Saturday, January 29, 2011

Strange old/Brave new world

In the past fortnight, I had two very unique movie-watching experiences. I don't mean the actual films themselves - though both were very good - but the process of seeing them. The first was a screening of Ozu's I Was Born But..., which I'd been waiting for ever since I learned the Habitat was screening it (confession - it was my first Ozu). The catch was that it was completely silent, sans dialogue and even a recorded (or tacked-on) soundtrack. That may not sound like a big deal, but really, in Delhi, when are things ever that quiet? I went in praying that I wouldn't embarass myself by a) walking out or b) drifting off. Luckily, neither happened. I watched it through, and realised why everyone (or at least everyone who's seen his films) keeps on about about Ozu's profoundly democratic camera.

The second instance was unexpected, a Hindi movie (Dhobi Ghat) in a hall I'd visited dozens of times (Priya). The audience response was tepid, and I guess it wasn't that difficult movie to deride, if one was in that sort of mood (the structure is similar to ensemble films like Babel and Crash, nothing major happens in terms of a plot, and the whole thing is light to the touch, not something our films are known for). I loved it though, most of all for it's meloncholic tone - utterly different from both the Bolly mainstream and the indies being made now days - but also for the all-round strong performances, especially by Prateik and Monica Dogra, the sound of Kriti Malhotra's voice, Gustavo Santaolalla's music (the other element borrowed from from the films of Inarittu), moody and spare, perfectly matching the feel of the film. When it ended, though, it felt strangely incomplete. I realised a few seconds later that this was the first movie I'd seen in India which hadn't run with an interval. It took me back to what Karan Johar, of all people, said in an interview to Raja Sen of Rediff ( Still, props to Kiran Rao, it's a great film. And another Delhi director...

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