Tag Archive for 'Amitabh Bachchan'

An authentic Hindu fascism

The Shiv Sena gave a voice to a Nazi impulse in Indian politics, writes Praveen Swami in The Hindu

“Fascism”, wrote the great Marxist intellectual Antonio Gramsci, in a treatise Balasaheb Keshav Thackeray likely never read but demonstrated a robust grasp of through his lifetime, “has presented itself as the anti-party; has opened its gates to all applicants; has with its promise of impunity enabled a formless multitude to cover over the savage outpourings of passions, hatreds and desires with a varnish of vague and nebulous political ideals. Fascism has thus become a question of social mores: it has become identified with the barbaric and anti-social psychology of certain strata of the Italian people which have not yet been modified by a new tradition, by education, by living together in a well-ordered and well-administered state”. more

Previously on AW: Ethnic Politics in Mumbai’s Melting Pot

Amitabh Bachchan in The Great Gatsby remake — trailer video

Bollywood star jokes about his tine Gatsby role

Remembering Anthony Gonsalves

By Naresh Fernandes

Midway through Manmohan Desai’s classic 1977 film about three brothers separated at birth, a man in a top hat and a Saturday Night Fever suit leaps out of a giant Easter egg to inform the assemblage, ‘My name is Anthony Gonsalves.’

The significance of the announcement was lost under the impact of Amitabh Bachchan’s sartorial exuberance. But decades later, the memory of that moment still sends shivers down the spines of scores of ageing men scattered across Bombay and Goa. By invoking the name of his violin teacher in that tune in Amar Akbar Anthony, the composer Pyarelal had finally validated the lives of scores of Goan Catholic musicians whose working years had been illuminated by the flicker of images dancing across white screens in airless sound studios, even as acknowledgement of their talent whizzed by in the flash of small-type credit titles.

The arc of their stories – determined by the intersection of passion and pragmatism, of empire and exigency – originated in church-run schools in Portuguese Goa and darted through royal courts in Rajasthan, jazz clubs in Calcutta and army cantonments in Muree. Those lines eventually converged on Bombay’s film studios, where the Goan Catholic arrangers worked with Hindu music composers and Muslim lyricists in an era of intense creativity that would soon come to be recognised as the golden age of Hindi film song. More:

Mr Bachchan goes to Hollywood

Bollywood’s elder statesman signs up for The Great Gatsby reports Patrick Frater in Film Business Asia

Amitabh Bachchan (pictured) has joined the cast of The Great Gatsby, which began filming this week in Australia.

The $125 million 3-D adaptation of the cult F Scott Fitzgerald novel is directed by Australia’s Baz Luhrmann and stars Leonardo DiCaprio in the title role.

Other previously announced cast include Tobey Maguire starring as Nick Carraway; Joel Edgerton and Carey Mulligan as Tom and Daisy Buchanan; Isla Fisher and Jason Clarke as Myrtle and George Wilson. The film also features newcomer Elizabeth Debicki as Jordan Baker. Bachchan, the elder statesman of Indian cinema and one of the most recognised faces on the planet, will play the role of Meyer Wolfsheim.

Producing credits go to Catherine Martin, Catherine Knapman, Lucy Fisher and Douglas Wick; executive producers are Barrie M. Osborne and Bruce Berman. The film editors are Jason Ballantine, Matt Villa and Jonathan Redmond, and the director of photography is Simon Duggan. more

The importance of being earnest — and Amitabh Bachchan

Anant Rangaswami in First Post

In his forthcoming film ‘Aarakshan‘, Amitabh Bachchan plays an idealist teacher who despises the caste system, but questions the pertinence of reservations, says The Times of India.

Speaking at St Xavier’s College, Kolkata, the actor said, according to the ToI report, “Since it has been endorsed by the Supreme Court and the Parliament and sanctioned by laws, Indians have no choice but to obey and accept it. But we need to assess whether it’s really helping uplift the backward classes or widening the rift between the privileged and the have-nots. Also, we must find out if commercialisation of education is the result of a mad race for seats triggered by reservation.”

With reservation being an issue that affects the lives of every Indian, and commercialisation of education, too, of significant concern to Indians, Bachchan’s drawing attention to the issues is no small matter.

Unless, of course, he is drawing attention not to reservation and the commercialisation of education, but to the film ‘Aarakshan’, which launches on 12 August. more

In conversation with Amitabh Bachchan

Image: bigb.bigadda.com

In The Economic Times:

“At this age, I feel I am going to have a problem signing my cheques very soon. Really, you can forget how to do your own signature and that’s a problem. At this age, your hands are not steady….your handwriting deteriorates, that is already noticeable now with me…” He smiles, and then, for a moment, looks at his hands calmly resting on the table. Hands that wave at cheering crowds; helping hands that reach out to Rahim Chacha in Deewar; big, long hands that many beautiful women once hoped to hold. “So, I deliberately do as much as I can, if I can, with the pen and not use computers,” he smiles again. It’s Tuesday evening at Janak, the new bungalow behind Jalsa, his home.

There is a buzz outside the room in the office of AB Corp, where officials of the entertainment firm and its partner are covering the last mile before the release of Rs Buddhah Hoga Tera Baap. The firm is the new avatar of ABCL, the first effort at corporatisation in Bollywood; a firm whose name evokes images of a near bankrupt superstar, messy legal tangles, damaging controversies and bitter lessons that its founder will never forget. Few could sense back then how it was to become the harbinger of a spectacular turnaround story – of hard work and brand power, and not stuff like financial engineering that most corporate case studies are made of.

The success of AB Corp will depend on the power of the Bachchans, their ability to attract other stars and directors, and what the future holds for Abhishek, who is battling through a rough patch. But there’s something more pervasive that worries Amitabh Bachchan , something that could swing the fortunes of not just his company but other corporates that dot the Bollywood landscape. “The Americans are here. They will buy us out…. They have very cleverly entered the Indian market. Everywhere they have gone, they have destroyed that market. They went to the UK, Spain, France, Germany, Italy, and Hollywood destroyed their local industries. It’s fearsome,” he says. More:

Sholay, the beginning

Hindi cinema’s biggest blockbuster officially completes 35 years this 15 August, but it was actually born in 1973 in a small room. Screenplay writer Salim Khan remembers how Sholay was conceived. In Open magazine:

When Javed [Akhtar] and I wrote Ramesh Sippy’s Andaaz and Seeta Aur Geeta, we weren’t partners. We worked on it as part of the Sippy story department’s team and received a salary of Rs 750. We had to fight for credit, and when we didn’t get it for Seeta Aur Geeta, we left the Sippys. Writers had no izzat (respect) those days. I still remember how posters of Zanjeer didn’t have our names. So we hired a man with a jeep and got him to paint Salim-Javed in stencil font on all the Zanjeer posters from Juhu to Opera House. The man probably was a few drinks down, so he painted Salim-Javed on Pran’s face or Amitabh’s [Bachchan] hands!

After six months, we again got in touch with GP Sippy and [son] Ramesh, but now as the writing team of Salim-Javed. We had two narrations for them. One was the four-line idea of Sholay and the other the complete script of Majboor. GP Sippysaab wanted to make a film with a large canvas. When he heard Majboor, he said, “Film chalegi (it will work), but there’s no sense in making this in 70 mm and with stereophonic sound.”

We said, “If that’s what you have in mind, listen to Sholay.” Most of Sholay was inspired by Magnificent Seven and also Dirty Dozen, The Five Man Army, Once Upon A Time In The West—a lot of Westerns. Ramesh was more attracted by the fact that Majboor was a complete script with dialogues. But Sippysaab said no. After Andaaz and Seeta Aur Geeta, the company was doing well; he wanted to take that risk. We demanded credit and Ramesh agreed. We then sold Majboor’s script to Premji; it was our first script that sold for Rs 2 lakh and Ravi Tandon went on to direct that movie. For Sholay, we were paid Rs 1.5 lakh. More:

The character actors of Bollywood

Aakar Patel in The News:

Mac Mohan died of cancer this week, and he was famous for saying one line.

Actually only three words: ‘Pooray pachas hazaar’, in reply to Gabbar’s question: ‘Arre O Sambha! Kitna inaam rakhe hain sarkar hum par?’

This was of course in the 1975 movie Sholay, which many think is the best film Bollywood ever made. Mac Mohan was Sambha in the movie, and though he did more than 150 other roles, it was as Sambha that people knew him.

Trim and identifiable by his splash of white hair, Mac Mohan (a Sindhi whose real name was Mohan Makhijani) got only villain’s roles though he did not radiate menace. Amitabh Bachchan remembered him as actually being quite gentle. Mac Mohan was a polished and restrained actor and did not get the sort of parts that he deserved.

The character actors of Bollywood have always been more interesting than its stars. This is because the actions of heroes and heroines in our movies are predictable. Character actors in India are defined by their quirk.

Salim-Javed were excellent at writing in characters, and when they had the space to do this — as they did in Sholay — they sparkled. More:

Your riot was worse than mine

When double standards take charge, it is the victims of communal violence who suffer, be they the Sikhs of Delhi, the Muslims of Gujarat or the Pandits of Kashmir. Siddharth Varadarajan in The Hindu:

India’s polity has an unerring taste for the irrelevant. That is why the controversy over a sitting Chief Minister being summoned to answer questions about mass murder has made way for an unseemly debate about the morality of an ageing actor.

After his embarrassing, nine-hour appearance before the Special Investigation Team, one would have thought Narendra Modi presented a large enough target. Instead, the Congress has launched a full-throated campaign against Amitabh Bachchan for choosing to become a brand ambassador for tourism in Mr. Modi’s State. The party has accused the Bollywood superstar of being indifferent to allegations of State complicity in the massacre of Muslims which took place there in 2002. And it has started boycotting him in a manner that is as crude and mean-spirited as it is ineffective and pointless. Thanks to this, the mass media are today discussing Big B rather than the Little Men whose role the SIT is now investigating.

As can be expected, the Gujarat Chief Minister is thrilled. The spotlight which was earlier on him is now being trained elsewhere. Instead of being forced to rally others to his own defence, Mr. Modi has happily mounted the barricades on behalf of Mr. Bachchan. In keeping with his party’s fondness for technology and Islamophobia, he has blogged that the actor’s critics are ‘Talibans of untouchability’. More:

Zia Mohyeddin and Amitabh Bachchan in Bombay

Aakar Patel in The News:

Last month, we had the opportunity to listen to Zia Mohyeddin. He had been invited here as part of the Aman ki Asha programme that Jang and the Times of India have organised. It’s an excellent initiative because in the absence of trade, and given that we can hardly agree on anything else, culture is the one thing we can share comfortably.

A few years ago I had read about Mohyeddin’s famous annual recitations in Pakistan. A friend from Lahore then sent three compact discs of his performances recorded at what I think were functions of Pakistani-Americans.

The recordings included an irreverent one about different Pakistani communities and their cultural traits. There was one funny story about Chinioti traders. There was also a smoothly delivered dialogue in English between man and God about the nature of woman. I had read about Mohyeddin’s readings of Ghalib’s letters, but those were not included in the recordings.

These were the sort of things I had wanted to listen to from Mohyeddin. I read that Mohyeddin had revived the more traditional style of reciting Urdu poetry. This had been eclipsed 50 years ago by the hammy style of Z A Bokhari, brother of humorist Patras. I looked forward to understanding what that meant.

The event was at the Bandra fort, built by the Portuguese in 1640, and overlooking the Mahim bay. The fort has been restored partly, from funds provided by actress and legislator Shabana Azmi, and an amphitheatre has been built in it where cultural events are frequently held. More:

The politics of Amitabh Bachchan

Why does the greatest superstar in Indian cinema history hanker so much for political patronage? From Open:

In his biography of Sonia Gandhi, journalist Rashid Kidwai writes of a winter day on 13 January 1968, when Sonia Maino landed in Delhi to marry Rajiv Gandhi. It was Amitabh who received her at the airport. In a 1985 interview, Sonia said, “Mummy (Indira) had asked me to stay with the Bachchans so that I could learn Indian customs and culture from close up. Slowly I came to learn a lot from that family. Teji Aunty is my second… no, my third mother. My first is my mother in Italy, the other was my mother-in-law Mrs Indira Gandhi, the third is Teji Aunty. Amit and Bunty (Amitabh’s brother Ajitabh) are my brothers.”

In 1984, after the assassination of Indira Gandhi, Amitabh was one of the men drafted by Rajiv into politics. The two men had known each other since childhood—Amitabh was four and Rajiv two when they met at a fancy dress party at the Bachchan home in Allahabad. “Ma says he messed up his pants,” Amitabh was to recall.

But the mess that was to follow their entry to politics was more than Bachchan could stand. It took no more than a few years for controversies such as Bofors to surface, where Amitabh’s name figured along with Rajiv’s. It was only then that this son of a Sikh mother, who had given little thought to fighting the 1984 election for the Congress in the wake of the massacres of Sikhs, chose to quit. More:

I’m a film buff: Rushdie

Booker prize winner Salman Rushdie is in Mumbai with film-maker Deepa Mehta for the film adaptation of his book Midnight’s Children. Excerpts from the Times of India:

On meeting Amitabh Bachchan: I’ve met Mr. Bachchan before, in New York, and at both meetings, he was a charming, gracious presence.

On asking Deepa Mehta to film the novel: Her passion for my work and my admiration of hers.

Does Midnight’s Children have a ‘filmable’ quality? Now that we have a screenplay we like, I would say that, yes, Midnight’s Children is eminently filmable. I have been a film buff all my life and believe that the finest cinema is fully the equal of the best novels.

Bollywood’s spotlight on health disorders

The opening of a film focusing on the rare Progeria disorder is the latest in a spate of Bollywood films about health disorders. The BBC’s Prachi Pinglay looks at why the Indian film industry is departing from its traditional formula to tackle weighty issues such as autism and Alzheimer’s disease.

Amitabh-Bachchan-Paa-Movie-StillAuro is 13, but looks 65. He has Progeria – a rare disorder which accelerates ageing in children.

Pia has been married to a man for over 20 years but she does not always remember him. She has Alzheimer’s disease.

Ishaan, eight, is a gifted painter but messes up his numbers and letters. He is dyslexic.

Sanjay Singhania cannot remember how his wife was killed, yet he wants to take revenge. He suffers from “short-term memory loss”, a type of amnesia developed after a traumatic incident.

What links these people?

They all have neurological conditions, and are the protagonists of mainstream Hindi films released in the last two years. more

Tendulkar at 20

They are the two biggest icons of the country; they are also unabashed admirers of each other. Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan speaks about the genius of Sachin Tendulkar, who completes 20 momentous years in international cricket. From the Times of India:

You are a legend yourself and have been in the limelight for so many years now. Do you appreciate the way Tendulkar has handled pressure, both on and off the field?

AB: I am no legend, but Sachin is a consummate artist and all such artists are gifted in handling pressure under all circumstances. Indeed, I believe if there were to be no pressure in an artist’s life, his best would never emerge.

Have you ever delayed a shoot, or postponed an appointment, just because Tendulkar was going great guns during a match?

AB: Yes, innumerable times! More:

The Bachchan blockbuster

NDTV Group Editor Barkha Dutt interviews Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan:

‘I’m a remote addict’

Amitabh Bachchan, who’s returning to television as Bigg Boss host, talks about the joys of the small screen and the Internet. Rubina A. Khan in Open:

Q You are an ardent follower of the international series, The West Wing. What do you like about it? Which character would you have liked to play in the show, if you were asked?

A I have liked the very concept of the format. Who would have imagined that the office of the President of the United States of America would be material for a TV serial! The whole excitement of being able to position yourself inside those hallowed portals is enough to keep one glued to the proceedings. Then as the events unfold, the speed with which incidents occur and are addressed, is an education in screenplay writing and performance acumen. Each situation, each performer is so perfectly crafted that it is impossible to find even a minuscule flaw. It’s absolutely brilliant! Just observe the camera movements on shots. It is incredible how they have operated them with such finesse and élan. The timings of the artists, the entries and exits, the lighting and the steady cam movements are done to perfection… And what of the artists! They are all simply brilliant. Each chosen and performing to such perfection that it is ompossible to imagine any other in their place. I would have been happy to play an ‘extra’, or ‘junior artist’ as we address them respectfully here in India, in the background, making my ‘passing shot’ on the odd cue, just so I would get an opportunity to watch and observe how magnificently each episode was recorded. More:

Ben Kingsley plays the Bollywood card

A gambling thriller will see Ben Kingsley become the first Oscar winner to star in an Indian film. From the Sunday Times, UK:

Kingsley, 65, who was propelled to fame for his depiction of the Indian independence leader, has just completed filming the role of a maths professor in Teen Patti, a thriller set against a backdrop of high-stakes gambling.

The film, whose English translation means “three cards”, will have its world premiere in Mumbai in August, but Kingsley was promoting the project yesterday at the Cannes film festival.

Teen Patti, which also stars Amitabh Bachchan, the veteran Bollywood actor, and Saira Mohan, the Canadian-born model, was shot in India and Britain and uses Hindi and English dialogue. It hopes to follow the success of Slumdog Millionaire, the Danny Boyle-directed hit that picked up eight Oscars. More:

Also in the the Telegraph, UK.

40 years of Amitabh Bachchan

Mint-Lounge commemorates the actor’s remarkable journey with an essay by Rachel Dwyer, professor of Indian cultures and cinema at the School of Oriental and African studies, University of London, and author, most recently, of What do Hindus Believe? What makes the Big B legacy, she asks. And what does it say about us?

bachchan2Bachchan is more than just a highly successful film star. How did he come to represent India itself on the world stage in the last decade of his 40-year-old career? What does this tell us about him, the nature of stardom, Hindi films and the vision that new India has of itself?

Dwyer says the other Bollywood icon, Shah Rukh Khan, “may be the current top box-office star, someone who is likely to enjoy many more years of stardom, he is not yet half way to Bachchan’s 40 years in cinema.” Click here to read the full essay, One-man show

When Sanjukta Sharma of Mint-Lounge asked Bachchan how he would assess his own body of work, he said, “Mediocre! I have had the privilege though to have been in the company of some of the great directors and actors of my profession, who have truly been masters. I doubt I ever lived up to their expectations. It was their generosity to have tolerated my incompetence.” Click here to read the full interview

Slumdog Americans

Why does Slumdog Millionaire – or for that matter, Bollywood — strike a chord with Americans? Cultural currency is capital, and America’s intensifying interest in India is an asset waiting to be used, writes National Review deputy managing editor Kevin D. Williamson in The Indian Express.

I knew things had turned a corner when garden-variety Anglo-suburban Americans started correcting my Marathi, which is to say when they started regarding my use of “Bombay” rather than “Mumbai” as denoting an embarrassing lack of sophistication on par with using a fork and spoon, instead of chopsticks, at a Chinese restaurant. Not that I speak a word of Marathi, at least not a word one would use in polite company. And not that these would-be sophisticates do, either, but I’ll bet dollars to dosas that it’s only a matter of time before American hipsters start eating khichdi with their fingers in trendy Indo-fusion bistros.

 Slumdog Millionaire? In the US, it’s Slumdog Everywhere.


The greatest literary show on earth

The annual Jaipur Literature Festival might have met with lukewarm coverage by the Indian press, but the world press goes ga-ga.  Amulya Gopalakrishnan writes for Tina Brown’s The Daily Beast, calling it with considerable hyperbold the ‘greatest literary show’ on earth.  Brown was also one of the speakers at Jaipur.

gopalakrishnan-jaipurEvery January, the ancient city of Jaipur, India, celebrates the written word in a literary festival co-founded by Indian writer Namita Gokhale and William Dalrymple, the British travel writer and historian, that easily places first in Asia for cultural cachet and star power. It’s hard to believe that the festival is only three years old, given the crackle and buzz around its events and personalities—Salman Rushdie chose the occasion for his first public appearance after the fatwa. And this year too, through five sun-drenched mornings and vivid, musical evenings in the dignified old Diggi Palace, the festival made headlines across India.


And Jeremy Kahn in the International Herald Tribune  says the fest has grown from a small, regional affair to one of international stature

In India’s headlong rush into modernity, Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan, is hardly on the cutting edge. A fixture on the tourist circuit, it is best known for its pink-walled old city, its 18th-century Maharashtra’s forts and havelis, its classic jewelry and its traditional, technicolor patchwork textiles. But for a few days each January, this city lays claim to a place at the heart of the contemporary literary world.


The slumdog story

How ‘Danny uncle’ and his ‘moral compass’ created the biggest ‘Indian’ blockbuster–and why you should watch it. Sanjukta Sharma in Mint Lounge:

Freida Pinto

Freida Pinto

Every morning, Jamal spends a few special minutes with himself in the loo. Squatting, chin resting in his palms, he dreams. Sometimes, the seven- or eight-year-old slum boy looks at the dog-eared photograph of Amitabh Bachchan that’s neatly folded and tucked in his pant pocket. The loo is makeshift-precariously perched on a wooden platform, which stands on swampland. His neighbourhood is the Juhu slum-the one we see every time our flight is about to touch down in Mumbai. The slum begins where one side of the runway ends.

At other times, Jamal plays gilli-danda or invites the ire of cops, making them chase him through grimy, narrow lanes to his matchbox tenement home.

And later, after his mother dies in a communal riot, Jamal’s life is endlessly and dangerously charged with adrenalin. He begs at traffic jams, palms pressed flat against car windows. He steals food through the windows of running trains.


Why the Angry Old Man trips

By Jairaj Singh

Amitabh Bachchan

Amitabh Bachchan

With eleven nominations in its basket – and four Golden Globe awards, including best picture – Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire is clearly the must-watch on everyone’s film-going list this season. Set to release this coming Friday, the movie has created enough hullaballoo with Bollywood’s legendary star, Amitabh Bachchan slamming the movie on his blog for its poor portrayal of India’s third world status and then denying it.

And if you haven’t watched Slumdog Millionaire as yet – even though the gray market claims that piracy sales of the movie have ricocheted unprecedentedly – perhaps you may not have to read too much to see that the movie has made a subtle attack on Amitabh Bachchan.

Based on Indian diplomat’s Vikas Swarup’s moderately bestselling, Q&A, the story is about Jamal Malik, a street kid who serves tea at a call centre in Mumbai, on a winning streak on Kaun Banega Crorepati (Who wants to be a Millionaire). Malik, who has had no formal education, continues to answer the question confidently and correctly while baffling the show host, played by Anil Kapoor – who not only imitates Bachchan’s signature baritone and repeats the KBC jargon: ‘computerji, isse lock kar diya jaye’ – but is also vindictive and suspicious of some foul play.

The plot unfolds as Jamal locked up in a Mumbai thana is tortured to reveal how he got about to answering the questions. The answer is simple: Jamal uses his experience of growing up in a slum, as a beggar on the street, as a street thug and as a chaiwallah in a call centre office. Continue reading ‘Why the Angry Old Man trips’

The real slum shady

Posted by Namita Bhandare:

My column in this morning’s Hindustan Times is in response to Amitabh Bachchan’s blog comments on Slumdog Millionaire

HOW ON earth did they allow Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire to be shot in Mumbai? By ‘they’, of course, I mean the commissars of culture, the faithful watchdogs of our beloved Bharat Mata on constant vigil against evil imperialists making movies about our wretched poverty, our pathetic widows and our sad child marriages. Yet, here was Boyle apparently free to film Mum- bai’s undeniable seamier side. Had he had several warm beers with Bal Thackeray in an attempt to buy peace? Had he become best friends with the nephew? How was he allowed to let it all hang out: beggar gangs that maim children, piles of rotting garbage, cops who assume torture as part of routine interrogation, small time bhais and fat cat TV anchors? Where were the howls of protest?

Continue reading ‘The real slum shady’

Bachchan, Slumdog & more: a rough guide to the Jaipur Lit Fest

Posted by Namita Bhandare:

I know the organisers of the Jaipur Literature Festival (Diggi Palace hotel, Jaipur, January 21-25, entry free to all) love to say that the festival is democratic and that they don’t want to pitch one session over and above the others but here’s what I think will be the star events at the Lit Fest:

1. The Indian premiere of Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire. That the film has reaped awards at the Golden Globe and is tipped to be an Oscar favourite has only added to the curiosity factor. And now that Amitabh Bachchan has blasted the film for daring to show the ‘murky under belly’ of Mumbai (has he taken over from where Raj Thackeray left off?), the pre-publicity hype has just got a notch hotter. As they say in showbiz, any publicity is good publicity. Anyway, to come back to the film: present at the premiere will be, no not Danny Boyle (he’ll be in Mumbai) but Vikas Swarup who wrote Q&A, the book on which the script is based, and also, apparently, Anil Kapoor. I’m a bit alarmed by the filmi flourishes which the festival’s PR guides seem to favour (they roped Aamir Khan in last year), but I guess they’re doing it because they believe it sells the festival. If you ask me, the festival (now in its fourth year) doesn’t need much selling. Continue reading ‘Bachchan, Slumdog & more: a rough guide to the Jaipur Lit Fest’

Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan blasts Slumdog Millionaire

An IANS report in the Indian Express:

Amitabh Bachchan

Amitabh Bachchan

Bollywood megastar Amitabh Bachchan has slammed Danny Boyle’s Golden Globe award winning underdog drama “Slumdog Millionaire” for showing India in poor light.

“If ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ projects India as Third World dirty underbelly developing nation and causes pain and disgust among nationalists and patriots, let it be known that a murky underbelly exists and thrives even in the most developed nations,” Amitabh said in a posting on his blog www.bigb.bigadda.com Wednesday from Paris, France.

“Its just that the ‘Slumdog Millioanire’ idea authored by an Indian and conceived and cinematically put together by a westerner, gets creative global recognition,” he added.

More here and here

And here’s the link to Big B’s blog: http://bigb.bigadda.com/

RIP: Vishwanath Pratap Singh

Posted by Namita Bhandare:

vpsingh2Former Prime Minister V.P. Singh, who formed a non-Congress government at the Centre that dethroned Rajiv Gandhi in the 1989 general elections, died in Delhi on Thursday after a prolonged illness.

Singh was Uttar Pradesh chief minister during Mrs Indira Gandhi’s tenure. He resigned, owning ‘moral responsibility’ after a series of dacoit attacks (including one that claimed the life of his brother).

Singh was rehabilitated into the political mainstream by Rajiv Gandhi who made him his finance minister; a man who was widely known as the Mr Clean of Indian politics, vowing to cleanse the system of corruption. He ordered a series of raids to look into the financial affairs of such heavyweight businessmen as Dhirubhai Ambani. But when it was revealed that Singh’s investigators had hired — without Cabinet authorisation — the services of an American investigative agency called Fairfax to look into the affairs of Ambani, things began to unravel.

Towards the end of 1986, two letters allegedly written by the head of Fairfax to Singh’s investigating officers surfaced. They gave the impression that the agency was not only investigating Ambani but also Amitabh Bachchan (then Rajiv Gandhi’s closest friend) and even, worse, Sonia Gandhi. Singh said the letters were forgeries, but the damage was done and the relationship of trust he seemed to share with Rajiv Gandhi had been breached. Singh was transferred out of the finance ministry into the defence ministry where, of course, another hot potato awaited him in the form of what would eventually come to be known as Bofors.

The rest as they say is history. Singh marched out of the Congress and into the waiting arms of the Jan Morcha (where Rajiv Gandhi’s now estranged cousin, Arun Nehru awaited him). Amitabh Bachchan resigned from Parliament — and Singh easily won the byelection for Allahabad caused by Bachchan’s resignation. Giani Zail Singh, then the Indian president, joined hands with Rajiv’s worst critics (The Indian Express, Nusli Wadia and Ramnath Goenka). Rajiv himself lost the huge mandate he had won in the 1984 general election (which he won largely on a sympathy vote created by the assassination of his mother). He lost the 1989 general election as Bofors became synonymous with corruption (though to this day there is not a shred of evidence linking Rajiv Gandhi or his family to any sort of illegal kickbacks by A.B. Bofors).

As the head of the Janata Dal which won 141 seats, V.P. Singh became prime minister with the support of both the BJP and the Left. But this government was doomed to self-destroy, which it did through a series of crises, including Kashmir where militants kidnapped the daughter of Singh’s home minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed (the government agreed to swap militants for her release, sowing the seeds of insurgency which persist to this day).

In the end, the man was known as Mr Clean lost the sympathy of India’s middle classes with his decision to push ahead with the Mandal Commission (increasing caste-based reservations in educational institutions). A horrified nation watched as angry, protesting students began committing suicide by immolating themselves to protest against Mandal. It is perhaps Singh’s only legacy to continue to have ramifications and implications to this day.

By the time, the Congress returned to power under Narasimha Rao, following the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in 1991, it was all over for V.P. Singh and politically at least he had become yesterday’s man as a new set of power brokers and career politicians took over in Delhi (though he would resurface from time to time from his hospital bed). In 1991 he was diagnosed with blood cancer, and V.P. Singh, once the most powerful man in India, slowly withdrew into his private world, writing poetry and painting. Here’s a sample:

Every time I wake up

It is night.

The world is just beyond

My hospital window

My only company

A distant window light.

That goes off.

First details go

Then colour

Finally even form

All that is left is a blank

In the fog of age.

With only my echo to tell me

How far away I am.

All have fallen asleep

None to tell me

‘Go to sleep.’

For more obituaries and tributes click here, here and here.

Thackeray & Thackeray vs Bachchan & Khan

[Updated September 11]

Posted by Namita Bhandare:

First my column in the Hindustan Times, ‘Thuggery means always having to say sorry’

Hum UP ke log hain, hume Hindi mein baat karni chahiye
- Jaya Bachchan at the promotion of Drona in Mumbai.


If you are from Delhi, then why have you come to Maharashtra?
- Bal Thackeray to Shah Rukh Khan in an editorial in Saamna

Actress and Rajya Sabha MP (Samajwadi Party) Jaya Bachchan’s apparently casual remark sparked off a furore, with Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) declaring a boycott of all Bachchan films unless the actress apologised for ‘insulting’ the people of Maharashtra. With three Bachchan films due to be released over the next few weeks, Jaya Bachchan lost no time in saying how very sorry she was. No good, said Raj. The apology would have to be at a public forum in the presence of the Marathi media. It’s over to Mrs Bachchan now.


Now, for the Dramatis Personae

1. Bal Thackeray: cartoonist and founder of the Shiv Sena party that made much of Marathi asmita in the 1960s, chiefly targeting South Indians as the evil outsiders who had no business to be in the state. Now an ageing patriarch, he lives in a house calleed Matoshri (in Bandra) surrounded by armed guards and his son, Uddhav Thackeray. Also, edits a newspaper called Saamna where front-page editorials written by him are treated like the gospel. Latest target:  Shah Rukh Khan, who he says is a Delhi boy (“If you are from Delhi then why have you come to Maharashtra?”).

2. Raj Thackeray: nephew of Bal Thackeray, once very close, but once the uncle made it clear that his son, Uddhav was the true inheritor of the SS, Raj walked out of the party and of Matoshri to launch his own party called the Maharashtra Navanirman Sena. Now, Raj makes headlines by talking of Marathi asmita, but he is targetting North Indians (like Amitabh Bachchan) as the evil outsiders who have no business in the state.

3. Amitabh Bachchan: Bollywood’s icon-in-chief and, more recently, Big Blogger, was born in Allahabad (in Uttar Pradesh), stood for an election from there and, more recently, starred in a TV ad promoting the state (under his close friend, the then chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party). Recently said UP was his janmabhoomi while Mumbai was his karmabhoomi. Attacked by Raj in February for promoting UP; AB responded by saying the Constitution gave him the right to live where he chose. Very close to Thackeray senior who has defended him saying he is a big star who belongs to the entire nation, not to any particular state (unlike Shah Rukh who is merely a Dilliwala!).

4. Jaya Bachchan: Actress and Rajya Sabha member for the Samajwadi Party headed by Mulayam Singh Yadav (please see above). In February she clarified that she did not know any Raj Thackeray but that Bal Thackeray was like a father to her (and Uddhav, a son). Recently, sparked off an outrage by remarking, “Hum UP ke log hai, hume Hindi mein baat karni chahiye (we are from Uttar Pradesh and should speak in Hindi),” at a promotion for the film Drona, which stars her son, Abhishek. Raj Thackeray now wants all Bachchan films banned unless Jaya B apologies. With three Bachchan films scheduled for release, including The Last Lear this Friday (plans for its premiere are on hold), Jaya B was quick to say she was very sorry. Not good enough, says Raj. He wants a public apology.

5. Shah Rukh Khan: Bollywood’s other big icon (also called the Badshah of Bollywood) who, it is widely rumoured, has a long-standing rivalry with Amitabh Bachchan (roundly denied by both). He’s a Delhi boy who made good in Mumbai. Said to be also be close to the Congress party and to the Gandhi clan (with whom the Bachchans are katti, following Amitabh Bachchan’s growing proximity to Mulayam and the Samajwadi Party parivaar, with whom the Congress currently has an electoral understanding). Targeted by Bal Thackeray for coming to Maharashtra from Delhi to earn fame and wealth. (Read what BalT said here).

The Plot

The Uttar Pradesh-Maharashtra sons of the soil debate just got messier after an apparently off-the-cuff remark made by Jaya Bachchan, actress and Rajya Sabha MP (Samajwadi Party) on the sidelines of a film promotion.

That remark has united the Shiv Sena and the Maharashtra Navanirman Sena (MNS), the parties headed by Bal and Raj Thackeray respectively. The uncle and nephew have not been seeing eye to eye and in a move seen as a direct revolt against Thackeray senior, Raj stormed out of the Shiv Sena and launched his MNS party in 2006.

Ever since, Raj has been an angry young man (a role played to perfection by Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya’s husband) in search of a just cause. But why reinvent the wheel? Raj merely picked up where his uncle had left off, taking on the role of messiah for Marathi asmita (pride) and the Marathi manoos.

So, while Bal Thackeray cut his political teeth in Maharashtra by attacking such undesirable ‘outsiders’ as Tamilians and other South Indians, Raj has concentrated on North Indian ‘bhaiyya and bania’ outsiders.

In February this year, Raj managed to provoke responses from Lalu Yadav, the rail minister from Bihar and Nitish Kumar, the chief minister of Bihar (who called Raj a shaitan) with his remarks on North Indians who celebrate festivals like chhat puja in Maharashtra.

At around the same time, he also managed to draw Amitabh Bachchan into his little soap opera by claiming that Bachchan — Indian cinema’s biggest icon ever — seemed more concerned about Uttar Pradesh (he was born in Allahabad, stood for a Lok Sabha election from there and is currently very close to Mulayam Singh Yadav, the former chief minister whose party has given his wife a ticket in the Upper House).

Amitabh responded by declaring loftily that the Constitution granted him the right to live and work wherever he chose in India. Jaya went a step further by declaring that she did not know any Raj Thackeray. “I know Bal Thackeray who is like a father to me and his son, Uddhav who is like my son,” she said, dismissing the ousted nephew.

Now, the nephew is on the rampage saying no film starring any Bachchan will be allowed to be released unless Jaya apologises for her language remark and for ’insulting’ the Marathi people. Incidentally, Drona stars both Abhishek and Jaya Bachchan, while Amitabh Bachchan’s The Last Lear is scheduled for a Friday, September 12 release. Plans for its premiere have been put on hold.

Amitabh Bachchan has chosen to respond to this particular controversy on his blog (see response here). But the stand-off remains.

But in a strange twist of events, the Shiv Sena has also got drawn into the controversy with a party spokesman declaring that Jaya should go to states like Tamil Nadu and Kerala and propagate Hindi there. Having said that, Bal Thackeray has now clarified that Amitabh Bachchan is a star who belongs to all of India, while Shah Rukh Khan — Bachchan’s chief rival who is close to the Congress party and the younger Gandhis– is a Dilliwala who basically has no business to be in Mumbai.

For the full story on Reuters click here.

Safe to say, you haven’t heard the last word on this one.

A Life in the Day: Amitabh Bachchan

‘Big B’, India’s biggest film star, has acted in more than 150 movies. Now 65, Amitabh lives in Mumbai with his wife, Jaya Bhaduri, his son, Abhishek, and his daughter-in-law, Aishwarya Rai, all actors. His daughter, Shweta, is a TV presenter. From The Sunday Times:

Amitabh Bachchan

Amitabh Bachchan

I wake at 5.30, whether I’m working or not, because I go to the gym. It’s near my house and my driver takes me. The gym is a recent phenomenon. I made many action movies from the 1970s on, and that kept me fit. These days it’s less leading-man roles, more character roles, and I felt I needed to be more mobile, so I got a trainer. She has devised a routine – light weights, cardiovascular exercise, a bit of yoga – and I spend two hours following that.

I come back and have breakfast with my wife, Jaya – eggs, cereal, fruit, prepared by our cook. My family are very important to me. We all live under the same roof, including my son, Abhishek, and his wife, Aishwarya. In India, to have the family living together is the norm. That’s how I grew up.

I look at the newspapers and attend to any office work. My home is a little distraught – with a houseful of actors, there are scripts all over, but it’s manageable. I have a dog, a great dane called Shanuk; that is a red-Indian name for “a warm, gentle breeze on a cold winter morning”. I take him to my garden, which is big, and I play with him on the lawn. Then I go to the film studio.


Pappu can fight, saala

In The Indian Express, Harneet Singh on the Bollywood ‘fight of the year’ between Salman Khan and Shah Rukh Khan. Are the gloves really off? Is politically correct Bollywood finally coming into its own?

Bollywood scribes are already terming the recent spat between superstars Salman Khan and Shah Rukh Khan as the ‘story of the year.’ For the uninitiated (though with 24X7 electronic media carpet-bombing, they’re a rarity), it all happened at Katrina Kaif’s birthday bash in a suburban Mumbai hotspot. Apparently banter between the two Khans turned ugly when professional comparisons regarding their television shows cropped up — the numbers of SRK’s Kya Aap Paanchvi Paas Se Tez Hain have not met expectations, while Salman’s 10 Ka Dum has got a favourable response. Tabloids tell us that the heated discussion took a turn for the worse when SRK allegedly made an inappropriate comment about Salman’s ex-girlfriend, Aishwarya Rai.

But it’s not just the two warring Khans — the normally reticent Amitabh Bachchan recently blogged about “being privy personally to a design by certain sections of the media and the fraternity to bring down” his world tour, The Unforgettables. Meanwhile, in an unprecedented fiery tone, Akshay recently claimed to a Mumbai newspaper that negative stories about his personal life are being circulated by certain “back-stabbing, insecure people that try and ruin me.” He goes on to say that he’d “never knight them, but I’d definitely hire them for Friday night entertainment,” and that it amazes him to see how “low some of those dogs will go when they feel I’m too hot for them professionally.” Ahem, please note the knight and the dog dig. If you recollect, Aamir Khan had kicked off a storm with his (in)famous dog blog post where he said that he owns a dog called Shah Rukh who among other things, also “licks my feet.”


‘I would put Shah Rukh Khan in a situation in which he was the underdog…vulnerable’

Filmmaker and scriptwriter Manoj Night Shyamalan in an interview with The Indian Express Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta about his connection to India, the influence of politics on his movie-making, the origin of his middle name.

You’re 1970 born, I think.

1970. So ET was in 1982, and Jaws was 1975. Then Raiders of the Lost Ark, which was huge for me, in 1983. Spielberg was doing his thing right when I was a little kid. And when I saw those movies I said, ‘You know, that’s what I want to do!’

And how did your parents figure it? Because in an Indian household, for a kid who’s eight, it’s the parents who figure things.

(Laughs) When I was eight, they didn’t think anything of it. They just thought it was a kind of funny thing that I did. So they just let me do it and then they would watch the movies and then they would giggle with the family and I would take the cousins and the neighbours and we’d make these movies and they would be terrible. They would be just absolutely horrible and everyone would just sit and laugh at them and they thought it was just funny. And then I would go and do my school work, and I was fairly good at school work, so they thought, ‘OK, he’ll become a doctor, and it’ll be just fine.’ But when I became a teenager, I got more and more serious into the filmmaking of it, and they knew I really liked it as a hobby, and I went one summer when I was 16 to go to study film, just to see what it was like and I think my parents hoped that I would come back and say ‘Not for me’.

This sucks!

Well, it did suck (laughs) but still I came back and said, ‘It’s still for me.’ And they were like, ‘Ugh!’ And then I went to a film school and they’ve been worried ever since, and I think only until this week, when we came for the Padma Shri, that they are a little bit more relaxed about it all.