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Subhash K Jha Picks 5 Most Neglected Films Of 2018

Subhash K . Jha

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1.     Kuch Bheege Alfaaz:  Onir’s elegiac  ode to a time when  love was  felt in the heart, and not in  the social media. In his latest directorial venture the prolific and insightful director Onir probes wounds that never  heal. The  love that grows between two wounded  people trapped  in the numbing bustle  of  the metropolis—Kolkata this time,  it was Delhi in Onir’s previous film Shab—is not uncharted territory in the cinema of emotional diaspora that Onir has constantly explored andAnurag Basu also examined with scrupulous  integrity in  Life In A Metro.In  KuchBheege Alfaaz(KBA) the traditional tearfulness associated with the emotions of hurt, pain, betrayal,isolation and guilt—yes, all of  these emotions are compressed  into Onir’s latest—are alchemized into a warm-hearted frothy but never frivolous look at how craggily man-woman relationships pan out in  the  city.There is  a lot of ‘ping’ in the pain of mutually shared hurt between the pair as they exchange messages on the phone that  they find very entertaining.It’s  Alfaaz’s good fortune that his  misfortune is  portrayed  by  an abundantly emotive new actor. Zain KhanDurrani is  most decidedly a prized  find. His command over his character’s dithering  emotional graph is impressive. Viewers  can rediscover this  neglected  gem of the year on Netflix.

2.     Missing:  That face is the map of  the human heart. No one does it like Tabu. Not when she sets her  heart  to it.  Everyone  has gone ga-ga over her  performance this year  in  Andha Dhun. Errrrr….aren’t we MISSING  something? This  time she plays a distraught  mother who on a visit to Mauritius  ends up with her little daughter kidnapped.Nothing in  Missing is as it seems. In  pursuit of an  ever-renewable suspense  Mukul Abhyankar’s  writing lapses into the ludicrous. The  twists and turns  in the plot are  meant to startle in  a very ‘boo’ kind  of way.And some of Manoj Bajpai’s efforts to do the ‘How A Good Actor Plays A  Bad Actor To  Con The Law’ is just not  up to the mark.You see Manoj playing a  sleazeball with a roving eye,  for a large  part of the film  has to play a man trying to convince  the cop(AnnuKapoor, playing the  Mauritian law enforcer with  a remarkably researched  rigour) that his lies  are the  truth.In  other words,a  good actor doing  a bad job of bad acting….Complicated?  But just the way  writer-director Mukul Abhyankar wants  the set-up.On every step he plants a redherring so  red, you feel you are walking through blood-soaked mine field. Except that there is  never an explosion. In fact   the feeble writing and the unconvincing situations  would have  done  the strained suspense  in were it  not  forTabu’s  magnificent  performance.Playing a grieving mother whose emotions can’t be trusted she brings a persuasive candour and an everlasting splendor to her role. That incandescent face  of hers is  lit  up like  a languorous lantern by cinematographer  Sudeep  Chatterjee . The  cinematographer brings more emotion  to Tabu’s face than to all the aqueous  shots of sun-soaked Mauritius which  never convince  us the island  is worth a  visit.

3.     Beyond The Clouds: I seriously think  the English-language  title  did  the  film in. Majidi Majidi’s masterly  study  of  poverty and crime in  the slums of Mumbaiwas  riveting  bumpy ride across a world we only see through the side window of  our moving cars. The  message of  hope and humanism shines  like a beacon  of light in the charged electric  screenplay written by Mehran Kashani where the drama of the damned is not an affectation but a way of life. Right away  from the  very first  shot showing a run-down hoarding for a cellphone  company, Mumbai’s heartbeat throbs   life and breath into every moment that Majid Majidi’s narrative exhales over frames that seem to embrace  life in all its inglorious  colours.In  the  very first sequence we see our hero hopping off  a  car  in  a distance across the road. Aamir  is  not  up to any good, he never will be.Or so we think. The  quality  of life bequeathed  to Aamir and his elder sister Tara(Malavika Mohanan) is such that beauty ,harmony, compassion and other luxuries  of a desirable existence are hard to obtain.And  yet , this  is where the  humanism of Majid Majidi’s  cinema comes into voluptuous play. In spite of the abject seemingly  irredeemable darkness, there is that spark of light igniting the soul.The film moves through two different narrative zones  after the protagonist, siblings,   are separated by a crime.Aamirfinds himself  looking after  and caring for the  family  of  the very man (Gautam Ghose)who brought on disaster in his life. It is debutante Ishaan Khatter who stands tall in a film where life dwarfs even the bravest. Ishaan’s Aamir is impetuous  volatile and self-destructive. The character’s redemptive journey  is  undertaken by the debutant actor with an honesty and vigour that  are unmatched by anything we’ve seen  in   a maiden performance.

4.     Mitron: The most neglected  film of the year  about an aimless Gujarati chap(Jackky Bhagnani) who  marries  a girl so focused  on her  promising career, she makes  her husband look like  a fly trapped aginst an opaque  windowpane. The  film directed  by  Nitin Kakkad(of  Filmstaan)  does a rare  film about  a marriage an uneven wicket withoutmaking  the  woman look like  a victim  or the man like  a monster. Funny and  wistful, catch Mitron on  the small-screen  format.

5.     Halkaa:  Somewhere  I  saw  a supercilious  review of this marvellous  film describing it as an exercize in  “potty training”This is akin to  calling Pather Panchali  poverty porn.Or  Salaam Bombay i an exploitative exercize.The morning  toilet habit plays a  big  hand  in  director Nila Madhab Panda’s new film.  But  Halkaa is not only about  morning ablutions. The potty prattle  secretes an  immense compassion for  the downtrodden.I wouldn’t call the wonderful  children  in  director Nila Madhab Panda’s film “oppressed”.By  India’s abysmal standards  of povertyPichku(played by the wonderfully sensitive Tatthastu) is a  happy child. Sure,  his  father is a wretchedly  overworkedrickshawpuller(play with characteristic credibility by Ranveer Shorey) who dreams  of  owning an autorickshaw. He  shouts at Pichku. But if your son did his morning business inside your one-room tenement  would you  lose the plot?Providentially,  Panda doesn’t suffuse  the  narrative with the blinding light of  positivity.  He never glorifies  poverty.  Nor  does he use it as a occasion to  share a raga of   wretchedness with the  music of  our stricken soul. There is no attempt to manipulate  our emotions into state of sympathetic  submission, as Pichku and Gopi set out on  a mission to get a toilet at  any cost.Non-judgmental poverty is  not easy to process and project on screen. Panda  does it with an exceptional  level  of success.Of course the performances lend a trend  of  great tenderness to the going-on.Little Tathtastu is  as precious  and prized  a discovery as  some of Panda’s child actors  in  his earlier  films.Nihar Ranjan-Samal’s   sound design and Pratap Raut’s

  cinematography are in  absolute harmony with the determined  quality of  Pichku’s  dream. He won’t do his business at  the railway track even if  the trains that pass do not stop to  carry his dream.                                       

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