Monthly Archives

October 2018

Kaagaz Ki Kashti (Day 1464)

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In an era when Bollywood music ruled the Indian households, Jagjit Singh made Ghazals a necessity of every music lover’s collection. With a voice stirring enough to break or mend your heart, he brought to life some of the most fascinating compositions of all times with unparalleled charm. Kaagaz Ki Kashti traces the life journey of a down-to- earth, small-town boy, who made it big by breaking through the norms and revolutionizing the Ghazal scenario, by texturing traditional Ghazal singing with western instrumentation and making it simple and hummable, enticing new listeners into becoming Ghazal fans.

 

Tracing three converging tracks – the struggle and stardom in his musical career, the love and loss in his personal life and the scope and limitations in the music scenario of the times, the film covers not just Jagjit Singh’s life, but also of the monumental legacy he has left behind. Through in-depth conversations with friends, family, colleagues and through archival footage, director Bhramanand Singh gives you intimate insights into the maestro and his genius.

 

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Bird of Dusk (Day 1463)

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Indian writer- director Rituparno Ghosh from Bengal is a larger than life cultural icon whose influence spread far beyond his films. Bird of Dusk  directed by  Sangeeta datta is pegged on the director’s own interviews and conversations (from archives) and his personal memoirs entitled First Person and conversations with cast and crew feature Soumitra Chatterjee, Sharmila Tagore, Aparna Sen, Prosenjit Chatterjee, Nandita Das, Arjun Rampal, Konkona Sen and Mir. His cinematographer; Aveek Mukhopadhyay, editor Arghyakamal Mitra and music composer; Debajyoti Mishra discuss Ghosh’s craft of filmmaking and international festival curators (Berlin/London/Spain) endorse the filmmaker’s position in the world cinema-scape.

 

Rituparno lived and worked in the city of Kolkata which he loved dearly and his life and work is a product of his city and its culture. The story of Rituparno is interrelated to the changing cityscape of Kolkata as the film is shot over the course of a year. The recent writing down of Section 377 is pertinent because Ghosh was the first major filmmaker who used his public influence to make the concept of third gender more public. He was the first gay/trans filmmaker who stepped out of the closet 10 years ago after suffering social stigma in his early years. His bold assertion of identity in his own life (and in his last three films) have made him a cult figure and strongly influenced the younger generation. His statement “Be who you want to be” is today a youth slogan.

 

Director Sangeeta Datta held a long working association with Ghosh and was witness to the dramatic reception of his cinema, his single-handed boost to the Bengali industry, his star status and his fight for gender free identity. This is Datta’s tribute to her friend and collaborator and to their much loved city of Kolkata. In Mumbai for the MAMI festival to screen her film, Datta recalls that though she professionally associated with  the filmmaker when she edited a book on him titled Rituparno Ghosh: Cinema, Gender and Art, Routledge and later became his assistant on various films.

 

@bhawanasomaaya

Women in Film (Day 1462)

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For a long time women have been debating that there should be no discrimination against them as actors and filmmakers but is that a reality both in India and abroad? I don’t think so because if that was true we would not be discussing gender at panel discussions in film festivals. The fact that we are, we have a long way to go.

 

This year the MAMI festival had a stimulating seminar titled Women in Film. It was among the third edition of brunch, hosted to celebrate gender-equal cinema and attended by leading male and female actors, directors, screenwriters and industry professionals. The highlight of the afternoon and I would say of the festival was that this year, Oxfam India has invited a young gender-champion Naaz Parveen from Patna, Bihar.

 

Naaz is a young Muslim girl who is not only a community leader but has also fought patriarchy, child marriage in her community and created awareness along with local NGOs about sexual reproductive rights in her community.

 

@bhawanaasomaaya

Movie Review: Baazaar (Day 1461)

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Film: Baazaar

Date: 26.10.2018

Director: Gaurav Chavla

Writers: Nikhil- Parvez-Aseem

Cast: Saif Ali Khan, Radhika Aapte, Chitrangda Singh

Background Score: John Stewart Eduri

 Shakun Kothari/ Saif Ali Khan is the bull of the stock market and an indulgent father of his two daughters. When a video of him in a spat with a rival gets viral his daughters are ostracized in school and come home crying.

That night Shakun tells bedtime stories to his daughters and asks, ‘Who do you like the Batman o the Superman?’ ‘The Superman’ responds the ten-year-old, ‘The Batman does not seem good’. ‘That is the problem’ says Shakun, ‘People assume he is not good’ and that is the crux of the film.

What makes the film interesting is the refreshing premise – the stock market and the stock traders. This is the first time we have an intimate glimpse into the ongoings of the Dalal Street and the director captures the frenzy of the rise and fall of stocks in a manner that is thrilling.

The narrative is energetic, the characters unconventional and the shot taking refreshing.

The first half moves like a rocket – smooth, sharp and precise to an extent that you resent the interval. The second half, unfortunately, slackens in pace and meanders towards a not so surprising climax.

There are many ways to describe this film; you can call it a story of greed and ambition, of power and corruption, a story of a mentor and his protégée or a story of a sprint and a marathon runner.

No story of ambition is ever complete without a battle of the conscience, and the writers cleverly address the morality of the characters engaging their respective families with all the intrigue and complexities.

The plus of the film is the craft, the background score, and the production design. The writers introduce us to the vocabulary of the stock market with references like ‘Out of line’ and ‘Bazaar chalu che’ that add to the narrative. The minus is the dragging second half that could have been edited by 15 minutes.

All the performances do justice. As Mandira who watches Shakun succeed and alter as a man, Chitrangda Singh has sensitive moments. As Priya Rai, colleague and beloved of Rohan Mehra, Radhika Aapte projects many shades to her character. As the young trader who befriends the shark, Rizwan Ahmed/ Rohan Mehra is easily the surprise packet of the film. Mehra mixes anxiety with ambition and portrays the fear and fire of a small town guy with precision and restraint that is admirable.

And finally Saif Ali Khan, there’s something special about the actor in the manner he inhabits the strangest of characters from contrasting milieus and makes them believable. Clad in silk dhoti that spreads over a bare chest he is introduced as the affluent community leader greeting ‘Michamidukhdam’ to all and yes, he gets the Gujarati accent right.

Whether he is at home, outside, at work, with confidantes or with his detractors, Saif never loses grip on his character ably facilitated by a detailed screenplay.

Debut director Gaurav Chavla gets well most of it right and deserves a dekho in the theatres. Also, like the Batman and the Superman, it’s interesting how the perception of a title alters from time to time. In the 50s Bazaar told the story of a courtesan. In the 80s Baazaar delved on sale in marriage and in 2018 Bazaar is quite literally about business.

I rate Baazaar with 3.5 stars.

Bhawana Somaaya

Picture Postcards (Day 1460)

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With the dawn of the twentieth century, at the height of the British Empire, came significant changes in the landscape of India—formation of new capital cities in the plains and summer retreats in the hills, evolution of towns or nagores and pores, growth of cantonment towns with their military and civil lines, development of ports or pattanams and creation of cultural, educational and trading centers, all increasingly well connected by an extensive rail, road and, later on, air network.

The 550 postcards featured in this book visually document this growth, while also capturing evidences of earlier times in India’s fascinating poly temporal towns. The postcards are divided across six chapters representing six regions within India and Pakistan, as they were a hundred years back. Through these picture postcards and the supporting text, the readers can vividly imagine what it would have been like to travel by road or rail across India during the period 1896–1947.

An attractive and nostalgic record of the topography of the time, these picture postcards are an untapped resource for those interested in the evolution of cities, town planning, architecture, ethnography, sociology or, simply, travel.

Authors Sangeeta and Ratnesh Mathur have lived and worked in many cities in Asia and Europe. They began building a personal collection of Indian comics, books, maps, stamps, travel and film posters, music CDs and international film DVDs in the initial years of their travels. In 2003 they relocated to the Czech Republic, and after visiting central Europe’s museums and antique shops, and regularly attending hobby club meetings, they began expanding their collection with a specific aim of creating a museum back in India. They added Indian picture postcards, lithographs, antiques in glass and porcelain, coins, princely state insignia and weapons, etc. In this endeavor, their focus, however, remained on the visual history of India and its towns.

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Queen: a tribute to Freddy Mercury (Day 1459)

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Did you ever demand for freedom saying ‘I Want To Break Free’? Ever feared that you will give up on your dreams and all they will say about you is ‘Another One Bites The Dust’? Were you the rebel in school that found yourself thumping to ‘We Will Rock you’? Or screamed ‘We Are The Champions’ from the rooftop? Nobody listens to the radio anymore, and yet everyone is ‘Radio Gaga’.

Whether you do or do not understand the lyrics of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ is irrelevant because it remains the song of the century. Experience the genius of Freddie Mercury and the songs of Queen in a first-of-its-kind live performance hosted by Danesh Irani and Danesh Khambata, with music assembled by composer Merlyn D’Souza; popularly known as the Female Rahman. With Headliners like Shazneen Arethna, Vivienne Pocha,Yatharth Ratnum, and Ronit Chaterji the evening cannot get better.

Danesh Irani, partner, Silly Point Productions, says, “What better way to celebrate 10 years of Silly Point Productions than to pay tribute to one of the greatest legends of all time – Freddy Mercury! Merlin D’Souza. It is going to be a night to remember so better bring your dancing shoes folks.”

@bhawanasomaaya

On Global Screens (Day 1458)

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Film festival co-coordinator and international films casting director Uma Da Cunha has been part of India’s independent cinema movement over the last 50 years through its innumerable highs and lows. The year 2018 marks two decades since she launched her debut magazine appropriately called Film India Worldwide. Then, as now, the aim has been to champion Indian independent films on the global stage. Moving with changing times Uma re-brands the title of her magazine to a more hip title On Global Screens, which will launch to  coincide with the opening of the 20th Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival with Star between October 25 – November 1 2018.

The OGS magazine will continue the legacy of Film India Worldwide, as a news journal, arguably India’s only publication focused on its independent and regional cinema movement. It will cover India’s vibrant filmmaking spectrum: art house, independent, debut and regional language work, short films and documentaries, books on cinema, views, and reviews. It will feature regularly, in advance, upcoming work from both debut and master filmmakers, just as it celebrates India’s cinematic achievements the world over. It is designed to be of special interest to film professionals, festival organizers and programmers, as well as to academics, journalists, researchers, and libraries, nationally and internationally.

The On Global Screens banner endeavors to occupy an exclusive space, spotlighting the lost and often forgotten independent film and filmmaker. It is an embodiment of our longstanding efforts to link India’s many cinemas to international opportunities, sparking dialogue, business, and recognition. OGS will support quality cinema and provide services including subtitling in English, casting, and film festival programming and consultancy.

@bhawanasomaya

Movie Review: Badhaai Ho (Day 1457)

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Film: Badhai Ho

Date: 18.10.2018

Director: Amit Ravindernath Sharm

Writers: Akshat- Jyoti- Shanatanu/ Story, Akshat Ghildial/ Screenplay, dialogues

Cast: Neena Gupta, Gajraj Rao, Ayushman Khurana, Sanya Malhotra, Surekha Sikri

There are types and types of films, some films make you laugh, some make you cry, some entertain, some elevate and enrich you and some make you feel good but once in a while comes a film that makes you smile, choke and go back home singing.

Badhai Ho falls in that category and there are 5 reasons for watching this film:

Reason 1: The Subject: In so many decades of my writing on cinema I have never encountered a story as delicious. The idea is terrific and completely original and I will not be surprised if it is from a personal experience of the writer. A lot of filmmakers often come up with very exciting ideas but not all of them are able to translate that on screen, Badhai Ho is an exception because it connects to your soul.

Reason 2: The Treatment: The posters reveal it is a family story but this is clearly not the regular family drama or a mainstream masala and what makes it unique is the treatment.  It by-passes all the predictable lanes of genres, shot taking or story-telling as the camera has you hooked to an amazing narrative assuring that there is not a dull moment.

Reason 3: The Writing: A novel subject penned by three writers – Akshat, Shantanu and Jyoti and polished to perfection with the minutest detail and insightful dialogues by Akshat Ghildial. The film unravels two romances, introduces to two families, engages two cultures and travels two cities/ Delhi, Meerut and does not let you down in a single scene/ moment.

Reason 4: Performances:  Each and every actor is perfectly cast and this includes all the friends and all the neighbors. Sheeba Chadha has two scenes but is as effective in her silence as with her words. Sanya Malhotra as Rene is confident and sparkling, Sureskha Sikri as the grandmother is a riot. Gajraj Rao with his variety of expressions is an actor to watch out for and Ayushman Khurana once again steals your heart, he is particularly special when he is awkward!

As the pregnant mother who is also a wife/ daughter-in-law, mother of grown-up boys, Neena Gupta exceptional and as convincing whether she is happy/ sad/ angry/ seductive. The truth is you cannot look at anything else when Neena is on screen!!

Reason 5: The Director: Amit Sharma takes you through school fights, office culture, middle-class homes, and stylish parties. He treats you to cafes, street food,  makes you stop by the cozy kitchen, breathes beneath a starlit sky on a terrace never forgetting to include nature – lush trees, meadows or a flight of a pigeon.

Here is a director who can make you laugh without being comic and cry without a tragedy.  Badhai Ho is about relationships, about sensitivity, about humanity. Where were you Amit Sharma all these years??

I rate Badhai Ho with 5 stars.

Bhawana Somaaaya

Little Violet Blossoms (Day 1456)

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The year 2018-19 was a milestone in the history of our Congregation of the Religious of Jesus and Mary and marked its bicentenary year.

As a tribute to our Mother Foundress, St. Claudine Thevenet, St. Agnes’ High School, ventured into uncharted territory and produced a full-length feature film — The Little Violet Blossoms in association with Small Box Films.

Priyanka Tanwar, the director of the movie is an ex- Agnesian and has to her credit short films like Little Big George, My Pot of Gold and While it Lasts. The Little Violet Blossoms as she puts it is her pay off to her Alma Mater.

What makes the movie special is the fact that it’s the first time ever that a school has independently produced a full-length feature film. Most of the on-screen and off-screen crew members are students, teachers, parents, and ex-students of the school and shot school premises in just 28 days and premiers today.

 

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Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (Day 1455)

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Twenty years ago when Aditya Chopra’s assistant and Yash Johar’s son Karan Johar announced that he was making a film everybody assumed that he was overconfident. Even his mother Hiroo Johar while doing his aarti before sending him off on his first day at work lowered her voice to gently whisper “I hope you know where to place the camera beta”.

Johar did not mind her caution and arrived on the sets fully prepared all the shots. He was privileged to have lead stars Kajol and Shah Rukh Khan pair in his film and he had signed Kajol’s cousin Rani Mukherji to play an important role.

He was confident of the music he had recorded and convinced about the story based on his personal experience at school. Now it was up to the actors to live up to his story and they did. It was a Diwali release I remember and everywhere Karan Johar went in those days, he was told how the film fraternity was banking on his film to revive the fortunes.

Come Friday and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai in 1998  revived the fortunes of not just film business but also his father’s banner Dharma Productions and in these 20 years Karan Johar has never looked back.

@bhawanasomaaya