Good Night Good Morning

Love, heartbreak & a phone call…

Good Night Good Morning; Source: Wikipedia

“I used to believe in love or Santa, but then you grow up…” says Moira. “What’s Christmas without Santa?” asks Turiya. Sudhish Kamath’s (director, producer) Good Night Good Morning is not your usual film but is more like a piece of conversation you become a part of; except you stay silent and just watch the lead pair talk. It is romantic, heart breaking, funny and a refreshingly entertaining film that reminds you of Richard Linklater’s beautiful films, Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. Despite the plot similarity, where two perfect strangers start talking and fall in love, Kamath’s film is quite different in treatment.

Good Night Good Morning (GNGM) is smartly written (Kamath & Shilpa Rathnam) and holds your attention through its eighty-one minute run time. The starkness of black and white frames, the split screens and the wonderful use of music make the film even more interesting and engaging. It opens with the shots of New Year’s Eve celebrations in Times Square, New York and quickly moves to the setting that stays throughout – a hotel room with a single woman in transit and four drunken men driving from NYC to Philadelphia. The rest of the film follows the all-night phone conversation between the girl, Moira and one of the four guys, Turiya. In a film that only has two people talking, you require actors who can make it look effortless and GNGM’s stars, Seema Rahmani and Manu Narayan excel in their parts.

Coming back to the clever writing, GNGM delves into many issues and questions that plague modern relationships; some in a serious way and some in a light-hearted manner. If you’ve ever fallen in love or have been in a relationship, you’re bound to find something personal there.

Not the usual Bollywood or even Hollywood fare, GNGM is an excellent film that transcends boundaries and is truly international cinema; kudos to PVR Director’s Rare, for giving it a mainstream release in January this year. The film is no longer running in the theatres but you can watch it on DVD; it is available at leading stores and online.

– Shrey Khetarpal

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Teen Kanya | Tagore Stories on Film

DVD Recommendation and Film Review

Satyajit Ray’s Teen Kanya

Around a hundred films have been made in different languages on Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore’s literary work. The sad part is that a lot of films are either lost or their prints are in a rundown state; in addition there is low awareness around these cinematic gems amongst the movie-goers today. Thankfully, NFDC (National Film Development Corporation) is working towards the restoration of these films. On the occasion of Tagore’s 150th birth anniversary, NFDC in association with the Government of India has launched a collectors’ edition, DVD box set of films based on his work.  The audio-video is digitally restored and the six DVDs are packed in an attractive box set with an informative booklet on Gurudev’s work. Priced at only Rs. 399, it is available at all leading music/video stores and online stores such as Flipkart (which also has a discount).

Teen Kanya - The Postmaster; Reliance Big Entertainment

The pack contains five movies and two documentaries made by filmmakers like Satyajit Ray, Tapan Shah, Hemen Gupta and Kumar Shahani. The films are in Bengali or Hindi and come with English subtitles. I confess that I was equally ignorant of these treasures but now I am a proud owner of this commemorative set; and plan to watch a lot more movies based on Tagore’s stories and the filmmakers featured.

The first film I watched from the set is Satyajit Ray’s ‘Teen Kanya’ (Three Daughters)…

Released in 1961, this Bengali film has three of Tagore’s stories presented as three different short films in one. Interestingly, Ray made this film as a tribute to mark Tagore’s birth centenary. In all three stories, female characters are in focus and the director beautifully portrays their emotions on-screen.

The first story, The Post Master, is about a young orphan girl of about 8-10 years, Ratan (Chandana Banerjee), who works as a maid in the village postmaster’s house. Her new master is a young man from Calcutta, Nandalal (Anil Chatterjee) who misses the hustle-bustle of city life and his family back home. Unlike her previous masters, Nandalal is kind to Ratan and starts teaching her Bengali so that she can read and write like his own sister in Calcutta. The film has very few dialogues and silence works well for the simple narrative. The final sequence is heart-breaking and enhances the beauty of this simple story.

Teen Kanya - Samapti; Reliance Big Entertainment

Monihara (The Lost Jewels) is the second story in the film and is a psychological thriller. Manimalika (Kanika Majumdar) is married to a rich man Phanibhusan (Kali Banerjee) and stays in a large mansion in a village. Bored at home, her only companions are her pieces of jewelry. She loves her jewels more than anything and her obsession with them becomes visible when her husband faces financial crisis. This part of the film reminded me of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and Rebecca with the narrative style and the whole set up, including stuffed birds!

Samapti (The Conclusion), the third piece in the film is a love story. Mrinmoyee (Aparna Dasgupta) is a carefree young girl, who as per her mother does nothing what good girls of marriageable age should do. She spends her time playing with kids, chasing squirrels and enjoying the swing next to the river. She catches the attention of Amulya (Soumitra Chatterjee), a young man who is returning to his village after taking his exams in Calcutta. His mother has already found a suitable match for him but he convinces her to arrange an alliance with Mrinmoyee. The film captures the innocence of a young married couple who are different from each other and one of them does not even understand the meaning of marriage or love.

Teen Kanya - Samapti; Reliance Big Entertainment

Teen Kanya presents three different films in one and all are masterpieces in their own genre. My favourite is The Postmaster followed by Samapti and then Monihara. Other films in the set include Khudito Pashan aka Hungry Stones (1960, Bengali) directed by Tapan Sinha; Kabuliwala (1961, Hindi) directed by Hemen Gupta; Ghare Baire aka Home and the World (1984, Bengali) directed by Satyajit Ray and Char Adhyay aka Four Chapters (1997, Hindi) directed by Kumar Shahani. There are two documentaries in the set also including Natir Puja (1932, Silent) directed by Tagore himself and Rabindranath Tagore (1961, English), a dramatized documentary on Gurudev’s life, directed by Ray again. Click here to read more about all these films and get hold of your own set soon.

Dhobi Ghat


Well Done Prateik…

Dhobi Ghat; Aamir Khan Productions

Kiran Rao’s directorial debut, Dhobi Ghat is an interesting film that doesn’t quite fit into any Bollywood genre. It is shot beautifully and is all about the mood it creates. It doesn’t have a concrete story to tell and doesn’t have a point to make… that’s the USP of the film as it invites you to relax and just soak in the atmosphere on-screen. Having said that, you need patience with the film as it moves at a leisurely pace, despite its short run-time (95 minutes).

Dhobi Ghat is about Mumbai and people from different walks of life who make up the city. Through an interesting narrative, the writer-director connects the four principal characters and their lives. Arun (Aamir Khan) is a reclusive artist who discovers an unlikely muse in Yasmin (Kriti Malhotra), a newly married girl who is adjusting to the city and misses her previous life. Shai (Monica Dogra) is an Indian-American banker on sabbatical who wants to explore the city and its people through her camera; she finds Munna (Prateik Babbar), a dhobi (washer-man) by the day, a rat exterminator by the night and an aspiring actor, to be her guide.

While Aamir is good as usual, the other young actors get more prominence in the film and deliver fine performances. Prateik as Munna is the highlight of the film as you instantly connect with him and his sincerity. A well written character, enacted with ease by Prateik, you relate to Munna’s hopes, dreams and disappointments. The other heroes of the film are its background score and camerawork. Oscar winner, Gustavo Alfredo Santaolalla (Babel, Brokeback Mountain) has created a beautiful soundtrack that helps create the film’s mood with Tushar Kanti Ray’s visuals of rain-drenched Mumbai.

Dhobi Ghat is a nice experiment and thanks to the aggressive promotion is getting in the audiences too. Success of a film like this will certainly encourage other filmmakers to try different genres. However, is it a film that blows your mind? I’d say no; not because it’s not well-made but because it doesn’t seem that it intends to do that. The film sets the mood, there are some sequences that go straight for your heart but overall it stays a bit cold. It is a nice film that is worth watching for its treatment and Prateik Babbar but do not expect something extraordinary.

My rating: * * * Three stars on five

 

Udaan

Fly High…

Pic: UTV Spotboy; Source: Wikipedia

There are a very few films that stay on your mind for hours, days and even more after you’ve watched them… Debutant director, Vikramaditya Motwane’s Udaan is one such film. Its beauty is in its simplicity and honesty that touches your heart. Udaan wins in each and every aspect but the real winner is the story/screenplay (credit shared by Motwane and the film’s producer, Anurag Kashyap). It is a coming-of-age film, a genre rarely touched upon by Indian filmmakers; a couple of good ones I remember are Wake Up Sid (2009) starring Ranbir Kapoor and Saaheb (1985) starring Anil Kapoor. Udaan was also screened at the Cannes Film Festival this year under the Un Certain Regard category, which is how it got noticed in India and am glad it opened well in cinemas this week.

Udaan is the story of a 17-year-old motherless boy, Rohan (Rajat Barmecha), his dreams and aspirations. The film opens in a boarding school in Simla where Rohan has spent 8 years without anyone visiting him. His friends are his family and the initial few scenes of him breaking school rules with his friends involve you instantly in the story as you connect with Rohan and his friend Muninder (Manjot Singh of Oye Lucky Lucky Oye fame). Rohan is made to return to his father, Bhairav Singh (Ronit Roy) in the industrial town of Jamshedpur. Life changes for Rohan from this point onwards as his dreams of becoming a writer are shot down by his authoritarian father who prefers being addressed as Sir. He is forced to attend an engineering college and work in his father’s steel factory. In Jamshedpur, he also meets his younger step-brother, Arjun (Aayan Boradia) whose existence was not known to him earlier. An abusive relationship with his father, hardships at work and distance from his friends do not limit Rohan’s imagination as he struggles to find his way to break free.

Rajat Barmecha makes a brilliant debut in the film as he brings alive the vulnerability, the hatred, the spirit and the dreams of Rohan’s character on-screen. The little kid, Aayan Boradia is also very good and is able to emote well in all his silent sequences. Hats off to Ronit Roy for taking up a complex character like Bhairav, who you end up hating and also feel sorry for. The casting is perfect (Jogi) and so is the setting (production designer – Aditya Kanwar) that suits the mood of the film. The director is able to bring alive the thinking of a frustrated business man from a small town and contrast it well with a free-spirited youngster. The scenes between Rohan and Bhairav are tense and disturbing at times; imagine a drunken father slapping his son and ridiculing him for being a virgin; he says, “Sex kiye ho… nahin! Ladki saala!” (Have you had sex… no! What a wimp). But mind you, Udaan is not depressing; it is anything but that; it is a film about the triumph of spirit.

Technically also, Udaan is perfect with good cinematography (Mahendra J Shetty) that captures the changing moods through the rains and fine editing (Dipika Kalra). Amit Trivedi’s music is also beautiful, not as popular as his Dev D but a really good soundtrack. Sample these motivating lyrics (Amitabh Bhattacharya) that sum up the film… ‘kahaani khatm hai, ya shuruaat hone ko hai…’ (Is the story coming to an end or is it the beginning…) Go watch Udaan, you won’t regret it…

My rating: * * * * ½ Four and a half stars on five

– Shrey Khetarpal