Monday, July 19, 2010

The most contagious and resilient...

This Saturday was definitely the luckiest Saturday of my life as far as watching movies goes. I managed to see two incredible movies of total genius and total dissimilarity in terms of subject; see it as all movies are meant to be watched, in two huge darkened cinema halls undisturbed by the world outside and with full concentration as I was without the luxury of having a pause & rewind button. In my opinion, its the only fair way to appreciate how good or how bad a movie really is. Even the largest TV screen size, highest quality LCD and the best home theatre sound system while relaxing in the most comfortable of Lazy Boy armchairs are nothing but a poor substitute for what is the magic of something appropriately called the BIG SCREEN. 

What seems a strange coincidence is the importance of the time period of 10 years to both the directors of both these movies. It took "Inception" director, Chris Nolan, 10 years to bring to a satisfactory conclusion to the idea which came into his head (incepted or otherwise :P) and make this brilliant movie. And it also took "Udaan" director Vikramaditya Motwane 10 long years to find a producer for his script. It was only rescued by close friend and fellow path-breaking filmmaker Anurag Kashyap. 

Taking up "Inception" and its beautiful concept of shared dreams, dream architects, totems first, there is no absolutely no denying the brilliance of Chris Nolan's ideas and their supernatural execution by him. The movie lived up to the reputation of the director who specializes in creating deep, dark brain-testing-and-eventually-brain-frazzling blockbusters like "Memento", "Insomnia", "The Prestige", "Batman begins" and "The Dark Knight". With Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead role, a certain minimum number of drooling, swooning female fans was a guarantee under any circumstances and so was a record breaking opening with all the money the studio had put into promoting the movie & ensuring a world wide opening. That the movie lived up to its hype is a matter of great credit to yet another powerhouse DiCaprio acting performance and the extreme film-making skills of Chris Nolan, but let's face it... after "Memento" & "The Dark Knight", even if Nolan had mucked it up, there would be the usual quota of Nolan/"The Matrix" fan-boys who would end up raving about it all over the Internet and channel at least a few hundred million dollars down Nolan's (or his studio's) pockets before anyone even realized that they were being ripped off. The reputation of the man precedes him and he surely has worked hard enough to deserve such a high pedestal. As I watched in crystal clear detail on an I-NOX screen, the spectacular dream worlds of Nolan's imagination, my thoughts wound back to my experience earlier in the day (in fact just a few hours earlier) about an altogether different setting for an altogether different movie.

I had stumbled my way through the dark of the Metro Cinema Hall, a few minutes late for the 15:00 hours show of "Udaan". None of the multiplexes were playing the movie so I had to buy tickets in one of the oldest stand-alone halls in the historic Esplanade area of Calcutta. No lighting in between the seats meant that I stepped on a lot of angry toes while getting to my seat and the sound quality & picture quality was such that I had to strain both my ears and my eyes to keep track of the story. But I am glad for that. Because in those couple of hours of rapt attention which I devoted to this movie, I was totally caught up in the story like the director would have wanted his audience to be caught. The stark, simple storyline of a 17 year old boy, expelled from boarding school trapped between his tyrannical yet concern-driven father's wishes, his own writing ambitions and the alternately funny & touching relationship that he shares with his little step-brother is not the stuff that song-and-dance candy floss Hindi romances or special effects loaded Hollywood summer releases are about, yet it jumps several levels above all those imaginary scenarios by virtue of its believability, a criteria rarely considered important in the world of movies. The spontaneous applause from the audience at the superbly choreographed climax of the movie, as our guy wins in that one race that mattered the most, was a timely reminder that when it comes to stirring human emotions, all you need is the talent to strum the right strings, not the loosening of the purse strings of some big-wig corporate studios. As I came out of the hall, I was happy as hell and watching the late night show of "Inception" threw further light onto why I was really so happy. 

Cobb in "Inception" famously (Come on, people, you know this dialogue will be part of cinema's golden dialogues) talks about an idea being the most contagious and resilient of all viruses. So it was that an idea came to Vikramaditya Motwane to make a coming-of-age movie, a tale of one guy's passion for writing and concessions to society without any "love angle", a concept unheard of in Hindi movies and indeed rarely seen in any foreign movie too. No heroine or no romance was definitely a no-go in the extra-sweet land of Shahrukh Khan and "Jab We Met". But the idea stayed on in his head, resilient, as Motwane assisted Sanjay Leela Bhansali on "Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam" and "Black" and established himself as a notable name in Bollywood through his script for "Dev D". Still no takers for his story though, a story based in the dry, featureless locales of steel town Jamshedpur (No scope for Swiss mountainsides or skimpily clad starlets here); a story about driving around in a Contessa round and round a traffic circle in the dead of the night with ordinary looking male buddies, somewhat drunk and laughing at things very ordinary (What? Still no heroine, broken romances, jeep blowing action and multi-starrer guest appearances? Is this even a movie?); a story of how the breaking point is reached and the hero takes flight, his revolt, his deliverance from a life of torture and subjugation (Yawn! Art movie stuff, you think? So just watch this movie... and come back to tell me that you were not moved by it). 

But an idea, as Cobb said, is contagious too. The idea infected Anurag Kashyap's mind and he decided to produce it. So we have it out now, the movie that could never been a movie if popular taste were to be taken into account; a slow paced, timed to perfection movie which seemed as out of sync with today's rushing  age as riding in steam engines. A slight nod from the Cannes jury and we have at least the art house public flocking towards it. This movie deserves both critical and popular acclaim. I am just hoping that the latter part does happen but the fact that the movie even exists is proof that no forces no matter how mighty can keep a beautiful idea out for ever, such is its resilience and longevity.

Touching upon another concept from "Inception", the concept of a shared dream. All those inside the dark confines of a cinema hall, are walking inside a shared dream, a creation of a team of human minds. The film-makers are the 'architects' of that dream, choosing to either create a world of alternate reality or one of stark realism as their wish may be, and the audience, the audience are just visitors but unlike in the movie, the all important ones. All the creations inside the dream may seem to be talking amongst themselves, but all they are doing is putting up a show just for the intruders. Like any other dreams, these shared dreams too have their categories - pleasant dreams, nightmares; ridiculous dreams, plausible dreams and all that flits through our mind when in that nether region of sleep. Not for nothing then, do film-makers also call themselves dream-makers. For in their shared dreams, we are thrilled to find patches of our own reality.


prateek said...

Watched Udaan. Beautiful. Loved the way Motwane portrayed life in Jamshedpur. More, because Jamshedpur could have been a Rourkela or a Kurukshetra.

Roy said...

@Prateek: Yeah, it could have been any small unknown unspectacular place on earth. A beautiful story beautifully filmed!