Oscar Baits 2017
Some Ramblings - Lion
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The kids continue to pour in from everywhere into the Kolkota train section. Unsupervised, disheveled, ragged, their age range from 5 to 15. Whether orphans or runaways, no one kept track. They often sleep in the wider spaces between the tracks on carton material covering themselves up either with plasitc sheets or thrown away blankets. Their day starts at the crack of the dawn or the first piercing whistle of the train, whichever is earlier, and before they knew, there are competing with other early risers collecting plastic garbage on the tracks, in the trains, on the platforms, in the bins, whatever little crevices their little hands can maneuver into. They break only for lunch or to catch their tiny breaths lugging huge sacks full of garbage. Lunch meant a credit with the hawker for some bread and/or milk. Sweat poured all over thier unkempt faces. Every part of their bodies stank, ached, cut or bruised by the constant shuffle in and out of the trains, sometimes stationary, at times moving. By the time evening set in, they haul their catch to the nearby garbage vendor who paid them a little over exploitation money for their dawn to dusk effort. Unmindful of labor standards and practices, and quite happy at getting their hands on actual money, the kids pay their morning dues to the hawkers, buy "dinner" (another loaf of bread for their negligible appetites) and run straight to a nearby stationery shop. There they pay a pittance for a small tube of glue and a tiny plastic bag. Next stop is a dilapidated movie theater playing yester year movies. While the rest of the movie theaters all over the country are caught in a bind deciding whether to upgrade or perish, this movie theater has been running for years, in the same near total ruin condition, catering exclusively to these kids and other stray elements, enjoying all the footfalls and patronage and with it, a steady income. The kids gathered at the foot of the screen squeezed the glue into the plastic bags and sniff away in long, strong breaths getting the high they need to drown away the day long labor and its ancilliary problems. After the movie ends, they walk out in a daze, back to the stowed carton material, plastic sheets or stinky blankets and retire their day back where they started - on hard concrete or rubble, amid the tracks full of filth and refuse. A metaphor that can hardly be missed.

Oscar Baits 2017:
O.J.: Made in America (documentary)

Manchester By The Sea
Hell or High Water

Hacksaw Ridge


The above is no movie or a gritty tale. It is the real life of street urchins in Kolkata train station as captured by a documentary film maker a few years ago for National Public Radio. The kids bore no grudge to their situation or conditions. They were just happy the way they were. The new ones coming in from the trains are taken under the wings by the older ones (themselves not more than 11 or 12), shown the ropes and the tricks of the trade, including the rules of survival, business, bargain, and finally the art and pleasure of getting high on glue-sniffing at the end of the day. The world rushes past them in a hurry, unmindful of their presence even, unless of course, one happens to cross paths with an oncoming train, which merely translated to more plastic for the remaining kids. No one knew where they came from or where they went after crossing 15 (well, the world knew where kids who grow up in conditions like these go after moving into adolescence). Hunger and danger constantly preyed on their little minds and bodies. Danger - not just from the trains, but from the policemen, older kids, sexual deviants and predators, who swooped them up while they were sleeping - danced inches away from their already precarious lives. Some escape the clutches and run away to other parts of the country, while the not so lucky ones get tumbled and dried by the unending cycle of labor-malnutrition-danger-health hazard life and get spit out after a few years, either to become a menace to the society themselves or leave the mortal coil after an experience of a lifetime. This is life to majority of impoverished kids in India - the ones that rush at the vehicles at the traffic stops begging for small change, their faces and bodies belying any signs of health or nutrition, the ones that carry even littler ones on their tiny waists hoping to evoke the sympathy of the onlooker into parting with a modest amount, the ones that grow up on rejection, violence, abuse (every variety of abuse), and neglect. There is very little hope for them to break the cycle and get on a road of fuller life. Even if they wanted, their handlers - sometimes their parents that depended on kids' meager earnings, the brokers, the pimps and every other parasitic pest that lorded over these little lives - made sure they reamined (silent) in the system bringing in their steady income employing the only three ways kids at that age knew - beg, sell (their bodies), or steal.

'Lion', a true tale of lost and found, is an extraordinary story of survival of a 5 year old, separated from his dirt poor family by a quirk of fate, found himself thousands of kms away from his home, survived a life described above and eventually made it out to live well and tell his tale in a hard to believe memoir. This is an incredible journey for a 5 year old who barely could say his name right, could not pronounce the name of his town correctly, lost in a land (Kolkata) where he didn't know the language, and only thing he remembered about his town was the presence of twin rain water tanks in the station where he boarded (and got accidentally locked in) the train to Kolkata. Illiterate, improverished, desparate, hungry, and above all, little, and the vultures of the night circle around them in public places waiting to snatch and drag them away into the under belly of the city, where the unmasked members of the 'civilized society' can have their way with them, for a price. This is a board game full of snakes with only one ladder and every throw of dice could potentially deliver them at the doorstep of fanged creatures of increasing ferocity. To sidestep them all and climb that one ladder away to the safe and loving embrace of a caring Australian couple, thousands of miles away, is not just a stroke of luck. It is the combination of instinct, presence of mind, AND, the ability to run fast. The first half of 'Lion' (the getting lost and surviving part) is a heart breaking, depressing, fearful, edge of the seat, roller coaster ride (if such a combination is ever possible). In his own words, for every kid who was lucky enough to escape the sharp claws, the wide tentacles and the deadly fangs of life on the streets, there were hundreds more who didn't make it. Per the post script of the movie, there are 80,000 kids who are lost annually in India, only a fraction of that ever making it making to their homes in one piece. That is close to 80,000 little ones tending to the most inhuman, depraved, parasitic, and predatory tendencies of the society, all in return for a good meal and a good night's sleep. That it is all a true story makes it even more depressing and heart pounding, when the little one takes one dangerous turn after another, almsot falls into fire from the pan at every corner, exposing the society/city for what it is when the lights go dark. It would have been called melodramatic or over the top, if it were all not true. But now? Realism cannot even come close to Reality.

'Lion' is bound to leave a lump in the throat, it is bound to create a ripple or two in the eyes, it is bound to grip hard at the heart and not let go. And when the climax rolls on, and the real characters replace the screen ones, it is bound to lift the flood gates on the water works. Because that's what life is, it is not meant to do all these things, but it is bound to.

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More Ramblings
O.J.: Made in America (documentary)
Manchester By The Sea
Hell or High Water
Premam (Malayalam)
Pelli Choopulu
A.. Aa
Eye in the Sky
Straight Outta Compton
The Hateful Eight
The Revenant
The Bigshort
Steve Jobs
Bridge of Spies
The Martian
Mission:Impossible - Rogue Nation
Inside Out
Avengers - Age of Ultron
OK Bangaram
The Theory of Evrything
The Imitation Game
American Sniper
The Interview
Gone Girl
The Square
Before Midnight
Inside Llewyn Davis
Dallas Buyers Club
The spectacular now
All is lost
12 Years a Slave
Wolf of Wall Street
Saving Mr. Banks
Attarintiki Daaredi
Man of Steel
Startrek Into Darkness
Django Unchained
Zero Dark Thirty
Sky Fall
Cloud Atlas
The Dark Knight Rises
The Businessman
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The Artist
Money Ball
Adventures of Tintin
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Sri Ramarajyam
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The Tree of Life
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Kick Ass
Ye Maya Chesave
Maya Bazaar
3 Idiots
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The Hurt Locker
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
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Jodha Akbar
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No Country for Old Men
Om Shanti Om
Lions for Lambs
American Gangster
Michael Clayton
Happy Days
Chak De India!
The Bourne Ultimatum
The Simpsons Movie
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Casino Royale
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Anukokunda Oka Roju
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Nuvve Nuvve

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