Archive for October, 2011

AND?

Make him fly, make him cry,

make him stretch his arms, let him spread the charms.

And then give a latex suit. Aha, try that again.

It wasn’t very long ago when i had accidently discovered a picture of Shah Rukh Khan in my sister’s diary. Floppy hair, dimpled smile, casual attire – a working still from Darr which she had cut out from the newspaper and saved it in her diary (Do kids still write diaries?). And then there was a time when i would come back from school and would religiously play the entire soundtrack of Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge few times before settling down for lunch. Unlike others, I was never a die hard DDLJ fan but i enjoyed it till a teacher dissected it for us one day in college and said, he’s a sissy hero. Mama’s boy is here, he can’t run away with the heroine, he wants to impress her mom and dad. And over the years, SRK managed to do it in a better way – wooing the daughters, moms and mother-in-laws at one go.

Everyone loves the story of an outsider making it big in bad and bloody bollywood. But the problem with being big is that you start playing it safe – when bigger things are at stake, the mantra is give them what they want. In the last few years, if you have seen the kind of films SRK has done, it’s easy to predict that all they wanted him was to spread his arms, smile, nod his head and be the Prince Charming. Even the ham-fest was excused beacuse he could sweep you off your feet. Not us, ask your mom, sister, sister-in-law. It’s not that difficult to find a SRK fan.

His off screen personality is an advantage. He can speak at World Economic Forum and a jhopad-patti gathering with equal ease. Unlike other dodos of bollywood who have nothing much to say, SRK is spontaneous, can tackle any question and he just doesn’t get tired. And when the off screen personality becomes so huge, it’s difficult to imagine him in any character. Brand endorsements, appearances at events, tv shows, band-bajaa, 24 hours bollywood news, documentary on his life – he does it all and then uses the smartest trick to disarm his critics – self-deprecating humor.

The question is how much of SRK can you digest? Seems we can take it all and want some more. And if that’s the reason, why play around with your brand equity, SRK?

But if he doesn’t try anything new, we will say, enough of spreading those arms. If he does, it’s a mess. Remember Paheli, Ashoka, Swades to name a few which all turned out to be big duds at the box office. So is that the reason why Ra One is lets spread the arms, do the chamak challo and let’s try something new along with it? Maybe.

Problem is what do you do with a star like Shah Rukh Khan? Make him wear the latex suit, make him fly, and do endless jokes around the crotch? The only way to claim the throne?

But crass & crotch was never his mantra. He has often said in his interviews that he is not comfortable doing intimate (kiss/nude) scenes because he knows his audience is ma-behanbhabhi-family audience. And that’s why i failed to understand what forced him to go for such extreme shift of gear and in such bad taste. I am fine with everything on screen but when you target the kids, you don’t play around with the crotch, gay jokes, condom-condom and booby key tricks. Do Aryan-Suhana approve of this humour? If yes, great. The man who taught us that it’s all about the dil, when and how did crotch became the ‘main part’? Disturbing signs indeed.

Apart from the role of eternal lover who can stretch his arms and let the music play, the only roles which has been able to cash in on his brand value are of two kinds – the irreverent and the menacing one. Main Hoon Na (without the Indo-Pak bit) and Om Shanti Om are desi comic book films filled with irreverent fun. Nobody takes nothing seriously and what a fun it turned out to be! It might be bit too early to say that Don is all about back to Darr-Anjam days, a sleeker version, and without the streaks of a violent lover – he is bad because he is bad. The idea of turning our dil-ka-hero into a superhero-with-a-hart was a great idea but then you don’t mess it up so badly – comic book meets family entertainer meets super powers meets sufi alaaps meets sci-fi meets god-knows-what. Even Spiderman has family issues, right? First things first, sack the writing team, SRK. Four writers and they could not design a conflict for the Super-hero?

And then get out of that cocoon of friends and family friends and friends of families. Yes, they will always wish the best for you but they might not be the best in the business. Time to try out new partners. Remember Chak De India – Before the film’s release nobody believed that people will come to watch 13 unknown heroines with SRK in scruffy beard. So why not a Vishal Bhardwaj, Raj Kumar Hirani, Dibakar Banerjee, Sriram Raghavan, Imtiaz Ali, Anurag Kashyap or may be someone completely new. May be they have some better ideas to Un-shahrukh the Khan and that too without the latex suit. Or may be a better latex suit for you if you decide to go for the sequel. It’s easy to appreciate the effort, the intention, and the grandeur of some of the sequences but nothing beyond that. Even the story idea was good but that’s about it.

Do it Khan, do it. Do it before it’s too late. The new generation accepts and discards super-heroes everyday. My 2 year old niece is already glued to tv for a robotic cat called Doraemon. This week she took baby steps in bollywood nursery as i showed your pics to her and now she can easily spot Sarook Kaan. After watching the film, as an afterthought i taught her the Rockstar move. Now every time we say Rockstar, she does the kiddie version of headbanging by violently shaking her head in all directions and ends the performance by removing her unkempt hair from the face.

After seven days of cinema, conversations, chai-coffee and standing in long queues, it’s a wrap for this year’s Mumbai Film Festival. And since I had put an open bet on the Dimensions Mumbai shorts, it’s time to say, we told you so. Click here to read the post with short reviews of all the shorts selected for this year’s Dimensions Mumbai. Out of the four shorts that I had put a bet on, three made it to the jury’s list.

Dimensions Mumbai

The Silver Gateway Award and cash prize of Rs 100,000 for The Best Film was presented to Ameya Gore and Sunaina Mahadik for ‘Facelift’.

The Silver Gateway Award and cash prize of Rs 50,000 for The Second Best Film was presented to Abhay Kumar for ‘Life is a Beach‘.

The Jury Special Mention Award was given to Chinmaya Nagesh Dalvi for ‘Bombay Snow’ and to Harshvir Oberai for ‘The Circle Is Mine’.

International Competition

– The Golden Gateway Award and cash prize of US $ 100,000 for The Best Film was presented to French film ‘My Little Princess’ directed by Eva Ionesco.

– The Silver Gateway Award for Jury Grand Prize and cash prize of US $ 50,000 was presented to Canadian film ‘The Salesman’ (Le Vendeur) directed by Sebastien Pilote.

– The Silver Gateway Award for Best Director was presented to Eva Ionesco for the movie ‘My Little Princess’.

– The Silver Gateway Award for Best Actress was presented to Isabelle Huppert and Anamaria Vartolomei for their performance in the film ‘My Little Princess’.

– The Silver Gateway Award for Best Actor was presented to Gilbert Sicotte for his performance in ‘The Salesman’ (Le Vendeur).

– The Silver Gateway Jury Award for Technical Excellence was presented to Diego Poleri for ‘Las Acacias’.

– The Silver Gateway Special Jury Award was presented to Markus Schleinzer for ‘Michael’.

Mumbai Young Critics

– The Mumbai Young Critics Silver Gateway Award was presented to Markus Schleinzer for ‘Michael’.

Celebrate Age Category

– The Silver Gateway Award and cash prize of Rs 50,000 for The Best Film was presented to ‘Grandma, A Thousand Times’ (Teta, Alf Marra) directed by Mahmoud Kaabour.

– The Silver Gateway Award and cash prize of Rs 25,000 for the Second Best Film was given to ‘Fear of Falling’ directed by Bartosz Konopka.

– The Celebrate Age Jury Award Certificate of Special Mention was given to Zubin Sethna for ‘The Usual’ (Wie Immer).

And the Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Gulzar.

Except some minor hiccups here and there, Mumbai Film Festival turned out to be great success this year. What makes a fest good? Films. And that’s where MFF scored. We can live without the stars and the celebrities. Hopefully next year will be bigger and better, and the queues will be smaller. Can we please get Chandan Theater as the big venue along with a multiplex as the main venue from next year. Team MFF, thanks a ton.

This has to be the height of cheap thrill. Hong-jin Na, director of the Korean film Chaser, is in Mumbai for the Mumbai Film Festival. And since he has no clue about our Bhatt Factory, which specialises in importing films from across the world to give it a desi makeover, our good friends Mihir Fadnavis and Sudhish Kamath decided to burst the bubble.

Murder 2 was copied from Chaser and so Hong-jin Na was gifted an “original” dvd of the “plagiarised” film.

Sumit Purohit, who has been doing some interesting sketch work based on films, also gifted him a sketch based on Chaser.

There’s at least one film in each one of us. For those of us who make it our vocation (not profession) there are many. Debutante director Sandeep Mohan’s done with his first. Indie, short, sweet and with a home-grown, quirky sense of humour, ‘Love, Wrinkle-free’ played at MAMI yesterday. And plays again tomorrow, 20th Oct at 12.45 pm, Cinemax, Sion.

The film is about a middle-aged couple struggling with middle-age issues. The passing of youth, the wilting of relationships under the dryness of everyday living. The excitement of finding new love and all that it affirms about oneself. Well, it’s not half as serious as all this sounds, but lightly touches all these ‘deeper’ strains with a certain idiosyncrasy. Then there are crooks and fools in love making the capering continuously ticklish.

Watch the trailer to get a glimpse of what I am saying.

“Love, Wrinkle-free” trailer from Sandeep Mohan on Vimeo.

We rant enough about how difficult it is to make any movie, leave alone the one you want to make. Sandeep found that out first hand too and then simply decided to drop everything and make his films one way or the other. No he didn’t rob a bank. He simply, “Spent close to a year trying to raise funds – made couple of wrong moves. Learned and moved on.”

To finally find funding. “Giju John and Kamal Shah came along to help. Giju is a childhood friend. Totally trusted me. We managed to rope in close to 30 more friends (in a crowd funding of sorts!) to put in whatever they could.” It not only sounds difficult but we all know how much passion and conviction is required to convince someone to part with pennies for a film. Film! A form which has been reduced to little more than nautanki these days. Why would anyone bother with it unless the ones making it had ‘it’ in them to want to go beyond?

The film took two years to evolve from idea to image. The script was fleshed out over a period of 3-4 months. And the film completed within 22 days, within schedule, fully shot in Goa. Extended reading sessions happened with each one of them. And from there on the experienced folks took off well. As said here, “The film boasts of some good performances from the ensemble!

Sandeep’s pre-prod office and editing studio was his own house. “So in essence this is a Vikhroli West movie as opposed to an Andheri west movie” he jests.

Cutting costs was of course, primary. No AD for entire post-production. But ensured actors were well-taken care of. “We gave the actors whatever we could. But once they realised what we were attempting, they became part of this journey, and it was smooth going.”

Indie, from start-to-finish and not just for the sake of it. That’s refreshing. Independent not only in thought but action. Not only what it creates but how. A healthy mix of both is probably the whopping leap our cinema needs to take.

This route was and wasn’t a choice for Sandeep. If you want to do something you got to get out there and find ways to do it. He had no choice but that and hence willingly made that choice.

It all evolved after my father passed away 3 years back. His death taught me that we are not here for ever. I could just conk off one day complaining that I never made a movie. So went ahead, worked hard, didn’t complain, respected actors and crew members, restrained myself even when I got angry at times, and grew as a human being and as a filmmaker through this last 2 years.”

Every such film is a labour of love, some maybe more than the others. What matters in the end is the intention and effort. The applause then, becomes so much more sweeter.

In Sandeep’s words – “The film truly represents the indie spirit – and I hope more such films get made – the idea being not to wait for anyone to come and help me, but to go ahead and do it.

MAMI is the World Fest Premiere of Love, Wrinkle-free. After that, it is SAIFF in New York where the film is scheduled to be screened on the 11th of November. Meanwhile, for those of you who haven’t seen it yet, catch it on 20th Oct at 12.45 pm Cinemax Sion.

Let’s show some love to the spirit of indie cinema.

Fatema Kagalwala

Mangesh Hadwale made his debut with a marathi film called Tingya which was well received. And now he is ready with his first hindi feature Dekh Indian Circus.  It stars Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Tannistha Chatterjee and recently premiered at the Busan Film Festival.

Here’s continuing from our Mumbai Film Festival. The recco list is here, click here for Day 1 & 2 report and here is the post on Dimensions Mumbai.

Moving on –

Day 3

1. Jesus Henry Christ – A super non filmy yet subversive (you-dont-know-where-it-is-headed) film, my little miss sunshine of this year. Eccentric & weird american family-comedy. Trippy and funny all the way. Recco for everyone and especially for aspiring screenwriters

2. Toast – Stanley ka dabba meets Udaan. At first felt like a food porn film but slowly goes onto becoming a coming of age film set in UK 60s-70s. Very good film based on the life of a famous british chef. Also stars Helen Bonham Carter (and she’s not the only reason to watch the film)! Dont watch it on a hungry stomach !

3. Monster’s Dinner – ok clearly the most bizzare film of the day inviting maximum different opinions. Two couples have dinner in a dystopian turkey urban town. Smoking banned, painting banned, child abuse allowed and become a buisness, social norms are abnormal, satire on everyone under the sun. Clearly set up like a “play” with a single house setting (read low budget and limited resources so maximum innovation). Dark and creepy without showing a single violent act but puke-inducing. Many felt the film doesn’t move after the first 30 min (and may be even after the first 60 min), but personally felt it was very well directed. Very interesting film to watch it for sure – depending on if you decide to hate/love it later

4. First time for everything – Another russian Udaan father-son bonding story. Walked out after 70 min since it was taking way tooo much time to make a point.

5. Ides of March – Big Q for this one. Guess I know the right people. Nevertheless managed to sneak in. Must watch. Shiva the God Of Death goes corrupted. Wow. Watch it. Just felt longing for more by the end of it. Depressing film in a moral-istic way.

6. Aadukalam – national award winning tamil film. Had seen it already. But neverthless do check it out. A super film (yes made in commercial tam film format) And as a friend said – the drama is pretty “shakespearean”

Other mentions – Wrecked starring adrien brody, saamna, king of devil’s island (starring the super stellan skarsgard), armadillo. Didn’t see them since they are available (you-know-where). Will check them out. Comments welcome in case you did watch them

Day 4

1. Chinese takeaway – super stud ricardo darin (secret in their eyes, aura, 9 queens, carancho, signal) is reason enough to watch this quriky comedy film. An irritable common hardware shop owner’s life gets disturbed by a chinese man who comes into his life. Very well written and expertly directed. Recco’d

2. Tabloid – docu by Errol morris – a “simple” case gone awry thanks to the scandal-loving Brit media. Based on a true story. Highly recco’d. Offers multiple insights (pov’s) into the case – what happened, what was witnessed, what was reported.

3. Mountain – another low budget film with two characters and a “setting”. Thelma & Louise meets Kids are all right meets Rabbit Hole. But wow. And for a change great to see the dir not just relying on the lovely visuals of snow capped peaks but also wonderful drama. And someone give the leading lady an oscar for the best performance please. Was also part of an (informal) Q&A. Shot on Red. Must must “mast” watch. Silences, minimal dialogues but superb.

4. 17 girls – Based on a real life incident. 17 rebel-without (or with)-a-cause high school girls decide to get pregnant simultaneously. Liked it a lot despite the fact that pregnant women freak me out (I know I know, I’m sorry. Just have a phobia). Recco’d. And the girls are such good actors. I wondered how does one write the script of one such film.

5. Sleeping beauty – Epic fail super NG film. Everything established in the first 45 min, after that its purely one tharki budhdha after another. As Prof Saab said – “Pure mind fuck but no penetration”. Avoid. Allegedly an indian well versed “indie” director asked the dir of the film “Were you aware of what you were trying to do?”. Didnt get a satisfying response. I cursed myself for going for this and not standing in the 500 odd queue off Pina !

Other mentions – Win win by station agent, visitor dir, 36 chowringhee lane (arguably best film by aparna sen), Pina (still to be seen but have heard great things about it)

Day 5

1. Aparoopa – Finally saw a Jahnu Barua film on the big screen.. His debut film based on a real life incident which happened in assam in the 60s. A gorgeous suhasini muley and breathtaking assam visuals (DOP – Binod Pradhan), lovely music. A story and treatment which might seem a little dated today but for it’s time it was quite “progressive”. A typical HKA-ish/Charulata-ish Love triangle in which there is no bad guy (villain). And the good news is that he is trying to get all of his films released on DVD. Fingers crossed.

2. Love Wrinkle Free– A good first time effort by dir Sandeep mohan. Goa eccentric family comedy of sorts, in english. Couldve been trimmed by 20 min or so. Low budget film but which boasts of some good performances from the ensemble.

3. OR (Mon tresor) – Minimal dialogues, long takes, lovely visuals, self destructive characters, Father-son character from Aaranya Kaandam into a mom-daughter track.This is what Sleeping Beauty should have been. Highly recco’d. Last 5 min couldve been trimmed but still.

4. Almanya – Funny german family comedy. A man travels from turkey to germany to start a life. 50 yrs later family moves back on a vacation to turkey. Film cuts back and forth. Slightly meta-filmy (and hence also) super. Recco’d.

Other mentions – Salt of life, Habesu Papam (heard they were good), JBDY (need one say more?), Yellow Sea (hmmm-need repeat viewing. Some superb action sequences), Even the rain (available you-know-where), Another Earth, Melancholia (ho-hum, except super performances)

Mumbai Dimensions is a unique initiative to spot the young and the emerging talents in the city. And the rules are simple – 1. You have to be Under-25. 2. Duration can’t be more than 5mins. 3. The film should be about the city. The prizes include Silver Gateway trophies and cash prize of Rs. One Lakh and Rs. 50,000/- for the best two shorts. This year’s jury includes Kiran Rao, Vikramaditya Motwane, Nishikant Kamat, Onir and Renuka Shahane.

Shorts are always challenging. And when there is a restriction on duration and subject, it’s bound to get tougher. Surprisingly there was a long queue for the shorts too. But thanks to some last minute smartness, some of us managed to get in at the right time. This year there are 20 films in this section. I have a film theory called U-25 which i generally use to dismiss the views of kids ( read U-25) when we are discussing cinema. Well, it’s a joke, but after watching all the 20 films, i think there is some truth in my U-25 theory. The simple logic is if you haven’t seen/lived/experienced life enough, you can’t make a good film. And 25 is just too little to do that. Of course age is just a number, and a theory is a theory. But why are we making such terrible films and telling bad stories with such a cliche treatment? We all do shitty stuff but as long as you can separate the shit from the rest, I think you are in right direction.

For many young filmmakers this must have been a big news that their short is selected for MFF but if this is the best we got, we seriously are not telling them the difference between good and bad cinema. I may be completely wrong but here’s my reactions to the shorts and the bets on the best.

1. Unearthed – Split screen is not experimental, it’s passe. Montage is NOT a film.

2. The Few Unfortunates – Parallel stories criss-crossing each other. Nice idea but better execution could have taken it to another level.

3. Aakra-man – A mockumentary on a superhero who speaks in Marathi,  loves the Mumbai city but can’t do much. Smart and easily stands out from the rest.

4. Ek Titli Ka Aks – You hear a voice-over and can make out that it’s by an old person but you see a young man on screen. Credit roll tells us it’s Tom Alter’s voice. So Alter recites a poetry and a young man tries to experience Mumbai. There is no sync, no emotion.

5. Krishanna – A monologue shot as a dialogue where characters are narrating their experience about the city. Great idea, very badly made.

6. Bombay Snow – Pure cinema, pure joy! This one stands out and how! Miles ahead of the rest. Unlike others, it doesn’t even try to force the “Mumbai” factor in the narrative but touches upon so many subjects beautifully – displacement issue, rural versus urban, and a young kid trying to understand the equation between dad, mom and a prostitute. Director is Chinmay Nagesh Dalvi. Dear Festival Programmers, if you are looking for shorts, pick this one!

7. Vani – The city through its sounds and visuals. Another montage.

8. This Circle Is Mine – A documentary on the guy who stands at Mumbai’s Juhu Circle holding a placard to spread the message of love and peace. Many of us have often wondered about the old man. The film tells us bit more about him. A straight narrative that doesn’t do much justice to the man’s mission or life. Great idea to pick this interesting character but a great opportunity lost too as it keeps on repeating the same things.

9. Life Is A Beach – A love story between a geek and a ship (or aliens). Very interesting take, nicely executed but this one reminds me of Abhay’s previous short Just That Sort Of A Day – similar mood, same style of voice-over.

10. Face To Face – A funny little story in this big bad Mumbai city.

11 The Waiting City – Blasts happens. People wait. Badly done.

12. Facelift – A silent short which beautifully captures the issue of mills turning into malls. The film is DOP’s show-reel for sure.

13. ‘O’ Brother??? What Art Thou.. – Finally, a short with political context. Perhaps the only city in this country where “Bhaiyya” is an abuse. And those who have never visited Mumbai, will never understand this weird problem. Nice attempt.

14. Mehrooni – This could have been set in any other city and it wouldn’t have mattered. A saccharine love story of a couple that’s says everything it shows and shows everything it says. The voice-over is unnecessary, it’s too sweet, too fake and overtly sentimental. Even Rekha Bhardwaj’s vocals could not help. Only good point – it’s well shot.

15. Adrak – A nice little love story between a photographer and a tourist that happens at the Gateway of India.

16. Khawacha – Tries to capture the politics of the game that kids play. Good idea, bad treatment.

17. Duplicate – Captures the life of three duplicates – Anil Kapoor, Govinda and Devanand’s lookalikes. But doesn’t say/discover much beyond what we all know. Also, the subject has been covered million times. If only it could have tried to dig deeper.

18. 2733-see You On The Other Side – Works at the idea level but very tacky production.

19. Life Line – Story of Trains. It just doesn’t translate what the director is trying to say. Bad.

20. Rastaa – Story of two street urchins that doesn’t say anything new or in any new way.

And here’s my pick –

1. Bombay Snow – The best. Has no competition.

2. Aakra-Man and Life Is A Beach.

3. Facelift

Let’s see what the jury decides to go with. And if the best one doesn’t win, always remember that any cinema award always says more about the jury and less about the films. Waiting and how!