Alternate Cinema from India that left a mark in 2014
2012 and 2013 were definitely break-through years for alternate cinema in India. Despite the success of the 100 crore brigade from mainstream Bollywood, new age filmmakers left their imprints on an evolving and hungry audience. From Ship of Theseus in 2012 to Lucia and Ankhon Dekhi in 2013, alternate and arthouse cinema seems to have grown from strength to strength.
Another year has passed since and we decided to review what has been dished out in the past year.
Titli (Released Dec 2014)
India’s entry to the Cannes Festival 2014, Titli is worth spending two hours. Amit Sial and Ranvir Shorey play elder brothers in a family involved in a car-jacking business, while the younger eager-to-escape brother Titli is played by newcomer Shashank Arora. Kanu Behl’s directorial debut is a success in that he extracts decent performances from a cast comprising of mostly new comers. The movie revolves around Titli’s plan to escape his family’s violent criminal ways but he is married off for dowry. But in a twist to the tale, Titli finds that his wife comes with her very own agenda – to escape her own roots. Despite being longer than two hours, this indie movie appears compact and every scene a necessity to push the story forward.
Kya Dilli Kya Lahore (Released May 2014)
The directorial debut of Vijay Raaz (famous for his ‘Kauwa Biryani’ act in the movie Run), this summer release is based on the exchange and camaraderie of two soldiers on the Indo-Pak border in 1948. The soldiers, played by Raaz and Manu Rishi, keep bumping into each other and engage in dialogue which pretty much dominates this alternate film. The script is stand out although the pace could have been better. The producers were able to rope in Gulzar for shayari and the movie itself was unveiled at the Wagah border, to the tone of a candle light vigil. Actor-turned-director Raaz has done a great job in the execution with a plot that consists of just 4 people, while the Punjabi background score keeps the audience engaged. I’ll give it to Raaz for attempting to balance the story, highlighting how the scourge of Partition affected both the sides.
‘Kya Dilli Kya Lahore’ – Trailer
Liar’s Dice (Released Jan 2014)
India’s official entry in the Best Foreign Language Film category to the 87th Academy Awards, Liar’s Dice is another directorial debut. Geetu Mohandas, noted actress in Malayalam cinema, had to struggle for years to get funds for this unusual story line. The film garnered two National Film Awards – Best Actress for Geetanjali Thapa as well as Best Cinematography for Rajeev Ravi. Thapa continues to excel in indie cinema post her trendsetting performances in I.D. and Monsoon Shootout. Nawazuddin Siddiqui continues working in small budget alternate cinema despite his new found prominence in the mainstream industry. The film was actually shot in Kinnaur’s famous tourist attraction of Chitkul village – the last village on the border to China. The story revolves around a mother of a young child who decides to go to Delhi and locate her missing husband. Being a single woman travelling alone in India brings along its own bundle of dangers. But she ends up having to deal with the company of a former border force officer. Mohandas, drawing inspiration from Middle Eastern film makers, seems to have fallen short on some occasions. This was probably the reason for this indie film to not get too far in the Oscar race.
CityLights (Released May 2014)
National Award winning director Hansal Mehta and alternate cinema favorite Rajkummar Rao have come together again after Shahid for CityLights, a movie that will resonate with the thoughts of those millions that throng large urban centers leaving back much simpler lives in small towns, in the hope of a better life. Rajkummar Rao does an outstanding job as the lead character Deepak Singh who comes from Rajasthan to Mumbai with his family, looking for a better living but gets sucked into a daily battle for mere survival. The plot has been adapted from the award winning British-Filipino crima-drama flick Metro Manila directed by Sean Elllis. The script is dark and rips out emotions. Manav Kaul’s character manages to add enough malice to generate empathy for the family in trouble. Though Mehta falls short of delivering another classic, he definitely adds another huge contender to the must watch indie movie list of the year.
‘Citylights’ – Trailer
Sulemani Keeda (Released December 2014)
A good attempt at an adult comedy without resorting to crass allegories sums up this portrayal of two script writers peddling their wares in the mainstream film industry. Dialogue is definitely a strong point although the script could have been tighter. Naveen Kasturia and Mayank Tewari give strong performances as they hang out at bookstores and poetry slams to hit on girls. The movie tries to capture the world of B-grade cinema in Mumbai while using humor to keep the audience engaged. The film lasts 90 minutes and the chemistry of the debutante leads make it a breeze. In all, a great watch with a bunch of friends over a pitcher of mugs of beer.
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