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Hometheatre | Glad Eye

BIOSCOPE: The fusty National Film Development Corporation has started bringing out some of its National Award-winning productions on affordable DVDs.

movie reviews Updated: Mar 24, 2012 00:26 IST

From the trophy cabinet

BIOSCOPE
NFDC/Shemaroo, Rs 199
Rating
: *****

This film represents one of the best things to have happened to Indian film distribution in recent times. The fusty National Film Development Corporation has started bringing out some of its National Award-winning productions on affordable DVDs. Its distribution tie-up with Shemaroo, which began last year with a collection of films based on Rabindranath Tagore’s works, has moved into more recent features. Apart from this 2008 film by KM Madhusudhanan, the seven other titles released in the first lot include Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro, Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro and Ek Doctor Ki Maut.

Madhusudhanan’s work is a poetic tribute to the hypnotism of films, about the entry of the medium into a colonial and superstitious India of the early 20th century. On a trip to Pondicherry, Diwakaran from the Malabar becomes transfixed by “running, jumping, dancing” pictures. He borrows the apparatus and brings it back home. There, everyone is curious about the contraption, which gossip-mongers call “a ghost captured in a box in England”, but they are suspicious of it too. They blame the “dreams and screams” of Diwakaran’s ailing wife Nalini on the machine.

As Diwakaran, played by a stoic and sharp-boned Murugan, carries on with his mission of pitching tent along the coast and screening films, we see snatches from early classics such as the Hale’s Tours (shots from a camera fixed to the front of a train), Robert Weine's Cabinet of Dr Caligari, and DG Phalke's Birth of Krishna and Harishchandra. MJ Radhakrishnan’s cinematography, too, transports to the era with shots that come across as exquisitely-framed stills. Chandran Veyyattummal’s repetitive music is mostly set behind the sound of lapping waves. The coming together of these craftsmen made a hauntingly slow but deeply rewarding classic.


Not a drop to drink

FLOW: FOR THE LOVE Of wATER
Enlighten, Rs 499
Rating: *****

It’s one of the scariest films you can watch on one of the planet’s most vital resources: water. If this 84-minute documentary doesn’t instil in you a despairing fear and a sense of urgency about the future of affordable and clean drinking water for us all, nothing will. It’s also fitting to talk about it at the end of a week when the World Water Day (March 22) passed by without anyone noticing.

If you look at the breadth of research that French-American director Irena Salina has covered, you would think it’s her lifelong passion rather than a limited engagement project. The film starts on the ghats of Varanasi and then moves back and forth between La Paz in Bolivia, KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, San Francisco in the US, Geneva in Switzerland, and Rajasthan, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh in India. We see the stronger grip that large multinationals such as Vivendi, Suez, Thames, Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Nestle are exerting over this $400-billion industry that deals in an essentially public resource. When you know that the head of the World Water Council is also president of a company co-owned by some of these companies, the worry increases.

The shrillness of die-hard MNC-baiters on camera may raise the cynics’ hackles. But the numbers are stark: more than 2 million people, most of them below five years of age, die every year for the lack of clean drinking water. Though access to clean water is getting better with increasing privatisation, the price charged is too much for most people around the world. On the other hand, a fraction of the industry’s turnover is enough to solve the world’s water problems. Sounds absurd, doesn’t it? Watch it, and let the reality of it all take away your breath.


There’s a bug in this
CONTAGION
Reliance Home/Warner, Rs 599
Rating: *****

When filmmaker Steven Soderbergh, known for crafting memorable style statements such as Ocean’s Eleven and Traffic, announced last year that he was giving up direction after making Contagion, he should have kept his word. Not because he’s better off leaving just past his prime, like Rahul Dravid did recently; but because he has probably come to the embarrassing end, as VVS Laxman may have done.

This multi-starrer drag starts with an adulterous mother, Gwyneth Paltrow, bringing a deadly virus from Hong Kong to Minneapolis in the US on ‘Day 2’ of a fast-moving epidemic. Except the fact that the virus, dubbed MEV-I, dissolves brains and kills in days, no expert knows anything about it. Within five minutes, on Day 3, Paltrow convulses to her death in front of her oddly-robust husband Matt Damon. By Day 4, the global nature of the epidemic comes into focus, though Africa seems to remain safe in Hollywood’s blind spot. From the US Centre for Disease Control, chief Laurence Fishburne despatches his ace ‘academic intelligence service officer’ Kate Winslet to an unspecified warfront. Meanwhile, at the sanitised headquarters of the WHO, Marion Cotillard shifts her dilated pupils towards Hong Kong to figure out what happened there on Day 1. On Day 7, a researcher comes up with a classic Hollywood reduction to describe the virus components: “Somewhere in the world, a wrong pig mated with a wrong bat.” Will there be a vaccine for all in time?

It’s difficult to rate performances when the stars have to look violently sick. One thing going for Soderbergh is that he reveals, at the very end, what happened on Day 1. But do not watch it while eating. If you can help it, do not watch it at all.