Pune Culture

For the past few months we’ve been dropping in on Pune’s multiplexes to see movies, from the action-packed Korean dragon movie D-Wars to the lyrical and provocative (especially for the kids) American film about teenage pregnancy, Juno. The distinction between a movie (popular, lowbrow, entertainment) and a film (exclusive, highbrow, art) works when you want to indicate your level of sophistication or the quality of your cinema experience. But whenever I pull rank and say film to refer to a movie I recall a pithy comment from an editor at a journal for which I was writing. The in-house style guide, he pointed out, calls for movie to be used to refer to the product and film to refer to the actual transparent film stock.

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This week we’ve been attending the 6th European Film Festival, just down the road from our flat, at the National Film Archive of India. It is a busy scene at the Archives. No movies here, just films please, with local cinema buffs, scholars, and students from the nearby Film and Television Institute of India watching films and then loitering between flicks on the drive or in the garden, smoking and discussing the differences between movies and film. For me, a professor at a college with a vibrant film studies program, it’s a familiar crowd of certifiable filmy folk.

There aren’t too many kids here. But we have two kids. So we secure permission from the Institute’s Director to ignore the “no children” sign. Once through the door, we kick off our shoes in the lobby with everyone else and then find our seats in the spacious and air-conditioned theatre for a few evenings of cinema. On Tuesday night we watch Bye Bye Blackbird (2004). Most people know Ray Henderson and Mort Dixon’s popular standard “Bye Bye Blackbird” (1926) from renditions by Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, or John Coltrane. For us, “Bye Bye Blackbird will now call up Robinson Savary’s foray into the dark milieu of the French circus in the nineteenth century. Bye Bye Blackbird stars James Thiérrée-the grandson of Charlie Chaplin-as well as Izabella Miko Jodhi May and Derek Jacobi.

Wednesday night we do a double feature. First we watch The Waiting Room (2007), written and directed by Roger Goldby, and starring Anne-Marie Duff, Ralf Little, Rupert Graves and Frank Finlay. The opening scene is entirely inappropriate for kids (some would say). But then the movie (uh, film) settles in to explore the complications of people trying, mostly unsuccessfully, to love one another and find companionship or marital happiness in London. We then clear the theater and head off for a water bottle or two while the smokers gather in the drive. The second feature is After the Wedding (2006), a lavish but somewhat stiff Danish film directed by Susanne Bier that was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, starring Mads Mikkelsen and Sidse Babett Knudsen. The film is partially set in India.

Living in a city again is a delightful thing. And Pune is cosmopolitan in the best sense of the word-with a culture devoted to the arts, both classical and contemporary. From classical Indian dance performances and music to bona fide movies-and film-Pune, once again, lives up to the brag.

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