Archive for January, 2011

If they have the Oscar, we have FilmFarce, Screen, IIFA, GIFA, Stardust, Apsara, Urvashi, Menaka and million others. And if they have the Razzies, here is our Ghanta Awards.

What is Ghanta ?

The Ghantas celebrates and rewards the worst of Bollywood for 2010. Over the last year Bollywood has nouned, verbalized and adjectived us to suffer like a bunch of ghantas with their ringing of theatrical genius. It has churned out truckloads of films that could have been more suitable as fertilizer for the parched fields of Vidharba.

Why the name Ghanta ?

A Ghanta is a word more flexible than Isha Sherwani dangling off the back off a D.T.C. bus filled with grabbing Emraan Hashmi clones. It is an abuse that can circumvent several rules of grammar…Example:

Noun: Hitler had just one ghanta.Verb: Watching We are Family was a ghanta of an experience. Adjective: Shahrukh probably ghantas humans of the male sex.

And here are the Nominations –

Worst Film -Blue. Raavan. Kurbaan. Pyaar Impossible. Housefull

Worst Breakthrough (for the worst new actors/actress) – Aditya Narayan(Shaapit). Luv Sinha(Saadiyaan). Neha Sharma (Crook). Shazahn Padamsee (Rocket Singh). Sukhwinder Singh (Kuchh Kariye)

Worst Story Rip-Off – Knock Out (Phonebooth). Bum Bum Bole (Children of Heaven). Prince (from every action movie ever made). Jaane Kahan Se Aayi Hai (My Stepmother is an Alien). Hum Tum aur Ghost (Ghost Town).

Worst Supporting Actor – Sir Ben Kingsley (Teen Patti). Farhan Akhtar (Evil Karthik). Sameer Dattani (I Hate Luv Storys). Zayed Khan (Blue, Anjaana Anjaani). Upen Patel (Ajab Prem ki Ghazab Kahani)

Worst Supporting Actress – Lara Dutta (Blue/Housefull/Do Knot Disturb). Nandana Sen (Prince). Kangana Ranaut (Kites). Shenaz Treasurywala (Radio). Tabu (Toh Baat Pakki)

Worst Director – Anthony D Souza (Blue). Mani Ratnam (Raavan). Jugal Hansraj (Pyaar Impossible). Sajid Khan (Housefull). Rensil d’ Silva (Kurbaan)

Worst Song – Papa Jag Jayega (Housefull). Mann Ka Radio (Radio). Pe Pe Pe (Chance pe Dance). All Izz Well (3 Idiots). Jailhouse Rock (We Are Family)

Worst Actor – Uday Chopra(Pyaar Impossible). Himesh (Radio). Abhishek Bachchan (Raavan). Shahid (Chance Pe Dance, Milenge Milenge, Badmaash Company, and Paathshaala). Akshay Kumar (Blue, Khatta Meetha, Housefull)

Worst Actress – Kareena Kapoor (Kurbaan, We Are Family). Aishwarya (Robot/Raavan). Barbara Mori (Kites). Sonam Kapoor (Aisha, I Hate Luv Storys). Anushka Sharma (Badmaash Company)

That’s Anything But Sexy – Udita Goswani in Chase. Kareena Kapoor seduction scene in Kurbaan. 2 hot women chasing Himesh in Radio. The Great Indian Butterfly (Aamir Bashir / Sandhya Mridul). Girl down on her knees from London Dreams (Salman Khan / Asin)

Worst Couple – Abhishek / Aishwarya Bachchan (Raavan). Uday Chopra / Priyanka Chopra (Pyaar Impossible).Naseeruddin Shah / Vidya Balan (Ishqiya). Shahid Kapoor / Kareena Kapoor (Milenge Milenge). Sushmita Sen / Govinda (Do Knot Disturb)

WTF Was That -The baby sucking vacuum from 3 Idiots. The diamond sucking vacuum from Prince. Viveik Oberoi’s Bruno-inspired leather outfit from Prince. Celina Jaitley’s cleavage in Hello Darling! The vegetarian sharks that only circled, but never attacked, the bleeding Akshay Kumar, Zayed Khan & Sanjay Dutt underwater in Blue.

Ghanta Winners – Winners will be announced at the 1st Ghanta Awards night at Santorini Lounge (Tian) and broadcast live to via webcast on February 6th, 2011.

Timeline – Only films released between Diwali 2009 and Diwali 2010 were up for consideration.

To know more about the Ghanta Awards, click here.

PS – All info is from official press release.

Anupam, who ? Well, here is Jahan Bakshi on Anupam – I can’t really think of any grandiose ways to describe the unassuming bloke that is Anupam Dhar. So I’ll just say that Sunny, as we often call him – is my senior from the rather eclectic Department of Mass Communications at St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata, who happens to be a dear friend- and a huge movie-buff himself.  A Coen Brothers fanboy like many of us, Anupam thoroughly enjoyed their new film True Grit, and with this post, hopes to provide some perspective, especially in light of the many rants about it lacking that ‘Coens touch’ and being ‘just another western’.  Read On…

What is True Grit? This was a question I first saw in a review by some Western film critic. As much as I wanted to answer it, I was never sure I could do so simply because it’s almost so indefinable and so very personal. Indeed as I revisited the retelling of Charles Portis’ novel by the Coen Brothers last night, I was again so sure that maybe True Grit is just more than being brave and courageous in the face of adversity. True Grit is being able to stand up to what is right and what is correct; to be able to take things in your own hands when all around you people are shirking away from it. True Grit is fighting for what you believe in and never compromising on that belief. True Grit is Gandhi in his search for freedom but in the way he wanted it, without ever raising a hand when he was being beaten mercilessly by the British Imperialists. True Grit is Mandela, Martin Luther King, Bolivar and many more who have stood up against adversity with a smile and a determination to fight for what they believed. The biggest achievement of film True Grit is a reminder of that; the noblest and strongest of human emotions which often make people triumph over the seemingly insurmountable.

A lot has been said about the film, how it is just “another Western” with nothing new to add to it. Many were expecting the Coens to add a new dimension, maybe make a dark and satirical interpretation of a book, which had already been made into a much loved film. But isn’t the Western about raw human emotions; about those wild times when the gun ruled supreme and human lives were none too important; about the passions that the raw, unchartered and seemingly endless territories of the New World evoked? If that is so, then True Grit succeeds in its intention. It’s a beautiful film and much of that praise must go to Roger Deakins who once again reminds us that beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, in this case that of Deakins and his camera. As the camera pans the rough territories, it tells its own story, one of survival and hardships and one where the rule of the jungle reigns supreme.

In one beautiful shot, the film’s protagonists, Mattie Ross and Reuben “Rooster” Cogburn approach a tree to which a man is hung. Neither display any emotion to the scene and their only interest lay in whether the dead man hanging is the man they’re searching for. Life is worth pennies where each man is fighting for his own. The beauty of the film lies in its simplistic narration; where a dark and somber story of courage and revenge is told just as it is, without the intrusion of the directors’ own point of view. In that sense True Grit is not just a story, it is also a study of man’s own brutal instincts and the latent violence that is there in all of us and which threatens to unleash itself at the slightest provocation.

True Grit succeeds a lot because of a wonderful ensemble cast. Led by the towering Jeff Bridges, the cast gives itself off to the film’s characters and brings in them the depth that enriches our experience of the film and makes us sympathise with the characters. Bridges moves far off from John Wayne and gives the character his own personal interpretation resulting in a far more complex character which evolves as the film moves on. Matt Damon is good as well and his Texas Ranger makes a deep mark in the film, especially in the scene where he spanks Mattie and tries to scare her off. Josh Brolin and Barry Pepper shine in their small roles. But this film truly belongs to young Hailee Steinfeld, who as Mattie Ross gives a brilliant performance; one which offers us a vivid picture of the 14 year old girl who wants to avenge her father’s murder. Mattie’s innocence, her resolve, determination, courage and vulnerability is expressed beautifully by Steinfeld which gives her character a larger dimension that was missing from the earlier film. Special mention needs to be made of Production Designer, Jess Gonchor and Costume Designer, Mary Zophres who give the film a beautiful and old world feel. Carter Burwell’s haunting background score adds to the atmosphere of the film. The Coens write and direct the film in the way a Western should be and for once I am very pleased with that. Some films are meant to plainly entertain, some are meant to make you think, but some like True Grit are simply meant to be absorbed and felt. It’s a document of those hard and brutal times and a testimony to the most sublime and also the most dangerous of human emotions. True Grit is, as I had tried to answer before, the heart to stand up and fight.

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!

Well, Sumit Purohit just did that at the ViBGYOR International Film Festival. A pucca pahadi by heart and filmmaker by passion, he is a graduate  from Faculty of Fine Arts, MSU (Baroda). His short film “I Woke Up One Morning And Found Myself Famous” was one of the opening films of the festival. A lesser known festival but it’s all about the issues that matters…read on…

Welcome to the sixth edition of the ViBGYOR International Film Festival.

This is just one of the unique things about the film festival which started 6 years back in Thrissur, the cultural capital of Kerala. For me the community kitchen and the dish washing exercises reflect the spirit of the festival. It disrupts the glamorous image which surrounds the world of cinema and urges filmmakers to connect to the grass root realities. The festival goes beyond merely screening films and brings some of the important social activists together. It also provides space for debating about some of the most relevant issues in today’s time and how cinema can play important role in spreading awareness while the news media runs behind TRPs. And with such discussions happening, I found it hard, as a film maker, at times to choose between listening to them and watching a film.

This year ViBGYOR showcased around 100 short films and documentaries from all over the world in five days, with Anand Patwardhan as the festival director. The connecting thread between all these films is the fact that they kick open the doors to the worlds most of us have conveniently forgotten existed. These worlds have no place in popular filmmaking because they disturb your preconceived notions about reality.

‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’, a short film, directed by Bishwash Bala in 2010, has obvious connections to Sergio Leone’s cult spaghetti western. Bala’s film tells the story of the class divide in our society. His visuals remind you of Charlie Chaplin films, he uses the signature background music from Leone’s original film and in the end credit proudly declares it as ‘Music Theft’. Bala has a mischievous smile when you talk to him about his film and end credits. But, there is sincerity in his theft, which I find missing, back in the commercial film making circles in Mumbai.

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The filmmakers I met in Thrissur are more human. They are more accessable, eager to talk about their films honestly and ready to listen to criticism. And the stories behind each film are as interesting as the films. They have braved financial, political and social pressures to tell these stories. As I interacted with some of these filmmakers I realised that commercial filmmakers have no idea what censorship is all about. For them with every censor cut comes more publicity. ViBGYOR gave me insight into a different kind of censorship – when state acts as a censor, it doesn’t ask for cuts but goes far ahead. What happens when a Srilankan filmmaker shows his film which tells the real story behind the LTTE crackdown in Srilanka? He struggles to extend his Indian visa because the Indian government has deep rooted interests in post-war Srilanka and the Indian national media wonders if his film screening is an attempt by LTTE to regroup.

A filmmaker from Manipur is denied an American visa because his film will embarrass both India and USA on an international stage about their stand on Manipur. As a result this young filmmaker misses the chance to show his film and take part in a UN conference. There are other filmmakers who are facing false criminal charges or death threats because their films question the way state functions and have made lot of people in positions of power uncomfortable. ViBGYOR is a brave attempt to give these filmmakers an ideal platform to showcase their work and share their stories.

This 26th January when India celebrated its 61th Republic Day, I wondered are we really a democratic republic? Where your freedom of expression is censored, where if you stand for indigenous people you are charged with sedition charges, where the army is forced to fire on its own people… The festival was a way of reconnecting with the realities of the world, I had left far behind. Most films shown at ViBGYOR didn’t end for me when the end credits rolled. Those images have stayed with me to haunt me, to force me to ask questions and explore beyond the make believe world we live in. And because these films can make a difference there will be lot of people making sure they never reach you.

After my film was screened I had a small conversation, with Saeed Mirza, who inaugurated the festival. As we were discussing about the film he said something which sounded random to me at that moment. “I hope that with every film, the filmmaker becomes wiser”, he said. Why does one need to hope for it? Shouldn’t this be a natural process? Saeed Mirza has worked closely with the commercial Hindi film industry. He knows how some of the most promising filmmakers here have lost the track completely. How when the maker becomes bigger than his story and subject the dishonesty creeps in and makes the film look stupid. That’s where film festivals like ViBGYOR are very important. Yes, the audience are limited here but they are keeping the other cinema alive – cinema of people by the people. Where, every time a filmmaker makes a film he gives away part of his life to that film. He lives and grows with that film and in the process becomes a little wiser every time.

To know more about the festival, click here and here.

“This is how a working class love story should be”, Subrat messaged after watching Blue Valentine. “Wow! Post ?” I replied back. And here it is. If you have seen it, read the post to fall in love with it, all over again. If you haven’t, do watch it. Was also wondering how in the last few years there has been a constant flow of good cinema thats exploring the “couples’ code” – all about man, woman and child. Away We Go, Revolutionary Road, Blue Valentine, Rabbit Hole and The Kids Are All Right. Where’s our code ?

Read on…

You are left stranded at the end. Fireworks go up in the sky. The closing credits come on with a tune that sounds familiar. It takes you a while to figure it’s the same tune that Dean (Ryan Gosling) played on his ukulele years ago while serenading Cindy (Michelle Williams) who dances at the doorway of a shop. And, you return to Apollinaire’s query – does joy always come after pain? Or, as you have just discovered in Blue Valentine, does pain inevitably follow joy? The title places ‘Valentine’ after ‘Blue’ which suggests the filmmaker nodding in assent to Apollinaire. But that’s deceiving.

On the surface, you see two stories in Blue Valentine. These are stories you’ve seen often. Of falling in love and falling out of it. Yet, in examining this over familiar terrain, in twisting and turning it under a steady unemotional gaze, Blue Valentine succeeds in creating compelling cinema.

There’s the present day story of Dean and Cindy. Seemingly, of everyday domesticity on an early summer morning. Their daughter is searching for their pet dog which has run off. You notice the house, the instant breakfast that Cindy rustles up and you sense indifference. Soon, you find the dog dead and Dean doesn’t have the heart to break the truth to his daughter. ‘She must have moved to Hollywood to become a movie dog. She had the looks’, he says.

You are then transported 6 years back in time. There is no reference though to this switching back. With the screen brightening up a touch more, you see a younger Dean looking for a job in a house-moving company. You are in the familiar boy-meets-girl-and-they-fall-in-love territory now. From here on, the film moves back and forth between these two stories of love blossoming and souring, the sweet to the tart without showing us anything that happened in the intervening years.

How does love seep away from a relationship? There’s never a single reason for it. It’s natural erosion. When you see Dean and Cindy falling in love, you might spot the seeds of future discord. Cindy’s desire to study and move up in life is in contrast to the slacker Dean who seems to be good at things but is bereft of ambition. There’s undeniable chemistry between the two but there’s something uncomfortable as you watch them. As the film flips between the two stories, you conclude that all the old adages about love are exactly the reasons why love sours. That love makes you a better person, that love can reform, that love conquers all – each one of them bites the dust. These are all predicated on a colossal lie – of people being made for each other. The film helps you with the benefit of hindsight to see through this lie. But leaves it for the protagonists to discover it as they live through it. That’s the beauty of this script.

As you watch Dean winning his daughter’s love and trust, you see the lie being played all over again. And you can’t help but pity the human impulse. Of deceit forming the premise for all love. We have all lived through it yet when the opportunity presents itself again, we willingly submit ourselves to another lie. Why, come to think of it, even that anthem of first love in Hindi cinema, ‘Pehla Nasha’, is a charade. Nothing is quite as it seems for the three characters in that song.

What aids this clinical exposition of love is the way the characters are etched in Blue Valentine. There’s a visible streak of misogyny that runs through the film. The emotional stack is loaded in favor of Dean. He marries Cindy despite knowing the truth at the abortion clinic. it’s Dean who is shown to be perfectly in sync with his daughter’s hopes and desires. And, he is expressly demonstrative about making the marriage work. You are emotionally invested in Dean from the very beginning. The artless way he admits to not being good enough for Cindy when he proposes to her at her home to his helplessness at the end when he asks Cindy – ‘how should I be’? The story ends too with a definite sense of loss for Dean that tugs at your heartstrings. This is a departure from how a typical marital discord story unspools where the emotional cards are equally dealt to make sure both the protagonists have a good hand (take Kramer vs Kramer as an example). However, if you look closer, you will find the prime mover through the entire film is Cindy. She is the one who makes all the choices in the film. She is willing to live through the consequences of those choices and is unafraid of confronting the truth. While on one hand it’s a subtle inversion of roles, on the other, it’s very clever scripting.

Blue Valentine is a film of deft touches. You almost feel there’s deliberate foolish manner in which love is depicted through the film. The scene of Dean strumming on his ukulele and singing while Cindy dances is not romantic for the viewers. The singing is bad and the dancing pedestrian. You almost feel embarassed to watch the silly couple falling in love there. The motel sequence with its space age suite where Dean and Cindy go to reignite the sparks in their marriage is clumsy and makes you squirm. There’s nothing grand about love and you are constantly reminded about it. The irony of the relationship between Dean and their daughter while you know of Cindy’s backstory is again never once brought up. The playing up of the father-daughter relationship is done so naturally that you forget the truth about their daughter in the last scene of the film.

You will find a similar trick played on you in Rabbit Hole, another film this year that had a beautiful subtle ending. You also sense the way fate mocks at Cindy – from wanting to study medicine, to making that life changing choice at the abortion clinic to ending up as a nurse at a maternity center.

It’s easy to call Blue Valentine a film that’s rich in subtext. That would, however, be simplifying things. Blue Valentine is not an ambitious film. Our ambitions are always an imagined superlative form of what we actually are. Instead, Blue Valentine, is a introspective film. It chooses to pose uncomfortable questions about our normal selves. It shows you the truth once the varnish wears off.

“Love is the longing for the half of ourselves we have lost.” You will find that line in Kundera’s ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’. You can read that line many times over today and still not get what he meant there. Then one day you find yourself in a old Mumbai home on Napean Sea Road. You see two sepia tinted photographs of a couple. Both shot at the same location – the now closed Cafe Naaz with the iconic Queen’s Necklace as the backdrop. May be ten years apart. You look closely at the two pictures. And, you understand what Kundera meant.

Or, you can watch Blue Valentine.

(Ed – Click here to read all about the making of the film. It’s a must read!)

Until very recently I was quite unaware of a concept called creative diffidence. Or let’s say creative insignificance. I always thought talent was immeasurable. Everyone had their own share and it’s really upto you to do what you will with it. And even if you had been passed up your share then passion, intellect, skill or some such thing made up for it. Then one day I was speaking to a copywriter friend who is an ardently devoted worshipper (notice the redundancy, its purposeful) of Frank Zappa. This friend plays the guitar, composes and also has set up this small studio at his place to further his passion for music. That night along with waxing eloquent on his studio he was going on about Zappa too and he caught my breath (yes, note that disjunct too) when he said that listening to Zappa makes him feel totally disheartened. Why? The bewildered me asked. He replied, ‘Because I feel so inconsequential as an artist when I listen to his genius. I mean, here is Zappa who is a genius and here I am, doing what I am doing which doesn’t even compare. So why I am doing it at all?’

The stubbornly optimistic, idealistic girl inside me refused to understand what he said then. But those very words and that drowning sort of sentiment in his voice kept coming back to me as I watched 127 hours.

I knew Boyle is a genius. And so is Rahman. I like Franco and loved the premise. It had got spirit, adventure, optimism, fight, survival written all over it, things that make me go very smack-my-lips even in real life. In all truth I went to watch the story of Aron Ralston, not a Danny Boyle film. What I got threw me off with a 50,000 mph force of a meteorite, probably the same ancestor of Ralston’s boulder…

I went in with the expectation to be ‘inspired’ by the story but kept getting awe-struck at the shot-taking. All throughout, right till the end I kept thinking, ‘How the fuck did he shoot that? How the fuck did he execute that? But before execution comes thinking. Imagination. Every time I am bowled over by genius I always ask myself this bewildered question, ‘How did he even think of this?’ Ralston’s story has courage, human spirit, and all elements that have the 100% potential of the drama kind of romance. But Boyle chooses to tell the story just how it happened. Or must’ve happened (I’m not googling now, you do it.) No yarn about spirit, no yawn about courage, no senti about spirituality, no unnecessary emotion. When I first heard of the story and the digital medium and the approach I told myself, ‘Documentary-ish! No, I don’t think I am gonna watch this.’ Oh, dear meteorite in heaven, am I glad I did?

As soon as Ralston gets stuck, I was like aaah, now he is gonna get heroic. He didn’t. Then I thought now he is gonna get emotional, he did a bit but so not hysterical. Then I thought now, its just time for him to get all super-human. In a sense he did otherwise he couldn’t have done what he did, but that was so loaded with sheer desperation and that very vulnerably human wish to live that it all fit in so beautifully. Actually it was a revelation…of realism. At every step my melodrama/drama-fed/trained mind kept getting pleasantly surprised at being second-guessed and being told, ‘Wait, THIS is how a young man trapped by a boulder in a crack in a canyon without a hope for survival would react.’ And yes I agree, that was indeed how a man would react…Funny how a film can take you closer to real life.

While Boyle was keeping me enthralled with the brilliant character disclosure layer by layer he was also doing his own thing on the sly. Ace-gimmicker (I know that’s no word but you know what I mean and its all GOOD!) his aces in his sleeves kept falling out one after the other like Ralston’s hope. His dreams, his hallucinations and his attempts to rescue himself. To completely cliché myself I have to say those are set-pieces of cinematic brilliance that we don’t see often. With the razor-sharp editing Boyle blends the reality, unreality and surreality of Ralston’s situation such that all one is left with is a breath caught in one’s throat. Like when he blends Ralston’s dreams of being rescued by the rain and the other brilliant illusions he sets up for that catch of breath. How did he even think of those?

Like everyone, I had tons of issues with Slumdog and it wasn’t all to do with the portrayal of India. That’s why when I read, Screenplay – Danny Boyle and Simon Beafuoy, I was like, ‘ahem’. But this time it is sheer brilliance. The character arcs, plot points, drama and suspense are perfectly poised. At the same time retaining the essence of the story and telling it with complete honesty and respect.

I am no encyclopedia on film-making but I’ve never watched an exposition of the film as brilliant as this one. Tight, concise and full of adrenaline. And unlike most films who bother a little too much about story or experience this one was all about character. He did not need to but he did. We know Ralston as a carefree, sanguine young man in love with his expeditions. Canyon is his world he has been here many many times. Watching his exuberance at doing what he loves doing we feel, ‘Yes, this is how a man in love should be like. Happy.’ And it is this sense of security that is shattered but without shattering the man behind it. Was it that Ralston had genes from Krypton? Maybe. But what Boyle shows us is clearly a psychological study of a young human with, well, a very vulnerably human wish to live.

I thought I’d come out all blushed about the spirit of survival and all that but in fact I came out gushing about the sheer artistry with which this has been crafted. There is no mood to evoke, just the starkness of events as they happen. Not documentary re-telling but sharp, precise and edgy narrative. Not soft at the edges but yet blurred with the in-n-out surreality to suck us deep into Aron’s desperately befuddled senses.

It is tempered throughout by Rahman’s music like a perfectly matched couple doing a tango and then ballroom and then ballet. And the use of silences was almost post-coital bliss-like…He doesn’t miss a beat like Franco doesn’t. It’s unimaginable to believe he is acting or he is being filmed…the tenseness, the fatigue, the pain and the desperation, it’s palpable without a false note.

The film ends on a soft note of Aron living a happy and fulfilled life today, still doing what he loves that is adventure sports. But again, it is the part-quirky, part tongue-in-cheek, part-sentimental note it ends on that showed me Boyle for the genius that he is. It could have easily ended dead-pan or dramatically. Or it could suddenly put a sentimental spin given the climax is quite cathartic. But Boyle chooses a lighter tone yet conveys so much more! For all those who have watched it you know what I am talking of. For all those who haven’t, please watch it and experience it for yourself.

To come back to my opening para and heading. The film made me dazzlingly optimistic about human genius and the explosive talent that we as a race are so capable of. You know the kind that totally makes you proud to say you are a homo-sapien if you met an alien from Mars? It made me believe that its so possible! There IS vision, there is talent, there is imagination and there is skill and there are also those rare moments in history when all of these come together in all the men/women working with you and you make something like this. Maybe someday even I will discover this dazzling genius inside me and the product of my creative imagination will be my nirvana because if I made a film like this I’d happily die and go to heaven. But then I look at our geniuses again and think, ‘Here they are, these geniuses and here I am, doing what I am doing which doesn’t even compare. So why I am doing it at all?’

FC Ed – Click here to see the real Aron Ralston narrating his story.

Not sure when was the last time it happened – so many extreme reactions to a film. From pretentious, fuck boring to one of the best debuts, even best thing that happened to Indian Cinema in recent years.  They said it all. And the critics’ ratings varied from 2.5 to 4 stars. Click here for all the ratings.

Sunayna Prabhu loved every bit of it. When she did cinema journalism in Bombay, she bothered least about films. And when she had nothing much to do after moving to USA, she got so interested in films that she surprised us all. And when she decided to go for screenwriting course at UCLA, it was hard to believe that she was the same ‘dihadi‘ colleague we knew. Now she just loves her everyday struggle with words. She saw Mumbai Diaries ( Note – its not Dhobi Ghat there) recently and blames Kiran Rao for making her so nostalgic about the city. Read on…scattered thoughts from her diary….

Any one with an aversion to evocative text can stop right here. This post is as much an intellectual masturbation as the movie that sent me out groaning to my husband “I’m leaving you for Pratiek Babber”. ‘Mumbai Diaries’ released in Hollywood this Friday and I ran to see it merely for nostalgia but it pierced through my gut and took a bit of me in every beat.

The movie seduced me despite the desolation it portrays. I yearn to return to my city against the threat that I might never have a real friend on speed dial and chances are I’ll empty my heart to a rickshaw driver. I even had a heated argument with a roommate who called it dark, depressing and disjointed! The moment I learnt her favorite movie is ‘Yaadein’, I pushed her out and slammed the door. “Movie whore” she yelled at me.

Character is You

Once I had locked myself in my studio apartment for two months. No cellphones, no radio, no TV, just writing a story that wrapped my whole existence. When I wrote like a reclusive creep, I literally became that woman in my story. I wore reds, smudged more kohl in my eyes and spoke in a husky voice that wasn’t mine. I lived her! When Aamir’s character Arun, wears Yasmin’s silver chain and ring, I get it! When he goes to the beach and writes on the sand, I get it. When she dies, a part of her that he’s been living, dies. He becomes his own muse and that’s why the storm in his stomach! He bursts out the door to seek someone, but cringes and mourns like a baby in front of a neighbor who won’t even blink.

Mumbai is not Madhubala

So many times I’ve walked the streets of Mumbai after a fight with a bare face to the world “No one cares.” Yet, there’s always the flower girl at the traffic light who’ll stare into your eyes like she knows, the Eunuchs who’ll bless you without a penny, and the rickshaw driver will play Burman in the rain. The city has it’s own morphine. Just like the movie, scattered with images of people that make it livable. Whoever says the filmmaker should have shown a bit of Mumbai’s beauty, go take a flying fuck because Mumbai is not Madhubala. Mumbai is that dirty, raunchy, intoxicating temptress who’ll whip you to tears of ecstasy.

“Mumbai my love, my whore!” Don’t all artists ejaculate their inspiration and breathe like they’ve had an orgasm? I do!

Aah Aamir, Ooh Prateik

Also loved Kiran’s choices, except Aamir Khan. Why does he arch those eyebrows and bulge pupils into the camera to prove he’s intense? Leech. He sucked the flesh and blood of his own character. Oh the long drags, perfect rings of smoke, the pompous Marc Jacobs and Calvin Klein’s and that cocky grey hair. A twit- stuck-in-Ghajini murdered a delicious, fragile, sensitive character! Aah Aamir – You give men blue-balls and the reason why women never hit the big O! Exhale honey, will you?

Few, very few, snippets of Yasmin Noor’s dialogue through her ‘Mumbai darshan’ videos were corny, but they were true to her character. Yasmin, an immigrant like me, tries to introduce the beauty of a foreign land eagerly to her family that probably has taken her absence for granted. She’s that “outsider” within many of us. I often get philosophical while saying the most trivial things about America. I’ve recorded the streets of Hollywood and Miami while ‘Des mera rangeela babu’ played the background score in my car. Yasmin’s background score is her ‘voice’ “Yeh samunder sab kuch apne aap  mein samet leta hai’ although cringe-worthy, it’s real! Perhaps the director nailed it! My heart flipped out when she talks about the taste of mangoes in the city versus her hometown. Agreed it’s not poetry, but I get it. When I walk into the aisles of American grocery stores and find hormone-injected produce everywhere, I lose my appetite. “yahan ke aam mein wahan jaise taste kahan” That voice is real.

Munna! I don’t care who he bangs – rats, clothes or hideous women. Pratiek is my “bitter-chocolate boy.” Irresistible. Unstoppable. A guy I’d love to remake ‘9 ½ weeks’ with. He’s not just going to eat up those blue-blooded run-of-the-mill kapoors and stone-faced Imran’s, he’ll hopefully force great writers and talented filmmakers to surface. Hope he won’t drink n drive and kill people on the sidewalks, rest assured, in all my dreams I’ll have his babies.

Shai is an Indian-American like me. She doesn’t rely on subtext; she just knows her shit too well. She’s just being a true friend to Munna hoping not to polarize him like her maid Agnes who brings tea in a separate cup for him. Shai connects with Arun but doesn’t ever impose herself into his life. I saw a typical liberal woman, confident of her sexuality. That’s not as rare in Mumbai these days, or is it ?

Loving Strangers

Loved the neighbor. Such a strong metaphor for the people who live next door. None, I mean it, none of my neighbors in Mumbai ever spoke to me. I saw them only in the mornings putting garbage bins out the door. I didn’t care. There are nosey neighbors, but who is committed to your daily life? No one! The mute neighbor runs like an understated theme throughout the timeline of the movie. Gorgeous.

‘Mumbai Diaries’ is a rare mood piece to indulge in. Like the gooey, viscous chocolate lava that makes your hands dirty and leaves a flavor in your mouth that keeps you drooling for days!! Here’s last few words for those who hate this movie like my roommate who called me a movie whore–aahhh aaahhh aaaahhhh yes yes yessss…OMG that was so good! Suck it bitches.

(PS – Just plugged in the “Lovely Strangers” song once more)

And as expected, the song has been picturised on John Abraham. Can someone please tell us which lucky man has got the  best song  of the film –  Tere Liye.

Header – From Raja Sen’s tweet

And this one comes straight from the Sundance Film Festival where Fox Searchlight has bought the remake rights to The Bengali Detective.

For those of you who are not aware of The Bengali Detective, its a documentary and here is the official synopsis –

In response to police corruption, the private detective business has become increasingly common in India. The Bengali Detective follows the life of detective Rajesh Ji, who, along with his ragtag team of assistants, investigates cases ranging from counterfeit hair products to a brutal triple murder. When Rajesh is not sleuthing, he has big dreams of competing on a televised national talent show, so he and his detective gang form a dance troupe—which must be seen to be believed—and rehearse for their big audition.

Set in chaotic Kolkata, formerly known as Calcutta, the film is shot with atmosphere and immediacy, complementing the mystery and suspense of the investigations. Director Philip Cox finds a riveting subject in Rajesh. He’s all at once a showman, a dedicated husband, and a humanitarian. The Bengali Detective is a layered, wildly entertaining film: a poignant profile of a delightful character, a gripping detective narrative, and a detailed look at the middle class in contemporary India.

The film is directed by Philip Cox and produced by Giovanna Stopponi, Annie Sundberg and Himesh Kar and had its premiere at the Sundance.

But remake rights of a documentary film ? Not very usual and it got us bit confused. So, will it be a feature now ? Click here to read the Variety report though it doesn’t say much. And even the official press release doesn’t give a clear picture. Claudia Lewis (President of Production at Fox Searchlight) said : We adored this film and are delighted to have the chance to work with such entertaining, funny material. We were charmed by this story of a dedicated husband and self-made detective who dreams big.

Will update as soon as we get more details. And if you are still wondering about the header, well, that’s Mira Nair’s favourite quote and we endorse it too – If we don’t tell your stories, who will ? Seems not any more. We might end up losing what we never bothered to endorse! Remeber Slumdog Millionaire ? One of the best masala movies in recent times – aha, that’s also not by Farah Khan!

We know its the time to play the music of 7 Khoon Maaf in loop, but if you need a break, try it. Room In Rome – We haven’t seen the film but a friend posted this musical promo of the film. Gorgeous vocals, beautiful visuals, lots of nudity and lesbianism. NSFW and we are addicted!

The song is by Lourdes Hernandez aka Russian Red. To know more about her and for the lyrics of the song, click here.

And that’s what you call a perfect timing! Dhobi Ghat, pitched as a first art house film from Aamir Khan Productions, released on Friday, and now the announcement that Aamir Khan will be one the jury of Berlin International Film festival 2011. It’s among the top five International film festivals worldwide and to be on the jury is quite an honour.

The seven-member jury will be headed by Italian-American actress Isabella Rossellini and the festival will run from 10th to 20th February, 2011. The other jury members include Australian film producer Jan Chapman, German actress Nina Hoss, Canadian film-maker Guy Maddin, British costume designer Sandy Powell and Iranian director Jafar Panahi.  But Panahi’s place on the jury will be left symbolically empty.

The competition section includes 22 films, 16 of which will be competing for the awards. In addition there will be two special screenings: In solidarity with the convicted Iranian director Jafar Panahi, his film Offside will be presented on February 11, the anniversary of the Iranian Revolution. Also, the European premiere of Werner Herzog’s 3D documentary Cave of Forgotten Dreams will be shown as a special screening in the Berlinale Palast.

The international jury will decide the following prizes –

– The Golden Bear for the Best Film (awarded to the film’s producer)

– The Jury Grand Prix (Silver Bear)

– The Award for Best Director (Silver Bear)

– The Award for Best Actress (Silver Bear)

– The Award for Best Actor (Silver Bear)

– The Award for Best Script (Silver Bear)

– The Award for an Outstanding Artistic Achievement in the categories camera, editing, score, costumes or set design (Silver Bear)

– The Alfred Bauer Prize – in memory of the festival founder – for a feature film that broadens the horizons of the art of filmmaking.

Berlin Fest will also have three films from India in Panorama section. To quote from the official release…

On a grand scale Vishal Bhardwaj tells of an intimidating female character who moves between the religions and their male proponents in 7 Khoon Maaf (7 Sins Forgiven), while young director Q has angry young men set out – unfiltered and raw – to find a place for themselves in the world in his film debut Gandu (Asshole): “Words are burning inside us. Rap is a way to say them.” British filmmaker Phil Cox lets viewers experience the city of Calcutta up close in The Bengali Detective: it takes you to the darkest corners of the metropolis with private detectives whose businesses are booming because the police can no longer be trusted.

Filmmaker Prashant Bhargava’s feature Patang (The Kite) has also been selected to be screened as part of the 41st Forum in this year’s Festival.

And Dear Aamir,

If you still haven’t been able to understand Memento, we are more than willing to offer our services. Do let us know. And we also hope that you don’t talk about Ghajini there. Be careful. Or you might end up getting caught, like it happened with Bipasha Basu recently.

Team FC