Twenty First: A Film Festival By Faculty of Fine Arts Nema-Ye Nazdik (Close Up) by Abbas Kiarostami

Link To Event Coverage on 6th December here: http://ourvadodara.in/twenty-first-film-festival-faculty-fine-arts-ms-university-6th-december-2013-nema-ye-nazdik-close-abbas-kiarostami

Om Puri, Juhi Chawla Hit It Big – To Work With Oscar Winner Helen Mirren In Spielberg Produced ‘The Hundred-Foot Journey’

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Actor Juhi Chawla

Bollywood has been even more welcoming towards foreigners in the past few years. No doubt, high-budget mainstream Bollywood films have always been fetishistic towards foreign flesh, usually white guys from any corner of the world (‘if you’re fair and lovely, you are right. Foreigner and white? Even better!’), be it Germany or France or America or Russia or Poland or Chzekhoslovakia. A German friend of mine told me once his two buddies were approached by a casting director while on a trip to Mumbai. Too bad they chose to sleep at the wrong time – it would’ve been the best mememto ever once they returned to Munich.

 

Anyway, speaking about the contribution of foreigners in Indian cinema, notable names pop to mind (some are part-Indian): the shimmering, sexy item girl (although the term ‘performer’ would be more appropriate in her case), diva, vamp, the evergreen Helen, the daring action heroine Mary Evans, popularly known as ‘Fearless Nadia’, Salman’s former flame, the plastic beauty who’s sometimes pretty, Miss Katrina Kaif, the bubbly American dancing queen Lauren Gottlieb, who won the fifth season of the reality show ‘So You Think You Can Dance’, shone in a Remo De’Souza film titled ‘ABCD’ and then came runners-up in ‘Jhalak Dikhla Ja’, the desi Dancing with the Stars (in which she was the contestant! I still couldn’t digest this part – didn’t anyone peruse her profile?), straight out of Barbie’s factory Elli Avram, a Swedish Green actress who first snagged a role in the mediocre Mickey Virus (and didn’t amount to much) and then entered Bigg Brother’s Indian counterpart Bigg Boss (and spent her days quietly until her eviction after a considerable time; guess the ‘If you’re silent in a reality show, you’re useless’ rule doesn’t apply to firangi babes), to name a few: “Phew!”.

 

Lesser known facts: Prem Sanyas, a silent film on the life of Gautam Buddha made in 1925 was directed by Franz Ozten, a German director. Well-known fact: stars like Shahrukh Khan, Manoj Bajpai and (disgraced has-beens like) Shiney Ahuja got their training under Barry John, a British theater director and actor who’s established his acting studio in Mumbai. Another British actor, Jennifer Kendal married Shashi Kapoor and acted with him in a number of films and also without him in a few memorable ones like 36 Chowringee Lane.

 

Dutch actress Sippora Zoutewelle chose an alternate path by opting for television serials over films. She now plays the lead role of (Take a guess. There’s 96% probability you’ll get it right) a firagi bahu in an Indian family; the serial’s also titled ‘Firangi Bahu’ and is currently running on Sahara One (my advice: if its foreigners you want to see, you better watch them in better things. Oh well, you’re never gonna listen, are you?). Alexx O’Nell, ex-husband of television starlet Shweta Keswani also has a good track record: an opportunity to shake a leg at ‘Nach Baliye’, a few films both in Bollywood and in the South (saw a poster featuring him during my internship at a Chennai multiplex) and now a role in Jhansi Ki Rani.

The whites (be it American or Russian or even a Swede) are usually kept to play baddies who’re more than willing to humiliate ‘those bloody Indians’ and grab their land, or to learn some Indian dance moves and perform as backup dancers (who remain absent for the rest of the film, and so you’ll basically watch a movie set entirely in India that’s sporadically invaded by white men and women turning out of nowhere during song and dance sequences). African-American actors are usually seen less; the last time I remember seeing one was in Fukrey where the guy played a boneheaded henchman. A couple of films give surprisingly meatier, more layered roles to foreign actors. For example, the character of Sue in Rang De Basanti doesn’t just play Aamir Khan’s love interest but is also a pivotal force for furthering the plot; in the film, she plays a director who comes to India to shoot a film on the life of Bhagat Singh. I also loved Mehdi Nebbou’s performance in English Vinglish because he’s given an actual, truthful character to portray, something foreigners seldom get in Bollywood.

 

Now, the East also has a few achievements to boast of. We’ve had esteemed actress Shabhana Azmi working alongside legendary Shirley Maclaine in Madame Sousatzka. We’ve seen Amrish Puri as a demonic thuggee opposite Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Irrfan Khan and Tabu played husband and wife in Meera Nair’s The Namesake as well as Ang Lee’s Oscar winning Life of Pi. Dev Patel and Freida Pinto became a household name after their appearance in Slumdog Millionaire; Pinto has gone on to work with the likes of Woody Allen, Michael Winterbottom and Tarsem Singh, while Patel has worked in Shyamalan’s disastrous The Last Airbender and John Madden’s charming The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. And Roger Ebert was so bewitched by Aishwaria Rai’s beauty in The Mistress of Spices and Bride and Prejudice that he called her the ‘most beautiful woman on the planet’ in both his reviews. It should be noted that a number of foreign films featuring Indian actors in major roles are usually made by Indian-origin directors. Indians rarely get the best parts, and the only way they can gain recognition is by shining in supporting roles or working with an Indian-American/British director. Archie Punjabi did a wonderful job in ‘The Good Wife’ and deserved the Emmy she won in 2010. Now we wait to see whether an Indian’s talented or lucky enough to win the Oscar (i.e. in the acting categories. We’ve already seen Bhanu Athaiya, A.R. Rahman and Satyajit Ray honored with the ‘naked glimmering golden guy’ for Costume Design, Original Music and Lifetime Achievement Respectively)…

 

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Actor Om Puri

Well, it could happen next year. Oscar winning British actress Queen Elizabeth II, oh I mean Helen Mirren, is going to team up with Manish Dayal, Om Puri and Juhi Chawla for the film ‘The Hundred-Foot Journey’, based on Lasse Hallstrom’s novel of the same name. The film is about a displaced Indian family settled in the village in France which decides to open up an Indian restaurant just hundred feet across the street from a Michelin-star French restaurant. Om Puri has already worked in foreign productions such as East Is East, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Code 46 and British Television dramas ‘White Teeth’ and ‘Second Generation’, while Manish Dayal has done guest appearances as well as played recurring characters in shows like 90210 and Rubikon. Juhi Chawla, on the other hand, is working for the first time in a Hollywood film. Fortunately, she may have a strong team to back her up. This includes not just the cast, but also the producer and director. Lasse Hallstrom, the director, has made a number of music videos for ABBA. His achievements in cinema include ABBA: The Movie (duh!), What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, The Cider House Rules, Chocolat, Hachi: A Dog’s Tale, Salmon Fishing in The Yemen and (the poorly made) Safe Haven. The producers are big: there’s TV mogul Oprah Winfrey, Hollywood royalty Steven Spielberg and billionaire Indian business tycoon Anil Ambani. Here are a couple of things spoken about the film: Om Puri speaks of his experience working with Helen Mirren. He says he ‘fell on his knees (when Mirren entered) in front of her and confessed he was a fan’. He also speaks of his satisfaction watching the film’s rushes. Manish Dayal, who plays the protagonist Hassan Haji, hasn’t made a statement about the film yet.

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Hundred Foot Journey’s Producer Oprah Winfrey (left) along with British acting icon Helen Mirren

Whatever the outcome, its still a welcoming change to see collaborations that transcend national, cultural, ethnic boundaries and stereotypes slowly slipping away. I don’t usually appreciate films which stamps traits on characters based on their nationality. Not every Russian is a cold-blooded Commie with ties to the Mafia. Not every African American has to be cantankerous and oafish. Indians aren’t always doctors or scientists, and not everybody is unsporting towards ethnic jokes; many urban Indians in fact can handle jokes at their expense. And not all Americans and Englishmen are racists and white supremacists.

 

 

My Question To Playwright Tracy Letts For August Osage County Live Q&A With Cast and Crew

weinsteinsponsoredlivex600.png.600x287_q1003-Time Oscar winner Meryl Streep, the Grande Dame of Acting,  is about to land again in theaters across US this December (and at award ceremonies next year wearing frumpy, wedgie-gifting dresses. Meryl’s hunch seems absolutely right – the people who select her wardrobe and hairstyle – including her longtime hairstylist  J Roy Helland – do their best to destroy her ‘naturally good looks’ )  with her latest film August Osage County, adapted from stage to screen by its Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Tracy Letts himself,  already turning heads at film festivals and screenings. The moment it debuted at Toronto, reviews by renowned publications hit the internet emphasizing two or three common observations/contentions: a) that it was going to be an All-Meryl-Some-Julia-Little-Others Show (ironic as the play only credits the Native American character of Johnna as ‘others’; I guess the film is even more discriminatory than the play!)  b) that the altered ‘less depressing’ ending was a weak, ‘sell out’ move by Harvey Weinstein and c) that Meryl was a lead character and not supporting (another sly move by Weinstein to snag Meryl another Oscar; this decision was quickly changed after award screenings and Meryl’s now in competing for Best Lead Actress).

Its almost two months since the Toronto film festival and as August Osage County is drawing closer to its theatrical release, the cast and crew are quickly turning up to promote the films at interactive Q&A sessions, press conferences and even online. There is a fifteen minute B-roll  footage of the crew filming some of the expository scenes outside the Weston family’s ‘House of Pain’. There are press junkets in the form of videos where each actor gives an insight into the characters they portrayed. The film’s director John Wells, known mainly for his work on television, shares about his experience filming the intense dining table scene and his experience with the entire cast. All these videos can be found here.

8ba94bdf-36bf-4104-aed7-ee60fde5a8d4_august-osage-county-dinnerStreep may be the most honored actress of all time, but fellow cast member Chris Cooper, who’s worked with Streep before in the Oscar winning ‘Adaptation’, suggests ‘you have no idea just how talented she is… She’s the Master!’. Streep’s best known for improvisations during rehearsals, which is quite a feat considering the level of precision she achieves in defining her character both internally and externally. Cooper as well as the others were astonished by the ‘level of variety she brought take after take’; she’s ‘once playing a drugged version (of her character Violet), then a comical version, then another’, and her changes ‘rippled across the dining table’ and each actor ‘played his/her character slightly differently in each take’. This impressive observation was made by Dermot Mulroney, who gets to hear ungracious welcoming remarks like “Who are you?” and “That’s peculiar Karen to bring a date to your dad’s funeral’ (Mulroney’s character Steve is actually Violet’s youngest daughter Aug2ustOsageCounty-Stills-045Karen’s fiance) from Violet. English actor Benedict Cumberbatch’s praise was even more ecstatic: “Meryl was extraordinary. The hardest thing with her is to actually act. You just want to sit and watch her. You want to be in the audience”. I’m unsure, however, whether Meryl would find this remark complementary, as the actress once said that in retrospect, she found her performance in French Lieutenant Woman to be less satisfactory as she always felt her co-star Jeremy Irons was busy observing Meryl’s performance rather than focusing on the character. Some critics have accused her of ‘outshining the film itself even more with age’, and even I noted in one of my reviews that in some films, I found myself getting a twofer: a) the film itself and b) Meryl’s own film within the film. In case of great films, this becomes quite an experience to savor, but in case of mediocre ones, it feels like the film and Meryl are two distinct entities put together in a chaotic mess.

hqdefaultMeryl turned up along with Wells, Letts, producer Jean Doumanian and the cast including Cooper, Mulroney,  Julianne Nicholson, Margo Martindale, Abigail Breslin, Juliette Lewis (Roberts remained absent) for a live Q&A in New York on November 25. Twitter and Facebook users were given an opportunity to post their questions, a few of which would be chosen for the interview. I excitedly framed about five/six questions pertaining to the film (a lot many users asked silly questions like: Meryl, where are you coming to Italy? as if it has anything to do with the film). One of them, quite a simple one (and yet, its usually the simple ones that are picked for interviews to relax the interviewees), got selected; actually, the first part of the question got selected. This question was asked to Tracy Letts, and although the interviewer doesn’t reveal the user name, I’m pretty sure based on the wording that it’s my question.

The selected question: “In the process of adapting this play to cinema, did you find yourself looking at a particular character or scene (I used the word ‘situation’) in a new light? ” (The second part of the question wasn’t asked)

Mr Tracy Lett‘s Response: Well, they’re robots! (a peal of laughter from the audience; the robots thing is an extended joke from the interview) (the interviewer: We can’t wait to see your next movie!)… Dermot’s very good, yeah… in Magnificent Seven Robots (a cackle from Meryl)… um ah I.. I.. did I see any of them in a new light? No I did not, but I tell you what, I had an opportunity as a result of the ability of cinema not only to show the place in which it is set but the scene in which Barbara pursues Violet across the field.. uh allowed me to encapsulate in a.. in a.. few very short images and lines something thematic that I was trying to get at it at the heart of the piece, something about the.. the uh… even though you can see fifty miles to the horizon, there’s nowhere to go…a kind of claustrophobia that is felt in the Plains as it turns in a lot of other places as well. So I don’t know about an individual character I saw in a new light (Meryl nods looking towards him) but I certainly enjoyed uh… seeing them explore their boundaries, a little bit.

tumblr_mwvz3uRrCF1t23se4o1_500Towards the end of the 45 minute interactive question, an interesting question was asked to the entire cast: ‘What was your favorite line of Violet?’, which yielded funny answers such as ‘Why don’t you f-ck a f-cking sow’s ass?’ (Julianne Nicholson; this line is spoken by Violet to her husband Beverley when he introduces her to Johnna), ‘You look like a magician’s assistant’ (Margo Martindale; Violet’s remarks about her daughter Ivy’s appearance in a suit at her father’s funeral) ‘Hide-a-burrr…What?’ (Juliette Lewis; Violet is unable to pronounce Karen’s fiance’s German surname) and ‘It burns like ‘a’ bull-sh*t! ‘ (Margo again; spoken by Violet to Barbara while talking about her mouth-cancer). It was certainly a refreshing forty-five minute session with this cast, topped by Meryl’s infectious giggles and perky personality. Guess this girl just can’t help stealing the spotlight!

The entire interview can be found here.

Ourvadodara: Vadodara Speaks: Gori Tere Pyaar Mein Audience Verdict

220px-Gori_Tere_Pyaar_MeinPosted an article about audience verdict on the film ‘Gori Tere Pyaar Mein‘, starring Imran Khan, Kareena Kapoor Khan and Shraddha Kapoor on ourvadodara.in. Check it out.

She Did It Before Miley


Bjork

 

Source: http://www.liveinternet.ru/users/a_lic_e/post220863479/
Alert: Readers, this little article has nothing what-you-might-call ‘resourceful content’.

When Disney-girl Miley Cyrus decided to go ‘bad’,  she stuck her tongue out at every award ceremonies, red carpet events, television interviews and even the SNL (and not just one but in two episodes!). This brazen wild-child look, along with her infamous VMA performance with Robin Thicke, created a frenzy over the internet, with many noted celebrities coming in support of her changed image while a few expressing their concern for the drastic, unwholesome makeover of Disney’s ‘little unspoiled princess’.

MileyCyrusTongue2013AP_largeMost people forget that Miley’s already 20, old enough to do whatever she’s doing, and she actually seems in a better condition, both financial and emotional, than many other 20 year old guys. Her association with Disney’s G-rated Hannah Montana is the only reason why many people, especially parents, condemn her transformation. Well, while we can criticize Miley for undergoing a fake-and-insincere-as-f*** ‘dirty chick’ makeover. we can’t stop her.

I was going through Lars Von Trier‘s films on the internet when I saw the above image and immediately thought of Miley Cyrus. Doesn’t singer-actress Bjork, who won the Cannes Award for Best Actress for her performance in Trier‘s 2000 film Dancer in The Dark, look extremely cute accept the award along with Trier, who won the Palme d’Or? The first time I saw Miley stick her tongue, I wanted to borrow Harry’s Nimbus 2000 broomstick and whack her till she ran off to the nunnery. But in Bjork’s case, I want to run up to the actress and give her a peck on her cheek!

Here’s one girl who can stick her tongue out without seeming rude and obnoxious. And she did it way before Miley!

 

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A Whirlwind of Thoughts – On Masala Films & Art Films….My Father’s Incomplete Screenplay Teaser!

(Includes the review of 2013 Shahid Kapoor Film ‘Phata Poster Nikla Hero’)

A Whirlwind of Thoughts – On Masala Films & Art Films, Concept of ‘Enrichtainment’, Indian Movie-Goers, Trends in Movie Serials&TV Serials, Franchise Films, Movie Experience & Audiences’ Perspectives, Film Criticism, Phata Poster Nikla Hero, Tarantino, Lady Gaga and My Father’s Incomplete Screenplay Teaser!  

A formula film (or in other words, masala film) is the quickest money-spinning mode of employment generation in the entertainment industry.

In Bollywood, it has turned the clocks by ruling the multiplex businesses and sidelining artistic ventures to single screens and festivals at an unprecedented rate. Even the educated audience now desires cinemas that simply satisfy their expectations – they no longer want films that challenge their thinking. It’s these audiences who choose to spend more on these films. The dumbing-down of cinema itself is only one side of the coin; it’s the audience which wants cinema to remain dumb.

My word of advice to Indian movie-goers, especially those feeling the pinch due to general price rise: Inflation looms like a shadow over our startled heads, giving a foreboding sign every now and then of darkness that may pass any moment. Any man of finance would advice to spend money wisely. Its time we reclaim our brains and reserve our expenditure on a luxury entertainment like multiplex cinema-viewing (especially the ones charging higher rates) for films that possess artistic credibility. Its time we relegate formula films either to cheaper multiplex or single screen or television viewing. It’s high time we appraise the money value/worth of art and of entertainment before we proceed to empty our pockets or reduce our bank balance.

Salman-Asin-Ready.jpgI exhort you to think ‘Is a movie like Khiladi 786 or Ready or Boss or Phata Poster Nikla Hero so rare, so exquisite, so important and compelling a film that I spend Rs.300–Rs.500 on it at a multiplex? Or should I rent the DVD/VCD and watch it at home with the whole family? We could openly chat about the film, predict the done-to-death-and-aftermath story and simultaneously finish other tasks of the day as these films don’t necessitate us to task our heads.

Why don’t I circumscribe the dearer part of my multiplex movie-watching budget for films that requires me to sit quietly and listen, for films that opens my mind to new possibilities, for films that transports me to the world of its characters, for films that rarely come to multiplexes especially in case of smaller cities, for films that provides me enrichtainment, a perfect blend of enrichment and entertainment– for films like The Ship of Theseus or The Lunchbox or even (at least, in my opinion) Shuddha Desi Romance? Such films get fewer shows and generally doThe Lunchbox poster.jpg not last beyond a week without audience support, so if such films are being recommended by critics, why don’t I listen to the experts for once and book for the better film? Even if I miss catching Salman Khan’s Ready in theaters, I’ll probably watch the masala films with Akshay Kumar and Shahrukh Khan that’ll come soon, plus Ready will make its premier on television soon and get played on the movie channels regularly. But what are the chances of watching Indian films as special as Ship of Theseus or Lunchbox? How often would they come on television? I’ll miss out the some of the best India has to offer in cinema only to watch another one where Akshay plays Akshay, where Salman plays Salman’. Now me give you a glimpse of how history has played a role in bringing these formula films to the fore –

To understand more about formula films, we need to go back in time to understand the history of film and specifically, the position of serials in film history. I’m not talking about trend-setting television serials or soaps like Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi (Because the Mother-in-Law was once a Daughter-in-Law herself) or Kahaani Ghar Ghar Ki (Story of Every Household) or Kasautii Zindagi Kii (The Test of Life) here; you’d be surprised to know that serials have their roots in Hollywood and not in Bollywood, and in film and not in television.

In the 1910s, serials were massively popular among audiences of the lower-classes who flocked to cheap, poorly maintained theaters to watch them at a low-price. The plots were usually lifted from cheap fiction in dime novels and stage melodramas of late 19th Century, and these serials usually had gratuitous violence, blood, thunder and sex. The surprising element was that women were usually chosen as protagonists instead of men, and the hero would be saved by the heroine in the end. The heroine’s father would either be assassinated in the beginning itself or kidnapped by the villain and blackmailed. A predictable rescue mission would ensue, where the heroine battles the villain’s men, defeats the villain himself, rescues her father and falls in love with a hero on the way. The mother figure, or for that matter, any other female figure except the heroine, would be completely absent. The plot will always follow a fixed formula with little changes; all these producers needed were a different cast for each serial they created.

As television had not been invented yet, these serials only played in cheap theaters. In order to draw repeat customers, the distributors wouldn’t release the entire serial at once, but would release one or two reels at a time, so each serial stayed for over three-four months at a cinema hall. Serials had a very poor reputation among critics and educated classes in those days. They were called ‘packaged sensationalism’, ‘the black sheep of the picture family’, ‘the child of commerce and bastard of art’ (New York Dramatic Mirror), and meant for the ‘most ignorant class of the population with the grossest tastes’ (Oberholtzer). In the 1920s, serials shifted their emphasis towards the adventures of traditional beefy heroes, and by the thirties, they were made as cartoons to lure American children.

Forward to 00s, the highest grossing films of the year in USA are franchise films belonging either to superhero, animated or adventure genre, and from adapted from comics and novels. Most superhero movies and animated movies are developed using a fixed plot formula; the protagonist overcomes his weakness and defeats the villain, earns the community’s respect and gets the girl (female protagonists are rarely seen, with only Angelina Jolie and Uma Thurman’s names associated usually with such films). The child of commerce and bastard of art is now the king of the box office and his slaves, the American audiences.

English: Fearless Nadia in the Indian movie 11...

Fearless Nadia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now Bollywood’s film history in general is not as well documented as Hollywood’s, but many Indians shall be familiar with the name ‘Fearless Nadia’. A cult icon in the thirties and early forties, Fearless Nadia was the lead character of serials such as Hunterwali and The Diamond Queen; it starred Austrialian actress Mary Ann Evans in the lead role who later married Homi Wadia, the director of Hunterwali. After the advent of television, serials became a common scene on Doordarshan, the only Indian channel in the 80s. But these television shows would generally refrain from extending a situation beyond one episode, and therefore each episode had freshness in terms of content and value.

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Anand Gandhi – Wrote the first 86 episodes of Kyunki… and Kahaani… in 2000, wrote and directed masterpiece ‘The Ship of Theseus’ in 2013; he’s both the bastard child of both commerce and art!

This would diminish after the uprise of Ekta Kapoor’s Balaji Telefilms, with shows such as Kyunki Saas Bhi… and Kahaani Ghar… striking a chord not just with housewives, but with the complete ‘Indian families’. It may have to do with the concept of joint Indian families and conservative values, something that was deteriorating with the changing Indian lifestyle. A campy, stylized, highly melodramatic nostalgia of earlier times was provided in the form of these serials to nuclear families, as these serials included up to five generations (and in Kyunki, maybe six to seven) living under one roof. Surprisingly, none of the good people died unless the actors chose to leave the show (so the ‘baa’ or ‘grandma’ in Kyunki…, who never left, would easily above 110 years of age) and no renovations were done to the house to accommodate the ever-increasing brood of children and grand-children and great-grand-children and their children! The formula here was usually ‘saas vs bahu angle’ (mother-in-law vs daughter-in-law) and when the two ladies reconciled after hundredth or so episode, the antagonist’s role would shift from mother-in-law to a rotten off-spring.

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Bade Achhe Lagte Hai

Having trashed story arcs ‘saas vs bahu’ or angles such as ‘resurrection of character’, the recurrent formulas of the current television serials include concepts as basic as ‘an unlikely couple (at least by Indian standards) falling in love’, like ‘a rich man loves a poor girl’, ‘an elder lady loves a younger man’, ‘two 40-year olds fall in love’, and angles like ‘kidnapping of a supporting character who is finally rescued by protagonists’, ‘character meeting with an accident and recovering after four-five episodes in hospital’, ‘female protagonist committing a simple blunder and getting cruelly chastised by her mother-in-law’ etc. The formulas haven’t changed. They’ve only gotten rid of some of the junk variables, that is, the story arcs/angles end sooner than they did in the earlier shows, but they returned after a cycle of other story arcs/angles, this time for another set of characters; hence if episode 102-110 dealt with kidnapping and rescue of A’s child, episode 211-225 would deal with kidnapping of A herself!

In case of films, the formula is meant for filmmakers and actors who are basically not artists but people from entertainment industry who want to make quick money, fans and… more money, lots of money, tons of money – basically money. These actors get to go around the world, fight on trains, ride on elephants, dance in front of the Louvre (with bemused foreigners gazing at them in the background), go deep-sea diving, learn up some moves of Taekwondo, hit on foreign ladies and if possible, even go to space. The only difference in their world tour is that there’s a crew following them with cameras, lighting and stuff, so they prepare a few lines of dialogue for each scene (usually snatches from older films of the same genre), blurt them out as their characters using a fixed set of expressions and dialogue delivery, and then get on with their lives. That’s perhaps why many of the television actors have nothing profound to say about ‘the art of acting’ or the philosophies of life, except the rote statement ‘I learnt a lot from … show’. The same applies to many film actors who either choose to work in formulaic films or are unable to get roles in films with greater artistic merit. Just try listening to an interview by Oscar winner Daniel Day Lewis and then a mainstream Bollywood actor’s interview and you’ll realize just how complexly intertwined the former’s life and work are; in the latter’s case, it’s all empty, self-aggrandizing ‘I did this’, ‘I did that’ talk that’s only being captured on cameras because of the person’s profession and popularity. But I’ll tell you why such actors and their movies get so much public support –

Most people who want cinemas that simply satisfy their expectations without challenging their thinking are generally unwilling to submit to any perspective that’s not in accordance with their own understanding of the subject. To an extent they feel emasculated when someone with a better, broader and a more comprehensive understanding of the subject (here, cinema) presents a work from his perspective. ‘The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations’ says Anton Ego in the animated masterpiece Ratatouille. I’d like to add that the world is also intimated by it, and the easiest and most foolish option here is to shun it completely. Cinema is especially a field where every Tom, Dick and Harry (and me) cannot wait to offer his or her opinion of how they believe a film should be. The medium offers a greater amount of interaction with the audience due to its ability to simultaneously stimulate multiple senses. And conversely, it can also narrow down our perception on the way we sense the medium itself! That is, we soon are wont to think that our mind should perceive and our senses should be stimulated in certain ways, and that especially happens when we limit our film-viewing only to certain kind of films, especially formula films. Anything that deviates from the set formula is alien to us and our understanding and our general human tendency is to reject it. In formula films, you feel smug that you are ahead of the film, that you are the smarter one. These films are called escapist films, but in my opinion they are anything but escapist as they never let you enter and experience the make-believe world yourself.  The gates to the world of the creation are open only in case of non-masala, formula-breaking well-made movies; you are not only taken inside their world but also allowed to muse on the themes of the film. In case of these formulaic, masala films, you being ahead of the film itself are never ‘taken in’, and remaining outside, you basically have nothing to do except a) mimicking the audience majority’s response only because you don’t want them to feel excluded b) trying to predict the entire story-line with your group and getting happy when the filmy formula (guy defeats villain, gets the girl, makes his parents proud, then marriage on the cards) remains unbroken c) judging in loose terms the actors’ performances from best to worst – ‘He acted well’, ‘She was hopeless’ – and having a barely credible explanation or justification of the same as you fail to realize just how ineffectual even the ‘good’ performance actually is in drawing your attention to the character and not the actor himself/herself or d) multi-tasking (texting/sexting on the phone, looking up the share prices etc). After you leave the theater, you give a mechanical ‘Film Accha Tha/Film saaru hatu/Film Avadla/Film Nanaa Irundada/The film was good’ or a negative response before forgetting the film for good. On the other hand, even if you hate some of the films that challenge your expectations, you won’t forget about them as easily as you would forget the formula films. All you pick from the formula films is the formula itself, and you copy it in your head and paste it while watching another formula film. The film makes for a passive viewing due to its predictability.

Such formula films, with adequate financial, technological and human resources, can be made by just about any committed non-artist who gets his/her big break in the entertainment industry, usually by mingling around with the established, in-demand non-artists of the industry. His/her story would be canned in Hollywood as an ‘amateurish and ridiculous’ even before its shooting script is prepared, but it will still have a bright chance in India when a well-known actor is associated with the film. Even the film’s crew need not have much talent as much as the ability to work long hours with little pay. I hope I’ve proved by now that these formula films are the quickest money-spinning mode of employment generation in the entertainment industry. You can predict the film easily because it’s written by someone like you, with the only exception that he/she is in the entertainment industry and has learnt the shallowness of formula films in depth. A truly artistic mind on the other hand won’t find anything credit-worthy about such films and shall rightfully reject them. A critic like me reasons with everybody in order to create a harmony between the two opposing parties!

Phata Poster Nikhla Hero Theatrical Poster (2013).jpgI somewhat understand now why the Indian critic Taran Adarsh speaks so highly of dishonorable films like Blue or Grand Masti, even though I still think he’s too over-generous. He and his little mind go to films expecting them to satisfy his expectations and nothing else. It’s a shallow, narrow-minded perspective, but it’s a perspective nevertheless. And majority of the audience goes to cinema with the same kind of perspective. This is what I felt while watching the Shahid Kapoor starrer ‘Phata Poster Nikla Hero’; I kept looking at the audience more and more as the film progressed, heard what they were speaking, noticed how they reacted to the dialogues, and formed an idea about how these people would be thinking while watching the film.

The film itself is absolutely silly, and seems like an extremely desperate move from lead actor Shahid Kapoor, who does a self-parody of his films the way Shahrukh Khan parodied himself in Chennai Express, except Shahid’s legacy isn’t memorable enough to make the parody workable. I don’t exactly know whether he intended to do so, but there’s an angle in the film that’s so much like Shahid’s earlier movie Fida that I thought the film was aiming at something like a (failed) homage to his earlier films. The actor’s last few films (from Dil Bole Hadippa to Milenge Milenge) have fared below-average to average at the box office, and maybe this man thought he needed to follow Akshay, Salman, Shahrukh, Ajay’s suit and make a formula film where he only needs to display an exaggerated, typical Bollywood hero “Shahid Kapoor” personality. His move, coming from someone who showed signs of improvement with Jab We Met and Kaminey, is one step forward, several steps backward as while his film may strike a chord with mass audiences, he will have the dead albatross with the words ‘sell-out’ inked on it hanging around his neck.

‘Phata Poster Nikla Hero’ has a very formulaic plot in which Shahid’s character Vishwas, an aspiring actor, dreams of getting his big break in Bollywood. Before his acting career takes off, he gets to experience an adventure of a lifetime that’s worthy of a film in itself when he is mistaken for a cop, the situation worsening when he plays on with the act.

First, its the leading lady Illeana D’Cruz (from Barfi! to this (sigh)…) whose character Kajal, a social worker, assumes he’s a cop when she sees him riding with a police uniform on; he wears the uniform, a stage costume because he couldn’t find his own clothes at the dressing room. She asks him to tail a group of men in a car who have kidnapped a young girl; he saves the girl, wins Kaajal’s respect and continues with his ruse so she can fall in love with him. But things get tricky when Vishwas’s mother sees his photo in the papers and visits him thinking her son is a cop. Also, the gang whom he butts heads with are members of a dreaded underworld led by a leader called Napoleon, whose face is shrouded in darkness and revealed only towards the climax. His henchmen are furious with the cops who work double shifts, in the police station during the day and in the gang-hideout at night, and demand that something be done to stop this man.

Vishwas meanwhile tries sorting out another situation that arises when his mother tells the Commissioner that her son is to capture Anees. This begins when Vishwas is on the phone talking about Anees Bazmi, the director when his mother overhears him; he ends up lying to her that he’s referring Anees, a don which, we learn from the Commissioner, is actually the name of a notorious don. When the Commissioner wants to meet this ‘brave-heart who’s ready to face such a big name in the underworld himself’, Vishwas in turn tells him that he isn’t a cop and is only pretending to be one as his mother shall die if she knows the truth. He adds another twist by lying to his mother that the Commissioner isn’t a cop but a madman pretending to be one. The mother in the film is such a yo-yo she actually believes this too. Later, when he sees her son slapping a girl violently in cop uniform, she storms up to him and in turn gives him a sound dose of slaps. Then it’s revealed its part of a movie scene and Vishwas was only acting; not able to bear her son’s lies, Vishwas’s mother faints and is hospitalized.

This is where the movie inexplicably begins a Fida-like subplot. The doctor says ten-lakhs would be required for her operation. He promises his mother that it would be the last lie he would tell before leaving to arrange for the money. Before he can do so, he’s arrested by the police who take him not to the police station but to the gang-hideout. Napoleon’s immediate subordinate Gundappa Das, who handles the operations in India, tells Vishwas he’ll be given ten lakhs if he’s able to get a CD from a dance troupe that’s essential for a ‘mission’ they’re planning. Vishwas gets to do an item number before getting the CD, but he kills two good police officers during the mission and is spotted by Commissioner. After delivering the CD, he is told that his mother never required an operation as she only had high blood-pressure; it turns out the doctor was a ‘gang-doctor’ who lied to Vishwas so he would be framed and arrested. The mother has been informed of his wrong-doings, and she refuses to accompany him. The mother is such a nut she’d rather stay in a den full of thugs than leave with her son. Gosh, the height of idiocy! Now, its Vishwas’ turn to win his mother over and get the girl, and so he plans a mission with the Commissioner.

The movie is evidently trying to parody a number of films of the eighties and nineties. There is a gang-member who’s actually called Biscuit, and these men laugh aloud in a pronounced ‘Ha Ha Ha’ manner that’s totally from the 80s. The secret mission involves the gang members planting chemical bombs at different points in Mumbai city, which is a nod to films like Mister India. Again, the film tries to parody long-forgotten eccentricities of formula films of earlier days which, as the article has already stated, aren’t exactly memorable enough to be funny now when they are being parodied. The film botches up its comedy by going too serious in the second half without making the seriousness look like a parodic take of the over-the-top seriousness of the earlier films. The similarities to a relatively recent film like Fida are distracting, especially when the rest aimed for films way earlier.

There’s also little to indicate that the actors, especially the leads, are parodying caricatures of earlier days. Shahid Kapoor does facial gymnastics and tries at times to imitate, I dunno, maybe a young Sanjay Dutt, but there’s little else to suggest who he’s trying to imitate. The dialogues he’s given are hardly fun and lack novelty, even for a parody. Illeana D’Cruz is… just not there. This film makes me realize even making parodies can be a tricky affair, and can get confusing when you don’t know if the film really intends to be a complete parody, and what its exactly parodying.

There are persons who work with a done-to-death formula and yet refurbish it completely to make it look altogether brand new. A famous example would be Quentin Tarantino, whose Django Unchained employs all the conventions of a spaghetti western and yet makes it totally Tarantino, totally awesome. And guess what Tarantino plans to do after he stops making movies? He wants to write books on films and sub-textual film criticism. I guess a critic really is the medium between the masala and the art.

Now I guess we all have to wait for Lady Gaga’s next offering ‘Artpop’, which I view in an altogether new light after this article. Her latest single ‘Applause’ is a dig at critics who jeer at her and a shout-out to fans who cheer for her. I think she fails to realize that it’s the critics who’d recognize her attempt of blending formula (generic pop beats) with art (Gaga’s personality and her uniqueness) before the audiences. We’ll have to wait a while to see if the Artpop album gets a round applause or is rejected as bad art. Now, its high time I get an applause for writing this monster-piece of an article (clap) (clap) (clap)…

“Can I talk my shit again? I said, can I talk my shit again??” Okay, here’s a formulaic script my dad had cooked up a few years ago when he was at the hospital where my grandma was admitted. I asked him during breakfast to recollect whatever he could about the story, and he actually thought I was going to develop it myself. I soon dispelled his expectations and joked that I was going to criticize it in an article. I hope including this piece in the article doesn’t make it look like any sort of criticism. I’m glad he thought of such a masala film for the audiences, and maybe it could get made one day, in India at least, if nowhere else (and by Farah Khan, according to my dad’s wish). The story goes like this:

“There are two principal characters; the good one played Abhishek Bachchan and the bad other by anybody. The good guy is a cop who meets up with a notorious mafia guy who’s locked up in jail and soon believes his claim of giving up crime for good. The mafia guy provides him with information about many of his underworld associates, and the good guy uses the lead to hunt these sons-of-bitches down. In one case, he kills a guy who had potential evidence against the mafia guy’s plans, and is therefore suspended pending inquiry.

(L-R) Abhishek Bachchan, Amitabh Bachchan

Guess Abhishek can follow Shahid’s suit and use this film to revive his flagging career!

Its Meryl Magic Once Again, Its Meryl Magic Once Again: August Osage County Premieres At Toronto Internation Film Festival

(L-R) Julianne Nicholson, Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts

A film starring Meryl Streep is (in her aged Margaret Thatcher voice) BOOundd to create a buzz in Hollywood. The question on everybody’s minds is not whether her movie shall earn in millions or get such critical acclaim that its put on a future list of greatest films of all time (of all her films she has taken up, I [in parliament-scene young Margaret’s voice] CAnnot think of any film that can achieve such a status. Sophie’s Choice, currently at 91st position in the AFI list of greatest films, has only been included because of her timeless performance; Adaptation comes close while Cry in the Dark is another work elevated by Streep’s phenomenal acting, and I won’t comment on Deer Hunter because I haven’t seen it), but rather how Streep shall interpret her character or whether she will do enough to sang another Oscar nomination.

 

In my review of Marlon Brando starrer ‘The Wild One’, I compared Brando’s style with Meryl’s, saying that a great ‘Meryl movie’ meant watching Meryl do her movie in the movie itself (the review can be found here: https://sashankkini.wordpress.com/2013/02/26/review-of-one-of-marlon-brandos-most-recognized-movies-the-wild-one/)

 

A competent director (Alan Pakula in ‘Sophie’s Choice’, Spike Jonze in ‘Adaptation’, Sydney Pollack in ‘Out of Africa’) or a fine cast (Tommy Lee Jones and Steve Carrell in ‘Hope Springs’, Clint Eastwood in ‘Bridges of Madison County, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams and Viola Davis in ‘Doubt’) can balance out the Meryl Streep’s King Kong acting talent, but an absence of both can throw the entire film off-balance (one film: Iron Lady, and while her Oscar for Best Actress was deserving, it felt as if director Phyllida Lloyd shot her from the most bizarre and off-putting angles; the cast couldn’t salvage the film either). Meryl is usually brilliant in supporting roles, mainly because she knows she’s not supposed to chew scenery; Kramer vs Kramer, Adaptation, Angels in America, The Devil Wears Prada (she was a ‘supporting’ character; Anne Hathway was the lead) are assured performances that become a part of the film and not the film itself.

 

 

Shape-Shifter, Chameleon Streep

This year, Hollywood bigwig Harvey Weinstein has decided to pitch Meryl’s name in the supporting category of Oscars. The role that’s creating a buzz this year, especially after its premier at the Toronto International Film Festival yesterday, is August Osage County, a film adapted from the play of the same name by Tracy Wells, who won the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award for his play, and directed by John Waters… oh, my bad – John Wells (had John Waters taken up this film, Streep and Julia would be stabbing each other with garden scissors and rusted knives, and Dermot Mulroney and Benedict Cumberbatch would be deep-throating Abigail Breslin in turns, in a modern version of the wicked, brilliant Pink Flamingoes). But as Barbara Walters tactlessly put in on her show ‘View’, during the interview segment with Meryl Streep and Phyllida Lloyd, no matter who’s directing the film, its Streep who drives audiences and critics to the theatres (the old prune could’ve at least waited for Lloyd to leave before saying this; watch the interview to see Whoopi Goldberg give Barbara a ‘Are you for real, bitch?’ look).

 

The movie holds plenty of talent, with Pretty Woman/Erin Brockovich/Eat Pray Love star Julia Roberts playing Meryl’s daughter, award-winning playwright Sam Shepard Meryl’s husband and Emmy award winning actress Margo Martindale playing Meryl’s sister (folks would remember her playing Hilary Swank’s bitchy, ungrateful, selfish mother in Million Dollar Baby); plus there is Sherlock Home/Star Trek hunk Benedict Cumberbatch, Oscar winning actor Chris Cooper who’s best remembered for playing Meryl’s research guide and illicit lover in Adaptation, Oscar nominated ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ Abigail Breslin, versatile Ewan McGregor, Oscar nominated actress-singer Juliette Lewis, ‘Friends’ guest star Dermot Mulroney (remember his character’s tiff with Rachel’s at their office), TV star Julianne Nicholson and Misty Upham.

 

August Osage County 2013 poster.jpg
Tracy Letts’ play (and I need to kill myself for thinking Tracy is a woman) has been acclaimed for its dark, unflinching portrayal of a family whose lives are torn apart when they (ironically) come together. Meryl’s character Violet is, in Benedict Cumberbatch’s words, a ‘character suffering from oesophageal cancer, smoking like a chimney, high on downers, behaving like the most monstrous matriarchal pterodactyl you can ever imagine’; I’d like to add that she becomes even worse after her alcoholic husband Beverly (Shepard), a former poet, disappears suddenly and is later found dead. Things take a turn for the worse after a disastrous dinner with the family after Bev’s funeral, and ugly secrets slowly unravel. Barbara (Roberts), the eldest of Violet’s three daughters, is a college professor who is separated from her husband Bill (Mcgregor), a fellow professor involved in a relationship with a student; the film’s trailer has Violet instigating Bill by asking him questions like ‘You and Barbara are separated, right? Or are you divorced already?’ and ‘Is a younger woman involved?’ (Meryl’s voice is totally different from her chirpy, ‘I brought you a cake’ tone you hear in her interviews – spooky). Ivy (Nicholson), the middle daughter, teaches at a local college, has a calm exterior but is growing cynical within. She bears a lot of her mother’s shit too; when she asks her mother ‘You supposed to be smoking?’ on seeing Violet light a cigarette, she is told off with the remark ‘Is Anybody suPPOSed to smoKe?’. The youngest daughter Karen (Lewis) pretends she is leading a happy life with her fiance Steve (Mulroney), who soon turns out to be a sleazy sonofabitch.

 

Bill and Barbara’s daughter Jean (Breslin) ‘smokes pot, is a vegetarian, loves watching old movies and it bitter about her parents split’ (sorry, haven’t read the play, quoting from Wikipedia which has strung together unrelated character traits for Jean). Violet’s sister Mattie Fae (Martindale) is just as bitter as her sister, and tries to antagonize her genial husband Charlie (Cooper) and belittle their son Little Charles (Cumberbatch). Lastly, Johnna (Upham) is the Cheyenne Indian housekeeper who, like other characters, is at the receiving end of Violet’s volley of rants, insults and prejudices. She is a mute witness to the mayhem running in the Weston household.

 

Harvey Weinstein has been called ‘God’ (Streep at the Golden Globe), ‘Punisher’ (Madonna at the Golden Globe), ‘Harvey Scissorhands’, Thomas Langman’, ‘Harvey Scissorhands’, ‘Darth Weinstein’ by those who’ve worked with him. There’s a site saying he ‘spliced the work of two different directors’ in The Secret Policeman’s Other Ball and cut 51 minutes of Giuseppe Tornatore’s Cinema Paradiso. His justification is that he wants the ‘shit to work for the audience’. Harvey also has flair for cutting trailers that would lure a wider audience to the film, some of them being deceived when they see a film that’s totally different tonally from the trailers. People were in for a shock when they saw a fragile Iron Lady for have the run-length of the film, as the trailers seemed to highlight Margaret Thatcher’s impressive rise in the Government. The trailers also promised a better film, which as the reviews indicate, was a marketing ploy; now you have people debating all the more whether Meryl deserved to win an Oscar for such a mediocre film.

 

 

August Osage County is a Hit on Stage

While Meryl’s previous film, David Frankel’s Hope Springs, did not involved Weinstein, it had one deceptive trailer that totally gave a slight impression of the film. The film itself proved to be deeper, more involving and poignant than the trailer, which marketed the film as a ‘geriatric sex comedy’. In fact, it was silly to nominate Meryl for best actress in a comedy because the film never aimed for cheap laughs. Frankel’s first collaboration with Meryl, The Devil Wears Prada, on the other hand aimed for tired laughs and had a wafer-thin plot that made Ugly Betty look like the work of Oscar Wilde. The trailer, on the other hand, gave the film a smarter look, promising an enjoyable experience. For Streep, its been observed that the better the movie trailers of her film, the worse are the movies themselves and vice versa. The trailers for her earlier dramas, One True Thing, Music of the Heart, Sophie’s Choice and Cry in The Dark are ridiculously cheesy, but the films turned out good to great.
With August Osage County, Weinstein promises a ‘film about love, happiness, conflict and bond’, at least in the trailers. Smell the shit? Those who’ve seen the play have smelled it from a mile away. I haven’t seen or read Tracy Lett’s play, but a quick read through the plot synopsis of the play on Wikipedia reveals a lot on its tone. Earliest reviews on Twitter praised Julia and Meryl’s performances, a lot. And said a thing or two about the film I can’t remember. Now, with the film premiering at Toronto Internation Film Festival, attended by a beaming Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Juliette Lewis, Dermot Mulroney, Abigail Breslin and Benedict Cumberbatch (who’s got three releases lined up at this year’s festival: this, Fifth Estate and 12 Years a Slave), complete reviews have begun appearing on various media outlets.

 

Here are some of the things we’re getting to hear about the film:

‘… the film doesn’t shed its inherent theatricality, stringing together speeches and showdowns peppered with nuggets of stagey dialogue that resists being played in naturalistic closeup. But it’s nonetheless an entertaining adaptation, delivering flavorful rewards in some sharp supporting turns’ – http://www.hollywoodreporter.com

 

‘There is a powerful cinematic experience somewhere in “August: Osage County”…(but) the end product winds up playing almost like a supercut of Important Acting In Big Scenes’ (C- Rating) – http://www.indiewire.com/

 

‘A vastly enjoyable theatrical banquet, if perhaps not a profound one’ (4 stars) – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/

 

And here’s critics’ take on Meryl Streep’s performance as Violet:

‘looks a little like Bob Dylan in a sour mood…(as) a serial bully who fancies herself a “truth-teller”…Streep is a guarantee you’re going to get both the wild ride and the poignant hangover’ – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/

 

‘like her work in [Doubt], she hits all the elements with a brilliant technique but brings no elemet of surprise’ – http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/

 

‘Streep is at her Streep-iest… she commands the screen and many scenes like she should’ – http://www.indiewire.com/

 

Reviews have also stated that Julia Roberts gives one of the best performances of her career. Predictably, all the reviews haven’t praised the direction as much as the acting, which is the essential feature of most Streep movie reviews. Her star power is unusually big to disappear within a film, I suppose. Maybe if she took a break from movies for a year or two, acted in a few Chekhov/Ibsen stage productions in England (the reason she doesn’t want to take up stage, according to her at least, is ‘her children’ – come on, they’re all grown up!), and then made a low-profile comeback in a Mike Leigh film, she’d lose the a bit of that ‘star’ quality some complain about. You know, like Daniel Day Lewis, who doesn’t even take up plays in his mighty-long acting breaks. But then we’d miss her too much, won’t we?

 

The Meryl Magic Will Remain, The Meryl Magic Will Remain.

 

Links To Reviews of August Osage County:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/toronto-film-festival/10297216/August-Osage-County-Toronto-Film-Festival-review.html

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/movie/august-osage-county/review/624967

http://blogs.indiewire.com/theplaylist/tiff-review-august-osage-county-starring-meryl-streep-julia-roberts-more-20130909

A Homage To Spielberg’s Magic: Krishna Bala Shenoi’s Tribute to One of Hollywood’s Grandmasters

Krishna Bala Shenoi (Credit: The Hindu)

It cannot be denied that Steven Spielberg’s body of work is extraordinary. The last film I saw was Lincoln, which sadly stayed just for one week in a Vadodara multiplex. I recommended it to my college friends, praising the film lavishly for its performances, script and direction,  and they surprised me by actually watching the movie. I didn’t expect them to see such a movie.

As I was telling them about Lincoln, I assumed they’d be thinking something like ‘Well, he wants us to see a three hour lecture on Lincoln. Okay, let’s pretend for now that we are super keen to see this film so he’d shut up quickly!’. They saw the film and loved it too. Then, during my internship at a multiplex in Chennai, I recommended it to a family who’d just come to see Monster’s University. They too probably got tired of me. But I think they’d have watched the film too. So Spielberg, if you are listening, I brought people to your film!!

The first Spielberg film I saw as a kid was probably Jurassic Park. As a kid, all that interested me was that the film was about dinosaurs. I remember I would badger my parents to bring me books on dinosaurs. I loved to read about the types, sizes and behaviours of these gargantuan lizards, and about how these creatures were eventually wiped off by a meteorite. I still do hold some fascination for the weird and the unknown, although I’d really not want to meet them in case they are alive, especially the Jba Fofi cryptid spider! Spielberg revives these ancient beings of terror and wonderment in his epic action-drama film. I have seen this films in parts a couple of times in the past few years, and have always wondered this: How did Spielberg and his team create those damn dinosaurs more convincingly than most monsters we see in films these days? Its truly a wonder.

English: Steven Spielberg at the 2011 San Dieg...

Over the years, I have watched The Lost World: Jurassic Park (hard to recollect now, but I think its set on an island), E.T. The Extra Terrestrial (frankly found it overrated the second time I watched it, but I’m keen on watching it again with the perspective of a 20 year old movie lover), the Indiana Jones quadrilogy: Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (my personal favourite) and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (didn’t like it the first time only but its grown on me during subsequent viewings), The Color Purple (memorable for the performances by Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey),  The Adventures of TIntin (one of the best use of 3D in film) and Jaws.

I saw a bite of Jaws again today, up to the part where the shark lurks in the pond area where the protagonist’s kid is swimming. I haven’t seen much of Spielberg, I admit. I haven’t seen his famous war films, Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan, nor have I seen the futuristic A.I. Artificial Intelligence or The Munich. And still, I can say Spielberg’s got balls of steel for extending his vision across different genres, different worlds. I loved dinosaurs as a kid but I don’t care much about them now. He may or may not have been a fan of these monsters during his childhood, yet he makes a film only to protract his radius of imagination. He has captured nearly every territory: dinosaurs, sharks, aliens, stallions, robots, pirates, adventure heroes and most importantly, people.

His film has real people with real ambitions, strengths and weaknesses and they speak dialogues that don’t sound corny (James Cameron’s Titanic, a commendable technical achievement and an emotional journey no doubt, nevertheless has dialogues that feel increasingly embarrassing with repeated viewings. Some in fact sound like they’re part of Teenybopper Disney films that are replete with clunkers like ‘I want to break free’ ‘I wish I could be like you’). Lincoln could keep me hooked for three hours in spite of all its lengthy monologues (which are brilliantly written. Credit goes to Tony Kushner, also the writer of Angels in America). Spielberg allows his camera to follow Lincoln in a way that we behold him as a leader; its amazing how different shades of his character are subtly brought out through effective direction and cinematography. Read my review of Lincoln here: https://sashankkini.wordpress.com/2013/03/16/reviewing-steven-spielbergs-lincoln-starring-triple-oscar-winner-daniel-day-lewis-along-with-veteran-actors-sally-field-and-tommy-lee-jones/

SOME OF SPIELBERG’S MOST FAMOUS MOVIES

Cover of "Saving Private Ryan (Special Li...

Cover of "E.T. - The Extra-Terrestrial (W...

                     Cover of "Indiana Jones and the Last Crus...

After watching 19 year old blogger, short film director-writer and illustrator Krishna Bala Shenoi’s one minute animated tribute to Steven Spielberg, I am eager to get my hands on every movie Spielberg has made. This short film has lovely animation made using Rotoscope, which is a technique where live action footage is taken and traced over frame by frame to give the resulting drawings a seamless effect.

Shenoi uses Adobe to create this film, and he tells, in his article on famed critic Roger Ebert’s blog where he contributes as a far-flung correspondent, how Speilberg himself hand-wrote a letter complementing him for his work. And this guy lives in Bangalore, not somewhere in Beverley hills. Isn’t that just magical?

Link To Krishna Bala Shenoi’s Blog: http://krishnabalashenoi.wordpress.com/

Link To Krishna Bala Shenoi’s Film on his blog: http://krishnabalashenoi.wordpress.com/2013/02/27/steven-spielber/

Link To Krishna Bala Shenoi’s Article on Ebert site: http://www.rogerebert.com/far-flung-correspondents/steven-spielberg-my-animated-tribute