Ukranian filmmaker Dar Gai‘s (Daria Gaikalova) first Indian film (released for festivals in 2017, but finding its wider digital release only now in 2019 on Netflix) Teen aur Aadha has an interesting film premise when a house, more specifically a room, becomes a constant character across three different stories along its maturing timeline, with almost a common theme of central characters in each story wanting to break free off the confines of the same room. It becomes even more interesting when the each of the three stories are shot as continuous forty minutes long shots each without any cuts, as if trying to follow the arc of the protagonists up close.
The new Netflix film Music Teacher reverberates with echoes from the past that scream about regrets, incompleteness, and pangs of unrequited love in its silences. Directed by Sarthak Dasgupta, and co-written by Dasgupta and Gaurav Sharma (dialogues), the film tells a visually lyrical story about how a failed music teacher confronts his demons from the past at every step, and is torn up internally by his realities of not getting anywhere in life while being bogged down by the astounding success of his own protege against her will, and losing her in the process.
In one of the defining scenes of Kalank, Roop breaks the fourth wall and throws a question back to the audience to know “To aapne is kahaani me kya dekha – Kalank ya Mohabbat? ” I wish she could hear me saying “Kaash kuchh to dikh jaata..”
And that in a nutshell is Kalank for me – a colossal disappointment as grand and as empty as the world it creates.
If one has studied the filmography of Ritesh Batra over the past decade, one would know what to expect out of Photograph. Like The Lunchbox as well as his two other previous films, Batra is interested in telling his story through a minimalistic plot, and rather find magic in moments framed in eternity. He is constantly in search of poetry – in evocative city landscapes, in internal moments of truth of his characters, in the calmness of the unstated, and in suddenly found connections between the most unlikely individuals. With Photograph, he has challenged his own template to extreme ends, taking his most sketchy plot to date – of an uneducated, struggling, aging, Muslim photographer trying to please his grandmother with a story that he is in a committed relationship with a brilliant, middle-class, pretty, young, Hindu girl from another world – and then creating an album sprinkled with moments of warmth, tenderness and understated charm between two strikingly different worlds.
Sujoy Ghosh‘s Badla is an official adaptation of the 2016 Spanish film Contratiempo (English Title – The Invisible Guest). Written and directed by Oriol Paulo, the original film in itself had a convoluted screenplay, with quite a few screenplay loopholes to arrive at the end, which by the way, could be seen from a distance even in the original writing. Add to it the gimmicky execution of the final ‘twist’, and the experience of The Invisible Guest was rather average. It is unfortunate then that an immensely talented and original screenplay writer like Ghosh draws his inspirations from the tepid material and then decides to adapt it almost verbatim to make Badla, well other than swapping the genders of the protagonists and their immediate surroundings.
Let me begin by stating that I am highly disappointed by the makers of Sonchiriya at this moment – in large parts of India, they simply decided to release a hindi dubbed version of the film, and didn’t bother to use any indicators in the show listings for the audience to decide whether they are willing to watch the dubbed film, or should scout for theatres and shows where the original bundelkhandi version is possibly playing with subtitles. It is a strategic blunder on the makers part – they should have realized that their film is anyway niche and the biggest thing that had caught the audience attention since the trailers was the authenticity of the setup, and the edginess of the dialect. By robbing the film of that edginess in order to make it more accessible, the makers have just put off a large section of genuinely interested audience by not giving them the experience they came for, and haven’t necessarily attracted a large additional viewership for that hefty price.
“Kalakaar main, kal ko aakaar doon…
Yehi hai mera dharm.. Meri doosri koi jaat na…”
Nothing else can possibly better describe Zoya Akhtar and her relentless passion for narrating the most heartfelt and moving tales of life. And that she does that through wholesome entertainment without compromising one bit on art, is what elevates the experience of her films. She sucks you in to the worlds she creates however alien they are to you, and makes you a part of them – whether they are the elitist cruise lines or the dingiest ghettos of Dharavi. With Gully Boy, she only raises the bar of her craft even higher to possibly create her most complete and near perfect film. It has an unadulterated beating heart at its core, daring to dream and rousing with rage, that wants to break away from all societal norms and harsh realities of life which often limits one’s desires (murad) to attain their potential.
In one of the very important scenes of Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga, Sahil Mirza, a struggling playwright by profession says – Humara jo yeh natak hain na, aap dimag se nahi dil se dekhiye. In a way, Sahil is impersonating the writers of the film here, because just like him, even they are rather lackluster writers through and through, and write a half hearted drama sans soul jisme woh true love wali feel nahi aati. Yes it stays fairly superficial, simplistic and ornamental all along. Which is sort of sad because the story is written by trans-woman Gazal Dhaliwal and writer director Shelly Chopra Dhar, who should have treated it with far more maturity to actually realize the intent of breaking barriers and #SetLoveFree.
Ivan Ayr‘s new Netflix film Soni is a must watch. It thrives on its minimalism, and says so much about the inherent patriarchy and gender terror prevelant at every nook and corner of the society we live in – doesn’t matter if it is the dark deserted bylanes of a big city, the secured classrooms of the most modern schools, the police headquarters itself, or the posh interiors of the homes of A list administrators of our country.
Let me start by saying that when the first trailers of Uri: The Surgical Strike came in, it did not appeal to me. On the surface, it seemed to be cut out of the same hyper-nationalist jingoistic fabric as a typical J.P. Dutta film that flourishes on dialogbaazi. As a result, I never really felt excited to watch the film for about a week, but finally decided to go for it today to celebrate its success which is already on its way to become the first super-hit film of 2019. Let me start by happily confessing that my initial perception was proven wrong, and sensationalist jingoism is the least of problems of this film. Sadly though, it still misses the target of becoming good impactful cinema, and has bigger problems to deal with. Hence, all we get in the end of it is a strictly average and quickly forgettable cinematic experience.