Saturday, December 30, 2006

RGV's Sholay: some narrative strands

Oz points to the plot preview hosted on; the familiar elements are there and you also get a glimpse of some of the upgrades in RGV's overhaul. We all know how many that have been screaming about how this remake/adaptation is sacrilege (an argument most likely fuelled by nostalgia, having little to do with understanding the creative motivation). Perhaps we can expect some of them to come forward and complain that Baldev Singh has been renamed to Ranveer. For them one envisions a billboard reading "Look Ma, no hands."

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

another GRINDHOUSE preview hits the block

Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez are baiting enough curiosity to give ailurophobes a breather. Their double-feature Grind House is laced with homage in every department: the casting, the frames, the music, the cinematic devices. Even those fake previews that are promised are enough to make you drool if you always secretly dug exploitation cinema (or, like YT, have occasionally been gauche enough to admit to it). The old teaser packs in a lot of stuff for the eager one, although most of it seemed to come from Rodriguez's segment Planet Terror in addition to packing one of the fake previews (They Call Him Machete). The new one that's hit the e-sphere is a tad more organised, has some bits in common with the first, and truly, madly and deeply kicks gluteus to a maximal pulp. Love the sounds of crackling film and the cranking projector, but I don't think I want a gun for a leg:)

very odd, what happens in a world without children's voices: notes on Children of Men

[Cross-posted on the Passion For Cinema blog]

Alfonso Cuarón achieves a rare and deeply satisfying balance between form and content with Children of Men, a tale set in a dystopian future (2027, we are told) plagued by infertility and hurtling to doom as people and lands are devastated by war, civil and political breakdown and terrorism. We are in the London of the future. The urban landscape is bleak, polluted, filthy and shrouded by depression and gloom. Despite this being years into the future, the vehicles don't look futuristic at all, but merely aged versions of their current selves -- double-decker buses look just as dusty and mundane; only advertising seems to have made big strides: billboards and bus signs are now animated. One of the advertising spots running even informs us that The world has collapsed; only Britain strives on. A nationalist government is aided by a brutal police force and all foreigners are regarded as illegal immigrants and refugees are subjected to shame and torture in camps across the country. The government also disburses anti-depressants, perhaps in response to the widespread apathy and depression; yet, ganja is still illegal. Somehow media spectacle doesn't seem to have ceased: in the opening moments of the film we see people reacting to the death of Diego Ricardo, the youngest person on the planet, who was 18 years, 4 months, 20 days, 16 hours, and 8 minutes old.

All this is part of the texture of the film itself as is the soundtrack that features Deep Purple, King Crimson, Radiohead and John Lennon as well as an evocative use of Franco Battiato's cover of Ruby Tuesday. The content and narrative derive a lot from the P. D. James novel the film is based on, but there are significant differences that necessitate the evaluation of the film on its own terms. Emmanuel Lubezki's camerawork merits recognition and accolades of all kinds for the consistent palette of greys that make London look just as war-beleaguered as it did during the second World War. The Orwellian echoes from 1984 resonate in the trash-laden streets and dark alleys, the woods and fields on the outskirts of the city, the grime and grief of the internment camps for the refugees, and the police officers patrolling the roads with dogs.

Set design plays a crucial role in the film, because a lot of exposition comes not from dialogue, but from the spaces that we see our characters in: the salvaged art represented by Michaelangelo's David (that's missing a leg) and Picasso's Guernica (not to mention the flying pig that shows up, perhaps as a nod to Pink Floyd's Animals), the television ad for a suicide drug called Quietus, the graffiti on the walls.

The cinematographic choices are what seal the deal as far as balancing form and content is concerned. Cuarón eschews quick cuts and dramatic close-ups of any kind, preferring instead to use a lot of extended shots with handheld cameras, thus giving scenes a sense of verisimilitude, honesty and earnestness. Consequently, the film boasts two spectacular sequences. The first one is a 12-minute uninterrupted sequence of dialogue and action filmed from within a car carrying passengers. This employed a modified vehicle as well as a special camera rig and the results are simply astounding. The second sequence, a more explicit example of the cinéma vérité sensibility that Cuarón's approach lends the film, has us following characters through the streets, ducking under and into buildings and eventually making their way into a building, and then back out, all amidst continuous gunfire and explosions. In a spectacularly real stroke of luck, the camera lens is spattered with some (fake) blood and dirt at one point, thus shattering the fourth wall; the spatters vanish subsequently during a transition across a dark space, thus conveying the possibility that a silent cut happened. Not since the continuous opening shot from Orson Welles in Touch Of Evil has the extended take augmented the emotional core of the narrative so much, Scorsese's memorable excursion in Goodfellas notwithstanding.

The performances are all first rate; all the actors seem to have been picked for their ability to inhabit characters instead of being recognisable faces and personalities on screen: from Clive Owen's warm wry Theo Faron, whom both humans and animals seem to trust, to Michael Caine's hippie and former political cartoonist Jasper, to Julianne Moore as Theo's ex-wife Julian Taylor, who is now an underground revolutionary, to Danny Huston as Theo's cousin Nigel, to Claire-Hope Ashitey as Kee, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Luke, Pam Ferris as Miriam, Peter Mullan as Syd, and Oana Pellea as Marichka.

There is a reluctance to reveal more about the elements of the narrative and the plot. I went in to watch the film with just the premise of it being a tale of fading hope in a dystopian future. The rewards of not being forewarned about the details were immense. To find a film that's both intellectually and emotionally rewarding, a film that is compelling both in its content and the stimulating technique employed to present it is rare enough to want to go in blind. I was glad I stayed away from plot synopses (although I wish I had been prepared for the technical wizardry I was about to be treated to). Without revealing too much, I'd have to say that it also became the perfect Christmas Day movie for me.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

mr kashyap pops up in the most interesting places

Baradwaj Rangan's interview with Gautham Menon (Kaakka Kaakka, Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu) sports an interesting detail about Menon's next film Pachaikili Muthucharam:

...Gautham is now busy with the release work for Pachaikili Muthucharam, which is expected around Christmas. He calls this an adaptation of "Derailed – the book, not the film. I've totally worked from the book and I've given it a very Tamil, very Indian feel." We got around to talking about this because he mentioned that he was reading a lot of books of late, wanting to adapt them, trying to pick up rights, "which is how it works in Hollywood." It was Anurag Kashyap who gave the book to Gautham, suggesting a possible film version, "and I said let's buy the rights. We contacted the publishers, but they said Hollywood has already picked up the rights. I still thought I could make this with Kamal sir and release it before Derailed gets released. I'd give credit to the writer." But, of course, Kamal sir said no. And meanwhile Derailed, the film, came out. "I sent my assistants to watch it, and they said it was quite different." Gautham makes a point of this because "I have a problem if people say I took off from the movie. I generally don't do that at all. [..]"

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

vishals scores at CIFF; and an interesting brochure

Screened on November 30, 2006, Omkara got Vishal an award at the 30th Cairo International Film Festival. The Prize for the Best Artistic Contribution, according to the awards page was presented for Music, Cinematography and Art Direction to Vishal for [his] inspired use of a sweeping epic score, extraordinary photography and art direction, which come together in perfect harmony.

In other news, the brochure for The Blue Umbrella (slated for a January 05, 2007 release) has been designed to mimic a children's story book. The question remains: how does one get hold of it? The Omkara coffee table book is all set to become a dream.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

sholay me.n tum gaan me.n tum

RGV's Sholay is ending up as a project more interesting in its making than the final outcome. One hopes that it doesn't turn out to be the filmic brother of Duke Nukem Forever.

With the casting boat having rocked a few times, Sushant Singh came on board as saambaa; reportedly, RGV and Bajpai met up after years of a cold war, Bajpai wanted to play jay, RGV wanted him for saambaa, and soon it was yet another edition of The Long Goodbye. Kaif was out and Sushmita Sen seems in for playing the widow raadhaa (rechristened devii). Nisha Kothari still holds the fort as devii ghu.Ngharuu (aka basa.ntii 2007). RGV's blue-eyed Mohit Ahlawat was the next one to leave the project (again, RGV's comments are funny, and Mohit's indicate that more is afoot). Enter model Prashant Raj Sachdev ("just call me Raj").

And then there's the soundtrack. After roping in NeighSel Grossenschade to lend a contemporary nasal spin on RDB's impassioned mahabuuba, The Nose was no longer part of the project; out went Asha Bhosle as well. Enter choreographer-turned-musician Ganesh Hegde (have you heard "G" lately?), and we now have Sukhwinder Singh and Sunidhi Chauhan; junior B seems all set to reprise Jalal Agha's cameo (and this would mark another musical item featuring the two Bs, although Gabbar Bachchan ain't likely to shake no leg).

Ye want more laddies and lassies? Well, the one and only Original, Bappi Lahiri's reportedly recorded two songs for the film (he says RGV's roped him in to do three).

The article referenced by that last link also provides us with the juicy tidbit that Bappi's beTaa Bappa is all set to plant his stake as a film music director with Dus Kahaniyaan, Sanjay "Original" Gupta's several-shorts-make-one-film venture. One awaits the soundtrack of another Gupta production Shootout at Lokhandwala directed by yet another Bollywood Original, Apoorva Lakhia (MSAMD, Ek Ajnabee/Man On Fire). The soundtrack features the likes of Indian Ocean, Euphoria, Strings and Shibani Kashyap (the last two were also on the Zinda soundtrack). Although the film is supposed to be based on a real-life police encounter, there are rumours that the real source is ... SURPRISE! SURPRISE! ... a foreign film. This time it's Johnny To's Breaking News.

elsewhere hereabouts: RGV's reaction to the scent of a suing Sippy

update [dec 19, 2006]: Here's more about Bappi's efforts as well as a little something about Prashant Raj Sachdev

Thursday, November 30, 2006

thirsting for pyaasa

what we make today is not cinema but superficial, downright dumb drivel is the byline for some impassioned vitriol from Sudhir Mishra in an opinion column for Outlook India. The article notes the ignorance fuelling Bollywood's auto-fellating spirit, the stronghold exercised by the stars and a ray of hope represented by a new breed of filmmakers who're more interested in telling stories instead of churning pages of captions accompanying polaroids of stars. My favourite nugget is a bit devoted to the industry reaction to Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi:

The continuing tragedy of Hindi cinema is that it is in the grip of the hegemony of a few stars, who patronise a select few filmmakers, often resulting in the tripe that is offered to the public. I was told by two of these megastars that Hazaaron Khwahishein was one of the worst scripts they had ever read. What these stars did with their next films is a part of history that I don't wish to dwell on.

related reading: An article that offers a comparative analysis (see page 2) of financial success in Bollywood and in the south indian film industry.

elsewhere hereabouts: notes on Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi, easily the best Hindi film of 2005 and one of the best Indian films of the year | a review of Bhansali's Black that includes a pointer to Sudhir Mishra's caustic take on the film and the fawning industry reaction to the film.

and if this ever-changing world in which we're living makes you give in and cry JUNG

Revisiting a classic dud

First, some disambiguation is in order. This is not the 2000 film directed by Sanjay Gupta that filched from Face/Off and Desperate Measures. This is the truly original 1996 vehicle bearing the likes of Ajay Devgan, Aditya Pancholi and Mithun Chakraborty. Yes, this is the Jung that filched Rahman's tilaanaa tilaanaa (from Muthu) and made it diiwaanaa diiwaanaa (persons responsible: Nadeem and Shravan and lyricist Anand Bakshi). This is that T Rama Rao film we talked about a few years ago. Since enough venom has gone under the bridge, one may be tempted to ask why. Now this is a question that has plagued viewers (like YT) of Bollywood's folderol for eons. However, in the context of this Rambha rompfest, an answer is available: we failed to address the greatness of the film; we merely scraped some flakes off the tip of the smallest ice cube floating at the surface of this cesspool.

It's a portent of slippery times ahead when the movie is presented by someone called Dinky. Then you have a villain (good old Sadashiv (H)amrapurkar) called chakradhaarii chaudharii, who spouts the following delicate ego-fondling nugget:

is sa.nsaar me.n do hii to chakradhaarii hai.n
uupar sudarshan-chakrawaalaa
aur niche mai.n usakii Takkarawaalaa

Everyone's favourite pillar of superhuman honesty and integrity, Mithun Chakraborty, plays eii!-CP arjun (translation: bright, shining, radiant), an honest, sincere, A-grade cop. Ajay Devgan plays his younger brother ajay (translation: he who cannot be defeated; also: we were too bored to think of a name for his character, so he kept his own), who, pursuant to the Bollywood Cliché Act, is an honest lawyer (which, is a contradiction in terms, and hence makes this stock character unique). Aditya Pancholi rocks the joint in a double role: we have the innocent fair-complexioned raam (translation: dark/black [according to wikipedia]; pleasing/charming according to another page), wrongfully accused, tried with the secular docket number 786/25, and rotting in the oft-worn outfit of prisoner #117 in a prison on some backlot; and we have billaa (from the genus of Bollywood villains that inundated movies like Gardish and continue to haunt us even today with Musafir), the villain who decided to rob a train and then frame train-driver raam (aah the trains of coincidence) for his misdeeds. In keeping with tradition, billaa and Co. also tie raam's pregnant wife siitaa (meaning: furrow; straight out of the epic to the railway tracks. The framed siitaa dumps her baby at the doorstep of lakshmii (translation: wealth, fortune), the wife of ACP arjun and manages to flee prison.

In order to get a tax exemption from the CoincidenceMeter by providing a stellar implementation of the StronglyConnectedCharacterGraph, screenplay writer Santosh Saroj (translation: lotus of happiness ... or is it the kiLukkam-e-kamal?) whips out his Kevin Bacon strips and links our characters up.

Like free cable, ajay, convinced of raam's innocence, begins to represent a ray of hope for him (that is, to say, on a professional level). He takes up his case and thus aligns himself in conflict with arjun, who's busy filing his nomination for the Guinness Book of World Records for arresting raam over and over again. Meanwhile, wifey dear (who insists on conjugating English verbs to the continuous form ostensibly as an attempt to provide some humour) hires a nanny for the baby -- if you haven't already figured it out, sitaa's the lucky nanny. Also in the mix is a jallaad (translation: executioner) played by Tinnu Anand, who also has his own axe to grind with billaa (the man responsible for his son's death). On the artistic front, Rambha plays madhuu, over-fed romantic foil for ajay; madhuu also happens to be the daughter of chakradhaarii. This sets up a rich interlocking set-up of Kekule closures and things begin to boil slowly with a rising conflict of truth, justice and melodrama.

Those looking for a simple dramatic narrative will find solace in the number of twists and coincidences that the film sports. Santosh Saroj also scores a coup with lines like kisane mere pyaar ke tave pe paanii chi.Dakaa diyaa? ye ##papa## nahii.n paapii hai, and mai.n har hi.ndustaanii kaa bhaaii huu.N magar tujh jaise gaddaaro.n ke liye kasaaii huu.N. The scenarists do well with their limited supply of spiked lassies by writing a historical voyeuristically satisfying scene featuring madhu bathing against the aural background of Hotel California (appropriated without due credit, but you already figured that out). As if this wasn't enough, Rambha shows up again later dressed up as a Sikh pilot. The giddily swinging cake gets its cherry with Ajay Devgan's drag act.

This belongs to the equivalence class of Mithun films where everyone else seems to get more screen time than the Bengal Tiger himself. Such movies work best when they sport enough villains to fill up a lunch thaalii, but we have a shortage here. The combination of the doppelgänger, the benzene bonds among the characters, the faux physics of the collisions and the visually overwhelming Rambha-nctiousness augment the value of this ham sandwich just enough to make it memorable as events draw to a close with a crackerjack emotional ending where a mother donates her biological baby to its surrogate mother. It's time to catch the 8:55 goods train to Pune.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

vishal bhardwaj's next

[a generous tip to JR for remembering a fragment and prompting a frantic search for the newsitem]

After Omkara, Vishal's been producing Anurag Kashyap's No Smoking (besides doing the honours on the song front with Gulzar) as well as the song for RGV's Nishabd. Although a third edition in the Shakespeare canon (Julius Caesar) was hinted at, his next directorial project seems to be "a period drama set in the days of World War II on the Burma-Japan border." Here's where you can read all that and more from lyricist Gulzar who's doing the lyrics for this venture as well.

what the ba.njar!

Raghav Sachar does a fine job with his songs for Kabul Express. kah rahaa meraa dil (with its clear prominent acoustic guitar and suspended chords) and haa.N ye mai.n aayaa kahaa.N huu.N (with some nice harmonies, accidental chords and an a cappella coda) are personal favourites. It's a bit annoying to hear the fake accent and inflections that Sachar infuses the opening track (kaabul fizaa) with. The instrumental theme stirs memories of Morricone (Once Upon A Time In The West perhaps, but I'm not sure).

The pièce de résistance, however, is the song called ba.njar (meaning: barren). The song features in three versions: one sung by Shubha Mudgal, another by Sunidhi Chauhan (which, for sheer verve, wins top spot for me) and the third by KK (coming a close second). The title of the song becomes a motif so blatant that the other words in the mukha.Daa feel like window dressing:

ba.njar ret hai zamii.n ba.njar hai
ba.njar aasamaa.N ye ghar ba.njar hai
ba.njar dil ye nain ba.njar
ba.njar nain ke aa.Nsuu ba.njar hai.n

refrain: is ba.njar shahar ke dil me.n Dhuu.NDhuu.N mai.n giilii miTTii kaa ma.nzar

ba.njar lamhaa hai waqt ba.njar hai
ba.njar waqt-sii ye raat ba.njar hai
ba.njar raat Kwaab ba.njar
chaa.Nd-taaro.n kaa saath ba.njar hai

refrain: is ba.njar shahar ke dil me.n Dhuu.NDhuu.N mai.n giilii miTTii kaa ma.nzar

ba.njar ret ba.njar zamiino.n ke is daur me.n
ba.njar man ba.njar dha.Dako.n ke is shor me.n
ba.njar ehasaas me.n ba.njar saa.Nso.n me.n
ik safar zaruurii banataa hai jo dilo.n ke dam pe chalataa hai

refrain: is ba.njar shahar ke dil me.n Dhuu.NDhuu.N mai.n giilii miTTii kaa manzar

With so many ba.njars, how the hell does a song remain ba.njar?

(That extract above has been shorn of repeated lines, in case you were interested in counting the total number of ba.njars).

Very ba.njarous.

Monday, November 27, 2006

please welcome the new wave of bollywood high concept

The resounding success of a piece of trash like Krrish and the incumbent success of Dhoom 2 [rejected title: Dhoom and Dhoomer] are enough indicators that Bollywood's laying claim to yet another Hollywood bastion: the high concept flick. Preliminary optimistic analysis predicts a return of Rs. 90 crore. Baradwaj Rangan's review notes the Gandhian aspect (walking, puTTan, walking) of the characters. Oz, on the other hand, notes venomously: But there is a difference between "Not using brains" to "View" a movie AND "Not using brains" to "MAKE" a movie..

The paying masses meanwhile are glad to have their fill of starry eye candy and Ms Rai's smooching coup. Expect Uday Chopra to indulge in method acting in a forthcoming sequel.

While on the roof, please allow me to recommend the book High Concept: Don Simpson and the Hollywood Culture of Excess. I also recommend the opening scene of Robert Altman's The Player. And if you're looking for a breakdown of the requirements for pitching a project in this vein (since, presumably, you're an aspiring writer who has the perfect script for the Dhoom franchise), kindly refer to Steve Kaire's article on the subject. Now if you will excuse me, I have to work on the climax of the sequel to Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (it's The Sound of Music meets Cliffhanger meets Classic Dance of Love).

Sunday, November 26, 2006

the making of SATYA

Kindly head over to the PassionForCinema blog where Anurag Kashyap has just begun to describe the experience of making Satya, one of the best and definitive Indian films ever. It's just the first part, so if you can't stand the suspense, stay away till the last post is in. Hopefully, we also get more on the creative enigma that is RGV.

addendum: Part II is up.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

RIP Altman

The master of the ensemble is no more. Elsewhere in the archives of this blog, you will find notes on M*A*S*H and Gosford Park.

yellow midday

Oz's Passion For Cinema portal's been getting some press thanks to Anurag Kashyap's No Smoking Diary. Oz has also managed to get two other filmmakers on board: Pavan Kaul and Suparn Verma. But some of the press hasn't been good. A recent Midday article (ePaper URL) fails to do its research and merrily concludes that Pavan Kaul's merely copying Anurag's move to blogging. Oz's impassioned post has more details. Feel free to voice your opinion in the comments; suggestions on a course of action (accounting for things like the Indian judicial system that seem to offer no solace) are also welcome. Outrage might just make up for the hurdles in mounting a legal attack.

Monday, November 20, 2006


The Big B seems all set to sing a song titled rozaanaa for RGV's forthcoming is-this-based-on-Lolita-or-not Nishabd. Vishal Bhardwaj returns for an RGV-fronted venture for the first time since Satya (he did the songs for LKLKBK, but RGV only produced that venture). This will also mark the first collaboration between Vishal and lyricist Munna Dhiman since Ramji Londonwaley and the hard-to-find album Aasma.

On a related note, Vishal's returning with Gulzar for Anurag Kashyap's No Smoking. If you haven't already heard about it, allow me to direct you to The No Smoking Diary for more.

While on the subject of Vishal, one must also note with hope that The Blue Umbrella is slated to be the inaugural release in January 05, 2007 for a new sub-division of UTV Motion Pictures created to "promote experimental and unconventional cinema, making it accessible to a broad audience." The sub-division's strangely called "UTV Classics." Presumptuous perhaps; however, one welcomes any opportunity for more interesting celluloid fare. There's more about the film elsewhere hereabouts as far as the national awards and the Pusan International Film Festival are concerned.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

a racemiferous return

[aka I have a few links for you]

Manish trashes aspects of Umrao Jaan that don't seem to have been part of J P Dutta's game plan.

JR has a growing series of posts on the music of Mani Ratnam's Iruvar. So far we have the introduction, the players and notes on narumugaiye. As of November 16, 2006, we have a post dedicated to Poo KoDiyin Punnagai.

Coincidentally, Baradwaj Rangan has resurrected an old article of his on the same film.

With his notes on Vivah, Baradwaj Rangan gives me food for thought and an incentive (where there was none) to watch the flick (I'll still wait to build up my resistance though).

Gaurav gets his first taste of the business venture menace ... or should I say the menace gets a taste of Gaurav? [my personal saga ended here]

In other news, as G P Sippy's grandson Sascha Sippy is hell-bent on tossing legal hurdles in the way of RGV's take on Sholay, RGV notches up a winning retort: With his fertile imagination, aggressive attitude and way with words, he'd be ideal to write dialogues for movies. And I'd be happy to let him do the needful in my next film, provided he can look beyond his uncle's 'Sholay'

RGV continues to make more interesting news and less successful movies. He's got a PNC production coming up called Sex Haazir Ho (aka "Sex Present Yourself"). That English title alone merits an award.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

yawn-thony kaun hai

[september 03, 2006]

{notes about who is cletis tout? and its Bollywood bastard[0] Anthony kaun hai?}

Raj Kaushal hits an all-time low with this Sanjay Dutt-Arshad Warsi vehicle that continues the growing tendency of current Bollywood filmmakers to reference and quote from film history to elicit some support on the grounds of nostalgia. The narrative references Yash Chopra films[1], the guy caught on video killing a girl[2] is called Lucky Sharma[3], Gulshan Grover's character hums old Hindi films songs[4], albeit grossly out of tune, the dead guy is named Anthony Gonsalves[5], Sanjay Dutt's hitman is named Master Madan[6] (and he watches Bollywood movies[7]). Warsi's character's name (Champak "Champ" Chaudhary) raises a laugh once and then proceeds to become just as irritating as a persistent itch.

Spotting Ravi Baswani convincingly impersonate a piece of prime ham will induce more grief and anguish than watching European art cinema without subtitles. VJ Anusha Dandekar, who shows up as Rosa, the former object of Champ's attentions, merely serves as the object of ogle-aasans by a drooling male audience. Minissha Lamba, who, by deductive logic, is the "heroine" of the piece, replaces Rosa as Jiya and offers some pelvic[8] perspective in compensation for oomph.

There are bad lines but these rarely transcend the sporadic genius of "the kiss of conjugal bliss." If you think that's enough reason to watch this enthusiastically excerebrose jejune jaunt, I have to say no way, no way[9].

This has been a floccinaucinihilipilification of farraginous film.

[0]: more about Daddy-O

[1]: Dutt's character gets Warsi's character to revisit his flashback in the style of the Chopra style of films; it's an inspired touch and marks one of the few specks of originality that the film can sport (even though the joke doesn't fly higher than an ill-fated chicken fleeing about at a poultry farm)

[2]: When we see Lucky kill the girl, we also see our friend Anthony filming the whole deal. All this is done through a series of edited shots. In a spectacular exploitation of stochastic serendipity, the video that Anthony films also contains the same set of edited shots. This not only gets POV wrong, but also makes the evidence inadmissable (because it was doctored); you would think that something as simple as a video clip would not be subjected to the machinations of the gangrenous minds of Bollywood filmmakers, but ... whom am I trying to kid here??!! (October 27, 2006: JR gently notes that everyone's favourite black comedy Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro also featured a similar abuse of POV and montage when the bridge havaladaar recounts his encounter with Vinod and Sudhir on TV: I could now eat humble pie or claim that this was a creative exercise mixing surrealism (um, who was on the bridge filming this anyway?), parody and expressionism (yeah! right!); I choose the latter.

[3]: The clean-shaven twin who woos the rich gardener's lass in Gol Maal

[4]: Songs include and ham hai.n raahii pyaar ke and suhaanaa safar

[5]: The Christian third of the most popular ternary secular offering from Bollywood, who gatecrashed an Easter party in a tux with gibberish to boot

[6]: This is culturally the most egregious nod, but one must not err on the side of purism by condemning the perverted reference to the child prodigy

[7]: very few really, given that such an embellishment would distract our furacious friends from their mission of furnishing us with specious flummery

[8]: She, who is obsessed with her growing hips

[9]: The opening credits are accompanied by an impassioned attempt at cool that sports these words as lyrics. The Nose[10] strikes gold with this film, and people who ignore the warning during the opening credits are served a reminder at the end of the film in the form of an incongruous (does that surprise you puTTan?) music video featuring Dutt and Warsi and a sea of thongs; As if this wasn't bad enough to jar your sense of time and space, another music video hits you: this one features The Nose with cap and coat rendering another cover of "The Rhyme Of Runny Nose"[11]

[10]: 'nuff said

[11]: The song's ishq kiyaa kiyaa, or, to be precise, i.Nshq ki.nyaa.N ki.nyaa.N; and you've really had enough with the footnotes, haven't you?

Monday, October 16, 2006

anurag kashyap's diary goes online

image courtesy:
Oz's baby Passion for Cinema serves as the host for Kashyap's diary accompanying the making of his next film No Smoking with John Abraham (produced by Vishal Bhardwaj and Kumar Mangat). His first PFC post may be found here. Here's to more interesting reading from the man who seems to "walk cinema, talk cinema." And needless to say, one hopes that his trilogy of unseens (Paanch, Black Friday and that love story set in a dystopian future called Gulaal. And what of Allwyn Kalicharan? Here's hoping there are no more additions to this list -- even Orson Welles had a few (and so few they were) completed films under his belt.

elsewhere: pointers to and notes from oz's Kashyap interview | a pointer to an intimate look into the turbulent life of Mr Kashyap

update: [october 18, 2006] And this merits an article in the Mid-Day. Wow! [link courtesy: oz]

Friday, October 06, 2006

did your script get selected for the oscar library? get in line

The stench began with the "selection" of Parineeta's screenplay. The live-in labour of languor called Salaam Namaste (music review) and the boring Taxi No 9211 were next. This time we got even more misleading hints:

So far, only rare Bollywood films like Lagaan, Kal Ho Na Ho, Parineeta and Salaam Namaste have been able to find a place in the Oscar library.

The inclusion of 'Taxi Number 9211' in the library is an honour for its director Milan Luthria, writer Rajat Arora and producer Ramesh Sippy's Entertainment One.

Note the interesting use of the word rare. Note also the implications of honour.

Then we had another [1] disastrous rip-off of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels called Phir Hera Pheri (produced by the man with the most consistent remake run in Indian film history) that, when abbreviated, unfortunately shared the same name as a cool piece of technology with a left-recursive name. More honour was experienced.

And finally what might well be Bollywood's most hated profitable movie of all time, KANK (aka Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna aka pyaar na mujhase karatii ho / don't stay, go!), found more reason to coo from the rooftops:

Karan Johar who is currently in New York was extremely elated and overjoyed and considers this as a great acknowledgement of his work. Karan Johar has received mixed feedback towards his movie but feels that the script of KANK being acquired by Oscars Library is a victory for him as people are relating to the characters of the film.

It was a feat that Kal Ho Naa Ho had also pulled off, giving Karan Johar the incentive to do the Quick Gun Murugan strut.

What we're talking about, johns and janes, is how producers have begun to capitalise on the inclusion of scripts in the Margaret Herrick Library at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

That it wasn't a question of merit should have come as no surprise to people familiar with Bollywood. Have you forgotten the countless jokes about movies predicated on scripts that lay solely in the eyes of the beholder? Of films that merely served as agglomerations of visual reenactments of sequences from foreign movies? Of "original" compositions that originally came from elsewhere?

The library holds more than 32,000 books; 1,800 periodical titles; 60,000 screenplays; 200,000 clipping files; 30,000 posters; lobby cards, pressbooks and other advertising ephemera; over 8 million photographs; over 300 manuscript and other special collections relating to prominent industry individuals, studios and organizations; sheet music, music scores and sound recordings; production and costume sketches; artifacts; and oral histories.
Don't you find it strange that unoriginal screenplays including those of Ek Ajnabee (Man on Fire) and Taxi No. 9211 (Changing Lanes) are included in the library?

Old faithful Anurag Kashyap (last related post) provides the best note on the subject along with a slice of cynical lime:

There are no criteria. Any random script is selected for the library and it is sad. Somebody who has never gotten any attention gets excited when somebody looks at them. Even the biggies get so excited. Look at Karan Johar who was thrilled when KANK got selected in Hamburg. 10,000 films go to Hamburg every year. I think it is this excitement that is our own failing. They are all like frogs in a well and don't know what is happening outside.
The people at the library keep track of films that have a good opening and select them. Sometimes producers too put their script forward and take pride in their work no matter how bad it is.
Getting your script into the Oscar library is not a big deal the world over. It is only when a film gets selected for the Oscar library in India that it makes news.

On a slightly related note, flash back to the Mansoor Khan yawn-o-rama called Akele Hum Akele Tum. This was a film that merrily filched from Kramer vs. Kramer (primarily) with material for the milieu from A Star Is Born. The Hoffman/Streep starrer swept away Oscars for Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Director, Best Film and Best Adapted Screenplay. Back home, Khan's filch fry continued its plagiaristic pursuit by roping in Anu Malik for the musical numbers. Mr. Malik lived up to his reputation as an "inspired" music director. The crowning moment was the song sequence where we saw Rohit (Aamir Khan) forced to sell his composition dil meraa churaayaa kyo.n (note the strangely apt use of the word churaayaa) to an inferior yet successful music composer duo Amar (Harish Patel)-Kaushik (Shafi Inamdar). You had to be really daft not to notice the sly dig at Nadeem-Shravan. Well, as the song continues, we see the duo winning a Filmfare Award for this song while Aamir mopes away in poses of isolation photographed to make the audience go "aw!" (Triviamongers may note that Ayesha Jhulka makes a cameo as the presenter). Well, guess what, this friggin' song was a rip-off too -- of George Michael's Last Christmas. I challenge the Bollywood machine of the 21st century to come up with something to top this. In the meantime, I'll grab another slice of irony.

[1] The previous rip-off was the first half of a double dose of ennui called Plan that came from the Sanjay Gupta camp; the second half merrily "adapted" another flick called The Suicide Kings.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

the dark side of anurag kashyap

A Tehelka interview [courtesy: oz] reveals the harrowing past and strife in the life of the talented unfortunate Anurag Kashyap. There are quite a few interesting nuggets about Black Friday:

I wanted Irfaan Khan to play Badshah Khan and Naseeruddin Shah to play Tiger Memon. They both turned us down. We were making the film during the Gujarat riots and both actors were uncomfortable playing Muslim terrorists.

There's a note about the ill-fated Allwyn Kalicharan (which had, for some weird reason, given me the impression of being some kind of desii Training Day) [and that really should be Allwyn]:

in 2003, I tried to do Alvin Kalicharan, a black, mad amalgamation of everything that comprises a Hindi heartland childhood: Bal Bharati, Champak, Manohar Kahaniyan, Satya Katha. Six days before the film, insecure, confused, Anil Kapoor pulled out.

One must note here that Anil Kapoor's look in Musafir owed a lot to this Kashyap project.

There's also a nice note about some of the important films of 2006:

I see things changing. Films like Omkara, Rang De Basanti, Khosla Ka Ghosla, and Lage Raho Munnabhai are proof of that. A film like Lage Raho makes me insanely jealous, but it also sets me thinking. There are other lighter ways of doing the same things. Perhaps I am too intense, black. Too ridden by demons. Javed Akhtar says anger gives way to cynicism, then to humour. For me, that last transition still remains. We think we can change the world — we can’t. But with humour, people understand more.

There's also a lot about a history of abuse and depression. Not pleasant reading, but it makes you wish circumstances would give this guy a break.

pointers elsewhere hereabouts: rohit karn batra interviews kashyap for | oz interviews kashyap

Monday, October 02, 2006

the darkness lifts

Perhaps it's time to throw away your copy of that poor-quality low-res pirated edition of Kashyap's honest unflinching film based on the 1993 blasts. The Supreme Court has ordered the release of Anurag Kashyap's Black Friday once the pronouncement of the judgement is done.

elsewhere: notes on the music | a collection of links to (among other things) a Kashyap interview, notes on a screening of Paanch, reasons for the ban on the film, the Maqbool connection and an interesting list of Kashyap's guilty viewing pleasures.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Friday, September 08, 2006

festive varma

After the NYAFF showcase, RGV's canon shows up again at the Tiger Eye Firecracker Showcase "London's Asian Film Festival". A shot of Ahlawat from the upcoming Shiva (music review) serves as a fiery motif for the pages and the cover of the magazine. There's even an interview. [courtesy: greencine]:

What's your take on the way Indian cinema is received in countries like the UK or US?
I don't know, but it is a little confusing for me when a film like Monsoon Wedding becomes such a big success. I feel Indian cinema is dramatically opposite to that film, so I don't know whether the film audience is different or what. I do not think I am really aware of the way Indian cinema is received in the UK or the US.

You are a critically and commercially lauded director within India. Yet you have received little attention abroad. How do you feel about that?

I honestly feel the west is far more advanced. I don't really believe that whether I have talent or not matters. In India my style and techniques are very unique, there is no comparison to that. But at the end of the day let's not forget that I am heavily influenced by the west. So whatever I am doing I'm not creating a new style of filmmaking. I think it's just a throw back to what I have learned from the west.

Monday, August 28, 2006

a few notes

RIP Hrishikesh Mukherjee. Could someone step up and get Musafir out on DVD please?

addendum: [august 29, 2006] an official tribute site is up.

The new World of Satyajit Ray is up and it's a gorgeously welcome stock of eye candy.

Saturday, August 26, 2006


NSFW. [courtesy: The Language Log; and there's some followup here with a touch of detergent]

Falls back to the floor with tears in his eyes

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


[aka cheaty! cheaty! ban! ban!]

Somebody decides to capitalise on the mixed reactions to the language in Vishal's Omkara. This "somebody" might go improperly represented, if the 6 news sources[1] I've read so far are any indication. Three of them (TimesNow, NDTV, Zee News) say his name is "Naeem Khan"; CNN-IBN picks "Naseem Khan" (and IndiaFM agrees) and later settles on "Nasim Khan." Not one to let the general populace forget their coup de vérité with Saat Hindustani and the National Film Awards, DNA chooses the more verbose "Nasim Khan Sajjad Hussain." Pursuant to the tradition of yours-humbly writhing-truly of favouring the 2-letter abbreviation, we will refer to the plaintiff as NK.

His arguments are predictable and only marginally interesting.

In my 18 years of acting, I have not heard such profane language. The profanity in the film will cause grave harm and injury to society and damage young minds beyond repair. Youngsters love to imitate film heroes. It is therefore in the interest of justice that the film be banned. Omkara is a film which is harmful to society at large and the censor certificate must be cancelled.

That's a great example of the cut-up technique at work. These generalisations smack of prudery and only fuel the suspicion that the most likely cause for this protest is nothing but a short-sighted clueless narrow-minded hunger for political mileage.

Should we retort by asking NK if trite simplistic ideas of family, rape, violence and titillating vistas of semi-clad babes are less likely to "cause grave harm and injury to society and damage young minds beyond repair"? Or should we just hope that this mild tremor gets the film some more business?

NK also notes: I was shocked and surprised to hear the most vulgar abuse in a strikingly loud voice, as soon as the National Anthem had ended. I'm not sure I understand this. Do they play the National Anthem at movie theatres? So KANK, which exploited the NRI sentiment to the hilt, was preceded by a song extolling the virtues of a land that scarcely mattered to the film?

As if this was not enough to stir up a dust puppy, NK also believes that the film degrades the word "Omkara", which is backed by the sanctity of religion, respected by all, and defines the highest of all creation. I would be interested in knowing NK's take on the fate of Om in Koi...Mil Gaya. And could he also suggest an alternative for Omkara that would fit into the film, the dialogues, the milieu and the soundtrack? How about mapping Othello to Ataullah? Oh! Now you want my rear for that remark eh? o kaThor!!

Could someone also tell me more about the "50" films that this guy has worked in?

The IndiaFM report seems to relish this move given that it opens with: For all of you who hated the vulgar dialogues in Omkara, you have a reason to celebrate. For those who liked the film, read on.... The report later falters badly though when it says the film is in the Bihari dialect. Wrong! It's the Haryanvi Gujjar dialect and the film is set somewhere near Meerut, UP (although it never, AFAIR, explicitly tells us about the location).

The hearing's been deferred to Wednesday, August 23.

Cheer yourself with Raja Sen's wonderful interview of Deepak "Rajju" Dobriyal. And if you are sick of all those "foul mouth words" (courtesy: IndiaFM), go drool at some Priyanka Chopra photographs.

[1] TimesNow | Zee News | CNN-IBN | DNA | IndiaFM | NDTV

addendum [august 24, 2006]: City Civil judge A T Vaidya has asked NK to explain what he found objectionable in the film and was also asked to produce materials supporting his allegation. This was on August 23, 2006; things reconvene on August 24, 2006 at some time IST. Meanwhile there's a nice interview with Censor Board Chief Sharmila Tagore (conducted by Subhash K Jha). The extract below shows an appreciation of the creative intent evident in the characters of Omkara and Langda; clearly this seems beyond the puny POV of Shri NK:

The film was depicting a certain section of society that doesn't follow the rules of civil society, the law-breakers, so to speak, in a certain community. The difference between the characters of Omkara and Langda Tyagi was that Omkara was a little nobler among the outlaws. Langda Tyagi is more uncouth.

The director differentiated between the two characters of the hero and the villain through the language. That’s how the two baddies ended up being two different shades of black.

And here's something about the power wielded by some Bollywood biggies:

If producers like Karan Johar, Yash Chopra and Rakeysh Mehra have a problem, they directly ring up the ministry and sort it out. But the same problem for a smaller filmmaker needs to be dealt with by us. There’s no collective wisdom to censorship. If there was a uniform code, things would be a lot easier.

ST notes the difference between the censor board and a body of law and order. She even notes how much litigation her office has to deal with, thanks, perhaps, to people like NK. Imagine Paheli, our Oscar entry, being accused of endorsing superstition (instead of being a profound font of ennui):

We're inundated with litigations. One of our office bearers is constantly in court. It's such a drain on our limited resources. We need to take a good look at censorship. If the film industry provides entertainment, it should be allowed the freedom of expression. When we, as an enabling body, find something objectionable we cut a few scenes. Otherwise we just give a certificate. Vishal Bhardwaj preferred an 'A' certificate rather than a 'U/A' certificate for Omkara even though it meant limiting his audience. That was his artistic freedom.

addendum: [august 29, 2006]: The Sessions Court has refused to ban the film. Hope NK's got his thrills for now.

addendum: [september 02, 2006]: The fun never stops. Now there's a hydra-headed petition afoot that requests the cancellation of the censor certificate issued to the film (isn't it time the CBFC got a disclaimer saying "goods once sold will not be taken back"?) as well as the cancellation of the tax-free status recently conferred on the film in Uttar Pradesh. And we must not forget the evidence of a regressive biscuit tin intellect at work: Mr. [Prem Chandra] Sharma [Hindu Personal Law Board secretary] has contended the Censor Board should not have passed the film with an 'A' certificate, since it was named after a Hindu deity. Sudarshan dropped a comment here about the religious angle; his comment, although in jest, might stand in well for the sick workings of the mind of Mr. Sharma.

addendum: [september 11, 2006]: and now we have a PIL filed by a local lawyer against the film for its "abusive" language that is against the interest of society. Clearly, we have a lot of time on our hands.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

three great films of 2006

[with a reminder of YT's favourite]

15 Park Avenue [january 29, 2006]: After the evocative Mr. and Mrs. Iyer, director mom Aparna Sen and talented daughter Konkona Sensharma return with a film that's arguably more cerebral in addition to packing a wallop of an ending. An interesting cast (Shabana Azmi, Rahul Bose, Dhritiman Chatterjee –- returning from 36 Chowringhee Lane to make amends for the hoary turn in Black, Shefali Shah, Waheeda Rehman, Soumitra Chatterjee (surprise!) and Kanwaljeet Singh (surprise! Surprise!)) supports an exploration of schizophrenia, strained relationships, and the perception of reality. image courtesy: The detail in the screenplay and the patience in the narrative is augmented by the stark visual style and occasionally diminished by the desafinado of a few artificial lines of dialogue. But the kinks don't prevent this film from enthralling you and then gently guiding your jaw to the floor at the end as your eyes twinkle in glee. This may not match up to the bittersweet tale Aparna Sen wove at the last address she visited, but it's a journey you won't regret.

Being Cyrus [april 17, 2006]: Saying that scuba diving instructor Homi Adajania made a great plunge with his shot-in-32-days directorial début would be a tip of the hat to Dimple Kapadia's sexy, aggravating cliché-spouting Katy Sethna. This vicious profane and mirthfully black comedy boasts a dreamy bouncy theme from Salim-Sulaiman that them gives way to some no-nonsense story-telling (complete with profanity that anticipated the flood in Omkara), crisp editing (Jon Sharp and Anand Subaya toss in flourishes that make a second viewing worth it) and a cast of excellence all lensed with aplomb by Jehangir Chowdhury. image courtesy: Saif as Cyrus Mistry makes his National Award trophy for Hum Tum seem like a progressive reward for gifts to come (since then Omkara's la.nga.Daa tyaagii has given a new mainstream star with substance). Manoj Pahwa gets the funniest lines and steals his scenes; Honey Chhaya makes a great beleagured Fardoonji Sethna; Simone Singh looks striking and has the calmest of roles complementing Boman Irani's irascible Farokh Sethna; Dimple Kapadia notches points in a no-holds barred performance and Naseeruddin Shah's Dinshaw Sethna is another stellar sample of great character acting at work -- it might not be amiss to put in a word for his turn as a Parsi (Inspector Sam Bharucha) in Encounter:The Killing. The narrative, aural and visual textures make for a hell of a compelling watch. Heck! It even managed to become the Indian English movie with the highest weekend grosser this year (so much for baseball-style statistics).

image courtesy: www.123onlinemovies.comMixed Doubles [july 11, 2006 / august 14, 2006]: After the surreally staid bleak landscape of futile existence that was Private Detective: Two Plus Two Plus Plus One and the smart smegmatic satire that was Raghu Romeo (can you imagine a funny Travis Bickle?), Rajat Kapoor scores once again with Mixed Doubles (early plug). Wife-swapping's not an easy subject to make a film on, and Anurag Kashyap weaves a magic basket of comfortable dialogue that injects humour in a lot of scenes that might've ended up making you fidget in your seat watching them. Ranvir Shorey's a great find (was reading bizarre newsitems in Barista in WBH2P2 the last thing he did in films?) and Konkona continues to stupefy as she makes Malti every bit like herself as she did Meethi (15 Park Avenue), yet making them two very disparate characters. Rajat Kapoor's turn as the calm Vinod is a great example of a part handled well enough to make it look simple. Koël Purie's the weak link with a part that's a tad as bizarre as Kenneth Desai's in Private Detective: Two Plus Two Plus One, but a bit less satisfying. Naseeruddin Shah has a short cameo that's so mindblowing that one can only watch as he effortlessly embellishes each line and frame as Malti's father. And one mustn't forget the wonderful turns from a delightful Vinay Pathak and a restrained Saurabh Shukla (who also contributed to the lyrics)[1]. A doff to Sagar for the playful background score. Reportedly shot at Kapoor's own home with wife Meenal Agarwal handling production design, with some great sound design (reportedly everything was looped) and a budget of 1.5 crore (15 million) rupees, this labour of love boasts an engaging 97 minutes and a wonderful ending. The only thing that might've gone wrong is the DVD transfer: the tape version was scaled at 2.35:1 even though the specs of the film were 1.85:1. And could someone please tell Manmohan "Adlabs" Shetty that splashing your stupid logo on the film frame in YashRajFilms fashion is as smart a move as leaving your refrigerator door open to cool the house?

[1] Saurabh Shukla doesn't shatter the custom he and Kapoor have set up of appearing in each other's films.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

back in black: the national film awards for 2005

[what happened for 2004]

They aren't out yet, but the buzz is going around about the 53rd edition of the National Film Awards of India.
Buddhadeb Dasgupta's Kalpurush wins Best Film (damn! I missed catching it at the Film Festival of India in Atlanta). Bollywood's darling Black
snags Best Hindi Feature Film and a Best Actor win for the Big B. Naseeruddin Shah wins Best Supporting Actor for his turn as the drunk-turned-coach in Iqbal. Anupam Kher's turn as retired professor Uttam Chaudhari in Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Maara gets him a Special Jury Award. A personal favourite, 15 Park Avenue wins Best English Language Film, but faces a massively disappointing upset as Konkona loses out to Sarika in Parzania, a film about a Parsi family and Godhra; the film also gets Rahul Dholakia an award for Best Director. Given the wonderfully commercial dynamics of distribution and release, this film as well as nuggets like Vishal's The Blue Umbrella have eluded me.

The official announcement has been delayed, so a full list will have to wait until later. Meanwhile, Bhansali's probably preening around in sheer joy.

Can someone confirm/refute the note in the DNA article that Amitabh won a National Award for Saat Hindustani?

And what's the percentage of Hindi required in a film to qualify for the Best Hindi Film Award? Black, as the unfortunately painful memory I have of it tells me, had quite a bit of English in it...

addendum [august 16, 2006]: Apparently all this delay's because of some legal issues as far as censor certificates are concerned ... murky.

addendum [august 22, 2006]: Suchitra Sen's the recipient of the Dadasaheb Phalke Award (in absentia, in all likelihood). Another breadcrumb is the Best Childrens Film award for Vishal for The Blue Umbrella (will someone please get this film released??)

addendum [may 09, 2007]: After all these months, just when you finally thought they'd be ready with the awards, the Delhi High Court has put a stay on the 53rd National Film Awards thanks to the voice of dissent from jury member Shyamli Bannerjee Deb. It seems that Bhansali's screamathon was poised to win the award for Best Film. Yech!

Monday, August 14, 2006

being RGV

RGV's the guest for CNN-IBN "Being" series. In three videos, he talks to Anuradha Sengupta about his films, The Factory, the fallouts with his protégés, the Sholay remake and the new Shiva. RGV's honesty and clarity always make him an interesting interview subject and the questions are free-form. There's an interesting note about the "realism" in his films:

My intelligence is to suck the audience and their psyche into my films. I want them to feel what the character is going through in the film. For example, in Satya when people call it a realistic film I wonder how do they know its real? They don't know anything about underworld neither do I.

It's not so much about the realism in the depiction of the underworld. I think they connect to the character's realism. When Bhikhu Mhatre comes home and his wife nags him, they connect to that emotion. It is because of the same emotion that when he goes out and kills someone, it seems real.

And at the core of it all is what makes this filmmaker special, just like Vishal Bhardwaj, although the latter's had to make some concessions recently: the drive to do what he wants to do, to make the films he wants to make the way he wants to make them.

Anuradha Sengupta: The point is perhaps that you do what you want to do. Isn't it?

Ram Gopal Varma: That is exactly the point.

Anuradha Sengupta: But the question is, how do get people to back you? Because you are one person who has never been at loss of backers.

You have had a good relationship with Jhamu Sugandh, Bharat Shah, the K Sera Sera association and now the Adlab Films. They all seem to be backing you, while all you are doing is pleasing yourself?

Ram Gopal Varma: When there is no sure-shot formula as to what is going to work, why not just do what you are willing to do? I don't think I am taking a risk myself or at the cost of my 'backers'.

Coincidentally, Rediff Movies inaugurated their Seen a Star? series with a photograph of Sengupta and RGV conversing on a bridge during this interview. Eerie.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

the music of Shiva [2006]

After a promising promo, RGV's Shiva (same title as the Nagarjuna classic; different set-up; a tribute to the one-angry-man-against-the-system genre) had the return of Ilaiya Raja (as spelled on the CD cover) to the Hindi film music scene after Mumbai Xpress and to the RGV camp after a long long while. The problem is that the music isn't all new[1].

The first song Police Police is a revisionist interpretation of the Botany song from the original Shiva. The arrangements are interesting, though. Is this the first song that Ninad Kamat has sung since riffing around on the title track of Darna Mana Hai?

IR steps up to the microphone for shapath backed by voices reciting the cop's oath. Thematically sound, but only marginally interesting. IR's accent is troublesome too.

kaise kahe.n has an infectious backing progression, but is a revisionist take on emaNii ne from Mantri Gari Viyyankudu ( link, MusicIndiaOnline link)[2]

josh me.n has Yesudas betraying his accent significantly enough to run the song a bit. Nice arrangements again, although they have IR written all over them, perhaps because the song finds its roots in Geethanjali's jagada jagada ( link) aka Vidiya Vidya Nadanam from the dubbed-in-Tamil version Idhayathai Thirudathe ( link)

The dulcet saaraa ye aalaam derives from aana.nda raagam from Panneer Pushpangal ( link).

dhiimii dhiimii boasts more IR arrangements and some Celtic violin interludes.

The revised tracks benefit from new technology and mastering and IR indulges in some flourishes with the arrangements. Reportedly, the reuse was something RGV requested.

a few notes about the film itself: The promos also seem to indicate that RGV's all set to betray his anti-song tenet (something that really ruined James). Ms Kothari's been tossing oomph all over and Ahlawat's interesting face and presence seem to be in danger of being underused. Say it ain't so.

[1] TFM thread on The Hub

[2] another TFM thread on The Hub

a happy 107 to sir alfred

courtesy: a shadow of a doubt, without any suspicion, your work still leaves us spellbound.

I will take this as an excuse to link to a bunch of old posts dedicated to his films: The Paradine Case, Foreign Correspondent, The Trouble With Harry, Lifeboat, North by Northwest (and some more about it), Murder!, Suspicion, Strangers on a Train, Vertigo.

Friday, August 11, 2006

KANK review of the moment

[not to be confused with this]

Now that Karan Johar's latest venture in playing the audience to the box office has flooded the marquee, one can expect to hear loud hosannas from the devout fans of the leads, $$s ringing away abroad as NRIs starved for shrink-wrapped sugar-coated bourgeois relish, and Karan Johar laughing all the way to the bank to collect. One must also not forget the potential rise in the sale of tissues.

While Tenacious Trademaster Taran fellates the film, Raja Sen scores the best line with his review: A tense romantic drama between two married couples -- and the most compelling character in the film is a dad who dresses like a pimp?

Readers of DNA India's Limelite section may await a Khalid Mohamed review going the Taran way. This is, after all, the man who had lavished all the praise he could for Karan Johar's last venture, K3G.

Thanks to an early (IST; late EDT) note from JR, I get to read Aseem Chhabra's take on the film from the heart of its location (which like a lot of things in the film offers nothing more than a prop to attract the lemmings with the $$). Buried therein are some nuggets like What KANK offers us is a three-and-a-half hour long, over-blown, candy-floss fantasy about the lives of the ultra rich and good looking Indians, who wear expensive clothes, live in beautifully furnished, stunning apartments and mansions, dance in crazy discotheques, walk in snow and rain, and cry a lot. You see, Johar's characters are meant to be sad people.

So far the only good thing about Karan Johar's flick is that it's offering me some good reading material.

addendum [august 12, 2006]: Baradwaj's eloquent review is up. He notes the problems of length and the need for tissue, but he also contextualises the film and Johar well:

you can't deny that he's one of the very few young directors who's interested in – and who knows his way around – old-fashioned, Bollywood storytelling, where the emphasis is on emotion rather than reason, where the point of a scene isn't in drawing out truth or detailing reality but in the sensual experience of the moment: foreplay, climax, afterplay (or, if you will, buildup, detonation, cool-down).

addendum [august 12, 2006]: Khalid Mohamed's given Johar another 4-star rating. Aren't we surprised? The verdict was just as predictable as the box office success of the film. Khalid Mohammed has surely come a long from being an entertaining acerbic film critic with some taste in cinema to surviving on a diet of sour grapes after laying three big fat rotten cinematic eggs (Fiza, Tehzeeb and the numerologically challenged Silsiilay) and spending his time being nice to the Chopra and Johar camps and writing reviews that are distinguished from Tenacious Trademaster Taran's tripe solely by better English, a more varied vocabulary and the occasional puns. He's been reduced to writing reviews that begin with Here’s Karan Johar’s smashing coming-of-age movie. It’s mature, bold and dares to say it loud and clear ... and end with For its non-judgmental and progressive take on marriage and infidelity, see KANK with someone you love..unconditionally. Mercifully, he saved the 5-star outstanding rating for the next Johar flick (in all likelihood). Perhaps he'll even write the screenplay for it, with a seamless blend of Godard, Antonioni and Dharmesh Darshan.

addendum [august 13, 2006]: Jai Arjun Singh confers upon the film more value than it's worth by describing the Karan Johar-Shah Rukh Khan relationship as a parallel of the famous Herzog/Kinski association. Don't be misled by the artistic visual he devotes a paragraph to; I thought Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna was quite bad, though thankfully it was bad enough to be entertaining in parts. It's a mercy to know that. A talkback viewing meeting will be called once the original DVD hits the market. Don't skip the P.S. in his post -- more gems lie therein.

It might not be presumptuous for me to put up a review post saying KANK stank, but the pun seems too weak against the colossus of cow caca that this offering seems to be.

addendum [august 16, 2006] The NYTimes decided to post a review of the flick. Although meriting only a cursory glance, emails and messages from friends suggest that this article might be a significant thing as far the rising Western fascination for Bollywood is concerned; and that view continues to focus on the aggravatingly limiting crutches of our mainstream crop:

A French version would have a lot more sex and cigarette smoking. An American one would probably end with a letter opener in someone's back. But only in Bollywood would the standard-issue marital-infidelity tale include disco-style musical numbers and clock in at almost three and a half hours.

But all's well that ends well:

As for the story's central lovers, it's never quite clear what Maya sees in Dev, whose emotional switch has only two settings, angry and morose. Perhaps that eye makeup is clouding her vision.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

lage raho: in public

And now, unveil'd, the toilet stands display'd
Each silver vase in mystic order laid.

After making news for a while and almost making it to the record books as the most renamed film in Bollywood, Lage Raho Munna Bhai FKA Munna Bhai Second Innings FKA Munna Bhai Meets Mahatma Gandhi is about to hit the marquee soon. Arshad Warsi as Circuit is welcome, but the rest of the film is a big question mark. The first edition mixed One Flew Over A Cuckoo's Nest, nods to Patch Adams, some prime hamming (the Dutts, Rohini Hattangadi), some DOAs (Gracy Singh), some great timing (Arshad Warsi) and a truckload of the summertime horse manure that Bollywood is slated to be plagued with in masochistic glee for years to come. The murder of interesting possibilities was, perhaps not so ironically, a hit. This prompted ego-mouth VVC and his celebrated director Hirani to embark on a fresh assault to the senses.

One must regard the Mumbai Mirror article about an authentic sequence in the film as a portend of things to come. After finding a swank shauchaalay in a mall (where else, one asks? We're close to 56 years of independence and clean public toilets continue to remain as common as dodos), they discovered that the loo was too big for a film unit (jack-making gents may please note this as a useful design requirement for future installations).

In addition to making regular visitors of The Blue Sea likely victims of anuresis, the unit ended up embarrassing the equipment (no pun intended) as well:

For one shot, I had to squeeze my camera into the tiny space between the wash basin and a WC. I think even my camera was blushing with embarrassment. (cinematographer Murali)

And then director Hirani tops this parable of the powder room:

On hindsight it appears funny, but at that time we were under tremendous pressure to wind up the shoot on time.

Despite the grammatical gaffe (in hindsight not on hindsight), that line contains two glorious puns to make this whole experience memorable to all but those who don't give a sh*t about scatological humour.

Now I know how they chose the final title of the film.

[1] from The Rape Of The Lock by Alexander Pope

Saturday, August 05, 2006

kaThor prudery

Despite good notes, Vishal's Omkara only managed what trade pundits seem happy to call a decent opening. The film had a big budget, and the opening in India wasn't as great as predictions would have had it to be; yet we're not in Mangal zone yet. Everyone's so eager to blame the "failure" of the film on the dialogue: the dialect and the cussing.

Family audiences can't go and watch this because of the cussing; oh yes, it has an A certificate, by the way. I don't really recall a time in my movie-viewing past where the implications of a certificate issued by the atavistic censor board were enforced by cinema hall owners. I remember hearing about group of friends being asked to leave a screening of Cliffhanger, but I also remember finding out that Parinda had an A certificate only after I had taken a good seat in the cinema hall.

It was a welcome wonder that RGV's Satya made it to the screens with the cuss words intact; The censor board then seemed to go through a phase of mental regression with the outrageous judgement it passed (no pun intended) on Anurag Kashyap's Paanch. And now in 2006, except for the small matter of the petticoat, Omkara hit the screens sounding as real as it could get (arguably) as far as the dialogue was concerned.

Everywhere else, though, it would seem that a Bollywood film needs to be accessible to a family audience in order to click. No Entry, last year's biggest hit, was the perfect family entertainer laced with irritating songs, risqué dances, and a not-so-funny remedy for the n-year itch. See also: Garam Masala, Kya Kool Hain Hum, Maine Pyar Kyon Kiya, Shaadi No. 1.

Mayank Shekhar does a nice job[1] discussing this prudish behaviour exhibited by the audience; he also notes how contextual some of these cuss words have actually become. Unfortunately, this is all we really have: a short article, and films like Bandit Queen and Omkara.

Saibal Chatterjee explores similar concerns in an article in today's Hindustan Times:

So what if families are staying away from Omkara. By no means should that be an indication of how good or bad the film is. The quality of a film lies within it, not in external factors like mass appeal and commercial performance.

Even on the latter score, Bhardwaj's wonderfully well-crafted film is an achievement that is way out of the ordinary, especially when compared to the welter of mediocrity that Bollywood usually wallows in.

I try not to use the "better than the rest of Bollywood" argument, because I think it limits my ability to appreciate or denounce a film. The first argument, however, rings true but also seems destined to become a truism, because you will often find people, who, thanks to the media machinery and Bollywood, have equated quality and box office success.

Why do we suddenly have issues with the language? Haven't we been strengthened by a slew of hit films covering all sorts of "family-friendly" items like rape, murder, vigilante violence, seduction, polygamy, jingoism, revenge, lechery and the like. And if you're still so sensitive about the kind of films we watch, why can't you do a bit of research before venturing out to watch a damn flick? Sure, you'll miss the strange first day first show thrill, but at least you won't be wasting your time and ours by blaming the film for your ignorance. Of course, some people won't even take good advice. I've seen people who've insisted on watching Zinda even after I had told them about Old Boy and that Sanjay Gupta's rip-off was not exactly the regular comfortable candy-floss entertainer that demands only one brain cell. Several minutes later, people were squirming and looking away (and ignoring the fact that they were bored out of their wits as well).

And that brings us to the issue of the dialect. Vishal responded to criticism against the film in Mumbai Mirror[2] interview. The most relevant extract follows:

The language used in Omkara is very difficult for the audiences to understand. Don't you think if you had used Hindi instead, it would have worked better?

I think the language of cinema is more important that[sic] the actual dialect used in a film. We do appreciate international and regional films which have rich cinematic content, don't we? I think it's unfair to say that the language has created problems in understanding the film. I am told that that people are understanding the jokes and reacting to the scenes.

I can confirm this. I was in a theatre in Atlanta, GA surrounded by desiis of various confusions and places of birth. I didn't hear complaints about the dialogue; I could hear people laughing at all the jokes; (I was also impressed at how quiet the hall went during the final sequence); I too, not being familiar with the dialect at all, could follow what was happening. It seems like this inaccessibility comes not from the film itself but from the audience.

The only variety I see in the list of factors affecting the film's performance at the box office comes courtesy Prakash Jha, who's handling the distribution of the film in Bihar: the film is rich in technique and employs light and shadow and a lot of silhouettes. Small towns do not have the projectors to show it with clarity. If anyone's listening, it's time to ape the west and get some multiplexes out to the remote areas -- even though we can't (and don't seem to want to) address unimportant issues like education, poverty, water and electricity, we've managed to sharpen our multiplex-building skills; we might as well put them to good use.

It's bad enough that a lot of critical hosannas miss noting just how effective Vishal's transplantation of the Moor's Worst Gaffe to not just the Indian milieu but also the Bollywood ethic has been. People have been cribbing about the twist in Omkara and how it seems to lose the power of the original in the play. They seem to forget that in Maqbool, which they loved as an adaptation, Vishal had "twisted" Shakespeare's original text in a crucial manner: Lady Macbeth was Macbeth's wife (duh!) but Nimmi could never graduate from being Maqbool's mistress.

Vishal's efforts pale before Karan Johar's "daring" attempt at tackling the failure of the modern Indian marriage in Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna aka KANK. In her NYTimes article Anupama Chopra discusses this forthcoming flick and Rajat Kapoor's Mixed Doubles (a non-mainstream film that I haven't finished watching, but have enjoyed every minute of so far). The article ends with a Shobha Dé quote that also serves as a juicy example of just how bad things have become: 'Mixed Doubles' is art house. We think, 'It's not about us, it's about them.’ But a Karan Johar film is definitely about us. The closing rejoinder in Uma's post (which is where I found a pointer to the Chopra article) says it all.

KANK hits cinema halls on Friday, August 11. Omkara has till then to run up some more box office numbers; once the Johar opus plays its pipes, only a few of us lame kids are going to be left behind.

Time to go listen to BC sutta again.

[1] it's a Mumbai Mirror URL, so life expectancy is nil; if you have problems accessing the page, drop a comment on this post and I'll find a way out.

[2] yes, Mumbai Mirror once again, if you have a problem getting to the page, drop me a comment.

addendum: [august 06, 2006]: The fun doesn't end. Another goulash of trade shock appears online. It even picks paraphrases portions from the review by Tenacious Trademaster Taran (aka the Reviewer From Hell): 'Omkara' is dark and disturbing. The generous use of the cuss words gives the viewer cold sweat. The writers could have toned down the expletives in the film. Also, the tense moments get too heavy after a point and would work only for those who appreciate realistic cinema. T3's review also had the gem certain dark scenes could've been better lit, which makes me wonder if he was on the censor board when they did the number on Paanch.

addendum: [august 06, 2006]: More fireworks. A DNA article notes that Devgan, Kumar Mangat and Vishal are upset about rumours that the film is a flop. Mangat notes that the film did Rs. 31 crores worth of business worldwide in just seven days. I wonder if that really reflects a gain, because there's no mention of the distribution costs and agreements for this film in India and overseas. It's unforunate to see things come to this. IBOSNetwork hasn't published any figures for Omkara yet. Meanwhile, the aforementioned article contains no quotes from Vishal, who is contributing time at Subhash Ghai's Whistling Woods International.

addendum: [august 08, 2006]: (warning: this article references a plot element that many might regard as a spoiler) Subhash K Jha asks Vishal the same questions and Vishal has candid responses:

The graphic Hindustani expletives have embarrassed and put off a lot of people, specially women and children.

I don't see why. It's the characters mouthing those words, not me. I'm not the censor chief. The censors understood my intentions as an artist. My characters don't use forbidden words to play to the galleries. I'm trying to create a reality.

The abuses are done in a cheerful not in a malicious way. The censor board has exercised its democratic right by allowing the cuss-words. They very kindly gave me the choice of either erasing the expletives and giving me a 'U' certificate or retaining the expletives with 'A' certificate.

I chose the latter option because I knew in any case that the film isn't suitable for kids, with or without expletives. Sidhartha of "Rang De Basanti" called to tell me kids in the theatre while watching it were in splits at the expletives. I don't know how they got in.

And as for women, I think men in the audience feel self-conscious in women's presence. Women are quite comfortable watching the expletives in groups of their own. In any case, the language wasn't dictated by who'll be shocked and who'll not. The characters spoke as they should. I've never made a film keeping audiences' sensitivities in mind.

And if audiences are so offended by the language how come the film is doing so well everywhere? I'm going to my hometown Meerut right now. It's a sensational hit there.

addendum: [august 09, 2006] Uma tears up Tenacious Trademaster Taran's review of the film.

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