A HOME IN THE HEARTS OF LOVED ONES.

Home. A familiar abode to reap the harvest of good luck, hard work and financial stability. A space of personal growth and above all fit for settling down with family. A symbol that we are ‘all right’ in the larger scheme of things, safe in the comfort of loved ones.

Two cinematic works that I watched this weekend attest to another crucial fact that home isn’t always a permanent concept or overarching theme of our lives. Those on the move, looking for greener pastures for future prospects, have to find that idea of a home in places far removed from the comfortable cocoon of that familiar space many of us often take for granted. Family units have to find that reserve to adapt, change, leave behind beloved family and friends and condition a deep sense of loss, to make sense of a transformation motivated by factors beyond our control.

         

As is obvious, children bear the brunt of these changes and yet find in them a portal to store memories anew, memories made anew in the place they settle down in and memories of the sanctuaries they leave behind. We must remember Disney’s heartwarming INSIDE OUT that utilized the magic of animation to portray precisely these emotions on the part of a young girl, unable to cope with her move to another city with her parents. It’s a tightrope walk for a collective unit and nobody is the more wiser one to that realization as compared to the other.

Sacrifices and a desire to make a period of transition successful is hence at the heart of this human migration that army kids and those with parents bearing transferable jobs know all too well. Or those in boarding schools. Even adults who leave their own cities and towns for better working opportunities can easily attest to that.

The children’s perspective in both examples given here point out at the poignancy of growing up, within an age group where there is hardly any secure answer to life’s myths and idiosyncrasies in the first place. It’s a journey tinged with self-discovery.



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MINARI(2020)




MINARI, a global juggernaut as of this date, is beautifully crafted by breakout writer/director Lee Isaac Chung and gently illustrates his own childhood story.  The migration is two fold for his family: they are Koreans who chose America, the land of plenty, for a future and the move from California to Arkansas for them is as fraught with the uncertainty of life’s roller coaster sojourn. Financial betterment figures prominently in this equation. A desire to prove his own individual merit besides a given 9to5 routine gnaws at the father( Steven Yeun) and the wish to own and, in turn, farm his own land is to sow seeds of self-sufficiency for his family members.

The pride of having one’s roots in the soil that one tends to, makes rich in abundance with crops, the purifying power of water that lets the titular MINARI plant sprout and the fire that engulfs the room holding the yield, pointing to the culmination of fiery and bitter words that never leave our aura and here also suggests a new start with the past getting charred in favour of a hopeful future, extracts great power of the elements. Also the gentle breeze and clouds in the sky being particularly companionable to this family, occupying a solitary tract of land with no human contact around for miles altogether. This is their ‘Eden’, as the father says in the beginning. They have to make the best of it, albeit struggles and uncertainty loom on the horizon. That is, anyway, just a part and parcel of life anywhere. Their Asian antecedents make it accessible to an Indian kid like yours truly too.

It’s a journey for the adults and for the children. That parallelism is rooted in everyday reality. Of the cast, HAN YE-RI deserved better in terms of accolades because she relays the vexation of her present situation beautifully, not very alien to millions who are unable to cope with new environs. Here is a couple relaying its bitter infighting of the soul when the possibility of depleting resources knocks at the door. Practical life lessons are sought in the course of this journey. A beautiful scene is where they talk about how their hope for nurturing the American dream slowly got lost in the struggles of fitting in and work. Perhaps it’s their constant fighting that is responsible for their son’s delicate heart condition. That’s something particularly Asian by nature: the belief that things said and committed often can come visit our loved ones in inopportune ways.


Also poignant is when the father tells his better half that she is free to leave with the kids to California if his  farm yield fails to be procured in the market. He loves his family and is doing everything for them but in his heart he wants to individually succeed on his own terms, to make his children proud, above all.

***


That said, the universally beloved turn by Youn Yuh-jung as the affable, goofy and irrepressibly hopeful grandmother is everything we love in our own senior prefects. Her banter with Alan S. Kim, another cinematic discovery to behold, sprinkles this tale with natural humour. Which makes her physical turnaround all the more painful in the second half. She is the life force of this script, allowing the members to look at the beauty in the everyday and the power of good spirits. It’s a priceless screen performance and richly deserved her Oscar to go with numerous accolades. Noel Cho playing the older sister to Alan is good too and a special mention must be given especially to Will Patton whose deep hurt, religious optimism and idiosyncrasies make him valuable to the family, as an extended member rooting for their success, helping the father of the unit as a farmhand to realize his dreams. 


MINARI hence conflates the inner worlds of the children and their adult prefects to touch our hearts, in a way which is authentic to the core of the immigrant experience and to the life lessons we draw from the everyday.

***

KILLA( THE FORT, 2014)





Regional cinema in India has always been a strong upholder of fluent storytelling and technical achievements, the ones from Bengal and Maharashtra taking the lead for decades now. KILLA is a Marathi feature which also serves as the directorial debut of noted cinematographer Avinash Arun. He has photographed such sterling works in recent times as MASAAN, DRISHYAM, HICHKI, PAATAL LOK among others, all made in the Hindi language. KILLA(THE FORT) is made in Marathi, honouring his home state while also reliving his own experience as a child constantly on the move owing to his parent’s transferable job.

Here, the move to a beautiful coastal town doesn’t sit well for the young protagonist ( a wonderfully wise and appropriately restrained Archit Deodhar). His pangs relate not only to leaving Pune, his home for many years and the company of his beloved cousin but also the pain of losing his father to an untimely death.  That and the move to the country from the big city only compounds his inner struggles to fit in. All the while his mother, trying to make the best of this transfer and hoping to ease the pain of loss, is just as vulnerable; though like all parents and mothers, she juggles work, home and has immense concern for the present bearings of her only child. In Amruta Subhash’s delicate portrayal, she is shorn of any stereotypical tropes and is au natural, complemented by the nuanced writing. Again, KILLA is a corollary to MINARI because this migration is on the part of both parent and child. They both are conditioning change in all its contours. The child is unable to fit in the nondescript school although he is praised for his scholarship and academic excellence while the mother is privy to a male dominated workplace where protocols are not really given much note. The way they are framed as ‘outsiders’, discovering the way ‘things function here’  is subtly evocative of their parallel tracks, never sidestepping one for the other.

**



KILLA is beautifully evocative of loss as also the times when we find joy ,eventually, with people who enter our lives after we give them the space. The letting go of notions and doubts compounded by childhood innocence.
It can be in something as simple as getting a new school bag or bicycle, taking bike rides through the beautiful coastal landscape with new friends, discovering the majesty of the fort ala nature in its most sublime form and jumping into a pool together with those same friends.  Or even having dinner cooked by the protagonist’s mother.  The power of friendship is the strong suit here.

Parth Bhalerao, Gaurish Gawade and Atharva Upasni play the friends with a natural rhythm one can only find in children.

From the poetry written and recited by the protagonist, in the presence of his mother, to the trip to the lighthouse with her, down to the final plunge into the pool with his friends, signifying a new move and the cycle of change coming to both with pain and hope, KILLA is filled with such outstanding moments, traced with an unhurried pace and such a profound photographic eye.

It is a wonderful addition to the canon of Indian works of merit, especially about the highs and lows of childhood. Its international recognition means it is here to stay. I know it will linger in my heart and mind for the longest time.

****

Can Songs be the Musical Conscience of a Film? – Borderless

My essay on the musical sensibilities of GAMAN, a film that incorporates lyrical content and musical melody to paint a poignant picture of loneliness, will hit home for readers in these times as ours.

It has been published by BORDERLESS JOURNAL and I am truly thankful for the opportunity of having it published.

The link to the original published essay is below. So read it and share your thoughts.

https://borderlessjournal.com/2021/05/14/can-songs-be-the-musical-conscience-of-a-film/

OF QUEENS IN MIGHT AND HUMBLER EMOTIONAL CROSSROADS

MARY, QUEEN OF SCOTS(2018)



It’s befuddling how when societal progress makes us take a hundred steps forward, a single conventional trail of thought threatens to throw us back to the dark ages in an instant. It can happen within a moment or a considerable point of time. Therein lies the incalculable dichotomy of being humans in the first place. So such a fact of life is bound to be historically searing and I found that to be exhibited rather well in MARY, QUEEN OF SCOTS (2018)

Here is a mighty tale that involves two queens claiming their rightful share, owning their intelligence and agency in a world where the only administrative apparatus around them is populated by power hungry men. The smell of conspiracy as regards expansion of empire and acquisition is pungent. So while the conventional model of society is rampant, the gender constructs have  already been broken asunder by their definitive presence on the throne. They call out their advisors’ recommendations coloured by their dog eared ideals and have the inborn authority to make their decisions. They also express the inevitability of this skewed gender ratio working to divide two women. So Mary’s beauty, youth is served as a counterpoint to Elizabeth’s middle aged monarch whose physicality has been literally scarred by a bout with measles. Mary’s ambition, too, is pitched against the veteran Queen’s experience.

Director Josie Rourke, a theatre virtuoso,  gives it a very contemporary pulse then by stripping it of verbose arguments, making the timelessness of the issue central to the telling. This brewing cauldron of orchestrated sibling rivalry almost reminded me of how the distasteful feud between screen legends BETTE DAVIS and JOAN CRAWFORD was mostly pushed as an agenda by the studio machinery for decades. That creation of an intragender divide still rules our world as we know it and this is where the politics of its currency sparks this script to life.

***

This screen adaptation of the titular legend is given its power by Saoirse Ronan’s fiery commitment throughout tempered by an older Queen Elizabeth’s vulnerability in her later years, a kind of  resignation that comes with the passage of time and advancing years irrespective of gender, when greater wisdom makes even the most legendary figure understand the futility of bloodshed orchestrated by male egos. Margot Robbie totally embodies those emotions.  I’m only going by what’s put up on screen based as it is on a historian/writer’s scholarship regarding the epoch through the years. That dual interplay is a welcome embodiment of the parallels that united both cousins even if they never met in real life. On that note, the reversal of this fact makes way for the highlight of this screenplay where both meet in a modest cottage camouflaged by curtains and a tense and yet empathetic exchange of words reveals their innate humanity for better or worse. Also intensely mounted is the dehumanization of one of Mary’s beloved courtiers who is given an ultimate death blow owing to his sexuality and the politics of hate around it.

With all the misogyny around them and the mutual feelings of courage and fortitude to guide them, both are given a beautifully layered treatment by the two young actors. MARY, QUEEN OF SCOTS hence becomes a cautionary tale and a dirge to the countless narratives of women becoming each other’s worst enemies, by dint of the world around them and not their own volition per se.

Also I love the fact that Elizabeth was the original feminist firebrand, choosing to not marry or have a child owing to her own choice and not just entertaining some grand illusion of becoming a veritable VIRGIN QUEEN for her empire.

**

AFTER THE WEDDING(2019)


From the heights of empire, we come down to humbler preoccupations of individuals in the everyday.  However, AFTER THE WEDDING, an English language adaptation of Susanne Bier’s Danish original by the same name, recognizes the inequities of social positions dominated by wealth and the ego systems that control our behaviours.

That is evident in Julianne Moore’s millionaire entrepreneur and her condescending, sweet but haughty interactions with the humble and dedicated Michelle Williams. Their meeting entails a chance for the former to fund the latter’s orphanage back in India. The words exchanged clearly posit that class consciousness is pretty much a part of our fabric of existence. The one being provided for has to be vulnerable and meek to get  share of finances for a cause she believes in. Director Bart Freundlich not only achieves this level of believability by keeping it real on those fronts, with subtlety and his actors’ facial expressions, but also by choosing to flip the male cast of the original film, to examine this particular gender dynamic.



Michelle playing Isabelle is a reserved, stoic presence whose journey back home to America not only makes her feel out of place but also answers, with again subtle cues, her way of dealing with others, with a restraint that is her primary behavioural pattern. This homecoming also reveals the depths of her attachment to Jai( Vir Pachisia), the boy she has raised as her own in the orphanage and with whom she shares a spiritual maternal bond that is beyond the miles dividing them. It’s a heartwarming aspect of the screenplay when their intercontinental phone calls show us that dynamic.

***

Then there’s Abby Quinn, playing Julianne’s daughter, who beautifully reveals the complexity of a young woman taking the plunge into marriage and discovering her birth mother at this new juncture. The scripting doesn’t shy away from the complexity and simultaneously the beauty of  her being raised by Julianne, who she very well knows didn’t give birth to her. 

AFTER THE WEDDING wrestles with these complexities with an unhurried grace and every relationship has threads that could untangle the way things have been for years. The ending, where Isabelle is caught between the desire to straddle her two homes and wants Jai to come with her to New York owing to her changed priorities, is heartbreaking. It’s a bit reminiscent of  Julia Roberts and Susan Sarandon’s classic STEPMOM to me though both films are far removed in terms of treatment and storytelling.

That ambiguity regarding her future is borne from her past and the present she saw unraveling while in New York. Hence, owing to these merits and its overall structure, it ends up becoming an effective drama and has stayed with me.

***

THE ETERNAL TRIUMPH OF E.T. (EXTRA TERRESTRIAL, 1982)


Almost 40 years after it became a cinematic family staple for the ages, E.T. continues to hit home for us.

I watched it for perhaps the fourth time in my life few days ago and boy, was I completely immersed in its centrality of alienation finding such a sweet, heartwarming parallel in E.T.’s own quest to return home, to a familiar place of reckoning and finding that on earthly realm with Elliot and his family.

***


Filled to the brim as it is with iconic moments celebrating an eternal quality of childhood friendships forged for life, in the most unique example, its final half is possibly the most emotionally wrenching down to the final goodbye.

Be it HENRY THOMAS, DEE WALLACE, the always dependable DREW BARRYMORE and ROBERT MACNAUGHTON, the cast members are cued to its sense of emotions and wonder. E.T. is a discovery of joy and must be watched by all.

***

SOME TRUE INDIAN GEMS AND TRIBUTE TO A HUMBLE STAR NO MORE.

BOMBAY ROSE(2021)





I have already made my readers aware of maverick Indian animation filmmaker Gitanjali Rao’s underrated, still unsung genius in my essay on her brilliant short film PRINTED RAINBOW, published last year here. The discussion included her other shorts BLUE and ORANGE too ( the latter’s sensual depiction of the pains and pleasures associated with urban desires with a beautiful jazz score is unforgettable)

So I was obviously on cloud nine to know that her almost twenty year journey in the field of rejuvenating the form culminated in Netflix acquiring rights to her first feature length work BOMBAY ROSE. I watched it yesterday and to say I was proud beyond words and awed by her evolving, empathetic storytelling would not be enough.

Her rootedness in the Indian ethos, in the way various classes and sensibilities become one whole homogeneous entity in this Bombay set tale is visually striking, representing the palette of life in its good, bad and ugly personal contours. It’s a love story, a love letter and a tribute to human interaction. Something tells me it just wouldn’t have felt this beautiful and heartwarming if it was a regular live action film. The little details and the tug and pull of emotions feel organic given the frame by frame, painterly essence adopted by Rao and her team.
Like little shafts of light falling through the canopy of evergreen trees on a road , in little squares and rectangles, the movement of the characters traced through eye view of a rose picked up by familiar hands, traversing familiar routes and then ending up on the grave. The evil man symbolized as a preying bird or the faces of two lovers melting in the pouring rain, reflected in a car window.

Or flights of fancy where the lead protagonist, a veritable have-not eking out a living by selling garlands, transforms into a princess of yore, with each shot replicating the iconic heritage of Mughal era paintings, especially the colours and images in the background down to the attires and locations. Pause a single shot among these and they resemble an actual painting from the era. You see, that is the eye for detail here that stands out. In a way, this merging of reality and imagination and differing classes inform us of the central character’s imprisonment in a system where she cannot rise above her station in life. That reality is never cheated or put out of context here in BOMBAY ROSE.


***


The modest home of an elderly Catholic lady and the shabby, almost ramshackle quarters of the protagonist facing the sea offer the intimacy of these spaces as indicative of the interior worlds they carry. Every home or living space is all that and more, don’t we agree? Especially poignant is the way nostalgia and memory is handled in the case of the senior prefects, like the protagonist’s grandfather and his decades old repair shop, the Christian lady’s home populated by knick knacks covering her profound journey through lonely, post-retirement years and her good friend’s antiques shop bridging worlds of past and present. Memory is a feeling evoked here, an entity not to be lost. In the film’s best touch, older buildings animatedly appear like creepers in sepia tones over the new ones as the lady takes a walk from home to the graveyard, signifying the passage of time.  Like PRINTED RAINBOW, the director’s beloved apex in form and content in the shorter mould, an affinity for cats, the wise and experienced members of our world and the colours of a location in its specificity join hands with a penchant for make believe in the face of alienation.

BOMBAY ROSE, hence, is worth taking note as it merges culture, identities, trauma and interpersonal bonds to present a city life rife with very pertinent struggles. But it doesn’t put a lid on the moments where love of every hue binds us. It can be as simple as a mutual look of acknowledgement between people, helping a child worker escape his dreary existence or repairing someone’s beloved toys and mementos of a long life, to see them with a sparkle in their eyes.

This needs to be watched by multitudes and promoted as the work of art it is, notches and leagues above full length films featuring flesh and blood mortals.
The essence of cinema is in capturing humanity. This one triumphs with its languidly paced journey maintaining the aesthetics of class struggles and a metropolitan national ethos.

Also watch Gitanjali Ma’am’s previous works to grasp why I am such an admirer of her portfolio. She is a painstaking artist.


**

PAGGLAIT(2021)


I have always believed that death should invite silence, a dignified one at that, when we approach the aggrieved. It’s a life-altering state of mind for those who have lost someone they knew as an integral part of their existence for so long. Hence instead of unintentionally hurting them by employing careless words or misdirected reminiscences, it is best we lend them support, care without discounting their unraveling at a mentally and emotionally vulnerable juncture .  This goes out to all those relatives who usually gather at these solemn occasions to indulge in petty gossip pertaining to the one who’s gone and those left behind, as if it’s a family get-together by default. It just goes on to show how we, so called evolved humans, find it so hard to even feel sadness and pain, rudimentary elements that constitute our being, especially for others. After all, life and death is nothing more than a status update and a tweet in today’s world.

PAGGLAIT (THE MAD ONE) is so relatable to me precisely because I’ve seen all this happen at such sensitive occasions and they make a large chunk of the dramedy that is this Netflix original screenplay, a realistic, slice of life presentation that charms us with its simple details. All the above aspects give heft to the tale of a young woman( always reliable Sanya Malhotra) who has been widowed just five months into her marriage. She is unable to cry or express the tropes our shallow society expects her to exhibit almost instantly. This deep sense of shock or bewilderment at a changed station in life, that too within a relationship that had only just  begun, make it a compelling social commentary on the way our behavioural contexts govern us. The fact that her better half hardly ever communicated with her and was mostly off bounds or at work richly layers and levels her unique experience, which is not at all far from the truth.

Then subtle layers help it skew closer to an intimate drama where she attempts to piece together her deceased husband’s life script ( he doesn’t appear here physically or in terms of photographic evidence, making the ambiguity effective), eventually discovering the selfish ways of senior prefects on both her marital and maternal sides. Tradition and modernity beautifully clash with a subdued interplay of viewpoints within a patriarchal set-up.

So though she isn’t bashed around as a jinx within this traditional household, is not made to wear the white motif given her status in terms of attire and is even allowed the leeway to remarry rather hastily, these THIRTEEN DAYS OF MOURNING produce profound clarity on her part about how she is perceived now and will possibly be, her Masters in English credentials serving no real purpose at the present and inheritance of millions in insurance money left by her husband dividing loyalties. In the process, bringing out the true colours of those living in this old mansion and struggling to stay put  as cash strapped have- beens.

SANYA centers it with an internalized intelligence about these universal strands of womanhood without showing these emotions explicitly and grounds it in utter realism. She is backed by a cast that behaves and acts as people of their ilk will usually do in the given scenario. PAGGLAIT then is a revelatory drama, quietly feminist in its tone, shot in my hometown Lucknow, capturing it in a subdued winter setting, and never letting us forget the youth and possibilities for the lead protagonist. I simply loved it for its confirmation of truths.

Especially how even in death, our elders seek their own selfish agendas.
Also how life can be reconfigured with renewed hope after loss, for women most importantly.




***

MAYURAKSHI(2017)




MAYURAKSHI is another reason to uphold Bengali cinema as the epitome of nuance and emotional clarity.

This National Award winning drama is again centred on the lines between clarity and disintegration occasioned by one’s memory. Like the title of the film and a river in East India with the same name, life is like a free flowing stream, not always sedate and placid, maybe holding great cross currents in its depths. Like life, the river flows. That metaphor is beautifully apt in a work set in Calcutta, the eternally evolving city preserving its past in its dog eared buildings and lanes and yet moving ahead with the modern pulse. The river Ganga is witness to its trysts with destiny and memory, of the ones who stay and those who depart for other shores.

MAYURAKSHI then, in its intersections of a father of 84 years of age, grappling with his dotage and fragmented memory, and a middle aged son settled abroad, who himself has been through two divorces and is clearly unhappy, expressing that through a cultivated or perhaps natural state of reserve, is immersive. As a late child, his unsaid context of always staying on the precipice of his father’s mortality is not lost on us, having lost his mother in his youth.

The son has to return to his work life, the father has to somehow be in the care of extended staff who clearly are responsible and empathetic and life has to go on. In between that beginning and lack of uniformity of an uncertain future, this work finds a contemplative tone to understand how things change as we add more years to our life. Cinematic legends SAUMITRA CHATTERJEE and PROSENJIT CHATTERJEE ensure we don’t forget the reality of this situation. It’s the tale of a million parents and children wading through the river of life. Memory is their only source and internal narrator. It’s what binds them.
***

CHADWICK BOSEMAN: PORTRAIT OF AN ARTIST(2021)





A screen Titan. A humble practitioner of his craft. An artist before an actor. A consummate professional and unassuming human being. You can have a million opinions about the monumental achievements of Chadwick Boseman but you cannot be sure of where his immortality lies, in the hearts of his admirers and in annals of cinema.

This 19 minute documentary short brings greats like VIOLA DAVIS, DENZEL WASHINGTON, PHYLICIA RASHAD and other collaborators from his last works DA 5 BLOODS and MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM together to look back at a miracle of a man who eschewed externalities of fame to truly become iconic with the power of his craft. On the tightrope of life and death, his spirit hence remains unwavering. This work briefly enters his world of words and thoughts through those who observed him and were blessed by his presence.
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Setting out in the Real World isn’t a Cakewalk: On Satyajit Ray’s Timeless ‘Mahanagar’ (1963)

My essay on the timeless omnibus of legendary filmmaker SATYAJIT RAY and his era traversing modern tale MAHANAGAR (BIG CITY, 1963) has been published in the excellently collected latest issue of CAFE DISSENSUS.

SO do read it, share your thoughts and spread the word. The link to the published essay is below.

https://wp.me/p1IINq-1Zv

ANDRA DAY BRINGS PASSIONATE TRUTH TO ‘STRANGE FRUIT’

Look at her facial expressions, the way her mouth registers every contorted life script and scarred body marked by racism. In this rendition of STRANGE FRUIT, a song based on a seminal poem detailing lynching in the American south, delivered by the inimitable Billie Holiday, Oscar nominee Andra Day embodies the great and provocative singer’s unique tonal quality. The melancholy of her words hence come to define her own identity as an African American occupying a divisive social rostrum.

https://youtu.be/Epm0v1px2oM

As someone who has always taken STRANGE FRUIT to be a true blue benchmark in the liberation of musical sensibilities,  I believe Ms. Andra gives it not only a vocal heft in the vein of Holiday without imitating her but also the communication through eyes and face that elevate her performance altogether. It’s a miracle to have in 2021.

*****

MY POEMS HAVE BEEN PUBLISHED BY LOTHLORIEN POETRY JOURNAL

My two poems, namely A SAPLING, IN RED and THE OLD GOA CHURCH, have been published by LOTHLORIEN POETRY JOURNAL, under the aegis of the brilliant and prolific STRIDER MARCUS JONES. I’m happy that this is the third pair of poems that have graced the journal this year. I hope this journey continues to be cemented with more words exchanged.

So read both of them as they are markedly different and enhance my poetic worldviews. The link is here below.

https://lothlorienpoetryjournal.blogspot.com/2021/05/two-poems-by-prithvijeet-sinha.html?m=1

RUPI KAUR’S BRILLIANT SPOKEN WORD POEM IS A DISTILLATION OF THE IMMIGRANT EXPERIENCE

RUPI KAUR’S spoken word piece BROKEN ENGLISH beautifully, and with realistic details, chronicles the universal immigrant voice, especially from the first generation point of view that nurtures posterity and takes every challenge in its stride, to fit in the NEW WORLD aesthetics.

Listen to it and share it with all discerning individuals.

IT’S THE VOICE THAT IS NEVER SUBJUGATED OR SILENCED

As the saying goes, man is born free but everywhere he is in chains. If practical estimates are to be taken, human individuality gets locked up either in gilded cages or in actual prisons. We see it with our eyes wide open, knowing that every enslavement is shaped by human hands and our resolve breaks and disintegrates when too many opposing voices get in our way. But the human voice is the most potent counterpoint to outrages and ostracization since by speaking out and refusing to observe indefinite silences, we challenge the status quo.

Garrett Bradley’s empathetic documentary TIME identifies with the voice that just doesn’t let itself be victimised by social networks of discrimination. Its subject and voice of reason is Sibil Richardson/Fox Rich, a woman who is so flawlessly determined in her fight to free her husband from the confines of an ill-defined prison industrial system that her words drive home the poignancy of her loss, quite literally, in this case. She is a compelling central figure since she records her life script, with each minute moment and big payoff in her fight for justice, in video diaries, to uncompromisingly capture the essence of family.

The camera is her most intimate friend, processing in real time the depths of her journey, from crushing personal grief to the joy of watching her sons grow up to be strong and confident, educated individuals, stepping on the precipice of a life with the backlog of their parents’ backgrounds in tow. It is her all-seeing eye, serving as both technical support system and a cathartic source. But her voice occupies her narrative powerfully, employing its vulnerability and extraordinary sense of fortitude over the course of two decades. Bradley harnesses her visual journal to craft a full-length exploration of human agency under duress. Trust me when I say that Ms. Fox’s belief in her husband’s freedom and, in turn, her family’s emotional emancipation, is totally unwavering even as the indifference of racist authorities shatters her from the inside.

TIME is obviously about the passage of the titular entity, refusing to gloss over its subject’s own rash decisions leading to the point of change for her family and offsetting it with her mother’s worldly wise moral take on our choices determining the course of our future, without being a judgemental springboard or diluting its compassionate whole. Mostly, it’s about actions seen through the prism of an unequal society. TIME is ultimately a personalized narrative that earns its triumph by its final passage. However, the voice of reason keeps prodding at the long road taken to reach that end of the line as it’s never a final destination, not when similar narratives abound still.

By dint of its storytelling voice and visual style, fluent, sophisticated in its articulation and with the jazz musical score underscoring the improvisatory nature of each unpredictable moment as it unfolds, it transcends the threshold of pain or melancholy to capture hope without bypassing the impact of all put together. It is an upholder of unvarnished realities.

****

THE PEREZ FAMILY

It’s not just a coincidence that THE PEREZ FAMILY, which preceded my viewing of TIME today by a week and a half, is also about the passage of individuals from their native land towards a place they can call home. One of the protagonists here, namely Juan, is a political prisoner who is released from the confines of his country’s socio-political turmoil and has lost contact with his family, settled in Miami for two decades. You see, the issue of unlawful incarceration and a separation of two decades unite both narratives.

Only here, from the passage by sea to the hordes of Cubans made to live in a stadium which serves as their temporary home, the people unite and some of them integrate their acquaintances acquired during the course of this journey to construct a familial bond of their own. It’s a tale of the immigrants’ progress to Miami, pointing at the rough edges of the American Dream as also the Cuban-American diaspora in Miami, a community that has thrived and cemented its roots there for decades.

THE PEREZ FAMILY is beautifully written and directed by the truly global filmmaker MIRA NAIR, the Indian luminary who knows how to straddle worlds in principle. Just around 2019, she canned her series A SUITABLE BOY in and around my very locality as also some of the landmarks of my city Lucknow. Here too, she infuses the spirit of these people with the flavour of their distinct voice, with humour and a welcome dose of local aesthetic to aid their progress.

The most poignant aspect of its veracity is the unrequited voice of love for those who are not bound to us by blood bonds or conjugal connection but nevertheless forge a long lasting relationship with us over a shared identity. ALFRED MOLINA and ANGELICA HUSTON are wonderfully close to their instincts, for grasping the complexity of pining for each other through two decades of separation and yet rebuilding their present, with the voice of love guiding them towards steady partnerships with other people. But it’s MARISA TOMEI as Dorita, a supreme scene stealer, who is pure gold as the individual leaving her dreary life in Cuba behind to chase the silver linings in Miami, with her love for Elvis, John Wayne and joie de vivre utterly enrapturing us. Her spirited voice of hope and fearlessness, for a future in her adopted land dispels the doubts associated with the sketchy reality of seeking asylum there. This trifecta of performers authenticate millions of immigrant dreams, making them specific and universal. With salsa legend CELIA CRUZ in the mix, it tugs at the voice of joy developing in hearts adrift and yet tethered firmly to their roots.

But it’s MARISA who symbolizes the true voice of freedom.

ROB ROY

Finally there is the voice of rebellion that is pipped up against imperialism, as evidenced by the legend of the Scottish hero ROB ROY, much like William Wallace from the same locational provenance.

It’s Jessica Lange who utilizes her wit and concern to not only showcase her voice of love for her husband(Liam Neeson) but also makes way for passages of bitterness, practicality and the kind of push and pull dynamic one expects in a marital unit, especially when challenges are posed by outsiders threatening to sully its sanctity. So even as not so lovely words are exchanged between them, we appreciate how its emphasis on domestic struggles do not confine it to the panorama of history alone or just hagiographic male ego.

Lange is the central voice here. Watch her reaction to a bodily outrage visited upon her by the enemy and the moral complexity that she sets herself towards. It’s a slow burning charge, rescuing her from being another female endnote to a larger clash among men, in the fight against cruelty. ROB ROY benefits from her voice of intervention, limited as it is or was historically, Ms. Lange enhances its impact. The final return of the titular protagonist to hearth and security of being with the woman who bid for reason, is proof of that.

MY POEM ‘PILLARS OF THE EARTH’ HAS BEEN PUBLISHED BY ASPIRING WRITERS’ SOCIETY E-ZINE

My poem PILLARS OF THE EARTH, a topical work written keeping in mind the theme of Past Mythology applicable in the Present, has been published in the first issue of ASPIRING WRITERS’ SOCIETY E-ZINE.

I feel privileged to have my work grace such a wonderful cast of poetic voices.

So read it, share your thoughts and spread the word. Below is the link to the poem and make sure to read the other ones too.

https://concettapipia.wixsite.com/aspiringwriterssoc/post/poetry-24