comes one more post. This is a guest post by Mohamed Thaver.

Killa

I recently saw ‘Killa’ (The Fort) at the MAMI film festival, a subtle, understated and beautifully woven coming-of-age narrative of an 11-year-old boy, who along with his mother, shifts to a Konkan town after his father’s death. ‘Coming of age’ movies – that seemed to be the flavor of the recently concluded MAMI film festival – by their very nature, demand a certain level of deft handling of the filmmaking craft, a nuanced, under the radar approach – one does not come of age with fanfare – bearing a ‘handle with care’ tag, as the object being worked with: childhood, is brittle indeed. Much to our delight, first time director Avinash Arun, understands that one exposure to an insensitive, over the top scene at that age, could result in a lifelong scar.

After watching the movie (more on it later) as I was walking back, I could almost visualize a certain recurring pattern develop in some good Marathi movies I had seen lately. A small joining the dots act, comprising of drawing mental lines from Shwaas to Shaala to Fandry and Killa - to name a few – revealed to me a certain aesthetic I had seen somewhere. I told my friend with some delight, ‘I think Marathi cinema is going the Iranian cinema way. Isn’t it?’

Although not exclusively, but Iranian cinema, from Children of Heaven to Colour Of Paradise, has more so always vied for the heart over the head, the innocent over the intelligent attitude to film making. It has been more interested in the simple everyday stories, mirroring on screen the day-to-day struggles faced by families, seen on several occasions from the point of view of young eyes and muddled heads. It is this innocence – that without proper treatment of the subject matter could risk seeming ineffective at best and banal at worst – that for me makes Iranian cinema endearing more than anything else.

Now having a look at some good movies to come out of Marathi cinema of late, from the poignant Shwaas to Shala, Fandry and now to Killa, the movies here do not rely on some larger than life characters or a cinematic twist in the tale or even a resolution. Rather moving to the other extreme, it tries to present a slice of life of the most common person that it could find, thereby making the theme universal. Here too, a’ la Iranain cinema, the simple head and inquisitive eyes of a child are turning out to be a preferred medium of communication. Like in Fandry, when Jabya because of being born in a particular caste, has to chase the pig in front of his school mates, the humiliation is complete and would not be lost on anyone who has ever been a child. This is not to say that the aesthetic similarity between Marathi and Iranian is of a deliberate nature, but a beautiful tool employed effectively by two very diverse cultures.

I think it is good news for Marathi cinema, because it does require a certain amount of confidence in your art for a director – and a first time director like Avinash Arun at that- to pick up a story like Killa, where you cannot hide behind on screen histrionics. In a recent interview, Vishal Bharadwaj talking about the vulnerability of a director said, “You can tell a lot about a filmmaker from the movie. The filmmaker is emotionally naked on the movie screen” It is a healthy sign that many Marathi filmmakers are willing take off the garb of everything that is not good cinema and stand naked before the viewers with regularity.

Now coming back to Killa, my friend who has grown up in Kolhapur sprinted down memory lane within the first few minutes of the movie. When Bandya is shown humming ‘chandrakanta ki kahani’ she could not believe it. It was almost like someone has gone into her mind and splashed forth her childhood on the big screen. A special mention of the inspired scene when Bandya, a full of life youngster along with friends do a dhina-dhin-dha Anil ‘Ram Lakhan’ Kapoor style to welcome a classmate who enters wearing glares. It is such a blend of keenly observed childhoods, humour and imagination that it creates magic on screen.

Several movies at MAMI received a standing ovation. For Killa, however, it did not stop at that. People just stood as the credits rolled over and then did not know what to do with themselves after the credits have rolled over. They wanted more. They wanted to relive their childhoods just a wee bit longer.

(A crime reporter on a sabbatical,  Mohamed Thaver loves well created worlds – on screen, on pages or musical notes. His blog is here)