July 14, 2009

[Movies] Italian Film Festival

In my rating scheme, I am beginning to move up the slot for Italian movies, quite close to the French. A couple of masterpieces are the reason for this 'falling-in-love-all-over-again' phenomenon.

Don't Tell/2005

Imagine watching a movie with a couple of really annoying strangers in your backseat. They talk in loud voices, laugh at inappropriate times and don't care if they are disturbing you. Well, that's to give you an idea of the atmosphere of 
this movie screening. To explain further, there was something wrong with audio in the discs.The technicians didn't get that at first and were tooling around every possible piece of equipment. When nothing worked and no voice emanated, they hit on a audio channel that had the italian directors commentary. They thought , "Ah, we got the audio!" and left us, watching the entire movie with the commentary. Thank Goodness, it was in Italian. I slowly trained my ears to shut off . All thanks to the really great movie. If the movie had been any less beautiful, I might have screamed and left... Well, at least left! It handled some very sensitive topics in such a neat manner. Natural performances by each of the characters. The wit and irony in one of the last scenes just bowls you over. I think this movie taught me something deep... To get some meaningful things, you sometimes have to put up with a lot of nonsense but it all still makes perfect sense in the end.

What will happen to us/2004

A truly hilarious piece of comedy about three high schoolers. 
In the first few scenes, it gave a very unique perspective on the student life there. 
It had some awesome pieces of dialogue.  Here's a quick conversation between the examiners and a student in the movie. It's an oral exam and the examiner sizes up the student and says: 
"I am going to make this easier for us. Please talk about about anything you want"
"Oh yes, I know about World War 1.. It started with the extermination of a prince person."
"The war was born on June 14, 1928 ..No,no June 28,1914.."
 "A war is born? and then it dies? It breaks out!"
 The examiners nod their heads in disbelief. 
I imagine what fun it must be for teachers, if they really take the time to read some of the papers we write! 
The characterization of the trio is remarkable. Their personalities share nothing in common other than their friendship and still stay so connected till the end. There is another character that stands in stone in your mind. 'How a journey changes the life of these friends forever' is told in a very funny, moving manner. 
Here's another excerpt:They are finding a place to stay at the last minute in Greece and only get a run-down place . It has some very quirky rules like the toilet hours: Morning 7-9 and Evening 7-9. One character sees this and says," What? Should I be in diapers the rest of the time?" 
It has me in stitches every time I think of it!

July 12, 2009

[Random] Expectations

Why this unbearable curse on humanity? 
A world without it?! - My boggled imagination:

As wide and far as the mind can see...
Peaceful faces, saintly beings.
Is that indifference in every face?
They name it - love in the purest!

Where's the masala of  mistrust and doubt?
Why is everybody just helping everybody?
How come they are not screaming at supposed insults?
Who is whose husband? Whose wife? Love seems to be universal! 

The best part - 
The code stinks & the boss is all smiles!
To down here, one similarity though -
Politicians don't perform and people still don't care!

Give me this expectant world, 
With it's bruises and tears anytime!

July 9, 2009

[Movies] In the Mood for Love / Chinese 2000

An enchanting movie set in 1960s HongKong. The outward appearance and the attire of the characters are so comfortably western whereas the feelings and the societal constraints, through the movie, mirror Oriental philosophies. It is this conflict that's been captured picture perfectly. There is no hurry at all in the screenplay. The movie moves much like the female lead ,walking gracefully up the stairs in slow motion, in one unforgettable scene. The theme music is mesmerizing beyond description. The flow of the movie and the music fit like a perfect couple. I would compare the movie to a piece of poetry or an artwork. But I felt it is not more than once, I would want to watch it. It doesn't belong to that genre of movies that makes you want to see it again and again. And, that is no vice. It gives everything it has to offer in one magical,relaxed shot.

July 8, 2009

[Books] The White Tiger

Rarely is a booker quality material, a page-turner! The White Tiger is of this rare combination. Every page just propels you, wanting more. I was surprised to find myself laughing out aloud at some of the turn-of-phrases: Adiga's irreverent references to so many things quintessentially Indian. This rich black wit surfaces again and again. How does one manage to translate the indian events, feelings and actions into this alien language? Adiga does it in style. The words make you smell the pan and the dirty streets of Laxmangarh and visualize the water buffaloes in great detail. The book made me laugh and think a lot. But no tears and I am easily moved to tears! An intense, emotional story told with logic precision.In all, worth every moment of a feverish, marathon read. 

July 5, 2009

[Mellinam] Meeting Ma. Se

Mission: To collect comments to feature on the back cover of iPaatti, Mellinam's first product. The catch, the book was in production and all we had in hand were the art samples, the music and a presentation we put together on the same. I was skeptical that anyone would talk to us but nevertheless, we approached more than a dozen personalities. Discovered pleasant surprises along the way.

To talk about the artwork, we felt the right person was Maniam Selvan, popularly known as Ma. Se. We both were admirers of his work and felt his words would mean a lot to the product. Madhan called Ma. Se, mentioning that we were calling from Mellinam and would he favor us with an appointment. We were very doubtful to be able to get that. But Ma. Se told us to come over the very next day with our illustrations.

We took a sample of 10 songs with illustrations along with our presentation. The busy, illustrious artist spent not a few minutes but 2 whole hours listening to our project and commenting on its various phases. He guided us on minute artistic details and brought our attention to specifics that we might have otherwise missed. At the end of our long discussion, he asked us to leave the samples with him, saying that he would get back with his comments in a few days.

During the next visit, he gave us the promised comment and something in words that we value very much. Here are the excerpts of that conversation:

"Actually,there's a little more to that note of comments. Last night, I was showing these samples and reading out the songs to my granddaughter."

"She was pointing to each sample and asking curious questions, 'Thaatha, what are these children doing? Is the little girl eating chocolate ice-cream? Is the lady tearing the calendar sheet like amma?! ' and so on, as little children are apt to."

"I read the song on Gandhi Thaatha, in which little boy talks to the Mahatma about his problems and asks 'Tell me what should I do!' . As you've written, the last problem is that the mother is not at home and what should he do about brushing his teeth! To which the great man laughingly replies,
'You'd better learn to brush your teeth,
Or else, start practicing my toothless smile!'
My granddaughter listened to this song and soon after went to bed"

"Next morning, my wife woke her up and took her to brush the teeth, as she/ my daughter have been doing this far. She grabbed the toothbrush from her grandmom and said 'Thaatha told a story yesterday. From now on, I will brush my teeth myself' and ran off. "

"That is your little success story", he finished, leaving us in deep smiles.

Mellinam has taught me so many things in the past year. This, particularly was an eye-opening experience in that I discovered that there is so much innate goodness in people. They surprise us with their kindness and open hearts. They show interest in things that is of no material use to them. Encourage the buds to bloom with confidence. Kudos to the warmth of human nature!

July 2, 2009

[Movies] International Films right here in Chennai

Movies...I have rolled in laughter, sympathized, empathized and shed many tears over this grand illusion. In my years in the US, one fascinating thing that kept me going was the ease of movie-watching. At one time, I had membership in Blockbuster, Hollywood videos and Netflix. Right, every possible movie rental outlet..crazy me!  Especially loved the international section. In my time there, A Very Long Engagement, Rossenstrasse, The Lives of Others, The Sea Inside and Love me if you dare, were some of the movies that moved me, in all senses of the word. To be transported away to a different time, place, mood, perspective and all with a few frames! That's what lured me to the magic of movies, I discovered!

Although movies fascinated me from very young, the one, who pointed the way to options other than Tamil and Hollywood, was Madhan. Amelie is one such he talked about in the early 2000s. I have spent fascinating hours watching this masterpiece. I have found French movies, in general, to be a notch apart. As I speak, the frames of the Spanish Apartment flash before me. 

After our marriage and eventual settling down in Chennai, Madhan and I were sorely missing our respective international movie experiences. One morning, as I was casually browsing through the Metro Plus section, my eyes hit the 'Korean Film Festival' hosted by ICAF, Chennai. We both were excited and decided to find more about it. There it started. We both have seen more international movies right here in Chennai, than we would have abroad, thanks to ICAF. Every month, they host movies from at least 3 countries. Ideal for the armchair traveller!

I have been meaning to write about every movie I saw but a year has passed by and 'tis only now, I am penning my thoughts on the ones that stand out..


- The female lead character's performance was remarkable.

 She moves through many confused phases in the movie and her portrayal was stunningly realistic.


- My first Japanese movie. We were surprised to find ourselves in fits of laughter. You would think humor is bound to cultures and here we were laughing our heads off at this movie about a wife returning as a ghost to haunt her husband and his new girl-friend. I think the Hollywood version, "Over her dead body" was inspired from this movie.Not inspired enough, though! The Japanese original was authentic, funny and moving in certain parts.


- A story about a people's struggle for the truth about their past. Set in the background of the World War 2 . It shows how history can be twisted, depending on who has the power!


- A simple murder story but told with very clever screenplay. Each knot of suspense plunges the movie in an awesome way. A film that old really puts some of these latest so-called thrillers to shame. French movie-making at its best.


- A peek into the settlement culture of Israeli Jews. It gives deep perspectives on conforming to a group Vs. standing for oneself.


- An Ingmar Bergman classic. A stark portrayal of sibling conflicts and personalities.   The dying female lead is a translator of exotic foreign languages while living in a dark silence with her own sister. The performance of the young child caught in the complex relationship between the sisters and yearning to discover the strange place he visits, was very mature.


- Intense emotional portrayal of a society's view on rape and family shame. The stunning thing about the movie was the cinematography.. the locales and the camera were absolutely mesmerizing.


- A black comedy on a funeral speaker's witty confessions. The dialogues were dryly humorous and specific scenes evoked such outbursts of laughter. The female lead's view of life and the portrayal of her final decision was breathtakingly fresh.


- A satirical, bold look at the commercial tendencies of the public. The movie is about a couple of researchers who start on an advertising campaign on a product that does not exist. They gather thousands of people at the site of a mall. The catch, there is only a wall and no mall. The people who gather are not actors but the general public taken in by the marketing. In the final moments, the movie really gives a perspective on human reactions and emotions, at their most foolish moments.


- The routine, smooth life of a person is thrown out of bounds by some simple events. It creates a story wherein a man risks losing his everything, just following his heart, which soon turns out to be a mirage in the desert.


- A look at slovakian lifestyle and the stigma of raising a child alone. The performances of the mother and daughter duo were outstanding. 


- A very intense portrayal of the sensuality in human relationships with its bundle of confusions. Even situations where you would expect to feel nauseous, on after-thought, are portrayed with such subtlety and beauty.

That's the list for now. Here's a promise on more frequent updates in the future..