UPDATE: Filmfare Awards

As I predicted in my previous post about the movie Black, The Filmfare Awards held last Saturday on the 25th February 2006 saw Black took home 9 awards and the biggest winner of the night. Black won top awards for Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Critics Award, Best Cinematography, Best Background Score and Best Editing. For the complete list of winners check out Bollywoodpress.com website.

Blog Tweak

Disebabkan network admin kat ofis aku ni dah 'rajin' lebih daripada biasa, maka aku terpaksa buat sedikit tweaking kepada blog ni. Yupp, ofis aku dah ada proxy server. Farkk.

Disebabkan oleh proxy server, kebanyakan site aku dah takleh masuk disebabkan URL site tu ada dalam blacklist library proxy server. Ini termasuk semua Fotopages, mp3 sites dan yg paling aku tensen sekali.., torrent sites yg aku biasa download movies dan music albums. Farkkk.

BTW, aku dah ada tagboard baru sbb yg lama dulu dh kena block ngan proxy server. Thanks to oggix.com. Added a site counter, a site tracker and a link tracker. Added a few links too, so feel free to check it out.

*sigh*... Fark.

BLACK : New Indian Cinema at it's best

I have to admit, I used to be a really a big fan of Bollywood movies. I learned a lot about Hindi movies through my parents. My parents adored 'Hindustan' movies. Indian cinema was a part of their cinematic life during their time. I could still remember my mom asked me to tape Sangam or Qurbani or Yadon Ki Barat or Hathi Meri Sathi everytime those movies were shown on RTM. While watching those movies, she would explained to me a little background info about the movie, the actors and actresses and the impact that the movie made when it was first released. My mom and dad sometimes would sing along to the songs and being a boy, I was really excited and thrilled. But after quite some time, Indian cinema seems to be oblivious. We would still watch Hindustan movies every Friday evening on TV2 but it doesn't have any particular effect on us. It seems like after we watch one Hindi movie, we had watched them all. The storyline is redundant. Everything is recycled.

But I still remember when I was doing my matriculation, this 'little' movie called Kuch Kuch Hota Hai exploded into Malaysia and resurrected the Indian cinema globally. Karan Johar, the genius that he is, has taken the same love storyline of a typical Hindi movie and twist it around to make it more refreshing, hip and very entertaining. We were captivated by the melodrama, the song and dance sequences, the dashing actors and the beautiful actresses and just like that, everybody was into Hindi films again. KKHH was so big during it's time that everybody in my matriculation college knows the lyrics of the theme song by heart (..and still do). After KKHH worldwide success, Indian filmmakers tried to apply the same formula used by Karan Johar in their movies. Although some of them succeeded (most notably Karan Johar himself with Kal Ho Na Ho and Kabhi Kushi Kabhi Gham to name a few) many of them failed miserably. After being fed with the same material, the same batch of actors, the same melodramatic ending, the same corny dance moves, we were experiencing Deja vu. The spark of Indian cinema fizzled. We were bored.

But the resurrection of Indian cinema certainly has some good points. The most notable point is the emergence of the new wave directors who has taken the unconventional path of moviemaking. These directors try to break new ground with their movies. They stayed away from the typical sappy stroryline and create a new look of Indian cinema. Mira Nair, Nagesh Kukunoor, Madhur Bhandarkar, Gurinder Chadha, Mani Ratnam, Shekhar Kapoor and Ashutosh Gowariker are few of those directors who has picked up where Satyajit Ray, Bimal Roy and V. Shantaram has left off. They resurrected the new 'New Indian Cinema'.

One director that is leading these batch of talented directors is my personal favourite, Mr Sanjay Leela Bhansali (Khamoshi The Musical, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Devdas). Although considering the fact that his films are being classified as an 'art film' in India, it has been well-received with mainstream audiences. After some tiredless scouring, I managed to find his latest masterpiece, Black in an old VCD store in Alor Setar. My expectation was quite high because I have read so many wonderful reviews about this movie and many reviewers have described it to be his most accomplished work to date. The fact that my all-time favourite Indian actress is starring in the lead role also makes me very eager to watch it. And the result was very satisfying.

Black is an enchanting movie despite the dark theme surrounding it. Rarely I could see a film of such sensitivity, precision and elegance that has came out from the cinematic world of India. Exploring the world of the deaf is not new territory for Bhansali (recall his first movie, Khamoshi-The Musical), but this time he engages himself and his audience in the life of a deaf and blind woman: her goals, her failures, her triumphs, her emotions, and her teacher. The teacher who lived for her and the teacher for whom she lived. Indeed. In essence, Black is dark but it is purely vibrant cinema.

Black spans almost fifty years of the life of Michelle McNally (portrayed as a child by Ayesha Kapoor and as a woman by Rani Mukerji) who is born deaf and blind. Like other children she wants to play and be mischievous but cannot express herself or understand what is being communicated to her, thus releasing her frustrations in violent tantrums. In her life enters a teacher for the blind and deaf, Debraj Sahai (Amitabh Bachchan). He is an alcoholic who has never been able to attain the success he wants in training blind and deaf children. His initial triumphs in teaching the uncouth Michelle inspire him to take the girl by the hand and make her a productive and proactive person and contributor to society-he wants her to go college, a college for the general public, and get her a Bachelor's in Arts degree. But life plays a peculiar game with Michelle and Debraj, with Debraj losing his entire memory to Alzheimer's disease and Michelle taking it upon herself to teach him all that he ever taught her.

Where does one begin when discussing Black? To what previous Bollywood ventures can one make a parallel? In terms of story, I don't think one really can compare this movie to any other. Sure there have been a host of movies that deal with the disabled, but they have been about mental disabilities. Indian cinema and the Indian status quo have a stereotype as to what a disability 'should' be. Some mannerisms of Mukerji and many of Kapoor mimic characters who suffer from mental disabilities, but Bhansali explicates the differences. Just because people with mental disadvantages and people with impaired senses might act the same, doesn't mean they are to be treated the same.

Being set in an Anglo-Indian environment in what seems to be the post-independence era, Black has a fair dosage of English (which will repel those with limited comfort with the language). Moreover, the movie is real to a fault. Without indulging too much into details, Black denotes every aspect of Michelle's character, and one scene in particular might not please the audience. The taming of the young Michelle is immensely intriguing, but saddening and disturbing as well. I'm not sure whether some audiences are ready for something so real but bleak. But it is the realism that keeps you glued to the screen as you relish each dialogue, each sign-spoken word, each facial expression-everything about Black is enthralling! The sets and colours may seem a bit emphasised, but the costumes and casting are all ingeniously authentic.

As a director, Sanjay Leela Bhansali has perfected his best work, Khamoshi. He even tells the story as a flashback, showing childhood and adulthood of his main character. But the resemblances end here. He lends himself to the demands of the story and does not get caught in a wave of nostalgia by recreating a similar movie. Each scene is given the utmost sincerity and each character is etched with the finest characterisation. The one thing I noticed throughout the movie was the use of paintings as a backdrop to crucial scenes. I cannot explain it in details but you have to see it to understand. The screenplay is a factor that I can see being subject to debate. Personally, I found it appropriately paced (but some might find it slow and dragging) and nothing seemed to be out of place-except for one thing: the character of Sara, Michelle's younger sister, played by Nandana Sen. Her presence seems forced into the screenplay and caters to the cliche of jealousy of the disadvantaged sibling. Sara's wedding leads up to the best scene of the movie, but I feel that could have been achieved through other means-but perhaps it might not have had the same affect. Sara's character could stand for the social obstacles faced by those in Michelle's situation, and is thus an important part of the film.

The great thing about Black is that it's difficult to determine a definite 'lead' role of the film. Yes, the movie is told from the point of view of Michelle and is about her fulfilling her goals, but what about the achievements of Debraj and that Michelle getting her degree is his dream, too? Therefore, as essentially equal contributors to the film, Rani Mukerji and Amitabh Bachchan give their career-best performances. I have fell in love with Rani Mukerji since I first saw her with Aamir Khan in Ghulam. She is not only super beautiful but very talented as well. Those sweet smile, sparkling eyes and that unique voice of her is a joy to watch/hear. She is the epitome of a Bollywood Queen. In Black, whatever Mukherji says is the subconscious of Michelle. She doesn't actually mouth any lines in Black, but has never been more expressive. Her body language, particularly her walk, is spectacular. She could have easily gone over the top but manages to restrain herself. She strays from the lost look most actors give such characters. She didn't wore any make-up in this movie but she has never looked so beautiful. A pure beauty. This is not the Rani Mukerji of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Hum Tum, or Veer-Zaara. This is a side to Rani Mukerji that I was unaware of. I was thinking throughout the movie, what other actresses could have portrayed Michelle McNally with the same grace? I couldn't seem to find the answer to that question.

Amitabh Bachchan is just brilliant. Damn brilliant. Everyone knows that Amitabh Bachan is a superb actor and one of the greatest actor of all-time, but this movie certainly justifies that statement. Honestly, before Black, I have never seen Amitabh Bachan act his heart out. His character demanded eccentricity and he delivers! As Michelle's pillar of support, Bachchan's depiction of Debraj Sahai compliment's Rani Mukerji perfectly. The gradual dominance of Alzheimer's disease is most natural and the scenes in which Debraj is taken over by the disease show the real talent within the Big B. Honestly, you're at a loss for superlatives to compliment his work. And watch out for the scene where Amitabh Bachan teaches us how to do sign language for the word 'bullshit'. Brilliant.

The suppporting cast also boast some of the greatest talents in India right now. Ayesha Kapoor is simply put, out of this world. I was unable to determine whether she is an actress or actually deaf and blind! Although some of her scenes looked a bit forced at first, but after awhile it seems to make a lot of sense. There are actors in Bollywood who have been around for many years, many of them so-called 'stars' that could not execute a performance half as good as that of Kapoor. As Michelle's parents, Shernaz Patel is perfect as the mother, and Dhritiman Chatterjee as the stubborn father is great. Nadana Sen definitely makes her presence felt in her debut, but we need to see more of her know what she's got.

My favourite scene in the movie is when during a very dramatic scene, Amitabh Bachan's character says, "... you know, I feel like singing and dancing right now, but as you and I know, I'm hopeless". That dialogue, although very tongue-in-cheek, explains it all. Most Hindi movies, during that particular scene, will definitely break into this humongous dance and musical sequences complete with backup dancers and multiple costume changes. But this is not another Hindi movie. It is not stereotypical. It's magical. If you hated 'mainstream' Hindi movies and if there's only one Indian movie you would see this year, make sure it's Black.

UPDATE : The Filmfare Awards 2006 wild be held this Saturday, 25th February 2006 in Mumbai, India. The awards for Best Actor (Bachchan), Actress (Mukerji), Supporting Actress (Kapoor), Direction (Bhansali) and Best Film ought to be in the bag for Black. Check out the Filmfare Awards official website for the full list of nominees.

Puteri Gunung Ledang : Pengalaman Muzikal Yang Tidak Boleh Dilupakan

Bertempat di Istana Budaya, aku dan significant other aku telah berpeluang untuk menonton Puteri Gunung Ledang The Musical (PGLTM) pada malam kedua ianya dipentaskan. Aku difahamkan pementasan, 7hb dan 8hb khas untuk tontonan pelajar, orang kurang upaya dan warga emas dengan harga tiket flat rate RM30. Realizing that we are students, kami berdua semestinya tidak mahu melepaskan peluang keemasan ini untuk menjadi antara yang pertama menonton. Seat numbers - F41 and F42, Grand Circle (2nd Floor). Not bad.. but we could have got the Stalls floor seats. Disebabkan oleh sistem ticketing yang tiba-tiba sangkut dan mungkin kerana ketidakcekapan personel yang jaga kaunter di IB, kami terlepas peluang untuk dapat seat yang lebih bagus. But, I won't go into details 'coz it pisses me off so bad.

Sampai tepat pada masa ia bermula, aku seperti tidak bersedia dengan apa yang bakal aku saksikan. Memang aku akui, aku meletakkan harapan yang agak tinggi terhadap pementasan ini. Ini semua mungkin because of all the hype and buzz surrounding PGLTM membuatkan aku menjadi begitu teruja dengan pementasan ini. Dan bermula dari not muzik yang pertama yang dimainkan, aku telah terpukau dan terpaku.

Ada beberapa perkara yang aku suka tentang PGLTM:
  • Muzik - Apa erti sebuah teater muzikal jika muziknya tidak menarik. Kolaborasi Roslan Aziz dan Dick Lee terbukti berkesan dengan lagu-lagu yang sangat majestic dan indah. Setiap bibit lagu merupakan cerita yang yang disampaikan secara bermelodi. Irama lagu tersebut mencerminkan perasaan setiap karakter yang menyanyikannya. Mata aku kadang-kadang tersasar dari pentas disebabkan aku asyik melihat pemain gendang di bahagian depan pentas. Pukulan gendang mereka memukau dan membangkitkan emosi penonton.. Memang jelas, pemuzik-pemuziknya begitu ekspresif dalam memberi penghayatan kepada cerita yang hendak disampaikan. Pengarahan muzik yang sangat teliti. Hebat, memang hebat.
  • Lakonan - Tak perlu dipersoalkan lagi bakat-bakat lakonan yang terlibat dalam PGLTM ini. Tiara Jacquelina mencurahkan hati dan perasaannya di atas pentas (..with her dearest husband in the audience). Jelas sekali dia mengeluarkan sepenuh tenaga dan usaha ke atas pementasan ini. Dia merupakan nadi PGLTM. Aku juga kagum dengan Stephen-Rahman Hughes kerana aku tak menyangka dia boleh menyanyikan lagu Melayu dengan begitu baik. Cuma aku merasakan terdapat beberapa bahagian di mana dia kurang emosi dan salah intonasi semasa menuturkan dialog. Tapi secara keseluruhan aku rasa wajar jika dia dipuji kerana bukan senang untuk menghayati lakonan dan nyanyian dalam sesebuah bahasa yang memang agak asing baginya. Jelas sekali dia merupakan seorang pelakon yang mempunyai daya usaha yang tinggi and quite frankly, he pull it off. Seorang lagi pelakon yang membuatkan aku angkat topi ialah AC Mizal. Sekarang barulah aku mengerti mengapa Tiara memberi pujian melambung ke atas lakonan dan usaha AC Mizal di dalam TV baru-baru ini. Bukan senang untuk menggantikan tempat yang ditinggalkan Alex Komang, tetapi ternyata AC Mizal menyahut cabaran tersebut dengan jayanya. Adlin Aman Ramlie, Sukania Venugopal dan Yalal Chin tidak dinafikan lagi memang tergolong dalam kategori 'theater heavyweights'. Gerak-geri, ekspresi dan lontaran suara mereka ternyata bersahaja dalam memberikan lakonan yang mantap. Aku paling menyukai segmen di mana Adlin Aman Ramlie menari dan menyanyi sebagai seorang Sultan Melaka yang angkuh. Ternyata segmen tersebut mendapat tepukan yang sangat gemuruh daripada penonton. Siapa sangka dia boleh menari dan menyanyi dengan baik?
  • Tarian - Pujian juga harus diberikan pada penari-penari PGLTM yang menghiburkan penonton dengan koreografi yang sangat mengasyikkan terutama sekali tarian Jawa semasa pembukaan pementasan. Penari-penari memikul tanggungjawab berat untuk berkomunikasi dengan penonton hanya melalui ekspresi dalam tarian dan mereka berjaya membuatkan penonton memahami apa yang mereka hendak sampaikan dalam tarian mereka. Tahniah kepada Pat Ibrahim.
  • Set - Simple yet effective. Direkabentuk oleh production designer hebat Raja Malek, set utama yang digunakan merupakan timbunan-timbunan kayu yang diubah-ubah oleh pembantu pentas mengikut segmen dan lagu. Timbunan-timbunan kayu ini disusun mengikut rekabentuk Candi Borubudur, seperti tangga dan apabila dicantumkan akan membentuk 'Gunung Ledang' yang sangat tinggi dan boleh didaki. Risau juga aku melihat Tiara dan Stephen 'mendaki' Gunung Ledang takut-takut kalau terjatuh. Ditambah pula dengan elevated stage di Istana Budaya yang bergerak mengikut setiap segmen, arahan seni Zahim Albakri dan Adlin Aman Ramlie tampak begitu kreatif dan mempersonakan. Transition daripada satu segmen ke segmen yang lain sangat lancar dan sempurna. Aku menyukai penggunaan kain putih sebagai air terjun semasa segmen Nenek Kebayan bertukar rupa kembali kepada Gusti Putri. Begitu juga dengan ukiran kayu yang indah pada set pintu istana Sultan Mahmud yang besar agam.
  • Tatacahaya - Ramai yang kurang sedar, penataan cahaya memainkan peranan yang penting dalam menimbulkan mood sesuatu adegan. Penataan cahaya PGLTM memang bertaraf dunia dan wajar diberikan pujian. Limpahan lampu-lampu di sekeliling IB membangkitkan feel yang sesuai dengan lagu-lagu yang didendangkan. Contohnya bila watak AC Mizal timbul, terdapat resonans warna merah menyala yang menyinari pentas. Atau ketika Gusti Putri menari di hadapan Sultan Melaka, lampu spotlight difokuskan kepada watak Gusti Putri dan Hang Tuah. Aku paling suka kesan cahaya semasa watak Sukania Venugopal mati yang berjaya membawa penonton menghayati adegan sayu tersebut.
  • Kostum - Period drama seharusnya mempunyai kostum yang extravaganza. Keindahan dan kesenian kostum dalam PGLTM tampak indah dan berseri-seri tanpa memaksa untuk go over the top. Jelas sekali perhatian yang teliti diberikan kepada aspek pakaian terutama sekali pakaian rakyat Majapahit dan Melaka.
  • Nyanyian - Seperti yang aku nyatakan, nyanyian dalam PGLTM ini memang impressive. Aku terpaku seketika mendengar Stephen-Rahman Hughes menyanyikan lagu solonya dengan penuh penghayatan dan perasaan. Begitu juga dengan Adlin Aman Ramlie yang mempunyai suara yang 'boleh jual'. Pujian juga harus diberikan kepada penyanyi-penyanyi latar di bawah pentas yang tak henti menyanyi sepanjang pementasan dijalankan.
  • Skrip dan cerita - Di tangan Adlin Aman Ramlie dan Zahim Albakri pengolahan cerita PGLTM ternyata hebat. Teater muzikal mempunyai kecenderungan untuk menjadi hambar dan terlalu meleret tetapi penceritaan dalam PGLTM bergerak secara lancar dan teratur tanpa membosankan penonton. Aku menyukai skrip dalam cerita dan lagu di mana ianya memberikan pemahaman kepada penonton yang tidak pernah menonton filem Puteri Gunung Ledang. Bahasa yang digunakan indah, penuh beremosi dan straight to the point.
Walaupun jelas aku sangat menyukai teater PGLTM ini namun terdapat perkara-perkara yang mengganggu sedikit tumpuan aku kepada pementasan yang dijalankan.

  • Terdapat sedikit technical glitch dalam pementasan ini di mana mikrofon Tiara tidak berfungsi just when she was about to sing a solo song. Aku dapat lihat dengan jelas kepanikan wajah Tiara walaupun daripada jauh. Dia kelihatan seperti ingin keluar ke sisi pentas tetapi teragak-agak kerana masih terlibat dalam adegan yang sedang berjalan. Mujurlah pengalaman Sukania Venugopal dalam dunia teater menyalamatkan keadaan. Dengan tenang beliau membuat improvasi dengan menyuruh Gusti Putri '...ke tepi sebentar' dan mengalihkan perhatian penonton kembali ke pentas sementara Tiara menukarkan mikrofon di belakang pentas. Ada juga beberapa kali, mikrofon pelakon seperti tenggelam timbul dan sedikit sebanyak mencacatkan kelancaran pengucapan dialog mereka. Seharusnya perkara seperti ini harus diberikan perhatian.
  • Sarikata Bahasa Inggeris yang dipaparkan pada electronic board di bahagian atas pentas tidak selaras dengan adegan dan segmen yang sedang dipertontonkan. Ada waktu sarikata tersebut keluar terlalu awal, ada waktu terlalu lambat, ada waktu terlalu lama, ada waktu terlalu sekejap. Bagi penonton-penonton yang tidak mahir berbahasa Melayu (..agak ramai penonton berbangsa Cina, India, Inggeris dll.) sarikata tersebut sangat penting untuk mereka memahami penceritaan PGLTM. Sedikit sebanyak perkara ini mencacatkan pementasan yang sedan berlangsung. Lebih baik jika tidak disediakan sarikata jika motifnya untuk memberi pemahaman kepada penonton tidak sampai.
  • Aku berasa sedikit hairan dengan kebanyakan penonton teater/filem Malaysia. Perlukah kita ketawa apabila pelakon tiba-tiba menyanyi semasa dalam adegan genting? Perlukah kita ketawa semasa dialog cinta diucapkan semasa adegan klimaks di puncak Gunung Ledang? Perlukah kita ketawa semasa pelakon menari? It's a MUSICAL THEATER..!! What do u guys expect?? The actors are supposed to over act. The dialog are supposed to be over the top. People are supposed to be breaking into songs here and there because it is a freakin' musical! Dan ada 4-5 orang budak-budak sekolah di depan aku yang asyik bercakap sepanjang pementasan. Aku pun tak paham kenapa. Mungkin itu cara penonton Malaysia memberikan reaksi dan maklumbalas kepada pelakon di atas pentas.

PGLTM certainly exceed my expectation. Ini pengalaman pertama aku menonton teater muzikal secara live dan sememangnya menonton secara live lebih menarik. Perasaan yang timbul tidak sama dengan perasaan menonton teater muzikal West End dan Broadway di kaca TV. Aku juga sangat bangga melihatkan hasil kerja orang Malaysia ditontoni oleh semua golongan masyarakat dan pelbagai kaum. Apa yang ditunggu lagi? Mungkin inilah satu-satunya peluang untuk kita menonton teater muzikal hebat bertaraf dunia (..plus masa intermission 15 minit, ada jamuan disediakan! First time ever! Hehehe..) Aku memberikan jaminan sesiapa sahaja yang menonton akan pasti terhibur.

Halwa telinga dan mata yang sangat memukau, mengasyikkan dan mengkagumkan. Puteri Gunung Ledang The Musical menjanjikan satu pengalaman menonton teater yang tiada tandingan di Malaysia ini. Epic and Majestic. World class calibre entertainment. Go see it to believe it.. u won't be dissapointed.