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We watched the Aparna Sen movie 'Mr. & Mrs. Iyer' yesterday on the idiot box. It was quite a nice movie, with a very good storyline, some brilliant performances from the cast, great camera work and obviously a well made one. However there were quite a few occasions when I had to wonder if there was a sudden low voltage/fluctuation because the screen went so dark, we had to really peer to see the actors. Some scenes were shot with almost no light, so that was kind of unnerving. Even though Mani Ratnam's movie "Bombay" handled a similar subject, the two movies are quite in contrast. Bombay was large scale and dealt with the riots of a city and how a family, and their dependents are caught in the madness. Mr. & Mrs. Iyer is smaller in scale and it deals with the lives of two people and how a single sentence by Meenakshi changes things, including her attitude towards Raja (or Jahangir). Mani Ratnam wasn't averse to gory scenes of violence and hatred. Aparna Sen focusses instead on the protagonists and this means the audience has to form its own imagery of the violence and emotions flying around, in the way we don't actually see the the old Muslim couple being killed. Instead the next day Raja finds the old man's false teeth and broken spectacles.
I think of late, very few filmmakers in India, care to make movies about things which happen around us or make statements, political or social, about various issues bothering Indians. We saw quite a few movies in the 1980s which were termed as "art" movies and were typically either watched by a crowd of 50-60 people in a 500 seater theatre or on Doordarshan at home. But the 1980s also saw sensitive, well-made mainstream movies like Masoom, Saagar as well as a plethora of social-comedies from Sai Paranjpe and Kundan Shah. Add in the mid-to-late 1970s comedies from Basu Chatterji and Hrishikesh Mukherjee and it's not difficult to see that it is possible to make good cinema and make a statement and make a reasonable amount of money as well! While cinema is meant to entertain, movie makers should be alive to a responsibility to put forth their views on various happenings as well, without overdramatizing things for the sake of cinema. Yes, profits would be difficult to make, but how many movies do make profits or run for even 75 days nowadays? Might as well make a sensitive, courageous movie about a topic close to heart, get plaudits and get the same returns as you would if you made a spectacular, big budget re-re-re-re-re-remake.
Even as Peter Jackson and his crew lorded over the rings and the Oscar awards, compere Billy Crystal had the audience in splits with his satire and comedy. I wonder if we're really as much of a democracy as we claim. I can't visualize an awards ceremony in India where the host launches a diatribe (or says it satirically) on say the government's policy against Pakistan or the Gujarat riots or the IIM fee cut by the HRD minister. I'm sure the pre-censoring would ensure that. The reason given would typically be that saying such things presented India in a bad light. Unfortunately this means the government is deluded into thinking that statements about the government translate into statements against India. Not quite, the government represents India, it is NOT India.
Noted writer (sociology & cricket, amongst others) Ramachandra Guha dabbles in mathematics by using transitivity to make a case for Rahul Dravid being amongst India's finest batsmen ever.
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