If one looks at the people who have influenced your life in some way or secured a spot in your memories thanks to some conspiracy of the constellations, the list will, in all probabilities, be extremely heterogeneous. One one hand it can have a Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose or a Sigmund Freud or a Bob Dylan or a Garcia Marquez. And on the other hand it can also have the childhood grocer with his act of kindness. Or the eccentric uncle with his radically political views. Or the college sophomore whose casual ruthlessness taught you love. Or maybe even your father who smelt of Old Spice aftershave and chose the austere Forhans over frothier toothpaste brands.
So it is with films.
My 40-film-long list contains some fairly unanimous classics, some contentious ones, some ordinary and possibly even some bad films. The only common thread running through them is they have entered my terrestrial screenplay at some point of time, and have remained at a dialogue or a subtext level till now for whatever reason. I will not recommend any of them, like I would neither recommend my favourite cricketer, my favourite midnight snack or my favourite cantankerous relative to anyone. But if you like to explore the ‘for whatever reason’ waters suggested a sentence ago, dive right in.
Before I start, a word or two about my methodology to be uttered with faux dissertation airs. Since no film buff worth his salt can be emotionally satisfied with anything less than a list which has his top 2046 films, getting to 40 needed self-imposed restrictions. Hence I walked into the medieval Iron Maiden with the promise that I will make top 10 impactful films for the following linguistic categories – Bengali (my mother tongue), Hindi (NOT the National Language of my country but a language I have been exposed to since my childhood), English (the lingua franca thanks to an educational tilt) and All Other Languages (since the idea of Esperanto has been long discarded). This of course is an internal torture technique, and the films are going to appear in the list not necessarily in the order of the release year.
Happy reading, then.
Boidurjo Rawhoshyo (1985)
Director: Tapan Sinha
Possibly the earliest cinematic memory made at Bijoli with a then terrifying and now intriguing opening sequence. A superb thriller about a missing precious stone in a temple with witty characters and engaging sub-plots. Possibly the first time I saw a request on screen about not disclosing the twist to people not having watched it. Featuring a charming Basanta Chowdhury, a crushworthy Alpana Goswami and a hilarious Manoj Mitra amongst others.
Director: Satyajit Ray
When the greatest matinee idol collaborates with the greatest director (you can giftwrap and takeaway words like arguably in both cases because this is my list) you have a film of epic proportions and eternal longevity. The train journey of a successful and deliciously grey matinee idol covers a spectrum of human emotions and life and death and arts through humour, drama and brevity I have rarely encountered. Possibly the film I will take to a desert island if I am only allowed one.
Golpo Holeo Shotyi (1966)
Director: Tapan Sinha
The second film of the criminally underrated Tapan Sinha, thanks to the Ray-Ghatak-Sen Holy Trinity, which honours my list with its presence. An urban fairy tale of a do-gooder househelp which spun off various spin offs and remakes like Bawarchi and Hero Number One, it is a lesson in good, old-fashioned, heart-warming storytelling with impeccable performances from stalwarts like Chhaya Debi, Bhanu Bandopadhyay and Bankim Ghosh. And it also underlines why a lot of people anoint Rabi Ghosh as one of the greatest Indian actors ever, in a heartbeat.
Basanta Bilaap (1973)
Director: Dinen Gupta
This freewheeling, ribtickling romantic comedy about three men and three women and an ensemble of unforgettable characters in a mofussil town in Bengal can light up even the gloomiest of days like a masterful shrink. As per the daughter of the director Dinen Gupta, also the cinematographer of Ghatak’s masterpiece Meghe Dhaka Tara, he mostly gave sequences to the actor which they then improvised upon. And when even an once-in-a- lifetime actor like Soumitra Chatterjee is overshadowed by the combined brilliance of Anup Kumar, Robi Ghosh and Chinmoy Roy, you know it worked.
Director: Rituparno Ghosh
What is it about loneliness and great cinema? From Violet Stoneham, the English teacher in Aparna Sen’s classic 36 Chowringhee Lane to Bonolota, the widowed landlady in Rituparna Ghosh’s Bariwali. My favourite from his oeuvre, this is tale of love, longing, ruthlessness and betrayal as a film unit comes to shoot a period drama in a country house. The two hair raising dream sequences are possibly as good as they get in any film anywhere and I would take them to my pyre. And what an unforgettable performance by Kirron Kher, voiced by Rita Koyral, as the lead.
Aakaler Shondhaane (1980)
Director: Mrinal Sen
Technically the second film within a film narrative in this list, but genrewise this is probably the truest and the most impactful I have seen along with Fellini’s 8 1/2. And unlike 8 1/2‘s entwining of reality and hallucination, the maestro Mrinal Sen’s Aakaaler Shondhane is heart wrenchingly set in Indian reality. A film crew travels to a village to shoot a film which needs to recreate the manmade famine of 1943 which killed around 5 million people. As reel and real collide, the lives of the cast and crew members get entangled with those of the curious but naive villagers. A brutally honest human experience which stays with you long after the credits roll with the ultimate goddess of acting, Smita Patil leading the charge with Dhritiman Chatterjee.
Jawmaloye Jibonto Manush (1958)
Director: Prafulla Chakraborty
A perfect example of how Bengal loves her Hindu Gods and Goddesses – not as distant deities to be scared of but flawed and loving members of the family. As a man travels to the heaven to bring back his dead wife, through various misadventures and escapades with the entire Pantheon of Gods, we see this hilarious satire point out with disarming honesty all that is wrong with the Heaven and Earth. Bhanu Bandopadhyay’s performance is the tour de force and this commercially successful slapstick comedy stakes legitimate claim to be an evergreen cinematic marvel.
Director: Ajoy Kar
Can this list be complete without a true blue Uttam Kumar romantic classic? I think not. Generation and generation go crazy over the Uttam-Suchitra chemistry, immortalized amongst other things by the Hemanta-Sandhya duet “Ei Pawtha Jodi Na Shesh Hoye”. But me, I just keep looking at one man – one who breezes through sequence after sequence with effortless acting. The singing duel, the Othello act, the bereavement scene, the transformation – he outshines everyone and everything in sight. Two more things left an indelible mark on me since I first saw Ajay Kar’s romantic saga of star-crossed and inter-religious lovers with the backdrop of the Second World War – the haunting background score and the fascinating cinematography especially of the Wartime interior sequences.
Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne (1969)
Director: Satyajit Ray
There is nothing much to say about Ray’s genius as encapsulated perfectly in Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne, which hasn’t been said before. An adapation of a fairly simple children’s tale about a couple of village bumpkins and a king by his grandfather Upendrakishore into a full blown, grand fairy tale at one level. At another level, one of the most lyrical anti-war films the world has ever seen. At a third, as a huge commercially successful film which held box office records for years. And at a fourth level, possibly one of the finest musicals ever made where the entire songs were composed, scored and written by the auteur. This has a sweet personal memory too, as the only film songs we were allowed to sing and hear in the school premises apart from Tagore songs, were the songs from Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne and Hirak Rajar Deshe.
Director: Tapan Sinha
Ekhoni is Tapan Sinha’s third film on the list with a young ensemble cast and an equally youthful story which captures the pulse of the turbulent 70s with an incredibly contemporary script and treatment. Starring Aparna Sen, Shubhendu Chatterjee, Moushumi Chatterjee and Swarup Dutta amongst others, this is possibly Shubhendu Chatterjee’s finest hour along with Aranyer Din Ratri and Chowringhee. Dealing with love, politics, betrayal and other issues related to urban youth, this film based on a Ramapada Chowdhury story is a rare gem.
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Director: Stanley Kubrick
I watched the Stanley Kubrick classic at the age of 14 for the first time and though I grew up to marvel at the brilliant but unsettling dystopia in the film in its totality, the aversion therapy with Alex being tied to the chair while Beethoven was played is a cinematic image which was imprinted on my psyche early on. Years later, Requeim For A Dream instilled the same addictive nausea and a sinking feeling as things start to go wrong in a beautifully dangerous manner. And the dark humour of the film, tantalising!
Notting Hill (1999)
Director: Roger Michell
If there is one film on this list whose dialogues I can repeat verbatim even if woken up suddenly from deep slumber, it is this. It is my favourite romantic comedy with incredibly smart mush. The British humour, Hugh Grant’s stutter, Julia Robert’s appeal, a marvelous soundtrack and the mindblowing Rhys Ifans as Spike made this my mandatory watch from early on whenever I fell in love. This love story between a book seller and a Hollywood star has too many of my favourite sequences to name – the brownie scene with the loser monologue, the press conference which ends on a surreal but nice note, Spike’s T shirt audition, whoops a daisy park scene, the climax which ends indefinitely – just too much fun, too many memories!
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Director: Michel Gondry
If you look at my one of my alltime favourite screenwriter’s filmography, you will understand why when it comes to mindspace and cerebellum porn, you don’t look further than Charlie Kaufman. And though Synechdoche, New York, Adaptation and Being John Malkovich have very special places in my cinematic heart, Eternal Sunshine is indeed, eternal. A woman has deleted her memories of her lover. Her lover wants to return the favour but then wants her back midway in the process. Through a labyrinth of memories and metaphors, it weaves a tapestry of an unforgettable love story, possibly my favourite. And such is my obsession with the film, like Nayak forced the story of Autograph out of me, this propelled me, in another script of mine, to take the core concept of memory deletion to its next logical step – the concept of memory harvesting and transplant.
Bitter Moon (1992)
Director: Roman Polanski
The most enduring part of journey aboard a ship which has intensified over repeat viewings is the achingly memorable and brutally intense love story between Oscar played by Peter Coyote and Mimi hauntingly portrayed by Emmauelle Seigner. How their whirlwind romance turns poisonous, sadistic and how it affects the lives of another and rather British and uptight couple played by Hugh Grant and Kristin Scott Thomas on the ship forms the crux of this erotic thriller from Roman Polanski. I remember a sweeping score, a sweet cameo by Victor Banerjee and reading somewhere that a young student by the name of Christopher Nolan has a soft corner for this film.
Summer of ’42 (1971)
Director: Robert Mulligan
In the legion of May-September romances, there have been a plethora of beauties like Tornatore’s Malena and Kieslowski’s A Short Film About Love. But the first one I lost my ‘Taurean’ heart to was Summer of 42. A story of pure and unadulterated (pun neither intended nor maintained) but sexually curious adolescent love between a teenager and an older woman whose husband has gone off to fight in the Second World War. I still remember the last voiceover and accompanying sadness in my heart, which is delivered by a come-of age Hernie, about the mysterious Dorothy about whom he never came to know what happened after the death of her husband and her fling with her in the tumultuous Summer of 42.
Scent of a Woman (1992)
Director: Martin Brest
Between stunning one liners, comebacks and a potentially life changing final monologue about amputated spirits, Al Pacino as the visually challenged, caustic and cynical Lt Cl Frank Slade puts in such a powerhouse performance that it takes the film to another level. His masterclass in acting combined with his delicious chemistry with the fumbling greenhorn in Chris O Donnell makes it a film for all seasons from which one can actually imbibe life’s lessons. Favourite sequences? The introduction scene, the family dinner, the Ferrari & the cop, attempted suicide and of course, the school hearing at the end.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
Director: Alfonso Cuaron
What happens when the immovable emperor of fantasy franchisee meets the unstoppable vision of a mind who has sculpted classics like Y Tu Mama Tambien, Gravity and Roma? Sheer magic, Hogwarts style. Told in a brooding and grim undertone, ably supported by the cinematography in its frames and colours, Alfonso Cuaron’s interpretation of my favourite Harry Potter book, albeit some understandable deviations, lives every inch up to its layered reputation. And with a segment which lovingly deals with a father-son strand, it got me emotionally hooked, every single time.
The Truman Show (1998)
Director: Peter Weir
A mind bending, jaw-dropping take on scripted reality which could only be pulled off by a mobile maverick like Jim Carrey. Part-scary part-funny and mostly moving, this film follows the life of an insurance agent who one day starts realising that his life is actually a TV show being telecast live, and his family members and friends are paid actors playing parts. The stark visual of the staircase leading to the door at the edge of Truman’s universe is one of the most stunning metaphors I have ever experienced.
Silver Bullet (1985)
Director: Dan Attias
In a list of great and good films, this one is possibly the most modest, but makes the cut by the sheer weight of the terrifying memories it unlocks in me. I saw this werewolf saga at a very young age, in fact, I remember watching it on a VCR. And I remember being terrified by the ironic revelation of the priest being the werewolf and the chilling climax involving a – you guessed it right – a silver bullet!
Chase A Crooked Shadow (1958)
Director: Michael Anderson
Strongly recommended by my Hitchcock-obsessed father, this was possibly my first experience of the typical black and white crime noir. The plot revolves around the mysterious reappearance of the dead brother and how that turns the world of Kimberley Prescott, played by Anne Baxter upside, down. The plot with a startling climax is so elegantly drawn that it has inspired multiple remakes down the years including Shesh Anka with Uttam Kumar in Bengali, Dhuan with Mithun Chakraborty and Khoj with Rishi Kapoor in Hindi and Charithram with Mamootty in Malayalam.
Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron (1983)
Director: Kundan Shah
The word cult is an oft loosely used term but the way it sits with this film is absolutely phenomenal. An incredible ensemble with the who’s who of the NSD and FTII batches behind the Parallel Cinema movement in Hindi films, this film both underlined a fearless storytelling style and the fact that a slapstick comedy can be used to make such scathing socio-political commentary which will survive decades of cinewatching. Apart from the actors like Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri, Pankaj Kapur, Ravi Vaswani, Neena Gupta, the magic potion also had inputs from Vidhu Vinod Chopra and Sudhir Mishra, after whom Kundan Shah named his protagonists.
Director: Ketan Mehta
One of the most overpowering cinematic images which reigns over my adolescent memories is a screaming women charging and covering a moustached Naseeruddin Shah with chilli powder. And as I grew up and watched the film a zillion times, I inevitably get goosebumps and teary eyed watching the resistance and the indomitable will of the women who hold out against the whims of the patriarchal powers. Smita Patil with her smouldering eyes carried the films along with a stunning Deepti Naval in her final act of defiance against Suresh Oberoi. And the old security guard played by Om Puri has to be one of the finest characters ever written. This film, along with Joya Chatterji’s Spoils of Partition, was one of the driving forces behind Rajkahini/Begum Jaan.
Main Azaad Hoon (1989)
Director: Tinnu Anand
Very few language remakes have the distinction of being better than the original. In my view, Main Azaad Hoon not only is better, but overshadows Meet John Doe by light years, not country miles. Amitabh Bachchan’s performance as the redoubtable Azaad who becomes an accidental messiah for the masses, an emblem of a social uprising with subtle nuancing and big heart is unforgettable. Few scenes with stay with me forever – the apple scene, the scene where he is overcome with emotions and can’t address the farmers who have gathered to hear him. And of course his dramatic monologue with the minister Sudheer Pandey which ends with the question “If you can’t give your people a glass of clean drinking water even after 40 years of independence, what else can you give?”
Hazaron Khwahishen Aisi (2003)
Director: Sudhir Mishra
A film which fills the lacuna of genuine and realistic political Hindi films with aplomb. Kay Kay Menon, Chitrangada Singh and Shiney Ahuja spearheaded this brilliant concoction of love, friendship and betrayal with a constantly plot-bending political backdrop of India including the Naxalite movement and the Emergency declared by Indira Gandhi. On a personal note, the relationship between the characters played by Singh and Ahuja and the song Bawra Mann makes it a no brainer for this list – though technically it is a film in English and Hindi both.
Director: Ram Gopal Varma
One house. Three characters. A serial killer on the loose. Scripted by Anurag Kashyap. Directed by Ram Gopal Verma. Performed by Urmila Matondkar, Manoj Bajpayee and Sushant Singh. In a universe of horror/thriller recipes from Tulsi Ramsay, this was suddenly one from Gordon Ramsay. A terrific twist in the tale, some chilling sequences and a climactic childlike humming which I will remember forever, Kaun remains possibly my favourite Hindi thriller. And the mounting? Vintage Ram Gopal Verma at his maverick genius best.
Director: Nitin Kakkar
Scarcely have I seen such a humane film which celebrates films while talking of an incredibly important theme of humanity and brotherhood in the context of cross-border hostilities between India and Pakistan. Much before the altruistic Bajrani Bhaijaan swept the nation off its feet while helping a Pakistani girl go back home, there was this underrated little gem of a film about an assistant director and wannabe hero who gets kidnapped by a terrorist group while shooting with an American crew near the Rajasthan border. Superb cinematography, moving performances and outstanding dialogues makes this a must watch which leaves me with a moist pair of eyes and choked voice everytime I watch it.
Director: Sai Paranjpye
Sai Paranjpye is a firm favourite with me with her heartfelt and uncomplicated storytelling and though her Katha and Chashme Buddoor are equally dear to me, the film which I have most memories of would be Sparsh. An immaculate love story between a visually impaired teacher at a school for the visually impaired and a recently widowed musician, this screenplay is not merely written – it is stitched together delicately in patterns made up of unbelievably sensitive moments. As ‘understandable’ issues between the ‘unevenly matched’ couple emerge, you findself yourself perplexed and yet rooting for their love. Though Shabana Azmi puts in a stupendously nuanced performance, I watch it often to see Naseeruddin Shah who with his eyeball hovering, angry, proud and vulnerable act makes it difficult to believe he is just an actor with normal eyesight and not Anirudh Parmar.
Director: Yash Chopra
Undoubtedly the most popular and far-reaching film on the Hindi list, this is possibly the most iconic representation of the Angry Young Man canon heralded by Amitabh Bachchan. A canon which when I replicated with imaginary villains in my small room at a young age, left stitch marks on my forehead forever. Personally I think Mr Bachchan’s acting prowess was better exhibited when tested against the rampaging restraint of Dillip Kumar in Shakti. However when it comes to impact, the smouldering swivel with the Queen’s necklace in the background to reiterate that he still doesn’t accept what is rightfully his as alms has no peers. The hapless Peter, the idol of Lord Shiva which was finally happy with Vijay’s giving in, the righteous brother who left without his sign but with his mother and generations of cinegoers all bear testimony to that.
Director: Ram Madhvani
Though this film is mostly in English with a small portion in Hindi, I had to keep this as I have lost count of the times I have watched it. The premise is simple. In an upper middle class household, the wife gets impregnated by the interior designer they have hired for their new flat. The wife Radhika, played by Maia Katrak, imagines the possible reactions to that from his husband Nikhil played by Boman Irani, when she breaks the news to him. What follows is an astonishing exposition in characterization and vocal acting and screenplay improvisation as we see nine different Bomans in nine scenarios including the one which actually happens. The first Indian feature film to be shot on digital format, it is austere with one location and two actors mostly, almost more proscenium than film. But it is so real that it is scary.
Director: Mahesh Bhatt
I fell in love with Saaransh when I first watched it with my father as a teenager. And in many ways, unwavering, uncompromising BV Pradhan reminded me of him always. But even apart from emotional connect, what makes Saaransh a very special film for me is that it celebrates the ultimate elixir of life – hope. The way the protagonist copes with his son’s death and the way he along with his wife finds a new meaning to his life while taking up the cudgels on behalf of an actress they have as a paying guest is immensely inspiring. But what is even more cathartic is the philosophy which emerges at the end once even that cause is successfully defended and they become restless again. Anupam Kher playing a 65-year-old at 28 gives his lifetime best performance but equally brilliant, if not more, is the hair raising turn by Rohini Hattangadi as his wife.
La Vita E Bella (1997)
Director: Roberto Benigni
Better known universally as Life is Beautiful, that this could also be one way of looking at possibly the worst human atrocity namely the Holocaust, itself was a revelation. The empathy, the humour, the tenderness and the emotion with which the romantic escapades of a Jewish man in Fascist Italy and latter, his relationship with his son in a concentration camp is handled makes me laugh and cry at the same time. The film straddles the middle path between the realism of a Schnindler’s List or a The Pianist and the absurdist satire of a Jojo Rabbit, and delivers a cinematic experience which can move stones I feel.
Black Cat, White Cat (1998)
Director: Emir Kusturica
Want a madcap ride with bizarre situations with side-splitting results? Black Cat, White Cat is the perfect film for you. This Serbian escapade drama, or probably dark romantic comedy, was my first introduction to the crazy universe of Emir Kusturica and it had me in a daze. The story revolves around how a smuggler manages to land up a huge debt from another gangster, and in order to get it cancelled, forces his teenage son to marry the midget sister of the gangster. What follows is an absolute mayhem involving runaway brides, hidden corpses in attics, giants falling in love, failed heists, gangster chases and finally a happy ending. As sacrilegious as it may sound for serious cinebuffs, I find semblance of the spirit of this film in a number of Priyadarshan films, most notably Hera Pheri and Hungama. And possibly even in Anees Bazmee’s Welcome.
Director: Bhaskar Hazarika
Mind-numbing, heart-wrenching, spine-chilling. This film takes you to a psychological space where cinema, in any language, seldom takes you. There are films that you watch and consume, this film first watches you and then consumes you, sinew by sinew, tissue by tissue, fibre by fibre. With its metaphors, its simplicity, its incision with a surgeon-like precision. If the taste or flavour of a film can be likened to meat, this film would be as impossible to achieve as probably unicorn steak. But Bhaskar Hazarika conjures it up easily with moments which make you wince and pine, squeal and love at the same time. And delivers a film, both rare and very well-done.
Belle De Jour (1967)
Director: Luis Bunuel
Though my introduction to Bunuel was The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeosie in its magnificent surrealism and flabbergasting dream sequences, the film of his which was most impactful for me is undoubtedly Belle De Jour. Literally meaning Lady of the day, it stars a ravishing, drop dead gorgeous, a setting-hearts-aflutter Catherine Deneuve as Severine, a beautiful and lonely housewife who can’t enjoy physical proximity with her husband and leads a double life as a prostitute. This leads to a series of misadventures and the advent of an obsessed lover hurtles the film towards a tragic end. This film, along with Last Tango in Paris, remains one of the most beautifully erotic films I have seen, with sequences which are intensely sensual without being risqué.
Director: Gaspar Noe
Sometimes not only the content but the form is so innovative, the storytelling style is so thought provoking, that it leaves a mark on you forever. Such is the case with Irreversible. As the name ironically suggests, the film underlines the fatalistic inevitably of destiny which can’t be undone through a series of sequences which chronologically is reverse in the perfect sequence. So it starts with the latest sequence in time and rolls back to the first sequence. And we see in sequential flashbacks how a perfect day for a couple ends up in a horrific manner with the woman played by Monica Belucci being raped in a blood hued subway in one of the most graphic, elongated and bonechilling rape and attempted murder scanerios in cinema. This film left me quite numb with its treatment and eventual denouement of the theme.
Director: Jafar Panahi
When the Government of Iran banned Jafar Panahi from making a film for 20 years in 2010, little did they know he will continue to do so in secrecy like in This Is Not a Film. But he takes guerilla shooting techniques to a different level altogether with Taxi. The film blew me away with not only what it achieves despite the obvious constraints, but also the fact that five minutes into the film, it makes you forget about the constraints with the mastery of the narrative aided with realism. Indeed the odd framing, the static camera, the real soundscape as Jafar Panahi himself poses as a share taxi driver and drives around Tehran highlighting social challenges in an episodic manner, makes this the purest form of cinema for me. There is minimal camera movement underlining things, minimal scripted lines, manipulating emotions – this is life captured with its fascinating subplots at its most unorchestrated self, with non-professional actors playing passengers.
Director: Jafar Panahi
As a cricket buff, how I wish the backdrop of this film could have been cricket instead of football. But the global phenomenon, the universal language of sports as expressed in football made it the obvious choice. And in any case, sports just forms one layer in the second Jafar Panahi film on this list. Offside is really a film about social reality and emancipation of women in a society like Iran where it is illegal for women to attend a men’s football game. And how a girl in disguise of a boy attempts to watch the 2006 World Cup qualifier between Iran and Bahrain. An intriguing set of events later, which are ironic, funny, sad and heartwarming at the same time, the film draws to an unusual and calm end. And I fall in love with it every single time I watch it.
Cinema Paradiso (1988)
Director: Giuseppe Tornatore
I still look at cinema as a piece of magic which unfolds in front of a teenager me with PC Sorkar in full flow in Mahajati Sadan, an auditorium in Kolkata. A long dissolve, a simple match cut, a imperceptible tracking shot – these are nothing short of small but bewitching spells for me which recreate an alternate universe in a twinkling of the eye. And possibly this childlike awe for the medium I have after making 17 films resonates with the gaping mouth of Salvatore, the young protagonist of the film, as his projectionist friend Alfredo takes him through the rabbit and the hat. This moving tale of friendship in war-torn Sicily with a memorable climax, is possibly the greatest celebration of love for cinema I have seen, along with films like The Artist and Cinemawallah.
Goodbye, Lenin (2003)
Director: Wolfgang Becker
The alternate universe/scripted reality trope in narratives is a favourite of mine as is evident from this list. And possibly the most politically potent and touchingly human in the canon would be Goodbye, Lenin. Set in a delightful tone which swings between the poignant and the hilarious, it charters the life of a son who has to make sure her mother who was in a coma when the Berlin Wall fell, gets convinced that communism still reigns in Germany. From setting up fake news broadcasts, to insulating her from any information which could break the news that capitalism has taken over the country of her ideals, it is an exciting ride filled with love and empathy wrapped in political commentary. Truly surreal, and very nice.
Director: Mani Ratnam
Of all the myriad films The Godfather has inspired in languages all over the world, Mani Ratnam’s Nayakan remains the closest to my heart. Apparently based on a real life person, Kamal Hasan’s powerful and layered portrayal of Velu Naicker, Mani Ratnam’s pitch perfect direction and writing and Illayaraja’s dulcet score makes this a sentimental favourite for me. I first saw Nayakan as a child on the 1:30 pm slot for award winning regional films on Doordarshan and I remember crying profusely when Tinnu Anand shoots Kamala Hasan down at the end. As I grew up, that sequence remained as heart-wrenching as ever, but I developed new favourites as well. And topping that list is the sequence where Velu senses doom as he walks towards the open courtyard to deal with the death of his son and then what follows. And a close second would be the moment he shares with his grandson outside the court where he asks him whether he is good man or bad man, and Velu admits that he doesn’t know.