|ARTS TRIBUNE||Friday, December 28, 2001, Chandigarh, India|
Great year for lovers of European films
Keep arts alive: Sonal
DD in cloud cuckoo land
Great year for lovers of European films
What does a film buff do when both Hollywood and Bollywood movies leave him disappointed and dissatisfied? Well, he looks forward to watching European cinema. Simply because it is different, refreshingly different. It has none of the hype and hoopla which characterises crassly commercial cinema. Fortunately, viewers in Chandigarh have had a taste of films from France, Germany, Hungary etc. over the years. The year 2001 was no exception. In fact, it had plenty of great European films to offer to movie aficionados.
The Alliance Francaise kicked off the year with the screening of some evergreen classics of French, nay world cinema. Marcel Carne’s "Les Enfants du Paradis" made in 1945, was a spectacular, emotionally overpowering saga of a theatre company and its principal members. Rene Clement’s "Jeux Interdits" (1952), a strong indictment of the inhumanity of man, seemed to have lost none of its significance.
The major works of Polish film-maker Krzysztof Kieslowski generated plenty of enthusiasm among local film buffs. Opinion was divided over which film of his colours trilogy — comprising "Blue", "White" and "Red" — was the best. However, there was none to find faults with his poetic style.
Two French film festivals were organised during 2001 by the Alliance Francaise, in March and September. The first one was dedicated to the portrayal of women in French cinema. The quality of the movies selected was uneven. "Chin Up", the stark account of a pregnant woman battling with breast cancer, and "La Dilettante", a comedy about a feisty femme who flits from one relationship to another, were the two that stood out.
The September festival, which showcased the films of actor Fabrice Lucchini, was just average. "The Hunchback" was a fast-moving but hollow costume drama. New Wave veteran Eric Rohmer’s "The Tree, the Mayor and the Multimedia Library" was a frightfully boring film in which the characters did nothing else but talk, talk and talk about everything under the sun. Moreover, it was surprising that Lucchini was picked for the retrospective, instead of much more deserving candidates like Alain Delon and Gerard Depardieu.
Talking of Depardieu, his fans had a merry time during the year. It was one memorable experience after another watching the great actor perform in films like "Danton", "Germinal" and "Jean de Florette".
Luc Besson’s "Leon" was among the best French films shown at the Alliance complex. This violet yet comic story featured Jean Reno as a reticent hit man who teaches the tricks of his trade to an orphaned girl. Claude Berri’s "Jean de Florette" was a brilliant movie about an good-natured farmer ruined by his greedy neighbours. Its sequel, "Manon of the Spring", in which the villains paid a heavy price for their sins, was no less exceptional.
The Chandigarh Film Society organised a German film festival in March. Most of the films screened were by directors identified with the New German Cinema of the 1970s, like Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Volker Schlondorff and Wim Wenders. Schlondorff’s "The Tin Drum", based on Gunter Grass’ acclaimed nove, was marked by unforgettable imagery as it narrated the bizarre tale of a three-year-old boy who refuses to grow up and become part of the adult world. "The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum", also by Schlondorff, was a hard-hitting movie about a housekeeper who is victimised by the police and the media. Fassbinder’s "Fear Eats the Soul" combined social criticism with emotional drama to tell the unusual love story of an old German woman and a young Arab.
More German films came to the city courtesy the Alliance Francaise, which decided to show these alternately with the French movies screened every Friday. Prominent among these were "Beyond Silence", which inspired Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s "Khamoshi" and "One More Kiss and You Will Be Dead", which charted the life of a German film star during the Nazi era. As if that was not enough, one fine evening, the local film society screened "Run Lola Run" and "Rossini", two highly entertaining and brilliantly made movies which indicated that contemporary German cinema was a force to reckon with.
The Norwegian festival, held in late August, had many surprises in store for viewers. Hans Petter Moland’s "Zero Kelvin" set in the harsh landscape of Greenland, was a disturbing film which pulled no punches while revealing the cruelty and bestiality of man. Celebrated Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgard gave a memorable performance as a seal hunter who hates love and all those who believe in love. "Only Clouds Move the Stars", directed by Torun Lian, was a touching tale about a girl coming to terms with the loss of her younger brother. The other films were also impressive and heart-warming, even though they were made in a cold, cold country.
The year ended with the screening of two Hungarian films, "Sticky Business" and "Professor Albeit", besides two German ones, by the film society. All in all, it was a great year for those who swear by European films.
Keep arts alive: Sonal
The rich Indian cultural traditions have withstood the onslaught of western influence for centuries and continue to make strides remarked eminent Indian classical dancer, Sonal Mansingh. An exponent of Odissi and Bharat natyam, Sonal, talking to reporters in Amritsar recently, said the Indian music, art and rhythm have stood the test of time and found new audiences all over the world.
The young generation, too, has started appreciating Indian dance and music and developed a fondness for their subtle nuances. Commenting on fusion in music and dance, she said it had been accepted by the artistes and the audience both but added that it should be done in the right proportion without distorting the basics.
She said the electronic medium, Internet and computers had added a new dimension to the arts the world over. The new generation was somewhat confused with the new images, but the originality of the old traditional arts had to be kept alive to let youngsters gain authentic knowledge about these.
Sonal, who has performed in more than 75 countries all over the world and has been dancing since the age of 10, said hard work, sustained practice and determination to achieve the best were required to reach the top. She added that dance was a blend of yoga and meditation and she had been practising it regularly for many years.
The world-renowned dancer, who was in Amritsar to inaugurate a refresher course organised by Guru Nanak Dev University at the BBK DAV College for Women, said there was an unmistakable change in trends in the fine arts, music and dance in the new millennium.
Sonal, who had met with a serious car accident in Germany in 1974 which broke her spine, said the doctor had said that she would not be able to dance again, but it was her perseverance and strong motivation that made it possible for her to dance again. She said it was an act of providence and she was back to pursue her passion.
A strong believer in the tradition of Gurukul, the dancer said at present she was running a free dancing school in Delhi where only dedicated and determined girls were enrolled for training in dance.
Earlier she also interacted with school and college students.
The Vice-Chancellor of Guru Nanak Dev University, Dr S.P. Singh, said the university was going to start a new bachelor’s course in performing arts from the next academic session. He added that the university would provide training and courses in traditional instruments for aspiring musicians.
DD in cloud cuckoo land
I have attended awards ceremonies for films, TV and radio in many parts of the world, but none as bizarre as DD’s awards function at Siri Fort last week. I was sitting in the Siri Fort auditorium, isolated in an obscure side block with Muzaffar Ali and Hema Malini, three media professionals whom DD had graciously invited to present some of the awards, while the Prasar Bharati bureaucrats lorded it in the middle VVIP block. I first sat up in amazement when the Vice-President, the Minister for Information and Broadcasting and her deputy, together with the CEO of Prasar Bharati, Mr Anil Baijal, all announced on the stage that these were the firstever Doordarshan awards. Sushma Swaraj even lamented the fact that while AIR had annual awards, DD had none. I happened to have presided over the jury which gave the DD awards in 1979 and we gave it to Rajiv Mehrotra, now a famous TV personality, for his feature ‘Escape to Nowhere’. I have in my hands, in case the CEO wants to brush up on his facts, a list of DD award winners and their programmes down the years as also a copy of the DD certificate as given to awardees. Several previous prize-winners came up to me in the auditorium in agitation and protest.
The programme started a little after 7 p.m. and to our horror, we found that the first half hour was devoted to some very dull songs by some very mediocre nondescript solo crooners who followed each other with hand-held mikes which sometimes failed, so they were drowned by the pseudo-filmi orchestra. Some of the songs were old "filmi geets" anaemically rendered, when everyone remembers how Rafi and Lata had sung them. The hapless Vice-President who left after two hours, the I and B Minister, the deputy minister et al, then made more visits to the stage, with the awardees — who had come from the North-East to Kerala — coming more or less at half-hourly intervals between the dull-as-ditchwater musical, dance and, later, allegedly funny skits, folk dancers and even a boy meets girl number with discreet embraces. The award winners were lost in the brief minute or so they had on the stage and the cameras were mostly on the VIP award givers rather than the winners. Although awards were given for the cameraman in Ahmedabad who had taken a superb shot of the TV tower collapsing in the earthquake and someone else had won an award for outstanding make-up, there was not a clip on any screen of these prize-winning items, which is the normal practice at film and TV award functions. The anchors, a la Mumbai film award functions, were Tom Alter speaking unspeakable shudh Hindi and an unknown girl with gold lipstick, gold eyeshadow, flowers in her hair and showy jewellery, probably an aspiring starlet, but she spoke so badly, most of her comments were lost. This format went on for the better part of four hours with no TV clips, with the winners mostly out of sight. While the politicians and bureaucrats were all asked to say a few words, Hema Malini and Muzzafar Ali were shooed off the stage as soon as possible. No one thought of presenting them to the Vice-President, let alone seating them with the VVIPs. Nor to invite TV pioneers like Pratima Puri, Jaspal Bhatti, Kamleshwar, the cast of "Humlog" and other classic programmes, to be present and say a few words on the stage.
So the awards function arranged on false pretences as the first DD awards, was totally irrelevant to television. It was a very poor relation of the filmi tamashas of Mumbai and unworthy of Prasar Bharati.
TAILPIECE: I only have enough space to say that my initial reaction to Neena Gupta’s quiz-cum-insult show "Kamzor Kadii Kaun?" on Star Plus is not very favourable. For one thing it is very contrived and the overall effect boring. I think Neena has been miscast, she is neither naturally stern nor insulting. One has to be really bitchy in such shows, at which Western networks excel, but Indian performers and audiences are too civilised and polite to go full throttle. The participants were less than exciting. Succeeding KBC as it does, this show is up against impossible odds.