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Personal Recommendation

Kanchanjangha (1962)

Director: Satyajit Ray

Language: Bengali

Cast: Chhabi Biswas, Karuna Banerjee, Pahari Sanyal, Alaknanda Roy

In a career that spanned over three and half decades, Satyajit Ray directed 37 films. Of them, at least half a dozen can easily find a place among the finest moving pictures ever made. For many, Kanchanjangha is unlikely to be on that list. But as Ray himself pointed out once, the movie was perhaps ahead of its time, especially in its fluid narrative structure and the themes it was weaved around.

Ray's first colour flick is about an upper-class family from Kolkata holidaying in Darjeeling. As the various family members walk the lazy, winding roads of Bengal's hill town, their lives and its preoccupations unspool: the young girl must decide if she should marry the successful but rather overbearing suitor, the gambling husband and his unfaithful wife must decide whether they want to stay together or go separate ways, the young unemployed man must choose between babudom or freedom. These are not easy choices to make. And Kanchanjangha isn't an easy story to tell.

But Ray is a master of nuances and he treats every character with sympathy and dignity. And by the time, we near the end, we know life is not black and white but grey and every other shade we wish it to be. And we begin to appreciate the brotherin-law who spends the afternoon looking for an elusive bird. He is not an escapist;rather the 'other' in all of us.

Worldly Wise

The Untouchables (1987)

Director: Brian De Palma

Language: English

Cast: Kevin Costner, Sean Connery, Andy Garcia, Robert De Niro

The 1930s. In Chicago, it is the time of prohibition and the time of green beer, Canadian whiskey and Al Capone, who rules the million-dollar bootlegging empire. In this idyllic world enters Elliot Ness (Kevin Costner), an earnest and intense federal treasure officer determined to clean up the mess. And when he creates a team of untouchables, a band of bold and incorruptible officers - an ageing policeman aiming for a last shot at redemption, a sharpshooting rookie cop with an attitude and an accountant with a penchant for digging out income tax fraud - sparks inevitably fly. So do bullet-ridden bodies.

What makes The Untouchables rise above the muck of a regular gangster flick is director Brian De Palma's control over the craft. The shoot-out at the railway station may have been modelled on the lines of Battleship Potemkin's iconic Odessa Steps sequence but it is equally gripping and nerve-jangling. Other scenes such as the gunbattle at the US-Canada border, the killing of Malone (an Oscarwinning role for Sean Connery) and the fight between Ness and the hitman on the courthouse rooftop are good cinema. What really stays in memory is the scene where Capone makes a charming speech, then bludgeons one of his colleagues with a baseball bat. De Niro, who has only seven-and-a-half minutes in the entire film, delivers the part with charm and savagery. The Untouchables is unmissable.

Out On DVD

Bees Saal Baad (1962)

Director: Biren Naug

Language: Hindi

Cast: Biswajit, Waheeda Rehman, Madan Puri, Asit Sen, Manmohan Krishna

Surrounded by wild grass taller than him, a zamindar is walking through a swampland. It's a clear night and he has a gun in hand. But he's scared because he feels someone is shadowing him. However before he can cross the marshes, a hand with long claws emerges out of the dark and takes him down. That's the creepy opening sequence of Bees Saal Baad. Over the next couple of hours, director Biren Naug keeps us engrossed blending suspense with some of the finest songs Bollywood ever created. Even today FM channels can't stop playing composer-singer Hemant Kumar's Zara Nazron Se Keh Do Ji and Beqaraar Kar Ke Hamein Yoon Na Jaiye. And who can ever forget Waheeda Rehman singing the haunting Lata track, Kahin Deep Jale Kahin Dil in the moonlight?

The movie, partly inspired from Arthur Conan Doyle's The Hound Of The Baskervilles, is about the last surviving male of a zamindar family after everyone else has been mysteriously murdered. Moody black and white camerawork and an eerie background score keeps viewers on the edge of their seats as a killer plays catand-mouse games in the dark. Even debutant Biswajit looks cool and pretty in his stylish hat and overcoat. Only Gopichand Jasoos (played by Asit Sen), one of the most memorable comic characters in Hindi films, now seems somewhat irritating. Nonetheless, Bees Saal Baad is five-star entertainment.

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