Ankhon Dekhi: At times very funny, so well written and acted
Aseem Chhabra hails possibly the best Indian film in recent times.
Rajat Kapoor started his career as an actor.
One of his first performance was in Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding, where he very convincingly played the older uncle who is also a pedophile.
This was followed by roles in films like Dil Chahta Hai and smaller independent works, Khoya Khoya Chand, Bheja Fry and Phas Gaya Re Obama.
Kapoor is also a stage and film director. His films Mithya and Mixed Doubles were critical successes.
He has now made what may be his career best film (and he acts in it as well).
Last week, Kapoor was in New York for the premiere of his sweet gem of a film, Ankhon Dekhi, shown at the South Asian International Film Festival.
A large ensemble piece, quite inspired by the works of the American master Robert Altman, Ankhon Dekhi is set in a small flat in Old Delhi where the patriarch of the family (played with grand elegance and a lot of heart by Sanjay Mishra) decides that he will only believe what he sees with his own eyes.
His adamant behavior causes much stress in his family, but it also wins him admirers who are drawn to his simplicity and warmth.
Ankhon Dekhi is a lovely film, at times very funny, and it is so well written and acted by the various actors.
It might just be one of the best Indian films made in a while.
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Image: Sanjay Mishra in Ankhon Dekhi
Monsoon Shootout: Cleverly staged crime drama
Now in its 10th year, SAIFF is a small festival, but it does show an eclectic mix of films.
The opening night film, Monsoon Shootout, is a cleverly staged crime drama with four possible endings.
Monsoon Shootout is directed by Amit Kumar, whose first film The Bypass, a short with Irrfan Khan and Nawazuddin Siddiqui, has become a cult favorite among film lovers.
Siddiqui, who is definitely the leading indie-film actor in India, also stars in Monsoon Shootout, where he plays the role of Shiva, a small time gangster who is pitted against the film’s rookie cop Adi (Vijay Verma).
As Shiva, Siddiqui walks with the swagger of a man who believes he owns the underworld, while Verma holds the moral center of the story in his performance as a cop who is trying to do what is right. Also in the film is Tannishtha Chatterjee who plays Shiva’s hapless wife.
This summer, Monsoon Shootout had its world premiere at Cannes where it played in a midnight programme. The film is sharply edited, wonderfully shot, with a strong sound design and often reminded me of the new Korean cinema.
Also showing at SAIFF was the remarkable short Kush, directed by Shubhashish Bhutiani, a 22-year-old graduate from New York City’s School of Visual Arts.
Kush narrates the story of a group of school children and their teacher and how they save the life of a Sikh boy during the time of the anti-Sikh riots, following Indira Gandhi's assassination.
Kush won the best short film award at SAIFF. It has won many other accolades in the last few months, including the Orizzonti for the best short at this year’s Venice Film Festival.
Kush is now short-listed for the Best Live Action Short film category for the 2014 Oscar race.
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Image: Nawazuddin Siddiqui in Monsoon Shootout
Crater and Haal: Hypnotic and meditative
On Saturday, I went to the Queens Museum in the Flushing Meadow Park, New York, for a very different type of film festival.
The Queens International Video Screening programme at the museum featured experimental videos by five artists.
Among the works featured at the show were two shorts by Jackson Heights, Queens-based artist, painter and experimental video filmmaker, Nitin Mukul.
In the introduction to his pieces, Crater and Haal, Mukul wrote, he 'explores boundaries that separate painting and video.'
Mukul used ice along with ink, acrylic paint, tea and charcoal.
Then, as the ice melted, he shot the movement of the elements.
The videos were shot in real time, without any special effects or cuts.
The beauty of this video filmmaking is that as an artist Mukul has no idea what shape or form his film would take, since he could not predict how the ice would melt and how the water would mix and navigate itself with the paint and other objects he used.
The result are two wonderfully hypnotic films, very meditative in the way they appear, set to the music of Lyna Maria Papach, a musician from Queens.
Image: Crater and Haal