Monthly Archives

March 2019

Holi Hai Part 1 (Day 1549)

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Hindi cinema has a legacy of romance woven through song-n-dance situations and the spell hasn’t broken in over a 100 years. The festival of spring has a special relevance in our films and it is because every director has given it a different interpretation. For the legendary filmmaker V Shantaram ‘‘Ari jaani natkhat, mat chuna mera ghunghat…’ featuring Gopi Krishna and Sandhya in Navrang is an expression of seduction and a moment of unusual choreography.

 

For Yash Chopra bhang becomes an excuse for the lovers to rekindle an old affair in Silsila. The brazenness appeals to our basic instinct, interestingly Chopra a few years later used colour to evoke fear in the Shah Rukh starrer Darr.  For Subhash Ghai, it was a moment of confrontation between Shammi Kapoor and Jackie Shroff in Hero and reconciliation between ageing warring friends Raaj Kumar and Dilip Kumar in Saudagar.

For Rajkumar Santoshi it was an excuse for mischief in Damini and for Ramesh Sippy, a celebration for Ramgarh residents in Sholay. The director very beautifully combines the sad with the happy moments, where we watch a younger Jaya Bhaduri chasing her to be father-in-law Sanjeev Kumar’s tonga challenging to colour his spotless kurta and juxtapose it with Jaya as a widow watching the gaiety from a temple perched on the top of a hill.

Mani Ratnam it is redemption in the Kunti –Karna story retold as Dal-Pati. A 13-year-old delivers her illegitimate baby in a shed and abondons him on a moving train as the villagers dance around the bonfire. For 30 years the ghosts of her morbid past haunt the guilty mother/ Srividya and the only way she can  find solace is if her neglected son/ Rajnikant forgives her.

In Phagun Waheeda’s father, a zamindar has presented his daughter an expensive sari for the spring festival which Dharmendra in a romantic moment soils it with colour. Waheeda is obliged to reprimand her husband in the presence of the invited guests to pacify her father. He feels insulted and walks out on his pregnant wife to return only 20 years later, after he has collected a shop full of saris for his wife.

@bhawanasomaaya

My father is my hero –Sanjna Kapoor part 2 (day 1548)

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Can you recall some disagreements with him?

Yes, once we held a workshop titled’ Science Toys’ where we taught children how to make scientific toys from waste material. Papa was in the audience and looked disapproving. My heart skipped a beat. I was convinced of the idea but watching his expression made me suddenly nervous. I avoided looking in his direction till the kids were ready with their creativity and I noticed that papa was impressed. This was one of my greatest joys because both mom and he have always emphasized that innovation is the essence of theatre!

 

Very few know that side of Shashi Kapoor

Very few remember that he started his career in his father Prithviraj’s’s touring theatre company, Prithvi Theatres – as the 3rd Assistant Director putting up and packing the sets, setting out costumes of actors and making lights out of Dalda tins! In fact Papa used to tell me of how Rajji (Raj Kapoor), would make the stage come alive at the start of one of their production with the most beautiful light effect of jugnus (fireflies). The duo created lightening effect for a scene by placing two wires in a bucket of water! Look at their imagination and confidence of these young boys. Lack of resources did not diminish their passion!

 

It’s interesting that he has shared so many stories of his past with you.

I know a lot but I should have known more. I should have spent more time accumulating information about his struggle and memories of and theatre.  It was only a few years ago, in 2006 when we were celebrating Prithviraj Kapoor’s 100th birth anniversary at Prithvi Theatre (something that my father made sure we did not forget) that I got to know all these stories. I am so glad we created an exhibition on Papaji’s years in theatre.

 

What else do you know about their past?

Papaji and his entire troupe traveled everywhere in third class by train and all of them- from the director to the light boy, ate the same food and stayed put up in the same place. Every day they did rehearsals and later performed in the evening. He did theatre, shot for films and contributes as Rajya Sabha member in the parliament. He was elected on the Presidents nomination for two consecutive terms and it was his suggestion that government grant 75% Artistes Railways Concession, which is a boon for so many performing artists across the country today.

 

Are you proud of your legacy?

Absolutely, it is passion that feeds into all our efforts currently, Junoon – co-founded by my partner Sameera Iyengar and me. Our aim is to create multiple platforms for art/ artistes and audience. This would not have happened without the guidance of my father. I feel grateful to be a part of this great legacy both my parents and grandparents passed on to all of us children

 

@bhawanasomaaya

 

My father is my hero- Sanjna Kapoor part 1 (Day 1547)

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In 2012 Sanjana Kapoor decided it was time to move on and launched Junoon Theatre with partner Sameera Iyengar. In 2019 Junoon Theatre completes seven long years.

It has been a year since Shashi Kapoor passed away and his only daughter Sanjna Kapoor turns emotional as she discusses the influence of father Shashi Kapoor in shaping her obsession for theatre.

 

How does your dad react to the many changes in your career?

My father remained an enormous pillar of strength to me over the last 22 odd years whilst I worked through my various dreams and ideas at Prithvi and elsewhere as well. He was always my most faithful and most critical audience.

He never failed to praise me when I deserved and guided me in everything I did be it working with School for the Blind or hosting The Amul India Show in the good old days. He pointed out that I needed to check my breathing when microphone is pinned on to me.  He always had constructive observations that helped our functioning at Prithvi Theatre.

 

Wasn’t it his idea to initiate summertime programs with children?

Yes, and it was a huge success and I continue with the idea even now under our new banner Junoon as Arts at Play Summertime. For years, he would make it a point to be present at the workshop there on the last day and hand out the certificates to all participants. Later in private, he would share his observations on their talent and guide me how to help them. The children looked forward to his advice and blessings. It was a special moment for all of us.

 

He was always present on 28 February for the annual celebrations.

Yes and that was the only time, he addressed the audience because it is my mother’s birthday. Long ago, we decided that we would celebrate Maa’s birthday with a performance of Ustad Zakir Hussain who my mother adored and Zakir saab has reserved this date in his calendar forever. It is a special date for the family and Prithvi Theatre lovers.

 

To be continued

@bhawanasomaaya  

Movie Review: Photograph

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Film: Photograph

Date: 15-3-2019

Writer-Director: Ritesh Batra

Cast:  Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Sanya Malhotra, Farrukh Jaffar

 

After the award-winning Lunch Box one was looking forward to Ritesh Batra’s next and disappointed that it does not live up to our expectations even though like Lunch Box, Photograph is a love story of two lonely strangers in a metropolis.

Rafiq/ Nawazudin Siddiqui is a photographer at the Gateway of India and has a way of tempting tourists to click pictures for memory and convinces Miloni/ Sanya Malhotra, a student returning from a holiday with her family to do the same and she agrees.

He hands over the picture to her but she flees without paying and they lose each other in the crowd. Now both are on the lookout for each other but for different reasons…

Photograph is unlike any other love story where lovers are either rejoicing together or facing opposition together.  Here the hero is always worried and weighed down because he has to struggle for survival, has too many debts to clear and lives in a small room shared with five other friends in a slum colony.

The heroine is forever depressed and there is no apparent reason for this because she lives a comfortable life with her family and is a topper in her class now preparing for her Charter Account exams.

There is no meeting ground between Rafiq and Miloni who come from different backgrounds except the fact that they are both withdrawn and introverted. They meet frequently over tea/ coffee/ cola/sometimes ice candy on the beach. She even agrees to visit his home in the narrow congested lanes and share a hot snack from the same plate. They drive around the city in a taxi, watch a film in a local theatre and get soaked in the rain, they appear happy, well almost.

Two hours pass by with great difficulty…

Director Ritesh Batra says his film is a love letter to the city of Mumbai. I’m certain his actors Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Sanya Malhotra and grandmother, Farrukh Jaffar have grasped that which is why they have delivered sparkling performances.

I failed in grasping the plot, characters or the intention of the love story and therefore rate Photograph with 1.5 stars.

Bhawana Somaaya

Movie Review: Mere Pyaare Prime Minister

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Film: Mere Pyaare Prime Minister

Date: 15.03.2019

Producer-Director: Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra

Writers: Manoj Mairta, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, Hussain Dalal

Cast:  Anjali Patil,Om Kanojiya, Atul Kulkarni, Makrand Deshpande

 

Four little children visit the BMC with a request to build a toilet in their slums. The official tells them that the land occupied by them is illegal and so in the eyes of law they don’t exist. ‘But we do’ shouts back Nirala and his friends.

The official shoos them away, says that if they want to build a toilet they have to write a letter to the Prime Minister, so Kanhaiya (Kannu) writes a letter to the Prime Minister explaining what happened to his mother when she went out in the open to defecate, ‘How would you feel if this had happened to your mother?’ he asks the Prime Minister.

 

Kannu and his friends make an adventurous trip to Delhi to hand over the letter to the Prime Minister’s Office portrayed by Atul Kulkarni in a superb cameo. Kulkarni is indulgent of the kids and accepts the letter from them. ‘Will our work be done’ asks Kannu. ‘My job is to hand over the letter the rest is left to the system’. ‘And where do we find the system?’ asks Nirala. The PMO has no answer.

 

The film is full of such surprises. To perceive a film from a child’s perspective is never easy but filmmaker Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra expertly combines the adult and the child world to present a sensitive story of the slum dwellers and  even though there have been many films  recently both on the toilet and the slums, Mere Pyaare Prime Minister stands apart for its message.

 

There are many touching moments in the film, for instance, Kannu does not understand what has happened to his mother but he understands that this would not have happened if they had a toilet in their surrounding! The sequence where he struggles to build a toilet made out of sari, stones, and bamboos, blown away by fierce wind and torrential rain brings a lump into your throat.

 

Another long sequence of how files move in bureaucratic offices explains why sometimes justice is delayed but never denied.

 

Unfortunately, there are some exaggerations too. After an outburst when Sargam asks her son to apologize to the deity Kannu insists that the deity apologizes to his mother for what happened followed by a close-up of Lord Hanuman shedding a tear!

It is a bit far-fetched that three little kids, who have never stepped out of their locality, have no money, embark on a journey to the capital without assistance or guidance. They boldly walk toward the Rashtrapati Bhavan without security or permissions and even take Selfies with the darban there.

They locate the Prime Minister’s correct address and create chaos at the gates till they are allowed inside and present the letter to the PMO to return home, safe and sound without any hurdles or hardships.

If you can overlook these exaggerations Mere Pyaare Prime Minister is worth it for the innocence and simplicity, the film brings back your childhood and delivers a strong, social message.

I rate Mere Pyaare Prime Minister with 3 stars.

@bhawanasomaaya

 

 

Article 15 (Day 1545)

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When you follow your heart and are appreciated for it you kind of get hooked on to the adrenaline. That is what is happening to filmmaker Anubhav Sinha. After receiving rave reviews for his last film Mulk the director is geared up for his next titled Article 15 starring Ayushmann Khurrana and a stellar support cast.

Sinha reveals that the film is an investigative drama where the audience is an accused party.  It is the first of its kind of a plot that will challenge the team and the filmmaker. Ayushman is super excited by the role, says he is always intrigued by the socio-political situation of our country and it his privilege that the director of Mulk thought of him for this role.

Produced by Benaras Media Works the film has been on floors since the 1March 2019 in Lucknow and is based on true-life events that is bound to move the audience.

Neena Gupta on reel & real marriage (Day 1544)

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I thought improvisations add to creativity?

They most certainly do, we improvise on theatre all the time but we do it during rehearsals till we have mastered the nuances. Pushan engaged Rajit and me in multiple workshops that involved us to share our experiences of marriage and life. He wanted funny, intimate moments that would make the characters believable, so I told him of a time I visited the bathroom but could not relieve myself because the salwar knot was entangled and he has retained this in the film. Pushan has acknowledged our contribution by including Ranjit and me in the writing credits along with our dialogue writer Nihaarika.

 

How similar/different is this marriage story to your own life?

All marriages have many things in common and yet all marriages are different. The Threshold is not about borrowing from my or Rajit’s marriage, it is a culmination of what happens in a relationship over the years, it is about perspectives, about how women feel and men think, it is about a journey together and quest for personal space.

 

Was it easy to inhabit a character like Rinku as a character?

I have known many Rinkus and they exist in our wide circle of distant relatives. When I was growing up I have heard my mother, maasis and chachis discuss domestic issues in hushed whispers. Maybe they are all Rinkus in different degrees in different states and homes. I was familiar with her emotional fabric. The difficult part was to shed vanity both in posture and expression. I’ve worn extra sweaters to look plump and walk with a limp. There were times I pleaded with the director to let me wear some lipstick but the director wanted me to look dull and sad.

 

Has your husband seen the film, what was his reaction?

Yes, I had prepared him for my character and yet he was jolted to see his beautiful wife transform into a haggard Rinku. Later, when he had adjusted to the film he was able to appreciate my performance but his disappointment over my appearance lingered till we reached home. Next time I’m not going to play an unattractive character.

 

That’s being a woman?

Yes and there’s nothing wrong with that

@bhawanasomaaya.com

Neena Gupta: Scenes from a marriage (Day 1543)

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Neena Gupta has been on a roll ever since her film Badhai Ho has rocked at the box-office. She has picked up the Best Actress trophy at all the award events this year and what’s more, she has two more films lined up for release this year interestingly both on marriage.

After a screening of The Threshold, I chat with the actor on life in her second innings.

Nice to see you so active on the big screen after a long break

Yes, an actor is never out of work if he/she is active in all the mediums. I have relished my experience on television, theatre and cinema but over the decades, roles on celluloid decreased and then Badhai Ho happened and life became promising again.

You have not done television for a while?

I started on TV as a vamp in Khandaan and graduated to playing mother to adolescent kids in the popular serial Saans, then suddenly I was only being offered grandmother roles which I promptly refused.

What made you say yes to The Threshold the story of an ageing couple?

The plot was interesting and that there are just two characters so that was challenging for me as an actor. That my director Pushan Kirpalani thought of casting me over other actors and that he promised me a bound script was an added incentive. This is unusual because most of the time, small budget films write scripts while shooting on location which can be nerve-wracking for an actor.

 To be continued

Movie Review: Badla

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Film: Badla
Release: 08.03.2019
Director: Sujoy Ghosh
Writer: Oriol Paulo/ Story, Sujoy Ghosh/ Screenplay,Raj Vasant/ Dialogue
Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Tapsee Pannu, Amrita Singh
Music: Amaal Mallik, Anupam Roy, Clinton Cerejo

On a winter morning a senior man carrying a brief case walks down the street. He checks his wristwatch before reaching his destination and is welcomed by Naina Sethi/ Tapsee Pannu who is just finishing her breakfast. They are meeting for the first time but they look strangely comfortable seated on the dining table next to the window overlooking the street.
Director Sujoy Ghosh is a master of thrillers (Kahani or Kahani 2) and this time Badla is a story of revenge and redemption, rather it is a story of truth and lies or better still half-truths and selective lies.

Like all crime movies there is a murder, some dark secrets and many speculations. Tapsee Pannu discovered in the spot of the murder is the victim and helping her through the dark tunnel is her Jimmy/Manav Kaul, Naina’s college friend and lawyer but as the case turns more complicated a Jimmy feels the need to hire an expert/ Badal Gupta/ Amitabh Bachchan to help his friend. Badal Gupta has never lost a single case in his 40-year-old practice; he can fight the biggest challenges provided his client tells him nothing but the truth. It is a story of legalities but the entire narrative unfolds in a domestic surrounding – very casually without emotional drama! The downside of the film is that it concentrates on just two characters and two locations so after
a point it becomes a strenuous watch. There are frequent flashbacks and flash-forwards and if you are not paying attention you can easily lose the plot.

The merits however outweigh the demerits. Slickly shot and tautly written with believable dialogues, Badla is sharply edited with haunting music and engaging story-telling. It is a story of contemporary India but borrowing from our epic – Mahabharata. To forgive is divine but sometimes it is important to seek revenge and Badla has its version of Kaurav king Dhritrashtra, his companion Sanjay, the reason behind Kurukshetra, Draupadi and the justice giver, Lord Krishna.

All the performances are effective -Manav Kaul in a cameo, Tapsee Pannu who is both volatile and vulnerable, Amrita Singh as always dependable but the film finally belongs to Amitabh Bachchan.

In his interrogation with his client Badal Gupta time and again emphasizes the importance of truth, detailing and homework and all three are apparent in his performance. The actor delivers a character study of minutes detailing in costume, body language/ attitude and props that include files/notepad/ pen and jottings on paper.

This is not a film you can watch casually munching popcorn, it calls for focused concentration or you are going to miss the plot for sure.

I rate Badla with 3 stars.
Bhawana Somaaya

 

Alia Bhatt- Student to the Gully (Day 1542)

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It is a few days Gully Boy is released and Alia Bhatt has not had any respite. Earlier it was the promotions of the film and post the release, there are more promotions and parties. First Zoya Akhtar had a party at home and then Ranveer Singh. This is the new generation who works hard and parties hard. They are friends with their directors and friends with their co-stars. They deliver what is expected in the film without reservation and without baggage. There are two intimate scenes in the film where Ranveer Singh and Alia exchange passionate kisses but there is no big deal about it. Not on the sets, nor off it and what’s wonderful is that even the media doesn’t make any fuss about it.

There are two reasons for this, one and more important, is that cinema has changed over the decades and consequently actors have changed. The second is about persona, it is all about how an actor gets himself accepted by his audience and Alia Bhatt has from the very beginning got accepted for what she is and probably which is why, she has in such a short span of her career done so many different films and got appreciated.

Beginning with Student of the Year, a romantic Two States, a heartbreaking Highway, a family drama Kapoor & Sons/ 2016 Alia Bhatt stunned us in Uddta Pujab and later Raazi. Gully Boy is Ranveer Singh’s story but the story would not be the same without Safeena/ Alia Bhatt

I am trying to recall when the acting bug first hit Alia or rather when was the first time I heard about Alia Bhatt…

Pooja Bhatt had once narrated me an incident where Alia played Pooja’s childhood for her film, cannot remember if it was Tamanna or Sangharsh but the year was 1998-99. Pooja said Alia arrived on her sets directly from her school wearing her uniform and was ushered into Pooja’s makeup room.

After cooling her heels for a while there, Alia got up and asked Pooja to lead her to her own make-up room. A flustered Pooja explained to her that there was no exclusive room for her and they would have to share the space. Alia was clearly disapproving and made it clear that another person in this case Pooja) will interrupt her preparation process. Pooja was so amused by her baby sister that she decided to leave her room for her baby sister Alia and got ready in another room. “I told my father that day that this child is going to be a superstar”.

To be continued

@bhawanasomaaya