Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Memoirs of a Geisha

What a beautiful film! Again, the Oscars surprise me by their zeal for political correctness instead of cinematic excellence. A film, which should have definitely got the Best Picture Oscar not even nominated and a soundtrack which is so overwhelmingly touching, which has so much of a woman's life in it, losing out to a band of persons who don't even know what music is.
The role of Sayuri has been excellently essayed by Ziyi Zhang, and the role of Sayuri as a child has been even more excellently performed. The film's simple story is so touching (I have not read the novel) and so full of love. An intelligent, rebellious girl, unhappy with her lot, finds happiness for herself in that one kind gesture of a stranger; she is inspired to improve her lot just because of that one person and in the hope of meeting him again. Amidst all the dirt surrounding her, she keeps herself astonishingly and pristinely pure for that one person, for the stranger who was the one person kind to her in her life. And Ken Watanabe, though in a brief role, suits very well to the role.
To show a different culture or a different era is a big challenge for the director, for the costume designer, for the art director, for the screenplay writer. You have to have the film pervaded by that culture, and yet you have not to overdo it. While dressing up all in Japanese costumes and making the actors behave in Japanese manners, you have to still ensure that the film does not begin to look like a fancy dress parade, which often ends up being the fate of several period or historical movies. And here, Memoirs of a Geisha scores heavily. The film is a visual treat, and yet it does not overdo it. The key to it is probably the use of low intensity lighting throuh most parts of the movie, and a brilliant colour scheme. The focus is more on Ziyi Zhang's face rather than her clothes - first there is Sayuri and then there is the geisha in her. This is what is difficult to achieve. Otherwise, she would be like all other geishas.
All the other characters in the film have played their roles to perfection, especially Sayuri's jealous rival and "Pumpkin." The music is the best that I have ever heard, and the most suitable to the storyline of the film.

Rang de Basanti

I had not expected much from the film, except its great music and the energy of youth. And, it turned out that the film really had only these two elements. Rahman's great music saves Rang de Basanti, otherwise the film has no storyline, lacklustre acting, misguided aims, and, more importantly to me, an insult to some of the great persons whom I have admired since my childhood.

The director looks a very confused person. What does he want to show in the film? I couldn't understand for the life of me that why all the scenes like Kakori's train loot and Saunders murder are enacted and shown in this film. In fact, when the filmmaker first visualized all the leads in the roles of freedom fighters to herself, then only it was a little distasteful to me. But to go on with it and keep on showing them feels like real blasphemy. Why blasphemy? Since how could that rabble of a lot, who are simply vagabonds and who do not care about their country and nor about acting or how a film is made, how a character is played - how could that rabble be shown to be selected for the documentary? The film initially shows concerns from the documentary film maker that her docu is not being taken seriously, they are not what they have to be - but suddenly the docu is shown to proceed with aplomb. How does this transformation occur? Since they remain the same unruly, vagabond lot that they were to the end of the film - I didn't think of them as martyrs even after the director's painful efforts to show them as such.

Other faults? A lot, like more light could have been shed on the backgrounds of each of the friends, plus a lot of India could have been captured, especially looking from the eyes of the foreigner. Is a Western person, even if he or she is interested in Indian politics, going to be charmed by the sight of parliament after coming to India. Is that the symbol of India's might, India's exoticism, is that the thing for which India holds its name as a synonym for a 'difficult country to live in, and to leave'. Things like this instantly make you feel that the director's attempts are all hackneyed, and cannot be sincere.

Rahman's music, as usual, is great, and not only saves the film from ignominy but also makes the film a box office success. How easy it is to delude people!