Friday, January 24, 2014

Kal Ho Na Ho.

The best part about life is the million ways it surprises you. I know it is little far-out to say that a movie can change your mood. A Karan Johar movie! But, yes, Kal Ho Na Ho always makes me happy somehow. For someone who munches on real life cinema- from Guru Dutt to Woody Allen, from Abbas Kiarostami to Fatih Akin, finding a KJo movie delightful does surprise me. But, there is something nice about it. A genuinely nice, good, warm feeling. One movie perhaps where the eternal romantic boy of Bollywood- SRK charmed all the way. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

To him she seemed so beautiful.

To him she seemed so beautiful, so different to others, that he could not understand why no one was as unsettled by her sauntering steps on granite stones, why no one else's heart skipped a beat when she spoke those thousand words on a dim evening, why everyone did not go mad on flickering of her hands while they rowed on their boat, why everyone did not go raving on her braid that sparkled under low clouds and droplets of rain, why everyone was not stirred by those deep meaningful traces that her eyes left in his eyes.

Beauty surrounds us, you need to have an eye.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Toota Khaali Jaam.


Namak Haraam remains an all time favorite movie. Perhaps, one of the first movies where we saw Hrishikesh Mukherjee's coup d'oeil on economic distinction, with massive Marxist overtone. And this song, never fails to move me: the swansong of a disillusioned poet, dying on his bed, in unfailing, unrequited love, for this world.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Layla Majnun

We all have heard about Layla-Majnun story. Mostly through the same source, the sleazeball Bollywood. Cute Rishi Kapoor, how could they treat that gentle Kapoor to such extremes- maniacally running, singing, moaning over sand dunes. However, that is not my point. Read below.

Story of Layla and Harun-ar-Rashid, the famous Abbasid emperor. Upon hearing that a Bedouin poet named Qays had fallen hopelessly in love with Layla and lost his mind for her, and was therefore named Majnun- the madman- the emperor became very curious about the woman who had caused such misery.

This Layla must be a very special creature, he thought. A woman far superior to all other women. Perhaps she is an enchantress unequaled in beauty and charm.

Excited, intrigued, he played every trick in the book to find a way to see Layla with his own eyes.

Finally one day they brought Layla to emperor's palace. When she took off her veil, Harun-ar-Rashid was disillusioned. Not that Layla was ugly, crippled, or old. But she wasn't extraordinarily attractive either. She was a human being with ordinary human needs and several defects, a simple woman, like countless others. 

The emperor did not hide his disappointment. "Are you the one Majnun has been crazy about? Why,
you look so ordinary. What is so special about you?"

Layla broke into a smile. "Yes, I am Layla. But you are not Majnun," she answered. "You have to see me with the eyes of Majnun. Otherwise you could never solve this mystery called love."

Love cannot be explained. It can only be experienced.
Love cannot be explained, yet it explains all- Rumi.

Friday, January 10, 2014


People who LIKE movies have a favorite. People who LOVE movies couldn't possibly choose. As much as I want to choose one favorite movie from the Gangster or the 'Wiseguy' genre- made by Italian born director Martin Scorsese almost his own, I fail. One can easily close his eyes and name ‘The Godfather’ as probably the greatest ever motion picture- across all genres. Who dares to contest it? Francis Ford Coppola in one act of cinematic brilliance transcended all benchmarks. He created  a magnum opus, a catharsis of vulnerability, a celebration of unpoetic justice. It is perhaps only his genius ingenuity that he could pull of another classic 'Apocalypse Now'- a war movie that again set a new touchstone. But then men like Coppola are few. I can only think of two other movies that compete with The Godfather: GoodFellas and Once Upon a time in America.  You decide the order.

What sets Godfather aside to many others ( I keep Coppola's , Scorsese's and Sergio Leone's on same scale) is its exquisite plot: three generations intertwined around the great American dream, envisioned by  many Italian expats, in early 20th century. Some call it the best ever family movie. I wouldn't disagree. It glorifies patriarchy, yet never fails to expose the subtle beauty of its women. I still maintain Michael Corleone's Sicilian wife is the prettiest actress in a 10 minute role.

It is one movie where you do not find any discernible weakness. That itself speaks. Direction is top notch, and not for a moment do you feel Coppola is faltering or losing the plot. Like a true captain of the ship he is in complete control. Editing is crisp, and the haunting background score captures every essence of hard core professional criminals who live laugh and love their families. Cinematography is flawless. The depiction and the way the director takes his audience into his story remains unparalleled to the day. In one of it’s more celebrated and widely talked scenes 'Khartoum', the director introduces the brutality of Don Vito Corleone in a way that stays forever in a viewers mind. He may be a family man, he may have his moral code- but he is an uncouth Don after all. The scene never fails to send a chill down my spine.

Many of its lines have achieved the status of sacred scriptures. We use them in every day pillow talks. "I am going to make him an offer he can't refuse”.

Godfather has moments that drown upon a viewer; every time, no matter how many iterations one may have gone through. One such moment is when Paulie is killed in the car. Clemenza very routinely asks Rocco, who has killed him [Paulie]in the car, while he goes off to pee, with the liberty statue in the background; to drop the gun and take the conolli. Clemenza in the earlier scene was reminded by his wife at home to pick up conolli on the way back. The shear ease with which these gangsters go around killing is remarkably put on the screen. You will actually not fail to recognize the silent impact many of such scenes had on the forthcoming gangster movies.

It had an ensemble of cast that is tough to match. Marlon Brando is just the ideal Godfather. After his riveting performance as a torment soul in 'On the Water front' this is Brando's best. I cannot imagine anyone in his place. And I'm glad he agreed to the movie, though it took a lot of persuasion from Coppola. Al Pacino as the young war hero is charming. He acts through his eyes. Those powerful  meaningful eyes. While no praise is enough for Brando and Al, I think the beauty of Godfather also lies in the performances of fringe actors. James Caan the hot-headed elder son of the scion. Robert Duvall, the Irish lawyer, who is remarkably re-affirming in the skin of his character. Diane Keaton as Michael's girlfriend comes across as a strong women on her own, amidst the dominating patriarchy.

Godfather has tons of symbolism, evident in the opening scene when Bonasera seeks Vito Corleone's help in bringing justice (not the American justice) to his daughter violent abuser. He laments in front of the Don. 'I went to the police like a good American. These two boys were brought to trial. The judge sentenced them to three years in prison - suspended sentence. Suspended sentence! They went free that very day! I stood in the courtroom like a fool. And those two bastards, they smiled at me. Then I said to my wife, 'for justice, we must go to Don Corleone.' The scene finishes, the soundtrack plays. Moments later Vito Corleone is posing for a family picture on his daughter's wedding. It is business as usual for the Corleone family.

The movie gives you an idea about how the Italian mafia worked. Of how the baton is passed to a son from an ageing father.  Old and dying Vito Corleone grabs Michael’s hands while plowing on flower beds, like any retired father would be doing.  Sad that Michael had to join family business in the circumstances that he did, Vito Corleone makes it known that he had envisioned a future for him: Senator Corleone, or Governor Corleone. Michael looks into his father’s ageing eyes and replies, ‘ We’ll get there, Pop. We’ll get there.’

Godfather should be seen by anyone who considers himself to be a fan of film and film making.

Friedrich Nietzsche

Have you not heard of that mad man who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market
place and cried incessantly," I seek God."  As many of those who do not believe in God, would stand around just then, he provoked much laughter. 
"Why? Did he get lost,"  said one.
"Did he lose his way like a child," said another.
What is he hiding. The mad man jumped amidst and pierced into his glances.
"Where is God? We have killed him- you and I. All of us are his murderers. 


I'm a wanderer and a mountain climber, Zarathustra said to his heart. What returns, what finally comes home to me is my own self. Alas! I've begun my loneliest walk. But, who ever is of my kind, cannot escape such an hour. The hour which says to him- 'Only now are you going your way to greatness. Peak and abyss are now joined together. For all things are baptized in a well of eternity
and lie beyond good and evil. 

My principle article of faith is that one can only flourish among people who share the identical ideas and identical will. I have no one: that is my sickness.