Posts Tagged ‘UTV’

UTV is on a roll this year. First, they gave a big platform to Ship Of Theseus, made it visible enough, and got screens for it even when Chennai Express was running. Second, repeat the same act with The Lunchbox. And now, they have picked up another terrific film – Hansal Mehta’s Shahid. The film has got a new trailer too. Have a look.

Some of us saw the film at Mumbai Film Festival last year, and can easily bet that it’s another “must watch”. It also has one of the year’s best and break out performance by Raj Kumar Yadav. The film rides entirely on his shoulder and he makes you believe that he is Shahid Azmi.

The film is scheduled to release on 18th October.

Official synopsis

“Shahid” traces the story of a slain human rights activist and lawyer Shahid Azmi. Set during the communal violence that was unleashed in the city of Mumbai since 1993. We see a remarkable tale unfold. From attempting to become a terrorist to being wrongly imprisoned under the anti-terrorism law to becoming a lawyer, a champion of human rights (particularly the Muslim minorities in India), “Shahid” traces the inspiring personal journey of a boy while following the rise of communal violence in India. The story of an impoverished Muslim struggling to come to terms with injustice, inequality and rising above his circumstances is an inspiring testament to the human spirit.

The cast includes Raj Kumar, Prabhleen Sandhu, Baljinder Kaur, Tigmanshu Dhulia, K K Menon, Yusuf Husain, Prabal Panjabi, Vinod Rawat, Vipin Sharma, Shalini Vatsa, Paritosh Sand, Pavan Kumar, Vivek Ghamande, Akash Sinha, Mohd Zeeshan Ayyub and Mukesh Chhabra.

If you follow this blog and twitter feed of our regular contributors, you know that we have been plugging, writing and tweeting about Ritesh Batra’s debut feature ‘The Lunchbox’ for a long, long time. The film is finally releasing this friday. Thanks to UTV and Karan Johar who came on board and made it happen.

And Dear UTV, for Ship Of Theseus, The Lunchbox and Shahid, sau khoon maaf (or Chennai Express maaf) this year from our side. Do continue the good work, or at least just the balancing act will do.

Over to Fatema Kagalwala who tells you why ‘The Lunchbox’ is a must watch and is easily one of the best films of the year.

Lunchbox copy

Cinema is a big lie. Loneliness isn’t as poetic as it pretends to be on celluloid. And nostalgia is a double-edged sword, its pain bitter-sweet but pain after all. Not many have the courage to show it as it is and we keep buying those lies, keeping the pretence going. Good things happen to good people in films but not real life. But who are we to conclude that? Definitely, not Ritesh Batra. Because, he is not pretending, nor bull-shitting us. He is simply throwing two situations, two people very real and painfully so, together and asking ‘what if’? And also, ‘what now’? And that is beautiful.

There is loneliness everywhere in the film. In every frame, every character. Accompanied by that unshakeably loyal bitch of a companion – longing. And along with it disillusionment, resignation and valiant attempts to overcome. In all the three central characters of the film played by Irrfan Khan, Nimrat Kaur and Nawazuddin Siddique.

I don’t know how to write a recco post without divulging too much. So free-wheeling it will be. In a Q and A, Ritesh Batra said there is a lot of nostalgia in every character, yearning for a time long past. And nostalgia is the step-child of loneliness, undesired yet cannot be shaken of. Always around to remind you the good times have long gone. But they needn’t stay gone. And as humans we will always wish for better times, strive for better times. And so do these three characters. Just like Georges in Amour. Or Salma of Lemon Tree.

How do you write about a film that you just liked and liked? No, there is nothing to dislike in the film. At least, there wasn’t to my eyes. Unless you are that guy who thinks old people and middle-class, married women with children cannot be protagonists of a film because their stories are drab. Had Ritesh Batra thought so, we wouldn’t have had Lunchbox, a deceptively feel-good film that goes just this much beyond feel-good, opening a world that is so ours yet painted with a warm, tender, home-grown, understated sensibility that till now we saw only in Iranian films.

So Irrfan Khan is an old man, Saajan Fernandes, who is about to retire from his job at the Claims Department in what I presume must be LIC, given it looks like a Govt organisation. He is a widower, childless, lonely and prickly like how the emotionally un-nurtured sometimes get. Work-wise he is punctilious, much respected and almost clock-work, again almost like how the emotionally un-nurtured sometimes get. He just might easily become Carl from Up in a few years. Or a middle-class Isak of Wild Strawberries.

One day, Saajan receives an unusually well-prepared lunch and then the next day a letter. He responds and a story grows out of those little bits of interactions that happen at lunch-time via a now-defunct medium – hand-written letters. The film packs such old-world symbols with aplomb, while just slipping them in casually. Letters, VCR with ‘Yeh Jo Hain Zindagi’ playing (Yes, sigh!), a song from Saajan; celebrating nostalgia with its characters and nudging us to try it too. Who knows we might like it too? And yes, I did. (Btw, is Yeh Jo Hain Zindagi on #YKW?)

The person on the other side of the letters is Ila, a young, middle-class housewife and mother, maybe in her late twenties or early thirties, who is already spent fulfilling the thankless responsibilities of a home-maker for a long time now. A few years older and she will become Francesca of Bridges of Madison County. But she isn’t there yet so she is conspiring with her neighbour aunty, present only in voice (the awesome Bharti Achrekar with her distinct voice), to win back the attentions of her husband, which, as they do, have eroded over time. Special lunches with special masalas are prepared in the hope that her husband will notice her again. But the first tiffin she sends him doesn’t reach him. Nor does the last. And by then it is too late. Maybe, that is better because what happens otherwise is what we want for Ila, not the dregs of a dead romance rekindled with wet wood.

And then there is Sheikh, played by that annoyingly smooth and frustratingly effortless actor Nawazuddin Siddique. An orphan who has come up on his own in this tough world and loves saying ‘Maa kehti thi’ because it adds ‘vazan’ (weight) to his quotes. He is looking for an anchor too and under his lisping, people-pleasing, yes-man, we see that vulnerable and achingly lonely man longing for someone elder he could call his own. He influences Saajan’s life as much as Saajan does his. (SPOILER – The scene where NS asks Saajan to represent him at the wedding may seem cheesy and clichéd but when Saajan actually does, the heft of emotion actually weighs you down. Suddenly, you realise this is what it meant to him. This is how much having someone you can call family can mean. By then, our Saajan has begun thawing too and we revel in it. SPOILER ENDS)

The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, if there is a film that personifies this, it is Lunchbox. Ila is trying to win her husband back through it, Saajan’s tough crust begins to melt in it and we also see Sheikh trying to woo Saajan’s confidence by his own culinary talent, but along with suitable pride he takes in his wife’s cooking. If at all food was a central motif in a film it was this. Nourishment. We all need it. Physical and emotional. After a point, the physical nourishment and the loveliness that comes with the excitement of change just becomes a symbol of emotional nourishment.

It is as tender as it gets, almost as tender as ‘Mary and Max’ was. The characters could just be Indianised versions of that touchingly, understated and very well-written film. The promises in Lunchbox are slightly more populist, a wee dream-like to really compare. But that is where it scores. In maintaining that thin line between selling dreams and mirroring reality while infusing hope. And if not for the ending, it could have killed the film, or dragged it down the much-beaten path of ‘potential thi, expore nahi kiya.’ Because, in the end, try as we might to resist it, suddenly it becomes our story, we are pulled in, by force. Forced to commit to it, engage with it at a deeper level because our own catharsis depends on it. How? Experience it and then we will talk.

I haven’t watched a movie on old age more painful than Sarah Polley’s ‘Away From Her’, which shows the pain of growing old in all its nakedness. Irrfan as Saajan is brilliant as he wears that pain as a daily accessory, treating it almost as a part of life. Yet, there is a balance in tone, where we never indulge in his sorrow vicariously, yet it touches us as we see him being rough with little kids and then staring longingly into other people’s houses, watching them eating noisily together. We worry what will happen to him now that he is retiring and from the looks of it, it seems he is worrying too. Just that his worries are masked with a longing he himself doesn’t want to admit.

Ila on the other hand has been brave enough to admit it. And brave enough to do something about it. She has a confidante in her neighbour aunty who has been taking care of her bed-ridden husband for fifteen years without complaint. And she has a mother who, instead of being in pain, feels empty and relieved, the day her husband dies. All she feels is hungry she says and it is a stunning metaphor of nourishment again. What comes out after the cork is removed on years of repression, years of living with an extinguished relationship? Maybe, Ila sees her future in her mother because, we surely do.

A lot of the film is editing. Ritesh Batra admitted it too. The stories of Saajan and Ila are inter-cut with an intuitive sense of excitement. It is all repetitive, everything the two do, they can’t help it, their lives are like that, mundane, boring and same always. What’s worse, ours is the same but the story-telling takes care of that, there is no boredom or ennui hitting us. Slightly mismatched voice-overs, visual exploration of possibilities and a sense of control in scenes showing Saajan and Ila alone transports the film out of monotony so much that the deliberately cultivated tedium becomes part of the fabric of the film without becoming an obstacle.

There is a refreshing un-self-consciousness about the film that is so rewarding, one is wonderstruck to know it is the director’s debut film. Irrfan Khan, we know isn’t a self-conscious actor, repetitive and uninspiring he maybe at times but never self-conscious. Nimrat Kaur isn’t either and it is a pleasure to watch two actors who know the meaning of restraint and understatement. Nimrat Kaur takes the staid and plaid Ila out of her very common characterisation and infuses so much warmth in her that we cannot but help root for her. All this without any manipulation. However, while the world was busy adoring Irrfan I gave away my awe and jaw to Nawazuddin Siddique. The man is something else. Would it be blasphemy if I say watch the film for him above all?

Mumbai is a silent character as well, looking on at its victims, as they grapple with their lives in this big, sprawling city of faceless people full of dreams waiting for a miracle to transform their lives. Do Saajan, Ila and Sheikh find theirs uplifted? Do their dreams find wings and their desires expression? Does loneliness consume them or release them to fly on? Is loneliness on celluloid different than it is for you and me? There is only one way to find out and that is by watching this delectable film this Friday. If only we got fare like this more often, we’d be feeding off the cinemas more often too. Here’s wishing Lunchbox a dream run at the BO.

shahid_04

Aha, finally the good news. Hansal Mehta’s Shahid has been acquired by UTV and they will soon announce the release date. Hopefully the film should be out in theatres in next few months. The film marks Hansal’s terrific comeback after a long time and Raj Kumar Yadav is so effortlessly good that he makes you believe that he is the real “Shahid Azmi”. The film has been doing the fest rounds for quite sometime now. Do watch it when it releases.

UTV really seems to be going in right direction with the perfect balance of masala and non-mainstream films. First, Ship Of Theseus, then The Lunchbox and now, Shahid. I would say i wouldn’t mind the assault of the big budget braindead star vehicles as long as they keep on balancing it with some sold small and good films. And hopefully other production houses will follow them.

Click here to read a post on Shahid written by Ad filmmaker Ravi Deshpande.

Official Synopsis

Shahid is the remarkable true story of slain human rights activist and lawyer Shahid Azmi, who was killed in 2010 by unidentified assailants in his office. From attempting to become a terrorist, to being wrongly imprisoned under a draconian anti-terrorism law, to becoming a champion of human rights (particularly of the Muslim minorities in India), Shahid traces the inspiring personal journey of a boy who became an unlikely messiah for human rights, while following the rise of communal violence in India. This story of an impoverished Muslim struggling to come to terms with injustice and inequality, whilerising above his circumstances is an inspiring testament to the human spirit. Starring Raj Kumar, Prabhleen Sandhu and Baljinder Kaur.

Cast and crew

Director: Hansal Mehta

Language: Hindi

Runtime: 123 minutes

Exec. Producer: Jai Mehta, Kunal Rohra

Producer: Sunil Bohra, Shailesh Singh, Guneet Monga and Anurag Kashyap

Production Co: Bohra Bros Pvt. Ltd. and Anurag Kashyap Films Pvt. Ltd.

Principal Cast: Raj Kumar, Prabhleen Sandhu, Baljinder Kaur, Tigmanshu Dhulia, K K Menon, Yusuf Husain, Prabal Panjabi, Vinod Rawat, Vipin Sharma, Shalini Vatsa, Paritosh Sand, Pavan Kumar, Vivek Ghamande, Akash Sinha, Mohd Zeeshan Ayyub, Mukesh Chhabra

Screenplay: Sameer Gautam Singh, Apurva Asrani, Hansal Mehta

Cinematographer: Anuj Dhawan

Editor: Apurva Asrani

Sound: Mandar Kulkarni

Prod. Designer: Rabiul Sarkar

With UTV and Karan Johar on board as presenters, and with a release date (20th September), Ritesh Batra’s debut feature finally gets a trailer. Have a look.

As i keep repeating myself, don’t miss this one. It’s easily one of the best films of the year – simple and solid. And with two terrific performances – by Irrfan and Nimrat Kaur.

And here’s the official synopsis

Middle class housewife Ila is trying once again to add some spice to her marriage, this time through her cooking. She desperately hopes that this new recipe will finally arouse some kind of reaction from her neglectful husband. Unknowing to her is that the special lunchbox she prepared has been mistakenly delivered to an office worker Saajan, a lonely man on the verge of retirement. Curious about the lack of reaction from her husband, Ila puts a little note in the following day’s lunchbox, in the hopes of getting to the bottom of the mystery.

This begins a series of lunchbox notes between Saajan and Ila, and the mere comfort of communicating with a stranger anonymously soon evolves into an unexpected friendship. Gradually, their notes become little confessions about their loneliness, memories, regrets, fears, and even small joys. They each discover a new sense of self and find an anchor to hold on to in the big city of Mumbai that so often crushes hopes and dreams. But since they’ve never met, Ila and Saajan become lost in a virtual relationship that could jeopardize both their realities.

Cast

Irrfan Khan as Saajan
Nimrat Kaur as Ila
Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Shaikh (Saajan’s Colleague)
Denzil Smith as Mr. Shroff
Bharati Achrekar as Mrs. Krishnan
Nakul Vaid as Ila’s Husband
Yashvi Puneet Nagar as Yashvi
Lillete Dubey as Ila’s Mother

The film had its premiere at the Cannes Film festival in Critics Week section. To know more about the film, click here, here and here.

Lunchbox

Here’s the good news about one of the best films of the year, The Lunchbox. Producer-director Karan Johar has come on board to present the film and it will be released by UTV on September 20th. This is exactly what we need – big faces should attach themselves with brilliant indies and make them reach the theatres. Otherwise distribution is a pain in the current scenario. After Kiran Rao came on board to help Ship Of Theseus’ release, this is another step in right direction.

Some of us have seen the film and let us assure that it’s a simple and solid film. Directed by Ritesh Batra, it’s not only one of the best debuts of the year, it also has two of the best performances of the year – Irrfan Khan and Nimrat Kaur.

– You can read more about “The Lunchbox” here (on Sony Classics deal) and here (all the Cannes buzz)

And now another bit of news – The Toronto International Film Festival has announced its first list of films selected for the 2013 edition of the festival. And two desi films feature in the list – Ritesh Batra’s The Lunchbox and Maneesh Sharma’s Shuddh Desi Romance. Here’s more on both the films (from the official release) :

The Lunchbox Ritesh Batra, India/France/Germany North American Premiere

– Middle class housewife Ila is trying once again to add some spice to her marriage, this time through her cooking. She desperately hopes this new recipe will finally arouse some kind of reaction from her neglectful husband. Unbeknownst to her, the special lunchbox she prepared is mistakenly delivered to miserable office worker Saajan, a lonely man on the verge of retirement. Curious about the lack of reaction from her husband, Ila puts a little note in the following day’s lunchbox which sparks a series of exchanged notes between Saajan and Ila. Evolving into an unexpected friendship between anonymous strangers, they become lost in a virtual relationship that could jeopardize both of their realities.

Shuddh Desi Romance Maneesh Sharma, India Canadian Premiere

– Shuddh Desi Romance follows a fresh and very real love story about the hair-raising minefield between love, attraction and commitment. A romantic comedy that tells it like it is, providing a candid look at the affairs of the heart in today’s desi heartland. Starring Rishi Kapoor, Sushant Singh Rajput, Parineeti Chopra and Vaani Kapoor.

Ship Of Theseus

With UTV and Kiran Rao in the picture, Anand Gandhi’s Ship Of Theseus is getting some much deserved attention. The film is scheduled to release on 19th July in Mumbai, NCR, Kolkata, Bengaluru and Pune. To get the film released in other parts of the country, one  can now VOTE for it. This kind of “Demand the film in your city” initiative is quite common in US and they have been able to release many films through it. Good to see the idea being tried here.

So if you are not from Mumbai, NCR, Kolkata, Bengaluru or Pune, this what you need to do watch SoT in your city – To submit a vote one needs to visit the ‘Ship Of Theseus’ Facebook page with or without logging in. And then go to ‘Vote For Your City’ tab and cast your vote. Cities that hit the 100% mark will see a guaranteed release.

The options include, but are not restricted to, Ahmedabad, Allahabad, Aurangabad, Baroda, Chandigarh, Chennai, Hyderabad, Indore, Jaipur, Kochi, Lucknow, Ludhiana, Raipur, Rajkot and Surat. To choose any other Indian city, click on the ‘Others’ option and type out the name of your preferred location. Click ‘Submit’ to finalise your vote.

Click here to VOTE and DEMAND Ship Of Theseus in your city.

There’s only one reason why you should vote and demand the film – It’s easily one of the best films of the year. And you need to see it on big screen. Don’t get scared by it’s title if it seems pretentious to you. The film is accessible to anyone.

– To watch its trailer, and to read the synopsis, click here.

– Our recco post on the film is here, here and here.

With UTV and Kiran Rao in the picture now, Ship Of Theseus is getting a new campaign. It started with UTV and Kiran’s branding all over, then a new teaser came out, and now finally the full trailer is out. Have a look.

3.16! That’s quite long. They have put out almost a smaller version of the film. As we have been shouting out from rooftops, it’s easily going to be one of the best films of the year. Mark the release date – 19th July.

To read it’s official synopsis, cast & crew list, and our take on the film, click here.