[New readers of this series are urged to read the Introduction post.]
When I first watched Fellini’s Eight and Half on the big screen, I did not know exactly what I had seen, but I knew I had witnessed something great. It took repeated viewings to get completely mystified by this great film. Yes, you read that right – repeated viewings not to understand but to get completely mystified.
The film that brought ‘Felliniesque’ to the vocabulary. The greatest film about film-making. A movie about a non-movie. A film about a director facing director’s block, that is overflowing with creative inspiration. A movie where dissecting what is real and what is fantasy seems pointless. Deep introspection about self-indulgence. Visually intoxicating imagery, where the entire cast in the whole film seem to be choreographed floating in air, rather than walking. Fellini the director, Mastroianni the actor, playing Guido the director – the three blending into a psycho-visual collage that mesmerizes your mind. Long afterwards, you realize Fellini is a master magician, and there’s nothing you can do except submit and succumb to his magic.
A critic says:
Attempting to describe the film’s meaning is sort of like the story of T. S. Eliot being asked by a woman in the audience at a poetry reading what he meant by a certain line, which she read aloud again. He replied that it meant exactly what she had read. 8½ means exactly what it says, and attempting to condense it is pointless and not even interesting.
[Note: I realize now that this should’ve been slotted in the 0-9 category. When I started, I had somehow slotted it as ‘Eight and Half’. Apologies.]
A scientist experimenting for many years in his laboratory. A socially handicapped inventor who is ostracized by society. A genius who appears arrogant to ordinary people. Sounds like a sub-plot from Atlas Shrugged? No, this is ‘Death of a Doctor’, a landmark film in Indian cinema by Tapan Sinha, who earlier gave us Ankush.
Talent is subject to ridicule. The more you excel, the more number of enemies you seem to have: Why this animosity towards Excellence?
This may not be great in terms of film-making, but seen in the context of Indian cinema, it is unique, and personally affected me immensely. This is the hugely talented Pankaj Kapur’s finest performance, ably supported by Azmi. Sinha made several films (that I haven’t yet seen) championing individualism.
I have always believed in individual courage and effort. I think, collective system of life hardly allows an individual to discover the infinite strength within him. I like the individual who has the courage to face any untoward situation, which is why I have shown an individual as a relentless fighter against all hazards in Aadmi Aur Aurat, Atanka and Ek Doctor Ki Maut. My protagonists in these films have practically done miracles by their own strength and self-confidence.
Like the protagonists in his films, Sinha the director stands as the indomitable individual in Indian cinema.
Ek Ruka Hua Faisla, the best Indian adaptation of a Hollywood film. Basu Chatterjee one upped Lumet by shifting the sub-plot of the adamant juror’s son to the very end as a surprise revelation, leading to a more dramatic climax in the adaptation.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, probing the maze of romantic love.