Al vs All

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From the debut part in 'Me, Natalie' to the upcoming 'Trial of Axis Sally', his film career has been a whirlwind, as wayward as his life: of a troubled 'Bronx' childhood, deserting father, depressed mother, street gang patronage, and a host of desperate ways of earning money - from shoe shining to moving furniture. 

Thanks to the 'Panic in Needle Park', Francis Ford Coppola discovered him for the world's benefit, fighting Paramount Pictures and Mario Puzo who were dead against casting a nobody resorting to ad-lib to play Marlon Brando's youngest son in 'The Godfather', a pivotal character with maximum screen footage. The rest is a lot of history, geography and civics. 

We are not lucky enough to witness his theater performances like  'Hello, Out There',  'Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie?', 'Richard III', 'Merchant of Venice', or 'Salome.' 

However, we do have an equally engaging option of watching his films all over again. 

His 'Micheal Corleone' is of course part of folklore, but he is unforgettable in most parts, save for a few trashy flicks where the shoddy material mars his sincerity, which hence appears gaudy. And we are not referring to "Godfather III" which was not as bad as the media would like us to believe.

It is so easy to excuse this short man of tall stature for all his temperamental liberties. 

All you need is pull back your chair without fastening the seat belt, such that you can feel the length and breadth of the character's screen turbulence:

Just picture Sonny's stunned expression in the concluding frame of 'Dog Day Afternoon', astutely set against the ruthless aerodrome noise.

Or you could recall the lovable Cuban Tony Montana in any scene of 'Scarface' - whatever the choice, the effect will be the same! Tony makes us believe in all the nonsense he believes in. There's no visible effort - either his or ours. 

You could rekindle the memories of the whistleblower cop Frank 'Serpico' who famously remarked - "I am retarded - I mean I am retired." 

or why not relive Arthur's heartrending wail from 'And Justice for All' - I can't appeal it, he's dead! he's dead! Half hour after they put him in the lockup, he hanged himself!"

There is an easier way out - you could simply exclaim "Hooha" with all your might.

He is not your everyday method actor; he makes method and madness delightfully synonymous. Precisely why his talent doesn't need the validation of Academy Awards, nor the showy endorsement of a blatantly exhibitionist media. 

At 81, he wants to play Pablo Picasso. Hollywood tycoons - Alfredo James Pacino deserves this treat as one of his swansongs. Just that he shouldn't be allowed to stop at Picasso. Let him say - "Just when I thought I was out ...they pull me back in."


'अशा पद्धतीने' and 'त्या ठिकाणी'

Indian talk show hosts love mindless debates on all issues.The Marathi Electronic media is replete with senseless "breaking news" reportage where two-penny anchors (read poor actors) are keen, nay desperate, to turn celebrities overnight, with their nonsensical sermons that invariably begin and end with 'अशा पद्धतीने' and 'त्या ठिकाणी' 
I couldn't believe my eyes and ears when one hostess pompously exclaimed in third person:
"मला लोकं विचारतात - ज्ञानदा, सांग ना, आम्ही काय काळजी घ्यायची कोरोना साठी - मी म्हणते, ज्ञानदा तुम्हाला काय सांगणार - ती हेच म्हणेल - सोशल डिस्टंसिन्ग ठेवा, घराबाहेर पडू नका, काळजी घ्या "

All the other channels have less scary versions of  ज्ञानदा in both genders.

God save this country, both from Covid and Covid journos. 

Statutory warning: there are no drugs or vaccines to counter the machinations and mutations of the latter category. 

Masters and Disciples

I met Sumitra Bhave at Dr. Kashinath Ghanekar Auditorium in Thane at the behest of Dr. Mohan Agashe. It was the screening of her film 'Astu', a film that lacks the Bhave touch we have learnt to take for granted. (More about it here: Elephant in the room)

Post the screening, we had a great time recounting the magic of her epic 'Vastupurush'. She seemed weary from age, but her enthusiasm, like most of her films, knew no bounds. Her creative partner Sunil Sukhtankar was discernibly guarded - typical of this tribe - but she seemed free of any baggage, as also claims of being a master filmmaker that she indeed was. Wish I had the opportunity to meet her again but that never happened. Her demise has deprived the pesticide-rich Marathi soil of a rare artist who could create a magic potion of art and activism with rare aplomb.   

The other day, I was overjoyed to catch the soulful timbre of her voice - ironically born out of a voice impediment - in 'Court' fame Chaitanya Tamhane's 'Disciple', a whimsical take on a delightfully introspective theme that refuses to take off (and deserves a court-martial)

Going by the rich accolades and the litany of over-obliging reviews, his film will indeed travel the world over; he is already a merchant of Venice, courtesy the 2020 competition entry. Yet, the gloss of his product can't condone the lackadaisical and lazy effort, basking in the glory of its maker's offbeat stature. The film had so much to go for it - a competent singer-actor (hard to find), a purposeful spoof on the reality TV template organically etched to the protagonist's tale of all trials and no triumphs, and a few enduring frames of everyday conversations that convey more than the gaudy moments that Tamhane chooses to underline with hubristic authority.    

On the face of it, Tamhane narrates the melancholic saga of a classical vocalist but ends up employing the pet motifs of the pseudo avant-garde arsenal to no avail: 'item numbers' rooted in mindless shock value that inevitably disturb the algebra and geometry of the theme. To convey the sexual frustration born out of clumsy infatuation, given all time and attention devoted to a cultivated loyalty to his Guru, the protagonist is made to masturbate on what seems like a staple diet of porn, with not one but two frames devoted to the solo sport. And for a guy who is definitively reticent and inward-looking, emptying his glass of lime juice on a caustic music critic in true-blue Bollywood style looks ridiculously out of place. And then, we also have the over-chewed concluding frame of a beggar rendering a folk tune in a moving train which many reviewers can't stop raving about  - (breathtakingly compelling, delightfully open-ended, surreally immersive, poignantly meditative et al)

Thankfully, Bhave's voice-over is a redeeming feature of this over-indulgent movie. If Tamhane truly cares for the given subject matter, we would urge him to make a biopic on the maverick Kumar Gandharva who exposed musical purists and modernists in the same breath, as also the high and mighty experts who make a living speaking and writing about music. Rich cinematic material there, befitting Tamhane's intrinsic talent, and a beckon of inspiration for aspirants who wish to walk the path that 'Disciple' claims to tread.