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Vetrimaaran’s Tamil film Visaranai has been selected as India’s official entry for Oscars Foreign Language Film category. The Film Federation Of India (FFI) made the announcement on Thursday. About 29 films were in the running which included Udta Punjab, Umrika, Thithi, Sairat, Neerja, Dhanak, and Nil Battey Sannata.

Produced by Dhanush’s Wunderbar Productions, the film is based on M. Chandrakumar’s novel Lock Up. Based on lives of four migrant workers who are accused of a crime they never committed, Visaranai shows these migrant workers from Tamil Nadu being picked on by the police in Guntur. It premiered at the Venice Film Festival, and later on, it won three National Awards.

About 60 countries have already submitted their entries for the next year’s foreign-language Oscar. The deadline for submission is Oct. 3, 2016. The nominations for the 89th Academy Awards will be announced Jan. 24.

 <Mild Spoilers. DO NOT watch the embed links if you haven’t seen the show.>

The Emmys got concluded today. A lot of great shows and people won (including my personal favorites such as Courtney B Vance and Sarah Paulson from ACS: People Vs OJ Simpson and Rami Malek for Mr. Robot) And now is the time, like every year, when the less informed TV fans will sit up and start making a list of all the new shows, nominated and winners, to binge. But amidst all this Emmy noise, there are a few shows which don’t get nominated and lose out the wide audience that they so richly deserve. One such show is Rectify, which, not surprisingly, is Sundance Channel’s first wholly owned scripted series. The fact that none of its cast or crew members were nominated (especially Aden Young and Abigail Spencer) for anything proves that the world is not a fair place.

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Rectify’s 4th and final season starts 26th October. I have been watching this show from the year it premiered (2013) and every time I have thought about writing about it, I have fallen short of words and ways to describe the overwhelming beauty contained in this show’s every single frame. I re-watched all three seasons recently and it made me realize that it would be a tragedy, perhaps even bigger than the one this show deals with, if this show is not seen by people who appreciate great television.

The show is set in Paulie, a small town in the southern state of Georgia. The show starts with the release of one Daniel Holden who was incarcerated 19 years ago for the rape and murder of his girlfriend Hannah Dean. He is on death row and about to be hanged in a few days when, miraculously, new DNA evidence comes to light and introduce enough reasonable doubt about his involvement in the crime. Sounds a lot like Netflix documentary series ‘Making a Murderer’ and the famous podcast ‘Serial’ (remember Adnan?) but rest assured, its unique treatment sets it miles apart from these two.

His younger sister Amantha Holden (played by an absolutely feisty and incredible Abigail Spencer) was 12 when he went in, and has since made it her life’s mission to get her brother out. No surprises that she is the happiest when he walks out.

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His mother Janet, who Daniel fondly calls ‘Mother’ is played by J Smith Cameron. She married again after her first husband’s death and Daniel now has a step dad, Ted Sr (a very intelligent and smart man whose wife walked out on him years ago leaving him with his typical southern alpha male son Teddy Jr.) Together, the father-son duo run the tire shop which belonged to Daniel’s father.

Teddy Jr (a brilliant & standout Clayne Crawford), has a wife named Tawney, a typical southerner church going housewife who after meeting Daniel starts developing feelings for him and in turn starts questioning her faith and morality.

Then there is Jon, Daniel’s empathetic lawyer who (a very restrained Luke Kirby), over the years of fighting his case, has gotten romantically involved with Amantha. Their beautiful & very mature love story arc deserves its own spinoff TV show.

All these nuanced and complex characters make up Daniel’s world who is having a hard time adjusting to his new reality. He is damaged goods. He spent 19 years inside an 8×6 cell reading Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Camus and memorizing Tobias Wolff’s “Bullet in the Brain” (coz he found it ‘calming’ and it helped him ‘bend time in a way’) & now he is out and lost.

The first season (6 episodes only) shows you the first 6 days of this man’s post prison life who went into solitary confinement at a time when teenagers were making mix-tapes for their loved ones and is released in the era of iTunes & EDM. To borrow a thought from S02E04 “Donald The Normal,” we’re watching this man at a point when the paint is still drying on his canvas.

When Daniel is not busy listening to his old Walkman or remodelling the kitchen for his mother or riding his brother’s BMX bike or lying naked plucking the feathers out of a pillow, he roams around & bumps into people. Some nice, some nasty. Some invite him to parties to smoke up with them, some want to click selfies with him, some even have sex with him out of pity/sense of adventure, while some beat the shit out of him, and some are just happy discussing art with him in an art gallery mistaking him to be a ‘normal guy’. “I believe we should reinstate wonder and banish expectations.” one fine lady tells him in Atlanta while he is on his way to meet the mother of his prison cell neighbour and the closest thing he’s had to a friend, Kerwin, who wasn’t as lucky as him. The lady from the gallery invites him to have lunch with her and her girlfriends, which Daniel reluctantly accepts and, in one of the show’s countless poignant moments, wonders out loud how good Panini bread tastes, much to the ladies’ surprise who have gotten over Panini by now. They, of course, aren’t aware that Panini didn’t even exist in America when he went in.

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Much of the flashbacks focus on Daniel and Kerwin’s time together in the cells. Kerwin’s presence helps Daniel remain sane and once he is gone for the gallows, he loses it badly. So badly that a priest has to be brought in to intervene to get him out of the darkness. So when he gets out, he goes to see Kerwin’s mother which becomes a beautiful meeting between perfect strangers who all loved a man who had an irreplaceable place in their lives. Daniel’s meeting with Kerwin’s mother and his younger brother gives you a sense of the amount and strength of will it takes for people to go on after such tragedies fuck their lives up so irreversibly.

None of the characters are more mysterious or unpredictable than Daniel himself who, in the 19 years that he was inside has amassed a wealth of knowledge and clarity by reading literary giants and he often uses that knowledge in his encounters with imaginary and real people. This knowledge has also enabled him to be really funny and sarcastic when the situation or the character demands him to be (and at times when it doesn’t). It is no exaggeration when I say that it is an absolute fucking treat to see this man talking to someone, anyone in this show. One scene in which he is eulogizing his ex-lawyer who used to send him books (three on French revolution alone!) is an exceptionally profound piece of writing.

While maintaining a fine balance between being a profound spiritual drama and a murder mystery, the show never loses sight of the fact that Daniel is free but not exonerated. Everyone around him, including his step-brother Teddy Jr, has an opinion on whether or not he really did commit those crimes. Daniel’s own memory of the ‘incident’, however, is hazy. There were other people there when all that happened but he was the one who was found with Hannah’s body, sitting there with flowers, crying. But even after 3 seasons, we don’t really get to know the “truth” as to what exactly happened that night. We gather information from the police investigation, old testimonies, confessions and Daniel’s meeting with old acquaintances. After all these years, even Daniel is not sure if he did it or not. The show makes it amply clear that he is well capable of doing it and Daniel knows this too. The 19 years of isolation and solitary confinement have familiarized him with his own darkness but they have also blurred his memories. It’s all unclear, but the show never really tries to become a whodunit. In a lesser show, it would have been the central theme.

But Rectify is not worried about the mystery. It is worried about Daniel. A man who is best described by the title of Second Season’s finale, Unhinged. It’s more concerned with what Daniel’s time in prison did to him and how his and the people’s lives around him have been forever changed because of it. Would he ever be able to recover from this and be able to have new beginnings?

It is also worried about Amantha, a bright young woman, with a peculiar name which is neither Amanda nor Samantha, who could have been living a normal life having a career in a big city instead of working at Thrifty Town, a local grocery store because she can’t move away while her brother is still on trial.

It is worried about Tawney, who is not sure if she wants to be with Teddy Jr anymore given that she now has feelings for Daniel which are in direct conflict with what her church has taught her. Adelaide Clemens is frustratingly great in this part.

It is worried about Daniel’s mother who on one hand is extremely happy to see her son out of prison, but on the other hand is extremely distressed about his survival options in the free world.

Heck it is even worried about Teddy Jr who isn’t really that likable a person to start with but the show doesn’t shortchange him and shows us what insecurities lies beneath that made him so. (Pete Campbell from Mad Men comes to mind when I see Teddy’s character in this show.)

The writing on this show is extraordinary. It deals with themes which, among many, include the nature of truth, God, spirituality, religion, existentialism, capital punishment, the biases of the judicial system or rather people who are a part of that flawed system, and depression, and it does it so humanely that it leaves you feeling like a tangled ball of emotions. It is one of the most intelligent show on TV and you can gauge that from some of the episode titles like Plato’s Cave (from the allegory), The Great Destroyer (from the Tome of Rubicon), and Sown with Salt (from the ancient practice of Salting the conquered earth to leave it unusable), each one hinting at the superior literary knowledge of its writers and their vast understanding of the complex human emotions.

For me, Rectify is the closest that any show has ever come to the experience of reading a fine book. It is not a show to binge watch. Every episode stirs something inside you and you have to give it time to sink in. It is the most human show on TV and its poignancy will break your heart into a million pieces. For Daniel, for Amantha, for the lives lost, for what could have been had he not gotten entangled in this mess.

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I hope that this show gets its due. It deserves to be talked about with the all-time greats such as Breaking Bad & Mad Men. I, being a huge fan of Walter White and Don Draper, proudly admit that Daniel Holden has surpassed them and has become my most favorite TV protagonist of all time. Daniel Holden doesn’t exist in the real world, but if he did, I would have loved to meet him and give him a tight hug.

Don’t get scared though. This show is not all tears and emotions. It has its moment of joy and sometimes, absolute hilarity – most of which involve Daniel and Amantha in various situations dealing with weirdos. Their stinging sense of humor proves that they are cut from the same cloth.

There is still more than a month to go before the final season premiere. Enough time to soak up 22 episodes (6+10+6).

In perhaps one of the most surreal sequences of the show, an unknown man tells Daniel –  “It’s the beauty, not the ugly, that hurts you the most son.” And then goes on to wrestle with him like a pig.

Go for it, let this show hurt you.

–  Avinash Verma

I heard about the tale of Saheba and Mirza for the first time, in my favorite song from Jab Tak Hai Haan – Heer. Guess who wrote that. Now, If the first name they splash on the screen is Gulzar’s, you know the makers are serious about their sh*t. The music of Mirzya is out and while I try hard to keep myself equanimous, pardon me if my feelings jump out of the keyboard and infect you with some enthusiasm and drunken stupor. Read on!

Mirzya

The album contains 15 songs and some are in the form of less than a minute of powerful recitations – composed and voiced by Daler Mehndi. What is clearly a storytelling technique, in these tracks, not only you understand the character, you get a feel of particular situations as well. Take the Yeh wadiyan for example,  the track is screaming ‘flashback flashback!’ But even then you would want to play it again. We get these lines in the title song as well.  In Mirza se darre and Mera mirza sher, the way Daler Mehndi soars, you will have goosebumps, the fearlessness of youth in two lines. What attitude! In Lahoo luhaan – Daler slightly errs in the beginning but paints the gory detail about a bloody fight that went on till the fighter started losing his ‘havaas’.  Even if Punjabi is not your language, fear not – it will make you soar nevertheless because Mehndi does NOT falter in Puchh na pende or Phaa paye nain fact, in the latter, hear how resigned is Daler when he says – Tu phir na jammi, Mirjiya. You feel the pain, you lose hope along with the singer. He has already won. Now, on to the songs of the album..

  • Mirzya – Sain Zahoor does what Sain Zahoor does. He sweeps you off your feet and S.E.L. bombard you with perhaps the most vibrant track of the album. There is a goosebumps gooseFOREST inducing Akhtar Chanal Zahiri as well and if this wasn’t enough, we get the ever so dependable Nooran Sisters and Daler mehndi jazzing things up and all this under 4 minutes. I kid you not, I couldn’t go beyond this track for a while. A bombastic start to the album!
  • Teen Gawaah Hain – Notwithstanding the earthy beginning of the song where we hear Sain Zahoor calling out, the tune of this love ballad reminded me of ‘mere mann ye bata de tu’ from KANK. Having said that, it’s what young love sounds like. A playful guitar stealing a glance while the constant pace eases your mind, making everything dreamy and slow. In antra, hear how Siddhartha leaves the last word of the first line, making you feel his passion. Listen to his ‘khol’ in the line ‘aasman khol ke dekhne do’ and you will know what I mean. A pretty pretty song! (I kept thinking the back up vocalists will break into ‘love will find a way’)
  • Chakora – God only knows why I wanted to talk to my dealer the moment this song started. It is comforting to see Bollywood waking up to Akhtar Chanal Zahiri, and not only that, using him well! Add some trippy beats to his recital or perhaps overlap him while someone is singing and you would probably want to make love to a joint near you. Mame Khan and Suchismita Das lend the ‘bollywood folk’ feel to the tune in their own cute style. Stunning song!
  • Aave re hichki – The opening 37 odd seconds of Esraj (or sarangi), is a class act by S.E.L., not to say that the song isn’t good otherwise. The song has fuses a bit of dervish-like sound on a simple free flowing tune. A minor grouse – You don’t go ‘hitchhh’ when you get ‘hichki’, you go ‘hikkk’. Clearly, Gulzar sahab wasn’t present in the recording.
  • Hota hai – I am sure it is just me but a ‘tun tuna’ start from Nooran Sisters put me off…and then I heard Sain Zahoor and Akhtar Chanal Zahiri (ACZ) together and it all made sense. The fantastic beat pattern of the song that stops to accommodate Sarangi and meets ACZ’s solid voice is to be heard to be believed. In addition to these powerhouses, I absolutely loved Shankar Mahadevan’s voice towards the end. For the uninitiated, please do check out Sain Zahoor and Akhtar Chanal Zahiri independently as well. They have brought studios down across the border. The brute force in the song makes you want to break the law, do the impossible and be weirdly proud of it all. A fantastic song by all means and well, I changed my mind. The ‘tun tuna’ is not all that bad afteral…..TRAAA!
  • Ek nadi thee – Thank God someone gave K. Mohan a tune that is not very ‘K Mohan’ if you know what I mean. All his songs have been sounding similar to me lately. This one is a glorious exception. Intimate claps and a bonfire like improv singing (of course with sexy strings) has made this quite a different song from the usual ‘unplugged and reprise’ like songs we come across.
  • Doli re doli – Who in their right mind would do a babul song with a slow jazz like treatment? S.E.L. did it here and boy, does it sound delicious. It has me conflicted whether I am supposed to be sad or happy, and I love the song for that. Clearly an example of what S.E.L. can achieve if the makers are willing to let them be.
  • Kaaga – It is a fine feeling when you see the artists you have been rooting for since long, go ‘mainstream’. I shrieked like a teenager when I heard Sain Zahoor and Akhtar Chanal Zahiri and here in kaaga, we hear the flawless Kaushiki Chakraborty with breathtaking strings and brass! The sound towards the end of the track can be so easily mistaken for a ‘superhero climax theme’. That said, I wish there is a longer version of this song hiding somewhere because it would be soul satisfying, just like this one is.
  • Mirziya theme – I might not reach out to the theme to play it again and again but I blame songs of the album for that. You are too consumed by the time you reach this track. It fills the album well, is no ‘Udaan theme’ by any measure, but is still good. Sarangi and flute. Enough said.

Most of the film music albums this year have been remarkably impervious to the flow of creativity and freshness. If this album makes you want to stop everyone, and make them listen to this, don’t worry, You are not acting strange. Mirzya’s music is *the* real thing and not an oddity in template infested bollywood that requires quotes around it as if it was a strange thing. I don’t know how the film would be, I don’t care how the film would be. I am just celebrating what would easily be the film music album of the year. This is what fundamentally good things sound like. Hear Hear!!

I wish there was an option to buy an album twice on iTunes!

Rohwit

(PS – To give credit where it’s due, I absolutely love T-series for including the artist credits in the jukebox link. You can access it here)

With its premiere at the ongoing Toronto International Film Festival, more good news coming in for Konkona Sensharma’s directorial debut, A Death In The Gunj.

The film will open this year’s MAMI Film Festival which will run from October 20th -27th, 2016. The film’s cast includes Vikrant Massey, Ranvir Shorey, Kalki Koechlin, Gulshan Devaiah, Tillotama Shome, Jim Sarbh, Tanuja Mukherjee, Om Puri and Arya Sharma.

Here’s TIFF’s Cameron Bailey on the film –

ADITGHaving made an indelible impact on Indian cinema with her work in front of the camera, renowned actor Konkona Sensharma (Talvar) makes her debut as a writer-director with this tense family drama.

It’s the late 1970s, and just outside the quiet Indian resort town of McCluskiegunj, a family gathers in their country home and prepares to ring in the new year with old friends. On the periphery of the family’s focus hovers the young man Shutu (Vikrant Massey), an innocent attempting to navigate a world that’s unkind to his sensitive nature.

Shutu would rather spend time with his friend’s young daughter than engage with the adults, but he is eventually drawn into the messy realm of mature emotions and desires. Relationships in these close quarters begin to simmer and strain, and Shutu struggles to define his masculinity and sense of self — even as the atmosphere becomes suffused with lust and mystery.

Sensharma was a star of Indian Parallel Cinema, the movement made famous by the likes of Satyajit Ray and Mrinal Sen, and her directorial approach shares a realist sensibility with the work of those directors. Shot on location in Jharkhand State, the film is deeply steeped in a sense of place; Sensharma’s camera captures the natural beauty of the family home’s surroundings as she patiently lets her Chekhovian story build to its dramatic and tragic conclusion.

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For more stills and trailer of the film, click here.

The early buzz from TIFF is great so far. This review calls it an assured debut. Journalist and film programmer Aseem Chhabra is also quite impressed by the film. See his tweets.

We can’t wait to catch it at MAMI.

383017-amaal-mallik-1Amaal Mallik has emerged as one of the most promising new music talents in the last few years. In just a short span of time, he has delivered some really chart buster songs.

In his latest FB post, he has written about the music industry and its bitter truth. In an industry where nobody really speaks the truth, it’s quite refreshing to see a young talent speaking his heart out. Do read.

The vicious cycle of our music industry

Music that is promoted heavily tends to become a earworm and eventually becomes a hit….More people request for it on the radio, as they dunno any better.

Jo Dikhta Hain Woh Bikta Hain, and jo Bikta Hain woh Aur Dikhta hain and the cycle continues…..

And we all think ‘Yeh Hain Naya Hit Gaana’….

Sorry but YouTube Views, iTune downloads and Radioplay is not the only yardstick, Even I keep putting posts saying 1M 2M views but that’s because we all are stuck in the new social trappings, which we can’t do much about,but we can atleast work towards making newer music.

Listening to my own music and what bollywood is churning out since 2 years now, sparing a few good albums like – Badlapur, Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Kapoor & Sons, Fitoor, Uḍta Punjab, Baar Baar Dekho, Sultan & Banjo recently…..

Every love song today sounds like Aashiqui 2, every wedding song a Chittiyaṅ Kalaiyaan, every club song a Chaar Baj Gaye or Subah Hone Na De, or a Sooraj Dooba Hain or a Chull…..

There is so much of music within me, and all of us as composers that is dying to come out but it’s not commercial enough for the labels or the producers.

We have all forgotten our own inner voice because of others…..Others who decide whether we will compose for a certain film or will be humiliated and thrown out of it….

Directors have lost their voice and are going to labels and begging for a hit song….This is not how things were, where is the confidence of the captain of the ship ?

If labels are deciding the music of films (Almost All), where the music needs to be a chartbuster and the story doesn’t matter it’s okay, but what about a soundtrack that has to be honest to the script ?????

I think the Director, Music composer, Lyricist and the label guys should create something special for a film instead of putting stock music…..

All of them should be jamming together, which is next to impossible to achieve, but that’s what will change it…..

That’s how we will achieve a score that will work with the film & in time become a radio hit too.

Not trying to hurt any body, I’m sure many lyricists and composers will agree with me….

Just need to plan a way forward….

Happy Ganesh Chaturthi…..Peace !

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Winner of the Fedeora Award for Best Debut Feature at last year’s Venice Film Festival (as part of the Venice Days Sidebar), Ruchika Oberoi’s Island City finally finds a domestic release on 2nd September. The Mumbai-set triptych of stories stars Vinay Pathak, Amruta Subhash and Tannishtha Chatterjee in leading roles. The film is produced by the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) and will be distributed by Drishyam Films.

Here’s a post on the film from last year’s Mumbai Film Festival where it screened.

Official synopsis:

Island City follows three comic-dramatic stories set in Mumbai. The first one is about Suyash (Vinay Pathak), a middle-aged man who wins the office ‘Fun Committee Award’, which entitles him to a whole day full of fun. He is most reluctant to leave the safety of his cubicle but he has to. Prescribed fun modules have to be completed and non-compliance is not an option.

The second story begins with Sarita (Amruta Subhash), whose domineering husband Anil is on life support. Seeking some relief, she and her mother-in-law decide to buy a TV for the family, which Anil had banned. Now every night the family plugs into a popular soap whose hero is an ‘ideal man’ in every way…

The third one centres on Aarti whose repetitive existence is slowly making her more and more mechanical and numb. Deep inside ferments a disconnect and unease that she is unable to articulate to anyone. Then one day there arrives a most intimate letter and everything changes…

Here’s our recco post on the film which was posted during Mumbai Film Festival.

Below are the teaser and trailer for the film:

 

 

Credits:

Cast: Vinay Pathak, Amruta Subhash, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Chandan Roy Sanyal, Samir Kochhar, Uttara Baokar, Ashwin Mushran, Sana Sheikh
Writer/Director: Ruchika Oberoi
Director of photography: Sylvester Fonseca
Production designer:
Krishnendu Chowdhury
Costume designers:
Anirban Haldar, Rajesh Kumar
Editor: Hemanti Sarkar
Music: Sagar Desai
Production Company: National Film Development Corporation

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FIRST INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL & AWARDS, MACAO (IFFAM) IS CALLING FOR ENTRIES FROM INDIA AND SOUTH ASIA.

The International Film Festival & Awards, Macao (IFFAM) is calling for entries.

– The first edition of this festival will be held from 8 to 13 December, 2016 in Macao.

– Last date of Submission is 30 September 2016.

– The Official Selection consists of the following sections- Competition, Out of Competition/Gala, Hidden Dragons, Best of Fest Panorama and Crossfire (Retrospective).

– The Festival invites entries for feature-length fiction films above 60 minutes.

– The film must be completed post 15 December 2015. Priority will be given to films being presented at the festival as its World Premiere.

– For further details on submission and for the Rules & Regulations, please visit IFFAM’s official website www.iffamacao.com.

– Deepti DCunha is the Consultant to the Festival Director, Marco Mueller, for India and South Asia.

– For any queries regarding the festival, please contact deepti.dcunha@iffamacao.com and info@iffamaco.com

Last date of Submission is 30 September 2016.

IFFAM is an event jointly organized by the Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO) and Macao Films & Television Productions and Culture Association (MFPTA), and administered and managed by MFPTA (the “Festival”).

The aim of the Festival is to raise awareness and promote the various aspects of Chinese-language, East Asian and international cinema in all its forms as entertainment and as an industry, as art and as a tool of dialogue, in a spirit of freedom and exchange. In addition to all the various sections, the Festival shall include retrospectives and tributes to major figures in the film industry as a contribution towards raising awareness of the history of cinema.

 

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