Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Bed wetting music: are we afraid of our soft side?

A friend once told me that he came across a review which said that Coldplay’s music was “music for bed wetters.”

I told this to another friend and his interpretation was this: “Coldplay seems to be afraid to go to the dark side. And since bed wetters are children and people who are afraid of the dark, I guess that’s what’s the reviewer meant. In fact, I also think Coldplay’s music is bed wetting music.”

Another friend then commented that like Coldplay, Hindi music is also bed wetting music.

“Hindi music is soft and sentimental. Not at all like Cradle of Filth and Slipknot,” he said.

I don’t know why but I keep wondering whether these people are too afraid of their soft side! They want to be or at least appear to be tough!

I think what’s tougher and braver is actually accepting and coming to terms with your soft side.

I love Coldplay because their music is melancholic. And like Slipknot and Cradle of Filth, I believe Coldplay is equally talented too though they choose not to indulge in metal because I guess it is only through melancholic music that the feeling of songs like “Speed of Sound” and “Hardest Part” can be conveyed.

- Hilath

Lauding "The Old Man and the Sea"

The old man and the marlin

Courtesy of my associate I.Y. (who some refer to as ‘the devil’, which I believe he doesn’t really mind) I finally watched Russian master animator Aleksandr Petrov’s oscar-winning animated short The Old Man and the Sea. I was mighty impressed. This 20-minute short, which also won a host of other animation awards, is a remarkable blend of style and substance.

Based on Ernest Hemingway’s classic novella it was the first animated film to burst into Imax screens and suffice it to say it was a pity I had to watch it on my pc. Nonetheless it was an awe-inspiring experience.

The Old Man and the Sea was launched as part of a tribute to Hemingway who we all know is one of the most celebrated authors of the 20th century.

The film is a simple, moving tale of an aging fisherman who is past his proud, adventurous life. He is now a victim of ill fortune and comes back home from the sea empty-handed. He feels he should hang up his fishing rod whilst seeking solace in the company of a little boy who encourages him to keep going.

One day he sails out into the sea with renewed determination to turn around his luck, resulting in a battle reminiscent of the defining moments in his life.

Petrov's ordeal

A comment on this film will be unjust without admiring the painstaking effort Petrov made to create it. It took more than two years for him to complete it. Why? 29,000 frames with his own hands! He made every frame using slow-drying oil paints on glass sheets. He altered the oils between frames with his fingers, photographed the outcomes, and moulded the oils for the next frame and so forth.

In explaining why he used his fingers to paint instead of brushes he said it was the “closest way from the heart to the cartoon."

To add insult to injury, though he normally works on an A4 sized canvass the size had to be enlarged four times for Imax!

In the end it was worth the wait and effort. It is a product of beauty and depth. It possesses a dream-like quality unseen in today’s 3-D animation and the non-refined look of the animation with stutters in movement creates a gritty, dramatic effect.

Ofcourse one would invest such energy into a production only with high passion for the material. Petrov read the book as a child and it left a strong imprint on him. He wrote the script years ago and after much struggle for funding Imax took it up.

He said he drew inspiration from the old man’s character: "The story is special to me as is the inspiring central character. His struggle resembles the struggle, the patience and determination needed as an animator. You have to love what you do."


To sum up, The Old Man takes on universal themes of courage, defiance in the face of adversity, and self-identity in refreshing fashion.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Music vs. Film: How Bollywood can never match the poetry of Indian music

Some months back, at Juwey’s CafĂ© in Male’, Narco and I were having a conversation. We were reminiscing the days when Hindi music was original. That is when Hindi music used its local and traditional and original instruments like sitar. For me, Hindi music died after “1942: A Love Story”. Yash Chopra’s efforts at reviving it with Madan Mohan’s music in “Veer-Zara” wasn’t a too successful attempt in my view.

Though I loved the music of “Fanaa”, for me, the Hindi music era was pre-“1942: A Love Story.” Now mostly Western instruments are used. And as a family member once commented to me, the use of Western instruments have resulted in the loss of the rustic and sentimental mood of Hindi music, which actually defines it (I listen to heavy metal too but that’s no excuse to ignore the creativity of other cultures as some of my friends seem to do by making racist comments about Hindi music).

I long for the days when I could hear songs like “Ek Rasta Hai Zindagi” from “Kala Pattar” or “Tere Chehre Se” from “Kabhi Kabhie”.

The only person who has been able to still preserve the Hindi feel of Hindi music with Western instruments is, ironically, Mahesh Bhatt and co. Though I hate his plagiarizing of Hollywood films, I cannot help but like the music of Bhatt productions such as “Jaanam” (“Dil Kyon Dadak Ta Hai”, “Mera Dil Ka Pathaa” etc) and “Paap” (“Lagan Lagi Tumse”, etc).

The conversation with Narco centered around the fact that while Hindi music composers were great masters, their counterpart filmmakers don’t have a clue about the art of filmmaking. In fact, Bollywood, like our local Muhamma Kalo, are abusers of the art form we call film, “filmmakers” who want to squeeze every dime out of our pockets with their sorry productions.

I told Narco that while I like listening to Hindi music, the videos and the films’ songs that go with it, don’t go with it at all. I think the problem is that Bollywood filmmakers don’t have a clue about film as an art form. Even Sri Lanka, which has a mostly video industry that is even poor compared to our Dhivehi video industry which consists mostly of plagiarized Hindi productions, won a prestigious Cannes award a few years back.

If anybody disagrees with me, consider this: Bollywood churns out more than 800 films a year, and hardly any of it makes it to an international film festival, save “Lagaan” and “Monsoon Wedding” quite recently. As Al pointed out, you can’t say that films like “Water” and “Bend it Like Beckham” are Bollywood productions because they were made by filmmakers who were raised in other countries. That will be like claiming that films like “The Sixth Sense” by M. Night Shyamalan, who grew up in Philadelphia, are Bollywood films!

But countries like Iran, where filmmakers have to struggle in order to produce less than 20 films a year, almost all the films make it to international film festivals, and even are quite popular and commercially successful. In fact, films like Iran’s “Children of Heaven” is still counted by many of my film-loving friends as one of their top ten favorite films of all time. Bollywood’s much hyped directors like Farhan Akhtar (whose credits include “Dil Chahta Hai,” “Lakshya” and “Don”) should get the message that it is the message of humanity which resonates with audiences and have made Iranian films both popular, commercially successful and at the same time art films. Iranian directors have got it right because they always explore in their films what it means to be human.

Before concluding this post, I would appreciate if anyone can facilitate for me to have access to or get the following songs which I have been desperate to get for several years:

- All the songs of the film “Prem Rog” which stars Rishi Kapoor and Padmini as the unfortunate widow. I especially want the songs “Mohabbat He Kya Cheez,” and that song about the bees which I forgot but you see Rishi running after a white-clad Padmini in it.

- “Mere Liye Zindagi” from the film “Mera Jawab” which I think was Meenakshi and Jackie Shroff’s first film

- “Aathey Mujhe Thu Rulaa Gaee”. I forgot the name of the film but this song stars Sunjay Dutt and Anita Raj (I liked her then and wonder where she is now. She had a nice and modern looking hairstyle even then).

- “Mohabbat Karne Vaalonko Baharo Thum Dhua-eyn Dhoa” from the film “Lovers” starring Kumar Gaurav and Padmini. This film is quite interesting to analyze. It came out in the early 1980s and was directed by Gaurav’s late father Rajendra Kumar. In it, Padmini is a Christian girl who takes singing lessons from a Hindu woman. She falls in love with her teacher’s Hindu son, played by Gaurav. In the climax of the film, both Padmini and Gaurav give up their respective religions so that they could be together. How wonderful. As I’ve always believed, natural feelings like love cannot be overwhelmed with things as fake as religion. One of my family members, who is now quite religious, at that time said that he liked it because he thought it was a very progressive film even at that time. Predictably, it was a flop in Indian box office. There is another lovely song in that film which starts like “Aa Mulagaathoan Ka Mausam Aa Gayaa.”

- Naziya Hassan’s original “Boom” album. Almost all the songs made it to the film “Star” starring once again Gaurav and Padmini and directed by our good Rajendra in the early 1980s.

- All the songs from “Qurbani” starring Zeenat Aman, Vinod Kumar and Feroz Khan.


- Hilath

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


On the 30th of July 2007, we lost two legends of cinema; Ingmar Bergman and Michelangelo Antonioni. In a mere 24 hours the world of cinema was dealt a blow of immeasurable loss – and a lot of us here, in the Maldives, didn’t even notice. A lot more, still, hadn’t seen a single frame of film by either of the two remarkable filmmakers.


Those of us who did notice felt that it was time we, as film enthusiasts, did something other than just sit around and discuss our thoughts on great filmmakers. Not to drive home the loss – but to showcase what these maestros, and other such greats, have given us.


We made a few calls and, on the 18th of August 2007 (having already, mostly, cast our votes), took to a coffee and discussed, for a little over two hours, what we could do – interspersed were discussions on our favourite films, filmmakers, etc – but we did manage to come up with one solid, coherent thought… or two.

Cinema Paradisio and Il Postiono, which is better? Does it matter?

Yes, Il Postino is better than Cinema Paradisoarguably. AND Baiskoaf is a way of taking our ‘coffee conversations’ to a more public, wider setting, thus, allowing us to share our passion and enthusiasm with a group larger than just the *cough* of us – and hopefully change our mindset on cinema from passive entertainment to something that is engaging, captivating and intelligent.

So we begin...