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Sati (1989)
In the tradition of Pather Panchali and Devi
16 May 2006
When I had seen 36 Chowrangee Lane directed by Aparna Sen, I could feel some influence by Satyajit Ray in her work.

This film once again has clear influence of Ray's style on Sen. Some of the scenes from Pather Panchali are reflected in several scenes of Sati, especially an old widow lady, a village hut with cows, thunderstorms. Of course, here they are beautifully colored, blue background in the thunderstorm nights seem to be Sen's favorite theme, remember Mr and Mrs Aiyer? Coming to the theme of the film, it is a solid critique of social oppression especially against women in 18th and 19th century Bengal. Film starts with a widow being burnt by Hindu upper caste folks led by a Brahmin religious leader who is portrayed as a villain throughout.

Shabana Azmi as a mute lady is married to a tree, wonderful acting by her again.

Overall, a masterpiece!
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Sardar (1993)
A Chanakya of 20th century India
29 January 2006
Sardar Patel played the same role what Chanakya did in classical India. This movie shows it in detail. How he united more than 500 smaller kingdoms into one nation which came into being in 1947 after centuries of foreign rule. Paresh Rawal plays a rare historic role in this film. It shows all the intricate details of creation of India and Pakistan as two separate nations. At times, he is very tough against Jinnah's demands. At times he concedes to them, applying all the political and diplomatic tactics. Sometimes, Sardar even ignores Gandhi and his non-violence and appeasement to Muslims. Ketan Mehta's direction is tight. Cinematography and art direction are appropriate. Some use of Gujarati songs is also done.
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Overwhelming emotions
29 October 2005
After Mr & Mrs Iyer, this was my second movie by Aparna Sen. And as the other reviewer noted, I see her work as being influenced by Satyajit Ray - depth of human emotions captured by powerful camera work and extremely sensitive direction.

Film also reminded me of SWAYAM, directed by Mahesh Bhatt, acted by Waheeda Rahman. A similar old mother and deserted by her children. In the end, in both the films, the mother emerges lonely. While Swayam shows Waheeda as a more independent and powerful character, Jennifer Kendal in 36 Chowringhee Lane is portrayed as more sensitive, delicate and brimming with human emotions. Even Satyajit Ray's Aparajito emerges to be much more independent and powerful compared to Jennifer here.

All the comparisons apart, Aparna Sen gets the full marks for one of the most sensitive and sentimental films of India. Climax will make you cry for Jennifer and will remind you of your own parents.
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Yuva (2004)
A great youthful saga by Mani Ratnam
28 June 2004
If you like Hindi movies, dont miss YUVA, the latest and best by Mani Ratnam (maker of Roja, Bombay and Dil Se). Yuva is better than all the last three. Although it has all the usual elements dance/song/action etc, direction is superb and the theme of youth revolting against corruption and contributing to society keeps it going. Ajay Devgan is a student leader who stands against threatening politician Om Puri. Vivek Oberoy is a happy go lucky Romeo and is transformed into a rebellion when he meets Ajay Devgan. Abhishek Bachchan is a gangster tapori being exploited by Om Puri. All have excelled in their acting.

Entire movie is made in Calcutta, this is the best depiction of this city. One is left amazed by the beautiful locales of Calcutta, hitherto unknown to outsiders.

This is how the powerful media of cinema can be used to portray optimism of the youth energy. Unfortunately, most of the bollywood is not doing such work.
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Dev (2004)
Another Ardha Satya (half-truth) by Nihalani
28 June 2004
have always admired Govind Nihlani's movies such as Droha Kaal, Aakrosh, Ardha Satya.

Dev is in the same tradition of depicting the hard hitting facts. How politicians and police force collaborated with rioters in Gujarat for killing the minorities as a reaction to an act of violence first done by minority community itself.

Even though I agree that police and politicians must follow the rule of law and must protect all sections of society against violence. Right to survive and to live is a basic human right and not only our constitution but also all our scriptures say that innocent lives cannot be taken for any reason whatsoever.

Only problem is when minority is target of violence it becomes headlines in all the newspapers, great movies and documentaries are made about it and shown in all international conferences and universities.

But when majority Hindus are targeted in Kashmir, Bangladesh or at the time of partition in Punjab, NOBODY TALKS ABOUT IT.

And this imbalance is what annoys us. What Govind Nihlani has shown in DEV is very similar to what Gulzar showed in Maachis how police atrocities turn innocent minority youth to become terrorist. What they both did not show is how their own religious fanatic leaders spew hatred against Hindus in many of their religious schools and other places of worship.

Therefore, Dev is a story half told and cannot be appreciated.
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A rosy picture of Naxalites
17 May 2003
This movie and the original story on which it is based seem to paint a rosy and glamoros picture of the Naxalite movement and the Marxism on which the movement was based.

How can one ignore and forget that the countries like China and USSR have been the biggest oppressor of human freedom and democratic rights.

The film and the story portrays Marxism and Naxalite movement as the ultimate saviors and revolutionary for the society. Alas! such hollow slogans and empty dreams could not be implemented even in the birth-place of those, viz., USSR and China, which are turning to capitalism themselves.

Apart from this heavy ideological bias, the movie is well-made with powerful performances by Jaya Bachchan and Nandita Das.
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A movie made only to portray incorrect image of India to win awards in the western countries
26 April 2003
This movie is a typical westernized portrayal of India without any deep concern for the reality on the ground.

To really understand the Hindu-Muslim conflict in India, one must read the book "Ethnic Conflict and Civic Life", published by Yale University, written by Prof Ashutosh Varshneya. The fact of the matter is that 98% of India's population has always been a riot-free society throughout the history of India. It is only a handful of cities where there was a prior colonial roots of Hindu Muslim conflicts, that keep giving rise to fresh riots.

This movie does little to portray the truth and exoticizes riots to win accolades in the west. And it succeeds in that. Several instances in the movie show that: close-up on casteist headline from the news-paper, Hindu rioters being highlighted as goons, ridiculing the vegetarianism and conservative attitude of Tamil Brahmins etc.
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Most refreshing music and lyrics
13 June 2001
Lagaan is a fresh breeze kind of music by A R Rahman. So different from today's run of the mill kind of numbers! It reminds you of good old days of pure classical music of 50s and 60s like: Mother India/ Do Aankhen Baarah Haath/ Naya Daur/ Baiju Bawara/ Goonj Uthi Shehnai/ Guide etc. All the songs are superb with excellent lyrics by Javed Akhtar. Udit Narayan is at his career's best in many songs. Asha Bhosle and Lata Mangeshkar have sung one song each and both are great as expected.
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Zakhm (1998)
A Must See For Every Indian
17 September 1999
This movie is winner of National Award for National Integration.

Its hero Ajay Devgan also won National Award for the Best Actor in 1998.

A really superb movie!
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