Wednesday, January 7, 2015

This is me outside my Comfort Zone ... 2014 and 2015 Resolutions

Last year I challenged myself to 8 filmi things outside my comfort zone. Let's see how I did.

An Evening in Paris (1967)
1. Shammi Kapoor

I watched a grand total of one Shammi film: An Evening in Paris (1967). And I watched it for Pran and Sharmila, I have to confess. Still more interested in him as a person than as a star.

2. Dilip Kumar

I watched 5 Dilip Kumar films, but floundered after a less than awesome experience with Yahudi (1958), and repeated failures at getting through Naya Daur (1957). Tarana (1951) was probably my favorite of the lot, just because it was strange and romantic and I hadn't seen anything else like it. I think he's too much in my comfort zone now, actually. Need my perception of him shaken up.

The Cranes are Flying (1957)
3. 1940s and 1950s Naushad songs

I watched that Movie Mahal documentary on Naushad. Plus Andaz (1949). Does that count? The more 50s films I watch, the more Naushad I'll get down the line, I suppose. Also, I'm planning on seeing Aina (1977).

4. Russian movies without subtitles

Watched some short films without subs. But since I saw quite a few Soviet classics for the first time this year, I don't feel so bad.

5. Shaw Brother's films and classic Hong Kong cinema

Saw 10 or 11 Chinese films, including a couple of Shaw Brothers flicks (A Cause to Kill, The Mermaid, The Lady Professional), several mainland Chinese cinema films from the 60s (Two Stage Sisters, and the 1961 version of The Red Detachment of Women), and some more recent kung-fu classics.

The Red Detachment of Women (1961)
6. Sridevi

If you hadn't noticed, I went from total Sridevi-virgin (and mystified by her popularity), to extreme Sridevi fangirl this year.

7. Other (non-Shahrukh) Khan vehicles of the 90s

Errrr, Karan Arjun might not count for Salman, since it was also SRK. But I did see two Aamir/Juhi films: Daulat Ki Jung (1992) and Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (1989).

8: Mastering the basics of a non-Devanagari Indian script

Learned the basics of Urdu (whoohoo!) But my Bengali is spotty. SO MANY conjunct consonants, and complicated pronunciation/spelling compared to Hindi. Although, give me a transliterated phrase and I have found that I usually am pretty good at pronunciation--so I must have absorbed something from all those Bangla films.

So on then, to this years list!


Things outside my comfort zone that I wish to make a little less so this year . . . 



Shaheed (1962)
1. Pakistani cinema

Honestly I think this is the hardest of the lot. Beyond the budget issues, the intermittent existence of the industry, unknown stars, and cultural specificity, almost nothing is subbed. So, if you don't speak Urdu, you must be prepared to go through most films (outside random fan-subbed things) missing a fair amount. It's absolutely fine if you're dealing with an action-adventure, or something short and pulpy. But as far as I can tell from a lot of YouTube browsing and some reading, most Pakistani films are super-long exploitation flicks, or fast-dialogue-based comedies, or violent tragedies. STILL. I must conquer. I watched the classic Shaheed (1962) this year, and have my eye on a couple of things that look like cult-classics in the making. Also, if other people with no Hindi-Urdu can do it, I do not have the right to complain. Early Pakistani films with Noor Jehan might be an calm way to start checking the box, and I have a couple of early Waheed Murad films that look to fall on the sensitive side. Any Pakistani films to recommend?


2. 1980s classics

Chashme Buddoor (1981)
You know how it is. You're talking to someone who grew up in India in the 80s, and they mention all this stuff that sounds horrific at first, but the WAY they talk about (so very fondly) makes you want to get in on the experience. That means Naseeruddin Shaw and Anil Kapoor and Farooq Sheikh (who I started getting into last year) but ALSO Sunny Deol (snore) and Raj Babbar (?). It means things like Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro and Nikaah (at the top of my list) and more masala-oriented stuff like Sharaabi and Mard and Dayavan. So yes, I've seen some of the classics (Masoom, Mr. India, Chashme Buddoor, Ram Lakhan), but mostly I've watched films based on actor binges. What classics mark the 80s in your memory?


Khaidi (1983)
3. South Indian cinema

Telugu seems the most accessible cinema, then Tamil, then Malayalam. I'd like to see important things in each of these industries, but lovely things in Malayalam based upon conversation aren't subbed, and so, one is likely to end up watching loud and shiny masala or melodramas in Tamil or Telugu. Either way, I'd like to see more. I think I'll start compiling a list of classics, and try to make it through them. If you think it is worthwhile without subs, or available with subs and WORTH seeing, now's your chance to start getting in your votes, lol. Until you tell me what to see, I'll probably be over here watching Silk Smitha and Chiranjeevi until my brains fall out.


4. Actors who changed my mind last year but haven't quite won my heart

Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi (1958)
Jackie Schroff and Meena Kumari have probably never been mentioned in the same sentence. But honestly, I went from near-despise to hearty appreciation of both of them last year. Jackie in several Subhash Gai films and Meena Kumari in a handful of films from her earlier career. After some good experiences, I realized my problem was with their later work, not the actors themselves.

Plus there's Dev Anand, who in the 50s no longer makes my disgust list (after seeing Baazi) and Kishore Kumar, who switched from my naughty to nice/awesome/aur de do! list. Also, in a strange twist, I recently went from hatred of Priyanka Chopra, to unexpected appreciation. She was interviewed in a recent Rajeev Masand roundtable, and I couldn't help but admire her gumption and eagerness to encourage up and coming new actresses. Still not sure what to make of this polar shift, I'll have to keep y'all posted.


A Traffic Controller on Crossroads (1986)

5. North Korean cinema

I know, I know. But the one North Korean film I watched last year was good fun. I have a strange fixation on propaganda cinema. And it doesn't hurt that quite a few DPRK films are available with English subs on You Tube via various archives.


6. Bengali films from "arty" directors that aren't Satyajit Ray

Suchitra isn't impressed. Yet.

Ya know. Ghatak and Sen, mostly. And more Tapan Sinha (top of my list is Jhinder Bhandi, for obvious reasons). I haven't seen ANY films from the first two, I'm ashamed to say. Note: After 13 of his films last year, Ray is no longer out of my comfort zone, even if certain of his films still will be. In fact, a lot of his films push you right out of the nest after three minutes. I think I can partially credit Ray with making me a lot braver in my cinema choices than I used to be, or at least, more comfortable with quiet explorations of ideas and social situations.


7. Read more filmi-biographies and scholarship

There's a bunch of them, with widely varying degrees of awesomeness. I know Jerry Pinto has some good ones, and there's a Rajesh Khanna one I want to read (rec'd by Suhan), as well as something on Satyajit Ray. There's also a book on the Progressive Writers Movement that I want to get a hold of ASAP. What do you think should be at the top of my list?


2 States (2014)
8. More current Indian cinema

Y'all, I probably saw like 10 newer Bollywood films (from the the last 20 years) in 2014. As much as I don't regret burying myself in the past (gosh it's fun), I realize that being conversant in the times has its merits as well. The good news is that I marathoned a bunch last week (Queen, Shahid, Dawaat-e-Ishq, 2 States, Kai Po Che, and Miss Lovely), so this resolution is already off to a good start.

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