Movie Review: The Tale of Princess Kaguya

Kaguya-hime no Monogatari (The Tale of Princess Kaguya) is a 2013 animated movie produced by Studio Ghibli and directed by Takahata Isao. Based on one of the oldest and most popular folktale, “The Tale of the Bamboo-Cutter”, the movie shows the story of a nymph who descends from the Moon to the Earth.

In his early career, Takahata was inspired by French and other European animators and the tales they told. As his career progressed, he was more engrossed in the stories of his own country. That thought gave birth to the classic “Grave of the Fireflies”, one of the saddest tales ever told in cinema. His interest in telling stories rooted to Japan reaches its height in The Tale of Princess Kaguya.

The movie is painting in motion. Beautiful water-colour hand drawn paintings made me feel like I was watching old Japanese paintings in succession. The animation looks rough (a deliberate choice), the line art gets chaotic at some points (the best use of “abstraction” as said by some of the best animators in the industry) and does what it has to do (bring the characters and story to life).

The main characters are multi-dimensional. The woodcutter seems cold at times when he uses divine powers to name Kaguya a princess and makes her stay as a noble. However, he thinks it is the best thing to happen for a child who was divine herself. Kaguya’s mother is kindlier, although she also desires to make her a princess. Kaguya herself is a fun-loving girl who dreams of escaping back to her village when she is brought to the mansion in the town. Her sense of freedom is depicted well in the scenes in which she unleashes a cat, frees a sparrow from the cage, and dances when she sees sakura in the Spring.

The movie gave me a feeling so intense it is impossible to explain in words. Takahata’s mastery of story-telling, his artistic sense and vision has produced a movie that will soon be regarded as one of the classics.

Battle Royale: PUBG, the movie, the novel

PUBG: “The original Battle Royale game”

PUBG_compressed

My best friend Anish introduced me to PUBG. The concept was simple. Maximum of 100 players dropped into an island fighting each other and the winner was the last one standing. It looked interesting but my phone could not meet its specifications. A couple of months later, Ashok (my friend from college) discovered an emulator for desktop. At least a dozen of us downloaded the emulator and the game. When the game downloaded, it said: “The original Battle Royale game is now installed on your device.”

The term “Battle Royale” intrigued me. I had seen the term before in Wikipedia when I read about the game but I had somehow skipped it. That time, I guess I only wanted to know why the game was popular. I did not give it another thought. While playing the game (and after going through a lot of “funny moments”, which were not so funny), a thought came into my mind, What if I could write a novel based on the game?

That’s why I looked if there was a novel like that. And (unfortunately for my creativity) I found the Japanese movie. Curious, I went through the Wikipedia, movie was actually inspired by a Japanese novel.

Battle Royale: The Movie (2000)

The Kinji Fukasaku movie destroyed my PUBG experience. It was unlike any of the games I had played. It felt scary, tumultuous, and even childish at times, but mostly it felt nauseous. I mean, who would be in a right state of mind when you are forced to kill your friends in an island. Crazy situation dictates crazy measures but the madness of the fifteen-year-olds disturbed me.

The movie, in my opinion, is not the best in terms of execution but the idea itself felt great. What would happen if 42 students are forced to kill each other in an island by the government? The question hooked me till the end. The outcome of the movie was not unexpected. I actually knew who were going to survive but still I hoped Kawada survived. The end of Kitano (former teacher and BR Programme Supervisor) too felt comical and I thought it could have been better.

Battle Royale: The Novel (1997)

battle royale

Koshun Takami, the author of the novel sent the book for a horror competition in 1996. The horror of being killed by your own friend is inexplicable but the book is more like dystopian adventure. The dispute of genre probably helped the book. Takami’s book became a best-seller and controversial because of its violence. It was banned in several countries. Even the Diet (Japanese legislature) was interested. Then later, it was made into a movie. I felt so excited when I read this history.

And I (wrongly) thought the movie was dark! The novel is even darker. It’s been inspired from the Pro Wrestling Battle Royale as described in the “Introduction” section. (You must have noticed a real long list of inspirations by now.) “I feel like puking,” Shuya Nanahara and Shogo Kawada say often in the book. That’s what I felt. Yes, the novel is even more nauseous than the book.

The book explains the motive behind the initiation of the Battle Royale Programme aka the Programme clearly than that in the movie. It goes in length inside the minds of each character to give the reader complete information about them. This scheme is great mostly and feels boring at times, but I love Takami for taking the risk. The end of the Programme Supervisor Kinapatsu Sakamochi is not comical but I did not feel the satisfaction. I wanted Nanahara to kill him instead of Kawada. Kawada did have personal issue with the government and Sakamochi is a government official but Nahahara had a personal vendetta against him. Sakamochi had raped his caretaker Anno and had killed his brotherly best friend, Yoshitoki Kuninobu.

Differences

Both the Battle Royale novel and the movie have the same basic premise: 42 students forced to kill each other by the government. However, the novel is about the revolt against atrocious Fascist government, while the movie is about the adult-teenagers (teacher-student) relationship. The attack on Kitano in the beginning and then his love for the disciplined Noriko (despite being the Program Supervisor) emphasize this. The movie also might have been made in a lighter tone to make it approvable for 15+.

The book is not just about the teenagers and the adults. It is about the system that has been economically successful but does not tolerate protest. Any protester is a threat to the government who is removed immediately. The Programme is about creating mistrust among people, to keep them divided and to rule upon them. It is a story of how three students deceive the government by trusting each other—an act that was totally unexpected in the state of chaos. Government is the villain in the book. Kinpatsu Sakamochi is only a scratch in a very long and webbed list of villains.

PUBG, on the other hand is a sort of distraction to the youth. A way to let out your frustration so that you can start something anew in an efficient manner. (I am reminded of Fight Club, which I watched today.) The game is addictive and I love the way it has been executed. However, in some years I feel it is going to fade away. I don’t know why. I just feel it. (Let’s say like Kawada’s sixth sense in the novel.)

To conclude this review…

I found the book and the movie influential, though the movie has a lot of issues. (Stephen King and Quentin Tarantino haven’t praised them just to make them popular.) Battle Royale also inspired gaming franchises, which will keep on increasing the popularity of both the book and the movie.

I still have a lot of things to say about Battle Royale—book and the movie, as well as some of the individual characters. I won’t include all of them here. I will come up with more essays on this topic. (That’s a sort of influence, isn’t it?)

Movie Review: Rajja Rani

When the movie Rajja Rani was released a few months ago in theatres, it flopped. I wanted to watch it but some exams did not allow me to go to theatres. A few weeks ago, the movie was released on YouTube and became an instant hit. Looking at the comments and the way it was trending, people seemed to have liked the movie. The issues it has raised makes it nice but that could have been done better.

The Good:

The best thing the movie has shown is the problems of the Terai, keeping dowry and politics at the centre. Deepak Chhetri nails his performance as the Rani’s naive father.

Najir Hussein and Keki Adhikari deserve applause for their titular roles. Najir acts better as a villanious Raja in the second half of the movie.

The Bad:

Except for the part where the issue of dowry is raised, the movie loses control. There is way too much comedy in Raja’s part. It has been used to establish Raja as a person with political influence and as someone who breaks his promises often but it could have been done in other ways.

Language is another problem in the movie. I don’t know but it sounds like a mixture of Nepali, Hindi, Maithili and Bhojpuri. They could have stuck with one language. The movie was also released in Maithili. Is the language better in that version? I can’t be sure because it’s not been released online yet.

The ugly:

Ending of the movie is so bland that it ruined the entire movie for me. I don’t understand why they had to kill off Raja. He was not the problem but just a part of it.

There were so many ways the movie could have ended. One way could have been to just show the problems and leave the audience in tears. Another way could be to show Rani’s fight against Raja and society against the practice of dowry. Tit for tat isn’t something that works in real life, especially when someone is cunning and wicked.

Conclusion:

One last thing I want to say before I wrap up: I didn’t like the name of the movie. Rajja is not the hero. He does not care for his pregnant wife. He does not care for his friends. He is so evil that sticking his name with Rani makes no sense. Because it’s not a love story between the two, the name itself becomes unnatural for the script.

Monthly Feature 9: Inside Out

 

What happens when you don’t know the role of all the emotions in building your personality? The movie Inside Out answers the question.

Summary

By the personification of the core emotions: Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust and Anger, director Pete Docter takes us into a journey inside Riley Andersen’s head. All the emotions, except Sadness, work together in developing Riley’s personalities. Joy is in constant conflict with Sadness, because of which Riley loses her “core memories”. When the family migrates from Minnesota to San Fransisco, the conflict increases, and both Joy and Sadness are sucked up from the emotion centre, “the Headquarters”. As they wander along the labyrinth of “long-term memory”, they witness the crumbling of Riley’s personality islands. To save Riley, the other three emotions, take control over Riley’s emotions. Except for occasional moments of joy from the long-term memory, they destroy Riley’s ability to feel anything.

In the maze of long-term memory, Joy and Sadness meet Bing Bong, Riley’s imaginary friend. He helps them get into “train of thoughts” so that they can reach the emotion centre but the family island falls breaking the train and it being dumped into the “Memory Dump”, a place where old memories are thrown to fade. As Joy tries getting to the Headquarters through a suction pipe that projects the saved memory, the pipe breaks. Joy and Bing Bong fall into the Memory Dump, where Joy understands that Sadness helped Riley when she was distressed. Bing Bong, on the other hand realizes that he would fade out soon. So, he and Joy take up his rocket and helps Joy get into the Headquarters. Once Joy manages to get Sadness and herself into the Headquarters, Riley’s is for the first time controlled solely by Sadness. Riley, who is about to return back to Minnesota alone, goes back and apologizes to her family. The five emotions, then work together to build up newer aspects of Riley’s personality.

The Funniest and the Emotional Moment

To me, the funniest moment in the movie is the one in which Sadness gives up walking she is tired and Joy drags her catching Sadness’ leg.

The most emotional part is the one inside the memory dump. Bing Bong realizes he is fading. Yet, he helps Joy get away from the dump. He waves good-bye and says to Joy, “Take Riley to the moon for me.” He does what a true friend would do, even if he is  imaginary.

Some Memorable Quotes

Do you ever look at someone and wonder, “What is going on inside their head?” Well, I know. I know Riley’s head.

– Joy

 

Something’ s wrong with me. It’s like I’m having a breakdown.

-Sadness

 

Without you (Joy), Riley can’t be happy. We gotta get you back up there.

-Sadness

 

Ya ha ha! You (Joy) made it ! Ha ha! Go! Go save Riley! Take her to the moon for me.

– Bing Bong

Cast (Voice Artists)

Amy Poehler as Joy

Phyllis Smith as Sadness

Bill Hader as Fear

Lewis Black as Anger

Mindy Kaling as Disgust

Kaitlyn Dias as Riley Andersen

Diane Lane as Jill Andersen, Riley’s Mother

Kyle MacLachlan as Bill Andersen, Riley’s Father

Richard Kind as Bing Bong

IMdB rating: 8.3/10

My Rating: 9/10

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inside_Out_(2015_film)

 

Monthly Feature: Maleficent- Really?

I talk about the art, music and movies that I have adored in the Monthly Feature. For the month of June, I present my views on a movie quite differently than I have done before.

What’s true love? Disney Animations and Pictures seem to change the notion that true love is always a romantic orientation. That’s what we saw in Brave, Frozen and Maleficent.

Maleficent: Meaning
The Dictionary.com defines maleficent as “doing evil or harm”. The dark fairy from Disney’s Sleeping Beauty (1959) is named and meant so. She is the villain who curses the beautiful princess Aurora to an infinite sleep only to be broken by “a true love’s kiss”.

Maleficent Revived

The same Maleficent was revived in the 2014 Disney live action movie of the same name. I had watched both the versions in the same year, unintentionally and I had felt that 1959 movie was more about the villainous Maleficent than the heroine Aurora. Yet, the movie seemed incomplete. I had not been able to understand why the fairy had to be angry at all.

Linda Wolverton, the script writer of the 2014 movie seemed to have noticed the same. So she added a back story where Maleficent’s wings are cut stolen by Stefan to gain powers for himself. The story adds details to why the fairy was angry with King Stefan.

The Villain

The king had stolen her wings- her pride and her fun. She even rescued a raven and named him Diaval. “You will become my wings,” she says something like that. She, however goes to the name-giving ceremony of the king’s daughter and curses that the girl would fall asleep on her sixteenth birthday after being pricked by the spindle of a spinning wheel. The curse could be broken only by a true love’s kiss. (She gives the condition of the breaking of the curse believing that true love does not exist.)

Wait! What was the little girl’s mistake? I don’t understand why Maleficent curses the little girl. Maybe she had psychological problems. (We do not know!) She has magical powers and all. She could have defeated Stefan then and there. Yet she chooses to curse the daughter. Maybe they wanted to show her association with the Princess who slept, which we see later. Maybe she did not like that particular child, we do not understand why. Thereby, Maleficent makes herself a villain.

But the land Stefan ruled must have suffered a lot. All the spinning wheels are thrown, dumped or burnt. Imagine the amount of clothes they could have produced in sixteen years. Forget Aurora and through the curse, Maleficent handicaps their economy.

Villain- Is She Yet?
To prevent the curse, the king sends his daughter with three pixies without even testing their competence. (What kind of father is he?) The dark fairy learns from Diaval that the little girl is not being taken care of. For her interest of bringing the curse true, she takes care of the child. But she also loves the child as her own as time passes.

Maleficent, when she understands that she loves the child, tries to break the curse. But she herself had told that it was unbreakable. Aurora, the Princess sleeps. The fairy brings up a Prince and tells him to kiss the girl. But it goes in vain. How could an attraction of some moments be true love? She knows she made a mistake. She asks for forgiveness and kissing her goddaughter’s forehead. Turns out Maleficent’s motherly love was true even if she had a selfish interest in the beginning.

So, is she yet a villain? Maybe Disney Pictures still say she is. Maybe Wolverton still believes in the villainous Maleficent. But the truth is that at the end of the movie, she does not remain a villain anymore. She has been transformed by the love she developed for Aurora. And she even regrets from having cursed her as a child.

That was the best thing about the movie for me. The transformation was the only reason I was able to forgive her act of cursing a child. Her name might suggest that she is still malicious. But she is not one dimensional word whose meaning cannot be changed. Maleficent is a fairy, cheated by a human. If her anger is justified, why not the change she undergoes? Wolverton still calling Maleficent a villain after a change of heart does not give her any justice.

Jhola-An Epic Movie

Introduction

Sati, the first wife of Lord Shiva had jumped into the sacrificial fire in protest of the abuse her parents had done to her husband. Commemorating it, an inhumane tradition continued for thousands of years in which a woman burnt herself alive on the pyre of her dead husband. Women who were saved from the practice were rare. Only Mandev’s mother has been mentioned in the ancient history saved from the tradition. And then there was Rajendra Laxmi, the daughter-in-law of Prithvi Narayan Shah. Thirty one Satis burnt themselves at the death of king of Patan Yog Narendra Malla. During the reign of Laxmi Narsingh Malla, Kaji Bhim Malla was persecuted for a crime he did not commit. His wife, while sacrificing herself on the pyre of her husband, cursed: May the rulers of this country lose their rationality!

image

Jhola (English: Bag) is a movie based on the story of the same name by Krishna Dharavasi (Dharavasi literally translates to- one who lives in the Earth) was the most anticipated movie of 2014. Speaking on the evil practice of Sati, the story of Dharavasi had gained immense popularity- credit to the radio programme Shruti Sambeg and genuine lovers of Nepali literature. What was the custom? What were the pains? Yadav Kumar Bhattarai has shown well as the director of the movie.

As soon as the production declared the making of the movie, everyone was eager to know the development. The movie’s shooting was given utmost importance by the national level magazines and TV shows. The actress, Garima Panta rose to fame. The post-production was keenly watched over. Content, everyone knew. How would it be presented? Major curiosity lied on the presentation of nudity. Complete nudity was mentioned in the story. How it be shown in a movie that had audience of conservative mindset? This curiosity had also made up a newspaper article.

The Movie

The movie opens with a song by Sumnima Singh of Night- the same band I had featured in January. Krishna Dharavasi and his family make a special appearance in the present (2058 B.S.). He discovers a paper (letter) inside a bag left by an elderly man earlier that day and reads it.

The story opens in the year 1971 B.S. at an Eastern Hilly Village of Nepal. The writer of the letter is about 9 or 10 years old while his father is more than seventy years old. Shockingly, his mother is just twenty-seven. As his father lies on deathbed, his mother undergoes many troubles to take care of her son and household.

One day, the old man dies. The boy is then under the care of his uncle and aunt (both older than his mother). His mother is declared a Sati and she is made to perform several rituals before she offers herself to the burning pyre. However, she escapes without the notice of the processors. The boy finds her and takes her away to Manipur, India.

Social Evils and their Eradication

The movie presents some other social evils along with the tradition of Sati. Unequal marriage, treatment by witch-doctors and slavery are the evils of the era movie is based on.

Sati Pratha and Slavery were abolished by the Rana Prime Minister Chandra Shumsher in the years 1977 and 1981 B.S. respectively. But as the movie says- Evils in our society still linger. Widows were burnt once then. Now, they are burnt several times by the society. Unequal marriage, child marriage still prevail. Dowry system is growing up as another evil. Everyone should be united to fight against these evils.

Personal View
The movie has been well presented. Such a presentation is rarely seen in low-budgeted movies of Nepal. Village life in the hills of Nepal has been well depicted. The story is supported by the acting. The illness of the old man seems real. The rituals after his death are well-shown (although there could have been finer details of the procession). The background music is catchy and melodious. The cinematography and the lighting is good, although there is need of improvement at some points. The only thing I felt bad about was the transition between the scenes and the scenes that occur rapidly after the death of the boy’s father.
Overall, the movie is the best literary adaptation in Nepal.

Movie facts:
Director: Yadav Kumar Bhattarai
Story: Krishna Dharavasi
Screenplay: Krishna Dharavasi / Deepak Alok
Music/ Lyrics: Jason Kunwar
Singer: Sumnima Singh
Actors:
Garima Panta
Deepak Chhetri
Deshbhakta Khanal
Laxmi Giri
Sujal Nepal (Lead Child Actor)
Producers:

IMDb Rating: 8.8/10

References
1. Jhola at Internet Movie Database (IMDb)
2. variety.com/2014/film/asia/nepal-picks-jhola-for-foreign-language-oscar-race-1201290740/

You can watch the movie at: https://youtube.com/watch?v=tvSSDYsOHxw