Naman Ramachandran

Critic; film journalist

UK/India

Voted in the critics’ poll

Voted for

2001: A Space Odyssey

1968

Stanley Kubrick

Apocalypse Now

1979

Francis Ford Coppola

Avventura, L'

1960

Michelangelo Antonioni

Charulata

1964

Satyajit Ray

dolce vita, La

1960

Federico Fellini

Gandhi

1982

Richard Attenborough

Ikiru

1952

Akira Kurosawa

Raiders of the Lost Ark

1981

Steven Spielberg

Sholay

1975

Ramesh Sippy

Sunrise

1927

F. W. Murnau

Comments

For this exercise, I watched all the films on my longlist again with a view to eliminating nostalgia and to see if they had dated or not. It was very tempting to include Ray’s Apu Trilogy on this list, but that would have consumed three votes. For me, Ray’s Charulata is the perfect film and I’ve consistently watched it more often than the Trilogy. As Ray himself said: “The one film that I would make the same way, if I had to do it again, is Charulata.” If it’s good enough for the master, it’s good enough for me. Even though the Redux version of Apocalypse Now added footage and extra depth to Coppola’s masterpiece, the original cut remains one of the greatest films simply because it is tonally brilliant, with not a false note anywhere. For sheer visual poetry, nothing comes close to Sunrise. Though the effects in 2001: A Space Odyssey may seem humdrum today in the light of advanced technology, no other science-fiction film can capture the majesty and the nothingness of space, plus a sense of the existence of a supreme otherworldly power, that Kubrick achieved. Detractors may carp about Attenborough presenting a roseate view of the Mahatma Gandhi and the omission of some negative facts about him, but his film remains a grand journey populated, literally, by a cast of thousands, and guarantees moist eyes by the end of it. La Dolce Vita is a wonderful snapshot of Roman society at the time, a sneering look at hedonism and at the same time an exploration of human emptiness. The austere flip side to Fellini’s exuberance, with L’Avventura Antonioni practically wrote the book on disconnection. Though derivative of Kurosawa and Leone, in Sholay Sippy crafted a faultless curry Western that set the bar for action, emotion and comedy – it has gone unrivalled in Indian popular cinema. Ironically, in Ikiru Kurosawa finds an affirmation of life from his protagonist who is doomed to die. Since there is no rule that says commercial cinema cannot be included in lists of the great and the good, Raiders of the Lost Ark makes it on to this one for its sheer joie de vivre and the fact that no action adventure since has managed to even come close to Spielberg’s masterpiece.

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