Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Tale of The Princess Kaguya

"The Tale of The Princess Kaguya" is a watercolor illustration brought to life by Studio Ghibli. I was in awe of the work, so much so that I would pause the movie at times and stare at the beautiful illustration, and hit Play to see it move as if by magic. Who knew it would take me 3 hours to watch a 2 hour 17 minute movie!

The style of animation is different from traditional hand-drawn animations, wherein the background and characters are drawn separately. This movie was made by uniting the background and the characters into one beautiful picture, giving us the impression of a beautiful watercolor in motion.

This delightful piece of art is based on a 10th century Japanese folk tale. A bamboo cutter discovers a small child inside a glowing bamboo shoot and takes her home to raise her as his own. He sees signs that she is to be a princess and builds a mansion for her in the capital, with the gold he finds while cutting down bamboo stalks. Kaguya finds this new role of princess irksome and stifling as she realizes that being a princess is much more than wearing beautiful silks and frolicking in her mansion. Frustrated by the limits enforced on her freedom, she yearns to go back to her home: the Moon. The Moon hears her plea, and down come celestial beings singing and playing musical instruments. The chief angel cloaks her with the robe which makes Princess Kaguya forget all about her earthly existence. Her silken scarf sways gently behind her as if to bid farewell.

Accompanied by the beautiful songs, this movie was a feast for all the senses. Every syllable is beautifully articulated, you can almost see the singers' lips change shape, feel the vocal cords strain. Watch it in Japanese with English subtitles, the English-dubbed version pales compared to the original, as per usual.

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya was the result of 8 years of hard work. And what an absolute pleasure to watch! The scenes, sounds and emotions lingered with me even after the credits rolled in and the screen went blank. Here I go again, dreaming of tender bamboo shoots.

Saturday, January 2, 2016


Today marked my foray into Marathi movies! Sure, I've watched some at home, but this was my first Marathi movie in a theater and it didn't disappoint. The movie was Natsamrat, based on an iconic 1970 play of the same name. The play was written by eminent Marathi writer V.V Shirwadkar (Kusumagraj). Nana Patekar plays the role of Ganpat Belwalkar 'Natsamrat', originally essayed by Dr. Shriram Lagoo.

Natsamrat is the story of a Shakespearian theatre actor who's tasted success and fame. His scathing wit, unabashed humor and sensitive nature which charmed everyone end up costing his family and sanity, ironically so. Yes, the premise is grim: the downfall of a successful theatre veteran. The trajectory of our 'Natsamrat' is predictable. But what made this movie interesting were the gems of dialogues strewn in every scene and the stellar performances of the actors.

I wish I could pause the movie and replay every line narrated by Nana Patekar so that I could recite them like verses of one's favorite poem. I was dabbing at my tears now and then, watching the plight of the protagonist. One of my favorite parts was the scene where Nana arrives drunk at his daughter's wedding anniversary party. He rants about the pleasures of intoxication and behaves inappropriately with his son in law's boss. Yet the next day he is told that everyone was thoroughly entertained by his performance and were asking for a copy of the 'poem' he recited last night. Such was his charm!

As for the performances, it goes without saying that Nana Patekar reprised the protagonist's role with aplomb. Medha Manjrekar played the role of the loving wife; Vikram Gokhale, Mrunmayee Deshpande, Sunil Barve and Ajit Parab essayed the roles of his children and in-laws.

Natsamrat is a wonderful concoction of great acting and dialogues which leaves you intoxicated. Do stay in your seats while the credits are rolling to watch the spell binding monologue delivered by the Natsamrat. I shall be watching it again, and try to memorize the exquisite poetry that was this movie.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Spirited Away

I've been drawn to anything and everything Japanese for a while now. It started with Made in Japan by Akio Morita, followed by Jiro dreams of Sushi and a book about Hello Kitty. And the latest entrant: Spirited Away.

If you plan on watching it, watch it in HD with English sub titles. The English dubbed version loses the charm and the natural flow of the original movie.

I was mesmerized by the trembling cellophane that the flowers were wrapped in. Yes, cellophane paper cast a spell on me. Spirited Away follows Chihiro in her journey through a strange land in search of her parents. The graphics are utterly beautiful, drawn in incredible detail. You can feel yourself shudder as the wispy spirits pass by Chihiro on the bridge.

There's a lot to say about the spirits! They're creepy, definitely. Their creepiness lies in their inscrutability. Their bland faces don't reveal much, it's hard to decide whether to trust them or not. The strangest Spirit is No Face, who Chihiro keeps encountering. No Face has a mask and is cloaked in wispy blackness and simply stares at Chihiro from time to time. Cue creepy music.

Chihiro meets Haku, a boy of her age, who acts like a guide. You don't realize till the end that they're in love with each other. It's a beautiful kind of love, where they don't adhere to the standard holding hands and romancing stuff. They just do stuff for each other.

Spirited Away portrays greed, love, sacrifice, loneliness and goodness through Chihiro and the various characters she encounters in this dreamy journey. Not only is it a visual delight, it's a feast for all the senses! The music and the background score up the magic quotient. Keep your tissues handy!

Sunday, July 12, 2015


What's yellow, pill-shaped and talks gibberish?
No, not your 4 year old niece in a minion costume. Sheesh!

Minions! Everyone loves 'em. They're cute. They make you laugh with their minion-talk, a language which vaguely sounds like a 'proper' language and then you realize they're just messing with ya.

It made me realize that 'banana' is such a weird word. Ba-na-na.

To begin with, I wasn't expecting much from the movie, the movie would probably just cash in on their cuteness and funny gibberish and add a bunch of gags. Which was pretty much true.

My movie-watching experience was sullied by the presence of an audience. I had to ignore the stranger who kept repeating whatever the minions said. I was chastised by the guy on my right for checking my phone. The guy to my left offered me his business card which had an 'O' emblazoned on it in red and the other side read "We specialize in Feet. And Potatoes". Remind me to never set foot in that theater again.

So here's how the movie goes: a bunch of minions on the search for their evil leader. Behold Scarlet Overkill (voiced by Sandra Bullock), their new Evil leader! The minions' new assignment: Steal the crown from the Queen of England for Scarlet. Things go awry when Bob pulls out the Excalibur and is crowned as King of England! Scarlet is enraged at this betrayal and strives for revenge. Bob eventually abdicates in favor of Scarlet. Then stuff happens and the Queen reclaims her Crown. Pepper this with a bunch of funny scenes.

Watching it in 3D didn't add any value to the movie. Sure, the glitter looked real, some things popped out of the screen. Nothing special.

It's hard to imagine the minions carrying the weight of an entire movie on their yellow, pudgy shoulders. The movie flounders in parts where the yellow buggers are without a non-minion counterpart. It made me yearn for Gru and his three adorable daughters.

I missed you Agnes.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road


I've never watched a movie in the theater by myself. But this week, I was filled with a strange sense of rage and loser-feelings. I was convinced that I had zero friends because I could get none of them to hang out with me. And when some friends would make plans, I'd refuse them because the neurons in my brain would defuse and pop and crackle and send signals to headquarters and then it would make my vocal chords emit something that sounded like "NO".

So here began my quest for:
Things To Do When You Have No Friends.

"Go watch a movie alone!" was a common theme among the results that popped up as I Googled it.

Here's the conversation between me and My Inner Self Filled With Rage Due to Loser Feelings.

Me: Watch a movie in the theater all by myself?? That's such a loser thing to do!
My Inner Self Filled With Rage Due to Loser Feelings: Do you mean to say that you aren't a loser?
Me: Well, I am a loser. But that doesn't mean that I should do loser things!
MISFWRDLF: You're a fucking loser and I hereby order you to do loser things. In fact I'm making a list of loser things I want you to do. Googling "List of loser things" didn't yield the results I wanted but I know I'll get there.
Me: Hmmm
MISFWRDLF: Don't "Hmmm" me! Losers Hmmm! Oh, wait. Do that. Let me add that to my Loser List. Wait, what were we talking about?
Me: Watching a movie.
MISFWRDLF: Yeah, go watch that movie or I'll pick some stupid brain-dead Hindi crap and make you watch it.
Me: Please don't do that. I'll go watch a movie in the theater.
MISFWRDLF: Good. Go do your loser stuff, you loser.

So there I was, with my 3D glasses, marinating in my loser feelings. Watching Mad Max.


Proceed with caution: Because spoilers. But no loser feelings anymore. They're there but not ahead in this post.

Mad Max. Mad Max! Here I was, a lone woman, scanning the crowd. Mostly male, with a sprinkling of girls who were accompanying their boyfriends.

I was reveling in the strangeness of it, I hate action. I hate desert scenes.  And here I was, watching a post apocalyptic action movie set in a dusty, gritty desert-like landscape.

The plot is fairly straightforward. The story feels organic, the series of events progress naturally. Somehow, even the weirdness woven in seems natural. Mad Max being used as a "Blood Bag" for Vux, a white-hued weird character who is a "War Boy" doesn't seem strange in this land. The director George Miller doesn't use the standard Hollywood action movie trope. There are no damsels in distress, nor is a hero out to save her (Can one call the five wives of bad guy "Immortan Joe" as damsels in distress if the hero is female? Can one call them damsels if they're actively trying to escape from Joe's clutches?) No explicit "message". No eye candy. Well, the five wives sure are pretty to look at, but they're bad-ass too.

Another surprise: Mad Max wasn't about Mad Max at all. Max was simply the guy who said very little (well, everyone in the movie ration their words) barring for grunts. It should have been called Ferocious Feminist (gasp! I used the F-word!) Furiosa or something.

The thumping metal rock background score definitely deserves a mention. To call it a background score would be wrong, though. There was a guy with a flame-throwing guitar, suspended to a contraption embedded with amplifiers. And drums as accompaniment. Because every warring maniac needs a travelling rock band with guitar flame-throwers to get the adrenaline pumping. Of course.

The dusty, gritty landscape was a sight to behold. Delicious, chewy grit. Mmmm.

And of course, the mad machines! As eccentric and weird as the drivers themselves! Rickety, yet mean and powerful. Every scene was a fight scene. My favorite was when the War Boys are attached to the end of javelin-like structures, balanced with a weight on the other end so that they can swoop down on the enemy. Like bait at the end of a fishing rod. Bait that's going to beat the crap out of you.

Oh what a day. What a lovely day to watch this movie.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

In Bad Taste

Do we always have to be tasteful? Do we really need to be well turned out, in impeccable clothes?
This quote by Diana Vreeland got me thinking:

“A little bad taste is like a nice splash of paprika. We all need a splash of bad taste—it’s hearty, it’s healthy, it’s physical. I think we could use more of it. No taste is what I’m against.”

Remember Björk's swan dress?
A photo posted by Vanity Fair (@vanityfair) on

A HUGE dose of paprika, perhaps. But look where the dress landed, at MoMA, one of the most influential museums of modern art in the world. Does that elevate it to the status of good taste? Perhaps not.

But one should remember this, every Björk swan has it's day.

Also, paprika. And stuff.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Internet Cat Phenomenon

Internet cats.

"Woke up like this"

Why is the internet still obsessed with cats. I thought the cat meme/ picture/ video/ vine thing would die its natural death and the internet would move on to the next new thing. But Grumpy Cat is proof enough that the Internet Cat Phenomenon is still a thing.

A photo posted by Grumpy Cat (@realgrumpycat) on

Are cats the new celebrities with their narcissistic tendencies and love for the camera? Are we going back to the times when Egyptians used to worship cats?

 Over to you, Wiki
Praised for controlling vermin and its ability to kill snakes such as cobras, the domesticated cat became a symbol of grace and poise. The goddess Mafdet, the deification of justice and execution, was a lion-headed goddess. The cat goddess Bast (also known as Bastet) eventually replaced Mafdet, and Bast's image softened over time and she became the deity representing protection, fertility, and motherhood.
That makes sense. Cats were useful creatures, killing snakes and vermin and keeping your house pest-free. But we don't have that problem now, we have pest control to take care of that!

Now that the Ancient Egypt Cat Goddess angle has been eliminated, what could be the reason behind our obsession with Internet Cats? Why are cats breaking the internet?

Breaking the internet. That reminds me of Kim Kardashian, another enigma. Nope, that's not it. Cats don't name their kid after a direction.

It has something to do with celebrities. I know it.

What do cats have that celebrities don't? A sense of mystery, that's what. We're bombarded with celebrity news. We follow them on social media. We know what Neil Patrick Harris eats.

A photo posted by Neil Patrick Harris (@instagranph) on

Cats. The new celebrities who want nothing to do with humans and will never share pictures of cat food (mainly due to lack of opposable thumbs)

Humans. Hungry for sources of social rejection. Suckers for 'mystery' and stuff.