Author Archives: Ronak Kamat

About Ronak Kamat

Writer, filmmaker, photographer.

Oscar 2017 predictions

(Some categories have been left out deliberately)

Best Picture:

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La La Land


Wild pick (Should win): Moonlight 

Best Director:

Director Damien Chazelle and Emma Stone on the set of LA LA LAND.

Damien Chazelle (La La Land)


Wild pick: Mel Gibson (Hacksaw Ridge) 

Best Actor Leading Role:


Casey Affleck (Manchester by the sea)

Fences Cort Theatre

Wild pick: Denzel Washington (Fences)

Best Actress Leading Role: 


Emma Stone (La La Land)


Wild pick (Should Win): Isabelle Huppert (Elle) 

Actor in Supporting Role: 


Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)


Wild pick: Dev Patel (Lion) 

Actress In Supporting Role:


Naomie Harris (Moonlight


Wild pick: Viola Davis (Fences)

Writing (Adapted Screenplay):


Wild pick: Fences 

Writing (Original Screenplay)

Manchester by the sea

Wild pick: La La Land 

Animated Feature: 




Wild pick (Should Win) : Red Turtle 



Wild pick: La La Land

Costume Design: 

La La Land

Wild pick: Jackie

Documentary Feature:


O.J.: Made in America 


Wild pick: I Am Not Your Negro

Film Editing:

La La Land 

Wild pick: Arrival 

Sound Editing:


Wild pick: La La Land 

Sound Mixing: 

La La Land

Wild pick: Hacksaw Ridge 

Foreign Language Film:

The Salesman

Wild pick: Toni Erdmann

Music (Original Score) 

La La Land

Wild pick: Moonlight

Music (Original Song) 

Audition (La La Land

Wild pick: City of stars (La La Land) 


Remembering a masterpiece: Picnic at Hanging Rock


To this day, the mystery behind Peter Weir’s Picnic at Hanging Rock, an Australian Classic, remains… well, a mystery. Joan Lindsay, the novelist on who’s book the film is based, is one of the main reasons for all the ambiguity. Her descriptions left it unclear whether the film is based on facts, or is entirely a work of fiction! For all it’s hauntingly beautiful imagery, impeccable tonality, breathtaking treatment surrounding a discomforting subject, Picnic at Hanging Rock remains a great favourite of mine.

Here’s a synopsis:
“During a rural summer picnic, a few students and a teacher from an Australian girls’ school vanish without a trace. Their absence frustrates and haunts the people left behind.”


Web-based critic Kevin Maynard had said, “The film is just too damn impenetrable for its own good,” and it could not have been said better. It’s extremely hard to make a “mystery movie” that leaves just the right amount of questions unanswered. Peter Weir and his DP Russell Boyd make each frame look and feel like a painting. The entire incident could be perceived as a gorgeous, beautiful, hot, sunny day out…until it was. From start to end, the film is stunningly shot. At times, Weir uses close ups in slow motion. It’s an assurance, you will never forget these images. Never.

“We worked very hard at creating an hallucinatory, mesmeric rhythm, so that you lost awareness of facts, you stopped adding things up, and got into this enclosed atmosphere. I did everything in my power to hypnotize the audience away from the possibility of solutions.”, Peter Weir told Sight and Sound. Whenever I read about this film, I find it quite puzzling how not many (or not enough) people talk about the score. It’s the evocative score, in correlation with that stunning imagery and Weir’s direction, that makes this film what it is.


Joan Lindsay infamously “fuelled the fire” when it came to answering questions about the mysterious incidents that occurred at Hanging Rock during the 1900s. All of her descriptions about the story, leave loopholes. Obviously, these are intentionally left for your mind to run around in circles but I must say, there’s a beauty to that. According to a website, Lindsay made sure the final chapter of the novel only released after her death. In that she explains whatever remains answered. However, according to readers, her conclusions to the story are woven in an even greater ambiguity.

What a writer. What a film.


30 Best films of 2016

This list is obviously a “From what I could watch” list. There’s a strong list of 20 something (probably less / more) titles I still haven’t yet seen (2016 films) and I am eagerly waiting to. Many of these films will probably be crucial Academy Award contenders, hence I’ll probably have a different list for them. However, this is a list made out of the films I have seen in 2016 and I think you should. The best. The very best.
Here we go.

Here’s my list of films:

30. The Unknown Girl (Dir. Dardenne brothers)


29. Diamond Island (Dir. Davy Chou)

28. Hell or High water (Dir. David Mackenzie)

27. Coin Locker Girl (Dir. Han Jun-hee)

26. Blind  Christ (Dir. Christopher Murray)

25. Hounds of Love (Dir. Ben Young)

24. Neruda (Dir. Pablo Larraín)

23. Endless Poetry (Dir. Alejandro Jodorowsky)

22. When Two Worlds Collide (Dir. Heidi Brandenburg, Mathew Orzel)

21. Arrival  (Dir. Dennis Villeneuve)

20. Sandstorm (Dir. Elite Zexer)

19. Graduation (Dir. Cristian Mungiu)

18. Green Room (Dir. Jeremy Saulnier)

17. Very Big Shot (Dir. Mir-Jean Bou Chaaya)

16. Ma’ Rosa (Dir. Brillante Mendoza)

15. Tunnel (Dir. Kim Seong-hun)

14. The Happiest Day in the life of Olli Maki (Dir. Juho Kuosmanen)

13. The Salesman (Dir. Asghar Farhadi)

12. It’s only the end of the World (Dir. Xavier Dolan)

11. La La Land (Dir. Damien Chazelle)

10. The Handmaiden (Dir. Chan wook Park)


9. The Untamed (Dir. Amat Escalante)


8. Una (Dir. Benedict Andrews)


7. Red Turtle (Dir. Michaël Dudok de Wit)


6. Neon Demon (Dir. Nicolas Winding Refn)


5. Elle (Dir. Paul Verhoeven)


4. Age of Shadows (Dir. Jee woon Kim)


3. The Wailing (Dir. Na Hong-jin)


2. American Honey (Dir. Andrea Arnold)


1. I, Daniel Blake (Dir. Ken Loach)


Why ‘The Wailing’ is one of the greatest horror movies ever made



Readers who’ve not watched the film, keep reading until I tell you not to. 

Na Hong-jin, the man and his movies: 


Na Hong-jin, in a way is like the Tarantino or Kubrick of Korean cinema. Not in any particular way other than the fact that he’s made 3 films so far, since his feature debut with The Chaser in 2008. Three films, Worlds apart from each other, all written and directed by Na Hong-jin. Few filmmakers, World over, write and direct all their films. Na Hong-jin is not only a great great filmmaker but also a stunning writer. It all comes together gorgeously for him. All his work seems to have been supported not only by an unending research but also, at times, by folklore, beliefs of people from the streets, villages, cities and the like.


He makes sure he’s thoroughly aware of the World, probably getting as familiar with it as the people from that World, before getting into it and giving us his films. Sympathy / Empathy are not things he seems to consider. He tries to get into the minds of the people he is dealing with and thus having sympathy and empathy naturally entering his films as genuine byproducts as opposed to something forced down our throats. May be this is why his films scream authenticity. His filmography has a huge element of ‘We don’t know what to expect next’. Little did the World expect The Yellow Sea after watching The Chaser and least of all did they expect The Wailing after The Yellow Sea. By this I mean, it’s slightly unpredictable and that he’s ahead of the people who’re following his work closely. Even better, he hasn’t yet disappointed. All his films have won acclaim. If you ask me, every time one would think he’s hit the ceiling, he gets even better.

4-5 years ago when I watched it, to me, The Chaser was brilliantly written, performed and directed. One of the most gripping thrillers I have ever watched, I must add. Not only does it keep you on the “edge of your seat”, it makes it a point to whack you in the face about six or seven times throughout. After having watched that film, I quickly moved on to his only other film by Na Hong-jin at the point, The Yellow Sea. Gritty, grim movie with excellent treatment, almost a journey movie of sorts, it really got me wanting to know everything about Na Hong-jin. How a filmmaker, who also wrote his own stuff, found spaces within genres to move about with such impeccable detailing, was appalling to me.


It was clear that Na Hong-jin meant serious business after first two films of that kind. Sadly, we weren’t quite sure of when to expect the third film. It was only about a 7-8 months ago when I began to read about The Wailing on the internet. A couple of reviews from Cannes and some other festivals World over, we learnt that Na Hong-jin was entering the Horror space. You could only imagine the excitement. We waited.

The Wailing: Overview

I was quite shocked by The Wailing and I got an unending list of reasons to tell you about. Firstly, since I mentioned Na Hong-jin and his earlier work, it is important to understand that all 3 of his films are supported by a strong inherent understanding of the space he was getting into. To an extent, The Chaser is more of a genre piece. There’s no rocket science behind that. However, when you start approaching The Yellow Sea, things are totally different. The film has a number of satirical elements, an in depth understanding of illegal immigration, corruption and the brutality that binds it all together. This “deep understanding” shoots up astronomically with The Wailing. It all begin to make sense to me. Na Hong-jin had dived deep into his subject matter on all his films. The only difference coming from the fact that all 3 films come from different spaces, they all affect a viewer on different levels. Things started to get much more personal with The Yellow Sea and by the time we reach The Wailing, Na Hong-jin has a mind numbing impact on us. The only reason I could come up with is, the former two films are still a little distant from us. We can perceive that space between us and the matter the Director is dealing with. But The Wailing is about us. It tears into us and puts our short comings out on display. It breaks down the ideas surrounding society, religion, faith and all such things without holding back. Let’s begin.

For those who’ve not watched the film, good bye! (SPOILERS AHEAD) 

The Wailing: In depth analysis 


The Wailing begins with a quote from the bible

Luke 24:37-39, in which Jesus exhorts his followers

They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 
He said to them, “Why are you troubled and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have..

This somehow tends to be the most crucial theme of the movie. In a way Na Hong-jin may be trying to tell us that we have certain notions about ghosts. Some of them or probably all of them are incredibly wrong. Not only are we wrong now but we have been wrong for a very long time. Here’s what the Shaman, played by the brilliant Jung-min Hwang says;

“Not everything that moves, breathes and talks is alive. Countless people have perished because they didn’t understand that”

Both these quotes are strongly supportive of a lot of things that happen during the run time of this movie. The best way to analyse this film is to move character wise. Let’s observe the most important characters and try to understand the film.

We could label him as the lead character in the film. Everything or almost everything happens from his perspective.Kwak Do-won plays a rural policeman in the Korean horror film The Wailing.

He’s a simple cop, probably not so good at what he does, not so respected at work, always throwing an excuse for coming in late. In a way, trapped by the murders happening in the town and gets further sucked in when his daughter is in question.

The Japanese man:

20160504001039_0Easily the most controversial character. This is where we may part ways and have different opinions. It all depends on interpretations from now on.

According to people in the village, murders begin one by one AFTER the arrival of the Japanese man. This man claims to be a traveller and nothing else. The Shaman calls him a ghost, Jong-Goo can’t believe this, he tries to check himself. Along with the priest and his sidekick, Jong-Goo finds a lot “fishy” about this man, but still is not sure enough to call him a ghost. On their journey back, his sidekick presents him with a shoe. This shoe is claimed to have belonged to Goo’s daughter. This is where things begin to get worse for him and his family. Hyo-jin’s health begins to deteriorate soon after she starts acting strangely. By now, we may start assuming that the Japanese man, using her shoe, has gotten her possessed. We have enough evidences of devil worship in the man’s house. We could say that he’s possessed by the devil. After being run over by Jong-Goo’s car (probably being pushed by the mystery woman in white) his body is entirely taken over by the devil.
An evidence of how the Japanese man goes about his process is;
He finds a dead man in a car on the way to his house on top of the hill. Through his worship, he turns him into a “zombie” (zombies have been considered responsible for all the deaths so far either from being possessed or being affected by mushroom poisoning)

 The quotes by the Shaman and to the start of the film, relate to this because the zombie created using the man in the car, is actually dead. But “touch him and see, a ghost does not have flesh and bones..”
and for the Shaman’s quote; “not everything that moves, breathes  and talks is alive.” To end it, with the Japanese man being run over by Goo’s car, he is “dead” but…… Fill in the blanks.

The Shaman:


Entering the scene as a much needed helper, The Shaman has a journey of his own. He’s the first to doubt the Japanese man by asking Jong-Goo if he “disturbed” him. According to the Shaman, the Japanese man is a ghost. This is when he quotes what I’ve shared above.
Before the exorcism, he wants Goo to not interrupt. However, out of grave concerns for the life of his daughter, he does. From here, everything goes downhill. Especially for the Shaman. Goo ignores his calls. Near Jong Goo’s house he sees the white woman. As soon as he sees her he begins to vomit blood. Now we could infer that the Shaman, by now, is possessed and that she is trying to send him away (which she does). Considering his actions towards the end (with the photos / clicking new photos) something is definitely different about the Shaman now. If the White woman has tried to help from the start and she wants to send the Shaman away, may be she is right and he is wrong.

The Mystery woman in white:


Towards the start, she appears to help the cops. Initiating this process by throwing stones at them to grab attention. Just when Jong-Goo tries to use her as a witness, she disappears. She however, appears at important intervals in the film. The scene with the Shaman and with Goo towards the end are the most crucial. During the scene with Jong-Goo, she does not let him enter the house.

Now this could mean two things:

  1. She does not want him to lose his life. She probably thinks he’s important for the town and wants him to live. As his daughter is (at the moment) killing his mother and wife. She probably stops him because she knows he could get killed as well. Considering the fact that she’s possessed, this is possible.
  2. The hair pin raises the doubts. The fact that it was with her certainly is a reason to doubt her. Or, was she trying to free the little girl from the devil? If she was not, it was only a battle of egos between the Japanese man, the white woman and the shaman.
  3. if the hair pin was a reason to suspect her she also probably did not want Goo to get inside as he would STOP her from killer his family. But this is contrary to what she says. She says “If you go in your whole family will perish”

The Young Priest:

The young priest is looking for answers. He’s the nephew of Jong-Goo’s side kick. According to an earlier scene, he’s not yet a priest. He is LEARNING.
This explains him going to the devil’s den towards the end. He is young and he is ready to explore. In a way, the film is trying to say, “Only those learning and still young are trying to find answers and make a change. The ones with the topmost post / position in the hierarchy is one of “hands up! I can’t do anything for you”

Rest of the film

Most of the film is open to interpretation. The best touch to the story is the mushroom case. This is also a mystery. Na Hong-jin attacks the practicality inside you. As in, if you believe all this was not possible and you’re a cynical person, you definitely think it’s something to do with the mushrooms.
The film also has strong references to religion using symbols such the ram head, black dog, etc. I haven’t dived into any of these things. All these things were smartly used by the filmmaker.  However, I have tried to analyse it as a film. I’m not knowledgeable about those symbols but I suggest you check the internet. You’ll find a million answers with no guarantee about the truth. The deep overall impact is what needs to be understood.

The Japanese man offers black hens while the Shaman (during exorcism) offers white ones. The colours are important symbols considering the woman wore white (this could be a reason to NOT suspect her) as the rest of the film divides black and white as good and bad.
The fishing reference is crucial to the story. It simply means when the devil looks for a “body” it could be any “body”. It’s like fishing. You don’t know what you are going to catch.

Beyond this all, something brilliant that hit me was that the entire film is a statement on crime.



This is a line used by Jong-Goo’s mother. This is huge statement on crime because Na Hong-jin could be trying to say every criminal is possessed by something. It does not necessarily mean a ghost or something as dark as what The Wailing is speaking about. But every normal crime, every murder happens due to something taking over the person. This was an idea that got an impetus as soon as Jong-Goo’s sidekick killed his family members. The priest is told “After all he’s a victim”. Let’s think about it for a second. He just murdered his family. But he is a victim. Yes, because he is taken over by something and he cannot control himself.

Hands down, The Wailing is one of the best horror films ever made. It’s shockingly good. Na Hong-jin is shockingly good. Every performance is shockingly good. It all comes together gorgeously for him.

What do we do for cinema?

It’s fair to say that people with any sort of power are constantly toying with movie releases, fighting for bans, censorship or maybe something else, but what are we doing? Are we on the front foot, defending the movies we love so much? It isn’t about who has directed, who’s in the film, who’s produced the film, who’s the supporting cast or who the DOP is. It’s about one thing: Movies.

When it comes to worshipping..yes, worshipping film stars, we’re definitely ahead of other countries. We make a tremendous amount of movies every single year. (We make over 1,000 films every year if you didn’t know) India probably has the most star driven movie industry(s) in the World. We don’t only have a star system, we have a system that is controlled by stars. It’s not a secret that the largest sections of the audience usually flock to movies based on “Who’s in it” or “Who’s leading” as opposed to “What’s it about?”
From taxi drivers to corporates, everybody has their favourite film stars, moments in film, action scenes,  and the like.

All this just screams: WE LOVE MOVIES.

If you are unaware of the situation, click on the link below.


The Cinema Owners and Exhibitors Association of India appears to have forced this perception to become reality. The association, which represents 450-odd single screen establishments in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka and Goa, announced on Friday that it has directed its members to not screen movies featuring Pakistani, singers or musicians. The immediate casualty of the decision is Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, which stars Ranbir Kapoor, Anushka Sharma, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Pakistani star Fawad Khan.



…But what are we doing, for these movies?  Sometimes it’s not about whether you’re a fan of Karan Johar or Aditya Chopra or Anurag Kashyap or Vishal Bharadwaj. It’s about the fact that they’re all making films. I may not watch Ae Dil Hai Mushkil but I definitely want it to get a fair release. On the debate whether Pakistani artists will feature in Bollywood movies from now on, the answer is already with you. It’s done and dusted. Right?

But how can you punish a film that was casted and shot when things were “okay”? Was Karan Johar supposed to have a vision of the future? “Hey Karan, by the time this film releases, may be relations with Pakistan will be extremely bitter” If you do not believe that he had to have such a vision, how can you blame him for legally casting an actor who’s been granted a visa by our own trusted authorities?
If these stars weren’t granted visas, none of this would have happened.

This brings us to the main question. People are strongly divided on the basis of the camps they stand for. These camps are built out of the “star” they worship. Yes, it actually exists on Twitter, Facebook, etc. Say the Ranvir Singh fans (for some random reason) will be happy with the fate ADHM has had. Or say for some strange reason, the Salman Khan fans will be happy with it’s fate as well. How does this add up? How can we be happy when another movie is suffering? You may hate the movie, you may detest the stars in it, you may not like the director, you may hate the poster, whatever your reason may be, YOU LOVE MOVIES. Why don’t you go all out supporting the film? Don’t watch it if you don’t want. But it has every right to exist and get a fair release.

Being such a large industry, the number of divisions are insanely large as well. There’s no cliche ask of “Stand together”. No body has asked you to hold hands and protest on the streets. The simple logic is, when a film lands up in a situation, its a film, the medium is what you love, it has to have every right to get a release.

Movies are movies. Who’s in it, who’s made it, who’s produced it, all of that comes later.




Why are people alarming Bollywood about Sairat?

Nagraj Manjule‘s ‘Sairat‘ opened to an explosive response from the Indian audiences. The film is already the greatest economic success a Marathi film has witnessed, in history. But why do we hear Bollywood and Sairat in one sentence? Well, it’s mostly for the positive reasons.
A number of journalists, film writers, film makers among others, are of the opinion that Bollywood must be afraid, watchful and must learn from films like Sairat. Does that really add up though? Does an industry, preoccupied with star obsession, actually care about realism? It’s hard to believe. But there are a number of reasons why Bollywood has been warned, by the film itself and the audience behind it. 


Sairat is a powerful love story. Probably one of the most powerful ones to come out of India in many many years. Why is that significant? Simply because we make countless love stories every year. A love story is the back bone of every second plot that either works or doesn’t in India.
So yes, a small film like Sairat still manages to come out on top, with most others barely in sight.

A 3 hour film with the second half barely lasting 40 odd minutes, Manjule breaks rules at his will. The unknown faces of Rinku Rajguru and Akash Thosar lead the film through it’s vivid and energetic plot. Ajay Atul’s music thumps the film ahead and is key to the level of energy it manages to maintain.


Musician Composer duo Ajay Atul

Coming to the story, we have heard about the plot surrounding a young man and a young woman who fall in love, wish to marry but are stopped by their families time and again in Bollywood films. Go back to all those films that come to your mind when you read the sentence above and ask yourself how different they were from each other. Does anything ring a bell? Most of these films follow a formulaic pattern that conveniently escapes innumerable aspects of realism. How can we say these aspects are escaped? Well, open a newspaper! See what goes on in this country and in the rest of the World, then go back and see how often we are told things the way they are. Very very rarely.


Film maker Nagraj Manjule

Manjule uses a plot of a young boy and a young girl, who fall in love, but the humungous power, influence, financial and political difference brought out by the differences in caste and class, act as an impenetrable barrier for their intentions. He does not spare you the entertainment. The characters, dialogues and most of the set ups are written in the most exciting and thrilling ways possible. Some scenes will make you laugh out loud. Most of these scenes encourage such reactions solely because a large section of the audiences are not used to watching real characters based on people who we see around us. We are usually either exposed to such characters when they are inconsequential to the particular story (peasants, labourers, farmers etc) OR we watch the biggest of stars with all the baggage of stardom they carry (such as Amir Khan in Lagaan) playing such characters. It is not about good and bad, it is what we are. It is what Bollywood is.
Film makers like Manjule bring actors who look, feel and can be perceived as the real characters. They give an impetus to the level of brilliance for each of those scenes.

What will we get by alarming Bollywood about the success of Sairat? 
Not much. Stars rule Bollywood. Currently, it’s about money. How much X film made this weekend? How much Y film made in a particular state? From taxi drivers to children, every body has started opining about ‘100 crore club’ and how much a film made over it’s opening weekend, without having the slightest idea about gross and net.
At most, stars, producers, directors will make a trip to the theatre and tweet about Sairat and speak about how flawless and brilliant it was.
The kind of Bollywood love stories released year in year out have not changed much over the decade. Every new star or star kid who comes out plays the same kind of role. It’s hard to expect a film like Sairat to come out of Bollywood. If you want a task, look up Imran Khan and try to distinguish between the characters he played (other than basics such as profession) in the love stories he’s been a part of (almost all his films)
That is the story of Bollywood.

The film is a Marathi gem. We must be proud of the kind of success it has achieved. Having followed Natsamrat, Court, Killa, Fandry and many such Marathi films, regional cinema has begun it’s own movement. Rather than being delusional about such works coming out of Bollywood, which looks as unlikely as you can imagine, it’s best to just watch and support. Word of mouth played a big role in spreading awareness about Sairat. Commercial Bollywood films bring more money into the industry and hence support the smaller films. In any sense, every film industry has it’s own commercial wing. The smaller film makers have only wanted to co exist.

Nagraj Manjule’s Sairat thwarted everything else, made it’s place, stood it’s ground and became a movement by itself.
As of now, the film is still in theatres, so if you haven’t watched it yet, make sure you do!


Oscar 2016 Predictions

Here’s my list of Oscar Predictions. 

[NOTE: Some categories have been left out deliberately] 

Best film

The Revenant 

Wild pick: Spotlight 

Best Actor Leading Role:

Leonardo Di Caprio (The Revenant) 

Wild Pick: Bryan Cranston (Trumbo) 

Best Actress Leading Role:

Brie Larson (Room) 

Wild Pick: Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn) 

Actor in a Supporting Role: 

Sylvester Stallone (Creed) 

Wild Pick: Tom Hardy (The Revenant) 

Actress in a Supporting Role: 

Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs) 

Wild Pick: Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight) 


The Revenant 

Wild Pick: Mad Max Fury Road 

Costume Design:


Wild Pick: The Revenant 


Alejandro González Iñárritu (The Revenant) 

Wild Pick: Tom McCarthy (Spotlight) 



Foreign Language Film:

Son of Saul

Wild Pick: Embrace of the Serpent 


The Hateful Eight 

Wild Pick: Carol 

Writing (Adapted Screenplay) 

Big Short 

Wild Pick: The Martian 

Writing (Original Screenplay) 


Wild Pick: Ex Machina