Take Flight

You know the day destroys the night
Night divides the day
Tried to run
Tried to hide
Break on through to the other side
Break on through to the other side

They say Jim Morrison had the answer to every problem. And by they, I mean me. And by the answer to every problem, I mean The Doors. That is why the definitive turning point- from being indifferent to “Holy smokes, a  Doors reference, this movie is now officially awesome.”- while watching Udaan was when the old gentleman in palliative care quotes the above lines from Morrison to the teenage protagonist. And these lines indeed are what the director, Vikramaditya Motwane and writer Anurag Kashyap aims at getting through to the audience.

Rohan is expelled from his prestigious boarding school and goes back to his hometown of Jamshedpur and his father, whom he hasn’t seen for eight years. He finds out that he has a 6 year old half-brother. Bhairav, Rohan’s father, wants him to be an engineer and makes him work in his factory and enrols him at an engineering college. Rohan, however, wants to be a writer. Only his uncle Jimmy and his aunt seem to support his dreams. The movie develops on the complicated relationships between the four men and ends in the denouement where as the title suggests, Rohan lifts himself out of his bleak life.

Indeed for such a tightly constructed story, stellar performances were required. And the actors responded in like, such that singling out one actor for his performance is impossible. Fed on a diet of Bollywood masala, the absence of  overacting- that ever present bane of Indian cinema- comes as a huge relief. Rajat Barmecha as Rohan, Ronit Roy as his father, Ram Kapoor as the uncle are strong and convincing- as is surprisingly the 6-year old Aayaan Boradia. One does wish that Maninder, Rohan’s friend did get more screen-time. However, the absence of such commercial compromises is a welcome break.

In a world where Chris Nolan has- to get through to the audience- repeat every major plot-line in Inception thrice, the use of silence in Udaan, indeed is golden. And natural and oh-so-necessary. And just like the silence, the music too is brilliant. The background score at times is Western, and yet it still strikes a chord with you as does the rest of the music.

And its not as if the movie is without fault. The movie does seem a tad long. And some scenes do seem artificial, especially the one where the doctors and the patients in the hospital flock to hear his story. The ending too, I would say seems a bit remote from the rest of the movie, but just like Rohan’s character-with his share of ‘bad behavior’- is still likeable.

Coming back to western influences, what coming-of-age movie could not be influenced by Catcher in the Rye?  Despite the initial animosity, the relation that develops between Rohan and Arjun, is reminiscent of Holden and Phoebe. Even the final act of Rohan* SPOILER ALERT* to take away Arjun with him to Bombay and protect him from his father, does indeed seem to be in this spirit, although in opposition to the rest of the movie’s realistic nature.

Udaan has been compared to Truffaut’s 400 Blows. While that might seem a tad overenthusiastic, the film is definitely one of the best that Bollywood has produced in a while. One certainly hopes that it might start off a Indian New Wave. Till then, we have Dabangg.


A History of Violence

Canada has been a somewhat silent contributor to world cinema. While there might be the occasional James Cameron, Canadian cinema has always been slid to the back of American cinema.

David Cronenberg, through his 2005 magnum opus A History of Violence set to correct this. Previously, Cronenberg’s most noted movie was Crash (1996), which won a Special Jury Prize at the Cannes festival that year. Cronenberg is also the creator of such movies as The Dead Zone (1983) , The Fly (1896) and Naked Lunch (1993).

The movie is based on a graphic novel of the same name by John Wagner and Vince Locke. Cronenberg, known  for his rather different genre of movies called as “body horror”, choosing a graphic novel as the theme for his movie might have come as a surprise to some. However, not only did he redeem his choice of material, but he also garnered a new audience ( and not just from America) through A History of Violence.

The film stars Viggo Mortensen (in undoubtedly the role of his career), Ed Harris and William Hurt among others. Viggo Mortensen owns a diner in a small Midwest town who is suddenly thrust into the limelight after he kills two murderers who attempt to rob his diner. The scene in which the action occurs is distinctly Cronenbergian. Whoosh, and we have the mild-mannered family guy Tom Stall saving his life as well as those of his customers and his workers. Cronenberg doesn’t pause or slow down.

However, his newfound fame brings only trouble to Tom Stall. Several Philly gangsters come calling on him, claiming that they have a score to settle with him.  Ed Harris as Fogarty and William Hurt as Richie Cusack are brilliant and menacing. William Hurt also received an Academy Award Nomination for his rather small yet disturbingly psychotic role.

Despite being a crime thriller, Cronenberg also beautifully portrays the tension within the Stall family after their peaceful life has been rocked. Maria Bello as Edie, Tom’s wife and Ashton Holmes as Jack, their son, do a wonderful job. The perfectly happy small town family, as well as the close-knit small town itself are drawn nicely by Cronenberg. Akin to David Lynch’s Blue Velvet (1986), Cronenberg also portrays the deceptive nature of the small town.

More elements of the movie, and of Cronenberg’s genius could not be mentioned without spoiling the movie for those who haven’t watched it. And it is one that definitely should be on your to-watch list.

The Shawshank Redemption

After the review on Lynch and Mulholland Drive, I was wondering about the next post and the next film. My mind turned to “The Shawshank Redemption”. Partly because my head turned to the poster of Andy Dufresne looking skyward with his arms outstretched (an image that has been used countless times even by our own Shah Rukh Khan) in my room. After all, it has and will remain as one of my personal favourites, and that, dear reader is a good reason to write a post on it. It also turned out to be a good reason to watch the movie once again. And as I watched it again, as the last scene unfolded, as Red’s voice slowly gave to Thomas Newman’s haunting soundtrack, as the goosebumps slowly receded, I realized that some films just have a timeless appeal oozing with class that simply cannot be bettered by others. And Shawshank is one of those rare rare films.

The heart of the film lies in the story (which is based on a Stephen King novella) and the incredible acting of two actors, Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins. The chemistry between the two is unparalleled.  This is further accentuated by the fact that most of the close-up scenes in the film involve just the two of them.

The cinematography is by Roger Deakins, who has also been a favourite with the Coen Brothers. One of the most noticeable features of the film is the cinematography. The dark lighting, even in outdoor shots, is striking. In fact, the whole film has a dull and drab effect; in addition to the darker lighting used, the dull prison clothes and the gray stone walls also add to the effect.

Another feature we notice in the film is the extensive use of the panning out shot. This is apparent at least 3 times- as mentioned earlier, when the camera pans outward to reveal the expansive, majestic and still amazingly beautiful Pacific in the final shot , when the camera pulls backward to showcase the newly free Andy enjoying the rain and again when the prisoners listen to the music that Andy plays from the Warden’s Office. No surprises that Deakins won the Oscar for Best Cinematography for his work in the film.

The music was scored by Thomas Newman and he won an Oscar Nomination for the same. In fact, the final piece was so much popularized that it became a standard score for any upcoming drama film. The music is subtle and matches exactly with the tone of the scene. In fact, the viewer is almost certain to not pay attention to the subconscious music. In a manner, the scene where Andy plays the music from the Warden’s office to the entire prison is a befitting tribute to the film’s music.

Repeated viewings of the film have also proved to me that the filmmakers liked to taunt their audience. The reference to The Count of Monte Cristo, repeated shots involving shoes and finally the cruel (at least on the Warden) joke of the hammer inside the Exodus chapter of the Bible are certainly meant to be picked up in later viewings.

I did make the assumption that you, reader, have watched the film. If you are part of a possibly non-existent minority who haven’t, go ahead and watch it. And read this. And watch it again. And if you have watched it, go watch it again. It will continue to grow on you.