While we crib and whine about unimportant things in life, which, might not even matter the next day, those are the times I truly hope (for myself as well) that I am reminded of the movie Life is Beautiful. It is a 1997 Italian film directed by Roberto Benigni that won him the Oscar in the Foreign Film category. Since then, the director hasn’t been able to make anything memorable as such. The movie is sensitive, emotional, strong on characters and will make you cry towards the end.
The story rides on the shoulders of the director who is also the lead in the film, Roberto Benigni, who is portrayed as a Jew by the name of Guido and dreams of starting his own bookstore in a country that discriminates against the Jews in the pre Second world war time. He works as a waiter in a restaurant where he loves playing riddles with a doctor appointed with the German concentration camp. Guido falls in love with an Italian teacher Dora (played by Nicoletta Braschi), who he meets at several occassions and tries to woo her every single time with his antics. Dora finally gives in to Guido’s affection and they get married and eventually have a beautiful son Giosue. When the World War II breaks out, Guido, his uncle Eliseo and son are captured by German army to be sent off to a concentration camp. His wife, Dora, although not originally a Jew volunteers to go to the camp too, just so she can stay close to her family.
As an audience, you’ll expect that the movie will take a serious turn and there will be blood, gore and all sorts of unpleasant things, but Roberto gave the series of events such an interesting treatment that it wouldn’t be non-violent visually, yet it will break your heart. Like everyone would know how old people and children were gassed in chambers under the pretence of a hot shower, Guido’s son Eliseo escapes the holocaust every single time as he hates taking bath and on other occasions Guido convinces him to stay hidden under the garb of projecting the concentration camp as a game and the one who manages to stay alive until the end wins a tank. He chooses to hide their true situation from Eliseo so as to not affect him mentally. There will be times in the movie when his son is unconvinced by Guido but Guido manages to get him along every single time.
As the war comes to an end, Dora and Eliseo are united after Guido loses his life in order to ensure their safety. Guido in all respects, fulfils his promise to his son who gets to ride on an American tank that he assumes he has won as a prize. It is only years later that his son realises the sacrifice his father made for him and his mother. More than them, it is the sacrifice for your loved ones. The love that is pure, selfless and unconditional. I was weeping profusely by the end of it, merely by the performances and the narrative. Even as I am writing this (although it’s been a really long time that I watched the film), I can feel the exact emotion I felt when I watched it for the first time.
One of my favourite movies of all time.
This is not a review of the film at all. This is purely what I felt after I watched another masterpiece from Vishal Bhardwaj.
After all the hype and expectations brimming over the top, I abstained from checking any Twitter and Facebook updates just to avoid clouding my thoughts before I watch Haider since I was strongly looking forward to it. A film which, according to me is Vishal’s best after Maqbool portrays the grim relationship the beautiful people of Kashmir share with the armed forces. Kashmir has been under Armed Forces Special Act since 1958 due to the threat it faces from our divorced partner Pakistan. This act has time and again come under scrutiny for flouting human rights, inflicting unimaginable torture on innocent citizens, random killings and disappearance of family members. A lot of films have been shot in Kashmir for its breath-taking beauty and scenic locations but Vishal Bharadwaj presents a lesser known Kashmir.
From the lead actors to the supporting actors, everyone has done absolute justice to their role in the film. Shahid simply nailed it by getting into the thick of his character and mouthing certain powerful dialogues that left me stunned. It would be unfair if he does not win a National Award for his performance (although an award isn’t necessary to validate his performance) and even the movie for that matter. There are some beautiful, meaningful and situational renditions, thanks to the great great legend Gulzar saab that accentuate the intensity and relationship between the characters.
I was sobbing long after the movie ended because having visited the place and interacted with the locals closely, I could feel their struggle just to live a normal life in their own homeland. I have been told horrible incidents of torture (where hot iron rod was pierced right through their little hands) inflicted on kids as old as 5-6 year old who probably do not even know how to spell the state they live in, being accused of militancy for accidentally trespassing the LOC (Line of Control) while playing. It deeply saddens me to even hear or imagine a democratic 21st century India where a child cannot enjoy his childhood normally, a woman cannot stay peacefully even for a minute when her husband is away, unsolicited curfews are being imposed bringing the city to a standstill and innocent citizens being beaten, locked and tortured without any warranted proof after which their mutilated bodies are sent to their families for cremation.
I understand the security reasons and infiltration threat which requires the army to control the state but why can’t there be peace between the inhabitants and the armed forces? Why is there so much of hostility among Kashmiris towards the security personnels? Not even one person I came across during my stay in Kashmir who had anything positive to say about the army there. We claim to have the paradise on Earth but why do the people of the paradise constantly experience hell from a country which very much owns majority of the state? Why do the Kashmiris yearn for independence from India?
Haider is just an example of devastation of a single family and there are so many similar and even worse scenarios that have appeared and continue to happen even today. When will ache din come for this crown of our nation is only something only time can tell. Till, then do yourself a favour and watch Haider because I can promise you, you won’t regret.