Let the movies be! Curtailing artistic freedom is not the answer to the world’s ills
‘Does watching violent movies inspire violence in the real world?”
Most of us seem to think that crazy people will find something or the other to inspire them to acts of violence. I chose that option over ‘yes’ and ‘no’ but I don’t really think it is as simple as that.
There is a complex web of cause and effect in this world of ours, so much so that the dog is eating its own tail at times and at others, several dogs are eating several tails, but no one knows which is whose tail! Sounds complicated? Forget it. Let me come to the point.
Films do contain violence. In some cases, it reflects the violence in the real world. At other times, violence is used as a tool to drive home a point important to the film’s plot. It is hard to make a judgement on how much violence is appropriate.
In India, where I live, the depiction of violence in cinema has been an issue of much debate and crime and violence in general are a growing concern. Yet, some recent Indian films have opted to depict violence for specific purposes. For instance, the violence and the matter-of-fact tone in which it was used in the 2-part film ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ by Anurag Kashyap effectively conveyed to the viewer the geographical, social and historical context in which the film was set. This was important because Kashyap envisaged the consumer of the film to be largely urban, whereas the story was set in a specific period of history in a lesser known mofussil town.
As an urban audience, I found the violence justified and appealing in the context of this film, but many I know disagreed profoundly with the constant violence depicted. In a nation of largely young people, they argued, where movies captured the imagination of the youth to the extent that they lead double lives of reality and fantasy via films, films can be used to justify or even enhance the status of violence! This is like saying porn makes people sex hungry, or showing good food in films makes people eat more and become obese, and so on and so forth.
Films have emerged as a rich source of entertainment as well as information in the modern world. In our present culture, we turn to the movies not just to pass our time, but also to understand a situation better or to simply gain a unique insight. We appreciate the quirkiness of certain films and the thoroughness of others. Most of the time, we understand that what we are seeing is an artistic work to be viewed as just that. But not always, argue those who believe in the idea that controlling content is the way forward, and I agree that a nature bunch of consumers would be an ideal situation. Too ideal, perhaps?
Like any other medium of art, cinema will elicit a variety of reactions and indeed, that is the very purpose of its creation. For that matter, many other forms of art- photographs, paintings, drama, dance, music- can express violence too. Would we consider they too incite violent thoughts or behavior? Answering this in the affirmative would only imply a massive curtailment of artistic freedom, with disastrous consequences. Instead, I would say, bring on the variety. Let’s consume more of all types of artistic expression, talk, debate, enjoy and let people self select the wheat from the chaff!
Leave your brains home and laugh away! Chashme Baddoor
I’m not impressed by remakes, as a rule. But it’s hard to resist a classic David Dhawan movie, no matter how intellectual you think you are (jokes on me people!)….
I went in to see Chashme Baddoor with low expectations. After all, how excited can anyone be about a bunch of first timers or losers (had a fairly low opinion of Ali Zafar, for instance, and detested his chocolate boy looks)! I was in for a surprise, though.
The film is pure slapstick, rather predictable and loud, but it keeps the viewer engaged. The events unfold at breakneck speed and crafty dialogue keeps the laughs coming. It treads that oh-so-thin line between vulgarity and hilarity rather well, despite Siddharth’s best attempts at putting us off by jiggling his man boobs at the slightest provication. Newcomer Divyendu Sharma, whose character is modeled on Ravi Baswani in the original, was rather good. Ali Zafar redeemed himself slightly and watching him deliver some punchy lines and improve his comic timing convinces me once again of David Dhawan’s sheer talent as a director of comic films. Tapsee Pannu, who plays the female lead, pitched in and the talented Rishi Kapoor and Lilette Dubey did a great job of providing the balance to what would otherwise have been rather over-the-top! However, I’m glad Dhawan had the sense to recognize that Lilette and not Tapsee is far more deserving of Deepti Naval’s role!
What made the film work was good dialogue and superb direction. What didn’t work was the terrible music, the ’80s dance sequences (they really could have spent money on a choreographer) and the super quirky wardrobes worn by all of the male characters. Siddharth wore pink shorts and purple t-shirt in one scene and I was thinking….oh boy, is this what it takes to get us to laugh?
Anyway, it made for many laughs. I digested all the popcorn I ate. All in a night’s work!
Nail on the head! English Vinglish and life’s bittersweet truths- Oct 5, 2012
For those of us who grew up admiring the versatility of Sridevi, English Vinglish does not disappoint. Of course, she shows her mettle as a fine actor, her only weakness, the quivering voice with poor dialogue delivery, actually becoming a strength in this story of her search for identity and sense of achievement in a world that runs her down for being unable to speak English, a world that judges her and puts her down while barely appreciating her talents. What is particularly hurtful here is that while the outside world is accepting, her own family is constantly critical, making her an object of ridicule and hurting her self esteem.
The script, however, is the undoubted star in the film. With repeated pungent jabs, the dialogue and situations expose uncomfortable truths of India’s rapidly urbanising society, of changing family values and the undeniable importance of self-esteem, self-preservation and self-love.
Over the last few days, an email conversation has been carrying on among our group of girl friends from college days. And a lot of it has been about how hard it is to find yourself in the flurry of activities and commitments that life becomes. No matter how loving and supporting out husbands, and most us have married men we knew and sort of understood before we took the vows, we women feel cornered into roles that demand selfless devotion to our home and family, while as intelligent and educated individuals, we crave active and satisfying work lives as well. Equality is something even we emancipated women work towards constantly. With all due credit to our spouses!
The movie brilliantly illustrates that it is easy to slot people into roles that we find convenient. We stubbornly cling to preconceived perceptions. And how much it hurts when your family and close friends are judgemental about you, we’ve all experienced that sometime in our lives. I know I live with expectations of financial security and protection from my spouse, while love and respect should be my focus, for instance.
Equality is a dream because we are born to believe that the world thrives on inequality. To be in an equal relationship, it is vital to see everything from the other persons perspective before forming opinions or expectations. And women need to take on that challenge just as much as men do.
Is this possible? Are we not already too conditioned by society to be able to do that when we enter a relationship like marriage? Or can we unshackle ourselves from these burdens somehow and take a simpler view of relationships and life?
English Vinglish sends out simple messages that address complex problems. We need to help each other in times of trouble. Appreciation, sensitivity, positivity, respect, being non judgemental, trying to communicate, expressing love and concern. These are the simple building blocks on which relationships are built. We need to remind ourselves everyday that envy, competitiveness, hurtfulness and revenge have no place in a mature relationship. Not everything can be resolved with a candid conversation. Many a time, clarity in our head as an individual and making positive behavioural changes and above all, helping ourselves rather than waiting to be helped, can take us forward when all else seems lost.
Animation ain’t always for kids: Madagascar 3 day- June 16, 2012
The highlight of today was the ambitious expedition to watch Madagascar 3. Many kids, a few parents and a fair showing of grandparents.
3D effects aside, the film didn’t quite do justice to the endearing characters of Alex, King Julian and the gang. I was disappointed frankly.
Udai was excited but the funny lines dried up in the first half. The second half was flat and mainly showcased special effects. Aadyaa’s gang was completely lost. English is tough on young kids, especially with the heavy accents! Frankly, the dialogues were written by adults for grown ups. Yet another animation film that’s pitched at adults more than for children. Sadly for kids, this is the general trend.
Anyhow, it was a fun outing. Bubble gum flavoured ice cream made up for the trauma of watching cavorting animals through 3D glasses! Here’s the gang ready to head back home. For us, we were only happy to escape Fun City, the noisy mindless madness of rides and shiny video games that unfailingly gives me a headache.
Set in a bygone era, The Artist is really about contemporary issues like tackling obsolescence and remaining competitive- March 1, 2012
Watched The Artist last night. The film is a Guru Dutt-esque visual treat in black and white, each frame carefully constructed. A simple story beautifully told, it captures a bygone era when life was simpler.
It is easy to identify with the feelings of a great artist, someone used to being the darling of his fans, constantly in the limelight, fallen on bad times. What makes it interesting, in this case, and relevant to us in modern times, is that this downfall is a direct fallout of a new technology.
As talkies are invented and gain popularity, the silent film loses its appeal. George Valentin, played by Jean Dujardin, is too proud to make the transition. He insists on holding on to the old technique and loses his money in a failed self-produced silent film. The Great Depression hits and he becomes a pauper. Peppy Miller (played by Bérénice Bejo) who Valentin had once patronized when she was an extra, goes on to become the new star of the talking movies. In love with Valentin, she continues to look out for him, rescuing him from near death. Valentin’s ego and pride stop him from accepting her help and he continues to fall into a spiral of self loathing and pity. Ultimately, Peppy innovates him as a dancing star, and brings him back into the limelight.
The real reason for Valentin’s downfall, however, is not his pride, but his complete lack of self-confidence in a changing environment. He is good at what he does, the best in fact, and he cannot fathom the idea of acquiring new skills, changing methods and indeed, working hard, to remain competitive. This is the topmost challenge we face today. Individuals and corporations must adapt and reinvent themselves to stay ahead in the game, or opt out. The Artist reminds us to keep our pride in check, always be sensitive to change, keep abreast of new developments and have the right attitude towards learning, even at times from peers and juniors. Quite a lesson!