Herbert- A Rambling Non- Review

>> Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I was supposed to write my more serious experiences during these Pujas. I had had the most amazing, earth shattering ideas, thought up the sharpest of phrases and probably would have won the Pulitzer for that post. Unfortunately, by midnight yesterday, I had forgotten all about those experiences. I am flaky, absent minded and, possibly, a blonde with a permanent brunette hair colour. I blame it on Economics. The subject does not suit my mental prowesses. I am taking up Philosophy as soon as I can scrape up a graduation degree. However, till that happens, let my once-widening-and-now-stuck-at-seven blog reading population suffer more of my flakiness.
(What? I am a brute! The last post says so.)

My results are coming out. Possibly everyone I have ever been acquainted with knows about it. I have cribbed about it, cried about it, and warned people not to be surprised at the news of my death. Behind this scared exterior, however, lies an even more scared girl. The University I am registered under is not a very kind University. In fact, its a positive lemon in the garden of Universities (more Wodehouse plagiarized lines here). It revels in making its students psychotic killers. Not surprisingly, all the worry and the wonder has turned me into a zombie. Or an owl, if you prefer it. Sleep eludes me until its day break and then I sleep for fourteen hours straight. I am, of course, hours away from being disowned, but that is a secondary topic.

Last Saturday, after partying hard for seven hours straight, I trudged into my home to face another bout of insomnia. Television, my solace and savior, beckoned and at two a.m., I was enmeshed between a sofa and many cushions, channel surfing like there was no tomorrow.That is when I came across a Bengali movie. Normally, I do not watch Bengali movies, not being very well versed in the language (my ancestors are probably rolling in their graves now), but this one had English subtitles. Needless to say, I was intrigued. Any Bengali movie with English subtitles is an intellectual movie, at least that is what I believe, and intellectual Bengali movies are just the thing to make one a politician. Thus, I settled down more comfortably and started a movie marathon journey called Herbert.


I was not mistaken. The central theme was politics. Unless it had some obscure inner meaning I completely failed to comprehend. It started with the investigation of the death of a man called Herbert, who had caused a terrorist attack. The movie thus began unfolding, telling the story of Herbert, as a young, orphaned boy who was brought up at his uncle's place, treated miserably as a servant, growing up to become the supposed terrorist of the present year.


The movie, as many reviewers have noted, is perhaps a time traveling journey through Kolkata, showing it in its many facets, from the politically tumultuous 1970s to the more urbane, conscious city we know today. And we see Herbert suffering through it all, losing his loved ones one by one, through this amazing journey called Calcutta (I revert back to the name. It wasn't Kolkata then). We first see Herbert as dysfunctional, gawky, the proverbial idiot nephew in every family. But he grows on us, and we begin to see a more defined Herbert, the one who has a beautiful penmanship, the one who writes nonsense poems, the one who needs a hiding place, the one who flies kites, the one who has a vivid imagination, the one who has his unnamed longings, the one who dabbles in paranormal studies. Suddenly, he is not the idiot nephew anymore.

Another extremely important facet of the movie was its language. Possibly all the Bengali expletives known to man (and apparently unknown to Calcuttan policemen) were freely used. My knowledge of Bengali khisti increased overnight. Sadly, after I woke up next day at some time late int he afternoon, I had forgotten them all. Hopefully, someone else might fare better.

Predictably, since this movie was about politics, my college had a bit role to play. Its like second nature, a movie with few political leanings and suddenly, my college is a part of it. Though they did have a good view of it. And I liked the way the Presidency staircase was juxtaposed into the the 'Odessa steps', the site of a workers' uprising supported by the crew of the Russian battleship Potemkin and Lenin's Iskra, where hundreds of Odessan citizens were murdered on the great stone staircase (copy-pasted from Wikipedia). Some things, apparently, never change. Not that I understand anything about politics. I never did. I saw the movie from the viewpoint of a person wondering why the screen was moving. I did not attempt to delve deeply and certainly do not have any political illusions.

The movie also used several interesting techniques of movie making, among which, is an interesting craft, called by reviewers the Brechtian art of Alienation. I do not know what it means. I do know what it referred to, though. Herbert's parents were shown in certain shots, filming the life of their son, giving a tragi-comic twist to the entire plot line. Perhaps that was what it was about. A tragi-comic life of an idiot who got entangled in situations beyond his comprehension. The story of a foolish do-gooder.

It was a sad movie. A bitter one. Not a movie I should have watching in the middle of the night. But the memory lingers. There still is an impact. I am yet to fathom of what.

To read more coherent reviews of this movie, go here and here. I write rubbish reviews.

15 scaly flippers:

FireWhisky 8:10 am, October 30, 2007  

relly nice review... i want 2 watch d movie nw, bt i dunno whr 2 catch it...

The Ancient Mariner 12:49 pm, October 30, 2007  

good that you have found a terrorist movie in bengali now...that i presume is more inspiring for you than anything else....

Jokes apart, i was hurt by the "rather less conversant in" your mothertongue statement. Girly...u shud try n overcome it(sounds rather preaching though, but can't help it).

and it was a nice review...the picture though gives an indication to avoid the movie...

onnesha 2:31 pm, October 30, 2007  

CAT BAT DOG WATER FISH!i have seen the film in parts.try reading the book by nobarun bhatchaj.its gripping.

ad libber 6:06 pm, October 30, 2007  

@firewhisky
try getting a dvd. Though preferably, wait till you see it on television by chance someday. I myself am not sure whether its a movie to recommend to people. It belongs more to the 'aantel cinema' genre.

@the ancient mariner
:P I am already inspired enough. And yes, I cannot really say the physical beauty of the lead character is of the crowd pulling sort. This was taken from a scene where he had completely lost his mind and committed suicide. Watch it once though if you chance upon it.
:( My parents brought me up to be multilingual. I managed to learn none. Not my fault.

@onnesha
is not it in bengali? I iwll probably have to ask my mother to read it aloud for me, which, knowing the kind of language used in the movie, is not a very comfortable proposition

dreamy 7:52 pm, October 30, 2007  

"Any Bengali movie with English subtitles is an intellectual movie"

I completely agree!

ok coming to "Herbert"..well I was FORCED..[notice stress on the previous word]..to watch this film

IN A MOVIE HALL!!!..by our film studies professor.(who was also our H.O.D).. dint get the movie much..after watching it for the first time..

but here I will come to the point..I understood bits and part of the movie while I watched it on TV for the second time.
:-|
and also there was this detailed discussion by the director who came to visit our department.

so life's lesson: I will understand intellectual bengali films only if I get to hear a detailed explanation from the respective directors.

and regarding "odessa steps"..theres a famous Russian fil by Eisenstein by the same name..loosely based on the true incident...named "Battleship Potemkin"..so scenes from the movie have been used..

There you go..that was film studies knowledge again..

ad libber 11:27 pm, October 30, 2007  

Heh, I just watched it for I found it rather intriguing. I began understanding it after I read all those reviews. So there you go, I never understand intellectual movies till I read a detailed review on it [:(]
I should have taken up film studies while I had the chance.
What is Brechtian Alienation though? Would you know?

Ruchit 12:24 am, October 31, 2007  

See this plz:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brechtian_alienation

The alienation effect (from the German Verfremdungseffekt) is a theatrical and cinematic device "which prevents the audience from losing itself passively and completely in the character created by the actor, and which consequently leads the audience to be a consciously critical observer." The term was coined by playwright Bertolt Brecht to describe the aesthetics of epic theatre.

[PS : I know, u have seen Wiki for this, and I also know that u wud be infuriated at my "audacity" to use this place as a GK forum......but u know...knowledge is for sharing. Ha ha ha ha]

ad libber 12:29 am, October 31, 2007  

you are right. I did. They were not very clear about it. Hence, I asked someone else about it.

ArSENik 12:33 am, October 31, 2007  

The central character's facial expression gives him the appearance of a brand ambassador for some expired laxative. Yeah yeah, I know, don't judge products by their brand ambassadors. Will check this out if I am ever having problems of a similar nature in the future.

ad libber 2:55 am, October 31, 2007  

He was not really bad looking as an adolescent in the movie though. In fact, he looked like most of the guys in my college (which suddenly gives me a very clear idea why I fall in love with dead actors)

Moo-lah Buzinezzz! 4:48 pm, October 31, 2007  

"Any Bengali movie with English subtitles is an intellectual movie, at least that is what I believe, ..."
HAhahahahah!!
Damn the DVD's nowadays!!!...
heehheh!!

The Ancient Mariner 8:30 pm, October 31, 2007  

surely i will. after all this is a movie for the terrorists, and recommended by a terrorist. :-)

onnesha 1:24 pm, November 01, 2007  

umm..ask someone else to read it out instead.asking ur mum to do the needful would be just too,errrm,lessay,uncomfortable.

WHAT'S IN A NAME ? 2:35 pm, November 03, 2007  

Some movies just linger like that. And that's where their success lies. Your reviewing prowess is commendable. Keep reviewing!

WHAT'S IN A NAME ? 10:26 pm, November 03, 2007  

that would be :

http://juliusisdead.blogspot.com

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