Monday, August 14, 2017

The beautiful threads between Terrence Malick and Stanley Kubrick - Film Review TO THE WONDER


          Revered for his surreal cinematic storytelling, Terrence Malick is back (in just two years) with
his latest silver-screen offering “To the Wonder”. Famous for somewhat creating his own genre,
Malick’s latest stays true to its dramatic core and artistic value, magnificently exploring the theme of
love, with his organic style of visual imagery. The film begins in Paris and moves to Oklahoma with
our principal characters Niel (Ben Affleck) and Maria (Olga Kurylenko), as we engulf with them into
the innate purity of love, that we all experience at the threshold of becoming someone else’s, all the
way up till that confounding stage of diluted passion. Malick’s emphatic story telling makes us
undergo, accept and understand the loss of love, which is the central theme of this film. His style of
storytelling, which is profoundly detailed yet ambiguous, does complete justice to this cinematic love
letter called “To the Wonder”, which seems less like a “film” and more like a visual poetry.
           The film opens with flashes of landscapes rushing by a train window, as if subconsciously
preparing the audience for a journey, followed by broken images glorifying  innocence of two people
who are falling deeply in love. It is coupled with soft and dreamy dialogue, which seems as much a
part of the film’s narrative, as it seems to be your own thought process. This very style of visual story
telling by Malick is where his brilliance lies. The visuals and dialogues together make you empathise
and recollect the small details of life, finally making you nostalgic; as if you have, at some stage of
your life, thought and felt the same things, asked the same questions. It can be argued that
Malick prefers this style, to derive these very emotions from its viewers. The whole film is like an
urge. Its urges the audience to think and ask more frequently what they do ask, but seldom, to
appreciate  and understand how naturally people fall in love, how innocently they give in and how
they give up as well, with just as much ease. The couple takes a trip to Mont St. Michel, the island
abbey off the coast of Normandy, symbolising it as the monument of their love, the place where
their bonds deepened as they merged into each other and felt it’s wonder. To signify their bond,
waters at the shores of Normandy divinely become one with pristine and concave wet sand, and
leave us feeling complete. Our set up then moves to Oklahoma, where the landscape is starkly
different from Paris. It is sunny, projecting Maria’s happiness, but it gradually becomes empty, to
reflect her loneliness. It is the use of Malick’s extraordinary sense of visuals, delivered to perfection
by cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, that those very landscapes which emanated Maria’s
loneliness, also exemplify Jane’s (Rachel McAdams) “home”. Jane enters Niel’s life as a medium to
exemplify his fear of commitment. She comes with her own light and fight and gives Niel the love he
had lost with Maria. She has been very intelligently used to inspire Niel and make him understand himself. Oklahoma also introduces us to Father Quintana (Javier Bardem), a priest in search of god,
carrying the burden of doubting his own faith. He preaches those in need and brings solace to
criminals through his spirituality. Malick has not given him a specific plot, but has used him as a
poetic guide for the audience and for the characters.  He asks questions that everyone has asked,
and in doing so, he bizarrely gives direction to our thought process about Niel and Maria’s love that
is slipping away. He makes us accept that we may love with all our heart and yet somehow loose it
all. He makes us seek what he has been seeking, yet still, he makes us realise we can all figure it out.
The lack of passion and the deteriorating love can still be dealt with and can, in some way or the
other, still be fixed. It is amazing, how Malick has been able to achieve all of that without ever
directly mentioning it, just through an instrumental character. A small fact of life, that we lose
ourselves as we divulge into the  one we love has also been established to us through a sudden
character entry. Anna (Romina Mondello), Maria’s friend, suddenly enters and reminds her of how
free she used to be, she also reminds her of how passionate her love for Niel was and how it has all
changed now. She suddenly comes and opens Maria’s now closed heart. Anna does all this by not
pointing it out to her; that will never happen in a Terrence Malick movie. She simply runs with her,
throws away her bags, yells on the streets and tells her “Life's a dream. In dream you can't make
mistakes. In dream you can be whatever you want. The most intriguing fact about “To the Wonder”
however, is not it’s beautiful yet one of a kind narrative style, it’s dreamy cinematography or its
theme about the loss of love (they have been portrayed to perfection by the director); it is the sheer
way of portraying its actors as the characters. No where do you see Ben Affleck as the star himself,
he has been shown just as the character and nothing more. In fact, the beginning sequence of the
film does not even see much of his face clearly, as it has entirely been dedicated to how mesmerised
he is by Maria. Lubezki has managed to capture to perfection, the essence of lost souls that Malick
had penned down on paper. The visuals are abstract and dreamlike yet strong and impactful. Nature
has played its own character in the background in Lubeski’s shots. There is almost always a sun glare
in the film so keep the wonder alive. Almost every element makes its way in to the story and
augments the theme. The water that settled perfectly on the wet sand in the beginning, has
sometimes returned to become the distance between the two and sometimes the turmoil. Jane
carries the wind in her hair and brings a new freshness to Niel’s life . The use of light, or sometimes
the absence of it has been crucial in taking audience towards the place where Malick wants to see
them. Another element that keeps us entwined with the film is the melancholic music by Hanan
Townshend. It does total justice to the wonder of the film and acts like the soul of the story, so much
so that one may or may not register it, but it will always have an impact. For some, “To the Wonder”
may seem unfulfilling and over indulgent, and they may be justified. However, this film
does not follow any conventional rules of cinema. It is a purely cinematic endeavour to portray to
the world the most accepted and questioned, yet ignored truth about life; how and why do we loose
love. Malick has portrayed this raw emotion with profound ease, as if he has tasted it himself. So it is
only fair to say that many may not understand his un-conventional style of filming such deep and
layered emotions as the fundamental problems of life. Like Roger Ebert, said, “There will be many
who find "To the Wonder" elusive and too effervescent. They'll be dissatisfied by a film that would
rather evoke than supply. I understand that, and I think Terrence Malick does, too. But here he has
attempted to reach more deeply than that: to reach beneath the surface, and find the soul in need.”
          Terrence Malick has been often been compared to the genius of Stanley Kubrick, and though
there are stark differences between the two, there are even deeper similarities. Kubrick once said,
The screen is a magic medium. It has such power that it can retain interest as it conveys emotions
and moods that no other art form can hope to tackle.” His words fit so effortlessly with the celluloid
world created by Malick’s films. Although both the directors are famous for their mystics absence
from the media, it is not the only common factor between the two, also not the most significant
one either. While Kubrick had very tightly composed shots with a definitive camera movement,
always specifically lit and shot in the precise way only a passionate photographer’s mind could find
important, Malick’s shots are handheld, feathery and dreamlike, always maintaining an equilibrium
between his wondrous romance with life and the harmony of his story. And yet they both have the
same urge of dealing with deep layers of emotions that are so apparent in both their films.
Their films always raise questions so deep that they often go ignored. Not to mention their bold
styles. If Kubrick was bold in turning a the cold war scenario in to a comedy, Malick is bold in
breaking  all the conventional methods of storytelling and the hero’s journey. They are both
opposite in their  approaches, and yet fit in perfectly with each other. Malick’s previous work “Tree
of life” shows how  Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey inspired his thought process as a film maker.
Both the films take huge leaps in time and plot, asking questions about humanity and evolution,
seeking the purpose of it all and the cost we are paying for wanting more. While Kubrick is very
graphic in his style, Malick is more spiritual. They both have a metaphoric style of telling a story, no
matter how different their chosen subject matter and needless to say, their deeply layered yet
fundamental questions so effortlessly executed for screen. Another amazing resemblance between
the two film maker’s passion for telling their stories through the medium of film, is their well
justified obsession with detailing.  While Kubrick took various NASA lessons and conducted immense technical researches to create the precision of the Space Odyssey, Malick searched the country for that  grand oak tree for “Tree of Life” that justified his magnum-opus thought behind the script. In Lolita, Kubrick used leisurely paced scenes that compelled the viewers to mentally withdraw themselves from the high of  the moment and soak the entire gravity of the situation. Similarly, Malick does not let a moment pass juts by shifting a shot, but keeps it lingering long enough for the viewers to grasp the depth and importance of those emotions. Like Kubrick keeps his
cinematography character driven, whether it is through movement or lenses , Malick’s sense of 
cinematography is driven by the principal emotion. Suffice it to say that Malick has been inspired by 
Kubrick in deeper ways than visible and it shows brilliantly in his work.

          “To the Wonder” has beautifully made us face the often ignored reality about the loss of love
in our lives and owing to the surreal cinematic depiction of this almost metaphysical reality, where
characters are mere instruments of bringing it to the front, Malick has succeeded in his endeavour of
materialising these abstract values with full clarity. His characters, locations, camera movements,
music and theme are so profoundly intertwined, that they all seem to emanate from a bizarre Omni-
present reality that is ever present in the film, all behaving together as an entity in itself.  However,
its unconventional style may not fully satisfy a conventional viewer, it has its own set of followers,
yearning to come face to face with more such values through Malick’s vision. It is only perfect to end 
with another quote from Roger Ebert, "A more conventional film would have assigned a plot to
these characters and made their motivations more clear. Malick, who is surely one of the most
romantic and spiritual of filmmakers, appears almost naked here before his audience, a man not
able to conceal the depth of his vision."

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

फिर से तुलसी चखते हैं | (Poetic attempts to strengthen long broken bonds)

(Nirmal (निर्मल) was my Grandfather's name and Vidya (विद्या) was my Grandmother's. 
I am dedicating this poem to our carefree days of childhood that are not riddled with fake egos of adulthood. I have no shame in saying things are wrong. I hope these poems affect those who share the same hurdles in adult relationships. Families grow up with love and break with age. No one says it out loud. I do. Lets hope anyone feeling or going through the same phase figures it out. Lets hope this poem helps them.)

जिन सीढ़ियों पे आठ जोड़े पैर
उंगलियाँ नापा करते थे,
उन पर अब हमारे अहम की नज़र भी जाना ना चाहे |

छोटी छोटी उँगलियों से
जिन छतों पर हम बाजे बजाते,
उन्ही छतों से ऊँचे बड़े अब बैर हैं हमारे |

सफ़ेद से अक्षर काले खम्बों पे
लिखा करते थे,
अरे हम धुलने वाली साड़ियों से 
घर बुना करते थे |

तुलसी को चखते थे,
आंगन में झूलते;
नाली से निकली हुई गेंद को
मार मार के सुखाना ना भूलते |

उन्ही काले खम्बों में और कपड़ों के ढेर में;
टूटे पुराने झूले,
और न जाने कितनी सूखी गेंदों में;
नरमी हमारी अटक गयी है |

मासूम से थे हम,
अब जान कर अंजान है;
पर क्या करें हम,
की ये दूरी हमें खटक नहीं रही है |

ये क्यूँ खटक नहीं रही है?

बचपन में ही छोड़ दिया वो निर्मल मन और उसकी विद्या.
इस उम्र की जिद हमसे छूट नहीं रही है |
अब इस उम्र की जिद हमसे टूट नहीं रही है |

बिनती है तुम सबसे,
आपस के दरवाज़े खोलो |
उसी निर्मल मन से,
चालों मिल कर हाथ जोड़ो |
दिल से उसकी विद्या को याद करते हैं,
चलो उसी आँगन मे, 
फिर से तुलसी चखते हैं |

Friday, May 11, 2012

Dedicated to my Late Grand Father

जो तू होता आज यहाँ, 
तुझको "तू" न कहती मै |
इतनी दूर तू बैठा है,
तुझको माँ - सा याद करती मै |

एक उसे तू कहा,
एक तुझको तू कहती मै |
मिलता था तो "आप" कहती,
काश तब भी "तू" वाला  प्यार करती मै |

तेरे बिना घर घर नहीं लगता,
तेरे बच्चों को अब डर नहीं लगता |
जिन्हें खिलाता था तू दाल रोटी,
शायद भूल गए हैं सूरत तेरी |
बेटा बेटी पोता पोती,
सब भूल गए हैं सीरत तेरी |

अब तो लगता है जैसे,
एक तू ही आखरी बरगद था |
तेरे जैसा मन क्या,
तेरी आह जैसा कोई दिल ना रहा |
तेरी पूजा जैसा कोई मंदिर ना रहा,
तेरे घर जैसा कोई छत ना रहा |

गिन गिन कर दिन अब काट टी मै,
तेरी खातिर चुप रह जाती मै |
जो तू होता आज यहाँ,
सबको चुप कर जाती मै |
जो तू होता आज यहाँ, 
तुझको "तू" न कहती मै |

Sunday, July 24, 2011

जो भी हो सो हो ...

i frankly dont know why i am writing this note...i am not tagging any one...those who really want to...will read it any way..

first things first...this is not a review...although it might seem like one...i wont be scrambling the anatomy of the film's screenplay...the bottom line is that this film works...may be because it tells the truth...of how trapped we are...and how we cant let go...and how badly we want shows us the things we want to do but dont...quaintness we want to experience but cant...silences we want to touch but will not...

it has tought me a lot and justified my love for film making...the lingering feel it has left me with...makes me want to cut down allot of things from my bucket list...yes...i have always had one...i dont know where this note is going...but i just want to jot down some where about this after taste...its like drinking water...mountain water may be...but ZNMD stands tall because of what it shows (not how it shows) ...and may be someday...we all will break free of our shackels...may be ill start falling in love with myself...may be you will...with some one else...but the philosophy of living each matter how romantic it may a luxury of the "haves"...currently...i am a "have not"...but the main point is..

Jab jab dard ka baadal chaya

Jab ghum ka saya lehraya

Jab aansoo palkon tak aya

Jab yeh tanha dil ghabraya

Humne dil ko yeh samjhaya

…Dil aakhir tu kyun rota hai

Duniya mein yunhi hota hai

Yeh jo gehre sannate hain

Waqt ne sabko hi baante hain

Thoda ghum hai sabka qissa

Thodi dhoop hai sabka hissa

Aankh teri bekaar hi nam hai

Har pal ek naya mausam hai

Kyun tu aise pal khota hai

Dil aakhir tu kyun rota hai

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Reverence Vindicated

I have revered Filmfare ever since I knew about it. Correction. I had revered Filmfare. Ever since I understood the word “Career” I wanted to be a film maker; and hence I loved this award. I didn’t understand why Amir Khan had such a problem with them. I didn’t care. I loved Filmfare. But what took away my love for it? Ever since they created the Best Debutant Director award, I eyed it with lust. THAT would be mine to begin with. But last year, I decided that even if I get THAT, I won’t accept it. Here I was waiting for the Best Debutant Director award to go to Ayan Mukherjee for Wake up Sid, which he did get in the end. But alas, now I knew why Amir Khan didn’t attend Filmfare. At least I guessed it. The award had been divided into male and female categories. Ayan Mukherjee got the Best Debutant Director Male, and the Best Debutant Director Female Award went to Zoya Akhtar. Her family tree was a cause to be addressed later. What on earth was this Male-Female division? I mean what was next? Best Editor Male, Best Editor Female? Best Cinematographer Male, Best Cinematographer Female? You see what I mean? It was the most humiliating thing I had ever experienced. And even if there was a Male-Female division in this category, who deserved it more? Zoya Akhtar for Luck By Chance, or Nandita Das for Firaaq? And will this Award/Humiliation continue till Filmfare continues? Or was it just for this particular year, for Zoya Akhtar had directed her first film? I mean will this award even get enough nominees? It would be like winning a race where only you ran? Quite an irony, when the same year Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win the Oscar for Best Director (James Cameron was also nominated). All in all, my respect for Filmfare was gone.

But like I have always believed…things have a way of being heard. From this year on, I revere Tweeple Film Awards @twi_fi_awards. Awards of the tweeple, for the tweeple and by the tweeple. Thank the lord. Respect for the people who came up with it. We have hope. 26 most eminent critics of the country are already on the critics panel, and voting is on for the tweeple jury. But we need your support. We need some sense to prevail. We need the real art to be awarded and let the real artists prevail. We need to make ourselves heard, and we need to award the people who deserve it. Come and become a part of history.

Follow the awards on twitter @twi_fi_awards and vote. Let your voice be heard.

I am sorry if i look angry...if i seem means i am. Film making IS my blood and i do not want a disease. But lets start in good faith and good fun. Cheers! Bring in the laurels!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The World is Calling

31st August and 1st September became quite a discovery for me. A random Indian morning...a day full of accommodation and hopes what so ever in the system...bad roads, disregard of traffic rules, commonwealth screw up news, and many such things, which didn't quite make a difference any more.

The big end of the day, however, came as quite a revelation.

My Bua had been diagnosed with dengue and admitted in a hospital in the middle of the night and needed 4 B+ blood male donors between 19 to 50 years of age before 6am. The frantic search began. My parents went to the hospital to arrange. Meanwhile me and my sister (Bua's younger daughter) frantically called every one we could to come and donate. the hospital kept rejecting our donors on many counts and the clock kept ticking. i had, in between all this commotion, managed to tweet our urgent need and my number. honestly i didn't expect much out of it. what with it being the middle of the night and who would be kind enough to take the effort..that too on a twitter call.

But when every thing failed..twitter came to rescue. @ankitanks came all over from Rohini to Patparganj to donate blood. and he was the most compassionate person i had ever come across..just my age..22..ambitious...independent..and compassionate. it was so unreal..i found it hard to believe. but by morning...when all our donors had been rejected, and we had lost all phone rang. it was an sms by @itscreation. he msgd me the number of a service which provided us donors of any blood group we wanted. and it worked. we found another donor through it.

by sunrise. @ankitanks was here and he was fresh and bright. you can see him in the picture above, filling out the donor form. he sent his blood for testing by 7:45 and waited till 11:30 for the results. meanwhile my dad asked me about the status, and i said "the world is calling" ...all my tweeps were re tweeting my need, smsing me and calling me! @sparklinguy @kyrasinging2 and @itscreation kept calling me and helping me find donors and they did not rest until i told them that alas @ankitanks 's blood was the only blood that got accepted.

My buddy @waseembits who is also a doctor, n a twipal since real real long, called my sister and enquired about her health statistics and wished her well. He prays for her druing ramzaan.

Wow. what a world. complaining, as we go about our day, we one day do realize, that the goodness isn't yet dead. people are compassionate and human. people we need but do not a silent guardian. i for one am proud of my generation. my dad is now proud too. May be it was this positive vibe that my Bua started recovering that very day. as of now she is on 82k platelets count and hopefully will fully recover soon. i have no words to describe how moved i was that day. people tweeting and apologizing for not having B+ blood group..asking again and again how is she. i don't care how good a write up this post is...this story deserves to be told.

i am scared to death by a needle...but come what may, i am a healthy person and i am now going to come out and donate. here is to the lost, derailed, fun loving, tweeting generation, it is also a giving generation. cheers to us. go out and donate. i am sure it will be a wonderful experience.

Monday, July 19, 2010

कहानी ख़तम है..या शुरुआत होने को है.. सुबह नयी है ये.. या फिर रात होने को है .. (This is NOT a film review)

Some places become just more than places in your life…they become you. Udaan is one such film that takes you back to such places. It was almost a memory extracted right from my brain when I saw the first scene of kids sneaking out of their dormitory as soon as the warden disappears. I didn’t go to Bishop Cotton School like them…but I sure was a boarder of Bishop Westcott. It is one such place that becomes me. Well, I sure didn’t cross the wall to watch “Kaanti Shaah ke Angoor”…but I did know quite a few teachers who might have!

It is a different feeling all together when you leave the hostel gates with a one way gate passes. Especially when you look behind at your friends, you partners in crime, and those walls around which you framed yourself. Udaan is a film that shows us what we did, what they did, and what they told us not to do. We and they; all did the same things none the less. It, oh so beautifully, splits open our own head and shows us what we are, what we were and what we yearn to be. Dazed and confused to the world, the teen heart, the teen mind, but also the most beautifully naïve and fresh, the teen mind, the teen heart. The bravest, not corrupted with the knowledge of dangerous and safe. Yes, the bravest indeed. Age is foolish and forgetful when it under estimates the youth (by J.K. Rowling).

I am no one to judge how good or how bad the film was. But I sure know that no one can deny the raw reality behind this film. The reality being responsibility. The responsibility that the young are ever so frequently reminded of, but the responsibility rarely practiced by the imparters. What can a teacher teach me, who screws around behind his wife? How can a father make his son, a man; when he himself is spineless? I am just one of the lucky few, who have a perfect father. But it’s time that the ticker skin, disguising his tyranny and hypocrisy with age, power an experience realize, that rebellion is not just a fashion today…we are born with it. It’s the basic jungle rule. Self preservation. Survival. If the one who gives you his flesh and blood thinks he can own you, and disfigure you; you can any day be at the liberty of disowning him.

Frankly I have no idea of what I am writing…but I have personally seen fathers screwing around with other women and expecting it to be the mother’s fault when his boy smokes. It’s the most blatant form of blasphemy. Either you fix him or fix yourself. Either let him bind you or take your own flight. But do not become him. Never blame your faults to be his. Once again I must say, I am blessed to have a father like mine…and feel sorry for those who have not got a father figure in their father. Go ahead. Set yourself free….take your flight of success. UDAAN.