Archive for November, 2015

Tamasha : Post-Screening Q & A With Imtiaz Ali

Posted: November 29, 2015 by moifightclub in bollywood, News, Q & A
Tags: , ,

Imtiaz Ali

Imtiaz Ali is one of those rare directors who is not afraid to take questions post-release. And we have always been very happy to take the initiative and make it happen. Thanks to Anurag Kashyap, what started it with Imtiaz’s Rockstar, we have managed to do with many other films. And directors have been very co-operative about it. Now, we are back to another new film by Imtiaz Ali, Tamasha. Going by reviews, FB posts and tweets, seems like this film has polarised people. That’s always interesting for a film.

Navjot Gulati has taken the initiative to get Imtiaz Ali for Tamasha post-screening Q and A. Here are the details –

Venue – PVR Icon, Infinity Mall (which was Cinemax Versova earlier)

Day/Date – Monday (30th November, 2015)

Time – After the 6pm show.

So do book your tickets, and wait after the film is over. For those of you who have already seen the film, or for some reason you can’t come for the screening but want to attend only the Q and A, do tweet to Navjot at the earliest and inform him. He is making the list and will get you in.

Come, we will have fun!

sachin-pilgaonkar-shankar-mahadevan-katyar-kaljat-ghusali-movie-pic

Knowledge is acquired.
Art is inherent.
Knowledge solves complexities.
Art gives birth to those very complexities.

There is a whole scene dedicated to this Knowledge V/S Art (Vidya V/S Kala) debate in Katyar Kaljat Ghusli — and it is easily my favourite part in the movie. A musical maestro’s protege aches for knowledge. The knowledge that can hone his skills, set him apart. But he completely overlooks the fact that even without the knowledge, what he already has within him — the raw art of music — is far more valuable.

Anybody who has grown up in a typical Marathi household has heard their mothers and fathers sing Ghei Channd Makarand. It won’t be blasphemous to say that it is our equivalent of a Bachchan or Tagore poem, if not as widely popular. So when the film adaptation of the cult musical, Katyar Kaljat Ghusli, was released, all of us got a call from home urging us to go see what a spectacle it is.

And I’m happy to report that it has lived up to the hype. The plot is simple: Pt. Bhanushankar of Vishrampur (Shankar Mahadevan) discovers Khan Sahab (Sachin Pilgaonkar) in one of his mehfils and brings him back to his town. But Khan Sahab’s talent always ranks below Pt. Bhanushankar’s, and a fierce sense of competition starts to rise within him. Competition culminates into sabotage and Pt. Bhanushankar loses his voice as a result of a vicious scheme. As Khan Sahab settles into the comforts of the palace and new his designation of the Royal Singer, Pt. Bhanushankar’s protege, Sadashiv (Subodh Bhave) enters the scene to win his mentor’s honour back.

The most interesting thing about Katyar… is the use of music. It feels as important to the anatomy of the film as a limb (props to writer Prakash Kapadia, who has emerged as the master of the Indian epic. His next is Bajirao Mastani). While most films about music add songs just to authenticate the genre (here’s looking at you, Aashiqui 2), Katyar’s music takes the narrative forward and keeps you glued to your seats even through songs. While Ghei Channd will always remain a favourite, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy’s Sur Niragas Ho and Yaar Illahi could easily become the next generation’s favourites.

I may be at a disadvantage, having not seen the original musical, but my father tells me that the film was about 80% true to the source material, which is not a bad percentage at all. The dialogue is dense with beautiful lines about music, art, the value of commitment, envy and the evil in one’s heart. Shankar Mahadevan appears to be surprisingly comfortable in his role and Subodh Bhave — with his ability to be believable as Anybody — is honest. Sachin Pilgaonkar has walked away with the lion’s share of compliments, but I can never shake the feeling that his brand of acting is similar to Aamir’s — where, with each movement and each gesture, he wants you to know just how good he is. Frankly, he overdid some scenes, but let’s not focus on that.

The good thing is, the movie has released with subtitles and, for once, the person who has done the subtitling deserves a pat on the back. They have masterfully turned colloquial Marathi phrases into English lines, and successfully translated the humour when required.

Yes, the plot is predictable and spoon-fed to viewers, but if you’re in for a true musical with hair-raising compositions embedded into the story, and the magic of simple storytelling as well, this is your pick.

Nihit Bhave

(Nihit Bhave is a freelance writer based in Bombay. Was Features Writer with Hindustan Times’ Sunday magazine, HT Brunch until recently)

If you don’t know it by now, I am the mendicant who is always on a lookout for music and I must say, thanks to twitter, I have had great success in getting some great music over the years. A lot of it happens to be non-hindi as well. Katyar Kalijat Ghusali is different. I was told about this film by a co-worker who plays super tabla. Going to work has finally made sense!

Getting down to the music of the film, Divya kumar, Arshad Mahmud, Arijit singh and back up vocals participate in Yaar Illahi which is a qawwali. You cannot change how a qawwali is done but even then thanks to the first-rate lyrics by Sameer samant and solid tonal treatment, the qawwali doesn’t weigh you down. The opening chants in Sur Niragas ho are so well done that you would want to give out a grand salute to the backup vocalists. A layered marathi devotional song, this one has Shankar Mahadevan and Anandi Joshi at the top of their game. The super super super talented Rahul Deshpande teams up with a fluid Sarangi to arrest our senses in Dil ki tapish. Right from the opening alaap, the way Sarangi accompanies Rahul is heavenly. I would surely like to know who has played the Sarangi. ‘Spectacular’ is the word for Mahesh kale’s Aruni Kirani and the Sitar in the song has a character of its own in the song along with a very ‘by the beat’ Tabla. It transported me to a big hall where I was sitting in a corner marvelling at an artist who had the entire attendance spellbound. Shankar Ehsan Loy have so much left in them, I wonder why they haven’t been giving such a durable treatment to their hindi projects off late?

In Bhola Bhandari, Arijit Singh has given us a song that sounds familiar and earthy, setting wise. Arijit is real and not trying too hard and that is always good. Composed by Late Pt. Jitendra Abhisheki, Shankar mahadevan’s Din Gele sounds vintage thanks to the Long play disc ‘bite’ sound in the song. Ghei chhand, sung neatly and with a lot of character by Shankar mahadevan and Ghei Chhand Makarand sung breezily by Rahul Deshpande are also composed by Late Pt. Jitendra Abhisheki. Both these songs are a treat to the senses. The richly ornamented theme is simple and while the humming was a bit contemporary for me (almost AR Rahman-sque), the theme is soothing and leaves  you with a sense of calm amidst the echoes of friendly instruments in a way only Indian classical music can. In what is Pandit ji’s old and extremely popular composition, you will realise the beauty of moderate instruments and pakki gayaki. I am talking about ‘Lagi kalejwa kataar’ in Pt. Jitendra Abhisheki’s velvet voice. It was a task to move to other songs, trust me on that.

We know how infinitely gifted Shankar Mahadevan is. In Man Mandira, Shankar Mahadevan makes it sound easy to the point of deception. Deception because you can be easily tricked into singing along with him only to realise your limitations. Structure wise, I just loved the song. That said, Shivam Mahadevan’s Man Mandira will give you goosebumps right from the first second of the song. The innocent voice (which is not a note off, mind you) dazzles the senses to put it mildly. The slight harkat in his Mandiraaa at about 1:53 mins in the song is assuring that we have yet another voice that knows pakki gayaki. What a relief!

Muralidhar shyam sung by Shankar Mahadevan is a short piece but quite addictive and the ‘bite’ sound makes you long for it more. Rahul Deshpande’s Sur se saji is clean, grand and quite nicely penned by Sameer Samant and Prakash Kapadia. Surat Piya ki is yet again a piece that is grand in character and a riot melody wise. The variations presented by Rahul Deshpande & Mahesh kale will give you a high no LSD can ever provide, trust me on that. Tarana is short yet quite effective because of the gifted backup vocalists. Tojonidhi Lohagol by Shankar Mahadevan opens with a signature alaap by Shankar Mahadevan. The composition and singing is top class especially the short appearances by Sitar.

An out and out winner of an album with not a single second that is wasted on silly theatrics to sound grand. Don’t worry if you don’t understand the language, the excellent music setting of the album will not let you notice the linguistic limitations. I still cannot believe that such a rich album has come out in 2015. I cannot write enough words of appreciation for the makers for showcasing to us Pandit Jitendra Abhisheki. Somehow, all the artists who have built melodious legacies remain popular within their niche set of followers. I hope at least one listener who wasn’t aware of Pt. Jitendra Abhisheki earlier digs deeper and uncovers the gems he has left for all of us, and then passes them along to one more listener and so on. Nothing can be more exciting than to see our legendary artists being showcased again and again and that too for a wider audience. No praise can be enough for the entire band of technicians who have made this album possible. Sameer Samant, Mangesh Kangane, Mandar Cholkar, Shankar-Ehsan-Loy, take a bow. The sound piques your senses to find out more about the film and oozes melody. I cannot ask anything more from an O.S.T.

The film revolves around musical rivalry in the court of a king. It is playing with english subtitles in Mumbai. I know i am watching it. Are you?

Rohwit

instagr.am

A good music album is a blessing.

When we discovered the Israeli Qawwal Shyz Ben Tzur’s designs on Indian music scene sometime back, we couldn’t wait for more. However, we had to wait till 14 Nov 2015 for his new album.

Any fusion attempt involving Rajasthan runs the risk of ‘kesariya-oing/mharo dholna-oing‘ the sound and playing it safe. This album doesn’t fall in that trap. What you will come across is an innovative brass married to part funk and part pop sound, sprinkled with superlative lyrics. Take for example Junun, the song. The groove is familiar yet the entry of brass band is almost shocking. The singing in this song is slightly predictable. Yet, chances are you won’t be able to remind yourself of a similar song in a long time, watch out for the  faint harmonium/organ on the left channel throughout the song! The brass version of the song is just a smart example of how you can mold the sound of any song with local flavor and ‘there are birds in the eho chamber’ was recorded when the brass version of Junun was being recorded with birds chirping. Great touch, that!

Roked, is a dance beat prayer to God almighty which might not be everyone’s cup of tea, yet it presents an alternative way to ascend in God. When Hu starts, you would be excused to think that a song of Kabir is about to start. However, what you get is an insightful offering about life in Hebrew. If language isn’t a barrier for you in relishing good music, you might even find yourself swaying like a dervish. The entire band is in top form in this song, yet – not a single loud note. Isn’t it fascinating to actually come across the varied sounds of far off lands and to see how they pay a tribute to the infinite, the creator? Hu is a drug. Simple!

In Chala vahi des, you will be amazed at the percussion with the ever so beautiful manjira and harmonium mesmerizing you. Razia Sultan &  Afshana Khan are a delight, and my favorite part remains the effortless bringing in of ‘meera ke prabhu girdhar nagar‘. I cried when I heard this portion for the first time. This is why the creator has given us all humans faculties to hear. The infectious composition is impossible to unlike. Similarly in Kalandar, you would have made peace by the 5th minute of the composition, it’s a beautiful instrumental piece that requires nothing else. Wait for those simple 4 lines which will take your breath away before the flute reminds you to keep dancing, because after all you are a kalandar. Aren’t you?

A repetitive chanting like Eloha might weigh on the senses due to its psychedelic presentation with nearly silent musical arrangement. Julus (जुलूस) stays true to its title. This piece is all brass and the tune would remind you of your favorite roadside dance moment with the brass bands which are popular with marriage/Happy procession parties. Allah Elohim is a message of piece and reminds us that Hindu-Muslim look best when they stay peaceful and love each other. With excellent guitars in the background and splendid brass Razia and  Shye Ben Tzur would surely make you sway. Ahuvi is a song of longing and the Sarangi by Asin Khan and Khamaicha by Dara Khan would make you forget that most of the song is in Hebrew, and then the last 1:20 mins of the song will pierce your heart. Hear it to know what I mean. Azov has a simple message of ‘let go’, and this flute dominated piece ends fairly quickly.

The element of finality in Mode, which is ‘thanks’ to the creator for giving us everything is infectious, thanks to the neat gayaki and yet again, the language won’t matter here.

I have to thank my mother for introducing me to ‘Chala vaahi des’ – the Lata Mangeshkar album, when I was in class 6th, which had the sounds of birds and animals in the background in most of the songs. No wonder this album uses real bird and their chirps to create a similar sense of calm that just adds to the beauty of the end product.

Barring few sparks of brilliance, the current music scene leaves a lot to be desired, and that is insulting to a country as culturally rich and varied as ours. With this album, we come across yet another good attempt at fusing languages with familiar music arrangement and treatment so sensitive, it would melt your heart.

This is an album which is produced with a lot of heart work and hard work and it dazzles!  Thank you The Rajasthan Express, Shye Ben Tzur and Jonny Greenwood!

Good music is a blessing, it is the reason to live. If you don’t trust me, consult this album 🙂

Rohwit

(P.S. – There is a delightfully decorated digital booklet along with the music @iTunes which is beautiful and has translation for all the songs. Grab it!)

Kothanodi

There I lay my head on the pillow, snuggled into my blanket ready to surrender to the world of talking animals and strange beings my mother was about to conjure for me. It was delicious.

Then one day, I found my sister reading a 1000 page fat book with tiny font and pictures. Strange, I thought. In my world only children’s books (or textbooks and magazines) had pictures and never in tiny font. Tiny font was ‘meant for grown-ups’ territory, one to be stayed away from, so boring. But curiosity got the better of me and I went down the rabbit hole a-la Alice and landed in a wonderland of rolling peas, talking trees and 3/6/12-headed dragons. It was a much-to-be-thumbed Book of Ukranian Folk Tales.

None of it was incredulous; magic never is when you are a kid. Just curiouser and curiouser. It was a real world, with real people living in real houses and doing real things, but that world was full of strange phenomena. It brought magic right onto my doorstep. These weren’t Disney’s amusement park-like fairylands visiting me, but home-grown magic churned like butter from daily life with all its shades intact. Kothanodi – River of Fables is something like that.

It opens on the darkest tone possible. A man is burying a living infant in a mysterious forest full of strange, eerie sounds. Wails and whispers are all around, suggesting something sinister is on. And you are intrigued to know more. This seems like more than a fable, more than folklore, you say, when suddenly an elephant apple comes rolling along. It is following a woman, carefully, loyally. A loving father is taking leave of his young daughter as a suspicious-looking step-mother looks on. A python is stealthily being caught in the forest and next thing we know it is being welcomed into a household to be wedded to a human girl. The setting is tribal, somewhere deep in the interiors of Assam, along a river that carries the fables from the shore of one house to another, from one mother to another.

A narrative connect of four mothers weaves four different folktales into one solid film. The screenplay is based on events and characters described in popular Assamese folk tales compiled in the anthology ‘বুঢ়ী আইৰ সাধু’ or Grandma’s Tales, by Assamese literary luminary Lakshminath Bezbaroa, and first published in 1911 (source: link). Each story soaked in the ethos of its space and time, flows in and out of each other.

The mother-daughter thematic motif makes it tempting to dig deeper to look for hidden sub-text of social comment, only to find it is a formal element instead. This realisation dawns as the film draws towards its unique and dreadful conclusions and with it takes away the pressure of decoding it, replacing it with the pleasure of magic realism.

The joy of the film lies in its naturalistic setting and use of melodrama to suitably evoke earthy, home-grown environs of tribal India where witches and teachers, merchants and snake-grooms, mothers and talking dead bodies, live together. The emotional decibel of the film is tuned in balance, with a heightened measure of melodrama where required (in Tejimola and snake-groom stories), and controlled where necessary (the elephant apple story and buried babies stories.) The play then, of the baby burying scene (which plays out in all its eerie glory), cutting in between stories to unsettle the mood a bit, lest the fable become a dream removed from reality, becomes interesting. The joy of a fairy tale is in its mirth and that of a fable in its mystique, while folklore is rooted in common, realistic setting. The more rooted the setting the more absurd and mysterious does the magic seem. Yet, surprisingly more real. You can touch it, almost. And in River of Fables we don’t question the magic, we just let it happen, like we did when we saw it when we were young.

Perhaps, the biggest achievement of the film is bringing magic into the adult, mainstream language back by seizing it from children’s territory to a very adult world and adult problems and demystifying it by laying bare its darkest shades, without sugar-coating, something we don’t encounter often in children’s fables or popular folklore. And here the film does not differentiate or take sides with white or black magic, rather treats it like yin and yang. Exactly how it is. I hope this isn’t reduced to an over-simplified argument of fanning superstition.

The film would have been lesser if not for the gravitas that Adil Hussain, Urmila Mahanta and Seema Biswas lend to their characters and the story. They carry the inter-woven, longform narrative with assured grace and control that is a pleasure to watch.

Certain portions of the film, especially the eerie sequences, do have a tacky, under-done feel, partly in budget, partly in design and partly in imagination. Yet, it does not become a hindrance in enjoying an otherwise delectable fare much like that other gem in the same genre ‘Goynar Boksho’.

I lost my Ukranian folk tales book to a raddiwala because parents mistakenly thought I was too old to be interested in them anymore. River of Fables lessened the ache a little.

Fatema Kagalwala

It’s always a great pleasure to hear the great directors. But it’s a pity that in our country we don’t have too many such events where one gets to hear the directors. And even if it happens, one hardly records the conversation.

At this year’s London Indian Film Festival, filmmaker Mani Ratnam was in conversation with director Peter Webber. And thankfully, they have recorded it too. So here’s the VOTD.

junun

“जिसे जूनून ए मोहब्बत अता किया तूने”

मुझे कव्वाली से कुछ ख़ास लगाव रहा है। छुटपन में कुछ सुनी, अब याद नहीं कैसे कहाँ क्योंकि यादों पे बारिश की ओस जमी है। और बाद में तो ख़ैर शौक ही हो गया, इधर उधर सुन सुन के जैसे शौक बन जाते हैं। मैं आपको थोडा और अंदर ले चलता हूँ की क्यों मैं इससे इतना प्रभावित हुआ। दसवीं ख़त्म हुई थी, एक दोस्त का घर था जहाँ मैं अक्सर जाया करता था। “अबे ये सुन Stairway to heaven, इसे दुनिया का बेस्ट गाना माना जाता है”, इस तरह मेरा परिचय RocknRoll से हुआ। पिछले कुछ सालों से मेरा और कुछ दोस्तों का एक शौक रहा है, नए bands खोजना। और इसी का नतीजा है की एक दिन उसी दोस्त ने मुझे Radiohead के संगीत से मिलवाया। थोड़ी दिक्कत हुई इसे समझने में, पर कहीं न कहीं जुड़ गया मुझसे। Jonny Greenwood क्या चीज़ हैं यह मुझे PTA की ही THERE WILL BE BLOOD से पता चला। Shye Ben-Tzur के संगीत से मैं बिलकुल अंजान था, और जब मैंने उन्हें उर्दू में गाते सुना तो मेरे मन के सारे मेंढक मग्न हुए नाच उठे। मैं शायद आपको समझा न पाऊँ की क्यों मुझे कव्वाली पे नाचने के लिए जाम की ज़रुरत नहीं पड़ती, क्यों मुझे बिना नशा किये Pink Floyd सुनके अजीब ओ गरीब चीज़ें दिखाई देती हैं (और बेख़ुद कर देती हैं), क्यों मैं ISCKON के “प्रभुपाद प्रभुपाद” नाद पे झूम उठता हूँ, हालांकि न मैं उनके प्रभु को मानता हूँ न ही उन्हें। पर मैं यक़ीन से कह सकता हूँ की यह सब एक ही वजह से जुड़ी हुई हैं, मेरे विश्वास से की संगीत और सिनेमा खुद में पूरे हैं। उन्हें निरोध की ज़रुरत नहीं। आप संगीत को सिनेमा से मिला दीजिये और आपको एक पाक़ साफ़ फॉर्म मिलेगा। ‘JUNUN’ यही फॉर्म है।

मेरा मानना है की आर्ट को वैज्ञानिक की ज़रुरत होती है, पथ प्रदर्शन और नए प्रयोगों के लिए। मॉडर्न सिनेमा को जैसे मैंने जाना है, Paul Thomas Anderson मुझे इसके वैज्ञानिक मालूम हुए हैं। हर फ़िल्म एक दूसरे से जुदा, हर फ़िल्म तकनीकी तौर पे पिछली को पीछे छोड़ती हुई। शायद कोई फिक्स्ड स्टाइल न होना ही उनका स्टाइल हैं। तो मैं यह मानके तो गया ही था की JUNUN कुछ ख़ास होगी। Shye और Jonny Greenwood (Radiohead से एक अलग किस्म का प्यार है मेरा, उस band में सब individual genius भरे पड़े हैं) साथ में एक एल्बम बना रहे हैं, और PTA उसे फ़िल्म कर रहे हैं…अब इंसान बौराया नहीं ये सुनके तो दिल नहीं है उसके पास।

यहाँ हम जोधपुर के मेहरानगढ़ फोर्ट में इन कलाकारों को एक माँगणियार क़व्वाल समूह के साथ काम करते देखते हैं। मैं यह हलके में नहीं कहता, और मैं ये मानना चाहूँगा की मैंने काफी संगीत सुना है, पर मैंने ऐसा कुछ पहले कभी नहीं सुना। PTA के ड्रोन शॉट्स जोधपुर को एक नयी परिपक्वाता से देखते हैं। उनके हर फ्रेम में संगीत इस क़दर है की आप दोनों को जुदा करके नहीं देख पाएंगे। एक क़व्वाली, जिससे एल्बम का नाम मालूम हुआ है, ने थिएटर में बैठे सभी को उसी ताल पे ताली बजाने पे मजबूर कर दिया, उनमे से एक मैं भी था। सिनेमा और संगीत का संगम ऐसे बेकाबू कर देता है, मैंने अब जाना। 53 मिनट तक मेरे रौंगटे खड़े रहे, मैं इतना हल्का आदमी तो नहीं हूँ। बाहर निकल के नाचने का मन होने लगा। पर मैं नाच नही पाया, मैं कुछ हल्का आदमी हूँ। ख़ालिस तस्वीर जो होती है, उसमे आर्टिस्ट कहीं न कहीं खुद को बना देता है। यहाँ आपको एक अभिव्यक्ति दिखेगी जिसे आप PTA की पिछली हर फ़िल्म में देख सकते है, Shye aur Jonny के संगीत में देख सकते हैं, इन कव्वालों की ताल में देख सकते हैं। और यही जूनून है, यही मक़सद है, यही ख़ुदा है।

मैं बस इस बेमिसाल मेल को देख के, सुन के पागल सा हो गया, की मुझे अलफ़ाज़ नहीं मिले। अब आप कैसे बयाँ कर सकते हैं की कुछ चीज़ें आपके साथ क्या कर जाएँ ?

मैं तमाम उम्र शब्दों को चेहरा देते आया हूँ, हर शब्द मेरे ज़हन में एक तस्वीर उकेर देता है। अब मुझे कभी “जुनून” की तस्वीर नहीं बनानी पड़ेगी। मैंने उसे साक्षात देखा है। Shye, Jonny और मांगणियारों के संगीत में, PTA की नज़र से, JUNUN में।

कहाँ बुत गिरा, कहाँ चैन पाया
मैं कैसे सुकूँ को सहता हूँ,
बना फलसफा कुछ यूँ ही बड़बड़ाते
मुसलसल जुनूँ में रहता हूँ।

Bhaskarmani Tripathi

(Bhaskarmani Tripathi is a chronically depressed and दिलफेंक individual who wants to make his moments last. Has been called names more than he’s been called by his name, not that there’s anything wrong with it. Hates adjectives, loves Hindi and Urdu and Almost Famous. Believes Rock n Roll saved his life. Although never seen, this is one of his most favourite moments in cinema. Tweets at @bolnabey)

(You can watch the film at Mubi)