Archive for February, 2017

Its been a while since we have posted a new film in our Sunday Shorts segment. But this week, we got a new short by Sumit Aroraa. Watch it.

white_shirt_final_posterSynopsis – There is trouble in Aveek and Vani’s paradise. Their relationship is falling apart and all that holds them together is one white shirt.

Written and Directed By: Sumit Aroraa

Actors : Kritika Kamra  and Kunal Kapoor

Director of Photography: Surjodeep Ghosh (Sulemani Keeda)

Music and Background Score: Advait Nemlekar

Salman Rushdie recently wrote a column championing the film, Lion. If you haven’t read it, click here. As the Oscar buzz builds up for the film, we asked its India Casting Director Tess Joseph to write about her experience working on the film.

(click on any pic to start the slide show)

Since that afternoon in early June 2014 when we began casting for Garth Davis’ Lion to February 22nd, 2017, today, standing here at the at the Academy Awards Nominees dinner, it has been an unbelievable journey.

It began with a story, the unbelievable yet true journey of Saroo Brierley who found his mother after being lost for 25 years. The task was not easy, we had to find a Little Saroo, possibly 5-6 years with talent, stillness, depth and innocence. We also needed to find his teenaged brother Guddu, a nurturer and who would evolve into a beacon through the story, and a host of other characters. The casting processes were happening simultaneously: Kirsty Mc Gregor (Casting Director) and her team looking for the older Saroo while we searched for the younger one.

One thing was clear, this casting was not going to happen out of the hub of all things films in Mumbai – the suburb Versova or any audition room across the city. We needed to go back to our basics at India Casting Call, something we had done for Life of Pi and SOLD, we had to go back to school. We also needed the children to travel to Australia as part of the shoot so paperwork to support a passport application was imperative. Kirsty McGregor and I were on the same page from the moment we began: if my task of meeting and conducting workshops with classrooms full of children in India was daunting, Kirsty had to review each and every single audition in a language she didn’t understand. We did this together with almost choreographed synchronicity.

I had a team that was a force to reckon with – Karishma Mathur, an actress and drama teacher helmed the project alongside me. Her love and patience for working with children can beat anyone hands down. My young casting associates Aishwarya Amin and Bhawan Jha were invaluable. Then there was Vaibhav Gupta, who would go on to becoming Sunny Pawar’s acting coach on set and an integral of the film and production. We also had colleagues in Pune and Delhi helping us extend our search for the perfect Little Saroo. I will say, pick your team wisely, each one must balance the other and contribute something unique and valuable to the process.

Always, we tried out all the scenes as a team. Sometimes, I see audition tapes where Karishma is curled up like Little Saroo or Bhawan is desperately searching for Guddu. When your team has experienced the characters and the scenes, they understand on which moments the scenes pivot, they understand what it takes; they are always aware and looking for that during the auditions.

For this film we were working through schools with classrooms full of children. We used storytelling and games to observe the reactions of the kids. Each team member would pick potential candidates. We never shared who we thought might be right because that creates bias. With children the only way to unleash something special is patience and being completely non-judgmental. Don’t dismiss someone because you think they are not “right,” give them a chance and who knows they might surprise you.

Abhishek Bharate, who plays Guddu in the film auditioned with us on 7 June 2014 – if you have a good filing system it’s never hard to find anyone who has auditioned for you. Looking back at the tapes from that day I noticed something very special. Abhishek who lives between Pune and Mumbai had come in early that morning. He finished his audition quickly and he was on the top of our list from the start. But the thing that shines from that day was that Abhishek stayed for almost the whole day playing Guddu to so many younger boys who had come in. At one point when I asked him, “Don’t you have other things to do?” he replied, “No Didi, this is good. I get to do the scenes in different ways… I like it.” It’s that spirit that even Garth mentions about Abhishek, his generosity as an actor and to Sunny. A glimpse of that generosity was seen way before, even when he came for the audition. It is rare to see any actor offer what Abhishek did and I guess that is what made him the one actor I was willing to fight for if it came down to him and another actor. As a Casting Director, I feel you get to pick one actor who is worth fighting for on every film, someone you will come in with more than one reason to support because they bring more than just talent to the film.

Casting Saroo’s mom, also, was a moment of serendipity. We had many significant and amazing actors audition for the role but, even now, when I play back Priyanka Bose’s tape, there is magic. Garth and Kirsty did not know of her but when they saw her audition they felt it too – magic. Maybe, it was Priyanka’s own experiences as a mom that brought truth to the scenes, maybe it was her sheer determination, maybe we will never know what exactly she brought into the room that day but with it she ensured that no one else would play Kamla.

The entire India cast — be it Nawazuddin Siddique, Deepti Naval or Tannishtha Chatterjee— all came on board after reading and believing that there was something special about this story. They all had short yet pivotal roles and Tannishtha’s role evolved from a rewrite.

We were not only looking for a lot of young talent for Lion, my team was also pretty young. Aishwarya was all of 20 years and without her we would have never found Sunny. He was discovered in her school in Kalina from hundreds of students who auditioned. Sunny came to us after we had screened about 2,000 children from across three cities. We had shortlists and hopefuls, and Sunny was one among them. Kirsty, Karishma and I loved his face. He had soulful eyes, a certain stillness and husky voice. It was not until the September workshops did Sunny come alive as Little Saroo with help from acting coach Miranda Harcourt, who was assisted by Vaibhav and Karishma. I remember Garth’s face when we were looking at pictures of Sunny with Abhishek. Garth was in love. The team was heading next to Pune and Delhi for final workshops and callbacks but we knew we already had one solid choice for Little Saroo – Sunny Pawar.

I find it strange sometimes that we pick out “preparation for a film” as an exception to the rule. We rave about an actor making physical changes or building his body. Preparation is key to any film and it’s the little things that count, like requesting a school to allow Sunny or Abhishek to not cut their hair or reminding them to be careful about what they eat. These are things that every actor must do.

Similarly, the casting process demands time, a method and a great team. When you do have all three, you find Lion cubs with roaring performances like Sunny’s, Abhishek’s, Keshav’s and the many amazing children who are part of the film.

And in my case, I also find myself mulling over this whole process with a smile pasted silly on my face at the Academy Awards Nominee’s dinner, dressed in the fancy red and gold Sabyasachi ensemble, staring at the text message from my friend back home informing me that I am the first Indian casting director nominated for Casting Society of America’s Artios Awards for Best Casting and also one of the first (Indian casting director again) to be invited to the Academy Awards Nominee’s Dinner for extraordinary contribution to a Best Picture Nominee. I am not too sure about that heavy accolade but it definitely feels magical to be appreciated in La La La.

Central Board Of Film Certification (CBFC) has refused to certify Alankrita Srivastava’s film Lipstick Under My Burkha. And the reason given are pure WTF. Here is the letter issued by CBFC. Do read.

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Click here to read the full report. This is not the first time that they have been so dumb about certifying a film. And this surely won’t be the last. With bonafide morons at the helm of affairs, what else can one expect.

And the best part is the film has been doing the fest rounds for quite some time and has been getting some great reviews.

 

The 2017 edition of Berlin International Film Festival has come to an end and the awards were declared tonight. Some good news for two Indian films at the Berlinale – Amit Masurkar’s Newton and Amar Kaushik’s Aaba.

Newton was given the CICAE Art Cinema Award in the Forum section of the fest. The “Confédération Internationale des Cinémas d’Art et d’Essai” (C.I.C.A.E.), the International Confederation of Art House Cinemas, forms one jury for the Panorama and one for the Forum. Each jury awards one prize in its section. Pedro Barbadillo, Tanja Milicic and Rainer Wothe were in the jury panel for Forum section.

CICAE was founded in 1956 by the national art house cinema associations of Germany, France, the Netherlands and Switzerland as an international lobby or pressure-group in order to support the art cinema sector and to protect the cinematographic diversity against the supremacy of so-called commercial filmmaking. Since then it unites about 3000 independent as well as already nationally associated art house cinemas, 15 festivals and a certain number of film distributors from approximately 30 countries from all over the world in an international umbrella association.

The Art Cinema Award is awarded twelve times a year to art house films at certain cooperating festivals such as the Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes, Panorama and Berlin International Film Festival in Berlin and the Venice Film Festival.

Amar’s Kaushik’s Aaba has been awarded the Special Prize of the Generation Kplus International Jury for the Best Short Film. This includes cash award of  € 2,500 by the Deutsches Kinderhilfswerk (The Children’s Charity of Germany). The jury noted that it tells a story of the circle of life in an elegiac and slow pace with a beautiful cinematography.

Filmmaker Gurvinder Singh has been quite vocal about the steps that the Government has taken regarding Film and Television Institute Of India (FTII) in the last two years. He criticised Gajendra Singh’s appointment, and also refused the National Award last year in protest against the choices made by the jury. Now, there is another controversy regarding a diploma film which was being shot. Click here to read about it.

On his FB page, Gurvinder has clarified his stand on the controversy.

Some stills from ‘Sea of Lost Time’, the diploma film for acting students of FTII which I was directing but stopped midway due to exceeding the ‘shooting ratio’!

The real reasons though lie elsewhere. ‘Shooting ratio’ is a relic from the age of shooting on film stock. One student was rusticated just before the shoot started. He filed a writ petition in the Bombay High Court challenging his rustication and pleading he be allowed to act in the film. I gave a statement stating if the court allows he can join the shoot. Which is what the court did. That made the FTII administration, and specially the Head of Department of Acting, Tom Alter, see red. And dutifully the axe fell on the shoot.

The reason: I had exceeded the shooting ratio! Yes, I did. But the norm was thrown at me after the shoot started. I even offered to delete the excessive footage and comply with the norm for rest of the shoot if the norm was so vital to the shooting of the film. But no. All pleas fell on deaf ears. I was given a letter asking to proceed with editing the half-shot film! The entire class and the crew of the film are being penalised for supporting the rusticated student. I wonder if the film will be completed ever.

But we shall fight! The work of the students and all of us who have worked hard on the film deserves to be seen. But the film under production is of no concern to the administration of the Institute. All they care for is ‘norms’ and ‘rules’, which helps them in their vendetta. Tom Alter, backed by the Director and the Chairman of the Institute, and I suppose with full backing of the I&B ministry, have all ganged up to stop this shoot. This is what happens when you appoint mediocre people who have no eligibility to head such institutes.

Vengeance is all that they are there for.

He also shared some stills from the shoot. Click on any still to start the slide show.

(PS – And if you are philistine like this current Government or Gajendra Chauhan, bit on Gurvinder here – An alumni of FTII, Gurvinder Singh is one of the most promising and fearless young filmmaking talent in the current generation. Chauthi Koot (The Fourth Direction) premiered at Cannes Film Festival in 2015. His debut feature film, Anhe Ghorey De Daan, was selected to premiere at Venice International Film Festival. And it bagged 3 National Film Awards – For Direction, Cinematography, and for Best Punjabi Film)

Amit Masurkar’s new film Newton had its world premiere at the ongoing Berlin International Film Festival. Here’s all the buzz about the film from the fest.

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Finding humour in the tenuous nature of democracy might be a hard task on the global stage at present; however, in Newton’s darkly comic exploration of one official’s attempt to uphold the election process in India, it’s simpler than it sounds. The second film from writer/director Amit V Masurkar bows in Berlinale’s Forum section with a sense of chaos and absurdity, while remaining aware of the drama of reality. When the feature emphasises either extreme, it proves engaging viewing.

–  From Screen Daily’s review. Click here to read the full review.

– Rajeev Masand’s video-blog on the film –

 

Newton is a very important film, despite its satirical tones, laced with a lot of humour and irony. It is a film that should make viewers think about how important their right to cast a vote is.

– from Aseem Chhabra’s report on the film. Click here to read the full report

Newton is a brave attempt. Because it uses the feature film format to tell a story about on-going violence and exploitation and cynical political aggrandisement : anytime you hear the words Naxal, or Maoist in a film, it falls into the tried and tested formula. Newton breaks that mould, refreshes hardened tropes, and makes us smile and think. Really hard. Because what effects India Interior today will one day ripple over and claw its way into our complacent urban, mall-infested enclaves.

– from Indian Express. Click here to read the full report.

– Some tweets on the film:

(pics taken from Twitter)

2wwi_swa_screenwriting_workshop

2016 can be called the year of the Indian screenwriter! With a slew of films powered by some scintillating scripts blazing new trails, the scramble for good scripts gets a shot in the arm. Writers’ visions seem to be driving storytelling in the Hindi film industry. Those who were part of this trail-blazing year are happy to share their knowledge, experience and guidance, via interactive masterclasses in the workshop!

With the aid of new examples, references and illustrations, the Workshop Instructor will cover all the useful principles of screenwriting, the navrasa theory, Indian mythology, copyright law, writers’ contracts, and offer professional guidance.

WORKSHOP INSTRUCTOR

Anjum Rajabali (Drohkaal, Ghulam, The Legend of Bhagat Singh, Raajneeti): Head of Screenwriting at Whistling Woods, erstwhile honorary head of Screenplay Writing at FTII, and an activist of SWA. Conducts workshops, script labs, seminars and fellowships for screenwriters in India and abroad.

Guest Speakers

Jaideep Sahni (Chak De India),  Shakun Batra (Kapoor & Sons), Nitesh Tiwari (Dangal) (TBC), Gauri Shinde (Dear Zindagi), Juhi Chaturvedi (Piku), Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari (Nil Battey Sannata), Sriram Raghavan (Badlapur), Shridhar Raghavan (Dum Maro Dum), Nikhil Mehrotra (Dangal), Shreyas Jain (Dangal)

FEE

For SWA members: Rs. 8500/- (Inclusive of taxes, tea/coffee and lunch on all days)

For non-SWA members: Rs. 11000/- (Inclusive of taxes, tea/coffee and lunch on all days)

*If you wish to become an SWA member, please visit www.fwa.co.in

VENUE

5th Veda Auditorium, Whistling Woods International, Film City, Goregaon East, Mumbai – 65

– For more information and to register for the workshop, please call 30916003 or email: kanchi.parikh@ whistlingwoods.net