Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Desert Island 26: Films

Came across a really cool tag. Naming a favourite film for every letter of the alphabet. This is a totally to-die-for post to do because it has all the things that make 'making lists' so much fun.
It is pure fantasy. It has a quirky premise (I mean, why one of each letter? Just!). It requires agonising over some of the choices while some others are unfairly clear (It is like making an All Time Indian ODI XI... who opens with Sachin? Sourav or Sehwag? Or, Srikkanth?). And most importantly, it opens a treasure trove of nostalgia, which is always a good thing!

The way I have interpreted the tag is that you have spend the rest of your life on a Desert Island - with unlimited food and drink but nothing to do. To entertain yourself, you can carry only 26 films (and 26 books, but that's a different post altogether!) and the only condition is that each title must start with a different letter of the alphabet. No cheating. No taking Sholay and Shonar Kella since you can't think of anything to take for Q!

So, here goes...

Andaz Apna Apna
The choice is not as easy as it seems. I had to choose it over Apur Sansar, which is probably the best film of the Apu Trilogy and maybe Ray's best film as well. This rather odd choice (over natural favourites like Charulata and Pather Panchali) is intensely personal in nature. Apur Sansar is one of the finest depictions of marital love, desolation at the death of a dear one and final catharsis. There were significant departures from the novel on which it is based on and the film is so much richer for that.
Oh - why did I take AAA? Here's why.

Basic Instinct
The Sharon Stone slasher-classic is the only erotic film in the trunk, beating a Bengali comedy classic - Basanta Bilaap. The latter stars Soumitra Chatterjee and Aparna Sen in lead roles, with the latter singing "Ami Miss Calcutta 1976" and with three (!) top comedians - Robi Ghosh, Anup Kumar, Chinmoy - coming together in a film that will make you laugh till you turn blue. Seriously inane stuff!

Chashme Buddoor
Not quite Charulata. But love affairs of DU students in a languid and green Delhi are something that have a repeat value like no other. And in between wooing Miss Chamko, Farooque Sheikh gives one of the best reasons to find a job - "Mere dost beediyon pe utar aaye hain..."

The supposed fictional account of Haji Mastaan's life beats two really diverse films - a Bond classic (Die Another Day) and a terrorist thriller (Drohkaal) - to get into the list. But, at the end of the day, there's no contest really. After all, the Perfect Hindi Screenplay has to make it to the Desert Island. 

Ek Ruka Hua Faisla
Basu Chatterjee's remake of a Hollywood classic (12 Angry Men) is about a jury discussing the verdict of a young boy, accused of murder. Every one is convinced of the boy's guilt - except one member. And he starts asking uncomfortable questions. A truly gripping film, set in one room for the entire duration, narrowly beats out Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, a film about blotting out unwanted memories. But after you have decided to do so, what if you change your mind? And after you have blotted out the old memories, what stops you from acquiring the same memories all over again?

Few Good Men, A
One of the relatively easier choices in this entire exercise, this courtroom drama easily beats Forrest Gump and From Russia With Love (despite that there might not be a Bond film in the list) for one and only reason. I'd tell you but "YOU CANNOT HANDLE THE TRUTH". Jack Nicholson excelled as the obnoxious Colonel Jessep as did Tom Cruise in an understated role. Demi Moore was there to get 'us all aroused'.

Gupi Gayin Bagha Bayin
A children's film without a single child in it. Set in a Bengal village. Casting two complete unknowns in the title roles. Shot on a shoestring budget. A black-and-white fantasy. Sounds like a perfect recipe for disaster but GuGaBaBa remains one of the most inventive works for children, some four decades after it got made. Satyajit Ray added layers of fun to his grandfather's already iconic fairy tale and the magic continues unabated. If you don't agree, you are a tritiyo shur, shoshtho shur... 

Half Ticket
Kishore Kumar's shorts-wearing, banshee-screaming role as a kid is completely illogical, absolutely childish and almost makes you walk off. Except that, your stomach muscles are aching so much from laughing, you possibly cannot stand up. If you want to die laughing, there is only one film to watch.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Harrison Ford and Sean Connery compete with the Nazis for The Holy Grail. If that does not explain the breathless pace of the film, nothing will. One of Spielberg's best capers, it has action, emotion, humour, suspense in a delightful bhelpuri mix! And if you want to know what to do when German fighter planes chase you on a beach with seagulls, this film tells you.

Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron
There's hardly anything to say about this film that has not been said already. I will just say that it beat Jewel Thief and Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar to be in my list. Damn, that's saying nothing at all! 


I chose Subhash Ghai's escapist classic, with tremendous music over another big favourite - Khamosh. Alone in a desert island, I'd rather not get scared by a sleep-walking Shabana and dour Naseer trying to find a serial killer in a Kashmir hotel. Its much better to laugh hysterically because "Sir Juda ke chamche aur chamchiyon ko pyar karne ka ijaazat nahin hain" and marvel that Simi looks younger than Tina Munim in some parts of the movie. And of course, there's Ek Haseena Thi...

Again, a solitary nominee. A multi-generational love story with Anil Kapoor falling in love with two Sridevis across Rajasthan, London and Switzerland. Yash Chopra pulled out all the rabbits from his hat but the film bombed. For me, Anupam Kher and the Medley song was more than enough to wasool the ticket price!

Meghey Dhaka Tara
Beating the feel-good Bollywood extravaganza, Mr India, is Ritwik Ghatak's gut-wrenching story of a girl in a Calcutta refugee colony who shoulders her family and braves the rough treatment life metes out to her. And all she wanted in return was to live... Dada, ami bnachtey chaii.

Notting Hill
A bumbling bookshop owner falls in love with the greatest filmstar in the world. That's not the amazing part. She falls in love with him as well. A potentially soppy storyline is completely rescued by the witty dialogues, the super-filmy ending and Hugh Grant's room-mate - Spike. And in the end, it is not about Anna Scott's $15 million paycheck, William Thacker's down-in-the-dumps bookstore but love. And as the film tells us, what is love without a violin-playing goat? 

Om Shanti Om 
Do you chose a gang of cool guys robbing a Vegas casino? Or, do you choose a Bollywood junior artiste born again as a star? As the tagline says - for some dreams, one lifetime is not enough. And I want to remember OSO in my next birth as well! As a clincher, it had more stars than Danny Ocean's Eleven

Okay, so I junked Khamosh for the scariness factor and took this one in. But then I have watched the famous shower scene so many times that I can anticipate the terror and won't get scared. Okay okay, I am lying. But how can I not take Psycho when the other option is probably Pakeezah?

The only 'passenger' in the list, simply because I could not think of a Q movie worthy of this list. But then, Zeenat Aman in a green bikini-and-sarong is not so bad either. Not bad at all are the Nazia Hassan songs. All you have to do is to survive Feroze Khan! 

What is the meaning of Rashomon? In his autobiography, Kurosawa said that it is an interpretation of life and life itself is not clear. A murder happens. A witness testifies. So does the victim's wife. And the accused confesses. Finally, the victim himself is summoned through seance and he tells his version. All of them say completely different things. Who is saying the truth? The first - and only - time I saw it was in Nandan, an auditorium in Calcutta where such films deserve to be seen. I can watch it again and again. 

That's it. 

The Godfather
Part I. Narrowly beating Part II but I find the first of the Trilogy far more 'Indian' in terms of drama and narrative. One of the few easy choices in the list. 

Untouchables, The
He takes out a knife. You take out a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital. You send one of his to the morgue. That's how you get Capone... Sean Connery showed this simple method of tackling organised crime in Chicago and everybody fell in line. One of the sharpest thrillers to have come out of Hollywood. 

Again, a 'passenger' due to lack of choice. But Raghudutt Namdeo Shivalkar's rise from the chawls to the don of Mumbai is not short of entertainment. 

When Harry Met Sally
Is it a chick-flick? Is it a dick-flick? Who cares? I'll just have what she's having

I give up. X-Men, I'd rather pass than take! 

Yaadon ki Baraat
Three brothers witness their parents' murders. Then, they are separated. One grows up to be a crook. One a pop star. And one a happy-go-lucky playboy. Their parents' killer wore shoes of different sizes. And they have a family song, which only the three brothers know. The film is a procession of memories, all right. All the happy memories we associate with a Hindi film are there in this film. Even Aamir Khan. Except that he vanishes after 15 minutes. Some habits come back to you! 

Jab tak baithne ko na kahaa jaye, sharaafat se khade raho. Yeh police station hain, tumhare baap ka ghar nahin... Amitabh made his mark as the Angry Young Man, in a role that was offered to Dev Anand and Raj Kumar before it came to him. Now say the above line in your mind the way these two would say it and thank your lucky stars! 

Achha - can I take Shonar Kella since I am not taking anything for X? 
Please. Pleeeease. Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeease. Pretty please... Damn you. This is such a silly game that its not even funny, you dolt! 
Nobody will try this game if you are so unreasonable, bastard... 


Nilendu said...

You watched "Rashomon" in Gandhi Bhaban too. Probably it does not qualify as a theater - but still.

March Hare said...

damn. apur sansar lost? DAMN.

Heathcliff Ranting... said...

this is too good. I have to steal this tag now...

Very apt decision, sholay over shonar kella.
you need the thrill of sholay to keep you wide awake in a desertaed place and then theres helen. :P
But take shonar kella too, sneak it in.;)

Om shanti Om... APT., yaadon ki baraat, andaz apna apna,notting hill, untouchables, godfather I, Psycho, Lamhe... egulo shob amio niye jetam .

gudvilhunter said...

so you will rather consider it pakizah to go for blood-dripping pshyco than to getting parichay with our own paan-dripping padosan! to yahan parinda kya pushpak bhi par nahin maar sakta :)

Maverick said...

not fair..Bicycle thieves should make into the list

Mystic Margarita said...

Nice list. A little surprised you didn't even mention Golmaal (the original one) under G, but great list nonetheless. Mind if I take up the tag?

Roger Rabbit said...

Surprised that the closest to Basic Instinct was Basanta Bilaap. :))) But even if a hundred more B-starters would have made it to the list, who cares? There can only be one Catherine Trammel and... Basic Instinct would win hands down even during the days my great grandson would be reading this post!

C - Chasme Buddoor ahead of Citizen Kane? Certainly the other way round. Chinatown would come third.

E - In the deserted island when you would gaze towards the lone dark sky, you'd remember that there was a film named "E.T. The Extra Terrestrial". But since I can't take two, I would have to take with me a certain film called "Enter the Dragon".

L - Lamhe??? I'd put Lawrence of Arabia and Lagaan in the nominees list and give the award to Lion King.

N - Notting Hill? But then I understand you haven't seen "Name of the Rose"...

U - Uff, no. Never. Umrao Jaan.

V - The choice of Vaasatav is completely a-Vaastav, when you choose to leave out "Vertigo".

Nilendu said...

Eitar kotha bolchilam -

Diptakirti Chaudhuri said...

@ All: Every one is most welcome to take up the tag! Even I picked it up from a random blog.

@ Roger: Yeah, Vertigo comes in place of Vaastav. Put that in because could not think of anything else.
Rest, I stand by. It's my quirky list, remember? Your list should have the ones you mentioned.
But seriously, Enter the Dragon? Kiyyaaaa Hnnaaaiii Chikchop!

@ Nilendu: I missed the Gandhi Bhaban show. Saw it later in Nandan II.

appa said...

b - basic instinct. maybe my english is bad, but i read the "it" in your second line as basic instinct.... that'd mean, your description of basic instinct as "It stars Soumitra Chatterjee and Aparna Sen in lead roles" was hilarious, but what was even more funny was the "Robi Ghosh, Anup Kumar, Chinmoy - coming together in a film that will make you laugh till you turn blue"!!

Diptakirti Chaudhuri said...

@ Appa: Ha ha. Your English is perfect. Now corrected!

Anonymous said...

The Godfather was "T" but
Untouchables, The was "U"

Methinks you cheated a bit :-D (but hey---it's YOUR blog and you can do that).

Great list :-)

Tutan said...

for q, i would have chosen our very own romeo juliet saga- quamat se quamat tak instead of qurbani. qsqt had perfect juhi chawla and young aamir ......