Sunday, July 20, 2014

Retrospective: Filmi~Contrast is one year old today!

Mubarak ho! It's flashback time. . .

I came home from London last year in June, after a week spent alternately in delight (SO many hours at the British Museum and National Gallery and watching Bunty aur Babli back at the hotel room) and horror (bedbugs) and immediately broke to my closest friends and family the grim truth. "I'm going to take Hindi this fall," I said. "It's probably going to take me to my next step school-wise," I said even more carefully. "Got a problem with that?" I was kinda nervous to hear the answer.

It's nice to be beyond that.

Similarly, while the romantic in me already wants to idealize the early stages of obsession with Hindi films, the first months of writing about them, the humid mornings reading Rushdie on the patio, or the numerous nights last summer spent with *ahem* brandy, neat, and various world-shaking first watches . . . when you do the math, I am better off now. With the intent to prove just that, and in honor of Filmi-Contrast turning one year old today (I know, still so much ahead in its blog life) let's have a retrospective.

Last summer, before this blog began . . . 


1.  Confession: Shashi Kapoor was my be all, end all.

Up through July, anyway. I was aware that Shashi's oeuvre was fabulously represented [far, far better than I could manage] through other bloggers' write-ups, and so I made a conscious effort to establish my blog for other purposes. I tried my best to keep the Shashi talk to a minimum and try new things. Long term, I wanted to keep myself accountable to broadening my horizons, not just finding an obsession outlet. Lucky, too, 'cause not long after I attempted this, my fixation disappeared rather abruptly. It sounds odd, but because I didn't have first fandom claim, I felt I was encroaching upon someone else's imaginary boyfriend. I didn't want to be addicted to stolen goods. (Although, I still share the PPCC's documented fascination with the grey-templed Shashi.) In summary: my fangirl days are over, but his skill as an actor still gives me the chills sometimes.

2.  My definition of quality cinema was embarrassingly narrow.

One of the best habits I've ever stumbled into was to start reading smart, obscure film commentary, like that of 4DK or Teleport City. 4DK first exposed me to the Gunmaster G-9 films... pretty much as soon as I set eyes on Todd's edits, I was hooked. Of course, I haven't gone out to search for every crazy film I've read about, but it's empowering to see intelligent, brave folks exploring the no-budget, un-subtitled, commercial cinema of the world. I credit Shashi Kapoor and established Bollywood bloggers for enabling my classic filmi appreciation to take off. But this past year I've also explored older cinema from other countries: Russia, Japan, Greece, Italy, Egypt. It was good writers, tried and true cinema explorers who opened my eyes to the possibities. Because there is SO much more out there to love if one is willing to step out of one's snobbish, Westernized preconceptions of "good" art.

3. I had only seen one non-Hindi Indian film (Charulata).

I share the fear expressed by many bloggers--running out of good Hindi movies. It seems to me that there are two solutions to this:

1. Work on broadening one's tastes (in genres, eras, stars, etc.)

2. Explore other regional cinemas, and develop parallel watching routines. (This also works to slow down consumption of all the decent Hindi films of a certain type.) This is a project I hope will be under construction for quite a while. So far, I've found classic Bengali movies, arty or commercial, downright addicting. And I got through my first full Malayalam film recently, un-subtitled but quite beautifully shot. I have a feeling that it's hard to beat Malayalam films for use of lighting and color.


4. I had spent more hours researching classic Hindi cinema than actually watching it.

Classic cinema curation is a boon to the newcomer, and early Bollywood bloggers were game changers in that arena (you know who you are); painstakingly tracking down films they hadn't ever seen even a clip or a screen-cap from, jumping in blind, and then wrapping that film up in a neat package for the rest of us. After I saw two or three Bollywood films, I found the Bolly blogosphere, and couldn't believe my good fortune. I went on mad reading-binges (something I do whenever I need to grasp the wider context of a subject of interest). I vetted every film before watching, by standards I would laugh at now.

But right after I started this blog, I discovered Rajesh Khanna films. I'd heard a few people saying that Kati Patang was kinda progressive and worth a try. The music was a revelation (Thanks, early R. D. Burman) and there was something about Rajesh's early work that bypassed my critical brain and anxiety about being "let down" by a film. I found Sharmila's presence in a lot of these films to be a huge plus. I started watching whatever RK vehicles I could find with subtitles, good reviews or no. 

These days, that's par for the course. If I know I like an actor/actress/director, I'm ok just engaging with the film on its own terms, previous context or explanation be damned. Some bloggers joke that "subtitles are for suckers." Given experience in obscure film watching, I would say that sometimes "context is for suckers." Until after you've watched. Then, by all means, contextualize the hell out of it. The most rewarding films are often those you "discover" all by your lonesome, anyhow.


5. Nargis, Vinod Khanna, Hema Malini, Dharmendra, Sharmila Tagore, Pran . . . these folks were barely even on my radar. 

I could go on and on. The faces and personalities to discover, fall in love with, binge-watch, and research are nearly endless. And on the real life end of things, the people I've met and bonded with BECAUSE of our shared love of a star or an era. . . those relationships, whether they be long-distance or face-to-face, constantly enrich my life.

My sincere thanks to you all for a lovely year of conversation!

~Miranda

Note: I won't be allowing many gifs on this blog, if you're worried by the change. If, on the other hand, you want more, check out my updated and very filmi, Halfway-through-the-Dark tumblr.

4 comments:

  1. Happy Birthday, Miranda's blog. Long may you continue to discover the many fascinating facets of Hindi cinema, commercial, art, independent, middle-road, parallel- the labels are many, but the films are, in the final reckoning, good, bad, or so-bad-they-are-good. :)

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    1. Filmi~Contrast says "Thank you." :)

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  2. Happy first birthday filmicontrast blog! May you continue to watch films and keep up the interesting posts on this blog.

    Cheers

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    1. Filmbuff, you've been a great voice on Filmi-Contrast pretty much since it was born. Thanks for the conversations and the happy returns!

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