Monday, December 15, 2014

Majid Majidi’s Cinema: Celebrating the essence of simplicity

Note 1: This is my humble endeavor to present a perspective.

Note 2: Yes, title of the blog is bombastic but I think I can get away with that! 

In the last scene of the movie ‘Baran” – Lateef the protagonist or confused hero beholds the footstep in the mud left by Baran’s (heroine) shoe – drizzle continues and small drops of water fill up that little space created by the footstep. Camera pans in and stays right there on the footstep while it fills up with water, and thus ends the story of love – never expressed or understood by any of the protagonists in the film. I didn’t feel for that ending or couple but only for myself – and it took me a while to justify the ending in my mind – yes, it couldn’t have been expressed better. The unrequited love (from both sides) attained immortality. So let it be!  The virtuousness of love is illuminated in such a pure manner that it leaves you blissfully stoned.

Majid Majidi (Photo Courtesy:

Grew up on a staple diet of Bollywood earlier and then Hollywood – it was a profound experience for me when I watched this unusual ending in Majid Majidi’s beautiful flick – “Baran” means Rain in Persian (Majidi is an Iranian filmmaker). Devoid of any melodrama and hyperbole, the innate beauty of Majid Majidi’s cinema lies in simplicity, while celebrating and weighing in pure human emotions, pathos, ambitions and inner-conflicts – with sheer honesty. Back in 2008, one of my friends introduced me to Majidi’s cinema. During one of our interesting discussions, he named this director and I ended up watching Baran. Sadly, Majid has not released any flick or documentary since 2008. One of his ambitious and most-talked about film “Muhammad” is under production and according to Internet information, it will be released in 2015.

Except the reviews of his films, a film lover wouldn’t find much, written about the cinema of this Iranian director. A lot has been contributed in popularizing his cinema by an Academy Award Nomination, which the director received in the Best Foreign Language Film category in 1998 for Children of Heaven.

Majidi’s absolute gems - Children of Heaven, The Color of Paradise and one of my all-time favorite movies Baran showcase the poignant human stories which captivate the audiences from the start to finish, without indulging in any sort of pretention. Sadly, this is a common ploy used by many notable directors these days, as they deliberately focus on unimportant details in their films to confuse the audiences in order to amplify the overall effect of important scenes or to support the presence of unnecessary sub-plots in films.

I wouldn’t dare to write about his documentaries because I am not capable enough to justify the effort of this great director. There are some outstanding scenes in all of his movies, which I really like and they left an indelible impression on me. One factor that really stands out about this director is his sheer honesty to bring his stories on the screen – the way he wants. Like a dedicated storyteller, who respects his audiences as much as he respects his stories – Majidi never deviates from his path.

Back to his movies… Let’s talk about a few scenes:

There is one scene in Children of Heaven, where Zahara (a girl child studying in a primary school) notices that Roya was wearing her pink shoes. While Roya was busy licking on a sort of candy, Zahara simply notices her – both children do not look at each other. Not sad or angry, but Zahara’s probing look eulogizes the purpose of the scene and tells us about her mental-state. It is always difficult to get the right expressions from children but Majidi has a knack of getting the best out of them – and the output comes as natural as you expect from a child artist. His child actors hold their characters beautifully and pull them off with an uncharacteristic sincerity because here they are not reduced to mannequins or cheeky vocalists or fillers or disordered jesters.

Another important aspect of Majid’s cinema is that he shows the daily chores of common people stunningly like a cobbler mending shoes, women washing clothes in a riverbed, or a vegetable seller attending his customers. Every scene gets enough screen-time and gels along well with the overall momentum of the film.

Majid’s cinema is not only about the celebration of characters or human emotions and dreams, but it’s also about the ambience where these characters live, breath and dream about a better future. Ultimately, this very ambience gives the meaning to their lives. This sort of setting or storytelling can be compared with R.K. Narayan’s Malgudi Days, where the surroundings and people complement the presence of each other and here they are gleefully pictured or presented.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Fifty shades of grey, Mastram and Indian potential

Caution: Offensive Stuff! 

They stole our Kohinoor, ruled over us for 200 years, made a Babu (clerk) out of us, and then left us with a severe inferiority complex. Yes – the very Indian in me is literally boiling from inside.

Now excuse me please!

I started this blog post with this highly charged opening sentence not because the patriotic Indian in me is up for something but just because I couldn’t find anything good in the opening line to write about or to start about. The British Raj did contribute a lot in our history, culture and education – and in a lot of other important things like spreading Gupt Rog or STDs (Gulshan Grover’s character in Deepa Mehta’s 1998 film 1947 Earth did quote that).

Well, I don’t give a damn about Gupt Rog or anything of that sort. But yes, one thing that really bothers me is that why can’t we (Indians) write and promote books like “Fifty Shades of Grey” WHY can’t WE give a fitting reply or competition to E. L. James (the writer of Grey books…or these books) and if not  now then…. when. This is certainly a Golden Age of Indian literature or writing as we have a new breed of home-grown IIT+IIM Package writers (undisputed bestsellers), who know what to write that appeals, but still we are lagging behind when it comes to writing erotic stuff…sadly, we are not making the most of our Potential. Why? Why? Why?

A country which has a cult following of Mastram and Savita Bhabhi, it is such a shame that we haven’t been able to assert and establish our position on the global scale. Obviously, we couldn’t sell our stuff (erotic Heroes or household names) on a global scale. Because, we didn’t take them seriously and now look what E. L. James has achieved! Yes, we did lose a lot on that but now the time has come to assert our position. We need to believe in ourselves and yes we can deliver.

Photo Courtesy:

First of all, one of the obvious reasons behind the soaring popularity of E. L. James’ books in India is – they are written in English and of course they talk about Sex. I bet – when it comes to vivid description to achieve the highest degree of titillation – Mastram and Savita Bhabi can beat Fifty Shades of Grey – on any given day. Yes that’s called confidence. But, our Mastram or books based on this genre should be written in English. Indian writing in English is certainly going through a golden phase at the moment – with new writers emerging like frogs during Monsoon and this surge can be compared with the in-flow of Punjabi singers – apparently there are hugely talented singers in every nook and corner of Punjab, likewise, we have a swelling pool of talented writers now.

Let me reiterate again. The obvious reason behind the popularity of James’ books in India is that they are written in English and written by an English Writer (Firangi – originally from England). Guys same goes with our Indian abuses. When someone hurls – MC, BC or any other Indian abuse in Hindi it is considered so uncool but WTF, MF, SF, A-hole, well they are just too cool. OK, I get it. It is also important for all the CAT (Common Admission Test) aspirants to read stuff written in English to improve their comprehension skills. For that we have Chetan Bhagat and others. That is fine. But, we are really lagging behind in churning out sell-able erotic stuff – written in English by an Indian Writer.

But imagine if we could produce Desi versions of Fifty Shades of Grey or something on the same lines. It can do a lot of good to our country. The time has come to harvest the Desi Talent. Yes, our guys can beat E. L. James and make her stuff look awful or utterly Un-Cool. Forget about SDBM and all that – our Indian guys can write something far more engrossing and innovative and we shouldn’t forget that India gave Kamasutra to the world. So, when it comes to sex, we have the authority. All we are missing here is the WILL…Yes that Will is missing.

Now, the time has come for India to reclaim that title of Knowledge guru of the world or Sex guru of the world – both are same…aren’t they! Yes, they are.

Now, how can we do it? We need thinkers, activists and Doers (Yes, those who don’t do different things, but do the same things differently – I hope I got it right) and lastly the writers. We need people who can bring back those glory days to India and really make us a powerhouse of that pure knowledge. If India needs to project itself as a superpower, we need to understand that yes, we have that potential.

We need a solid PR agency and people those who have passion to promote this thing if they want to take India forward. Our country is just brimming up with such people, but at this moment, I could only come up with four names – Chetan Bhagat, Mahesh Bhatt, Suhel Seth and Shiv Khera. Yes, these guys can make that difference. Yes they can!

Chetan Bhagat – we need this greatest ever Indian writer to promote stuff or sell it, if he wants then he can also write. He could have easily done that by elaborating those sex scenes in his IIT+IIM based stories. And, yes he is the one who started this trend of sending a book to the publishers with a PPT Presentation (how to sell it). He is the Best we have.

Then comes Mahesh Bhatt – He is not only Alia Bhatt’s father but a man who is nothing less than an ocean of knowledge. He knows everything and anything about this world and all the issues plaguing our modern society. If Opinions are like Assh*** and everybody has one and if the world is ruled by Assh***S! Then there is nothing left to say. He knows literally everything in the world, and has opinion over anything. So, all we need is his opinions to garner enough support for this proposed plan of taking Mastram and Savita Bhabi cult movement to the world.

Then comes Suhel Seth – he is an ever-alert and ever-present celebrity guest on those electrified talk shows (which are shown only on English News Channels). This guy has that unique penchant to fondle with delicate subjects by using oh-so-cool-words to create interest among viewers. He can stay calm amidst heated conversations and sometimes it appears that he is just there to balance out the ambience in debates. He is just there.. Everywhere. He can give his valuable inputs on how to create a global Mastram in a longer run.

And, in the end, we have the one and only Shiv Khera – remember “Winners don’t do different things, but they do things differently” now apply this logic to sex books or porn books of E.L. James – guys, it is not something new, but it’s all about showing it from different angles. Appetite for erotic literature is such that people will read the same stuff again and again – only if you are willing to serve. And, Khera has loads of advises on how to present things differently. He can be the pillar of strength for all those writers who are still battling with inhibitions.

I can visualize that day, when students in Delhi Metro would be carrying Mastram or Savita Bhabhi books instead of “Fifty Shades of Grey” because that would look so cool. How can something not be so cool – if written by Chetan Bhagat, supported by Mahesh Bhatt, debated by Suhel Seth and motivated by Shiv Khera. And now visualize about all those people who would read about Mastram and Savita Bhabhi in UK, USA and in rest of the world. Folks, we can earn huge money for India by selling something we are really good at – we shouldn’t forget that. We can become the leader in churning out 21st Century’s Creative Erotic Stuff – absolutely Made in India.