Tuesday, 20 January 2015

12 ANGRY MEN AND THE THEORY OF CONSENSUS BUILDING


I believe 12 Angry Men to be one of the best scripted movies of all time. Looking at it deeply, it has a lot more to offer than just being a top ten IMDB movie. Henry Fonda's perspective and how he used words and words alone to turn the tide in his favour or to remove prejudice from a non-personal assessment. This has no drama, mystery, theatrics or special effects - a simple story that can be easily absorbed by any living soul on earth.

I have watched it in Hindi as well and the content serves justice to its Hollywood original and the screenplay justifiably written for Indian audiences.


THE PREMISE OF THE MOVIE

Twelve men from different backgrounds, cultural upbringing, personalities and of different temper levels are part of the jury - and they are in a room to come to a reasonable conclusion. The jury must be unanimous in its decision and until then it is all a consensus building exercise. The case in hand is to decide the fate of a teenager who is guilty of murder his father - and after having heard the testimonies and other 'supposed evidences', it is now in the hands of the jury to give the final verdict.

In the enclosed room are these twelve men seated and eleven of them are convinced the boy is guilty - and are surprised to see Henry Fonda's lone hand going in favour of not-guilty. It isn't a case of James Dean's 'To Rebel With a Cause', here the standpoint of Henry Fonda has a lot of sense. It is after all a matter of life and death and these 12 men cannot be haste in making such a decision. Henry Fonda has a 'doubt' and unless he is convinced otherwise he would present his arguments. There emerges a change in thinking of his fellow jurors - one by one convinced otherwise.  

It is interesting to note how time and discussions change opinions even among many learned ones. And one by one, the jurors are convinced it isn't a straight forward case. In the middle of intense heat, there were heated discussions with egos coming in the way of clear thinking and side arguments comes in the way of the main discussion. And by the end of it all - these 12 men have a considerable amount of doubt to deliver a unanimous 'not guilty' verdict.

HOW I SEE THE RELEVANCE IN TODAY'S WORLD
One of the patterns that emerged from 12 Angry Men is - that, one is never far away from expressing his personal standpoint be it on any matter. This is what I call as 'the interpretation syndrome' - where two different people or a group of people look at the same thing in different ways. Our world is no different - each one is able to express their opinions and plenty of them are available on the internet, newsroom and print media - and more so with the people I converse. Is it a life's mystery that we eternally fight for the ultimate truth? or there is no such thing as one truth? Or is life or society all about a series of consensus building exercise which over the years gave raise to systems, rules, practices, religions and their million interpretations. The world we live in is so huge - that there was means to run away from one group only to settle in other place and form another group. What if we bring in all the newsmakers (not just the leaders of the state) under a single roof and discuss till there is consensus building - to reach a common ground from where people from all the beliefs can move on with renewed perspectives and lead a life which humans deep down strive for.


I just laughed reading at the last sentence about the level of optimism I am expecting! I think what I am asking is too far away from the banal lives we lead or am I? However, this was a recurring thought that comes to my mind whenever I hear and watch disturbing stories each day. Are we just plain reporting or doing something to end it?  What is the end that justifies everybody? Or have we already concluded - that this is the way... this is how it should end... 

The more I think positively, there is a hint of cynicism that creeps into that thought. So I am stuck... can we have some consensus building thoughts please!!!! 

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

FIRST INDIAN MOVIE IN SWITZERLAND - SANGAM (1964)


The above scene is from the the 1964 movie 'Sangam' - produced and directed by the legendary film maker Raj Kapoor. Sangam, the first ever color film of the late Indian film-maker Raj Kapoor, was a magnum opus in many ways. This movie had a screen time close to 200 minutes, filled with an emotional storyline and songs starring Raj Kapoor, Vyjayanthimala and Rajendra Kumar. 

Fifty years later, this movie is just one of the many hundreds of Indian movies shot in Switzerland. Here's a 50 years tribute marking the association between Indian movie industry and Switzerland. 

More on this article on Newly Swissed - http://bit.ly/1DL3hJP

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

SAME TALE FOR DIFFERENT TIMES: THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (1956) AND EXODUS (2014)

Same tale for different times - The Ten Commandments (1956) and Exodus (2014)
I imagine to be in a place where I can see the present and the origins from the past. I can see civilizations, the mighty empires of the yore and the developed metropolis of today. I can see the science of our ancestors and the technology of the present. While there are many points of change, there is one which I believe has stood the test of time -people and their interpretations to various beliefs.

It is in this premise I look at the epic, Cecile DeMille's The Ten Commandments (1956) and the recently released 'Exodus: Gods and Kings' (2014).

Both take on the same topic - the story of freedom of 'Hebrews' from the bondage of the Egyptian rulers, same backdrop, same characters and a similar conclusion; yet the treatment is miles apart. In case of DeMille, going by his strong interest towards religion and his inclination towards detailed scripting gives us the most accurate narration based on what has been written on the matter - whereas the 2014 movie does justice to what the current generation would be more inclined to believe.

CECILE VERSION
What is history? It is a record of what had happened, written by people who have witnessed or have recorded from other sources. While it narrates, it fails to give us a 360° approach on any matter. Take the story of Moses, books have been written based on evidence that has been unearthed so far. Who can validate the veracity of events that were recorded? The more we dwell in this matter, the more skewed the analysis. Instead, it is well acknowledged, evidence serves us a basis to comment on a topic, narrate and in this case make movies on screen.

It is fascinating to see in less than sixty years, our ways of looking at history has evolved immensely. I arrive at this from the way movies have been scripted. If you go back in time to 1923, when The Ten Commandments was released by Cecile DeMille,  it was well accepted, though it was considered inaccurate and the modern version was criticised while applauding the historical aspects of the movie it covered. That was 1923 where magic of moving pictures and that too on such a 'hot topic' would definitely be a hit.

In what turned out to be his last movie he ever directed and produced, DeMille keeping up with the technical advancements re-made his 1923 classic, adding sound and the colours to make it more appealing to the audiences. He went deeper, a place where even Bible has not been - to the early years of Moses, the first 30 years of his life which he spent as a prince of Egypt. The 1956 movie was 3 hours and 40 minutes long and every minute retained its essence, adding flavours to the continuity. The movie could have gone on and on if not for practical considerations. The movie ends in the period it started thereby reproducing the texts and artifacts into a movie. This epic of 1956 was as accurate as it can get to the source from which the stories are told, re-told on the life of Moses. There is no transportation to the 20th century to see how events have panned out as a result of history. The movie was history in itself and that to me was the most appealing part.

MODERN TAKE
What was once considered as miracles by external forces is unsurprisingly replaced by natural forces in today's world. While one looked at the father of all lords, the current crop turns to mother nature for answers. Idol worship, praying to forces of nature, following a person, humanisation of 'gods', turning men to gods men and dogmatic beliefs - all of it existed and exists even today. The situation has evolved - we attempt to look at it in a different way and have a tendency to believe the same set of stories when showcased in a different manner, a manner that is close to what we accept as a way of living and how life exists.

In today's generation, science has allowed us to access more answers than our previous generations were privilege to. A chant of a man to clear out the waters from the sea is replaced by the science of tides. The origins of plague is not one's creation but as a result of imbalance in the eco-system. Mere words do not serve the purpose, one needs to be equipped to defend the might of the strong even if it ends in a war. Such is the world we live where we blindly do not accept unless there is rationale behind it. In such an environment, it is suffice to say, a blind remake of the 1956 classic would have been 'misplaced' or even rejected by the very people, who would have believed if they were living in another generation.

Keeping this in mind, I was extremely pleased to the treatment given to the story of Exodus by the film makers. It does not take away the factor of 'hope' by miracles alone; the freedom is sought through preparation, willingness, hard work and by fighting it out - all and many such qualities which the current generation can associate with. With time being the essence, a movie over 200 minutes would not have made any business sense in today's market, no matter how good the narration is.

END NOTE
We truly live in a great era where access to information has never been this simple. While there are many sources to confuse people, movie makers who go to great heights to research a topic and present it keeping in mind the relevance is much appreciated.

What we believe is what we see; what we see is what is shown; for there are no boundaries when it comes to expression! Perceptions are a mere indicator of a story, an idea and how it has flown through time, tampered by scholars from different eras, narrated to the best of their understandings.. straying here and there while ensuring the essence to last.. only to be carried on to future generations with more discoveries and additions. That to me is the beauty surrounding the various stories, myths, and the creative works that surrounds them! There is no truth but recording of facts based on evidences! It would be interesting to re-visit the same topic in a decade's time or maybe in 50 years time.


So let it be written, so let it be done! 

Friday, 9 January 2015

RIP ROD TAYLOR


Rod Taylor with Teppi Hedren in the 1963 movie Birds


Actor Rod Taylor passed away earlier in the day at the age of 84. Let's get it straight.... I have not watched a lot of movies starring Rod Taylor and yet I write this because of the only movie I have seen of his - Alfred Hitchcock's 'The Birds'. The other movies, Sunday in New York with Jane Fonda and The Time Machine is pending and I hope to watch them sooner than I thought I would.








Coming back to the Birds, yes, the movie was all about Tippi Hedren and those 'birds' - zillion of them gone crazy. However, playing a lawyer, Rod Taylor as 'Mitch Brenner' enacted really well, protecting the ladies in spite of the birds taking the limelight.

The fascinating part of the movie was that it had no real motive at the end of it all. This was a movie that showcased what birds, lots of them can achieve if they go bonkers. I will write another post on 'Birds' and what I felt about it; for now it is time to bid goodbye on the life of this talented Australian actor who could have achieved much more and was last seen playing the role of Winston Churchill in Inglorious Bastards. 

RIP Rod Taylor 

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

FANTASTIC VOYAGE - AND HOW ISSAC ASIMOV ENDED UP A WINNER


There are many people who think alike - so much so that there was a need to patent one's ideas and further copyright them. In the entertainment industry, scripts were safely guarded for this purpose, though once in a while it did go out of hands just like it did in the case of Fantastic Voyage and I Dream of Jeannie. People who have watched the show 'I Dream of Jeannie' in the mid-60's and at a later stage would recall a certain episode 'The Moving Finger'  (watch the episode) - in which Major Nelson, an astronaut is approached by a movie production to consult on a science-fiction movie. The plot goes this way: *"An American astronaut, shrunken to the size of a pinhead, is injected into the bloodstream of a Soviet astronaut, works his way to the brain and retrieves information vital to the defense of the country."

While the concept is indeed mind boggling and interesting, there was none of it which happened in that episode. It remained just a scene and nothing more. Few months later in 1966, a movie which had its plot based on the above idea was released. However, Fantastic Voyage as an idea was made on screen based on a story by Otto Klement and Jerome Bixby much before the episode of 'I Dream of Jeannie' aired.

HOW IT ALL BEGAN
The screenplay for the story included few details that would add drama and what better than 'the Cold War' angle. This time the battle between United States and Soviet Union was not on 'outer space', but 'inner space'. Movie on this idea was on and at that time Bantam books had bought the rights to novelise the screenplay. Enter Issac Asimov, the science fiction expert, who was approached to write the novel based on the script. There was hesitation on his part before being offered complete freedom in writing the novel. As it turned out, he was quick to draft on the idea and completed the novel by the end of July 1965.

The hardcover edition was published in March 1966 with Otto Klement entitled to royalties as it was his script in the first place irrespective of the fact it was Asimov who pushed for 'hard cover' edition. It was happy conclusion at the end of it all when Klement managed to serialise the story for 'The Saturday Evening Post' and the payment of which was agreed to split into two between Asimov and Klement.

Bantam Books who had the rights only for the paperback edition, released the book coinciding with the release of the film.

IT WAS ASIMOV'S GAIN
There were delays in completing the movie on time due to various production issues and all this only ensured Issac Asimov to be the biggest gainer at the end of it all. The public were aware of the novel authored by Asimov before the movie being released, and this contributed in believing that Asimov to be the 'genius' behind the idea of the movie.


It doesn't matter who was behind what, the movie was well appreciated and for incorporating the special effects inside the human body - a place where no human has ever been to. Fantastic Voyage is indeed 'fantastic' and apart from the outdated on-screen special effects, concept wise, it is an ever green classic!