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Movie of the month: Manikarnika-The Queen of Jhansi

Kangana at her directorial best shows the way how to retell history. People say it’s easy when you play the dual role of an actor and the director in the same play as you know how to drive on your own. It’s not really that easy to carry out a lot of responsibility.

When you are making a film based on history with a patriotic theme, then there are many advantages but there are also number of challenges. The biggest challenge is the audience that comes with a particular frame of mind. Choosing Manikarnika as the title and not the other popular names that the main character of the movie is known for might have been a very small way of trying to overcome this challenge. However,even facts need to be presented in a way that thr audience remains engaged and entertained for the entire duration of the movie. Manikarnika excels in its presentation with a sharp screenplay and a very well structured script.

A beginning or a setup that introduces characters and the conflicts but also hooks with scintilliating scenes and sequences of the main character.The end of the beginning is marked with a plot, and that begins the middle and often the longest part of a script. This is the part where the main character grows, evolves and transforms. Kangana has done it in a way never seen in any other acts by any other actor so far in the history of Indian films.The end although predictive does not fail to attract the attention with the action sequences. The best part of the movie is that it never strayed away from the theme of courage and patriotism.

Cinematography is at its best with the impeccable lighting accentuating the beauty amd grace of Kangana while camera captures the emotions with innumerable close up shots. But the stellar shots have to be the ones taken in the batttle fields. Prasoon Joshi’s rhyming dialogues strikes an instant chord as it tells less and shows more.

Manikarnika is going to be the best movie ever produced that will set new benchmark for every quality aspect of film making.

Spared a thought for our odia guy Nihar Ranjan Samal. I’d heard about his accolades and the strong footmark he is making as a sound designer in the film industry. Close your eyes and open your ears and then if you can feel what is happening, then most of the credit goes to this man.

Watch it to believe it!

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India’s Choice At Oscars : “Eklavya -The Royal Guard”

India’s nomination to OSCARs this year has been in controversy now. I have not analyzed well what others say about it. I don’t know what is the cause of concern for others in this movie. Now its entry has been challenged in Bombay High Court. As I heard from others it’s because of a legal battle between two rival producers, Vidhu Vinod Chopra for “Eklavya” and Bhavna Talwar for Dharm. I don’t know what is the basis of selection. If its only by votes then as per the claim of the producer of Dharm, her film was not selected because the 11-man jury appointed by the Film Federation of India included Sudhir Mishra and Jagdish Sharma, members well known to “Eklavya” producer Vidhu Vinod Chopra. She feels that since certain members of the jury were personally known to ‘Eklavya”s producer, this direct nexus could have led to a bias. “Eklavya” won the selection over “Dharm” on a six to five final vote. Vidhu Vinod Chopra said that he had no idea of the composition of the jury until after its selection had been made.

Here I am going to write about the movie and its subject as I view it and my cause of concern. I had watched that movie last year after its release in India. Before I went to watch that movie I had no idea about the subject and its content. I was quite impressed by the name of the movie as I had some knowledge on Elavya, the original disciple of guru Drona of Mahabharata from our Hindu mythology. Other motivational factor to watch that movie for me was the big banners and posters of that movie showcasing Amitabh Bachhan as Eklavya – my hot favorite actor of all time. Eklavya is in controversy over its selection for Oscars. I don’t know how it got selected as a nomination for Oscars. Let me write you something about the movie. The very beginning of that movie was quite fascinating depicting picturesque valleys and palaces of ancient Indian ethos which are quite attractive. It’s a a widely panned royal epic set against the sumptuous backdrop of a desert palace. It talks about Guru Drona and his disciple Eklavya at the beginning. We generally take interest in something that fascinates us. I found a full drama after initial few minutes of the movie and no way connected to Eklavya as the story progresses. I don’t find any value attached to the movie.

Let’s analyze the selection process as I visualize it. Should we select something because we do not have any other choice? Is it because of some bias? Should a movie for Oscars need to have a very good concept and a strong message? Unfortunately no body is talking about the values behind the movie, its lead character, what message it gives to the indian viewers and the world at large. Vidhu Vinod Chopra told that it did a very good business at overseas and was quite well acclaimed by the westerners.

It has a very strong and wrong message in it at the end. The message is “Eklavya was wrong in his approach”. If we talk only about the movie and its character, the message could be acceptable to some of the viewers but they have enough ground for controversy by telling the story of Eklavya of the epic Mahabharata. The problem arises when we compare that Eklavya with the character in the movie. The comparison now is quite natural as the viewers have been reminded of the story at the beginning of the movie.

Let’s look at it in a different angle now. Eklavya is still considered an idol among our student community which is a symbol of sacrifice and which depicts the strong devotion of a disciple to his master. He had shown us greatest form of sacrifice by donating his thumb to guru Drona. He was a master archer of his time and no body had the ability to defeat him. Eklavya was not a fool. He knew that by donating his right hand thumb, he can never practice archery. If you say that he had no idea of his master’s treachery and why he was deceiving him, then you are wrong. He had a very good knowledge of Arjuna and his relationship with Drona. Knowing everything, he sacrificed himself just to please his master who was not teaching him directly. He learnt the trade just by watching guru Drona while he was teaching Arjuna. I’d say it’s the greatest form of sacrifice. How can we compare him with a highly dramatized movie character?

When we send a message like “Eklavya was wrong”, it directly points to the person in our epic Mahabhatrata. If the only aim of the movie maker is to create a movie to do a good business, what is the need to use the name of a noble person like Eklavya? Can we retain our culture anymore if we accept the message from that movie? We should think and analyze the subject matter well before making any movie when we target a large number of viewers. I can’t express how much damage that movie caused to our value system. Consequences are many. We can easily find out the rising number of incidents of violence and deteriorating student teacher relationship now. Are we just interested to bring Oscar home someway and get recognition? How can we forget our responsibility?

I will not blame the jury members at Film Federation of India. I am worried about the selection process. Do we seek views from our viewers, I mean our general public who go and watch the movie. If you take my view I’d suggest we could have done a survey on how our people perceived that movie on a large scale. It’s high time we must raise our voice to prevent any further damage.

* First published at http://writersatchatterati.blogspot.in/ on Sunday, 28 October 2007