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IF YOU watch films to escape to a make-belief fantasy world, this one is not for you. But if you are not afraid to peer into the dark recesses of the human mind and to face the ugly truth that lies therein, you will ‘enjoy’ the journey number 13 undertakes and the chilling consequences of this compelling mistake.

Written and directed by Georgian filmmaker Géla Babluani, 13 Tzameti (tzameti is 13 in Georgian) is the story of a 20-something lad, Sébastien, who gives in to temptation to make a quick buck and is impelled towards a point of no return with that first misstep.

Sébastien (played by director Géla Babluani’s brother, Georges Babluani) overhears a conversation that a certain job could bring in a lot of money. What that job is, he does not know, but when he chances upon the envelope containing instructions for the mysterious work, he pockets it and decides to try his luck. Little does he know that he is treading a deadly path and that his greed will exact a heavy price.

But Sébastien is a poor immigrant who works as a handyman for a living and his taking a chance to make some easy money comes as no surprise, especially as the owner of the house he is repairing dies and he is refused payment for the work already done. The real shock comes when Sébastien reaches the unknown destination, in the shape of a gambling ring and the game of death they indulge in.

Grab a DVD of this 2005 film if you want to find out what the game is all about, and if you do not mind squirming in your chair rather than remain comfortably seated in it. Leave out the popcorn, though, because you may want to throw up at the shocking nature of naked greed and numbing violence it brings in its wake.

A VILLAGE facing a water shortage, poverty-alleviation schemes, the Right to Information Act – a mix unlikely to attract and hold the attention of the audience usually hankering for an escape from reality, or so you would believe. But with Well Done Abba, Shyam Benegal manages to do this and more.

 The director has often told stories based in and of the rural areas, be it Ankur, Nishant, Manthan or the more recent Welcome to Sajjanpur and, now, Well Done Abba. In Benegal’s films, rural India is not a stereotypical place where natural disasters strike and superstitions abound but, as a director who believes in living in the present, his films deal with real people and real issues that one can identify with across the rural-urban divide.

Well Done Abba is a satirical and humorous take on the corruption that often eats into government schemes for the underprivileged. It is a hilarious account of how the protagonist avails of a scheme to dig a well, the well, ahem, goes missing; he invokes the Right to Information Act to locate it, and in so doing shakes up the entire administration and almost brings down the government.

The entire cast slips in to their role with such finesse and ease that they are completely real and believable. A special mention here of Boman Irani and Boman Irani. As the protagonist Armaan Ali and his brother Rehman Ali, Boman Irani has captured the fine nuances of each character in such expert detail that it is hard to imagine that one and the same person is playing the two characters. It is easier to think that two brothers in real life are enacting the two brothers in reel life. Ila Arun as Rehman Ali’s sharp and wily wife Salma captures attention in every frame she is present, even where she doesn’t have a line of dialogue.

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Film: Well Done Abba

Director: Shyam Benegal

Producer: Reliance BIG Pictures

Cast: Boman Irani, Minissha Lamba, Sammir Dattani, Ila Arun, Sonali Kulkarni, Ravi Kishen, Rajit Kapur, Ravi Jhankal and Yashpal Sharma

Screenplay & Dialogues: Ashok Mishra Adapted from: Narsaiyyan Ki Bavdi by Jeelani Bano, Phulwa Ka Pul by Sanjeev and a screenplay treatment, Still Waters, by Jayant Kripalani

Music: Shantanu Moitra Lyrics: Ashok Mishra, Swanand Kirkire and Ila Arun

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