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Thursday, September 23, 2021

And this is the way it ends

As stars fell down to earth and awkward outsiders stormed our screens,2010 was a reminder that story matters most.

Written by Shubhra Gupta |
December 30, 2010 3:18:34 am

This was the year a bunch of plastic figures gave me a lump in the throat,the biggest by far generated by all the touchy-feely films I saw. This was the year the world’s best known social misfit provided us an in into how we out ourselves on digital networks. This was also the year we discovered we could be dreaming within a dream,which,in turn,could be a dream. Toy Story 3 and The Social Network are right up there,at the top of my Hollywood movie list: both films,on the surface so dissimilar,were achingly similar — about shaping up to a future not known. Growing up is not easy,and there is never a time when you are not looking for love,whether you are a toy or human. Inception was a startlingly innovative idea,that you could be floating in free-fall in someone else’s dream,which led us straight back to that eternal question that floats out of films that make us think: what is real,what is not?Closer home,in one of the best films of 2010,Bollywood gave us a whole new way of looking. At each other. When we thought no one was looking. A teenage boy unshackled himself from the chains of harsh paternal authority,and flew up to the sun. A debt-ridden villager decided to give up his life so that his family could live. A sari-clad femme fatale drew a bead on an erring husband,and shot. To kill. Love Sex Aur Dhokha, Udaan,Ishqiya and Peepli [Live were some of the films that made us believe that Bollywood could go beyond the boundaries.Animated toys. Jilted Ivy League nerds. Guilt-ridden dreamcatchers. Spunky lads. Feisty ladies. These were the heroes of 2010,the year that was meant to kick-start a whole new decade of promise and change. Like all years,it’s been a mix of good and bad,and the seriously ugly. Hollywood,Bollywood and everything in-between continues to grapple with the problem that plagues movie moguls all over the world: how do you get people to come into theatres?There’s never been so much distraction,so easily available,catering to the new Us and our overwhelming inability to be still. The moving image has become something we can access across all media: there are films on TV on a 24-hour loop. Movies-on-demand can be paused,and put on hold,till you return to your seats. When you can zap through mobisodes (TV episodes on mobile phones ) or movies-created-for-cell-phones,why would you want to drop cash at the box office to be a two-hour captive?That’s an easy one,and evident to anyone who goes to the movies. There is really nothing,nothing,to beat getting into the velvety dark,and entering a world not your own. Nothing equals the suspension of belief,aided by a screen that fills not just your eye,but your senses. I’m not a 3D fan,and never will be because I believe a good story well told doesn’t need any crutches. It certainly doesn’t need ugly,oversize glasses,even though a flying raptor coming at you in 3D is another thing altogether. And I do have to admit that you can swallow a tall blue alien with a twitching tail better when you watch it from behind a shield.After the Avatar juggernaut rolled out at the end of 2009,flattening non-believers,filmmakers all over the world hailed 3D as the next big thing. Actually,make that The Next Big Thing,because everything is larger than life in the movies. Accordingly,this year,we saw Hollywood studios retrofitting 2D into 3D and going nowhere with it : Alice In Wonderland was as bland a concoction in both versions. So,yes,maybe James Cameron can only make an Avatar 2 in 3D,him having cast the die,but that’s not what all films need: that’s one big lesson that’s come out of this year.Twenty Ten also buttressed the idea that stars alone do not makes movies sing. All the Hindi movies that have had top-of-the-mind-and-heart recall this year have been non-star vehicles. Dibakar Banerji made the seeing eye the star of his Love Sex Aur Dhoka,a film revolutionary for its adherence to its basic principle : we are who we watch,or should that be we watch who we are? There were no recognisable faces in the film, that was the first moderate Bollywood hit of the year. Udaan gave us two characters rarely done with such fidelity in Hindi cinema: an honest-to-goodness teenage boy,straining at the jib,against everything 17-year-olds have to confront,and a father who has no idea that tough love needs to be balanced with warmth and acceptance. Vikramaditya Motwane’s terrific writing made Udaan into Bollywood’s first real coming-of-age film,which has set the bar high for those that will follow. A rough Dilli diamond,played by debutant Ranveer Singh,with an equal yen for “binness” and an ambitious young lady,made Band Baaja Baraat a rollicking ride. Contrast the truth these films tell with the fakery that a big-budget,big-star film like Guzaarish perpetrates. Nothing that Hrithik Roshan or Aishwarya Rai Bachcan can do makes us believe that he is a paraplegic with a dying wish,or that she is his caring nurse who will do anything to keep him alive. Sanjay Leela Bhansali leaves us admiring the scenery,not his actors chewing it. It’s not just Bollywood that’s cutting no ice with its starry misadventures. Hollywood does no better : the coming together of Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie,amongst the world’s most luscious couples,in last week’s thriller The Tourist,left us unmoved.We need our movies to do much,much more. There’s a line in Barton Fink,a fierce and funny classic by the Coen Brothers,which says it best. “We need more heart in motion pictures. Can you tell a story,Mr Fink? Can you make us laugh? Can you make us cry?”Onwards,to 2011.

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