Monthly Archives: September 2006

Some movies

I sometimes wonder why I enjoy watching movies. I have no solid answers to that but the closest answer is perhaps I am addicted to the deep feelings that arise inside me after watching a great movie. I want those feelings to be repeated and I keep on searching for movies that will give me that feeling. This feeling is not a singular feeling but a symphony of feelings, of joy, of sadness, of sympathy, of empathy, of hope, of admiration, etc.

A recent acquaintance asked me if I can recommend some movies for him to watch and he is interested in world cinema. He likes to watch movies too but they are of more recent ones (read: Hollywood). Well, I told him modestly (which is the truth) that I have not really watched many movies and compared to some people I know, what I have watched or know is like a speck of sand in the desert. I have never been to a film school and whatever I know or have watched is by way of recommendation from friends and also own curiosity.

Anyways, here’s the list that I gave him and it reflects the movies that I feel is great (therefore subjective). In no particular order:

1. Tokyo Story (Yasujiro Ozu)
2. City of Sadness (Hou Hsiao-hsien)
3. Nights of Cabiria (Federico Fellini)
4. Shanghai Blues (Tsui Hark)
5. Dersu Uzala (Akira Kurosawa)
6. Charulata (Satyajit Ray)
7. Salaam Bombay (Mira Nair)
8. To Live (Zhang Yimou)
9. Grave of the Fireflies (Isao Takahata)
10. Kes (Ken Loach)

Two European, Two Indian, Three Japanese, Three Chinese. I hope the choice is ok and not too heavy and I am not too carried away. It is not quite easy as so many movies popped into my head and to choose only a handful is so hard. For example, from Taiwan, Edward Yang’s “Yi Yi” and Tsai Ming Liang’s “The Hole” comes to my mind instantly but I have settled on “City of Sadness”. From Hong Kong, Tsui Hark and Wong Kar Wai popped into my mind immediately but Tsui Hark is more representative I thought but which Tsui Hark? “Peking Opera Blues” and “Shanghai Blues” popped up but I have always have a slight bias for “Shanghai Blues”, probably because I love the theme song but “Peking Opera Blues” is truly a magnificent movie. What about Majid Majidi’s “Colour of Paradise”? From Kurosawa, would “Ikiru” be a better recommendation compared to “Dersu Uzala”? Should I recommend one from the “Apu Trilogy” or would “Charulata” be a better introduction to Satyajit Ray? Would “La Strada” be a better choice compared to “La Dolce Vita” or perhaps “Nights of Cabiria” would be a more accessible Fellini? Where is Totoro?? and on and on and on….

Well, it’s a short list of 10 movies and after he is done with that and is still interested, the plan is to give him the next 10 anyways. So there is still a lot more time in the future. This sounds like fun :)

Here’s the video clip of the Theme Song from “Shanghai Blues”. Enjoy!

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Kafkaesque Monday on Deccan

There are not many places in Hyderabad that I can go for breakfast and I do not usually eat breakfast here. Whenever I wanted to have breakfast I will go to this bakery shop called “Ofen” and will have a doughnut and a cappucino and read the newspaper. Today, I happen to go for breakfast there and while waiting for my food to come, I saw imprinted on the Deccan Chronicle newspaper a very popular quote from Kafka and my head kept on thinking about it for some reasons that I do not understand. Perhaps it’s because I have just finished watching Bergman’s “Cries and Whispers” in the early morning hours (and what a thing to do to watch a Bergman movie early in the morning!).

The quote is particularly powerful when reading Indian newspapers where you will read so many news about how bad the human condition is. The quote reads:

“A first sign of the beginning of understanding is the wish to die.”

I am not exactly sure what Kafka meant when he wrote this. The “first sign is the wish to die” is perhaps consistent with the Buddha’s understanding of the human condition via the first of the Four Noble Truths, i.e. “The Noble Truth of Suffering”. When one understands life via the First Noble Truth, how can one still have the heart to continue living? Lucky for us, the Buddha laid a way where we can overcome this suffering but perhaps Kafka was not very much aware of it :)

I do not subscribe to nihilistic philosophy and I think that suffering exists because happiness exists. But for some people, there is more suffering than there is happiness. Everyday when I look to the streets of Hyderabad and see those children that sleeps by the roadside in dirty and torn clothes begging for food, I begin to wonder and think to myself if there is ever any happiness, any future, for these children. Will the Buddha’s Eightfold Path salvage them from their suffering when their basic needs could not even be met?

However, from what I see and if I observe correctly, there is even more life or to put it more correctly, a greater desire to live in these children than what I will assume to be pure suffering for them. Somehow, they seem to be able to live with whatever they can find and when it rains for example, their laughters while they play with the rain seem more life reassuring to me than anything to the contrary and in fact provided me with greater strength and renewed hope. Everyday now I draw inspiration and strength from them and who is to say who is suffering and who is happy?

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Cinema Paradiso

I think I was really foolish not to check this place out until now. The place is called “Cinema Paradiso” located near the popular shopping mall called Hyderabad Central. Aptly named, the place is a very respectable DVD rental shop. The selection is not bad at all and covers not only the popular Hollywood and Indian movies but also quite a good selection of international movies. There is quite a good selection from the Criterion Collection series as well. While European cinema, both classics and contemporary, are well covered, Asian movies are not that well represented. But well, one cannot have everything unless we bring in something as massive as Netflix.

I am now a member of “Cinema Paradiso” and I am salivating just simply by looking at their collection of Satyajit Ray’s works. Plus they have some Fellinis, Bressons, Truffauts, Bergmans, Bunuels, Kiarostamis, Tarkovskies etc. that I wanted to watch.

It is disheartening to always find that Asian movies are so under-represented everywhere. Great Asian movies exist but not enough people are promoting them except for a few passionate people such as those people at the Subway Cinema. This is one feeling that I got after going to the shop but I have always had this feeling after I read some “100 Greatest Movies of All Time” lists that appear everywhere on the web, some of which are from respectable institutions such as the Sight & Sound magazine.

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Some Photos

As mentioned in my earlier post, we were visiting Kerala over the last weekend and visited Munnar and the Backwaters at Alleppey. Here are some photos.

The Backwaters:


All the above photos were taken by my wife.

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Kerala and more Indian Movies

This is my fifth month in India and I have been travelling a bit in these few months, both for business and pleasure. Besides Hyderabad which is where I am staying, I’ve seen Chennai, Bangalore, Delhi, Mumbai, Agra, Jaipur and just a few days ago, Cochin, Allappuzha (Alleppey) and Munnar in Kerala. Of all these places, I like Kerala the most. Its quiet charm and its Backwaters is a most apt counter to the growth frenzy that is happening in most cities in India. I was supposed to go to Darjeeling but on the advice by the tour agent that it is raining a lot there, we decided to go to Kerala instead. The backwaters is really an experience that is worth every rupee that I have spent and more. India in my mind has now changed and there is still so much to India to experience and explore.

On the movies side, since I cannot take it anymore to wait for the DVD release, I went and watch Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna in the cinema knowing well that it is without subtitles. The great thing about Bollywood movies is that you do not really need to know Hindi to understand the movie due mainly to the explicit acting and storyline but also to the frequent use of English. So it was no trouble at all to watch the movie and I enjoyed it very much. It is a much more matured work compared to Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham and definitely more so compared to Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, the director Karan Johar’s previous two movies.

But my greatest recent find after “Lagaan” is a movie called “Matrubhoomi” (A Nation Without Women). My introduction (in a serious way) to Indian movies is through Satyajit Ray’s Apu Trilogy (besides those old Tamil movies that my grandmother loved and which I used to sit near her to watch on Saturday afternoons). Now with the growing popularity of the Bollywood movies, Indian movies seem to have been stereotyped by them. Whenever we talk about Indian movies internationally, the association to Bollywood movies, and therefore long running time and dance and music numbers, is rather automatic. Although my knowledge of Indian movies is like a drop of water in the ocean, I feel that this association is not doing some really good Indian movies that do not fit into the Bollywood model justice. Gone are the Satyajit Ray’s time. Blech! You cannot even find his movies in the store. I was looking high and low for some of his movies and I managed to find some in the old city but those are bad VCD copies with no subtitles.

I remember mentioning about “Chokher Bali” in my earlier post. I do find it a good movie and a rather decent adaptation of Tagore’s original novel. I found and have watched recently another work by the same director called “Raincoat”. It, like in “Choker Bali”, does not fit into the Bollywood model but is a superb, superb movie to watch. A simple story but extremely well made. This same goes to the movie I mentioned above, “Matrubhoomi”. It is a very profound movie and again not in the usual Bollywood model. I wonder how many of these great movies from India that I have missed! The thought that I have been missing these movies is killing me!!

I hope I will have enough time to dig deeper into all these and find more gems. Any help will be greatly appreciated :)

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Ganesha Festival

Here’s a video of the Ganesha Festival that we have taken today. Today marks the last day of this festival. Please wait for it to be fully loaded before playing.

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Once Upon A Time In India

I have never been a Bollywood movie audience before I came to India to work a few months ago. If in April 2006, you ask me how many Bollywood movies I have watched, I could not get past my five fingers and the latest one that I watched would be “Choker Bali” shown on the Astro Box Office Channel and the second last being “Dil Se”.

However, it is fortunate that I am in India now and with a lot of time in my hand, I am able to now catch up on the movies that I have missed and I really like what I have seen so far. Just in less than a week, I have watched three Bollywood movies, each of them great. “Fanaa”, “Omkara”, and the 2001 classic, “Lagaan”.

My favourite male Bollywood actor now is Aamir Khan.

I agree with my friend when he said that everyone on Earth should watch “Tokyo Story” at least once in their lifetime but after watching “Lagaan”, I must also add that everyone on Earth should watch “Lagaan” at least once in their lifetime. It is unbelievable that I have missed this movie and this reinforced the truth that we must give everything a chance. You will never know where gems can be found.

Just go watch this movie if you have not done so.

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Lord Ganesha

It is incredible to see the worship of Lord Ganesha everywhere (I just returned from Mumbai and it is all the same, in fact, it was more so happening in Mumbai with many road processions) and this festival will culminate with the immersion of the Lord Ganesha statue on the 6th of September. By right, this festival is for 10 days which should end on Tuesday, 5th September but Tuesdays and Saturdays are considered “bad” days for the Hindus, so the immersion will happen on the next day.

In the spirit of the Ganesha Festival, my tribute to Lord Ganesha on my blog with this picture.

May Lord Ganesha Be With You

The Symbolism of Lord Ganesha

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