doordarshan days

doordarshanIn those good old days of Doordarshan raj, I never had a fight with my wife for the remote, it being still a remote possibility when I had my first TV.  Otherwise also you could not fight as there was no alternate channel to switch to.

While watching the Bengali Movie Dhananjoy (with subtitles) a few days back, I was reminded of the Doordarshan Days when one of my favourite programs was the telecast of regional movies with subtitles. These movies, though not popular, were high on the cinematic art.

Ironically, the first Doordarshan telecast that I watched was the live coverage of the final journey of our Late PM Indira Gandhi. A TV station had started functioning in Berhampur a few months back. The college hostel where I was staying did not have TV. In front of our college hostel were the staff quarters of Berhampur’s only Government women’s college. A staff member who had a TV was generous enough to allow us to witness the telecast. I was lucky enough to be inside the drawing room through a connection while many of my hostel mates were jostling outside the door and the windows to catch a glimpse. It was 1984.

Subsequently our hostel got a TV set. But it was not untill I got married and had my own TV that I became a DD convert. From college Days till the days of bachelorhood in Indian Air Force the only serials I remember watching regularly were Ramayana and Mahabharat, which were of course hugely popular in those days.

Whatever becomes scarce or does not happen frequently, becomes fascinating. Thus was the case with the weekly feature films or, chitrahaar – the half hour show of film songs telecast twice a week.

malgudi days.jpgApart from the regional films, the serial Chanakya was one program that I eagerly waited to watch every weekend. Some of the other programs of my interest, as far as I remember,  were: Jaspal Bhati’s Flop Show, Malgudi Days, Zaban Sambhal ke, Bharat Ek Khoj, Tamas, World This Week,  Karamchand and programs on classical/folk  music & dance.

Even after the availability of a plethora of channels, I have not lost touch with DD. It is only on DD that one may get to watch programs on Indian classical dance and music. Some of the programs on DD Bharati, DD India and DD Kishan are quite interesting. If you want a wrap up of the important events of the day, I think DD news is still the best. On DD channels you may get to watch a lot of documentaries of interesting people and places. Some of these programs are far better than those shown on National Geographic.

Here I would like to make a special mention of a film that I watched on DD.  It was Basu Chatterjee’s ‘Ek Ruka Hua Faisala’. Later on I learnt that the film was a remake of an award winning English movie Twelve Angry Men. The movie is about the deliberations of a jury constituted to decide whether a nineteen year old should be pronounced guilty for killing his father. Eleven members of the jury are in a hurry to vote ‘guilty’ while there is a lone dissenter who succeeds at the end, in convincing the jury, after a lot of patient persuasions that they should not take decision based on popular opinion, or personal biases.

In my previous post, based on a couple of movies, I have touched upon the issue of fair trail that happens only in the world of fiction. Ek ruka hua faisala is one more such movie. But, it is an eye opener, provided the people who take such decisions watch and learn from this movie. In addition to immaculate direction, superb performance of all the actors in the movie (Pankaj Kapur, Annu Kapur, Aziz Kureshi to name a few) created such an impression in my mind that I remember the movie vividly even after three decades.

ek ruka hua faisala.jpg

 

 

 

 

dhan ki jai

 dhananjoy.jpg

If you are monied and influential enough you go scot-free in spite of committing the most heinous crime. In India, we have got used to these kind of incidents. What is worse is – if, you are poor you may get convicted for someone else’s crime.

You have to be a strong believer of karma and rebirth to feel OK with the social injustice meted out on a poor fellow by the combined forces of the state and the media after watching the movie Dhananjoy, which is based on the real life trial and conviction  of Dhananjay Chatterjee.

Dhananjay Chatterji was held guilty and and hanged for raping and murdering Hetal Parekh – a fourteeen year old school girl – on 05 Mar 1990 at  her flat in  the apartment complex where Dhananjay was a security guard.

The media went on a frenzy to brand Dhananjay a rapist and murderer even before the trial began. As Dhananjay’s family could not pay the fees, his lawyer lost all interest in the case. Based only on circumstantial evidences Dhananjay was held guilty by the trial court. The verdict was upheld by the High Court and the Supreme Court. The pressure of vote bank from the influential Gujrati Community was so much that the wife of the then West Bengal CM Budhadeba Bhattacharya held public rallies demanding death penalty for the accused. Public opinion to paint Dhananjoy a monster was kept up through out the trial and his consideration of mercy plea by the president of India till he was finally hanged to death on 14.08. 2004.

Later on many inconsistencies in the so called circumstantial evidences surfaced. Three professors of the Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata did extensive research and published the details of the inconsistencies and a probable sequence of events based on their collection of evidences in a book. The movie- Dhananjoy- is based on this book.

If the inconsistencies mentioned in the book ( as I learn from the movie) are true, the probability of Dhananjay being innocent is very high.  Certain facts which were not taken into account while pronouncing the verdict are as follows:

  1. All the twenty one or so injury mark are only on the upper part of the body. If it was a rape some injury marks were expected in the lower parts as well.
  2. There was proof of sexual intercourse, but there was no conclusive proof of rape. Even the forensic report said so.
  3. When Hetal’s mother discovers her injured (already dead)  body, in stead of seeking medical help  as a first thought, the first thing she does is she shouts to know the whereabouts of Dhananjay.

There are so many inconsistencies in the statements of witnesses that even a layman (provided he is totally unbiased) would award Dhananajy at least a benefit of doubt. But, forget about a benefit of doubt, this poor security guard who could not afford a costly lawyer, was held guilty and hanged to death. (Contrast this with the recent case of a film director who hired a costly lawyer, Kapil Sibal in this case and got exonerated of rape charges from the High Court. This director is also well connected in the left liberal circle of Lyuten’s Delhi)

Even the communist government in power, that prides itself for standing for the poorest of the poor and social justice, sided with the moneyed Gujarti Community in this case and went overboard in demanding death penalty for the accused. Dhananjay’s karma was so poor that, the then president of India, who rejected his mercy petition,  himself hailed from a poor family.

Coincidentally, the previous day I had watched the  English movie – Jack Reacher. The base plot line of the movie thinly resembles Dhananjoy, except that in this Hollywood movie the innocent convict is saved by a powerful duo of an attorney and an ex-Army officer from Military Police. Another difference is that the movie Jack Reacher is not based on real life incidents.

Justice and fair play for the poor and the innocent happen after all. Of course, in the land of fiction.

jack reacher

 

 

 

moving adaptations

There would be, perhaps, half a dozen movies for which I must have read the original book either after or before I saw the movie. Of course, unlike the Hollywood ones the Bollywood productions have been disappointing.

Gone with the Wind

In case of Gone with the Wind, first I saw the movie, for the first time some twenty five years back. By that time this 1939 movie had already become a classic. I read the lengthy novel  afterwords. Contrary to what I had thought the fact that I had already watched the movie did not diminish my interest in the novel. Maybe, had I not watched the movie  I would not have read the novel. It won 10 academy awards and is considered one of the all time greatest movies of Hollywood.

Unlike the Bollywood movies based on  Chetan Bhagat books, this  movie is not a loose adaptation of the novel. The professionalism displayed by everyone connected with the movie is remarkable.  One can experience all the flavours of this 1000 odd page novel in the four hour movie. I watched the movie (DVD) for the second time a couple of months back.  It is worth mentioning that ‘Gone with the Wind’ is the only novel written by Margaret Mitchell in her life time.

Silence of the Lambs

In this case, I read the novel first. In an earlier post on this blog titled A Gripping Tale,  I have written about my reading experience and how I came across the book. I had read the book before the movie was released. Hence I was curious to see how the movie was adapted. I was not disappointed.

Elementary, my dear Watson

Being a Sherlock Holmes fan since childhood, it was logical that I should not have missed the 2009 movie ‘Sherlock Holmes’ and the sequel ‘Sherlock Holmes-  a game of shadows” released in 2011. Robert Downey Jr. has played the eccentric detective perfectly with befitting support from Jude Law as Dr. Watson.

Earlier, I remember watching a number of BBC serials  based on the Sherlock Holmes stories. Even though my memories are vague, I don’t think the serials were as interesting as the books.

Now a days many adaptations of Sherlock Holmes are run as serials on various channels, a Chinese lady passing for Dr. Watson in one version that I saw. It is titled Elementary. With Guinness book of records listing Holmes as the most portrayed movie character, it has become difficult to keep track of the various spin off versions of Holmes.

Tales from Malgudi

R K Narayan was himself disappointed when he saw the movie ‘Guide’.  Narayan’s Guide had to undergo necessary improvisation to fit into the Bollywood version with necessary songs and dance and the usual tadka.

But, the serials produced by Kannada actor and director Shankar Nag brought in all the nuances of RK Narayan’s stories. It is still a pleasure to catch up with one odd episode of Malgudi Days telecast on good Old Doordarshan from time to time.

 

 

 

 

Sunday Musings and Random Notes #5

The name is Bond | From Sean Connery to Daniel Craig

It was in 1982 that I watched my first Bond Movie  – the Spy who loved me – in a small town dilapidated Cinema Hall, where it was even difficult to make out the Hindi dialogues blaring out from the theater loudspeakers. I ignored the sounds (or, sometimes the lack of it) and enjoyed the visuals. In those days, my acquaintance with English spoken by the English was such that even if I had seen it in a sophisticated multiplex, I would not have made out anything. Nevertheless I enjoyed the movie for its stunts and the stunning visuals of exotic locations.

Since then, Bond has continued to be a fascination, off and on. Hardly have I missed a bond movie. It is only when I watched Bond movies on TV with subtitles that I could fully understand the subtle humour, the puns and the double  entendres . Then,  it is not my fault that I need subtitles. The sound systems in our cinema halls and TVs do not do justice to English movies. (Frankly speaking, even now my ability to make out when the English speak English through a cinema hall loudspeaker is such that even if I see the movie in a super sophisticated multiplex, I would not understand 100%. Maybe taking a compassionate attitude towards viewers like me now a days they release Hollywood movies with subtitles – even in multiplexes.)

Starting from Sean Connery in Dr. No released five years before my birth, there have been six actors who have signed the ‘Bond’ till date. Among all those who ‘Bonded’,  Pierce Brosnan has been my most favourite, because he accentuated the humour element the best, with Roger Moore coming a close second. Of course from the point of view of close encounters with girls and villains and the use of sophisticated cars and gadgets, (to use the bond 3G analogy – Girls, Guns and Gadgets) no ‘Bond’ is stronger than any other.

With Daniel Craig, the latest to ‘Bond’,  ‘Bonding’ has taken a higly serious turn. It has become less puny and less funny. Of course it has continued to earn the franchise more and more money. It has also brought the ‘Spectre’ of death on some of its own people. Bond’s immediate boss and the most trusted supporter ‘M’ dies in Skyfall (of course not out of a sky fall). Ironically, the Old Q who never won a Nobel in spite of making gadgets hundreds of years ahead of his time, himself looked like a relic from the past.  Now we have a  young Q, bespectacled and a digital geek. Maybe to keep up with the times.

And Bond movies have kept up with the times. In the cold war era, if Russia was the dominant theme, now it is terrorism.

For the next movie in the series, who will play the next Bond? Speculations are on. Some say, the next Bond should be a black, to black out the racial bias. While some ask why not someone from the fairer sex  so as to fair out the gender bias.

Now imagine a lady Bond. When someone inquires about her name will she say, “Bond, James Bond”  or,  James will be replaced with  a feminine name?  Will there be a change in Bond’ s favourite drink, or will she continue to order – Vodka Martini, shaken not stirred – letting the audience wonder whether this too was some sort of a double entendre . And how many men will she be allowed to Bond with in a single movie, that is, if she is heterosexual. And if, she is heterosexual what will happen to the legacy of 3Gs? Or, she will prefer to continue with the legacy of 3Gs even at the cost of being branded a lesbian? (And to make a political statement).

With so many ifs and buts to take care of, will they really give a lady the license to kill? Let us wait and watch.

———–

 #SanskariBond

The Indian connection of Bond goes back to the days of Octopussy. Major portions of the film were shot in India. There are also two Indians in memorable roles – Kabir Bedi and Vijay Amritraj. One cannot help laughing, when in a chase scene, a person from the villain’s entourage falls on on a bed of nails prepared by an Indian sadhu for his penance. The sadhu shouts,  “Uthja mere bistar se” (Get out of my bed).

When the sansakri sensor board chief Pahlaj Nihalini recommended so many cuts for the India release of Spectre, it created a lot of media buzz. People also took to the social media to vent their protests, many of which were quite creative.

Here is a favourite:

sanskari-bond-2

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Lessons from the Movie – The Bridge on the River Kwai

bridge-on-the-river-kwai-1957

It was only accidentally that I got to watch the movie. In a friend’s  house once I came across dozens of movie CDs gathering dust. I asked him whether I could borrow those and see if those contain anything worth watching. On a listless Sunday when I had nothing else to do, I started checking the quality of the video of those CDs. After two or three movies, came the turn of this movie-the Bridge on the River Kwai. I could not simply stop watching the movie and kept on watching till the end. It was only later that I learnt I had watched one of the all time great movies. Here are the basics of the movie: (Source: wikipedia)

The Bridge on the River Kwai is a 1957 Second World War film directed by David Lean, based on the eponymous French novel (1952) by Pierre Boulle. The film is a work of fiction but borrows the construction of the Burma Railway in 1942–43 for its historical setting. It stars William Holden, Jack Hawkins, Alec Guinness and Sessue Hayakawa. The movie was filmed in Ceylon (now known as Sri Lanka). The bridge in the film was located near Kitulgala.


The film was widely praised, winning seven Academy Awards (including Best Picture) at the 30th Academy Awards; in 1997 this film was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and selected for preservation in the United States Library of Congress National Film Registry. It is widely considered to be one of the greatest films of all time.”

Lessons from the movie:

1. Quite often, the passion for creative activity/inventions/discovery coupled with the urge to display professional competence overrides ethical considerations. That’s why, knowing full well that the bridge would strengthen the enemy, Lieutenant Colonel Nicholson went ahead to construct the bridge. Or else, we would not have people like Einstein inventing the Bomb. That may be one of the reasons why many bright people, who do not find a positive channel to utilize their talent, join destructive movements like the Naxal movement or insurgency outfits.

2. Whatever you do, sooner or later everything returns to dust. That does not mean we should stop creating anything. The sand artist is a great inspiration. Knowing full well that sometimes, the creative work will be washed away even before its completion, he/she does not loose enthusiasm or stop creating.

3. The movie ends with the words of Clipton – “madness.. madness”. Madness is a subjective view of the observer and there is hardly anything in life that’s not madness. If we took out the madness from life, may be, we would loose the charm of living. This also reminds us not to be too much attached to anything. For the enlightened, the crowd is insane; in the eyes of the crowd the enlightened is mad. There is a spiritual sect in West Bengal called the Bouls – the mad people.

4. Leaders, who show courage and stand by their people even in the face of adversity, are respected.

5. Adversity makes strange bed fellows. Even enemies develop cordiality depending upon the situation.

6. The British take pride in engineering marvels compared to their eastern counterparts to the point of showing disdain for the Japanese Engineers in the movie. I think, they deserve to do so. Many of the bridges they constructed in India still survive even though some are more than 100 years old. Sometimes in India we come across news where a bridge collapses even before its completion.

A few Good Movies

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A few good men

a few good men

Finally, last week,  I could catch up with a few good movies that had been on my watch list for a very long time. One of them is –‘A few Good Men’. People with some military background would appreciate certain nuances of ‘military ego’ better. The movie is superbly acted and  crafted.  The film is directed by Rob Reiner and the lead characters are played by Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson and Demi Moore.

The movie is about a Military Court martial, it brings out certain universal truths. If there are a few good men in a given set up, there could in fact be fewer bad people. The problem with the vast majority who are in between is that they would wish to be good but cannot,  due to lack of courage or because they choose the path of least resistance. I was reminded of the Mahabharata where many good people like Bhisma, Drona, Karna etc. sided with the Kauravas.

Then there is also the ethical dilemma. In military, one is bound to follow the orders of the superior. However, what to do in a situation when the superior gives an order and you  know that it has a malafide intention. If you do not follow the order there could be immediate danger to your career and even to your life in certain situations. If you follow, sooner or later you are bound to regret or even fall into self-deprecation for not being able to stand to resist the evil.

Lunch Box

lunchbox

Then there was this ‘Lunch Box’. The story idea and  screen play seems to be original. It was after a longtime, perhaps, that I was watching an Indian movie which had not been inspired or adapted from an English one, in parts or full. The lead actors – Irfan Khan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Nimrat Kaur have acted superbly and brought out the subtleties of the characters, may be the way the director wanted. It is Art for Art’s sake. It probes a little deeper into human psychology and is an example of cinematic art at its best.

The movie is also a tribute the Mumbai Dabbawalas who run one of the most efficient supply chain systems of the world even though many of those who run it may not even have completed school education.

The Lord Of The Rings

RingstrilogyposterI was able to watch the series of movies in bits and parts. Each part of the series is so lengthy, in fact lengthier than our old Bollywood movies. Of course it is justified as the series is a kind of an epic. So everything that an epic would demand is there – war, faith, courage, magic, the struggle of good versus evil, strange living beings and of course the message behind all these symbolism. Sometimes the message is symbolic. However, often the message is clear like when Gandalf – a character in the movie says,

“So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

Hyder – To Rank or not to Rank

shahid-shraddha

If Shakespear’s Hamlet gave us the famous dialogue “to be or not to be- that’s the question”, the dialogue – “Ek alag nazaria bhi to ho sakta hai” from the movie  Haider haunts me time and again. True to this dialogue – ‘Ek alag nazaria bhi to ho sakta hai’, which has been used in the movie a number of times by various characters,  Vishal Bharadwaj has given a different perspective of the situation in Kasmir. Even though the movie is an adaptation of Shakespear’s drama Hamlet, there is nothing ‘English’ about. In other words, it was hard to find any trace of Hollywood in it.  Contrast the movie with many of the commercially successful Bollywood movies released during the last two years. Many of these movies borrowed heavily from Hollywood, even theme by theme and scene by scene. I expected Amir Khan starrer Dhoom 3 to be something different, but was disappointed. For major part, the movie reminded me of “The prestige”.

In addition to just the right casting, director Vishal Bharadwaj has brought out the best of not only the lead actors like Shahid Kapoor, Taboo, Kay Kay and Shradha Kapoor, but also the actors in smaller roles and cameos. The director himself declares the movie to be his best movie so far and a masterpiece. And a masterpiece it is, in terms of cinematic art.

Barring one  colourful sequence that provides a cheerful backdrop for the  meeting of mother and son, for most part of the movie, the white backdrop provided by the snow fall contrasts with the grim reminder of impending disasters. Murders, betrayals, compromises and the overall atmosphere of distrust overshadows the pristine scenic enchantments of the valley. The movie evokes this unfortunate confluence of contrasts. Gone are the days when, enchanted by the beauty of Kashmir, the  poet could declare, “If there is any heaven, it is here, it is here, it is here”. The poet in Haider could only discover the hell that the modern day Kashmir has turned out to be and wonder whether ‘to be or not to be’ in such a situation.

You may also read: Happy New Year- When the Writers and Directors run out of Ideas

Those who have lived in Kashmir would relate with the nuances of the movie better. The director and the actors have brought out in an in-offensive manner the typical way of English and Hindi pronunciation by the natives of Kashmir – school as shakool, chance as chaanas, bhai as bai and so on.

Contrary to the Shakespearean saying – “All is well that ends well’, the movie does not end in an optimistic note. But, it could not have been more befitting. Haider walking into uncertainty amidst gory pictures of violence, is an apt representation of  the current situation in Kashmir.

While the movie has been highly acclaimed by the critics and connoisseurs, another movie that was released on the same day crossed the 200 crore mark in record time. At a time when, with utter disregard to the artistic value, Bollywood movies are ranked  by the crores they have raked in, where would a movie like Haider fit in? Should it be ranked and compared with the contemporary releases? Or, may be, it would be better to put it in a class of its own.

(The article was originally written two days after the release of the movie )