Gautaman Bhaskaran
an indian journalist
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© Copyright 2004

 

INDIAN CINEMA

Cinema In General

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Pans & Tilts…Obsessive media, Venice again, Konkona, Nikita…

Indian media can be obsessive at times, playing to sensation and foregoing balance and accuracy. At the recent 53rd National Film Awards in New Delhi, India’s Information and Broadcasting Minister Priyaranjan Das Munshi did not shake hands with Amitabh Bachchan, Best Actor for “Black”. Big deal, I would think. The Minister did not shake hands with anybody else as well. So, what was all this fuss about the Big B. Television channels went to town with this, screening and rescreening the clip showing Bachchan walking past Das Munshi without locking hands.

It is time to stop treating Bachchan as a demi-god, and being so fixated with all things B.

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Venice still haunts me with its picture postcards visuals, its gentle lagoons, its Shakespearean mood, and above all, its great cinema. The recent Film Festival
The Girl Cut In Two
at the Mostra on the island of Lido, just off the coast of Venice, was immensely invigorating. Last week, I wrote about a few movies I saw there. This week, I would like to conclude my Venetian Vacation with a few more.

Abdellatif Kechiche's "The Secret of the Grain," is an engaging drama about an immigrant Arab family in France. Freezing love, loyalty and little fights in a large Arab family living in France, the film features some great performances as the hard working father plans a boat restaurant. A trifle long with some yawning close-ups that show people with their mouthful of food bickering in ceaseless conversations, “The Secret of the Grain” is otherwise gripping, particularly its climax. The man’s foster daughter bellydances to amuse and distract the attention of diners waiting for long delayed food in the movie’s closing shots. An amazing way of tackling a “food crisis”.

French director Claude Chabrol’s “The Girl Cut In Two” uses the 1906 murder of Stanford White, the architect of Madison Square Garden (who was killed by his actress-mistress’ husband), to narrate a post-modern tale of passion and jealousy. Chabrol loves to bitch about France’s rich and powerful, and his latest work lets him do precisely that. A celebrity writer is turned on by a sexy nymphet, young enough to be his daughter, and the girl is cut in two by the man’s perversity and her own young husband’s obsessive distrust and suspicion. The story perhaps serves as an excuse for Chabrol to soak in the seedy details of French social life with its sexual undertones, predatory television world (that makes a bait out of young women) and five star manners (that “refine” men into monsters).

Andrea Porporati's "The Sweet and the Bitter" is the unrefined version of all that is wrong with man. Set in Sicily, the film takes us into the malicious world of the mafia, where murder, mayhem and robbery and rape rule. “The Sweet and the Bitter” is the account of one mobster, whose love for a woman finally forces him to turn over. It may be a usual mafia movie, but it comes with some heart-melting scenes and messages. The woman, despite her deep love for him, refuses to tie the knot unless he quits being a gangster, and in the closing shot we see him being held up in bank by robbers out to loot the cash there. He bursts out laughing much to the curiosity of the gang. This scene signifies a neat turning of tables, and done well, indeed.

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Konkona Sen Sharma is Miss Perfectionist. But ask her to put on her dancing shoes, and she goes all red in the face. “As an actor, there are parts of your job that you don’t enjoy doing. Like many people don’t like doing lovemaking scenes. For me, the problem is dancing. But I had to grin and bear it as dancing is needed for both “Laaga Chunari Mein Daag” and “Aaja Nachle”. Recalling her “Aaja Nachle” experience, Konkona says, “When I saw the dancers rehearsing initially, I almost died. Well, she lived to tell another tale, of Chunari.

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Tailpiece: Nikita Anand, former Miss India Universe, has no such inhibitions about dancing. After romping the ramp, modelling for the media and talking on the telly, she is learning how to jingle to the beat of Kathak. Nikita learnt to dance before accepting her first film assignment, “Dil Dosti”, helmed by Mainish Tiwari. This is what I call skipping your way into stardom.

(Webposted September 20 2007)