AVATAR: MORE THAN JUST A MOVIE
Many films and books describe human evil, aggression and desire of possession opposed by love, inner beauty, harmony and self-sacrifice. In real life, we face the same too often. In many of us wars, violence, political games, lies, and egoistic user lifestyles evoke a desire to hide, to escape to an unreal life, where one can turn to another person and get a second chance. James Cameron’s “Avatar” (2009) is a famous and successful movie that deals with the mentioned issues.
The action is taking place in not a far (for a human civilization) future, unfortunately, not very happy for the Earth and its inhabitants. Humans of the depleted Earth badly need resources to support their existence. They found a valuable gas on Pandora, but its atmosphere is poisonous for them. To explore a new planet scientists use “avatars,” hybrids, operated by genetically matched humans, which look like Pandora’s Na’vi aborigines. The Na’vi live in an absolute harmony with nature and will fight for their sacred land to the last. Unfortunately, humans always take what they want and somebody’s sacredness can’t stop them, they “come like rain that never ends,” unless they are stopped.
Jake Sully, a paraplegic former marine gets a chance to join a group of scientists who explore Pandora’s biosphere. He spends three months in his avatar. This time is given to Jake to persuade the Na’vi to move from their colony, so that the Earth representatives could start yielding the gas. Jake has his own egoistic interest in the mission, as he was promised to get enough money to recover his legs. But soon Jake changes his mind. As an avatar he receives not only healthy legs and strength, he finds love, freedom and what’s the most important himself. “Everything is backwards now. Like out there is the true world, and here is the dream.” This new world gave him a second chance, a second life and the purpose in life, “worth fighting for”. Jake’s transformation speaks for the film’s high spirituality, which is clearly read between lines. Cameron’s message is to make us understand that the true power lies in creation, which is impossible without a strong spirit; violence can lead to destruction only. So, the “Avatar” has a close connection to religion. An Irish columnist David Quinn, describes it as not a profound movie, in its own superficial way it deals with profound things — indeed, the profoundest thing of all: religion (2010).
A spiritual and religious matter is opposed by political themes. It’s easy to notice that the The Resources Development Administration (RDA) representatives are prototypes of modern governmental authorities, who often solve problems with weapons. They recognize no defiance, no respect and no pity. They declare somebody an enemy, fight, and take whatever they want. The RDA struggle against the Na’vi resembles conquests of aborigines and their lands by modern people, which took place in the past, and are happening now in the form of war conflicts. Cameron chooses this allegory as an attempt to open our eyes to what is going on around us.
One more issue involved is people and environment. The film director created a realistic model of what possibly can wait for us in future. Earth without forests, fresh water, natural resources can become a real result of human deeds today. Cameron plays with contrasts, opposing a desolate Earth to a rich, awesome and generous Na’vi land. He sends us an environmental message. In one of his interviews, Cameron points out that the “Avatar” is an environment film . . . It has these things that we all need to be thinking about. It maps to real issues in our world right now . . . What the negative impact of that is going to be to all of us everywhere. It’s how we all lose (2010).
We are all humans and must remain humans whatever happens. We are alive and inseparable of nature, no matter how hard we try not to seem such. The secret of happy life, without wars and violence, and anthropogenic disasters is quite simple. It’s harmony. Harmony with environment, each other, and first of all with oneself.
Cameron, J. (Director) & Cameron, J., Landau, J. (Producers). (2009). Avatar. Retrieved from http://english-films.com/52-avatar-rasshirennaya-versiya-avatar-extended-edition-2009-hd-720-ru-eng.html
Lang B. (2010, January). James Cameron: Yes, ‘Avatar’ is Political. TheWrap. Retrieved from http://www.thewrap.com/movies/article/james-cameron-yes-avatar-political-12929/
Cameron, J (Interviewee). (n. d.) James Cameron – Interview – Avatar [Interview transcript]. Retrieved from Lybo Website: http://lybio.net/james-cameron-interview-avatar/film/
Quinn D. (2010, January). Spirituality is real reason behind Avatar’s success. Independent.ie. Retrieved from http://www.independent.ie/opinion/analysis/david-quinn-spirituality-is-real-reason-behind-avatars-success-26627222.html
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Indian screen legend Sridevi triumphs in a gentle, but affecting, story of a woman’s awakening self-respect.
Fans of Indian cinema need no introduction to Sridevi, the star of more than 200 movies: admired for her sparkling comic timing, dancing prowess and acting chops, “Sri” ruled the marquee from the mid-‘70s to the early ‘90s before settling down to raise two daughters with her husband, producer Boney Kapoor.
It took a very special project indeed to lure this very special talent back to the big screen, and English Vinglish is it.
Directed and written by Gauri Shinde, the film depicts the transformation of Shashi, a meek, put-upon Indian housewife who speaks only Hindi, into a confident citizen of the world, over the length of a four-week crash course in English.
The Eros release, which enjoyed acclaim (and according to reports, a standing ovation) at the Toronto International Film Festival, is up against strong competition from the satire Oh My God and India’s foreign language Oscar submission, Barfi!, but its universal message — conveyed with wit and heart — is persuasive enough to draw a sizable audience nevertheless. Indeed, a recent San Francisco Bay Area screening found the audience packed with families and young children, a heartening prospect given the film’s positive message encouraging diversity and tolerance.
STORY: India Chooses 'Barfi!' for Oscars Foreign-Language Entry
Shashi is a dedicated mother and gifted cook, the wife of a busy executive in the western Indian city of Pune. Her laddoos (a golden, sweet snack ball) earn raves and she even runs a small catering business, but her family treats her like a servant. Her teenaged daughter treats her with contempt, while the casually masked cruelty of her husband’s words (Adil Hussain) cut her to the core: “My wife was born to make laddoos!” he gloats.
When Shashi is called upon to fly to New York City — solo — to help her sister arrange a niece’s wedding, she is terrified (look for Amitabh Bachchan in a short, but memorable, scene onboard her flight). Once in New York, the Hindi-speaking Shashi is faced with ever-mounting humiliations, in a series of beautifully mounted, yet squirm-inducing scenes.
It is at this point that Shashi realizes that her lack of English skills is holding her back, and so when she spies an ad for an English class on a passing city bus, she decides to sneak out of her relatives’ house and navigate New York City’s subways and buses to get there.
Her fellow international students include a Pakistani cab driver, a South Indian engineer, a Mexican nanny and a smitten French man (Mehdi Nabbou), also a cook, who tastes her laddoos and tells her, “You are an artist.” Shashi retorts, “When a man cooks, it’s an art. When a woman cooks, it’s just her duty.”
It’s no surprise that by the end of the film, Shashi will conquer her fears, but the route Shinde takes to get her there is distinctively Shashi’s. The image of the newly confident Shashi striding down a Manhattan street, a takeout coffee in hand and a trench coat belted over her sari, will make you smile days after you leave the theater.
There is a growing body of work that shows Indian female characters flexing their muscles: Gurinder Chadha’s Bend It Like Beckham; Deepa Mehta’s Water; the late Jagmohan Mundhra’s Provoked: A True Story, starring Aishwarya Rai; and Amol Palekar’s Anaahat/Eternity, starring Sonali Bendre, spring to mind. And the work of Indian female filmmakers like Chadha, Mehta, Mira Nair and most recently Zoya Akhtar (Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara) is always worth a look.
With English Vinglish, female director Shinde — known for her documentaries and commercials — brings her own lifetime of experience into the picture. “It is my way of saying ‘Sorry’ and ‘Thank you’ to my mother, and a tribute to women,” Shinde writes in the film’s press notes.
Ultimately, what make English Vinglish memorable are the small, step-by-step choices Shashi makes to transforms herself. Yes, there’s grit there, but it’s tempered with compassion and dignity. The way the character has been crafted by Shinde, and interpreted by Sridevi, is gloriously feminine, and uniquely Indian.
Cast: Sridevi, Adil Hussain, Mehdi Nabbou, Priya Anand, Neelu Sodhi, Cory Hibbs, Sulabha Deshpande
Director: Gauri Shinde
Screenwriter: Gauri Shinde
Producers: R. Balki, Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, R.K. Mani, Anil Lulla
Director of photography: Laxman Utekar
Costume designer: Vera Chow
Production designer: Mustafa Stationwala
Sound designer: Resul Pookutty
Editor: Hemanti Sarkar
Music: Amit Trivedi
Lyrics: Swanand Kirkire
Not rated, 129 minutes