Posts Tagged ‘Seema Biswas’

Kothanodi

There I lay my head on the pillow, snuggled into my blanket ready to surrender to the world of talking animals and strange beings my mother was about to conjure for me. It was delicious.

Then one day, I found my sister reading a 1000 page fat book with tiny font and pictures. Strange, I thought. In my world only children’s books (or textbooks and magazines) had pictures and never in tiny font. Tiny font was ‘meant for grown-ups’ territory, one to be stayed away from, so boring. But curiosity got the better of me and I went down the rabbit hole a-la Alice and landed in a wonderland of rolling peas, talking trees and 3/6/12-headed dragons. It was a much-to-be-thumbed Book of Ukranian Folk Tales.

None of it was incredulous; magic never is when you are a kid. Just curiouser and curiouser. It was a real world, with real people living in real houses and doing real things, but that world was full of strange phenomena. It brought magic right onto my doorstep. These weren’t Disney’s amusement park-like fairylands visiting me, but home-grown magic churned like butter from daily life with all its shades intact. Kothanodi – River of Fables is something like that.

It opens on the darkest tone possible. A man is burying a living infant in a mysterious forest full of strange, eerie sounds. Wails and whispers are all around, suggesting something sinister is on. And you are intrigued to know more. This seems like more than a fable, more than folklore, you say, when suddenly an elephant apple comes rolling along. It is following a woman, carefully, loyally. A loving father is taking leave of his young daughter as a suspicious-looking step-mother looks on. A python is stealthily being caught in the forest and next thing we know it is being welcomed into a household to be wedded to a human girl. The setting is tribal, somewhere deep in the interiors of Assam, along a river that carries the fables from the shore of one house to another, from one mother to another.

A narrative connect of four mothers weaves four different folktales into one solid film. The screenplay is based on events and characters described in popular Assamese folk tales compiled in the anthology ‘বুঢ়ী আইৰ সাধু’ or Grandma’s Tales, by Assamese literary luminary Lakshminath Bezbaroa, and first published in 1911 (source: link). Each story soaked in the ethos of its space and time, flows in and out of each other.

The mother-daughter thematic motif makes it tempting to dig deeper to look for hidden sub-text of social comment, only to find it is a formal element instead. This realisation dawns as the film draws towards its unique and dreadful conclusions and with it takes away the pressure of decoding it, replacing it with the pleasure of magic realism.

The joy of the film lies in its naturalistic setting and use of melodrama to suitably evoke earthy, home-grown environs of tribal India where witches and teachers, merchants and snake-grooms, mothers and talking dead bodies, live together. The emotional decibel of the film is tuned in balance, with a heightened measure of melodrama where required (in Tejimola and snake-groom stories), and controlled where necessary (the elephant apple story and buried babies stories.) The play then, of the baby burying scene (which plays out in all its eerie glory), cutting in between stories to unsettle the mood a bit, lest the fable become a dream removed from reality, becomes interesting. The joy of a fairy tale is in its mirth and that of a fable in its mystique, while folklore is rooted in common, realistic setting. The more rooted the setting the more absurd and mysterious does the magic seem. Yet, surprisingly more real. You can touch it, almost. And in River of Fables we don’t question the magic, we just let it happen, like we did when we saw it when we were young.

Perhaps, the biggest achievement of the film is bringing magic into the adult, mainstream language back by seizing it from children’s territory to a very adult world and adult problems and demystifying it by laying bare its darkest shades, without sugar-coating, something we don’t encounter often in children’s fables or popular folklore. And here the film does not differentiate or take sides with white or black magic, rather treats it like yin and yang. Exactly how it is. I hope this isn’t reduced to an over-simplified argument of fanning superstition.

The film would have been lesser if not for the gravitas that Adil Hussain, Urmila Mahanta and Seema Biswas lend to their characters and the story. They carry the inter-woven, longform narrative with assured grace and control that is a pleasure to watch.

Certain portions of the film, especially the eerie sequences, do have a tacky, under-done feel, partly in budget, partly in design and partly in imagination. Yet, it does not become a hindrance in enjoying an otherwise delectable fare much like that other gem in the same genre ‘Goynar Boksho’.

I lost my Ukranian folk tales book to a raddiwala because parents mistakenly thought I was too old to be interested in them anymore. River of Fables lessened the ache a little.

Fatema Kagalwala

Most probably you haven’t heard about any of these titles mentioned in the header of the post. But they seem to be interesting films, and hopefully we will get to hear more about them in the coming months. So here’s the official synopsis of all these films.

DEKH TAMASHA DEKH

Away from any media attention, Feroze Abbas Khan has completed his next film titled Dekh Tamasha Dekh. He had earlier directed Gandhi, My Father.

Synopsis : The story revolves around the search for the religious identity of a poor man crushed under the weight of a politican’s hoarding. A social and political satire, the film explores the impossible India, where bizarre is normal.

Directed by Feroze Abbas Khan.
India 2012, 108 Minutes, Hindi with English subtitles.
Cast: Satish Kaushik, Tanvi Azmi, Vinay Jain, Sharad Ponkshe, Ganesh Yadav, Apoorva Arora, Alok Rajwade

CHENU

Manjeet Singh’s directorial debut Mumbai Cha Raja did a good round of film fests and now he is working on his next film titled Chenu. It has been selected for the 9th edition of L’Atelier organized by the Cinéfondation of the Cannes Film Festival.

Synopsis : Chenu, a low caste Dalit boy living in rural North India, is drawn into an ongoing war between the extremely violent leftist “Naxal” militia and the fascist landlords’ gang. One day his younger sister Chano’s fingers are chopped off by landlord Teer Singh for plucking mustard leaves from his farm. When Chenu’s family is denied justice, the Naxals come to their rescue. They huntdown Teer Singh forcing him to take refuge under the protection of Bhagwan Sing, the leader of a landlord gang who has just cremated a cart full of dead relatives killed by the Naxals. The Naxals then involve Chenu in their operations and he comes to know where their weapons are hidden. When physically beaten by the rich village kids for playing on their turf, Chenu learns to fire a handgun himself. Meanwhile Bhagwan Singh, in thirst of revenge, consolidates other landlord gangs to form a powerful private army. A bloody cycle of violence unleashes, engulfing Chenu’s innocence while setting him on the cours of his own journey.

OONGA

I have been hearing about Devashish Makhija for a long time. Good to know that he is ready with his debut feature.

Synopsis : Little Oonga missed his village school trip to the faraway big city Lohabad to see a play called ‘Ramayan’. Unable to handle the pressure of being the only kid around who has not seen the fantastic warrior-king ‘Rama’, Oonga runs away. He goes on a perilous journey across forest, river, mountains and roads – bigger than any he’s ever seen, and valleys lain to waste by the mining industry… until he reaches the large, cold, chaotic, blinding city. When he emerges from the play he believes he has become Rama! But he is now returning not to the warm confines of his little village, but to a battlefield where the ‘company’ will do anything to take the adivasi’s land away from them. Only, Oonga doesn’t know it yet.

Directed by Devashish Makhija.
India, 2012, Feature Film, 98 Minutes, Hindi and Oriya with English subtitles.
Cast – Alyy Khan, Anand Tiwari, Nandita Das, Priyanka Bose, Salim Kumar, Seema Biswas, Vipin Sharma

FILMISTAAN

Filmistaan22012 was a good year for Bollywood. But beating all those films, Nitin Kakkar’s debut feature Filmistaan bagged the National Award for the Best Feature Film in Hindi Language. And if you read the synopsis, you might know why. It sounds delicious.

Synopsis : This National Award winning movie is set in Mumbai where, affable Bollywood buff and wanna-be-actor Sunny, who works as an assistant director, fantasizes on becoming a heart-throb star. However, at every audition he is summarily thrown out. Undeterred, he goes with an American crew to remote areas in Rajasthan to work on a documentary. One day an Islamic terrorist group kidnaps him for the American crew-member. Sunny finds himself on enemy border amidst guns and pathani-clad guards, who decide to keep him hostage until they locate their original target. The house in which he is confined belongs to a Pakistani, whose trade stems from pirated Hindi films, which he brings back every time he crosses the border. Soon, the two factions realize that they share a human and cultural bond. The film shows how cinema can be the universal panacea for co-existence.

Directed by Nitin Kakkar.
India 2012, 117 Minutes, Hindi with English subtitles.
Cast – Sharib Hashmi, Kumud Mishra, Gopal Datt, Inaamulhaq

FIREFLIES

Synopsis : ‘Fireflies’ is the story of two estranged brothers – Shiv and Rana. Shiv, a successful banker, lives in the superficial glitter of corporate Bombay. The younger brother, Rana, is a law school dropout who lives by the day. Though worldly experiences and illusions briefly illuminate the brothers’ journeys, a tragedy that befell them fifteen years earlier seems destined to repeat itself, just in new incarnations. Flames suddenly extinguish again, in an eerie heartbeat. The journey ahead echoing with voices and visions from the past, and the magic realism of the years gone by, beckons the brothers to find each other again. And the picture in the puzzle that was scattered so long ago. Fireflies come out in the night, just to light up the darkness. They live as long as the glow lasts. Even if it is a lifetime, being lived in a day.

Directed by Sabal Singh Shekhawat.
India, 2012, 102 Minutes, Hindi & English.
Cast – Arjun Mathur, Monica Dogra, Rahul Khanna, Shivani Ghai, Aadya Bedi

After its world premiere at the Telluride Film Festival, the next stop for Deepa Mehta’s Midnight’s Children is the ongoing Toronto International Film Festival. Earlier four clips from the film were released. And now the official trailer of the film is finally out. Click on the play button and have a look

The trailer looks and feels nice with the correct mood and tone. But why this English Vinglish? Seems odd and out of place.

The film is based on Salman Rushdie’s acclaimed novel of the same name. The film stars stars Satya Bhabha, Shahana Goswami, Shabana Azmi, Soha Ali Khan, Darsheel Safary, Rajat Kapoor, Seema Biswas, Shriya Saran, Siddharth, Ronit Roy, Rahul Bose, Samrat Chakrabarti, Sarita Choudhury, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Anupam Kher, Anita Majumdar and Zaib Shaikh.

And if you missed it earlier, here’s the official synopsis…

Midnight’s Children is an epic film from Oscar-nominated director Deepa Mehta, based on the Booker Prize winning novel by Salman Rushdie. At the stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947, as India proclaims independence from Great Britain, two newborn babies are switched by a nurse in a Bombay hospital. Saleem Sinai, the illegitimate son of a poor woman, and Shiva, the offspring of a wealthy couple, are fated to live the destiny meant for each other. Their lives become mysteriously intertwined and are inextricably linked to India’s whirlwind journey of triumphs and disasters.

 From the unlikely romance of Saleem’s grandparents to the birth of his own son, Midnight’s Children is a journey at once sweeping in scope and yet intimate in tone. Hopeful, comic and magical — the film conjures images and characters as rich and unforgettable as India herself.

With the announcement of its world premiere at TIFF, the official website of Midnight’s Children has also been launched. Click here to go to the site.

Though the trailer is not out yet, four clips of the film have been uploaded. Click on the play button and enjoy.

1. Killing fields

2. Emerald meets the General –  starts with General Zulfikar arriving at Sinai family residence

3. Tell me a poem – Amina and Nadir chatting in her parent’s basement

4. Saleem and Parvati kissing

The film stars stars Satya Bhabha, Shahana Goswami, Shabana Azmi, Soha Ali Khan, Darsheel Safary, Rajat Kapoor, Seema Biswas, Shriya Saran, Siddharth, Ronit Roy, Rahul Bose, Samrat Chakrabarti, Sarita Choudhury, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Anupam Kher, Anita Majumdar and Zaib Shaikh.

– To quote from the official release, here’s the synopsis….

“Born in the hour of India’s freedom. Handcuffed to history.”

Midnight’s Children is an epic film from Oscar-nominated director Deepa Mehta, based on the Booker Prize winning novel by Salman Rushdie. At the stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947, as India proclaims independence from Great Britain, two newborn babies are switched by a nurse in a Bombay hospital. Saleem Sinai, the illegitimate son of a poor woman, and Shiva, the offspring of a wealthy couple, are fated to live the destiny meant for each other. Their lives become mysteriously intertwined and are inextricably linked to India’s whirlwind journey of triumphs and disasters.

From the unlikely romance of Saleem’s grandparents to the birth of his own son, Midnight’s Children is a journey at once sweeping in scope and yet intimate in tone. Hopeful, comic and magical – the film conjures images and characters as rich and unforgettable as India herself.

So what’s common between all three? Desi connect and all female directors. Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) unveiled it’s official selection list for this year. And here are more details about these three films.

One of the most anticipated films of the year is Deepa Mehta’s adaptation of Salman Rushdie’s novel Midnight’s Children. It stars Satya Bhabha, Shahana Goswami, Rajat Kapoor, Seema Biswas, Shriya Saran, Siddharth, Ronit Roy, Rahul Bose, Anita Majumdar and Zaib Shaikh. The 148-minute long film has a screenplay by Rushdie himself. And here are some new stills. Click on one of the pics to view the slide show and make the images bigger.

To quote from the TIFF page…

Spanning decades and generations, celebrated Canadian filmmaker Deepa Mehta’s highly anticipated adaptation of Salman Rushdie’s Booker Prize®–winning novel is an engrossing allegorical fantasy in which children born on the cusp of India’s independence from Britain are endowed with strange, magical abilities.

If Deepa Mehta is here, can Mira Nair be far behind? She is also ready with her new film – an adaptation of Mohsin Hamid’s acclaimed book, The Reluctant Fundamentalist. The principal cast includes Riz Ahmed, Kate Hudson, Kiefer Sutherland, Liev Schreiber and Nelsan Ellis. The film is also opening the Venice Film Festival.

To quote from the TIFF page…

Kiefer Sutherland, Liev Schreiber and Kate Hudson co-star in this adaptation of Mohsin Hamid’s international best-selling novel, about a young Pakistani man (Riz Ahmed) whose pursuit of corporate success on Wall Street leads him on a strange path back to the world he had left behind.

And the third film which is completely desi is debutant Gauri Shinde’s English Vinglish starring Sridevi, Adil Hussain, Mehdi Nebbou and Priya Anand. To quote from the official release…

Legendary Indian actress Sridevi returns to the screen after a fifteen-year absence in this funny and touching story about an Indian woman who struggles to learn the English language in order to help provide for her family.

But fest insider tells us that isn’t all. There’s more to come in TIFF 2012! We will keep you posted about all the Desi connect.

Prashant Bhargava’s debut feature Patang has been doing the rounds of international film festivals since last year and the latest one was the prestigious Ebertfest.

It stars Seema Biswas, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Sugandha Garg and Aakash Mahayera, and has been shot by Shanker Raman.

The film will be finally in US theatres from June 15th. And here’s a new trailer of the film.

And here’s the synopsis..

A family saga set against the colorful spectacle of the Uttarayan, India’s largest kite festival, The Kite is a kaleidoscopic whirlwind of energy, romance, and turmoil. A businessman arrives in Ahmedabad for a surprise visit to his once grand family home, bringing with him his daughter and some unexpected news for the family’s future. Amongst the flurry of preparations and the energy of the festival itself, the transformative and intersecting tales of six characters unfold.

To know more about the film, click here.

You can also watch Prashant’s short film Sangam at www.mubi.com. The film premiered at Sundance Film Festival in 2004.

Patang – The debut feature of Prashant Bhargava will have its North American premiere at the 10th Tribeca Film Festival. It will be shown in the World Narrative Feature Competition and will compete with 11 other films for the Founders Award for Best Narrative Feature, Best New Narrative Director, Best Actor and Actress, Best Screenplay, and Best Cinematography.

The film was also shown at this year’s Berlin Film Festival in the International Forum of New Cinema. It stars Seema Biswas, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Sugandha Garg and Aakash Mahayera, and has been shot by Shanker Raman.

Click on the play button to check out its goregous preview trailer…

To quote from Tribeca’s official release..

A family saga set against the colorful spectacle of the Uttarayan, India’s largest kite festival, The Kite is a kaleidoscopic whirlwind of energy, romance, and turmoil. A businessman arrives in Ahmedabad for a surprise visit to his once grand family home, bringing with him his daughter and some unexpected news for the family’s future. Amongst the flurry of preparations and the energy of the festival itself, the transformative and intersecting tales of six characters unfold.

To know more about the film, click here. To read more about the other films selected for Tribeca Fest, click here.

You can also watch Prashant Bhargava’s short film Sangam at www.mubi.com. The film premiered at Sundance Film Festival in 2004.