Saturday, February 8, 2014

Arbhaat short film club: 11th session

Having missed the last two sessions of Arbhaat, I was quite eager to head over to NFAI last Thursday. The theme was 'Sound and music'. I have begun to love the first Thursday of every month. It is a much welcome break from the monotony, and to some extent, decides what I will be immersed in the rest of the month. In almost every session I have been struck by some of the films that are screened - so poignant, so simple yet of such breathtaking complexity, films that tell the truth and the films that lie almost lovingly.  I do not claim a deeper understanding of this visual medium - indeed, it is words that I string around myself - but over the past year, I have come to realize the advantages and shortcomings of both the media.

I cannot ever forget Telephone, a film by Shabnam Chopra, which had been screened at the 9th session. Based on a short story by Gabriel García Márquez, the film was a psychological thriller which held me spellbound and terrified me to my very core. When I read the original story, in Spanish with copious help from the dictionary, I found that I couldn't wipe the images from the film from my mind, and it was one of those rare instances when the movie was better than the story - perhaps because it was set in a familiar setting, and had been taken to a new level of horror that the story glossed on. But another short story from the same collection (Strange Pilgrims, original title: Doce cuentos peregrinos) 'Light is like water' (La luz es como el agua) took me over completely. I fell in love with Márquez, for his wonderful imagination, and his acceptance of the strange and the fatalistic, that is tinged by a cynicism that comes only from cultures with long memories.

Day Break Express
D. A. Pennebaker 

An experimental film, Day Break express is a fast paced experience. It presents the New York city as seen through the windows of an elevated railway.

The Chorus
Abbas Kiarostami

This film by the Iranian giant is a beautiful watch. An elderly man first roams around the city, wearing a hearing aid. Whenever the noise gets to him, he simply removes his hearing aid and is content in his muted world. When he returns home, he removes his hearing aid, and sits down to a light repast, eating and drinking contently. His granddaughters return from school and press the doorbell, but he is unable to hear them. A crowd slowly gathers under his window, rhythmically chanting, asking him to open the door. 
I adored this film! It is in essence, so simple, so quaint and with it's theme of sound and noise, it is a beautiful, beautiful film.

Bert Haanstra
Winner of the Academy Award for Documentary Short Subject, 1959

A documentary about the glass industry in Netherlands, this film tiptoes on the border of conventional. The sounds and images of the making of handmade glass is contrasted against those in an automated factory. The sounds provide a backdrop for the characters, as their actions are described and characterised by the sounds attributed to their characters.

Umesh Vinayak Kulkarni

Umesh Kulkarni's films have long enchanted me. I had been desperate to watch this film for a long time, and I was ecstatic to discover it listed in this session. It lived up to all its hype and more - and it was everything I had dreamed of and more. Umesh Kulkarni's films contain a part of my heart - I find myself in his stills. I have often thought that his movies pick up on those common threads of life, that are yet so unique.

A family in dire financial strains turns to a grinding machine for salvation.  The young boy, who had once been enchanted by the rhythmic whirring of the girni soon begins to detest it - the empty places in his mind reverberate with the machine's sound. A song of hope becomes the knell of depression. Everything in the house is covered with a thin layer of flour - dreams are strewn with the same white flour and try as he may, he cannot rid himself of it. His mother, meanwhile, struggles to make the ends meet. Her eyes, so plaintive in their silence are indicators of her helplessness. She can barely keep her head above the water - taking care of a child and an elderly, bedridden man while trying to search for a source of income. The movie ends on an emotional precipice, and as I looked into the fearful but defiant, scared but resolute eyes of that boy, my heart turned over, powerless and dismal.

I loved this film. I'll be watching it over and over, waiting for something to happen even though I know that I will end up looking into the eyes of that heart broken child, just before the credits roll down.

That Boy

A couple fights savagely in an apartments, as their son plays with his toys. Outside, the world it light up with firecrackers and lanterns. The harsh quarrel is in a sharp contrast with the joyousness of the festival. A stranger arrives at the door, an eerie smile on his face and a gun in in hand. I will not pretend to understand this film, but it has given me much food for thought.

The Bolero
46th Academy Award winner, Short Subject (Live action) 

Zubin Mehta, the gifted conductor is the star of this film, but what stands out is the music - the sheer piece of brilliancy which is the true star in the film is evocative, startlingly mellifluous, and haunts you long after the last chord has dissolved.

As the Los Angeles Philharmonic gears itself to perform Ravel's 'Bolero', we see the chairs being assembled, the musicians talking about their career choice and the piece itself. Zubin Mehta, charming and suave talks about the 'Bolero'. The piece forms that last part of the film - heavenly music that reaches a cresendo, with Mehta in top form, conducting with a restless energy that is just as amazing to watch.


  1. Girni awesome!!! And it was a great moment in my life when umesh sir had explane us film shot by shot frame by frame... That was the awesome day in my life!!!

  2. That sounds amazing Ganesh! I wish I could have been there. Was this in the 'Shoot a shot' workshop?