Film Art/Art Film

Mirror, Mirror, on the wall, who’s the ugliest of them all: A Review of Anurag Kashyap’s Ugly

1.-Ugly-Bollywood

Khawateen-o-Hazrat,

No, I haven’t disappeared. I was busy this weekend working on a review for Anurag Kashyap’s Ugly, which has been published by Dawn both online and in print! To read the full review head here. I just wanted to take a moment and say thank you to the editor at Dawn, MM (truly where would I be without you!), and all you readers. Thank you for your support.

RB’s Snap-o-Meter:  Three snaps up!

Naya saal mubarak aur agli mulaqat Sadqay Tumhare kay saath.

Rab Rakha

RB (Tweet me!)

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Retro Rerun!

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Hey, hey filmi travelers!

Keeping in mind my obsession with everything retro, I’m starting a segment on those retro highs(!) and lows, of course some choices will be more retro than others. All the way back to the black and white and rather gay 1920s to the acid trip highs of the 1990s, I’ll be picking hidden gems for your viewing and reading pleasure!

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The Art of Writing and the Writing of Art: In Conversation with Sarmad Sehbai

Sarmad Sehbai’s work as a poet, author, playwright and filmmaker highlights his innovative approach to art and culture. His vision is reflected in the diverse mediums and languages he works in, from  poems to PTV dramas (Naya Qanoon, Toba Tek Singh), theatre plays (‘The Dark Room’), a documentary (‘Mughals of the Road’) and finally, his films and dramas (Fankar Gali, Jal Pari, and most recently Laa. His work constantly questions defined norms and now with Mah-e-Meer, even madness.

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We spoke to him via Skype about his upcoming film Mah-e-Meer, and ended up with notes on the Mughal Empire, a meeting with Omar Sharif, and a spirited discussion on the current state of Pakistani television and cinema.

Listen to the interview here and read the full article here. A modified version of the original article also appeared in the Express Tribune.

A BIG thank you to Sadaf Haider and MM (A musing Muslim) for letting me research and edit and Faraz Qadri for hosting it on Drama Pakistani.

Rab Rakha

RB

Mein Rahoon kay Mein Nahin: Vishal Bhardwaj’s Haider

I must be cruel to be kind; Thus bad begins and worse remains behind.

Tanhai, sannatta, daishat.

Dark, brooding, evil.

These are the first words that come to mind after watching the trailer for Vishal Bhardwaj’s Haider, and if I can go by what I see, then, this is no simple adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

This isn’t Bhardwaj’s first adaptation having previously given us Maqbool and Omkara. Neither is this his first attempt at tackling a genre that I can best describe as Film Noir or in this case Bombay Noir. In fact, death in all its sinister forms is a patent Bhardwaj tactic, he had at least seven of them in Saat Khoon Maaf. Thus, given his penchant for everything sinistre, Haider‘s dark undertones don’t surprise me.

What I’m not really certain about, though, is that unlike Maqbool and Omkara, will I be able to enjoy (let alone watch!) Haider?

Set in Jammu and Kashmir amidst a growing revolution – of a people, of a land, of a language – Hamlet’s plot lends well to the current socio-political situation in the valley. Politics, though, are tinged with copious amounts of dark humour and even darker mood swings, and I’m not certain I’ll be up for this one.

I might just fall asleep, but then again, “[I]n this sleep of death what dreams may come…”

Till we meet for a review.

RB

Mah-e-Meer: A First Look

 

Mir ji zard hotay jaatay ho, kya kahin tumnay bhi kiya hai ishq

When I first saw the trailer for Mah-e-Meer, I was a tad bit disappointed. I saw colour but it looked gaudy, I saw sizzle but it seemed forced, I saw a Mir but didn’t necessarily see a Khuda-e-sukhan, I saw, I saw, I saw… and then, I heard.

Herein lies the strength of Mah-e-Meer, its writing and dialogues.

My visual experience of the trailer was at best ambivalent but the same cannot be said for my aural perceptions. As most of us do, I replayed the trailer only to be interrupted by my phone, as I got up to answer it, I heard the entire trailer and all I can say is brace yourself for the writing! Every single word, every dialogue, every nuanced rendition of the word chaand had me exactly where the producers want me to be, I think, in a state of euphoric excitement. As Sarmad Sebhai, the writer, himself acknowledges: “[T]he mainstream art mafia does not allow me to do my work. Ours is not a ‘visual’ society; its text orientated. The word is divine and sacred.” It is exactly this emphasis on the written word that is Mah-e-Meer’s strength, thus, giving the director and actors confidence to work with a meaty script unlike other more recent Pakistani films.

Visuals as Sebhai correctly notes fall flat – no doubt(!) – but whether this is because of excessive control or because of the primacy of text remains to be seen. For a movie being promoted as an art film, I find the visuals in strict contrast to the writing. The gaudy make-up, the excessive colour, the ostentatious sets that scream fifty shades of cheap and then some are evocative of some Bahnsali-esque rendition of Meer’s age. Not altogether inappropriate or out of place, after all, the nawabs were know for their ostentation, yet, the overall effect screamed fake and tawdry, perhaps, even bordering on trashy. Of course, these are first impressions and I might be entirely wrong.

What stood out apart from the writing, if this is indeed an art film, were the sequences of the latter day Meer played flawlessly by Fahad Mustafa. The angst, the pain, the emotion of a man conflicted by his passions – his women and his work – come across far more clearly in the austere and brutal settings of modern day Karachi. Even though that stripped and skeletal flat is probably a set it is far more believable than the velvet lined gaddis and marble lampposts we’re fed in the other half of the film. Again, the austerity of a “here and now” Meer is only intensified by the effortless writing, strong acting, and compelling dialogues.

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Although, in all honesty, I can’t venture much in terms of direction and acting because that remains to be seen but from what I can see of Iman Ali, Sanam Saeed, Manzar Sebhai, and Fahad Mustafa, I can certainly agree that both the writer and director have a particular vision whether they’re able to portray that to us, the audience, remains to be seen.

My only criticism, if that’s what you’d like to call it, is Iman Ali’s choice in roles. Clearly, she is a stunning woman and a decent actress, then, why the concentrated effort on a particular type of role. I have seen her play the courtesan (with or without a heart of gold) once too often. The opening sequence of the trailer is a scene-to-scene rip-off from Kamal Amrohi’s Pakeezah but Ali still manages to make it about her, about Mah-e-Meer, something another less-experienced actress would not have been able to do. I still want to see more variety from her!

Sanam Saeed looks far removed from her Kashaf avatar but something tells me we’ll be seeing an angry girl yet again. Place bets anyone…?

From what I can gather, Mah-e-Meer promises to be a well-thought out experiment but I wouldn’t necessarily call it an art film. It lacks the grit and grime so easily associated with the work of parallel cinema stalwarts like Gulzar, Benegal, and Nihalani from but I won’t let this stop me from finding out for myself!

Am I curious? – Yes, I am.

Do I want to see more? – Yes, I do.

And I hope you do too. Till we meet for a film review!

This is RB signing off.