Sunday, May 11, 2008

Revived and Moved

I have revived the blog, with promises to update more consistently. Please visit:

Monday, September 19, 2005

Quizlet #1

What do Amrish Puri, Jalal Agha, Pankaj Kapoor, Supriya Pathak, Neena Gupta, Shreeram Lagoo, Dalip Tahil, Om Puri, Tom Alter, Roshan Seth, Mohan Agashe, Alok Nath, Rohini Hathangadi, Saeed Jaffrey and Alyqee Padamsee have in common besides being well known Film/TV personalities?

They all shared the same screen in this movie. Amazing.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Making a splash in Toronto

It seems Indian films have been well represented in the Toronto Film Festival 05. The same cannot be said of the upcoming New York Film Festival (not a single Indian film). New York has one of the most vibrant Indian expat communities, and is home to renowned Indian filmmakers like Mira Nair and the late Ismail Merchant. However, our films have not been able to create the same kind of excitement here.

The Lincoln Center did host a film series on Amitabh Bachchan in April. It was obviously a huge hit with the Indian crowds, but failed to make a dent in the mainstream consciousness. Indian movies are regularly shown in the heart of Times Square, but you would be hard pressed to find an American in the crowd. What makes Toronto different from New York?

Mithun bhakt

Greatbong declares: Mithun = GOD. When his faith faltered, Prabhuji did not leave his side.
On the very first day of shooting for Mithun-da's new movie "Chingari" directed by Kalpana Lajmi, the traditional rape sequence was being picturized between Mithun-da and Sushmita Sen. However Sushmita, who is somewhat of a nag and a pathetic pseudo, left the sets fuming about how Mithun touched her inappropriately during the scene.

Despite the irony of inappropriate fondling during a rape scene, I was distraught. How could Prabhu do this to a girl his daughter's age? I cried myself to sleep and in my dreams, Mithun-da came to me, whispering words of wisdom.

Well actually no.

He said nothing. In my dream, He was standing on a desolate beach with dolorous weather-beaten eyes. He bent down, picked up a fistful of sand, and let it fall through His fingers. I immediately understood what He meant----the ephemeral nature of the human body, ashes to ashes --dust to dust----what is one touch here or there ? It's all Maya. How true.

In the morning I realized that He also may have meant that all He did was touch silicon (ie sand) and not Sushmita Sen, the creature of flesh and bone.

I was born again.
And I am a convert.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

I love SP

I looooove SP Balasubramanyam! Listen to this (till the end) and you will know why :)

(For some reason MIO's player works in IE but not in my FireFox)

Wednesday, August 31, 2005


At the launch of his latest film Kabhi Alvidaa Na Kehna, Karan Johar says
It will be large in canvas and scope and hopefully in emotions. It will be the 'Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham' (K3G) located in the heart and other intangible regions (sic) of the human being. Yes, it's different from my other films.
Which intangible regions? I have intangible regions in my being that I'm unaware of?! Same article:
From the film's controversial title to the atypical theme, "Kabhi Alvidaa Na Kehna" has been under media and showbiz scrutiny for months.
Really? Atypical theme? You mean it's not a love saga? Controversial title? Even by KJ's standards (previous titles being Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai), it is four words long and has at least two Ks. Please to be explaining, what is the controversy.

Friday, August 26, 2005

It's not a cartoon yaar!

Ashok Kaul is treading on tricky turf with his new feature film Bhaggmati, which is a combination of live action and animation, a la Who framed Roger Rabit and Space Jam.
"The essence of the film is contained in a line from the film itself: 'Jo beete huey kal ko khojta hai ussey aanewale kal ka abhas ho jata hai. My film looks at life as an unbroken stream of consciousness. The live action is contemporary while the animated portions are period. Bhaggmati is not about reincarnation. In the film, I play with the past and present dimensions. I have argued both are equally alive. Even the Bhagavat Gita and Einstein's Theory of Relativity say the same thing. Our universe is a library of thoughts and actions. Nothing is destroyed. Whatever is and was will remain on this earth. There are two love stories in my film." (read interview here)
Interesting concept, will be curious to see how it pans out. Kaul goes on to explain the reason behind adopting an unusual creative format:
"Why should animation be used only for gags? I wanted to give the genre a new dimension. I was invited to New York University to lecture. One of the students asked why India made 1,000 films and hardly any animation. I decided then I would do the needful. I announced right there that I would make an intense love story rich in culture and nostalgia."
From personal experience, I think the general public in India has some unflexible *preferences* when deciding on which movie to watch. They mostly know what want in a movie, and especially what they don't want, even before stepping into the theater. Any diversion from that is usually unacceptable. Examples of some unfair notions:
  • Documentaries are boring
  • If you are watching a Black and White movie, somehow you are not getting your money's worth
  • Animation = cartoons, so it's for kids
Of course, I will be happiest if Bhaggmati works. When Space Jam came out many years ago, I dragged a few of my buddies along "it's a great concept...c'mon it's not a cartoon for kids, be open minded won't regret it". It turned out to be a damp squib. To top that, the theater was empty and even the projection booth operator was surprised anyone showed up. I hope Bhaggmati provides some redemption.

Update: Review by Rediff

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Who framed Mangal Pandey?

There has been a lot of discussion in the media lately about the veracity of the re-construction of Mangal Pandey's story as shown in The Rising. At the forefront has been Rudrangshu Mukherjee, whose latest book challenges the very notion of Mangal Pandey being a freedom fighter. Others have piggy-backed on these and other assertions, and accused the filmmakers of falsifying history. All this is stale news. However, very few people have bothered to address the question: So what?

Sharmistha Gooptu writes for Outlook:
...the larger questions that come to mind having followed these developments of the last week or so are (a) What history and what falsification are we looking at? (b) What kind of responsibility should we at all expect from a film such as Mangal Pandey: the Rising?


...not being an expert on 1857, my concern is not whether Pandey was a nationalist, or whether he was simply too intoxicated for his own good. My concern is with this understanding of history, which sees no grey areas between "fact" and falsification, or how myth has been integral to the very unfolding of what we understand as history. The Pandey legend is just one such case in point.


Also, it would seem that those concerned with the film’s depiction of Mangal Pandey as the first nationalist are primarily concerned about the "ordinary" filmgoer, who is, by their definition, without a "proper" sense of history. As one Calcutta intellectual writes, these people will know history from the film, and take home a totally fabricated history. One cannot help but sigh at this very patronizing sentiment, which ignores the very complexities of the viewing process, and the multiple levels at which audiences make meaning in popular cinema.
My take: The filmmakers in this case set out to make a movie on the legend of Mangal Pandey, and not the British interpretation. History by it's very nature is subjective. Any historical film ever made has been accused of embellishment, Schindler's List, Alexander, Bose - The Forgotten Hero, Gandhi, all included. On the other hand, I do expect the filmmaker to uphold the general theme of a character or event. Example: showing Hitler as a humanitarian would be absurd. On that basis, The Rising meets expectation.

Slightly off topic: The exploration of the true nature of a hero, and the origins of his/her ideology pushes a movie beyond the confines of entertainment to becoming truly inspiring. The Rising fails here, and easily falls prey to the tendency of over-simplification and playing to the gallery. On the contrary, The Making of the Mahatma offers a much more subtle look into the transformation of a seemingly ordinary human being into a great soul, and has the potential for provoking constructive thought rather than mere jingoistic fervour.

Earlier post on The Rising: here.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Middle Eastern film festival in NYC

CinemaEast Film Festival 2005:
ArteEast’s first annual CinemaEast Film Festival, building on five seasons of its popular film series, will be held at the Quad Cinema in New York City, November 4-10, 2005.

Mature and often surprising new talent is thriving amongst Arab, Turkish and Iranian directors, actors and producers, who are challenging existing sociopolitical and artistic traditions with intelligence, ingenuity and humor. The CinemaEast Film Festival will highlight the best of this established and up-and-coming talent, with an emphasis on films that have not yet received widespread recognition due to a lack of international distributors and political sensitivities inherent in many established festivals.

Sounds promising. I have watched several films coming out of Iran, especially by Majid Majidi. Besides the stunning camerawork, what struck me the most was the ability of the filmmakers to convey very humane stories through the simplest of plots. When Zohre and Ali lose a pair of shoes in The Children of Heaven, you find yourself getting involved in their lives completely, with every scene unfolding a new adventure as the poor kids concoct a plan to share the remaining pair of shoes between them as school begins. The vividness of the scenery and the dialogues have an everlasting impact.

If the festival uncovers any talent even close to Majidi, it will have done a great service.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

New York local

A round-up of some M&E related events in the big apple:

  • Bollywood movies available on cable-ppv. This mostly forgettable list reminds me why I shunned cable long time ago.
  • Loews State theatre in Times Square is showing Maine Pyar Kyon Kiya and Viruddh (here's a review of the latter by a fellow blogger)
  • Imaginasian TV and Film in the City launch "Asia Rising: International Shorts and more" on Aug 10th. Download press release here.
  • Imaginasian hosts the "$5 Film Festival". I can't wait to see Shaolin Soccer, which is part of this festival. After watching Stephen Chow's more recent Kung-fu Hustle, I was found rolling on the pavement outside the theatre, with uncontrollable bouts of laughter. The last time I went that hysterical was during the 14th viewing of Andaz Apna Apna.