Gulzar – Behind The Lens

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gulzarWhen one observes the brilliance of poetry in films then one can be sure, behind that piece of celluloid there is more than just a director, there is “Gulzar”. Sampooran Singh Kalra popularly known by his pen name Gulzar has mesmerized us with his poems, lyrics and shayari over five decades during which he has become an integral part of Indian film industry as a lyricist. But the lyrical effect was added not only to the movies for which Gulzar wrote songs but also to movies which he directed and gave us some Sui generis cinema. He is one of those sensitive people whose work is laced with the lyrical and psychologically adept examination of human sensibilities. He is a keen observer of human relationships and it is reflected through his songs and films.

Our generation is fortunate enough to listen to songs written by Gulzar and at the same time I would say unfortunate that Gulzar has stopped directing films. He started his career as a director with the film Mere Apne in 1971. Then there were films like Parichay, Koshish, Aandhi, Khusboo, Angoor, Ijazat, Mausam, Hu tu tu, Maachis among others which were not “blockbuster hits” but told stories of human relationships entangled in social issues.

Parichay

parichayParichay was the movie that caught everybody’s soul from children to adults. It was based on the Bengali novel Rangeen Uttarain by Rajkumar Maitra and inspired from the Hollywood movie The Sound of Music. Here as always we have a show of Gulzar’s brilliance of exploring the relationship between people. In the movie an unusual friendly relationship is developed between a tutor played by Jeetendra and students. Ravi (Jeetendra) with his own ways is able to develop a good chemistry between grandchildren and their enraging grandfatther Rai Sahab(Pran). At the end, Rai Sahab points out that it was Ravi who has in the real sense introduced (Parichay) his grandchildren to him.

Aandhi

It is not often that we see so beautiful take on the private side of a famous politician. Aandhi is supposed to be based on the life of ex Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. But Aandhi is not a political film. It is just the profession of the leading lady in the film. It is a film about love, marriage, romance, human nature, pride, separation, ego, forgiveness and reconciliation.

Aandhi is the story of Aarti(Suchitra Sen) who has a very strong character and wishes to become a political leader like her father. But she falls in love with a hotel manager JK (Sanjeev Kumar) and decides to marry him. She is not able to strike a balance between her married life as a wife/mother and her professional career. Lots of arguments and fights lead them to part their ways. Many years later they meet again when Aarti is already a big political leader and a new relationship shapes up between them in remnant life of theirs.

One gets engaged with gulzar’s direction after watching the movie due to extra-ordinary storytelling and beautiful portrayal of human relationship. We see neither bitterness nor anger between Aarti and JK, but only a renewed and mature relationship based on understanding and fond memories. The film is extremely well-written, so are the characters. The story unfolds with flashbacks and strolls through past and the present. There is an impressive attention that director plays to the details and as always Gulzar has written beautiful lyrics and dialogues.

Ijaazat

Ijazaat is one of the most sensitive films of Gulzar. Falling in the category of parallel cinema it is story  of relationship between Mahendar(Nasserudding Shah), his wife Sudha (Rekha) and his ex lover Maya  (Anuradha Pate). But it is quite different from the typical story of husband having an affair but a mature  romance. It looks at an unusual male-female relationship, a subject less often broached in Hindi films.

Mayijaazata disappears somewhere and at the same time due to urge of his grandfather Mahendar has to marry Sudha. As of now they live a happy married life. But Maya returns and things begin to change. She tries to commit suicide and Mahendar starts staying at her place and Sudha unaware of the fact thinks her husband is unfaithful to her. So to make things clear Mahendar wants to bring Maya to talk with Sudha. But listening Sudha’s anger on the phone Maya leaves her house and then he finds that even Sudha has left him. Now unable to bear the shock of the Sudha’s departure Mahendar gets a heart attack and his looked after by Maya. With the passing time Maya finds her guilty of Sudha leaving Mahendar and sets of in the night riding bike and falls to an accident and dies. With this, in his world Mahedar remains alone at the end.

The style of storytelling is again so wonderful. Direction is such that movie is very close to reality and the sequences shape up in such a way that one gets attached to the story. It begins in a waiting room of a station where Mahendar meets his estranged wife Sudha after so many years. One striking feature of the film is that the chemistry remains same between Mahedar and Rekha when they meet after a long time. At the beginning they are hesitant but as the time passes they freshen up their memories and again kind of develop an attachment with each other. Asha Bhosale’s “Mera Kuch Samaan“ among other songs which have meaningful lyrics are perfect cast for emotionaly loaded performance of the actors.

Angoor

angoor<While making films Guzlar has not left a single color in the spectrum by making a comedy film which remains a cult even today. Angoor was based on Shakespeare’s ”Comedy of errors”. It is a story of two pairs identical twins separated in childhood. Humor begins to surface when the twins take each other’s place after they grow old. It is a story that takes place in one day and the series of mishaps that happen on that day.

When these kinds of movies are made there are places where film makers can really mess up with the things but this doesn’t happen in the movie. Nothing out of this world or extravagant happens but director is able to make people laugh on simple terms and in simple premises. Short tempered Sanjeev Kumar and and idiotic looking Deven Verma are perfect compliments for each other.

Some things are quite peculiar in the directorial ventures of Gulzar. He uses “flashbacks” effectively to tell stories. Dialogues and script create a soothing effect on viewers. Most of the films have beautiful songs which take movie further and provide meaning to the story. Gulzar has worked with some of the best actors of that time like Sanjeev Kumar, Naseruddin Shah, and Jaya Bachchan etc.

These are only the few of the masterpieces directed by Gulzar. There are many other movies which find place in one of the finest works ever produced in Hindi film industry. Lovers of Hindi cinema will always miss the works of Gulzar in this respect. Gulzar saab, we always hope you get behind the lens yet another time!

(From COEP Annual Magazine Abhiyanta 2012)

Come fall in Love with the Cities with Woody

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moviesThis would really be naïve of me on writing on this topic and about this great director. But really speaking I couldn’t resist going into the churning of thoughts about some of his great movies which I was able to discover and found myself passionate about them. Of course, there was this new trailer of his movie which picked me up to write this piece. So, this man who makes you fall in love with the stories of his films, its characters their ingenious romance and literally with everything around it be it music, art, history. These all are shown to be composite of a city which is a complete package put on celluloid. My journey with this man started from Barcelona, then it went on to Manhattan, Paris of 20s and now it is approaching Rome.

This man not only has cities in his movie titles but begins his film with them as if cities are vital character in his films. That is so true! Like in Manhattan which opens with a man in background writing a book and begins describing New York City from different vantage points. He describes same city with a sense of romance, corniness and also anger at the same time. Gershwin’s “Rhapsody In Blue” plays over stunningly photographed black & white images of New York. This opening scene I think is the representative of the film, rather representative of film’s characters. Music playing in the background is phenomenal in all three movies. What you see is a beautiful postcard style show of cities with classic background music just adding to the picturesque and one is sure to fall for these cities.

In the words of famous film critic Roger Ebert “The thing about a Woody Allen film is, whatever else happens, the characters are intriguing to hear. They tend to be smart, witty, not above epigrams.” These people are artists, history enthusiasts, passionate, and staunch on their opinions about art, life and people they like. In the two of the movies the protagonists are American people who visit Paris and Barcelona. In Midnight in Paris Gil(Owen Wilson) is a Hollywood writer who is confused about the book he is writing meets literary geniuses from the 20s. This was really an incredible idea. The legends like Fitzgeralds, Hemingway, Picasso, and Tom Elliot brought to life. Film ends with an interesting message in the end. The fantasy created by Woody in the movie is really out of the box and wonderfully written. Vicky Christina Barcelona portrays two American girls on vacation to Barcelona meet two quirky strangers who are divorced and are wonderful painters. The movie gives a wonderful insight into Catalan culture including their food, architecture, music and paintings. In Manhattan, we find a different sort of American who is TV writer and dates a high school girl and is mystically confused between love for her and his friend’s mistress who has a subtle character.

This is a sure treat – a beautiful city, quirky characters, and moreover they romance each other. Romance is what makes Woody’s movies stand out. In Manhattan the characters who are mostly in their 40s, approach relationships with the same selfishness and indecisiveness of teenagers, so there’s a certain logic to one of them literally dating an actual teenager. Atypical relationship begins between two different people from different cultures in Vicky Christina Barcelona. In this movie there are people who are Midnight in Paris goes out of the world in which people of different eras fall in love. But in the end an interesting thought is found common in between them that they both believe that people living in time before them were happier than the current people which results in their separation.
When these stories fall on ear at first time, they sound weird but on screen they look and feel is distinctive. People in these movies engage themselves in long discussions on art, history, and culture. As the story goes on we are introduced to cities which are a world in themselves in each of these movies which I feel is the best part in these three movies.

Sherlock Holmes – Always Resourceful

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Perhaps it would not be wisest of me to express my views about “Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows” in a language that certainly would not be able to fathom the impregnable English used in the movie. But these days I have been under a resourceful obsession of Sherlock Holmes watching the new age consulting detective in the series Sherlock and then the next week going back to the 19th century. So I may not be wise to write on this subject but certainly compelled to indite adroit of the man himself and at the same time of the makers of the both these stunning entertainers and not forgetting the creator of the character Sir Arthur Canon Doyle.

The art directors and costume designers of the movie provide us with the attractive and elusive view of the late Victorian era while our protagonist is from the end of the 21st century. His introspective and philosophical aspects are turned obscure by Guy Ritchie and has turned him into the moulds of ultra tough guys like Daniel Craig in James Bond and Indiana Jones who can endure pain and suffering at such an extent. Sherlock in this movies is agile, a good runner, and a skillful fighter. But the unique aspect that defines Sherlock Holmes is preserved when his theories of deduction are coupled with his fighting. He can guess the movements of his opponents before hand and the shots like changing the cartridges in the guns gives him advantage in his encounter with his enemies.

When it comes to the modern era Sherlock(in the TV series) most of the aspects from the works of Sir Arthur Canon Doyle remain intact and presented before us the same character with equipped with smart phones, laptops, internet and modern technology with Sherlock’s obsession with experimentation and his theories of deduction remaining the same. Modern time Sherlock goes with his website The Science of Deduction.

Game of shadows is more action packed than earlier one with the scenes of bombings and sequences from the ammo factory well shot. The frenzy is increased by the high speed editing of the shots where there is explanation of the executions of the plans by the professor Moriarty the long deduction theories. Hans Zimmer as always provides with elegant as well as meticulous background. Unlike the first movie the most emphatic factors like forensic test and sherlock’s obsession with the chemical experiment do not seem that evident in the second one.

Antagonists have always been crucial in Sherlock Holmes and this time around he faces the someone of his stature a person who has the ability outwit Sherlock himself a detective fast paced chess player Professor Moriarity. While watching the television version of the Sherlock Holmes one can see the antagonists like to play with Sherlock closely. Every episode ends with the close encounter between Sherlock and the villain. The sequence at the end of “The study in Pink” is quite dramatic as well as thrilling.

Jude law who plays the character and at the same time narrator in the movie looks more sensible and reliable chap who explodes over the outrageous behavior of his flatmate. In the television version of, we see a rather confused guy who assists Sherlock Holmes.

No matter how you improvise or adapt Sherlock to the new world the basic work is so magnificent that you ought to fell in love with it. At its heart is the process of “reasoning backwards” to infer the steps leading up to an outcome. In the stories, this process delivers impressive results, even if they are often a bit far-fetched. Lovers of Sherlock Holmes will always be grateful to the literary genius of Sir Arthur Canon Doyle whose character has made the Guinness Book of Records as the most frequently portrayed literary character in film history with more than 70 actors have played the role in more than 200 films.

The Humanly Superhero

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batman

The most common things people expect from superhero films is action, thrill, a lot of vfx shots and some out of the world powers conflicting among themselves. Least you can expect is a philosophical thought, a human touch and reality. How can a simple man like me and you become a superhero? This is where Batman stills the show. Unlike other superheroes batman is not someone who is result of radioactivity, not an alien with supernatural powers, or some result of scientific experiment gone wrong. He is a human being made of flesh and blood like everybody else but still stands different from everyone else.The idea of being a superhero is not completely overturned in batman. But he is the same protagonist who saves people’s lives, fights crime and criminals. All other superheroes come from nowhere and start doing all these things. But what lies at the heart of “The Batman Begins” is the creation of a superhero.

The story of Chris Nolan’s batman begins with a boy who is afraid of bats. He never understands why his father works at the hospital giving such a big empire in the hands of other people. These all noble thoughts are sown in the child’s mind from his childhood. One day the child is left alone when his parents are killed by a rogue. The child feels guilty throughout his life that it was his fault. At one time he even wants to revenge his father’s death by killing the criminal lord in the city of Gotham. But is not able to do it.

This lonely boy then starts with his quest of understanding the criminal mind. He travels around the world and tries to explore the reason why people indulge themselves in crime. What is that drives them? He himself gets hands on crime getting into a criminal’s shoes. He discovers thrill in crime, necessity of some people to do crime. Now there he starts an urge to do something for his crime infested Gotham. But he lacks is the path he would follow. Then comes Ra’s al Ghul who offers him the path of “League of Shadows”.

rosh-al-gul

League of shadows is a society which has worked over the years to make world a better place to live in that too in their ‘own’ ways. Bruce Wayne learns here not only the art of combat but also overcomes his fear of bats. The center of the ideas of the League of Shadows lies at “man conquering his worst fear”. If he is able to do that then he has nothing on face of the earth to be afraid of. This idea is rooted deep into his mind and he overcomes his fear of bats. Now foundation is laid for the whole phenomenon called ‘Batman’.

When the time comes for Bruce to finish his training he has points of differences with the League’s philosophy which tells “Criminals thrive on the indulgence of society”. They believe removal of criminals will be responsible for the removal crime. He is asked to execute a criminal and he refuses to do so. Bruce’s stresses on the point that he is not killer and he doesn’t want to kill criminals but uproot crime from the society. But the League believes in complete annihilation citing references from the past where they have even destroyed civilizations and cities like Rome for removing crime from the world. Bruce returns somehow causing destruction at League’s site but Ra’s al Ghul is saved by Bruce himself.

Bruce Wayne has watched his home, Gotham City, turn into a crime infested abyss throughout his entire life, so he decides to become the hero Gotham needs- Batman. Using modern techniques Batman is materialized. Ultimately, Ra’s al Ghul returns with his League to destroy Gotham which has seen crime growing with time. So, the stage is set for two paradoxical philosophies to collide, conflict between the teacher and the seeker and time for Gotham to experience fight between its hero Batman and Ra’s al Ghul.

The Social Network

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It was not the first time I was watching ‘the social network’, one of the finest piece of films of last year. Before watching the movie I was indeed a more or less prejudiced about its goodness for the fact that it was made by one of my favourite directors, David Fincher. His earlier flicks like Seven, Fight Club and Zodiac which were little inclined on the darker side of the social animals which created thrill that could make your hairs stand on end. But his take on life of Mark Zuckerburg, concentrated more on the “social” side of Social Animals.

I was more than impressed after watching it. The film begins with Mark sitting with Erica, his girlfriend, in a bar. His speedy talks quite convincingly demonstrate the invincible genius this man possesses. It’s another matter that the same talk makes him loose his girlfriend. In this perturbed state he decides to do something that would draw his attention to something else; gets intoxicated, blogs that Erica is a bitch and develops a website called ‘FACEMASH’. It was this website that laid the foundation to the revolutionary social networking website ‘FACEBOOK’.

This write up on the film is not an official critic and I am not in the position to write one, so I have the independence of roaming anywhere I want while I write. So this film is about Mark Zuckerberg, person of the year, Time Magazine 2010. This man seen in the film moving his fingers on the keyboard in a lightning speed is a sheer ‘prodigy’ who started writing software in Middle School. His father arranged for his tuitions in programming and the icon of today’s youth was in the making.He enjoyed developing computer programs, especially communication tools and games. In one such program, since his father’s dental practice was operated from their home, he built a software program he called “ZuckNet,” which allowed all the computers between the house and dental office to communicate by pinging each other. It is considered a “primitive” version of AOL’s Instant Messenger, which came out the following year. During Zuckerberg’s high school years, under the company name Intelligent Media Group, he built a music player called the Synapse Media Player that used artificial intelligence to learn the user’s listening habits. Mark’s qualities also cover other facets. He was captain of the school fencing team, could recite lines from The Illiad, and now spends some time of everyday learning Mandarin Chinese.

The other characters that lay impression were the Winklevoss twins. These people called themselves ‘gentlemen of Harward’ when time came for suing Mark. These brothers were entrepreneurs, developed the idea of Harward Connect and most noteworthy speciality was that they represented their university in the rowing crew. Later went on to participate in Olympics and also won a gold and a silver for their country in 2007 Pan American Olympics. So all these people are believe in all round performance and also nurture it.

So where is this all happening? The development of a path breaking website, lots of other inventions, elite sports personalities and exuberant partying. It is Harward and I’m love in it. As the Director of Harward says rightly in the film “HARVARD undergraduates believe that inventing a job is better than finding a job”. Today colleges like ours have to undertake a course on entrepreneurship to plant this ideas in the minds of students.

The other character that has an important place in the whole story is that of Sean Parker, a serial entrepreneur who does have the knack of making girls run after him, has done lots of business, has cases registered against him and even accused of drug dealing. But he was the one who developed Mark’s vision of how big ‘the facebook’ could be. As Edurdo points out in the film the biggest contribution of Sean’s was the change of the name ‘the facebook’ to ‘facebook’.

Meanwhile, Mark had two law suits running against him one from the Winkelvoss’ and the other from Eduardo, his first business end. The scenes of the hearing are also worth pondering upon. They explore intellectual of Mark in some way. He doesn’t answer some questions frankly unless his lawyer points it out to him. He may not seem that involved in the proceedings and also might seem scribbling in his notepad but is quite concentrated in the things going on there. He even knows what exactly the oath was that he took. Mark does have to pay handsomely to all these people and looses his best freind Eduardo. After all, “You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies”.