I am starting this blog to be able to write to my heart's content. I dont want to advertise this blog but I would want people to chance on it and give their comments. This is the first of many contradictions that will make up this blog

Location: India

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Decalogues

I owe a lot to my brother for throwing open the world of books to me. In my childhood, I remember being surrounded by books - from a lot of different genres. I remember very clearly a recurring instance from my childhood. Every year, on my brother's birthday, one of my uncles would ask what he wanted as a gift. The answer was a constant. Books. I grew up thinking that Russian classics by Gorky and Dostoevsky was a legitimate birthday gift. My brother had also hoarded up a considerable collection of comics/children books: Tinkle, Champak (I didn't like that even as a kid), Chandamama and my favourite - Indrajal comics with the adventures of Phantom, Mandrake, Rip Kirby, Flash Gordon...

I remember vividly the great sense of anticipation and joy with which I used to come back home after every quarterly/half-yearly exam - the joy of spending a whole afternoon, lying down on the bed with my favourite comics for company was my idea of bliss. The anticipation would start building as soon as I left school on the last exam day. Nobody at home would ask me to study and those joyful afternoons remain in my memories - written with permanent marker ink.

I felt the same kind of anticipation and joy while watching 'The Decalogues'. Its a series of 10 films (each about an hour long) directed by Kryztoff Kieslowski. The films are in Polish with English sub-titles. They are loosely based on the Ten Commandments. They were made for Polish television and screened there for the first time. Initially, he had planned to have a different director for each of the ten films. But he fell in love with the stories and decided to direct them himself. The cinematographer changes in each film but Kieslowski - as the director - is a constant. I read about the Decalogues for the first time in an interview of Vishal Bharadwaj on rediff where he was talking about Omkara. He said that he decided to become a movie director after watching the Decalogues. I am an admirer of Vishal Bharadwaj's work. So, with netflix in hand, I decided to find out what the fuss was all about.

Here is a small Synopsis of each of the 10 movies as I see it.

Decalogue 1:It is about an agnostic father who believes that everything can be solved by reason. The father is a teacher and his 10 year old son is a genius at computers. It is about the implicit faith that the father has in science and consequently the blind faith that the child has in his father - and the consequences thereof.

Decalogue 2:It is about the moral dilemma of a pregnant woman whose husband is suffering from a terminal illness. She is carrying the child of another man. It deals with the interplay of emotions between the woman and the doctor treating her husband. The dilemma is: If the doctor assures her that her husband will live, she will abort the child; if the doctor assures her that her husband will die, she wants to keep the child

Decalogue 3:This is about the one-time mistress of a now-married taxi driver making him revisit the past by taking him on a ride in his taxi through the town.

Decalogue 4:This is about a daughter finding a letter from her dead mother, which plants doubts in her mind of her real father.

Decalogue 5:This is about a killer, his killing a cab-driver, his being captured and sentenced to an execution and about the lawyer who argues his case.

Decalogue 6:This is the original of 'Ek Choti Si love story' starring Manisha Koirala which I had seen the first day it was released.

Decalogue 7:This is about a woman who had a daughter when she was very young. The child is being brought up by the young woman's mother. The young woman and her child are therefore sisters in the eyes of the world. This is about the young woman's attempt to break out with her child.

Decalogue 8:This is about an elderly ethics teacher as she comes face to face with an incident from her past (in the form of a Jewish woman) and she has to revisit a decision that she took in the past

Decalogue 9:This is about a philandering doctor who has become impotent and becomes suspicious of his wife

Decalogue 10:This is about 2 brothers (long estranged) who come across an unusual inheritance and the way their life changes.

I have not done any justice to the depth of the movies by these very superficial synopses (I dont want to spoil things for anyone who will see these movies). I know the synopses are pretty bad but the films are magnificent. All of the stories take place in the same block of flats. Virtually every character is a resident here but there is almost no overlapping of stories. There is an observer like character who moves through each of these stories providing a common link. I have seen and re-seen (thats the best word to describe it) all of these movies. All are masterpieces which make you think, which make you want to see through them at least one more time - to be able to grasp every nuance in the story. The acting is excellent across the board and as I said, except for the observer, there are different actors in each of the 10 films. My personal favourites are Decalogues 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,9,10. Really..Even 8 is good but I thought not as powerful as the other nine. And it involves a lot of viewing time. About 12 hours if you see it once. But to really appreciate the collection you need to see it more than once.
This collection should be made compulsory viewing for every first time director(wherever..Hollywood, Bollywood, Kollywood, Mollywood). The stories of the Decalogues are multi-layered and brilliant. Kieslowski is a Genius.

P.S. I saw 'Sillunnoru Kaadhal', a Tamil movie, the day after I saw the Decalogues. I couldn't bear to watch it for more than 30 minutes. That's what good movies do to you. It makes you lose all patience with trash.


Thursday, October 19, 2006

A nonsensical post on dreams

I remember having three dreams yesterday (To set the context, I wasn't even thinking of movies when I went to sleep). Also, to put things in better perspective, I remember part of 3 of the dreams that I had yesterday. Its entirely possible that I had many more but I don't remember any others. The reason I am putting in this post is that I normally don't remember any of my dreams. So, this was exciting. In the morning when I woke up, it made me think of that ultimate prankster, Richard Feynman (who for me has lived a 'full' life just as it should be) & his adorable book. In one of the sections in that book he talks about all the experiments he did to try and remember the exact instant that he slips from consciousness into sleep. He talks about having dreams which he was part of (as an observer) because of all these experiments. Later on he also talks about why he stopped the experiments (he thought he would go mad soon if he didn't because he was confusing his brain with all the experimentation). Its a must-read for anyone who hasn't....

Ok all these were asides. Now for the dreams (in no particular order).

Dream No 1:
There is a long corridor, almost like a glass tunnel. Shah Rukh Khan is in the frame (wearing clothes like in his entry in KKKG where he has just landed from the helicopter and he is running to meet his mother...hehehe). Behind him is a witch like figure flying in after him (I somehow know in the dream that it is Rani Mukherji, though thinking back I cant recollect the resemblance). There are three different views of this same scene. Either its happening 3 times or it is the same scene from 3 different perspectives. SRK dodges the witch right at the last moment each time. Then he runs around some flower pots and comes and sits on the steps of a verandah. He takes a long breath & smiles, as cool as ever. He gets up and walks towards the entrance of a house where he sees an old woman who looks at him and says 'Satlam'..'Satlam' (Ya Satlam..I remember it clearly). Shakti kapoor is standing nearby wearing the typical 'household help dress' (white banian and khakhi long shorts and a dusting cloth thrown over his shoulder). SRK looks at Shakti Kapoor and tells him that the witch who followed him and the old woman are the same (In my dream, both of them look like Rani Mukherji. So I am sure that both of them are the same). Shakti Kapoor smiles at him and shows SRK the the old lady's footprints and some of her grey hair on the verandah. He tells SRK that the old lady has been walking around the verandah for quite some time and so he is mistaken. SRK looks at the old lady. She looks back at him and says 'Satlam'..Satlam'...

End of what I remember of Dream 1. I don't know whether there was more or not.
1.I am not an SRK fan. The last movie I could tolerate him in was Swades.
2.I stopped watching his movies after Kal ho na Ho. So I have been spared Paheli and KANK (I don't have the patience to type in these long names any more).
3.Just to add, I like SRK's interviews and admire the tremendous energy he seems to radiate offscreen (only offscreen).
4.Just to add..I predict that Don will be a colossal flop and anybody who reads this blog can hold me to this statement.

Dream No 2:
I am sitting in my apartment with the laptop connected to the internet through a cable connection. A colleague of mine has come home. He tells me that I should get a wireless router and connect to the internet through that and basically extols the virtues of having a wireless connection. I listen, uninterested. He gets slightly agitated and asks me where the cable connecting to the internet is (Even though it is in plain view). He proceeds to pull it from the wall socket (Interestingly, the socket is way up on the wall, close to the ceiling close to where a typical light bulb socket would normally be situated). Even before I can tell him to be careful, he has yanked on the power cord. Only the plug cover comes off leaving the 2 plug points (sticks, the things that go in the socket..whatever) inside the socket, effectively ruining it all for me. He looks at me, smiles and says that a wireless connection is always better.

End of what I remember of Dream 2. I don't know whether there was more or not.
1.The plug sockets in my apartment are at a normal height.
2. The colleague who I saw in my dream does not seem to share any of these destructive characteristics in real life

This one is weird. Ok all of them are weird. But this is the highest on the weird-o-quotient.
Dream No 3:
I have a roommate who is a part-time actor. There is a shooting going on for something and they are looking for my room-mate because they cannot find any other actor. I am at the shooting (I have no idea in what capacity). My roommate goes by just then and he is welcomed by the director because he arrived just in time. There is an actress sitting there who I am trying to place in my mind (In the dream, I know that she is some relative of mine and I am pleasantly surprised because she looks really beautiful). The Director is asking her questions approximately in this pattern
"So what were you doing when you were 21?"
She answers (Some vague answer)
"Ok then what were you doing when you were 25?"
Again some vague answer
(And I am thinking in my dream how clever the director is because he can make out the age of this woman without actually asking her)
Then the director (who seems to be a friend of mine because he knows me well) tells me that they need another actor for the scene. So, he asks me to go and fetch him on the bicycle. I sit on the bicycle which has these huge handlebars and I have to stand and ride the bicycle (In the dream, I am thinking how cool this bicycle is)

End of what I remember of Dream 3. I am sure there was more and it was really interesting. But I just cant seem to remember
1. I have never had a director friend or a roommate who was a part-time actor
2. I have no relatives with film-star good looks

I wish someone invents a Dream-recorder.


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