Archive for the ‘Indie’ Category

Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) has unveiled the first set of film titles premiering in the Gala and Special Presentations programmes in this year’s edition of the fest. Three Indian films will have there world premiere at Toronto. All the three films are part of Special Presentations.

Anurag Kashyap’s latest film Mukkebaaz is titled The Brawler for the fest edition. The 145-min long film is about a lower caste boxer struggling to make his mark on the boxing world. The film stars Vineet Singh in the lead role.

Hansal Mehta’s Omerta recounts the story of infamous British-born terrorist Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, who kidnapped and murdered Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002. It stars Raj Kummar Rao in the lead and is 96 minutes long.

The third one is Bornilla Chatterjee’s The Hungry. It relocates Shakespeare’s bloody tragedy Titus Andronicus to modern-day India, where corruption, greed, and revenge run rampant at an extravagant wedding.

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 :

Most of us saw Lipstick Under My Burkha at last year’s Mumbai Film Festival (MFF). Since then, the film has been doing the fest rounds and winning accolades internationally. On home ground though, it has been the exactly opposite scene. Battle with CBFC went for long, and then the task to find a proper release and distribution partner. Ekta Kapoor came on-board and gave the much needed boost to make it look visible. The film is finally in theatres this friday.

Here’s our recco post on the film, written by Raj Kumari. It was written last year after the MFF screening.

No Male Rescuers

Lipstick Under My Burkha (LUMB) was one of the best films I saw at MAMI 2016 – a bold & honest take on female sexuality. All four protagonists are females (how often that happens in India?) so it can be easily said that it is about female sexuality but I felt at the deepest level it is not. And I am so happy about it being not so.

But still it shows the different perceptions about female sexuality in four different stages of a women’s life through four characters Rehana Saeed (a college girl), Leela (a young lady of so-called marriageable age), Shireen Aslam (a middle-aged married women) and Usha Bua ji (an elderly woman).

The film explores their desires, fantasies, and struggle to own their heartbreaks with such honesty and poignant sensitivity that it’s impossible not to see your own secrets in them.

And even after crossing so many slippery alleys of this topic of female sexuality and repression when it becomes very easy (and even cathartic) to take sides by providing a rescuer for these characters, this film allows itself not to take such a decisive stand and sticks to its POV of just being a witness. The film doesn’t rescue them, it just lets them be. The focus remains tight on the process of suppression only, and hence the core of sexuality comes out blazingly clear.

And what is it?

Sexuality is never about body. And more primarily about male or female body. It can not be. As it involves both male and female energies, whatever be the outer form of the body, male or female or any other gender. Sexuality is about being free, being open, being whole in your presence which generally manifests as being with your own body. And of course, this openness and freedom can come through wearing what you like, smoking, being explicitly exposing or demanding sex openly (some of the tropes repeatedly used/reinforced in our films to show a ‘liberated’ woman). But being sexually liberated is further about understanding that these are just few symbols of freedom against respective symbols of suppression. They ALONE are NOT freedom. Yes, they do serve till some deeper grounds of being open with the self is found. And the film attempts to take us to that depth too.

(SPOILERS AHEAD) 

It defines the core of freedom in the scene where Bua-ji owns her desires, and her ownership of them in front of all who used to respect her. She didn’t feel any shame, grudge or pity. She showed courage to assemble all of her torn, broken, humiliated self in her arms and took shelter in her bedroom calmly and with the same ownership. There were male oppressors but there was no male rescuer in the film, and this itself says how deeply mature the intent of the film is. I loved the film a little extra for this one golden aspect.

And in the last scene, how beautifully it showed that such a place of courage becomes a platform for all such courageous hearts to identify with their struggle. A platform to make mistakes, comparing your struggles with others, and finally seeing the commonality of self ownership as the final rescue.
Do watch it. And let us know what you thought about the film.

The National Film Development Corporation officially announces Call for Entries for the 11th Year of Filmbazaar Co-Production Market.

The Co-Production Market presents a list of curated projects to the national and international film professionals attending Film Bazaar.

– The Market kicks off with Open Pitch where participants present their projects through Video Pitches to an audience of investors, producers and financiers.

– The four days of the market are earmarked for one on one meetings specially scheduled for each project.

Over the years, the dedicated team has honed its skills for matching projects with the right delegates. Dedicated online and print catalogues consisting of all project details are available for Film Bazaar attendees interested in Co-Production Market projects. The market also conducts an orientation session to familiarize participants to Open Pitch as well as the working of the Co-Production Market and Film Bazaar.

– Full length fiction feature projects with South Asian themes are invited to apply.

– The Early Bird Deadline for submissions is July 5th, 2017.

– The Regular Deadline is August 7th 2017.

– The Extended Deadline is August 21st 2017.

– The Market will be held between 20 – 24th November, 2017 at Film Bazaar, Goa.

– Click www.filmbazaarindia.com for Application Forms and more details

– For further queries, write to: coproduction@filmbazaarindia.com

CPM Projects Over the Years:

 

Lipstick Under My Burkha (CPM 2013),  Newton, Amit Masurkar (CPM 2015), Mantra, Nicholas Khargaonkar, Song of the Scorpions (Anup Singh CPM 2013), Beyond the Known World (Pan Nalin, CPM 2012), Lady of the Lake, Manto, Court, Chauthi Koot, Titli, Liar’s Dice, Arunoday, Highway,Television, Chauranga, Qissa, LSD, Paltadacho Munis, That girl with Yellow Boots, Anurag Kashyap Deool, Karma, Shanghai, Miss Lovely, Mumbai Cha Raja, As the River Flows, Shor in the City, 28.

– Some of the people who have attended the Co Production Market at Film Bazaar are Chedomir Kolar [ Producer No Man’s Land], Mustofa Sarwar Farooki [Director Television], Michael Werner [Fortissimo Films ], Chris Paton [San Sebastian Film Festival], Christian Jeune [Cannes Film Festival], Kristen Niehuus [Medien Board, Berlin-Brandenburg] Remi Burah [Arte France Cinema], Anurag Kashyap, Madhu Mantena, Manish Mundhra, Sooni Taraporewala, Sabiha Sumar [Director Khamosh Pani], Guneet Monga, Nandita Das, Govind Nihalani, Shyam Benegal, Pablo Bertolini [Venice Film Festival], Charles Tesson [Cemaine de la Crtique Cannes Film Festival], Aviva Silver [NEA cinema, Belgium], Anup Singh [Director Quissa],Catherine Dussart [Producer Chautih Koot France], Ramesh Sippy, Kabir Khan, Sheeladitya Bora, Marco Muller, [Beijing Film Festival], Benjamin Illos [Director’s Fortnight, Cannes]

 

The World of Shutu

It’s always difficult to write about a film when it comes back home with you as a very palpable emotion. The conflict is between whether to talk about the film (like a semi-review, talking about the great crew and cast, plot, motifs etc.) or the memories & insights it triggered. Since it’s a quick & short piece written in the middle of a very tight schedule, mainly to excite the reader enough to go and watch the film, I will stay somewhere in between – a bit clumsy but functional.

We all have been Shutu at some point of time in our lives. I know I have been, for many years. Bullied, ridiculed, misunderstood, misfit and still trying to smile lest I should be seen as ‘sissy’. Fitting into this world of men is a constant struggle for men even. It’s a game whose rules we laid on our own and still laid them so tough that now we are having a hard time catching up. Why did we do this to ourselves? Why we continue to do this – trying to check items off a laundry list to pretend that we have grown up (from a male perspective only)? Why do we want to grow up? Due to social pressure or survival mechanism – like preys turning into predator?

Konkona Sen Sharma’s directorial debut A Death In The Gunj takes one to such places – beautiful and uncomfortable – places where innocent nostalgia meets the darkest memories. Set in 1979, it’s about a Bengali family with a severe Raj-era hangover on a quaint holiday in Bihar’s (now Jharkhand’s) McCluskieganj – a place with an equally severe Raj-era hangover. The family has many people and egos, a bunch of well-adjusted, seemingly non-threatening abnormals. And the family has Shutu (Vikrant Massey in a role of a lifetime) – the younger brother broadly seen as a silent-introvert type. The constant clash between the two worlds – one inhabited by the family with its bikes & muttons & drinks & pranks & love-games, and another in which Shutu sits by the window sketching frogs in an old diary – scrapes the paints off both of them. The delicate locking mechanism that had kept them together starts wearing off and the moment of truth, or whatever the grown-up version of that is, comes closer and closer.

The only bridge between the two worlds is Shutu’s teenaged niece Tani – already bored of the games adults play & constantly fascinated by Shutu’s scientific-poetic lonely view of the world. It’s not a coincidence that the bridge is a female ‘cos this is a film deeply aware of its gender politics (and at a couple of places, class politics too). Men behave like boys-behaving-like-men, women behave like women-seen-through-men’s-eyes, as two conflicted souls (Shutu and Tani) clutch at straws while drowning in the waters of such rigid definitions.

As a fat teenaged kid in the 90s, I loved watching cricket and I wasn’t bad at playing it too but nobody would select me in the team. My fatness and my academic bent (the tag of “padhaaku”) were a liability nobody was willing to carry. Even if selected in the team (the last to be picked), I’d not get a chance to bat or bowl. So I’d put all my efforts into fielding well. I’d kill myself to get that throw from the boundary right.

But still, just to show I am cool with this treatment, I would offer to play the umpire. That way, I’d get to be on the field at least, get to hold the ball at the end of every over (just for a few seconds before I toss it to the next bowler), and be treated with respect by both the teams. I’d apply myself to the task & be the most unbiased, observant umpire. Sometimes, I’d get to play a few balls or bowl an over – and I believe that became possible only because of the bridges I made as an umpire. But in the process, I lost something precious too. I lost my courage to openly cry in public. I lost my feminine side, or at least suppressed it for the longest time, to fit into this world of men.

And that’s why, when in one scene Shutu is the last to be picked for a game of kabaddi, his state of mind was so relatable that I felt like crying. I did not, yet again.

Varun Grover

*********************

For those looking for a quick list of reasons to watch (and watch you MUST):

  1. Konkona Sen Sharma’s assured, sensitive debut as a Director. Ace!
  2. Konkona Sen Sharma’s screenplay co-written with Disha Rindani (based on a short story by Mukul Sharma) is full of delightful dialogue & an eerie sense of impending doom.
  3. Rich texture and detailing. Made on a small budget but NEVER looks like it. Sirsha Ray (DOP) and Sidhharth Sirohi (Production Design) bring their A-game to the table.
  4. McCluskieganj’s wild charm has been captured so ethereally that you can smell the air, touch the greenery.
  5. The film has four languages (English, Hindi, Bangla, and Chhota Nagpuri) and all spoken with a natural effortlessness rare to find in Indian cinema.
  6. The brilliant original score and music by Sagar Desai (disclosure: I worked with him in ‘Ankhon Dekhi’) elevates and layers the film with great precision.
  7. One of the best ensemble casts in recent memory – Ranvir Shorey, Kalki  Koechlin, Tilottama Shome, Gulshan Devaiah, Jim Sarbh, Arya Sharma, Tanuja, and Om Puri (one of his last roles and what a delight he is!).
  8. Such well-etched and distinct characters – right from Ranvir Shorey’s Vikram to Kalki’s Mimi to Tilottama’s Bonnie to Gulshan Devaiah’s Nandu – constantly chattering, surprising and layering the film with their brilliant mannerisms.
  9. Vikrant Massey got the kind of role actors crave for and he hits it out of the park. Shutu is beautiful and heartbreaking.
  10. Every department has delivered and the best thing is – the sum is way greater than the parts. Do not miss this film.

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

To get the reference of the country in the header of the post, you have to watch the film. Surely that can’t be enough reason to watch it, so here’s Varun Grover’s recco post on the film.

“अबला बबाल देख
डायन छिनाल देख
कुलटा कमाल देख – सारा-रारा-रा”

ये फ़िल्म देख लीजिए सब लोग। बैठे-बैठे ढेरों कारण तो अभी गिना सकता हूँ। उसके अलावा, जो हर फ़िल्म में होता है कि जो गिनाया नहीं जा सकता (जैसे आँसू या तालियाँ), जो एक अंदरूनी जादू है – उसके लिए तो सिनेमा हॉल जाना ही पड़ेगा। (और जैसा कि अक्सर होता है, ऐसी फ़िल्में मेहनत करवाती हैं। शो कम हैं, दूर हैं, पब्लिसिटी नहीं है – लेकिन यही आपके प्यार की परीक्षा भी है।)

१ – Avinash Das की #AnarkaliOfAarah वहाँ जाती है जहाँ सिनेमा तो क्या, हम लोग असल ज़िंदगी में भी जाने से डरते हैं। सोच की उस हद तक। Male entitlement और female consent पे बहुत बात हो रही है पिछले कुछ समय से लेकिन फिर भी जो बातें और लोग उन mainstream debates से छूट गयीं/गए, या जो सही से नहीं कहीं गयीं, उन सबका धुआँधार निचोड़ है।

२ – स्वरा भास्कर (Swara Bhasker) ने जो आत्मा फूँकी है अनारकली में, अपने अस्तित्व का एक-एक कण डाल दिया है। ऐसी दमदार मुख्य किरदार कि आपको उसके लिए डर लगे।

३ – ग़ज़ब के गाने। छिछोरे से लेकर क्रांतिकारी तक – और कई बार दोनों ही एक साथ। रोहित शर्मा का संगीत, और Ravinder Randhawa, Ramkumar Singh, Dr सागर, और ख़ुद Avinash के बोल – (“हम खेत तू कूदारी, हम चाल तू जुआरी”), पावनी पांडे और स्वाति शर्मा की आवाज़ें – बेहतरीन।

४ – फ़िल्म की भाषा। इतनी प्रामाणिक भाषा बहुत कम हिंदी फ़िल्मों में सुनने को मिलेगी। भकुआना से लेकर सीजना – हर शब्द में रस है। जो भी ‘उधर के’ लोग हैं, उनको तो मज़ा ही आ जाएगा।

५ – फ़िल्म का पहला और आख़िरी सीन। दो बिंदुओं से वैसे तो एक लाइन बनती है लेकिन यहाँ एक पूरा वृत्त बनता है।

६ – ‘तीसरी क़सम’ को दिया गया छोटा सा, सुंदर सा tribute।

७ – अनारकली के universe के बाक़ी किरदार। Pankaj Tripathi का ‘नाच’, Sanjai Mishra का वीभत्स रूप, इश्तेयाक खान का हैरी, अनवर (Mayur More), मफ़लर, एटीएम।

८ – अविनाश दास की पहली फ़िल्म, एकदम independently बनायी हुयी, सिर्फ़ दोस्तों और पागलपन की मदद से – तो ऐसी चीज़ों से जो धुआँ उठता है वो अलग ही रंग देता है।

Varun Grover