Archive for January, 2012

And our favourite writer, Subrat is back. After many requests, much cajoling and few smses, he managed to sit down and write this post on a film that he really liked. Read on.

We like to deal with the big issues. Those that are significant. The crisis of capitalism. Saving the earth. World peace. On the fabric of society, these are the big pictures. Acknowledging them is mankind’s acceptance of its collective failure. There’s something charmingly uplifting when we discuss our frailty in plural. It ennobles us. With such vexing problems to solve for the collective, why are we then, individually, beset with the trivialities of life? Why does the insignificant ground us? Betrayal. Loss. Estrangement. These warp and weft of life that should have subsumed themselves to the grand design. Instead, they force your attention to them. And to you. To your imperfections.

Imperfection is what Alexander Payne wants us to meditate over in his new film The Descendants. It’s seven years since Payne gave us Sideways and, on the evidence of this film, it’s reassuring to note these years were well spent on the minutiae. And, on imperfections. This gives us a film that is in turns profound and farcical while managing a lightness of touch that is often sought but seldom achieved. There is an unhurried pace to the story that eschews dramatic highs and showdowns though there’s ample opportunity in the script for both to surface. More importantly, the director avoids the trap of caricaturing the shallow, ordinary American family that seems veering towards dysfunctionality.

In a society that worships achievement, it is interesting how being ordinary is celebrated in American literature and films. May be it is the impact of American Realism; of Mark Twain and Henry James who crafted their stories around everyday people facing moral choices. How deep is their impact on American culture can only be gauged by the currency that stories of ordinary lives have enjoyed for the better part of last century in America. From Faulkener, Updike, Franzen in literature to a whole host of films that have rightly (or, wrongly) won critical acclaim for protraying ordinary lives. Just run through the list of Oscar winners over the years to see the impact that realism still holds on American psyche. Strong enough to have Ordinary People win the Best Picture nod in the year of Raging Bull (a more compelling case for the entire lot of voting members face the firing squad hasn’t been made).

That aside, if any contemporary director in Hollywood can lay claim to that real tradition of realism, it has to be Alexander Payne. Payne has an instinctive grasp of an ordinary life, its tribulations and, like the realists of the yore, he lets the character stumble his way through reaching the right conclusion. And, like them, he understands locations. From Omaha, Nebraska (About Schmidt) to Napa Valley (Sideways) or even that last segment that he directed of Paris je t’aime, Payne has few peers in weaving in the location into his films. In The Descendants Payne takes the unlikeliest of locations for depicting a family in strife, Hawaii, and makes it integral to the film.

Matt King (George Clooney) isn’t an ordinary Hawaiian as he informs you in the voice-over that starts the film. While disabsuing us of the notion that Hawaii is a tropical paradise (yes, there’s poverty and grime there), he quickly establishes his bloodline that traces its history to the tribal royalty and the early white settlers in the middle of the 19th century. He is a partner in a real estate law firm who has worked hard to build his identity separate from his ancestry. Matt, though, is burdened by this ancestry that has bequeathed on him the responsibility of disposing off a large virgin tract of land in one of the islands for ‘redevelopment’. This is big news locally as it pits the alleged forces of development (malls, amusement parks et al) against environment. Matt and his sprawling extended family of cousins (there’s a cousin popping up every minute in the film in brightly coloured shirts and chappals) are indifferent to the debate. There’s no less messy way of dividing up the family fortune and quite a few cousins are hard up.

These, seemingly, larger issues hardly match up to what fate has dealt Matt. His wife of many years, Elizabeth, lies in a coma in a Honolulu hospital with doctors ruling out any chances of survival. Matt’s younger daughter Scottie (Amara Miller) is a 10-year old who is precocious in the wrong way whose favorite pastime seems to be to confuse her friends on adult issues. Matt, admittedly, has never been a hands-on parent (a backup as he calls himself in a voiceover) and, in Elizabeth’s absence, he finds Scottie a handful. There’s also Matt’s older daughter, Alex (Shailene Woodley), who’s been sent away to a boarding school to rid her off her drug habit. Matt brings her back to make sure the family is together when the doctors pull the plug on Elizabeth. He had hardly bargained for the secret that Alex carries that seems to make her loathe her mother – Elizabeth was cheating on him. Matt becomes obsessed about finding out Elizabeth’s lover and breaking the news of her impending death squarely to him.

The narrative arc is quite familiar from here on. Matt has to pull his family together, learn to be friends again with his daughters, put his wife’s transgressions behind him, do the right thing on the land deal and seek redemption. This is a territory susceptible to high melodrama and in the hands of lesser director would have turned into a soppy, sentimentalist work. But Alexander Payne elevates this into a whimsical and wry look at life by keeping sentiments at a safe distance. He is ably supported in this by an ensemble cast that is completely in step with the director’s alternating profound and farcical treatment of the subject. Especially noteworthy are the cameo turns – Nick Krause as Sid, the irascible boyfriend of Elizabeth who isn’t as shallow as he seems, Judy Greer, who chews up the scenery in just the two scenes she is there.

The triumph of The Descendants is how it meanders through this familiar arc. There is no pre-determined denouement that the film is hurtling towards. There are no certainties here, like life. It appears like everyone has time to spare. Unhurried is perhaps the term. Matt, who has all the emotional cards dealt to him, is often driven by petty instincts. You are bound to be sympathetic to him but you are intrigued by his fickleness and his decisions. Payne isn’t judgmental in his portrayals. You take each character from your own station of life. It’s rare for a film to achieve this.

The cynic in me wanted to see through all of this. This whole calibrated business – of ordinariness, of making George Clooney look stupid, of having a bunch of kids dysfunctional on surface but being alright at the end and of making a statement about development versus environment. I have let the cynic question it all. I have done my best to see through the deception. It’s been over a month since I saw it and I have failed.

May be, for once, there’s something real here. You be the judge.

But take my advice. Don’t bet against The Descendants this awards season. There’s no Raging Bull in the ring. And, The Descendants is no Ordinary People. Though that title may have fitted it perfectly.

It’s raining trailers and how! The much awaited trailer of Aamir Khan’s new film Talaash is finally out. Have a look.

And here’s the so called digital poster of the film.

Directed by Reema Kagti, the film stars Aamir Khan, Rani Mukherji, Kareena Kapoor and Nawazuddin. Produced by Excel Entertainment, Aamir Khan and Reliance Entertainment, the writing credits include Reema Kagti and Zoya Akhtar, Farhan Akhtar (Dialogues) and Anurag Kashyap (Additional Dialogues). It has been shot by Mohanan.

So it’s a murder mystery. A cop chasing a murder case. A housewife, a prostitute and lot of tension. Well shot and creates the right mood.

And the mystery is the big punch? Seems so. The tagline says – The Answer Lies Within. So what’s your bet? Reminds me of that weird and stupid film called Kartik calling Kartik. Is it on same lines? Murder, murderer, memory, all mashed-up.

Earlier this week Ashvin Kumar released the 7min preview of his new film Inshallah, Kashmir : Living Terror. And now he has released the full film online. The film is available for viewing for 24 hours. Watch it NOW.

After he faced problems with the Censor Board for his last film, the idea is to bypass the Censor Board and reach out to the audience directly with this one. Click here to read a Tehelka article on the film.

You can also click here and have a better view on the Vimeo page.

DISCLAIMER :  This is a compilation of live interviews. The statements of the interviewee are completely their own. The explicit nature of the content may affect the viewer’s sensibility and therefore viewer discretion is advised. Please proceed to click only if you wish to watch the contents. The viewer shall be fully responsible for the access to and viewing this content.

We apologize for the low resolution of the video – it has been impossible to upload larger files. We’ll continue trying.

First things first. In Sriram Raghavan we trust.

So?

So far only two posters and a trailer has released. Isn’t it bit early to dissect the film? Well, not really when it’s one of the most anticipated films of the year. We have been reading, hearing, discussing, tweeting and have been waiting patiently for this one to release. Long shooting schedules. Saif even completed shooting another two films in between. Production fck ups. Lead actor is the producer. Girlfriend is the co-star. Release dates postponed again and again. But that’s nothing new. Such things happen. Shit happens.

So?

But the intial publicity stuff of Agent Vinod has seriously got us worried. Have a look at these two posters.  Rewind. Look at the posters of Sriram’s previous two films – Ek Haseena Thi and Johnny Gaddar. All in the slideshow.

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Isn’t there a big difference between these two and those three? Where is the quotient “cool”? Where is that rare thing called aesthetics? Bollywood rulebook says the bigger you go, the dumber you have to be. Is AV on that track? Hope not. But looks so. And now the trailer.

Let’s go one by one.

Text : The last thing. he will reveal is. his identity.

And the film’s title is Agent Vinod. That’s a masterstroke.

As everyone tries to find out his identity, Saif does the 70’s swing. Doffing the hat to the original Agent Vinod – Mahendra Sandhu, to Anthony Gonsalves to Vinod Khanna, he says it all. That’s wickedly funny. Much like another 70’s popular line – Tumhara naam kya hai, Basanti?

The music keeps up the momentum through out the trailer. If it’s Pritam, we sincerely hope that he is not back to his old trick. Because this one is too good to be Pritam’s. Can anyone confirm?

The problem. The rest (in order of appearance) – B and W, caught, gagged, jumps, taps, turns, glance, kick, punch, another punch, hide, Kareena in red light, Saif in red too, Illuminati Films, turn, chase – some Arab country, inside car, flight, Saif walking, Kareena walking, tram – London, Saif – Europe (?), Saif & Kareena in a party, a glance here/a look there – in slo-mo, RB 13, another chase, pulls out, Saif jumps and fires, Eros, car, train, gun, car, dhoom, dhaam, turn, bike, boom, flying kick, stunt, roll, Kareena, gun, cover the spycam, Sunil Lulla, cards, jump, gun, blast, dhickiyaaon, title, on floor, smile, captured, Sriram Raghavan, release date, credit plate.

Now, where have we seen it? Well, in any other spy/action films. And it’s as good or bad as Priyadarshan’s Tezz or Abbas-Mustan’s Players trailer. No stunt/action/chase stays with you after you have seen the trailer. It lowers down the bar of expectations drastically. And, may be,  that’s a good thing in a way. But if we can’t expect from Sriram Raghavan, who else?

These are difficult and demanding times. Bourne has forced Bond and MI franchise to have a relook and change drastically. Style is Out. Stunt is In. Grab me by my balls. Give me that breathtaking high. Show me the thrill pill. And when the films release in India on the same day as in any other country, and sometimes even before them, the stakes are quite high. We have tasted blood. Being good in India is not the parameter any more.

When Bond and Bourne are here, the question is, where is Vinod heading to?

23rd March, 2012. We will not fade in. We will plunge in.

(PS – Click here to check out the trailer launch video of AV. Sriram at 00:38 – It’s fun, action film. And at the same time real film)

(PS1 – A friend who has read the script assured us that it’s all good. Spread all over, quite ambitious and quite a thrilling ride.)

We have been thinking about starting a Podcast for a long time. And the excuses were many and like all other excuses, quite silly too. Finally, a bunch of us got together, got drunk and recorded a podcast khichdi-cast where about 10 people were raving, ranting and shouting at the same time. We discussed Sudhish Kamath’s film Good Night Good Morning, the angry post that he wrote, indie filmmaking and other such stuff. But blame it again on logistics that we still don’t have the access to the audio files. Hopefully we will sort out in a day or two.

I recently saw the marathi film Shala. It’s the directorial debut of 25 year old Sujay Dahake. Wrote a post on it and thought why not start a formal podcast with him. If you still haven’t seen the film, do watch it.

The idea of the podcast is to put focus on those films and people who don’t get much space in the mainstream media and to discover their stories.

Do tune in and let us know your honest feedback. Good, bad, fugly – everything is welcome. The audio quality is not that great and hopefully we will find a better solution soon.

You can listen here or click here to go the soundcloud page to have a better view.

You can directly jump to specific time codes if you want to skip other questions.

0:55 – Background. Cinema education.

02:50 – when the author Milind Bokil refused to give the film rights to him because of his age.

05:00 – And how he convinced the author.

06:26 – When 39 producers said NO. And world is not always fair to 5’4″ man.

08:10 – No hero, no heroines. How is the scenario in Marathi film industry?

10:00 – Difference between the book and the film.

11:50 – Is emergency just a tokenism?

13:44 – Casting actors. Workshops. And how to direct kids? 1600 kids auditioned for 40 actors.

16:00 – How do you shoot “i have butterflies in my stomach”?

18:00 – “Destination Versus journey” cinema.

19:40 – Foreign DOP. My teacher.

21:00 – The look, the colour and the logistics. Who is telling the story – my camera or your actors?

23:10 – Shooting in Archaeological Survey Of India protected area. Back to 70s.

24:40 – Making a film VS releasing it. We only knew about making a film.

27:30 – Subplots.

30:00 – No subtitles? Lack of judgement. Limited release.

31:00 – My average audience is in his 40s right now.

32:45 – Nothing new. But well told. Bothered?

35:20 – My age. My age. My age. It’s sounding corny now.

37:30 – This film is a completely social media product.

38:40 – And the producers are knocking at the door now.

Without expecting anything, we attended last year’s Ghanta Awards’ final event at Tian, Juhu. And it was a laugh riot.  We were there to cheer for a friend who was doing a stand-up act at the event but by the end, we almost had a heart attack. Nobody was spared, nothing was sacred and they didn’t crack any potty/farty jokes. So we have been eagerly looking forward to this year’s Ghanta Awards. Read on to know more about the Awards and the nominations of this year. From the press release…

The Ghantas celebrates and rewards the worst of Bollywood every year. The 2nd Annual Ghanta Awards will reward the Worst of Bollywood for 2011.

Every year, Bollywood takes our hard earned money and countless hours of life only to leave us feeling older, poorer and supremely frustrated. The Ghanta Award was created as a means to give back to these films, to give back to these film makers – to make them understand that they needed to try harder…

Such films and film makers deserve an award, and the Ghanta is that award.

The public vote for the Ghantas 2012 is now open. The ceremony will be in Mumbai in February 2012.

Why Ghantas?

The Ghantas were started by Prashant Rajkhowa and Karan Anshuman in 2011.

Lack of a refund mechanism in place in Bollywood. While there are good movies produced every year, there are several just want us to tear our hair out and dance naked at the Producer’s house demanding refunds. There are more than a dozen film awards to reward the good films but how many to reward the worst of Bollywood? Also, The Razzies are a glorious institution but unfortunately, even after 30 years, they don’t look at Bollywood at all. I think it is very unfair that the world’s most prolific film industry doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. So we decided to rectify the situation.

On what basis were the nominations decided?

Movies that made you want to kill yourself will obviously walk into the list. Also movies that made you want to gouge your eyeballs, slit your wrists, stab a puppy, shoot a dolphin. Movies that made you want to jump off a terrace – not so much, that’s not dramatic enough.

In order that there is a difference between “a bad movie” and simply “a movie I did not like,” we have a jury of film critics (newspaper writers, TV hosts and bloggers) to decide the nominees in each category. The final winners are then decided by a public vote.

Do you really think that these awards will teach Bollywood a lesson and they would make good movies in the future?

Wouldn’t that be counter-productive? If there are no movies to give a Ghanta to, what would we do? All we’re ensuring with these awards is that the film makers know that people do care – if you make a bad film, we’re going to call it a bad film and we’re going to award you for making bad films!

The 2nd Annual Ghanta Awards Procedure

1. Bollywood films released between January 2011 and December 2011 are eligible

2. The nominees in each category will be decided by our jury.

3. The final winners will be decided by a public online vote.

4. People will be able to vote using their Facebook or Twitter accounts.

5. And it all comes down to one night in February 2012 where we present the Ghanta Awards to the deserving winners.

And we plan to broadcast the entire ceremony live online – after all ollywood has touched lives around the world and it’s only fair that the whole world is involved in the show.

The 2nd Annual Ghanta Awards Nominees

Worst Film  –  1. Ra.One  2. Bodyguard  3. Ready  4. Mausam

Worst Holier-Than-Thou Movie –  1. Dhobi Ghat  2. No One Killed Jessica 3. That Girl in Yellow Boots  4. Memories in March  5. Shaitan

Worst Actor1. Salman Khan – Bodyguard, Ready

2. Shah Rukh Khan – Ra.One, Don 2

3. Ajay Devgn – Rascals, Singham, Dil Toh Baccha Hai Ji

4. Sanjay Dutt – Ra.One, Rascals, Chatur Singh 2 Star, Double Dhamaal, Desi Boyz

5. Vinay Pathak – Utt Patang, Tere Mere Phere, Chalo Dilli, Bheja Fry 2

Worst Actress – 1. Kangna Ranaut – Game, Miley Na Miley Hum, Double Dhamaal, Tanu Weds Manu, Ready, Rascals

2. Nargis Fakhri – Rockstar

3. Jacqueline Fernandez – Murder 2

4. Gul Panag – Turning 30

5. Bipasha Basu – Dum Maaro Dum

Worst Supporting Actor

1. Tusshar Kapoor – The Dirty Picture, Hum Tum Shabana, Shor in the City

2. Prateik Babbar – Dhobi Ghat, Aarakshan, Dum Maaro Dum, My Friend Pinto

3. Anupam Kher – Every other film

4. Om Puri – Don 2, Khap, Teen Thay Bhai, Bin Bulaye Baarati

5. Shreyas Talpade – Hum Tum Shabana, Teen Thay Bhai

Worst Supporting Actress

1. Hazel Keech in Bodyguard

2. Giselli Monteiro in Always Kabhi Kabhie

3. Mallika Sherawat in Double Dhamaal

4. Charmy Kaur in Bbuddah Hoga Tera Baap

5. Raveena Tandon in Bbuddah Hoga Tera Baap

Worst Breakthrough1. Chirag Paswan  2. Rana Daggubati 3. Zoa Morani  4. Sarah Jane-Dias 5. Nargis Fakhri

Worst Director1. Anubhav Sinha – Ra.One  2. Anees Bazmee – Thank You, Ready  3. Pankaj Kapur – Mausam  4. David Dhawan – Rascals  5. Rohit Dhawan – Desi Boyz

Worst Rip-Off – 1. Don 2 – every Hollywood action film 2. Murder 2 – The Chaser  3. Desi Boyz – Full Monty + all Adam Sandler films  4. FALTU – Accepted 5. Ragini MMS – Paranormal Activity

Worst Couple

1. Kangna Ranaut and Ajay Devgn in Rascals

2. Kangna Ranaut and Sanjay Dutt in Rascals

3. Kangna Ranaut and Chirag Paswan in Miley Naa Miley Hum

4. Ranbir Kapoor and Nargis Fakhri in Rockstar

5. Shahid Kapur and Sonam Kapoor in Mausam

Worst Song 1. Dhinka Chika 2. Jalebi Bai 3. Bodyguard title track 4. Dum Maaro Dum 5. Chammak Challo

WTF Was That

1. Akshay Kumar going to Oxford University in Desi Boyz

2. Ghost Rape in Haunted 3D

3. The unexplained science behind the science fiction part of Ra.One

4. Colourful holi song in the middle of a movie about Hitler & the holocaust in ‘Gandhi to Hitler’

5. How Sonam Kapoor & Shahid Kapoor don’t manage to exchange a measly phone number over 10 years in Mausam

Thats Anything But Sexy

1. 3 girls conned by Ranveer Singh’s looks and acting abilities

2. Ram Gopal Verma’s camera angles in Not A Love Story

3. Anything involving Kangana Ranaut in Rascals

4. Akshay Kumar as London’s most in-demand male escort in Desi Boyz

5. Any time Shahrukh Khan says “Junglee Billi” in Don 2

Click here, log in with your Facebook or Twitter and vote for The Ghantas. 

(Disclaimer – One of us was on the jury of the Ghanta this year and he honestly voted for all the worst things without watching single one of them. You might ask, what’s the point? Well, if Vishal Dadlani can get two nominations without even singing the song, why can’t we?

 

The year was 1994. I was in class 9th. It’s the year when the world starts reminding you that life and death will be based on your next year’s results. So, this is the year before you are crucified for the board exams. Have as much fun as you can have.

My class found its first official couple that year – those who declared their love without saying anything. Boy from middle-class. Girl from Officers’ colony. In a small coal town in Jharkhand (it was Bihar then) where dating wasn’t part of our dictionary, it was a big thing. Quite daring too. Because unlike in big cities, we all knew how many chappatis our neighbours had for lunch and how many they finished in dinner. Everyone knew everyone else and every affair related to them. Love in a small town was a risky business.

So for the rest of us, it was a teasing game – oh, she is with him and he is with her. The peer pressure that makes you imagine weird things. It was all just in the head. But for the couple, i was the middle man. The boy used to sit on my right as we shared the desk. The girl, on my left, had a separate desk. And between the boring classes, writing and passing love chits was their favourite activity. Being a good friend, i had no choice but to spice up the chits when asked by my friend. And help her in  studies too. She is your friend’s girlfriend. If not you, for the first time someone in your life has a girlfriend. You have no other choice.

The first chit, the first letter, the first chocholate that was shared – it was all before my eyes.  And like all small town love stories, this also ended with a Jagjit Singh ghazal. He came back from Benaras and told me that he did exactly what Jagjit Singh sang in Arth – Tere khusboo me base khat mein jalata kaise….Pyaar me doobe huye khat mein jalata kaise…Tere haathon ke likhe khat mein jalata kaise…Teri khat aaj mein ganga me baha aaya hun….Aag behete huye paani me laga aaya hun.

We never discussed this later on. But sometimes i still do think about the entire episode and a big smile appears on my face. For two hours i had the same smile on my face as i watched Sujay Dahake’s directorial debut Shala.

Based on Milind Bokil’s novel by the same name, this is an assured debut. And believe it or not, the filmmaker is just 25 year old.

The film doesn’t state anything new. It’s a trip down memory lane that you have seen many times before. Just the set-up is different and the faces are new. But everything is captured so well – it’s all about the silences, glances, moments and the memories. School, best friends, love, heartbreaks, first rush of hormones, crush on your favourite teacher and that first introduction to politics which tells you that the real world is not what it looked like so far – say it, and it’s all there.

Best thing about Shala is that it doesn’t look like a film at all. The acting is so natural, the camera is so non-intrusive and lingers on frames with so much ease that it feels as if someone just put a camera in a school. There is not a single false note in the family affairs too where the scenes are quite delightful.

The story is set in the backdrop of the emergency. Though it doesn’t add much political colour to the main story and which seems like a tokenism, but Sujay belongs to “subtle school of filmmaking”.

A common factor in any good film is that you will always remember a character who is there in just 2-3 scenes. Mr Joshi (lead character’s father) played by Nandu Madhav is that character in Shala. Watch him in the scene when he receives the letter from the school – knowing some of my friends and their strange equation with their dads, can bet that many people will wish that they had a father like him.

The lead actors played by Anshuman Joshi and Ketaki Mategaonkar have such a terrific and delicate chemistry between them that it’s impossible to believe that it’s just onscreen love. They do nothing heroic about their love story but those tender moments filled with soulful music are so powerful that they will stay with you long after you have left the theater.

Another place where it scores a high point is that the film doesn’t aim for the big bang climax. It’s all about the journey, it’s not a “destination movie”. Because the pain of growing up can’t have a happy ending. Nothing prepares you for the cynicism. The joy is in the journey. Shala celebrates that. This is what pure and uncompromising cinema looks like. And since that’s a rare genre in this country, i suggest you don’t miss this one.

Watch it. Watch it because nostalgia is a bitch, and when the bitch is so beautiful, there is no way out.

And what’s your class 9th story? Do tell us.

The film is playing at Mumbai’s 24 Karat Theater (Jogeshwari) with Subtitles. They have only one show at 3:30pm. If you know about any other show with subtitles, do let us know.

Click here to check out the official website of the film.