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Reviews of Ikiru, Se7en, Lahore

Personal Recommendation

Ikiru (1952)

Language: Japanese

Director: Akira Kurosawa

Cast: Takashi Shimura, Miki Odagiri

Chronologically, Ikiru falls right in between Kurosawa's two masterpieces, Roshomon and Seven Samurai, which are often described as his best. Thematically and technically Ikiru, which is often overlooked, is at par - if not above - his two classics. On the surface it is the story of a dying bureaucrat exploring ways to come to terms with his unfulfilled life and death. But the meaning of the protagonist, Kanji Watanabe's actions, played brilliantly by Takashi Shimura, keeps shifting and becomes more profound with every scene. The very first shot of the movie is of an X-ray which tells us that Watanabe will die of cancer very soon. At midway point, the narrator tells us that Watanabe is no more. Kurosawa smartly splits the movie into two extreme halves. The first half shows the dying man's attempt to come to terms with his misery, his regret of wasting his life and his fear of dying alone. The second shows his solution and the triumph of what an individual can achieve in life even if he has only six months left. The former shows Watanabe's last days in chronological order;the latter, shows what he achieved, through the eyes of his friends and acquaintances now gathered for his wake. The first half shows the body, the second shows us the soul. At 143 minutes, the movie might be long, but it never drags. The events leading up to the climax may be about life's mundane, dreary routine, but the overall effect is uplifting. Ikiru is the story about a man dying, but it really is about living. Ikiru in English means “to live”.

Worldly Wise

Se7en (1995)

Language: English

Director: David Fincher

Cast: Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt and Gwyneth Paltrow

Se7en remains a cult classic, but missed the boat for posterity because it was too stylish. And too grim. Many a time, an overly stylised narration is overlooked for awards and high critical acclaim because it overshadows the content. But Se7en straddles both style and content perfectly. David Fincher holds nothing back in showing the disfigured and grotesque corpses. Your stomach will churn, not so much in the scenes with graphic details but in those where cruel and gruesome deeds are implied. Two detectives, one old, the other young, one about to hang his boots, the other a greenhorn, are on the trail of 'John Doe', the dreaded deranged killer whose modus operandi is to kill seven people based on the seven deadly sins - gluttony, greed, lust, sloth, pride, envy and wrath. Five bodies are discovered, each leaving a clue behind, the remaining two end the movie on an unpredictable climatic crescendo. The noir, brooding indoors and rain-driven outdoors, gives a constant gloomy feel to the movie. The two principle characters, too, do not believe in much cheer and humour. This makes the movie edgy and gritty, striving for light, but always one step behind, figuratively and literally. The knock-out punch, however, is delivered in the form of the killer's identity. Not as much as in its character but the actor who plays the role. He steals the thunder from Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman and Gwyneth Paltrow in just the last 15 minutes.

Oscar Winner

Lahore (2010)

Language: Hindi

Director: Sanjay Puran Singh

Cast: Aanaahad, Farouqe Shaikh, Sushant Singh, Mukesh Rishi

Debutante director Sanjay Puran Singh has managed to seamlessly weave Indo-Pak's hottest cross border issues - sports and politics, as well as politics in sports - while trying to walk the line in no man's land. Lahore, India's first ever film on kickboxing, packs a punch technically too;with some kickass action sequences by action director Tony Chin Siu Tung. The kickboxing sequences in particular are outstanding. Cinematographer Neelabh Kaul lends finesse to locations, backed brilliantly by Wayne Sharpe's background score. The story about two brothers and two countries, despite the predictable plot, has what it takes to sit through the length. An international kickboxing championship gets fatal when Indian champ Dheerendra Singh (Sushant) is killed by his Pakistani opponent (Mukesh Rishi). Brother Veeru (Aanaahad), a cricketer, switches to kickboxing to avenge the lost life and title. Trained by coach Farouque Shaikh (whose spontaneous charm and subtle, yet strong, drama make you forget that he does not have any trait of a kickboxer), Veeru makes it to the next international match, against the very same opponent, in Lahore and must show sporting spirit. Ashish Vidhyarthi, Shradhha Das and Shradhha Nigam do well in the little that is asked of them. It's the action sequences by the lords of the kickboxing ring, however, that are truly worth the trip to Lahore.

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