Udta Bollywood!

Udta Punjab (2016):

Irrespective of what a film is about, what firstly strikes me and lastly moves me is how beautiful it is. Amid the head-turning hype, amid censoring controversies on violence and vulgarity of the film, and in a larger sense of any film seeking release in the country, what I noticed is how beautiful Udta Punjab is. Its beauty cutting through all the slangs, all the squalor of its depicted reality.

The film made primarily to showcase the state of a state, how drugs have captured the lies and imaginations of a Punjab languishing far from its prideful past, where the youth who once fought for Freedom is now seeking it in the powders and syringes of a free-falling ‘Ecstasy’, succeeds in wrapping its motive in a segmented plot that makes its ends meet in the end and refrains from the excesses of melodrama altogether. The movie oscillates between its three separate stories with seeming effortlessness, jumping from one to the other without once over-complicating it or tangling the emotional threads it so poignantly weaves. What we see as the end-product is far more than an authoritative stance on the topic, and far extraordinary than the typical Bollywood our imagination is used to.

Where the film really has you shaken is with the acting (this word actually seems contradictory) of the actors (again, they are beyond it). Such fearlessness and freedom of acting is not only rare of ‘glamorous’ mainstream actors, it is simply stupefying. With carefully-crafted dialogues and accurate portrayal of slang-culture, they could have kept me eyes flowing without a shred of plot. Shahid and Alia shares screen in only a handful of scenes, and in the first of them, they render, in near-zero background music, what can arguably be called the best duet performance of modern Indian cinema. I repeat: I have not seen such courage and perfection in acting. I have not been more affected than when Alia’s character was blurting out the entire span of her journey in one breathless go, in one burst of a lifetime’s agony. I reached out and felt it. I was there, she lives somewhere in the vast stretches of my Motherland, she is not one, rather many, and she screamed her pain to me. I, the audience saw. I, the audience touched her wounds, felt the power of honest cinema. Then to top it all with words that meant, I have not broken, I am still standing. I am still standing.

Alia Bhatt delivers the performance that is worth infinitely more than her career’s ultimate earnings, her family’s name, and a lifetime of glitz, glamour and fame. She transcended it all, she won’t talk about it too much as it won’t make headlines in the Gossip columns that the glamour-chasing youth devours, ‘entertainment’ cinema will soon overshadow it by the sheer power of its quantity, but she delivers at the age of 22 (it probably won’t rage the glamorous private award shows and politically-correct government one) an actor’s dream, an artist’s pride. The nation will still find pleasure to call her ‘dumb’, ‘stupid’, even ‘uneducated’ (it is the same nation I’m taking about that still does not see what force Indian Cinema is becoming) but for all I care, she is an actor and she is awfully good at what she chose. I didn’t imagine I’d have to say, Highway was only a beginning. Now I believe, Udta too was just scratching the surface.

Shahid Kapoor delivers unquestionably the second-best performance of the movie, but those who are acquainted with the names Kaminey and Haider already know the potential of his acting, and by all means, his rendition of the drug-addict, misguided popstar Tommy is as memorable and as stirring. He owns most of his scenes and the one where Tommy breaks into a song in the hospital is another distinct example of exudation of simple cinematic beauty I’m obsessing about. Kareena delivers her worth distinctly in her final scene, showing all what the experience of years culminates to. Diljit Dosanjh wears the skin of his character consistently throughout and lends the measured heroism that the character asks. Prabhjot Singh as the suffering image of Punjab’s youth, Balli strikes a heavy chord and shows a world of promise for the young actor.

Udta becomes the face of Bollywood that is gradually surfacing but is still suppressed. Such honesty of a topic delivered with such coherence and maturity is still rare. The fight with the CBFC was completely worth it. For once at least, cinema won over every reason, every effort to hide what unsettles. By it, Udta can claim its importance in shaping a small dawn of a larger change of India and her art, pending after every election, every corruption, every campaign, throughout the long years, since the lengthy echoes of the bells of Independence rung 68 years ago on a midnight, and the first reel that rolled in the hands of Dadasaheb Phalke a hundred and three calendars back. In a few minds, a few scenes and images simply stands.

Subham Basak

(June 28, 2016)

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Movie Review: Court(2014)- The ‘Drama-less’ Drama

This official Indian entry to the Oscars is bound to make you look at new-age Indian films in a different light. What can easily be regarded as the epitome of the new wheels that parallel Indian cinema is riding on, the Marathi movie ‘Court’ demands of you a mindset that trite Bollywood films do not have the slightest requirement for.

At the onset, it is necessary to mention that this movie does not have a conspicuous background music or a fashionable cinematography. Yet the movie manages to arrest your attention by the sheer power of simple dialogues and the remarkable patience in the natural depiction of scenes of life. Centered on the plight of the tution teacher-cum-folk singer Narayan Kamble (Vira Sathidar), the film seamlessly and significantly peeks into the lives of the two confronting lawyers and the judge (Pradeep Joshi) of the sessions court so as to draw the complete picture of their mentality, lifestyles and prejudices that have subtly played a hand in the case. The portrayal makes it indispensable to note how each of the given three, upon whom rests solely the conviction or acquittal of the prosecuted, takes the case as just another errand in their prosaic life, and tackles with professional indifference. Even the accused seems to have lost the urge and emotion of combat against injustice, and deals with his fate as unsurprisingly as he deals with his day-to-day life.

Here emerges the distinct microcosm of the lower-middle and middle class Indian Citizen as the helpless enduring puppets of the Indian Judiciary, whose resignation has inevitably taken the form of an inanimate acceptance. Herein lies the distinct irony of the lack of dramatics in the movie and its proven necessity. Herein gets scripted the victory of the adopted style of ‘naturalism’. The traits of resignation are best found in the eyes and mannerisms of the wife of the deceased man-hole worker, Vasudev Pawar, whose supposed suicide is alleged to be the result of Kamble’s abetment. She feared the harassment of the law more than she mourned the death of her husband, and had not the food in her stomach to afford the luxury of grief before she found work. That the lack of any protective equipment and poisonous man-hole gases caused the loss of an eye of late Vasudev, is turned a blinder eye by the judge and dismissed as assumptions immediately. The only one in the film not accustomed to the perennially prevailing prejudices governing justice is the young defending lawyer (Vivek Gomber) with hints of affluent upbringing.

I must mention my favourite scene where loyalists of a minority sect ‘Goyamari’ captures the lawyer outside a restaurant before his family and blackens his face for ‘insulting’ their practices before court. We only hear screams of his family and Goyamari slogans as the name of the restaurant “Chetana” (Conscience) is captured in the empty frame.

The irony heightens when after bailing out Kamble for lack of evidence, he is arrested again on grounds on sedition, an ill-defined crime that he again did not actually commit. He only sang his songs that he knew he was forbidden to.

The film is successful in its criticism of the Indian Judiciary and Indian Society, though the unabashed disregard for all usual rules of entertaining film-making might cause slight discomfort. It opens the Indian audience to the raw non-commercial style of cinema and earns the unforgettable niche of the true cinema-loving hearts. Since an art form must only be classified as good or bad, this piece would undoubtedly near the former.

Subham Basak

(May 10, 2016)

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Silenced and Apart

A Silence that was in between,
Was walls, was solid bricks keeping us apart,
In every which way,
Except vision.
And there I used to see you, I used to pack my heart with presents and set out.
My eyes would voyage through the silence and find you standing unawares. Uncaressed.
They used to find your heart hidden under the creases of down-turned eyes, and got used to waiting by your eyelashes.
The silence that kept very quiet. The silence that slept like a monster.
The silence that grained deep in the pauses when we spoke, and that never burst the tears in either of our eyes.
The silence that lacked the drama the eyes craved, my eyes. The silence that swallowed deep the smiles that spring promised.
It then, led us to the moment when we fell strong, and we felt the void tunnelled to the centre of two souls. Two imaginations. Two lives.

We fell strong. We fell like buildings cracking, collapsing in a quake.
Only there was no sound.

– Subham Basak

(March 30. 2016)

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The Dance

Pages of stories sailing in the air…

I caught hold of one and read on. You were born…

There was a space. I thought of writing a line.

Pages of stories plunging, again picked up by the breeze…

And i remember you just as incomplete, unfinished,

And just you and not the scent of the grave…

 

Pages of stories, all dancing in a gale,

In mine, I had wished you well—

And may the wind carry you to love, far and new,

O girl, tell me, once I too had danced with you.

 

Subham Basak

(November, 2015)

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The Infinite Mystery

To continue living– in a world sometimes dark by the drop of sun and sometimes bright, sometimes windy, sometimes cold or sultry, and to hover and saunter again and again in the search of happiness, fellow people, friends, acceptance; to think that in The End nothing counts, nothing matters, neither sorrows nor joy, and it is that End we are heading towards and yet can’t dash; to think of the uselessness of days, months and years, of building connections and castles but not ever possess Anything to take away; to consider Possessions and Power are but a social concept, made in the illusion of making a short stay worthwhile, I wonder– Where’s Some Rational Meaning In Life, or even Is There Its Need? What’s Hope? And Where does It Ultimately Lead Us? Are we not All Misguided? Misplaced? Are We Not To Elaborate To Be Accidents? Are We Different From Apples On A Tree? Or Are We a Little Too Dull To Solve Our Own Mystery?

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Infinities

Oh, this!

...my theatre of thoughts

Let me just write. Across infinities. Far into your soul and back. Let me just write my way into those places where words had trembled to explore, into the skin of order, and shake it apart. Let me write across your eyes and how they gleam of mystery, how the charm of their languor spins a malignant yarn. Let me write for long, for a time lengthy enough to equal the spell of the enticement. Let my words slowly gather power and pace and churn your bones in the dead of the night. Let my words be memory. Let them run down tingling your cheeks, let them untangle your fragrant curls, and hold them between alphabets, losing their way bewitched, bewildered. Let me just touch your skin in a way you’d feel mad. Let me write to confuse you, then to sweep you over with its beauty. Let me write…

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Poor Parades

He was running about, in the narrow passages of the busy streets like electricity through thin copper. He was out of breath. With hope. With a world within him resistant to damage, gritty in lonely convictions. That was his only struggle. Digging oases in a crowded desert. Incorruptible. Hence, alone.

He hoped that an encounter with Beauty will obliterate the Hunger in his stomach.

Today, his goal was to catch the Parade. The sense of orderliness in the March, the Music in the gunshots, the Hope in the Tricolour.

Happy Republic Day

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Infinities

Let me just write. Across infinities. Far into your soul and back. Let me just write my way into those places where words had trembled to explore, into the skin of order, and shake it apart. Let me write across your eyes and how they gleam of mystery, how the charm of their languor spins a malignant yarn. Let me write for long, for a time lengthy enough to equal the spell of the enticement. Let my words slowly gather power and pace and churn your bones in the dead of the night. Let my words be memory. Let them run down tingling your cheeks, let them untangle your fragrant curls, and hold them between alphabets, losing their way bewitched, bewildered. Let me just touch your skin in a way you’d feel mad. Let me write to confuse you, then to sweep you over with its beauty. Let me write to accomplish no love but to drool you over in the richness of the delirium, to tempt you into its incredulity. Let one million sentences accomplish what your eyes have. In one look, upon one call.

So let me just write. Across infinities. Far into your soul and back.

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Moths To The Fire

The talking was short, the fire was lit for the moths,

Pauses breathed of craving, us pulled and pestered by Silence’s gravity,

Longer rose the flames of warmth, two naïve souls

Trepid at the doors of Love,

Muscles fought Desire, Desire battling Morality,

And when eyes found home in eyes, and our lonely skins could no longer hide,

That night, I loved kissing the silence on her body.

 

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(Nov 19, 2015)

Vacated

Man has always lived by emotions. To not emote was just another emotion. They change, men change. And we travel from one to another, in a day or in a less definite period like we travel from one room to another in a house. The mindscape readjusts some colours, and a new room houses us, lending our minds another form.

But just sometimes, we memorize a series of emotions to a set of stimuli in such a way that they become not rooms, but a house. Giving our beings as macroscopic shelter than microscopic shades. Give them long enough, it becomes who were are, and wandering through the city, we always remember the way back to our houses, houses that have now turned to homes.

And just rarely, sitting at a table, looking at a VDU, on just another of ordinary days, we are reminded of our old shelters. Who were we when we inhabited them? Who were we in its shelter? Who were we in a past we now have kept safe as a memory, guarding consciously against every tide of Time? And released by an unforeseen stimuli, the mind races back, leaping years and spaces and send us knocking at a door, a door that once belonged to our home. A old home. Deserted. Untouched. Unoccupied. And we beat on furiously at the door to set another foot, just another, in a place that was once ours. We beat on, and on and on. In pain, in vain. There’ll never be another response.

Where are you, My Love? How far?

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