For those of us, stuck behind laptop screens, mobile phones, textbooks, and parental expectations, climbing uphill through life while carrying the boulder of monotony on our shoulders, escapism from our otherwise morbid reality plagued with the virus, can come in many forms. When we click on a new release on Netflix or go to a theatre to watch the new Marvel movie (where no one really follows the covid restrictions), we teleport into a world as good as any other- the world of cinema.
Freedom may not always look like empty roads and being awash with a gripping (but satiating) sense of solitude, sometimes freedom is what we choose to express through a medium- body, art, or through language. At the junction of visual story-telling, performance art, literature, music, and poetry, lies the very multi-tiered and rich medium of cinema. A medium that harnesses the ability to do just about anything, transcending the restrictive genres of other forms of story-telling. The history of film cannot be attributed to a single person, filmmaker, or inventor, as discourses on film history often make it out to be. What started as an invention of the machine that captured moving images led to a series of trial and error, one inventor’s progress only served as the stepping crutch for others, and soon motion pictures became a popular mode of entertainment. But way before the birth of cinema, these stories that we now witness as cinema, were all around us- hidden in plain sight. Birds flying over the horizon is cinema and a child walking on a busy street holding his mother’s dupatta is cinema. A dog stretching lazily under the afternoon sun is cinema and a lover’s squabble is cinema. Conflict is cinema and peace (or the lack of it) is cinema. All in all, a philosophy that drives us to find stories amongst the routine mediocrity is cinema. Everything is cinema.
As February marks the advent of Global Cinema Week, we took it upon ourselves to curate a list of films that bent the very essence of film-making and transformed cinema and the world, for the better. Here you will find a small archive of fresh and old films that are guaranteed to make you ponder about the world of films, irrespective of personal inclinations or not.
Persona (1996): To try and do justice to the ever-elusive “Persona” is as if a poet is trying to overcome a primordial writing block- words do not conquer or even rightly comprehend the complexity of the film. “Persona” is a film that is self-aware of its existence as a piece of art- the opening sequence implies that “Persona” begins at the beginning, with the invention of cinema and towards the end, there is a shot of the camera crew itself, with the director (Bergman) and the cinematographer (Nykvist) tending to a camera mounted on a crane- depicting the creators at work, but through Persona’s cinematic universe- pointing to the symbiotic relationship of the creators and their creation. In the core of the film lies a theatre actress who stops speaking and is tended to, by a nurse who looks a little bit like her, but zoom out, and Persona is an eerie, and almost haunting reverie that has its own narrative momentum- with the film breaking its character, and lapsing back to its original form. Persona will take the spectator on an almost fever dream-like ride that will venture into the potent themes of duality, personal identity, and a tier of other subliminal themes that is best enjoyed (and comprehended) from a spectatorial seat.
Pather Panchali (1955): The advent of Parallel Cinema in India has vividly distinct markers- from the shift in mainstream commercial gimmicks that reigned prior to the movement, to the rapt and keen focus on socio-political issues, naturalism borrowed from the Italian Neo-Realism movement, and the stark consciousness that this era’s films depicted. The films of this era are as illustrious as their creators and Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali, although his debut film, is one of the flag bearers. Often credited with “putting India on the map” with this film, this film is a shining example of film adaption done right- Ray’s world. Although the film is black and white, it is anything but bland- it draws you in deliberately, through its characters- a struggling family trying to make the most out of the cards dealt with them by life and it is through the siblings in the film- Apu and Durga that we experience the simple joys of life. By the time the film even builds and whistles to its climax, the stunning homage to the rural slice of West Bengal is enough to steal your breath away.
Chungking Express (1994): Entering Wong Kar-wai’s Chungking Express is as if entering every cinema lover’s daydream- lovingly wrapped in an eclectic choice of music, cinematography that has an almost fluorescent tinge and the brooding, eccentric, doe-eyed characters of the story- all tied together with the universal hunger to love and be loved- Kar-wai possesses the ability to mesmerize even the most hardened cynics with his hypnotic and modern-day noir romance love story, one where potential love interests break into your apartment and where you meet mysterious women adorned in beige cloaks and blonde wigs. Chunking Express is a film that reeks of universality, the hit and misses of love, and the subsequent personal journeys that an individual embarks upon as a result of it. Kar-wai’s cinema is a flavourful assortment of the sweetest and almost peculiar cinematic desserts, offering us just enough insight into the Hong Kong New Wave while still being elusive.
The Mirror ( Zerkalo, 1975): Traditional narratives are boring, once said the great artist Andrei Tarkovsky, perhaps not in so many words but through the films he made. Challenging conventions are usually the result of an unconventional mind, to say the least, and Tarkovsky does just that with The Mirror- a film that mimics a person’s inner life, the experiences that we live inside our minds, our emotions, and our dreams. The film is a surrealist collage- a mimicry of consciousness. A poetic and philosophical motion discourse on the complexity of the human mind and the duality of the lives we live- the one on the outside and the one within. Tarkovsky pushed the borders of filmmaking with his works and for that, he wins the collective adoration of cinephiles all around the world.
The House (2022): Tying a narrative with a recurring motif is a tool in story-telling almost as old as the craft itself, and it is not very difficult to guess which token is the recurring one in this unsettling, fever-dream like stop motion anthology. One of the fresh releases of the year, the film follows three stories tied by a house that has The Shining-like effect on its various occupants. A first glance would tell a different story- anthropomorphized animals, endearing hand-woven puppets, and very expressive voice acting but nothing about the film is conventional- not the satires it pokes fun at, nor the strange plotlines nor the crazed protagonists of the stories.
Breathless(1960): Goddard is credited with morphing and changing the nature of cinema, and rightfully so. Goddard’s cinematic language is fluid- fostering the ability to shift genres and realities. Probably the most influential film after “Citizen Kane”, Jean Luc-Goddard’s “Breathless” brought a whole new wave in the cinema sphere. It introduced the lucid structure of films, the famous jump cut and its ever rebellious texture, disregarding all the traditions of a good, “well-made” film. The farthest thing away from a cliche, Breathless remains one of the hallmarks of the history cinema.
What is that film which left an impression on you and why?
In 1994 ‘The Lion King’ was released. At that time, I was not even born. Yet, it was so astonishing to watch the film. It felt like a whole new world had unravelled in front of me. As I watched the animals talk, for the first time!! My doe eyes were in complete awe.
Even though I was just five, the excitement I felt was hard to contain. This movie had christened me for the second time as Simba, became my name, for my loved ones call me that till this day. The movie was undoubtedly not devoid of any lessons, as it taught me, Hakuna Matata!!! have a cheerful and playful life as Timon and Pumbaa. Be as brave as Mufasa and Simba, but also caring as Nala and Sarabi. That’s what the precept of this movie is.
-Yuvika Malhotra, 15, St Andrews School, Bowenpally, Secunderabad.
The legendary Harry Potter, in all his spectacled glory, left an impact upon us all. My nerdy heart was flabbergasted by the way magic was moulded into something so tranquil and mighty. The series has altered my manner of thinking about resilience; friendship; courage. It’s always a nostalgic juncture when I watch the movies; I cherish each scene because it’s so much more than a flick for me-it’s euphoria for two hours.
To this date, Harry Potter is my companion; Hermione Granger is my inspiration and Ron Weasley is my guide on how to unwind when time hurls tumults.
-Pritika Bhatt, 13, The Millennium School, Noida.
One of my favourite movies that is linked to some beautiful memories is ‘Frozen’. The beautiful young princess who had superpowers left me open-mouthed. It was the first movie I saw in my school with my friends when I was 7, and also it was the first animated English movie that I had ever seen in my life. Having never seen a snowman that talks and is in a shape different than the typical 3 spheres stalked gentle stranger with a top hat and a scarf, I was super excited. This will always remain a special movie to me and remind me of my beautiful days. “The fears that once controlled me can’t get to me at all” are some of the beautiful words from the song “Let It Go” in the movie. This movie made me realize that even the coldest people have a beautiful heart that usually goes unnoticed.
-B.Swetha, 15, Narayana Olympiad School, Chennai.
‘Uma’, released in 2018, perhaps, is one of the terrific movies I have ever seen. A true story of human courage and bonding, ‘Uma’ had brought tears to my eyes. Every movie does not have the power to bring out exactly that emotion in you that it wishes to deliver- it takes a lot of work and fine tuning. The movie entails the story of Uma, a terminally ill girl barely having some months to live, who wants to experience the greatest Bengali festival, ‘Durga Puja’. Her father takes up the unthinkable and nearly-impossible job of painting the entire city of Kolkata with the emotions and decorations of the festival in April. I would be always looking forward to watching it once again.
-Rehan Sheikh, 13, South Point High School, Kolkata.
It was 8 years back when I was six that I watched ‘Chillar Party’ with my family and I’m astonished that to date, I ought to wonder at the impact it has left on me. I have grown up watching this film. I marvel at all the subtle and sensitive topics it covers in its unique way. The joyous bond of friendship, bravery, love, affection woven by little hands, who happen to be the protagonists; devoid of toxic prudence and carrier of strong and divine determination. Further, the movie has not just made me love all the animals around me but has also taught me to care and work for them. There is no denying that this masterpiece must have touched millions and I’m glad to be one among them all.
-Aryagni Panda, 14, St. Joseph’s Girls’ High School, Cuttack.
One of the finest book-to-movie adaptations that I’ve ever seen, ‘Wonder’ has hugely impacted me. I watched this for a late-night binge session with my Mom about 4 years ago. Originally written as a book by R.J.Palacio, the movie beautifully deals with bullying, body insecurity, peer pressure, and the daunting experience of being different. Based around Auggie- a facially deformed child- Wonder has taught me to respect everyone, irrespective of their outward appearance, and to never be afraid to stand out. As Palacio put it, “You can’t blend in when you were born to stand out.”
-Trisha Rath, 14, Loyola School, Bhubaneswar.
Eating while sitting glued in front of the TV has always been a childhood habit. But one very endearing memory of ‘Bhootnath’ always playing in the background every Sunday is something I am very fond of. As a child, I don’t even remember why I loved that movie so much. The childlike innocence, the magic or the fun. I screamed every time Banku got scared and laughed every time Bhootnath was mocked. I had a CD at that time that was gifted to me by my maternal uncles because that movie was the only thing that would keep me from crying for my mom. I will never forget how this movie introduced me to the world of magic and cinema.
-Sejal Agarwal,16, Hiranandani Foundation School, Mumbai.
The year 2007 was when I was just 6. I had just started going to school but never enjoyed learning the alphabet as much as watching them visually. I watched ‘Taare Zameen Par’ with my parents and I was convinced by Amir Khan, as Ramshankar Nikumbh in the movie, that not everything in education needs to be on pen and paper and rather, education can be imparted through any manner if one is in the hands of the right teacher.
-Sohini Banerjee, 20, St. Xavier’s University, Kolkata.
‘Border’, a film released on 13 June 1997 portrays a beautiful story of a band of 120 Indian soldiers in the Longewala region defending the post all night. Even in the background of firings and bombardments, the only thing their heart whispered was ‘Bande Mataram’ the symphony that makes all Indian’s chests pound. I watched this movie in 2015 with my little friend who was comfortably seated inside my mother’s huge warm stomach. Although I have no idea how warm it felt when I was inside, I still remember the little movements he made while watching the movie. This movie will always remind me of the little one we waited for nine months to see, and we did see him/her, but he came swaddled in a white blanket like the soldiers that return home wrapped in tricolour flag. My little friend will always remain a warrior to me, he fought all alone inside like all the 120 brave hearts who showed their dauntless bravery to protect our nation.
-Prativa Sautya, 14, Pratt Memorial School, Kolkata.
It was 2011, I was in 2nd grade and my sister was preparing to leave out of station for her higher studies. So, she decided to watch, ‘Bridge to Terabithia’ together with me before she leaves the next morning. I do not know why she decided to watch it but I know that there was a strange feeling about it. The magical world, the water flowing and the rope above it. The strangely strong bond between Leslie and Jesse and little May, who I associated with myself after my sister was gone.
I saw death for the first time and I was terrified, not because I was denying death but because, sometimes death leaves behind so many questions unanswered, and maybe I was afraid of that. I was terrified of the fact that Jesse will never have his answers, and for that one last question, did Leslie have the answers or did she not?
-Keshab Satpathy, 18, Loyola School, Bhubaneswar
One of my favourite movies to this day is this beautiful classic fairy tale. I was in 3rd grade when I first watched it and it was the most wonderful experience I have ever had. I still vividly remember that day, I was pretty excited, to say the least. I was always the one to like a good fairy tale. Little did I know back then how this movie would impact my life. It was so magical, the beautiful animation along with the wonderful love story. I can still feel the happiness from the moment I saw Cinderella and Prince Charming dancing, the music so rhythmic as they danced their night away. This has forever set in me an example of a wonderful love story, many movies about love have come and gone but my heart still belongs to this one.
-Bhumika Shankar, 13, Jaigopal Garodia Rashtrotthana Vidya Kendra, Bengaluru.
I love the movie ‘Zootropolis’. I watched it with my family in 2016, and it was a memorable experience. The movie has the right mix of humor, suspense, creativity, and an important lesson. It proved that “A cute rabbit could be part of the police force and a fox doesn’t have to be sly.” The deeper meaning of that being; prejudices are pointless. We need to remember that we have no limits and should forget about stereotypes to unlock our true potential. The movie truly showed that “Anyone can be anything”.
-Sanya Jain, 14, St. Andrews School, Bowenpally, Hyderabad.
When I was in 2nd grade, my sister suggested this movie to me. I always thought one could never love without communicating but, after seeing Barfi’s silence win over words, I began to question my beliefs.
Barfi has made me laugh till my eyes teared up without uttering a single word and at the same time has made me sob till all my tears dried out. After watching this movie, I wish people didn’t care about anything and just loved it. Thank you, Barfi, for giving us the courage to just love without expecting anything in return, for giving us a new reality to relationships.
-Jaiti Ghosh, 17, Shri Shikshayatan School, Kolkata.
‘The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas’, based on the realistic fictional novel by John Boyne, is set in Auschwitz, during the Holocaust, and is the story of Bruno, a Nazi Officer’s son; and how he makes friends with a Jewish boy, called Shmuel, who lives in a concentration camp. It shows how Bruno and Shmuel build a strong friendship despite their differences, and how Bruno even sneaks into the concentration camp, to be with Shmuel. In my opinion, it’s one of the most heartbreaking movies ever made. It beautifully portrays the innocence/purity with which Bruno perceives his surroundings, which are filled with war, hatred; and meaningless discriminations.
-Naisha Mishra, 13, SAI International School, Bhubaneswar.
I fondly recall the night I went to watch this movie with my best friend. She wanted to spend quality time with me after she found out I’d be moving away in a few months. Based on Rudyard Kipling’s 1894 book, ‘The Jungle Book’ intrigued both of us. It was about a young boy; Mowgli, who was raised by a family of wolves in the jungle, and is thus called a ‘man-cub’. He is forced to leave his only known home when the tiger; Sher Khan, threatens him. He goes on to become best friends with a panther and a bear, this movie has the perfect mix of fear, friendship, and love. It catches the attention of all ages, gets them hooked, and leaves a mark in their life forever.
-Saanvi Patra, 13, CHIREC International School, Hyderabad.
I was just two years old when ‘3 idiots’ was released, thus, I did not understand a word when I watched it for the first time in the theatres. Later when I was 8, I watched it again with my sister on a Sunday afternoon when it was playing on TV while we were having our lunch. I am not exaggerating but it was almost impossible for me to even blink, as I thought I’ll miss something if I do so. This movie made me realize that doing something we love is very important in life since we get to live only once. This particular movie has the power to make me laugh till my stomach aches and on the contrary, it can even make me cry till my blankets are all wet with tears. To this date, ‘3 Idiots’ remains one of my favorite Bollywood movies ever.
-Sangna Chatterjee, 14, St.Teresa’s Secondary School, Kolkata.
Watching ‘Endgame’ in the theatre for the first time will always be a fond memory of mine. The excitement in the theatre was palpable as we all impatiently waited for the show to begin. Getting to watch endgame with my sister and uncle made everything better, as they too shared my love for superhero movies. We laughed, shared theories, and cheered with everyone else during the battle scenes. The movie objectively has no great plot or complex writing. Yet, my interest and the people I watched it with made everything seem wonderful.
-Priyangha Muthukumaran, 16, La Chatelaine Junior College, Chennai.
The movie ‘Shrek’ broke all the norms for a fairytale that I had set in my head. When I was seven, I couldn’t quite fathom the thought of an ogre, with a donkey sidekick, saving and marrying a young and beautiful princess. Now looking back, it was quite shallow of me to think so. I hated the movie with a passion when the movie ended with the princess choosing to be an ogre over her human self. I did change my opinion and started rooting for them as I grew. Love isn’t knee-deep is what the movie taught me.
-Charita Vinod Kumar Suvarna, 17, Kendriya Vidyalaya Hebbal, Bengaluru
I remember watching the film ‘Matilda’ years ago with my family, and I remember being amazed by it. The sheer imagination of the author Roald Dahl, whose book the film was based on, was mind-blowing to me. Although the film had no shortage of comedy, it also portrayed the morals of different characters, for instance, Miss Honey is shown to be a kind and encouraging teacher who continues to spread happiness even after the tragic things that have happened to her. It impacted me in a whole new way, I began to be even more grateful for my parents and siblings. I expressed gratitude for the fact that my parents sent me to one of the best schools every day, made home-cooked meals, bought me anything I wanted, and also always made time for me. The film showed me how to be more grateful, even if I didn’t have magic powers!
-Ananya Singhal, 14, The Orchid School, Baner, Pune.
Based on the incredible mythological adventure novels by writer Rick Riordan, ‘The Percy Jackson’ movie series hit close to home. Being an avid lover of Greek Mythology, I had an incredible time watching the two movies which were rife with incredible adventure. The cast did a magnificent job portraying their respective characters in such a way that it made the movie just come to life! It gave me a new perspective and sparked a lifelong interest in Greek mythology as well as ignited a thrill for adventure and writing such stories of my own! I would recommend this series one hundred percent because it is one of a kind and a movie of a lifetime!
-Rhea Subash, 16, Holy Child Auxilium School, Pune.
Four years back when I watched the film ‘Taare Zameen Par’, it left an indelible mark in my melodramatic heart. The film is the directorial debut of Amir Khan and was released in 2007. It was about a dyslexic boy Ishaan, who had a unique ardour for drawing (just like me) but was sent to a boarding school as a punishment for his weakness in studies. All the characters performed excellently in the movie. In the scene where Ishaan wins the drawing competition and comes reluctantly to receive the prize and the song with the lyrics, “Tujhe sab hai pata hai na, Maa”, plays, I wager even the most unemotional person might cry on seeing the climax. Presented in a simple yet straightforward manner, it’s one of the best movies I’ve ever seen.
-Sneha Ghosh, 15, New Stewart School, Cuttack.
Author’s Profile: “Akankshya is another twenty-something-year-old aspiring writer that is too listless (at the moment) to write their own author’s profile. Here are a few lines that they read recently and resonate with, instead:
“All things become frivolous and survivalist under capitalism: Love and community and food and culture. Why should art be any different? What art do I make that resists the machine of money? What art is worth making in these dying times?”