Archive for the ‘film’ Category

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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.

Hardik Mehta’s documentary, Amdavad Ma Famous (Famous In Ahmedabad), bagged the National Award For Best Non-Feature film (Swarna Kamal) this year. Its next stop is the prestigious Hot Docs aka Canadian International Documentary Festival. The fest has put up the first trailer of the film.

Do check it out

AMFAnd here’s the official synopsis from the fest site –

Zaid is a playful kid with a love of kites that quickly spirals into an addiction. He starts skipping school, risking life and limb in traffic and trespassing on rooftops, all in pursuit of high-flying fun. Is he just being a kid—or is he becoming a criminal? A sublime social commentary on adult hypocrisy and childhood curiosity.

Crew

Director : Hardik Mehta
Producer : Arya Menon, Akanksha Tewari
Editor : Hardik Mehta
Cinematographer : Piyush Puty
Composer : Alokananda Dasgupta
Sound: Manoj Goswami
Website: https://www.facebook.com/amdavadmafamous/

 

After doing the fest rounds, Raam Reddy’s debut feature Thithi is all set to release in India on 6th May, 2016. And its trailer is out today.

Recently, the film bagged the National Award for Best Film in Kannada. Last year, it also won two Golden Leopards at the  Locarno Film Festival.

According to official release, Thithi is a realistic, light-hearted Kannada-language film about how three generations of sons react to the death of their patriarch, Century Gowda: a locally renowned, highly cranky 101-year-old man.

Cast & Crew

Director: Raam Reddy
Writers: Eregowda, Raam Reddy
Producers: Pratap Reddy, Sunmin Park
Director of Photography: Doron Tempert
Editors: John Zimmerman, Raam Reddy
Sound Design: Nithin Lukose
Lead Cast: Thammegowda S., Channegowda, Abhishek H.N., Pooja S.M.
Production Companies: Prspctvs Productions (India), Maxmedia (USA)

After doing the fests round, Nagesh Kuknoor’s new film Dhanak finally has a release date. The film is scheduled to release on 10th June, 2016. The film picked up the Grand Prix award at the Berlin Film Festival in Generation K Plus section.

Here’s a new trailer of the film

SYNOPSIS:

Pari has promised her little blind brother Chotu that she’ll help get his eyesight back before he turns 10. When she spots her favorite star Shah Rukh Khan on the poster for an eye-donation drive, she is convinced her hero will help her on her mission.

And so Pari sets out with Chotu on a magical journey through Rajasthan where they encounter a bunch of colourful characters.

CAST:

Hetal Gada, Krrish Chhabria, Rajiv Lakshman, Vipin Sharma, Fllora Saini, Ninad Kamat, Suresh Menon, Vibha Chhibber, Vijay Maurya, Chet Dixon

CREW

Written and Directed by Nagesh Kukunoor
Produced By Manish Mundra, Nagesh Kukunoor and Elahé Hiptoola

Director of Photography: Chirantan Das
Editor: Sanjib Datta
Sound Design: Vipin Bhati, Boby John
Lyrics: Mir Ali Husain, Manoj Yadav
Music and Background Score: Tapas Relia
Art Director: Haris Umar Khan
Costume Designer: Aparna Shah
Production Designer: Devika Bahudhanam
Executive Producers: Jhelum Ratna, Shiladitya Bora

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The 63rd National Film Awards were announced recently, and then we read all the reports in various newspapers and sites. Strangely, they all sounded the same without any homework, or didn’t even give any extra information other than what the official press release says. So we were forced to step in, do some homework, and BOOM!

Since we strongly believe that any award always say more about the jury and less about the film, we had to figure out this jury panel which went with Baahubali as the Best Film. A decision which was criticised strongly by many. In an era when most prestigious film awards brag about their strong jury, two desi jury panels are still kept as a secret – National Film Awards and the jury which selects India’s entry to Oscar Foreign Language Film. Strange. Why? We are scared of being answerable for making bad choices?

We met one of the jury member from the South panel, and he spilled out all the beans.  So here’s more on this year’s jury and the selection process. All the inside dope. #JanhitMeJaari

– At first stage, 5 regional panels were formed with 5 jury members in each panel. Every panel represented one region – like one for North, West, East each, and 2 for South as it has too many languages in which films are made. If North panel was responsible for shortlisting films/talent from Hindi, Punjabi, Haryanvi films, West panel was responsible for Marathi/Gujrati/Konkani language films, and East panel was responsible for Bengali/Oriya/Mizo/Manipuri and others.

– These 5 panels watched all the films which were submitted and shortlisted names in each category. These names were then sent to the Central panel.

– After the first phase of shortlisting was done, 1 member from each panel moved to the Central Panel. So that’s 5 members in Central Panel. 6 more members including the Jury Chairman Ramesh Sippy  joined the panel making it a panel of 11-member jury.

– So who were these 11 members who took the final call?

  1. Ramesh Sippy
  2. Satish Kaushik
  3. Munin Barua (from Assam)
  4. K Vasu (Andhra Pradesh)
  5. S R Leela (Karnataka)
  6. Shyamaprasad (Kerala)

– The 5 members who came from 5 regional panels are as follows

      7. Dharam Gulati (South panel)

      8. Gyan Sahay (East panel)

      9. Sanjib Datta (North panel)

     10. Gangai Amaran (West panel)

      11. John Mathew Matthan (South panel)

– When we asked how come Hindi/bollywood films bagged a whopping 22 out of 32 awards in main categories? The jury member said that it’s the case of old joke of Railway Ministry. Earlier they used to joke that from whichever state the Minister comes from, all the new trains start going towards the same state. It seems to be the same case this time. Look at the 11-member panel. More than half are from bollywood, and 2 senior strong members were there who dictated almost every choice. Rest were just yes-men. And that’s why some weird process was followed in the Central panel.

– The jury member told us that he was informed about the strict rules and regulations which clearly state that if you have any close relatives in the running, you shouldn’t be part of the jury. Now, Gangai Amaran is Ilaiyraaja’s real brother. And Ilaiyraaja won the award for the Best Background music in Tharai Thappattai. Hmmm. Either our jury member was misinformed or such rules don’t exist. Enlighten us please.

– In one of the acting category, the final choice that was made was not even recommended by any of the panel. The choices that were given was discarded by the Jury Chairman and he proposed a new name, and strongly struck to it. The chairman discarded one of the proposed names (who is easily one of country’s best actor) saying he is not in lead role in the film. When one of the members pointed out that by the same logic, the name that he is proposing is also not in lead role, the argument was dismissed blatantly.

-Similarly, in another acting category, the Chairman proposed a new name out of the blue and decided that she should win when her name was not recommended by any panel.

– The voting happened in only 2 categories.

– A film which got unanimous rave reviews (nationally and internationally) when it released, had got strong recommendation in 4 categories (debut, screenplay, best supporting and special jury). But none of them were considered. There was an unwritten rule that nothing will go to this film as one of the producers of the film had made headlines when he returned his previous National Award.

– Another film which had a great production design (for its period setting) and was close contender for best production design as it was strongly recommended by the first panel,  it was also dismissed because of same reason – the director was part of #awardwapsi gang.

– The Central panel went with the recommendation of regional panels for best film in various languages except for Hindi and English language.

– For Best Hindi language film, two two names that were proposed by first panel were discarded as one of the Jury member proposed a new name and strongly stood for it. The joke in the Central panel was the theme of the film must have resonated with the jury member as he has similar features like one of the film’s lead.

– An actress was in running for Special Jury Award for an unreleased film. But since she had voiced her opinion strongly about a recent news event, and had even written about it, her name was quickly dropped.

– A major talent who is not really pro government, has bagged an award this year. The jury member said there was no chance that he was going to win. Luckily, there was hardly any good submission in the category. And his work was exemplary in that category. So they had no choice but to award him. Last time when his film bagged few awards, his name was put in the “to be watched” list.

For complete list of National Film Awards, click here.

– Team mFC

UPDATE – As pointed out by @atlasdanced, it seems  Gangai Amaran has clarified that he abstained from voting when Ilayraja’s work was discussed. One more report here. Anyone has more clarity on the rule and the process?

It was suppose to be DC Comics answer to Marvel’s Avengers. But so far, the reviews of ‘Batman v Superman : Dawn Of Justice’ are more entertaining than the film. And if you have landed up from some other planet, you might have missed this video which is depressing and funny at the same time.

So what really happened? What does it mean for DC Comics’ next? Is there a way out? Have patience and read Anubhav Dasgupta‘s rant.

BatmanvSuperman

(SPOILER AHEAD. It’s fucking full of spoiler. Wait. You still haven’t seen it? Lucky you!)

On Thursday night, I sat down in a movie theater and watched Superman reach into Batman’s chest and rip out his heart. A child sitting in my row decided it was finally time to leave. I should have followed her out, but I stay put like the masochist that I am.

Batman v Superman is the nadir of DC comics. Not only is it a badly made film that made me question whether professionals  — some of them Oscar winners — were behind it, but it is an utterly reprehensible, indefensible piece of garbage that ruins the two most iconic characters in history to satiate the appetites of immature adults who constantly seek validation for their consumption of stories starring characters that were made for children.

Let’s call these immature adults “Batbros” because there’s only so many times I can type “immature adults” before I’m sick of the term.

Batman Begins was a great film that rejuvenated the Batman franchise, salvaging it from the campy wrecks of Joel Schumacher’s Batman and Robin. Christopher Nolan infused the character with a sense of pathos that made his trauma palpable every second of the film. He set it in a world very much like ours but also infused it with comic-book elements like fear toxins and a shadow cult of ninjas. Critics loved it, audiences dug it, fans were happy. It made enough money for Warner Bros to green light a sequel. Like Begins, its sequel The Dark Knight was a dance of reality and myth. Ostensibly a reaction to the American war on terror, Joker representing the chaotic boogeyman, something that Batman, standing in for Americans, simply could not understand. It was a massive, massive success and it still remains one of the greatest films ever made. But a collateral damage caused by it was the emergence of the Batbro. They identified with Batman’s seething libertarianism, his fascistic insistence on surveillance as an end to chaos and terror. They identified with an aspect of the character that was very much post-9/11 American White Male. What they thought they fell in love with was the darkness of the plot, considering it novel while being ignorant of the fact that comic books and comic book movies have touched upon dark themes before. I strongly believe that they do not recognise what makes The Dark Knight special and mis-attribute it to the grim mood of the story.

In the same year The Dark Knight came out, rival comic book publisher, Marvel’s movie arm put out Iron Man. Starring Robert Downey Jr as a genius pro-war one-percenter reformed into a superhero, it was talking about some of the same things as TDK but the approach was completely different. While TDK considered the war on terror a grim necessity, Iron Man criticised it while subtly commenting on the military-industrial complex and how corporations and militarism go hand in hand in a capitalist economy. The titular Iron Man, himself, is a much brighter character, who uses his wit and arrogance to mask his despair while Batman channels it into a life-force.

Spurred by the success of Iron Man, Marvel put out movies that existed in the same universe, done in the same style. Their continual successes culminated in Avengers, a movie that united Marvel’s heroes, which made ungodly amounts of money in the box office and millions more in merchandise sales.

DC floundered along, their one shot at a shared universe, Green Lantern, failing miserably. Batbros found solace in the Batman video games produced by Rocksteady, whose atmosphere vindicated their demand for immature darkness. The stages of the game looked grimy, the characters — save for Joker — wore constipated scowls and dressed in greasy coats. There was an unsubtle misogyny about how the game series treated its few women characters, animating their movements to make them look like they were continually cat-walking. What they got perfectly right were the mechanics of the game, the story, penned by DC Animated series alumni Paul Dini, and the voice-acting, which reunited DC Animated series alums Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill and Tara Strong.

DC comics’ only mainstream successes were the Nolan Batman films and the Batman video games so, when it was time to reboot the DC universe and rake in Avengers money, they decided to push the tone of both these sources on to their movie universe.

It’s been a fucking disaster.

Man of Steel was positioned to revitalise the Superman franchise for a generation and a fanbase of Batbros that thinks altruism is bullshit. Zack Snyder’s film was a character assassination of the highest order, corrupting the socialist bent of the original Superman to make way for an ill-advised objectivist interpretation. The parallels to the story of Moses (Superman’s creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster were Jewish immigrants in ’30s America) were ignored to force Christian symbolism on the character. Snyder misconstrued the power fantasy of Superman to be a physical desire rather than an ideological one. This Superman isn’t great in heart or spirit, but in physical strength. He spends the movie moping around, so crushed by the weight of his responsibility that he does nothing about it. In the third act of Man of Steel, a noisy, grey muddle that makes Michael Bay’s Transformers look coherent, Superman allows wanton destruction as he faces off against a mighty alien being. At the end of it, he manages to catch the alien in a chokehold and snap his neck.

Batbros lapped it up. It was a mainstream vindication of the maturity of a comic book character. Surely, there could be nothing immature about dodging an oil tanker and letting it destroy a building when you have all the power in the world to stop it, or destroying a man’s livelihood because he was mean to you inside a bar.

Strong visuals and a fantastic score by Hans Zimmer elevated it from trashiness into mediocrity and it made some money and sanctimonious too-cool-for-school audiences finally found Superman to be cool after he had snapped some guy’s neck.

Never mind the children as long as the adults are entertained.

The same darkness followed through in the comic books. After the DC line was rebooted, Superman traded in his red trunks, spit curl and charm for armour and an unpleasant scowl. He was, finally, cool.

Batman v Superman doubled down on this interpretation, creating a Superman who possesses all the maturity and angst of a spurned teenager. The movie antagonises him, pities him, hates him and the one time he’s about to explain himself, it blows everything up. Literally. Here’s a Superman who seems like he hesitates to save anyone who isn’t his mother or his girlfriend. Here’s a Superman who forgets all his powers to allow a contrived plot to unfold. Batbros were further vindicated by a Batman who scared the shit out of criminals, who straight-up murdered people with military grade armaments mounted on his vehicles.

Zack Snyder has hid behind the defence that he’s followed the comics to a t. I doubt he’s read a comicbook. I strongly suspect that he flipped through a few pages, looked at the art, skipped dialogue balloons when his ADD took over and thought it was the greatest thing ever. BvS plays like a visual greatest hits of comicbooks. There’s images from The Dark Knight Returns, Crisis on Infinite Earths and The Death and Return of Superman replicated with great accuracy. But here’s the thing. Comic books don’t work solely on imagery alone. The titular fight between Batman and Superman is lifted from The Dark Knight Returns, but it lacks any of the intelligence, any of the motivation behind the fight. The philosophical battle between the ideologies of fascism and libertarianism have been replaced by Bollywood movie-level scheming. But Superman and Batman fight and the screen’s so dark we can barely make out anything so it’s mature, r…right?

Superman dies, just like he did in The Death and Return of Superman, but I felt nothing. The comic book isn’t the best but when Supes bites the bullet, we feel something. His sacrifice in the comic is earned. But in BvS? Fuck no. There’s many ways Superman didn’t have to die, and we’ve spent so much time annoyed by his moping and selfishness that it doesn’t affect us much at all.

But, hey, Superman dies. What a ballsy move, right? Fuck no. Everybody knows he’s going to come back to life. The moment has no point, no impact, no nothing. It’s cheap, superficial imagery and grim to a pornographic level.

But hey, Superman dies so this is suddenly an adult mature film, unlike the Marvel movies where everything’s sunny and you can actually make out what the fuck is happening. Batbros finally had an adult superhero franchise to rally behind. Finally, they felt, we don’t look like kids anymore. Never mind that Batman and Superman stop fighting because their mothers have the same name, killing people is exceptionally mature and adult amirite?

Never mind the kid who is bored by the pointless pontification, blinded by the few splotches of colour that emerge from a dark, drab palette, terrified by the characters they were supposed to love. Batbros will hi-five each other all the way to the fucking bank.

Kids, meanwhile, will be reluctant to buy action figures from the DC universe, page through DC comics while Marvel will capture their imagination completely.

Marvel figures are routinely cleaned up at Toy aisles while DC’s figures enter the bargain bin because nobody cares about their characters.

Except for Batman, barely any DC comics sell routinely as much as their Marvel counterparts, despite the quality.

All this thanks to DC bending over to cater to a tiny subset of fans who want to prove that their superheroes are fit for adult consumption.

Alan Moore, the writer of Watchmen, Batman : The Killing Joke, Swamp Thing and other comic book classics, infamously referred to comic book fans as subhuman. He cited the crowds of adults lining up to watch Avengers. He wasn’t wrong in his statement but he was woefully wrong in his observation.

The Marvel films, while routine, are ostensibly for children, but have enough pathos and intelligence to satisfy adult viewers. They’re stories for children that work for adults.

The DC films, however, drip in darkness. They’re for ignorant people who think that anything meant for children demands no seriousness or maturity. There’s no joy in any of their characters or any of their exploits. Their films are grim to the point of hilarity. DC films are a child’s view of what an adult film is, they are the kind of films that Vincent Adultman from Bojack Horseman would insist upon watching. DC film’s are selfish appropriations of children’s characters by childish adults.

When Alan Moore called comic book fans sub-humans, this is what he was going on about. Not adults who dress up as Thor in line to Avengers 2 but adults who celebrate the image of Superman ripping someone’s heart out while the kids cower, confused.

Thing is, Warner Bros seems to hate these characters. There is a marked cynicism behind the DC universe driven by a begrudging need to make money off IPs they disdain. They heap their own ugliness, their cynical hollywood fear and nihilism into characters that were built to give hope. Superman needed to be brought down from his pedestal of ideological superiority to our ugly levels of angst and paranoia. By reducing the symbolism and ripe mythological gravitas to petty wannabe philosophy, they have greatly diluted the power inherent in the characters. A page in Grant Morrison and Frank Quitley’s All-Star Superman has famously saved people from committing suicides. I simply don’t see films from the DC universe coming close to doing that. They’re content with being ugly extensions of an ugly world. They’re not the mirrors to our society as they hope to be, but the cesspools of our collective subconscious. Saving cats is passé, destroying whole cities is in. Fuck the kids, our audience are ugly man-children.

Batbros are celebrating the latest ravaging of the Superman icon but I feel they’ll turn round. The film has been universally panned by critics, its glaring errors in basic filmmaking revealing the true ugliness inherent in the plot. People are catching on to their shit. However, if it makes any money, it’ll be a vindication of the Batbros’ stance. Warner Bros will double down on the darkness, ruining and ravaging every bit of innocence inherent in the characters until there’s nothing.

If you’re a DC fan, and remember the joy the comics or Bruce Timm’s animated series gave you, and you like the current crop of DC films, I strongly urge you to think about it. Our characters are far more important than your selfish enjoyment and loyalism. We’ve got to save them. We’ve got to make sure Warner Bros get rid of their pointless nihilism. Otherwise we’ll be looking at a bunch of movies about joyless freaks that encourage no emotion, no thought, no joy except for infantile vindication.

Batbros are celebrating the latest exercise in cynical destruction, but they’ll be proven wrong, when, years from now, their children will ignore their Superman toys for a miniature Iron Man.

Batman v Superman is Darkseid’s anti-life, pushing us into cynical acceptance of our grim mentality. We have to resist. We have to be better. This is more important than two rival companies. This is a battle for hope and for the future. And fans are their own biggest enemies.

Anubhav Dasgupta

(Anubhav tries to make good stuff. Besides cinema, he also likes comic books and cats)