Category Archives: MovieTalks

MY BOLLYWOOD’S BEST OF 2017

Alright, the time has neatly arrived to speak about the Hindi films released in the year 2017. Starting from 2015, I am yearly publishing my report through my blog about the best things happened in the Hindi cinema. My yearly season of watching Hindi films arrives every last quarter of the year. I pick some films from the list of year wide releases in which I find potential, watch, write a review and place the films in different categories where I believe the project was good for certain aspects.

I am delighted to observe a slight change in waves at some parallel lines which were drawn to follow and focus on mainstream entertainment. There do are numerous films which offer its viewers to enjoy the rollercoaster. But in a few years, the content of creativity and understanding the characterization and principles of filmmaking and visual cinematic presentation has changed. Viewers show interest and are excited to accept change but that innovation is and will increase by a minor percentage. The quality of filmmaking has changed, not because of the cameras but due to the producers offering talented filmmakers and people from other cinematic professions a chance to show their creativity. Films are recognized abroad in the different film festivals. Actors like Manav Kaul, Pankaj Tripathi, Rajkummar Rao, Radhika Apte, Seema Pahwa, Swara Bhaskar, and Sanjay Mishra are achieving recognition from the majority of viewers. These names were hardly believed to be discussed or remembered a few years ago.

From scores of releases, I picked only 28 films for watching and some other films, in addition, to listen to some tracks which did justice to the musical department and to my ears. Millions of people have their opinions, I have mine strictly on the bases of my observation, judgment and understanding as a film critic. No, I do not write for magazines or newspapers as a critic or writer because when most of the companies pay you, you are expected to pass the review to keep everyone happy. Blogging is freedom and before I proceed, let me forward to you my same work on Bollywood’s best in 2014, 2015 and 2016.

Like before, I will segregate the categories into three different sections i.e., musical (5), technical (10), and major section (6). In most of the categories, I will brief a small explanation where I find necessary. In most of the categories, I will also make some honorable mentions which are the individuals or the films deserve to be counted among the best.

This is to inform you that the list of 21 categories from the 3 sections is created and presented from my selection and observing the following films released in India in 2017:

Phillauri, Haraamkhor, Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, Hindi Medium, Anaarkali Of Aarah, Mantostaan, OK Jaanu, Lipstick Under My Burkha, Poorna, A Death In The Gunj, Indu Sarkar, Daddy, Simran, Mom, Mukti Bhawan, Sarkar 3, Shubh Mangal Saavdhan, Trapped, Fukrey Returns, Newton, Jolly LLB 2, Tumhari Sulu, Chef, Ittefaq, Rukh, Ajji, Secret Superstar, and Gurgaon.

The above-mentioned films which miss all the recognitions below are to be believed that those films didn’t live up to my expectations. Also for your reading, let me clarify that the films are not ranked in ‘Other Notable Works’.

Besides the films I have picked above, I have a special regret of missing the following films which I was not able to watch due to lack of availability or availability in extremely low video/audio quality:

Kadvi Hawa, Dear Maya, Dobaara, G Kutta Se, Babumoshai Bandookbaaz, and Ribbon 


MUSICAL SECTION

BEST BACKGROUND SCORE

TAJDAR JUNAID (MUKTI BHAWAN)

Other Notable Works:

  1. Raghu Dixit(Chef)
  2. Hitesh Modak(Simran)
  3. SajidWajid(Daddy)
  4. Mangesh Dhakde(Lipstick Under My Burkha)
  5. Sameer Uddin(Phillauri)
  6. A.R.Rahman(OK Jaanu)

BEST FEMALE PLAYBACK SINGER

MEGHNA MISHRA (NACHDI PHIRA – SECRET SUPERSTAR)

There were not enough impressive singing to my ear to the tracks I listened to. But this Nachdi Phiraan came as a surprise. I first felt if Zaira Wasim was really singing in the studio but then I found out that she was another 17yo like Zaira whose voice perfectly fitted in her. What a phenomenal singing by this young girl. It is all magic when she raises her voice from Tere Ishq Da Chola Pehen Ke. Meghna Mishra is a new singing sensation with a lot of promises.

Other Notable Works:

  1. Rekha Bhardwaj (Saat Rangon Se – Dear Maya)
  2. Ronkini Gupta (Rafu – Tumhari Sulu)
  3. Jasleen Royal (Din Shagna Da – Phillauri)

BEST MALE PLAYBACK SINGER

ARKO (NAZM NAZM – BAREILLY KI BARFI)

This is the first time I have heard Arko’s voice. I was actually not aware of his past contribution. I am informed by my brother that he was behind the composition of most of Jism 2’s tracks. Coming back to Nazm Nazm, what impresses me is his distinctive voice sung on his own lyrics and composition which gives the listener a real feel. Also, this song reminds the 90sh typical fall-in-love tracks. 

Other Notable Works:

  1. Arijit Singh (Phir Bhi Tumko ChahungaHalf Girlfriend)
  2. Atif Aslam (Main AgarTubelight)
  3. Jubin Nautiyal (Bawara Mann – Jolly LLB 2)

BEST SONG & LYRICS

DIN SHAGNA DA (JASLEEN ROYAL/NEERAJ RAJAWAT – PHILLAURI)

There were dozens of impressive tracks and was pretty hard to decide my favourite from 2017.  Many tracks build different variations of moods. So why Din Shagna Da? Because of an extreme simplicity of its being a wedding ballad blended with Jasleen’s addition to grand piano and guitar in a typical Punjabi wedding score.

Lyrics are simple and so realistic. Makes you imagine a young bride singing for her soon-to-be husband before the wedlock. And then, Jasleen Royal’s voice does the perfection of bringing a beautiful and utopian imagery of your beloved in her bridal dress.

Din Shagna Da has to be the best wedding track after Mehndi Hay Rachne Wali from Zubeidaa.

Other Notable Works:

  1. Bawara Mann (Jubin Nautiyal/Neeti Mohan/Junaid Wasi/Chirantan Bhatt – Jolly LLB 2)
  2. Main Agar (Atif Aslam/Amitabh Bhattacharya/Pritam – Tubelight)
  3. Nachdi Phira (Meghna Mishra/Kausar Munir/Amit Trivedi – Secret Superstar)
  4. Nazm Nazm (Arko – Bareilly Ki Barfi)
  5. Jee Lein (Arjun Chandy/Neeti Mohan/Savithri R Prithvi/Gulzar/A.R.Rahman – OK Jaanu)

BEST MUSIC

RAGHU DIXIT (CHEF)

What is counted in ‘Best Music’? For me, it is the quality of Music. Almost all the tracks are relaxing, smooth and tempo builder. Khoya Khoya and Tere Mere are the toppers amongst all the tracks. Raghu Dixit’s contribution moves you and the story together and I honestly believe he deserves the credit as his hard work went pretty unnoticed in the mainstream media. I am not doing any favour but as compared to the other films, I find his tracks for Chef far better than the other notable works which are:

  1. A.R.Rahman (OK Jaanu)
  2. Tanishk-Vayu (Shubh Mangal Saavdhan)
  3. Sashwat Sachdev & Jasleen Royal (Phillauri)
  4. Amit Trivedi (Secret Superstar)

TECHNICAL SECTION

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

RUPA CHOURASIA (ANAARKALI OF AARAH)

Other Notable Works:

  1. Veera Kapur (Phillauri)
  2. Rohit Chaturvedi (Lipstick Under My Burkha)
  3. Nidhi Gambhir & Divya Gambhir (Daddy)
  4. Shruti Wadetiwar (Mukti Bhawan)
  5. Sachin Lovalekar (Ajji)

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

SHAMIM KHAN, SIKANDAR AHMAD & TIYA TEJPAL (AJJI)

Other Notable Works:

  1. Meenal Agarwal (Phillauri)
  2. Vikram Singh (Lipstick Under My Burkha)
  3. Parul Sondh (Daddy)
  4. Avyakta Kapur (Mukti Bhawan)

BEST SOUND DESIGN

UDIT DUSEJA (DADDY)

Other Notable Work: Anish John (Trapped)

BEST EDITING

A. SREEKAR PRASAD (HINDI MEDIUM)

Other Notable Works:

  1. Charu Shree Roy (Lipstick Under My Burkha)
  2. Manas Mittal (Mukti Bhawan)

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

MICHAEL MCSWEENEY & DAVID HUWILER (MUKTI BHAWAN)

Other Notable Works:

  1. Jishnu Bhattacharjee (Ajji)
  2. Sirsha Ray (A Death In The Gunj)

BEST ACTION

SHAM KAUSHAL (DADDY)

BEST STORY

ALANKRITA SHRIVASTAVA (LIPSTICK UNDER MY BURKHA)

To be honest, it was a tough call. I actually picked Anvita Dutt‘s Phillauri and wrote one paragraph in reasoning why the story of Phillauri was the best. But then I stopped myself and looked towards other potential stories I watched.

In my other picks, there is Saket Chaudhary‘s Hindi Medium which shows in a funny way how much effort do the parents make to send their children to a better educational institution. Then there is Atanu Mukherjee‘s Rukh which speaks about a teenager who lost his father in a road accident refusing to believe if that was an accident or a murder. Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, written by Garima-Siddharth, raised the issue of having no toilet and emphasized on the eradication of open defecation. Mukti Bhawan, penned by Shubhashish Buthiani, was about a son helping his father to live his last few days to the holy city of Varanasi.

Then I made up my mind that the story has to be bolder with a brave message. Lipstick Under My Burkha surpasses the definition of being the best story.  The film speaks about the compromised social lives of four women of different ages and statuses from the same society living in Bhopal. Being centered on feminism, the story splendidly executes and handles the issues of different women whether they are right or wrong. 

BEST SCREENPLAY

ZEENAT LAKHANI (HINDI MEDIUM)

Other Notable Works:

  1. Shlok Sharma (Haraamkhor)
  2. Alankrita Shrivastava (Lipstick Under My Burkha)
  3. Arjun Rampal & Ashim Ahluwalia (Daddy)
  4. Akash Mohimen & Atanu Mukherjee (Rukh)
  5. Mani Ratnam (OK Jaanu)

BEST DIALOGUES

GAZAL DHALIWAL (LIPSTICK UNDER MY BURKHA)

Yes, that book in Buaji’s hand is one major reason but I am not aware if that fictional book is fictional to the plot. But the dialogues overall are lively and rich to reality. Gazal Dhaliwal had the audacity to speak out in different characters. All four leading ladies had their needs and lipstick was an important factor. Her dialogues give the space and importance to each of them. 

Other Notable Works:

  1. Shlok Sharma (Haraamkhor)
  2. Anvita Dutt (Phillauri)
  3. Asad Hussain (Mukti Bhawan)
  4. Gulzar (OK Jaanu)

BEST SCENE

BUAJI EXPOSED!! (LIPSTICK UNDER MY BURKHA)

It is emotionally a disturbing and morally a humiliating scene to watch Ratna Pathak’s Buaji character exposing to the truth in front of the whole neighbourhood. It was like a human who has never revealed his/her entire arm is stripped naked. The scene’s excellence of emotional decline should be credited to Alankrita who does a fantastic job in bringing the four ladies and their stories together at a point where they need the support of each other. It was predictable that the truth about Buaji will come someday to everyone’s attention but it is the beauty of the direction how she breaks the spine of her utopian escapism. Only an artist like Ratna can superbly handle that scene.

Other Notable Scenes:

  1. Breaking Toilet on Pandit’s Command (Toilet: Ek Prem Katha)
  2. Sridevi’s Breakdown in Hospital (Mom)
  3. Spirits’ Reunion (Phillauri)
  4. Shutu’s Suicide (A Death In The Gunj)
  5. Father-Son Crying and Apologizing (Mukti Bhawan)
  6. Sulu’s Heated Argument with Entire Family (Tumhari Sulu)
  7. Police Interrogating Manda’s Family (Ajji)

MAJOR SECTION

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

PANKAJ TRIPATHI (NEWTON)

After so many impressive side roles in recent years, Pankaj has developed his acting finesse in 2017. This has been his most fruitful year with severe critical acclaim with the role in Newton the most to treasure.

Pankaj plays a cynical Assistant Commandant in a Naxal-controlled town. Newton is a Rajkummar-Pankaj show and Pankaj’s character weight is what Rajkummar’s keep on pulling all this time. They have assigned jobs but are completely opposite to commitments. In the whole film, it is hard to understand if Pankaj plays a helpful or a painful role to Rajkummar. 

Other Notable Works:

  1. Sudhir Pandey (Toilet: Ek Prem Katha)
  2. Mohd Samad (Haraamkhor)
  3. Deepak Dobriyal (Hindi Medium)
  4. Adil Hussain (Mukti Bhawan)
  5. Manav Kaul (Tumhari Sulu)
  6. Anu Kapoor (Jolly LLB 2)
  7. Raj Arjun (Secret Superstar)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

RATNA PATHAK (LIPSTICK UNDER MY BURKHA)

Yes. LUMB again. Ratna again. Her acting in Buaji character compels me to ignore the other contenders from the list of top performers in this category. I recognized her performance last year in the same category for Kapoor & Sons.

An impressive part of LUMB is that there is no leading character. The plot is so thick that all leading characters support each other, exactly like Kapoor & Sons. What impresses me about Ratna is her adapting any role in a supreme harmony. It doesn’t matter what you are asked, you are a veteran and versatile artist to subdue the character weight. 

When she narrates the erotic novel, she makes me forget Rekha’s voice. Her Rosy avatar completely changes your perception about her being Buaji. It was a phenomenal performance.

Other Notable Works:

  1. Anushka Sharma (Phillauri)
  2. Sajal Ali (Mom)
  3. Neha Dhupia (Tumhari Sulu)
  4. Meher Vij (Secret Superstar)

BEST ACTOR

RAJKUMMAR RAO (TRAPPED)

Seriously, who else? Who else can be the best leading male performer than Rajkummar Rao?. And what else will it take to win the Best Actor award in a Filmfare function? For the fourth consecutive year, the best male leading performer of the year was not even nominated in the category of Best Actor! Sanjay Mishra for Ankhon Dekhi in 2014, Nawazuddin Siddiqui for Manjhi in 2015, Manoj Bajpayee for Aligarh in 2016, and now this. Absolutely shocking!

Coming back to Rajkummar, his efforts and commitments to the role are commendable. Bein a vegan, he actually eats meat in some of the scenes for the first time in his life. A big thumbs up! This guy goes to a strict carrot diet and drinks coffee for more than 16 days to show the emotional and physical decline of a healthy man. This effort helps Rajkummar to define urban loneliness in the character because he is new to Mumbai.

Other Notable Works:

  1. Irrfan Khan (Hindi Medium)
  2. Vikrant Massey (A Death In The Gunj)
  3. Lalit Behl (Mukti Bhawan)
  4. Adarsh Gourav (Rukh)
  5. Arjun Rampal (Daddy)

BEST ACTRESS

ZAIRA WASIM (SECRET SUPERSTAR)

In the Indian cinema, typically the most popular industry which is Hindi cinema, what do the viewers expect from a teenage newcomer in the line of professional acting? Yes, there may be promises but we will expect a young boy or a girl to struggle in front of the camera, try to balance the body language and dialogues together. Right? 

Zaira Wasim was 16 when worked in Dangal with Aamir Khan. Next year, he gave her another opportunity to exploit her acting talent. And this time she has astonished me in Secret Superstar. It is nearly impossible at 17 years of age to be so mature and well adhered to the character and its details. Yes, she is a teenager playing a teenager but acting that well in front of the camera is some achievement.

Zaira plays the title role who isn’t being the princess in the film but a dreamer who is surrendered with a very disturbing domestic life. Her facial performance and emotional fluctuation are marvellous. How real it looks when she acts in the song ‘Nachdi Phira’, that scene can make anyone admit if she really was singing. How tempestuous when she argues with father before he beats, or when she refuses to go abroad.

If this incredible newcomer continues to perform like this with consistency, then she is one massive name in the making. 

Other Notable Works:

  1. Shweta Tripathi (Haraamkhor)
  2. Swara Bhaskar (Anaarkali Of Aarah)
  3. Kirti Kulhari (Indu Sarkar)
  4. Saba Qamar (Hindi Medium)
  5. Kangana Ranaut (Simran)
  6. Sridevi (Mom)
  7. Vidya Balan (Tumhari Sulu)
  8. Sushama Deshpande (Ajji)

BEST DIRECTOR

DEVASHISH MAKHIJA (AJJI)

Aye. Brilliant mind on the director’s chair do his/her work different from others and that is how the filmmaking is exemplified. Ajji is about a ten-year-old girl Manda who is brutally raped before being found by her grandma, Ajji. When the culprit is found to be the son of a politician, everyone in the family goes silent but Ajji.

One of the simplest stories is stretched to a lengthy 103 minutes. But why too lengthy? The answer lies in a terrific direction by Devashish Makhija. In 103 minutes, the director settles the minds of the viewers by taking the parallels of the slums from different angles. He shows the lowest standard of the rapist and tortures your observation for almost 15 minutes to make you believe how far can they go from being sober.

The director never discards in presenting a slum life as the deepest detail is very decorated on the camera, take a keen observation of childish drawings on the wall, dust fixed on the mirror, blinking tube lights, or holes in the shirt of the butcher.

Other Notable Works:

  1. Konkona Sen Sharma (A Death In The Gunj)
  2. Ashim Ahluwalia (Daddy)
  3. Shubhashish Bhutiani (Mukti Bhawan)
  4. Alankrita Shrivastava (Lipstick Under My Burkha)

BEST FILM

MUKTI BHAWAN

 

Daya (Lalit Behl) in his late 70s is believing that he is about to die soon and wishes to go to the holy city of Varanasi to attain salvation. His son, Rajiv (Adil Hussain), accompanies him and leaves his family behind to travel and stay with his stubborn father at the desired place.

Mukti Bhawan is that one film which happens once in several years. Technically, this is one of the most gifted films to the Hindi cinema with every department giving you the highest quality job. A fascinating cinematography capturing the heart of Varanasi, the city of Lord Shiva.

Tajdar-Junaid’s soothing background score helps to build the tempo. Production and costume designs give severe originality to the screenplay. The rest lies in a spectacular direction which subjects on one of the best father-son onscreen chemistry ever picturized. Dialogues are very lively and the whole filmmaking is so charismatic.

So many scenes buy your attention like Daya-Rajiv crying, family posing a joyous funeral as wished, Rajiv’s internet chat with family on a weak signal, Rajiv observing final rites of cremation, etc.

Mukti Bhawan’s richest essence is the translation of human emotions and complexities, fluctuation of rage and inability of understanding the generation gaps and its harsh realities. Hard to believe that this gem is directed by a debutant (Shubhashish Bhutiani) who is only 26 years old. Surely a filmmaking prodigy in the development.

Overall, Mukti Bhawan is indisputably the best Hindi film of 2017.

Other Best Films:

  1. Hindi Medium
  2. Daddy
  3. Rukh
  4. Ajji
  5. Phillauri
  6. Lipstick Under My Burkha

Please share your views about my selections. Write your opinions in the comments below. Let me know if you don’t agree and explain your reasons.

Here, I conclude my special report about the best of Bollywood in 2017. I will be back next year with the same reporting for the year 2018. Thank you for reading. 

FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER @saminaik_asn

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SRIDEVI – THE ART, THE CHARISMA (LAST PART)

(This blog is the second and last part of my eulogy on Sridevi who died in February. Before beginning to read the sequel, I suggest reading the first part here.)

In the previous blog, I gave tribute to Sridevi by highlighting some of her memorable roles/films. In this part, I am writing some segments about her prominence and recognition towards a successful career. I am focusing on some of the factors which made Sridevi one of the greatest stars ever produced in India. What makes us remember her for ages? I will do my best to give my observation a fair justice to her name and legacy.

ACTRESS ACCEPTED WITH HUMOUR

Generally, when it comes to comedy, you do not expect from women to take that stand as comedy has been widely a man’s profession from the black and white era till now. Notably, in the Indian cinema whose history now stretches to over a century, the comedian remains the comedian all his/her life and doesn’t take the centre stage to lead the film. The concept of hero/heroine in Indian cinema among the leading actors has been running for decades where the man is the lover, the fighter, and may add humour in some portion of his role but the Indian cinematic culture is so that it will be very odd to see the leading lady with the comic recipe.

Some actresses did pull a comic show in their careers but that was to a limit. The leading actresses would prefer to stay as the heroine of her hero in the entire film, dance with him, sing and romanticize the script. The humour part was for the supporting actors both male and female who may play a role in bringing the lovebirds closer. Anyhow, most of the scripts didn’t encourage the leading actress to be funny.

Sridevi is someone whose slapsticks went recognized and acceptable to the audience. The best examples are Chaalbaaz and Mr India. In the latter, Sridevi pulled a famous Charlie Chaplin sequence of almost eight minutes. I am mentally not going to accept if any leading actress could perform comedy that long in those times. She did set the standards among the leading actresses to perform comedy as the lead heroine of the film. The trend continued and was successfully followed by Madhuri Dixit, Juhi Chawla and Karishma Kapoor.

NAGIN DANCE

This is one for the ages. Because there are a very few moments in the Indian cinema when the film topped the box office majorly because of one particular dance number.

Two years before Madhuri’s Ek Do Teen in Tezaab, Sridevi’s Main Teri Dushman in Nagina happened. Both were choreographed by Saroj Khan. Easily one of the most scintillating performances by the leading actress in any video song in any Indian film. Sridevi’s incredible and unparallel performance is the biggest reason why the main cobra theme of the song Main Teri Dushman became a blockbuster hit and is still remembered due to an obvious reason. From comedy to seriousness, Sridevi was a blessed talent. Forget what I wrote above about her comedic timing and performances because this number was completely opposite to the above mentioned.

Sridevi’s facial expressions and the rage on her round face with a display of large scary eyes graced the song. The striking of evil in her behind the closed doors seeks the attention. Her body language in the song cannot be explained, in simple words, there can be no challenge to the other leading actresses to do what she did. Her dancing confidence in the songs was always unmatched but here, she was sensational. Note the moment when she is called. She fixes her eyes on Amrish Puri and looks nowhere. She runs down the stairs in her dance without looking down. This is not so easy. Obviously, a plenty of rehearsals were done before the final shot but then I question to myself, how many takes did she perfect running down the stairs without looking down while dancing. 

FILM ICON IN AN UNFAMILIAR LANGUAGE

This point will recognize Sridevi’s legacy that it was constructed on her verbal intuition. This is an undeniable fact that Sridevi was from Tami Nadu and became the icon of the Indian film industry by working in Hindi-language films with a domination which is not the case with many of the leading actors in the Hindi cinema. And Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth cannot be included in this kind of achievement. They did enter Hindi cinema and worked in dozens of films but their legacy is limited to working in the films of non-Hindi language.

Her direct rival was Madhuri Dixit and she was a Maharashtrian. The only leading actress who shared the domination with her in the 80s was Jaya Prada. Sridevi maintained her remarkable stardom in Tamil and Telugu film industries for at least two decades during the period of entering in the Hindi language film industry.

Sridevi’s massive verbal acting struggle was so exhausting that she didn’t dub her voice in the early phase of her Hindi-films career. Yesteryear actress, Kumari Naaz, used to dub in many of her films for a decade. It is cruel that the Hindi voice used on Sridevi in her early career went so badly unrecognized. Rekha famously dubbed Sridevi’s voice in Akhree Raasta. Sridevi dubbed her own voice for the first time in Chandni. Imagine, many many Hindi hit films happened before Chandni. 

ACCEPTING CHALLENGING ROLES AT A YOUNG AGE

And when I say young age, I mean it. She was a child artist who began her career at the age of 4. But it was the Malayalam film, Poompatta, where she gave a promising display at the age of 8. That remarkable crying scene stretched to almost a couple of minutes was a proof that she was born to do wonders.

The same year, she gave another top performance in Tamil film, Babu, as the adopted daughter of Shivaji Ganesan. The scene where Shivaji recognizes the untidy girl, that facial and physical performance is almost impossible to expect from an 8-year-old artist.

At 13, Sridevi did the unthinkable. She played the role of the-then 25 yo Rajinikanth’s stepmother.

Sridevi in her early teen was accepting adult roles and sensitive scenes like a molesting sequence in Priya at 15. I really am not aware of how, for an extremely young girl, were such scenes allowed to be performed. In 16 Vayathinile, Sridevi played the central role of a 16-year-old schoolgirl who wishes to become a teacher but her life is stuck between the two lovers. Sridevi was 14 when she played this leading role between Kamal Hassan and Rajinikanth. At 18, Sridevi starred in Moondram Pirai and played the role of a girl who suffered retrograde amnesia after a car accident. Convincing to say that Sridevi had built a potential experience to enter the Hindi cinema.

A DEDICATED ACTRESS

Three of her career trivia confirms that she was an example of pure dedication and professional commitment.

Gumrah is the only collaboration of Mahesh Bhatt and Sridevi. And there is no surprise that Mahesh Bhatt did some work on her acting because Sridevi’s mental language and timing were spectacular in the film. But last month, Star Plus released Mahesh Bhatt’s emotional tribute to Sridevi when he was speaking to the contestants of the program, “India’s Next Superstars Ki Paathshaala“.

Mahesh Bhatt explained to the contestants how dedicated Sridevi was. Bhatt informed them that the shooting of Gumrah was in its final phase when they had to shoot a scene in the water which involved Sridevi. Producer Yash Johar confirmed to him that she had a 102 something fever. Bhatt suggested to cancel the shooting that day but Sridevi didn’t accept the suggestion and gave her confirmation that she will give the shot. After sharing this experience, Bhatt broke the news of her death to the contestants.

Lamhe was the second and last collaboration between Yash Chopra and Sridevi. But a tragedy occurred in Sridevi’s life when during the shooting of the film in London, she lost her father. She could have requested a deserving short break from the producer but she displayed nobility of her profession. She flew back to India to pay her final respects to her father and returned to work after only 16 days to shoot a comedy sequence. This was revealed in an interview with Yash Chopra.

Chaalbaaz is a very popular film of the 80s and the biggest reason for the popularity of this film is that one song which became a sensational hit, “Na Jaane Kahan Se Aayi Hay“. The song was shot in a studio with artificial rain heavily pouring down. The video of this song itself is 7 minutes of the screen time which is pretty insane by coming to our knowledge that while shooting this song, Sridevi had a fever of 103 degrees. Now I am not aware if Sridevi still had a fever in the released video song but her dedication to the work is admirable that with that fever, she performed and danced in so many takes. It was the magic of ill Sridevi which helped the song gets its share of being an unforgettable track and awarded choreographer Saroj Khan a Filmfare for Best Choreography for this song.


Sridevi was one of the few actresses who collaborated and shared the screen with many notable leading male actors like Dilip Kumar, Amitabh Bachchan, Rajesh Khanna, Ashok Kumar, Rajinikanth, Dharmendra, Jeetendra, Kamal Haasan, Anil Kapoor, Jackie Shroff, Salman Khan, Shahrukh Khan, and a few more.

Famous Indian film director, Shekhar Kapur, confirmed that the sequel of Mr India was on the cards in his emotional tribute on his Instagram account.

Kamal Hassan confirmed in his tribute that he and Sridevi collaborated in a film 27 times together. Kamal-Sridevi pair was the centre of attraction in the Tamil cinema of the 70s.

Ram Gopal Verma, in his extensive tribute on his Facebook notes, made shocking revelations about her disturbed life. He detailed broadly about her sufferings including a tragic death of her father and how her husband helped her in her worst crises.

Sridevi broke in tears while sending a video message to her Pakistani co-stars Adnan Siddiqui and Sajal Ali while the film was premiered in India without them.

Annu Kapoor, in his tribute, spoke the incident in the making of Mr India that when Sridevi’s mother demanded 9 lac rupees for the film, Boney Kapoor responded with the offer of 11 lac rupees.

The latest Academy Award ceremony included Sridevi and Shashi Kapoor in the memorium montage. Sridevi won a posthumous National Award for the Best Actress for Mom.

Sridevi is an art, Sridevi is a charisma. Hindi cinema is incomplete without Sridevi. A leading actress in India will never get that recognition and acceptation like her. Nowadays, a leading actress on her domination in the industry cannot be expected to attempt slapsticks. The culture has changed, the dressing sense in Indian film industry has changed and today’s actress will not wear a saree for a shot. Sadma cannot be repeated, Mr India cannot be repeated. ‘Na Jane Kahan Se Ayi Hai’ cannot bring that magic and if anyone dared to, then the leading actress won’t dance with the fever of 103.

Sridevi is the name of devotion. She is the example of the coming generations of this line of the profession should learn from. Leaving her legacy behind and making millions of her fans miss forever, Sridevi will remain one of the most important wax sculpture of the cinematic museum of India. Thank you, Mr Boney Kapoor, for assisting and supporting her when she needed the most. Thank you, K. Raghavendra Rao, for believing in Sridevi and making her superstar. Your dream of collaborating with her for the 25th time couldn’t meet the destiny but Sridevi accepted the offer in advance by considering it as an honour during Mom’s press meeting in Hyderabad. Thank you late Yash Chopra for gifting us Bollywood’s Chandni.

My words won’t meet a perfect tribute no matter how much I try because your beauty, your essence, your panache, your phenomenon is indescribable.

 

SRIDEVI – The Art, The Charisma (First Part)

The clock struck 12 and it was the 25th of February when I was driving the street and returning back to home after a dinner with my friend when my 19yo brother on Facebook questioned who Sridevi is. I obviously got the clue but for a couple of minutes, I just couldn’t believe that Sridevi, the queen of hearts, is no more.

Sridevi and Madhuri Dixit were the top-billed heroines of the Hindi cinema of the 80s and 90s. Both dominated the film industry, achieved marvellous success and numerous awards, and occupied the hearts of millions of fans around the world. Both were fabulous dancers and both had the quality and ability to compete with the leading male actors on box office by running the film on their own. The reason for stating this is because of the cinematic culture of India where the business of the film heavily depends on the leading male actor. These two unchallenged queens of divas never starred in a film together which speaks of an obvious professional rivalry.

My earliest memory of Sridevi is watching her in ChaalBaaz which I happened to watch on VHS. ChaalBaaz was the remake of Ramesh Sippy‘s Seeta Aur Geeta and Sridevi played a spectacular double-role. Later on, I watched dozens of films in which Sridevi starred like Mr. India, Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja, Janbaaz, Aakhree Raasta, Himmatwala, Joshilaay, Khuda Gawah, Laadlaa and many more.

It is hard for today’s generation to understand the hype of Sridevi’s demise and what she meant to the Indian cinema. Her contribution is stupendous. In honour of her memory and dedication to the Indian cinema, I began writing this eulogy for Sridevi, to whose beauty I am deeply gratified, after knowing about her demise. Let me try to highlight a few segments of her career.

16 VAYATHINILE

It has been forty years to P.Bharathiraja‘s classic 16 Vayathinile which starred Rajinikanth, Kamal Haasan, and 13-year-old Sridevi. The film was about a 16-year-old village girl who wishes to become a teacher but her life is stuck between the two lovers.

The emotional performance in 16 Vayanthinile was incredible. The scenes when her character Mayil is spotted by the rich doctor, or when the doctor takes his chance on her, and a few more scenes. It is very tough at 13 to play such emotional roles. Such a sensitive scene like Rajini’s rape attempt on her showed that the actress was daring and courageous enough to grab any given role.

MOONDRAM PIRAI/SADMA

It is surprisingly strange that in the Indian cinema, we hardly see the leading ladies taking a challenge of playing the character of a mentally or physically challenged woman. Tell at least three such roles in the next 10 seconds! Tough isn’t it? The best to our memory is Rani Mukerji/Ayesha Kapur in Black, Priyanka Chopra in Barfi, or Jaya Bachchan in Koshish.

Sridevi is among the very few leading actresses to have played such a tougher role and the obvious evidence is Balu Mahendra‘s Tamil film, Moondram Pirai and its Hindi version, Sadma (released a year later). Sridevi took months in the preparation for the role of a young girl who suffered retrograde amnesia after a car accident. It was her versatility at such a young age that she displayed a stunning performance straight from the scene when she opens her eyes and widens her big eyes to see two strange people standing in front of them who are actually her parents. While the parents try to comfort her, she is unable to recognize them.

From that scene until she recovers, her mental performance and body language were unbelievable. The way she observes the puppy dog and plays with it, the funny fight scene and saree scene with Somu (Kamal Haasan). Sadma was only her 2nd Hindi film but at 20, she already had established her name in Indian film industries of other languages.

Here, I must mention the name of Kamal Haasan, and praise and thank him for his contribution to the film. Because the characters of Kamal and Sridevi in the films were one of the most unusual pairings and their extraordinary performances helped the films to be remembered for decades. Balu’s direction and their onscreen presence aided the film to conclude at one of the most dramatic and emotional ends. I recommend the readers to read Subhash K. Jha’s excellent film review for the Indian Express. In my opinion, Moondram Pirai/Sadma were Sridevi’s best performances of her prestigious career.

MR. INDIA

Shekhar Kapur‘s Mr India was memorable for not one but many reasons. Count Amrish Puri‘s unforgettable villainous role of Mogambo, and Anil Kapoor‘s title role, but Sridevi was also a major factor in the film’s outstanding success for not one but at least three reasons.

One was her comic performance in the film at numerous occasion most memorably in that Charlie Chaplin sequence.

Then her performance in the song Hawa Hawaii, her slapsticks and moves. The song made singer Kavita Krishnamurthy a stellar.

Then another song, “I Love You“. Sridevi in a blue saree for me is still more sensual than nowadays skin shows. Although both Hawa Hawaii and I Love You were one of Sridevi’s biggest hit numbers of her career but the significance of the latter is the solo show in the entire six and a half minutes of the song. Sridevi here proved that the choreography of the song can run solely on a woman with the masculine voice in the background. Sridevi’s sex appeal in the song is still considered one of the hottest choreographies in the Hindi cinema. She was just out of the world.

CHANDNI/LAMHE

There had to be something in Yash Chopra‘s mind that after a series of back to back failures and below average performances of his films starting from Kaala Patthar to Vijay that he chose to cast Sridevi for the first time as the leading cast to play the title role of Chandni. Yash Chopra wanted to change the action era of the 80s by making a romantic film and announced Chandni.

Being a female-centric film, Sridevi proved to be the perfect girl to play Chandni one can imagine. If the blue saree in Mr India wasn’t enough to melt our hearts, comes white churidar and kurta with a leheriya dupatta which looked incredibly simple and beautiful on Sridevi.

Sridevi made Chandni a cult classic. The legacy is that the film inspired the women to buy the Chandni white dress in Chandni Chowk. Two famous numbers from Chandni graced Sridevi’s career.

One was ‘Mere Haathon Mein’ which became India’s most famous chooriyan (bangles) song.

And then the classical tandav dance number where she turned into some mythical Goddess again in the white dress. Sridevi looked some Venus in that dance sequence but then, when did she never looked Venus?

The moment in the song Mitwa when the flute begins to play Tere Mere Honton Pe and Sridevi releases herself from Rishi Kapoor‘s arms and begins stepping to dance slowly, it is so mesmerizing! It is like an angel of love has descended down to comfort our souls.

Two years later, when the action era in Bollywood continued to race furthermore years, Lamhe happened. Yash Chopra again cast Sridevi and this time for a double role. In my opinion, Lamhe wasn’t Sridevi’s finest works. Coming from a journey where she did Nagina, Mr.India, ChaalBaaz, and Chandni, Lamhe wasn’t that wow. Considering that she had done double roles before and if double-role has to be the criteria, then the forthcoming film Khuda Gawah was a way better double performance. Sridevi did win the Filmfare award for the Best Actress but she may have won that for many films she was nominated before and later. 

Versatile actress Manisha Koirala once stated in the interview that both Lamhe and Chandni were her dream roles.

GUMRAH

In the 90s, if there was any director who really worked and improvised on Sridevi’s acting, it was Mahesh Bhatt. Gumrah‘s Sridevi was pretty different from her previous works like her reaction to her ailing mother’s death. And when she is wrongly caught for cocaine in the airport, she has a powerful facial performance of dropping into a sudden ill fate. The way she loses herself in shock after the drugs are produced from the handbag and begin screaming her boyfriend’s name in confusion is a remarkable shot. Her prison fight scene for a key with a female prison ward shows how the innocent character can bring rage and go violent. Her emotional personification, complexity to the character, her timing were top notch. Gumrah was indeed one of Sridevi’s finest works.

ENGLISH VINGLISH

Gauri Shinde‘s debut film, English Vinglish, marked Sridevi’s first grand comeback in the Indian film cinema after 15 years. And the role she played was her testimonial to her dedication towards constructing her phenomena. Just like she entered the Hindi cinema with no fluency in the language, she played the character of a small entrepreneur who learns to speak English to gain self-respect among her family.

This film set a base for Sridevi as an introduction of yesteryear’s heroin in the second innings of her age. Playing a real character role in her late 40s and giving competition to the new faces. Sridevi became an institution to the new generation and taught the fluctuation of confidence. That test of her spiral benevolence was her attribute.

How dynamic is that restaurant scene when she levels up her confidence and courage to place her order in English resulting in the cashier losing her patience in unsuccessfully cooperating with her. Dropping of coins from shaking hands in tension, and accidentally hitting the other customer were very rich scenes. It was a flawless timing where Sridevi displayed some embarrassing moments of millions around the globe.

But Sridevi summarized her entire brilliance and translated her legacy in the final speech making the viewers think if Sridevi really had English issues in real life. The way she began the speech, tried to set the tone with some words, pushed herself to built confidence and gave tips to the bride in the most simplest English was so human and natural.

MOM

Her final leading performance and confirmed to be her 300th film by many sources. Mom is one of the most vibrant and unforgettable performances by Sridevi. She plays a stepmother who wants to win her stepdaughter, Arya. Arya is gang-raped, the family is broken and loses the case in the court against the culprits. So she musters her courage and wills to get her daughter justice.

The film will annoy the viewers with the fact that if the angel of death had not followed her for a while, Sridevi in her 50s would have done wonders and gracefully stretched her already 50-year acting career. Because many leading actresses, who earned their name and reputation in the cinema, either get married and retires or sparingly shows up in their 40s and 50s.

Besides the above picks, I imagine Sridevi’s domination would have been unmatchable if she would have worked in Beta, Darr, Baazigar, Mohabbatein, Baghban, and Baahubali when/if offered. Beta was a huge miss and her rival Madhuri took the centre stage with that Dhak Dhak number. Yash’s original choice for Darr was Sridevi but she refused. Abbas-Mastan planned to have Sridevi in a double role of twin sisters in Baazigar but then opted for Kajol/Shilpa to play those roles.

Sridevi’s lack of interest scrapped her character in Mohabbatein who was supposed to be Amitabh‘s love interest. Baahubali’s character of Sivagami played by Ramya Krishnan was first offered to Sridevi which she declined due to her commitment to the other project. But the mother of all misses is declining Steven Spielberg‘s offer to play a character in Jurassic Park. And her reason was that the role was small and unworthy of her star stature. Oh, my.

Thank you for reading. This is the conclusion of the first part of the tribute to Sridevi. Please wait for the second and final part. Will be posted soon.

Justice League – Film Review & The Ultimate Case

Justice League film is not the ideal assembling of the greatest superheroes team for scores of reasons. Because the continuity of the universe is faltered from here and makes you feel if the other powerful substance stole the power from the God of this DC cinematic universe and in the process, claims to be God. When the universe is in the process of perpetuation, make your mind how to maintain and execute the project. The planning of the infrastructure of the universe should be done even before the beginning of this all Project: DCU.

In short: “If the God is making silly mistakes, do not blame the universe.

ONE LITRE OF WATER IN A GLASS?!?!

Superman is dead. Steppenwolf, Darkseid‘s uncle, has threatened the world to destroy the earth by stealing the three Mother Boxes he once stole and then lost in a prodigious battle to a unified army of the Amazons, Atlanteans, Olympian Gods, and Green Lantern Corps (I also have doubt that Thanagarians were involved too). With all the Mother Boxes with Steppenwolf, Batman creates a team of metahumans to honour Superman and fight against Steppenwolf and his military of Parademons.

This all sounds a pretty impressive plotline on paper but this all doesn’t fit in a universe whose existence is in a premature state. This is like some kind of sports shaping into the invention and is further announced for a global competition and in a few days, a team is created from nowhere to participate and win the jackpot. Yes, that last sentence didn’t make any sense. And that is my explanation about the fate of this DC Universe.

The audience knows nothing about these metahumans, Barry Allen aka The Flash, Arthur Curry aka Aquaman, and Victor Stone aka Cyborg, nor do they touch their origins. They are just contacted by the team leader and asked for help! Their becoming superheroes are just concerned in the dialogues which are not enough. And with the space of hardly two hours of the screen time, the film is a source of confusion and running a 100-metre sprint race without firing a starter pistol, just like Suicide Squad.

JL film creates a colossal issue of hows and whys of the universe. Many questions are to be raised by the audience especially the one who has never known this superhero team but wants to know. Why is Barry’s father in prison? How did Victor die before he became Cyborg? What’s this conversation of Mera and Arthur about? All the answers to these questions are in the dialogues which are not enough. You cannot explain and present the entire hows and whys in mere two hours. And with shortening or cutting the screen time of the film by almost 50 minutes, the filmmakers ask you to stop thinking that much and focus on the what-the-hell continuity.

MAN OF STEEL RETURNS

Now Superman’s return. From the release of Batman v Superman to Justice League, a lot of opinions and theories were established. Many questions were raised. Should Superman return? If so, then how? Why? Exactly when? Of course, the creation of a superhero team without him is impractical. The return was certain but to wait how long? 21 months? He died in one film and returns in the next. It all happened in haste but why so hurried? What train are the executives missing?

Superman’s return as many stated one of the best scenes, didn’t impress me, to be honest. First of all, the idea of his return itself is not so spectacular. Using the Mother Box to resurrect his body is not a wow! to me. This is not an ideal return. Imagine where does this resurrection nonsense stand in front of the comics storyline in the making of his return after his death while fighting Doomsday, nowhere!

Once he returns from the dead. He is confused and not at all alright. Fights his soon-to-be friends and before it is too late, enter Lois Lane to melt his anger and he flew with her to Smallville like what the actual f***! This scene is even worse and illogical than Martha one.

Yes, Superman not included in the marketing campaign was a wise idea as it produced a spectacular wait for the release of the film and watch the grand revelation of his magnificent return but his return was nonsensical. And what about Bruce’s Knightmare sequence in BvS? What was that all about if Clark had to return this way? Barry eventually was right that Lois is the key and she is the one who brought Clark back to his consciousness but I am not convinced that this was the motive behind the Knightmare sequence. Will this confusion be cleared in the Flashpoint film? Because I am not understanding when did Barry go and warn Bruce?

If Superman is returning, so is Clark. Superman’s return may be understood by the world but what about Clark? How is he back? Why are people in the surroundings not surprised? Hopefully, these questions may be responded in the sequel of Man Of Steel.

ISSUES AND TISSUES

Barry, in his own words, is afraid of guns and murder, and obnoxiously tall people. And he has never done battle. Victor, on the other hand, is new to the language on his head which he doesn’t understand and fresh of becoming some robot who is not aware of his powers which he is getting every morning. A shaky beginning of such metahumans who are put into a team to fight against the global threat. They haven’t proved their worth in their cities, Cyborg is hiding after his father’s experiment on his son’s dead body while Barry hasn’t even joined CCPD, but they are recruited to save the world from Steppenwolf.

CGI of Steppenwolf is very different and looks less-threatened to a Steppenwolf the filmmakers showed in a cameo in BvS. I have no idea how and why his face is so changed in a time period of two films but is easily the worst supervillain offered by the DCU so far. Even Doomsday or Zod looked more threatening than him. With the return of Superman, Steppenwolf is so easily defeated that gives a furthermore wrong impression about his threat. This was the same monster who with his army was fighting against a unified team in the beginning. How on earth is the normal mind to accept the fact that this killing beast Steppenwolf who was stopped with the collective efforts of the ancient Gods, Amazonians, Atlanteans, and Lanterns was manhandled by Superman alone? For Superman, he was such a piece of cake that he smashed him, then he went to save the civilians, raced with Barry, returned back and asked his teammates if he was still bothering them and resumed the beatings like if Steppenwolf was ever bullied by Superman back in the college before! This was so so wrong! Who was writing this part? Joss, was that you?

Aquaman’s first appearance in the film is so ordinary. His first appearance could easily have been where he saves a man in the boat. His character in the film is very underdeveloped. It is just a Jason Momoa show, not Aquaman. Although I liked the father-son conversation between the Stones but overall Cyborg was average. The excellence of Wonder Woman continues from where she left in the previous instalment and in fact, she further impresses with her leadership qualities. Her relation with Bruce was one of the positive points of the film. Barry Allen is funny and his character is lighter than the one in the Arrowverse. Superman doesn’t have enough lines but I think his character has been more lighted than the previous two appearances. I am convinced with this decision. A slight change in his personality after the resurrection helps the environment of the DC films proceed in the same mode. 

I don’t know who was editing this film but it was a very unattractive start to the film with a camera recording Superman in one of the worst possible CGIs in an attempt of hiding his moustache. With such an enormous amount of money invested in this project, how possibly could CGI go that wrong? I wonder what made the makers think about keeping Superman clean shaved. In the comics, he did grow the beard. Speaking of the opening, in my opinion, the film could have its super blockbuster opening if they had shown that Steppenwolf’s ancient war against the unified army as the opener. Imagine the film opening with Steppenwolf stealing the Mother Boxes and with his army of Parademons about to invade the earth and suddenly steps a unified army to stop the threat. A perfect 10-minute starter making the audience understand the significance of the Mother Boxes and also explaining why exactly a League of Justice must be established. And by the way, this fight sequence is the only time in the whole film which made me convince to be directed by Zack Snyder. One of the best scenes of the film sadly was hardly a minute of screen time.

JL film is lighter in tone. Yes, a lot of humour is added but few were unnecessary like Aquaman sitting on Lasso of Truth, The Flash’s That’s Rude scene, and Cyborg and The Flash digging Superman’s grave, yes they were digging. I mean there could have been many ways to bring out Superman’s dead body. If this was some comic reference or homage then pardon me.

The fighting sequences are impressive. I liked the teamwork the way the heroes are helping each other like The Flash helping WW pick her Sword of Athena or Superman and The Flash dividing their work in saving the civilians or Aquaman reaching at the nick of time and saving his new friends by lowering the water pressure through his Trident of Neptune in the tunnel of the Gotham Harbor (The Ten Commandments tribute, anyone?).

COMICS EASTER EGGS & REFERENCES

Like all the DCU films, JL also has honoured some notable comic book references and dropped some easter eggs. The one obvious is the race between The Flash and Superman which happened twice in the film. This comic tradition of the race between the two speedsters has been presented many times in different mediums but this all began in the 199th issue of Superman back in 1967. The idea was devised by the writer of this issue, Jim Shooter, and penciler, Curt Swan. At that time, Jim Shooter was only 16 years old.

Parademons are exactly the same from the comics. Crispus Allen appears for a scene with Commissioner Gordon discussing the drawing of the Parademon. Who knows if Crispus becomes the Spectre in the future just like in comics. As I mentioned before that Steppenwolf is Darkseid’s uncle but this fact should not be confused if he is found later in the films that he isn’t his uncle because, in The New 52 version, he is just the general. This DCEU has been more based on The New 52 as you may notice the lineup of JL is exactly the same as New 52 comics. Cyborg replaced Martian Manhunter from the original work.

Bruce plans a headquarter for the JL which has to be the Hall Of Justice for sure. And further on, Diana adds the line “With room for more”, giving an obvious hint to have more superheroes in future to join the league. After winning the fight against Steppenwolf, Cyborg utters the word ‘Booyah’ which is not a comic reference but one of the most popular catchphrases Cyborg introduced in the Teen Titans cartoon. Barry’s Pet Sematary joke comes from Stephen King‘s novel and film with the same title.

A very important comics discovery was the Green Lantern fighting in that ancient war against Steppenwolf. That GL was none other than Yalan Gur. Check the comparisons in the pictures below. I screenshot the film sequence where, by few microseconds, the face is the clearest.

In comics, Yalan Gur abused his power and turned corrupt due to the fact his ring was then passed to Alan Scott who was the first character to bear the name, Green Lantern. Yalan Gur is killed by Steppenwolf in the sequence and so the ring leaves the finger and flies somewhere. Has the ring now passed to Alan Scott? Is Alan Scott the Green Lantern we are waiting for in the future films?

In the first meeting, when Bruce asks Barry about his powers, Barry in response is pretending and answers that he is skilled in learning sign language and gorilla language. That has to be quite obvious that Gorilla Grodd exists in the universe.

Batman standing on a skeletal gargoyle before meeting Commissioner Gordon is the tribute to the cover of the 682nd issue of Detective Comics. Cyborg’s body reconstruction with the help of Mother Box is from Geoff Johns and Jim Lee‘s Justice League: Origin. On this book, the animated film, Justice League: War was produced. Bruce riding a horse in quest of Arthur looks like one of the homages of Frank Miller‘s The Dark Knight Returns which Zack perhaps missed in BvS. Arthur sitting on Lasso of Truth may be another homage to the comics incident when Hal Jordan accidentally touched Lasso of Truth and spoke his soul out.

UNAPPEALING SCORE

DCEU films have been blessed with the impressive musical scores from Man of Steel to Wonder Woman. Even before this universe, Hans Zimmer gifted our ears the unforgettable work on The Dark Knight Trilogy. But this time, even the music department looked compromised. Danny Elfman‘s score was flat and very ordinary. It was supposed to be Junkie XL but was later decided to replace him with Danny. Yes, Danny is the one who produced the iconic Batman theme which was also used in Batman: The Animated Series but that doesn’t guarantee his producing another top-notch. Instead, he reused the famous themes of Batman and Superman, the result? Average response. Listen to his score straight after the credits when the burglars are about to rob the bank and you will realize how ugly his score sounded. Also, many of his scores will remind you of his work on Hulk. Removing Junkie from the project was a bad bad bad decision. No situation in the film gives you the feeling from the background score. The genuine score builds the mood of the audience and sets a proper tone. Take an example of the No Man’s Land Scene when Wonder Woman raises and presents herself to the world as the answer for the victory and confronts all the shots and bullets. This is what I am talking about. The score in that scene melts you and that is what I wanted in JL like all the previous DCEU films, some quality.

JUSTICE LEAGUE NEEDS JUSTICE

JL film is as expected a very early breakthrough which should have happened after the audience gets the awareness of the superheroes, their worlds, their origins and hows/whys of becoming a superhero. After all this, then the God of this universe should have dropped the bomb over their heads by bringing a monster, a threat, a disease, against whom they collectively fight together for a better cause.

If the box office collections are low and the response of the audience is negative, Warner Bros. is to be blamed. They should not involve themselves in the director’s vision and creativity nor should they decide what to cut from the film. After director Zack Snyder’s departure due to the family tragedy (strong rumours are that he was fired), WB hired Joss Whedon which was a massive blunder. Many scenes were reshot and further added $50m to the extraordinary budget of $250m. Then the Warner Bros. CEO, Kevin Tsujihara, cut the screen time to 1hr59m which is extremely short for a superhero film like JL which needed a heavy detailing about the heroes and their worlds.

Many important scenes are rumoured and reported to be cut from the theatrical release. Barry’s love interest Iris West and Arthur’s advisor Nuidis Vulko are not featuring in the film. Two of the Lanterns, Kilowog and Tomar-Re, were to meet Batman in his Batcave in one scene but that was scrapped. Film’s principal photographer has confirmed Superman wearing his iconic black suit which never happened. Some sources are claiming that Darkseid was to appear in the film which never happened. Plus, few scenes which were observed in the trailer never featured in the film which is quite strange. Most significantly the one in which someone showed up to Alfred in the trailer became a mystery to the viewers and began finding the answer who that superhero can be by zooming Alfred’s glasses and observing the colour. To that level of madness among the die-hard fans, the producers chose to scrap this scene, wow! Now that scene has been added as the deleted scene in the digital release. All the above-mentioned scenes would have helped the audience leaving the room with comfort.

WARNER BROS! DO YOUR HOMEWORK!

I have never understood this philosophy or ideology of cutting the screen length in the theatrical release. Warner Bros. decided to cut almost half an hour of BvS in the theatrical release and paid the price of making the film confused and misunderstood full of plotholes to the viewers. From here, I actually thought Warner Bros. will learn from their mistakes because later on, they hit their peak through Wonder Woman. But for JL they cut no less than 50 minutes which is an extraordinary length. The audience can watch a film with a running time more than three hours IF the film makes you understand things what the director wanted to. Just in case if you had not watched the ultimate edition of BvS, you would never know that how come Superman couldn’t detect the bomb in the court or Steppenwolf and Luthor did meet each other. Warner Bros. has to get rid of making the horrible decisions before the viewers begin taking less interest in their films.

Warner Bros. has to slow them down and stop competing against the Walt Disney Studio to match the standards where their Marvel Cinematic Universe today is. This is not how you assemble the team and expect praise from the audience. Stop being in haste and focus on making people understand your universe.

The reason why Wonder Woman worked both on the box office and praised by the critics and the audience was that Wonder Woman was produced to make the audience understand the superhero, realize why she exists, and why the world needs this woman. Same goes for the other metahumans. Instead of implementing a JL project, the God of this universe should have focused on introducing the metahumans in their own solo or origin films so that the audience would be convinced and understood their involvement to their world.

MCU’s approach was the perfect one, they had the right plan in both cinema and TV on assembling their heroes in a convincing way. But I guess Warner Bros. decided to innovate a different structure of explanation and presentation so that they can separate the ideology from the Walt Disney Studio. But how long can they keep them away from the MCU philosophy? Two of the DCU films did follow the trend of surprising the audience with the post or end credits, JL and Suicide Squad.

Status of Zack Snyder in this universe is now confusing. Is he really fired? Because according to IMDb, he is the announced producer of future DCEU projects. But in any case, losing him as a director is a major setback. In addition, Warner Bros. is adding way too many films on so many characters in the universe and most specifically from Gotham city which I find unnecessary. Instead of rushing with so many projects like films on Nightwing, Batgirl, Black Adam, Gotham City Sirens, Lobo, Harley Quinn, JL Dark and God knows what else, better they stabilize the DCEU structure and reconsider what and how exactly they want from this universe and how to continue it with improvements.

For the sake of DCU’s prosperity, increasing a universal fan-following, overwhelming responses from the critics, and boosting the commercial sales through the marketing campaign and merchandising, WB have to take immediate and effective steps before the universe collapses and becomes a laughing stock. Things have still not gone that down financially. Their each DCEU film has worldwide grossed at least $650m despite the negative reviews which is absolutely not bad at all. From DCEU, Warner Bros. has earned $3.7b from only 5 films which shows the worldwide fan-following of DC Comics are excited and not giving up at all! I am hoping for a decent turnaround and may they learn from their mistakes and make the fruitful but not dreadful decisions.

RATINGS: 5.5/10

My Bollywood’s Best of 2016

The thing is that I am indulged in presenting the very best of Hindi-language cinema every year and I enjoy investing my precious time for the sensible readers and filmgoers who would like to know what honestly have been the best films under different categories. It is a common understanding that the film awards in India have lost its credibility by handing the awards mostly to the wrong hands from a very list of nominations. It exasperates me when the deserving individual or a film is not recognized on the stage in any given function.

For the past two years, I am making such a specific blog to recognize the contributions from the Indian films released in India in that specific calendar year. You may read my previous selections here in 2014 and 2015.

This blog will focus on the year 2016. Like before, I will segregate the categories in three different sections i.e., musical (5), technical (10), and major section (6). In most of the categories, I will brief a small explanation where I find necessary. In most of the categories, I will also make some honorable mentions which are the individuals or the films deserve to be counted among the best.

This is to inform you that the list of 21 categories from the 3 sections is created and presented from my selection and observing the following films released in India in 2016: Chauranga, Wazir, Chalk N Duster, Airlift, Saala Khadoos, Neerja, The Blueberry Hunt, Fan, Nil Battey Sannata, Traffic, Buddha in a Traffic Jam, Sarbjit, Veerappan, Waiting, Dhanak, Te3n, Raman Raghav 2.0, Madaari, M Cream, Pink, Parched, Dear Zindagi, Dangal, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, Baar Baar Dekho, Udta Punjab, Kapoor & Sons, Fitoor, Mirzya, and Aligarh.

The above-mentioned films which miss all the recognitions below are to be believed that those films didn’t live up to my expectations. Also for your reading, let me clear that the films are not ranked in ‘Other Notable Works’.


MUSICAL SECTION

BEST BACKGROUND SCORE

TAPAS RELIA (DHANAK)

Other Notable Works:

  1. Mikey McCleary (Waiting)
  2. Studio Fuzz (M Cream)

BEST PLAYBACK SINGERS

There wasn’t a decent vocal competition in the year 2016. I have listened to a lot of tracks from the 4-5 successful music albums of the films and I found only a couple of male tracks from the same film and a few good female singing in the other films but still not good enough.

AMIT MISHRA (BULLEYA – AE DIL HAI MUSHKIL)

Other Notable Work: Arijit Singh (Channa Mereya – Ae Dil Hai Mushkil)

NEETI MOHAN (SAU AASMAAN – BAAR BAAR DEKHO)

Other Notable Works:

  1. Qurat-Ul-Balouch (Kaari Kaari – Pink)
  2. Kanika Kapoor (Da Da Dasse – Udta Punjab)

BEST SONG & LYRICS

CHANNA MEREYA (ARIJIT SINGH/AMITABH BHATTACHARYA/PRITAM – AE DIL HAI MUSHKIL)

Other Notable Works:

  1. Tere Bin (Sonu Nigam-Shreya Ghoshal/Vidhu Vinod Chopra/Shantanu Moitra – Wazir)
  2. Pashmina (Amit Trivedi/Swanand Kirkire – Fitoor)
  3. Gehra Ishq (Shekhar Ravjiani/Prasoon Joshi/Vishal Khurana – Neerja)

BEST MUSIC

AMIT TRIVEDI (UDTA PUNJAB)

Other Notable Works:

  1. Tapas Relia (Dhanak)
  2. Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy (Mirzya)

TECHNICAL SECTION

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

ASHIMA BELAPURKAR (PARCHED)

Other Notable Work: Theia Tekchandaney & Shruti Wadetiwar (Neerja)

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

ANNA IPE & APARNA SUD (NEERJA)

Other Notable Work: Amardeep Behl (Parched)

BEST SOUND DESIGN

SUBHASH SAHU (NEERJA)

Other Notable Works:

  1. Boby John (Dhanak)
  2. Vinit D’Souza (Raman Raghav 2.0)

BEST SCENE

MADAARI

There have been few scenes in my mind which were quite outstanding. Like Aliya’s expressions of misery to Shahid in Udta Punjab, or Nawazuddin killing a family in Raman Raghav 2.0, or the hijacking scene in Neerja, or the final court scenes in Pink. But I decided to choose the winner between two of the best scenes of the year 2016. Shakun Batra’s marvelous direction bemused me about the selection of the best scene of the film. The plumber scene, Annu aunty in party scene, and the truths-revelation scene before the family photo all carried equal weight of remarkable sketch of a highly intense family drama. So undecided that I prefer to conclude the winning scene with Irrfan’s showstopper and a heart-melting scene from Madaari when he asks for whereabouts of his son in the hospital. Perhaps no one would bring the efforts what Irrfan did here and hence proved again why is he the most inspiring actor holding more demand in the global cinema than any other Indian. This scene really beats the others.

BEST EDITING

GAIRIK SARKAR (TE3N)

Other Notable Works:

  1. Aarti Bajaj (Raman Raghav 2.0)
  2. Monisha R Baldawa (Neerja)

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

MINGJUE HU (M CREAM)

Other Notable Work:

  1. Chirantan Das (Dhanak)
  2. Priya Seth (Airlift)
  3. Jay Oza (Raman Raghav 2.0)
  4. Satyajit Pande (Dangal)

BEST ACTION

Parvez Singh (Raman Raghav 2.0)

The action is not about larger-than-life supernatural fights. My science of understanding here says to me that the action is when the reality is bound to bring intensity in the screenplay. Violence is the key, torture is a form and dismantling the brain and eyes towards the seriousness of the buildup is where the finest of action qualifies. Neerja and Raman Raghav 2.0 were the only films in my mind. Neerja’s technical aspects helped to build the intensity from hijacking till the last attempt of escaping. Whereas Raman Raghav 2.0 was a silent screamer and a gritty writing making the viewers hopeless and disconsolate of any likelihood of survival, the bloodbath is a sine qua non.  

BEST SCREENPLAY

RITESH SHAH (PINK)

Other Notable Works:

  1. Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari, Neeraj Singh, Pranjal Choudary, and Nitesh Tiwari (Nil Battey Sannata)
  2. Gauri Shinde (Dear Zindagi)

BEST DIALOGUES

SHAKUN BATRA & AYESHA DEVITRE DHILLON (KAPOOR & SONS)

Other Notable Works:

  1. Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari, Neeraj Singh, Pranjal Choudary, and Nitesh Tiwari (Nil Battey Sannata)
  2. Atika Chohan (Waiting)
  3. Agneya Singh (M Cream)
  4. Ritesh Shah (Pink)

BEST STORY

NITESH TIWARI (NIL BATTEY SANNATA)

Other Notable Works:

  1. Bikas Ranjan Mishra (Chauranga)
  2. Anu Menon, James Ruzicka, and Atika Chohan (Waiting)
  3. Agneya Singh (M Cream)
  4. Gauri Shinde (Dear Zindagi)

MAJOR SECTION

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

RATNA PATHAK (KAPOOR & SONS)

 

Parched acting trio of Tannishtha, Radhika and Surveen was highly expected to surpass the expectations but the trio of Pink was a massive surprise to me. Alia Bhatt gave her remarkable presence in Kapoor & Sons.

Well, a pause in the clause is that the Indian theater actresses will eat your skull if they outplayed the emotional character. Shabana Azmi for Neerja and Ratna Pathak for Kapoor & Sons were the most standout performances from this category. It wasn’t easy to pick and ignore the other nor do I want any joint winners. But as per the capacity of acting and appeal on the screentime, Ratna had more space to suffer Mr. Kapoor and Sons than the mother of Neerja waiting for the updates after the hijacking incidence. Ratna had more time to fight and argue with more than an individual at a time than Shabana’s emotional resistance. 

Other Notable Works:

  1. Shabana Azmi (Neerja)
  2. Kirti Kulhari (Pink)
  3. Tannishtha Chatterjee (Parched)
  4. Alia Bhatt (Kapoor & Sons)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

RISHI KAPOOR (KAPOOR & SONS)

The mad terrorist in Neerja was phenomenal as well as a highly potential debut of the singer Diljit Dosanjh in Udta Punjab. Rajkummar was decent in assisting Manoj Bajpayee in Aligarh and Vicky Kaushal is rapidly making his name with Masaan and 2.0. But the real focus was on the dadaji of the dysfunctional family in Kapoor & Sons.

Yes, the makeup has a prominent role in the building of the character which doubles the charm in the performance like how Amitabh brought the momentum in his Auro character in Paa after an extraordinary change in his stature and looks. But Rishi as a nonagenarian fittingly classified as the best dadaji whose role grew on the viewers with the growing heat in the disturbed family. Chintuji and Amitji are the only boys of the 70s badge who are regularly performing in the selective roles being recognized with the positive responses in today’s cinema. And this role again defines Rishi’s versatility in acting. The film would be incomplete if Rishi would not have been picked for this role. 

Other Notable Works:

  1. Jim Sarbh (Neerja)
  2. Vicky Kaushal (Raman Raghav 2.0)
  3. Diljit Dosanjh (Udta Punjab)
  4. Rajkummar Rao (Aligarh)

BEST ACTRESS

ALIA BHATT (UDTA PUNJAB)

If there is any category which was the most impressive, that was the performances of the leading actresses in the films released in the year 2016. There is Swara Bhaskar who is rapidly becoming of the noticeable actresses who brought a spectacular performance to her credit in Nil Battey Sannata. The body language and the emotional details of her character-play were striking. Kalki’s strong CV continues to fill more golden pages with Waiting. Ash in Sarbjit was a surprise package. Throughout her acting career, this is easily her first and best acting performance. That is the other thing that Ash doesn’t resemble or remind us Dalbir Kaur but the director has really worked with Ash on her character. People were informing me that Taapsee has done a wonderful job in Pink and I was not coming out of my visual understanding after watching her in Chashme Baddoor. Taapsee Pannu displayed a powerful role and I hope she is not a one-role wonder lady.

As far as Alia is in the wacky race, she is my girl for this category. She is at the peak of her career and easily one of the fastest growing actresses in the Indian cinema. Alia does have a lot of help at home from her mother Soni Razdan who has pulled the strings of acting and playing mentally complicated characters in many of her husband’s films in the 80s and 90s, and papa Mahesh Bhatt who has been critical in making top-notch films in the parallel cinema. But then, it is the baby who has to face the camera and has every potential to make her name with acting greats like Shabana Azmi, Smita Patil, Tabu, or Nandita Das in very near future.

She began performing from Highway and sought attention from the sensible viewers including me. But 2016 is her best year ever with high-class performances in not one but three films (Kapoor & Sons, Dear Zindagi, and this). As far as the mental or physical challenge is the condition, it definitely is her role of Mary Jane in Udta Punjab which beats the other competitors in the wacky race. She has shown the misery of a girl stuck in the series of unfortunate events. You feel sorry for the character but when you feel apologetic, there is Alia’s success to justify the role she plays. Highway’s Veera Tripathi and Udta Punjab’s Mary Jane have suffered but their character-destruction from Alia’s visual presentation is different. Well done Alia. 

Other Notable Works:

  1. Swara Bhaskar (Nil Battey Sannata)
  2. Taapsee Pannu (Pink)
  3. Kalki Koechlin (Waiting)
  4. Sonam Kapoor (Neerja)
  5. Aishwarya Rai (Sarbjit)

BEST ACTOR

MANOJ BAJPAYEE (ALIGARH)

If you are mature enough to understand the credibility of the actor and his substance of a performance in a given screentime, you will realize that the award functions in India are commercialized which depends on revenue and care less for the individuals who deserve the award at the right time in their lives. In 2015, Filmfare omitted Sanjay Mishra for Ankhon Dekhi, who was a clear winner in the category of Best Actor. Last year, Filmfare omitted Nawazuddin for Manjhi who actually was the most deserving individual to win the category of Best Actor.  And now a hattrick of blunder is completed with Manoj Bajpayee’s turn who lost his place to get into the nominations. And most of the viewers will raise the eyebrows over the quality of decision making by the juries who repeatedly add box-office mahatmas, Salman Khan and Shahrukh Khan, in the category almost every year from nowhere.

This is easily Bajpayee’s best performance ever and is the toughest character of a homosexual teacher he can play. The best part of the role is his complexity towards the sexual orientation for which he is suspended and bringing his ass to the court. He has a portion of love for the lettering and listening to Lata’s songs but overall a disturbed soul. He is a departed loner but expects people to understand him. Bajpayee has given the word ‘Tragedy’ a fresh cinematic meaning. A wonderful and very underrated performance I subject to recognize here.

Besides, Shahid enjoys another successful year with another role of a maniac, this time in Udta Punjab. Shahid is like Saif Ali Khan who is reintroduced to the viewers as a promising actor not to ignore. After a series of repeated failures, Shahid is finally off the mark from Haider. Irrfan’s Madaari is another brutal omission from the same category in Filmfare and you will be surprised to know that besides Paan Singh Tomar, he has never been nominated in this category in Filmfare.

Naseer sir in Waiting is magnificent as always in almost every film which he is part of. Amitabh had three different roles in Wazir, Pink, and Te3n, and I must say that Amitji at this age has become more choosy in his roles than ever. Since 2015, he has played some very good roles in Shamitabh, Piku, and the above-mentioned films. If I have to pick between the three, it would be Te3n.

By watching his superior performances in first Badlapur and now Raman Raghav 2.0, I am fully convinced that if in any timeline the Batman franchise happens to drop in Indian cinema, the only actor who can play the role of the Joker is Nawazuddin Siddiqui. His latest role of a psychotic killer will disturb you, by watching this performance you will never wish to meet him. What Randeep did in Sarbjit was the most dedicating among all the best performances of 2016. He lost 18 kgs in 28 days to justify his role in the prison life. Randeep presents you the pain of being an unfortunate and displays an impressive emotional drop and terrific body language. He makes the viewers feel when he groans and express his pain to Aishwarya in the prison.

Other Notable Works:

  1. Shahid Kapoor (Udta Punjab)
  2. Irrfan Khan (Madaari)
  3. Naseeruddin Shah (Waiting)
  4. Randeep Hooda (Sarbjit)
  5. Nawazuddin Siddiqui (Raman Raghav 2.0)
  6. Amitabh Bachchan (Te3n)

BEST DIRECTOR

GAURI SHINDE (DEAR ZINDAGI)

Besides the names mentioned below, the competition for this category, in my opinion, was between Shakun Batra and Gauri Shinde. Both were the masterclass in utilizing the scripts. But I picked Gauri the winner from this category. Shakun’s impressive direction has a blend of major other aspects involved like very realistic dialogues, a lot of impressive performances within a scene etc but Gauri’s direction heavily depends on Alia’s character growth in the film especially a very important first half before Shahrukh is introduced.

Other Notable Works:

  1. Shakun Batra (Kapoor & Sons)
  2. Ram Madhvani (Neerja)
  3. Anurag Kashyap (Raman Raghav 2.0)
  4. Abhishek Chaubey (Udta Punjab)
  5. Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury (Pink)

BEST FILM

KAPOOR & SONS

I mean what else? what really else can be a better film than Kapoor & Sons? A decent family drama which portrays/sketches a dysfunctional family with mix elements of humor and suspense. The film has no nonsense of silly masala, item numbers or unnecessary cameo appearances despite the fact that the film was produced under the banner of Dharma Productions. Then the film is very honest to its script and describes a shattered bond in a very distinctive way.

There are numerous amazing scenes which catch our attention swiftly because we are accustomed to our domestic life especially the plumber scene. Then the revelation of secrets and a tragic accident. The film touches your heart. The remaining plusses are left with superb performances from all the major cast. Everyone has his share and their roles carry the same depth. And that is the beauty of the film that there is no leading character. Every major character is supporting to the other.

Other Notable Works:

  1. Dhanak
  2. Nil Battey Sannata
  3. Waiting
  4. Neerja
  5. Dear Zindagi
  6. Udta Punjab
  7. M Cream
  8. Pink

(Please share your views about my selections. Write your opinions in the comments below. Let me know if you don’t agree and explain your reasons.)

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The Truffles Of Truffaut

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French New Wave (FNW) is a celebrated dominating cinematic era crossed in the timeline of French film industry in which the films became equivalent to the art and literature in the state of free expressions and a break from conservative cinematic ideology. Among the peers of that golden era, François Truffaut (FT) is an ageless name who will always be remembered as one of the founding members of the historic movement and will be considered one of the greatest directors of the twentieth century.

Being a critic on my own judgment, I watched all his 21 directional works in 45 days to fathom his brain behind the camera and to dig the answer why is he a cultural and celebratory icon in arts and entertainment. I discover the answer compelling and I don’t know how to describe in the shape of the blog but will endeavor my best.

Mr. Truffaut became well-known and controversial for his acid film criticism in the pages of Mr. Bazin’s film magazine, Cahiers du cinéma, before turning his hand to filmmaking in the late 1950’s. To understand FT’s work, the viewer must understand the concept of FNW which I have defined in the very first lines. Due to his fabulous contribution to western technical and cinematic innovations, Satyajit Ray acknowledged his debt to him. His admirers had particular praise for his screen depictions of children, obsessed men, and women driven by strong passions.

Among all his films, one thread is common. In almost every film, FT is a keen observer of life and reaches towards the smallest details no matter if it is related to the story or not. Either you watch his quintuple set of Antoine Doinel (AD) series, or the skirt-chasing film L’homme qui aimait les femmes (The Man Who Loved Women) or child-behavior centered L’argent de poche (Small Change); FT fetches minor but rich details like the classroom environment, parents’ behavior towards their child, line pickings by a womanizer etc.

Every film has an attention seeking subject which compiles the viewers to watch. AD was a fictional character created by Truffaut himself and made five films in two decades. Being a realism-loyal, FT borrowed the time of Jean-Pierre Léaud to gift him the career highlight of his life, who played the character in all the films from childhood to adulthood. The character is often called FT’s own alter ego. It is about a disturbed and misunderstood boy in Paris who was sick of his parents and teachers, domestic and school life; and one day he ran away and his story continued in the next four installments.

The first part Les Quatre Cents Coups (The 400 Blows) is considered among the greatest films of the last century and a gateway to the FNW movement. The film earned awards and nominations at many recognized awards functions like Cannes and Academy. Truffaut was so convinced with the character that his brilliance can be watched in next films of his series. The next installment was a short film Antoine et Colette (Antoine and Colette) which described his failed love affair with Colette in his teenhood. Baisers volés (Stolen Kisses) dramatized the building of Doinel’s character by struggling in the young hood and trying to settle in one job. Domicile Conjugal (Bed & Board) spoke about his marital life with Christine and superb depiction of society. L’amour en fuite (Love on the Run) showed Doinel in his thirties who is divorcing Christine but also in an affair with a record-seller, Sabine.

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As FT is widely recognized for the films on AD but his directional artistry is stretched and dilated to his other notable works on different subjects. Truffaut was sensitive and tactful to child behavior due to his own disturbed childhood. He lived with his parents for the first time when he was eight years old after being passed to various nannies and his grandmother who instilled a love for books and films in him. His love for books can easily be seen in his films like Doinel reading Balzac in The 400 Blows, or Ferrard opening the package of books he ordered in La nuit américaine (Day For Night).

Even his only English-language film Fahrenheit 451 was based on the books. The film shows a fictional world where some totalitarian government controls general people’s life by dissuading them from the books. For this purpose, the government employs a group of firemen who detect books from every corner and burn to ashes. Fahrenheit 451 and Small Change were among Truffaut’s best works after The 400 Blows.

Small Change is one of a kind when it comes to child behavior. It is about the kids from different backgrounds mostly lower and middle class, their social life, and behavior towards people from different ages. There is a sketch when a man catches a boy to send his letter to one of the buildings to a married woman for five francs. Then in another sketch, the boy’s manners in eating dinner are brought to our attention. My favorite aspect of the film is the depiction of children’s fascination and excitement in sexual behavior. It is a natural phenomenon but the cinematic presentation demands bold details on which the acting of child artists are subjected to sensitivity on their shoulders. It is easily one of the best coming-of-age films I have watched.

The same case is the film L’enfant Sauvage (The Wild Child) produced in 1970 based on a true and very tragic story of an unfortunate individual, Victor of Aveyron, who spent his childhood with no human contact and was caught by hunters in a nearby village. Although it looks like a documentary more than a feature film but Truffaut gives a remarkable insider of the boy’s development from the delayed general human behavior.

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Besides child-centered subjects, one of the FT’s biggest accomplishments was presenting a guide towards the making of a film and the complications of shooting it. He was so caught up in the technical as well as the artistic aspects of filmmaking that he made a film about filmmaking, Day for Night.

Truffaut leaves no space to reveal the smallest of filming issues like a love affair between the two artists, producer/director dealing with insurance company, forgetting dialogues, using the animal in a scene, hiring people on the spot, re-takes and rehearsals etc. It shows a further reality that sometimes due to some reasons, the dialogues and the scenes are changed or the artists are convinced to do a scene so and so. These are small but very important and interesting details.  

In 1974, the film won BAFTA for Best Film and Oscar for Best Foreign Film. In addition to winning the Academy Award, it was named the best film of 1973 by the National Society of Film Critics in the United States, which also voted him the year’s top director. Easily one of the best films in filmmaking docudrama.

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Romance has always been a prestigious and distinguished subject in the French cinema and Truffaut’s directional excellence shares same artistic heritage. Les Deux Anglaises et le continent (Two English Girls) and Jules et Jim (Jules and Jim) were the films focused on love triangle both based on Henri-Pierre Roché‘s novels of the same titles. Two English Girls is a sublime blend of fluctuations of romantic affairs, exchange of emotions, description of capriciousness and very jeopardized harmony. Whereas Jules And Jim is a cinematic innovation to be always remembered for Truffaut’s marvelous efforts in bringing the best outcome in the film’s cinematography. Such qualities of camera work like panning shots, newsreel footage, photography stills or freeze frame were not common in cinematic business those days. Freeze frame was also done at the end of The 400 Blows.

The other romantic film which comes in my mind is the true story based on Victor Hugo‘s daughter, Adèle. A British army officer loved and proposed her which she refused. Later she had a change of heart and traveled Halifax during American Civil War to declare but the soldier loved her no more after the refusal. That drove her insane and made failed attempts to win him. Her obsession increased and began showing signs of mental illness.

L’histoire d’Adèle H. (The Story of Adele H.) brought the actress Isabelle Adjani in the limelight and earned a nomination for Best Actress in the Academy Awards. Truffaut’s direction was again hard to ignore. It was his remarkable presentation of dropping of emotions by Adele Hugo picturized on Adjani. The translation of mental collapse was very defining and tragic as overall FT produced a profoundly beautiful, tragic and dark film.

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After watching all his films, one of my most important observations is that his films were more centered/inclined towards the story than the character. Through his films, he brought subjects to the attention of the viewers and didn’t focus a lot on the overall performances of the actors and their characters who mostly displayed average performance.

 Almost all the films were based on literary works of many famous novelists but the message precise among all his films was the subject. La peau douce (The Soft Skin) and La femme d’à côté (The Woman Next Door) were subjected on an extramarital affair, Fahrenheit 451 was on books burning, Small Change on child abuse, Day for Night on filmmaking, The Man Who Loved Women on skirt-chaser and Vivement Dimanche! (Confidentially Yours) a murder-mystery. It is no hiding to the fact that character-centered films also made a huge name in French cinema like Léaud as AD and Isabelle as Adele.

In the smallest of details, the viewer will notice Truffaut’s love for animals especially cats. Two of his films had identical shots of cat nosing a lunch tray outside the door. Truffaut in Day For Night did show his fascination with cats by shooting the same cat-eat-lunch scene and went on describing how hard is it to convince a cat to eat the food during the shot.

Among other details, we will often witness one common scene in many of his films depicting the domestic life of couple i.e., the couples reading books together in bed before sleeping. Repeating the same scene might give us a clue of Truffaut’s personal life and some portion of his relationship with his wife and partner.

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Out of his 21 full-length directional works, my five personal favorite films are The 400 Blows, Small Change, Day For Night, Jules And Jim, and The Wild Child.

In 1963, FT was approached to direct famous American film, Bonnie And Clyde. Truffaut showed his interest only in script development but later declined. FT admired the works of Alfred Hitchcock and two of his films, La mariée était en noir (The Bride Wore Black) and Confidentially Yours were a tribute to him. In 1981, Vincent Canby of The New York Times called Truffaut ”one of the most continuously surprising and accomplished directors of his day.”

His headquarters for years was the Paris office of his production company, Les Films du Carrosse, which he named after La Carrosse d’Or (The Golden Coach), a film by the French director Jean Renoir. As an actor, he played roles only in his own films. Later in his career, he went on to play the role of a French scientist in Steven Spielberg‘s Close Encounters of the Third Kind which was his only outing as an actor.

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Truffaut was married to Madeleine Morgenstern from 1957 to 1965, and they had two daughters. He had affairs with many of his leading ladies. In 1968 he was engaged to actress Claude Jade who starred in AD series. He and leading actress of his last two films Fanny Ardant lived together for three years. During his relationship with Ardant, he had a stroke and was later diagnosed with brain tumor. On 21 October 1984, Truffaut passed away at the age of 52.

The credit goes to Truffaut who redefined the ‘Auteur Theory‘ and criticized the quality of French cinema by further hitting with the statement that the worst of Jean Renoir’s films would always be more interesting than the best of the films of Jean Delannoy. Truffaut aimed to retire from direction after completing 30 films and write books later but he wasn’t destined to what he planned. But still left the world with a global recognition in filmmaking. He is a huge cinematic inspiration and alive in the hearts of cinephile, sensible filmgoers, and the film critics of the highest quality. I regard and consider him among the greatest filmmakers of the twentieth century and personally one of my favorites. I wish if we would have seen more of his work instead of knowing his passing away so early.

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Film Review: Fahrenheit 451 (1966)

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Fahrenheit 451 is the first colorful and the only English-language film of François Truffaut’s illustrious directional career. Produced in 1966, the film is based on Ray Bradbury’s novel of the same name. For me, it is one of the strangest films I have ever experienced watching.

The film shows a fictional world where some totalitarian government controls general people’s life by dissuading them from books. For this purpose, this government employs a group of firemen who detect books from every corner and burn to ashes. Among these firemen, there is Guy Montag (Oskar Werner) who gets reading inspiration from his neighbor, a 20yo schoolteacher Clarisse (Julie Christie). Once he reads, he tries to motivate his wife and her friends. Time passes by and he begins growing hatred towards his book-burning job. When he becomes a book-burning rebel, the government makes an attempt to seize him and he tries to escape and survive.

On the internet, the general description or summarized explanation of the novel is a future American society where books are outlawed and “firemen” burn any that are found. For me, my theory and basic understanding towards the novel/film are broad. What inspires me is the theme and content of the film.

Generally what we see in the film is a foundation of the ground realities clouding our brain. The film does show you an oppressive future but questions numerous objects co. existing in the same sorry state universe. Truffaut made this film in the 60s but I see this way advanced to the-then existence. The plot is easily applicable today. We see many totalitarian governments controlling people’s life. Last century, the world witnessed the same style of leadership in Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, Saddam and II-sung.

Next aspect, the book is a source of objection by such government in the film. The firemen search everywhere to every length to dig the books; and when they find, they collect and gather all the materials and burn these all. In the film, exaggeration is tremendous. Firemen are shown digging books even in public parks, stopping people and checking their dresses. One fireman even checks shirt-pocket of an infant crying in the pram, finds a book and naively discourages the infant not to read books. This scene shows tremendous hatred and point of exaggeration where the director conveys his entire message in one shot.

There have been numerous book-burning incidents in the past. The one which particularly reminds me is from the McCarthy era when the books written by the authors favoring communism were disposed and burned under Eisenhower’s presidency. Bradbury has also stated his concerns about the above-mentioned events being the base of writing Fahrenheit 451.

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Why books? In the film, this question will give you a lot of answers. Especially in one scene where the home of Clarisse’ friend is raided for an understood reason, the captain of all firemen (Cyril Cusack) spots a room full of books and gets some space of more than five minutes with Montag to present his hatred and forward his explanation/opinion about the literature. One of the lines the captain speaks to Montag in the film goes this way, Go on, Montag, all this philosophy, let’s get rid of it. It’s even worse than the novels. Thinkers and philosophers, all of them saying exactly the same thing: “Only I am right! The others are all idiots!” This captain’s ideology hit me for a second and showed a different perspective for a book-reading habit. Is this an ego which turns you a writer and makes you think that people will avoid others and listen to you?

About fictional novel, the captain discourages the viewers that people in such books never existed but by reading, they tend to assume such characters leading their lives towards unhappiness by thinking that they can never live that life described in such books. I must admit, this lengthy scene was one of the best in the film.

Montag the leading character has another explanation that the books make the readers unhappy and anti-social! How come? Because according to Montag, books change the people, their ideology, their way of living and thinking; and them reading people tries to become better than the others. How true is this? If you really begin judging the reading habit from Montag and captain’s angle, you will think twice.

Truffaut’s depicted future-world looks highly realistic and fashionable. I am very impressed with the heavy detailing of Montag’s place of residency. The color of walls, interactive TV program, wall telephones, and furniture was outstanding. Then we see monorail which was not frequently watched in the films those days.

Last 20 minutes of the film takes the viewers to a different dimension. The dystopian state turns into utopian. Montag shifts from one world to the other. While escaping from the cruel book-burning world, he unintentionally enters the world of hope where people from different communities and walks of life are named by some famous books. These individuals are learning by heart and repeating every word of their books to spread the literature to the future generations and avoid ignorance. There is one striking scene where a dying old man is filling/feeding the words of Weir of Hermiston to his nephew.

From a religious point of view, it reminds me the time when knowledge was to overtake ignorance in the times of Prophet Muhammad PBUH with time by learning and repeating the verses of Holy Quran and his Sahabah (Prophet’s companions and disciples) by recording the testimonies what the prophet said. It is just my understanding from those particular book-people scenes.

The film overall is a wake-up call to save the books, the literature, the treasure of knowledge from various categories of books and defeat ignorance. Truffaut’s artistic direction is yet again the winner. Very very ostentatious and fascinating work! This is like someone presents a theory in cinematic format and brings the world to knees. The film is sci-fi in some sense but also very humanistic theoretically. But his work plays on you, hypnotizes and manipulates you. Although there are some differences and missing elements from the film as compared to the novel but overall I believe Fahrenheit 451 is easily one of Truffaut’s most impressive works.

Ratings: 8.4/10

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