Links: Inside Llewyn Davis, Dedh Ishqiya, Miss Lovely, American Hustle and RIP Suchitra Sen

It’s update time again. These movies are playing this week at a theatre near you, if you’re in India. Leaving aside American Hustle, the other three are all highly recommended.

American Hustle, which is strictly ok: 

It’s got 10 nomination nods from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which makes you think David O Russell’s new film American Hustle must be all kinds of awesome. Here’s the good news and the bad news all rolled into one: American Hustle is good fun if you can distract yourself from the illogical bits by focusing on the wigs or gaping necklines of Amy Adams’ outfits. …Unfortunately, logic leaves the room entirely too often in American Hustle. The plot that’s supposed to hook the big guys is barely credible and too little of the reasoning and motivations are worked out clearly.

Full review here.

Inside Llewyn Davis, which is so heartbreaking and so beautiful.

By the end of the film, Llewyn hasn’t lost hope even though he’s exhausted and feeling the blows a little more than he did at the start. Considering how cruel and callous Llewyn is to so many people around him, you’d expect that it would feel like he’s getting his just desserts when luck doesn’t favour him. But even as the Coen brothers lay bare Llewyn’s many flaws, they’re constantly underscoring how intensely Llewyn loves the music he creates. Nothing else matters in his life and even if it would be sensible to compromise just a little now and then, Llewyn won’t. His music is the one good, pure thing in him and his life, and he will guard it ferociously.

Full review here.

Dedh Ishqiya, definitely one of the best movies I’ve seen of late:

It doesn’t matter if you sniff out the twists in advance or aren’t particularly keen on the Urdu poetry that glints like the perfectly-cut gems in the aforementioned necklace. Dedh Ishqiya is an absolute delight because all its parts fit beautifully. The cinematography, sets and costumes are exquisite. The editing is sharp. Most importantly Darab Farooqui’s story is plotted wonderfully by Vishal Bharadwaj and Chaubey’s screenplay. Bharadwaj has also written the dialogues and they’re stylish, witty and a wonderful change from the awkward khichdi of Hindi and English that we usually hear in Bollywood films.

Full review here.

There was much to love in Dedh Ishqiya, and this is a piece on one of my favourite moments in the film. Very spoilery. You have been warned.

At the heart of “Lihaaf” is the fear of the unknown, which paralyses the young niece with fear and renders her blind to the harmless simplicity of what is actually happening in the room, under Begum Jaan’s quilt. In Dedh Ishqiya, Chaubey, Bharadwaj and Darab Farooqui’s (who is credited with writing the story) homage to Chughtai presents a significant difference. Instead of a young girl, it’s the grizzled, old Khalujan who is witness and he’s not in the dark. Even though he has been rebuffed and conned by Begum Para and Munniya, even though he is bound as a result of his own actions, when he sees the two women together, he is struck by the beauty of their intimacy. The expression on his face is of sheer wonder.

You can read the entire piece here.

Another superb film: Miss Lovely.

Although the plot follows Sonu, Vicky and Pinky, it’s the detailing of Miss Lovely that makes it a fascinating watch. Siddiqui, George and Singh do an excellent job of playing the desperate survivors that their characters are, but giving their credibility an essential sense of authenticity are the others around them. For instance, Tiku, the midget manager whose office in a chawl is filled with women who do “sexy” dances for him and fake Bruce Lees, deserves his own film. The supporting cast of Miss Lovely is weather-beaten and poufed just as you’d expect people in this sleazy industry to be. From the upholstery to the television sets and the radio that provides ironic commentary to the unfolding events of Miss Lovely, every detail is pitch perfect. KU Mohanan’s cinematography is gorgeous, lending a colourful melancholia to this grimy world.

Miss Lovely moves slowly, unravelling like real life. It demands the viewer read into silences, see the phantoms hidden by smoke and the cheap dazzle of measly successes and the menace lurking in smiles and embraces. The violence and degradation that characterise the films that Vicky and Sonu make, seeps into their lives subtly.

Full review here.

Miss Lovely _01

One of the most striking aspects of Miss Lovely is the cinematography:

Later in the film, there’s a scene in which Pinky, the ambitious young actress Sonu falls in love with, is doing a song sequence. The set she’s dancing and lip-syncing against is all mirrors and bright lights, creating countless reflections of her and her back-up dancers. They become a flurry of sparkly bodies, all glittering desperately and weirdly indistinct despite the harsh, bright lighting.

Pinky stands out, but it’s almost as though she’s able to do this because we’re seeing her through Sonu’s eyes. Still, we almost never see just one of Pinky. There’s always a reflection or a fragment of a reflection sharing her spotlight. It’s the perfect picturisation of a character who has been revealed to be less a person and more a collection of facets put together with the singular intent of making it as a star.

Read the entire piece here.

And finally, a farewell wave to Suchitra Sen, one of the most charismatic actresses Indian cinema has had.

Looking at her filmography, it becomes obvious that Sen didn’t pick her roles unthinkingly. A large number of the characters she plays are strong, independent-minded women whose existence isn’t defined by the men they fall in love with but the work they do. The heroines Sen played were usually educated and often defined by their demanding professions (Sen often played a doctor in her movies). These heroines were career-driven women who weren’t ashamed of choosing their careers over domesticity, women who were able to walk out of unhappy marriages, women who weren’t afraid to react like men do to heartbreak (remember Rina Brown taking to the bottle in Saptapadi?). These women were nothing like Sen herself, who had only a basic education, had chosen to stay in a marriage that was rumoured to be unhappy and was rarely open about her emotions, particularly in public.

Click on the above link for the entire piece.

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