December 26, 2021 12:44:51 pm
We stand on the cusp of bidding farewell to 2021 which gave us both despair and hope in equal measure, during which some of us survived the second wave and lived to tell the tale. And trying to be optimistic about a future where the possibility of different virus mutations threatens to be the rate limiting factor between us reclaiming our lives, or keeling over. The stories we tell will have to be more important than ever, because art is the only thing that can sustain and bolster humankind. Will they be, as they need to be, warming and life-affirming? Here are some of the most telling creative cinematic flourishes of the year gone by.
Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s ‘Drive My Car’, one of the best films of the year, is a mesmeric rumination on love and loss, life and death, and how the unlikeliest connections between two people can fills their gaps. Denis Villeneuve’s masterful ‘Dune’, based on Frank Herbert’s sf classic, gives us future worlds stitched together with current-day emotions. And, in Timothee Chalamet’s young, broken-but-brave Paul Atreides, a hero for the ages. Our rapturous response to this saviour tells us that it doesn’t matter which era we live in. We will always need heroes. Male, female, and all the other gender-identifiers in between.
The creation of a credible trans-person in the Bollywood firmament took a long time coming. Vaani Kapoor’s Maanvi Brar who comes into her own after a painful physical and emotional journey takes the bar higher. That Maanvi is a stunner is a mainstream Bollywood imperative. What makes her a character to remember is that she shares her pain and vulnerability with us.
Are we heading towards a confidence amongst Indian filmmakers where heroism will not be confined to tried-and-tired tropes? Can we have flawed characters taking centre-stage without calling attention to the very act? Look, look, here is our character, and here are her warts? The time when filmmakers demand to be patted on the back for simply venturing down these less-trodden paths is over.
More than ever, we need healing. Well-rounded, well-defined characters which resonate on several levels is one of the healthiest ways of making us whole again. Which isn’t to say that we need only upbeat characters, or those in whose lives only good things happen. That is strictly reductive. Give us joy and sorrow, all shades of the rainbow.
How many ‘fxxxs’ are given by the siblings in Succession 3, continuing its tale about billionaire media baron Logan Roy and his ‘uttaradhikaris’ ( successors), that has had us hooked since it dropped first in 2018? Count ‘em at your own peril while you revel in their blinding ambition and greed and their jaw-droppingly wealthy lifestyle. Where does Family Man Srikant Tiwari, played by the inimitable Manoj Bajpayee, go next in his quest to weed out the enemies of the state? Why is Akshay Kumar, the lead actor of another racy desi spy saga ‘Bell Bottom’, one of the most popular genres currently, the only one to wear flagrantly wide bottomed pants amongst his compatriots? Do childhood memories impact our future selves? Both these lovely films, Celine Sciamma’s ‘Petit Maman’ and Irfana Majumdar’s ‘Shankar’s Fairies’, make us believe in elves, and the power of the past. Time is circular, what comes up will also come down. And around.
I haven’t stopped talking about Anirban Bhattacharya’s ‘Mandaar’, a Bengali adaptation of Macbeth, ever since I caught it a few weeks back. Set in a coastal Bengal village, universal because it is so intensely local, it is as Shakespearean as it can get. It is stylised without being overpowered by its stylistic flourishes, making this series such an intriguing watch. How does an innately decent law-abiding law officer, a good husband and father, turn into something that he isn’t? Where do you draw a line between what is morally permissible, and not? Ajitpal Singh’s ‘Tabbar’ flings out these tough questions, and provides, much to its advantage, no easy answers.
I went looking for delectation in ‘West Side Story’. Based on a beloved musical, strongly political, and made by the one and only Spielberg. No brainer. But this dull new version didn’t work for me. Except for Ariana DeBose, Mike Faist and the timeless Rita Moreno who was in the 1961 original, no one else leapt off the screen.
Like Spider-Man, filmmakers have never had greater power and responsibility. Give us more. Hit that sixer like Ranveer Singh’s inimitable Kapil Dev. Vanquish evil like desi superhero Minnal Murali. Drive your car like Yusufe Kafuku. Play it like Paul Atreides. Keep us going.
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