THE BUZZ | MOVIE
Apabad from the DSLR generation
by ABHIMANYU DIXIT
Nepali cinema never seemed to break the shackles of formulas of dancing, fighting, and a hero saving an about to be raped heroine. The Nepali cinema audiences who had been exposed to global cinema in their television sets always craved for an exception. 'Apabad' is the exception in this regard.
Apabad is more exceptional because it is a true low budget film (even in Nepali context) shot entirely on DSLR cameras, boasting of a young crew and a very small cast. These aspects are unique to conventional Nepali films. Also, Apabad had already scooped up its low budget investments from shows abroad before the film was even released in Nepal. The film also utilized the social medium that was used to debate, criticize, and comment on the film, all the while creating an Apabad snowball in Facebook and YouTube.
Apabad is also exceptional because of the film makers' guts. At a time when Nepali film makers would make carbon copies of films and assert them to be original, Apabad declared its inspiration in the initial credit roll right before the name of the Director- Subash Koirala.
The film makers credit 3 films to the birth of Apabad. 'Castaway(2000)' by Robert Zemeckis and 'Into the Wild (2007)' by Sean Penn from Hollywood; and Korea's 'Castaway on the Moon (2009)' by Hae Jun Lee.
Apabad the film begins with Suyog (Raj Ballav Koirala) jumping off a bridge. He fails to commit suicide and finds himself on a deserted island. Many of these scenes are inspired by one or the other of the three films mentioned above. Parallel to the island is a series of flashbacks of Suyog's life back home and of the ambitious world where he failed to struggle with his dreams of becoming a writer.
Around Suyog's central character is a strict father (Rabi Giri) who holds "where is your life headed" conversations every time he meets Suyog whether at the dinner table, or the entrance gate of their house. His mother (Bijaya Giri) is concerned yet supportive of Suyog. He also has a friend who he is secretly in love with Sunanda (Nisha Adhikary) and who plays a pivotal role in helping Suyog realize his dream.
All actors playing their respective characters with the exception of Nisha Adhikary are wonderful. Raj Ballav Koirala was great in most scenes. He is not flawless, but remembering his performances in older films, he has proved he is working hard and shows he has the potential to be a much better actor. Rabi Giri and Bijaya Giri prove they really are the real veterans. Nisha Adhikary is the weak link. She is inconsistently all over the place with her emotions and accent- both English and Nepali.
As a debut feature, director Subash Koirala has performed well in terms of getting the most from the three out of four of his major actors. But, he needs to sharpen his storytelling skills One man from the crew shines in Apabad. The producer and cinematographer- Sushan Prajapati. Firstly, the producer's decision to capitalize on the market abroad before Nepal's cinema halls turned out to be great for Apabad.
Secondly, Sushan Prajapati is also influential in deciding to use DSLR cameras thus resulting in the film being low budget. The light DSLR camera has been used to its extent. Whether it's the front on point of view of the lead through his motorcycle or in his shouting "Hello" on the deserted island, or handheld shots, or the beautiful wide ones. His use of DSLRs boasts of his style all the way. The visuals are beautifully colorized; owing to a great combination of DSLR with good coloring in the post production. At a time when the Nepali film industry boasts of a high budgeted cameras, Prajapati has proved that Nepali cinema can be made through a low budget DSLR.
One complaint, whether a film is low budget, or no budget, is that the film need not lose its production value. Suyog's room looks very much like a hotel room of Nagarkot; likewise the family dining room. The open blank spaces shout for book shelves or any other fillers in the rooms. These would been significant in raising production value. You don't have to spend money for fillers, you can always borrow them and return afterwards.
Final word, Apabad is an independent low budget film with regard to Nepal. A film made for 50 Lakhs earning 55 lakhs is as equal as a film that is made for under 20 Lakhs, and is raising 25 Lakhs. Apabad has shown the way for new faces to enter Nepali cinema. These faces will be supported by the audience if they come forth with a film that is independent of the conventional formulas.
Tarsem Singh's Mirror Mirror was the first of two films to be released this year based on the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
Mirror Mirror is a sumptuous fantasy for the eyes and while it is not a faithful retelling of the versions by the Brothers Grimm or Walt Disney, neither is it a satire. But it's great to look at. If there's a major difference from the earlier versions, it's how this one has beefed-up roles for the seven dwarves, who here seem to be a merry band in search of their Robin Hood.
Tarsem's film glows with good humour and gorgeous cinematography. Like most of Tarsem Singh's films, Mirror Mirror is undeniably beautiful in offering lavish production design and lovely fairy-tale settings, and costume designer Eiko Ishioka's every outfit in Mirror Mirror is a masterpiece.
Julia Roberts as the Wicked Queen is actually an enchantress who keeps herself alluring with extreme beauty treatments. The Queen's squandering ways have plunged the kingdom into debt, but the arrival of the fabulously wealthy Prince Andrew Alcott (Armie Hammer) gives her an idea. If she throws a ball in his honour and can convince him to propose, with some help from the enchanted self in the mirror, the two can live happily ever after.
But at the ball, the Prince can't tear himself away from Snow. Furious, the Queen casts Snow White out into the wilderness where she is taken in by the seven dwarfs, a troupe of bandits on stilts. Together, they plot to save the Prince from his looming royal marriage.
Lily Collins plays Snow White. She is adorable, and has a sensational, almost perfect face for cinema; think Audrey Hepburn with eyebrows that have a life of their own.
Julia Roberts steals the show as the imperious and autocratic Queen. She consults her own image in a mirror, located as only Tarsem would place it in a weird structure in the middle of a lake. She never asks who is the fairest of them all, and thus never has to hear the inevitable answer, but the Queen's vanity and fear of aging give Roberts some plum scenes.
This magical comedy is filled with jealousy, romance, and betrayal that has captured imaginations of audiences the world over. This is a film in which bee-stung lips are achieved with real bees' stings and puppy love can make a man behave like an actual puppy. Truly, it's the stuff of fairy tales.
Snow White and the Huntsman
If Mirror Mirror was a sweet, eye pleasing and a light hearted confection, then Snow White and the Huntsman is its alter ego- dark, brooding and menacing. There is nothing cute about this one!
The Snow White myth has been reinvented into a dark and gothic tale; more of the story that used to be told to scare children rather than console them.
In director Rupert Sander's hands, Snow White is a visual extravaganza. Knights shatter into thousands of pieces, the Dark Forest is a carpet of dead birds, dark shadows and screeching demons while the fairy garden is a moss covered paradise where flowers erupt into butterflies and fairies emerge from the breasts of birds.
Charlize Theron's portrayal of Ravenna, the evil queen who banishes her stepdaughter and later plans to eat her heart, is magnificent. She has a remarkable ability to mix coldness and sorrow, and she at once invites and refuses sympathy. While Theron owns each scene, Kristen Stewart's Snow White gives a more passive performance. A course in learning to emote a range of emotions might come in handy for this young actor.
Having murdered the king on their wedding night and imprisoned his daughter in a tower, Ravenna preens in front of her liquid-metal mirror, plucks the hearts out of birds and terrorizes her subjects. She is loyally attended by her creepy brother, Finnó but is otherwise alone in her castle of cruelty.
In a twist to the fairy tale, the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth aka Thor) ordered to take Snow White into the woods to be killed winds up becoming her protector and mentor in a quest to vanquish the Evil Queen.
There are also eight dwarves instead of the usual seven and from a technical standpoint; the way these regular sized actors have been digitally miniaturized into 4 feet tall versions of themselves is notable. Also the who's who characters actors of British cinema- Bob Hoskins, Toby Jones, Ray Winstone, Eddie Marsan, Nick Frost and Ian McShane- are woefully wasted. The digitized dwarfs don't show up until well into the movie, just as Snow White and the huntsman the queen has hired to track her down are emerging from the Dark Forest. These guys aren't cute or funny or whistle while they work- in fact one of the most memorable scenes in the movie is when they perform a haunting dirge at the funeral of one of their own.
While the film is stunning and the effects breathtaking, it lacks good old-fashioned storytelling. We don't learn to care about the characters and that is a huge flaw in a movie the size and scope of Snow White and the Huntsman. Also the love story is not well thought out and 'loves one true kiss' is weak and befuddling. The movie suffers from a first time director trying to do too much and impress everyone.