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.