Movies, Myself

Over and over

Christmas Eve last year promised to be a sedate affair. I was recuperating from my (nearly) month-long trip, and all I had on my mind was an evening of peace and quiet, alone with three cats in the house. But Bryan Lee O’Malley, he of Scott Pilgrim fame, tweeted about the movie Battle Royale being screened at the Silent Movie theater. That’s a quaint-looking location on Fairfax I remembered passing by and wondering about quite a few times on the way to Hollywood. Battle Royale being one of the few movies that fall in the viewed-5-times-and-above category for me, I was tempted. Despite having owned and seen multiple DVD versions – The Regular version, the Extended Director’s Cut and the Uncut Edition had all appeared in National Market, I had never seen it in a theater. Further investigation revealed that the film had never seen a theatrical release in the US, thanks to the Columbine incident occurring the  same year it released in Japan. So this screening would be the first official screening, based on a high definition conversion of the upcoming Blu-ray release by Anchor Bay. All of the above reasons were enough for me to drop my plans of lying back on my couch with a purring cat on my belly and sipping on metaphorical pennyroyal tea. Off I went.

Needless to say, I had an amazing time, and even met O’Malley at the popcorn stand.

Cheesy and show-off-y picture proof

The last time I saw Battle Royale was in 2007. None of my love for the movie had waned in five years, but there was a strange outsider-level objectivity that crept in this time. I never realized, for example, how annoyingly earnest the two lead characters were. Both Shuya and Noriko were too sugary, too good to be true. Maybe it was the Hunger Games experience from a few weeks ago that had supplanted my blind devotion to this movie. Or maybe it was the manga I read a few years ago, which made the characters of Mitsuko and Kiriyama so much more engaging than the one-note killing machines they turn out in the movie. I also found myself chuckling along at some of the over-the-top acting – Nobu’s death, the dramatic gestures some of the students make when they exit the classroom at the beginning, Kitano’s star-tinted turn.

I like re-watching movies with different people. Primarily because of the fresh perspective such a viewing brings. The odd little reactions you happen to notice in others at scenes that you reacted to differently. Or because you are focusing on a something other than the primary plot and pay more attention to the details that passed you by the first time. Maybe a snatch of a soundtrack, an in-joke that you did not get the first time. Something that resonates from an article you read about the movie, maybe.

But real life has been catching up. I did not watch too many films the past couple of months, barring the occasional Laemmle marathon and the quickies at the Rave theaters next door to my office. I cannot seem to sit down before the laptop/TV and watch anything at a stretch. Terabytes of old movie dumps have been “liberated” on random whims, because I know I will never get around to watching them.

Yesterday, I went and watched Lagaan – this time with a group of people of which I knew only one. We made a proper movie evening out of it, with bhelpuri, samosas and popcorn aplenty and a generous smattering of enthusiasm in the audience, most of whom had seen it already. It was my 20th viewing of Lagaan, my obsession with that movie having lasted through multiple cities, different levels of Aamir-Khan-reaction and Rahman-adulation, and a constant loathing of cricket. (And yes, I started keeping count after the 8th viewing) I enjoyed it thoroughly. It still makes me laugh at the right story and character moments. Paul Blackthorne as Captain Russell and Chris England as Yardley fill me with fanboy glee, and I am tempted to reread England’s book as soon as I can (it’s called From Balham to Bollywood, and it was a great read the first time).

There is a peculiar happiness also to noticing the same somewhat-bloopers – like Bhuvan saying Radha’s husband is Anay, instead of the correct Ayan, or the presence of two cricketers named Smith and Wesson in the English XI, especially the fact that Elizabeth dances with just the two of them at the ball.  Thanks to the DVD being an American release, the scenes with the British characters alone had English dialogues, instead of Amitabh Bachchan’s baritone explaining the proceedings. We did skip over the ‘O Paalanhare’ song, which to me is the nadir of the movie, an unnecessary face-palm of a sequence rendered even more painful by Lata Mangeshkar’s voice.  1

I spent a total of 4 hours on the bus, both ways. But totally worth it.

A two-week-long retrospective of Studio Ghibli films begins this Thursday. They include fifteen classic Miyazaki and Takahata films being screened at the Egyptian theater in Hollywood and the Aero theater in Santa Monica. I have made up my mind to attend every one of them. Sure, I own all the DVDs, and have seen the films multiple times, but the joy of the rewatch compells me. Besides, I’ve heard enough shit from pal Jussi about how he saw them screened in theaters in Helsinki and it’s high time I get back at him.

The only ones not being screened are EarthSea, Ponyo, Arrietty and Grave of the Fireflies. I can understand the absence of the fourth film, but not the first three. Oh well.


  1. Earlier musings on Lagaan here and here.

Rey Bhaiyya!

Three years ago, I made a post about DVD pricing in India and how it was extremely brain-dead to charge big money for DVDs of movies which come with no special features and bad film transfers. I ended the post with a fingers-crossed comment about Lagaan not having come out on DVD yet and about how I trust Aamir Khan to “rock my socks off”.

I can uncross my fingers now.

Lagaan has just been released on DVD for the first time ever. And not just that, the documentary The Making of Lagaan ( which has two alternate titles – the Indian version is called Chale Chalo and the international version Madness in the Desert) by Satyajit Bhatkal has also been released. I saw the DVD, which has been called the ‘Anniversary Edition’, at Music World last Friday, and I bought it yesterday. Putting my money where my mouth is. I promised myself I would buy it THE MOMENT it was released. Late by three days, but yeah, I paid up. The single DVD set comes with deleted scenes, which I had already seen before, thanks to a pirated DVD I bought off National market. It also includes the song ‘Rey Bhaiyya Chhootey Lagaan’ , previously released as ‘Zin Kinak Zin’ in a double-cassette collection called The Spirit of Lagaan that had background scores, dialogues and the songs from the movie. ( Including the Sadhna Sargam version of ‘O Paalanhaare’, which I think is way, WAY better than the Lata version we are familiar with) Also picked up the documentary, though only the VCD seems to be available right now. Odyssey was offering a copy of the book The Spirit of Lagaan free with the DVD, and so I picked that up too, though I already have a copy.

Watched the movie again last night, with someone who hadn’t seen it before. Both of us LOVED it – c’mon, who wouldn’t? It’s Lagaan, after all. The transfer was perfect, the sound slightly schizophrenic – kept going high and low everytime the music stopped or crescendoed. I have a feeling it might be because we were watching it on stereo speakers. Rachel Shelley looks as beautiful as ever – wonder what she’s up to nowadays?

(breathless) ( gasping for air) (SQUEEEEEEE)

Just did a Google search for her, and…and…Rachel Shelley’s appearing on the third season of The L-Word. And in an episode of Coupling as well. What? WHAT?

It somewhat pains me to think that when I talk to kids today about Rachel Shelley, they will remember her as Helena Peabody from L-Word rather than Elizabeth from Lagaan. *sigh*

Ok, fanboy hat off. This is good news. I can now revel in more Rachel Shelley goodness with ease. Though I thought the first season of LW was pretty boring, hot lesbian women can only take up so much of my attention.

Back to Lagaan. Just when I was being very happy about my acquisition from yesterday, there came a bombshell, when I went to the website. You know, just to check out the press release and shit.

Turns out, there’s a 3-DVD Collectors’ set . That comes in a wooden box. With lots of additional goodies. Priced at a fairly decent 2000 Rs. GODDAMNIT, I knew I should have waited.

So far, I have – two pirated copies of the Lagaan DVD ( one with the deleted scenes that stops midway into the film, and the other with a bad transfer and audio, but works), the official single disc edition. I NEED the three disc edition, and I think I am going to have it. Soon.

Books, Movies

Rey Bhaiyya Chhoote Lagaan!

Concerts are good. A concert by AR Rahman is definitely good. And being Backstage in a concert by ARR is….ummm…..i don’t really have to explain this, do I?

God, it was a night to remember…..and all this after skipping dinner on Thursday, and breakfast, lunch, dinner on Friday.

Spent Saturday preparing the quiz. Ditto Sunday morning. Birdonthewire, sorry, buddy. The quiz started at 1:30 pm. I really, really apologise, and I swear I’ll make it up to you.

Finally got a book that made me sit for three hours and finish it. “The Spirit of Lagaan” by a guy named Satyajit somebody. Scoff all you want, but i found this one of the most inspiring books I have ever read. Chuck all those bloomin’ self-help management books out of the window. This one is it. The struggle Aamir, Ashutosh and Co had to go through to make this film actually happen – mindboggling, yes, and all of it rings true!!

The book has a lot of interesting anecdotes too, and some literally make you laugh aloud. When Paul Blackthorne, the guy who played Captain Russelllanded up in Champaner , people were amazed! Because he had taken a train to Kutch, and looked more like a hippie than an army Captain…..the writer recalls showing him around, and the heat was getting too much for him, and Paul starts stripping off his clothes, all the while mumbling something to himself…..he’s in his pajamas, when the others realise he is mouthing the film’s dialogues. “Tumse hum itna lagaan vasool karega ke tumhare paas khaane ke liye roti nahin hoga, pehenne ke liye kapda nahin hoga.” and at that time he is nearly buck-naked! :-)
Another interesting story about Paul is that he looked at his character in a very methodical way…he had infact fashioned a “background story” about why Captain Russell behaves the way he does – abused as a child and all…..”Russell is not a bad bloke after all – he’s just been driven up the wall by Bhuvan and the rest of the lot.”

The final day of the shoot, the Britishers had a grudge match against the Indians, whom they trounced solidly, and the victors got a standing ovation from the Kutchis and their opponents.

Brilliant book. Brilliant movie. It took me (and the rest of my friends) around a month to figure out what the warcry was…..we heard it as “Hey bhaiyya jhoothe lalla”!
I still hate cricket.