Gautaman Bhaskaran
an indian journalist
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© Copyright 2004

 

INDIAN CINEMA

Cinema In General

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Pans & Tilts…Taare Zameen Par, Sippy, Jodha-Akbar...

Aamir Khan’s first directorial venture, “Taare Zameen Par”, is not just interesting, but is also a scathing criticism of India’s education system that forces children to cram and perform in order to get them ready for life’s race. A child is prepared to get into one of the professional courses, so that he or she can mint bucks. But what happens to that child who lags behind, who just cannot cope with the speed of the class? Khan’s film is about one such boy, eight years old and in class three. Admittedly, he is dyslexic, but that just seems to be an excuse to drive a point: that we are robbing our boys and girls of something as marvellous as childhood.

Darsheel Safary is brilliant as Ishan, the boy who finds the alphabets dancing every time his school-teacher asks him to read from a book, who just cannot add two simple numbers and who finds it difficult to tie his shoe laces. Khan, who has also produced the movie, essays Ishan’s arts teacher, Ram Shankar Nikhumb. He eventually helps the boy to get over his problem and face society. What is more, the teacher gets the society to recognise Ishan’s talent and strengths.

It is a pity that the film has not been written well enough: I cannot, for one, understand how in this day and age modern schools fail to see that Ishan is dyslexic. Far fetched this was, and so was the behaviour of some of his teachers, who are caricatured into unfeeling monsters. Yet, the movie is adorable, thanks to Khan’s professionalism that does not allow him to hog the limelight. He lets the focus remain on the boy. Undoubtedly, one of the best I have seen this year.

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G.P. Sippy died on Christmas night in Mumbai, and we all remember him as the man who made the 1975 “Sholay”, a landmark in India cinema. Today, it ranks as one of the classics, and the performances in it are some of the best ever seen. There certainly cannot be another Gabbar Singh, played by the late Amjad Khan. There cannot be another set of lines as memorable as those in “Sholay”. And for the first time, an Indian movie was so overtly violent. Sippy, who was 93 when he passed away, began on the streets selling carpets. Later, he became a construction worker, a typical rags-to-riches story of a man who went on to become a great film mughul, who created a cult movie that I suppose would remain so for all time to come.

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Paris’ Thompson Foundation is now involved in restoring and preserving Indian movies. Some members of the group were present at the recent International Film Festival of India at Goa, and they told me that they would be working with the National Film Archives of India at Pune to conserve our cinema heritage. They also met India’s renowned auteur-director, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, and it may not be long before his movies are restored, wherever necessary, and preserved. Some of the negatives are in terrible state, and the sooner they are retrieved and protected, the better. Otherwise, a great world heritage would be lost forever. I also do hope somebody would step forward and get all his 11 films in the DVD format so that they can be seen easily and cherished.

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Tailpiece: Ashutosh Gowariker’s “Jodha-Akbar” on the life of the Mughul emperor’s Hindu-Rajput wife, Jodha Bhai, would now have a delayed opening on February 15, and not on January 25 as earlier planned. Both Hrithik Roshan, who plays Akbar, and Gowariker, are unwell with a knee injury and a back problem respectively. This means the coveted Republic Day weekend is gone!

(Webposted December 26 2007)