Archive for the ‘film’ Category

With Anurag Kashyap’s latest film, Mukkabaaz, having its premiere at the ongoing Toronto International Film Festival, more details are out now.

Here’s fest director Cameron Bailey’s note on the film, which tells you more about the film

A lower-caste boxer struggles to make his mark on the boxing world, in the highly anticipated film from Anurag Kashyap.

Vital, insightful, and thoroughly cinematic, Anurag Kashyap’s The Brawler follows in the tradition of the great boxing films of the past. But the director of Gangs of Wasseypur gives his take on the sweet science a boldly Indian spin. The set-up offers the genre’s familiar underdog hero, but this film lands a satisfying punch against the injustices and hypocrisies that keep India’s sporting underdogs exactly where they are.

Shravan (Vineet Kumar Singh) is a lower-caste boxer with a tempered edge, struggling to leave his mark and making the case with his fists that he deserves a chance to compete. His career is threatened after he delivers a nasty right hook to the face of Bhagwan — his employer, the local kingpin, and the top boxing promoter in the region. Following this melee, Bhagwan does everything he can to stop Shravan from ascending up the ranks, including preventing him from pursuing the woman he has fallen in love with, Sunaina. Bhagwan will go to any length to punish and humiliate Shravan. But what he doesn’t count on is Shravan’s tough-mindedness. He’s been an underdog all his life and will stop at nothing to go all the way to the Indian National Boxing Championship.

Based on a true story, The Brawler is an enthralling, action-packed tale about corruption and crime in Indian sports. But at the heart of Kashyap’s narrative is a smart and complex love story anchored by Zoya Hussain’s Sunaina.

Cast + Credits
  • director – Anurag Kashyap

  • cast – Vineet Kumar Singh, Zoya Hussain, Ravi Kissan, Jimmy Shergill, Sadhana Singh

  • Cinematography – Rajeev Ravi Shanker Raman Jay Patel Jayesh Nair

  • Editing – Aarti Bajaj Ankit Bidyadhar

  • Executive Producers – Ajay Rai, Kanupriya

  • Producers – Aanand L. Rai Vikramaditya Motwane Madhu Mantena Anurag Kashyap

  • Production Companies – Colour Yellow Productions, Phantom Films

  • Production Designer – Shazia Iqbal

  • screenplay – Anurag Kashyap, Vineet Kumar Singh, Mukti Singh Srinet, K.D. Satyam, Ranjan Chandel, Prasoon Mishra

  • sound – Kunal Sharma

  • Original Score – Rachita Arora

  • music – Nucleya, Prashant Pillai

I will not reveal the end of the breakout Telugu film, Arjun Reddy, coveted for a Bollywood remake with Ranveer Singh expressing keen interest. But it suffices to say that somewhere in the first half when the narrative glamourizes a bad boy, I knew that the end would make or break the movie for me. Touted as the modern-day Devdas, Arjun Reddy is the story of how a surgeon grappling with anger issues starts sinking into a black hole of alcoholism and drug abuse after his college sweetheart, Preethi gets married to another man.

At the risk of stoking the AR funs the wrong way, I will clarify that I love seeing despicable characters on screen with their flaws, front and center. I am interested in the people they emerge as, at the end of their grueling journey (what is technically speaking, the character arc). And yes, my criticism comes from context and not just a sense of righteousness. Arjun Reddy, (hereinafter AR) with his great looks and cringe-inducing attitude can keep you hooked, thanks to the immersive storytelling and Vijay Devarakonda’s fiery performance. Of course, there is the heroine who is willing to endure silently to transform this hotheaded guy with a heart of gold into a worthy man, setting the stage for a toxic love story. One would argue that these ideas ought to be presupposed and accepted in the framework of the films of the region. But with some of the refreshing departures that the film makes with a new cinematic language, I was led to expect more. The sparks of brilliance hold more possibilities, that the film fails to explore with its climax.

Arjun’s character is a bundle of contradictions. He stakes a claim over his junior in college, Preethi by threatening other junior students to stay away from her and turn their gaze on other girls. He almost bullies the timid Preethi into spending time with him. When AR interrupts her in the middle of an antakshari game to plant a kiss on her cheek, it is evident that he has thrown consent out of the window. But we shortly see that Preethi is the one who makes the first move when it comes to making love. Well, scriptwriting is the art of manipulation, after all! Her quiet adulation of a senior with a clout in medical college, who adamantly looks out for her, then does not seem so misplaced.  In one of the scenes, Arjun even asks Preethi to speak to her parents as a ‘woman’ and not a ‘teenager’. You have to credit the smart writing for the mixed feelings it provokes.

A raging alcoholic but also an impeccable surgeon, he brooks no dissent. He also lambasts a man for objectification of women and in the following scene we see him chasing after his maid out of fury but the clever placement of scenes depicts AR as someone who has anger issues but is not necessarily a male chauvinist. The chronology suggests that an evolution may be in order but we don’t witness a character growth in that direction. Despite many contemporary touches, the film refuses to address his aggression as an ailment. It is revered as machismo, instead. So much for ‘heralding’ a new chapter in Telugu cinema.

Unlike most Indian films plagued with the curse of the second half, the film comes into its own in the second half when the protagonist nosedives into devastation. The focus is entirely on his gradual descent into a whirlpool of ruin.  The film pulses with an unpredictable fervor. You are left wondering what will make AR hit rock bottom. Enduring his eccentricity almost becomes a visceral test. The filmmaking is slick with its exquisite long takes and rousing background score. I expected it to stomp over tropes and give us a raw character study of an antihero. I even stopped watching it as a love story. In a telling instance, AR’s grandmother speaks of how suffering is personal and that he needs to hurt. There is much to suggest that his tale would not meet the Devdas fate but would conclude with an imaginatively bleak streak. Alas! It is in the sudden and unconvincing subduing of the ferocious AR that the film completely lost me.

The impossibilities of AR’s character are wisely cushioned with the character of Shiva (Rahul Ramakrishna), AR’s steadfast friend who holds a mirror up to him. In one of the best scenes in the film, Shiva confides in his father about the frustration of dealing with his doggedly dismal friend. He lends the much needed sardonic humour to the film. It is rare to see a supporting character being drawn to the fore from the periphery. A scene which would have otherwise been considered as exposition does the job of offering the lens of empathy to viewers. In the same vein, another character in the film calls him a ‘free spirited individual in a democratic world.’

It’s a rare joy to see an anti-hero meet his grotesque fate and rise above it or get crushed under its weight. What Boss Getty says in Citizen Kane comes to mind, “He’s going to need more than one lesson. And he’s going to get more than one lesson.”  But this anti-hero turns into a hero. All his self-defeating means stand vindicated. And a passionate character study becomes a conventional love story. Perhaps the audience is not ready for this bitter pill but we can still revel in the unconventional narrative style of the film and the acting smarts of Vijay Deverakonda.

– Dipti Kharude

(Dipti has quit her corporate job and is having fun dipping her toes in a ton of stuff like binge watching TV and web series, doing movie marathons, gallivanting, and writing about her escapades. She tweets @kuhukuro)

 

Well known cinematographer Shanker Raman makes his directorial debut with Gurgaon. Though Versova’s rumour mills suggest he might have ghost-directed one of the most acclaimed indies (insert wink-wink-nudge-nudge emoji). Produced by JAR Pictures, the film stars Akshay Oberoi, Ragini Khanna, Pankaj Tripathi, Aamir Bashir and Shalini Vatsa.

Here’s the official synopsis –

Kehri Singh, a real estate baron, runs his business ‘Preet Real Estate’ in his daughter’s name. She is his lucky charm and the apple of his eye. Kehri Singh’s oldest son Nikki Singh, is often side-lined by his father as a brash, insolent, good for nothing, who only brings bad luck. Driven by his need to pay off a large debt to a local bookie, Nikki Singh sets off a chilling chain of events, that unwittingly force his cold-blooded father to confront his buried past.

Gurgaon, is a cautionary tale that reminds us of the famous saying, what goes around, comes around.

It was selected at Work-In-Progress Lab of NFDC Film Bazaar in 2015, won the Prasad DI Award in the fiction feature category.

Here’s the film’s trailer :

Dear friends, supporters and well-wishers,

Sincere thanks from the bottom of my heart for thousands of amazing congratulatory messages that we have received in the last few days. We are simply overwhelmed! Many of you have asked us to pen down the experience of discovering, writing and creating the inspiring story of ‘Poorna’ for the screen. It’s difficult to summarise two year long journey in a single post. But here’s a modest attempt to capture that frustrating but exciting journey.

Discovering Poorna

It all started in August 2014 when Shreya (my wife and co-writer) first heard about this incredible story of Malavath Poorna on NDTV. I also noticed that the story had tremendous potential. I had been working on a mountaineering film which wasn’t progressing at the expected pace, so I was not very sure about taking this up. Instead I was looking to go back being a writer for hire. I was both financially broke and unsure of taking another spec script adventure.

However, the symbolism and the potential messaging in the story was too strong to resist! The idea of a thirteen year old overcoming our societal attitudes towards girl child, hopeless education systems, and the almost insurmountable social challenges of being born a Tribal Girl, it overtook all my professional inertia. We took the first baby step towards the film by trying to summarize what this story symbolized, by spending several nights of furious notes making.

I had a “writerly” conviction when I wrote a treatment note and sent an e mail proposal to the Telengana Government. I was almost sure that no one will reply and this will be forgotten.

But the government responded, and soon Dr. R S Praveen Kumar spoke to us on phone. On 25th August 2014, we boarded a flight to Hyderabad to meet Dr. Praveen Kumar. By this time I had an entire file on Poorna, creation of Telangana and RS Praveen Kumar life.

The film looked like a strong polemic which worried Shreya, but it satiated my unconsciousness deeply because I wanted a film which has a practical use. My brother used to mention that John Le Carre’s “The Constant Gardner” is shown to all Oxfam staff in programs in Africa. I wanted to create that kind of film.

Dr. Praveen Kumar met us and understood why we wanted to make a movie on this. He was also quite impressed with our ideas about the film but he kept asking us “are you sure…Prasahanthji…!! Are you sure?” I told him even if the film doesn’t happen, I was just very happy to meet him. So he, in a split second, agreed to do a chai pe charcha next day outside his office.

It was Sunday. We had tea in the “shadow of guns” at the Andra Pradesh Police Officers Mess lawns. I understood that even though Dr. Praveen Kumar works in social welfare department; he is a decorated IPS officer whose life is valuable to the state. I can’t say more.

Dr. Praveen Kumar is a man of immense vision, and has razor sharp understanding of conflict and human emotions. Poorna is an extension of his belief, and our access to the subject matter of the film.

So in the meeting Dr. Kumar took our thought systems like a storm, in half an hour I formed the structure of the film in my head.

I also had a giant déjà vu moment. Interestingly, Dr. Praveen Kumar had already featured in a movie called Rakta Charitam – a film written by me, in which Kannada Superstar Sudeep played his role as a cop who took on the mighty faction leader Paritala Ravi, played by Vivek Oberoi.

I love kiccha Sudeep and I took that as a divine signal. That very day, Shreya and me wrote a one liner sitting in a corner in his office and carried edits in our hotel.

It was all spec and since I’ve been a writer for hire for large-hearted producers, this film brought in a very tough transition. All expenses…outstation travel, local stay, local travel, expensive print out at hotels…were going to be on our own expense. Nobody was funding or managing the usual 5-star-all-expenses-paid writing extravaganza. So we had to be very careful because it seemed it would take time for this film to be made, much like all films do.

Then we met Poorna and Anand (climbed the Mount Everest with her), and had a free-wheeling chat about their life aspirations, over lots of ice cream and cold drinks. I noticed Poorna looked like an old soul. Not much in terms of plot points but I got a fair idea about the abstractions which would be used in adapting her life for reel.

We spent rest of time reading up Social welfare school books and getting acquainted with facts; because we were dealing with a story involving a government sponsored program.

A lot of plot also comes from our own observations. On a road trip to Kashid, we had seen poor students sweeping the school in Maharashtra while the rich ones kept sauntering here and there. We decided to put that in our film.

Creating The Script

It was clear that the film will have to be dramatized heavily as compressing events within the cinematic time would be big challenge. Then there is a huge North Indian bias which prevails in Bollywood. Why would they care about a village called Pakala in a town called Nizamabad?

That overwhelmed us completely. The problems presented themselves often. It paralyzed the entire writing.

So we put deep thinking aside and made marketing pitches, and started to write to almost all indie producers, from Kerela to Mumbai. My experiences with studios weren’t very good earlier, so I avoided them for fear of further disappointment.

Almost all showed very less interest despite the fact that Telangana Government had given us an impressive list of freebies like free locations and subsidized stay and local travel for the film crew.

Many producers kept squeezing us and often offered other projects to direct or write.

Another idea was to approach a “big” director like Neeraj Pandey, who could make this possible. But I realized making a movie is easier here than to get Neeraj Pandey or Adi Chopra’s phone number. The people in between don’t let that happen.

We thought it was happening because we had not put enough work on the script. So this time around Shreya came up with a character of a cousin sister for Poorna called Priya. Suddenly it opened up lot of pain in the narrative and gave us tragic dimensions of Poorna’s character- same arc played out as a tragedy – two sisters – the happy go lucky breaks out while the other talented and ambitious one is thrown into darkness of early marriage destroying all her hopes . Thus it became a film about a girl who Dr. Praveen Kumar, despite his best efforts, wont be able to save. That gave Dr. Praveen Kumars’ character a certain hurry and pace in this game of numbers – girls inside the school and girls outside the school.

The script was rewritten with this central idea and results showed up immediately. When Ashok Purang (Producer of Filmistan) heard it, he reconnected me to my friend Tanisha (actor) who I had worked with in Sarkar Raj. In the first narration, Tanuja ji (Actor/Tanisha’s mother) got very emotional. They had not yet set up their production house but offered all logistical support if I was to make this soon.

Back To Hyderabad

I met a star producer called Dilraju, who loved the subject but wasn’t sure about the film’s box office pull. Unless a star got involved to play the mentor and a Bombay based distribution tie-up. I was like a grazing goat looking to chew on Akshay Kumar’s Bollywood grass but intermediaries in between kept us out.

We then applied for NFDC co-production market. We were certain that it would be picked but when it didn’t make the cut, we were crestfallen. I never felt such a rage in my life.

Flight To Delhi

Given the story’s close relevance to Government’s much well-intentioned and praised ‘Beti Padhao Beti Bachao’ mission, a source in Hyderabad told us to chase Prakash Javdekar (I & B minister), who could route the film through CFSI. It sounded quite like a plan. We landed in Delhi.

Our  source mysteriously disappeared just as we were about to reach Shashtri Bhawan. Air tickets + Hotel expenses – everything went for a toss. Later, when the minister came to know about our plight, he apologized and called us to Pune.

The Bus To Pune

Few hours after he accepted our file, we learnt that he had been transferred to the Forest ministry. An expensive handmade poster which I designed and got made to impress the Hon. Minister is still lying in my study! The title of the film in that poster was ‘’Power Girl Poorna’’!

The Final Push

One year passed as we kept doing breakdowns, storyboards, posters, drafts and more drafts of the script. But still we had no producer.

Actor Sonu Sood loved the script immensely but offered me another film he was about to produce.

So despite our best intentions, we were back to square one. Then my brother Nishant introduced me to actor Rahul Bose who decided to come on board as a producer. Rahul set up meetings. I narrated the script to Amit Patni who later funded the film. I passed the producers baton to them happily and made the Telangana Government meet the production for work to begin.

I very much feel this film is my baby as a writer and co-director, and I feel very proud of the mark it’s making. “Poorna” represents the aspirations of millions of children in rural India, and the power they possess to realise these aspirations. As the dialogue goes in the film- “Joote nahi hai toh kya hua, pair toh hai.

Prashant Pandey

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.

 

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More good news coming from Berlin International Film Festival. Two more Indian features have been selected for this year’s edition.

Amit V Masurkar’s sophomore feature Newton is all set to make its World Premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival. The Drishyam Films produced feature will be screened in the ‘Forum’ section of the Berlinale which features ‘avant-garde, experimental works, political reportage and yet-to-be-discovered cinematic landscapes’.

Newton was part of the Co-Production Market (CPM) at Film Bazaar, 2015 and also one of the Film Bazaar Recommends titles at Film Bazaar 2016. The film stars Rajkummar Rao in the title role and is a sharp political black comedy that takes place on an election day in Central India. Rajkummar Rao plays Newton, a rookie clerk on election duty in a conflict-ridden jungle of Chhattisgarh, who tries his best to conduct free and fair voting despite the apathy of security forces and the looming fear of an attack by Maoist rebels. The supporting cast includes Anjali Patil, Pankaj Tripathi and Raghubir Yadav. 

lady of the lake

The second film, Haobam Paban Kumar’s Manipuri film Loktak Lairembee (Lade Of The Lake) is also selected in the same ‘Forum’ section of the fest. The film has been doing the fest rounds for quite some time now and was also the winner of top prize in the India Gold section of Mumbai Film Festival.

Haobam has 5 National Film Awards and 5 Indian Panorama Selections to his credit. The film Loktak Lairembee (Lady of the lake) is his debut fiction feature film.

Here’s the official synopsis of the film –

Loktak Lake is a unique ecosystem where fishermen lived in huts built on floating biomasses. In 2011, the authorities, in the name of protecting serenity of the ecosystem, burnt down the huts leaving thousands of fishermen homeless. Tomba, one of the victims, lives with a harrowing nightmare of looming displacement since then. He is haunted by seamless fear of further intervention of authorities that would make him homeless forever. Confined in his makeshift hut, Tomba senses the spirit of evil around, while his wife Thambalsang works hard to make their living. One fine morning Tomba accidentally finds a gun hidden within the biomass. He marvels with the gun as his power of self-protection. He transforms himself to an assertive man who is looking for an appropriate offense. One day, an old lady who mysteriously wanders in the lake, knocks at his door in the middle of the night. Fearful Tomba, anticipating the lady as the spirit of all evils, chases her and commits an unintended crime.

Trailer

anurag kashyapAnurag Kashyap has put out his list of favourite films of 2016. Exactly like he did in 2015, too. And we are copy-pasting the same intro that we wrote for the post last year.

Anurag Kashyap was championing films of other directors much before bolly celebs took to twitter to blindly endorse any film which has been made by their family, friends, or fraternity. And it killed the ‘championing’ bit completely. Everyone says good things about every new film on twitter, completely defeating the purpose, and making it look like a PR exercise. And then there are few who can’t think beyond their own films, or their husband’s film. Really? Beauty.

On his Facebook, Kashyap has posted the list of his top films of the year. And it comes with a caveat that he has not seen all the releases.

Never seen so many lists of best film, actors (male and female) or whatever ever before. It’s so good. I suddenly feel there is so much I haven’t seen. But why only Hindi films, why not films from other languages, we do make films in many languages. I mentioned Visarnaai and Thithi in last year’s list. But this year it’s difficult to choose. So here are my guilty pleasures and the best I saw this year.

In no particular order..

Chauthi Koot
Gurgaon (the best noir I have seen made in recent times, look out for this one)
Kammatipaddam
Kapoor and sons
Sairat
The Gold-Laden Sheep and The Sacred Mountain
Aligarh
Parched
Udta Punjab ( I am one of the producers)
Dangal (minus the national anthem)
Budhia Singh (suffered because it did not have an Aamir Khan but equally good)
Placebo

These are the films I had complete experience with. That is along with the disclaimer that I haven’t seen Waiting, Phobia, Island City, Bollywood Diaries, Jugni and so much more. Infact this is the year I saw the least number of films.

My actor of the year is Hands Down Manoj Bajpai, and actress – Alia Bhatt and the amazing Girls of Dangal.

Many internationally renowned filmmakers do put out their Top 10 list. Steven Soderbergh puts out the complete list of whatever he has seen and read. His 2015 list of films, tv shows, books and plays is here.

If you come across more such lists, do add in the comments section below. Also, do share your list of top 5/10.