Summer popcorn

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In terms of summer popcorn, it’s a far chunkier offering than Jurassic Park 2, I said last week when I wrote about the Suchitra international film fest. Now that I have seen some of its cinematic offerings, I can also add the word refined. And by that, I don’t only mean the classics. Some of the contemporary cinema was far out: like the ‘tale with a twist’ film (in almost every frame), The Sea That Thinks or the 95-minute Italian masterpiece, Beauty Queen Olivia about teenage angst or the effervescent and deliciously humorous Marius Et Jeanette.

Love, security and comfort. That’s the pivot on which most films held us sway. And the content and form of these films only added to the experience. For example, Run for Money was a straight-out commercial Turkish film about a no-frills shop owner with zero tolerance to life’s greatest villains (lust and greed, among others). Standing guard was an impeccable script, fine portrayals and true-to-drama production values.

On the other hand, the highly celebrated Andrei Tarkovsky’s the Sacrifice, emphasised more on form and mood of the protagonist (a drama critic). Though it was great on visuals, it was also highly meditative and here is where Tarkovsky uses children as props to swan away with his ideology. In this case, it’s the protagonist’s six-year-old son who is yet to acquire speech, but has learnt enough to water plants regularly and stick to a routine, because his father told him that if one stuck to a good habit, the world could change.

Not surprising that the fest was a distillation of all things cinematic. And I often had no words to thank Suchitra for arranging such a practical treatise on what good cinema is all about. The only way I did do was clap, along with the others, whenever the film got over and left me thinking on many tangents.

And then there was this star dust settling on you. I saw litterateur UR Ananthamurthy, clad in an impeccable kurta, arranging himself in front of the mirror in the restroom.

At first glance, I couldn’t place him. But when I was centimetres away from him, I looked closer at his badge. And that’s when I felt blessed. Not that I have read much of him, but the fact that I was face to face with a Kannada literature giant, gave me a thrill that not many can offer (after all, I am used to meeting celebrities all the time).

As I stepped out into the Lido lawn, I ran into Amol Palekar. And this time, I asked if he could spare a few minutes to tell me about his reading habits.
“I have post production work for my latest film and I am leaving right now,” he said, clad in a long, blue kurta, minus embellishment.

“Can I email you the questions, which you can answer at leisure,” I persisted.
“My work will take me three months. So it will only be after that,” he intoned.
“No problems, your email ID please,” I went on.

“You can get it from these people,” he said, pointing towards the reception desk of Suchitra.

I thanked him for it, and watched him get into a white Tata Indica, that drove past me and out on to MG Road.

The only words that rang in my head then were those that Palekar uttered during the press conference earlier in the day.

“The script of my new film was approved at NFDC (National Film Development Corporation), but they asked for changes, for it to be commercially viable,” he said, to the battery of presspersons who had gathered around him near the Lido parking lot.

He did not stop there. “I have made 9 films without any compromise and would rather go to Manmohan Desai (known for directing Amitabh Bachchan blockbusters) if I have to make changes to my work. So, if NFDC cannot accept good cinema then why does it exist and why the name, development corporation?”

(Published in City Reporter, 2003)