Posts Tagged ‘Kalki Koechlin’

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.

Going by this wicked short film directed by Konkona Sensharma, we felt it was just a matter of time till she graduates to features. So here’s the good news – her feature directorial debut, A Death In The Gunj is ready, and the film will have its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.

With this film, Abhishek Chaubey and Honey Trehan have turned producers with their new production banner, MacGuffin Pictures.

The film’s festival trailer is also out. Do have a look.

We don’t have exact synopsis of the film yet, but here’s what TIFF says about the film – Award-winning actor Konkona Sensharma makes her feature debut as a writer-director with this coming-of-age story about a shy young Indian student who quietly and fatefully unravels during a family road trip.

The film’s cast includes Vikrant Massey, Ranvir Shorey, Kalki Koechlin, Gulshan Devaiah, Tillotama Shome, Jim Sarbh, Tanuja Mukherjee, Om Puri and Arya Sharma.

The first look of Anu Menon’s new film, Waiting, is out. Do check out the trailer.

WaitingThe film stars Naseeruddin Shah and Kalki Koechlin in the lead, and it also has Rajat Kapoor, Sushasini Maniratnam, and Arjun Mathur.

Going by official release – WAITING is a film about the special relationship between Shiv (Naseeruddin Shah) and Tara (Kalki Koechlin), who befriend each other unexpectedly in a hospital while nursing their individual spouses in coma. It is a film about grief, yes, but it is also about confronting it with optimism and learning to live with courage, love with faith and laugh with hope.

Minor grouse – the way the song is laid out in the background of the trailer, with dialogues coming on top of words (of the song), its difficult to hear either. Wish it was just music, and not words, when there are dialogues on top. One really has to strain hard to get everything

Cast & Crew

Ishka Films & Drishyam Films PRESENT

WAITING

DIRECTED BY Anu Menon

CAST: Naseeruddin Shah, Kalki Koechlin, Rajat Kapoor, Sushasini Maniratnam, Arjun Mathur

PRODUCED BY: Priti Gupta, Manish Mundra

SCREENPLAY: Anu Menon, James Ruzicka

DIALOGUE: Atika Chohan

DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY: Neha Parti Matiyani

EDITING: Nitin Baid, Apurva Asrani

MUSIC: Mikey McCleary

SOUND: Roland Heap, Udit Duseja, Mandar Kamalapurkar

CASTING: Shubham Gaur, Gautam Pisharody

PRODUCTION DESIGNER: Prajakta Ghag

CHOREOGRAPHY: Shampa Gopikrishna

VFX: Bibek Basu

EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: Nancy Nisa Beso

ASSOCIATE PRODUCERS: Poonam Punjabi, Shiladitya Bora

11053419_777442529018283_6873409636004394591_n

SPOILER  ALERT

If you are into cocktails, you know Margarita is hardly ever served with a straw, but who is to say you can’t have it with a straw? Who sets these standards of normality? What is normality? When life throws a lemon out at you, make lemonade? That might be the “normal adage” but don’t doubt that you might as well slice wedges of that lemon to spunk up your cocktail – have it with a straw, if you may. The magic, after all, is in the concoction – not the goblet, glass or straw.

I don’t think the highlight of “Margarita With A Straw” is that it is the story of a patient of cerebral palsy. Neither is it her unusual journey of discovering her sexuality.. I think the biggest achievement is how “normal” the story is.

Sex and handicap have so far both been terribly misunderstood and/or misrepresented in our movies (and perhaps our society). Let’s recall what Bollywood has us believe mostly:

  • Handicap in bollywood – a good human being, who is tragically handicapped and the big bad word is mean to this person for no fault of his/her. Poor he/she lives a life of suffering and sympathy is the least you can give him/her.
  • Sexuality in bollywood – (usually means homosexuality) and is the butt of all jokes (pun intended). So a gay angle in mainstream Bollywood is usually intended to provide comic relief (?) and almost always is physical comedy – to evoke laughter over dressing or mannerism. At best, it titillates homophobia (remember kantaben!).

“Margarita with a straw” is a slap-on-your-face impolite departure from both these stereotypes. It is in the end a story of a girl with her unique flaws (and I don’t mean her physical flaws), and how she handles her life on her terms. Yes, her disability is a factor, but who in this world is perfect. And then again, who is perfectly happy. Aren’t we all but a group of mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive list of flaws?

But then who are we to call anything a flaw. Perhaps there are no flaws, simply facts – which we all accept and get on with life. So what would a mother do, if she found her child was challenged physically? Brood? Perhaps momentarily. But, Brood forever? Nope. She will take it in her stride and do what she must to make sure the child does not feel the pinch.

So welcome to Laila’s (essayed remarkably by Kalki) life – different, but raised normal –  A girl whose dreams do not show any signs of the struggle that her mortar skills do. A musician, composer and writer, in her late teens, who Skypes and messengers with her boycrush, even writes him a song in his languages, only to get her heart broken. But she is a today’s educated girl – who can dabble between software, men and even porn, at her will and has no shame asking a desi dukaandar for a vibrator.

With crushes and sexcapades behind her, her story takes a defining turn when she is accepted in New York University. A lot changes for her and for her Aai (the ravishing, refreshing, rare, Revathi) in the Big Apple. For starters, Aai no longer needs to carry a manual ramp in her non-cosy van, for the developed country is equipped to give her daughter the wings she never imagined. But old habits die hard – in her brief stay in New York she still shadows her daughter without her knowledge only to make sure she is fine. As a confident, yet worried mother returns to India, the brave, yet newly independent daughter stays on to pursue her dreams and live her life.

While academic flight is underplayed, it is the unfurling of Laila’s inner self, that forms the crux of MWAS. When she meets Khanum from Pakistan (Sayani Gupta) in New York, you can sense sparks flying. Make way for Hindi cinema’s most unconventional coupling  – one a patient of cerebral palsy and other with no eyesight. Both women. Chemistry crackles and couple starts to live together. But is Laila sure of herself? Is she as committed as her partner?

In the last leg of the story, the couple of New York arrive in Delhi to make a few announcements. Attempts are made, and Aai, misunderstands bi for baai – and can only empathise that all women are but baais at home – dealing with chores day in and day out. A determined Laila makes it but obvious in the next attempt but has little chance to converse. For beneath the fighter exterior, Aai is losing her battle against cancer.

The protagonists real battles are finally not about her physicality or her sexuality, they are about her family, her infidelity, her personal choices. Does she tell her partner the truth? Does she choose convenience over companionship? Career over family?

Margarita with a straw is more than a film, it is a perspective. Sexuality is not a situation, it is a fact. If you accept that your child has cerebral palsy, why not accept a child who discovers he/she is gay/bisexual? Cerebral palsy can not be cured, but as a parent (and society) you can try and make the environment more conducive to help the person lead a normal life. Is it a lot to expect the same for a person with uncommon sexuality? For everything that is uncommon is not unnatural.

To say so much about this film is to mean without saying that it excels in all departments, and superlatively so in performances. Revathi’s portrayal of Aai is as real as it can get – angry, loving, caring,  sometimes doting and nosey, she is the typical Indian mother, an epitome of affection. Both Sayani Gupta and Kuljeet Singh (as Laila’s father) deliver memorable characters for what they bring to the screen.

But the movie belongs to Kalki Kochlin – who makes Laila very three dimensional, very believable. She works effectively to nail the body language and voice without ever making Laila a caricature. You can see her inner struggle flash on her face and can feel for her everytime she struggles to move or to communicate or make a decision. This is definitely a performance of an international standard.

Kudos to director & writer Shonali Bose, who not only breaks stereotypes but sets a new benchmark of sorts. She has more than pushed the envelope in Bollywood. MWAS is a bold, daring, refreshing and very important film. It breaks conventions and asks you accept what you mustn’t question, and love without conditions.

Do not have fixations of what is right, what is acceptable or what is normal. And the next time you have a Margarita, (or even a filter coffee for that matter), remember you can also have it with a straw 😉

Kartik K J

(Based in Pune, a marketing professional in daytime and a movie buff during night, Kartik K J is currently working on something which he hopes will be a novel someday)

1a1303c92991f98043b0a07056e630bb

The 2014 edition of Toronto International Film Festival has added 2 more Indian films in its schedule.

Margarita, with a Straw directed by Shonali Bose will have its world premiere Contemporary World Cinema section.

From fest site – In this inspirational love story, a Delhi university student and aspiring writer afflicted with cerebral palsy (Kalki Koechlin, Dev.D, That Girl in Yellow Boots) leaves India for New York University, where she falls for a fiery young activist.The programme presents the latest works of some of the most provocative and important voices in cinema from around the globe. Bose’s debut film Amu had also been screened at Toronto in 2005.

Cast, Credit and other details

Country: India
Year: 2014
Language: Hindi/English
Premiere Status: World Premiere
Runtime: 100 minutes
Rating: 14A
Producer: Shonali Bose, Nilesh Maniyar
Production Company: Ishan Talkies, Viacom18 Motion Pictures, Jakhotia Group
Principal Cast: Kalki Koechlin, Revathy, Sayani Gupta, William Moseley, Hussain Dalal
Screenplay: Shonali Bose, Nilesh Maniyar
Cinematographer: Anne Misawa
Editor: Monisha Baldawa
Sound: Resul Pookutty, Amrit Pritam
Music: Mikey McCleary, Prasoon Joshi
Production Designer: Somenath Pakre, Prasun Chakraborty

3b6e7b38ad0ded7366dd8e7f5465c52c

The second film is Megha Ramaswamy’s Newborns. It’s part of the inaugural Short Cuts International programme.

From fest site – A hauntingly beautiful documentary that follows female survivors of acid attacks, who bravely defy the trauma and fear that will always accompany them.

Cast, Crew and Other Details

Country: India
Year: 2014
Language: Hindi
Premiere Status: World Premiere
Runtime: 8 minutes
Rating: STC

Producer: Anand Gandhi, Sohum Shah, Ruchi Bhimani
Production Company: Recyclewala Labs
Principal Cast: Laxmi, Nasreen, Sapna, Daya Kishan, Usha, Rupesh Tillu, Heena Agrawal
Screenplay: Megha Ramaswamy
Cinematographer: Satya Rai Nagpaul
Editor: Anand Gandhi, Rohit Pandey
Sound: Ajit Rathore, Aditya Jadav
Production Designer: Megha Ramaswamy

Trailer

The Festival will run from September 4 to 14, 2014.

The first poster of the much anticipated film of Dibakar Banerjee, Shanghai, is out.

The film stars Emraan Hashmi, Abhay Deol, Prosenjit Chatterjee and Kalki Koechlin.

With any Anurag Kashyap film, one thing is for sure – a debate. A divided house. We are also swinging from one side to another with every new post on the film. This is Salik Shah‘s first post here. Read on..

That Girl In Yellow Boots is Kalki Koechlin’s debut as a filmmaker. It’s written all over the film. Anurag Kashyap just happened to be there while Rajeev Ravi was busy setting up his camera on the ‘stage.’ Except for one scene where Ruth smokes against the dazzling red screen, the audience never notices his camera tricks. There is one scene though — where they abruptly cut from a close up to a mid shot of the two protagonists who seem to have finally accepted the tragedy of their solitary existence— which seemed to be an attempt to tease the audience by not allowing them to have their ‘emotional cumshot’ exactly where they needed it.

Pulp Fiction is an old trick—but can provide little ‘happy endings’ in otherwise an unhappy film. The happy diversions in That Girl In Yellow Boots are just that. The sad thing is the mistiming. In an otherwise comic scene, where Ruth spins a story about her father’s death, a little mischief was desirable. A camera angle or two, hinting at her playfulness, where she appears brutally honest to the innocent criminal but palpably mischievous to us, might have been forgiven by the neo-realists. Excess is bad, but so is overt restraint.

Sound is a tricky affair; the jarring background score wasn’t called for at key scenes—or was it placed there to deny the audience any sympathy for Ruth? How I wish I could mute to listen deeply to Ruth’s silences… A minimalist approach might have further polarized the audience—but the result might have been a rewarding experience. Years ago, I couldn’t understand Nobody Needs to Know (Azazel Jacobs, 2003), but the expressionless, unfathomable face of its female lead has stayed with me. That Girl In Yellow Boots works in silence, often brilliantly.

There are people as they are—and many of AK’s assistants have verily filled in as Ruth’s steady customers. Prashant, however, is the film’s most visible link to the theater. The words he chooses, the way he moves—all seem to be a reminiscence of an era behind us. Be it in the Skeleton Woman, Ek, Do (FTII) or That Girl In Yellow Boots, he is there—loud, unchecked, mimicking himself. You can see that he is acting—a constant reminder of the film’s limitation.

Cinema is not an actively participatory experience like the theater. When the human contact is lost, you’ve to employ literary, theatrical or cinematic techniques to fuel the audience’s imagination to fill in the gaps in the visual narrative. That is why you get the unborn child manifested in Three Monkeys. That is why whole sequences in After the Rehearsal are devised to ‘mesmerize’ the audience. Here we get face to face with Ruth and Ben as they are—helpless, victims of their own doing, hopeless—all in a very straight-forward, good in a theatrical way.

If anything, it’s an exercise—for Anurag Kashyap, for you and for me. Why should it be anything else? Making a film is all that matters to him; while we go to great lengths to obtain and frame a fake poster of a pirated film! Strip the cinema of its greatness, please. Today every man with a camera is a filmmaker. While I don’t expect them to be Wong Kar-Wai or Tarkovsky—which they might very well be; they don’t need to be—I do believe if given a chance, they could be more authentic. It’s a good thing for cinema. It’s the new pen of our times; let them write; let us write with it. That’s indie. And no one seems to understand this better than this father of ‘Hindie.’

Keep shooting.

 — Salik