Layered, Enigmatic, Neurotic – A Serious Man

After garnering huge commercial and mainstream critical success in No Country for Old Men, the Coen Brothers turn again to a much more personal and intimate subject in A Serious Man. To do or not do, that is the question! Do you take action and what is the consequence of your actions? Does it matter if the actions are righteous or not?

The film starts with a man coming home after battling a snow storm, to tell his wife about a neighbor, Reb, who helped him fix his cart. The wife is shocked as she says Reb died a while ago. Then there is a knock on the door and Reb shows up, invited to share the soup. The wife says he is now dybbuk (one of the undead) and in a shockingly sudden act she pierces him through the heart with an ice-pick. Reb staggers out and we never find out if he was really dead before or not. BUT if he was a dybbuk, he is gone.
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An unlikely hero’s journey! My Name is Khan


When Joseph Campbell wrote his “Hero with a Thousand Faces” in 1949, it inspired many a heroic journey on celluloid, including the Star Wars trilogy and the Matrix series! Campbell’s archetypal hero was based on the many mythic heroes, and their journey was divided by him into three phases – departure (or separation), initiation (or journey/adventure) and return (in triumph of course!). The hero was heroic, noble, skilled and born into the role, and his journey was usually into an alien world, involved many travails, “dragons” slayed, and when he did return triumphant, he usually had a boon that could change the world he was a part of. This hero type has been seen over and over again in Hindi cinema too.
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Haraamzaadi ka ishq, UP ishtyle – Ishqiya!

WARNING – this is a spoiler ridden review. By now you have either seen Ishqiya or never will, but still it is fair to warn you.

There used to be the Ram Gopal Varma factory, where assistants eventuallygot to be directors, and create wonderful films. But now the factory is defunct and missed. Into this vacuum have stepped Vishal Bharadwaj and his former AD Abhishek Choubey. Choubey directs Ishqiya in a gritty style that may seem heavily influenced by Bharadwaj’s. Except that what once seemed real in Bharadwaj films is rendered a little stagey after one sees Ishqiya. East UP and Gorakhpur can only be this real if you actually get off a bus into town! And the setting never overwhelms the film, it just makes everything more genuine. In Omkara, which I happen to love, there is scene in an alley when Vivek Oberoi loses his cool, compare it to the alley scene where the kidnapping goes nearly awry, or where Babban (Arshad Warsi) and Krishna (Vidya Balan) stalk the kidnapping victim. Or the rural setting of the jalsa (Beedi sequence) in Omkara to the setting where Iftekhar (Naseer) is on a mission to steal a vehicle and sits drinking chai in a dhaba. The atmosphere is palpably real in Ishqiya and showcases a story that is full of surprises but in a most understated way – to the point that some missed the whole point and called Ishqiya pointless!
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Yet another boring love story? Phedre pulsates with forbidden passion!

The American Conservatory Theater joins hands with the Stratford Shakespeare Festival of Ontario, Canada to present Jean Racine’s retelling of the Greek tragedy, Phedre. Directed by Carey Perloff, this masterful presentation runs almost two hours with no intermission. The drama unfolds on a minimal yet striking stage with “tree” trunks made of coiled pipes in cages, and a forest floor made of shadows from trees limned in light.

stage design


(Stage design from Words on Plays)
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