Archive for February, 2014


The trailer for ‘Jal’ came our way recently, and left us somewhat intrigued. Even if the prominent blurb by The Hollywood Reporter — “a breathtakingly photographed tragedy of Shakespearean proportions” — doesn’t catch your attention, the lavish photography will surely charm you. Water has been a contentious resource since ages — prompting anything from friendly neighbourhood quarrels to full-blown riots to inter-governmental conflicts. We hope this premise translates into a good film.

After having travelled the festival circuit last year — it was selected in the New Currents section at Busan International Film Festival 2013 and was screened in the Indian Panorama section at the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) — ‘Jal’ releases on March 21 across India.

Here’s the trailer of the film, followed by the synopsis:

‘Jal’ is a high-octane, action-drama about a young water diviner, Bakka, who is gifted with a special ability to find water in the desert.With the backdrop of water scarcity, the film tells a complex and intriguing story of love, relationships, enmity, deceit and circumstances that bring about the dark side of human character. It is a high-octane, action- drama with a shocking climax. Shot on an epic scale, the film is a visual treat and has managed to capture ‘Rann Of Kutch’ like never before.

Cast and Crew

Produced by ‘One World Films Pvt. Ltd’ and ‘Clapstem Productions’, the film is directed by Girish Malik starring Purab Kohli, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Kirti Kulhari, Saidah Jules, Mukul Dev, Yashpal Sharma, Rahul Singh & Ravi Gosain.

Quite interestingly, the music is by Sonu Nigam and Bickram Ghosh.

For those who wish to learn more, here’s a short interview of Girish Malik in which he speaks about his inspiration for the film, the idea for which had been brewing in his mind for 15 years.

— Posted by @diaporesis

As far as the reactions go, Imtiaz Ali’s new film ‘Highway’ is more or less on the same track like his last film Rockstar – completely divided between lovers and haters. And like last time, Ali was quite open and candid to discuss the strength and every weakness of the film, and took it all head on. We love and respect those filmmakers who are open to such dialogues. So thanks a lot, Imtiaz Ali. Whatever film you make, hope you remain like this.

We also hope more bollywood filmmakers will be open to such Q and As. Who really wants to read about the film pre-release, which is still quite the norm in the country. And post-release, they just vanish.

Also, it all happened because Navjot Gulati took the initiative, contacted Ali, sorted the logistics and made it possible. And thanks to Mihir Desai, Aniruddh Patankar and Sumit Purohit for the videos.

The film got over by 12:15 or so, and then the discussion went on till 2:30 am, and then it went on for some more time outside the theatre. It was great fun. Hope you guys enjoy the videos as much as we enjoyed the live session. Some questions might not be audible, so do use your headphones or speakers.

Thanks to PVR Andheri and Shiladitya Bora for helping us out with all the logistical support.

Editor’s Note: Imtiaz Ali’s much-awaited film ‘Highway’ released last Friday, and, over the course of just a few days, has achieved the unique feat of inviting equal amounts of love and hate. What’s even more remarkable is the vehemence with which both ‘lovers‘ and ‘haters‘ have expressed their views about the film. Barring the sedate review or two, sharp words have flown between between the two ‘camps’, especially if you’ve followed the buzz on Twitter. Or perhaps you’ve read the gloriously funny Neruda-take on the film. With this Highway it seems, there’s been no middle-road.

However, as the fires die down, it’s time to pause and reflect on this undoubtedly fascinating film that’s made some fans of Ali despair at his latest turn; some fans exult in his new achievement; and converted some Ali-sceptics into fans. For now, here’s Shivam Sharma taking stock of the film and taking you on a journey he greatly enjoyed.

Also, if you have seen the feature, click here to watch Imtiaz’s original telefilm which inspired the feature and was also titled Highway. And do participate in an interesting poll in that post.

(The following piece contains spoilers. It also contains personal whims, fancies, two languages and if the point gets lost in between somewhere then भूल-चूक, लेनी-देनी माफ़ कीजियेगा.)

“मैं हमेशा कहती थी न कि मैं भाग जाउंगी यहाँ से, मुझे शहर में नहीं रहना।
सब कहते हैं न, पर भागता कौन है?”


१५ साल पहले इम्तियाज़ अली ने ज़ी टीवी के शो “रिश्ते” के लिए एक एपिसोड बनाया था उसके बाद उन्होंने काफी कुछ बनाया, हासिल किया और काफी हद तक बॉलीवुड में एक secure, genre-specific director बन गए. Especially after ‘Rockstar’, his biggest hit, his career graph has gone steadily upwards. ‘रॉकस्टार’ जैसी बड़ी hit देने के बाद, he had the option of going even bigger financially. Knowing how the industry works, giving a big hit generally works wonders — Nolan had a carte blanche to give his whims free rein after ‘The Dark Knight’; and so he made ‘Inception’. But the decision of not going bigger in terms of cast, budget and stars, and instead making a movie based on a story he wrote 15 years ago (or more) with a modest budget, stripped of most ‘Bollywood’ elements and with a not-so-bankable cast, tells us more about the director that Imtiaz is and the path he is on. ‘हाईवे’ की journey सिर्फ वीरा और महाबीर की नहीं है. ये इम्तियाज़ की भी उतनी ही “Finding oneself” वाली journey है. Back to his roots.
१५ साल पहले वाली.

Highway may not be Imtiaz’s best work but it’s definitely his most honest. Of all his films, this has the most scenes without crutches — minimal background music; long, apparently aimless scenes interspersed with silence as if they were unplanned; and scenes that are ‘real’, that feel raw: Veera laughing/crying without any reason sitting on a boulder by a freshwater stream; Mahabeer’s breakdown. Rough edges काफी visible हैं and some scenes seem unfinished in a sense. काफी clear है कि इम्तियाज़ खुद कुछ नया ढूंढ रहे हैं यहाँ. He relies more on his instincts and the power of raw scenes and narrative here than anything else — and he fumbles along the way quite often too. His warts are quite visible here and the screenplay isn’t entirely convincing. However, he has tried to get out of his comfort zone i.e. a strong soundtrack, typical funny side characters, likeable leads etc. The part which juts out like a sore thumb — and that I personally hated the most — was the end segment, the final 15 minutes where he tried to define everything, make sense of the proceedings and tie all the loose ends. It all felt forced and unreal. That part was the most Bollywood-like of the whole movie and I wish he had ended the film 10 minutes earlier and not necessarily provided a forced closure. (The Lunchbox followed it so beautifully. Ritesh Batra knew where to stop. पर it’s ok, कोई बात नहीं.)

The movie soars with the terrain it slowly travels — almost metaphorically. The part where Veera and Mahabeer lose themselves in the mountains, without a care in the world, is the most enchanting. These scenes soar higher than all others. सूफ़ियत कह लें या कुछ और, उस हिस्से में फ़िल्म एक अलग space में पहुँच जाती है. Imtiaz makes a great decision here to cut back on the spoken word and just let the ambient sounds and the scenery do the talking. This part is probably one of the purest cinematic experiences that I have had at a theatre ever.


“एक गोली में आदमी ख़तम हो जाता है न?”
“दो आदमी.”

What looks like a simple ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ story gradually becomes much more as we go farther up the mountains and Imtiaz lets the story take its course beautifully towards the latter half (with the help of some great cinematography by Anil Mehta). There are many scenes without much dialogue here. These silent scenes help — they make you think; at that point, it all becomes subjective. You interpret what you want to, you become a part of the journey and maybe that’s what it all comes down to eventually.
You find stuff about yourself.

The two leads shine as does the supporting cast. Alia is brilliant in most parts, despite overdoing a few things here and there. But what a revelation she is! Randeep Hooda is restrained throughout and gradually takes over when Mahabeer finally breaks down. He is one of the best actors we currently have and this performance strengthens that position. AR Rahman’s music and background score take a backseat here and honestly he does not have that much to do. It’s just not that kind of movie maybe. ‘Patakha Guddi’ and ‘Maahi Ve’ are soulful; Sooha Saha is a lovely track as well. However, I really missed Mohit Chauhan’s vocals. The visuals reminded me a lot of especially this song of his.

Highway tries and succeds and fails and then succeeds again. It has some glorious highs and some not-quite-there moments but कुल मिला कर its highs spectacularly overshadow the lows and the movie now and again transcends into a रूहानी space which is well worth the journey — a rarity in Hindi cinema.

But I have always been a mountain person all my life so do excuse me for being a bit biased. चलिए फिर, I’ll see Highway again and try to find out more.
अपने बारे में.

Shivam Sharma aka @GhantaGuy

(Professional procrastinator. Amateur doer. I sleep, eat, drink and live movies. And right now I am trying to learn how to make movies at FTII)

UPDATE (22-02-2014) : Highway has finally released. As Imtiaz mentioned earlier, it’s a retelling of one of his earlier telefilm which was also titled Highway. If you have seen the feature and not seen the telefilm, scroll down and do watch it now. And do participate in our poll.

Please do also rate the feature film on the scale of One to Five

If you HATE spoilers and have not seen the feature yet, DON’T watch the telefilm or read the synopsis. DON’T  SCROLL  DOWN  ANY  FURTHER.

EARLIER POST (18-12-2013)

Has Imtiaz Ali rehashed his own Highway? Watch it and decide for yourself. This ‘Highway’ was part of Rishtey series on small screen. It stars Aditya Srivastava, Kartika Rane and Manish Chaudhari.

And here’s the official synopsis of this highway –


Vinay and Veera are going to be married in a week. They meet stealthily as they are forbidden to meet before the wedding. They go for a drive on the highway, but unfortunately, some thugs kidnap Veera. Vijay, the head of the gang, regularly supplies girls to brothels and Veera is his latest catch. He plans to sell Veera but the plan is put on hold as he learns that her fiance’s father is a police commissioner. Veera tries her best to escape, but is unsuccessful. Somehow, Vijay and Veera begin to get emotionally involved with each other. Veera and Vijay spend time together escaping to another place. Veera confides to him that she was raped as a child. She tells him that she feels very safe when he is around because he would not let any harm befall her. Having a change of heart, Vijay asks her to escape and return to her home. Will Veera go back to Vinay or choose to stay with Vijay?

Imtiaz did mention about this Rishtey episode in few interviews. But after looking at the trailer and this episode, it looks more or less the same. Let’s wait till the film releases to see how much has been changed.

 NFDC recently organised the first Directors Lab. One of the participants of the lab, Vasant Nath, Director, Sebastian Wants to Remember (SWTR), writes about his experience of this 2-week residential workshop which was held in Pune recently. And since many of us had doubts about its fee, he also clarifies on that front – was it worth it? If so, why and how.

Vasant Nath’s drama SWTR found an Indian co-producer in Kartikeya Narayan Singh’s production house The Film Café. SWTR is the story of an aging photographer who loses his memory and must embark on a daunting journey with his wife in search of his past. It was selected for NFDC Screenwriters’ Lab 2011 and Co-production Market 2012.

Over to him now.

(Click any of the pics to start the slide show. Hold your cursor on specific pic, details will pop up)

I did not go to film school, I learned whatever I know of filmmaking on the job and through self-study.  Working in production for five years gave me some technical skills.  Working on other people’s screenplays as a creative assistant to another filmmaker taught me the basic mechanics of screenwriting.  Making some short films put me on the path towards finding a personal voice.  Meeting a dead end in my career as an assistant made me try working independently.  That was five years ago – when I wrote my first original feature-length screenplay – ‘Sebastian Wants to Remember’.

‘Sebastian’ has had a long (but necessary) development process – eight drafts till date.  I’ve been fortunate enough to have some excellent mentors during this process, and the steady effort has borne fruit.   The screenplay is in good shape and should serve as a reliable blueprint for the film’s realisation.  However, ’Sebastian’ is by no means an easy film.  It’s a road movie with a 70-year-old amnesiac as the lead character, and he doesn’t talk much.  The story structure is interspersed with flashbacks that introduce a cocktail of emotions to the protagonists each time they happen.  Over the many rewrites, my second character has started competing with the primary character for point of view.  And there are some tough sequences that I have blithely written without the slightest inkling of the challenges they will present when I have to film them.

I’m very happy that I did not let such anxieties limit the writing process, but now, as the time to step out of the secure confines of the writing room draws near, I am visited by a recurrent nightmare where I’m on set as director with a large crew looking to me for instruction…and I have no idea what to say to them!  Initially, I drew comfort from the thought that things would take care of themselves once I start making the film, and that doing was the only way to learn.  Of course there is truth in this, but this film – even looking at it just in terms of scale – is unlike anything I’ve ever done before.  I will have to be extremely well-prepared, and I’m going to be of no use to anyone if I go into the whole thing cowering like a scared rabbit.

Indian filmmakers live in very fortunate climes today – because Marten Rabarts is in the house.  As Development Consultant to the NFDC, he has streamlined the organization’s agenda to work on our filmmakers from the roots and has fuelled its engine with the best development talent from across Europe.  This, coupled with the environment for exchange and collaboration that NFDC’s Film Bazaar provides, is extremely fertile ground for new voices to flourish and for a film like mine to find the support it needs to get made.  By the time I applied for the Director’s Lab, I had already been a sort of crash-test dummy for the other NFDC labs – usually one of the first to apply, usually to be found in the front row taking copious notes once they happened.  By the time I heard of their Director’s Lab, I already had great faith in such endeavours: the NFDC’s 2011 Screenwriter’s Lab I participated in represents perhaps the sharpest learning curve I had experienced till then.

Udayan Prasad is both a teacher and a director – known for his films ‘The Yellow Handkerchief’ and ‘My Son the Fanatic’.  He teaches this director’s lab in the UK, sometimes at the National Film and Television School, and sometimes in London as a three-week summer school.  Here, he had crafted a two-week program that fell somewhere between the longer and shorter versions of his usual course in Europe.  Before arriving, I had wondered how much ground he would be able to cover in this short a time, but there was no way of telling beforehand.  However, once it started, Udayan’s lab was like a feeding frenzy.  Every day of the twelve days that we were there (cooped up in the Marriott Courtyard Hotel in the middle of Pune) we were encouraged to repeatedly bite off more than we could chew with the assurance that the digestion would happen later.

This was the NFDC’s first director’s lab, and – except for maybe three of us – most of the participants were at very early stages with their films – some of them didn’t even have first drafts yet.  I initially feared that I was attending another (very expensive) script lab, because the format of the first two days was more or less identical to that of the opening of the screenwriter’s lab I had attended in 2011.  In both scenarios, it was necessary for the participants to share their stories and visions with each other with as much honesty as possible.  It is a very testing task – both the sharing and the listening.  While telling, you feel that you are suddenly admitting a whole bunch of voyeurs into your head.  While listening, you feel embarrassed for being held privy to the intimate inner worlds of eleven strangers.  But eventually, it turned out that this had immense payoffs for the work we had come there to do.  In my experience with labs, it has been quite clear that any sort of filmmaking workshop can only succeed in an environment of trust.  Through this process of sharing, we grew to recognise the common craziness that united us and brought us there.  As neophytes filmmakers, we all knew something of the anxieties each of us suffered because of the familiar challenges our work presented.  Constantly encouraged by our mentors, we were really starting to trust each other by the time we got to the real meat of the workshop.

Our time was interspersed with lectures, ‘workshop-y’ stuff, master classes given by established industry professionals, film viewings and individual consultations for script and production.  Almost every minute of the waking day was taken up by these for twelve consecutive days.  Whatever was left was spent (at least by me) nursing exhaustion.   As Udayan kept telling us – we were getting what we paid for.  It was only fair!  The whole workshop was consciously kept non-technical and perhaps this came as a surprise to some of the participants who had come there expecting to work with cameras et al.  Udayan focused instead on things that led to good technical choices – with an emphatic emphasis on using all tools available to serve the stories we wanted to tell – trusting that we’d be able to take care of the technical training ourselves.

Acting exercises made up a very large chunk of the workshop – perhaps the most hands-on and ‘workshop-y’ section of the whole experience.  I have done other acting workshops before and what I learned here was that acting workshops oriented towards actors are quite different from acting workshops oriented towards directors; even though both start pretty much from the same place.  A director-oriented acting workshop eventually has to serve the director’s requirement of giving actors the right environment they need to thrive in, and actor-oriented acting workshops do not go that distance because they do not need to.  I found these sessions extremely useful.  The exercises we did here allowed us to experience first what an actor does and then showed us what an actor finds useful in trying to arrive at the right sort of performance.  It was all very practical and methodical – we got to test many tools and techniques even in the short time we had.

The acting exercises proceeded into another very useful section – Scene Analysis – where we had two very accomplished actors – Adil Hussain and Tannishtha Chatterjee – as our clay.  Having already spent two days in the actors’ shoes, we had been sensitised to the challenges they face when receiving instruction from a director that just isn’t playable.  Udayan had been drumming a discipline into our heads – to use verbs instead of adjectives in our instruction; to convey the facts of the script in a systematic way.  With Adil and Tannishtha, we put Udayan’s instructions to work and watched in wonder how a basic line-reading of a script turns into a performance full of genuine feeling and surprise when an actor is provided with the right information, in the right quantity at the right time.

Very soon, we were thrown into the nerve-wracking scenario where we had to put these techniques into play with professional actors (mostly very generous acting grads from FTII) with scenes from our own films.  This was probably the very first time any of us had realised anything from our pages, and it was frightening.  But better to feel the shivers here than on set!  I was given three young actors for a scene that involved two old people…and little else.  The actors knew nothing of my film and I wanted to transfer all my knowledge of the story to them via firewire so that they could quickly enact the scene in my head and be done with it!  But of course, that was not possible.  What was possible, though, was falling back on the techniques that Udayan had taught us –  basic principles of sharing information slowly and carefully, leaving room for the actors to bring something to the scene.  As I got into the flow of the exercise, that’s exactly what happened.  My actors brought a lot to the scene.  In just a couple of hours, they were showing me things that I could never have accomplished while working alone on the page as I had done till then.  Then another problem arose – they just kept on giving!  I had gone from feeling very excited by a lot of new interpretations of my material, but suddenly it felt too much to work with.  Then I took a deep breath and started making decisions…

I may never have five hours to rehearse a one-page scene in an actual shooting scenario.  But the process of going through this exercise – feeling the fear, smelling the failure, being unsuccessful at realising the film in my head, righting myself, making decisions under pressure (even though simulated), trusting a technique, giving, receiving, disciplining myself to only give playable action – all this was f*****g priceless!  Udayan was in and out of the room right through the exercise.  He has this x-ray vision that could diagnose what we were doing wrong within a few minutes of watching our work.  He didn’t go easy on us, and I am very happy he didn’t.

By the time I got through this exercise, the lab had begun to seriously work upon me.  I was already looking at my material differently.  It wasn’t that I was distrusting everything I had written till then, but I was recognising how far the writing had got me and where I needed to steer the process from here on.  There would definitely be some re-writing – I came back from the lab and quickly shot off a fast polish to my producer – Draft 8.1!  Suddenly, there were so many new things to think about.  There was already a greater sense of empowerment when looking at the many difficult choices that lay ahead when I make ’Sebastian’.  At least I knew where to start thinking about the things I’ll need to say to my waiting crew when my nightmare revisits..!

We touched upon various aspects of film craft – production design, cinematography (and point of view), sound – through master-classes and lectures.  The master-classes did well in keeping the theory grounded.  But even with Udayan’s lectures, I never for once felt that we were all sitting in some sort of ivory tower – everything Udayan talked about, he always connected to his experiences as a filmmaker or to the real-world experiences of filmmakers he knew or had studied.  He often invited the professionals conducting the master-classes to comment on the concepts he outlined.  In all sections of the workshop, Udayan’s teachings were a distillation of a very large cross-section of filmmaking traditions.  He brought with him a clear understanding of where these traditions came from, how they could be applied, where they succeeded, where they failed, how they evolved, and – most importantly – what worked well for him in his experience as a filmmaker.   All the theory was accompanied by clips of films that demonstrated the corresponding concepts in successful execution.  The workshop was thus also very enriching in terms of the reading lists and watching lists that Udayan left us with.

The individual consultations for script and production were a very necessary component of the lab, since the participants were each in very different stages with their projects.  I believe it allowed the mentors at least some room to tailor their guidance to each participants’ particular needs. More consultants were brought in for this – Urmi Juvekar, Priya Sreedharan, Shivani Saran – some of whom (along with Marten, of course) represent for me what I call “the NFDC ecosystem” – something that I have come to trust implicitly in my career as an NFDC Lab crash test dummy.  This ecosystem is becoming better with each passing year, and hopefully – in the foreseeable future – when the corresponding production and financing side of the NFDC stands on steadier ground with as great a confidence as its development arm, we will witness a thriving harvest of great new films, in greater volumes, year after year.

By the time we pitched our projects again at the end of the workshop, the difference was apparent.  Some of the participants had made some giant leaps with their material.  They stood on surer ground, knowing exactly what they had to do next. For some, the leap was about being able to kill some of their darlings: things that needed to be unhinged before they could move forward – and imagine how deeply they must have been anchored in their darlings if it took two weeks to unhinge them!

Overall, a lot of ground was covered, but I missed a section on the role and dramatic purpose of Music, only because Udayan had been so comprehensive and enlightening about the other components of film craft that he’d addressed.  Some of the participants were keen on squeezing in a session on comedy, but sadly there just wasn’t any time.  Still, the whole group showed a very strong commitment to the workshop and its structure and I feel that this was one of the main reasons for its success.  The ‘workshop environment’ dictated that every exercise we did was reviewed both by our peers and by our mentors.  We became each others’ first audiences with the added advantage of being able to express and listen to feedback articulated after every presentation.  And none of this would work without the trust I spoke of earlier, consciously cultivated by our mentors.  Because of it, we were able to repeatedly fail before each other without fear.

For me – I left the lab with a greater, deeper engagement with my film.  I remember that it felt almost exactly how it had felt when I finished the 2011 screenwriters’ lab with Marten as my mentor.  Even though it had been such a sharp learning curve for me, it had taken a good two or three years of applying the lab’s principles in various screenplays before I acquired a confident, working knowledge of them.  I take it that it’s going to be the same with Udayan’s teachings; I will have to apply them over and over until they set in.  Apart from everything that he taught us about the craft of our work, I also thoroughly appreciate how Udayan kept telling us time and again about good work practices – simple things like acknowledging your crew at the start of the day, thanking them at the end of it; especially important in our country that subscribes so heavily to ‘the cult of the director’.

I don’t think I can end this review without a comment on the lab fee, because I know so many filmmakers who wanted to and deserved to do this lab but simply could not afford to.  While I feel that the experience the lab afforded me was worth every paisa, Rs. 1.5 lakhs is not a small amount for anyone to pay, especially if their projects do not have funding.  That said, I also think that it was a very brave move by the NFDC and the Lab team to actually take the plunge and hold the lab despite all the protests they must have received about the fee.  I sincerely believe that it is a great precedent.  Only time will stand testament to the actual success of the lab – in terms of how many participants end up making their films successfully – but I have a very good feeling about it.  I do hope that some subsidies come into play soon that lower the cost for the participants, because it will really allow the lab to contribute more fully to the NFDC’s long-term development goals.

With regard to my co-participants’ responses – overall, I saw more smiles than frowns.  I think we all knew that a mountain of work was waiting for us when we got back to the real, non-workshop world.  There were some in the group who were still negotiating with the decision to commit fully to this perilous career – and I could feel their anxiety in the face of the big decisions that lay ahead.  But I think that they knew that this was a good thing.  Good workshops are meant to make you go green.  The work that you do afterwards is the only effective antacid.   I wish my co-participants a happy digestion!  I thank Udayan, Marten and the NFDC – Leena who helms the their lab program, and Mayur who helped execute our twelve days so efficiently – for this wonderful learning experience.

(Vasant Nath’s ‘Sebastian Wants to Remember’ is being produced by Michael Henrichs of Berlin based Die Gesellschaft along with France’s 24 Images and Kartikeya Narayan Singh’s The Film Café.  It is currently in financing, having received EU Media Development Support in 2013, expecting to start production at the end of 2014)

cropped-i2F2-518x502-LogoCinema, Culture, and Conversation

i2F2 – Announcing Call for Entries and Online Submissions

The Chicago South Asian Arts Council (CSAAC), organizer of the four year running Chicago South Asian Film Festival, has announced the 2014 launch of i2F2, a path breaking Film Festival.

– The event will take place May 29 to June 5; in the vibrant, burgeoning, arts and cultural hub of downtown Evanston. The inaugural festival will showcase the best of world cinema in the heart of America with a special focus on films from three key regions: South Asia, Middle East, and Israel.

– The film festival will be organized in conjunction with the City of Evanston and act as a platform to discover, introduce, and propel new talent into the global spotlight.

– The festival is divided into five categories: Feature, Documentary, and Shorts where established and rising film makers will display their films while Student Shorts, and First-time Filmmaker Feature endeavors is there to encourage and celebrate emerging talent.

– The programming committee at i2F2 is now inviting all filmmakers to submit their films starting February 1, 2014 thru March 30, 2014.

– Filmmakers interested in submitting their films are requested to please visit for more information on the festival and film submissions.

– After filling in the online submission form, Indian filmmakers can send a DVD Screener of their film to the India Consultant for i2F2, Deepti DCunha. She can be contacted at for further details.

About i2F2

i2F2, organized by the Chicago South Asian Arts Council Inc, is dedicated to cultivating rising filmmakers , creating  a marketplace for films, and showcasing a diverse cinematic experience to audiences. The Festival is held in late May in conjunction with the City of Evanston and presents the best of world cinema with a focus on first-time and student filmmakers.

– via press release

Ceylon Poster

First Look Poster: Ceylon

A brand-new teaser for director-cinematographer Santosh Sivan’s new film Ceylon (Inam in Tamil) has launched online. We don’t have details on the plot currently, but the film reportedly revolves around the lives of teenagers in an orphanage against the backdrop of war-torn Sri Lanka.

It’s an interesting, unconventional first look for the film, which doesn’t showcase any of the characters just yet, and instead chooses to show the destruction of war juxtaposed against nature, something Sivan is known to capture beautifully. Take a look:

The film stars Saritha, Karunaas, Sugandha Ram among others. Here are some of the crew details:

Directed by: Santosh Sivan
Producer: Mubina Rattonsey – Santosh Sivan – N.Subash Chandra Bose
Cinematography: Santosh Sivan ASC, ISC
Production Designer: Sunil Babu
Editor: T.S.Suresh
Music Director: Vishal Chandrashekhar
Sound Designer: Vishnu PC, Arun S Mani
Co Producer: Milind Verekar – Sojan.VN – Anirudh Menon
Lyrics: Charukesh Sekar – Karunaas
Dialogues: Aarthi Sivakumar – Shyam Sundar
Screenplay: Santosh Sivan – S.Sasikumaran – Saranya Rajagopal

Well, the header is self-explanatory.

So Milords, scroll down to read Gyandeep Pattnayak‘s defense of Ridley Scott’s The Counselor, and see if it convinces you otherwise.


‘The Counselor’, for over than a week, has been like that itch which I’ve tried really hard to ignore but can’t anymore.

And won’t.

The reactions to the film are as fascinating as the film itself. But I’m getting way ahead of myself here. Let’s wind back our clocks a little. Remember how the Internet exploded with euphoria when it was announced that Cormac McCarthy had sold his first ever screenplay, and that Ridley Scott was attached to direct it? I mean, who wouldn’t be excited, right? McCarthy – the genius that he is – writes prose that oozes blood and as a writer, he’s pretty much cemented his position as one of the literary greats. Scott, on the other hand, is a filmmaker whose greater works have (often) initially been rejected as being overtly indulgent and devoid of any real emotion. ‘The Counselor’, which boasts of such impeccable pedigree (both in front of and behind the camera) was bound to raise expectations to an all-time high. So, what went wrong?


The primary issue that the audiences (and critics) had with the film was that it was too talky. Agreed that the dialogs are a bit impenetrable at first but meandering and unnecessary they aren’t. Also, this is a film that warrants repeated viewings and it will only get better the next time you see it. To validate this, let’s consider the scene in which the Counselor (Michael Fassbender, as the titular character) goes to Amsterdam to purchase a diamond from a diamond dealer. They engage in a conversation related to the quality of flawed and perfect diamonds. Slowly, the conversation veers towards country, culture, God, philosophy. You are hooked, you ARE the Counselor in this moment. You don’t understand all of what the diamond merchant says but you are intrigued. The words flow like music. And then McCarthy subverts this very scene, with the merchant saying, “Enough, i see your look. No more philosophy.” You expect the conversation to stop. But what the old man says next will show how incisively sharp McCarthy’s writing really is. And this is just the beginning.

Another complaint: the plot is foggy, not enough of story to chew on. Wrong. There is a story about consequences, about what greed begets. There is always some talk about a deal, something which isn’t made clear. But we do see drugs being transported and re-transported in a truck. So we know it’s got something to do with them. And the Counselor is just asked by his friend, Javier Bardem’s Reiner, in plain and simple English, “Do you want to be a part of this?” He agrees. And this being a McCarthy/Scott film, things go spectacularly wrong. What else do you need to know?

Too little action. What the actual fuck? Dread is omnipresent, lurking around in all the frames (and we have Daniel Pemberton’s excellent, moody score to thank for, which adds to the mounting creepiness). There are at least two scenes that will scare you shitless. And then, there’s violence in those words, in between the lines, in all those phrases left unsaid and also in those which are spoken out explicitly (you’ll see what a bolito does). Like that scene in which Brad Pitt’s character Westray asks the Counselor to steer clear of the ‘deal’ while there’s still time. And then, he makes it clear that the beheadings, the mutilations are just part of the business, to keep the fear alive. It is a chilling scene, an indicator of what’s about to follow, and remarkably performed by both Pitt and Fassbender.

Scott, who is an atheist, also injects some of his own perversity into a scene where a character goes into a confession chamber and confesses (or at least tries to) to a priest about the sins that she’s committed. Initially, I thought this scene did not fit anywhere in the film. After seeing the film for a second time, I see where this one’s coming from. This character is just trying to piss off the priest. She wants to see what it feels like being in a confession chamber and she is aware that she feels no remorse, no matter how much she tries to. At one point, she even tells the priest, ‘Look, I don’t need any forgiveness. Just listen to my sins.’ It’s almost as if she’s laughing in the face of the beliefs and rules that ‘normal’ people adhere to.

I could also give you one more reason to watch the film: Cameron Diaz’s character Malkina fucks a car. Yes, you read that right. No, I didn’t mean a cartoon.

SHE.    FUCKS.     A.      CAR.

Got your attention, haven’t I? Nudge, nudge, wink, wink. But yes, there are also two flaws that I can think of right away – 1) A woman wakes up from what she thinks is a nightmare (this scene reminded me of Raakhee from Karan Arjun. You’ll know it when you see it) and 2) the film would have been all the more edgier if not for the couple of cameos that pop up once in a while. Like my friend @drdang observed, ‘Audiences would have lapped it up in a big way had it been a foreign language film.’ I couldn’t agree with him more. To me, it constantly felt like (and I say this with no intention of belittling Scott’s craft) I was watching an Alejandro Gonsalez Inarritu film. In short, the film is anything but your typical Hollywood fare.

I can go on and on about this film because that’s how rich it is, with all those dialogues and those visuals. And honestly, I don’t expect this film to be everybody’s cup of tea because it simply isn’t. But next time, when Scott chooses to direct a tentpole summer movie like ‘Prometheus’, don’t be a dick about it. Because clearly there isn’t any appetite for restrained and intelligent cinema like this one. Towards the end of the film, one character tells another how easy it is to trade places for a loved one’s life and given the current situation, how impossible it really is. The scene closes with this particular piece of dialog – “The extinction of reality is a concept no resignation can encompass.” Even McCarthy couldn’t have put it any better. But he has.

Few years from now, people will look back at this film and wonder: this is the film we’d ridiculed back then? The year is young and there are 10 more months till we start making top 10 lists but guess what, I already know what one of my top favorites is going to be. Simply put, with this one, Messrs McCarthy and Scott have taken ruthless and cynical filmmaking to lethal heights.

Gyandeep Pattnayak

In what’s turning out to be a most heartening trend in recent years, yet another Indian film has made a name for itself at a prestigious International film festival. Avinash Arun’s directorial debut, the Marathi feature film Killa (The Fort) had its world premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival (better known as the Berlinale). The film was selected in the Generation Kplus competitive category and has won a Crystal Bear from the Children’s Jury and a Special Mention from the International Jury.

About the Prize

In the Generation Kplus section the jury members are no older than those of the audience. Eleven children and seven teens award the best films with Crystal Bears. Special Mentions are given for outstanding achievements. Two international juries present further prizes in the Generation Kplus and Generation 14plus competition.

The film received glowing reviews from both juries. The Children’s Jury, awarding the Crystal Bear said:

“This film convinced us in all respects: with his good camera work and the great actors, but also because of its incredibly beautiful nature images which blend perfectly with the music. This film made us all want to discover India.”

Interestingly, the film also received a Special Mention from the International Jury too:

“A beautifully photographed story about the challenges of being a boy. This film had wonderful pace and rhythm. Never reverting to clichés, the fresh performances left us feeling we were right there with the characters.”

About the Film

Coping with the recent death of his father, Chinu, 11- year old boy moves to a small Konkan town from a big city because of his mother’s job transfer. He finds it difficult to adjust to the new place and finds himself alienated and reluctant to open up to its people. Both Chinu and his mother grapple with their own individual struggles and anxieties in the new town. In the process, they emerge with newer experiences and as newer people, both healed and enriched.

Produced by Madhukar R Musle, Ajay G Rai, Alan McAlex under the banner, Jar Pictures and presented by M R Filmworks, the film was a part of NFDC Film Bazaar’s Work-in-Progress (WIP) Lab in 2013.

It stars Amruta Subhash, Archit Deodhar, Parth Bhalerao and Shrikant Yadav. Here are some stills from the film:

About the Director

Avinash Arun is a Director – Cinematographer from Maharashtra, India. Born in the textile town Solapur in 1985 in a middle class Maharashtrian family, he started assisting in FTII Diploma films at the age of 16. He eventually graduated in Cinematography from FTII in 2011. In 2010, his school project “The Light and Her Shadows” won him the cinematography award in Kodak film school Competition. His diploma film “Allah Is Great” was the official entry from India for Student Oscars. It also won several awards including the National award in 2012. Avinash has worked on “Kai Po Che!” (Berlinale Panorama section 2012), Deool (National Award winner 2011). Killa is his first feature film as director. He is also the cinematographer on this film.

Avinash has also shot Vasan Bala‘s short film ‘Geek Out’, which we’ve featured previously on this blog.

Watch the short below:

— Posted by @diaporesis


1. Because it’s a terrific film.

2. Because it’s a terrific film to debut with. Such an assured debut is rarity.

3. Because it has released with English subtitles all over Maharashtra. And will release outside Maharashtra on 28th February, 2014.

4. Because to quote Mira Nair, if we don’t tell our stories, who will. And to add to that, if we don’t watch our stories, who will.

5. Because only Nagraj Popatrao Manjule could tell this story, not anyone else. Because he has lived it. Much like why nobody thought about setting an entire film inside a tank.

6. Because you probably don’t know what ‘Fandry’ means, even if you are a Marathi manoos. And if not, try asking your Maharashtrian friends. Doubt you will get the answer. We tried it all, saying it from experience. You love your little cocoon.

7. Because current Bollywood has forgotten what “adolescence” means. Same with you.

8. Because you don’t know what your caste is. And it has never mattered in your life.

9. Because every time you saw a pig, you felt it’s ugly and so filthy. Nothing humane there. You don’t need a new feeling.

10. Because it’s that rare film whose 2 scenes made it to our year end list of 16 Most Memorable scenes of the year. Scroll down to read why.

Still looking for another excuse?

We discovered the film at last year’s Mumbai Film Festival. This was our first reaction, or you can call it brief review of the film (was posted here)  :

Fandry – It’s Beasts Of The Maharashtrian Wild. The pains of growing up, of dreaming about the girl from upper caste, trying to get fair skin, and aspiring to own a pair of jeans. About a family of pig catchers who are considered untouchable in the village, and of adolescent days. The harsh reality might seem like poverty porn, but a line from The Great Beauty came to my mind – you can’t talk about poverty, you have to live it. A daring film where the entire film seems to be set-up for the powerful last 20 minutes.

Later on, for our year-end post, Kushan Nandy and Varun Grover wrote about 2 powerful scenes of the film. One has spoiler alert, other you can read.

@kushannandy on Fandry’s climax


Fandry, Nagraj Manjule’s charming story of Jabya, a young boy battling his inner turmoil of being born a Dalit, whose only source of income is rescuing the village from droves of pigs by chasing them out, and only happiness is a teenage infatuation and perhaps a non-existent bird, reaches an inevitable, satirical climax that can truly be described as the successor of the Mahabharata scene from Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro.

Cruelly hilarious and dripping with pathos, the last scene of Fandry is a portrayal of who we truly are. As Jabya is forced to help his aging parents chase the pigs down, the village gathers to celebrate this humiliation, almost like spectators at a T20 match.

At one point, one of the characters uploads Jabya’s plight on his Facebook page. That one moment points out how technology has invaded us and yet human values remain absent.

However, Manjule’s masterstroke is Jabya doing exactly what the viewer had been wanting to do all along. He gathers his frustration and desperation to plant a sounding kick into the belly of the very society that was trying to hold him down. Match over.

Sadly though, Jabya’s non-existent bird somewhere stands for the freedom from society’s humiliation that he shall never ever get.

And this one is SPOILER FREE.

@varungrover on Fandry’s national anthem scene

Only in a state like Maharashtra, where right-wing is so strong that even after the death of their biggest ideologue I don’t feel confident and safe mentioning his name in a post that has no direct criticism of his easily-criticizable styles of functioning, where newspaper offices get ransacked for faintest of hurt sentiments, where people get beaten up for not standing up during the mandatory National Anthem before the film –  a film like ‘Fandry’ is possible. (Just like BR Ambedkar and Vijay Tendulkar couldn’t have been anywhere else.) A state of oppression breeds an inventiveness and ferocity of protest like nothing else.

And in a protest film (though treated like a coming of age for the most part) like ‘Fandry’, comes a scene that makes all the protest scenes in the history of our cinema look tame in comparison. A Dalit family is trying to catch a pig next to a school, the Dalit kid is feeling humiliated ‘cos his friends might be watching the reality of his caste he has so carefully hidden from them, the pig evading them like a pro. After lots of chasing the pig finally seems to be cornered. The family now just has to move closer and catch it and end the misery on both sides of this hunter-hunted divide. The kid seems slightly relieved that the ordeal may be over as they encircle the pig. But, just before they could swoop down, the national anthem starts playing in the school assembly next door. Nobody can move now, except of course the pig. As the Dalit family stands in attention, paying ‘due respects’ to the nation they are equal citizens of, the pig walks away into the free morning.

The whole cinema hall jumped up and applauded the scene wildly. I guess the irreverence, cheekiness, and metaphor it stood for connected with all of us, so used to standing awkwardly before the film, one hand carrying smartphone, another carrying popcorn, thinking ‘Pandit Bhimsen Joshi ji, aalaap mat lo itna lamba. 56 second mein khatam hona chaahiye ideally!

– Click here to watch its trailer and for cast-crew and other details.

Still waiting?

Go, watch it.

– Posted by @NotSoSnob