Sunday, 30 December 2007

A frosty magical morning

There is something magical about waking up and looking at the twinkling lights of a christmas tree. This year our tree has ice white and blue lights that are beautiful.

I looked out of the window and saw that all trees were covered with white frost.

Frost or no frost, if you have a dog you need to go out in the morning so that he can err... shit and piss. I know, the two words, don't rhyme well with christmas trees and magical ice white and blue lights, but then even on magical mornings, you can't forget the realities of life, can you?

So out we were, I and Brando, shivering together and walking amidst grass that looked like it had been altered with photoshop. In the part of the park where elderly persons have their handkerchief patches of "kitchen gardens", surviving lettuce, cabbages had been turned into ice-statues by some demon.

Someone had covered their tiny plants with plastic bottles to save them from the frost, they stood up like Milo's Venuses, their arms chopped off by the same demon.

In the end, it was indeed a magical morning.

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Is Bhatinda the new Jhumaritalaiya?

Finally I saw JBJ, Jhoom Baraber Jhoom.

The reviews were so bad and I am not a real fan of any of its stars, so I was not very motivated to watch the film. However the music was wonderful and I kept on listening to the songs. Even after many more newer movies had come and gone, the music of JBJ continues to pulsate in my head even now.

Plus the negative reviews are actually a plus point, the more negative the reviews, the less expectations I have when I do watch some of those film. This is true up to a point. There are certain films with unbelievable storylines, that good or bad reviews, that I don’t want to watch any way. But for films like JBJ, I think that bad reviews are good since almost always I end up feeling that the film was not so terrible after all.

That is how I started watching it, ready to doze off while watching it. Yes, I hate to admit it but it seems to happen quite frequently recently, that I doze off while watching some films and my wife swears that I snore louder than the background music of some of these films. So I was there, feeling a little complacent and superior, about the depths the Bollywood film industry has fallen to, sprawled on the sofa in the living room.

Guess what, I never dozed off and on the whole I liked the film. I thought it was a little whacky but it was good fun. I loved Lara Dutta too, the first part of the film, like in the song "Ticket to Bollywood".

I even liked Amitabh Bhacchan, he looks kind of cute and he seems to be enjoying himself.

But I can understand the point of all the critics and aam junta, who didn’t like this film. It is a real nightmare, especially for those defending Bhartiya sanskriti and NRI dreams. The film bulldozes almost all the sacred cows dear to babies fed on mamma Yashraj films’ milk of Raichand families, Rahuls, Veer-Zaaras. Yes, I know I am mixing my Chopras, Johars and Barjatyas, but I am sure you get point I want to make.

Jhoom Barabar Jhoom is a subsversive film

The film has been packaged as usual YR Films’ dream merchants’ usual masala fare, but actually it is quite subversive and not very subtle about it.

Most of all, it does not respect Indian sensibilities. Probably it rankled the nuts of our Pakistani brothers as well. One of my femminist friends was telling me that there is nothing like an "attack on our culture" to bring Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis together. While taking care of their errant wives/daughters/sisters, they forget all their other differences. And, this film is an "attack on our culture", no doubts about it. Let me explain myself better.

AB’s baby (Abhishekh Bachchan) as Rikki Thakural, originally from Bhatinda and transplated in Queen’s Engliand, could be a bhaiyya living under madam Mayawati ji, even if occasionally his accent does get English. He is a crook, bumming off magazines and other things from honest shopkeepers (remember Amrish Puri, the stern father of DDLJ?). He could be Bunty who has run away from Allahabad and landed in UK. No sophistication, no house with the staircase fit for horse-riding, no chandeliers, no private helicopter, no loving mother waiting with aarti ki thali. The character must have been like ice cold showers to all those Bhatindawallas planning to sell off their lands to migrate to the land of milk and honey. I mean, how can you emigrate to the land of the plenty and continue to be a crook and bhaiyya? What kind of dreams are these?

And, BTW, is Bhatinda the new Jhumaritalaiya? Lot of the heroes and heroines these days are from Bhatinda. Remember JBM and the sikhni, Geet? I bet, it is a ploy to raise up the property prices in Bhatinda, but let me not digress.

Zinta baby’s Alvira Khan (Preity Zinta) is a Pakistani babe who must be the nightmare of all Indian and Pakistani parents, who are losing the desperate fights to keep their children uncorrupted by the decadent values of western culture (if you can call them values and culture!). All those NRIs don’t need to go to cinema to see those nightmares, they live them every day, so why should they watch a movie that revels in glorifying that nightmare? A good Muslim girl does not wear short minis and does not talk with strangers at the Railway station. Not even one burkha scene in the film! Terrible for our Asian culture!

And, the story of love between a Muslim girl and a Hindu boy, it is a serious business. It can be done like in Veer Zaara, but what kind of values are you promoting if you never raise the religion issue in the whole film? Are we trying to say that for love, religion is not important? Terrible, no sharm haya is left in today’s world!

Lara Dutta looks good enough to eat in the first half of the film, but in the second half, her character as the tart Laila is terrible. I mean, we can be understanding about these "fallen" women with loose morals but they must show a bit of remorse for their situation, and they must be willing to cover their heads and coyly ask for maafi, while chanting Hanuman chalisa. However, Laila does not feel any remorse, she uses dirty words, behaves like a slut and then takes a honest mummy-loving dear lad like Satvinder (Bobby Deol) and turns him in to one of those modern kinds who go out with their girl friends without worrying about Bharitiya Sanskriti or their moms.

The film was not given an “adults only” certificate and I am sure that it must have been an insidious but gravely deleterious effect on the morals of our corruptible youngsters. Rightfully it was refused by our intelligent public of NRIs and hopefull NRIs in India.

I hope YR films (and their brothers and sisters in Johar films, Bartajatya films, etc.) have learnt their lesson and are preparing the next episode of Raichand-Rahul saga with half-naked cold-proof heroine dressed in a Bhartiya sari dancing in the Swiss mountains, waiting to cover her head demurely with her sari and touch senior Raichand ji’s feet as his respectful bahu, while celebrating karva chauth. I bet that will be a huge hit.

I the mean time, I am still smiling after finishing towatch JBJ, but then I was already morally corrupted, so that is no big news that I like all these faltu films!


Saturday, 1 December 2007

Films of Ferzan Ozpetek

Today I saw the new film of Ferzan Ozpetek. "Saturno contro". Means That "the saturn is in opposition". Like in the horoscopes. For a long time afterwards I was thinking about his films. I think that he is among the best Italian film directors today though I am not sure if his name or his films are known to English speakers? (In this picture Ferzan Ozpetek).

Farzan Ozpetek, film maker, Italy

Ferzan was born in Istambul and came to Italy as a young student in late nineteen seventies. For fifteen years he worked as assistant to different directors including the wonderful Massimo Troisi. In 1997 he directed his first film, "Hammam, Bagno turco" (Hammam - the Turkish baths).

"Saturno Contro" that I saw today is his sixth film. I haven't seen all of them, I missed one of them, Harem Suaré that had come out in 1999.

Alternate sexuality is a common thread running through his films and sometimes, I have heard people dismiss him as the director of "gay films", but I feel that this would be reductive way to look at his work.

Alternate sexualities including gays, bisexuals, lesbians, transexuals, all find a place in his film world and are portrayed as real people, not as caricatures. Often he mixes the theme of alternate sexuality with other themes related to the marginalised persons such as the elderly and the urban poor.

Another common theme of his film is that of persons, especially women, who live lives cut off from their emotions and then something happens, that stimulates a radical transformation in the way they see the world and themselves.

Finally another common theme that I have noticed in his films is that of emotions linked to death, separation, loss and grief, and how we cope with these emotions, how they change us.

"Saturno Contro" starts with a group of friends. Most of them have crossed forty. David (Pierfrancesco Favino) is a writer who is gay, and his companion is Lorenzo (Luca Argentero). Their friends are Antonio (Stefano Accorsi), his wife Angelica (Margherita Buy), and Antonio's mistress Laura (Isabella Ferrari), a Turkish translator Neval (Serra Yilmaz) and her policeman husband Roberto (Filippo Timi), David's ex-boyfriend Sergio (Ennio Fantastichini), an astrolger and drug addict Roberta (Ambra Angiolini) and Paolo (Michelangelo Tommaso) a medical student and an aspiring writer, who wants to come close to David.

Farzan Ozpetek, film maker, Italy

These friends meet regularly. Antonio and David are childhood friends but now it is Angelica who is closer to David and Lorenzo. Lorenzo discovers Antonio with his girl friend and does not what to do to protect Angelica, Antonio's wife, from this news. During a dinner at David's home, Antonio finds an excuse to go out to meet his girl friend. Then suddenly Lorenzo, who was not feeling too well loses consciousness, rushed to the hospital, he goes into coma. Suddenly their lives change and death enters the story.

Rest of the film is about Lorenzo's coma and then death in the hospital and how David and other friends react to it.

The film is an exploration of grief, when you suddenly lose the person you love and it seems that suddenly the world does not have any meaning. All the friends feel the grief of losing a friend but in their own way they all understand that the pain of David is strongest and yet do not know how to deal with it. It is a very moving film, slow and lingering over the details, of coming to terms with loss.

Le Fate Ignoranti (The ignorant angels) was another film of Ozpetek that came out in 2001 and became a popular and critical success. It was the story of an apparently happy and successful couple, Antonia and Massimo. Massimo suddenly dies in an accident and Antonia (Margherita Buy), a doctor is grief-stricken and shocked. Her whole life seems empty and meaningless.

One day among Massimo's office things Antonia finds a painting, behind it somebody has written, "From your angel". Suspicious that her husband had an affair, she tries to find out the person who had given that painting to Massimo. That is how she discovers that her husband had a relationship with a man, Michele (Stefano Accorsi) for the last seven years.

Farzan Ozpetek, film maker, Italy

Initially shocked and repulsed she can't belive that her husband was betraying her to a man, but then she wants to understand and enters the world of Michele, a world where a group of gays, transexuals and lesbians live together as a community.

Michele says, "Don't be angry with me, you will be always his wife. Outside this house I could never be anything for Massimo. I loved him for seven years and yet I can't go and cry on his grave".

Antonia wants to understand that part of Massimo that she never even knew that existed. She feels attracted towards Michele but he is gay and not interested in her as a woman. Slowly Antonia understands that Michele is not the answer to her grief. Learning to cope with her grief, Antonia goes back to her own world.

In 2003, Ozpetek made La Finestra di Fronte (The window in front) about a woman Giovanna (Giovanna Mezzogiorno) with two children, living an unhappy life. Giovanna is attracted to a young man Lorenzo (Raoul Bova), who lives accross the street near her house. One day she finds an elderly man who has lost his memory. Giovanna and Lorenzo try to discover about the past and family of the man, discovering that he was put in a concentration camp by Nazis because he was gay and his grief for his companion, whom he could not save from death.

In 2005, Ozpetek made his most spiritual film, Cuore Sacro (Sacred heart). It was the story of Irene (Borbora Bobulova), a successful and ruthless entrepreneur, who seems unperturned by the suicide of her old friends because she has taken over their old company. Then while planning to take over an old family home, she discoveres the secret of her mother, who was apparently mentally ill and prisoner in that house. Her encounter with a thief young girl and the young girl's death bring her in contact with the reality of urban poor and her own guilt. Filled with remorse she gives up everything and in a gesture of penitence removes all her clothes in a metrostation.

If you have not seen any of Farzan's films, I hope that this brief discription of his works will make you curious to see his films. I like his gentle way of story telling and his film worlds very much.

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