Saturday, January 29, 2011

Peepli [Dies], Udaan Flies

I feel sad. Sad to the core. The 83rd Academy Award nominations are out.

Around four months back, I had the pleasure of watching one marvellous movie. A movie made with heart. A movie that didn't have any pretensions attached with it. A movie that didn't try to teach anything or send out any message to its viewers. A movie that was made not for bagging any award, either the Filmfare or the Oscar. A movie whose motive was not to end up being a blockbuster or be a super hit among the masses. The sole purpose of that movie was to fulfil one's desire to create something that is close to one's heart. To bring forth to audience something that one feels, rather than something that audience want to feel.

I am talking about "Udaan", and about its drector, Vikramaditya Motwane. I would rate it as the best movie to come out of Bollywood last year and perhaps in a long long time. Infact, it was one of the best movies to have been released in 2010 all across the globe. And IMDB acknowledges this by rating it as the 6th best movie of 2010.

I was hoping badly that some common sense would prevail, and "Udaan" would be chosen as India's official entry for 83rd Academy Awards by Film Federation of India. Alas!!! It wasn't to happen. "Udaan" lost to Aamir Khan's production "Peepli Live". And as I had expected earlier, "Peepli Live" eventually didnt make it to the final five.

Nothing personal against "Peepli Live" or Aamir Khan. I think that it is an excellent movie in parts. Yes, in parts. Credit needs to be given where it is due. Considering that "Peepli Live" is the directorial debut for Anusha Rizvi, she carried out a splendid job. The portrayal of the village in which the story evolves, the whole concept, the inital hour or so, and the last two scenes are the high points of the movie. Especially the final two scenes - the one where protagonist's brother and wife are sitting outside their home, and the one where the protagonist is working at a construction site in the city, and finally sits down for rest. The silence speaks so much in these two scenes. The end is left open for the viewers to perceive on their own whether its a sad one or happy.

However, what I hated about the movie was the humour that went too much over the top at times. In the name of satire, the filmmakers tried to indulge into too much mockery of the news media. Consider for example the scene where one of the newspersons is shown capturing the footage of the spot where the subject was last seen excreting. Such humour, I am guessing, was added only to ensure that the movie doesn't miss out because of lack of slapstick. I would have preferred all the humour in "Peepli Live" to be subtle rather than this loud, and ultimately falling to such below par standards. I feel that "Peepli Live" is a movie that has been made not with heart, but with an "Oscar aspiring" mind, and with an eye on the Box Office.

"Udaan", au contraire, was a movie that had enough content in it to give in easily to the melodrama. But, it did not. It stayed mellow throughout. The movie is full of moments that a viewer would savour forever. Moments such as the silence between the two friends in the woods broken only by poetry. Or the scene where the protagonist is shown dragging his heavy trunk upstairs, mildly giving suggestions to the audience how his life is going to be an uphill climb during the course of the movie. Or the scene where he takes out all his anger on the car. Under normal circumstances, a person who has frustration and rage building up inside of him would need a good friend to speak it out. And if he has nobody close enough to speak to, what else can one do to let out his frustration? Each and every minor detail in "Udaan" represents something bigger. For instance, the old Contessa that the protagonist's father possesses represents his old and outdated beliefs, and his pretence. His morning jogs, black sunglasses, smoking and drinking as a false belief of being a toughie.

Another good thing about the direction was the perfect placement of background score throughout the movie. For instance, the scenes I have described above have not been marred by a background score being played. Silence in these scenes, or the presence of only the sounds like trunk being dragged or window panes being broken is what makes these moments so pleasant and natural. And then there are scenes like college-style banter with the newly made friends, or narrating a story in the hospital, which could have easily been the areas where director had the option to make the dialogue or the monologue much more clearer, so as to make the regular audience laugh or to hear a complete story from the narrator respectively. However, the director rather added loud background music in these two situations, which made the conversations inaudible. Yet the music and the inaudibility of these conversations served their purpose pretty well. The director wanted us not to laugh at the banter, but rather to feel happy on seeing the protagonist laughing himself at that moment. The director didn't want us to hear the complete story being narrated at the hospital, but rather to experience his good knack of story-telling that made several people (a kid, old patients, young patients, nurses, doctors) listen keenly to him. These are the subtle things which mark the difference between a good movie and a great movie. You don't need to shout out loud to tell what you want to tell.

When I compare "Udaan" to "Peepli Live", I can definitely say that it had far more chances of reaching the final cut in the Oscars, as compared to the latter, had it been chosen. I am still unsure why the latter was preferred. Was it Aamir Khan's old experience at Oscars that tempted Film Federation of India to send another Aamir Khan movie to the Oscars his year, hoping that this time he would do what he couldn't in 2001. Or was it due to the misconception we have that anything that displays Indian villages and poverty has a greater chance to win abroad. Whatever it be, none of them could take "Peepli Live" to the final five.

PS: Came to know today that "Udaan" won several awards in India in most prestigious categories. If Filmfare and Star Screen awards can acknowledge the movie, why can't Film Federation of India?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

YouTube killed the

And today again my Facebook homepage is swarming with plethora of videos. Gosh!!! Some of the videos are those that I've already watched. While some are those that were there a couple of days back, and I skipped watching them after reading their titles, which probably comprised of any of the following combinations of words -

1. Girls are girls
2. Men are men
3. Boys will be boys
4. Best video ever
5. Must watch
6. Cute kid
7. Sheila ki jawani
8. Sheila ki jawani - Chipmunks version

Nothing against these videos. These videos are in fact creative works from creative people. However, the problem is that they are present everywhere on facebook. And all the time. I login to Facebook to check out my friends' updates, but instead see the same video being shared by atleast 10 friends of mine. The good thing about facebook is that a single video appears only a single time on the page on a single day, irrespective of it  being shared by multiple friends. However, the bad thing is that I see the same video again next time I login that evening. And again next day. And day after that.

These videos have become part of my daily routine now. Seeing them lined up in my friends updates, and ignoring them, has now become a habit. And on a usual occasion, I wouldn't spend any time either watching them, or writing about them. What forced me, however, to write on this topic today is that while I was going through the regular practice of ignoring the videos on my FB home page, one video suddenly caught my eye. It was one of my favourite youtube videos that was today shared by a friend. I had seen this video around a year back for the first time, and today when I saw it on my FB home page, I immediately clicked on it to view it again. The God-damn slow internet speed didn't help much to the cause, but the wait was worth it.

And the video motivated me to come up with a list of my favorite videos on Youtube. I had never ever given it a thought earlier as to which are my favorite videos. And I was thinking that it would probably take hours to come up with the list. How wrong I was. Took me just 5 minutes approx to do so.

So here are the Youtube videos that currently stand at the top 20 positions in my list -

20. 3D Light Show - Art Projection Ukraine ( very interesting )
I saw this video for the first time some 3-4 months back on facebook, where some friend of mine had shared it. And boy!!! What an amazing display of laser lights it is. I have seen some very good laser shows live. However, none of them is even 1% as good as this one.

19. DRUMMER AT WRONG GIG- better view
Everytime I watch this video, I am captivated by this drummer cum juggler. And although he is no Neil Peart or John Bonham, and is playing a very basic 4/4 time signature, yet his act is totally awesome.

18. Robbie Maddison's 2008 New Year's Eve jump
Now this is one thing that needs guts to do. Whether you are a professional stuntman or not. It really amazes me how one finds the motivation to risk his life to perform such an act.

17. Crazy Soccer Ball Juggling
A perfect act of balancing - not only the ball, but also his own weight from falling down off the place where he is dancing.

16. Evolution of Dance - By Judson Laipply
Every time I watch this video, I end up laughing like anything. Especially when he dances to "Cant Touch This".

15. Noah takes a photo of himself every day for 6 years.
What an effort? Would anyone have enough patience to take a picture of oneself each day continuously for 6 years? Not me. Well I haven't clicked any photo of mine since past 1.5 years almost  (Dont even have a single pic of myself to prove that I had grown my hair for almost 9 months in case somebody asks for it).

14. Freestyle Dance Performance (Korea:PREPIX)
I have seen several groups' amazing dance performances on the internet. JabbaWockeez for instance. And also seen some individual break dance performances. However, none of them has been as good as this one. The coordination amongst the crew is mind-boggling.

13. Where the Hell Is Matt? (2008)
And this is the video that a friend of mine shared this morning, that inspired me to write this stuff. The whole concept of this video is so heart warming. And some of the footage in this video is so very well captured that it leaves you enchanted. And yes, he is the same guy who was hired by Visa in their Travel Happy advertising campaign.

12. Women's 4x400 relay - CWG - 2010 - Delhi - India wins Gold
What a proud moment it was for all the Indians. One of the biggest achievements in the field of athletics for India. This video still gives me goosebumps every time I watch it.

11. Yuto Miyazawa and Ozzy
The youngest professional guitarist. He is just 10 years old at present, yet he plays at par with some of the best guitarists around. And look at his expressions when he meets his idol at the end.

10. OK Go - This Too Shall Pass - Rube Goldberg Machine version - Official
OK Go is a rock band which has been famous not because of their music, but because of their innovative videos. "Here it goes again" is the video that brought them fame. And since then there has been no stopping. And this particular song has got two versions, one featuring a marching band, which again is quite an impressive video. However, this Rube Goldberg machine version is beyond doubt, one of the best videos I have ever seen on Youtube. Parts of the machine are synchronized in time with the music. Water glasses creating the melody for instance.

9. Charlie bit my finger - again !
And here is the video that started the kidsomania on YouTube. And this is the video that, probably, made Youtube what it is now. The total number of views for this video speak for themselves.

8. Für Elise on guitar (full version!)
There are atleast a hundred videos on YouTube that I like that feature guitar or piano cover versions of songs. And some of them would have easily filled at least 10 out of 20 spots in this list. However, while writing this post, I had decided not to include any of them, else the list would have become quite boring for the reader.
However, I could not prevent myself from adding this video to the list. This is the best version of Fur Elise that one will ever hear on guitar. The song was composed to be played on piano by Beethoven. And it is not so easy to create a guitar rendition for complete song. However, this guy has done an excellent job in doing so.

7. OK Go - White Knuckles - Official Video
OK Go again, this time with another wonderful video. This one features not only the humans performing schematically designed activities, but dogs as well. How they pulled off this awesome video is a question not easy to answer.

6. Auto-Tune the News #2: pirates. drugs. gay marriage
So Its not only Justin Bieber and Kanye West who use Auto-tune to get melodies out of their throats. Even the random news broadcasts can also be turned into music. And The Gregory Brothers have done a fantastic job in turning monotonous news into cheerful parodies.

5. We No Speak Americano ft. Cleary & Harding
Saw this video for the first time in the TIME magazine RSS feed that I have subscribed to. And whether someone speaks Americano or not, he/she is bound to be enthralled by this amazing dance of fingers and hands.

4. Randy Pausch Last Lecture: Achieving Your Childhood Dreams
The longest video that I have seen fully on YouTube. And there is no reason not to see it. It is one of the most inspirational lectures you'll ever hear. And if you don't feel motivated to do something about your dreams after watching this, then I doubt that anything else would be able to motivate you.

3. JK Wedding Entrance Dance
I have already seen this video at least 50 times. And I can see it another 1000 times. This video kinda brings Indianness to a Christian wedding. Just love the concept. Hats off to the bride for this idea of hers.

2. Christian the lion - Full ending
Do wild ones have heart? Or are they solely governed by the hunter-prey relationship? This video answers the question.

1. Wingsuit Base Jumping
And finally I come to the video I like the most on YouTube. Its a sheer display of human urge to achieve the impossible. To dare to do something that only birds can do. And these men want to go beyond the permissible limits. They want to learn flying in open skies. And once they are good at that, they wanna fly just feets above the ground.