Tag Archive for 'Movies'
Carl Bromley in National Geographic:
In my basement lie the remnants of an obsession with a city: novels, histories, ethnographies, journals, films, shopping bags, listing magazines, boarding cards, foot creams, CDs, film posters, postcards, video and super 8 footage. There’s also a cancelled passport with the name of the city stamped into it, Bombay, and a date—December 18, 1987.
There were 18 of us, touring India that Christmas and New Year, with a production of Romeo and Juliet. As soon as I boarded the bus from the airport, which took us to St. Xavier’s College, the city seemed to emerge, almost atonally, in short bursts of light, like flashbulb explosions. I was mesmerised by this otherworldly city, a city whose neon light breathed life back into me after a long, motionless day on a plane. I should have felt out of place. But I didn’t. I thought: If I had to be a city, I would be Bombay.
I was a maniacal teenage cineaste. I would make journeys to London and spend days at the Scala cinema in King Cross’s red-light district watching exploitation movies from all over the world. My identity was saturated by cinema then; it was my reference point for everything. During that first hour in Bombay, I thought I was experiencing the real life equivalent of the opening frames of Blade Runner with its belching flames rising from a vast industrial plain. I had, by chance, been thrilled by the Amitabh Bachchan film Amar Akbar Anthony one Sunday morning on BBC television. I fell in love with Amitabh when he burst out of the giant Easter egg and sang, “My Name is Anthony Gonsalves.” This playful, cheeky badmaash was the kind of hero I had always wanted to be. More:
The BBC made a film on him, titled Bombay Superstar, in 1974. Above, part 1, and below part 2.The other seven parts are on YouTube.
Sidharth Bhatia in Mint:
To anyone younger than 35, it would be very difficult to explain that the gaunt, bearded figure appearing in an advertisement had once captivated the entire nation. The ad, somewhat tackily, puns on the word “fans” to evoke memories of a time when Rajesh Khanna was the darling of film goers. That is actually an understatement—he had a fanatic fan following, the likes of which has never been seen before or since.
Khanna, who died in Mumbai on Wednesday after a prolonged illness, was the undisputed king of Hindi cinema through the early to mid-1970s. It was not just the kind of fandom that follows a film star but something over and beyond. He was mobbed wherever he went, women wrote letters to him in blood and then “married” his picture and every gesture and outfit he wore was copied. Rumours routinely floated about that he was suffering from a life-threatening disease, mainly because of his on-screen roles in several films (Andaz, Safar, Anand, Namak Haraam), where he died in the end.
Khanna (real name Jatin) was the son of a middle-class business family. He won a Filmfare contest in 1965, which got him a role in a G.P. Sippy film, Raaz (though Aakhri Khat was released earlier, in 1966). The film was not a hit, though he got noticed enough to be offered some more films like Baharon ke Sapne and Khamoshi.
In 1969, his film Aradhana, in which he had a double role, opened to an ecstatic reception. It had a story replete with emotion and drama, lovely locations and great music. The songs became huge hits and a new screen pair—Khanna and Sharmila Tagore—was born. More:
Sri Kumaré is an enlightened guru from the East who has come to America to spread his teachings. After three months in Phoenix, Kumaré has found a group of devoted students who embrace him as a true spiritual teacher. But beneath his long beard, deep penetrating eyes, and his endless smile, Kumaré has a secret he is about to unveil to his disciples: he is not real. Kumaré is really Vikram Gandhi, an American filmmaker from New Jersey who wanted to see if he could transform himself into a guru and build a following of real people. Now, he is conflicted — can he unveil the truth to these disciples with whom he has spent so much time, and who now look to him for guidance? More
Salil Tripathi in Mint:
The astonishing part about Soumitra Chatterjee’s long career is not that he won the Dadasaheb Phalke Award this year, but that it took four decades of exceptional performances before national juries began honouring him: a special jury prize in 2001, and a national award in 2007, (besides the Padma Bhushan in 2004). He spurned the first such award, pointing out how popular, mainstream cinema was crowding out the cinema that made you think, and he was right.
If quantity equated quality, Hindi cinema would be India’s best. For provocative cinema that stays with you beyond the three hours at a theatre, we turn to films made in other Indian languages, Bengali being the most prominent. These films bear a closer relationship with life as it is, and not as it is fantasized, although the so-called regional languages too produce escapist fare, and not all Hindi films are mediocre.
And yet, it took 42 years after Chatterjee’s unforgettable debut in Satyajit Ray’s Apur Sansar (The World of Apu, 1959) before he won his first national award. In the last of Ray’s Apu Trilogy, Chatterjee played Apu, now a young man, who joins his friend to attend a family wedding. more
In The Asian Age, Suparna Sharma reviews The Dirty Picture:
The Dirty Picture is Adults Only, so is this review. Having sorted that out, let’s go. Ms Vidya Balan, and I say this with respect and not a hint of misogyny, has balls of steel. Not any ordinary steel balls. No. Hers are lipstick-red, clanging, solid, shiny balls, hard to dent and impossible to ignore.
It takes guts to take on a role inspired by the sleazy and tragic life of an extra whose magazine cut-outs and images were mostly conjured up in the privacy of bathrooms to assist ejaculation. Few actresses in Bollywood would have said yes to portraying Silk Smitha, the two-bit “item bomb” from south, and turned it into a career-defining concerto. And fewer still would have delivered it with the dazzling chutzpah and high jinx that the retelling of Smitha’s life demanded, and added their own generous sprinkling of sauce, salt and red pepper. Ms Balan lets it all hang out, metaphorically and literally, and deserves a loud and ecstatic standing ovation.
Barring the last 20-25 minutes, The Dirty Picture is an inspired piece of work. For producer Ekta Kapoor to zero in on Smitha (I am completely ignoring her oscillating stand on it is-it isn’t about Smitha) was obviously a commercial decision more than a feminist schema — you’ll be hard pressed to find a script on which the cliché “exposing is necessary because the script demands it” sits more happily. But to put together a team that not only tells the story with skill and cheekiness, but also comes together to create the naughty Eighties, is an act of mad genius. More:
…and why that should make you gnash your teeth. Rahul Bhatia in Open:
Bajirao Singham is an upright cop gifted with earthen values and a natural tendency to whoop ass. The hardcore antisocial elements of Singham have got nothing on him, but we learn that love and its admission reduce him to a stuttering wreck. This film is a celebration of his virtues, which, though rare here, were virtually a contractual requirement in every such movie three decades ago.
Like his predecessors, Singham is not ambivalent about dealing with crime—watch the pussycat ‘claw’ move in the film’s opening item song—and matters are usually resolved with: a) a belting right out of Ralegan Siddhi, and b) a bullet. Singham, which poses the wholly reasonable question of how to deal with a corrupt administration, finds an answer filed under Rang De Basanti. But here’s the thing: although the story is the stuff between fights, like plaque between teeth, Singham holds up well in comparison with Bodyguard, which has somehow become this year’s monster hit.
While the story arc of both movies have nothing in common, they could have been designed by committee. For the superstars who wrap these films around themselves, duty, love, humility and justice come above all else. Both open with songs that glorify their legend, and both songs contain a trademark move: Singham gets to claw, and Salman Khan’s character gets to flex his biceps. Both heroines come under attack. Both heroes destroy these attackers with moves that require a blue screen. Both heroines fall instantly in love. More:
Archana “Archie” Panjabi is a British actress (East is East, Bend It Like Beckham) starring as Kalinda Sharma on the current CBS television series The Good Wife. Interviewed by Shivani Vora in India Ink, the New York Times:
Q:Talk about your upbringing. What were your parents like?
A. My mom was a teacher, and my dad had his own business, and both were very accommodating of other cultures. I used to go to Sunday school to learn about Christianity, and we celebrated Christmas with a traditional meal, a tree and presents. We even sometimes went to Midnight Mass.
But we were also very Indian in that both of them cooked traditional Indian food every day – they even made fresh rotis! And Indian holidays, especially Diwali, were a big deal for us. We used to do the puja (prayer), and we had a lot of family around so we would celebrate with them by swapping gifts and eating.
Q: You lived in Mumbai for two years – do you still have connections to the city? Do you ever visit?
A.I moved there when I was 8, and even though I was only there for a short time, being there really helped me get in touch with my Indian culture. I have family and friends there and try to visit every three or four years. It’s such an amazing city, and every couple of years, I need my fix. More:
Prakash Jha’s latest movie “Aarakshan,” which tackles affirmative action in India’s universities, releases on August 12. In WSJ:
The build-up to the release has seen plenty of controversy, after some groups suggested the film was biased against Dalits, as members of India’s most discriminated caste groups are known. The state of Uttar Pradesh, which is run by the Bahujan Samaj Party, which has a Dalit support base, said late Wednesday that it won’t allow the film to screen there on the grounds that it could cause social unrest. The state of Punjab also followed suit on Thursday, news channel NDTV reported. Mr. Jha did not immediately comment on the developments when reached on Thursday.
Excerpt from the interview:
When did you get the idea for ‘Aarakshan’? Is it based on a true story?
Mr. Jha: I thought of the story around seven years ago. The characters are loosely based on several real-life characters. We’ve all come across these characters – I’ve had teachers who never bothered about money. They would teach underprivileged students until the early hours of the morning without expecting anything in return. I’ve tried to highlight that aspect here.
What interests me is the societal changes that follow any kind of government policy. Ever since the Mandal Commission report, the issue of reservation keeps coming up. I’ve been taking note of the changes in the education system because of this policy. [The Mandal Commission recommended in the late 1980s that India expand educational affirmative action—IRT]
‘Aarakshan’ is about a very principled and compassionate character who’s the principal of a private college where there’s no reservation policy. I narrated the story to Amitabh Bachchan [who plays that character] quite a few years ago and he liked it.
Full interview here:
Through interviews and rigorous research, a beautifully illustrated new coffee-table book documents 70 years of Hindi film poster art. Arun Janardhan on The Art of Bollywood (Taschen, Rs 1,800):
It’s a story that epitomizes the glamorous ruin that Bollywood led to a couple of generations ago. The artist Gopal Kamble, who came to Mumbai in the 1930s from Kolhapur to work as a banner artist, had impressed K. Asif. The film-maker handed over to Kamble the bulk of the publicity work for Mughal-e-Azam, an epic that took nine years to make.
The story goes that Asif bought all the Winsor & Newton paints in Mumbai shops and when these ran out, raided Kolkata, Delhi and Chennai, spending Rs6 lakh in all. Though Mughal-e-Azam was a hit, Asif could not pay his dues to Kamble, who was ruined, lost his health and eventually returned to Kolhapur.
The Art of Bollywood, which mentions this episode from an artist’s life, is not a book focused on films. It’s about artists who worked on film posters, banners and other publicity material from the time cinema began in India till the 1990s, when digital artwork brought an end to hand-painted imagery. More:
The Times, London, reports from Mumbai:
Bollywood’s wealthiest mogul is poised to enter the booming business of transforming 2-D films into 3-D — with classics such as Casablanca expected to be given the full stereoscopic treatment.
Anil Ambani, who dominates the Indian film market but is also a leading Hollywood financier, will soon unveil a giant outsourcing centre in Mumbai that will be dedicated to the process of “dimensionalisation”.
The £25 million facility is the result of a partnership between his post-production business, Reliance MediaWorks, and In-Three, a Los Angeles-based specialist in 2-D to 3-D conversion.
Inside the new unit, 1,000 Indian technicians will be guided by a handful of American experts. In-Three has already given industry insiders a taste of what may be in store, holding private screenings of 3-D snippets of classics such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Wars, 12 Angry Men and Casablanca. More:
In the New York Times, a review of Vikas Swarup‘s new book, “Six Suspects.” Swarup is the author of “Q&A,” the novel that became the basis for the smash-hit film “Slumdog Millionaire.”
Mr. Swarup’s second novel, “Six Suspects,” is a Bollywood version of the board game Clue with a strain of screwball comedy thrown in. Its stock characters are easily identified: the Bureaucrat, the Actress, the Tribal, the Thief, the Politician and the American. Each attended the party at which a man named Vicky Rai, a playboy film producer, was murdered. Each has a gun and a motive. And although the story’s geographical span is even bigger than India, the whole thing feels handily confined to the kind of isolated, air-tight setting that Agatha Christie’s readers love.
Thanks to such a schematic setup “Six Suspects” is gleeful, sneaky fun. But it’s also a much more freewheeling book than the format implies. Mr. Swarup, an Indian diplomat, brings a worldly range of attributes to his potentially simple story. And he winds up delivering a rambling critique of Indian culture, taking shots at everything from racism to reality TV. Yet Mr. Swarup’s style stays light and playful, preferring to err on the side of broad high jinks rather than high seriousness. A fizzy romp seems to be the main thing he has in mind. More:
Film industry in small Indian textile town of Malegaon makes low-budget parodies of Bollywood smash hits with a lot of heart, local flavour and ingenuity. Rama Lakshmi in the Washington Post:
Past a narrow alleyway filled with sleeping goats, water tanks and women washing clothes, Shaikh Nasir’s modest home is a landmark. This is where he thinks up new ways to make the people of this grim textile town laugh.
Nasir is the father of a homegrown film industry that is famous for its parodies of blockbuster movies from Bollywood, India’s Hindi film capital. For Malegaon’s power-loom workers and others laboring long hours for low pay, his wild and wacky movies provide some relief from bleak lives interrupted by frequent sectarian clashes and bomb blasts. In September, a motorcycle bombing killed six people and injured more than 100 here.
Andrew Buncombe in the Independent:
Nothing beats diving into one of the shops that specialises in the promotional posters for Hindi-language movies. These posters – vibrant, powerful, often amusing – represent art and advertising combined in one. From the hits of the Fifties right up to the current crop of Indian films such as Om Shanti Om, the posters are a joy.
“My favourites are from the Sixties and Seventies,” says Deepak Jain, owner of one of the basement shops, which is full of original posters, with just the faintest hint of authentic yellow age around the edges. “They are more colourful and there are more actors advertised. This was the golden age of Hindi movies and people were taking more notice of the actors and actresses. People were trying to copy them, to wear the same clothes.”
Rama Lakshmi in the Washington Post:
In a training session at a suburban call center, groups of fresh-faced Indian recruits jettison their Indian names and thick accents and practice speaking English just like the Americans do. They have hesitant conversations with imaginary American customers who complain angrily about their broken appliance or computer glitch.
The instructor writes “35 = 10″ on the board, as though he is gifting the recruits with a magic mantra.
“A 35-year-old American’s brain and IQ is the same as a 10-year-old Indian’s,” he explains, and urges the agents to be patient with the callers.
That is a scene from “Hello,” the first Bollywood movie about the distorted and dual lives of India’s 2 million call-center workers.
The huts in question are replicas – stylised office cubicles made to look like rural Indian dwellings. Situated in Mind Space, a vast, grey commercial complex on the outskirts of Bombay, they form the Indian headquarters of Rhythm & Hues (R&H), the leading Los Angeles-based special effects studio.
[Photo: The Oscar-winning effects for The Golden Compass were put together at the Indian headquarters of Los Angeles studio Rhythm & Hues]
Bijoy Bharathan in The Asian Age:
Jodhaa Akbar, Ashutosh Gowariker’s big-screen adaptation of the love story that blossomed from the relationship between one of India’s greatest Mughal emperors -Akbar and his beloved wife Jodhaa — has now sparked a renewed interest in the history of the Mughal period. But really, who was Jodhaa? And how instrumental was she in shaping the destiny of this nation? Did she even exist in the first place or was she just the figment of a collective imagination spawned through centuries-old folklore?