God, till today I have never asked you for anything...

Who amongst us does not remember the iconic scene from 'Deewar' (1975) where Amitabh Bachchan enters a temple for the first time in his life and begs his mother's life with the famous words, "Aaj... khush to bahot hoge tum..."?

(Today... you must be very happy). Helpless character to another helpless character: “Bhagwaan pe bharosa rakho, sab thik ho jayega." (Have faith in God, all will be well.) Helpless doctor to helpless relatives: “Ab sab kuch bhagwaan ke haath mein hain.”

(Now everything is in God's hand.) Helpless character standing in front of God's idol: "Bhagwaan, maine aaj tak tumse kuch nahi maanga..." (God, till today I have never asked you for anything...) Woman to a villain who is about to rape her: "Bhagwaan ke liye mujhe chhod do." (For God's sake leave me.) Many of the films in this era had God as one of the characters, albeit as a silent spectator, represented by temples and idols, and manifested by miracles on request.

As as example is the classic blockbuster 'Amar Akbar Anthony' (1977), where their mother's lost eyesight is restored through divine invocation, without any medical intervention. No seriously! (4:06 onwards).

However the changing paradigms of society were being reflected too. You could get cheeky and have some fun, like Dharmendra does with Hema Malini by playing God's voice in the cult, 'Sholay' (1975).

This was behind the guise of comedy but the barriers between man and God were definitely coming down. A more in the face example is the brilliant Mahabharat scene from another cult film, 'Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro' (1983), which is by far one of the wittiest parodies of any epic.

6  2 7 months ago

According to psychologists that is. As per them, even those of us who think that we do not stereotype, do so automatically: based on race, nationality, profession, sex, etc.

Let's look at our films... All of us who have seen enough Hindi movies would agree that Bollywood has, in the name of creative liberty and usually under the guise of comedy but not always, encouraged stereotypes that play on the perceived mannerisms of different classes and communities.

The earliest examples that comes to mind is of the buffoonish South Indian music teacher played by Mehmood in “Padosan” (1968) as well as the depictions of the poor as honest, hard working but weak and the rich as evil, powerful, exploitative, in films too numerous to mention.

Not to mention that Sardars are dumb and loud, Gujaratis eat dhoklas and play garba for no reason whatsoever, Marwaris are pot-bellied misers, Goans are laid-back Feni guzzlers, all South Indians are from Madras and all Parsis are eccentric.

Of course stereotypes still abound except that they have become less caricaturish and thus more dangerous: homosexuals are pansy, Muslims are terrorists or super patriots, white girls are easily available bimbos... This does not necessarily imply that films are conspicuously responsible for creating stereotypes, although they can and they do. Close your eyes and imagine a courtroom, and unless you have visited enough and more real courts, the reel courtroom is what will come to mind.

Reality is that we have never seen a judge in any Indian court say ‘order, order’ while banging a gavel. Most of the times though films only emphasise the stereotypes that exist in society.

One should however point out that cinema has the ability to influence and pigeon hole, and thus film-makers should be careful about what they portray. Differences can be shown and jarringly, without being condescending or insulting. And comical stereotyping is acceptable provided it is not targeted.

4  1 7 months ago

The word obsession has a negative connotation.

Think obsessed and we think of a psychotic stalking lover or a youngster playing video games to the exclusion of food and sleep. Even medical terms like OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) add to the bad rap.

But the fact is that most of the greatest accomplishments and successes have been by individuals who were obsessed to the point of being considered insane. Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr. Albert Einstein, Helen Keller, Ratan Tata, Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Sachin Tendulkar...

They are the epitome of success, and obsession. And on the other hand there are those with wonderful dreams but who do nothing about it.

They are not the doers. They are the majority who do not believe in the motto: Carpe Diem (seize the day, Latin approximation). So is it time we change the definitions?

Kanchivaram's protagonist is vilified and loses everything at the end, and rightly so, since his obsession leads him onto a path where his moral compass is left without a bearing.

But is his obsession that is wrong or the path? Had he not done anything illegal or immoral, at least not to our knowledge, and had still suffered the same fate, would we have felt that he deserved to have succeeded?

Or do we feel he deserved his silk saree despite all that he did, simply because he was obsessed with it? Or is it that for every one person who succeeds because of her single mindedness, hundreds others reach the end of their lives: broken, reviled, disillusioned?

5  0 7 months ago

Which is the largest film industry in the world in terms of ticket sales and number of films produced?

And which country has the largest number of blind people in the world? It will not take a Byomkesh Bakshi to deduce that both questions have the same answer but what is the point?

The point is that in a movie crazy nation, a large percentage of the visually challenged would also be film buffs.

Now in a situation where most of the blind in India are discriminated against because of our prejudices and left out on the fringes because of our system’s apathetic inability to support them, it is inconceivable to even imagine that anyone would even be bothered to ask for their right to enjoy movies as we do.

But we are. People with blindness or low-vision love movies as much or as little as we do and it is their right and our responsibility to ensure that they have the opportunity to do so.

So what are the options? Fairly common in the west, Audio Description is an additional voice track that consists of a narration describing what is happening on the screen (or stage) during existing pauses in the audio. This is channeled through a headphone while the actual dialogues and sound effects continue from the speakers. Many countries have cinema halls that provide the special headset on request.

The innovation in itself is relatively recent, with the concept developed in 1974, first live theatre programmed in 1981, home video is 1988 and first run films in 1992 (all USA).

Some of you must be saying by now, there must be mobile apps for this, and there are... the first was about two years back, for live theatre and events, and now there are cinema apps that pick up the audio using the smartphone’s microphone and sync the Audio Description.

The descriptions are downloaded from a central server where they are pre-loaded.

3  0 7 months ago

For all sad words of tongue and pen, The saddest are these, 'It might have been'.

And for those who think that you cannot become a successful director unless you start making films in your 20s, here is a short and very select but inspiring list from the start of the 20th century, when cinema was still elitist and very expensive.

The list has more omissions than entries but is a fair representation of our case.

Yevgeni Franzevich Bauer (b. 1865) was a Russian silent films director who's works had tremendous impact on early Russian cinema, especially cinematography. Film critic Kenneth Turan (LA Times) has called him "The greatest director you've never heard of”. He made his first film, “Dyadushkin's Apartment” (1913), at the age of 48.

2  0 7 months ago

Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.

And Orson Welles' “Chimes at Midnight” (1966) is based upon Sir John Falstaff, a fictional character who appears in both the Henry IV plays as well as Henry V. The theme of the film is betrayal and the story is an amalgamation of Henry IV and V, Richard II as well as The Merry Wives of Windsor. Welles considered this his best and his favourite film.

One of the most interesting interpretations is “Theatre of Blood” (1973), a horror comedy by Douglas Hickox. It stars Vincent Price as an actor who considers himself as the finest Shakespearean actor ever. But when he is not awarded the critic's choice for best actor he decides to revenge his humiliation by killing the reviewers who gave him low ratings and bases each of the murders on a Shakespearean death scene. For instance he executes a critic using electric hair curlers while narrating a scene from Henry VI – Part 1, where Joan of Arc is condemned to be burnt.
 

2  0 7 months ago

Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.

And Orson Welles' “Chimes at Midnight” (1966) is based upon Sir John Falstaff, a fictional character who appears in both the Henry IV plays as well as Henry V. The theme of the film is betrayal and the story is an amalgamation of Henry IV and V, Richard II as well as The Merry Wives of Windsor. Welles considered this his best and his favourite film.

One of the most interesting interpretations is “Theatre of Blood” (1973), a horror comedy by Douglas Hickox. It stars Vincent Price as an actor who considers himself as the finest Shakespearean actor ever. But when he is not awarded the critic's choice for best actor he decides to revenge his humiliation by killing the reviewers who gave him low ratings and bases each of the murders on a Shakespearean death scene. For instance he executes a critic using electric hair curlers while narrating a scene from Henry VI – Part 1, where Joan of Arc is condemned to be burnt.
 

2  0 7 months ago

Who Killed Silk Smitha?

Silk Smitha was a name that created mass hysteria amongst men, especially in the 80s. It is said that films lying in cans for years would run for weeks with the mere addition of her song. In a career spanning 17 years, she appeared in over 450 Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam as well as Hindi films.

She achieved what the star struck village girl could never have dreamed of... Top South Indian actors, producers and film-makers desired her, and not just for their movies. And at the peak of her career she was earning more than any of the female leads. She was every man's fantasy, the ultimate sex symbol.

3  1 7 months ago