Utpal Borpujari

July 1, 2012

DVD Reviews: Tamas / Diva / Bubble Gum

By Utpal Borpujari

Tamas

This Govind Nihalani classic is something that everyone should crave to have in his or her home video collection. Based on the novel by the same name written by Bhisham Sahni, Tamas is among the best Partition dramas Indian screens have ever seen, along with M S Sathyu’s Garm Hava. Telecast by national broadcaster Doordarshan as a series, the four-hour-long Hindi feature film was first shown on Doordarshan in 1987 and then released as a feature film.

Power-packed performances by Om Puri, Deepa Sahi, Amrish Puri, Bhisham Sahni himself, A K Hangal, Manohar Singh, Dina Pathak and Surekha Sikri (she won the Best Supporting Actress honour at the National Film Awards for this film), along with a superblywritten screenplay make it an evergreen watch. A fiction set in a real, tragic setting, this film strongly recreates the horror that was brought upon the people on both sides of the newly-created border in 1947. The storyline highlighting the religious and caste divides in the Indian society is still relevant given the fact that most of the issues raised by the story continue to exist even today.
The DVD is accompanied by a booklet and an interview with Nihalani, but the viewing of the film remains incomplete unless one reads the Sahitya Akademi Award-winning book of Sahni to complete the cathartic experience. The film, which has been digitally restored and remasterd by Madhu Entertainment & Media Ltd to give a better viewing experience, stresses on the very relevant point that there are extremist elements in every community, whose activities for their own selfish political goals tend to give a bad name to the whole community.

At the same time Nihalani’s deft handling of the subject highlights the inherent goodness in mankind too and also the fact that the common man wants to live in peace. The film had won two other important National Awards – the Nargis Dutt Award for the Best film on National Integration and the Best Music Director Award (to Vanraj Bhatia). A must watch this one is.

Dir: Govind Nihalani Language: Hindi, 1987 Duration: 4 hrs Reliance Home Video; Rs799

Diva

Released in 1981 in France, the highly-acclaimed ‘Diva’ continues to be as great a viewing as ever, despite the 30 years that have passed since it came to the theatres. Directed by JeanJacques Beineix, the film is an adaptation of a novel by the same name, and is an unabashed celebration of stylistic presentation full of colour, music and thrill. The story of the film revolves around a young postman named Jules’s obsession towards the beautiful opera singer Cynthia Hawkins.

The fan in Jules makes him secretly record one of Hawkins’ concerts, as no recording of hers is available for her refusal to record, and also steals a gown from her dressing room. Consequently his roller coaster ride starts when he accidentally lends his hands on another tape. The trouble in Jules’ life begins because the second tape contains something dangerous – the testimony of a murdered prostitute exposing the wrongdoings of a high-ranking policeman.

As Jules is trailed by both the policeman’s henchman who are hell bent upon reclaiming the tape that is very important for them and Taiwanese gangsters who want the diva’s recording, he is helped by a mysterious man and his companion. The film’s uplifting moments come through the friendship that Jules develops with the diva, who is first upset about what he has done but latter takes him in as a fan any artiste would be proud to have.

The film had run for a year in Paris theatres in 1981 and when it was released in the United States the next year, it received both critical and mass applause. A major highlight of the film is the brilliantly-cinematographed chase sequence in which Jules on his bike is chased by his enemies. The film is still remembered as the one that brought with it a whiff of fresh air into French mainstream cinema at a time when the industry was dominated by pure art house stuff.

Dir: Jean-Jacques Beineix Language: French with English subtitles; 109 minutes, 1981; Shemaroo World Cinema, Rs349

Bubble Gum

Don’t go by the almost-juvenile title of this one. Directed by Film & Television Institute of India (FTII) alumni Sanjivan Lal, ‘Bubble Gum’ is, unlike its title, is a sensitive and tender growing-up story set in small-town India. Set in the steel town Jamshedpur of the 1980s, a time when youngsters did not have mobile phones, television, computers (and as a natural consequence Internet and social networking) and had their own unlimited imagination to grow up with, the film has its protagonist facing all the problems that a 14 year old faces.

Vedant (an endearing performance by Delzad Sanjay Hirale) is the one who is at this bubble gum age, when one’s imagination is stretchable and thought process mouldable just like a bubble gum. He has his usual problems with studies, with finding how to get closer to the charming neighbourhood girl Jenny (a cute Apoorva Arora) while overcoming the competition from the bad boy Ratan (Suraj Kumar), and with getting over his feeling of jealousy for his elder brother, the deafmute Vidhur (Sohail Lakhani, a naturally-born deaf actor who steals the viewer’s heart with his sensitive performance), who he believes is getting more attention from his parents.

A film that moves in a relaxed pace, reflecting the pace of life in small town India in the 1980s, some might find Bubble Gum a little slow, but that does not steal the beauty of its innocent story. The most charming moments in the film come through the relationship Vedant and Vidhur share as siblings, and how the former understands the meaning of life and love. The film could have benefitted from a little more editing to make it a bit tighter, but nevertheless it makes for an enjoyable journey back in time.

Dir: Sanjivan Lal Language: Hindi, 2011 Junglee Home Video; Rs299

(Published in Seven Sisters Post, http://www.sevensisterspost.com, 26-05-2012)

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