Monday, February 12, 2018

Railway children: Tales of runaway kids!

What is the story of a child lost (and found) on a railway platform? It is possible the child has run away from his/her home for some reason. Every child ‘rescued’ from a railway platform has a story to tell, sometimes real, other times bordering on fantasy. And yet in every story, perhaps one cannot miss the ignoble tale of hundreds of children being wronged by society at large.

Director: Prithvi Konanur

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Railway children (2016), the Kannada film, is a sensitive, yet matter-of-fact, rendering of such an important subject. It presents many stories of railway children sans any melodrama. It is as though the unfortunate children are coming in front of you to be noticed whether you like it or not. The cruel circumstances in which these children are strangulated can send a jitter in every caring adult.
Director Prithvi Konanur has dealt with the subject quite efficiently and professionally. It is clear that he does not want to make a spectacle out of the squalor of these lowly kids. He seems also interested to go deeper into reasons why they run away from home. While, most children who decide to run away do so for obvious reasons, there may be a few others who run away unable to deal with certain existential questions. The film even in the final frame strikes a deeper chord in the hearts of the audience.
Hats off to the little jollu, pappu and other ‘railway children’ who bring life into the characters by their natural skills! The film makes one ponder deeper even after the images have just passed by.  
- Melwyn Pinto SJ

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Ondu Motteya Kathe: In search of real beauty!

It is not very often these days that you get a Kannada film that is out and out entertaining and stands up in all departments of film making. Well, in the era of so called masala films, entertainment can mean many things – cheap comedy, crude violence, loud music, among others. But here is a film that entertains you by dint of the classic performances of every character.

Director: Raj B. Shetty
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Ondu Motteya Kathe (The story of an egg!) is a fresh breather in an otherwise depressingly mediocre Kannada film industry. What makes the film brilliant is the director’s efforts to stick to basics. And one requires a lot of hard work and a lot of convincing to insist on basics. The basics here are an extraordinary narration with not a dull moment, humour that is so realistic and not to forget supreme performances by a cast that has been carefully chosen. Added to this is the very simple storyline that challenges (or mocks) in all its simplicity our obsession with outer beauty and appearance, even at the cost of certain fundamental values and principles.

Janardhana (Raj B Shetty) is on the look-out for a soul mate who can accept him as he is (along with his bald head, of course). However, his search for such a girl gives a peep into the lives of many a damsel, only to be disappointed about himself more than the girls. However, he is ready to move on accepting his ordinary demeanour.

What stands out in the whole narrative of the film is the message that life is much more than mere appearances which can be deceptive. Real beauty of human being lies somewhere deep inside which many a time one fails to explore, being enamoured by the exteriors only. Raj B Shetty as the director and lead actor deserves adulation for his passionate rendering through a film which has all the qualities of becoming a cult classic in Kannada film industry.

- Melwyn Pinto SJ

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Pink: No simply means No!!

No simply means no! No is not just a word, but it is a full sentence! That seems to be the core message the film Pink attempts to impart. If a girl – be it girlfriend, wife or even a sex worker – does not wish to be taken advantage of physically, then the man must respect her decision. When lawyer Deepak Sehgal (Amitabh Bachchan) argues the case in the court on these lines, the judge cannot but nod in agreement, and his judgement states that a ‘new beginning has been made in this case’.

Director: Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury

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The film Pink could not have been more relevant for our times. It comes at a time when women’s security is at an all time low in this country. Our country raises the womanhood to the pedestals, even as it writes newer moral codes for them to follow in the public and the private.
The film has been scripted brilliantly. It narrates how Indian legal system works and how easy it is to fabricate ‘evidences’ and get justice, provided you have the money power to employ the best of lawyers who make a killing in such adventures through their garrulousness. At the same time, it strengthens our confidence in the judiciary and the justice system especially when we take recourse to lawyers who are passionate about securing justice to the victims who have been wronged in the legal quagmire. Amitabh Bachchan’s performance in the court will be etched in the memories of the audience for long, especially for debunking the Indian psyche which has caged the woman into perfectly drawn boundaries.
- Melwyn Pinto SJ

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Munnariyippu: Warning not to romance with evil!

It is not very often that Indian cinema romances with out-of-the box themes. The typical Bollywood-type films have a set formula: either they are pure song and drama, or stories with quintessential superhero donning every frame. Even the regional cinema has not veered away too much from such masala ingredients. However, we do find an exception or two here and there. In fact, recent films in Marathi and Malayalam have been experimenting a lot on unusual themes and scripts to great success.

Director: Venu

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The 2014 Malayalam film Munnariyippu (warning) is a case in point. It is a film which does not shy away from shocking the audience at the end. If the director was keen on making it a pure commercial success perhaps he would not have taken such a risk. Many times the handling of the script has much to do with commercial considerations. And yet director Venu (a famed cinematographer) to his credit has also tasted commercial success with this directorial venture. This is because the narration is convincing.
The film deals with a convicted murderer CK Raghavan, played brilliantly by veteran Mammootty, and a journalist Anjali Arackal (Aparna Gopinath) who, having chanced upon his rare writing skills, strikes a deal with a publisher to bring out his autobiography. However, what unfolds is a strange development wherein Raghavan finds it hard to take off his writing project. When the deadline is nearing journalist Anjali, who has to eventually translate the autobiography into English, gets nervous and impatient, only to come face to face with something she would never have imagined.
The film has a rather sluggish pace, raising many a question in the process. However, the final moment is shocking and can linger on for sometime. One cannot but appreciate the ambience in which the director has built up the characters. The film is also a visual reminder that human beings are so very unpredictable!
- Melwyn Pinto SJ

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Visaranai: Saga of police brutality!

Visaranai, a Tamil film that was released in the beginning of this year, is the official entry from India for the Academy Awards in the Best Foreign Language Film category. Whether the film will eventually be shortlisted for the award is anyone’s guess. However, one cannot discredit the effect the film will have on the audience in depicting the state of affairs in our police system. It is interesting that despite the film being a statement against the State machinery, it went on to win the national award last year. This suggests that the State is open to critique itself which is a positive sign.  

Director: Vetrimaaran

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The film is based on the novel Lock Up by M. Chandrakumar. It narrates how four labourers are wrongly implicated by the police in a high profile robbery case in which they are under immense pressure to find the culprits. However, things dramatically change when the four labourers are saved by a Good Samaritan. But, as fate would have it, the Samaritan himself eventually traps them into committing more crimes and thus leads them into doom in the quagmire of corrupt nexus among the police the bureaucracy, and the political establishment.
The film is made in utmost simplicity sans any superfluous embellishments. However, the precise narration and editing help in putting across the narrative quite matter-of-factly. The entrails of the police system are exposed in such a way that no one will argue that our police system works any better than that. The betrayal and the violence that emerge at tandem make the film gory in parts, but when one considers the overall objective of the film, one cannot see the film otherwise. The police system in India has its own complexities and pressures. The long desired police reforms are yet to see the light of day. Till then films like Visaranai will have a field day in exposing it threadbare. 
- Melwyn Pinto SJ

Friday, November 11, 2016

Sairat: Love in the time of family honour

Nagaj Manjule, the celebrated directed of the cult Marathi film Fandry has come out with yet another compelling tale in Sairat. The film is very important for our times, especially where caste and creed take priority over blood relations; where humanity is sacrificed on the altar of so called family honour and pride.

Director: Nagraj Manjule

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The film is a suave narration of love story between a boy (Parshya) from a poor family and a girl (Archi) from the upper echelons. As expected, it is a love tale that cannot be! And hence all the drama has to unfold. As the narrative proceeds, though, there seems to be a semblance of normalcy appearing, and yet what seems to win at the end is the tragic ‘family honour’.
The whole film is a realistic scripting of what seems to happen in many parts of Indian conservative societies. It is not making undue overt statements either. The characters in the film are the next door neighbours going about their daily routine. However, things take a serious turn when what seems normal is ‘shattered’ by the unusual love tale.
This is indeed an important film for our time – a time which has developed so much scientifically and technologically and yet backward in its reasoning and attitudes to life. Not just for the narrative it unfolds, but for the boldness it exhibits in presenting the day to day events in all its beauty and rawness. In fact, this film has the potential to both entertain and shock, placing before us the limitless passions – both positive and negative – at work among humans. The young new actors – deserve plaudits for the life they have added to the narrative.
- Melwyn Pinto SJ

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Spotlight: Journalism at its best

Two recent events, if taken seriously, will go a long way in helping modern journalists to have a relook at their profession, especially for those broadcast journalists who seem to think that shouting down the other and having the last word at all cost is the best form of journalism. The first is the film Spotlight and the second the Panama Papers expose by the Indian Express and other print media of international newspaper syndicate. Both underscore the need for rigorous, painstaking efforts that have to be put in if one wants to unearth what can be termed as serious, committed and socially responsible journalism.

Director: Tom McCarthy

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The film Spotlight deals with the high quality journalism of Boston Globe newspaper. In fact, Boston Globe has a tradition of many such incredible journalistic efforts. This was made possible due to the formation of a small band of journalists named as Spotlight. The present film deals with the investigative reportage of the child abuse by Catholic priests for decades together in Boston diocese and the cover up of it by the highest Church officials, including Cardinal Bernard Francis Law.

The film is important for several reasons. While the issue that is dealt in the film may be unsettling and unnerving for the Catholic clergy, none can debate the authenticity of the rigorous investigative work undertaken by the newspaper. The same is displayed in the film as well. Secondly, the film also shows that it takes real energy, pain and hard work, not to forget commitment and sincerity, to be a good reporter, and even more, to be a good newspaper. Thirdly, the film in no way tries to patronise or pontificate a type of witch-hunting journalism. Rather, it shows that the guilty, especially those who inflicted untold miseries on children, must be exposed. As the editor of the newspaper Marty Baron, played by Live Schreiber says, it is not the individuals that journalism in general must target, but the system.

There is a scene in the film where editor Marty has an audience with Cardinal Law. Cardinal Law offers all necessary help and support to the new editor since, as the Cardinal states, it is important for institutions to work together for greater cause. However, Marty declines it politely stating that for a newspaper to function it needs to stand alone.

The other significant scene from the point of view of journalism is when reporter Michael Rezendes, played by Mark Ruffalo, goes to the judge to seek permission to examine sensitive documents which by then were declassified through a court order. The judge asks, “Where is the editorial responsibility in publishing records of this nature?” To which Rezendes quips, “Where is the editorial responsibility in not publishing them?”

The film must be studied closely by all those journalists and future journalists who wish to take their profession seriously.

- Melwyn Pinto SJ