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From a trip to space to earthly problems of war and disease

Anuj Kumar
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‘Gravity’ hooks us only in parts, after a while it becomes the usual survival story.
‘Gravity’ hooks us only in parts, after a while it becomes the usual survival story.

GRAVITY

Yes, it is the next level. Hollywood has found a new, bigger way to tell the world that things are not in order, a metaphor for the fact that the danger is getting superior and it can come without notice and identity. It is shown through the expression on the face of the dead astronaut impaled by a shard. On the surface, this time the danger is not on the American establishments on earth but in space. The focus is not on taking on the obstacle but survival. There is too much to read in Alfonso Cuaron’s film if you are in a mood to dissect. This time when the danger emanates from the debris of a Russian anti-satellite test gone awry, the protagonist survives because of the Russian and Chinese presence in space. After populating its spaceships with different nationalities, it is yet another attempt of Hollywood to accept an egalitarian global order. Or is it the markets that it is targeting?

Sandra Bullock is bio-medical engineer Ryan Stone on a space mission headed by George Clooney’s senior astronaut Matt Kowalski. They are on a spacewalk when debris from an anti-satellite test sets off a chain reaction that destroys their shuttle, killing the crew inside. Left stranded in open space, the situation doesn’t allow the interaction between the two astronauts to be anything but short and interrupted with lines like ‘you gotta be kidding me’. Cuaron’s biggest success is that he manages to take us out of this world. The sheer vastness of the space is disturbing and so is the sound of silence. If the idea is to show us our place in the universe, Cuaron succeeds. But as far as story is concerned, Gravity hooks us only in parts because after a point when we get the scale it becomes the usual survival story. For now, it deserves a visit for its sheer visual appeal and the questions that it poses.

FIRE IN THE BLOOD

“Where is the disease? The disease is where the drugs are not.” This refrain from the mass mobilisation against the actions of Western pharmaceutical companies in South Africa keeps resonating long after you have watched Fire In The Blood . Directed by debutant Dylan Mohan Gray, the feature-length documentary unmasks the big pharma with solid research explained lucidly over 90 minutes. The film chronicles how Western pharmaceutical companies and governments blocked access to low-cost AIDS drugs in countries of the global South resulting in ten million or more unnecessary deaths. It also tells the story of an unlikely group of people who decided to take on the might of pharma giants.

The search for answers takes Gray to pharmaceutical giants, including Pfizer and Glasko-Smith Klein, as he builds a case against negative stereotypes of ‘backward and uneducated’ Africans used publicly as justification for preventing the production and distribution of generic antiretroviral therapy in African countries.

Their fears of the virus turning mutant because of irregular dosage were, however, found unwarranted as Gray notes that Africans are found to be much more regular in taking their medicines than the Americans.

Unlike most documentaries, the film doesn’t carry a strident tone. Between the statistics and interviews, the framing, the narrative and the background score generates an emotional swell that draws you in. Don’t miss it!

WAR CHHOD NA YAAR

A well-intentioned skit that is extended way beyond its potential. This is what one makes of debutant Faraz Haider’s comedy on the futility of war. A timely idea to develop in these times of acrimony between Indian and Pakistan, Faraz takes us far from J.P. Dutta’s ‘border’. Nicely portrayed by Sharman Joshi and Javed Jafferi, the captains from both the sides, for a change, crack jokes. But soon the war clouds start gathering because of a flimsy conspiracy laid out by self-seeking politicians on both the sides. An Indian politician uses an unsuspecting reporter Rut Dutta (Soha Ali Khan) to further his agenda while the Pakistani one is dancing to the tunes of the Americans and Chinese.

Amateurish portrayal of the Army and the media can be ignored in this genre but the beauty of satire lies in how much you can punch without allowing the tone to become farcical. Sharman, Soha and Javed ensure that the over-the-top mood in the writing doesn’t translate into their performances and Sanjay Mishra once again supports well as the underfed Pakistani soldier. A little wooly, a little daft, but a brave attempt indeed!

ABOUT TIME

Time travel continues to fascinate filmmakers. Here, it’s the turn of British filmmaker Richard Curtis. He plays by the rules as far as the gender is concerned. No, the heroine still doesn’t get the power to control time on celluloid but what Curtis does manage to imbue is a certain innocence in the time-tested formula of romantic comedy. It is largely because of natural performances by his lead performers Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, and Bill Nighy, but Curtis also plays a role in keeping things light but not frivolous.

In the introductory scene, Curtis takes the light off the screen so that his protagonists can discover each other in the dark. It is a profound trick for a romantic comedy but it sets the ball rolling. Try it with somebody you love and chances are that you won’t miss the travelling quality of time!


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