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“Qissa”… A chilling tale about what it’s like to be in a limbo

Spoilers ahead… The Partition saga Qissa (in Punjabi) is ostensibly about a woman who’s brought up as a man, but the film isn’t about gender identity at all. At least, not in the way we talk about it in these LGBTQ times. The director Anup Singh is after something looser, vaguer. His entire film seems […]

“Shamitabh”… Mostly good, madly inventive, and then there’s that ending

Spoilers ahead… R Balki was put on earth for two reasons. One, to provide exciting projects for Ilayaraja and ensure that the maestro doesn’t languish in the south. Two, to provide exciting projects for Amitabh Bachchan and ensure that the superstar doesn’t languish in the shadow of his super-image. About the latter, first. When it […]

Apples, oranges, and a lot of stale cheese

If you want to know what was wrong with this year’s Oscar telecast, just Google up “2013 Tony Awards: Neil Patrick Harris Opening Number HD.” Now that is a show. There’s singing. There’s dancing. There’s acrobatics. He leaps through a hoop. And there’s magic – literal magic. Harris steps into a box on stage and […]

“Yennai Arindhaal”… A first-rate Ajith movie

Spoilers ahead… Before we begin to discuss Yennai Arindhaal as a Gautham Vasudev Menon film, we need to discuss it as an Ajith film – because he’s the elephant and you can’t get a proper look at the rest of the room without regarding him first. On the surface, this is very much a mass-hero […]

“MSG The Messenger of God”… You’re going to need God-given strength for this one

Spoilers ahead… As I was stepping out of a screening of MSG: The Messenger of God – as opposed to, you know, MSG: Do You Really Need It In Your Kitchen? – a man who was in the audience came up and asked how I’d liked the movie. I’d have told him the truth, but […]

“Anegan”… A great plot and nothing else

Spoilers ahead… One thing we have to say about KV Anand: the man believes in spinning a yarn. At purely the plot level, Anegan is something of a pulp masterpiece. It may have to do with reincarnation. It may not. Because if it’s really reincarnation, then why does Madhumitha (Amyra Dastur) treat it so casually, […]

“Thamizhukku Enn Ondrai Azhuthavum”… Less thriller than comedy, but some big laughs

Spoilers ahead… The opening minutes of the intriguingly titled Thamizhukku Enn Ondrai Azhuthavum hint at one of those films that’s so out of the box that the box is here and the film is on the moon. While our big-name filmmakers refuse to budge from formula, we look towards newcomers to take us someplace… well, […]

“Roy”… A very slow trudge to nowhere

Spoilers ahead… If you wandered into a multiplex and wanted to locate the screen on which Roy is playing, just head towards the discreet coughing. That would be the audience, after two-and-a-half hours of incessant second-hand smoking. Kabir (Arjun Rampal), Roy (Ranbir Kapoor) and assorted supporting characters are rarely seen without a cigarette (or a […]

Berlin Diary: Ice cream, cheesecake…

All good things, including film festivals, must come to an end. Midway through the festival, I decided I hadn’t seen much Asian cinema. I missed Nagesh Kukunoor’s Dhanak, thinking that I’ll get to see it back home anyway. (A friend who was at the screening said the response was rapturous.) The in-competition Chinese film Gone […]

All about Berlinale

The ins and outs of plodding through a ten-day international film festival. The first couple of days about a film festival, you realise, aren’t about the film festival. At least, not entirely. They’re about being in a new city, about the relief that most people here speak English; about remembering which section of the part-paved-part-cobbled […]

Berlin Diary: The heat is on

Holmes is older. Mainstream sex becomes bolder. And Peter Greenaway blasts the cobwebs off biopic conventions. After a lot of earnest, well-intentioned, even well-made films, there was still the sense that there has been nothing yet that really shook you, shocked you. That probably explained the crowds at the screening of the new Peter Greenaway […]

Berlin Diary: Franco-philia

When does James Franco sleep? That question isn’t likely to be answered soon, given the number of films he has at the Berlinale. James Franco spreads himself so thin that for every film he bombs out in, like Herzog’s Queen of the Desert, the law of averages practically guarantees something better somewhere else. We get […]

Berlin Diary: Art from the other America

Two affecting and very “local” films, from Guatemala and Chile. In an early scene in the Guatemalan feature Ixcanul, directed by first-timer Jayro Bustamante, a peasant family living in an outback is visited by the family of the man who’s to marry their daughter Maria. The groom-to-be, during the lavish feast laid out in his […]

Berlin Diary: Red, white and blue

Thoughts on the festival’s tribute to Technicolor films, mainly from Hollywood. It’s strange in this internet-booking era to find oneself queuing up for a film. It’s stranger still when the film isn’t new, or when it’s the kind that hardly anyone sees, save for committed (and, yes, should-be-committed) cinephiles. But long lines are a regular […]

Berlin Diary: Lost in translation

On Terrence Malick’s new movie, which is very much in the vein of his recent work. Knight of Cups, Terrence Malick’s latest head-scratcher movie, starring Christian Bale, features an earthquake, a temperamental sibling, an emotional ex-wife (Cate Blanchett), several dalliances (including one with Freida Pinto, who sticks her toes into Bale’s mouth), a hold-up in […]

Berlin Diary: Birds of a feather

Other journalists. Plus, a needless update of material that was much better served by Buñuel. Jabba the Hutt. Princess Leia. These aren’t names you expect to hear at a film festival. And yet, here this man was, one seat away from me at the screening of Isabel Coixet’s Nobody Wants the Night, talking about… I […]

A cab, a conversation

About “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans,” John Lennon probably meant it in a bigger, more existential sense. But I found life happening to me, in the face of my other plans, when I walked into the zero-degree weather outside Berlin’s Tegel airport. While in Chennai, I decided I’d […]

Berlin Diary: Love across continents, and over time

Herzog disappoints. Plus, an excellent character study about a long-married couple. The next time we begin to accuse an Indian filmmaker of choosing stars who command press attention rather than actors who’d actually vanish into the part, we should remember that well-regarded foreign filmmakers do this all the time, sometimes to the detriment of their […]

Berlin Diary: Two women

The opening-night movie was hardly what you’d call a “festival film,” but one couldn’t write it off either. The press screenings at the Berlinale are special affairs. They are scheduled before the world premiere of the films in competition, which means we are literally the first audience for these films. I’m going to keep this […]

Berlin Diary: The jury has spoken

Film watching is subjective, and the Berlinale jury just emphasised that. At a press conference on the first day of the 65th Berlinale, jury president Darren Aronofsky strongly underlined the subjective nature of movie-watching. A critic in the audience asked if the jury – which includes German actor Daniel Brühl, French star Audrey Tautou, Mad […]

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