Archive for the the good Category

Saurabh on Killa

Posted in the good on July 29, 2015 by Satyam

no real spoilers

It’s not surprising that the opening shots of Avinash Arun’s outstanding debut “Killa” (The Fort) are a slow glide down a forest road, a diminutive figure sitting on the beach after sunset, and a young boy coming in from the rain. Nature registers with astonishing force in Arun’s film. Torrential monsoon rain punctuates the movie, producing both momentousness and foreboding whilst steering clear of both the high drama and romance that rain now signals in popular Indian cinema (alongside the ruined fort of the film’s title, the rough palm-fringed beach with its few fishing boats and a vast calm sea stretching into the distance, the rain is also integral to creating Killa’s exceptionally vivid sense of place. Arun’s camera captures the magic of the Konkan seaside village in an absolutely unprecedented manner, but without ever making it seem too unbelievably lush). Winds howl. Waves crash. And when the sun shines, the light is clear and touched by something other-worldly. It’s all visually superlative (and I mean this in the most literal sense of the word. Avinash Arun’s cinematography here looks like the work of a landscape artist. And Naren Chandarvarkar and Benedict Taylor’s score is beautifully listenable), yet it also serves a higher purpose. In a film that’s so focused on childhood and memory, the fierceness of the elements prevents the narrative from slipping into sepia-tinted nostalgia. Nature is the dominating deity here overseeing the spiritual journey where a young boy must embrace change even if the territory includes heartbreak and sorrow. Continue reading

Saurabh Reviews MASAAN (Hindi; 2015)

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 27, 2015 by Qalandar

In Neeraj Ghaywan’s superb first feature set in Benaras, “Masaan”, what flows through everything is the Ganga, churning the lives of all the film’s characters into a single swirling stream. It is upon its banks, by the raging fires of Manikarnika, that they must embrace death, and from its murky waters that they must draw a renewed desire for life. Continue reading

The Decline of the American Actor (The Atlantic, Jul-Aug 2015)

Posted in the good with tags , , on July 27, 2015 by Qalandar

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Excerpt: “Actors can’t do what they do in isolation, as writers and painters and composers can. The theatrical arts are collaborative, both in the microcosm of an individual production and in the macrocosm of the culture that does, or does not, sustain them. It’s fair to say that American culture isn’t providing a high level of sustenance right now, and actors—like so many others in the every-man-for-himself climate of 2015—have to figure out, on their own, ways to get what they need. The question is whether they can muster the imagination, and the stamina, to maintain their technique (and their spirits) while dealing with the sort of material available to them in this movie culture: cop dramas, superhero adventures, rom-coms and bro comedies, the occasional earnest, glacially paced indie. It’s not impossible, but it can be a heavy lift.”

Qalandar Reviews MASAAN (Hindi; 2015)

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 26, 2015 by Qalandar


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By the end, Masaan (“Cremation Ground”) was very different from the film I thought I was watching after the first fifteen minutes: the opening sequence, involving a sexual encounter violated and sullied by policemen intent on cruelty and extortion, is one of the most riveting, and nauseating, representations of the police in years (only the sequence in Anurag Kashyap’s Ugly (2014), where the father of a missing girl tries to register a missing person-complaint, comes close). I was filled with loathing, and wanted to hurt someone. That feeling stayed with me – Bhagwan Tiwari as Inspector Mishra has an important and continuing role over the course of the film – but Masaan turned out to be about something other than misogyny or the workings of a corrupt and oppressive state machine. What that something is I’m not quite sure, but in its moodiness, its air of mystery, its poetry, I am confident Masaan heralds the arrival of an exciting, reflective new directorial talent in Neeraj Ghaywan. To the extent Vikramaditya Motwane’s Udaan (2010) may be said to have spawned successors, Masaan is among the worthies. Continue reading

Qalandar on BAJRANGI BHAIJAAN (Hindi; 2015)

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 25, 2015 by Qalandar


Excerpt: “Everyone deserves a second chance, and in retrospect, Ek Tha Tiger was the appetizer to the main course that is Bajrangi Bhaijaan: and a damn good meal it is (and, it must be noted, one not without some Andhra spice, written as it is by K. Vijayendra Prasad, a man credited with more blockbusters – including the continuing phenomenon of Baahubali — than most have hits). By now everyone knows the plot — good-hearted Hanuman bhakt Pawan Kumar Chaturvedi finds a mute Pakistani girl lost in India, and resolves to cross the border to re-unite her with her family — but let’s pause to acknowledge that this itself is a welcome relief from the nauseating flood of routine love stories packaged as something different; or the clothes, fashion, and lifestyle ads that masquerade as films in Bollywood. And then there is the question of the social milieu the film is set in: I found myself rooting for the fact that this film isn’t populated by people toting D&G and acting as if progressive cinema consisted of ripping off off-beat American filmmakers, rather than plagiarizing other sources. In Bajrangi Bhaijaan, people take the bus, eat at dhabas, drink tea from roadside stalls, not because the director is trying to tell us something (in far too many contemporary Hindi films, these representations would mean either that we are talking about the hinterlands of UP and Bihar, with crazy violence sure to follow; or that it’s a question of a film about some “them”, made for some “us” that is assuredly not “them”), but because that’s simply where his characters live and how they commute to work. It’s delightful because it’s so normal. (That I have to make this point at all testifies to the sad pass the industry has come to.)” Continue reading

Saurabh on Bajrangi Bhaijaan

Posted in the good on July 25, 2015 by Satyam


I caught up with “Bajrangi Bhaijaan” yesterday and found it utterly pedestrian. It begins beautifully though, with a lovely opening scene carrying an intertextual reference to Manmohan Desai’s “Chhalia”. as the Samjuhta Express makes it way from Pakistan to India. The image of Nutan wiping away the condensation from the window of her train compartment in Desai’s film is eerily resurrected in the cinematic memories of this movie. By reaching back to one of Desai’s earliest films, a work exploring the trauma of partition through the eyes of a displaced abductee, Bajrangi Bhaijaan perhaps implies this this yet another seemingly mainstream star vehicle for Salman Khan, while trying to broach the subject of borders and belonging, will in truth be a secularist allegory on the inwardly interminable disturbance of partition. However, a slick filmic reference to a classic Hindi film doesn’t automatically make Bajrangi Bhaijaan a deft slice of mainstream melodrama!
Continue reading

A Passage to Shimla (Caravan)

Posted in the good on July 17, 2015 by Satyam

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“Over the years, the town’s position in films has shifted from the peripheries of the narrative to closer to the backbone of the story. In 1982, when Kamal Haasan won his first National Film Award, this rising star of Tamil cinema featured in the hit film Simla Special, in which Shimla appears again through the eyes of a tourist. But though films such as Ajay Devgan’s 2000 Raju Chacha and the 2005 release Black meted out heavier doses of the hill station, compared to its stock appearances in the 2009 hit Three Idiots and the Shimla girl Preity Zinta’s 2000 debut Kya Kehna, most never delved into the history behind the visual gloss of its colonial relics.”