What makes us re-visit our favourite films?

 Fan of the movies or not, most of us can name a couple of films that we have watched many times and know that we will keep going back to them. Watching a new film asks for too much of  our attention to the images, the actors, the music and how all of it weaves in together. More often than not, I walk out of the theatre not knowing what exactly it was that made me so invested in the movie. What’s even more bizarre is that there have been times when I have had no particular fondness for a movie until it suddenly hits me after a couple of days how much the movie and its scenes have stayed with me. This happened with The Lunchbox. I watched the movie while on a break from rooted cinema and after months of watching junk cinema and series. I remember being restless throughout. After a couple of days, while stuck in mundane routine, I realised how I couldn’t stop getting flashes of the way Bombay was presented and then it dawned on me how beautifully the movie romanticised the boring and mundane. I keep going back to The Lunchbox every now and then. So what is it that makes us go back to our favourites? Is it always one thing, a genre, an actor, a director?

If you’re a particularly attentive movie viewer, it’s just easy on the brain to keep going back to what you already love. As much as you want to be blown away by new techniques of storytelling, a part of your mind wants to just enjoy the experience without nit picking, but that almost never happens. Inevitably, I find myself obsessing over what made me like the film and am drawn to articles, notions and opinions on the movie. What we re-watch is like our comfort food, we know we’ll be left satisfied the way we want to be and it’s still entertaining.

Many times, I have found myself longing to watch a film again because there’s that one scene that randomly started replaying in my head earlier that day. These are sometimes the most crucial scenes that the movie was building up to and sometimes just a moment that passes by. I have watched Masaan multiple times and most of the times it is to build up my emotions till Deepak’s break down scene and I have watched Piku for the smaller moments between the characters.

To further break it down, we feel like watching certain scenes because of the emotions that they infuse in us. Here’s the thing. Cinema is really images and sounds strung together. The movie as a whole provides you with an emotional closure and individual scenes viewed in isolation can not make you feel for them as strongly as the whole movie. This is what prevents me from fast-forwarding any movie. But I get it, re-watching just your favourite scenes is a short cut to reaching where you intended to, emotionally.

Actors are like the surface of a huge iceberg. What the actors do with their parts is mostly the first and sometimes even the only thing that stays with us. As viewers, most of us do not know enough about cinema to understand what goes on beneath the surface but a performance is something anyone can have an opinion about. Some like actors that disappear into their parts without a trace and some like the ones who bring their personal charm to every role. Hindi cinema thrives on creating aspirational characters and that makes so many of us watch and re-watch the movies of our stars.

I keep going back to Carol and I know that every time it has been to go back to Rooney Mara’s wonderfully delicate performance. Apart from being a fan of many different things about that movie, Rooney’s performance is singularly my favourite thing about it. There are however, also instances when an actor’s performance has had a profound impact on me despite not liking the movie. I have lost count now, of the number of times I have seen American Hustle. Not once was I able to feel strongly for the movie but each time I have found myself more in awe of Amy Adams’ performance. I keep revisiting it to catch her expressions in every possible long and close-up shot.

Like many other wonderful actors, Amy Adams tends to disappear into the part she plays, allowing us to be engrossed in her character’s story rather than her stardom. Yet, I go back to only some of her movies despite liking her work in almost anything that I have seen from her filmography. If we are so in awe of our actors and stars then why don’t we keep revisiting all their work? It’s because of the way cinema works. Audience may not fully understand what went into the staging of a scene but all those elements add to the tone of the scene or the movie and together attempt to leave us with strong emotions.

The distance of the lens from an actor, what the actors do, how the camera moves or stays, the background and staging, the colours that come alive, the faint or the loud music that kicks in and a million other such things come together to make us feel a certain way. Once our minds and hearts buy into the emotions that a scene or the movie is trying to convey, we will want to watch the film again. We will want to chase that feeling that the movie left us with the first time. Sometimes, only to realise that we have grown out if it and a lot of the times  we are left amazed at how we keep finding the emotions that we were chasing every time we revisit the film. Sometimes even discover other layers to it and after that it’s all about solving the mystery of how it was done!

What makes us re-visit our favourite films?

Why Hunterrr is an Important Film.

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There isn’t a dearth of films talking about sex and sexual relationships in Hindi cinema. What is appalling is the manner in which this subject is dealt with. Every second week we are served with sex comedies or erotic thrillers that revel in their double meaning,sexist and immature humor. In the backdrop of such films Hunterrr stands out and impresses.

As a society, rarely do we talk openly about intimacy or sexual appetite. Even in the most urban households parents are hesitant to educate their kids about sex, sex education provided in schools is either ridiculous or non-existent and among peers it boils down to just banter and humor. As a result, many of us don’t have an honest conversation about passion and desire even with ourselves for the longest time. I strongly believe that at any given time, cinema and society ape each other. This is the reason why there is a paucity of stories that deal with such subjects in a mature manner and present them as simply and casually as any other subject.

Our protagonist in Hunterrr, Mandar Ponkshe(played by Gulshan Devaiah) is an average looking, regular guy who just happens to have a higher appetite for sex. The film doesn’t give an explanation as to why he is the way he is, because it really isn’t required. He is not a porn star, or an addict and neither is he a poster boy who gets all the female attention. Mandar has to work to find a match for himself and with years of hard work  he has learned to score with ease. Quite simply put Hunterrr is nothing but Mandar’s love story.

All major and minor characters are very well written and played out. Each of them come across as people we meet and know in our own lives. The locations are real and the dialogues flow out as normal conversations. The film has an understated humor which adds to its strength. Coming to the performances, Gulshan Devaiah plays Mandar with utmost honesty and conviction. Sai Tamhankar shines as Jyotsna. She has a smaller role, fewer dialogues and most of her scenes are presented in a montage but her presence is felt vividly. Finally, its Radhika Apte as Tripti  who steals the show with her subtle yet powerful performance.  She makes viewers fall in love with Tripti. The role is not particularly challenging on paper but what Radhika brings to the character is worth experiencing. She and Gulshan manage to create a very pleasant chemistry from the word go.

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However, despite amazing performances there are times, especially in the second half of the film, when the writing stops engaging you the way it did in the beginning.  There are times when it feels almost exhausting to invest more time and emotions on Mandar. The climax of the film could’ve been better had it been presented in a much simpler way. Unnecessary cuts between real and alternate events add no value whatsoever. All this being said, Hunterrr should be watched for its mature and simplistic dealing of a subject that is grossly presented in Hindi films and of course for the kick-ass performances.

Why Hunterrr is an Important Film.

Firaaq

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Firaaq is a heart wrenching movie set one month after the Gujarat carnage of 2002. It captures the repercussions of the riots for people across different religious and economic boundaries. The film, as it asserts, is a work of fiction based on a thousand true stories. It is co-written and directed by Nandita Das. I have admired Nandita for her portrayal of strong and meaningful characters in Fire, Earth, I am and Bawandar but  it is her directorial venture Firaaq , that affected me the most.

Being politically correct is the last thing that this movie is concerned about. It does not shy away from pointing towards the participation of the state in the riots but at the same time  isn’t  about the blame-game. It quite simply states the facts and captures the aftermath. One of the distinctive and most impressive feature is that there is hardly any violence depicted in the movie, yet there is a lingering sense of fear. In the opening scene we see a graveyard where a truck drops off a load of bodies in front of the diggers, who cry helplessly as they bury them. This scene sets the tone for the rest of the movie. At one point a character says “Inssan, Insaan ko maar raha hai iss baat ka gham hai” and this is exactly what you feel throughout the movie.  The movie does not end on a hopeful note and does not want us to feel as if everything is going to be okay in the world again. Sadly, the movie finds its relevance even today.

The film cuts through different narratives and consists of a highly eminent ensemble cast. The gist of different story-lines is given below:

Arati and Sanjay (Deepti Naval and Paresh Rawal): Arati lives in the guilt of having denied shelter to a Muslim lady who came knocking at her door. Her guilt only increases on hearing about the slaughter of Muslim women through news channels. Ironically, her brother-in-law was involved in gang-raping of a Muslim woman and robbing stores and her husband is trying to prevent his arrest. I found this to be the most chilling story-line. We see Sanjay complaining about how media never adequately reports about Hindu deaths and defending his brother’s action by stating how can you dishonour someone who has no honour. He also asks his brother if he enjoyed “the taste of the fruit”.  Deepti Naval’s performance is my personal favourite in this film. She single handedly depicts the guilt of a large section of the society for being the silent spectator.

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Muneera and Hanif (Shahana Goswami and Nawazuddin Siddiqui):  Muneera and Hanif return to their home from their hiding only to find it ransacked and burnt. Hanif sets out to take revenge along with his friends while Muneera struggles to trust her friend Jyoti’s innocence.  The Muneera-Jyoti story line is extremely well written and played out very well by Shahana Goswami.

Khan Saab and His Servant(Naseeruddin Shah and Raghubir Yadav):  Khan saab is an elderly music teacher who is an optimist and is almost in denial of the gravitas of the current state of affairs while his servant keeps informing him about the mishaps.  Khaan saab realizes the magnitude of hatred perpetuated only when he comes to know about the overnight destruction of Wali Gujarati’s shrine. He accepts defeat to his servant and says  “sirf saath suron me itni kaabiliyat khaan ki aisi nafrat ka saamna kar sake

Anuradha Desai and Sameer Shaikh (Tisca Chopra and Sanjay Suri): Anuradha and Sameer are an inter-religious couple who decide to move out of Ahmedabad for a peaceful living. During a conversation with their friends Sameer opens up about the insecurities that he has to live with due to his religion and his anger at not being able to proudly proclaim his religion in public. I personally feel that this sub plot had a lot of potential but it couldn’t be tapped mostly due to weak dialogues.

Lastly there is the little kid Moshin who is orphaned during the riots and witnesses violence as his character cuts across the sub plots. In the end, we see Moshin stare  at us deeply after being robbed of his childhood innocence.

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Despite its few short comings Firaaq is an honest film that manages to hold a mirror to the impact of the carnage. It forces us to question the actions of our fellow citizens and deliberate about the times that we live in and the society that we are leaving behind for the future generations. The film consists of some exceptional performances and manages to trigger all the emotions that it aimed to.  As we debate about tolerance even today this movie reminds us about the most heinous acts carried out due to intolerance in the past.

This movie is freely available on Youtube!

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Piku

I remember watching the trailer of Piku the day it was out and almost instantly decided to catch it on the first day of its release. It was mainly because Mr. Bachchan’s character seemed hilarious, Deepika looked stunning as usual, there was Irrfan, the director had made Vicky Donor and the trailer sent out a very fresh vibe. I had a few friends asking me if I was sure I wanted to watch a movie which would be about shit! I dragged them along with me to the theater and even I had no idea what I was about to experience for the next two hours.

As of today, I have watched Piku over five times and I know I’ll watch it a number of times in the coming years. I still can not get over the simplicity of this movie. The film doesn’t have a start or an end to a story, rather it presents to us life, as it is, and regular discussions. Sure there have been movies like Before Sunrise and its sequels that are largely based on conversation between the protagonists, but Piku is still different. This film is not about profound and romantic conversations but rather about the mundane discussions and still manages to be hilarious and witty!

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The Dialogues:

The dialogues flow out effortlessly throughout the film. The language is simple and the humour never goes over the top. To mention a few crispy dialogues, there is a scene where Piku tells Bhashkor “Din me ek baar potty nahi hua toh you don’t have to do taandav.” and another one where Rana yells at  Bhashkor “Kuch baatien kaan ke andar nahi padegi toh pralay thodi aajayegi.”  These had me in splits.

The  Relationships:

The film portrays the father-daughter relationship so beautifully, be it the arguments or the love and concern, that it almost captured the essence of the bond I share with my dad. The Piku-Rana relation is a realistic depiction of how people flirt as they start getting to know each other. There isn’t a touch yet the chemistry is infectious. It is wonderful how Deepika and Irrfan manage to build it up just by expressions. The party at Champa Kunj(the Kolkata home) when they barely manage to keep their eyes off of each other is amongst my favourite scenes in the movie.

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I love the way the hints are dropped here and there about the relation between different characters, like about how Piku and Syed are more than just friends or how Chhobi mashi and kaaki don’t get along well.

The Performances:

Amitabh Bachchan’s performance is nothing short of perfection. His comic timing is spot-on and so is his accent as a Bengali. Irrfan Khan is effortless as always. He is not so much acting as he is being the character. Deepika doesn’t go out of rhythm even for a second . Her performance is my favourite in the film. Her eyes express anger, arrogance, concern and attraction as and when required. I just loved the scene when Deepika sits on Bhashkor’s bed and quietly weeps. No melodrama here. Moushumi Chatterjee is hilarious as Chhobi mashi and I also enjoyed the performance of actors portraying Budhan and Nabendu.

The Music:

As the opening credits  roll out, a soft Sarod score is played and the film had every bit of my attention since then. This score is used often in the background and also at the very end and its just beautiful. The background music also consists of a classical song during  the Banaras sequence and two joyous Bengali songs all of which add to the mood of the scene. The album consists of fresh tracks and what is even more amazing is how they blend with the scenes. Bezubaan is my personal favourite and I also love Shreya Ghoshal’s work in The Journey Song.  I hope Anupam Roy composes more for Hindi films in the future.

All in All:

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Piku is a film that has urban Indian culture at its heart. It gives out a warm message without being too preachy. It reminded me of  Hrishikesh Mukherjee films that were based on simple and realistic characters and story. Its gonna take me a while to get over this one.

Picture Credits: https://twitter.com/PikuTheFilm/media

 

 

 

 

Piku