Archive for April, 2012

Zohra Sehgal, a name that symbolizes liveliness, and truly defines ‘Life’ in every possible way.  The unmatched charm, the animated smile on that expressive face, and the young heart, even at this age it fills every ambiance with so much joy and happiness. Forget real life, look at any of her pictures and you realise that it’s so easy for the camera to capture it.

The living legend completes a century “full of Life” today on April 27, 2012.  Born exactly 100 years ago, Zohra started her career  as a dancer with Uday Shankar, was later associated with IPTA & Prithvi Theater and made her onscreen debut in Khwaja Ahmed Abbas’s much acclaimed Dharti Ke Laal in 1946.

Here’s a rare clip of her onscreen appearance in Dharti Ke Lal.

In recent years she has continued to work in films and has made her unique presence felt strongly in films like Dil Se, Bend it Like Beckham, Saaya & Cheeni Kum.

Hundred & not out, we wish Zohra Sehgal many more years of life…a life that has priceless memories to share, stories to tell and moments to cherish.

Happy 100 years, Zohra-ji!

(PS – ANI recently did an interview with her. It’s in three parts. Click here to start with the first part.)

Pavan Jha

For small and regional films, social networking platforms can be quite a boon. If anything is good, one doesn’t need to worry about its audience. When people become your ambassador, you don’t need advertising or pr. I discovered the wonderful trailer of Bhooter Bhobishyot on FB and was instantly hooked. Have been following it since then and it’s finally getting a limited release in Mumbai today. So here’s a recco post on the film by Aniruddha Chatterjee. But first watch the trailer. Wish they had released it with subtitles.

Imagine this. Two ghosts, one a zamindar who got killed by the dacaits, and the other, a British officer who served in pre-independent India, are auditioning other ghosts to fill the zamindar’s abandoned mansion. This is because most old mansions and houses are demolished and turned to shopping malls and multiplexes by money hungry promoters and are ruining the culture and heritage of the city. So the ghosts all over the world, especially in Kolkata, are finding it very difficult to find a place to live in. Interestingly, even the ghosts are worried about their food, entertainment and security. The selections in the audition are made accordingly. This is the crux of debutant director Anik Dutta’s delicious bengali film Bhooter Bhobishyot.

Siraj-ud-Daulah’s trusted cook who gave his life in the Battle of Plassey, an Indian army officer who got killed during the Kargil war, an actress cum singing Kanan Devi-isque sensation of the 1940s who committed suicide after her producer boyfriend ditched her and married someone else, a Bangla rock band member who overdosed himself to death, a Bihari rickshaw puller who was killed due to reckless driving by a rich brat, a Hindu refugee from Bangladesh who was killed during partition, and a modern day city girl who jumped from her apartment terrace when her industrialist father refused to let her marry a Muslim boy – all of them get selected after the audition. The thread connecting all the ghosts is that they all died unusual deaths.

The ghosts sing, dance, romance, go to picnic, argue over hilsa and prawn, and when endangered, unite to fight against a promoter who wants to destroy Choudhury mansion and build a mall.

The script is unique and original, and is one of the most satisfying satirical comedies of late. The filmmaker takes a dig at everything that is Bengali – the intellectual filmmakers who only prefer Godard, Fellini and Ray, the pseudo communist rebel who thinks wearing Che Guevara t-shirt proves everything, the Dada and Didi of Bengali politics including the Rizwanur Rahman incident, and the everlasting fight between ghoti and bangal. It is refreshing to see usage of Spookbook, Facebook for ghosts, to find a suitable match for an item number.

Interestingly, the narrative is a tribute to Ray’s Hirak Rajar Deshe, as almost every character in the film speaks by rhyming their lines. The humour is subtle and situational. Literal and political references are plenty, and so it needs to be seen whether non-Bengalis find the humour appealing or not.

Another aspect that must be mentioned is the music. Raja Narayan Deb has created one of a kind soundtrack with influences from every genre possible – rock, pop, rabindra sangeet, jazz, folk or qawwali, and also from the different eras the characters belong to. (Click here to watch a terrific song medley from the film)

Also, it has excellent performances by the entire ensemble cast, but Sumit Samaddar as the Bangladeshi refugee and Swastika Mukherjee as Kadalibala, the actress cum singer of the black and white era, are the scene stealers.

Anik Dutta, the writer-director of the film is a renowned ad-filmmaker. This is his first feature film and for that he deserves every bit of accolade he is receiving for creating such an entertaining film.

Currently, the film is playing in theaters all over West Bengal. It’s getting a limited release in Mumbai on 27th April. Don’t miss it!

For more details, film’s Facebook page is here. For Bombay’s theatre listing, click here.

In the last few years Marathi cinema has done everything that Hindi cinema wasn’t doing. And most importantly, tackling subjects which are rooted. As they say, if we don’t tell our stories, who will? A good marathi film is not a surprise any more. The question is how good it is? Here’s a trailer of a new film called Pune 52. And it looks damn interesting.

To quote from the official release, Pune 52 is a noir thriller about a private detective living in Pune circa 1992, whose life undergoes a dramatic change when he takes up a case that is both dangerously complex and deeply personal.

Starring national award winning actor Girish Kulkarni, Sonali Kulkarni and Sai Tamhankar, Pune 52 is set to release by the end of 2012.

It’s produced by the makers of films such as Valu, Vihir, Deool and Harishchandrachi Factory and is the debut feature of writer/director Nikhil Mahajan.

Here’s a small note by the director on the making of the film..

Like most middle class Maharashtrian brahmin boys, I went to do engineering after std. 12th. Took me 2 years to realize that I suck at it and another 2 years to convince my parents that I have to get out of it. So I dropped out and went on to work at Ramu’s factory as a screenwriter on a project that never took off.

I then went to Sydney and graduated in Film and came back. Got a job with the Hinduja Group’s In Entertainment as a writer where I was writing Tamil superhero films for a living. As much as I enjoyed doing that, I had to write a film about someone who aspires to be a hero. So started writing Pune 52.

Girish was the first person I approached to act in the film. He had doubts because of the content, but still was game for it. They were still shooting Deool then. I went to around 40 producers who all turned it down because it was too adult for the conventional marathi audience’s taste. Eventually Umesh and Girish decided to produce it themselves. And luckily the script got selected at Primexchange at IFFI. Then there was no looking back.

Its being shot by Jeremy Reagan, my friend from Film School and is edited by Abhijeet Deshpande. Stars Girish Kulkarni and Sonali Kulkarni and has background score by Hyun Jung Shim ( who composed for Oldboy) The film has 2 songs, composed by Atif Afzal who has done the music of the soon to release Prague.

For more information, film’s FB page is here.

After working in the television industry for about 15 years in various capacities, Rony D’Costa decided to quit it all and pursue happiness. He generally finds it in dark theatres or under the open sky and write about those adventures here and here. Here’s Rony’s recco post on the marathi film Masala.

“Do you do this for your own happiness?”, when this question is asked to the character played by Dilip Prabhvalkar, a scientist experimenting to create bio fuel, he says, “mi anadasaati kaahich karat naahi. Ananddaani karto”. Loosely translated as, “I don’t do things for happiness. I do it with happiness”. Sandesh Kulkarni’s Masala is filled with such gems of wisdom and is casually thrown in scene after scene by characters straight out of Malgudi Days. It almost works like a self-help movie for entrepreneurs without any high-handed preaching. No wonder then that it reminded me of ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’.

Revan(Girish Kulkarni) and his wife Sarika(Amruta Subhash) keep shuttling from one village to another hiding away from creditors. Not because they are dishonest people but, as it’s shown in one scene, they are more worried about the problems of the people who owe them money. From one failed business to another one quietly supported by his wife, Revan reaches Solapur where he meets Sarika’s long lost cousin (Hrishikesh Joshi) and his wife (Sneha Majgaonkar). Thus begins Revan’s encounters with some crazy, quirky and eccentric characters who ultimately become his family.

The film is not in a hurry to reach its destination. It doesn’t even care about the plot much and to go by traditional rule book, it’s devoid of any conflict too. Debutant director Sandesh Kulkarni invests all the screen time in his characters and their bittersweet life. It works like a Hrishikesh Mukherjee film as Girish Kulkarni’s writing is simple and effective and never resorts to melodrama to make a point. Like RajKumar Hirani’s films, this one also chooses to look at the goodness in human beings, so none of the characters have any shades of black.

I strongly feel that Masala should be made compulsory viewing in business schools and can work as an anti-depressant for people who have given up on their dreams. It also reminded me of ‘The Alchemist’ in the way it talks about finding the treasure within you. Add to that the lilting background score which makes its presence felt only if you choose to focus on it. On acting front, Girish Kulkarni plays the role of Revan with the right amount of innocence and Amruta Subhash ably supports him with the silent portrayal of her character. Hrishikesh Joshi’s character is one of my favorites in the film and Sneha Majgaonkar, who makes her debut with this film, has an infectious smile. I loved the scene in which she tells Sarika about her husband’s problems with a smile on her face as if she is praising him.

It also has one of the most romantic scenes I have seen on the big screen in recent times. The scene when Sarika has to take her husband’s name in the form of an Ukhane (a Marathi custom in which the wife takes her husband’s name in the form of couplets).

The film is loosely based on the life story of Hukmichand Chordia of Pravin Masalewale fame. It looks at their struggle in a lighter vein and with the rose-tinted glasses. The next time I look at a packet of Pravin Masala, scenes from this film will start floating in my head.

It’s raining good news and how! After Miss Lovely and Peddlers, the latest one to join the Cannes club is Anurag Kashyap’s two-parter Gangs of Wasseypur.

The film will be screened in the Directors’ Fortnight Section. Produced by Viacom18, it stars Manoj Bajpayee, Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Richa Chaddha.

Interestingly, Peddlers is also produced by Anurag Kashyap Films. So Peddlers and two-parter Gangs of Wasseypur in the same year. That’s a hattrick! And if you count Udaan, then Un Certain Regard, Critics Week and  Directors Fortnight has been cracked. Now AKFPL just need to crack the competition!

According to its official release,  the Directors’ Fortnight is distinguished by its independent-mindedness, its non-competitive nature and its concern to cater to non-professional Cannes audiences. Striving to be eclectic and receptive to all forms of cinematic expression, the Directors’ Fortnight pays particular attention to the annual production of fiction features, short films and documentaries, to the emergence of independent fringe filmmaking, and even to contemporary popular genres, provided these films are the expression of an individual talent and an original directorial style.

Click here to read Kashyap interview on Gangs of Wasseypur.

(PS – To know more about the Directors’ Fortnight section and selection, click here.)

I am not sure how and where to start this post. Still too excited about the news. But let’s get the news first. Vasan Balan‘s debut feature Peddlers has been selected to premiere at Cannes International Critics’ Week. Yay! And since this is his first feature, it’s also going to compete for Camera D’Or. Every year only seven films are selected for Critics’ week and this year Peddlers is one of them.

To quote the official synopsis, Peddlers – A ghost town, Mumbai, inhabited by millions. A lady on a mission, a man living a lie, an aimless drifter. They collide. Some collisions are of consequence, some not, either ways the city moves on.

And here’s the cast and credit list..

Director : Vasan Bala
Screenplay : Vasan Bala
Cinematography : Siddharth Diwan
Editing : Prerna Saigal
Sound : Anthony B.J. Ruban
Music : Karan Kulkarni

Cast: Gulshan Devaiah, Siddharth Mennon, Kriti Malhotra, Nimrat Kaur, Murari Kumar, Sagai Raj, Megh Pant, Nishikant Kamat, Neeraj Ghaywan and Anubhuti Kashyap.

And here are some stills from the film..

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And now the news bit is over, i am going to write and behave like Vidhu Vinod Chopra.

It seems like yesterday. Vasan pinged me on gmail and then shared some pics. I said, wow, this guy looks like Andrew Garfield. Vasan – fuck, you got it so bang on.  I have been telling all about the Garfield thing. When it comes to cinema, this wasn’t the first time we were on the same page instantly. May be that’s why we bonded so well since we first bumped into each other at a blogging site called passionforcinema. Now it’s dead. Me, him and Kartik Krishnan – it’s been quite a love-hate equation between the three of us since last few years. Except participating in an orgy, i guess we have shared everything else.

And as i sit down to write this post and look back now, i know why i feel so bloody happy for him. Not sure when was the last time i was so happy for someone else. May be because i know how his sweat smells.

By bollywood rule book, Peddlers wasn’t a dream launch. There was no fancy announcement, no articles in newspapers, no big stars to talk about. No posters were designed and no title was thought about. He had assisted Anurag Kashyap for long and was back after  assisting Michael Winterbottom on Trishna. He was getting restless to make his movie but Kashyap wasn’t exactly sure about the script. One script out, another came in, that also went out and he wrote a third one. This went on for some time and then he decided to go ahead and prove it to himself. Whatever happens, he was going to direct. It was going to be a true “indie”. On behalf of Kashyap, Guneet Monga produced it by raising funds from everyone possible. Low budget, low on resources, cast friends and family members, everything on “jugaad“. Come what may, he had to make this film. To prove it to himself, to Kashyap, to us and to people around him.

I went to meet him the day before he was starting his shoot. He looked tired, almost dead. I hugged him, and prayed that he doesn’t fall sick during the shoot. He has a record of falling sick while ADing on films and we always used to joke about it. I had read the script and really liked it too. Was confident about his direction after seeing the two shorts he had directed. Not saying this because he is dear friend. Harsh truth has never been a barrier between our friendship. We have ripped apart each others work many a times in the past. As always, me and KK argued with Kashyap too. Why can’t he see what we are seeing? As always, he also argued, gave his reasons and it was a dead end.

The shooting got over and we saw the rough cut. I wasn’t expecting something like this. This was a new language – minimal approach to filmmaking, if i can call it so. Hadn’t seen something like this in any desi debut film. Everything was pitch perfect except his jeera rice indulgence. I thought if nothing happens, at least this is a great CV to have. Kashyap saw the film and he loved it. And to give credit where it’s due – he publicly announced on twitter that Vasan has proved him wrong. We were relieved. As the inside joke goes, Rahul aur Anjali me phir dosti ho gayee.

By that time we all were getting too excited about it – what can be done to this, where should he send it, the usual gyaan gurus that we all are. Kashyap assured everyone that he really loved it, he means it and he is hoping for the best for this one. He told us to wait, the best will happen soon.

And then, it did happen.

CANNES!

For so much blood, sweat and tears, what else does a filmmaker want?

And once you look at the names in the Critics’ Weeks archives, you realise what it means. Bernardo Bertolucci, Jean Eustache, Otar Iosseliani, Ken Loach, Wong Kar Wai, Jacques Audiard and Arnaud Desplechin to name a few. Or just look at some of the features selected last year – Las Acacias, The Slut, Snowtown, Take Shelter.

Add Vasan Bala and Peddlers to the list now. It can’t get bigger than this for a film where money and resources hardly mattered. Passion and sweat was all that counted – of his and people around him. Because without expecting anything, there are many (cast & crew) who made this film happen as their only motivation was “this is Vasan’s film, this has to be done”. Blame it on his friendship and good will.

And google cache is going to mark it. Because it’s history now.

Cheers, Vasan. ( It’s time to return the favour – don’t you forget to get me a Cannes T-shirt :-))

( PS – And as i have said always, here’s the best film school in this country ——-> @ankash1009)

(PS1 – For more info about Critics week selection, click here.)

(PS2 – Click here to read an interview of Vasan Bala on DearCinema and click here for an interview by Mihir Fadnavis.)

Sorry to flood the blog with so many back to back posts on Ashim Ahluwalia’s Miss Lovely. But two reasons – Cannes doesn’t happen everyday. Nor do Indian films qualify there regularly. Also, the information is coming out bit by bit.

First came the news of its selection at Cannes in the Un Certain Regard section. Then, the official synopsis and stills (Click here). And now the teasers of the film.