Why You Should Never Stop Watching Films

Source: Universal Pictures/Working Title Films/Mike Zoss Productions

In this past year, I have kept myself busy with a lot of work after a shattering episode of depression just about this time of the year last year. But while you are at work every day, especially in full employment where you leave your place to spend time in an office, you tend to lose perspective. You tend to forget about your mental growth, about your physical well being, and even your perspective about the bigger picture. About life.

While there are things that you are never going to fix, or can fix, which are lost with time. Second by second. There is no turning back from there. You could at least get your focus right. You could at least slap your face and wake yourself up from the slumber and start paying attention to the things that matter. Now there are plenty, not just limited to human relations. But one of them is your appreciation of art, literature, and cinema.

And especially when you are put off by the sort of films that are coming out. So while I cannot believe that audiences have rejected “Hail Caeser! (2016)” of the ever-magnificent Coen Brothers and rather watched X:Men Apocalypse and Deadpool, it only increases my appreciation for things that I admire. It tells you that cinema is still alive.

Haha, there was a time when I said to my friend Faheem Zafar who had introduced me to such great cinema that I was afraid one day we would run out of films to watch. He laughed off my comment and rightly so as I hardly watch a film anymore until in the recent days. But it is true in a way because I am pretty much out of anymore Bunuel or Fellini films to watch. That is all what matters.

Now these works of art (if you can call them that) inspired you to be a filmmaker when you were young. When you grow up and enter the industry one way or another, you wonder if you are really all that into it. Even if you don’t want to, or cannot, do anything else.  And you wonder if you can really keep up.

But what we forget at those times is that it is telling your personal expression which was once the dearest to us. We are here because we wanted to tell our -stories, even when we are not able to. Because we are telling stories in some form. Even if it is someone else’s story.

So when you are putting on thick armor around your skin to survive, it is important not to forget to live the way you did when those moments of inspiration struck you. Those moments of inspiration that set your sail this way.

It is very important that you should not stop watching films. Or even reading books.

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The One Role I Would Have Loved Robin Williams to Play

Source: grio.com

Source: grio.com

I could not possibly have been more devastated to hear any news from Hollywood than the death of Robin Williams.

I always anticipated this day with dread and anxiety. But I never imagined it would be upon us this soon. This soon.

August 10, 2014.

Heartbreak.

Well now that he’s dead, I can’t meet him. Lucky folks like Michael Dare have, but he’s a star himself. To me, at least. Oh well, there goes one more item off my bucket list.

But I hope he would be in great peace, if only oblivion and non existence, unlike the predicament as in What Dreams May Come. I just watched that film right after his death and you can’t begin to imagine how ironically overwhelming that was. I guess you can.

But what I greatly respect him for is that he committed suicide. An intellectual act that I have great respect and sympathy for. Even though it may not have been planned in this case. Even though it is largely maligned and even Robin’s case was encountered with malicious and insensitive comments.

And for those who say that suicide is selfish, so be it. Selfish is not necessarily bad or evil. Everybody is selfish. Love is selfish.

But speaking of suicide, for years, I have been longing to see him in one role. A role that personally fascinates me like very few others.

The role of Do. The role of Marshall Applewhite, the founder of the Heaven’s Gate Cult.

A shocking piece of news that hit the world in March 1997, right at the time when the spectacular Hale-Bopp comet was kissing our South Western skies.

OK, now, I am not pretending that I am a filmmaker, though I write scripts, but let’s assume for a minute that I am. Or perhaps even a financier, or just somebody who is working chores for the production company. But somebody involved in the production.

Now I would have loved to be a part of the production in some way.

I would have at least loved to watch that film. But that opportunity is lost forever.

So many losses to mourn.

I believe suicides are largely misunderstood, but Marshall Applewhite’s was a special one. His cult adds just so much more mystery to it, which makes for a great story that the world needs to know. No matter how distant and detached its portrayal may be.

I bet a lot of kids born in the new millenium haven’t even heard of it.

I know a lot of you would call, or at least consider, me a dick for putting Marshall Applewhite in for what looks more or less like a eulogy post for Robin Williams. But I am actually so overwhelmed by this that this is all what I can sincerely write about.

I used to watch Applewhite’s or Do’s video for hours. And there is something about his eyes that mesmerized you. And just like everyone who likes to tell stories, I thought. Hey, this would make a great movie.

The next logical question was who could actually play Applewhite.

Well, who better than Robin Williams. The man who can play anyone and anything.

He actually would have been my first choice to play Peter Sellers in The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, and it is said that he was considered. But given the physical likeness, probably we were better off with Geoffrey Rush playing him. Another very talented actor.

Source: morthings.com/news.com

Source: morthings.com/news.com

But long story short, Robin Williams is just perfect to play him.

Considering how most people consider Applewhite a fanatic, no, this is not meant to be a satire or a comedy. It is supposed to be a biopic drama. And if you think Applewhite’s life was funny, well good luck.

Where is the compassion?

But I am not ashamed to say I am sympathetic of Marshall Applewhite, despite he can arguably be charged for murder of other followers of the Heaven’s Gate cult. But what a fascinating cult. As intellectual in a way, as it was delusional.

But Robin Williams could have so perfectly captured the emotional personality of Do. at least he would have been successful able to emanate the vibe of the charismatic cult leader. Only he could have done it so perfectly.

Recall Robin Williams playing Sy Parrish in One Hour Photo? One of his most dazzling and darker films in recent years. I won’t say it would convince you, but it can actually tell you of the great versatility of his acting talent. And that he was perfect for the role.

Hell, he was perfect for any role.

So I mourn, and become teary eyed, not just because we have lost Robin Williams. I always found his humor with a tinge of sadness.

Some idiot had complained about how mourning on social media was actually about the people themselves. Of course, it is. The mourning is about us. We have lost Robin Williams. He is dead. He is happy. Hopefully.

Again, I always found his humor with a tinge of sadness.

I found Bicentennial Man too heavy to watch. Is there a darker, sadder film with someone funny in it? Even fun films such as Jumanji have that emotional bittersweet value that you can’t separate your childhood from it.

But you can’t stop adoring his films.

I love Robin Williams the revolutionary in Good Morning VietnamPatch Adams and Dead Poet’s Society. I love Robin Williams the psychotic in Insomnia and One Hour Photo too. And even more so the ascetic lover in The Fisher King. Oscar anyone?

And of course, everybody loves Mrs. Doubtfire.

Can anyone possibly hate him? I guess there are a few nuts.

RIP Robin Williams.

Certainly the greatest actor of our times.

The Message of the Film

From the film “I Clowns” or “The Clowns” (1970)

© 1970 RAI – RadioTelevisione Italiana, Compagnia Leone Cinematografica

Django Unchained & On-Screen Morality

Source: screenrant.com (Universal/Weinstein Company)

Source: screenrant.com (Universal/Weinstein Company)

Over the past months, one of the most talked about controversies in Hollywood has been director Quentin Tarantino‘s Django Unchained. A lot of people from African American and other communities objected to the depiction of slavery in the film and the franchise action figures. Director Spike Lee has refused to watch the movie out of respect for his ancestors. I respect their opinions.

For those who have not watched it yet, it is a story of a slave freed by circumstances, who embarks on an adventure to free his enslaved wife on the plantation of a racist and sadistic landlord with the help of an unlikely accomplice. It is an almost fantasy western, loaded with everything that Quentin Tarantino has a reputation for. Well, almost, if you know what I mean. But recommended.

The film has particularly come under fire for Tarantino’s excessive usage of the word “nigger” on the screen.

Of course, I can’t speak for the African American community, and I would welcome all those who would tell me to shut up on this, but I still could not understand what the problem was about after watching the film, which I would consider anti-slavery overall.

It actually seems to be a part of the incomplete trilogy of “Tarantino’s Frustration on Historical Atrocities”, starting with relatively mediocre Inglorious Basterds, in which (spoiler alert) a Jewish girl avenges the murder of her family by shooting the Nazi audience with the military leadership in a theater and setting fire to it. Django unleashes his wrath on his Caucasian “masters” in the most violent manner as well.

But what’s so new about it all? First of all, Tarantino is known to go over the top with his vivid and shocking non-linear story-telling, depiction of violence and abusive language. That’s not news. Secondly, it is a film that seeks to depict slavery, and you would think that a milder portrayal would not have done as good a job. Maybe its timing was perfect to set the audience’s mood for Spielberg’s Lincoln.

So using softer language would only have made the usual Tarantino audience die of laughing fits. Furthermore, it would have taken away the realism and believability, despite the absurd and exaggerated action sequences and fountains of blood.

While I would like to review the film separately, I am glad Tarantino won Oscar for best screenplay, his second since Pulp Fiction for the same category, though I guess movies like Amour looked like having a better choice. But it is a statement for the freedom of speech and an apt answer to the moralist critic. I would have preferred to see Samuel L. Jackson at least nominated for his part though.

Now coming over to the matter of on-screen morality, political correctness and appropriateness.

What you are showing on the screen depends on what you are talking about and it must. When storytellers mold their narrative to meet the moral standards of the audience or the critics, they cease to be storytellers in the first place.

You could reject it, criticize it, condemn it and even boycott it if you want to. However, calling for bans would be inappropriate in itself. But let us move on with the assumption that disagreements about on-screen morality do not take place at such a primitive level.

A motion picture is after all, just a motion picture and nothing more. It can be used for propaganda, but I would always prefer to see it used for art and entertainment.

I am not denying that the content and visuals and sound of the motion picture do not affect people. Indeed, they do which is the entire point of their exhibition in the first place.

However, it is up to the audience what they take home with them on watching a particular motion picture.

Depicting a torture scene loaded with racist slurs from a Nazi concentration camp could be seen as both sympathetic to the Jewish people and antisemitic.

If a person with sadistic tendencies who does not consider rape wrong and sees its depiction on screen, no matter how painful, then the chances are that person will take sexual pleasure in it. However, the same scene can affect another person to be moved by the portrayal of the trauma and pain and could develop sheer disgust and contempt for rape or anyone who commits it.

Shifting the onus to film and entertainment actually diverts attention from the responsibility of the educators. You cannot really expect every entertainment oriented medium to lecture people on morality all the time, whatever be the cause. That won’t happen because not only is it unrealistic and absurd, but too authoritarian in terms of moral policing.

Such films would be propaganda, not art. I know some directors try to do that all the time and I can’t begin to tell you how bad they make it look.

The trouble with our world is that it does not constitute of just good and considerate people. The darker side of humanity is far more apparent every other day than its empathetic one. It is a rather pessimistic way of looking at things, but ignoring it altogether would be idiotic actually. Besides, hardly any moral ideology is complete without an evil to fight.

Furthermore, if you believe in the correctness of your moral stance, then you should consider it strengthened by the depiction of its violation. A war movie could always be seen as anti-war, no matter how much it is glorified in it, especially if it is a realistic depiction. Movies depicting female objectification, rape and exploitation will always support the feminist argument, not otherwise. Films with racist dialogue would only prove how wrong and illogical racism is.

Someone finding inspiration from it to commit crimes would most certainly not have a problem with these evils in the first place.

Bad people do not need films to strengthen their wickedness. Good people need not be worried about the loss of their virtue by what is depicted on the screen.

I Dreamed of Coffee Last Night… Among Other Things

Source: mastibite.com

I dreamed of coffee last night… among other things.

Things like love and friends who I’d never ever reach again. And people who I’d never ever want to see again.

I dreamed of people who I know have never existed and never will and places which I’d give anything to go to.

All this was a product of a day without caffeine, or nicotine, or any other drug. Strangely. And a product of letting yourself loose and getting lost in uninterrupted sleep by quitting a day’s work completely and without any worries…

Though only to be interrupted by a call for work, not immediate though, 12 odd hours later.

I am amazed at the power of the sub-conscious. It is something where you’d want to live forever. It is also how you’d want to live forever.

I was revisiting Terry Gilliam‘s Brazil the other day and I could not help but notice how well it has captured (coffee) dreams. I know the film is a dystopian satire, but it maintains the sensitivity of the human fantasy very delicately with the stark contrast of the reality, the sum of which actually makes our reality. The real world, whatever it is.

I consider these couple of minutes, and the brilliant film itself, a great symbolic definition of humanity, or modern humanity, at least. Just like so many other art. While a lot of people may not want to see dream sequences and fantasy in film, which is fine by the way, I would give a lot of weight to them and consider them very important parts of the cinema.

Because they are very important parts of our lives.

Considering the importance of our sub-conscious in our lives, which makes it something like a refuge to turn to, away from the horrific and the not-so-horrific realities of our world. I think it is important to extend that refuge to cinema, and not necessarily to comfort ourselves, but to get disturbed even, for catharsis, and for… what the hell, just to get lost. As in, a drug.

Well I guess in the end, it is important to let art be and not to guide it with all kinds of moral and intellectual compasses.

But there is also no harm in expressing what you would want to see.

Oh yes, and I was out of coffee last night. But I made sure that I had ample supply today.

But I might try doing that all over again some other day.

The Life & Death of Rajesh Khanna

Source: movies.ndtv.com

Rajesh Khanna passed away on July 18, 2012 and somehow I was sensing it for quite a few months. And I know you don’t have to be a psychic for that, a lot of people had the same feeling as well. Everybody knew it was going to happen and everybody knew they would feel terrible about it, unless for some reason they either hated Rajesh Khanna or old Bollywood.

Speaking of people hating Rajesh Khanna, it was only a coincidence that the May 2012 issue of Stardust had republished an article dating May 1986 in their “Blast from the Past” section, reading “How Rajesh Khanna Tried to Molest a Newcomer” with the subheading of “A Star-Mother’s Cry of Anguish”. The article features explicit references of Rajesh Khanna’s attempts of molesting the then-newcomer actress Sabia and how Dimple Kapadia’s father detested him as a pervert.

While this would forever establish Rajesh Khanna as a typical male culprit in the eyes of many, I must confess that it only makes him more interesting and mysterious to a part of some of us. Without glorifying the alleged acts. Though not sure how trustworthy this gossipy magazine is. Also, It is worth noticing how Rajesh Khanna would have felt a couple of months before his death had he noticed this article himself. Why I am talking about this, I am not sure but just because this has brought forth to me a dark yet fascinating and mysterious side of a superstar who is a household name.

Source: Mid Day

I cannot really say if I have been a huge Rajesh Khanna fan, or one at all, but I had absolutely no choice on how much his films would influence my life, as would be the case with many of you, because I literally grew up watching them. I am a huge old Bollywood fan and it was the golden age of Bollywood when Rajesh Khanna reigned supreme as the undisputed superstar of the silverscreen, particularly the fascinating 70s. He had a haunting face, it disturbed me as a child, yet I could not tell if I loved it or hated it. It was impossible to ignore him.

Some of my most favorite Bollywood songs were from the movies of Rajesh Khanna and that is something which becomes a part of you forever and ever. It is just a matter of feeling it and it is just a matter of acknowledging it, or you could just choose to ignore it. I think the day of his death was a good occasion when at least I would consider it important to stop ignoring it. I must confess I have been thinking about the old man quite a lot over many months. How he must be living. What must be going through his mind. How his relation would have evolved with Dimple Kapadia after the separation.

I think Rajesh Khanna was an important actor, though I cannot say that he was a great actor, but an important one because he appeared in very important motion pictures such as “Anand”, “Amar Prem”, “Aradhana”, “Kati Patang” and “Mere Jeevan Saathi”. I am missing a lot in this list I know, especially the mention of his killer pair with one of my favorites Sharmila Tagore. However, this was a time when Bollywood still pursued somewhat intellectual subjects in its filmmaking in a subtle manner, confronting existential issues, reflecting on life and death and how humans coped with tragedies, much of which has been turned into monkey circus, especially in the last two decades of Bollywood.

I think Rajesh Khanna was an actor that marked the golden era of Bollywood, the end of which just saw the beginning of its monkey circus. This is why he is important and this is why he needs to be remembered, regardless of the fact that he must be overrated and perhaps not as skilled an actor as his worshiping fans may claim him to be, as some would like to point out. It does not matter, he achieved all that and at the end of the day, you cannot help but like him.

One of the reasons I am a Rajesh Khanna fan is the fact that Kishore Kumar, who is my all-time favorite singer, was always the voice behind his face on the screen. This is something that I simply cannot ignore. One of the greatest songs that touched me from his movie “Safar” was none other than “Zindagi Ka Safar”. I often wondered while listening to this song what Kishore Kumar would have felt while singing it and what Rajesh Khanna would have gone through filming it, and especially when he would have looked back at it after all the years that had passed.

Whatever those thoughts maybe, I simply cannot get this song out of my head ever since Rajesh Khanna’s demise.

Rest in Peace.

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August 24, 2012 – 1720 HRS

Update: Thanks to Roshni Mitra, a correction in the post. The film “Kora Kagaz” did not feature Rajesh Khanna. Thanks for pointing it out. Corrected.

Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures

Stanley Kubrick filming Barry Lyndon in 1975 (Source: Kubrick Estate)

Much has been written and said about the legendary American film director Stanley Kubrick but few records offer us a closer look into his life than Jan Harlan’s documentary Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures (2001).

The documentary covers Stanley Kubrick’s life from childhood to death, featuring rare footage, images and home videos from Kubrick’s infamous “archives”, and more importantly, all his pictures from Day of the Fight (1951) to Eyes Wide Shut (1999). It talks about his personality as well as his work, his aspirations, his fears, his accomplishments, his passion, his disappointments, his style of management and direction, his family, his home and his life, which to many had remained a mystery until his wife Christiane Kubrick and her brother, and the director of the documentary, Jan Harlan, started speaking about him publicly after his death in 1999.

The documentary tells the story of how Kubrick started making pictures, his humble beginnings as a photojournalist, his struggle to make a mark on the global cinema and interesting facts about the making of his pictures, such as how Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) was turned into a comedy, and particularly Spartacus (1960) in which Kubrick had little control as the director due to the influence of the star and the executive producer of the picture, Kirk Douglas, who had also appeared in Kubrick’s widely acclaimed (anti) war drama Paths of Glory (1957).

It is on this documentary that Malcolm McDowell reveals about his friendship with Kubrick that later turned into almost indifference from Kubrick as the filming of A Clockwork Orange (1971) was completed and Shelley Duvall talks about her experience with Kubrick during the filming of The Shining (1980), which was something she “would not want to go through again”.

Apart from McDowell and Duvall, the documentary features interviews from Steven Spielberg, Woody Allen, Martin ScorseseSydney PollackPeter Ustinov, Jack Nicholson, Arthur C. Clarke, Keir DulleaMatthew Modine, Adam Baldwin, James Earl Jones, Leon Vitali, Christiane Kubrick, Katharina Kubrick, Jan Harlan, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman.

To commemorate the 83rd birthday of Stanley Kubrick, and the tenth year of the release of A Life in Pictures, nothing is more fitting than revisiting the introduction of the documentary, which is probably the best tribute to Kubrick within a time span of 3 minutes. Fortunately, the documentary is available at youtube.

Poster for Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures (Source: Wikipedia)

The documentary starts with a montage of the adjectives printed by the press in the West about Stanley Kubrick and the kind of assumptions that were associated with him such as being a recluse, a megalomaniac, obsessive-compulsive and a perfectionist. Kubrick’s family perfectly explains how little the world know about the man and how incorrect were the labels associated with him by the press.

It is clear that the press made such assumptions about Kubrick because he refused to give any interviews and generally avoided talking to the press, except for the ones he trusted, and to some, they did it plainly out of bitterness. When he was asked to explain his pictures, and he was asked the question a lot for 2001: A Space Odyssey (1965) for its cryptic symbolism, he simply refused to do so by saying that you should let the pictures do the talking.

The documentary is loaded with images from Kubrick’s films, all of them assorted in one collection, which is one of the reasons why the documentary is such a delight to watch. What else has the life of a filmmaker to offer than images, and this is what motion pictures are all about. Maybe I have said this before, but if you want to know how great a film director is, see how easily you can recall the images from his or her films. Kubrick’s films have some of the most iconic, important, historic, unforgettable, memorable and haunting images that you could ever come across from any other director.

The documentary is an absolute treat to watch and a delight for a Kubrick fan, or for anyone who is interested in cinema and in Kubrick’s work. Whether you like his pictures or not, you simply would not be able to deny the fact that Stanley Kubrick’s films were some of the most important cinematic works in the 20th century and his milestone masterpieces set new artistic and technical standards in filmmaking.