Archive for January, 2010

At 75, he is still going strong! After his last delightful small film Welcome To Sajjanpur, Shyam Benegal is ready with his new film titled Well Done Abba.

The film is produced by Reliance Big Picturs and stars Boman Irani in double role along with Minissha Lamba and Sammir Dattani.  Its written by Ashok Mishra and is based on two short stories – ‘Narsaiyyan Ki Bavdi’ by Jeelani Bano and ‘Phulwa Ka Pul’ by Sanjeev. The first trailer of the film is out. Have a look. Seems like its in the same space as Sajjanpur.

 And here is the official synopsis of the film…

Armaan Ali, played by comic hero Boman Irani, is a middle aged driver for a city executive. He takes a month’s leave and, when he arrives back at work three months later, his boss, understandably, threatens to sack him. To save his job, charming Armaan spins a fabulous story of why he was delayed in getting his daughter married.

Fable or truth, the boss isn’t quite sure, but the story revolves around a central question – how a well, once dug, can be stolen? Unearthed in Benegal’s part comedy, part political satire, is a hilarious and poignant depiction of the double dealing and corrupt middle men intrinsic to Indian rural politics. Meanwhile, at the heart of the story is a delightful romance between Armaan’s daughter and a young, honest mechanic who saves the day.

This is it! It doesnt get bigger than this! The best directors of the year, all together. Quentin Tarantino (Inglourious Basterds), Peter Jackson (The Lovely Bones), James Cameron (Avatar), Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker), Jason Reitman (Up in the Air) and Lee Daniels (Precious) sat down for a roundtable chat to discuss outsider versus insider, toughest scenes they had to film for a movie and what they would do if they weren’t directing movies. Killer!

UPDATE : And there is more! Our good freind Manu mailed us the link that has the same set of directors talking about the challenges of marketing a film, how they became directors, sequels & board games versus originals. Click here and enjoy! Or you can click here for the transcript.

Three hindi films this weekend. Its quite a film friday! Two debutants and one veteran! And since we belong to BBC (Bhardwaj Bhakt Club), we made sure that we saw it even before the release. Click here for our review.

Ishqiya is directed by debutant Abhishek Chaubey and stars Naseeruddin Shah, Arshad Warsi and Vidya Balan. Lets see how it has scored with the reviewers.

Anupama Chopra (NDTV) – I know its only January but I think its safe to say that Ishqiya is the most crackling film you’ll see this year. It’s feisty and sly and very, very sexy – 3.5/5

Taran Adarsh (Indiafm) – On the whole, ISHQIYA is definitely worth a watch. The film has a riveting plot, great performances, soulful music, an absorbing story and skilful direction to make the viewer fall in ishq with it. It should appeal to the hardcore masses as also the multiplex junta – 4/5

Gaurav Malani (ET) – Regardless of the rugged-and-rustic ‘City of God’ kinda setting, the flavour of the film is predominantly light-hearted, as instinctive comedy oozes out from almost every sequence. The director’s hold on humour is remarkable as he makes good use of some dingy desi dialogues and some exceptional expressions by the lead male duo to hilarious outcome. The comic timing between Naseeruddin Shah and Arshad Warsi is absolutely flawless – 3.5/5

Rajeev Masand (CNN IBN) – Ishqiya, directed by debutant Abhishek Chaubey, is a delicious little film that teeters dangerously between saucy comedy and suspenseful noir. Unapologetically adult in its relationships, its language and its humor, the film sparkles for its inspired writing and uncompromised direction. It’s an assured, confident debut and one hell of a rollicking ride. A textured, compelling drama that’s unlike anything you’ve seen lately – 3.5/5

Nikhat Kazmi (TOI) – In Ishqiya lingo, the film is a sutli bomb (firecracker) that tickles and explodes. But for the hurried and harried end. Go, have a blast – 3.5/5 

Shubhra Gupta (Indian Express) – Small-town India is where the real stories are. `Ishqiya’ blends place and people in a way only those who’ve lived that life know how, and gives us a film with desirous flesh and pulsating blood – 3/5

Mayank Shekhar (HT) – Mira Nair is right. Bharadwaj is probably one of the few of Bollywood’s unique voices likely to corner any genuine attention in the West. This road film is in parts, an Yi Tu Mama Tambien sort of bizarre romance, an El Mariachi type curry-western, and a City Of God kind of grimy thriller. Yet, the pungent odour is entirely original. Oh smell it – for sure – 3.5/5

Kaveree Bamzai (India Today) – Imagine a sticky sweet jalebi with a cup of hot milk. Just as they would have on a foggy morning in Gorakhpur. Crunchy, sweet, and quite delicious. Now think Ishqiya. Set in a reimagined eastern Uttar Pradesh, where minor hoodlums dress like cowboys and women are earthy sex queens, the film elevates rustic chic to an art – 4/5

Sukanya Varma (Rediff) – Rarely are grace and profanity cited in the same breath. Debutant filmmaker Abhishek Chaubey’s Ishqiya, however, is a privileged exception. If VB is the equivalent of Quentin Tarantino in Hindi cinema, safe to say with Chaubey, we have a Robert Rodriguez in the making – 3.5/5

Aniruddha Guha (DNA) – Ishqiya, among other things, is a great start for director Abhishek Chaubey. The film — with its great music, superior performances, and memorable dialogues — cannot be missed, unless you are under 18 years of age. This is pure ‘adult’ fun – 3.5/5

Jaya Biswas (Buzz18) – High on drama and wild at times, you are bound to fall in love with Khalujaan and Babban – 3.5/5

The average rating seems to be 3.5! Go for it.

The other release is Ram Gopal Varma’s Rann. We are tired of RIP-ing Ramu, again and again but seems he still isnt. Lets see if this one is his comeback. Rann stars Amitabh Bachchan, Paresh Rawal, Sudeep, Ritesh Deshmukh, Gul Panag and Neetu Chandra.

Anupama Chopra (NDTV) – Bachchan, Ritesh Deshmukh and Suchitra Krishnamoorthy, playing the mole, bring some restraint and dignity to this cacophonous tale. Otherwise it’s sound and fury signifying little – 2/5

Taran Adarsh (Indiafm) – On the whole, RANN is truly a well-made film. No two opinions on that. The film should be patronised by viewers of serious, sensible cinema. Recommended! – 3.5/5 

Gaurav Malani (ET) – To be honest (like the film demands), Rann is not a new story but the news battle setting saves it from getting run-of-the-mill. Rather than a story designed around the media world, Rann is more of the clichéd corrupt politician chronicle (that Bollywood has been narrating since ages) set on the backdrop of the broadcasting business – 2.5/5

Rajeev Masand (CNN IBN) – Rann is not so much a bad film as it is a boring, predictable one. Varma and his writers borrow the Madhur Bhandarkar-blueprint and give us uni-dimensional characters who are either black or white, seldom grey. Although the film’s portrayal of a certain kind of Hindi news journalism may not be far from the truth, it is the film’s lazy stereotyping that is tiresome here. Varma uses crazy camera moves, tight close ups and a booming background score to create the drama that his simplistic script fails to – 2/5

Nikhat Kazmi (TOI) – It’s gritty. It’s grey. And it’s greatly topical too. Ram Gopal Varma returns to his let’s-dissect-the-real-world brand of cinema with the racy-pacy Rann that might run on predictable lines, nevertheless it makes for a gripping viewing with its behind-the-scenes dekko on the Breaking News, any which way, syndrome that seems to have overtaken certain sections of the media – 4/5

Khalid Mohamed (PFC) – All seen and said, the media ka kheema could have been infinitely superior. Gratifyingly, there are some redeeming moments which do leave you Zingin’ in the Rann. Thanks – 2.5/5

Kaveree Bamzai (India Today) – Ram Gopal Verma has been watching too much news. So much that he has made a movie on exactly the same principles that he trashes. Ensure your anchors/actors indulge in crazy histrionics, forget about the research and use hyperbole at all times. Watch it if you want a good laugh – 2/5

Mayank Shekhar (HT) – Exposes are cheap devices; explanations, precious. Most good art achieves the latter, great films do. This is neither an expose nor an explanation. It’s just an exercise in corniness, not very different from the subject of its scrutiny – 2/5

Sukanya Varma (Rediff) – There are a couple of moments in Rann involving a seemingly anonymous call to super tense Sudeep or Big B coming to terms with the humiliating truth about his son are reminiscent of vintage Varma, Then again, a messy climax, witless and uninspired writing and shoddy, detail-free narrative ensure these memories are washed out as soon as they are formed – 2/5

Aniruudha Guha (DNA) – Over the years, Varma has used, and abused, the same treatment in his films to such an extent that it has lost its novelty and fun factor now. Extreme close-ups, dark environs, a garish back ground score – Rann‘s soundtrack is awful, to say the least – we’ve seen it all in previous Varma films.  Rann just doesn’t work – 2/5

Shweta Parande (Buzz18) – Ram Gopal Varma brings us yet another gripping drama in the league of Sarkar and Sarkar Raj. The performances definitely make up for the flaws in the story. Also watch out for some good scenes and camera angles – 3.5/5

Ramu is still not back! The average rating seems to be 2/5! If you follow reviews every week, you know that Taran and Nikhat really dont count. Their operational cost is something different.

And the indie release of the week is Road To Sangam by debutant director by Amit Rai and stars Paresh Rawal, Om Puri and Pawan Malhotra.

Taran Adarsh (Indiafm) – On the whole, ROAD TO SANGAM is mainly for connoisseurs of cinema and also for the festival circuit – 3/5 

Jaya Biswas (Buzz18) – No doubt the film got the best film award at MAMI and rave reviews at the International Film Fest of South Africa, Los Angeles Reel Film Fest and so on. And what better time to release the film when we are so close to commemorate Gandhiji’s death anniversary on Jan 30. It’s a journey worth exploring. Only if the packaging was good, the impact would have been more – 2.5/5

If others are here, can Walt Disney be far behind! In a country where there are more than half a dozen tv channels for kids, it cant be bad. Walt Disney is ready with its debut desi production titled Zokkomon.

The film is directed by Satyajit Bhatkal, Aamir Khan’s good friend and director of Chalo Chalo, the documentary on making of Lagaan. The film stars Darsheel Safary, Manjhari Phadnis and Anupam Kher. And if our sources are to be believed, the budget of the film is 22 crores! Yes, debut director, Darsheel in the lead and 22 crores!

Check it out, the teaser looks dull and boring.

According to official release, Zokkomon is is a thrilling and heart-warming action packed adventure about an ordinary boy who rises to meet extraordinary challenges.  Kunal, an orphaned boy, discovers how cruel life is when he is abandoned by his heartless uncle. Left to fend for himself, Kunal soon realizes the hero within and begins his epic journey of adventure and transformation to become Zokkomon. Ah, every formula of superhero is here!

Its all set to release on 7th May, 2010 to get its target audience during the summer vacation.

Abhishek Chaubey has been working with Vishal Bhardwaj since Makdee days. As a co-writer and also assisted him on almost all the films that Vishal has directed so far. When Vishal decided to produce Abhishek’s debut film, how can it go wrong! Chaubey graduates from Bhardwaj School Of Filmmaking with distinction.

Ishqiya stars three of my favourite actors. Naseeruddin Shah, Arshad Warsi and Vidya Balan. The film is completely “fun on the run”. And its the badlands of UP, with crime, love, lust, deceit, gang war and conspiracies making a delicious rustic mix. Taste it. Except few filmmakers, Bollywood rarely explores the rustic charm and the desi flavours in the era of multiplexes, suave urban heroes and NRI money!

It opens with the husky voice of Rekha Bhardwaj. Aha! Though it took me some time to adjust to her voice on Vidya Balan. And then enters the Mama-Bhanja, Kalujaan & Babban. Add Krishna (Vidya Balan) to the gang and its teen tigada kaam bigada! Love triangle was never so much fun! With Bhardwaj’s dictionary & dialogues, he can say the most mundane thing in an interesting way! Tumhara ishq ishq aur hamara ishq sex! This is Love Aaj Kal! Mr Imtiaz Ali, are you listening ?

The first half is almost flawless. Never a dull moment. Vishal Bhardwaj’s killer dialogues takes care of the writing. Arshad got the best lines and delivers one of his career’s best performance. Have always felt that he is underrated and underutilised except for Sehar & Munnabhai series. This one does justice to him. Naseeruddin Shah doesnt need lines. He says more with his silences and pauses. The look, the smile, the charm, its all so perfect. Just watch him in the song dil toh bachcha hai ji! And the de-glam Vidya is the “laundiya waisi nahi hai jaisi tum soch rahe ho! ” Surprise!

Abhishek Chaubey – what an assured debut! Not a single weak patch anywhere! In an industry where filmmakers like Sagar Bellary (Bheja Fry) andManish Acharya (Loins of Punjab Presents) are applauded endlessly for their debut efforts, both the films which I didnt like, am not sure where would I place Abhishek Chaubey then! Mr Chaubey, get ready for the offers!

The only locha seems to be the climax of the film, much like Kaminey. It gets convulted, too many twists and some far-fetchd connections. The seeds have been planted from the start of the film and it all comes together to form the end.  But when the time comes for the close, the expectations grow so much that it seems jarring in trying to be over smart. But again, when the journey is such a joyride, you dont mind compromising with the destination. If only there was a better way to deal with it, it would have hit five out of five! 

In Ishqiya, there is no great story. Its screenplay and dialogues all the way. As they say, its not about the story but all about the storytelling! And brillant acting by the ensemble. Cant say much or will spoil the fun.

Watch it to know why Vishal Bhardwaj is the best dialogue writer in the country. Nobody even comes close. My favourite remains the dialogue from The Blue Umbrella where Pankaj Kapoor explains why he needs the umbrella. Pahadi ke picche se sooraj ko ugte huye dekha hai kya ?  Watch it to know why Naseeruddin Shah is still the God of acting! And watch it to know why you might end up liking that irritating song dil me baji guitar!

And if you are a fan of Bollywood’s golden oldies, you will smile more than once. Go, book your tickets.

Now that I have written some really good words about the film, can I get this T-shirt, Mr Bhardwaj! Saw someone wearing it, could not resist from clicking. He happily posed for me.

PS1 – Dont miss the beginning. Vishal Bhardwaj production got a new kickass logo, unlike any other. Its live action!

PS2 – Why Boney Kapoor’s company logo BSK needs to match his size ? 

PS3 – If kisses & smooches are still signs of growing up, Arshad & Vidya go for a full throttle & quite long smooch by hindi film standards! Bring it on, guys! Its ADULT film! Welcome to small town S & M! 

Because its not Agyaat!

And look at the irony! The man who went out to expose the media, got himself exposed! Courtesy writer Sonal Mehta.

First, lets kill the rumours. Sonal Mehta is no journalist. Was never a journalist. All you journos get you facts right! She comes from advertising background and has experience of more than ten years. She met Ramu and assisted him on James.

What we know – Here is the way Ram Gopal Varma works. He gets an idea and tells the same idea to 3-4-5-6 writers and ask them to write story/treatment. None of the two writers get to know that they are writing the same. It doesnt happen at one go. First one writer, then second, third and so on. Sometimes they get paid, sometimes they dont. Nobody knows the reason. May be he gets bored soon. He changes writers faster than his girlfriends!

Based on the treatment notes, Ramu decides which way to go. And he would suddenly call up the 7th writer and tell him the same one line and some more ideas from one of the treatments without telling the 7th writer about other six and their notes. This is not new.

We have been following Sonal Mehta’s case quite closely and here is all the dope that we got from our journalist and writer friends.

– After James, Ramu asked Sonal to work on his one line idea of media expose and all that holier than thou gyaan. She wrote the script. Ramu liked it.

– Sonal was told that she will direct it as well.

– Sonal’s script/film was titled Break ke Baad.

– She was even working from Ramu’s office.

– When she got to know about Rann, Ramu denied it first saying that its a completely new script. She was kept in the dark.

– When she confronted him again, he offered her to direct a new film. And that was the end.

Sonal Mehta went to FWA ( Film Writers’ Association). When the matter wasn’t solved there, she went to the court. And click here to know how the case was settled. Though our sources confirm that its not 55 Lakhs but the case was settled for 20 lakhs. Thats not bad too! And coming from Ramu, who is known to pay peanuts to his writers.

But Ramu is not happy with the way the producers have settled the matter. According to the official press release, Ramu states….

I hereby want to state that the Producers – Sheetal Talwar and Madhu Mantena have taken a decision to settle the dispute with that Mehta girl without my consent. The Honorable High Court has not passed any judgement or granted any injunction in the said dispute in any parties favour. As delaying the matter could cause irreparable loss to them they have taken this step to end the matter so that they can concentrate on release issues.

This settlement should not amount to any misconception that I was involved in the discussion regarding the same. I hereby by want to make it clear that Absolutely NO Credit will be given to her with regard to the story, screenplay or whatever of RANN.

I am hereby stating that I am just the Director of the film and the script has been written solely and wholly by Rohit G. Banawlikar and that Mehta girl is nothing but a fraud and a scamster and an opportunist. I will proceed with action on her to teach her and the likes of her a strong lesson as soon as I get free from my work.

Ramu ki dhamki!! Hmm. So why did the producers went ahead and settled the case out of court ? Well, simply because her case was stronger. Here is what she had with her…

– All documents proving every kind of official communication. Sms and mail exchanges between her and Ramu/his secretary/company.

– Comparative notes showing similarities between Rann & Break ke Baad.

– Letters from actors stating that she had narrated her Break Ke Baad script to them.

– No, she had NOT signed any contract and it worked her in favor. Beacuse mostly all the contracts state that in case of any conflict, all rights belong to the producer/director. So, even without the contract, she had much stronger evidences to prove her claim.

This is surely a landmark case. And when the other party is so strong. Not everyone manages to get their dues. Any knows what happened to Sajit Warrier’s case ? That was again Ramu!

So, all you writers, make sure that you don’t fool yourself. And if you are working with Ramu, make sure that save all possible evidences. Hope it never happens to you, but you never know! And if it happens, pray that you manage to get 20 lakhs!

Is Studio18 going the Sundance 2010 way ? Seems so.

Yes, even before you get to see Raj Kumar Hirani’s 3 Idiots on Youtube, Chandan Arora’s Striker is all set for its YouTube debut on February 5th, 2010.

And this is going to be first bollywood film to do so, if you dont count Sudhir Mishra’s Tera Kya Hoga Johnny which got leaked out even before its release.

BUT, before you get too excited, here is the bad news! Its NOT for desis! In the USA, Striker will be available for rent on YouTube. Outside the US, Striker be available for free on Studio18’s YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/studio18. Woohoo! The movie will be not be available for the YouTube traffic originating from India. But once anyone gets it for free, how difficult will be to pass it around!

Striker is directed by Chandan Arora, produced by Studio18  and stars Siddharth Narayan, Padampriya Anupam Kher, Aditya Panscholi and Vidya Malavade.