Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Tasher Desh

A few months back I saw Gandu, an Indian film which broke all the taboos of the Indian society with such an ease and flow that one hardly notices until the end credits appear. The effect of that movie was the only reason that took me in the cinema hall today to watch Tasher Desh, the latest film of Gandu's director Qaushiq Mukherjee aka Q. Now again this movie shook me and made me question my eyes and ears. Tasher Desh has nothing controversial like Gandu but still the story, narration and characters are unlike any other Indian characters you have ever seen.

Tasher Desh, the original play was written by the great Rabindranath Tagore. In an interview Q said, "this is one Tagore story that has fascinated me since I was a child. 'Tasher Desh' is completely different from his oeuvre. He experimented a lot with this play. In fact, critics find it flawed, so it became a children's play but it is not a children's play. It is very political. I think, we did not get it right contextually."

Tasher Desh mixes the elements of fantasy and surrealism in brilliant way. Q just refuses to go by the book to churn up an usual film. As it is being said, this film is literally Tagore on acid. Maybe this is not a film for everyone. But it's worth a watch. You either hate it or love it but you definitely won't be able to ignore it. For someone who isn't interested this can be quite irritating and torturous.

The film follows two parallel story lines. First line follows a writer who carries around a torn copy of Tasher Desh and second, of a prince and his adventures. The two stories are shown in distinct and strikingly different visuals. The writer's sequences are in black and white, symbolizing his dull and barren life while those of the prince are in bright colors.

The prince is bored of his usual and monotonous life. He wants to explore. He takes up his merchant friend along with him to roam and know the world. But they get stranded on a strange island. 

The people on the island live by rules. Everyone is named after the cards. Nothing happens here due to personal desires or wishes. In fact the very words, 'desire', 'progress', 'freedom' are banned from the usage. It is here that the prince instills a sense of dis-order and freedom through a beautiful musical sequence. This creates a kind of awakening on the island. A quest for liberation starts under the lady who is the Ace of Spades.

Meanwhile back in the real world, the writer meets his muse who symbolizes the Ace of Spades for him and this forms the storyline for his parts.

The themes of reality, anti-fascism, chaos, liberation and desires fit at proper places.  

Visually, this film is a treat to the eye. It takes time to grow on you but once it does then the surrealistic treatment by Q works wonders. 

One can take the entire film to be one long dream sequence too. That's the beauty of the story. People can interpret it in their own way. The combination of intoxicating visuals, breath taking sequences and the amazing musical scores works highly in favor of the film.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013


Yojimbo (1961) has a sacred status for all Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune fans. The great Japanese director, Kurosawa's direction plus Mifune's epic acting skills makes this movie stand out among lovers of good cinema.

It is a period film. The story is set in the second half of the 19th century after the fall of the Tokugawa Shogunate. The movie starts with a samurai (Mifune), who finds himself unemployed. He is left without a master and cause. This forces him to wander around searching for a life and income. And incourse of this journey, the samurai comes across a town.

Now this town is in mess and has become a battle ground between the two rival gangs of Seibei and Ushitora. Turns out that Ushitora once used to work for Sebei. But when Sebei announced that he will pass the crime syndicate to his undeserving and foolish son, Ushitora breaks out and forms his own gang. Ushitora has two brothers. Inokichi a timid and somewhat soft man and Unosuke, a dangerous man. Unosuke is the only person in the town who has a pistol and this makes him even more powerful and dangerous.

The samurai after knowing all these, decides to use this situation in his favour. He believes that eliminating these two gangs would be good for the people of the town as well. The samurai then proves his worth and makes his skills known to these gangs. Now both of the gang leaders lobby hard to make the samurai join their respective gangs so that it will be beneficial for them in the war. But the samurai has different plans.

There are various other characters like a resturant owner, a government officer, a woman who has been exploited by Ushitora, etc.The samurai's intentions and his course of actions, the war between the gangs, the role of Unosuke and his gun in all of these form the rest half of the movie.

There was some controversy when Sergio Leone remade it as A Fistful of Dollars (1964) starring Clint Eastwood. After watching A Fistful Of Dollars, Kurosawa sued Leone and wrote to Sergio Leone that it is, "a fine movie, but it was MY movie.”

Yojimbo holds 97% fresh ratings on Rotten Tomatoes. Also it ranks 95 in Empire magazine's list of 500 Greatest Movies Of All Times.