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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I see you as you are


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When the protagonist of the movie Avatar says to the heroine.”I see you”, the heroine retorts back” I see you too”.  Like the movie itself, the dialogues may contain many layers of meaning. When they say to each other “ I see you” that means,  “I see you as you are, stripped of the psychological conditioning brought out by the society. I see you as a unique individual not to be judged based on your family, social,  national, or planetary background”. Or else, how could two different minds from two different planets meet?

As I have mentioned in my article ‘Living by the motto‘, by virtue of my association with some wonderful organizations, I have got the opportunity to interact with a wide spectrum of people from the Indian and global diaspora. I have learnt to see everybody as a unique individual. Sometimes, persons in a particular group may show some similarities in some aspects like way of thinking, food habits, pronunciation etc.  However, It does not mean every one of that group would confirm to those characteristics. The reality is that, two persons speaking the same language and living under the same roof can be  diametrically opposite in many aspects. Similarly, two persons living in two different parts of the globe may show similarities in many aspects of their character, attitude and life.

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Often I come across  people who have a stereotyped image of an ex-defense personnel  and the ideal way he should behave. On many social gatherings when I refuse to take alcohol or non-vegetarian food, this comes as a surprise to many. “How come”, they would say, “you being an ex-defense personnel do not drink or take non-vegetarian food”.  Even though the person himself may not be exhibiting all the group characteristics of the group he is part of, it comes as a surprise to him that somebody does not behave in line with the group image he has formed in his mind.

 “Judge not, for ye not be judged”, says the Bible. However, you and your work are constantly being judged, most often prima facie, by people who do not care to learn a little more about you. The height of such prima facie judgement happened when I took up the current job. There was another ex-serviceman who had joined that office one year back. At the age of 47, he was  still a bachelor. There was this lady colleague who asked me the moment she came to know I am an ex-serviceman, “when are you going to get married?”

When a whole society or group develops bias against another group it leads to social and political unrest. In its extreme form this group bias may manifest as racial discrimination, or still worse communal violence, terrorism, genocide and ethnic cleansing.

Even though the differences with regard to the way we dress and speak may be slowly vanishing due  to frequent migrations,  globalization and other factors, our biases with regard to other cultures and religions still remain a matter of concern. The only way to overcome these biases are to learn more about other cultures and religions with an open mind. May be the day we learn to see  a person as he is or she is, without drawing premature conclusions based on his family background, position of power, caste, religion, sect, language or nationality, will be the day that heralds the end of all group conflicts and forms extremism.

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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

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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 )