Posts Tagged ‘ Ketan Mehta ’

Manjhi – The Mountain Man

Manjhi_the_mountain_man_poster
Manjhi – The Mountain Man
Release date: August 21, 2015
Directed by: Ketan Mehta
Cast: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Radhika Apte, Ashraf-Ul-Haque, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Pankaj Tripathi, Gaurav Dwivedi, Prashant Narayanan

If you belong to the internet generation, which came across Dashrath Manjhi through a shared ‘viral’ post, you’ve seen him through the one dimensional spectrum of greatness that is alluded to him. And if you’ve managed to stay unaware of him, he, almost singlehandedly, broke a mountain in Bihar. The why, and the how of this fact makes up the entire film.

Again, it was a ‘viral’ post that put this man back into popular discourse, and each of these posts are manufactured for certain motives, and Manjhi – The Mountain Man reeks of a similar vibe as well. Right from the initial few minutes, where a voiceover explains things to you, and until the introduction of the adult Dashrath Manjhi (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) and he’s made to look like a complete jock. Sure, it was done to make him appear “entertaining”, but it doesn’t feel organic. It’s almost uncomfortable to look at.

On his first day back in his village, he chances upon Phaguniya (Radhika Apte) selling handmade toys by the bus stand. Here starts the shaky romantic angle and more hokey attempts at meshing shallow humor. The love story is quite believable and has some flesh in it, but the gag-like moments in the first half appear to be mere tools for making the film just commercially viable.

The film starts earning its ticket money when it gets serious. The serious “parts” keep showing up in between as the film paces in non-linear fashion. The parallel tracks make things confusing as at one point the film seems to be telling you three separate stories about the same person, simultaneously. Sandesh Shandilya’s background score and music is cussword-ing awful. Instead of adding to the moments on screen, it subtracts legitimacy with its unimaginatively titled Phaguniya sounding off every time Dashrath thinks of her. The generic sounds would have passed off in a student short film, not here.

The drama is powerful and even smart in spurts, one such scene is when the country’s then prime minister comes visiting to Manjhi’s hamlet. The whole sequence doesn’t overstay its welcome and is satirical in a subtle way. His struggle to survive, after facing abandonment on multiple fronts, in the mountains in extreme conditions is very well depicted. The earlier back and forth between the parallel tracks makes the film’s tone difficult to grasp. Once it leaves that approach and simply focuses on Dashrath’s journey, it starts to become compelling to watch.

Siddiqui is wasted in pulling off antics similar to the ones that he’s excelled in Gangs of Wasseypur and The Lunchbox. I’ll say the same thing again, he finds new strengths when he does things that he hasn’t done before; when he shreds the persona of being a goof. That, precisely, is the issue with the entire film. It tries to be many things that it shouldn’t have bothered to be. It casts Tigmanshu Dhulia, Pankaj Tripathi as the classic antagonists, to add more subtext to the plot, and to perhaps offer opportunities to build character actions and choices.

Manjhi – The Mountain Man isn’t as daunting and taxing to watch as breaking a hill, but it’s surely less effective as a film than what it could have been.

My rating: **1/2 (2.5 out of 5)

Celluloid Man

celluloid-man-poster
Celluloid Man
Release date: May 3, 2013
Directed by: Shivendra Singh Dungarpur
Cast: P.K. Nair, Krzysztof Zanussi, Naseeruddin Shah, Saeed Akhtar Mirza, Jaya Bachchan, Rajkumar Hirani, Jahnu Barua, Balu Mahendra, Basu Chatterjee, Mrinal Sen, Santosh Sivan, Kumar Shahani, Ketan Mehta, Shyam Benegal, Girish Kasaravalli, Yash Chopra, Kamal Haasan, Ramesh Sippy, Mahesh Bhatt, Gulzar, Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Hariharan

Celluloid Man is about Paramesh Krishnan Nair’s undying passion for preserving India’s earliest films and going to unknown extents to acquire that one particular print of a forgotten movie. His said love wasn’t limited to the smell of nitrate films, it was way more intimate.

As Nair walks into the opening frame with his walking stick, he describes the years that have passed on in terms of his cinematic journey. He calls his initial fascination as a wonderment at the magic of moving images; his working years driven by an obsession and how he’s learnt to understand people better with his knowledge of cinema. He cuts a soft-spoken yet no-nonsense figure. And that’s how his students/friends have always known him to be.

Interspersed with clips from Hindi film industry’s earliest marvels – be it Dadasaheb Phalke’s Raja Harishchandra and Kaliya Mardan, or Bombay Talkies features like Jeevan Naiyya, Achhut Kanya and Kismet or S.S. Vasan’s Chandralekha – all of these being his acquisitions for the National Archives, a visual evolution of Indian cinema is on display along with Nair’s personal course. Not only the specifically relevant ones, but also the “C films” find a place here. Just how the man says it, you can have a rich past only when you have a rich history.

Jaya Bachchan reminisces the time when she was the only girl allowed to sit for the late night screenings with a handful of others in FTII (Film and Television Institute of India) Pune because she was the only one who’d actually attend the screenings and not go around gallivanting. Naseeruddin Shah has more than just one tale to tell. Balu Mahendra cherishes the times when he got to sit for the early morning first viewings of the newly brought in world cinema reels, “I would be watching a Norwegian film with the toothbrush in my mouth.” The personal anecdotes and experiences by stalwarts and Nair’s admirers are numerous and beautifully interesting.

The biographical documentary soon turned into a relatable story for me as I have the same habit as that of Nair’s, that is of collecting movie tickets as souvenirs. Dungarpur uses a lot of scenes from various films archives to resonate the feelings of the situations and facts in his film. Echoing screams of “I want to live” in Bengali from Ritwik Ghatak’s Meghe Dhaka Tara superimposed on stills of cobwebs hanging around celluloid reels in a lonely section of the archives, thus creating a deafening metaphor.

The Heggodu Movement begun by theater activist KV Subanna for the purpose of making the disconnected rural audiences familiar with the magnificence of Bicycle Thieves and Rashomon is also vividly recalled by the members of the participating audience members. A short montage in the later timeline depicts major themes like song, dance, action, romance and brace yourselves, members of the self-righteous moral police, full frontal Kissing from the films of black and white days. The most grande scene is perhaps the one with Nair mouthing off lines from Citizen Kane while the film plays on the screen behind him.

Just like how Mr. Nair didn’t discriminate on any basis while collecting films for the archive, Celluloid Man is an important film from a historical and cultural standpoint. It weaves his larger than life affair with cinema, simultaneously painting a picture of the sorry state of archiving as a wholly neglected activity in India. May 3, 2013 marks hundred years of Indian cinema and this film makes for compulsory viewing from every person who’s ever enjoyed a moment of theatrical magic in any form.

My rating: **** (4 out of 5 stars)

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