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22 reviews in total 
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Dahan (1998)
3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
A gem of a movie, 7 March 2011

Dahan is an intense study of the choices we make in trying circumstances. It unfolds a myriad of issues, emotions, perspectives through which different people view and react to a single incident --- a molestation of a woman at the metro station. There are a lot of people directly or indirectly associated with this: the molested woman (Rituparna), her husband, their families; the woman who saves her (Indrani), her boyfriend, her colleagues, her family; the molester, his girlfriend, their families. They all have something to say, and they often come from very different viewpoints. The movie takes us through all these peripheral views, and shows how they all are important, and have something new and often, unexpected to offer.

An exquisitely powerful script and a sensitive narration makes for an impactful watch. Shown primarily through the eyes of two key women: Rituparna and Indrani, the movie touches on an amazing number of themes – the practicality-idealism dichotomy; social pressures and stigma; our ability to accept the worst in others; our ability to accept the circumstances; compromises and its limits; vested interests of the powerful; jealousy; economic disparity in marriage; the gullibility of people; the healing power of time… In spite of offering so much, it does not become a diffused amalgam, rather, brings out a completeness of sorts within a coherent core. I have not come across any other movie that offers this detailed examination of a single chain of events.

A few women steal the show. Indrani, in her role as the fiercely powerful, strong-willed and righteous school teacher, gets us in awe of the character. Equally adept is Rituparna in her portrayal of the confused, agreeable, and stuck-between-two-worlds wife. Mamata in her small role as Rituparna's sister-in-law casts a spell of warmth and affection as a house-wife who has reconciled with pain. But, to me, the stand out character in the movie is that of Indrani's grandmother, Suchitra Mitra. Her strong character is brought out by her tough stances on almost everything. She offers interesting insights throughout the movie, for example, she says 'how can the autowallah who returned my money be celebrated simply because he decided not to do the wrong thing'… Towards the end we also get to see a more human side of her when she talks of her past. The male characters, on the other hand, are all passable. The central character, Abhishek, Rituparna's husband, is average at best.

Rituparno Ghosh's movie making has always connected with me. This is one of his early movies and we can see the genius in the making, but still, the movie and narration is not as refined and polished as some of his later work. The husband's reaction accusing wife of potential adultery, the courtroom scenes are good by commercial standards, but needed more subtlety for this extremely realistic genre. In spite of these, the gripping screenplay gets us hooked and alongside, questions our own moral, social, idealistic and practical takes on the circumstances.

Dahan would stay with me for some time. A must watch for any lover of good cinema.

A tale of dance, dancers, modernity, tradition, relationships and more, 6 May 2008

When the movie started I thought to myself -- oh! this is going to be another cliché on Indian society through the eyes of a foreigner. Well!! I was so wrong. Is it a cliché? Yes!! But a cliché only in the select traditional dance circles. For the rest of the audience the movie opens up the whole unseen world of the practitioners of Indian classical art-forms living in today's world.

The story, at a high level, is about a less popular bharatanatyam dancer couple and their daughter who is just about to have her arangetram (first public performance, after she is considered ready to perform by the guru). But the storyline that gradually unfolds touches on a multitude of issues in the area. At one level there are more standard themes like traditional minded father, wife more talented than the husband. With these the movie also brings forth themes more unique to this area -- the devadasi tradition, what does it mean for a man to be in a field often inhabited by women, politics of classical arts, conflicts between raising kids and pursuing dance, dreaming big for one's children especially by less successful parents, etc.

Besides the novelty of themes the other highlight of the movie is its screenplay. After a long time we are reminded of the parallel cinema-ish screenplay of the 80s where the characters are real and their conversations are real. The interpersonal relationships between father and son, father in law and daughter in law, daughter and her parents, would be husband and wife, etc. are all touched on with sensitivity and form an integral part of the story. Also, the brutal honesty of some of the statements stay. Comments like 'A woman in a man's field is progressive, a man in a woman's field is pathetic' or 'You are even jealous of your daughter', etc. leave a mark and give you food for thought till long after the movie is finished.

Shobhana has acted and danced brilliantly. Arif has acted well. The daughter and to-be-groom, Anoushka Shankar and Samir Soni, have played their roles well. They look like a very cute couple too :). Anoushka's American accent, however, did not seem apt in the context of the movie.

The direction and cinematography were average. But the movie carries and carries powerfully on the shoulders of the theme and screenplay and is a must-see for all people who are looking either for realistic movies or for people who are interested in getting an appreciation of the classical Indian arts (particularly dance) in the modern setup.

Anuranan (2006)
11 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
This one resonated with me :), 5 October 2007

'Nandita tells me that flowers bloom in spring. But it is when the flowers bloom, there is spring'. 'Developing closeness is relationship is beautiful when it happens through an unpredictable path'. 'Words are transient, silence is eternal'.

It is one-liners such as these and the several, absolutely beautiful, moments between various characters that will stay with you. This is a movie that explores the beauty of relationships. It is a movie that explores the sensitivity or lack of it in people. It is a movie that explores the process of striking a chord between individuals and the chord becomes tighter with time when the frequencies match or lets say resonate!

The storyline doesn't do justice to the primary ethos of the movie. The end is somewhat abrupt and unexpected. Some initial setting up of characters is probably unnecessary. Some relationships could be even better explored. But all said and done, the film does a remarkable job at its core strength - in depicting resonance between people.

The film has very carefully kept the moral and ethical issues out due to which one is able to focus on the pure emotion. And the film is full of it. Not the emotion in the run-of-the-mill Bollywood film. Instead, an emotion that is honest, pure, touching, possibly one that will stay for sometime.

The actors have suited their roles well. Especially, Raima Sen has been very expressive in her different moods and moments. Strongly recommended for those who like movies about human relationships.

10 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Superb is an understatement, 19 April 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I just finished watching this movie. Its a 2003 movie, and this is 2006. Why was I unaware of it when it was released - I don't know! Thanks to a few friends, who brought my attention to the movie.

I am thinking of a suitable adjective for the movie -- 'superb' seems like a huge understatement. The movie is perfect - perfect in all respects. The story has breadth as well as depth. It touches on so many aspects yet one gains something fresh in whichever aspect one focuses on. The narration is honest, brutal, real. All characters are different, standing for their own ideals, consistent with who they are and so very disjoint from who the others are. Not one character does anything that cannot be justified in their context. None of the characters go overboard in their actions, something that is almost inconceivable for anything that comes out off Bollywood. I can go on and on.

But these are not really the things that I noticed while I was watching the movie. All these intellectual appreciations are afterthoughts. As I watched the movie I got intensely involved with the characters, their stories, their lives. Different characters stand for different things - Siddharth wants to contribute to the upliftment of people in the village, he is willing to leave everything and willing to stay in the villages for his cause. Geeta loves Siddharth to the extent that his cause becomes her own. Vikram loves Geeta immensely but knows that she doesn't love him, at the same time his love to her is pure and unconditional. Vikram is very practical, doesn't believe in these high-funda ideologies of changing the world, is ambitious, wants to earn money. (This synopsis really doesn't do justice to the characters)

So where did my involvement come from? : My involvement with Siddharth came from his passion towards his cause. His unconditional faith in his struggle against all odds, standing by his principles. At the same time, my involvement with Geeta came from her taking bold steps: leaving everything when she felt right, returning to the village inspite of a perpetually threat-filled life there, divorcing, and ignoring social pressures, if any. My involvement with Vikram comes from his being truthful to who he is -- a practical normal person, wants to make big in the world, wants fame, etc. At the same time, he is always ready to use his contacts, his earnings for people that he care for, even for people who are cared by people he cares. A genuine person who never gets the love he yearns for but is still mature enough to pursue his one sided love with full honesty.

As I get involved with all these three characters, these undergo lots of changes -- they mature. They all start at college together, life takes different routes with them, they end up at different places. One notices that life is unpredictable, it has the capacity to offer something that is totally unexpected. While life is unpredictable, people themselves are too -- they change. The process of growth of a person never ends, even to the extent that the sole purpose of life changes sometimes.

I know this became more abstract than I intended it to be, so let me focus on some thoughts that struck me while watching the movie. I noticed how much one's context affects who one is: how a rich child is more inclined to take up social issues, as money is not an issue with him, whereas a lower middle class person better earn some money and feed himself and his family well. Also, the brutality of Gandhian principles and altruistic living develops in the child a sheer disrespect for a selfless life, because the child recognises the neglect he/she suffered while the parent was away helping others.

Another interesting observation is that we, humans, tend to leave behind the original reasons for our doing something in the first place. For instance, Geeta continues to work in the village even when Siddharth is no longer there, because she started owning the cause. The cause didn't remain limited to something she is doing for Siddharth.

Somewhat ironical was the fact that Vikram who used to be so disjoint from the whole ideal I-will-change-the-world business, was the one who was most severely affected in the end from the whole process. It was ironical because he wasn't there taking the blows for the cause. He was there taking blows for Siddharth. And he didn't even care for Siddharth so much; he cared for Geeta who cared for Siddharth!

The movie also touches on the Naxalite movement, its original ideology, how there are different factions within the setup etc. It tries to show the movement in a somewhat positive light.

Needless to say that there is a big social commentary on the state of villages (in those days) and to some extent even now, and how people like me living in urban settlements so easily disregard the real issues dealing with them. How we chose to ignore the problems faced by the people there, how we -- relatively more powerful people -- aren't ready to take any stand for them. Even after watching the movie I can't imagine myself leaving the comfortable state of living and stand for this cause, I probably do not have the guts!

Water (2005/I)
6 out of 17 people found the following review useful:
Don't watch this movie, 15 March 2006

I am a big fan of Deepa Mehta's work, especially Fire and Earth 1947. Unfortunately, this movie of hers lacks _all_ that is needed for a good film.

The movie attempts to showcase the plight of the widows in India in the early 20th century and the new wave of ideas of their rehabilitation around the same time. Shown with a child widow as a central character, although the plot too banal from an Indian standpoint, it could still have been a very powerful movie. Alas! the movie lacked both the sensitivity of Fire and the intensity of emotion in Earth 1947.

Even if one assumes that the story is a given, although there are hundreds of things I would have liked different in that as well, the movie making is especially unfortunate. Everything is said. Everything is shown straight. Absence of sensitive implied sentences. Absence of things left unsaid. I just couldn't believe that this was a Deepa Mehta film.

There were some very standard Hindi movie characters - like an old widow with her own vested interests, or a father who has double standards of the highest quality. Can one not write a script without having these old-style standard Indian movie characters?

Many people acclaimed Deepa for making a movie and proving a point against hindu fundamentalists. Well, I agree that she took a bold step, but should one not worry about the quality of movie, or is it being a controversial one an end in itself? Its obvious, that if you start with a story as in Water, you will end up feeling the pain of the widows in consideration --- It doesn't take an accomplished director to achieve that. And the movie had nothing more than that!! So where is Deepa's contribution to the film?

And talk about acting etc. - pathetic!!! Lisa Ray has a pretty face, an extremely pretty face - but thats where it ends. She can't speak Hindi; she can't emote. John Abraham is no better. Most widows seem unnatural. The saving grace are Seema Biswas and the young girl. They are fabulous.

And this was a period film - but the Hindi dialogues suck big time. Even there utterance is also as unnatural as it gets. No rustic accents!!! No local slangs. No nothing. The only thing right was probably the shooting locales. I thought that the set of the vidhwa-ashram was reasonably real. The overall blue tinge in the whole movie is also apt.

But all and all, don't watch this movie. You _won't_ get anything. There is nothing in the story, or direction. If you have to watch it watch it for the little girl's acting.

28 out of 29 people found the following review useful:
South Asian filmmakers are maturing, 18 September 2004

Every now and then you are suddenly hit by a movie that leaves an impression on you. This movie has the potential for the same.

If I ever to describe the movie in one word - that would be "moving". It indeed moved me. After the movie my only response was silence. I just didn't know how to react. It was an experience - though a very real one. It was as if you are witness to the events and you feel so frustrated that there is nothing you can do about it.

I could write about the story of the movie, however a part of the fun in the movie is the way the story unfolds itself. So I better keep mum on that. I would just mention that the story is set in Rawalpindi area of Pakistan and its the story about a mother and a son living there. Though its not a social statement, it touches upon the issues of religion, partition, coexistence, terrorism besides being an emotional and philosophical drama.

On the movie making, I think its a brilliantly written script. A dialogue that I still remember from the film is when the mother says - "If the son is not mine then who in the world is." It is a painful acceptance of the solitude and the loneliness of each and everyone of us.

The acting is almost perfect. In fact it seems that there are no actors in the movie. Its as if real people are living those lives. I wonder how the director found such actors. Kiron Kher, in her central role as the mother, has outperformed herself. Her silence is so expressive, that she doesn't need any dialogues.

On the whole I think the movie deserves great credit. I am terribly disappointed at the (current) 6.8 rating at IMDb. I realize that its a non-populist movie but I would have felt that anybody who ended up seeing the movie would be affected by it. As for me, I give it a perfect 10.

10 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
A sensitive movie about complexities of life, 2 June 2003

- Life is complicated.

- There is no clear right or wrong.

- The deeds we hate on other people, may be done by us, when time comes. Humans don't always react in the most obvious ways.

- At many points in life, we have to make choices, where we gain something and we lose something. It is not usually obvious what choice is the best one.

- There is an ongoing tussle between heart and brain, the intellectual self and the emotional self, the worldly desire and larger than life desires...

These are some of things I recall from my experience with the movie. It was indeed an experience. It was a very sensitive movie having complicated characters and their psychologies. It was one of those movies wherefrom anybody could take back anything that he/she relates to, more strongly. For example, one may think it was a movie about a woman's hypocrisies whereas others might that it was a movie on fighting till the last moment. Some might view it as justifying the supernatural. Its just how you view it.

Although BASED ON A REAL LIFE STORY, and I never thought real life stories could be that surprising, its not the story that matters. Don't try to view the film based on the short story description. If you are into meaningful cinema which involves reflections from real life, a thought behind the movie, something that lets you ponder for quite sometime, this is the movie for you. And don't worry it will not be hard on you. Its softly told movie that will surely have an impact on you, positive or negative, who knows!

5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Sweet comedy, 6 November 2002

This is another one in the genre of sweet home comedies built out of nothing or minimal events. The idea here is a father (Utpal Dutt) who wants her daughter-in-law to not be english speaking because he feels that those don't follow the traditional value system.

Thus Deepti Naval, a doctor, marries to Farooq Shaikh in disguise of being a village-girl and the story goes on, eventually having the father realise that his idea about english-educated females was incorrect.

Of course the idea here is not so relevant. It is the simply comic situations that get created one after the other. Its a hilarious movie but doesn't create big laughters. The movie does not stand out as a great comedy or a great movie in any sense but is surely a worth watch because its a great combination of nice script, nice direction, nice acting etc. It has everything good though nothing great.

6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
A movie with a message, not made convincingly!, 6 November 2002

Its a story of a lower middle class happy nuclear family. The lady of the family gets involved in prostitution, owing to the not so good financial condition of the family. It is the story of the guilt that comes with the money and the cobweb that such a route entails that its quite an effort to come out of the profession once one enters it.

This movie has many things to take it from, but lets first discuss the story line. The story line is quite weak at times. The most important scene of her starting all this is unconvincingly shown. However one may argue (and I argued the same thing with myself when I saw it the second time) that this is how it looks like if someone watches a real person go through all this. It feels unconvincing. And thats how it feels in the movie.

But other than some of that, the movie and many dialogues have far reaching connotations. The movie talks about man's endless desire to acquire, rather beautifully. It tries to separate needs and conveniences. It also touches on the sexual imbalance existing between couples. One line that I always remember from this movie goes something like this "Slowly and slowly husbands and wives start sharing their habits much more than they share their thoughts and this distances them".

Anyhow, this is a not a great one, but a worth see anyway. It might not be the full money's worth but it might initiate a much needed thought process.

Anubhav (1971)
2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Has so much in it., 6 November 2002

This explains the real husband-wife relationship in the Indian context and also tackles the problem of distrust between them. The overall story is ordinary. An old lover comes back in the life of the wife and then the standardish story continues.

But there is much much more in the movie other than the story. You seem to be following each and every step of the director. You relate to each and every event that takes place. You realise how you might want your relationship with your spouse as. Never does the movie become loud or sentimental. All through, the movie looks like a portrayal that would have exactly happened.

The music is very very sweet. The songs, mostly sung by Geeta Dutt are masterpieces in themselves, they really say what they are supposed to say both in words as well as music. The movie ends you at an emotional and romantic high, something which is never observed in standard popular Hindi cinema. You would feel like cuddling to your spouse just after watching the movie or even in between it.

Hats off to the brilliant director!

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