Monthly Archives: August, 2016

A Shot of Short | Presto (Doug Sweetland/Pixar)

This delightful film is about Presto, the magician and Alec, his rabbit in a hat who plots revenge against the overbearing and cruel magician. While the rabbit in a hat trick brings Presto great fame and fortune, Alec is left to languish in a cage, a carrot just out of reach.

Alec is decides not to take Presto’s abuse any longer and rebels giving the magician a taste of his own mean spirited medicine. The rabbit is determined to get the last laugh at the expense of his demanding employer. The film is filled with slapstick, magic hats, vaudevillian antics, all in five minutes of screen time.

When searching for the style of the short, Sweetland decided that it should be like Tom and Jerry with Presto in the Tom role and Alec in the Jerry role. There was a melding of the old and the new.

It wasn’t Sweetland’s original intent to bring the feel of old style cartoons into this film until he found his story not only called for it but would thrive because of it. He found that the art of directing an animated film was something like “boot camp” where he would have to shape and refine his vision.

Through hours of work Presto morphed from the amiable magician to the comic antagonist with the kind of relationship with Alec that would bring to mind classic pairs like Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny. They were meant to be antagonists, to do battle and once again the rabbit was going to gain the upper hand.

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Tuesday Blog | Of Cinema, History and our Future

thinking children

In my child-like exuberance when I first read about the satellites of Jupiter and Saturn possibly having atmospheres and water I was tempted to find out why we have not sent out missions to inhabit those places? Similarly, when I first heard about the reconciliation of West Germany and East Germany I was enthused to find out why India and Pakistan could not re-unite? I went up to my geography (for I did not understand then that space exploration was not part of her subject) and history teachers to find out if something was being done along those lines? The firm responses I got from my admonishers put me in my place. The first one asked me angrily to “write a letter to NASA and find out” and the second one told me sweetly, “Beta, Pakistan is our sworn enemy; we can’t possibly forgive them for all they have done to us.” I wonder what would have happened had I written that letter, may be even one to the President of India.

At that time I might not have been able to articulate but there was constant talk of the population explosion that India was going through and the only solace we could have was that we were second in the list, not first. Some part of me was searching an answer to these questions. May be in finding a new spatial colony I saw some resolution to the said issues. I remember once having wondered out loud to my Baba, “why don’t we dump a lot of water from the ocean in the deserts of Rajasthan during summers. That way clouds can form and rain can happen solving the water and agri-crisis”? He answered after some thought, “Because there once was the ocean there. The water evaporated and the salt turned the soil into desert. It is not the lack of water that is the problem babu, it is the presence of salt. Dulaar kam naikhe baakir ghaav dher baa ta khees badhat jaala (It is not the love that is missing, but the wounds are deep and the anger keeps growing”. He was, of course, speaking about some family feud but the words made sense. The meaning extends into eternity.

Today, we are living in a deeply fraught world. The fabrics around us are collapsing or seem to be coming apart at the seams. There is deepening of isolation, coupled with anger which finds no resolution or outlet. The regimentation at home lends itself greatly to us taking liberties in public spaces. Thus, desecration of public monuments becomes a gift from father, breaking of traffic rules is a show of ‘who gives a beep’ attitude, and the manifestations continue to grow and govern us.

ant rolling water drop

On the other hand, there are the misfits, the misplaced and the mistaken like us, who tread carefully lest we infringe upon someone else’s lives and toes accidently. We are continuously concerned by the absence of recognition of good. There seems to be no reward for good behaviour anymore in our society. The space in which we grew up might be considered rootless by some but that does not deny us our convictions. We left our homes and found a world continuously changing and getting shaped by positive intent. We are pushed to the brink now asking ourselves ever so regularly, what is the good in being good if bad behaviour goes unpunished and good behaviour is pushed aside constantly. We grew up in Bombay (which does not discard its history of being part of the larger subcontinent and home to ‘Mumbai’kars), we grew up in Calcutta (which never shunted the deep impact of Durga Puja), we grew up in these inclusive and thought-provoking spaces which invited us as outsiders and subsumed its reality into ours. This rootlessness that we are accused of is what gives us a sense of rootedness. It is because we have missed our homes we know the fabrics so well and acknowledge fully well that the strengths of that system are not to be shunned.

Reading someone like Khaled Ahmed in The Indian Express the hope becomes real and alive. But then the cynicism creeps in, which has its way of taking hold of our thoughts in today’s day and time, and we ask, “hasn’t the wind of change been blowing always? Have we not always had lovers of the two nations across the borders and have we not always been singing songs of peace and love?” Many things coincide today. The restlessness the country is witnessing is visible. The world order is being questioned and upturned in no small measure today. Irom Sharmila has broken her fast and decided to shift her battlefront and steer her energy towards the electoral process. AAP has come to power in New Delhi. In all this, the death of Mahashweta Devi puts a silent question mark on the psyche of our nation and its identity. The words of my Cha (Uncle) come to mind and the Middle Walkers gain strength, “Just before a new order has to emerge chaos will show its ugly face. It will flicker like the dwindling flame, passionate, angry and destructive.” We continue on our path of finding truth unfettered.

calvin_and_hobbes_pounceAnd the child-like exuberance shows its cherub face again. The stripes of gold and black become visible in the grassland, giggling as they come closer. Phrases have been coined and mouths have disappeared. Time has not been able to let us rest. Shedding the baggage of our history can we move forward?

Can we look at the violence in our past and address it? How many more generations will we let perish before we address the pains handed to us during our freedom? The misogyny handed to us then continues to fester in the honour killings we report. That land came to represent roots and women came to represent honour is the greatest gift the British left behind. Our fault lies in nurturing this crime and making it our legacy. The story of protection of women and capture of land and crimes related to both these aspects of our lives is the larger narrative of this country which a population will shun and resort to frivolity in all aspects of their lives, all in the guise of, “my life is already fraught with so many issue why should I waste three hours of my life worrying about other people’s issues? Let me go to a theatre and watch a mindless comedy, where a chimp and a man take turns slapping each other, for 500 bucks instead!”

It has been futile so far to show people the inter-connectedness of events but the cinema of this country should be taking that responsibility and be keener in showing us what we are and how we have become. The unfortunate reality is that the current crop of leading filmmakers and the earlier crop of filmmakers are all descendants of immigrants who were children at the time of India’s partition. Their account of the journey from across the black line on the map to Bombay was fraught with events that never found any outlet or redressal system in society. No one was willing to engage with this pain. But we need to be child-like in our exuberance and ask larger, more relevant questions. We are laughing today when we listen to political leaders of various countries causing mayhem and laughter-riots in turns, but we do not realise that it is us who puts them in that position of power.

childlikeOur ignorance levels are higher than ever, our conversations are shallower than ever, and yes, it is true that every generation will have something to complain about when it comes to the next one, but the manifestations around us are scary and we must recognise this pattern lest things go out of our hands. If we have to talk about our heritage and all that we have given this world in the past then we must concede that idea influx was the biggest reason why that society could impact the world. We must open our eyes to the possibilities of what can be and what was. We must bear in mind our responsibility to us as children when we could dream of a colony on Europa after having heard of the moon landing, we would think of our deepest fears and process them like external objects, we would trust our judgement and make friends with the world. We would dream and create in the movie halls then. We need to pick up that baton now and start swinging for the fences, lest we forget why we hurt so much, and only end up treating the symptom of the pain and not the root cause. I urge once again, bring forth your child-like exuberance and dream again for that is a wonderful way to look for truth for as my father once said, “the truth is only one and there are ways to reach them.”


His Master’s Voice | Paolo Sorrentino

Paolo Sorrentino

Paolo Sorrentino (1970 – present)

Italian film director and screenwriter

Sorrentino is considered among the most audacious contemporary filmmakers today. His work has been critically acclaimed across international film festivals and the global film community. The themes he depicts in his cinema have led him to be compared to Frederico Fellini, Ettore Scola and Michaelangelo Antonioni.

His film The Great Beauty scored a hat-trick, when in 2014 it won the Academy Award for the Best Foreign Language Film,  BAFTA award for Best Film Not in the English Language, and the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film, after being nominated for the Palme d’Or at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.

Films of Note: One Man Up (2001), The Consequences of Love (2004), The Family Friend (2006), Il Divo (2008), This Must be the Place (2011/English), The Great Beauty (2013), Youth (2015/English)