Pathan

admin   March 22, 2022

While SRK fans are waiting this film with a bated breath, film critics and lovers are equally excited for the film that will reveal what Shah Rukh has in store for the audience after being away from films for almost four years. The film will see Deepika Padukone who will be reuniting with Khan for the fourth time. Directed by WAR filmmaker Siddharth Anand, the film will be high on action sequences and will also see John Abraham in a pivotal role. Talking about working with Khan yet again, Padukone, in an interview, shared, “To me, it’s like coming home and working with someone I’m extremely comfortable with. I started my career with him, so obviously there is a sense of trust and comfort.” On the production front, Pathan is in its last leg. The film may witness a release by end of this year if things go as planned.


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Indian Films To Look Out For In 2022

admin   February 14, 2022

PONNIYIN SELVAN 1

The first part of the mega-budget Tamil-language historical fiction epic, Ponniyin Selvan, directed and co-written by Mani Ratnam, is one of the most Indian anticipated films of the year. It is based on a 1955 novel by Kalki Krishnamurthy. The story is set in the 9th century AD and revolves around the early years of the life of the Chola Prince who went to become Emperor Raja Raja Chola. Apart from Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in a dual role, Karthi, Jayam Ravi (as the titular character), Vikram, Trisha Krishnan, Sobhita Dhulipala and Aishwarya Lekshmi comprise the principal cast of Ponniyin Selvan 1.

PATHAN                                                    

The long in the making Pathan marks Shahrukh Khan’s return to the big screen after a four-year hiatus. The Bollywood superstar was last seen in 2018’s Zero, a film that underperformed at the box office. The upcoming SRK starrer is an out-and-out action thriller helmed by Siddharth Anand and produced by Yash Raj Films’ Aditya Chopra. The Pathan cast includes Deepika Padukone and John Abraham. The film also has Salman Khan in a cameo. The film’s lead actor is known to have undergone a physical transformation for the character somewhat in the manner that he did for Farah Khan’s Om Shanti On 15 years ago.

DOBAARAA

In Dobaaraa, Anurag Kashyap, working with a screenplay by Nihit Bhave (Choked), attempts an Indianised reworking of the 2018 Spanish psychological thriller Mirage. The film reunites him with Taapsee Pannu – the two worked together in Manmarziyaan. The actress plays a woman who, in the course of an electric storm in which the space-time continuum snaps, finds herself able to communicate through an old television set with a 12-year-old boy whose life was cut short many years ago. She attempts to change the course of events that led to the youngster’s death. Interestingly, the maker of Mirage, Oriol Paulo, was also the director of The Invisible Guest, which was turned by Sujoy Ghosh into the 2019 Amitabh Bachchan-Taapsee Pannu mystery drama Badla.

VIKRAM

Billed as Kamal Haasan’s 232nd movie, Vikram, written and directed by Lokesh Kanagaraj (whose Master released early last year), is backed by the Tamil megastar’s own production banner. The action thriller also features Vijay Sethupathi and Fahadh Faasil (in his third Tamil film) in stellar roles. Scheduled for release on March 31, 2022, the buzz around the film centres as much on the star cast as the de-aging technology that has reportedly been used a aa Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman for flashback sequences involving Kamal Haasan. Details about the plot is under wraps, but it is speculated that Kamal Haasan plays a police officer in the film to Fahadh Faasil’s politician. No matter what, Vikram promises to be a film worth waiting for.

DESPATCH

Manoj Bajpayee’s fans are in for a treat. Despatch, Kanu Behl’s sophomore directorial venture. Behl’s debut film Titli had its world premiere in Cannes in 2014. Set in Mumbai, Despatch revolves around a veteran crime journalist struggling to stay relevant in the age of digital news. Desperate for a scoop, he wades into a murky universe that he isn’t wholly unaware of. Written by the director in collaboration with Ishani Banerjee (co-writer of Aligarh), Despatch has Shahana Goswami, Rii Sen and Hansa Singh in key roles.

VIDUTHALAI

A Tamil-language crime thriller written and directed by Vetrimaaran, Viduthalai has comedian Soori and the explosively talented Vijay Sethupathi teaming up on the screen in the roles of the protagonist and his mentor. Based on a story by Jayamohan, the film has been shot in the dense forests in and around the Sathyamangalam tiger reserve. Viduthalai has Bhavani Sre, actor and music composer G.V. Prakash Kumar’s sister, as the female lead. From the looks of it, the film promises to be a hard-hitting thriller made in Vetrimaaran’s take-no-prisoners style.                   

KASIMINTE KADAL

Adapted from adman-novelist Anees Salim’s book The Small-Town Sea by veteran writer-director Shyamaprasad, Kasiminte Kadal (Kasim’s Sea) is a disarmingly simple but achingly beautiful tale of an 11-year-old boy (played by Tashi Shamdat) growing up in a small beachside town in Kerala and learning to come to terms with loss. The Malayalam film tempers a melancholic tone with the life-affirming innocence of childhood. The boy’s loneliness is a key element in the film, but it is his ability to find joy in the little things in life that gives the film its uplifting quality. Kasiminte Kadal will probably bypass a theatrical release and land on a streaming platform. It is one film             

ANEK

Anek, an action thriller extensively filmed on location in Northeast India, is actor Ayushmann Khurrana’s second collaboration with director Anubhav Sinha. The two had delivered the critically acclaimed Article 15 in 2019. Not much is known about the plot of the film or the character that Khurrana plays in it. The actor, in a tweet to announce the end of the shoot, described the theme as “an untouched subject” and the film as “very important new age cinema”. Anek is expected to hit the screen in the second half of 2o22.

SAM BAHADUR

Meghna Gulzar’s upcoming film is a Sam Manekshaw biopic with Vicky Kaushal playing the role of the Indian Army chief who led India to victory in the 1971 war. The military triumph led to the creation of Bangladesh 50 years ago. Titled Sam Bahadur, the film has been scripted by the director and Bhavani Iyer. The venture is bankrolled by Ronnie Screwvala’s RSVP. It is expected to be as much a war film as a character study of a legendary general whose heroism is part of Indian military folklore. Besides Kaushal, the cast of Sam Bahadur has Sanya Malhotra and Fatima Sana Shaikh.        

KAAPA

Seasoned cinematographer-director Venu has assembled an impressive cast – Prithviraj Sukumuran, Manju Warrier, Asif Ali and Anna Ben – for the upcoming thriller set in the capital city of Kerala. Adapted from a story by journalist-novelist-filmmaker GR Indugopan (Shankhumukhi), Kaapa is about gangs engaged in violent clashes for the control of the Thiruvananthapuram underworld. The screenplay has been authored by Indugopan himself. Kaapa represents the first time that Prithviraj Sukumuran and Manju Warriet will be seen together in a full-length film.     


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Making a Song and Dance of it

admin   September 7, 2021

By Praveen Das

To prevent this argument from going soft it’s perhaps best to start with a story, even if it’s an anecdote about an anecdote. Despite having never met the man in question, an acquaintance of mine from Mumbai once recalled how Amitabh Bachchan may have saved his life in the dusty valleys of Afghanistan. The storyteller, an Indian diplomat, who shall we say functions as part of the spear tip of Indian statecraft, was in the Central Asian nation soon after the Taliban’s ouster in 2002 and looking to make contact with a few leaders of the putative Northern Alliance. Suddenly besieged and presented to a different set of warlords he found himself unable to break the ice with them, and was soon gravely informed that they suspected him of being a Pakistani spook, the “enemy” they loathed. That is until he spied a tattered poster of Bachchan’s 1992 hit Khuda Gawah (‘God is the Witness’, a film shot extensively in Afghanistan) in the next room and decided to talk Bollywood — to immediate excitement among the Afghan warriors. Unable to recall any song from that film, however, he found himself back in the doghouse, until he started belting out ‘Mehbooba, Mehbooba’ from Sholay, the 1975 blockbuster that launched Bachchan to superstardom, and is perhaps the most famous Hindi film west of Amritsar. An agreement was soon concluded and the diplomat found himself warmly escorted back to his base with much fierce debate about the new “Khan ishtars” in Mumbai.

Aishwarya Rai at Cannes Film Festival

The tale might have perhaps grown longer in the telling but there’s no disputing how popular Indian films now are in many parts of the world. Clearly, going soft need not be inopportune. For well over two decades now foreign policy wonks have waxed eloquent about the merits of ‘soft power’ for nations looking to find their places at the global high table. India, with its old civilisation and spiritual customs based on universalist traditions, has always had several cards to play in this game. Indian commercial cinema, with its distinct rhythms, is the latest addition to the pack. As a noted strategic affairs guru puts it: “Bollywood has done more for Indian influence abroad than all the bureaucratic efforts of the government”. But there’s still some way to go, for both industry and creative artists cynically churning out assembly-line movies in the country, and for the state making more concerted efforts to better push what is arguably India’s most exciting export goodie.

Masala Stardust

Much water has flown down the Ganges since earlier generations of Indians were often told of how much Russians loved Raj Kapoor’s cloyingly Chaplinesque tramp from Awara, or of how Dilip Kumar was as much a heartthrob in Lahore and Dhaka as he was in Mumbai. Beyond old ties of cultural kinship in the subcontinent and bilateral arrangements between governments (which saw a handful of Indian films being regularly exported to ‘friendly’ countries like the Soviet Union or Mongolia), Indian cinema has struck out and conquered bold newer frontiers now. Indian superstars like Aishwarya Rai and Aamir Khan regularly walk the red carpet at big film festivals like Cannes, Toronto and Venice and are recognised globally. Southern superstar Rajinikanth was a cultural phenomenon in Japan for a while, where local fans dubbed him ‘Dancing Maharajah” and landed up in exotic Indian costumes for his movie premieres. Bolly superstar Shah Rukh Khan was conferred a high Malaysian state honour which even stirred controversy there with many protesting that local actors were ignored. Several actors also increasingly pop up in the tabloid press when holidaying abroad in the West — a surer sign of cross-cultural traction than any box-office grosses — and are now slowly experimenting with taking up meaty roles in films in a more globalised Hollywood.

A Poster of Sivaji

There’s no denying Indian movie stars’ graphs have seen increasingly steep rises from the last decade into this one. If pirated videotapes in the 1980s kickstarted the revolution, the internet and its endlessly cyclical streams of video content — appears to have solidified this reach, taking Indian film to places as far afield as North Africa, Western Europe, Japan and South Korea. In fact there’s a reason Indian film distributors now delay releasing Hindi or Tamil films in many foreign markets, despite the lucrative business many films do there. Most pirated DVDs that land up almost immediately after film premieres on Indian shores come from these places.

Home is where the heart is

In briefly analysing this trans-cultural appeal of Indian cinema two major factors must be noted. One, the size, breadth and rising cultural assertiveness of the Indian diaspora across the world has been a factor so huge it’s changed Bollywood in several noteworthy ways. The expatriate Indian’s outsize longing for identity and roots has helped reshape the country’s film trade. The foreign box office (BO) contributes so significantly to big movies in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu that several duds at the local BO actually go on to make profits from the diaspora dollar. Many films now have exclusive premieres in London and New York, unthinkable even a decade and a half ago. Pioneered by filmmakers like Subash Ghai — who was actually lampooned in the mid 1990s for ‘pandering’ to Non Resident Indian (NRI) audiences — the size of this market has even led to the content changing in Bollywood. Indian films have got slicker, costlier and are now set in locales across the globe with many actors often playing NRI characters, echoing vaguely NRI concerns.

Film markets at festivals worldwide now see sizeable Indian delegations hawking new productions for distributors to pick up or producers to take up. Outside of Bollywood, Tamil film producers now tie-up ‘FMS’ (Foreign, Malaysia, Singapore) rights before they get down to haggling with local distributors about territories and sales, while Telugu producers line up small European and sizeable North American releases for their new films.

Songs and dance are essence of Indian Cinema

NRIs, it seems, just can’t get enough of the filmy glamour from their old country in any way possible. Many film stars now earn big bucks from performing at ‘Bollywood Nights’ abroad. These arena shows, staged almost exclusively in countries with large NRI populations, have also proven so lucrative that several stars either long in the tooth back home or relegated to the background now make their money purely from ‘touring’.

Business is booming overseas, yet as any big producer, distributor or cultural commentator will tell you, much remains to be done to increase penetration beyond the diaspora. The odd viral video of Europeans doing ‘Bollywood dancing’ for small audiences or weddings with a Bollywood theme are still too few and far between for Indian cinema to be labelled a widespread crossover phenomenon. Unlike, say, with the martial arts films that crossed over from Hong Kong and China to the West over three decades ago; or Japanese creature features, manga or ‘J-Horror’ genres. They influence Hollywood, still the gold standard for big feature film production. To change that requires tinkering with the old formula for Indian cinema. It would mean going more ‘arty’ (a despised phrase in Indian film production circles) and looking to imbibe and reconstruct in singular fashion genres, themes and narrative experiments from elsewhere. And not just in form.

Which is, of course, easier said than done. A strong recidivist streak resides deep inside Indian filmdom. The formula may not be periodically dumped or retired for a new genre to rise to the top of the heap à la Hollywood. This in turn has a lot to do with why the formula is the way it is. Why fix what ain’t broke? And besides, this formula is the second reason Indian films have such a large global reach. It’s why they speak in unmatched dulcet tones to several other developing societies that have much more in common with Indian audiences than they suspect.

Rajinikanth fans in Japan

Think Local, Act Global

There’s a reason India is referred to as a subcontinent. The sum of its many ethnic, cultural and linguistic parts is perhaps greater than the whole. With over 25 major languages spoken and over 700 hundred dialects, not to mention large ethnic, cultural and religious divisions, nation building and unity was a challenge the founders and early builders of modern India took very seriously indeed. Cinema was soon harnessed to the task in the 1950s. Filmmakers and writers took on matters of great national and social import and until the mid 1960s (when romances got mushier and a new generation of glamorous lovers and sex symbols appeared onscreen) and early 70s (when public anger against a dysfunctional state and crony capitalism exploded on screens across India) sought to craft a cohesive cinema that provided ‘wholesome’ family entertainment while dwelling on traditional Indian values and customs. These films had to crossover from one region of India to another that had about as much in common with each other as two European countries do. They had to transcend barriers of language, class, creed and ethnicity. They began doing that for almost every big Bollywood release in roughly the late 60s to early 70s. The seeds of a global formula were sown right there. In fact, in addition to India’s remarkable (even if slightly flawed) tryst with liberal democracy, several theorists and historians have championed Bollywood in particular as a great force for national integration in what ought to have been a rather fractious country of infinite diversity. To put it a little simplistically, a template was slowly evolved and continues to form the basis of cinema to this day with very little variations on the theme, even if the forms have changed over time.

Also powered by audiences changing with a new liberalising India, new films from the mid 1990s began to be increasingly located abroad (and not just for the songs) while the melodrama remained firmly rooted in varying interpretations of ‘Indianness’. Over the year the characters got glitzier, the stars got shinier, the songs got dreamier, the love stories got mushier, the gangsters and vigilantes got nastier and the Hollywood-inspired action sequences got edgier, but the melodramatic tensions remained pretty much the same. It made — and still makes — for a heady mix. Yet at its core Indian cinema is still mostly all about family, culture, traditions and, of course, romance. And the increasing demands that modernity makes on each of those.

A Poster of Sholay

This is largely what appeals to audiences in countries that are grappling with the rapid changes wrought by the modern world and increasingly breakneck Westernization of societies. So from much of the Arab world to Central Asia and parts of South East Asia, from Africa and to many parts of Latin America, Indian films deal with societal tensions that people deal with on a daily basis. Despite the candyfloss glamour on top, which merely provides for the perfect escapism for such audiences. And an alternate ‘warm’ escapism, one that comes straight from the heart; as opposed to what Hollywood provides, which for these audiences tends to be either too cerebral, too Western or merely a visceral rush. The neo-Shakespearean tragicomic genre that Bollywood has made its own is a different fl avour to be savoured with everyone. No wonder it’s a hit.

Besides, there’s also one special secret sauce added into the mix. The one genre that India perhaps took and refashioned in singular fashion more than any other to make it its own more than any other: the old Hollywood musical format. Which was quickly fused with classical Indian traditions of devotional and theatrical musical performance. The spectacular results are there for the world to see. Indeed, whatever your cinematic inclinations you would have to admit, where would Indian cinema be without all that song and dance? The world agrees. Come, sing along. Or better yet, dance.

(This story is reproduced from the archives of Pickle Magazine)


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Best Movies of the New Millennium Streaming Now

admin   May 2, 2020

I Am Kalam (Hindi, 2011)

Genre: Drama
Director: Nila Madhab Panda
Starring: Harsh Mayar, Gulshan Grover, Pitobash Tripathy, Beatrice Ordeix
Streaming on Netflix

A young boy works in a highway food joint but dreams of going school, fired by his love for books. He befriends a lonely prince who lives in a sprawling mansion. The growing bond between the two boys across the social and class divide that separates them opens doors for both.

High points: The relevance of its social message and the simplicity of its storytelling style

Little Zizou (Hindi/Gujarati/English, 2008)

Genre: Drama, Family
Director: Sooni Taraporevala
Starring: Boman Irani, Sohrab Ardeshir, Imaad Shah, Shernaz Patel, Zenobia Shroff, Dilshad Patel
Streaming on JioCinema

The scripter of acclaimed Mira Nair films such as Salaam Bombay and The Namesake made her directorial debut with this delightful drama about two feuding Parsi families in Mumbai and an 11-year-old soccer-crazy boy who dreams of meeting his idol Zinedine Zidane in person.

High points: Little Zizou is vibrant,touching, warm-hearted and uplifting, a rare believable cinematic portrait of the Parsi community

Paan Singh Tomar (Hindi, 2012)

Genre: Crime, Biography, Action
Director: Tigmanshu Dhulia
Starring: Irrfan Khan, Mahie Gill, Rajesh Abhay
Streaming on Netflix

By far one of the best biographical films ever made by a Mumbai director, Paan Singh Tomar eschews established storytelling conventions and delivers a punchy, deeply affecting real-life story of a champion athlete forced by rural inequities to become an outlaw.

High points: A top-draw performance by Irrfan Khan as the eponymous character and sure-handed scripting and direction

Qissa (Punjabi, 2013)

Genre: Drama, Fantasy
Director: Anup Singh
Starring: Irrfan Khan, Tisca Chopra, Tillotama Shome |
Streaming on YUPP TV

A victim of the Partition of India, desperate for a son to carry on the family name, drags his wife and youngest daughter into a destructive vortex. Director Anup Singh blends solid naturalism with surreal strokes to craft a haunting tale about the pitfalls of patriarchy.

High points: Superb acting by Irrfan Khan and the rest of the cast and afable-like tale that leaves a deep imprint on the mind

Stanley Ka Dabba (Hindi, 2011)

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Family
Director: Amole Gupte
Starring: Partho A. Gupte, Numaan Sheikh, Abhishek Reddy
Streaming on Disney+hotstar

A children’s tale written and directed by Amole Gupte, who also plays one of the key onscreen roles. Set in a Mumbai school, the film is about a creative schoolboy who is loved by his teachers with the exception of one, who resents the fact that the protagonist’s friends share their lunch with him.

High points: The purity of the storytelling is bolstered by great performances by the young actors as well as the adult members of the cast

Super Deluxe (2019), Tamil

Director: Thiagarajan Kumararaja
Genre: LGBTQ, Dark Comedy
Starring: Vijay Sethupathi,Fahadh Faasil,Samantha Ruth Prabhu
Streaming on Netflix

Super Deluxe, proved beyond doubt that here was a fearless filmmaker capable of weaving pure magic with ideas, plot twists and images. The film orchestrates its multiple strands with awe-inspiring skill and an unfailing sense of drama that draws its strength from being both provocative and entertaining. The director throws four sub-plots into a giant, constantly whirring grinder and emerges with a film so fascinating and so wondrously inventive that one is caught by surprise at every turn.

High Points: Super Deluxe is testimony to what younger Tamil filmmakers are capable of as storytellers and craftsmen.

Swades (Hindi, 2004)

Genre: Drama
Director: Ashutosh Gowariker
Starring: Shah Rukh Khan, Gayatri Joshi, Kishori Ballal
Streaming on Netflix

Written, produced and directed by Ashutosh Gowariker, Swades was a worthy follow-up to his Lagaan. It is justifiably regarded as one of the most ‘complete’ Bollywood films ever made. A NASA scientist of Indian origin returns to his roots and inspires his remote north Indian village to produce its own electricity.

High points: Shah Rukh Khan’s un-starry star turn; skilled blend of social philosophy and mainstream entertainment

Kaaler Rakhal (Bengali, 2009)

Genre: Drama
Director: Sekhar Das
Starring: Bimal Chakraborty, Usashi Chakraborty, Phalguni Chatterjee
Not available for streaming

A rare contemporary Bengali film that directly addresses the political skull duggery that is rampant in rural parts of the eastern Indian state, Kaaler Rakhal is about an itinerant performer who, owing to his poverty is sucked into a twister of ruthless exploitation by those in positions of power.

High points: Highlights a unique cultural aspect of Bengal while exposing the depredations of the political class

Shabdo (Bengali, 2013)

Genre: Drama
Director: Kaushik Ganguly
Starring: Ritwick Chakraborty, Raima Sen, Churni Ganguly
Not available for streaming

Shabdo (which, in Bengali, can mean either ‘word’ or ‘sound’) is the story of a Foley artist who is trapped in a world of ambient sound and becomes incapable of registering human voices around him, including that of his exasperated wife. An unconventional story told with skill, subtlety and sensitivity.

High points: Director Kaushik Ganguly’s handling of an unusual theme and lead actor Ritwik Chakraborty’s flawless performance


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Indian Cinema’s Soft Power Misses the Mark in Nirmala Sitharaman’s Maiden Budget Speech

admin   July 9, 2019

India’s soft power was the spotlight of Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s maiden budget speech but India’s showbiz and films did not find a place in her speech on India’s growing soft power.

International Yoga Day was the focus of India’s soft power and she went on to mention that International Yoga Day gets celebrated on June 21 and yoga has been practiced in 192 countries.

The FM highlighted that artists in 40 countries sang Mahatma Gandhi’s bhajan “Vaishnav Jan To, Tene Kahiye Je”. “Bharat ko Jaano” quiz competition is not only a hot favorite of Non-Resident Indians but also foreign participants. Sitharaman also spoke about the mission to help traditional artisans and their products in global markets and expand global footprint.

In her speech, the Finance Minister also mentioned the development of a digital repository focusing solely on preservation of tribal cultural heritage — folk songs, photos, and videos regarding their evolution, place of origin, lifestyle, architecture, traditional art, folk dances and anthropological details of the tribes in India.

But it was puzzling why Indian cinema’s global footprint did not find a mention in the speech by Finance Minister as the country’s soft power.

There is a steady growth in the visibility, volume and cultural visibility of India — from Bollywood to Bhangra music. India has revolutionized in the production, distribution, and consumption of images and ideas.

Indian films are exported to over 35 global territories. China alone accounted for a $272 million box office collection for 10 Indian films in 2018.

The warm-up to any bilateral discussion or any business meeting with Indian corporates begins with an Indian film narrative.

Shah Rukh Khan is known to bring traffic to a halt in the streets of Berlin (during Berlinale). Aamir Khan is now officially the most famous international star in China. Even today, Rajinikanth is a cultural phenomenon in Japan, where local fans dubbed him ‘Dancing Maharajah”.