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I have loved Zohaib Kazi’s work for a while now and that is why I was over the moon to hear that he is going to be on the driving seat for season 11. He has anyway been associated till season 6. The buzz started with CokeStudio Explorer that featured 4 songs with varied artists and barring the last song, everything felt nice, solid and quite trippy. After explorer ended, curtain was raised on the season opener song and in came Hum Dekhenge. I loved it then and I love it now. The artist line up was just way too tempting and too good to be true. Anyway, I won’t go on and on episode-wise as you can find it here. Our picks from this season are as under:

Baalkada The way this song started made me soar like an airplane. Naghma & Lucky were fantastic! Jimmy Khan’s presence works like a balm. The gamut of genres that CokeStudio Pakistan has touched should be a case study to those who ‘do music’ in our country as well. We need to just look at the arc of emotions CokeStudio Pakistan has chosen. Arey mujhse pooch lo yaar, I will make an excel sheet for you containing those details and I will lend my time for free to you. At least touch some other genres, Dear Indian music movements!?

Rap hai sara -. The way this song has been done, it has raised the swag factor of CokeStudio in multiples. All the boys ran a riot in the studio. I last smirked at someone’s entry when Bohemia entered the studio in ‘Kandyari dhal Geet’. Young desi has bettered it. If this song was a part of a concert in a big stadium, this song would have EVERYONE take their shirts off and throw them on the stage. Lyari underground is a revealation and I loved their part as well. Confession – I prefer watching this song that hearing it and trust me, I have watched it way too much, super super stuff! (ande waala burger reference here)

Rashamama – Zarsanga makes a dashing entry to the studio and aided with Khumariyaan and a superb Babar ali khanna, she holds your attention and makes you sway with the absolute magical track. Yet another song that widens the arc of the genres which CokeStudio Pakistan explores with every passing season. Zarsanga is plain brilliance on display and her woi allah! calls are a hoot! The song then pauses and what is possibly the best moment in asserting Cokestudio Pakistan’s swag (watch how the camera pans, the music that accompanies the angle from roughly at 3:07 mins to 3:14 mins to know what I mean), Gul Panra gives her interpretation of the song. Her part is more contemporary and filled with modern arrangement which doesn’t feel bad (or wrong) either.

Nami danamChand tara orchestra, under the guidance of Omran Shafique gave us this gem. There was too much happening in terms of lighting and not in a good way. Barring that, this song soared. They should have named the song Raqs-e-bismil. I have a positive bias to Chand tara orchestra because of their name and sound. Before this season, I didn’t know about them. It is very very good to see old cokestudio musicians take the lead in inducting new artists. Like Babar has done in last few songs and my heartthrob Omran has done here…What a fantastic, liberating song! Me raqsam Me raqsam…indeed

Jind mahiya – A slow, almost reggae like pace mixed with obvious habibi influence is what catches your attention from the first second in the song. Shuja Haider’s composition is as free flowing as his singing and even though in the BTS video, he insisted it is a chichora song, the song comes across as adorable and way too catchy. This is like ‘rockstar’ without self deprecating tone and peppered with innocence. This is exactly the kind of execution that I was waiting for since the season started. The houseband played up perfectly and there was nothing over the top and surprisingly, the song sounds very well produced. Lest I forget, the dholak play from Babar added just the right amount of nasha. Easily, the first song of the season that I loved without any ‘if’ or ‘but’. Thumbs up!

Ya QurbanKhumariyaan boys made me go mad. I absolutely loved what they have done here. The song, the dance, the vibe, the happiness that dripped from their soul via their song and instruments…this is vintage CokeStudio Pakistan, this is what we wait for when CokeStudio Pakistan announces a new season. You can make half talented musicians stand and ‘fuse’ their work like there is no tomorrow, but it takes a special khaalis presentation like this to blow your mind away. How about those maddening whistles? Everything, just about everything is top notch here. Not a note wrong, excellently done boys! Fun bit – check out the Game of Thrones opening credits done by the boys here – Game of Thrones Main Theme (Cover) by Khumariyaan

Balaghal ula Be Kamalihi – When she sings, Lord hears. Simple. These are Gulzar’s words but ring in true everytime I see (holding both ears as I say her name) Her Highness Abida Parveen. There is really nothing that comes to mind when I try to analyse this song because this here is not a track, it is devotion finding its way to our souls. A magnificent presentation. Please explore it.

Wah jo kalaam – Penned by Asrar and along with him, Shamu Bai and Vishnu played a riot of colors and beauty in what is one of the best songs in all of 11 years of the studio in Pakistan. I have always had a bit of a problem with Shamu’s pitch but here, Asrar has used that to the track’s advantage. With zero accompaniment from the studio houseband, this beautiful song hits your core being like a bolt of lighting. Talking of Zero accompainment from houseband, I suspect Shamu bai was using her own Harmonium and Vishnu was using his own Dholak. The melodious strum and humming from Asrar in the beginning reminds you of all the good things that music and all of us have lost over the years. There seems to be zero innocence of ‘being’ these days in anything. For a moment, let us all just remind ourselves of this powerhouse called Asrar who has a lot that is yet to be exploited by the popular scene. Don’t you love his ‘wah wah’ in the song? A pucca performer. Do check his ‘Gaddiye’ as well, if you have time. I get a strong feeling that Vishnu will, in the years to come, make more appearances in the studio. What a brilliant command this lad has…especially the way he picked up Hyder hyder part. This is the song that, everytime when it ends, leaves me weeping. Kudos to the producers for letting this song be.

Luddi hai jamaalo – The studio always has an ace up its sleeves when it comes to re-imagining old film songs. I can’t say the same about non film songs and yes I am still sore with the wounds of Hawa Hawa. In Luddi Hai Jamalo the studio has shown how the old songs are to be touched up. The way they have added violins and the opening la la la is exactly what they should have touched up Hawa Hawa. Here, Humaira Arshad and Ali Sethi have done a decent job of sticking to the song yet adding their touch. I absolutely loved the way the sound has been managed, it sounds so fresh yet vintage. The last minute or so where the song really accelerates doesn’t feel out of sync or mood. I didn’t feel anything outstanding about Humaira’s part but I was blown away by Ali Sethi. Can this man do any wrong? I really don’t think so. If I were a ruler with a kingdom, I would have relinquished all to this man just for his ‘Howaan tathon paray Kyon mera dil daray, Chad kay duniya saari, Teray tay kyon waray’ part in the song. I am not kidding.

Aurangzeb – by Mughal-e-funk is quite an interesting track for the simple reason that it explores a genre within a genre. Presenting Aurangzeb‘s reign and conflicts via instrumental is totally a new way to present instrumental tracks. The houseband and especially Babar ali Khanna really came together to touch up Mughal-e-funk‘s exciting presentation in the studio. Excellent Sitar, Superlative Harmonium and a solid backup vocalist sound…what’s not to like? (I know, the lighting..! still…I liked this track)

Ko ko korina – I am from Lucknow and one of the reasons I love CokeStudio Pakistan is that they showcase the music from their region which I may not have come across earlier. Personally speaking, while growing up, I was more intrested in exploring Umar Sharif’s plays and swaying on Hawa Hawa than anything else. So when I saw CokeStudio reimagine what they have posted as ‘infamous’ Ko Ko Korina, I was hearing it for the first time. I know I will lose a lot of friends here but I didn’t find this song bad at all. I in fact liked how the studio, in a rare display of self control, conducted the song with the right amount of mischief and melody. No, I didn’t find Ahad Raza Mir or Momina Mustehsan out of tune. I would still say that Momina was struggling in Antras but largely lovely lovely song. I then went and checked the original song and well, I could still not get myself to dislike this re-imagination. I am just raving mad at the studio for what they did with Hawa Hawa. One might argue, that my grouse with Hawa Hawa‘s re-imagination is because unlike Ko Ko Korina, I have grown up with Hawa Hawa, so I am not as emotionally invested with Ko ko as I am with Hawa Hawa. I will disagree to that train of thought for the simple reason that Ko Ko Korina‘s re-imagination didn’t take any unneccesary turns and the pace and treatment was upbeat (what a lovely guitar – keyboard play by Rufus and Momo by the way!), Whereas the Hawa Hawa reimagination was half hearted, sounded dead on arrival and took that unnecessary tirbal turn which still haunts me at night. So there, that is my take. I liked Ko Ko Korina! Someone please join me and let us petition the studio to re-re-imagine Hawa Hawa?

In addition to the above:

  • Shikwa/Jawab e shikwa – was so good till Natasha baig’s part. To me she has been the find of the season. Still, the usually dependable Fareed Ayaz & Abu Muhammad Qawwal put me off this time and I couldn’t bring myself to repeat the song just because of them and this applies to their self absorbed ‘piya ghar aaya’ as well. Sad.
  • Runaway – would have been much better with just Krewella.
  • I absolutely loved the first 3 mins of dil hai pakistani
  • I disliked the way Main iraada came together. That was cacophony and largely due to excessive artists and over the top audio mixing
  • I liked Dastan-e-moomal rano but couldn’t sit through the whole of it on repeated listening. I like the subtle presentation of the song.
  • Illallah was so good but was let down by poor lyrics and somehow ‘aaja piya tori yaad satave’ sounded like a mifit with the mood of the song. Hear the first 2 odd mins of the song though to see what this song could have been.
  • I disliked the uncertainity about ‘will this be a 3 song or 4 song episode’. Nope don’t play with that. Please.

Some of the best music memories that I have since the last 10 odd years are attributed to CokeStudio Pakistan. Some of the most aggressive views that have popped up in my head have been a result of poor imitation of CokeStudio 11 by other movements in and outside Pakistan, CokeStudio at MTV for one. What happens when the movement you have come to love starts showing signs of becoming a bad parody of itself? That is exactly what happened with the season 11 and it pains me to write this because in my books, even when CokeStudio Pakistan is bad, it is miles ahead of garbage that is masquerading as ‘music movement’ in and around the subcontinent. Make no mistake, it is not just Season 11 that has disappointed. The downward spiral has continued since Rohail has departed and the only exception to that has been the superbly Season 8. Though I would not write off Zohaib and Ali Hamza, I would like a little bit of ‘pause’ in the execution. Everything need not be over the top, extra experimental and please slow down those maddening lights. Lastly, please don’t play around with melody and defile it like you have done with Hawa Hawa this year. Ever.

Love from India

P.S. – Bhaga ke le jaunga Ali Sethi ko main ek din, dekhta reh jayea Pakistan aur dekhta reh jayega India. Yep.

P.S.2. – Please fire whoever has been in charge of audio mixing this season.

Image and video courtesy – CokeStudio.com.pk – You can download all songs for free from here.

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Sounds offensive no? But it’s a fact that you are acting like bhakts and here’s why.

Illogical
Do you know bhakts are supposed to be illogical? Shazia has rationally pointed out all the holes in your decision here so there isn’t much to say there. But your response? Well, it is stupider than Modi’s logic for climate change. (Look it up here ) We thought you wanted to open a conversation, your response shows you don’t even know where to begin. No communication, no valid reason presented to her. Why? Is it too much to ask you to think critically? If yes, then you are no better than bhakts and all the talk of independent cinema and artists voices is baloney. If no, then think.

Herd mentality
If you can think you will know you are jumping on a bandwagon without really standing up for anything. Just like bhakts keep shouting ‘hindu khatre mein hain’ at every given opportunity without knowing jackshit about what Hindu means. Or Hindustan for that matter. Just because everyone is high on moral outrage you are high on it too. Sorry, this way your voice and stand becomes more irrelevant than you think. But oh, I forgot you cannot think. For yourselves.

Righteousness
Are you a film festival or a Khap Panchayat? I smell so much self-congratulatory pride in your actions and statements. Why? Suddenly you have become all righteous and in the weird most way possible. Oxfam is Ok with you, Lars Von Trier is Ok with you but Bebaak is not. Even after all mentions of the co-producer in question have been removed. And yet, his involvement in other projects go unnoticed. Really now? Who made you the Sarpanch of the me too movement? And a patriarchal one that too.

Convenience
Bhakts have no identity of their own, they derive it from their idols. By taking a stand that is as pointless as it is stupid, you seem to be trying to latch on to the identity of the me too movement because you have none of your own (you can’t have an identity if you can’t think for yourself, btw) Your decision seems to be a strictly PR exercise to keep a good, clean, progressive image in public. A ‘show’ to display you are on the ‘right’ side. That is what patriarchy has done all along. Are you any better? Doesn’t look like to me.

Sense of ownership
Have you noticed bhakts demanding India be exactly the way they wish to be? Have you noticed that all who don’t fall in line are summarily lynched and removed from the system? Do you really think the me too movement is simply about arbitrarily disconnecting those who don’t agree with you? Not only have you denied Shazia a fair hearing, your responses show you wish to have no conversation about it because you seem to know what you are doing is right. Somehow that is enough and Shazia has no place or say in the matter. Wonderful. I thought only bhakts did that. The me too movement, is not yours alone to decide what to do with it. Just like India does not belong to the bhakts alone.

Entitlement
The me too movement is a variety of things for all of us, women and men alike, small and big alike. For some it is about speaking up, for some remaining silent, for some taking action, for some backing off. But for all of this to have happened, women and men alike, have taken individual stands. They have made difficult choices. They have lost friends, reputations and careers among other things, to ensure we finally call out hypocrisy and entitlement. Your stand reeks of both to me, hypocrisy and entitlement. Will you call yourself out? Guess, that would be bad for PR. If you won’t you don’t stand in solidarity with the movement because the one thing it has taught us all is where we all are complicit in the system. But you seem to be a system unto yourself and an ill-thought out one at that. Doesn’t it remind of you something called the bhakt behavior?

Any answers to all of the above? If not, try watching Bebaak again, you may still have a copy. May help you develop a brain. And a spine.

Btw, Bebaak means fearless.

Fatema Kagalwala
A very disappointed film fan who also happens to be a feminist.

The hype, the excitement, the wait ends today.
Sriram Raghavan’s Andhadhun releases. And everyone is eager to watch it to know the answers to the questions the trailer raised.

Meanwhile, why not give a viewing to the short that is supposed to have given Sriram Raghavan the core idea of the movie?

Here’s French short The Piano Tuner, by Olivier Treiner.


While we all wait for Rima Das’ Village Rockstars’ theatrical release, there is more good news for the film and its fans.

Village Rockstars has been selected as India’s official submission to the Best Foreign Language Film category at the Academy Awards, popularly known as the Oscars.

The 12-member selection committee of the Film Federation of India, led by Kannada producer-director Rajendra Babu, announced the decision after watching 28 entries, which included Meghna Gulzar’s Raazi, R Balki’s Padman, Shoojit Sircar’s October, Dipesh Jain’s Gali Guleiyan, Nila Madhab Panda’s Halka, Siddharth Malhotra’s Hichki, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmaavat, Tabrez Noorani’s Love Sonia, Ashwin Nag’s Savitri biopic Mahanati, Ravi Jadhav’s Nude, Chezhiyan’s To-let, Rahi Barve’s Tumbbad, Sukumar’s Rangasthalam, Rahul Bhole and Vinit Kanojia’s Reva and Deb Medhekar’s Kabuliwala adaptation Bioscopewala.

The director-cinematographer-editor-producer Rima Das says, “I have been waiting for this day and praying! Luckily, I got this news in my village at Chhayagaon, Assam (I arrived last night) I am glad that I am with my family and the cast of the film. Otherwise, a news like this, if you are alone in some far off land, could put you off the balance! Although I have been jumping around uncontrollably and creating all sorts of a nuisance. I still can’t believe that our film is India’s Oscar entry. I am pinching myself, screaming shouting with joy.”

She adds, “We are totally overwhelmed by the announcement that Village Rockstars is India’s official entry to Oscar this year. I am so grateful to the selection committee for believing in our film.”

The film which had its World Premiere at Toronto International Film Festival and India Premiere at Mumbai Film Festival 2018 has screened in more than 70 prestigious international and national film festivals and won 44 awards including 4 National Awards (Best Feature, Best Editing, Audiography and Child Artist).

It was an official selection at Film Bazaar Recommends (at NFDC Film Bazaar 2016), 2017 Marche du Film (Cannes) Work-In-Progress, San Sebastian International Film Festival 2017.

Until now only three Indian films have made it till the last round and were, as a result, nominated in the foreign language film category at the Oscars – Mehboob Khan’s Mother India (1957), Mira Nair’s Salaam Bombay! (1988), and Ashutosh Gowariker’s Lagaan (2001).

The 91st Academy Awards is scheduled to be held on February 24, 2019.

Here’s Rima Das sharing her joy on Twitter:

(click on any pic to start the slide show)

Vasan Bala’s Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota (The Man Who Feels No Pain) became not only the first Indian film to be featured in Toronto International Film Festival’s Midnight Madness, but also the first Indian film to get the Grolsch People’s Choice Award in the same segment.

Here’s Vasan’s acceptance speech at TIFF…

 

And this is how the film was introduced by the Midnight Madness curator Peter Kuplowsky. So much fun!

Here’s all the early reviews from TIFF:

Writer-director Vasan Bala’s wild and wacky yet also warm and fuzzy fable about a resourceful young man who transcends ostensible physical limitations to become a two-fisted, swift-kicking hero likely will prove to be an irresistible crowd-pleaser on the global fest circuit, and in international release on various platforms.

Review on Variety by Joe Leydon

But those getting superhero fatigue should not worry, for along came an Indian superhero origin story inspired by every action movie on the planet that’s so funny and meta, Deadpool is crying of jealousy. This is The Man Who Feels No Pain.

Review at Bloody Disgusting by Rafael Motamayor

Through the tongue-in-cheek humor and mind-blowing action, the makers of the film manage to capture the crowd-pleasing essence of a masala film, without any of the problematic aspects of the genre. In a time where every Bollywood movie is eager to teach and preach, ‘Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota’ takes you back to the time 7-year-old you broke your leg trying to leap into a flying kick. But instead of yelling at you for being an idiot, Vasan Bala gives you a mat to cushion your next fall and a bottle of water to keep you hydrated.

Review at BizAsia by Sahar Junejo

His film, whose title toys with Amitabh Bachchan’s 1985 Mard, summons many adorable tropes of Bollywood and superhero films — bachpan ke dost, dadaji as teacher-mentor, mother’s murder and a haunting chain, limping and one-legged martial arts masters, evil villains — but each one has its own dancing, subversive curlicue that twists and twirls the cliches, making them funny, cool, with oodles of street cred.

Review by Suparna Sharma

– Review at NowToronto by Norman Wilner

When master of the modern Hindi noir, Sriram Raghavan, announced his next project ‘Andhadhun’, there was a lot of discussion around the name, what it meant, and how it was supposed to be spelt. And of course, what the movie would be about.

The trailer and new poster for the film was released today (film’s new release date is now 5th October), and it shows that it is the love story of a blind pianist, who meets a terrific girl and then another woman, and then many things happen to him. Among his inspirations for the film Raghavan counts Fargo, both the film and the series.

The premise is interesting enough, and the trailer makes it even more so. The IMDB synopsis on the film reads: “He sees what he shouldn’t. She sees what he couldn’t. So the question is, does he see it or not?”

The trailer also revealed that the film stars famous 70s actor Anil Dhawan, which is causing much excitement amongst fans.

Here’s the trailer of the film:

Starring: Radhika Apte, Ayushmann Khurana, Tabu, and Anil Dhawan
Producer: Matchbox Pictures, Viacom18 Motion Pictures
Writer & Director: Sriram Raghavan
Editor: Pooja Ladha Surti
Co-writer: Arijit Biswas
Music: Amit Trivedi
Lyrics: Jaideep Sahni
Release: 5th October 2018

Here is Sriram’s interview regarding the film on Scroll.

The 2nd edition of Singapore South Asian International Film Festival 2018 (Sg.SAIFF) will open with actor-director Nandita Das’ Manto which stars Nawazuddin Siddiqui in the titular role as Sadat Hassan Manto and follows the most tumultuous years and times in the life of the famed writer and of the two countries he inhabits — India and Pakistan.

The 2nd edition of the festival held from 5th to 14th October 2018 in Singapore will commence with an opening ceremony on 5th October at Carnival Cinema and close on 13th October at Resorts World Sentosa will also include the awards ceremony.

The film was chosen for the prestigious Un Certain Regard section at Cannes 2018 and features an impressive ensemble of actors including Rasika Duggal, Rajshri Deshpande, Rishi Kapoor and Paresh Rawal. The screening at SGSAIFF 2018 marks the film’s South East Asian premiere and will be attended by Nandita Das.

Das who will be presenting the film at the festival says, “We are delighted to screen Manto as the opening film at SGSAIFF. Manto was very much a South Asian writer. But unlike the Europeans, we South Asians do not own this identity, despite many cultural and social similarities amongst the countries in the region. Therefore, it is important to support such festivals that celebrate cinema from the Subcontinent. Last year, SGSAIFF screened a film I acted in, Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyun Aata Hai as the opening film, which is yet to be released. I was unfortunately unable to make it. So, I very much look forward to attending it this year.”

Abhayanand Singh, Chairperson of SGSAIFF, whose association with Nandita Das started with Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyun Aata Hai, the film co-produced by his production company, Muvizz says, “It’s a great honour to open the 2nd edition of SGSAIFF with one of the most important Indian films of this year, MANTO. We are happy that Nandita Das accepted our invitation to come and present the film at the festival.”

The SGSAIFF 2018 lineup which will be announced shortly includes an interesting mix of features, documentaries and shorts which includes titles from India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nepal and Afghanistan.

About The South Asian Singapore Film Festival

Singapore South Asian International Film Festival (Sg.SAIFF) is devoted to a greater appreciation of South Asian cinema and culture. The festival seeks to support emerging filmmakers, open a fertile space for dialogue and collaborations within the industry, and most significantly share with the audience of Singapore the diverse and complex experiences of South Asia through the intimate storytelling medium of cinema.

With the impetus to effectively channel the expansion of South Asian cinema beyond the subcontinent and engage with a wider spectrum of audience. Singapore with its sizable population of South Asian descent, is a natural choice for this purpose. Supported by the Singapore Indian High Commission(IHC), the festival is a landmark initiative to serve as a cultural gateway between the global city of Singapore and the developing nations of South Asia.

Singapore, being the gateway of Asia, only enhances the potential of the festival to emerge as the melting pot of diverse cultures using cinema as a medium.