PIONEERS, REBELS AND INFIGHTING KINDRED.

A TRIP TO THE MOON(1902)

Georges Melies’ A TRIP TO THE MOON has been etched in my mind ever since a betokened Films and Literature paper at university opened up to me a world of creative pioneers.

This fifteen minutes short is one of the first efforts at developing a filmmaking idiom after the Lumiere brothers. The pithy runtime also caters to the audience’s penchant for discovering an art form in motion that was new and exciting. This is then a historical archive of the earliest imprints of 20th century, meant to educate and entertain our modern sense of wonder. Yes, there will always be naysayers who will discount this restored reprint as an unwieldy fossil. Just because they have been exposed to an advanced, sophisticated form of animation and science fiction today doesn’t mean the first advent, with its trappings of technology available at the time, is lesser or completely dispensible. Unfortunately, that’s the way culture gets its reception in the here and now.





For true cinephiles, the silent frames, comedic tone, theatricality, true to the form’s era-specific influence,  and stylistic imperfections of this film truly tip a hat to the child within all of us. It’s imbued with flights of whimsy and fancy without resorting to scientific precedents. The idea is to entertain with a madcap journey of how humans often trip on their feet despite their best intentions and willingly allow hubris to dictate their interactions with an extraterrestrial world. Yet, the design of the spaceship and crater-like surface of the moon are accurately presented while that iconic image of the spaceship landing on a grimacing moon is the stuff of legends, intimating us that human endeavours often end up breaking barriers of natural dispositions and expectations.  To even think of all this a good half a century before the space age is, in itself, revolutionary.

Martin Scorsese gave Mr. Melies'( played by the indispensable Ben Kingsley) spirit of innovation a lovely tribute in 2011’s HUGO. The painstaking craft behind the making of A TRIP TO THE MOON ended up enthralling us there. It’s then a positive coincidence that Mr. Scorsese’s own contributions in the restoration of an Iranian hidden gem CHESS OF THE WIND has led a cinephile like me to watch it and write about it, here below.

So, here’s to the spirit of revival and restoration in the realm of popular culture.

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A FANTASTIC WOMAN (2017)

Sebastian Lelio’s quietly propulsive A FANTASTIC WOMAN is a work that informs us of how human advancements have only belittled our capacity for empathy for another fellow human being.

Marina’s journey here is not only of battling prejudices as a transwoman but of showcasing an inner peace and self-confidence with her identity dwindling in real time, around people who use the opportunity of her lover’s untimely death in her presence to bid for her failure. Daniela Vega catches hold of that not so rude awakening to present a series of interactions that really have no ranges or nuances other than being a reflection of a strictly heteronormative society.

Here is a citizen who is law and peace abiding but has to hold her breath as a cop, a doctor, her lover’s family members, even a female detective use their verbal indignities, sometimes laced with threatening hostility and at others tempered with faux concern, to attempt to show her place in society. Only the dead man’s brother truly upholds human dignity and decency, extending them towards her with genuine care.





Harking back to her former gender pronoun, name and identity, giving her an invasive strip search and disallowing her from attending her lover’s funeral and wake are part of her unraveling. Vega’s restraint is a reminder of these challenges she had internalised and was prepared for. Her grief then is often shortchanged by others for an interrogation of her real self or true intentions. In watching this, I often felt for those lovers and partners who are made to endure such an ordeal irrespective of gender affiliations. But this particular rendition is powerful precisely because it is implosive in its societal dissection of hate and opposition; individuals like Marina are not given the leeway to protest or be vocal about how they feel.

That surreal instance then of Marina engaging in a group dance and then being ushered upwards to the camera, like an aerial act, illustrates the real sense of freedom she perhaps feels innately but is denied because she is not alone in this world, she is among moral judges.

But her gentleness, endurance and grace, qualities which she doesn’t deserve to exhibit when all she should embody are anger and indignation given her situation presented here, become her talismans. Vega’s work is extraordinary here, transmitting her pain, joy, affinity with her lover and herself despite the odds directly to us, with the psychological and physical, reel and real marks visible.

Also given that it’s directed by Sebastian Lelio whose GLORIA BELL was my first foray into his world of filmmaking, I could draw similarities between several tense exchanges occuring in parking lots and apartment flats as well as music becoming an outlet for self – expression. Here, Marina is a singer at a club, trains for an operatic rendition and plays Aretha Franklin’s NATURAL WOMAN on the car stereo before meeting with another woman who doesn’t remotely approve of her.
Finally, the image of Iguazu Falls here in the beginning ties it in with another queer classic, Wong Kar Wai’s HAPPY TOGETHER.

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CHESS OF THE WIND (1976)

This lost Iranian feature was restored and exhibited globally courtesy Martin Scorsese’s world cinema project. To this cinephile, CHESS OF THE WIND is as universal as it comes.

The fact that it was banned in its native country upon release and still cannot enjoy full screenings given  the cultural lexicon of repressive silence and authorised conservatism speaks volumes about how its own individual story needs to be opened up to discerning audiences. I would reiterate that in its thrust on profits and losses, property and jewels, inheritance and backstabbings, an universal sense of avirice overriding human interactions and familial infighting is instantly relatable. That way, it’s a familiar yarn.





Let me say that in CHESS OF THE WIND, there is a Shakespearean sense of intrigue where mutual hatred leads to murder. The grisly undertakings that make it especially hypnotic beyond the forty minutes mark and the moral comeuppance saddled with poison tinges of guilt and mental troughs are very much in the same brooding fashion as Macbeth and Hamlet. Cue the central male antagonist’s murder at the time of offering prayers and the latter work by the Bard immediately springs to mind.

Here, the production design and lighting are primary characteristics, integral to the mis-en-scene. Atmospherics of doom prevail.
As does the social commentary. Of note are three scenes where chatter at the back of the mansion finds women servants washing clothes at the fountain. They provide a requisite context to the upper echelons’ mystery and debauchery, their commentary shedding light on home truths and class structures.

More than these were individual scenes that stayed with me. The leading female protagonist who is wheelchair bound and her maid’s interpersonal intimacy has prominent erotic impulses. I could almost hark back to Bergman’s CRIES AND WHISPERS in that regard though that was a tender, mutual bond which transcended a lot of the pain associated with one’s immobility.

The last half of the feature then is appropriately haunting, shot in a seedy orange light, and blurs lines between pure fact and fiction or the versions presented to us and couched as truth. For most of the runtime, the mansion’s ornate and impeccable interiors keep these people enslaved to opportunism and antagonistic tempers. Only to properly open up to the outside world in the closing moments as the camera captures the neighbourhood and skyline beyond.

The old lady servant and a child server are left as sole gatekeepers of a violent, suppressed legacy that they had witnessed first hand. That, to me, was strikingly haunting. As was Shohreh Aghdashloo’s young housekeeper retreating from the mansion in a black dress, contextualising ‘a woman walks home alone’ imagery in its open-ended delineation. The call to prayer or evening aazaan too makes it pertinent. This gothic tragedy, then, becomes an extension of the ways class heirarchies imprison us even as the lead players perish. Their deeds haunt history. And posterity.

CHESS OF THE WIND is effective on all those collective fronts.



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This Is Life

My extremely personal and autobiographical poem THIS IS LIFE has been published by LIVEWIRE JOURNAL.

Below is the link to a work that covers grounds of trauma and physical harm.

So read it and share your thoughts.

https://livewire.thewire.in/fiction-and-verse/this-is-life/

AN EXPLOSION OF EVERGREEN 80s HITS AND MORE.

You know a love affair with a particular era has translated to the next stage, that of a permanent state of swooning admiration where each beat, every lyric and chord change becomes a part of your existence. Music has an innate nature to make memories fonder and evolve into successive eras and generations as we mark our own sweet passages on this earthly plane.

For this writer and music afficianado, the 1980s continues to be that infectious discography for the ages where emotions soared higher than an eagle, lyrics truly gave us gooseflesh and vocal performances ensured a place in historic registers of popular culture. So even as I use the past tense referring to the point when the music came into heavy rotation, its influence is spontaneously addressed for the absolute present and eras to come.

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To begin with, TAKE MY BREATH AWAY by BERLIN off 1986’s superhit TOP GUN soundtrack has always been an iconic and wholly original composition. Its arrangements, use of synths and above all the carefully written and delivered lyrics make it a winner. Also it’s just one of the most passionate declarations of the rolling and thunderous impact love of any sort can produce in us.

Speaking about duets next, UP WHERE WE BELONG off AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN soundtrack employs the delicacy and practical beats congruent with its lyrical elements to come up with an unforgettable melody, made sweeter by the talents of Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes, the latter of whom has already placed herself in the pantheon of greats with her contribution to I’VE HAD THE TIME OF MY LIFE off DIRTY DANCING. Irene Cara is our next muse as her high-spirited jolt of living life to the fullest comes in handy for FAME and FLASHDANCE (WHAT A FEELING!); Oh, how I have loved the inspirational latter title for years and have recently warmed up to the former’s joie de vivre. The fact that many of these songs are from original movie soundtracks just tells us about the surplus of talent attached to them. 

Since I’ve talked about the abundance of open-hearted emotions in most of these songs, the ballads are exceptionally well-crafted. Be it HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO LIVE WITHOUT YOU? by Michael Bolton and THE POWER OF LOVE by Jennifer Rush, both of which have also received raw and beautiful covers by one of my favourites Laura Branigan, or ETERNAL FLAME by THE BANGLES. The acoustic value of this track and the layering of the vocals from velvety soft to falsettos is equally arresting as the melody, use of strings and harmonies.

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The rock brigade then hops onto the stage as customary synths, drums and impactful guitars create the vulnerable and peerless template for bands like EUROPE vis a vis one of my all-time standards CARRIE, THE FINAL COUNTDOWN and HEART OF STONE. Then HEART takes us by storm with its excellent vocals and hall of fame benchmarks as ALONE, WHAT ABOUT LOVE? while making us go back to its ’70s catalogue and discover the greatest hits’ potency on BARRACUDA and CRAZY ON YOU.

And while DOUBLE VISION, FEELS LIKE THE FIRST TIME and URGENT are good introductions to FOREIGNER, the uplift that comes from I WANT TO KNOW WHAT LOVE IS is monumental, one of those songs that come within a lifetime to sweep us by its transcendental power. This song has done the same for me for over a decade and a half. The choral section, the lyrics, the pensive atmospherics and serenity it generates make it unforgettable. For once that last term fits an artistic creation ever so comfortably.

To top it off is the sensual use of guitars and vocals on I WANNA BE ADORED by THE STONE ROSES. Its central hook and instrumental prowess had me obsessed for many years and now to finally make it a part of my playlist means everything.

Last but not the least is the certifiably classic NOTHING’S GONNA STOP US NOW by STARSHIPS, written by songwriting champion Diane Warren, with vocals and a composition that will always remind us about why the 80s were best when it came to music.



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But we take  few exceptions and include some benchmarks from the 90s as well. That roll of honour includes ROXETTE with IT MUST HAVE BEEN LOVE, again a personal favourite that was made ever so identifiable by featuring on PRETTY WOMAN. Tina Turner’s enduring appeal and powerhouse voice takes WHATEVER YOU WANT to the same dimension of ubiquity for this listener as her unshakeable discography that I keep quoting as one of its kind while I DON’T WANNA MISS A THING lets AEROSMITH rip into the very heart of the matter with Steven Tyler’s unbelievable performance and Diane Warren’s simple and effective words. It’s a true-blue blockbuster of a song, for sure.

Also I would be remiss to not include the pull of Donna Summer’s sustained notes and overall artistic beauty on DIM ALL THE LIGHTS as also its cover by Laura Branigan, both of which I thoroughly enjoy. 

Coming back to Ms. Branigan, l have to recommend all discerning listeners to be immersed in the profundity of her two ballads CRY WOLF and DIDN’T WE ALMOST WIN IT ALL, both of which I now deem as among her signatures because the melodies and singing are so vulnerable,  beautifully sincere and mature. Just like SHATTERED GLASS takes her peak 80s glory to its joyous pinnacle.



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I close this essay by giving shout outs to three new tracks. SIDELINES by PHOEBE BRIDGERS is a hushed melody backed by piano notes, HOLD MY HAND by Lady Gaga recreates the 80s vibe for TOP GUN: MAVERICK’s original soundtrack while the fierce pounce of Demi Lovato’s rocker SKIN OF MY TEETH is a great addition to our current playlists. The latter especially reminded me of Hole’s CELEBRTITY SKIN.

So keep reading my pieces as more musical offerings come our way.  Remember, a good listener matters. So it is with music.

MY POEM ‘ISOLATED LINES’ HAS BEEN PUBLISHED BY DREICH MAGAZINE.

My topical poem ISOLATED LINES has been chosen by DREICH MAGAZINE in its latest issue.

I’m really grateful to the editor, Mr. Jack Caradoc, for publishing this particular piece. So read it and share your thoughts. I will share the print edition too when my copy arrives soon.

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UNDERSTATED QUESTS, INDOMITABLE SPIRITS AND UNFILTERED SEXUALITIES.

DUNE(2021)



In the long tradition of epic filmmaking, predestination or an oracle-like destiny for heroic lead protagonists has been a common motif. DUNE doesn’t toy any differently from that formula. Its science fiction antecedents, in this book to screen transfer, is also something we have become immune to, over decades of experiencing larger than life spectacles, most of them merging camp aesthetics with multiplicities of fantasy within its umbrella masthead.

DUNE is mostly redeemed, inspite of those established points of deja vu, by its understated journey, a ponderous pace and screenplay that lets its characteristically male lead( an always beautiful Timothee Chalamet) to not indulge in much action skirmishes and instead use his mental acumen to traverse terrains and hold on to mortality with his mother( Rebecca Ferguson) in tow. Other senior members of his inner circle do his bidding in terms of their corporeal presence against intergalactic opponents. That includes formidable likes of Jason Momoa, Oscar Isaac and Josh Brolin. Also can we applaud the casting team for bringing Tim and Rebecca together as a familial unit here? Their features are so uncanny.

Of course, the vast and often unforgiving landscapes are captured efficiently, with its technical finesse in top form.  Maybe, for me, a lack of overwhelming inclination towards the fantasy genre limited my involvement in this case. But the muffled tones and customary epic duration of two and a half hours are all in service of a predictable payback.

The ethical dilemmas, ethnic and cultural homogeneity in terms of the costumes and looks on top of the political allegory vis a vis control of spices and capitalist critique are all right with me as is a very good performance from Sharon Duncan Brewster as a leader and saviour who is tasked with looking after the mother-son duo’s passage to the desert. Ultimately, this one is not really my cup of tea. The storytelling is a bit stifled here, focusing instead on the visual aspect overall.

Trust me when I say that these tentpole blockbusters do not serve anything resembling novelty now. DUNE is a part of that pantheon despite its best intentions.

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KING RICHARD (2021)



Let’s just cancel out all the post-Oscar narratives around this feature. The ego of stars and their absurd tactics, employed towards internal feuds on a world stage, shouldn’t come in the way of this extraordinary story of resilience and resolve.

Directed with the same defiant energy that Mr. Richard Williams, father to Serena and Venus Williams, espoused all his life, this biographical retelling shows us that he didn’t care to court popularity or even diurnal favour with those in the sporting fraternity. All he really had his mind set to was ensuring his daughters transcended gender, race and the stereotypes of being from Compton to become tennis legends. Realising that dream with a roadmap paved with grit and courage for them marks some of the greatest portions of this screenplay. In the process, designing him as a real human being, not a fountainhead of empty virtue.

Will Smith is absolutely tenacious in his embodiment of a man who had endured abuse, racism and the denial of his sporting talents. But he didn’t let the bitterness percolate down to his daughters, offsetting his indomitable spirit with a quest for instilling in them the virtues of discipline, hard work and importance of education. Humility too as when he leaves his daughters in a store upon listening to them running down their defeated opponents casually after a successful tennis match. I admire him because he never defends his not so palatable attitudes and deems it a right to be vulnerable with his family members instead of just being a stoic, detached father figure.

As a sports film too, KING RICHARD draws from the joy of two legends being shaped by their parents’ coaching. Credit of utmost importance here is to be given to the equal contribution from Orocene Williams, the mother and practical head of this family, who intervenes and lets wisdom occupy every room she’s in when attitudes get a bit too much to bear. Aunjanue Ellis is dynamite, whether she’s calmly asking her troublemaking neighbour to get off her case or running down her husband for assuming himself to be a veritable ‘know it all’. Her training acumen is covered to fit in with this narrative where lost histories of the Williams family is retrieved.

It ends on a note of defeat on the field for the future legends but the recognition of greater glory for their abilities in years to come. That triumphant, unbending tone permeates a portrait of this family like few others.

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LIHAAF(2020)



Repression has many forms. Neglect, socially sanctioned and cruelly demarcated gender roles to condition that distance are just some of the many layers that are extant within a relationship. These further get another dimension when the natural world of same gender bonding alleviates losing grip on one’s desires and fills the gaping void.

Ismat Chugtai’s LIHAAF/ THE QUILT gave them all precedence over the silence of conservatism way back in the 1940s. This understated cinematic work juxtaposes Ms. Chugtai’s obscenity trial emanating from the book’s publication along with the flashback to her younger days with an aristocratic relative who was suppressed under veils of tradition, genteel society, a queer better half and physical wants beyond her reach. That the couple here indulges in more than stirrings of same-sex relationships, each individually, unveils further a commentary on how individual lives and niceties are misshapen by social diktats.

The issue of the begum’s quilt making shadows that make young Ismat cower in fear is just one of ‘the elephants in the room’ in this case.

Watch it for its provocative subject matter delivered with subtlety as also Tannishtha Chatterjee’s caustic presence as the high-spirited adult Chugtai.

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HARRIET (2019)



Cynthia Erivo’s powerful performance as legendary abolitionist Harriet Tubman breaks with many conventions. Kasi Lemmons’ direction draws from her mythical stature and gives her a spiritual edge that gradually ends up becoming coherent and consistent with her mission at hand. Her communion with God has an almost Christ-like purity, an intuitive sway over coming events that aids in rewriting her personal quest to overcome the tyranny of white supremacy. When she miraculously crosses the river, intimating us that some kind of divine intervention ensured the depth of the water came down, and leads other folks escaping the ravages of slavery, this writer gasped at the manner it is staged, a commonplace occurence laced with the extraordinary.

But HARRIET isn’t a victim of  mythmaking reserved for this titular icon. Her agency and agility is at par with her verbal certitude. Erivo’s expertise is in how she never becomes too big for her boots, leading from the front in her almost solitary quests to the South after escaping to a free North and appealing for others’ belief in what she deems as God’s guidance in her dangerous journeys. That single-minded zeal is always channelized for the greater good, never for self-aggrandizement. She is upright, earnest and goes against her frequently cited petite stature to show us what a big spirit truly means.

Incorporating Erivo’s melifluous voice as her calls meant to signal other folks of her proximity during her rescue missions, HARRIET gets the folkloric frisson of her legend right, not concerned merely with being on the side of fact or fiction alone. Which is why this screenplay becomes one of immersion in her worldviews.

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THE ACTRESS (2021)



An ode to the performativity of almost all of our lives in the public eye, this short by maverick filmmaker Andrew Ondrejcak is impeccably made. To any cinephile, it’s a love letter to cinematic history right from its beginnings to the present epoch.

Lingua Franca filmmaker- actor- writer Isabel Sandoval is the muse who inhabits diverse eras in the form of embodying Marlene Dietrich, Barbara Stanwyck, Jane Fonda ala Barbarella as well as the metaphysical nature of Tree of Life’s maternal figure and the anti-social protagonist of Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. The most alluring recreation remains that of Isabella Rosselini’s singer from Blue Velvet. The mystery of life is evident in the pithy dialogic presentations that go with the visual imagery. An attention to detail regarding each scenario and period appropriate ethos enhance its appeal.

THE ACTRESS ends with the literal sense of an actor’s preparation to essay a part converging with the ponderous nature of things seen, felt and experienced. I thoroughly enjoyed watching this five and a half minute capsule on MUBI.

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A SUBDUED WESTERN, BERGMAN’S PROBING MIND, WOMEN GASLIT AND HARD JOURNEYS.

FIRST COW(2019)

Westerns, by their cinematic nature, have a slow burning agency which hasn’t become derivative to the present day; even though the templates of amorality and emotional recession always concur with explosive duels and mortal dangers on the frontier.

Which is why the sparse Western palette of Kelly Reichardt’s FIRST COW is a welcome change of pace. It is as gentle and refreshingly serene as the languidly flowing brook by the woods or the morning wind. Something hence unusually compassionate gets under our skin, producing a haunting quality to the bond of almost spiritual amity among two men who sell edible cakes for a modest living within the 19th Century ethos of  Oregon territory. This is a location that unfolds as a settlement and source of opportunity for these two quiet men.

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As Orion Lee and John Magaro mould them, they become emotionally transparent vessels who imbibe the dangers associated with the titular animal. More than the mortal danger and class heirarchies, their looks convey more than a simple friendship or even a transactional one. It’s a life force that belies definitions or easy labels. Cue the second time that Magaro meets Lee at a bar, note his instant attraction to the man he once rescued from a near death experience in the wilds. He looks at him with admiration now that he’s well dressed, confident and remembers his old friend. It’s a curiously, transparently innocent look that recognises the idea of attraction within the same gender so beautifully without leaning over to anything resembling lust or extraneous agency.

This achievement of an intimacy borne from trust and camaraderie needs to be taken into cinematic account because that’s how often it is in real life. In a world of brutality and debauchery, the leads in FIRST COW give us a retrospective look into how men should be and were, numbered perhaps among the patriarchal system of living. Yet they prevailed.

By being united in their last moments, the two pals further counter the brutality and mortal dangers of a frontier tale with something tangible. Delicate. Real and enduring. A viewer’s characteristic patience will produce that effect.

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FACE TO FACE(1976)

Ingmar Bergman’s FACE TO FACE was to the manner born for this cinephile and writer. Suffering from troubling thoughts of bodily siege and experiencing two near traumatic encounters of a sexual kind, I was intrinsically drawn to the psychological depth that Liv Ullman brought to her part here. She plays a woman who’s professionally a successful psychiatrist. During the course of a summer where her immediate family members are out of town and she relocates to her grandparents’ apartment where she grew up, she unravels. The unfinished business regarding her childhood traumas involving parents’ untimely death and disciplinarian and emotional abuse by her grandmother finally catch up with her. A near sexual assault by two miscreants at her under construction house further trigger her.

Dream sequences invoke the depths of a lifetime’s burden.  She breaks down mentally, unable to bear that toll. Especially striking is when she imagines being physically mired by her patients, mirroring her anxieties regarding the job, and when she encounters her parents’ ghosts and the darkness of being silenced by her authoritative grandmother. This sequence and her visual of being clad in a crimson dress ala The Handmaid’s Tale was very striking, eerily reminding me of the suffocating nature of our subconscious finding an outlet in dreams.



The way her experience with the two men acutely make her shudder and yet seek an almost counteracting interest in being sexually aroused bring out the manner in which tears and horrid laughter mingle in her unraveling in the presence of another colleague. A tragic experience, when piled on top of an irreconcilable past, can do that, break the symmetry of one’s understanding of evading or wanting the forbidden. I can absolutely identify with that inexplicable feeling. It’s like the body reacts to danger sometimes as an incoming challenge. As if fear as an entity is being traded for a bold moral compass, seeking to identify the depths of one’s threshold for pain, by calling the perpetrators towards its easy target. It has happened to me over the past year especially, consonant with a deluge of daily verbal and sometimes physical abuse, dynamics within the home that I’ve faced as a young man over the longest stretch of time, making me often run towards a point where I want to be defiled in some way. As an asexual person, I have been able to evade absolute danger perhaps owing to that trait of my personality and my innate faith.

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The reality then of being naturally aromantic, asexual and being almost at the receiving end of sexual advances and threat to the body from members of my own gender ( and no I’m not calling out any orientation here at all, just individual responses)  hence was the most debilitating blow to me. FACE TO FACE was the first time I felt seen. It felt real to then finally write down aspects about myself that I wouldn’t ever speak openly among mortals. But by being visually stirred by a respectable and dignified, no holds barred take on mental horrors invading one’s adult personality, I could air my thoughts. So I want to accord Ms. Ullman the highest regard because the way she handles the final stretch of her confessions, imploding within and exploding emotionally in her body and spirit, illustrates the most accurate representation of how I feel. Only I haven’t found a personal agent or friend to lend an ear to my ordeal which bears scars of a lifetime, like she does with her patient colleague.

FACE TO FACE is also a realistic portrayal of the way mental health professionals themselves go through dangerous motions. Maybe that’s why they can possess the ability to treat their patients effectively or maybe it’s a reverse form of therapy for their own unfinished pasts and experiences. Bless Mr. Bergman for always probing the human mind with such empathy and tact.

Of course, the pain never goes away. But the feeling of sharing one’s life script lessens the pull of the psychological noose. 



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WENDY AND LUCY (2008)

Kelly Reichardt’s minimalistic strokes of realism again occupy this list. This time, it’s courtesy the linear journey of the two titular women, one a human, the other a canine,  in her emotionally wrenching 2008 feature.

Stricken by the sticky end of financial misfortune, Wendy goes through what we may view as fairly common trials of being a have-not. Broken car, almost no money, no job at sight and dissociated from her cash-strapped family members who anyway don’t want to even entertain a phone call from her. That’s her profile.

Michelle Williams is a miracle of a performer because she lends it the gut-punch of a documentary and the emotional implosion of youth falling by the wayside in real time. Those are the qualities she shares with her selflessly empathetic director/ writer/ editor Reichardt. The latter has a way of focusing on her subjects with a sublime lens that uplifts them from the modern desert of generational stasis without losing track of the way society is mostly composed of these sundry strugglers. They make up the demographic that occupy her ecosystem.



In WENDY AND LUCY, I was reduced to tears at several points, most poignantly where Wendy doesn’t give up on finding her true best friend after losing her in an inopportune moment despite the fact that she herself has nothing to keep up with. Her ultimate sacrifice for the sake of Lucy’s well-being with her current owner just broke me completely.

This feature is like that, offering hope, strength of character in people and slim chances but a real possibility of general, day to day decency as Wendy finds in the elderly watchman and the automobile shop owner. She is stranded in a ghost town and maybe these three are the only living souls occupying the margins of a forgotten economy reeling from a recession.

Wendy’s powerful tale then isn’t about her destination or her prospect of finally mustering up the courage to go to Alaska as she had planned. It’s about the fact that she just doesn’t give up on her dream of reuniting with Lucy, her only soulmate, and earning her share through honest hard work. Her struggles make up her living reality. To me, Williams’ authentic to the core embodiment here is a welcome precursor to the widely appreciated ethos of NOMADLAND.

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THE INVISIBLE MAN (2020)

That Elisabeth Moss can conjure darkest passages of our own lived experiences through her committed, intensely riveting body of work has become an international fact.

THE INVISIBLE MAN takes the mantle forward after her stellar performances in such titles as TOP OF THE LAKE, MAD MEN and above all THE HANDMAID’S TALE.

What I truly appreciate about Leigh Whannell’s scripting and direction here is that he is able to conjoin his technical forces with Moss’ singular trajectory which actually exposes the social faultlines we are only too eager to overlook in the context of private, domestic spats. Until it snowballs into a terrifying reality, a habitual demonstration of gender disparity, a nightmare demographic going beyond statistics of domestic abuse.

The opening ten to fifteen minutes themselves ratchet a very urgent, choking sense of things to follow, in the way lead protagonist Cecilia escapes from her gilded prison shared with her billionaire partner ( Oliver Jackson Cohen)





The financial, emotional, even legal struggles portrayed here in the wake of her flight let us intrinsically grasp the interiority of gaslit women; women and individuals who have to relive the blunt force of trauma again and again, in order to make others believe their truth. It’s a particular aspect of THE INVISIBLE MAN that makes it go above the usual beats of a science fiction/ horror/ drama hybrid.

The dramatic stakes are real and nerve-racking. It’s how the psychological sense of horror comes into play effectively, making the invisible perpetrator a symbol and stand-in for the very roots of abuse and mental disintegration. Whannell and Moss thus enable this iteration of an H.G. Wells classic title to possess a contemporary appeal.

SHIRLEY(2020)

The psychological portrayal of horror, literal and metaphorical, is again embedded in stark, universal truths of gender relations and gaslighting in SHIRLEY.

First of all, the dynamics of a middle aged couple hosting a younger one at its home, within an university town, and the interpersonal tugs is like a contemporary take on Edward Albee’s play WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? Ditto the domestic sphere where love, lust, normalcy and sheer mental anarchy rule the roost.




Josephine Decker here ups the stakes by making real-life horror literature legend Shirley Jackson an intriguing personality who’s utterly bewitching even as her lack of social graces gut her within a hypocritical ethos. But she stands her ground, combating her own husband’s narrative doled out to others with insight into the very foundations of isolation for women, the ‘lost girls’ who never find allies. This parallel of observing and imbuing her writing with details collected from daily experiences is stirringly put to the screen along with her eventual camaraderie with the younger lady( Odessa Young)

Both become an unlikely pair, giving SHIRLEY a charge that electrifies with the sheer magnetism of their individual performances. But collectively, this pair dismantles the patriarchal codes around it to bring a sensual reckoning with the very core of womanhood. 

I highly recommend this one, in no small part because its music and cinematography too elevate the material.


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IDENTITY CRISES, LOVE FOR MOVING IMAGES, DETERMINED PIONEERS, JUSTICE UNDER FIRE

Similar to few of my previous forays into integrating the robust, dynamic quality of cinema with poetry, I once again bring the two disciplines together, to present encapsulations of various features in the verse form.

So here they are.

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AMU(2005)- on filmmaker Shonali Bose’s affecting debut that chronicles the decades worth of buried pain and generational legacy springing forth from the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. It also doubles up as a linguistic amalgamation of an Indian-American
young person’s search for identity.






Mangled bodies
and murmurs of the past
don’t speak.
Our flesh and blood
spills out of almanacs.
Yet we choose to pick
the dates marked only
for festivities.


I’m a multiplicity
speaking in three tongues.
My mother’s speech
is a lost epiphany to me.
My family’s heritage
charred by looted memories
and kerosene bottles
strewn around the wrong side
of the railway tracks.


Tell me,
whom do I believe
when the urban village
is such a sunny tyrant
and wants a piece of my
birth name?

Mangled bodies
and murmurs are in the past.
Please
let flesh and blood
spill out the truth now,
in the prelude to a riot
and a carnage of decades
and legacies.





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LIFE ITSELF(2014)- a practical documentary on celebrated film writer and media personality Roger Ebert’s legacy intertwined with his final years on terra firma, a space he filled with his expansive world of words even in the absence of speech and impending death.





Instruments of Empathy
are like a country’s gifts
of gratitude.

Laughter and joy,
to moving images,
like crumbs of resisting
tumult
and the cyclical crash
of our spirits.

I found these
in an almanac
perennially filled to the last
date
with a Godsend.


Now in my final address,
my thumbs pointed towards the sky,
I say,
I’ll see you
where the real stars
house the earthbound.
Exulting in the company
I wish to now know better
with empathy,
laughter and joy.



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TEMPLE GRANDIN(2010)- on an iconic personality who proved her detractors wrong by uniting the humane practices enshrined by her scientific tempers in the field of animal husbandry while also shedding renewed light on her experiences as an autistic adult whose mind literally held wonders of creation and beauty.





I’m no sullen little oddity
or even anyone
out of the ordinary.

I see the world
in images of profound
recollections
and fragmented impressions
of human cruelty
define my confounding arcs too.


To me,
Wisdom
is coherent,
often like a silent prayer
and nature’s Godly creatures
are our likely saviours
when loudmouths laugh,
deigning to hold me as an equal.


But a beautiful mind has its own saddle
and gallops over forfeited fields
with a mother’s commitment
and a teacher’s beliefs.

Life is a temple of knowledge
and discovery.
I receive them firsthand,
governed by such examples.





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THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ST. MATTHEW(1964)- on often provocative filmmaking auteur Pier Paolo Pasolini’s austere and transcendental take on the Nativity Story. A work that’s guaranteed to move devout followers and even agnostics with its humane delineation. It comes with a performance of a lifetime from Enrique Irazoqui, a most down to earth on-screen Messiah ever.





The Lord is humble
and pure,
eloquent at the hour of revelation
and predestined,
in his own words,
to be betrayed
at the altar
of mortal persecution.


This,
in his saga of sage advice
and impending peril,
he is put on trial,
looking as anyone among us,
wearing the same soiled raiments
as the most impoverished here
and holding his anger and resignation
just as ordinary folks would.


Look we desecrate our Chosen One
with our own inaction.
We strip him bare
with our voyeuristic lust
for a public spectacle.
We hardly heed to his prescience
when all we participate in
is an untimely crucifixion,
unresolved
and dissolving with the times.


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CONFIRMATION(2016)- on the blistering courtroom politics invested in Clarence Thomas’ nomination to the United States Supreme Court when former worker and then current law professor Anita Hill opens up Pandora’s box on his misconduct meted out to her in terms of blatant sexual harrasment.





Hear me out.
Take notice.
I am wronged.
Put on the stand
after being pushed to
the very brink of dignity.


Hear me out.
I do not cry wolf.
Hear me out
because shame shouldn’t
be my only apparel.


Hear me out
when men defend
themselves with tricks
stale and furious
as the molten
shape of history itself.



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PATERNO(2018)- on legendary football coach Joe Paterno’s final tryst with the legacy of sexual abuse of young boys appertaining to his longtime associate and philanthropist Gerry Sandusky.






Old principles
of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’
have passed into obscurity.
So have denials from older men.


There is a charge then
to this trail of crime
and Hell is right here
when our mentors
choose to hush
this sordid saga
as some kind of
open secret.


See if this Pandora’s box
doesn’t bring a sweeping storm.

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THE SHAPE OF WATER(2017)- on Guillermo Del Toro’s beautifully realised, fabled depiction of nature’s wonders manifesting in God’s creatures on land and water while man’s egomaniacal rush is the monster we unleash on this seemingly innocent world of goodwill and industry.






The Shape of Water
flows
into fables,
its countless drops
meant to symbolise
the propreity of evil
as equally
as a sheltered dreamscape
of Love,
Friendship,
Rebellion
and Escape.

When the fable soars,
Water becomes
a microcosm.
A sacred space.
An upholder of grace.



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IRREVERSIBLE (2002)- on Gaspar Noe’s open provocation of a work that dares to show us the basest instincts of humankind when victim and victimiser both occupy a brutally realistic nocturnal world ruled by racism, homophobia and most importantly, the heavy weight of sexual abuse.



Bruised
Battered
Left for dead.

The City of Lights
brought to a halt
by its crimes of passion
and reduced to a pulp.


Now the procession begins.
A retributive fever,
like an epileptic seizure,
threatens
this shared love
among friends.

Under the cover of Night
watch as Men become
beasts with no burden.





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FRIDA(2002)- on Julie Taymor’s memorable portrait of Frida Kahlo’s legacy of physical pain and the artistry that surmounted all odds beyond that frontier.


Kiss her
on the edge
of her broken spinal column.

There rests Phoenix
wincing with pain
and under the inevitable
shadow of a near-death
reckoning.


There she rises
with the grotesque
and the beautiful,
piercing the hallways
of life’s twists and turns
with Art
monumental
and immortal.





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DEATH ON THE NILE(2021)- on Kenneth Branagh’s excitingly mounted and excellently cast thriller based on Agatha Christie’s famed Poirot series of books.





Cry Wolf!

Cry Murder!


A voyage such as this
brings out cohorts
and players
as they exchange
glances and conspiratorial airs.

At the primed hour,
when tables turn,
who then picks up the
burden of guilt and reproach
and makes it out of this boat?


Bid for their money
when the decks are stacked.
A prowler on the hunt
and ready for attack.



A killer on the loose
A dubious profession to choose.


So cry wolf.
Cry murder.
The guilty ones
always sharper than
the others.




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Prithvijeet Sinha reads ‘Golden Light’ from Issue XIV, Inklette Magazine

Recently, my poem GOLDEN LIGHT got published by INKLETTE MAGAZINE. It was such a privilege then to not only have the print text grace its annals but also be represented visually through my recitation on its official YouTube channel.

Poetry conjures a visual world rich in details, subliminal beauty and complexity. So here I share the video of yours truly reading GOLDEN LIGHT with you all.