A to Z of Films Meme (E)

[New readers of this series are urged to read the Introduction post.]


Eight and Half

When I first watched Fellini’s Eight and Half on the big screen, I did not know exactly what I had seen, but I knew I had witnessed something great. It took repeated viewings to get completely mystified by this great film. Yes, you read that right – repeated viewings not to understand but to get completely mystified.Eight and Half

The film that brought ‘Felliniesque’ to the vocabulary. The greatest film about film-making. A movie about a non-movie. A film about a director facing director’s block, that is overflowing with creative inspiration. A movie where dissecting what is real and what is fantasy seems pointless. Deep introspection about self-indulgence. Visually intoxicating imagery, where the entire cast in the whole film seem to be choreographed floating in air, rather than walking. Fellini the director, Mastroianni the actor, playing Guido the director – the three blending into a psycho-visual collage that mesmerizes your mind. Long afterwards, you realize Fellini is a master magician, and there’s nothing you can do except submit and succumb to his magic.

A critic says:

Attempting to describe the film’s meaning is sort of like the story of T. S. Eliot being asked by a woman in the audience at a poetry reading what he meant by a certain line, which she read aloud again. He replied that it meant exactly what she had read. 8½ means exactly what it says, and attempting to condense it is pointless and not even interesting.

[Note: I realize now that this should’ve been slotted in the 0-9 category. When I started, I had somehow slotted it as ‘Eight and Half’. Apologies.]

Runner Up

Ek Doctor Ki MautEk Doctor Ki Maut

A scientist experimenting for many years in his laboratory. A socially handicapped inventor who is ostracized by society. A genius who appears arrogant to ordinary people. Sounds like a sub-plot from Atlas Shrugged? No, this is ‘Death of a Doctor’, a landmark film in Indian cinema by Tapan Sinha, who earlier gave us Ankush.

Talent is subject to ridicule. The more you excel, the more number of enemies you seem to have: Why this animosity towards Excellence?

This may not be great in terms of film-making, but seen in the context of Indian cinema, it is unique, and personally affected me immensely. This is the hugely talented Pankaj Kapur’s finest performance, ably supported by Azmi. Sinha made several films (that I haven’t yet seen) championing individualism.

I have always believed in individual courage and effort. I think, collective system of life hardly allows an individual to discover the infinite strength within him. I like the individual who has the courage to face any untoward situation, which is why I have shown an individual as a relentless fighter against all hazards in Aadmi Aur Aurat, Atanka and Ek Doctor Ki Maut. My protagonists in these films have practically done miracles by their own strength and self-confidence.

Like the protagonists in his films, Sinha the director stands as the indomitable individual in Indian cinema.

Noteworthy Mentions

Ek Ruka Hua Faisla, the best Indian adaptation of a Hollywood film. Basu Chatterjee one upped Lumet by shifting the sub-plot of the adamant juror’s son to the very end as a surprise revelation, leading to a more dramatic climax in the adaptation.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, probing the maze of romantic love.

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  • Ok, that was the change you were refering to in Ek Ruka Hua Faisla. Yeah, so it was. 🙂

    I haven’t watched other two nor in the alphabet D section. I guess I ahve lot to catch up.

  • Mahendra

    Alas I can change my subscription but cannot produce >24h in the day. 🙁

    Eternal Sunshine appears in my meme-response as my grown-up favourite. I wrote about films that I remember having seen as a child too. (Once you have finished your responses – which will be by end of May: see http://tinyurl.com/7lhs3k)

  • Dev

    Mahendra, again very good films. Liked reading your description of 8 1/2. This film is so abstract that I almost gave up when I watched it. I think, like other films of this calibre, to really appreciate/understand this film, one needs to be understand the film art very well. This is a kind of film which legitimizes film as an ultimate art form.
    I personally find Fellini’s Le Strada his best as I learnt a lot from that film. I watched that one as an exercise to understand how scripts are made in the context of book on screnwriting I read last year. But, have to admit, I havent watched many of his films yet..
    Ek Doctor ki Maut was excellent! I have always believed that Pankaj Kapur is one of our finest actors..thanks for the information on Tapan Sinha..

  • Anand

    Ek Doctor Ki Maut is amazing. Totally agree with your selection here.

    After reading this entry, I went to wikipedia and this is what they had to say ‘Sinha’s first film Ankush was based on the Narayan Ganguly story Sainik, which had an elephant in the central character.’.

    When you mention Ankush, are you confusing it with N. Chandra’s Ankush which is about 4 misguided youths (incl. Nana Patekar) and their saga of revenge? Even that movie was very hard hitting. This was before Chandra became, as critics would say, ‘commercial’. I saw it long time back and it did appeal to the rebel in my youth.

  • By the time you are finished, I’ll have quite the list of movies to watch. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a personal favorite of mine as well… Amongst many things I love about that movie is the color usage throughout the movie intertwined into everything (and the red jacket), along with the scene where the house is coming apart. Every time something is torn apart it is so symbolic.

  • Dottie

    This – Deep introspection about self-indulgence.
    sums up my thoughts about 8 1/2. Although I enjoyed La Strada much more.

  • Mahendra, are you thinking of “Ankush” with Nana Patekar, by any chance? If so, that was directed by N. Chandra.

    ETA. Just read the comment by Anand.

  • Never heard of 8 & 1/2. Looks like one of those movies you need to be in the right frame of mind to watch, if you know what I mean.

    I really like the English Patient – cliched, I know. But the cinematography is excellent, love the score, and the cast. And the script 🙂 I think this is probably the first (and only) movie that I liked better than the book. I’ve seen movies that do justice to the book, but seldom has a movie (that I’ve seen) surpassed the book (I’ve read). Ok, that will be my last comment, promise. For a while 🙂

  • i am spending more time on your blog than on mine 🙂 i love this series.
    to your lot i will also add ET – the entire paranoia of the search for ET – almost like a witch hunt.